Today, the page and the screen go hand in hand. Pages on the Internet, or web pages, have changed what is seen on a page dramatically, not necessarily for the better. What we see on a screen is what we will be considering as page content in this essay. We will look at screen technology and page content in more detail, assessing what can be considered as effects the former has on the latter.
Screens, or monitors, and graphics cards dictate the definition you can view a page at. This modern equipment, for viewing digitized information, has progressed much over the last 20 years. Yet, when viewing a page, it is still nowhere near as high in definition, as that which can be produced on a printed page. It could be said, the effect low definition screens have on content, is that it is harder to read. The refresh rate of a monitor can also effect how comfortable the content is to look at.
Other effects can be said to come about because people use different screen resolutions. When different resolutions are used, different amounts of content can be seen. When you look at something in a 640×480 resolution, you will not see the same amount of information on your screen as someone looking at it in 800×600. The page’s content may have to be changed, so that it can be read in all resolutions. Jane Dorner adds to this point when she says, “There is not even any guarantee that paragraph spacing will come to your reader as you [the designer] intended it.” (1)
Web designers therefore, have had to come up with ways of producing content that holds a reader’s attention, in a very small space. This has led to page content becoming introductions to information, with bullet points and hyperlinks, rather than the full content in one place. Hyperlinks are content, which are navigational aids. On any printed page these are generally absent, as they would not have any genuine use.
With these points in mind, one can only think that viewing pages on screens has definite effects on page content. It can also be seen to have had many effects on the reader and the way pages are read. A reader is now faced with small snippets of information that are used to attract your attention, as headlines are in newspapers. This, rather than the tried and tested methods used in books, means you no longer have to read all the detail. The screen also makes the page less comfortable to read. So, not only is there less information on the screen, compared to a printed page, but you cannot read it as easily. The way content can be manipulated and how comfortable it is on the eye is important. But, until screens catch up with the printed page, I fear that we will be living in a world of bullet points and snippets, rather than the preferable world of truly poetic prose.
(1) Jane Dorner ‘Writing for the Internet’ Oxford University Press 2001, p. 26