[webdev] Web Design Update: November 22, 2005

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Tue Nov 22 06:27:09 CST 2005

- Volume 4, Issue 22, November 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:

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.


Introduction to Web Accessibility
By Paul Bohman.
"Most people today can hardly conceive of life without the Internet. It 
provides access to information, news, email, shopping, and 
entertainment. The Internet, with its ability to serve out information 
at any hour of the day or night about practically any topic 
conceivable, has become a way of life for an impatient, 
information-hungry generation. Some have argued that no other single 
invention has been more revolutionary since that of Gutenberg's 
original printing press in the mid 1400s. Now, at the click of a mouse, 
the world can be 'at your fingertips' - that is, if you can use a 
mouse... and if you can see the screen... and if you can hear the audio 
in other words, if you don't have a disability of any kind."

Macromedia Breeze
By National Center on Disability and Access to Education.
"Currently, a screen reader user's experience with Breeze Meeting will 
range from confusing to completely inaccessible. Although Macromedia is 
working to resolve this issue, Breeze Meeting by its very nature does 
not lend itself to screen reader accessibility. It does not exist as a 
linear page, but changes constantly based on user interaction. Not only 
does information change constantly, it changes in so many places. Each 
pane (or pod) in Breeze meeting is in essence its own program, and it 
is difficult to manage many programs without scanning them visually. 
The same can be said about keyboard accessibility. Many of the features 
in Breeze Meeting are difficult, or even impossible, to access without 
using a mouse. While keyboard control can be improved on, some 
features, such as the collaboration (whiteboard) pod, may always 
require the use of a mouse. Despite some limitations, Breeze Meeting 
has some strengths..."

Got Alt?
By Eric Tribou.
"I've been going back and forth a little bit with Ian Hixie who is the 
man behind the alt text spec among many other things..."

Selling Accessibility to Programmers
By Joe Clark.
"I have read the paper by Chris Law et al., 'Programmer-Focused 
Web[-S]ite Accessibility Evaluations'..., and I don't think it provides 
really substantial advice, but at least it has a set of advice to which 
we will now actually have a published reference..."

Accessibility...Who Does It REALLY Help?
By Darrel Austin.
"Whenever the topic of accessibility comes up amongst web designers, 
there's always a few who insist on seeing some numbers. The argument 
usually consists of ‘why should I do X to accommodate the small 
insignificant group Y'. Of course, this fails to take into 
consideration the fact that accessibility isn't specifically about 
accommodating some minority groups, but, rather, accommodating a large 
range of users. Yet, people like numbers. And it's something I honestly 
haven't ever gotten around to digging up. I recently came across a few 
websites that do offer some numerical insights."


CSS-Only, Table-less Forms
By Jeff Howden.
"Most of the CSS-only, table-less forms available suck. So, not wanting 
to stoop to mediocrity, I decided to take on the task of coming up with 
something better. This is the result of my efforts..."

The Cascade: Part 1
By Lachlan Hunt.
"One of the most important yet, arguably, one of the least understood 
aspects of CSS is the cascade. Sure, most people will know that CSS 
stands for Cascading Style Sheets, but do you know what cascading 
really means and how it affects the way style sheets work?"

Semantics in the Wild
By John Allsopp.
"...based on the data here, and also your own experiences, what class 
and id values are (or at least should be) commonly used? In essence, 
what's missing from HTML/XHTML in terms of semantics - not in theory, 
but in the practical sense of the kinds of constructs developers use 
all the time..."

CSS Shorthand Guide
By Dustin Diaz.
"Ok. Let's set the record straight. There is no official guide for each 
and every CSS shorthand property value. So let's work together and put 
one together shall we' Ok. Straight to the business. Anytime I've ran 
into a specification (besides the confusing mess at the W3C), it turns 
into showing off a couple of examples and you're supposed to be set on 
your way. Well well. Over the years, I've found quite some interesting 
unknown quirky facts about these shorthands... hence this Guide was 

Who Is Up For a CSS Challenge?
By Christian Heilmann.
"I hinted for some time now, that I was working on a Zen Garden-type 
site that simulates a CMS environment..."

+03: COLOR.

Luminosity Contrast Ratio Algorithm
By Gez Lemon.
"Guideline 1.4 of the draft version of the Web Content Accessibility 
Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 requires that it is easy to distinguish 
foreground information from background images or sounds. The guideline 
suggests a luminosity contrast ratio algorithm to help determine the 
contrast between foreground and background colours. To help understand 
the algorithm, I have provided a Luminosity Contrast Ratio Analyser, 
along with example luminosity contrast ratios..."


Creating Your First Website with Dreamweaver 8 -
Part 1: Setting Up Your Site and Project Files
By Jon Varese.
"Set up your Dreamweaver environment for the website you will create."


