[webdev] Web Design Update: August 4, 2005

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Aug 4 06:22:28 CDT 2005

- Volume 4, Issue 06, August 4, 2005.

An email newsletter to distribute news and information about web design 
and development.


SECTION ONE: New references.
What's new at the Web Design Reference site?
New links in these categories:

10: PHP.
12: TOOLS.
15: XML.

16: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Screen-Reader Usability Study
By Joe Clark.
"In early 2005, an E-commerce site selling hardware and software was 
evaluated for usability in screen readers."

The Accessibility Chronicles
By Mike Davidson.
"So everyone’s all of a sudden talking about accessibility again. Just 
as you thought 2005 was going to be the year of folksonomies, APIs, and 
Ajax, the discussion over the last two weeks seems to have centered on 
a 'new' aspect of accessibility."

Default Place-Holding Characters
By Gez Lemon.
"Why does WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 10.4 require that authors include default 
place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas? Is this 
checkpoint still relevant today?"

HTML Tables Best Practice
By Chris Heilmann.
"I gave a presentation in a workshop this morning on the topic of 'HTML 
tables best practices'."


Higher Education Web Professionals Association
"HighEdWeb is an organization of Web professionals working at 
institutions of higher education. We design, develop, manage and map 
the futures of higher education Web sites. Established in November of 
1999 among scores of colleges and universities in New York State, we 
have expanded our vision and welcome similar professionals from across 
the nation and across the globe."


How To Style a Restaurant Menu With CSS
Alessandro Fulciniti.
"As every Italian, I love cooking and most of all eating... so the 
example I'm going to present here is a restaurant menu with CSS..."

Learn CSS: Pseudo Elements
By Michael Youssef.
"We have discussed CSS selectors in the last three articles in this 
series. We have said that a selector can be a markup element, an 
attribute selector based on the class and ID attributes, or a 
structured selector based on the document structure. CSS introduces 
pseudo elements, which we will be discussing in this article. This is 
one area of functionality that you can't achieve using HTML, and you 
will be amazed how easily you can achieve it in CSS..."

By Lachlan Hunt.
"Not to be confused with layout tables, this little used, yet wonderful 
CSS property ‘table-layout’ could have saved me a lot of time recently, 
had I thought of it. You see, the challenge I had was that I needed all 
columns of a table (containing tabular data) to be presented with equal 
width columns..."

By Kay Smoljak.
"I'm going to show you all how to force the footer of a webpage to 
stick to the bottom of the viewport. This is a pretty advanced CSS 
method and requires that you know a bit about how CSS works. (This 
technique does not work in Safari or IE for the Mac)."

Remote Rollover Demo
By Andy Budd.
"I'm just preparing my slides for Tuesdays training course and thought 
I'd post up a couple of my remote rollover demos. The basic set-up is 
very simple. You take a regular unordered list and wrap an extra, 
non-semantic span around the link text..."

Getting Rid of the Page Shift
By Zoe Gillenwater.
"If you've built a centered, fixed-width site, or just browsed through 
any sites with such layouts, you may have noticed a strange left to 
right shift in the content between pages that doesn't occur in Internet 
Explorer, but does in other browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, and 
Safari. Find out why it happens and what to include in your style sheet 
to prevent it on your own site, as well as how to customize your 
browser so that you never see the shift again on any site across the 

Learn CSS: Introduction to Inheritance, Specificity, and Cascade
By Michael Youssef.
"In this article (and the next part) we will talk about how the 
structure of the CSS document can affect Web page design. Actually, 
there's something that I haven't discussed until now, which is what are 
the places that we can use to write styles and how it can affect the 
Web page. This is also related to the cascade, inheritance and 
specificity concepts which help you to understand how to structure your 
CSS document. This article is the ninth in a series covering CSS."


