Designing for Psion Web

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Damian Walker

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Jan 4, 2008, 6:26:44 AM1/4/08
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Hello everyone,

Realising the limitations of Web I tried to design my new Psion web
pages so that they'd display well in Web. I cut down on large graphical
displays and tried to do as much as possible using colour (well, grey)
backgrounds and a few icons and thumbnails. I've also used tables with
HEIGHT and WIDTH tags for layout control.

The results aren't particularly successful in my view. What I've ended
up with are pages that still don't display properly in Web.
Compatibility is excellent - the pages look equally drab and
uninteresting in all browsers.

The problems I've found are various. Subtle colours don't work well
with the 256-colour palette (and are obviously worse with 4 greyscales),
but too much variation in backgrounds makes for unreadable text. Web
seems to have its own criteria for interpreting WIDTH tags, and seems to
ignore HEIGHT tags altogether. Some images are clipped rather than
scaled.

All this leads to my question: are there any ideas or techniques for
creating visually interesting pages that will display properly in Web?
Presumably Web must have been able to cope with what was on line in
1999, and there were some visually interesting pages then. I'd be
really interested in doing something that looks good in Web AND on
modern PC-based browsers. Are there any sites that appear to do this?

--
Damian - http://psion.snigfarp.karoo.net/psion/
Put "sausage" in the subject of email replies to avoid my spam trap.

Aidan Karley

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Jan 5, 2008, 7:34:41 AM1/5/08
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In article
<Pine.LNX.4.64.08...@nero.devel.snigfarp.karoo.net>,
Damian Walker wrote:
> All this leads to my question: are there any ideas or techniques for
> creating visually interesting pages that will display properly in Web?
>
You're going somewhat off-track making your pages use shades of
grey. The people with Psion programming skills will be able to
elaborate, but to a first approximation the graphics engine in Psion
(and underlying Web) will resolve the luminance of each pixel of an
image to a value appropriate for the display. EPOC can (IIRC) handle 16
distinct colours, which in the Psion 5 (family) are mapped onto 4 levels
of grey while the NetBook/ Psion 7 family can actually display colours.
What you need to do is choose colours expressed as RGB (Red Green
Blue) triples, where the components combine pleasantly in a
colour-capable browser, don't strobe too badly in a dithered 16-colour
display (7 series), and which have luminances ( Lum = (R + G + B)/3 )
which will map to appropriate levels of grey (5 series). That would then
allow the page to display legibly and pleasantly in all the targeted
range of pages.
Your web server should be able to interrogate the browser for an
identification string, so that by using an appropriate CSS style sheet,
different colours or images could be sent to the requesting browser.
That might be simpler than choosing your colour so carefully.

ISTR there were help documents about this in some of the
programming guides for the Psion, but I've not got any of those to hand.

While I love my Psions and make a lot of use of them, I don't
dispute that the 4-level grey screen is a huge step down from modern
systems. Having said that, since I do a lot of work at the command line,
I still appreciate the difference between 1-bit per pixel and 2 bits per
pixel.
What is an open question to me is - can the
fortnight-on-2xAA-cells endurance so important to Psions be achieved
with a colour screen? Maybe, maybe not. But it's definitely an important
question.

--
Aidan Karley,
Aberdeen, Scotland
Written at Sat, 05 Jan 2008 11:51 GMT, but posted later.
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Eric Lindsay

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Jan 5, 2008, 9:31:20 PM1/5/08
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In article
<Pine.LNX.4.64.08...@nero.devel.snigfarp.karoo.net>,
Damian Walker <dam...@snigfarp.karoo.co.uk> wrote:

> All this leads to my question: are there any ideas or techniques for
> creating visually interesting pages that will display properly in Web?

If I recall rightly, I used fairly bold but web safe colours (an
obsolete idea, but there are still good articles available on web safe
colors). The Psion Web seemed to be able to handle the translation to
grey (and on a Psion 7 looked fine ... but was that using the Opera
browser?)

