MY GLAMOROUS LIFE: Tragicomic fodder from the life of Zeldman. A LIST APART: Design, code, content. For people who make websites. LES MISC: Articles, essays, and miscellanies. TAKING YOUR TALENT TO THE WEB: A Guide for the Transitioning Designer.
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Happy Cog.

Current ALA: Time Management: The Pickle Jar Theory
Current Relaunch: Happy Cog Studios
Recent Glamour: Life During Wartime
Recent Essentials (clickety-click)

8 July 2002
[10 am]
Many web practioners still believe that accessiblity is an ugly, no-frills affair. Not true. Images, table layouts, style sheets, JavaScript, server-side technologies like PHP, and embedded technologies like Flash and Quicktime are all compatible with the rigors of accessible site design.

Accessibility mainly takes place under the hood. Most accessibility enhancements are invisible. For instance, to accommodate people who can’t use a mouse, you might use onkeypress in addition to onclick to trigger JavaScript events. Onclick works for the mouse user; onkeypress, for the person who navigates via the keyboard. Impact on the site’s visual design: none.

So why do so many otherwise well-informed web designers wrongly equate accessibility with ugly, low-end design? Maybe because some accessibility advocates are not designers, while others are actually hostile to design. People who can’t design and people who hate design tend to create ugly sites, but this has do with the authors’ biases and limitations, not with accessibility.

(One or two well-known usability advocates are also hostile to design, but that’s simply their unfortunate prejudice. Usability is not anti-design, and good design is part of good usability.)

Then, too, some accessibility sites are themselves inaccessible and pay little to no heed to web standards. For instance, until recently, the U.S. government’s official Section 508 site failed to comply with Section 508. (It still fails to validate as HTML.)

And’s Bobby, the free accessibility validator most of us use, fails its own accessibility tests. (It also fails to comply with web standards and generates invalid URLs.)


2–6 July 2002
W3C’s icons show you care about web standards, but they are far from pretty to look at, and many designers, let alone many clients, would not want to clutter their pages with them. Timo Arnall’s W3C icon design remix encourages visual artists to redesign the things.

The Summer Issue of Born Magazine delivers seven interpretations of poetry and prose, plus a special feature created from Born readers’ words and images. Born is an award-winning venue for artistic and literary collaboration on the web.

The July issue of Web Page Design for Designers features tips for job seekers, techniques for optimizing thumbnails, and a mini-editorial on The WaSP’s relaunch. Web Page Design for Designers is a long-running indie site published by Joe Gillespie, creator of MINI 7 and other wonderful pixel fonts.

Just when you think you’ve figured out how W3C DOCTYPES make standards-compliant browsers behave, a new wrinkle comes along. Mozilla’s Almost Standards Mode seems geared toward handling web standards as designers expect, without additional workarounds. We’ll have more to say about it when we’re sure we understand all its ins and outs. Hat tips: Simon Hill and Eric Meyer.

Mister Zeldman is leaving for a week in the great American Midwest. There will be no updates here in his absence, and no mail will be seen or answered. Have a swell week, and (to the Americans in the house) a safe and happy Independence Day. :::

1 July 2002
[6 pm | noon]
Happy Canada Day to our neighbors up north.

Apple’s low-priced eMac, originally available only to the education market, is now for sale to all. At $1099 US, it may be just the thing for PC and Linux-based developers who need to check their work for Mac compatibility. The compact, all-in-one machine includes a 17" monitor with plenty of graphic RAM, 10/100 Base T (Fast Ethernet), FireWire, USB, an internal modem, and scads of cool, useful software. Powered by the G4 processor, the eMac runs both OS 9 and OS X and is Airport-ready for wireless connectivity. And of course, under OS X you can also run Apache, PHP, MySQL, and SSL on the eMac (or any other Mac). :::

30 June 2002
[10 am]
Mark Simonson’s The Scourge of Arial explains the history of the ugly little font that has “spread like a virus through the typographic landscape.” Fascinating and informative, the brief article is chock-full of useful tips (“How to Spot Arial”) and glorious similes (“It was like asking for Jimmy Stewart and getting Rich Little”). Link nicked from K10k.

Ed Swindelles’s EasyComply is an open source PHP script that helps you create pages that comply with standards. It supports XHTML or HTML Strict or Transitional, and generates appropriate links to CSS and JavaScript files. Full installation instructions are included. :::

28 June 2002
[10 am | 9 am]
Web competitions tend to emulate the empty glitz that mars most movie, music, and ad awards shows. The Dynamic XHTML Design Competition may buck this trend. Created to showcase innovative design and programming within the constraints of XHTML and the DOM, it comes with a cash prize of $1,000 U.S.

Another fest has avoided the glitz trap since its inception. The 5k inspires innovation by imposing outrageous constraints: all entries must weigh 5 Kilobytes or less. Entries in The 5k’s “anything goes” category are now live for your pleasure.

Whose web is it anyway?