Usability at 90 Miles Per Hour
By Paul F. Marty and Michael B. Twidale.
"This article documents the authors' attempt to develop a quick, 
inexpensive, and reliable method for demonstrating user testing to an 
audience. The resulting method, Usability at 90 Miles Per Hour, is 
simple enough to be conducted at minimal expense, fast enough to be 
completed in only thirty minutes, comprehensible enough to be presented 
to audiences numbering in the hundreds, and yet sophisticated enough to 
produce relevant design recommendations, thereby illustrating for the 
audience the potential value of user testing in general. In this 
article, the authors present their user testing demonstration method in 
detail, analyze results from 44 trials of the method in practice, and 
discuss lessons learned for demonstrating user testing in front of an 

Beginner’s Guide to Moderating a Usability Study
By Kevin Cheng.
"Here are some considerations and steps I usually take when I'm 
moderating a usability test. For those who are experienced, I encourage 
you to add your thoughts. For those of you who are learning, I 
encourage you to ask questions of the other readers here. This article 
does not discuss the screening for candidates, setting up the test 
scenarios, nor the reporting of the data. If this type of article is 
helpful to you, do let us know and we'll do more of them."

Focus Group Conversations - Are They Dead?
By Dina Mehta.
Dina Mehta discusses some disillusions in using focus groups and other 
qualitative methods.

Customer Storytelling at the Heart of Business Success
By Experience Planning Group, edited by Parrish Hanna.
"As most of us know by now, customer personas and scenarios are 
vehicles for helping an organization continuously keep their customers 
in their line of sight. Traditional segmentation identifies and 
categorizes a current or potential audience based upon common 
characteristics, including demographics, attitudes, behavior, 
transactions, frequency of interaction, spend, and more. They are 
discovered by 'doing the math,' which may include data aggregation, 
cluster analysis, factor analysis, and other statistical methods 
applied to large sample sets. And then segments are given catchy names 
like Savvy Skeptics, Active Balancers, Indulgent Nutritionist, or 
Trade-Uppers. When done right, segments are statistically derived from 
the analysis and synthesis of quantitative data and are a solid 
foundation for customer understanding."

+05: EVENTS.

HighEdWebDev05 (Higher Education Web Professionals Conference)
November 6-9, 2005.
Rochester, New York
This year's keynote speaker is author and usability expert Steve Krug.

PHP Conference 2005
November 6-9, 2005.
Frankfurt/Main, Germany


Paper Prototyping: First Experiences and Lessons Learned
By Guy Sangwine.
"Paper prototyping is a method for the design, evaluation and 
improvement of user interfaces. This paper describes my first 
experiences of using paper prototyping in order to test elements of an 
user interface for an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). A number 
of lessons that I learned during this process are recounted, focusing 
on my experiences and my use of the Microsoft Visio application to 
create medium fidelity interface prototypes."


AJAX: Usable Interactivity with Remote Scripting
By Cameron Adams.
"If your bookmarks contain even one Web development blog, you'll 
undoubtedly know that remote scripting is being touted as the new 
'future of the Web'..."

Using Ajax for Creating Web Applications
By Joshua Porter.
"In the past few years, developers could choose between two approaches 
when building a web application. The first approach was to create a 
screen-based system with very rich interactions using a sophisticated, 
powerful technology such as Java or Flash. The alternative approach was 
to create a page-based system using easier-to-learn core web standards 
like XHTML and CSS whose more basic capabilities force less-rich 
interactions. A new technological approach, dubbed Ajax, might just be 
the right mix between the two."

The JavaScript Diaries: Part 6
By Lee Underwood.
"This week we go a little deeper into our study, a process that will 
last for several weeks. Some of the topics covered are JavaScript 
objects, object properties and methods, the constructor function, and 

The Power of Javascript: Basic Types of Data
By Michael Youssef.
"Javascript interpreters understand two different, basic types of data: 
numbers and character strings. But interpreters only understand these 
data types when they are presented in certain ways. This article, the 
third in a series, will explain what these types of data are, and how 
to handle them..."


WaSP Interviews Dr. Vito Evola
By Chris Kaminski.
"The web has long since moved out of the IT and design departments and 
become a pervasive communication medium. As a result, top-notch minds 
in other disciplines have begun to add their input, making it more 
robust, vibrant and just plain useful than before. Dr. Evola has one of 
these minds and is applying it to the web in part by teaching a course 
on web standards at the College of Letters and Philosophy at the 
University of Palermo, Italy. Dr. Evola's linguistics background gives 
him a fresh perspective on web standards: The first lessons deal with 
the "need" for XHTML and CSS, moving towards a more advanced knowledge 
of CSS1 and CSS2, keeping in mind that standards means nothing less 
than "speaking correctly" with our target. Read the rest of the WaSP 
Education Task Force's excellent interview for more from a linguist 
turned standardista..."

