Recommendations for presenting ancient languages on the web.
Unicode, HTML, CSS, and other matters.
Drawing up web pages with ancient languages (or any language, for that matter, that
does not use the Latin alphabet) is both art and science. One can quickly find the material
sprawling out of practical control. It is best to make a few key decisions right from the
start, and stick to them as best as one can.
I recommend taking the following steps when designing a website that will present
- Display text in a platform-independent form, namely in
Unicode. The support
for Unicode is growing, while support for independent fonts is and has always been sketchy
and fragmented. Subscribing to an international standard such as Unicode allows your
visitors to settle on one font or small set of fonts for all their browsing needs. There is,
however, no need to dispense entirely with your favorite font. You can type up all work
in a font, then use any of a number of utilities, such as the TextCoder or TextDoctor,
to convert your work into Unicode.
- Use the decimal Unicode references for
special characters instead of the HTML
character names. I write
, for example, rather than
& rather than
&, when I need a space or an ampersand, respectively,
in my HTML coding. An interactive
table of character
references might be of service.
- Use styles instead of the old physical tags to change the
appearance of text
on the page. The old
strikethrough tag, for example,
has been deprecated. The newer style tag for the
same effect would be
style= "text-decoration: line-through". With the interactive
CodeTester you can test out your HTML code and display
- Use cascading style sheets, and
create a class for each language in regular use
on your web site. TextExcavation uses the following classes:
that each class is in all lowercase. No need to make coding more difficult. Even if you end
up using the same font and other styles for all your foreign languages, it is best to have
a class for each just in case you find a better font for one of them, but not the rest, later.
- On your stylesheet, code any font sizes relatively, not
absolutely. Absolute sizing is by point value. Relative sizing is a sliding scale from
the middle. Using relative sizing will allow the reader to adjust the size of the text, which may be especially
important for reading languages less familiar than his or her native tongue.
- Employ a legible combination of text and background color.
ColorTester can help in this regard. For some reason,
however, I always find myself coming back to simple black on white.