[webdev] Web Design Update: September 22, 2005

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Sep 22 06:14:50 CDT 2005

- Volume 4, Issue 13, September 22, 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:

08: PHP.
10: TOOLS.
12: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Facts and Opinions About PDF Accessibility
By Joe Clark.
"PDF files on the web are sometimes annoying and very often 
unnecessary. But when they aren't either of those things, we need to 
make them accessible for the same reasons we make other web content 
accessible...This article will explain how PDF does and does not 
support accessibility."

Et Tu, Joe?
By Tommy Olsson.
"...If we take a more holistic approach to the problem, rather than 
focusing on PDFs, there are some major pitfalls if we start requiring 
external programs or plugins. One is that those are not always 
available on every computer. Sure, you can download a program or a 
plugin, provided that it's even available for your operating system. 
But those of us who are limited to snail-paced dial-up connections may 
not be too keen on downloading tens of megabytes. This also applies to 
the rapidly growing number of people surfing on mobile devices. There, 
the price of bandwidth is often forbidding, and the connection is 
usually even slower than a 56K modem...Developers and designers are 
human beings, and human beings are often lazy. Most of them won't do 
more than they have to, especially not when it comes to boring stuff 
like web standards and accessibility. If important and renowned 
personalities in the business say that it's OK to build web pages that 
only work in Internet Explorer, or which require JavaScript, images or 
Flash, there is a risk that many will use that as an excuse for not 
making an effort..."

Accessibility and Availability
By Derek Featherstone.
"Recent debate about what accessibility means has helped me clarify my 
thoughts about how I see accessibility."

PDF Opinions
By Robert Nyman.
"Personally, I definitely think there are cases when PDF files are the 
right format for the task, but generally they are/have been terribly 
overused on the internet. However, now at least we have a guide how to 
make them accessible when we have to use them, thanks to Joe."

The Problem With Automated Accessibility Testing Tools
By Trenton Moss.
"Automated accessibility testing tools can be useful as they can save a 
large amount of time in performing some very basic checks for 
accessibility. However, they must be used with caution and they cannot 
be used as a stand-alone guide for accessibility checking. Indeed, some 
expert accessibility knowledge should always be applied in evaluating a 
site accessibility, perhaps in conjunction with the fantastic web 
accessibility toolbar to help dramatically speed up manual checks."


footerStickAlt: A More Robust Method of Positioning a Footer
By Cameron Adams.
"Recently I've been asked to code up a few sites that require the Web 
page footer to be positioned either at the bottom of the browser window 
or at the bottom of the Web page ? whichever is visually lowest."

When Printing Kills
By Eric A. Meyer.
"'tags" is effectively a reserved keyword, even though no such concept 
exists in (X)HTML. Use it at your (users') peril."

Reserved ID Values?
By Eric A. Meyer.
"As a follow up to my entry about id="tags" causing problems in IE/Win, 
here are four test pages for IE/Win..."

How to Use CSS to Position Horizontal Unordered Lists
By Stu Nicholls.
"Let's say that you've chosen to use a horizontal styled unordered list 
for your navigation and have followed the CSS methods as posted on the 
web. All's well until you decide to position your menu centrally or to 
the right and this is where it starts to get tricky."


Two Simple But Effective Usability Inspection Techniques
By Joanna Bawa.
"Two of the most popular belong to a set of techniques called Usability 
Inspection methods, and are known as Thinking Aloud and Cognitive 

+04: EVENTS.

Eric Meyer on Professional CSS XHTML Techniques
November 3, 2005.
Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

CSS for Designers: Molly E. Holzschlag and Andy Clarke
November 17, 2005.
London, United Kingdom


Unobtrusive Javascript
By Christian Heilmann.
"Javascript is a wonderful tool to enhance the usability of web sites. 
It is the extra layer above the mark-up "what is this text" and the CSS 
'how should it be displayed'. Javascript adds a new dimension, the 'how 
should this element behave'".

Breaking onload Limits
By Alessandro Fulciniti.
"Every javascript coder, in almost every script, has encountered the 
onload limits. In this article we'll present them briefly, together 
with some solutions. The window.onload event handler has two main 

addEvent() Considered Harmful
By Peter-Paul Koch
"Today I found excellent evidence that addEvent() can be harmful if 
it's used without intimate knowledge of the differences between the W3C 
and Microsoft event registration models."


RoI: How Hard is Your Web Site Working?
By Troy Janisch.
" Accountability is a good thing ? as long as it's based on sound 
objectives. RoI objectives can represent tangible things such as cost 
savings and intangible tings such as the projected impact your Web site 
will have on customer perception and behavior. They identify how you 
plan to use the Internet recover your financial investment and to 
achieve some specific communication goals and marketing efforts."

Call and Response: Handling RFP Tension
By Nick Gould.
"...So, in the interest of helping designers understand how they can 
make the most out of every RFP opportunity, this article highlights 
four areas of client/designer “engagement tension”?that is, places in 
the RFP where client interests and vendor interests are most often 
misaligned and cause the most friction. I have also provided some 
suggestions?mostly drawn from the actual experiences of my firm?to 
overcome or deal with these tensions."


The Psychology of Search: Chapter One
By John S. Rhodes.
"Search is a killer application on the web and in the enterprise. 
Perhaps it is the killer app. Therefore, by definition and practice, it 
is a success story. At the same time, however, no one has explained 
search. That is, no one has explained the fundamental nature of search. 
Where is the psychology behind search? And quite seriously I ask, What 
is search?..."

