22 March 2002
[1 pm | noon | 2 am]
Issue No. 141 of A List Apart Magazine examines authoring tools, accessibility, and standards from two nifty perspectives:
1. Modifying Dreamweaver to Produce Valid XHTML by Carrie Bickner. You don’t have to wait for Dreamweaver 5 (or 6) to squeeze valid XHTML out of the web’s most popular visual editor. Carrie Bickner’s illustrated tutorial will show you how to modify Dreamweaver to make it a standards–friendly authoring tool.
2. Accessibility & Authoring Tools by Christopher Schmitt. With the advent of more compliant web browsers, the quest for standards shifts to the tools pros use to build websites. Christopher Schmitt spoke with Adobe and Macromedia for the low–down on web standards, accessibility, and authoring tools.
This ALA issue will run for two weeks, affording Mrs. Zeldman’s little boy time to co–judge the Communication Arts Interactive Competition in sunny Menlo Park, California.
Got a popular website? If your hosting company forgets to renew your domain, soulless Viagra merchants are likely to hijack it. (Hat tip: Andrew Korf.) This sorry fate befell our friends at K10k.net, whose alternate K10k.com is now a sewer of festering marketing excreta. Further staining the swiped domain’s rep, the clowns who hijacked K10k made a crude attempt to imitate aspects of the K10k pixellated style. May they roast perpetually in a little–trafficked corner of hell. More domain shenanigans below.
If you can’t draw, steal.
In yesterday’s Report, we asked, “aside from the cropping, what’s wrong with this screenshot?” Hundreds answered, but only two guessed right. Among the most popular responses:
- You shouldn’t have to search to find out how to renew your domain name on a site whose sole business is registering domain names. That information should appear on the front page, either as content or as a clear navigational menu choice. A site that relies on search functionality to deliver its most important content is a broken site, even if the search works.
- The search function is broken.
- The example maddeningly repeats the very question the search engine failed to answer. “Seems like Jeeves may have gotten into the liquor cabinet,” suggested one reader.
- No indication is given as to how a frustrated seeker might find the answer to his or her question. When a search fails, the site should at least provide a link to a Help hierarchy by keyword, or to a table of contents. Instead, the thwarted customer is simply instructed to enter “another” question. Customers are unlikely to be interested in trying their luck.
- The tri–color breadcrumb navigation at the top (“You are Here: Help –> Sorry!”) is terribly Zen but useless. It does not even offer a link back to the home page.
- The baseline of the tri–color breadcrumb navigation is visually out of alignment, suggesting HTML unfit for family viewing.
- The tri–color breadcrumb navigation uses mismatched, badly rendered typefaces (as does the rest of the page), indicating a lack of cross–platform testing.
- The tri–color breadcrumb navigation’s colors clash and confuse instead of harmonizing and clarifying. Overall, this page’s misuse of typography, white space, and color would shame a blind monkey.
- A meaningless red icon to the left of “Chat With Customer Service” merely increases confusion. If we don’t know what “Chat With Customer Service” means, a basketball bouncing off a staircase won’t help.
- Since the screenshot is of a standard web page, and not of a pop–up window, the Close Window box would actually close the entire site (which in these circumstances might not be a bad idea).
- The Close Window box is a gif of a Mac OS9 form input as rendered by Netscape 4 and poorly doctored in Photoshop 5. Given the bucks VeriSign/Network Solutions rakes in with its near monopoly on web domain registration, you’d think they could pay a designer.
- “With” should be lowercased in “Chat With Customer Service.” Given the bucks VeriSign/Network Solutions rakes in with its near monopoly on web domain registration, you’d think they could pay a copyeditor.
- The word “Help” is a gif image, adding to page weight without providing any aesthetic benefit that might justify same. Do we really need a gif image of badly kerned Helvetica text?
- “The real problem: the visitor is using VeriSign/Network Solutions.” (Submitted by over 200 readers before we stopped counting.)
All the above is painfully sad and true. Alas, none of it was the correct answer to “what’s wrong with this screenshot?” The correct answer (drumroll):
15. MSN.com appears in the Favorites bar.
Congratulations and a bag of slightly stale nuts to winners Tom O’Dea and Nate Steiner. Apologies to Design Not Found, who apparently reported this same problem in February. Little did we know. Reminder to self: Always read Design Not Found. :::
21 March 2002
[11 pm | 10 am]
The iframe z-index issue mentioned earlier today has been fixed in Mozilla (which means it will also soon be fixed in Netscape 6). Hat tips: Michael van Ouwerkerk and and Chris Casciano.
Aside from the cropping, what’s wrong with this screenshot? (Hat tip and screenshot: W. Vann Hall.)
We have no choice but to link to this.
No, Sunday’s ad banner was not rendered in Flash, it’s simply a gif image. Yes, the banner is embedded in an iframe, which messes up z-index layering in all browsers except MSIE/Win.
Perhaps, like those who built the Groninger Museum site (see yesterday’s Report), these developers think “everybody” uses MSIE5+/Win.
Won’t folks who code exclusively for IE/Win be surprised if AOL switches 30% of American web users to a Mozilla–based browser. And won’t their clients be just thrilled if 30 million potential visitors suddenly find their sites unusable. Gosh, what could possibly save websites from this fate?
We are hip–deep in the implementation of a vast portal, and applying the finishing touches to Friday’s double issue of A List Apart, but will come up for air again later today, whether you like it or not. :::
20 March 2002
The Groninger Museum site requires MSIE 5+, Windows OS, and a 1024x768 monitor. A “limited” alternate version, requiring an equally large monitor, fails in IE5, Netscape 6, and Opera 5/Mac. Damn idiot web developers to hell. (Hat tip: Kristiaan Thivessen.)
Ambient music fans, JimmyD’s non–commercial Instrumental Weekly is rich in reviews of instrumental, ambient, and electronic music and contains a small section on American radio programming. Non–ambient music fans, the site’s quite attractively designed.
Cal Henderson’s Color Vision lets you view your site’s color scheme as folks with various types of color blindness may see it. (Hat tip: Caro.) Paola Kathuria’s Colour Selector offers a variety of tools for exploring color and producing swatches. (Hat tip: Martin Burns.)
To readers who took Sunday’s “What’s wrong with this drop–down menu?” as an earnest query about web design techniques: it wasn’t. Assigning z-index to the drop–down menus would fix the site. We were not trying to solve an expensive commercial site’s rudimentary design problem. Just pointing fingers and snickering, like you do when an Important Person has toilet paper stuck to his shoe. :::
19 March 2002
Kirk Franklin’s More Crayons blithely transcends the web–safe color palette, offering web designers 4,096 colors and a nifty interface to play with.
In yesterday’s Report, we asked, “What’s wrong with this drop–down menu?”
Hundreds guessed: “An ad banner is blocking the drop–down menu, a usability error that will prevent readers from accessing the site’s content.” Though entirely true, that is the wrong answer.
The correct answer: “Women” is not a subset of “Sports.”
Congratulations to reader J.D., who guessed right. A laminated copy of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act is now winging its way to this lucky winner, courtesy of our fine sponsors.
18 March 2002
You’ve got to hand it to 37signals. Frustrated by usability lapses in FedEx’s “Ship Manager” form, they designed a better one. While they’re fixing bad sites, we hope they’ll take a stab at our insurance company’s. We just spent an hour trying to choose a primary care physician, and we’re still not positive we got one.