[webdev] Web Design Update: February 19, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Sun Feb 19 07:58:55 CST 2006

- Volume 4, Issue 35, February 19, 2006.

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:

06: FLASH.
09: PHP.
11: TOOLS.
14: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Should Ignorance Be Our Real Target?
By Ben Buchanan.
"One point people are missing is that we really are talking about 
discrimination. Making an inaccessible website means treating some 
customers as second-class citizens. Target is refusing to serve them, 
just as effectively as if they turned their backs on them 
in-store...Now let's cast aside the moral high ground, since it doesn't 
motivate business. Plain and simple, accessibility is the law. As Joe 
Clark has pointed out, Target is bound by law not to discriminate 
against someone based on skin colour, religion or disability. It's one 
of those rare laws which are based on enforcing some basic humanity on 
the free market...So if it's the right thing to do and it's the law 
anyway... why do we still see so many inaccessible websites?...In part, 
I think it's ignorance...People don't know that it's the law, they 
don't understand why it's the right thing to do, they don't know that 
it's entirely achievable...If we can attack ignorance, if we can inform 
enough people, then maybe one day the lawsuits won't be required so 
much any more. I suspect that sometimes the big stick will still have 
to come out, but maybe afterwards people will be more receptive to the 

NFB vs. Target in Perspective
By Matt May.
"...I'm hesitant to paint Target as the solitary enemy of users with 
disabilities. Let's be clear: The accessibility of Target's site is 
terrible. But in a short review I did of big-box store sites this 
morning, they're not the worst around. In fact, they're pretty much the 
middle of the range...So, to what do we attribute the utter 
inaccessibility of many e-commerce sites: ignorance, miscommunication, 
or malice? I've seen all three in practice. Often, it doesn't take the 
threat of a lawsuit to get site owners to come around; they merely need 
to understand the problems, and what they can do to solve them, in 
order of impact on the user. But I've also seen cases where it's a 
legal game of chicken: some companies refuse to comply with a legal 
mandate that they feel doesn't clearly apply to them. They're gambling 
that the cost of being found guilty of non-compliance is lower than 
that of conforming to a standard that may not apply to them. This 
strategy falls apart like a house of cards as soon as one of them is 
found liable. And it's a tactic I find particularly odious when they're 
consciously acting to keep users with disabilities out. The fact is 
that the Web has afforded many people with disabilities new-found 
potential to buy and sell things, work, manage finances, find 
community, gather news, and access government services - all things 
able-bodied people take for granted. When people with disabilities 
received legal protection, it wasn't given out of pity. It was given to 
protect their right to participate equally in society. Web designers 
and developers can enable that equal participation with every site they 
design, using modern coding principles. Or they can hide in a castle or 
a cave, clutching their legacy code, certain that those evil, litigious 
disabled people are out to get them."

Unified Web Evaluation Methodology (UWEM0.5)
"Welcome to the webpages of the Unified Web Evaluation Methodology 
version 0.5 (UWEM0.5). This draft methodology is the result of a joint 
effort by 24 European organizations in three European projects combined 
in a cluster to develop a Unified Web Evaluation Methodology. The 
methodology is based on the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 
1.0 [WCAG10] and will be synchronized with the foreseen migration from 
WCAG 1.0 to WCAG 2.0 [WCAG20] in the near future. The UWEM0.5 offers an 
interpretation of the guidelines agreed among stakeholders within the 

Accessibility Testing and Reporting with TAW3
Patrick H. Lauke.
"This tutorial steps users through the process of evaluating web 
content for accessibility using WAVE 3.5. As with all tools, 
human-mediated evaluation is the best approach, and WAVE is designed 
specifically to help users make the kind of judgments that only humans 
can make."

