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This article is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.

Structuring the Intangible - Literary E-Zines and their Layout Edward Picot

'Pages' on the Web are profoundly different from paper pages. A paper page has size, weight and substance. Most importantly, it has length and breadth, which means that only a certain amount of type can be fitted onto it. A web page, on the other hand, is an electronic document, which means that it doesn't necessarily have any fixed physical parameters at all. In theory it could be any size and shape desired - it could be a mile wide and a centimetre deep. In practice, web pages tend to be no wider than the width of a computer-terminal's screen: in fact most of them will adapt themselves, according to the size of terminal being used to view them. Their layout is not measured in centimetres or inches, in other words, but in percentages of the screenspace available. If you are looking at a web page on a 17" monitor, the layout will be spread more widely; on a 15" monitor, less. This is because the most irritating thing to have to do, when you are reading text on a screen, is shift to the right to read the end of one line, then back to the left to read the beginning of the next. It breaks all sense of continuity.

The main practical consequence of a web page's intangibility is that it can be any length. The only constraint is the amount of computer memory it will take up, and if the page consists of text ...


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