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.
DAILY REPORT: Web design news for your pleasure.
STEAL THESE GRAPHICS: Free art for your desktop or personal site. FUN HOUSE: Entertainment for you. ASK DR WEB: Tips for web designers. Since 1995. 15 MINUTES: Interviews with movie stars and cyberstars, 1996-1999.
Desktop pictures for your pleasure.

Current ALA: Fixing Your Site With the Right DOCTYPE
Current Hype: “Talent” Photo Contest
Recent Interviews: CNET | pixelview | Library Journal

24 April 2002
[9 am]
SitePoint has invited its readers to interview Zeldman. Questions are now being compiled in the SitePoint Community Forum.

Panic in the streets! Zeldman complains structural purity is hard, says something nice about Flash MX, readers freak.
        So after we’d dumbed down our markup to compensate for rendering oddities in CSS, Tantek found a way to make those oddities disappear:

ol 	{
	list-style: url(/img/logo.gif) disc inside;

The “inside” value tells Opera, Mozilla/Netscape 6, and IE5+ where to place the image with respect to the text and the surrounding block level elements. Problem solved.
        The images don’t show up in Netscape 4, but that’s okay. The optional “disc” value tells browsers that don’t support CSS list-style images to use a standard disc marker instead.
        So now we have two versions for our client’s consideration: a structurally pure version that looks swell in current browsers and a slightly less pure version that looks swell in all browsers. (It would help if we could show you the web pages in question, but it’s client work that has not yet been approved or published.)

Mister Zeldman reminds his colleagues that web technologies are not Holy Writ. They are tools intended to deliver content and facilitate interactivity, and like this medium they are in their infancy.
        The cult of web standards, of Flash, of accessibility, of usability: each reflects the passions of dedicated, intelligent people. But when passion becomes zealotry, we stop listening to each other, and when we stop listening we stop learning. Can’t we all just get along?

Mister Zeldman acknowledges that he may not be the best vessel for delivering this message. :::

23 April 2002
[7 pm]
We’re designing a site for two well–known brands, and have been implementing it in markup so rigorous it approaches XML, with CSS to match. Yet some of our most basic CSS is behaving unpredictably, forcing us to abandon structural purity in favor of old–fashioned presentational HTML. Last night over dinner we learned why.
        Some folks look up to ball players, others to actors and rock stars. Last night we dined with a few of our heroes: Håkon Lie, Bert Bos, Ian Jacobs, and Tantek Çelik. Who explained that some seemingly straightforward aspects of CSS1 are much trickier than they seem.
        For instance, you’re marking up a list and using images to replace numbers or bullets:

ol 	{
	list-style: url(/img/logo.gif) disc;

In one otherwise fine browser, the images overlap an adjoining DIV or table cell; in another, they’re hidden behind it. The reason is, it’s unclear in the CSS spec how much space should be alloted to these images, how (if at all) they should affect margins, and so on.
        Browser makers work hard to interpret complex and sometimes vague specs, but each interpretation is different, and each may trigger unexpected interdepencies, breaking your intended layout.
        Eventually you end up sticking images in table cells or DIVs, and abandoning the dream of perfect document structure—at least in most commercial site design projects.

Today at Meet the Makers, Jeremy Allaire demo’d a tool that supports XML and most of ECMAscript, interfaces seamlessly with backend technologies, runs compact vector graphics files, is surprisingly accessible and totally cross–platform. It’s called Flash MX. :::

21 April 2002
[8 pm | 11 am]
Discuss the Forum: Here’s your chance to talk about the new ALA Forum software. What do you like about it? What bothers you? What features do you hope we’ll add, and why?

Not so “smart” quotes...

Text-transform is a great little CSS tool that can convert any HTML tag to all–caps, initial caps, and so on. On a site whose content is generated by multiple designers, writers, editors, marketers, and technicians, text-transform can enforce site–wide styles even when contributors forget to honor them.
        But not in Opera.
        Opera 5/Mac initially displayed the wrong characters for the smart quotes and apostrophes used in the headlines of ALA’s new Discuss the Forum page. (Screenshot, courtesy Alan Regan.)
        We “fixed” the problem by removing text-transform: uppercase from the headline rule. Dumb, dumb, dumb. :::

20 April 2002
[11 am]
K10k has relaunched and is jam–packed with new features like the Kaliber Matchmaker, a bulletin board to help you find collaborators for your personal projects. Designers, observe the visual nuances. Coders, view source.