Validating a Vendor: Evaluating Claims of Accessibility Expertise
By Glenda Watson Hyatt.
"...In other scenarios, an organization may procure an online 
application, such as a dynamic mortgage rate calculator, from external 
vendors to save time over developing it in-house. This externally 
developed application still needs to meet the organization's web 
accessibility policy, thus finding a vendor with web accessibility 
expertise is crucial. The challenge lays in selecting the 
best-qualified vendor to meet the organization's specific needs. How do 
you effectively evaluate vendors' claims of web accessibility 
Deconstructing Multimedia: Break It Up for Accessibility
By Andrew Kirkpatrick.
"Multimedia to web technologists is like indecency to the Supreme 
Court-we know it when we see it, but can't define it clearly. To 
some, multimedia means a movie with video and audio. To others, a 
silent Flash movie with animation qualifies. Some will make the 
argument that a web page that has text and images is multimedia. I'm 
giving up trying to define what it is because the term itself has 
little value to the process of making content accessible.In web 
accessibility, multimedia is what we generally call something we can't 
make very accessible. If we break multimedia into constituent parts, 
making such content accessible is broken into more familiar tasks."

Creating Accessible CSS
By WebAIM.
"This article gives an overview of CSS, tips on how to use CSS to your 
advantage, and common pitfalls to avoid when using CSS."

CSS in Action: Invisible Content Just for Screen Reader Users
By WebAIM.
"Most of the techniques for making Web content accessible to screen 
readers are invisible to visual users. This article examines a few 
circumstances in which hiding text from visual users can be beneficial, 
and proposes a solution which allows HTML to be hidden without 
compromising the accessibility or semantic integrity of the document, 
and which works across browsers and platforms."


Unitless line-heights
By Eric A. Meyer.
"I'd like to share something that will be old news to readers of CSS: 
The Definitive Guide and all of my other books, but nonetheless needs 
to be said out loud, in public, for everyone to hear. The property 
line-height can accept unitless number values. You can also give 
line-height united values, though generally you shouldn't. But unitless 
numbers are just fine for this property."

Internet Explorer and CSS Issues
By Trenton Moss.
"Internet Explorer has a number of CSS issues. Find out what these 
issues are and how to get around them, so your website looks the same 
in all browsers."

CSS Drop Column Layout
By Stuart Colville.
"When I created this site I wanted to have 4 columns which are all 
fixed width. The idea was that if you resized the window then the 
columns would drop down when there wasn't enough room....To achieve the 
desired effect I am using floats. A natural property of a floated 
element is to drop down when there isn't enough room until there is 
enough space. This means that the column on the furthest right will 
drop when the window is re-sized. One of the issues with this would be 
if the primary content column was not high enough the displaced column 
would wrap underneath it. To combat this undesired effect I have used a 
wrapper with a left margin to 'hold' the 3 smaller columns to the right 
of the primary content."

CSS: An Introduction
By Adrian Senior.
"In this tutorial we will take a look at the very basics of CSS, if you 
are new to cascading style sheets this is the place to start..."

CSS Basics.com
Ben Partch.
"You've heard the buzz about the separation of style from content, but 
you are stuck in the world of nested tables and deprecated markup. If 
so, you have come to the right place! Using CSS to style your (X)HTML 
files, will benefit you and your visitors in many ways. The following 
chapters cover all the basics of CSS design..."

What is CSS and Why Should You Use It?
By Christopher Jason.
"CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It is a markup language used to 
format the 'look' of web pages. This includes overall layout, text 
size, style, and formatting, table formatting, link properties, and 
more. When used correctly, CSS allows one to define the look of an 
entire site in one single document. If you're a Web person who doesn't 
already utilize CSS, you should be very excited right now, as it can 
quickly become your new best friend. Some of you, however, may be 

Using Basic CSS In Web pages
By Christopher Jason.
"In this article, I'll show how to use basic CSS in your Web pages..."


Creating Your First Website - Part 3: Adding Content to Pages
By Jon Varese.
"This tutorial shows you how to add content to web pages in Macromedia 
Dreamweaver 8. You can add many different kinds of content to web 
pages, including graphics, Macromedia Flash files, Flash video, and 
text-to name just a few. After you've added content to your pages, you 
can preview your work in a browser so that you can see what it will 
look like on the web."

