Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Blank Plague


To begin by defining a problem is good science. The current problem is disappearing rollovers—which is bad design. Rollover is a web term describing what happens when a cursor moves over a text (or object) link on a page. The simplest example is when you move the cursor over a text link and it changes color. Often, the shape of the cursor also changes to a pointing finger.

Rollovers on web pages are there to indicate, clearly, to the user not only the location of the cursor but what’s likely to happen if the user clicks the mouse. Being programmable, rollovers can have many colors, forms, and even animations. This flexibility can also be abused, hence the problem.

Within the past week, I’ve encountered a number of web pages where placing the cursor on text or objects caused them to become invisible. The rollover made them disappear! Every day I find at least one or two sites implementing this particular stupidity. If you don’t know why it’s stupid—and apparently some programmers don’t—I will explain.

The primary purpose of the rollover, as I said above, is to indicate clearly the location of your cursor and therefore where you will go if the mouse is clicked. Making the text or object beneath the cursor disappear tells you neither. If you can’t see what the cursor is pointing to, how can you know where you are or what a click will do?

I don’t know where or how (or by whom) this really bad idea got started, but I do know it’s growing like only a stupid fad can. Back on 2/25, I wrote a post bemoaning the fad of barely visible fonts. That foolishness was the beginning of this trend of hiding information. Now, just when you think the dumb can’t get any dumber, we have The Blank Plague.

Today I had planned a post about artificial intelligence, but what’s the point? It’s obvious a great many people involved in web pages don’t have a clue as to what constitutes intelligence. If you’re familiar with the movie Idiocracy, think about this: the stupidity shown in that film is no longer our future, it’s now in our rearview mirror.

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