[webdev] Web Design Update: October 6, 2005

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Oct 6 06:22:14 CDT 2005

- Volume 4, Issue 15, October 6, 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.
14: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ 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 don’t!). 3.) Make product 
presentations and assessments more fun by taking away the client’s 
mouse and changing monitor settings, 4.) If you want to support 
disabled users, don’t stop at one group. “Skip links” helps blind users 
and keyboard/switch access users alike, don’t 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 competitor’s 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.


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.
Detailed explanation:
Latest version:

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.

ALA’s 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
By Macromedia.
"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."


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."

+05: EVENTS.

2006 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces
January 29 - February 1, 2006.
Sydney, Australia


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 
and unobtrusive JavaScript. You can now listen to the presentation and 
view the slides. He does a good job of explaining the benefits of good 

Is Javascript Dead?
By Kurt Cagle.
"...Now, on the face of it, the question seems a little extreme, given 
that in its latest incarnation, AJAX, Javascript appears to be quite 
lively, doing jigs and acrobatics that seem nothing short of incredible 
for a language which has recently just celebrated its tenth birthday 
(Javascript and Java were both created in the same year, even though 
Javascript bears only the most superficial language to that grande dame 
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, 
"Are we asking Javascript to be a language far beyond its 
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 
rescue with a JavaScript add-on that'll have you loving your linkage 


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 
both approaches."

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."


Hypertext Links
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."

+10: PHP.

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."


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..."

Firefox Investigation
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. It’s 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.

+12: TOOLS.

BBEdit CSS Syntax Checker
By John Gruber.
"If you work on CSS using either of Bare Bones Software’s text editors, 
you might be interested in my latest project: CSS syntax checking 
scripts for BBEdit and TextWrangler. They’re a combination of Perl and 
AppleScript that allows you to syntax-check CSS files using the W3C’s 
CSS Validation Service. Errors and warnings from the validation service 
are displayed in a results browser, very similar in effect to BBEdit’s 
built-in HTML syntax checker."


Consistency in Design is the Wrong Approach
By Jared Spool.
"Why do we gravitate to consistency? Because it’s easier to think 
about. You don’t 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: 
registration forms."

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."

+14: XML.

An Interview with XML
Dan Zambonini.
"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.]


+15: 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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