Pixhell is back at The feature consists of animated films drawn one pixel at a time. Quicktime is required for playback. “Outtakes” is among our favorites in the series.

We’re still detoxing from yesterday’s Photoshop Tennis match. welcomes your votes and comments.

Looking ahead...

Next week’s double issue of A List Apart will examine Flash MX.

Also next week, we’ll be at the first Meet the Makers conference in NYC. We hope to see some of you there.

We’ll be delivering a keynote address at Web Design World 2002, Seattle. More in World Tour. :::


19 April 2002
[noon | 10 am | 8 am]
Your humble narrator is in the booth, ready to moderate today’s Photoshop Tennis match between Pixelsurgeon and Surfstation. Our pregame analysis is up now for your reading pleasure. The live match begins 11 a.m. NYC, 10 a.m. Chicago, 4 p.m. London.

Once arguably the web’s best-known design portal, K10k has been offline so long there are working web designers who’ve never seen it. Revamped, recoded, and redesigned, the site is slated to relaunch sometime tomorrow.

Mozilla 1.0 “Release Candidate” is out. Mozilla is the open source, standards–compliant browser that forms the basis of Netscape 6.
        Previous Mozilla builds have been considered works in progress. The 1.0 nomenclature indicates Mozilla is now more or less a finished product, though it has not yet attained “Golden Master” status. “Release Candidate” means this could be the real Mozilla if no major bugs are found.
        In Mark Newhouse’s preliminary testing, CSS background-attachment: fixed is broken in the Mac OS 9 version (but works in OS X), and the location window’s behavior can be unusably flaky.

Last night’s Webreference newsletter covers recent XML initiatives announced by Macromedia, Google, and Amazon, and accessibility fiascos on mutual fund sites that use JavaScript–based navigation without providing alternatives.

An appalling heat wave settled over NYC earlier this week, turning our studio into a swamp and our home into a center for advanced narcolepsy.
        In your modern cities, year–round climate control keeps the mind crisply focused. But New York, like Istanbul, is an historic burg with infrastructure to match. Turning on building–wide air conditioning would require the shutting down of one outdated system, the cleaning and reconditioning of another, five rounds of union negotiations, and a landlord who cares. In short, it’s hot. :::

18 April 2002
[8 am | 7 am]
No wonder they say web users don’t read. In certain settings, folks using MSIE/Windows are seeing gibberish instead of text (screenshot). The following conditions seem to trigger the bug:

  1. Your browser is set to display standard ISO-8859-1 character encoding.
  2. You visit a site that uses standard ISO-8859-1 character encoding.
  3. The site’s Content-Type meta tag properly declares that the site uses ISO-8859-1 character encoding.
  4. The site is authored in valid XHTML.

Under these conditions, IE6 and IE5.5 may display text in a dingbat font instead of the typeface specified by the site’s style sheet. You can “fix” the problem in your own browser by switching to a different default character set. The bug has been spotted on ALA, the NYPL Style Guide, and this site, and has been reported to Microsoft.

In other news ...

Capital City Home Page, the official site of the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska, is converting from a frames–based layout to CSS design. “This standard allows us greater freedom with design while increasing the accessibility of the content for our users.” has created a free bookmarklet that lets you look up the definition of any word on a web page.

Adobe releases Photoshop 7. Apple exults: “version 7.0 takes full advantage of the underlying strengths of Mac OS X and the PowerPC G4 with Velocity Engine to deliver a generational leap in graphics capabilities—and, by extension, the graphics capabilities of the Macintosh platform itself.” (Photoshop 7 also works in Mac OS 9, Windows XP, etc.) :::

17 April 2002
[10 am]
Be gentle with us: we’re recovering from a hard drive meltdown.

The book site is finally working in Opera 5/6 and Netscape 6.2. Michael suggested the simple fix: removing the CSS rule that set images to {display: block} by default. This rule, or variations on it, often solves display problems in Mozilla–based browsers and IE6. Just not in this case.

