[webdev] Web Design Update: October 6, 2005
lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Oct 6 06:22:14 CDT 2005
+++ WEB DESIGN UPDATE.
- Volume 4, Issue 15, October 6, 2005.
An email newsletter to distribute news and information about web design
++ISSUE 15 CONTENTS.
SECTION ONE: New references.
What's new at the Web Design Reference site?
New links in these categories:
02: CASCADING STYLE SHEETS.
04: EVALUATION & TESTING.
06: INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE.
11: STANDARDS, GUIDELINES & PATTERNS.
15: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?
++ SECTION ONE: New references.
Accessibility and the Label Tag
By Adrian Senior.
"In this tutorial we will look at how we can build and lay out
accessible forms. In particular we will focus on the label element and
we will see how the label can be used to not only increase the focus
area of any form element but at the same time be utilized to give our
form layouts a little more structure than a simple stacking of form
elements in a single column."
10 Reasons Clients Don't Care About Accessibility
By Christian Heilmann.
"So what can we do? Gently prod clients in the right direction. Here
are some ideas: 1.) Stop selling accessibility as a technical issue.
Address it in the scoping and design phase rather than at delivery. 2.)
Make sure you've got your facts straight before releasing another
accessibility article or blog entry (rounded corners in CSS do not
increase accessibility, really, they dont!). 3.) Make product
presentations and assessments more fun by taking away the clients
mouse and changing monitor settings, 4.) If you want to support
disabled users, dont stop at one group. Skip links helps blind users
and keyboard/switch access users alike, dont hide them! 5.) Send
emails to companies every time it is hard for you to use their site.
Point out that you will buy the product on their competitors site and
why. 6.) Step away from the visuals. Embrace Web design as a mixture of
good content, proper structure and nice visuals. Start developing sites
in the text editor, not in Illustrator."
Accessibility...Can't We All Just Get Along (Documentation of a Panel
Panel: Derek Featherstone, Ian Lloyd and James Craig.
Moderator: Glenda Sims.
"This page documents the South by Southwest Interactive panel,
Accessibility: Can't We All Just Get Along?, on Sunday, March 13, 2005.
The documentation includes an audio recording of the panel, a text
transcript with timecodes, representations of the slides presented, and
additional notes added by the panelists. The panelists, from left to
right, are Ian Lloyd, James Craig, Derek Featherstone, and Glenda Sims.
The intention of this web presentation is to demonstrate that
accessible websites benefit everyone, not just those with disabilities.
For example, a hearing-impaired person may need to read the transcript,
but even non-disabled person will benefit from the additional
information provided with the transcript. Those wishing to listen to
the audio may download Part 1 (MP3) and Part 2 (MP3) of the audio
Webnauts Discussion Forum
By John S. Britsios.
Webnauts has launched a new discussion forum.
+02: CASCADING STYLE SHEETS.
CSS Server-side Constants
By Shaun Inman.
Current CSS implementations have no support for variables or constants
until now. Shaun Inman's 'CSS Server-side Constants' might come in
handy if you have several classes, rules or id selectors that would all
use the same style. It requires that you have PHP running, and that you
edit a .htaccess file. The CSS files get poured through PHP in order to
be preprocessed. The end result is that they'll be sent out as regular
CSS, with all the constants substituted. CSS Server-side Constants
won't do much for smaller sites with only a few rules, but for large
application-scale websites it could be quite useful.
Creating a CSS Design from Scratch
By Meryl Evans.
"Even for experienced Web designers, creating a site in CSS for the
first time can be a daunting task. In this tutorial, I'll help you face
your first CSS site design without fear by breaking the process into
three easy steps, starting with a blank canvas and finishing up with a
fully functioning Web site. I used this very process to create an
existing site, which I'll discuss more later in this guide."
CSS Table Gallery
By Christian Heilmann.
"Following a request on the list, where a subscriber had unsuccessfully
searched for an online gallery of styled data tables, I came up with
the following idea...It is pretty much like csszengarden, only for a
single marked up data table. What I need now is people participating
with an own style for the data table. You can submit it directly on the
site and I will check through them when I come back from a training in
3 days, so please don?t expect to see things appearing immediately.
ALAs New Print Styles
By Eric A. Meyer.
"Print away, you fiends! Eric Meyer presents the ALA 4.0 print styles
and discusses the challenge of translating a complex screen layout into
a well-designed and useful printed page."
Dreamweaver 8 Emerging Issues
"Some users have reported that the following issues are affecting their
usage of Dreamweaver 8. Issues described in this document may prove to
be platform or system specific, and may not affect all users. Technical
support will update this document as we learn more about any of the
issues, so check back frequently."
