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Designing With Web Standards

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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

7 November 2003 :::

3 pm | noon est

A List Apart 162 (triple issue)

In Issue No. 162 of A List Apart, “for people who make websites”...

A Fairy, a Low-Fat Bagel, and a Sack of Hammers

Never underestimate the importance of words on the web.

Keeping Navigation Current With PHP

Turning unordered lists into elegant navigational menus has become a new favorite pastime for many web designers. A dash of PHP can add intelligence to your CSS-styled menu.

Suckerfish Dropdowns

Teach your smart little menus to do the DHTML dropdown dance without sacrificing semantics, accessibility, or standards compliance. :::

ZIP Archives Considered Harmful

The Iconfactory’s spankin’ new Developer Zone includes a brief essay explaining how the contextual ZIP archive functionality built into Apple’s OS X 10.3 Panther hurts usability by losing data and creating ZIP archives that are incompatible with all previous versions of Mac OS.

Consider a scenario where a ZIP archive created with Panther is mailed to a project manager who’s running Windows. They see the ZIP file and uncompress it with WinZIP. The files are then copied to a server so that a Mac developer can work with them. And what happens when some of those files are resource files? They’re sitting on the server, corrupted, with no way to be recovered.

On a happier note, Iconfactory has updated its IconBuilder Pro plug-in. Compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS, IconBuilder Pro provides an easy and bulletproof way to create Windows icons, Mac icons, and .ico files for websites. :::

6 November 2003 :::

noon est

CSS smorgasbord

CSS dropdowns II – this time it’s personal

42,376 readers of Designing With Web Standards have used our Contact form to ask what became of’s “Using Lists for DHTML Menus.” Yesterday we listed as officially missing in action. Today, Gazingus is back online, with “Using Lists for DHTML Menus” intact. Coincidence? Read the Time Life books.

In case the site disappears again, reader Hubert Carvallo has found traces of the Gazingus CSS/XHTML menu innovations at and

Separately, the talented Stuart Robertson provides yet another approach to pure CSS pulldown menus. It seems to work in every modern major browser except Internet Explorer — mainly because IE only supports the :hover pseudo-element on links.

Tomorrow’s A List Apart will present still another approach to the eternal quest for accessible, semantically-structured XHTML lists that function like oldschool “DHTML.” :::

5 November 2003 :::

noon est

CSS dropdowns

Readers of Designing With Web Standards ask what became of’s “Using Lists for DHTML Menus,” which demonstrated how unordered XHTML lists could be styled to create valid, semantically sound, cross-browser dropdown menus. Sadly, vanished without a trace some months ago. Happily, Brainjar’s dropdown menus appear to work well — and a spankin’ new approach will be offered in A List Apart Issue No. 162 (see below), which goes live Friday. :::

Happy Cog updated

Content throughout the Happy Cog Studios site has been updated. is the web home of our design, consulting, and publishing business. Excluded from the updated content are descriptions of several large-scale client projects we are not yet at liberty to discuss. :::

ReUSEIT entries in

Fifty-three submissions to the ReUSEIT competition are now on display. The contest asked designers to “create a redesign of Jakob Nielsen’s Design a usable, intuitive layout and navigation, organize the content with usability in mind, and create a work of art which still reflects the importance and influence of Nielsen’s work.” The entries demonstrate an interesting range of approaches; judging is now underway. :::

ALA 162 is coming

On Friday we will push out A List Apart No. 162 — a triple issue. That will make three issues and eight articles in three weeks. And more is in the queue. You can stay abreast of new issues by subscribing to our RSS feeds. :::

Lockergnome redesigns with CSS layout

It looks darned good. :::

That’s why they call it bleeding edge

MacCentral, Design Tools Monthly and others report that Mac OS X 10.3 Panther’s FileVault feature corrupts disk image files and personal data in applications such as Address Book, iPhoto, iTunes, iCal, and Mail; and that Panther installations can render attached FireWire hard drives unusable. Prosoft Engineering’s $89 Data Rescue X can recover FireWire disk data in some cases, although you may need to use Apple’s Disk Utility to erase the drives before using Data Rescue. You are also advised to unmount and disconnect all FireWire drives before shutting down or restarting Panther. Yep, every time you shut down or restart.

Macworld Weekly has passed along an additional problem discovered by Schoun Regan of The Mac Trainers: during the first five minutes that you’re logged in as an administrator in Panther, you can throw away any file or folder, including the System folder and the Library, thereby losing data and possibly rendering the Mac unusable. During those five minutes, any user can also change the permissions of any other user’s folders. After those five minutes, any user can continue to discard essential files and folders by entering a password.

