[webdev] Web Design Update: April 28, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Fri Apr 28 06:29:58 CDT 2006

- Volume 4, Issue 45, April 28, 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:

08: PHP.
10: TOOLS.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


By Web Standards Project's Accessibility Task Force.
"The Web can be a truly democratic medium that enables people with 
disabilities in life-changing ways. Blind and visually impaired users 
can shop online. Those with cognitive difficulties can learn on-line at 
their own speed. Users with hearing impairments have access to rich 
media content. People can meet online, participate and socialize 
without prejudice and, potentially, with no barriers in their way. In 
many places this is already true. But not everywhere. We believe that 
everyone has a right to take advantage of the possibilities offered by 
the Web..."

New Research Study Shows 57 Percent of Adult Computer Users
Can Benefit From Accessible Technology
By Microsoft.
"Accessible computer technology, often associated only with people with 
disabilities, can benefit a much larger segment of the population, 
according to a new study conducted by Forrester Data and commissioned 
by Microsoft Corp. While accessibility options were originally designed 
for people with disabilities, the Forrester study shows that 57 percent 
of current working-age computer users may benefit from accessible 
technology because of mild to severe vision, hearing, dexterity, speech 
and cognitive difficulties and impairments. As the U.S. population 
continues to age, the number of people who experience these impairments 
will increase, and more people will likely turn to accessible 
technology to mitigate the effects of their changing physical 

Transcribing Podcasts
By Jeremy Keith.
"But there is an inherent problem with publishing audio files on the 
Web. That problem is succinctly summarized in this comment accompanying 
an entry for an audio file over at Vitamin: Is there anyway to get a 
transcription of this? I am deaf so an audio mp3 is not going to help 
me a bit.'..."

What's Wrong With this Picture?
By Ian Lloyd.
"I had to flag this one up - a great example of a company that seems to 
'get it' (on one hand) but then manages to foul it up at the same time. 
What's wrong with this picture? It's clear for all to see. Or rather 
it's not...So Earthlink provides an option for blind/vis impaired users 
to use if they can't use the captcha. How about making the whole phrase 
a link, not just the word 'here'."


Print Stylesheets
By Jeremy Keith.
"CSS Naked Day was fun. It felt almost voyeuristic to peek under the 
CSS skirts of so many sites. It also made me realize that the browser 
default styles are what people are going to see if they decide to print 
out a page from many CSS-based sites..."

CSS Hacking
By Anne Van Kesteren.
"A CSS hack is basically about exploiting one browser bug to solve 
another. Now a new browser comes out that solves the exploited bugs, 
but not the other and people start advocating hacking to be stopped. 
It's not that simple. Hacks are wrong (forget what I said in Implement 
CSS 2.1. The reason they are is that using them might prevent further 
enhancements to a specification. Something that's invalid now might be 
a feature in the future."

Stop Hacking, or be Stopped
By Dave Shea.
"With the imminent launch of IE7 your usual CSS hacking methods are 
going to fail. If you want to save web design, as we know it, it's time 
to take some drastic action."

Dealing With The Looming Internet Explorer 7 Release
By Stephanie Sullivan.
"Dave Shea makes some good points in his post at Vitamin about the 
upcoming IE7 release and browser hacks. I started to weigh in amongst 
his comments, but I got a little long-winded so I figured it was better 
written on my own blog instead of using Dave's bandwidth..."

Build for the Future: Bend, Don't Break
By Garrett Dimon.
"Whatever the future holds, you can be certain about one thing: Your 
Web site's content will change. So what can you do now to minimize time 
spent monkeying with markup and CSS? Garrett Dimon gazes into his 
crystal ball."

CSS Love Child
By Cameron Adams.
"...My little bit of Perl scripting lets you take the HTML from one 
page, add the styles of another, and end up with a hideously mutated 
beast that can sometimes be amusing, sometimes be revealing, but most 
of the time looks like a fourth generation hillbilly..."


Coming of Age in Ethnography
By Dave Rogers.
"With time, I came to my senses. I learned to distinguish design 
ethnography from its classic, anthropological forebears. I recognized 
that it could take many forms-from contextual inquiry to task analysis 
(something I had done many times as an instructional designer). I grew 
beyond the myth of the do-it-all IA. I chuckled at myself for failing 
to realize that I had initially reacted to design ethnography from an 
inadequate 'frame of reference.'"