+04: EVALUATION & TESTING.
Confidence Interval for Task Times in Usability Tests
(Task Time Calculator)
By Jeff Sauro.
"This calculator takes raw task times, transforms them using the
Natural Logarithm and computes a confidence interval."
2006 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces
January 29 - February 1, 2006.
+06: INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE.
Don't Finalize the Site Structure Until You've Created Page Layouts
By Iain Barker.
"There is a worrying trend emerging in the field of information
architecture: organisations are attempting to finalize site structures
without evaluating their effectiveness in the context of a web page.
Card sorting and card-based classification provide excellent insights
into the inherent structure behind content. Both are excellent tools
for defining strict taxonomies, but they do not necessarily generate
the most approachable structure for a site. Content centred design is
not necessarily user centred design.
Should You Finalize Site Structure Based on Card-Sorting?
By Rashmi Sinha.
"...the problems with creating structures based on card-sorting,
mentioned in the article, are not really problems with card-sorting.
The problems are more with half-baked understanding or usage of the
technique. For example, the article mentions that browser pages cannot
accommodate too many top-level headings, long titles etc., and how this
impacts structural decisions. But these and other issues can easily be
handled with good card-sorting practices and more better analysis."
Dom Scripting Best Practices
By Jeremy Keith.
Chapter 5 from Jeremy's new book is available online.
Unobtrusive Behavior Layer
By Steve Chipman.
"Steve Chipman gave a talk to his colleagues at AOL about DOM Scripting
view the slides. He does a good job of explaining the benefits of good
By Kurt Cagle.
"...Now, on the face of it, the question seems a little extreme, given
lively, doing jigs and acrobatics that seem nothing short of incredible
for a language which has recently just celebrated its tenth birthday
of the programming world). However, as is usual with these questions,
there was a very pressing problem that underlaid the casual query. I'd
say that the question, revised slightly, can be articulated more as,
capabilities?" The answer to this one is a little harder, in part
because I've had my own suspicions on that thought as well...."
Improving Link Display for Print
By Aaron Gustafson
"Some time ago, Eric Meyer showed you how to add URIs to the printed
version of your pages using print styles. Sometimes, though, too many
inline URIs can make pages hard to read. Aaron Gustafson comes to the
Centralized or Decentralized Authoring?
By James Robertson.
"There is no 'correct' answer to this question. To get the best
business outcomes, you must understand the strengths and weaknesses of
Why Web Managers Are Leaders
By Gerry McGovern.
"The Web requires leadership if it is to achieve its full
potential. That leadership will rarely be given by senior
management. So that means it's up to you."
By Paul Bohman.
"When using a screen reader, it can sometimes be a little difficult to
tell when link text ends and when another begins. JAWS says 'link'
before each link, which minimizes this problem, but it can be a little
more difficult with Home Page Reader, which uses a female-sounding
voice for all of the links. It is a good thing that the voice changes
from a male-sounding voice to a female-sounding voice, but if there are
five links in a row, the voice will not change at all in between links,
which can lead to some confusion. One solution is to provide a non-link
character between each link. The vertical bar ( | ) is used quite often
for this purpose. Another solution is to put the links in an ordered or
numbered list. Screen readers tend to pause between list items, helping
the user audibly distinguish between separate links."
PHP 101 (part 5): Rank and File
Everything you're ever likely to need to know about dealing with
external files from a PHP script.
By Vikram Vaswani.
"In this segment of our ongoing saga, I'm going to teach you how to do
something that's definitely not for kids. It involves getting down and
dirty with files on the disk: meeting them (shock!), reading their
contents (shriek!) and (horror of horrors!) writing data to them. All
of these exciting activities will take place under the aegis of PHP's
very cool file manipulation API, which allows you to view and modify
file attributes, read and list directory contents, alter file
permissions, retrieve file contents into a variety of native data
structures, and search for files based on specific patterns."
PHP 101 (part 6): Functionally Yours
All about functions, arguments, passing by reference, globals and scope.
By Vikram Vaswani.
"In this tutorial I'm going to introduce you to a new way of doing
things, where code doesn't run in a straight line, but twists, leaps
and bounds across the landscape of your script. Most of this activity
is accomplished through a programming construct called a "function",
and this tutorial teaches you how to build them (once), use them (many
times), pass them arguments and have them return values, and generally
make your scripts more compact, efficient and maintainable..."
How to Decide What Bugs to Fix When, Part 1
By Scott Berkun.
"In part 1 of this two-part essay on making smart bug decisions, Scott
Berkun covered triage and making smarter piles."
How to Decide What Bugs to Fix When, Part 2
By Scott Berkun.