Creating Your First Website - Part 4: Formatting Your Page with CSS
By Jon Varese.
"This tutorial shows you how to format text on your page using 
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in Dreamweaver. CSS provides you with 
greater control over the appearance of your page by letting you format 
and position text in ways that HTML cannot."


Usability Testing on the Cheap
By Ned Batchelder.
"You've built a product. You think it's ready for real users. How do 
you find out? You do usability testing. This is a specialized 
discipline, and there are specialists out there who know what they are 
doing. You should hire one of them to do usability tests on your 
product. They will do a much better job than you can, and you will get 
much better results. But if you can't, here's how to do it yourself."

Practical Usability Testing
By Joshua Kaufman.
"...The first article in this series is on one of my favorite 
practices: usability testing. The most critical aspect of user-centered 
design, usability testing breaks down the wall between the designer and 
user, and allows us to see how real users do real tasks in the real 
world. There are many benefits of usability testing, including 
uncovering pitfalls in a current system before a redesign and 
evaluating the usability of a system during and after design. Usability 
testing should be an iterative practice, completed several times during 
the design and development life-cycle. The end result is an improved 
product and a better understanding of the users that we're designing 

Interaction Modeling
By Matt Queen.
"Interaction modeling makes design decisions explicit. In principle 
it's simple: record what users "should" do, what they actually do, and 
then explain the differences between the two. Of course there's more to 
it than that, and Matt Queen gives us all the details in this story."

+05: EVENTS.

International Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities
March 20-25, 2006.
Los Angeles, California  U.S.A.

Access U 2006
May 11-12 2006.
Austin, Texas  U.S.A.

+06: FLASH.

Innovation Makes Flash-Based JKRowling.com Accessible
By Bob Regan.
"When creating an accessible Flash site, designers must apply many of 
the same concepts used in HTML. With Flash, designers have far more 
flexibility in the types of objects and controls they can create. While 
the solutions are often quite simple from a technical standpoint, 
designers need to think about the experience of the site from the 
perspective of the end user. Designers need to ask themselves how a 
blind person, a person with a mobility impairment, or a person who is 
deaf would experience the site. With a little research into 
accessibility and advice from users with disabilities along the way, 
Lightmaker built a truly unique site. The JKRowling.com site 
illustrates how to build an accessible rich-media site in Flash."


Yahoo! User Interface Library
By Yahoo.
"The Yahoo! User Interface Library is a set of utilities and controls, 
written in JavaScript, for building richly interactive web applications 
using techniques such as DOM scripting, HTML and AJAX. The UI Library 
Utilities facilitate the implementation of rich client-side features by 
enhancing and normalizing the developer's interface to important 
elements of the browser infrastructure (such as events, in-page HTTP 
requests and the DOM). The Yahoo UI Library Controls produce visual, 
interactive user interface elements on the page with just a few lines 
of code and an included CSS file. All the components in the Yahoo! User 
Interface Library have been released as open source under a BSD license 
and are free for all uses."

JavaScript SkillBuilder: Making 'Do' Without
By Jon Brundage.
"As we discussed in our premier issue, there are challenges associated 
in complying with W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 
Checkpoint 6.3: 'Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or 
other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported. If this is 
not possible, provide equivalent information on an alternative 
accessible page.' You may see instructions in accessibility programming 
guides stating, 'Always use the noscript tag' when JavaScript code is 
present. If you take the instructions literally, then for every 
instance of JavaScript a matching noscript tag should be present. I 
have seen this practiced in code. But there are several instances where 
a noscript tag is not required. In this article I'll show you some 
examples where the noscript tag can be intrusive, and even creates a 
bad user experience. We will also explore using JavaScript to aid the 
user experience when JavaScript is disabled!"