If you haven’t yet posted a comment in support of the IMS/ISC non-profit bid to operate the .org registry as a public service, please do so. You can also help by spreading the dot. Strong public support may persuade ICANN to award the registry to the most technically competent team team instead of the best-funded one.
        If you don’t understand why this is important, wait ’til Verisign or an equally clueless competitor “accidentally” sells your domain to someone else. Ditherati, whose fifth anniversary we celebrated here on 4 June, is one of many long-running sites to lose its domain due to grotesque incompetence by a commercial registrar.
        Separately, a colleague has spent over ten hours with Verisign’s phone “support” trying to resolve a Verisign-created problem. Guess what? They don’t care and they won’t fix it. Commercial registrars operate with all the accountability of a covert ops squad:
        “I’ve already sent you the forms five times, including the credit card statement showing I paid you.”
        “I’m sorry, we have no record of that. Perhaps if you’d send us the forms...”
        “I’ve sent them five times.”
        “I’m sorry, we have no record of that.”
        “But I paid you.”
        “I’m sorry, we have no record of that.”
        “No offense, but please let me speak to your manager.”
        “We’ll have someone get back to you.”
        “That’s what the last twelve people at your company told me.”
        “Please hold.” Click.
        A competently-run, non-profit dot-org registry won’t solve the problems of dot-coms and dot-nets who find their sites sold out from under them, but it’s a start. We urge you to voice your support. :::

27 June 2002
[1 pm]
The schedule for Builder Las Vegas, including a keynote address by Mister Zeldman, has been posted. Builder is among the biggest and longest-running web conferences going, and this year’s event will be held in Caesar’s Palace, baby. Cash these in, will you, sweetheart? Session details are available at Happy Cog. :::

25–26 June 2002
[6 pm | 5 pm | 10 am | 10 am]
The .org Top Level Domain (TLD) is the home for the noncommercial organizations of the world. Trusted Resource, the only non-profit bidding on the service, hopes to operate the .org registry service as a public trust. We’ve seen what happens when registries are handled by ham-handed monopolies with no concept of service and no goal beyond their own enrichment. It’s time to give dot-orgs a chance.

Frankly, ICANN is far more likely to award the registry to a clueless corporation than to a non-profit run by Internet pioneers. But your voice can help. A strong public show of support will influence ICANN to at least consider making the .org registry a public trust instead of a corporate bust. Post a comment and make a difference.

One document serves all: web standards at work

Porter Glendinning sent us this screen capture of as seen in his Palm Pilot. Worth noting: The Web Standards Project is built with XHTML 1.0 Strict. CSS is used for layout. There is no Palm version. There is no WAP version. Multiple versions are not needed. When you design and build with standards, one document serves all. Thanks, Porter.

Similarly: Here’s how The WaSP’s site looks in Microsoft’s PocketPC. (Thanks, Anil.) Again, no special version was required or built.

But wait, there’s more. Care of Grant Hutchinson, here’s the same site on a Newton, Apple’s long-discontinued predecessor to the Palm Pilot. “There’s nothing like viewing a modern site using a piece-meal browser on a vintage operating system.”

The bad news: even the latest versions of certain off-brand browsers deliver incorrect and incomplete support for CSS, and no support at all for the W3C DOM. Folks who use these browsers will have inferior experiences on sites built with anything beyond HTML table layouts and 1997-era JavaScript. This may not bother you or your clients, but it will certainly distress these users.
        Take OmniWeb. Please. As screenshots prepared by Waferbaby show, the newly released OmniWeb 4.1 fares reasonably well with transitional layouts like the one used at OmniWeb fudges some CSS layouts without impairing usability: Waferbaby’s navigation bar explodes on impact, and ALA’s leading and borders are missing, but both sites can still be read.
        The WaSP’s new site fares worse. Among other woes, its left-side navigation is almost entirely hidden. It may seem odd that a site so friendly to Palm users could prove so troublesome to a fancy-pants graphical browser like OmniWeb, but that’s how it is when browsers meet a web standard halfway. No CSS is better than incomplete and incorrect CSS. We can only hope that Omni Group will continue to improve its promising but problematic product.

Likewise, here’s a snap of in iCab 2.8, a Mac-only browser that claims to offer standards support comparable to that in IE and Opera. (To be fair, iCab’s has always provided superb support for HTML. Which may not sound like much, but is. It’s those other standards iCab still needs to work on.) Thanks, Eric. :::

23–24 June 2002
In Issue 146 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites: Time management theories come and go, and we’re glad when most of them leave. But this one caught our fancy. No charts, no grids, no five syllable words — just a simple idea that can help you get more done with less stress. New ALA contributing writer Jeremy Wright uncorks the Pickle Jar Theory of Time Management.


Stilleye offers scripts you can download and use on your own sites. Includes expanding menus, a pixelated text generator, and a fix for MSIE’s automatic margin bug.

Of late we’ve found ourselves bemusedly contemplating the abstract thoughts and equally abstract layouts of WebActivism.

SDG, a newly launched web agency, has taken WaSP’s challenge to heart, and will offer its clients only standards-compliant work. The agency’s corporate site complies with XHTML 1.0 Transitional, CSS, and the Section 508 guidelines, and is not a bad looker.

Recent essentials you may have missed: “Flash Player 6 & broken detection scripts” covers a problem on numerous Flash-based sites, where old browser detection scripts prevent visitors who’ve installed the Flash 6 player from viewing Flash content. “Dingbats instead of text” explores an MSIE problem in which text on web pages shows up as visual symbols instead of words. :::

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