Don Norman Interview: When Norman Meets Chinese...
By Christina Li.
"Dr Norman has changed the way a generation of designers in 
understanding people and technologies. His philosophy of usability and 
emotion has been widely used in designing products for people's 
everyday life in the west and is now also starting to have an impact 
upon Chinese design practices. What is Dr Norman?s view on Chinese 
design and usability industry then? Christina Li, on behalf of the 
uiGarden editorial team, brings us the experience of questioning Don 


Navigation and Content on University Home Pages
By Margaret L Ruwoldt and Claire Spencer.
"The home page is the most visible online representation of a 
university's style, activities and reputation. We studied the home 
pages of 68 universities in Australia, Canada, the United States of 
America, south-east Asia and Europe, looking for emerging industry 
standards and opportunities for improving our home page's quality and 
usability. We identified key audience groups, an emerging standard for 
the content and information architecture of a university's home page, 
and some additional features that could distinguish an institution from 
its competitors."

+10: PHP.

Secure Programming With PHP
By Ian Gilfillan.
"While working on this article, I received a Security bulletin 
highlighting a critical flaw in phpBB. This is a fairly mature open 
source forum written in PHP, and one that's had its fair share of 
critical flaws. The fact that there are still more being found, and 
more likely to be found, shows you how difficult it is to write 
completely secure software, even for an experienced team of developers."

Ask Tim: Is Perl Still Relevant?
Tim O'Reilly comments.
"With the emergence of .NET, J2EE, Python, PHP, et. al, has Perl lost 
its niche as a scripting glue language? The buzz is all around PHP 
these days and also around Python. The complaints about Perl 6's 
complexity are only getting louder. Besides, Perl does not occupy the 
central position in O'Reilly's offerings that it once did. Is Perl on 
its way out?".


Web Standards, Microsoft and You
By Dean Edwards.
"A few months ago I was invited to join the Web Standards Project 
(WaSP). The WaSP and Microsoft were to cozy up and talk about web 
standards and I was invited to the party. Some high level politicking 
by Robert Scoble and Molly had opened a channel. Microsoft wanted to 
talk about standards and the WaSP wanted to talk to Microsoft. And now 
it’s official...The purpose of this post is to open the dialogue 
further to include all web developers. Post your questions and 
suggestions here and I'll do my best to filter and pass them on. I want 
this to be a continuous process. That means for as long as I represent 
the WaSP on this task force I am open to your input. The channel is 

Agenda Microsoft: Is it a Sellout when the Prostitute’s Paying?
By Molly E. Holzschlag.
"If anyone expects any Microsoft version of IE7 to solve the world’s 
problems, much less those of us working the web, get over it. Any 
changes to browsers will be incremental and WaSP can't fix that for 
now. For now. For now. Think long term my friends. My agenda is simple. 
Work with, not against."

+12: TOOLS.

Show Headers of a Web Page
By Brian D. Davison.
"To see exactly what headers are included with your page, use our Show 
Headers Tool."

By Leo Breebaart.
Tidybot is a cross-platform batch XHTML syntax-checker and 
report-generator. It traverses a directory tree of XHTML files on your 
hard disk, and generates a web page listing all the errors and warnings 
it encounters. Tidybot can be used in two ways: from the command-line, 
or through a user-friendly GUI application. The output will be 
identical in either case.


Is Multiple-Column Online Text Better? It Depends!
By J.R. Baker.
"This study investigated the effects of multi-column displays and 
justification on reading performance and satisfaction of an online 
narrative passage. Participants read a short story displayed in one of 
six formats (one, two, or three columns, in either a full or 
left-justified format). Results showed a significant column x 
justification interaction with reading speed significantly faster for 
the two-column full-justified text than for one-column full-justified, 
and significantly faster for one-column left-justified than for 
one-column full-justified or three-column full-justified text. Post-hoc 
analyses indicate that the faster readers may have benefited most from 
the two-column justified format."

Perceived Personality and Uses of Fonts: We Need Your Input!
By A.D. Shaikh, J. Slocum, and Z. Zaccagni.
Usability News online survey.