The Psychology of Search: Chapter Two
By John S. Rhodes.
"No one really understands search, or searching. Don't be fooled! There 
is a poverty of understanding on this topic for many reasons, but the 
primary reasons are hubris and ignorance. Too many people are reluctant 
to admit they don't understand search, and too many in turn are too 
weak to resist those that claim they do...."

The Psychology of Search: Chapter Three
By John S. Rhodes.
"Human memory is incredibly bad. In fact, it is so bad that you 
probably don't remember what you ate for breakfast just a few days ago. 
The interesting thing is that human brainpower is pretty impressive; we 
are outstanding at pattern matching and problem solving. Memory has 
everything to do with search."

+08: PHP.

PHP 101 (part 1): Down The Rabbit Hole
An introduction to PHP's variables and operators.
By Vikram Vaswani.
"The Only Acronym You'll Ever Need If you're new to Web development, 
you could be forgiven for thinking that it consists of no more than a 
mass of acronyms, each one more indecipherable than the last. ASP, CGI, 
SOAP, XML, HTTP - the list seems never-ending, and the sheer volume of 
information on each of these can discourage the most avid programmer. 
But before you put on your running shoes and flee, there's a little 
secret you should know. To put together a cutting-edge Web site, chock 
full of all the latest bells and whistles, there's only one acronym you 
really need to know: PHP Now, while you have almost certainly heard of 
PHP, you may not be aware of just how powerful the language is, and how 
much it can do for you..."

PHP 101 (part 2): Calling All Operators
The rest of the PHP operators (there are many), and simple form 
By Vikram Vaswani.
"In the first part of this series, I gave you a brief introduction to 
PHP, and how it fits into your Web application development environment. 
I also taught you the basics of PHP variables, and showed you how to 
add, multiply and concatenate them together. Now that you know the 
basics, it's time to focus in on one of PHP's nicer features - its 
ability to automatically receive user input from a Web form and convert 
it into PHP variables. If you're used to writing Perl code to retrieve 
form values in your CGI scripts, PHP's simpler approach is going to 
make you weep with joy. So get that handkerchief out, and scroll on 

Advanced PHP V5 Objects
By Matt Zandstra.
"Get introduced to more advanced and design-oriented PHP v5 features, 
including object types, which allow for the decoupling of system 
components, creating reusable, extensible, scalable code. You might 
want to take a look at Getting started with objects with PHP V5, which 
will give you the basics of classes and objects in PHP."


My Experiences with Web Standards
By Rob Dickerson.
"It's been about eighteen months since I first encountered Web 

Web Standards, Part I: Conversion to Web Standards
By Rose T. Pruyne.
"Just having served on a panel that presented to Penn State Web 
developers about converting to Web Standards, I'm reminded once again 
that the biggest challenge with talking (or writing) about this subject 
is figuring out what on earth can be said that already hasn't been 
discussed six ways to Sunday."

+10: TOOLS.

Colour Contrast Check Tool
By Jonathan Snook.
"The Colour Contrast Check Tool allows to specify a foreground and a 
background colour and determine if they provide enough of a contrast 
'when viewed by someone having color deficits or when viewed on a black 
and white screen'".


Open New Windows for PDF and other Non-Web Documents
By Jakob Nielsen.
"When using PC-native file formats such as PDF or spreadsheets, users 
feel like they're interacting with a PC application. Because users are 
no longer browsing a website, they shouldn't be given a browser UI."

Back to the Opening New Windows Issue?
By Shirley Kaiser.
"Open New Windows for PDF and other Non-Web Documents is Jakob 
Nielsen's latest Alertbox article, dated August 29, 2005. Although he'd 
previously stated not to force links to open new windows, he now feels 
that you should indeed set links to open in new windows for PDF and 
other non-Web documents. Even after reading this new article, I still 
feel strongly about considering the website's target audience, letting 
the user choose, and avoiding accessibility problems..."

Is 1024 OK?
By Jon Hicks.
"As a designer (coming from a print design background) I'm with Jason. 
I would LOVE to think 'to hell with 800X600', and get that bigger 
canvas to work on. However, I also know that not everyone maximizes 
their window. They may have 1024, or much higher, but that's not to say 
that they don't keep their browser windows at only 800px wide. For the 
record I have mine in a widescreen letterboxy format- full width, but 
leaving room so that I can see my Stattoo dock. That's what its all 
about - everyone has their own preference."

A List Too Far Apart?
By Jeremy Keith.
"I have a problem with the fixed 1024 pixel wide layout of [the newly 
redesigned] A List Apart. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that 
they should have stuck with 800 pixels. Arguments have already started 
raging about this with some people fighting for 800 and others 
campaigning for 1024. To me, the whole debate seems pointless. Arguing 
about 640, 800 or 1024 pixels is like arguing about whether Pepsi 
tastes better than Coke when really, a nice glass of water would be 
much more refreshing. The numbers game is a red herring. A big 
fixed-width red herring. When you nail a layout to a set number of 
pixels, you're bound to alienate some people. It's inevitable. The best 
you can do is try to alienate the least number of people possible."

+12: XML.

Changing (X)HTML page encoding to UTF-8
By Richard Ishida.
"Aimed at newcomers to internationalization who want to change the 
encoding of their (X)HTML pages, this article provides an answer to the 
question: How do I change the encoding of my (X)HTML pages to UTF-8?"

[Section one ends.]


+13: 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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