Where book layouts have been the same for about two hundred years (with small variations in fonts, paper, and printing), electronic literature layouts differ drastically.
The layout of an electronic work depends a great deal on the tools used and the prevailing styles of the time. These tools have evolved rapidly, and styles have changed quickly--about every couple of years. Works before the early-2000s were constrained by tools to a much greater extent than tools after that. The web, for example, was originally designed simply to convey scientific papers--so bold, italics and horizontal rules. Web designers were delighted with blinking text, flashing lights and the idea that you could put a graphic in as a background. Web designs settled down after creators thought a bit about usability. But web works relied on tables for layout before CSS styles. There have been many drastic changes in styles in a relatively short period. Considerations for layout include:
Be consistent throughout your piece. Keeping the same font, color, link markings, and page structure throughout a piece shows that the piece belongs together. Without this continuity, readers will be lost--especially if your work is on the web. Readers are now used to clicking on a link and ending up on someone else's page. (Imagine readers, like flying fish, jumping in an out of books at a library--you can see the confusion that this would create!). The layout for Fun da mentals is simple, but consistent. I kept the layout of Fun da mentals simple as I wanted my layout to fade into the reader's mind--not to stand out and get in the way of reading the content. In other pieces, the layout itself can be more noticeable than the content.
Layout also affects the mood and energy of the piece. Complex layouts present the readers with many choices of where to look and what to follow. This can convey a sense of richness--or confusion, depending on how the layout is built.
Remember that users can set their own browser styles to default styles in web browsers, and that your pages will look different on every reader's screen. So read your web piece using different browsers (including older ones) and default styles.
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