Four years ago today, Tantek Çelik and Kevin Marks gave a presentation on real-world semantics. Working backwards from HTML extensions like XFN (created by Tantek, Matt Mullenweg, and Eric Meyer), the paper showed how designers and developers could add semantics to today’s web rather than starting from scratch or waiting for a “purer” markup language to bring us an “uppercase semantic web.”
As with ‘most all great ideas, the principles were simple and, in hindsight, profoundly obvious. Do what designers were already doing. Instead of toiling over new languages that might or might not get adopted, use existing (X)HTML elements such as rel and class, and agree on such things as common class names for simple things like relationship definitions.
On behalf of all web designers and developers, thank you, Tantek and friends, and happy birthday.
Jonathan Follett takes another trip down the the long hallway, looking at ways to collaborate, communicate, and manage conflict in virtual space.
Comments off. Talk on ALA!
Not your father’s standards switch
The DOCTYPE switch isn’t what it used to be.
For most of the past seven years, the DOCTYPE switch stood designers and developers in good stead as a toggle between standards mode and quirks mode. The switch enabled browsers to accurately support the work of responsible designers who cared about accessibility, findability, and lean, semantic markup. It also enabled those same browsers to support the old-fashioned, table-driven junk markup your grandpappy writes.
But when IE7, with its tremendously improved support for standards, “broke the web,” it revealed the flaw in our beloved toggle. The quest was on to find a more reliable ensurer of forward compatibility. Is version targeting the answer?
In Issue No. 251 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Aaron Gustafson of The Web Standards Project and ALA describes the workings of and logic behind version targeting, a proposed replacement to the DOCTYPE switch. It’s an idea whose simplicity you may admire immediately; or you may, at least initially, want to run screaming in the opposite direction.
That’s how ALA‘s Eric Meyer felt, when he first previewed Aaron’s report. So did I. But we came around—and in “A Standardista’s Journey,” the companion piece to Aaron’s article, Eric explains how his thinking about version targeting evolved.
Microsoft is on board to support version targeting in IE8; they hope other browser makers will do likewise. The Web Standards Project worked with the Redmond company to forge this new path in forward compatible design. It’s with Microsoft’s consent that we unveil version targeting in this issue. In a future issue, we’ll discuss the implications for scripting.
An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, kicks off its 2008 season with An Event Apart New Orleans, a monster, 19-hour, two-day creative session. Join us April 24–25 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for two intense, 9.5-hour-long days of learning and inspiration, featuring twelve of your favorite web design authors.
See Dave Shea, co-author, Zen of CSS Design, explore what makes sites flexible visually, experientially, and code-wise.
See Jeff Veen, design manager, Google, explore how new thinking, born of creating the latest generation of web apps, is being infused into design practices.
See Robert Hoekman Jr., author, Designing the Obvious, perform slam-bang, on-the-spot usability reviews of sites submitted by our live audience on the fly.
See Cameron Moll, author, Mobile Web Design, uncover the differences between good and great design.
See Andy Clarke, author, Transcending CSS, explain how comic books inspire his award-winning web layouts.
See Stephanie Sullivan, co-author, Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, explore practical, standards-based approaches and techniques to some of today’s toughtest design challenges.
See Aarron Walter, author, Building Findable Web Sites, explain “findability bliss through web standards SEO”
See Brian Oberkirch, Publisher, Like It Matters, review, catalog, dissect, and champion small design victories that daisy chain to create a delightful overall user experience.
See Jason Santa Maria, designer, Happy Cog, share techniques for maintaining individuality and brand distinction in a world of generic templates and design sameness.
See An Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, present two new talks that shed brilliant light on the darkest corners of CSS.
As for me, I’ll be doing two new sessions on the whatness of web design (what it is, what it ain’t, and why it matters) and the whereness of web standards (as in, where we are with them).
