Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Single-Pixel GIF Trick

A couple of days ago, John Gruber linked to this article from Zach Holman, reflecting on some of the crazy hacks web designers and developers had to resort to in order to have a modicum of control over the end layout of a page. Jason Kottke picked this up and added some information about the creator of the 1 × 1 pixel transparent GIF hack, David Siegel. He also linked to Siegel’s tips page circa 1997.

There’s the comically bad “Web Wonk” WordArt at the top of the page, and the banner ad asking “Are you an HTML terrorist?”. Buried in that list, though, is the famous “Single-Pixel GIF Trick” article:

HTML is a markup language, not a layout language. It isn’t meant to present a picture to the viewer. It isn’t meant to be easy to read. It is meant to be accessible. Aesthetics are not a consideration. But there are people who would like to communicate more clearly and effectively, and for us HTML is very primitive. We don’t need on-screen PostScript, what we need is a more visual flavor of HTML.

Until then, we have workarounds. My biggest workaround is the single-pixel clear GIF, which I use for spacing accurately around the page.