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Recent ALA: Night of the Image Map. CSS Design: Creating Custom Corners and Borders. Retooling Slashdot With Web Standards II.

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The Daily Report

6–7 September 2003 :::

weekend edition

Favelets updated

Our W3C beta validator Favelets (introduced 4 September) have changed as follows: The “Fussy Parsing” Favelet no longer adds a forward slash to the end of the URL of the page you’re testing.

If you installed the previous version of Fussy Parsing, please delete it and use this new one instead. (We’ve updated the code in the earlier version as well, so folks who bookmarked the 4 September Report will still get the improved Favelet.) Thanks for the feedback: Pid, Mark Lewis. :::

Jeans on and off

In case anyone missed the point of this 3 September entry, here is the Lee Jeans site with CSS on, and here it is again with CSS off. (More.) We wrote the original entry in a post-op haze, hence its lack of clarity. We are still in a post-op haze, but less hazy. :::

Goodies for you

Listamatic
“The power of CSS when applied to one simple list using samples from Eric Meyer, ProjectSeven, SimpleBits and others.”
Sixfruit6: Daily Servings
Sixfoot6 redesigns strikingly, beautifully, freshly, uniquely, and even legibly.
“The One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online”
An experiment in pay-to-download content: 17 web professionals each share one core piece of advice.
How to explain validation...
...to somebody who can barely use a computer.
Color scheme
Generate color schemes and test their appearance to people with various types of color blindness using this DHTML-driven, multi-language tool by “Pixy” the Pixel Master.
Macromedia’s hybrid navigation
Analysis by Todd Dominey of one of an unusual aspect of Macromedia.com’s recent CSS/XHTML/Flash redesign. See also “Weaving CSS Dreams” at Stopdesign.
1930s advertising posters from Shanghai
Strange and beautiful cigarette and beer ads from another world. (If you like them and live in New York City, you can often find them at the 25th Street Flea Market, where they sell for a buck or two.)
Web Designer’s Guide to JAWS
Understanding screen reading software. See also “A New Set of JAWS” and “Evaluating for Accessibility” at webstandards.org.
In Defense of the Box
“The Box Has Long been maligned as the culprit behind boring CSS -based web design. Some even claim that the ‘boxiness’ of early CSS-based designs slowed the adoption of CSS as a layout tool. Why the hatred for the humble box? ... ”
All blog marketers are going to Hell
Subdued rant at Blogstakes.com.
Random New Media Company Generator
Fun from Adactio.com.
Making the absolute, relative
CSS tip from Stopdesign.
The Onion Article Generator
More fun from Adactio.com.
Photo Matt: Unlucky in Cards
But lucky in redesign and always interesting.
A man and his chips
DL Byron shows off his invention. :::

5 September 2003 :::

2 pm | 1 pm edt

Feed validator moves

The RSS (and Atom) validation service created by Messieurs Mark Pilgrim and Sam Ruby has moved to a new location. Update your bookmarks and URI query strings. :::

IE to change at the barrel of a gun?

The Register:

“Microsoft may alter its dominant Internet Explorer Web browser following a ruling against it in a Chicago court earlier this month. That is according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an industry standards body, which said ... the Seattle giant had told the group that changes to the software may be in order. It was in mid August that Microsoft lost a civil case brought against it by Eolas Technologies and was ordered to pay the company $520.6 million for infringing on patents relating to Internet Explorer (IE).”

Eolas, the patent holder, staked its claim in 1995. Geeks and academics immediately pronounced it worthless, but this year a US judge disagreed. That’s good news for the patent holder but rotten news for the universe. An old issue of Wired News has more. Hat tip: Paul Bellows. :::

4 September 2003 :::

8 pm | 6 pm | 10 am edt

New Favelets for your pleasure

We’ve written a pair of Favelets to take advantage of the powerful new W3C beta validator:

“Beta Validate,” as you might guess, runs your current document through the beta validator. “Fussy Parsing” does the same, but with fussy parsing turned on. On a correctly authored site, you might not notice any difference between the two modes. On one containing errors, you will. :::

Goodbye, orange brick road

This morning we changed this site’s alternative styles. No more color scheme variations; no more swapping of header graphics and background images. Instead, and more usefully, the only thing that changes is type size and contrast.

Choose the second style for medium contrast – darker than our default – and scalable text which, on most systems, will be slightly larger than what you’re used to here. Choose the third style for maximum contrast. Try it!

People who found the default pink style and the old orange style lacking in contrast will now have plenty of contrast. People who use IE/Win, by choosing the second or third style, will now be able to enjoy the same user-adjustable text scalability benefits that all other modern browsers provide automatically. Win, win.

Konqueror 3.0 users will no longer be stuck with an orange background because of a still-unfixed bug in their browser. The change also protects users of Firebird from one of its still-unfixed bugs.