It’s the longest, biggest, densest, hardest, coolest show we’ve ever done, and we’re doing it where Louis learned to blow his horn. Join us if you can.
Jeremy Keith’s “Year Zero” beautifully explains why the W3C needs our backs, not our bullets.
The W3C is maddeningly opaque and its lieutenants will sometimes march madly into the sea, but it is all that stands between us and the whirlwind.
Slow the W3C will always be. Slow comes with the territory. If you glimpse even a hint of the level of detail required to craft usable standards, you’ll understand the slowness and maybe even be grateful for it—as you’d be grateful for a surgeon who takes his time while operating on your pancreas.
But the secrecy (which makes us read bad things into the slowness) must and will change. To my knowledge, the W3C has been working on its transparency problems for at least two years and making real change—just very slowly (there’s that word again) and incrementally and hence not at all obviously.
Key decision makers within the W3C intend to do much more, but they need to get their colleagues on board, and consensus-building is a bitch. A slow bitch.
If designers and developers are more aware of the problems than of the fact that the W3C is working to solve them, it’s because the W3C is not great at outreach. If they were great at outreach, we wouldn’t have needed a Web Standards Project to persuade browser makers to implement the specs and designers and developers to use them.
Designers sometimes compare the slow pace of standards with the fast pace of, say, Flash. But it is like comparing the output of the United Nations to the laws passed by a small benevolent dictatorship. When a company owns a technology, it can move fast. When a hundred companies that mistrust each other need to agree to every detail of a technology that only exists insofar as their phones and browsers support it, surprise, surprise, the pace is quite slow.
The W3C is working on its speed issues, too. It’s been forced to work on them by outside groups and by the success of microformats. But detailed interoperability of profound technologies no company owns is never going to happen half as fast as we’d like.
You want instant gratification, buy an iPod. You want standards that work, help. Or at least stop shouting.
[tags]w3c, standards, webstandards[/tags]
Give HTML e-mail a chance
Ten years into the web standards revolution, e-mail client support for standards remains sketchy. A new group is doing something about it. Launched today, The Email Standards Project “works with email client developers and the design community to improve web standards support and accessibility in email.”
But it does much more. Already the project uses a WaSP-style CSS test to judge the standards compliance of major e-mail clients from AOL to Yahoo! Mail and report on how they did. There’s also a blog and a list of things you can do to help promote standards awareness and persuade e-mail software makers to improve their support.
We have what we think is a special issue of A List Apart for people who make websites.
Every responsible web designer has theories about how best to serve type on the web. In How to Size Text in CSS, Richard Rutter puts the theories to the test, conducting experiments to determine the best of all best practices for setting type on the web. Richard’s recommendation lets designers reliably control text size and the vertical grid, while leaving readers free to resize text.
And in Understanding Web Design, I explain why cultural and business leaders mistake web design for something it’s not; show how these misunderstandings retard critical discourse and prevent projects from reaching their greatest potential; and provide a framework for better design through clearer understanding.
Plus, from October 2001, we resurrect Typography Matters by Erin Kissane, the magazine’s editor, who is currently on sabbatical.
Hide e-mail addresses from spam bots while revealing them to readers as real, clickable links. This transparent and fully automated solution guarantees that all addresses on your site will be safe—even the ones that show up in blog comments!
“Got Milk?”, “Don’t leave home without it”, “Good to the last drop.” You know these taglines and the products associated with them. So what makes a great copy shot? Is there a formula? And can understanding advertising help us write better web copy?
Happy Cog, A List Apart and An Event Apart produce free 80-plus page report; first true picture of the business of web design.
In April 2007, A List Apart and An Event Apart conducted a survey of people who make websites. Close to 33,000 web professionals participated, providing the first data ever collected on the business of web design and development as practiced in the U.S. and worldwide.
Months of data crunching later, what emerges in our free 80-plus page report is the first true picture of our powerful yet little-studied profession. Presenting the Findings From the Web Design Survey.