I think I left all the type sizes to the default setting of the browser.

The html was all left very simple, with really only the six heading
levels, and paragraph markers. I did use some borders around some items.
I never tried more than two columns set by divs (I had a lot of
navigation). Minimal styling was in CSS. As I recall, Web could handle
simple CSS.

However it has been a long time since I wrote anything specifically for
a Psion browser. These days I keep my HTML very simple. I don't use
tables. Then I add minimal divs for areas like headers, footers. I style
everything with CSS. If a browser can't handle CSS at all, it still
usually does a good job with the HTML.

I really must go though and clean up my old Psion Epoc pages. A lot of
links have (alas) disappeared over the years. I like leaving the URI
without a link however, so that if they wish, people can use the Wayback
Machine to try to find Psion sites that have now disappeared.

I really dislike the idea of browser sniffing. Although these days with
the very rapid rise of iPhone browsing, I am thinking of setting a meta
for viewpoint to the default display width and height of any Webkit like
device, so they can decide how to handle my content. That won't affect
any other browser.

--
http://www.ericlindsay.com

Richard van Stappershoef

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Jan 6, 2008, 5:10:51 AM1/6/08
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Hi Damian,

Maybe this can be of help? :
http://www.pscience5.net/PsiDat.htm

Richard


"Damian Walker" <dam...@snigfarp.karoo.co.uk> schreef in bericht
news:Pine.LNX.4.64.08...@nero.devel.snigfarp.karoo.net...

Damian Walker

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Jan 6, 2008, 1:53:02 AM1/6/08
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Quoting Aidan Karley's message of Yesterday:

> You're going somewhat off-track making your pages use shades of grey.

> [...] What you need to do is choose colours expressed as RGB (Red
> Green Blue) triples,

Thanks for your reply. I understand about the colour - the choice of
grey was nothing to do with monochrome screens (I tend to test Web
compatibility on an S7), it was just a design choice. I had considered
using different colours as a way to thematically distinguish between
different areas of the site.

I didn't bother in the end, simply because I think the design is dull
whether in monochrome or colour. My own personal homepage
(damian.snigfarp.karoo.net/damian) uses grey in a far more interesting
way, but these are completely invisible in Web, which displays the whole
lot terribly (even if you go straight to the main frame home.html, even
if I changed the PNG email address for a GIF or JPG).

What I'm hoping to find is a bit of advice on how to make a page like
damian.snigfarp.karoo.net/damian/ (or even /home.html) display as well
in Web as in, say, Firefox or IE. I tried to do this by simplifying the
pages so as not to use anything Web didn't have, while keeping the
design reasonably attractive, and it's in that attempt that I failed.

> ISTR there were help documents about this in some of the
> programming guides for the Psion, but I've not got any of those to hand.

I'll have a look around for these as I get time. Do you have a starting
point that would speed up my search?

--
Damian - http://damian.snigfarp.karoo.net/

Aidan Karley

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Jan 7, 2008, 4:36:48 PM1/7/08
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In article
<Pine.LNX.4.64.08...@nero.devel.snigfarp.karoo.net>,
Damian Walker wrote:
> Do you have a starting
> point that would speed up my search?
>
http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=psion+epoc+SDK

Leads me to http://www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/psion/downloads.html#sdk

--
Aidan Karley,
Aberdeen, Scotland

Written at Mon, 07 Jan 2008 01:52 GMT, but posted later.

Damian Walker

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Jan 7, 2008, 3:08:16 AM1/7/08
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Quoting Richard van Stappershoef's message of Yesterday:

> Maybe this can be of help? :
> http://www.pscience5.net/PsiDat.htm

Thanks! I'll try that when I'm online again this evening.

