v 5.10.00
6 Oct 2018
updated 12 Oct 2018


As already suggested, it has become an axiom of web-design that each and every feature of each and every page of a successful website should be clearly viewable on all sizes of device from which the website might be accessed, and that this should be achieved seamlessly and automatically.

This criterion is known informally as scalability, or more technically as responsive web design (RWD). To quote the opening line of the Wikipedia article, it's an approach to web design which makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes ... Content, design and performance are necessary across all devices to ensure [universal] usability and satisfaction.

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I have to admit to initial scepticism about any such necessity; the content of OrnaVerum is assembled using a Windows desktop PC with a 30x52 cm monitor, as so many of the images are immensely detailed, and I felt that any attempt to access it via (say) a mobile phone was not entirely serious.

But Eboracus has noticed that about 40% or more of public accesses to OrnaVerum are indeed already made by mobile phone, so that it's a matter of courtesy to render those visits as congenial as possible. And to quote once again from Wikipedia, RWD has become more important as the amount of mobile traffic now accounts for more than half of total internet traffic. Indeed, Google announced 'Mobilegeddon' in 2015, and started to boost the ratings of sites that are mobile friendly if the search was made from a mobile device.

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So I fell back on another argument, that much as I welcome public interest in OrnaVerum (especially when visitors make contact to say that they like it, or can tell me more about particular individuals or families that feature in it), ratings are not the be-all and end-all of this enterprise, which is after all merely an online account of intersecting family narratives pertinent to my own. It's not trying to sell anything, or earn any money from advertisements.

But of course, the higher the ratings, the more hits from Google and the more public interest and therefore public input. And as Google preferentially boosts the ratings of mobile-friendly websites, scalability becomes a no-brainer: in fact Eboracus has already started to make each and every page of OrnaVerum as scalable as possible, and that is a long haul as there are thousands of pages to be dealt with.

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The contents of any one page can be quite diverse: html text of course, jpg images, html tabulations, htm tabulations, and pdf pages of assorted nature. To get an idea of scalability in action, if like me you don't have a smartphone (or simply to get an idea of the issues involved), and you do have access to a Windows PC, you you can first view a historical page prior to conversion and then that same page subsequent to conversion.

In either case, first click the Maximise button (immediately to the left of the Close button in the top right-hand corner of the screen). This 'floats' the current window which can now be progressively narrowed (or shortened) in order to approximate the much smaller viewing area of a mobile phone. This resizing is achieved by clicking and dragging the borders (though not the top one) of the window inwards, laterally or vertically. And when you've finished, click the Maximise button again to return everything the way it was.

  • At a certain stage in the unconverted case, a helpful lateral scroll-bar does appear as the window is narrowed, so that it is still possible to view the whole screen-image (which retains its intrinsic size), and eventually the browser decides not to allow further narrowing.
  • If on the other hand you decide to shorten the unconverted case, the screen-image still retains its intrinsic size, and the existing vertical scroll-bar has to be deployed until the window disappears almost entirely! If of course there had been no existing vertical scroll-bar, then one would doubtless appear when appropriate.

In summary, therefore, the unconverted screen-image retains its size, but you see less of it at a time, whether you narrow or shorten the window.

  • But in the converted case, the screen-image simply escapes laterally as the window is narrowed, retaining its intrinsic size as long as possible. At which point, the features in the screen-image start to reformat, and continue to do so as the window becomes narrower still. And eventually, a helpful lateral scroll-bar appears as before and later still, the browser decides not to allow further narrowing.
  • If on the other hand you decide to shorten the converted case, the screen-image doesn't reformat as would RWD so pay no particular attention to it.

In summary, the essence of RWD lies in the lateral and vertical reformatting processes. As Eboracus has said in regard to this website in particular:

... text floats to fill whatever space is available – that's easy because the browser is already doing that. The magic is in floating the height and its relative width [ie aspect ratio] of image files, enlarging or reducing the image to fit the space available. The bigger challenge is floating height/width of fixed-dimension tables [ie Generation Tables], enlarging or reducing their "ascent-of-man" images to fit the space available yet keeping the text size the same.

It did seem to me, naively, that PDF's might be the scorpion in the carpet-slipper. Though it isn't difficult to convert them back to doc or jpg or xls format (using the remarkable ZAMZAR website), there had originally been compelling reasons for my converting those into pdf format in the first place!

But I now understand (sort of) that smartphones have their own portfolio of file-types to match the traditional PC equivalents, and in real life the transfer of content from the PC formats to the smartphone equivalents is entirely painless, and needs no external facilitation by the webmaster. In any case, I have every confidence in Eboracus' infinite-resource-and-sagacity. And if it's not humanly possible, we shall just have to bite the pillow.

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Somerset Maugham, for me the most acute observer of human nature, once remarked that an author writes first for pleasure, later for the pleasure of others and finally for money. I can't remember in which of his many books that featured.

But whatever I have written, about close or extended family history, or of the context in which each happened, was first and foremost either an exciting discovery of things I had never known before, or a cathartic resolution of painful personal things that had been deeply obscured in a Lethean grey fog or suppressed by a kindly mental censor. Either way, personal satisfaction, or peace of mind, was engendered - my mental motto in late teenage years, felix qui potest rerum cognoscere causas, slightly tweaked from Virgil, resurfaced with a vengeance.

The fact that a website is inevitably in the public domain was a secondary matter to start with, compared with getting things clear in my mind as to who did what which way up and to whom, during the murky years of my parents' ascendancy. But as acceptance grew of the importance of ratings, awareness and appreciation of a multitude in the online auditorium has grown too, and, yes, Maugham was right on the second count too.

But not on the third count, as nothing whatsoever herein has been written for profit; although my other hero Samuel Johnson once observed that no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money, I'm willing to defy him just this once. There are no paid advertisements whatsoever. Worth much more than mere money is the speed and responsiveness of the website itself, a pleasure to browse.

Although ... there is consequently no pressure from advertisers to do what it takes (such as going for scalability) to push up the ratings ... oh dear, a counter-argument, must stop, getting dizzy.