Eric Meyer on Print Style Sheets
Life During Wartime
21 May 2002
[5 pm | noon]
My Glamorous Life No. 71: Life During Wartime.
In other site news for a chilly Tuesday, we’ve updated and organized the Exit Gallery’s CSS section. More to come.
We finally got to meet the excellent Aaron Boodman, developer of the Three.OH news scroller and other fine UI widgets, several of which he gives away on his personal site at youngpup.net.
Aaron’s as comfortable with .net as he is with Flash MX, but his heart belongs to the DOM, XUL, and SOAP. Over lunch, he pointed out that many W3C standards (at least the ones implemented so far) are geared toward a document-centric web.
This is great for content folks, but less great for people who need to build web applications. Which is precisely why Microsoft, Sun, and Macromedia have all done so well with their proprietary solutions.
Aaron is 23. Minds like his bear watching.
Jeff Gates thinks about private boundaries in public places in today’s installment of Life Outta Context, his sensitively written, occasional journal.
CodeBitch has isolated the text indent bug in IE5/Mac. Percentage units trigger the glitch. Other relative and absolute units appear to work as they should. Guess we’ll be updating the ALA style sheet yet again, at least until this bug is fixed. If you salivate over stuff like this, Donimo has launched a forum for the discussion of CSS and other web standards issues.
A few days ago we linked to getnytimes.com for stealing 37signals’s design (which they’ve since removed). We thought inept design theft was their only sin, but Jim Heid dug deeper:
“They hide their real source behind a borderless frame; their links take you to existing pages on the real New York Times site. They attempt to force a dozen cookies down your throat, and they put up a pop-up asking for your friends’ email addresses. Oh, and www.getusatoday.com is also active, though it displays the New York Times page.”
There’s more, but you get the gist. The bumbling perps behind getnytimes.com appear to be abusing legitimate newspaper sites to harvest email addresses. For their own sake, we hope they stop before the newspaper of record’s legal department gets wise to them.
17–19 May 2002
Kick-start your weekend with spankin’ new desktop images in the Wallpaper department. Our current favorites are Val and Ghost Ruler. Don’t ask us what the names mean. Don’t ask us what any of it means.
In his Inflight Correction of 15 May, WaSP Owen Briggs writes about the heartbreak of sizing small web text with ems. That’s why God invented pixels, dear boy. Ems work well as long as you never spec your text below the user’s default size. Most designers (and most clients) favor smaller type. When you try to set small type with ems (or percentages), you run into all the problems Briggs describes and some he forgot to mention.
Ems were intended to make sites more accessible—and they do, if you keep your web text on the meaty side. But when used to deliver undersized text, ems slam up against broken inheritance models, a universe of possible user settings (for instance, PC users who set their View: Text Size menu below “Medium”), and cross-platform issues solved in post-1999 browsers but undercut by individual preference settings (i.e., Mac users who switch back to 12px/72ppi text).
Pixels solve these problems by delivering a guaranteed base size. But what if that base size is too small for some readers?
Opera has always offered its users the ability to easily scale any web page via Page Zoom. In January 2000, WaSPs Todd Fahrner and yours truly persuaded the appropriate engineers to add a similar feature (“Text Zoom”) to IE5/Mac and Mozilla/Netscape 6. Thus nearly all current browsers allow users to resize text set in pixels. If text is too small, hit a button, a command key combination, or a drop-down menu, and voila! Instant legibility.
Alas, MSIE for Windows does not allow web users to resize text set in pixels. We will keep pestering Microsoft to add that feature to its Windows browser. Until they do, alternate style sheet widgets enable designers to work around this thorny accessibility problem.
Alternately, client and aesthetics permitting, you can design all your sites using only normal or oversized type set with ems. No CSS widgets required, no legibility problems even in IE/Win.
But if you try to force ems to deliver undersized text, what looks elegant on your monitor could be mousetype on ours. If you commit this act in the name of accessibility, you’re kidding yourself.
Note: IE/Win provides an option to “ignore font sizes specified on web pages,“ (screenshot c/o Timothy Martens). Buried deep in Internet Options:
General Tab: Accessibility, this little-known feature allows the visually impaired to view all web text at a size that suits them. That’s commendable. But this all-or-nothing approach is not the same as Text Zoom or Page Zoom.
Text size relationships convey meaning that gets lost when users can no longer see font sizes. Text Zoom and Page Zoom maintain size relationships that help readers make sense of content. MSIE/Win is a fine browser, but hiding font sizes is no substitute for allowing users to enlarge or reduce text as needed.
There’s a long overdue addition to the Beauty section of this site’s Exit Gallery: Brian “Rustboy” Taylor’s XL5design.com is one cool, clean, pixelicious portfolio. Added to the Exit Gallery’s Daily section: 0format.com, Dennis Mahoney’s intelligent ’blog, nicely authored in XHTML and CSS.
Today’s Photoshop Tennis pits Eric Jordan of 2advancedstudios against Roddy Llewellyn of Crea@te Online, with verbage by Kevin Guilfoile. The live match kicks off at 9am PST, noon EST, 5pm London. In other words, the game has begun.
Oops! Ah. Hmm. CodeBitch believes the broken layout represents a float bug in IE5/Mac. That still doesn’t explain what a steel-grey bar is doing above all that orange, white and yellow.
