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Q: Are there alternatives to Arial, Times, and Georgia for Web designers?
The short answer is YES!
The slightly longer answer is that most designers use Arial, Times, or Georgia, and, to a lesser degree, Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Courier, and Comic Sans because they think that’s all they have at their disposal, but they are wrong.
The long answer is that the core Web fonts (the one listed above plus Impact and Web Dings) are used because they are almost guaranteed to be installed on the vast majority of computers your designs are likely to be installed on. One fact of life in Web design is that unless the end user's computer has access to the font file, then the browser cannot use it.
Q: What is the practical difference between px (pixel) and em (pronounced m)? When is it best to use one over the other?
The short answer is that pixels measure dimensions relative to the screen while ems measure dimensions relative to type size.
The slightly longer answer is that pixels are the natural unit for measuring dimensions on a screen and are often used when precise design is required. Ems are the natural unit for measuring type and used when you want to allow maximum design flexibility.
Q: Can I start using HTML 5 now?
The short answer is, yes.
The slightly longer answer is, you can use some of the new features, but you will need to do a little kludging to get it to work.
The long answer is that HTML is a mark-up language meant to indicate the structure of a document. HTML 5 is the next evolutionary step in mark-up languages for the Web, but it is not implemented on most browsers that your audiences are likely to be using and it may be some time before it is. That said, there are some things you can do now to prepare for the future.
Q: Will HTML5 or XHTML5 be the next big thing or just another collection of past standards and browser war fodder?
The short answer is that, yes, HTML 5 is the next big thing.
The slightly longer answer is that it’s going to be a while before you have to start worrying about HTML 5.
The long answer is that, as with all standards, before it becomes relevant, the browser makers have to implement it and then you'll have to wait even longer before legacy browsers are no longer an issue. So, you have some time before you have to run out and buy a new HTML 5 Visual QuickStart Guide. The good news is that HTML 5 has gone to great lengths to stay backwards compatible, so you can begin to learn and implement it today.
Q: What is a Web Designer anymore? It was easier to make Web sites all by yourself, even 5 years ago, but now there is just too much technology for one person to handle. If I want to make a Web site for a very small business, don't have I to be web "developer" now?
The short answer is that everybody is a Web designer now.
The slightly longer answer is that Web designers are practitioners of a highly specialized discipline that requires years of study to truly master.
The long answer is that a good Web designer is a good designer, and this can come “naturally” or from training, but is not medium-dependent. However, a professional Web designer has to understand the medium well enough to know its strengths and limitations. Any designer can pump out something that looks brilliant when displayed in a Web browser window, but is slow to load, static when loaded, and completely unusable.
Q: Is there a suitable alternative to frames? My wife is president of a local woman's club. She and I administer the club's web site, and the ladies like the list of links down one side of the pages. But I read that frames have been deprecated. Regardless, I want to keep the site simple.
The short answer is yes— use iframes.
The slightly longer answer is no, not exactly, but we can get close.
The long answer is there are a variety of ways to add content to your Web pages, but the question is: once it’s on the page what are you going to do with it (or to it)?