WCAG 2: the clock is ticking

This week’s A List Apart leads with accessibility expert Joe Clark’s detailed critique of the proposed WCAG 2 guidelines.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 is an international standard for making sites accessible to people with disabilities. Many nations adhere to WCAG 1.0 as law.

That’s great, except that WCAG 1.0 is seven years old, and parts of it are murkily conceived. The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) committee has toiled for years to offer a second-generation spec that is clearer and more up-to-date. WCAG 2.0 is the result. It was presented to the web community for comment a few weeks ago and achieves “Candidate Recommendation” status at the end of this month.

Although WCAG 2 has its supporters, and although good people have worked hard on it, Joe Clark believes “the fundamentals of WCAG 2 are nearly impossible for a working standards-compliant developer to understand,” with untestable success criteria and strange new definitions that don’t map to concepts like “page,” “site,” or “valid.”

Because WCAG 1.0 forms the basis of international law and because the standard’s goal is to serve the disabled, the success or failure of WCAG 2 matters to all who use, own, or make websites. Whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing with Joe Clark’s assessment, time is short and the stakes are incredibly high. I urge every web designer to read this article.

Also in this triple issue of A List Apart (and only overshadowed here because the clock on WCAG 2 is ticking) are two other exceptionally fine articles:

World Grows Small: Open Standards for the Global Web

by Molly E. Holzschlag

Molly Holzschlag explains how the practices you already use to create standards-based, accessible websites can serve you in the growing field of internationalization.

Community Creators, Secure Your Code! Part II

by Niklas Bivald

In part two of his two-part series on protecting your community site from malicious cross-site scripting attacks, Niklas Bivald rolls up his trousers and wades into the JavaScript.

She Blinded Me With Christian Science

Lovely links for a fab Friday.

Ma.gnolia API 1.0
It’s what Willis was talkin’ ’bout.
“Design Matters” with Debbie Millman (audio)
Intelligent audio interviews with leading graphic designers and type designers.
creativebits
“Macintosh design community” blogazine.
“Dear Secretary Small…”
Carl Malamud on the privatization of the commons.
Monkey Do
The attractive, minimalist site of Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh’s web design and development shop.
Rosenfeld Media’s first book
Rosenfeld Media has signed Donna Maurer to write a book on card sorting. Take a survey to help shape the book. (Note: All Rosenfeld Media books will be created with reader input. Disclosure: I serve on Rosenfeld Media’s advisory board.)
“The Feed Validator is Dead to Me.”
Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, on the politics of RSS.
Sacramento Bee redesign critique in pictures
“The page has a popover welcome message, tabbed features and a little JavaScript problem.” A critique by Aaron Gustafson, using Flickr.com as a teaching tool. (Interesting on both levels: the critique itself, and this usage of Flickr.)
King Kong reviewed, March 3, 1933
“Miss Wray goes through her ordeal with great courage.”
Daily Show smart. Comedy Central website, not so much.
“We’re sorry, but MotherLoad will only play on PCs with Windows XP or 2000/SP4+.”
The New Yorker reviews “An Inconvenient Truth”
“‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.”
AIGA: Graphic No More
Christopher Fahey of Behavior Design has mixed feelings about AIGA’s repositioning.
Avalonstar
The blog of Bryan Veloso.
The Pains
Novelist John Sundman, author of Acts of the Apostles (recommended for those who take their sci-fi black) and Cheap Complex Devices, has released this new, Creative-Commons-licensed, illustrated novella.
Converting Flickr content to valid markup
Like it says. Mini-tutorial on Veerle’s blog.
Butt Head!
Nick Fruhling observes that a certain magazine’s masthead requires special care. Via Veer.
Font Finagler for Mac OS X
Clears font caches, thereby often fixing problems in Photoshop, the Finder, etc. The free and possibly best font management tool, Linotype Font Explorer X, also does this, as does Cocktail. Both Font Explorer X and Cocktail are a part of life at Happy Cog — and a fine part of life at that. But if all you need to do is empty your font caches, Font Finagler gets the job done, and how.