Results for JavaScript - Part 2: Navigating Forms
By Bob Easton.
"Great work by James Edwards brings this blog briefly out of hiatus. 
James has completed the testing and results compilation for our 
JavaScript test case regarding form elements. Quite some time ago, we 
published our second quiz about JavaScript accessibility. This one 
focused on form elements and all of the ways that JavaScript might 
interact with them. As with the first set of results, they are 
extensive and fill a wide table. You will find them published on a 
wider page for better presentation..."

ASK - AJAX Source Kit
By Robert Nyman.
"The thing with AJAX is that it needs JavaScript to work and a direct 
consequence surrounding its hype is that a lot of web sites have 
implemented it without catering to common usability and accessibility 
factors. This is something that has saddened me, and therefore I 
developed ASK - AJAX Source KIT to address that while at the same time 
offer a light-weight library to implement AJAX functionality without 
having to worry about web browser differences. The basic idea of it is 
to implement AJAX without sacrificing those factors and at the same 
time do it in an unobtrusive way, meaning that there's no need for any 
event handlers or extra elements in the HTML code. All that is needed 
is to include the ASK JavaScript file, assign certain class names to 
the elements one wants to apply the ASK functionality to, and then 
implement accessible as well as AJAX-enhanced versions of the content 
that shall be retrieved dynamically."

Rails is the Devil on Your (client-side) Shoulder
By Dan Webb.
"It also helped me realize why I don't get on with Rails JavaScript 
helpers; Rails is the devil on your DOM Scripting shoulder. Brace 
yourselves... I've always kind of sat astride both the client-side (web 
standards, accessibility etc) camp and the server-side camp. When Ajax 
took off and the server-side people got hold of DOM Scripting most of 
the careful thought by client-side people like Stuart Langridge, Bobby 
Van Der Luis, and Jeremy Keith got trampled over in the rush for Web 
2.0 greatness. While the client-side people are still carefully 
prodding around the area exploring important areas like usability and 
accessibility and consolidating good practices like Graceful 
Degradation and Progressive Enhancement the server-side people are busy 
trying to shove it all under the carpet (or under several layers of 
library code anyway). The problem is it's just not that simple though. 
Graceful degradation and progressive enhancement are practices we must 
follow if we aren't going to shove Ajax right back into the pit with 
DHTML. So, what's up with Rails then? Well, on the good side I think 
the Prototype library that lies underneath the Ajax helpers is a damn 
good library. It's not too big, it's nicely written on the whole and 
it's easy to use. The devil lives in the JavaScript helpers. Take this 

Alternate Ajax Techniques, Part 1
By Nicholas C. Zakas.
By now, nearly everyone who works in web development has heard of the 
term Ajax. Most articles on Ajax have focused on using XMLHttp as the 
means to achieving such communication, but there are other methods 
which we'll explore in this series of articles.


SEO For The Big Three
By Dave Davies.
"Ranking your website highly on one of the 'big three' search engines 
(Google, Yahoo or MSN) is a daunting task let alone ranking your 
website highly on all three. Three engines, three algorithms, three 
different sets of rules - and yet there are websites out there that 
have first page rankings across them all ? how do they do it?..."

If You Have No Imagination, Click Here...
By Tim Seifert.
"Writing 'click here' for all your links looks very amateurish, looks 
damn stupid, and ignores the fact that not everybody 'clicks' on a link 
with a mouse.  It's also ignorant of how search engines index pages 
(they use the words displayed in the link).  Printed copies of pages 
look stupid, and are missing what could be vital information to 
understanding the document (that's your fault for bad authoring, not 
the user's fault for printing a page)."

+09: PHP.

Using XML: A PHP Developer's Primer
By Adam Delves.
"This series of articles will focus on XML, its applications in modern 
day web development and how PHP fits into this niche. In this article, 
we will focus specifically on the tools provided to us by PHP which 
enable us to manipulate XML data sources."