Damian Walker

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Jan 7, 2008, 3:07:47 AM1/7/08
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Quoting Eric Lindsay's message of Yesterday:

> If I recall rightly, I used fairly bold but web safe colours (an
> obsolete idea, but there are still good articles available on web safe
> colors). The Psion Web seemed to be able to handle the translation to
> grey (and on a Psion 7 looked fine ... but was that using the Opera
> browser?)

I'll have to try your pages on Web, next time I'm on line. I know that
they look good in Firefox. I never thought of CSS before starting this
discussion. Given Web's difficulties with tables, I hadn't even
considered that it would handle CSS.

> I don't use tables.

I think that's the key. They might work fine for tabular information,
which is of course what they're meant for, but I'm coming to the
conclusion that unlike with other browsers, Web isn't particularly good
at rendering the kind of table used for formatting purposes.

> I really dislike the idea of browser sniffing.

I don't really have the option even if I wanted to use it. As I'm using
ISP web space, there are few server-side facilities, and JavaScript of
course wouldn't work at all in Web.

Damian Walker

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Jan 8, 2008, 4:53:51 AM1/8/08
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Quoting Aidan Karley's message of Yesterday:

> http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=psion+epoc+SDK

Ah, I have the OPL SDK, I didn't realise there were documents in there
about HTML. I'll have a browse and see what I can find. Thanks!

--
Damian - http://psion.snigfarp.karoo.net/

Damian Walker

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Feb 13, 2008, 2:34:37 AM2/13/08
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Quoting Damian Walker's message of Jan 7:

> I think that's the key. They might work fine for tabular information, which
> is of course what they're meant for, but I'm coming to the conclusion that
> unlike with other browsers, Web isn't particularly good at rendering the kind
> of table used for formatting purposes.

I've finally found a way, and it still uses tables - and nested tables
at that. The result is at the link in my signature, if anyone's
interested.

The limitations I had to work around for Web are mainly: it doesn't show
background images in tables; it doesn't honour the VALIGN tag; it
doesn't honour the HEIGHT tag in tables; it doesn't honour BGCOLOR in
tables or table rows, but it does in table cells; transparent GIFs have
transparent areas filled in white. I noticed that Internet Explorer
doesn't always honour HEIGHT tags either.

I've worked around most of these by specifying a background colour as
well as a background image for table cells that use backgrounds. I've
also abandoned the idea of designing pages to fit, centred, on a single
screen. The lack of transparency in GIFs is still a problem, but I like
my rounded buttons so I'll put up with that problem.

Problems that remain affect only Opera and IE. In Opera 5.14, if you
zoom out to fit everything width-wise on the screen, then background
images are neither scaled nor repositioned for the new layout. IE5
doesn't honour the HEIGHT tag on the sidebar, so very long pages (like
http://psion.snigfarp.karoo.net/psion/psiongames.html) will have the
sidebar background graphic repeated. Opera and Firefox render this
properly.

So while the results in Web look like some badly-made lego construction,
at least everything is where it should be, and the results in other
browsers are much more interesting.

Eric Lindsay

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Feb 15, 2008, 6:29:13 PM2/15/08
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> So while the results in Web look like some badly-made lego construction,
> at least everything is where it should be, and the results in other
> browsers are much more interesting.

As a matter of interest I checked it in an Apple iPod Touch, and the
results were just fine for reading. Your buttons looked OK, for example,
and zooming text worked fairly sensibly.

--
http://www.ericlindsay.com

Damian Walker

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Feb 15, 2008, 7:46:37 PM2/15/08
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Quoting Eric Lindsay's message of Today:

> As a matter of interest I checked it in an Apple iPod Touch, and the
> results were just fine for reading. Your buttons looked OK, for example,
> and zooming text worked fairly sensibly.

I'm glad to hear that it's working in browsers I've not even heard of!
I've also checked it out in links and lynx. Lynx in particular works
better with this than with any other site that I've done, so I'm quite
pleased. I've yet to try it out with Konqueror.

For email replies, substitute "psion" for "damian" in my email address.

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