Heartwarming

Baseball weather has come to NYC. And a baseball stadium is where we’ll hold An Event Apart Atlanta in just a few days’ time. If global warming worked the other way — if the winters were getting colder each year — the world’s governments would have already worked together to reverse global warming. But when winter grows milder and spring arrives sooner, it feels so good it’s hard to realize how bad it is. But I digress.

We’re busy prepping for Atlanta, so here are some links:

Minolta quits camera biz
A former ad client, at one time the 3rd largest camera maker in the world, can’t compete against digital.
“Would you write your life story in pencil?” was an ad I tried to sell them for their Maxxum line of high quality, 35mm point-and-shoot SLRs. (Instead they bought “More Maxxum Magic!”, a line I did not write for them.) Even so, it’s sad to see them go.
Monochrom Brandmarker
An attempt to evaluate the power of brands by making Austrian people draw twelve logos from memory, 25 people per brand. Via Coudal.com.
Magnolia Blossom
Mac OS X dashboard widget embeds social networking in your desktop: “Watch websites scroll across as they are bookmarked by ma.gnolia.com members. Spend less time scrolling through pages of text and find those eye-catching sites now!”
Gapers Block
Clean, good-looking, well written Chicago blog.
In Progress: Logo Design (A)
Cameron Moll on the National Gazette identity he and Jason Santa Maria are designing.
In Progress: Logo Design (B)
Jason Santa Maria on the National Gazette identity he and Cameron Moll are designing.
Top 15 Skylines in the World v. 3.0
An urban planner picks his Top 15 skylines. Via Gapers Block.
Dieter Steffmann typefaces
Immense archive of Dieter Steffmann fonts. “Acorn Initials” is typical Steffmann work. Re-blogged from March 2004.
CNN.com redesigns
1024 wide. Looks great. Pity about non-validating table layout. Via Hivelogic.com.
coComment
In one central place, track comments you’ve left on blogs all over the place.
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
“…total access to original tracks with remix and sampling… Download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through … Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs that incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate.”
Drupal
Open source content management platform that cares about accessibility and standards.
Airbag – Styrofoam
Adventures in food management.
Designers must write
“As my ability to shape both written and oral communication improves, I am better equipped to direct the work of others.” (Via Cameron Moll.)
In Search of a Comprehensive Type Design Theory
“Type designers might be convinced that our profession is vital to society, but we wouldn’t risk going on strike.”
Ironic Sans – Pre-pixelated clothes
“Stop worrying about whether or not the producer of that Reality TV show you’re on will pixelate your carefully chosen t-shirt. Beat them to the punch with pre-pixelated products!” (Via K10k.net.)
Thank You for Smoking – main titles
Beautiful! via Stan.
America’s Technology Future at Risk
A new study released by the Economic Strategy Institute explains why U.S. companies can’t compete in key new business sectors, and offers a variety of regulatory and investment prescriptions (via Thomas L. Friedman).
Teaching at Risk: Progress and Potholes
The Final Report of the Teaching Commission (via Thomas L. Friedman).
It’s a great time to start a business
Six reasons to start a business today (by 37signals’s David Heinemeier Hansson).
IE7 Improvements and Bug Tracking
Eric Meyer weighs in.
W3C: Failed Commitments?
Much ado about nothing. Forest. Trees.
Happy Doomsday to You!
“Washington was about one horseman short of an apocalypse yesterday.”

Zeldman.com Reloaded

With a book half-written, two conferences looming, and waves of client work smashing the levees, it seemed a good time to change hosts and funnel this old hand-tooled site into a modern content management system.

The site is now powered by WordPress (why?) and hosted by Media Temple (why?). The hand-rolled summaries feed has retired. In its place is full-text RSS 2.0. There is also a full-text Atom feed for those who like their tofu extra crunchy.

Feeds and browsers

As the DNS rolls over, revealing this post, the retired RSS feed will seamlessly redirect to the new. If you’re reading this but seeing the wrong feed when you click the little RSS badge in your browser’s address bar, you’re using Apple’s Safari, and it’s clutching dead files in its cache. Quit the browser and restart OS X to make Safari find the new feed.

