[webdev] Web Design Update: November 15, 2005

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Tue Nov 15 06:19:52 CST 2005

- Volume 4, Issue 21, November 15, 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:

03: COLOR.
11: PHP.
13: TOOLS.
15: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization
By Andy Hagans.
"It's no coincidence that search engines love highly accessible 
websites; in fact, by designing for accessibility, you're already using 
effective search-engine optimization techniques. Andy Hagans explains 
yet another reason to pay attention to accessibility."

Form Help Without Popups
By Gez Lemon.
"Thrusting new windows upon visitors of your site is frowned upon, as 
it goes against device independence by assuming a windowed environment. 
One situation where developers feel that a new window is appropriate is 
with web forms. If the visitor requires help on a form field, a new 
window saves the visitor the trouble of having to leave the form, and 
possibly losing the data they have entered. This article illustrates a 
scripting technique to get around the problem without having to open a 
new window."

Spacer Image - Disney Store's Number One Gift Idea This Christmas
By Mike Davies.
"The UK Disney Store pushed web standards into the limelight. It was an 
imaginative blend of open standards and creative design. A site that 
any designer could be proud of. Unfortunately, Disney has seen fit to 
replace their successful site with a shambolic poor imitation."

An Open Letter to Disney Store UK
By Molly E. Holzschlag.
"I would write this to you directly via your site feedback page but it 
is throwing Access database errors. The email appears to be down as 
well. So instead, I'm going to write my letter here in a public forum 
in the hopes that someone from your team sees it and takes heed. Your 
so-called redesign is a travesty, a tragedy, and an embarrassment..."

Of Mice and Men
By Andy (Malarkey) Clarke.
"Over recent days I have received a number of emails from people asking 
for my reaction to Disney Store UK's decision to move from valid and 
semantic XHTML and AA-AAA WAI compliance to an invalid HTML site which 
fails to meet Priority 1 accessibility guidelines..."

On Accessibility and Validity
By Matt May.
"Validity and accessibility guidelines are like matter and antimatter: 
you probably don't want to be there when they collide."

A Principled Argument
By Matt May.
"The next draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 
probably will not require HTML content that conforms at Level A to be 
fully valid. The following is my rationale for agreeing to this."


One Clean HTML Markup, Many Layouts...
By Thierry Koblentz.
"It is this thread (title: "one template to rule them all") on the 
CSS-Discuss List that initiated this article. The original post 
included a link to a document that contained a set of images 
representing different layouts, the question was: 'Is it possible to 
have one HTML file, and style these pages this way only with CSS' So 
here we go..."

In Search of the One True Layout
By Alex Robinson.
"Pure CSS-based layouts have come a long way but they still have 
shortcomings...that fail to address certain design goals without 
compromising the true separation of content and presentation. In short, 
the problematic design goals are these...Total Layout 
Flexibility...Equal Height Columns...Vertical placement of elements 
across grids/columns...This article shows how to achieve each of these 
goals, and then how to combine them, creating what could be called the 
One True Layout"

Layout Revolution
By Eric A. Meyer.
"Recently, Alex Robinson published an article titled 'In Search of the 
One True Layout', and it basically turns the conventional wisdom about 
what CSS layouts can and can't accomplish on its ear. One of the 
article's primary aims is nothing less than enabling multi-column 
layout using no extra markup (beyond a div to enclose each column's 
content) and allowing the columns to be in any document source order. 
Impossible? No. It appears to have done just that in all current 
browsers, and several non-current browsers as well."

Multi-Unit Any-Order Columns
By Eric A. Meyer.
"A way to use the Any Order Columns technique when the columns use 
mixed units, such as percentages and ems or ems and pixels, in a single 

Structuring CSS and Macromedia Labs Site Design
By Neil Straghalis.
"A few weeks ago we launched a new site - Macromedia Labs. It's a place 
where we can post early software releases, documentation and samples, 
and where developers can collaborate and contribute. You can read all 
about it here, but I'd like to mention a few things about the site 
design and how we put it together."

IE7: Sane and Rational?
By Ben Buchanan.
"I think it would have been much better to provide conditional comments 
in the CSS rather than the page source...So why on earth was it not a 
'sane and rational' approach?"

IE7 Conditional Comments
Dave Shea.
"In mid October, the IE Blog urged developers to stop using CSS hacks 
to workaround IE's problems, and start relying on Microsoft's 
proprietary conditional comments. I was mostly fine with the new 
syntax, and it seemed practical enough considering that IE7 is looking 
to address most of the reasons you'd hack in the first place. But in 
the comments it became clear that some of you have discovered 
non-trivial problems in working with conditional comments -- for 

+03: COLOR.