These problems will likely be addressed quickly, but until they are fixed, we are holding off on Panther. :::

4 November 2003 :::

1 pm est

You love us, you really love us

Amazon has just published its “Best Books of 2003.” Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards hit #7 in Customer’s Picks and #4 in Editor’s Picks. :::

31 October 2003 :::

5 pm est

8 Mile, I land

Leaving for a weekend in Detroit. See you soon. :::

30 October 2003 :::

noon est

ALA 161: sliding doors, ringing cash registers

In a new double issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Sliding Doors of CSS II

In Sliding Doors of CSS Part I, Douglas Bowman introduced a new technique for creating visually stunning interface elements with simple, text-based, semantic markup. In Part II, he pushes the technique even further with rollovers, a fix for IE/Win’s CSS bugs, and much more. And because web designers do not live by design and code alone...

Starting a Business: Advice from the Trenches

Did that last “fire your boss” spam push you over the edge? Do your wish-fulfillment dreams revolve around letterhead, legal entities, and avoiding arrest for tax evasion? If you’re crazy enough to start your own business, Kevin Potts wants you to learn from his mistakes. :::

Wit and beauty in design

We came across two gems of web design and felt like sharing: is an XML-driven Flash site featuring the peppy musical stylings of Mr Brian McBrearty and the design and illustration work of the frighteningly talented Trevor van Meter. The site is fast, beautiful, and funny. Hat tip: Tim Murtaugh.

Adobe Studio (“Design resources for Web, print, digital imaging, and digital video professionals”) features clean, elegant interface design by Cuban Council (makers of K10k and Moodstats) and CSS layout and standards-oriented markup by Bill Merikallio and his colleagues at Scott Design. (Bill and Adobe’s Adam Pratt also brought you this popular lecture.) :::

29 October 2003 :::

10 am est

W3C to patent office: Eolas lawsuit doesn’t validate

News release: W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of HTML and the web, today presented the U.S. Patent Office with prior art establishing that the Eolas patent is invalid and should be re-examined “to eliminate this unjustified impediment to the operation of the web.” (Previous coverage.) Hat tip: Colin Spitler. :::

Match photos to color schemes

Royalty-free stock photo agency iStockPro has introduced a nifty Browse By Color dialog which lets you find photos that match your layout’s color scheme. (Sample search 1. Sample search 2.) Neat! :::

Up with tables!

In “Tables versus Full CSS Integration,” the Decloak software company argues that table layouts are good and CSS layouts are bad. The article is a metric pantsload of distortions, half-truths, and self-serving assertions, sprinkled with an occasional out-of-context fact to create the appearance of reasoned opinion. The rationale seems to be that Decloak’s software uses tables for layout and does not support CSS layout except via user gymnastics; hence CSS layout is bad.

One could refute each wrong-headed point, but why bother? If Decloak’s customers are asking for CSS layout support, the company would be well advised to give these users what they want instead of telling them they are wrong to want it. The company almost seems to realize this:

Well, if know anything about templates, you will know that you can use tables or <div> tags. Well, it's the same for nested templates. In other words, if you wanted to yank out the tables and replace them with <div> tags, you still can use nested templates and it will still work. There is no rule or technical reason that says you can't use <div> tags in templates or nested templates or library items.

Decloak vibes like a small company that makes a good product that meets a need. We wish them success and growth. They will succeed better and grow faster if they listen to their customers who want CSS layout instead of throwing mud at the idea of standards-based design. (Hat tip: Jonathan Baldwin.) :::

28 October 2003 :::

4 pm est

A List Apart Q&A updated

We’ve expanded A List Apart’s Questions and Answers page in response to reader mail. Any question that was asked more than a dozen times is answered here. Enjoy. :::

27 October 2003 :::

6 pm est

Shoestring book excerpt online

An excerpt from Chapter 2 of Carrie Bickner’s Web Design on a Shoestring is now online at Web Design on a Shoestring is about creating great websites on a not-so-great budget. Chapter 2 focuses on running lean (and smart) before you paint the first pixel or write the first tag.

A fragment from Chapter 8 is also available at InformIT. :::

Coding for easier redesigns

A new Zeldman article, “Coding for Easier Redesigns,” is up in the 17 October issue of Macromedia’s The Edge Newsletter. Although the words are new, the tune will be familiar to readers of Designing With Web Standards. “Coding for Easier Redesigns” explains how designers can make the transition to structural thinking, thereby saving their readers bandwidth and time, and saving themselves much future labor.

Note: Macromedia’s The Edge Newsletter is formatted in Flash, hence “Coding for Easier Redesigns” is formatted in Flash. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. :::

Saving private daylight

Somebody worked unusually hard on the text for WebExhibits’s Daylight Saving Time extravaganza. You may find yourself reading every page of the damned thing. The copy has panache. It’s sassy and likes to romp naked. Seriously. Read through this stuff. We can’t believe how much personality was put into what might easily have been a very dull web exhibit. Unknown Daylight Saving Time copywriter, we salute you. :::