Eight Guidelines For Usability Testing
By Tim Fidgeon.
"In professional web design circles, the usability testing session has 
become an essential component of any major project. Similar to focus 
groups in brand development and product launches, usability testing 
offers a rare opportunity to receive feedback from the very people the 
website is aimed at - before it's too late to do anything about it. But 
how can you get the most from these usability testing sessions?..."

+06: EVENTS.

CHI 2006, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
April 22-27, 2006.
Montreal, Canada


Design Leads and Wireframes
By Luke Wroblewsk.
"By popular request and with permission, Functioning Form is publishing 
some of Jim Leftwich's writings on design."


Who Really Turns Off JavaScript?
By Tom Dell'Aringa.
"I am playing a bit of a devil's advocate here. I don't believe you 
should build certain JavaScript functionality into a page (such as a 
menu system) without having an alternative - that would be foolish. My 
point is being made more toward enhanced functionality (such that Ajax 
can provide) for the user. Also, I'm not concerned about people who 
code mouse trails, animations and so forth into their pages. I'm 
talking about professional development, not hobby or personal sites."

JavaScript Newbies: Beware of Libraries
By Dustin Diaz.
With the vast emergence of JavaScript libraries like Prototype and 
those of which extend it like Open Rico, Behavior, Scriptaculous, and 
even Moo.fx which was built on a light version of prototype; I feel the 
need to warn Web Developers that have been decoupled from the world's 
most misunderstood language to backoff just for a little while. This is 
no way intended to veer developers away from such brilliant frameworks 
that can immensely aid in the development process for web applications, 
but the fact of the matter is: That's what these libraries are for; Web 
Applications. Instead, I would recommend just one little piece of 
advice before adding 100k to your web documents. Learn JavaScript 

The Dangers of Frameworks
By Jeremy Keith.
"I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the many JavaScript frameworks out 
there. The problem comes when they are used without being understood. 
As long as everything works as advertised, everything's hunky-dory. But 
as soon as something goes wrong, you're up the creek. If you treat a 
framework like some magical black box, then you're not going to be in a 
position to tinker with it...earn the language first. If you then want 
to use a framework and you understand how and why it works, then by all 
means do so. If you don't understand the inner workings, then you run 
the risk of becoming a cargo-cult programmer."

Proudly Presenting AJAX-S!
By Robert Nyman.
"Eric Meyer's S5 rapidly become the tool of choice for presentations at 
web conferences. Now there's some competition: AJAX-S by Robert Nyman 
It uses Ajax to display a presentation."

AJAX-S, Release 2!
By Robert Nyman.


Good, Evil and Technology: A Fun Philosophical Inquiry
By Scott Berkun.
"...Every tool has an implied morality. There is a value system that 
every machine, program, or website has built into it that's 
comprehendible if you look carefully. As two polarizing examples, look 
at these two things: a machine gun and a wheelchair. Both of these have 
very clear purposes in mind and behind each purpose is a set of values. 
The wheelchair is designed to support someone. The machine gun is 
designed to kill someone (or several someones). Many of the products we 
make don't have  as clearly defined values. However as I mentioned 
earlier, the absence of value is a value: not being explicitly evil 
isn't the same as being good. If I make a hammer, it can be used to 
build homes for the needy, or to build a mansion for a bank robber. I 
can be proud of the hammer's design, but I can't be certain that I've 
done a good thing for the world: the tool's use is too basic to define 
it as good or bad. It's common to see toolmakers, from search engines 
to development tools, take credit for the good they see their tools do, 
while ignoring the bad. This isn't quite right: they are equally 
involved in the later as they are in the former...Nothing prevents us 
from making sure the tools we make, and skills we have, are put to good 
use: donated to causes we value, demonstrated to those who need help, 
customized for specific purposes and people we think are doing good 
things. It's only in those acts that we're doing good: the software, 
website or machine is often not enough. Or more to my point, the best 
way to do good has less to do with the technology, and more to do with 
what we do with it."

Set Your Priorities
By Joel Spolsky.
"Custom development is that murky world where a customer tells you what 
to build, and you say, 'are you sure?' and they say yes, and you make 
an absolutely beautiful spec, and say, 'is this what you want?' and 
they say yes, and you make them sign the spec in indelible ink, nay, 
blood, and they do, and then you build that thing they signed off on, 
promptly, precisely and exactly, and they see it and they are horrified 
and shocked, and you spend the rest of the week reading up on whether 
your E&O insurance is going to cover the legal fees for the lawsuit 
you've gotten yourself into or merely the settlement cost. Or, if 
you're really lucky, the customer will smile wanly and put your code in 
a drawer and never use it again and never call you back."

