Don't do sigs

Most new bulletin board systems like phpBB, EZBoard and UBB provide users with the ability to put their personal mark on their messages in the form of textual signatures and smaller personal icons. Alas the users are usually also provided the ability to use graphics in their signatures and quite frankly, most users should not.

First of all, let me briefly state, what I think signatures should be used for. To me, a signature is something that helps me figure out who the writer is. It can be either his full name, link to his website, a quote or something along these lines. Basically I do not think many people disagree with this, but there are vast differences in how people achieve those goals.

The heavy signature

This image shows the problem very well: The writer uses a signature of 21KB to convey 4 lines of text to the reader. Had he instead used a text-based signature containing the same info, he could have settled for less than 100 bytes (less than a half percent of the size of the image) - not everybody is on phat pipes, ya know.

The huge signature

This case is also well illustrated by the signature mentioned above. Even better is the fact, that the very same signature has now been increased in size to be even bigger. The signature now takes up 548 x 531 pixels (290988 squarepixels?) of the screen. When the message is a single line of 433 x 24 pixels (like in the example), the signature uses more than 96% of the total messagearea to tell me who the author is. Since when did the author become more important than the message?

The stupid signature

Some graphical signatures are simply plain stupid. I spent quite some time to figure this one out, as the image has nothing to do with neither the message nor the writer and it is not a link to anything. The signature gives no information whatsoever and is plain and simple stupid.

The attention demanding signature

Some signatures are like small kids, shouting “Hey, I’m over here, look at me!”. Most prominent in this category are signatures made in Flash, as people have a tendency to make them move, jump, flash and whatnot, inevitably drawing my attention away from the message and onto the signature. I have even experienced a signature who played a 30 seconds long sound when you happened to move your mousecursor over it. I repeat: Since when did the author become more important than the message?

The ugly signature

Well, one does not have to look long to find examples of this. Far from everybody is a graphical wizard - unfortunatly many seem to think they are.

My plea to boardusers and -administrators is this: Do the world a favor - just say no to graphical signatures.

Note: This is not meant as a personal attack on any of the authors of the shown signatures. I do not know them, nor do I have anything against them