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Why can’t I style my text further?

By David McKelvey

Many people ask (and lots don’t) about using colored or styled text for web page content. We get this request from time to time and often turn it down, but many people don’t know why. There are three primary reasons.

First and foremost, on rare occasions we use a find/change routine to edit website content. This is not a frequent occurrence because we prefer to have content editors know why a change needs to occur, so when we do this, it is often an important change that we need complete quickly. However, even with sophisticated pattern matching, introductions of style characteristics out-of-the-norm greatly increase the likelihood that a find/change will fail to be complete.

Global Styles
Secondly, we frequently update the styles of the website on a global basis to add new styles and update existing styles as we add new website features. Local, “inline” styles always predominate anything we set at a global level, so when we update styles you may not see/get them or at the unlikely extreme, it will break your page.

Thirdly, a consistent appearance across the entire Lewis & Clark gives the site a degree of weight, gravitas if you will. For example, a visitor coming to a page on the site (having already been to several other pages), knows within a fraction of a second (and without reading a thing) that this page is “official”. While some student groups will undoubtedly be allowed more latitude, a Lewis & Clark organizational unit (division, office, department, program, etc.) would not be allowed as much.

There is one last consideration that can happen with and without custom styles (but does often happen with the use of custom styles). As an editor, you may be trying to bring attention to specific links, words, a phrase, etc. and limited use of styles can help.However, more is not better. In fact, it is quite worse. If you were to bold every other sentence, like I have here, notice how difficult it is to continue reading. Many people already don’t read online, overuse of styles will only make it more likely that your page will not be read at all, because it looks like too much work. Seriously. (This goes for CAPS too, which still carry the textual weight of yelling.)

I hope this helps. As with anything we do there are probably some exceptions and we’re always here to listen and entertain the possibility. Of course, feel free to bounce back about this reasoning with thoughts, concerns or questions. (Use the comments.)


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