How Usable Are University Websites?
A report on a study of the prospective student experience
By Dey Alexander.
"This paper reports on a study of prospective student experiences of 
university websites. Thirty-nine participants took part in a usability 
study which examined 15 university websites (13 Australian sites, one 
site in the United States and one in the United Kingdom). The 
participants--all prospective students--were asked to find a course 
they were interested in taking, the cost and entry requirements for the 
course, where the course was taught from and whether there were any 
scholarships they would be eligible to apply for. Only 62 percent of 
tasks were completed successfully. Participants had the most difficulty 
trying to find information about tuition fees and scholarships. The 
study highlighted five key usability problems that contributed to these 
results: poor information architecture, poor content, poor search 
results and/or search interface, a reliance on domain knowledge about 
the higher education sector that many prospective students do not have 
and negative reactions to or difficulty using PDF documents."

Assuming Knowledge Hurts Users
By Ben Buchanan.
"I was just reading 'How usable are university websites?'. A report on 
a study of the prospective student experience and found it struck a 
chord with my experience enrolling in a post grad course a few days 
ago...the most frustrating thing is how these issues are so common 
across the web. We go blue in the face telling people about these 
problems, but they persist. I tell people to 'assume zero knowledge on 
the part of the user', I tell them not to use PDFs, I tell them to 
write simply and clearly with their audience in mind. Still we get 
confusing crap that assumes you know everything the author knows and 
you don't mind downloading Acrobat Reader just to get the next bit of 
information. University websites are clearly still way behind the needs 
of prospective students ..

The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News
By A. Dawn Shaikh.
"This study examined the effects of line length on reading speed, 
comprehension, and user satisfaction of online news articles. Twenty 
college-age students read news articles displayed in 35, 55, 75, or 95 
characters per line (cpl) from a computer monitor. Results showed that 
passages formatted with 95 cpl resulted in faster reading speed. No 
effects of line length were found for comprehension or satisfaction, 
however, users indicated a strong preference for either the short or 
long line lengths."

Choosing Your Users
By Ann Light.
"Extract from 'User Interface Design and Evaluation' by Debbie Stone, 
Caroline Jarrett, Mark Woodroffe and Shailey Minocha."

Losability vs. Usability
By G. A. Buchholz.
"The rules of Web design can be summed up in two words: Whatever 

Web Content Versus Print Content
By Gerry McGovern.
"People are extremely task-focused on the Web. That means they are much 
less open to content that is not directly related to the task at hand. 
I've just read a very interesting study entitled 'Memory for 
advertising and information content: Comparing the printed page to the 
computer screen.' A key finding of the study is that, 'print is 
consistently better for recall than screen - The central theme to 
emerge from this study is that individuals have a better ability to 
recall after viewing materials in print rather than on screen'..."

Usable Content Manifesto
By D. Keith Robinson.
"One of the things I've spent much of my time working with is content, 
mainly the written variety. How it’s structured, how it's delivered, 
and how it's designed. As I've talked about recently, content is the 
hardest part of the projects I work on. It’s also the most important. 
Without it you're left with a hollow shell that is ultimately 

+15: XML.

Quick Start Your Design with XHTML Templates
By Kevin Hale.
"Today, I'm going to give you a peak at some templates I use in my 
workflow to help me get a running start on new web development 
projects. In addition to the XHTML templates, I'll go over some CSS 
templates and some XHTML markup examples I've made to help me create 
style guides for various sites."

W3C Proposes XML Identifiers
By Paul Festa.
"The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) on Tuesday proposed XML:ID as a 
standard way to uniquely identify parts of an XML document, promising 
the specification would make the work of XML authors easier."

[Section one ends.]


+16: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?

Accessibility Information.

Association Information.

Book Listings.

Cascading Style Sheets Information.

Color Information.

Dreamweaver Information.

Evaluation & Testing Information.

Event Information.

Flash Information.

Information Architecture Information.

JavaScript Information.

Miscellaneous Web Information.

Navigation Information.

PHP Information.

Sites & Blogs Listing.

Standards, Guidelines & Pattern Information.

Tool Information.

Typography Information.

Usability Information.

XML Information.

[Section two ends.]



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Until next time,

Laura L. Carlson
Information Technology Systems and Services
University of Minnesota Duluth
Duluth, MN U.S.A. 55812-3009
mailto:lcarlson at d.umn.edu

[Issue ends.]

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