28 July 2004 1 pm | 2 pm est

Only defenestrate

Douglas Bowman’s “Throwing Tables Out the Window” is a compelling crash course and proof of concept on the business benefits described at length in Designing With Web Standards.

Based on a presentation at Digital Design World Seattle in which Mr Bowman, Samaritan-style, retooled the front page of Microsoft.com to use semantic markup and CSS layout in place of nested tables and spacer pixel GIFs, the brief article points to results including:

These unassailable business benefits of standards-based design (save thousands of dollars in hosting and bandwidth costs, reduce load times for all users, look and work better for more users) have been raised many times — here, in DWWS, at Meyerweb.com, A List Apart, and in numerous other places since early 2001.

But Mr Bowman’s writeup has the virtue of brevity, which makes it appealing to busy people generally and busy businesspeople especially.

The fat-free article further points out that what would work for Microsoft would also work for thousands of other sites that adhere to the convention of two- or three-column layouts plus header and footer. And, like DWWS, it debunks the notion that developing sites for any browser other than WinIE takes too long and is too expensive and shows how to save time and money by building to more compliant browsers first (such as Opera 7, Safari, or Mozilla Firefox) and then tweaking your styles to accommodate IE’s bugs.

The choice of Microsoft.com as a test case for standards-based design is particularly appropriate, as the company had much to do with the development of CSS standards, and in fact owns at least one patent on CSS. Yes, really.

Having gone to the trouble of patenting a technology it helped to create, Microsoft might wish to set an example in that technology’s use, especially when doing so would make its highly trafficked site work better and cost less.

The sad part is that this case has been made repeatedly over the years, and will undoubtedly have to be made again and again before the simple message sinks in.

What makes it sadder still is that talented people who might otherwise have much to tell us about user-focused design and branding are denied the opportunity to write about these more interesting topics, because they are too busy rolling the semantic rock up the endless hill of clueless dweebfoofery.

But let us not regret what good people are continually compelled to do. Let us instead rejoice in a tight little article we can share with our clients and colleagues.

Previously in The Daily Report...

The New Samaritans
Robert Andrews summarizes an emerging “good samaritan” phenomenon in which independent web designer/developers, frustrated by a hard-to-use or inaccessible site, voluntarily rework the site in question, “right under embarrassed proprietors’ noses.” The work, typically performed for free, most often focuses on front-end improvements to key top-level pages. Such makeovers form a roadmap for turning a confusing or inaccessible or bloated site into a more usable, accessible, and streamlined one. Yet rarely do potential corporate benefactors take advantage of the free work done on their behalf...
Faces We Love: Heine’s Tribute
This family of eight fonts, legible at even the smallest sizes, is perfect for designs requiring an aged or antique feeling.
Architectural Digest vs. This Old House
How vs. why in web design. (ALA No. 184 and drop-down menus.) When web designers discuss their craft, they almost always focus on how to do a thing, rather than what things should or should not be done. As an industry, we are more like “This Old House” than Architectural Digest.
Production for Use
To understand and evaluate any design, you must consider the use context for which it was created. A case study and lessons therein. The beginnings of a broader approach to understanding web and interface design (including the relative importance of web standards).
Clarendon is the new Helvetica
The quirky slab serif has been quietly undergoing a renaissance similar to that enjoyed by Helvetica in the 1990s.