from the your-call-is-important-to-us dept.
Are the new textual topic icons an improvement or an eyesore? Read More for the reasons behind them, and voice your opinion in the new Poll. We've gotten some feedback, mostly positive, regarding the replacement of Nanodot's old clip-art icons with text icons showing the topic names. (At the same time, we fixed some topics that had spaces in their topic IDs, which caused links to break on some browsers [<cough>Netscape].) Our reasons for doing this were:

  • Many of the topics on Nanodot are somewhat abstract and therefore hard to represent graphically, particularly when relying (as I have been) on clip-art. (I defy you to find a good image for "Nanoscale Bulk Technology" in an off-the-shelf clip art package. 🙂 Conversely, it was often hard for people to figure out the topic based on the image I picked, and some browsers [<cough>Netscape] don't display the <ALT> text when the mouse rolls over the icon (and let's not start a debate about Javascript!). The new icons, whatever their other merits, are quite clear about what they represent.
  • The new icons are also much easier to create, and enable me to add new topics when requested with a much shorter response time than previously. Creating one of the old graphic icons required me to:
    1. Think of a way to graphically represent the topic, no matter how tenuous the rationale.
    2. Pore over my available clip-art for an image like that. (If no such image found, go to Step 1.)
    3. Colorize the monochrome image (usually)
    4. Make any changes needed to make the image fit the topic.
    5. Save and upload the icon.

    The new textual icons eliminate Steps 1-4 with "Type the topic name". (Yes, I'm lazy. Laziness, along with Hubris and Impatience, is one of the three Cardinal Virtues of a Perl programmer.)

  • Having a greatly reduced color scheme, the icons can have a smaller file size and download faster.

However, some users have spoken up in favor of the old graphic icons, saying that they made the home page easier to scan visually and that the site looks less interesting with the text icons. (I worked pretty hard on the old graphic icons, so this gave me a warm fuzzy.)

The obvious compromise — adding text to the graphic icons — has most of the drawbacks of the old graphic icons, including the most important one: they take longer to create, and so they delay the creation of new topics for the site.

But Nanodot exists for the users, so I have run the question up the proverbial flagpole and am standing by to count salutes.