More Adaptations for Color Blindness
By Joe Clark.
"...Now, then: Ken Wakita and Kenta Shimamura have written a paper, 
'SmartColor: Disambiguation Framework for the Colorblind,' which sets 
out some algorithms to automatically convert colour in images (mostly 
charts and illustrations) into analogues that colourblind people can 

Colour Blindness on the Web
By Richard Rutter.
"Colour blindness has crept back on to the agenda recently. Joe Clark 
recently pointed to SmartColor: Disambiguation Framework for the 
Colorblind, a proposed algorithm for converting colours in a document 
(or more likely an image) into colours that a colour blind person can 
distinguish. Also doing the rounds is Etre's Colour Blindness Simulator 
which enables you upload images to see how they look to some colour 
blind users. The thing is, colour blindness on the Web isn't a big 
deal. You do have to bear it mind (as I will show later on), but there 
is no need to let it dominate any design decisions..."

Color Blindness
By Wikipedia.
"Color blindness, or color vision deficiency, in humans is the 
inability to perceive differences between some or all colors that other 
people can distinguish..."


Dreamweaver 8 Does Standards!
By Rachel Andrew.
"If you're reading this article, you probably already have an interest 
in the subject of "Web standards," and are curious about the 
application of standards in a site that's built with Dreamweaver."

Creating Accessible Tables for Data Using Dreamweaver 8
By Macromedia.
"Here's a basic overview of how to create accessible tables using 
Dreamweaver 8..."

Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 Review
By Roger Johansson.
"...All in all, Dreamweaver 8 is a decent application, but its flaws 
outweigh its benefits, at least for me. I find it especially hard to 
deal with the unpolished GUI, the sluggishness, and the instability. So 
I will not be spending my money on a Dreamweaver license until it 
improves. This is just my personal opinion. Dreamweaver may be perfect 
for you, so if you like it and feel it's worth the money, by all means 
buy it..."

Dreamweaver TechNote: The Paste HTML option is missing from the 
Dreamweaver 8 Edit menu
By Macromedia.
"In Macromedia Dreamweaver 8, under the Edit menu, the Paste HTML and 
Copy HTML options are missing..."


Is Lab Usability Dead?
By Peter Merholz.
"...let's get out of our labs and conference rooms and into our users' 
environments. It's becoming clear that it's the only way to truly 
understand, and meet, their needs."

Design Choices Can Cripple a Website
By Nick Usborne.
"Do you test your designs? If not, Nick Usborne wants you to take 
responsibility for your design choices and the very quantifiable effect 
they can have on websites that are built for business."

+06: EVENTS.

Student Information Systems and Individuals with Disabilities Webcast
November 30, 2005.
"The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) will 
host another in their series of webcasts with a focus for those in 
education.  A discussion will be held on the accessibility of student 
information systems used for registration, grading, student services, 
and financial aid. Join them Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 for the 
live audio Webcast. The broadcast is free and will begin at 1PM 
Mountain Daylight Savings Time (12:00PM Pacific; 2:00PM Central; 3:00PM 

ETRA 2006
Eye Tracking Research and Applications
March 27-29, 2006.
San Diego, California U.S.A.


Information Architecture 2.0
By Dan Brown.
"The typical information architect thinks about structure -  how one 
item in a group relates to all the other items in the group and how 
that group relates to all other groups. In the early days of 
information architecture (IA), groups and their related items tended to 
be well defined. For example, in the heyday of e-commerce, an 
information architect translated a product catalog into a storefront on 
the Web. Today, these problems seem old hat..."


Debugging JavaScript Without Alerts
By Jeremy Keith.
"I wrote a while back about logging tools for JavaScript and how some 
very powerful tools have been appearing lately. Sometimes though, you 
don't need all the power and complexity that a fully-fledged logger 
brings. Sometimes, you just want to know what's happening at a certain 
point in your script - you might want to find out the value of a 
particular variable, for instance. In those cases, the humble alert 
function can be very handy."

AJAX: How to Handle Bookmarks and Back Buttons
By Brad Neuberg.
"This article presents an open source JavaScript library that finally 
brings bookmarking and back button support to AJAX applications. By the 
end of this tutorial, developers will have a solution to an AJAX 
problem that not even Google Maps or Gmail possesses: robust, usable 
bookmarking and back and forward behavior that works exactly like the 
rest of the Web."

