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Current ALA: 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web | Manage Your Content With PHP
Current Glamour: The Velvet Fist
Noteworthy: Web Standards for Hard Times
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26 August 2002
[5 pm]
After a brief visit, Zeldman’s dad and bride Catherine have sailed out of New York Harbor on their honeymoon cruise. Bon voyage! :::

[5 pm]
Catscape’s Design Project: Currency asks you to design money for the fictional nation of Zambonia. The creator of the winning design will receive Curt Cloninger’s Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground. The deadline is 30 September.

Good thinking: xBlog, “the visual thinking weblog” (and one of our favorite web design resources) is now laid out in CSS2, and marked up in XHTML 1.

Pirated Sites, recently added to our Affiliates bar, may have a new crime to punish. Tyler’s Room (“Where the Boys Are!”) smells a lot like Glassdog, Lance Arthur’s long-running personal site. Hat tip: Joe Clark. WARNING: Tyler’s Room contains content unsuitable for children and may be blocked as an “adult site” by gateway software installed on your computer or your office network. If you’re at work and don’t want to be logged as having attempted to visit an adult site, avoid the link.

The DOM-compliant Opera 7 browser mentioned last week may be closer to release: Opera Software has published a preliminary Opera 7 news page. Our fingers are crossed that the new Opera browser will provide standard DOM support comparable to that of IE5/6, Mozilla, and Netscape 6/7. Imagine scripting behaviors that work the same way in all major browsers.

We’ve been getting bug reports aplenty from people who use Mozilla 1.1 to visit, ALA, and our other sites. Bug reports are great, but only if they’re sent to the right people. The WaSP’s Report Browser Bugs tells how to let browser makers know about flaws in their software. (By the way, Mozilla 1.0 works great. It’s the 1.1 version that seems to have gone off its meds.) :::

23 August 2002
[6 pm]
Some readers who attended the Seybold conference have asked to see the Super Secret Style Guide for the Charlotte Gray website. And there it is.

Geek Soup: At DHTML Central, a tutorial by Thomas Brattli tells how to build “dynamic” menus using XHTML, CSS, and the DOM. Said menus can be viewed in any browser (including a text browser) and the CSS and markup validate. In a like vein, see ypXmlTree at While you’re there, check out DOM-Drag, a chunk of open source code that helps you program “DHTML” interfaces with draggable elements.

At, W3C members fail test (again) and AOL switches Mac users to Mozilla, a possible portent.

Matt S. writes: “‘Show, don’t sell’ [in yesterday’s Report] is getting me a gig redoing a rather large local Rotary Club site. I edited the page dedicated to a local high school outreach program, and re-built it using XHTML and CSS. The person who updates the content was so amazed at how easy it is to 1) update the content, and 2) change the way it looks with CSS, that now I’m helping him create an RFP to have me re-do [the entire site].” :::

22 August 2002
[2 pm]
Readers continually ask: “How can I sell standards to my client/boss/co-workers?” Here’s a thought: Don’t sell. Show.
        Show a fellow designer how CSS frees you from the need to create and mark up images merely to create a border. Show them Rollovers that work on ASCII text — no JavaScript or menu gifs needed. When your client changes the architecture a week before the launch, you’ll edit a text file in minutes instead of spending hours in Photoshop.
        Take a comp you’ve designed in which a small, branded graphic precedes every item on a list. Use CSS list properties to automatically insert the image. Show your client that when she updates the page, your style sheet will automatically insert the appropriate image in front of each new list item. No need to over-complicate the client’s existing content management system (if she has one). No need for the client to cut and paste tricky, table-driven image alignments (if she doesn’t). No need to worry that the client will accidentally hose the design post-delivery and blame you.
        Take credit for what CSS has done. Don’t say: “Web standards did this.” Do say: “We’ve set up a system that will automatically format the page whenever you update it.” Let the client think you’re smart and give you more business.
        We’re working on three sites that combine traditional techniques with current methods. One layout that would ordinarily require 22 table cells gets by with six; CSS handles the rest of the formatting. With fewer table cells for the browser to parse, fewer bytes of markup for the server to cough up, and fewer meaningless spacer and border gifs for the user to download, the new design loads far faster than the old one, even though it looks more sophisticated.
        Show your client the old and new designs over dialup. Let her see the difference in speed. Run a demo on your staging server. Let your client update the content in real time and see that the design, with all its nuances, remains intact. Let her try the same thing on the old design. Let her watch as the nested tables that delivered the previous design unravel when she adds “too much text” to the page. Let your client think you’re smarter than the previous designer.
        Show, don’t sell. :::

21 August 2002
[5 pm]
New at Happy Cog: a schedule of Zeldman keynote speeches and appearances in Boston, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, baby. :::

20 August 2002
[7 pm]
For weeks we’ve heard rumors that Opera was working overtime to improve its brower’s support for the W3C DOM, a “platform-neutral interface that allows programs and scripts to dynamically access and update the content, structure, and style of [web pages].”
        Opera’s light, fast browser has earned many fans, but its lack of DOM support impeded wider acceptance. That may change quickly according to, which claims in “Opera casts off legacy code for speed” that Opera will soon release a 7.0 browser rebuilt from the ground up to do two things:
        (1.) Support the DOM, as IE, Netscape, and Mozilla already do.
        (2.) Load web pages even faster than the existing Opera browser.
        It wouldn’t be tech journalism without at least one misguided soundbyte. quotes the opinion of a systems architect from Clearwater, Florida, who says “Opera ... would do better to support [Microsoft] technologies rather than ... industry standards.”
        In fact, Microsoft, along with Opera’s other larger competitors, has made a point of supporting the industry standard DOM. To stay viable, Opera must do likewise. That they plan to do so soon is very good news. We’re guessing the quotation was taken out of context.