(Safari users may not need to do any of this, of course. Bang-your-head-against-the-desk Safari caching problems typically only affect site owners and developers.)

Hacky sack

I wanted WordPress to do things my way, which meant getting under the hood. I needed to finish before SXSW, which starts tomorrow. And I didn’t have time to learn anything new.

So I asked Noel Jackson (home, agency, software) to do the light hacking required to make WordPress my beast. He made it happen well and fast.

Still to come

Haven’t implemented comments yet. Still considering how best to do so. May not get around to it until after An Event Apart Atlanta. Comments. Gar. After nearly 11 years without. Huge. Gotta ponder. As for My Glamorous Life, for the time being that part of the site is sealed off until I figure out how (if at all) I want to carry it forward.

Basically, though, we’re open for business. Welcome back. (If you haven’t read Why WordPress? and Why Media Temple?, now might be a good time to do that.)

[tags]zeldman, wordpress, blog[/tags]

Fresh outta beta

When I was younger, I considered myself too “creative” to work on anything that wasn’t cool or exciting. Eventually I buckled down and became a genuine client services professional. For over two decades, I brought my best to every job, no matter how dull.

So much for that. Today I can choose what I want to work on. And I choose projects that are cool, fun, and personally meaningful. In that context, I link to Ma.gnolia.

Designed by Happy Cog and taken out of private beta 15 February, Ma.gnolia is a new social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lose a web page, even if it moves or goes offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. Not to mention a Linkroll I like so much I use it here at zeldman.com.

Gnolia Systems envisioned the product and made it run. (The heavy programming? That’s all them.) Happy Cog developed the user pathways, brand identity, and creamy site design. The best part? Leading a dream team of Tanya Rabourn (information architect), Greg Storey (user interface design), Jason Santa Maria (brand identity design), Erin Kissane (brand director), and Mr Eric Meyer (semantician and technologist).

Don’t be a beta hater

Yes, Happy Cog has a layout problem in Internet Explorer 7 beta. Not to worry: According to Molly Holzschlag of The Web Standards Project, Microsoft has fixed the problem, as we’ll see in a future IE7 release. The current beta chokes on this rule:

div#headwrap h1	{
	background: transparent url(/i/happycog.gif) 
		top left no-repeat;
	margin: 0;
	border: 0;
	padding: 0;
	padding-top: 100px;
	overflow: hidden;
	height: 0px !important; /* for most browsers */
	height /**/:100px; /* for pre 6.0 IE Win */
	}

It’s an image replacement technique that uses an alternate box model hack.

Designers use box model hacks to compensate for inaccuracies in the way some browsers (mostly Microsoft’s) calculate element widths with respect to padding and borders. I wrote this rule to insert my agency’s logo at the top of the page in visual browsers while presenting a text equivalent for screen readers and nongraphical browsers. The hacks force older Microsoft browsers to display these elements correctly.

When Microsoft released IE5, it was great for its day, but not always accurate. When they released IE6, it was better but not perfect. The company then declared victory and announced that the browser was dead and there would be no more IE browsers forever.

So designers got busy compensating for the standards deficiencies of IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 (and other companies’ browsers), using hacks like those seen here. The idea is to take the hackery out of markup, where it never belonged, and hide it in style sheets.

IE7 beta’s standards accuracy is already very good and getting better, and, despite what you might have heard to the contrary, Microsoft’s engineers are working with the community (and in particular with The Web Standards Project) to identify and fix CSS bugs and errors and to compensate for hacks like the one seen here. Using IE7? Finding bugs? Microsoft and The Web Standards Project want to hear from you.

Bookmarks for a rainy Monday

Fresh and preserved petals from my Ma.gnolia bookmarks…

AJAX, Web 2.0 and the Threat to Digital Archives

The more layers of mediation there are between you and the information you’re trying to preserve, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to access that information in the future. For historians, this problem is particularly painful; as information gets wrapped in more and more layers of technology, the profession increasingly relies … on the work of preservationists who keep this “stuff of history” around for future generations.