Ajax in Action. Chapter 6: The User Experience
By Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello with Darren James.
Excerpt from the book "Ajax in Action".


Interview with Matt May
By Ian Lloyd.
"Much of WCAG 1.0 is anchored to HTML as the dominant technology, and 
expects textual documents as the delivery method. It's too spread out, 
as well, with 14 guidelines and 68 checkpoints. WCAG 2.0 is more 
technology-agnostic and wide-ranging, but with a more compact set of 
guidelines. The Working Group wants to put everything they know out 
there so that authors can understand how a problem impacts users with 
different disabilities, what part of the process is failing the user, 
how the problem can be fixed sufficiently in a number of technologies, 
and why we took the approach that we did. It's a lot different from the 
'do this, don't do that' mode of accessibility we see in laws such as 
Section 508. But it will ultimately answer a lot of the whys individual 
developers may have been afraid to ask. That's good, because it lets 
them experiment, and improve on that knowledge. It also boils the 
guidelines down into four driving principles, and explains in detail 
how to meet those needs using various Web technologies. And that's 
important in itself, because it removes the excuse that accessibility 
is some kind of black magic that is incomprehensible to the outsider. 
Every guideline exists for a reason, and all those reasons are now 
spelled out."

Ambient Findability: Talking with Peter Morville
By Liz Danzico.
"Can we reasonably judge authority? How can we make good decisions in 
the information age? How do we know enough to ask the right questions? 
Peter Morville takes a moment to talk with us these and other potential 
answers, his most recent book, the death of data, and our fascination 
with the future.."

The Top 5 Red Flags of Software Development
By Jason Fried.
"1. Wouldn't it be easy to...(the hidden cost of change)..."

Rethinking Application Design
By Dirk Knemeye.
"...Our industry generally does not know how to design great user 
experiences, so the blind are always leading the blind. This is 
amplified when firms copy the methods of teams that have produced 
successful products. Unfortunately, successful product design sometimes 
occurs despite the structure and process of the design team-not because 
of it. So What Should We Be Doing? Here are my recommendations, based 
on working with and for numerous companies, and seeing success with my 
own company..."


How To: Anchor Text (Don't Click Here!)
By Matt Bailey.
"It never fails to amaze me when I browse sites. One of the most 
critical factors on the page that affect everything from rankings, 
accessibility and usability is overlooked. Many times it is abused to 
the point of ridiculousness..."

Should Nav be on the Left or on the Right?
By Jared Spool.
"On the often interesting Interaction Design Association discussion 
list, David Hatch from Macromedia asked if people liked their 
navigation panels on the left side better than on right side."

+11: PHP.

CSS-PHP Variable
By Tedd Sperling.
"The question has been asked numerous times, in the css forum, if there 
is a way to use a variable from inside css and the answer has always 
been 'No'. Well... technically, if you are using just css, then that 
answer is correct. However, with just a minor amount of php code (7 
lines), you can use variables in css."

PHP 101 (part 15): No News is Good News
By Vikram Vaswani.
"After the workout I gave you last time, you're probably either 
chomping at the bit to build another PHP application or you've decided 
to give up PHP programming and try growing cucumbers instead. If it's 
the latter, you should stop reading right now, because I can guarantee 
you that this concluding installment of PHP 101 has absolutely nothing 
to teach you about vegetable farming. If it's the former, however, then 
you're going to enjoy what's coming up. Over the next few pages, I'm 
going to be building a simple RSS news aggregator using PHP, SQLite and 
SimpleXML. With this news aggregator, you can plug into RSS news feeds 
from all over the web, creating a newscast that reflects your needs and 
interests for your website. The best part: it updates itself 
automatically with the latest stories every time you view it!Come on 
in, and let's get this show on the road!"

These Things I Know, PHP Tips
By Nick Schaffner.
"There is more than one way to achieve the same result when programming 
in PHP. There are many shortcuts I wish someone had explained to me 
when I began learning the language. Here are my favorites."


Web Blandards
By John Allsopp.
"To my recent post on semantics, a couple of comments touched on the 
wider issue (and one I have never really understood) that somehow by 
standardizing, you stifle creativity. It's an argument I've heard for 
many years in criticism of web standards, and one that I fail to see 
any logic in. But I've never really seen it discussed in detail, and as 
it simply won't go away, I want to address it here..."

Why Valid HTML Code is Important to Your Web Site
By Goran Mitic.
"Many webmasters overlook a very important aspect of web site 
promotion: the validity of the HTML code."