Apple UK’s “Mac Motivates Maverick Animator” focuses on the extraordinary work of Brian Taylor, filmmaker, animator, and web designer par excellence. As if all that weren’t enough, Taylor is a favored contender for the Photoshop Tennis RGB Cup.

In yesterday’s Report, we celebrated Jakob Nielsen’s getting on board with the need for IE/Windows to let users resize any web text, as IE5/Mac, Mozilla, and Netscape 6 users have been able to do since 2000, and Opera users have been able to do since the Bronze Age. Four wee errors mar Nielsen’s argument, and after letting them ride for over 24 hours, we feel we’d be remiss if we failed to point them out:
        (1.) Nielsen continually refers to the text size widget in IE4/Mac. That implementation was based on oldschool FONT tags. Text Zoom in IE5/Mac is based on standards and allows users to resize any web text, including text set in pixels. That’s the implementation Nielsen should be calling to Microsoft’s attention.
        (2.) Nielsen credits the Mac-only iCab browser with giving users “this simple control.” In fact, iCab copied the “simple control” from IE5/Mac, not the other way around.
        (3.) In the section on “Readability Guidelines,” Mr Nielsen should cite the WAI-CAAG, as most of his suggestions have been raised by the W3C in that document, which naturally goes into much greater detail than his Alertbox column can, given its limited space.
        (4.) Finally, in the section on implementation, Nielsen refers to pts, which are an inappropriate unit for screen display. CSS includes pts to facilitate the development of print style sheets, nothing more. When he says “at least 10 point,” the reader should substitute pixels for points.
        Mr Nielsen is a consultant, not a designer or developer, and these errors have no bearing on the validity of his general argument that IE/Win users need a simple mechanism to adjust font sizes on pages that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. As we pointed out in yesterday’s Report and have said for two years, every other major browser offers this functionality. :::

19 August 2002
[1 pm | noon]
Jakob Nielsen is joining the fight to let users resize text in IE/Win. In 1999, we asked Microsoft to let users resize any text—even text set in pixels—to solve accessibility problems caused by fixed text sizes. Ignorant designers use pixels because they don’t know or care about accessibility issues. Knowledgeable designers use pixels because other units often fail for complex reasons. Accessible workarounds help, but they fail for some users and many designers won’t bother trying. Pixels are here to stay. Users should not be penalized. That was the simple case we made.
        In March 2000, Microsoft responded with IE5/Mac, whose clever Text Zoom feature lets users resize text set in pixels, pts, cms, inches, or any other unit. Netscape and Mozilla saw the wisdom of Text Zoom and implemented it immediately. Opera continued to offer its long-running Page Zoom, which comes at the problem a different way but accomplishes the same thing.
        All modern browsers now offer Text Zoom or Page Zoom but one: IE/Win. Which is, of course, the most-used browser on earth. The IE/Windows team has done great things, but implementing Text Zoom is not one of them. Maybe they’ll listen to Jakob. We hope they listen to somebody soon. Jakob gets some of his facts wrong, but his heart’s in the right place and his overall message jibes with ours.
        Microsoft, Text Zoom already exists, it works well, and your guys invented it. Add it to IE/Windows. Hundreds of millions of web users will thank you. :::

18 August 2002
[2 pm]
We’ve all heard the one about the Japanese soldiers stationed on a remote Pacific island who continued to fight World War II through the 1960s. Nobody had told them the war was over. We’re not sure why we mention that story, but a shiny new Netscape 4.8 upgrade is now available for downloading. Hat tip: Drew.

Reader Feedback of the Month. “An important usability tip: your ‘Jakob Nielsen Corner’ is not in a corner. Users will be confused. It should be in the top left-hand corner for maximum visibility, and it should be yellow: Jakob Nielsen is strongly associated with that color. Renaming it the ‘Jakob Nielsen Yellow ConvertBox’ may help with usability and describing expected functionality, but this will require testing on sample users.” — L. Wood, Surrey, England.

We’re spending this sunny summer weekend in a pool of Photoshop comps and style sheets as two commercial web design projects head into production on wildly accelerated schedules. Some of the work required us to upgrade to Photoshop 7, which in turn required us to upgrade our operating system, and thereby hangs an upgrade tale.

Fray is a long-running indie site dedicated to personal storytelling. Fray Day is its real-world corollary: a gathering of storytellers in various cities all over the world. Fray Day 6 takes place in mid-September. If you live in or near any of the participating cities, it’s well worth checking out. { More » } :::

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