16 May 2002
[1 pm | 10 am]
Newly added to the Exit Gallery, two fine sites by Todd Dominey: Dominey Design, a distinctive and charming professional services site crafted in Flash; and What Do I Know, an elegantly designed and intelligently written daily site built with XHTML and CSS. We’ve linked to these sites before, but they’ll be easier to find now.
Also added to the Exit Gallery: Brainstorms & Raves, Shirley E. Kaiser’s near-daily column about web design and development, with a special focus on accessibility and standards; and Scott Andrew, a fine daily focused on the technology formerly known as “DHTML.” Both sites should have been in the Exit Gallery for years.
Also added to the Exit Gallery: What is a Print? This Flash site for the Museum of Modern Art is one of the best we’ve ever seen: fresh, fun, and immensely usable. It was created by NYC’s The Chopping Block, who continually prove that designers can have a great time while creating wonderful user experiences.
The Chopping Block would like you to know they’re not responsible for the plug-in detection snafu mentioned in Tuesday’s Report. The Chopping Block designed Turner Classic Movies, but someone else implemented the detection script that fails to recognize Flash Player 6 in Mac OS.
CSS designers, an article at evolt.org, “MSIE6 bug with floating divs and spacers,” proposes a workaround for the IE6 CSS layout scrolling bug reported at A List Apart last year and still unfixed. The bug afflicts an unknown percentage of IE6 users, and so far has proved impossible to reproduce in Microsoft’s labs, making it tough to track down and fix.
The music industry strikes again: copy-protected audio CDS are incompatible with PCs and Macs, and can actually damage Mac OS computers. Damage is not covered by warranty, since use of the non-standard copy-protected disc format is considered a misapplication of the computer’s CD drive.
“Shed No Tears Over OS 9’s Demise” makes the point that Apple is now the leading seller of Unix-based systems and reports that an upcoming version of OS X, due by summer, will add features adapted from OS 9. When that version comes out, we may make the switch.
Current problems for OS X users include font management traps, hard drive fragmentation, and incompatibility with many third-party applications, plug-ins, utilities, and drivers.
Adobe, Macromedia, and Microsoft support OS X. The producers of most smaller applications and utilities will likely follow. But at this moment, OS X may be better suited to new computer users and Unix geeks than to long-time Mac users who need to get work done.
Possibly in response to protests, getnytimes.com has removed its lame imitation of the 37signals layout as mentioned in yesterday’s Report.
15 May 2002
[11 am | 10 am]
Congratulations to affiliate Digital Web Magazine, now celebrating its sixth year as an independent publisher of useful web content.
Tsk. A site hawking New York Times home delivery not only swiped the clean, minimalist design of 37signals’s corporate site, they also uglied it up in the process. We don’t mind a thief but we despise a bungler.
Interesting approach to inept web development and the user-unfriendly URLs generated by some content management systems: Good URLs for Good People.
Rack ’n Roll: Apple plunges into the Unix server market. Inevitable, smart, and good. Now all they need to do is port the human interface guidelines and elegant simplicity of classic Mac OS to OS X, and all will be forgiven.
A Canadian reader explains why the 5k contest lowercases its “k:” it’s a metric thing. Kind of.
The WaSP Browser Upgrades campaign gets more abuse than a cub scout’s weiner. WaSP created the campaign in February 2001 to help hasten the adoption of browsers that comply with XHTML, CSS, ECMAScript, and the W3C DOM. It was never intended as a shortcut for lazy developers or an excuse for non-compliant sites that favor one browser over another. Yet it’s often used for just those purposes. Sad.
14 May 2002
[3 pm | 1 pm | 10 am]
On 12 May in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through a simple, moving ceremony attended by family and friends, Maurice Zeldman and Catherine Vintilla became husband and wife.
There are new desktop images for your pleasure in the Wallpaper department.
Upgrading to Flash Player 6 prevents some sites built with Flash 5 from working on the Macintosh platform. Among sites that fail are Cooperstown Collection and the Turner Classic Movies site built by our good friends at The Chopping Block. Flash Player 6 is not at fault; browser and plugin detection scripts are.
The Cooperstown site will not work at all in Mac browsers that have Flash Player 6 installed. The Turner site defaults to a “no Flash” (HTML) version that’s attractive and usable. You may even prefer it to the Flash version, though you can only compare the two by downgrading to an earlier version of Flash.
The Chopping Block’s own site is free of this defect, as are other Flash sites such as TwoPiece, futurefarmers, and Amon Tobin Supermodified, which work just fine in the latest version of Flash.
Think small. As noted earlier in the right-hand affiliates column, the 5k contest is back. A Kilobyte (KB or K) is 1024 bytes of data, and the annual contest seeks full-fledged sites that weigh 5K or less. By way of context, corporate sites frequently exceed 100K per page, and the previously mentioned Cooperstown Collection is over 3MB. One MB is 1024K. You do the math. We’re not sure why contest founder Stewart Butterfield uses a lowercase “k,” but if this year’s contest is anything like the previous two, we expect to see big ideas in small packages.
Speaking of small packages, while out of town we received over 100 unsolicited email messages promising to enhance our, uh, personal appearance. It’s nice to know someone cares.