Government Web Standards Usage: New Zealand
By Peter Krantz.
"In this article we have a look at government web sites in New Zealand. 
Testing NZ government websites is interesting as there is an official 
document, the e-government web guidelines, that regulate how they 
should be made. Out of 280 tested sites 16 (5.7%) were using valid 
HTML. However, 30 sites had between 1 and 5 errors. Read on for the 

+13: TOOLS.

Colour Blindness Simulator [Beta]
By Etre.
"Use our Colour Blindness Simulator to reveal how your images may 
appear to users with a variety of colour blindness conditions. Upload a 
JPEG image of no more than 1000 pixels x 1000 pixels (100 KB filesize 
or less) to see how colour blind users may see it."

Rapid Web Development and Testing with Firefox
By Leslie Franke.
Leslie's slide presentation showcases many useful extensions. They are 
in my toolbox.


By Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher and Editor in Chief.
"We are very pleased to welcome you to UXmatters - a Web magazine 
created by and for UX professionals."

Graphic Design Plays a Minor Role on the Web
By Gerry McGovern.
"The best websites are highly functional. They are task-focused.
Graphic design has an important, though limited role. Don't try
and force the Web to be what it's not."

Graphic Design on The Web
By D. Keith Robinson.
"Gerry McGovern, a Web content expert, wrote a bit entitled Graphic 
Design Plays A Minor Role On The Web. It's a short read that makes a 
few good points. I think what he's saying is that 'visual' or 'graphic' 
design should not be the focus of most Web sites. And to that point I 
generally agree with him. However, to imply that 'style' or visual 
graphic design isn't important on the Web at all is dead wrong in my 
opinion....I feel that the best Web sites are usable, functional and 
have a good visual aesthetic..."

Is Beauty The New Usability Attribute?
By Mark Hall and Kath Straub.
"Hassenzahl's studies suggest that the emotional aspects of the design 
are important in attracting customers in the first place. Hedonic 
properties around beauty clearly influence first impressions. However, 
when getting stuff done matters, perceived usability - judged through 
usage over time - is what matters most."

Usability Doesn't Have to be Ugly
By Gerry McGovern.
"There is a balance that needs to be struck between a website that is 
truly functional and one that is elegant and stylish."

Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Weblogs are often too internally focused and ignore key usability 
issues, making it hard for new readers to understand the site and trust 
the author."

Jakob Only Has Two Weblog Mistakes Right
By Garrick Van Buren.
"I read through Jakob Nielsen's Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design 
Mistakes. As someone with a couple of weblogs, I only agree with two of 
his 'mistakes'. The rest of them have valid, strategic uses..."

In Praise of Web Experts
By Gerry McGovern.
"The Web is maturing. It needs more people like Jakob Nielsen who 
propose, explain and defend rules. There is a best way to manage a 
website. There is a best way to combine the talents of the editor with 
the opinions of the audience. Rules will not restrict the future growth 
of the Web. Rather,
they will allow it to truly mature and flourish."

Business Blog Web Design Mistakes
By Meryl Evans.
"With more companies adopting blogs, it's no surprise Jakob Nielsen 
looks at the top ten blog usability design mistakes."

If You're Reading This, You Are a Low-Value Demographic
By Jeff Atwood.
"Jakob Nielsen may not be today's hip and trendy Web 2.0 fixture, but 
he's still dispensing solid advice. Check out his Top Ten Blog Design 
Mistakes...It's a great set of guidelines that I completely agree with. 
However, it is missing one humongous mistake: disabling comments. You 
don't have a blog until you allow public, two way communication between 
the author and the reader. And when I say communication, I mean it: the 
author has to actually read and even (gasp!) respond to the comments. 
Otherwise you're just publishing content, like every other newspaper 
since the printing press was invented..."

+15: XML.

Cross-browser XForms
By Kevin Yank.
"XForms is a complex but powerful replacement for HTML forms that 
relies heavily on cutting-edge XML technology. As a result of its 
complexity, browsers have been typically slow to implement it. But with 
working plugins for Internet Explorer and a pre-release extension now 
available for Firefox, the time is right to give this technology 
another look."

[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.]



WEB DESIGN UPDATE is available by subscription. For information on how 
to subscribe and unsubscribe please visit:
The Web Design Reference Site also has a RSS 2.0 feed for site updates.


As a navigation aid for screen readers we do our best to conform to the 
accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN) guidelines.  Please let me know 
if there is anything else we can do to make navigation easier. For TEN 
guideline information please visit:


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.]

More information about the Webdev mailing list