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Automatic for the people

Dan B has redesigned Automatic Labs, and it looks great. There are now three sites on the web that make good use of Safari’s text-shadow support (where “good” is the opposite of “spurious” and “ill–conceived”): Automatic, Bryan Bell’s aptly–named and Les Orchard’s 0xDECAFBAD.

Now, I like drop shadows as much as the next guy —you can tell that just by looking at my site— but since Safari 1.1’s release there has begun a horrible trend of dropping shadows from whatever text in whatever situation you please, for no other reason than the cool factor.

Quite frankly, it’s growing tiresome.

Traditionally (y’know… in that media we had before the web), drop shadows have been used as an accent, a subtle effect to give headline text a little punch, which is precisely what Dan and Les have done in their designs. In other situations, such as the icon labels on the OS X desktop, drop shadows have been used to increase the readability of text on an unpredictable background, or to bump up the contrast between body text and background color (as is the case on Bryan’s site). Only since the release of Safari 1.1 have drop shadows actually been used to stifle readability… which is nothing but a damn shame. Such are the perils of putting powerful tools in the hands of excitable kids.

If you’re reading this in a text-shadow–capable browser, you’ll see what I mean. So remember, designers of tomorrow: when your grey–text–on–a–white–background is magically haloed in a grey fuzz, it’s like wearing somebody else’s glasses. And I don’t even wear glasses. Don’t use the text-shadow property in situations where it’ll decrease the contrast of text people actually want to read; it’s just… crap.


Better take that count to four sites. Raelity Bytes does a nice job with the ol’ text shadow, but that’s hardly surprising: it’s a Bryan Bell design. An ever–so–subtle effect making a dramatic difference. Pull up side–by–side in Safari and Mozilla. Fun for the whole family.