Abstract Classes in PHP - Working with PHP 5
By Alejandro Gervasio.
"In this last part of the series, I'll explain the key points of 
abstract classes in PHP 5, and additionally provide you with some 
hands-on examples. This should give you a clear idea of how to utilize 
them within the powerful Object Model implemented in the latest version 
of PHP.They start with an overview of the PHP5 object model and how it 
make abstract classes much easier than before. They continue, 
mentioning a pointless and unusual practice of calling class methods 
out of context. Finally, they set up an example of the use of an 
abstract class in the structure of the PHP5 object model..."

Debugging PHP
By David Sklar.
"Whether you're a PHP newbie or a wizard, your programs are going to 
have bugs in them. Nobody's perfect. This article gives you some 
techniques for finding and fixing the problems in your programs. It 
covers three topics..."

A Beginners Introduction to PHP's File Functions
By Dennis Pallett.
"Welcome to this beginner's introduction to PHP's file functions. In 
this article I will take you through all the inbuilt file system 
functions, and explain them. This article is mainly geared towards 
beginners, but it could still be useful to more advanced developers as 
a simple refresher."


A Message to Clueless Website Authors
By Tim Seifert.
"...This page has been written, over a few years, as I've encountered 
website after website which was badly written; with new sections added 
as I've discovered yet more annoying and stupid sites..."

Don't Be a Beta Hater
By Jeffery Zeldman.
"...IE7 beta's standards accuracy is already very good and getting 
better, and, despite what you might have heard to the contrary, 
Microsoft's engineers are working with the community (and in particular 
with The Web Standards Project) to identify and fix CSS bugs and errors 
and to compensate for hacks like the one seen here. Using IE7? Finding 
bugs? Microsoft and The Web Standards Project want to hear from you."

Graded Browser Support
By Nate Koechley.
"...Expecting two users using different browser software to have an 
identical experience fails to embrace or acknowledge the heterogeneous 
essence of the Web. In fact, requiring the same experience for all 
users creates a barrier to participation. Availability and 
accessibility of content should be our key priority..."

Design Pattern Library
By Yahoo.
"Welcome to the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library. We are very happy to be 
sharing our library with the design and development community. This is 
our first drop of what we hope to be a monthly release cycle for the 
publication of patterns..."

+11: TOOLS.

Colour Contrast Analyser Firefox Extension
By Gez Lemon.
"I've written a Firefox extension that reveals the colour contrast of 
all elements in the DOM. If you evaluate websites for colour contrast, 
this extension will be useful for saving you time, and also take out 
the guesswork required to determine which colours to test."

AJAX Regular Expression Evaluator
An AJAX regular expression evaluator that helps create PCRE, Posix and 
Javascript regular expressions.

Quick Lookup
By aonic.net.
Quick Lookup is an online AJAX enabled tool programming tool. It gives 
you quick lookup of syntax for PHP, MySQL, JavaScript and CSS. The 
information page says "Please keep in mind that this service is not 
meant to replace full-sized references / manuals. This service exists 
for when you just need a quick syntax check, param list, or 
function/property name."


Typography and the Aging Eye: Typeface Legibility for Older Viewers 
with Vision Problems
By Paul Nini.
"The population is rapidly aging and becoming a larger share of the 
marketplace. 13 percent of the population is currently over 65 years 
old. In 30 years that group will double to 66 million people. People 
change as they age. Sensory, cognitive and motor abilities decline. The 
built environment is not typically created with the needs of the aging 
population in mind. How does the choice of typeface in signage systems, 
for example, impact the older viewer who is experiencing vision 
problems typical to that age group? Are certain typefaces more suitable 
to the aging eye?"


10 Realistic Steps to a Faster Web Site
By Alexander Kirk.
"I have written my master thesis in computer sciences on this topic and 
will refer to it throughout the guide."

+14: XML.

Authoring Webpages: HTML, XHTML and DOCTYPEs
By Wikibooks.
"An important decision you must make before starting to create a 
website is the version of (X)HTML that the web pages will conform to..."

[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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