It also gives us more options for adding visual elements to this site or redesigning bits and pieces of it, as we will no longer have to worry about matching transparent areas of foreground elements to more than one background color.

So who loses out? People who, for one reason or another, really liked that orange background color will have to learn to live without it. We regret the inconvenience to them, but the benefits outweigh this disadvantage. And besides, we never really liked orange. :::

3 September 2003 :::

5 pm edt

Up perioscope!

GREAT LINKS BELOW DESERVE BETTER COVERAGE STOP UNFORTUNATELY HAVE HAD PERIODONTAL WORK DONE AND AM IN NO CONDITION TO GIVE THESE LINKS THEIR DUE STOP KINDLY BEAR WITH SKETCHY DESCRIPTIONS AND POOR WRITING BELOW WHICH REFLECT PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT OF AUTHOR AND NOT QUALITY OF PAGES LINKED STOP SINCERELY YOURS ETC JEFFREY STOP

Web Page Analyzer 0.80
This incredibly useful (and free) online tool accurately and intelligently calculates page size, composition, and download time. Add it to your web design / development bookmarks. Created and produced by Andrew (“Speed Up Your Site”) King.
Lee Jeans: One True Fit
Very pretty, well-made commercial site done in XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS. Designer Ryan Carver explains technical niceties of his standards-based design.
Introvertster
Finally an online service we can relate to.
Flash Satay poll
Drew McClellan solved the problem of embedding Flash while supporting standards – except that the method fails in some browsers. The Flash Satay poll wants to find out where it fails, which might be the first step toward making it work everywhere. Take 30 seconds to contribute your results.
Fifteen.be redesign contest
Redesign fifteen.be and win two (cough) fine books from New Riders. Hat tip: Kristiaan Thivessen.
CYBERLOFT | NYC
Browse work by artists based in New York City. (Artists: submit your work for free.)
Haughey builds a valid wiki
Matt (Metafilter.com) Haughey weaves a wiki that looks like a website and complies with XHTML and CSS (semantic spirit as well as technical letter). Hat tip: Mister Joe Clark.
Standards: designing for the future
WaSP Ian Lloyd in fine form on the training gap. This same gent also recently wrote:
Attractive accessible sites
Disproving the myth of ugly.
House Industries
On the off-chance that some of you are unaware of this exceptional font foundry.
Zeldminem
It works for us.
Safari Icon Manager
Because when you’re designing a site, maybe the first Favicon you design isn’t good enough. So you design a new one – but your browser doesn’t know to replace the bad that one that’s already cached. Safari Icon Manager lets you edit the browser’s Favicon cache or delete it altogether. This makes it very useful for Mac-based web designers. (To see it in action, visit A List Apart, whose Favicon recently changed. Use the tool to delete your Favicon cache, then visit A List Apart again and you will see the new icon, which is a microcosmic preview of the upcoming redesign.) For even more power of your browser, download Safari Enhancer (latest version 2.0.6, which lets you empty the Favicon cache, turn on the Debugging Menu, set a minimum font size, and more).
Bad Subdirectory names
Some subdirectory names are better, or at least safer, than others. Web Pages That Suck has listed subdirectory names that will be blocked by some anti-popup add-on software because these subdirectory names are so often used by cheese-heads as popup storage zones. We wish we had seen this page long ago. Among subdirectory names blocked by Norton Internet Security is /banners/. This makes us cry, for in our innocence we use that very subdomain in the Designing With Web Standards mini-site. Our favorite browsers automatically block popups but do not rely on maps of suspicious subdirectory names to achieve this goal. :::

1 September 2003 :::

1 pm edt

My Glamorous Life #80

My Glamorous Life #80: Burning Memory. :::

29 August 2003 :::

6 pm edt

W3C Markup Validator 0.6.5 Beta #1

The W3C announces the “Zeldman Made Us Do It!” edition of their online markup validation service:

“Taking our cue from from a certain web pundit’s meanderings, the big news in this version is internal support for custom and customizeable error explanations. This means an end to digging all over the net drying to figure out what an error message means; just turn on the ‘Verbose Output’ option and the explanation will be displayed inline with each error message. If the explanation is not to your liking ... you can now submit your Nobel-nominate suggested replacement text through a handy-dandy mailto: link right next to the error. ... No reason to constrain yourself to weblogs any more.”

In addition to human-friendly error messages, the new beta validator also introduces an optional “fussy parsing” mode which reports technically kosher but potentially problematic issues in your markup. For instance, in HTML, it is technically legal to omit the start and end tags for the body element, but you might not want to omit those tags. “Fussy parsing” will catch such stuff, along with unencoded ampersands and more.