Avoid Starting Without Proper Scoping
By  D. Keith Robinson.
"Determining the scope of any project isn't an exact science. There is 
a whole lot of educated guesswork that goes into it. If that weren't 
enough, there's often negotiation that needs to happen, as a potential 
client might not place the same value on things as you do....My advice 
is to be very careful about doing any project that hasn't been 
thoroughly scoped out in advance. Even if you're starving for work. By 
'thoroughly' I mean that you, the client, your mom and your dog all 
know in fairly granular detail what's expected and when. Have a 
statement of work that everyone is agreed to before you start. Be 
specific as you can when it comes to review cycles and iterative design 
or development. In my experience if you leave any wiggle-room you'll 
end up wiggling. The more specific you can be, the happier you'll be 
when you've come up against something that doesn't quite fit."

Teams and Stars
By Scott Berkun.
"It's hard to understand good teams until you've been on both good and 
bad ones. You can often find frustrated people on good teams and happy 
people on bad teams: they don't have enough perspective to see where 
they are for what it is. Some stars, people of high talent, are poor 
judges of teams because they're tempted by the desire to stand out 
rather than the desire to succeed. Despite this, a common managerial 
temptation is to hire big talents, challenging the balance of needs for 
a successful team."


Global Site Navigation: Not Worthwhile?
By Jared Spool.
"Marjorie caught me. During my UI10 presentation, The Essence of Scent, 
I made an offhand comment about how global navigation is 'unnecessary 
and rarely helpful.' I thought I had gotten away with it."

+11: PHP.

The Total Cost of Using PHP?
By Dan Zambonini.
"What is the total cost of using PHP for web software development, in 
relation to other relevant programming languages? Here are some first 
thoughts to start you off..."


Web APIs Working Group
Programming Interfaces For Web Application Development
By W3C.
"The W3C Web API Working Group is chartered to develop standard APIs 
for client-side Web Application development. This work will include 
both documenting existing APIs such as XMLHttpRequest and developing 
new APIs in order to enable richer Web Applications."

Web Application Formats Working Group
Developing Languages For Web Applications
By W3C.
"The W3C Web Application Formats Working Group is chartered to develop 
languages for client-side Web Application development."

WaSP Microsoft Task Force Update: Upcoming Products, XAML, Acid2, SXSW, 
and IE7 Revealed
By Molly E. Holzschlag.
"The WaSP Microsoft Task Force held another face-to-face meeting with 
available members on Tuesday. We met in a Starbucks along the 
waterfront in rainy Seattle. While the setting might have been a bit 
predictable, the conversation was unique and at times, very 

WaSP: Blah
By Anne Van Kesteren.
First they bash the Opera 9 alpha release stating that the new controls 
(date pickers etc) are completely inaccessible by keyboard which is 
just not true. (They are not really usable, but they are accessible, 
certainly.) The Web Standards Project never made any rectification with 
regard to this. Blah. On the other hand, (early) beta releases from 
Microsoft are easily defended. They even have a Task Force together 
with Microsoft..."

+13: TOOLS.

By Florian Schmitz.
"CSSTidy is an open source CSS parser and optimizer. It is available as 
executable file (available for Windows, Linux and OSX) which can be 
controlled per command line and as PHP script (both with almost the 
same functionality)."

CSS Formatter and Optimiser
Online version of CSSTidy.


It's Not About Size, It's About Context - Radio Buttons Or Drop-Downs
By Donna Maurer.
"I've spent an extraordinary amount of time this week thinking about 
radio buttons. And I'd like to tell you what I've concluded."

Ryanair Success has Strong Web Lessons
By Gerry McGovern.
"...A prospective student wants a prestigious, well recognized degree 
from a top ranking university, and they want to know what that will 
cost them. Try getting these basic facts from many university websites. 
Not easy. Observe human nature. Get out and talk to people, but watch 
out to read between the lines of what they are saying to you. There is 
no greater skill a web manager can develop than a gut instinct for what 
your customer really needs. Gut instinct is something you develop by a 
process of constant repetition, of constant observation. The Web is a 
simple place, really. Ryanair sells cheap flights, Amazon.com 
discounts; Skype gives free phone calls, and eBay is the world's 
largest yard sale. Get to know what your customer needs. Get to know 
what they really care about."

Web Usability For Older People
By Joe Clark.
"Two authors, Sri Kurniawan (a treasure trove of citations) and 
Panayiotis Zaphiris, put a lot of effort into a paper entitled 
'Research-derived Web design guidelines for older people.' Sadly, I 
have issues with it, as they say."

+15: XML.

By Robert Nyman.
It seems like the eternal question amongst web developers: HTML or 
XHTML? Wherever I look there seems to be posts in forums raising the 
question, web developers asking me or other people write blog posts 
about what they believe is the right way to go. I'm not writing this 
post to tell you what the ultimate choice is, but rather to inform you 
about the consequences of what you choose. So, let's take it from the 

[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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