Among other things, the proposed U.S. Hollings Bill will make it a crime to burn MP3s of music you’ve purchased. Digital Consumer is fighting to protect fair–use rights in the digital realm. Fill out their form and they’ll fax it to Congress.

Richard’s Dish is an understatedly pretty blog. As acknowledged in Source, its layout is loosely based on the ALA style sheet. Fine with us. The About page says: “When I read over my own posts, half the time I think to myself, ‘Get off your high horse! Who is this idiot!’” We can relate.

AOL’s Compuserve has released new software with Netscape, not IE, as its default browser, suggesting a similar switch may be in the works for the more widely used America Online service. (Hat tip: Dylan Foley.) :::

16 April 2002
[4 pm | 1 pm | 11 am | 8 am]
The amazing Brian Taylor has updated Rustboy.

According to this month’s Wired Magazine, Mister Zeldman is a “blogger” and a “guru.” Whatever happened to “malcontent?”

Let it be noted with sadness that the redesigned book site is nearly as unusable in Opera 6 for Windows as it is in Opera 5 for Mac. Alas, Netscape 6.2 is just as loused up as Opera. According to CSS1, any HTML element can float. But not according to these browsers. (IE5/Mac and Mozilla 0.9.9 get it perfect; IE5/Win, IE5.5/Win and IE6/Win, nearly so.) Update: See 17 April for the fix. :::

15 April 2002
[4 pm]
The following is technical, and will only interest those who design and build websites. Feel free to skip down to more entertaining fare.

The Browser is an Ass I: MSIE/Win
Redesigning our book site in CSS over the weekend reminded us how great this technology can be. The work consumed only a few hours; bandwidth was reduced; achieving compliance with Section 508 was a breeze, as the site consists of nothing but functional markup styled by a few rules.
        Redesigning in CSS also reminded us how inept browsers can be. IE/Win (versions 5, 5.5, and 6) added ugly vertical space to the nav bar because of a long–standing white space bug.
        We fixed the display problem in IE/Win by deleting carriage returns and other white space from the markup that creates the nav bar—a simple, bulleted list that works as “skip navigation” in screen readers. View Source beginning with <ul id="nav"> to see the fix.
        Browsers should ignore white space in markup, but at least this problem was fixable.

The Browser is an Ass II: Opera/Mac
A bug in Opera 5 for Mac hides the nav bar behind the title graphic and photo, rendering the site impossible to navigate. A screenshot displays this train wreck along with less significant problems:

  1. inaccurate font size
  2. misrendering of horizontal space in text
  3. inability to respect specified top and bottom margins for the main content area
  4. lack of support for float

No wonder the kids love Flash. Update: See 17 April for the fix (at least, the fix for the primary usability problem). :::

15 April 2002
[2 pm]
Today we Americans celebrate traditional U.S. values by giving our money to the government.

Netdiver has published the results of its Pay for content? survey, in which visitors were asked if they would willingly pay a small fee to continue enjoying their favorite independent sites. As expected, most wouldn’t. In a related vein, Evolt’s End of the free content ride? comments on the move by large commercial portals to stop giving all their content away for free.

A note on the flat mode used in the new ALA forum, and another in response to a recurrent forum user question. Unnoticed by many ALA readers, as of Issue 142 we’ve quit loading external links in a new window, and replaced the fine coffee we normally serve with 11px Georgia. The font change is visible in all recent articles under the default CSS settings.

What Do I Know, the daily site of Todd Dominey, has also switched to 11px Georgia. It’s the new orange.

Yoh-Chu-Sha (Larva House), a Japanese girl group, makes unusual music that falls somewhere between pop, noise, and techno. You can stream three of their albums at IUMA.

Davezilla is not dead, just temporarily obscured by incompetent DNS registrars. Hmm, where have we heard about that before?

Harrumph redesigned last week. Still clean, still pretty, still simple and impactful.

Also redesigned: Glish, a three–column job done entirely in CSS that manages to work even in Netscape 4. IE5.x/Mac has a problem displaying the right–hand column. No wonder the kids love Flash.

Thanks to all who’ve pimped the new Photo Contest or submitted mugshots. Keep ’em coming. As time permits, we’re adding content to the redesigned book site and fixing various browser bugs. (More on the bugs and fixes above.) :::

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