We thank the W3C Markup Validator Team for their hard work, good humor, and responsiveness to the needs of the web community. :::

28 August 2003 :::

4 pm | 1 pm edt

“21st Century Slaves”

“The headline...is not a metaphor. This story is about slaves. Not people living like slaves, working hard for lousy pay. Not people 200 years ago. It’s about 27 million people worldwide who are bought and sold, held captive, brutalized, exploited for profit.”

Written by Andrew Cockburn, with photos by Jodi Cobb, “21st Century Slaves,” appears in the September issue of National Geographic. It will blow your mind and break your heart. An excerpt is available online. :::

Notable

BloggingWorks™ Workshops
“Intimate, hands-on weblog workshops for business,” Fridays in Chicago. Presented by 37signals and Coudal Partners, two companies with which zeldman.com readers will be quite familiar. If anyone can craft a great conference on business blogging, it’s these folks.
Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
A stick figure eerily apes Christopher Walken’s dance moves in this Flash reconstruction of the Fatboy Slim video directed by Spike Jonze.
Containing Floats
CSS layout misbehaving? Eric Meyer’s article may provide the help you need. Clear, clever, and bookmarkable, it’s a nutritious part of Complex Spiral Consulting (named after the famous CSS demo).
Fast rollovers, no preload needed
Just like it says. Instead of swapping images on rollover, this spiffy CSS trick simply repositions one image that contains three states. (For a more conventional way to preload hover states in CSS rollovers, see our Daily Report entry of 13 March 2003.)
Intersmash Design Challenge
The challenge is to create a two-column web layout that wraps around a central image.
No Sight at Night: CSS Challenge
The challenge is to make a style sheet that skins non-static content (namely, the content on No Sight at Night).
Woody Allen’s Typeface
A presentation of Contact Sheet.
“View Source” AppleScripts
Plugging a hole in OS X browsers, Webgraph’s scripts let you view source in your external editor of choice. (Supported editors include BBEdit, emacs, PageSPinner, pico, TextEdit, vi, and CLI).
Screen Reader Petition
Freelance designers who care about accessibility want to test their work in screen readers like Freedom Scientific’s JAWS, but can’t afford to buy the product (which starts at US $895). This petition asks Freedom Scientific to create a stripped-down free version for designers. Fair enough, but surely if the company could afford to give its product away for free, it would give it to blind people before worrying about web designers stuck with shoestring budgets. :::

Spelling and grammar not the same

Recently thoughtful web designers have been making or responding to the point that technologies like XHTML and CSS (colloquially, “web standards”) and appropriate document structure (ponderously, “semantics”) are not the same thing: you can have one without the other, although it is best to aim for both. This is somewhat like discovering that spelling and grammar are not the same thing: good sentence structure does not guarantee correct spelling, and vice-versa.

This notion that one good thing does not guarantee the other deserves to be made. We make it repeatedly in our little orange book. The more often it is made, the greater the chance that it will sink in.

In the book we point out that merely converting from HTML to XHTML does little good unless you also reassess the way you approach underlying document structure. Otherwise, you’re merely replacing “last year’s tags” with this year’s. Likewise, converting from complicated, nonsemantic table layouts to complicated, nonsemantic CSS layouts does little good. It may give you warm feeling, but so does peeing in your diving suit.

Validation is a best practice but it is only a beginning – and in some instances, such as when working with embedded media, you may not be able to validate every tag on every page.

Using appropriate markup structures such as headlines, paragraphs, and lists is also a best practice. Conceiving your layout in terms of generic structures such as content area, navigation area, sidebar, and footer is a best practice, although some elements of some layouts resist overarching semantics. For instance, if a news site supports itself via ad banners that run in a column, how “semantic” can that column really be? If it’s merely a visual container for ads, then that’s all it is, and marking it up as div id="revenuecolumn" may be overkill. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Deploying web standards correctly and usefully typically includes preferring structural elements to non-structural ones where possible. It is good to do these things, and even better to do them in support of content that is worth publishing, and in the context of a user-appropriate and attractive design.

We hope to do that ourselves, one day. :::

27–28 August 2003 :::

updated at various times

Rogue Librarian redesigns

Roguelibrarian.com, the personal site of one’s lovely and amazing wife, has redesigned using CSS for layout, XHTML for structure, and artwork from The New York Public Library’s vast digital gallery of collected visual materials. The first post in the new layout touches on the preservation of our digital legacy, about which, we are quite sure, the author will have much more to say in the weeks ahead. :::

A List Apart redesign

Behind closed doors, secret servers, and firewalls, A List Apart Magazine is undergoing a redesign. Our goal on the front end is to make the site pretty to look at, easy to read, and far more usable than it has been. On the back end, the site will sport a standards-friendly custom publishing system. Solid articles are in the queue, awaiting the relaunch, which will occur in another week or two. :::

Gone

Monday morning our neighbor died from injuries sustained after falling down stairs during the blackout. This morning he was laid to rest. Keep him and his family in your prayers. :::