"In part 2, Scott covers establishing an exit criteria and early
planning, as well as exceptions to all of the rules, frequently asked
questions, and some bug-fixing resources. Scott is the author of The
Art of Project Management."
+11: STANDARDS, GUIDELINES & PATTERNS.
Why eBay Needs Standards-Oriented Design: An Interview With Eric A.
By David Poteet.
"I'm seeing a growing interest in standards-oriented design as
something that should be done by any organization. Various redesigns
have certainly helped awareness. As many organizations make the shift
to standards, others are starting to realize that they're being left
behind and that they need to look into standards-oriented design and
figure out how to move forward. The driving forces are interesting and
diverse. In many cases, you'll have a web team that has come to
realize this is something they need to do. They won't get management
onboard by saying "Hey, we need to move to standards," but by saying,
"Hey, a standards-based design can make our site more efficient. It'll
be faster and more accessible." Development teams can promote their
cause by stating all the reasons that standards-oriented design
benefits the organization as a whole. For one of my clients, the legal
team was the driving force towards standards. The legal team came to
the technical team and told them, "Our web site must be accessible."
This was not a business where they were federally mandated to be 508
compliant, but they were just coming from an ADA lawsuit..."
By Robert Nyman.
"...What I wanted to do was explain to him that it was dangerous to
take on the project with the mindset that it should work in a certain
web browser as opposed to following the given recommendations and
standards, that by doing it with the general approach it would be a
much better guarantee for future compatibility, automatically targeting
more web browsers and easier maintenance. Naturally, every web browser
have some flaws that there might be workarounds for, but in general, if
you write correct code you will get very close to a web site that will
work in as many web browsers/platforms as possible. So, I called him
up, and it went a bit like this...The problem in our call, as with many
Project Managers and System Developers alike, is that they really don't
know about web standards and how it should be done. They never heard of
the importance of semantic markup. So, for all of you out there whose
mindset is still set in the browser war era (Internet Explorer vs.
Netscape): Those days are long gone. There's a myriad of web browsers
and platforms out there, together with accessibility as well as other
factors that need to be taken into regard. Read this line carefully,
and then repeat it in every web project you go in to: Do not write your
code adapted for web browsers, write it according to web standards.
That's your only hope!"
Searching for Standards
By Molly E. Holzschlag.
"I did a small comparative analysis of markup practices at several
major search engines. Its interesting to note that only one engine is
using valid markup and CSS layouts, and that would be MSN. Close behind
is AOL, whose validation problems are mostly related to ampersands not
being escaped, and HotBot, who have a few easily corrected errors.
BBEdit CSS Syntax Checker
By John Gruber.
"If you work on CSS using either of Bare Bones Softwares text editors,
you might be interested in my latest project: CSS syntax checking
scripts for BBEdit and TextWrangler. Theyre a combination of Perl and
AppleScript that allows you to syntax-check CSS files using the W3Cs
CSS Validation Service. Errors and warnings from the validation service
are displayed in a results browser, very similar in effect to BBEdits
built-in HTML syntax checker."
Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach
By Jared Spool.
"Why do we gravitate to consistency? Because its easier to think
about. You dont actually have to know anything about your users to
talk about making things consistent. You only have to know about your
design, which most designers are quite familiar with. Current
knowledge, on the other hand, requires in-depth knowledge of the users.
And that takes research time and investigative effort. It doesn't come
cheap, like consistency does. But it produces much, much better
Registration Forms - What To Do If You Can't Avoid Them
By Caroline Jarrett.
"Last month I looked at a subtle detail on forms, so this month I
thought I'd take a step back to look at a whole-form topic:
Forms vs. Applications
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Once an online form goes beyond two screenfulls, it's often a sign
that the underlying functionality is better supported by an
application, which offers a more interactive user experience."
Avis: Trying Too Hard?
By Jared Spool.
"Apparently, not to be outdone by their competition, Hertz, Avis.com
has chosen the rebellious route and decided to defy standard
convention. They've decided that they would demonstrate how hard they
try (after all, they do try harder) and change the way people fill out
forms. Convention has it that, in a form, a designer will designate
mandatory fields with that old standby, the asterisk (*). Not that this
is written in stone or anything."
An Interview with XML
"I pulled a few strings and managed to get an exclusive interview with
XML, who's really hot right now. Sitting in a cafe just off Venice
Beach, this is what she had to say..."
[Section one ends.]
++ SECTION TWO:
+15: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?
Cascading Style Sheets Information.
Evaluation & Testing Information.
Information Architecture Information.
Miscellaneous Web Information.
Sites & Blogs Listing.
Standards, Guidelines & Pattern Information.
[Section two ends.]
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+ SIGN OFF.
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
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