Create photo galleries in XHTML and CSS
Jonathan Younger’s Photon plugin lets you create photo galleries (like this one, designed by the incomparable Douglas Bowman) by exporting albums from Apple iPhoto to leading blog software environments. Photon supports Movable Type, TypePad, Blojsom, and WordPress. And because it is open-sourced, developers can extend it to work with non-iPhoto gallery software and with additional blogging tools.
Create photo galleries in Flash
Atlanta-based web designer Todd Dominey is that rare artist who understands user experience and graphic design, web standards and Flash. In consequence, his SlideShowPro, a dynamic photo gallery/slide show component for Flash MX 2004, is as luminous as it is utilitarian.

Roadside link jamboree

WHILE I’M WRAPPING Web Design World Boston, here are some links for your pleasure:

In Search of a Perfect Plug-in Technique
First we had Flash embedding the automated way. It worked in all browsers but it didn’t validate. Then came Flash Satay and UFO, FlashObject and Hixie’s nested objects. Which techniques are most accessible and most reliable? Macromedia accessibility expert and occasional A List Apart author Andrew Kirkpatrick checked them all out and drew conclusions worth reading.
gotomobile: the mobile usability and UX blog
In the U.S. a mobile phone is a cell phone for making phone calls. In the rest of the world it’s a rich two-way media device. Starting a year ago, renowned designer Kelly Goto began travelling the world researching how handhelds are used today and discovering the emerging principles of ubiquitous computing. Kelly, who is here lecturing at Web Design World, maintains this mobile usability and user experience blog, to which she posts from her handheld camera/phone/whatever.
Seed Magazine
This beautiful and well-written periodical explores the changing role of science in our global culture. New York’s own Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh created the clean, elegant, and playful site design (check out the little colored seedlings at the top left).
DropSend
Got big files to share? Files so big you can’t email them? Files too big even for Basecamp hosting and posting? DropSend has you covered. This fresh-off-the-vine web application by Ryan Carson takes ease of use to a new level, working well and simply as advertised. I use it. Try it, you’ll like it.
Folksonomy is such a lonely word
In this New York Times Magazine feature, Daniel H. Pink explains folksonomies to the non-digerati. As most people reading this page know, “folksonomy” is IA Thomas Vander Wal’s 2004 coinage for the tag-powered, communal taxonomies that are not merely changing how websites and web products are structured but how information is perceived and categorized all over.
Greg Storey portfolio
I’ve always thought Greg Storey was a heck of a designer. Now you can more easily see for yourself just how good he is.
Oh, the Plazes you’ll go!
Plazes (beta) is a spanking new web app offering a “grassroot approach to location-aware interaction, using the local network you are connected to as location reference. Plazes allows you to share you location with the people you know and to discover people and plazes around you. It’s the navigation system for your social life and it’s absolutely free.” I’m using it right now and it is cool.

ALA 208, AIGA podcasts

Back from Spain, prepping for Philly. An Event Apart is days away!

A List Apart 208

In Issue No. 208 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we focus on simplicity, both in practice and theory.

Printing a Book with CSS: Boom!
by Bert Bos & Håkon Wium Lie
Bert and Håkon gave the world CSS. Now they give us another use for it. Namely, controlling real-world printing jobs. Call it a microformat. An innovation. A heresy. The authors call it “boom!”
Power to the People
by D. Keith Robinson
Your dad doesn’t care about AJAX, Mr Robinson discovers.

More Event Apart AIGA podcasts, Mom!

AIGA, the professional association for design, presents “Talking with Jason Santa Maria: An Event Apart, #04” and “Talking with Zeldman: An Event Apart, #03.”

Each week leading up to An Event Apart Philadelphia, AIGA talks with founders and guest artists about what attendees can expect from the conference. Subscribe to AIGA’s Podcast Directory RSS feed to stay abreast.

This week, AIGA’s Liz Danzico talks with Jason Santa Maria about being An Event Apart’s first guest speaker, his involvement with the first critiques, and upcoming plans for Stan, his virtual persona.