A new technique that uses the power of CSS to give a more fluid and interactive interface to your web site can dramatically improve your web experience.
The technique is called “text-driven navigation,” and it lets you make a website look more like a movie than a traditional video game.
Text-driven nav is all about creating an effective interface that uses your website’s content and visuals to convey information to the user.
“If you can get users to use the same content and use the visuals to bring their attention to the content, it’s a win,” says Daniel Lissauer, a senior content specialist at webdesign software firm Fontspot.
“You’ve created something that is actually more attractive to the eye.”
Text-driven Nav will be the subject of a new book, CSS and the Art of User Interaction, written by Fontspots’ Lissauers co-author, Steve Johnson.
“The main point of this book is to present some of the more complex techniques that people have been working on for years, and we wanted to try to present a lot of them,” Lissaers told Ars Technica.
“It’s an open-source book, so anybody can read it, but it’s going to be quite comprehensive.”
Text navigation, as it is called, is also a popular way to create user interfaces that use CSS in web browsers.
“I’ve never used CSS to create a video or anything,” Lislaers said.
“But in my experience, there are so many cool things that people are doing with CSS and its benefits that I think we should be able to show them, so I think it’s pretty cool.”
Lissauer first learned about text navigation while working on the Flash video player.
“As you watch your videos and the Flash Player, you’re seeing some of those text elements and CSS elements, so you know it’s happening,” he says.
“Text navigation has always been a huge part of video player development.
There are really only a few tools that have this kind of functionality in the browser, and you just don’t see it unless you have a lot to lose.”
Lislaer was one of the first to introduce text navigation in the Flash player in the mid-2000s.
“In 2006, we released a plugin called ‘Fontspot’s Text Navigator,’ which was a text-driven toolkit that would allow you to create text-based navigation in Flash,” Liscaers says.
Fontspots had developed its own plugin for Flash called “Navigation Lite,” which had a much more simple interface than “Text Navigator.”
“I actually thought the ‘Text Navigators’ plugin was a bit of a joke, because it was only going to take you a few seconds to do something like that, and then the whole thing would be lost,” Liskaus says.
Lislauer decided to write his own text-navigator plugin, called “Text-navigators,” because “the Flash plugin had been in production for quite a while and there was no good documentation around it.”
The plugin’s interface is simpler and easier to understand than “Navigators” and is designed to work in a variety of browsers.
The plugin supports “any browser that supports CSS,” and the interface is also designed to allow for a number of different layouts and scrolling options.
Lissaaers says that “Navigating Lite” is the most powerful text-oriented navigation plugin on the market.
“I was working on this plugin for a couple of years and I had been doing some CSS work, and I thought I was just going to get to it,” Lisdaers remembers.
“After I did some CSS and some HTML, I started looking into other tools.
So after I had some time, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll take a stab at making a text navigation plugin, but I’ll make it as simple as possible, so it can work in all browsers.'”
Lissaes first tried to find support for the plugin on Mozilla’s WebKit team, but he was unable to find a suitable solution.
So he contacted FontsPot and asked for help.
“FontsPot had some really good experience with Flash, and they were also a company that was interested in using CSS for their site,” Lischauer said.
FontsPots had already done a lot in the CSS realm with “FontsPot,” a CSS3-based “text editor” for the popular browser, Netscape Navigator.
“When I was asked to work on this, I said, ‘I want to help out the WebKit folks, because I’m a really big fan of CSS, but also because I’ve done a bunch of other work in Flash.
I can help with WebKit and all the Flash things,'” Lislaus says, laughing.
“They were really happy about it, so that was the first thing that came to mind.”
Liskaus created the plugin using