Are Heuristic Usability Evaluations Useful?
By Kim Krause Berg.
"A famous true story in Human Factors/Usability circles is the one 
where Rolf Molich ran a study called CUE-2, where nine teams did 
usability testing on Microsoft's Hotmail email system. All nine came 
back with different types of reports, noting different problems. Few 
agreed on what these "problems" were and they didn't all pick up on the 
same trouble spots. The Molich study raised all kinds of questions, 
including how accurate usability testing is. Now they are evaluating 
data from a similar study called CUE-4. I'm interested in these studies 
and the opinions by Jakob Nielsen, Jared Spool, and many others. It is 
Nielsen who coined the phrase, "discount usability", in which the 
practice of heuristic evaluations became popular because they are 
affordable and simple to execute."

Honda Website Gets Impromptu Test and Comes Out Poorly
By Ann Light.
"William Hudson of Syntagm asked members of the London Usability 
mailing list to try the following task, after his own experiences with 
a website..."

+04: EVENTS.

E-Learn 2006
October 13-17, 2006.
Honolulu, Hawaii  U.S.A.


innerHTML vs. DOM = Pot Noodles vs. Real Cooking
By Christian Heilmann.
Chris summarizes the ongoing discussion about innerHTML versus DOM 
methods, and reaches several conclusions.

Get the Rendered Style of an Element
By Robert Nyman.
"I guess most of you, one time or another, has had the need to find out 
what style was actually rendered on an element. The easiest way to do 
this is through the style property followed by the specific value 
you're looking for:
var intPosLeft = document.getElementById("left").style.left;
However, this only works if the..."

An Important Lesson Learned About AJAX and Accessibility
By Robert Nyman.
"...if you want to develop AJAX apps, make sure that it works without 
JavaScript as well..."


Dave Shea - CSS3, IE7 and Web Professionals
By Ryan Carson.
"In this interview, Ryan Carson from Carson Workshops talks to Dave 
Shea, the creator of CSS Zen Garden about the changes in IE7 and CSS3."

Eric Meyer - CSS, Life and Print Stylesheets
By Ryan Carson.
"The world-renowned CSS expert Eric Meyer talks about how he got into 
CSS and the benefits of print stylesheets."

The Key to Simplicity - Questions for Donald Norman
By Eddie Lopez.
"Don Norman lives two lives: theory and applications. As a cognitive 
scientist, he studies, teaches, and writes about the relationship 
between technology and people. In his applied life, he helps companies 
make products that appeal to the emotions as well as to reason...He was 
kind enough to answer a couple of questions for User Centered..."


Navigation: Left is Best
By Bob Bailey.
"...Kingsburg and Andre's research demonstrated that navigational 
selection limited to either the left or right panels resulted in the 
best human performance and strongest user preference. However, there 
appears to be a performance advantage when the first selection is made 
from the left navigation panel as compared to the right navigation 
panel. This difference may be explained by the reading pattern of the 
participants (i.e., English reading requires reading from left to right 
and top to bottom)..."

Which Should Come First - Navigation or Content?
WebAim Thread.

The Challenges of Moving to Horizontal Navigation
By Joshua Porter.
"The designers of CNN.com recently redesigned their home page, changing 
from a left-hand, vertical navigation scheme to a top-of-the-page, 
horizontal one..."

Click Here to Read this Article
By Jonathan Christopher.
"Hyperlinks are what make the Internet its own. The concept of being 
able to connect documents with the click of a mouse was a major selling 
point of the Web and it is that basic functionality which makes the 
Internet so great. I'd like to take a quick minute to talk about the..."

Defining 'Taxonomy'
By Patrick Lambe.
"There are three basic characteristics of a taxonomy for knowledge 
management, and to be any good at its job, it needs to fulfil all three 
functions: 1. A taxonomy is a form of classification scheme. 2. 
Taxonomies are semantic. 3. A taxonomy is a kind of knowledge map."

+08: PHP.

PHP Gotchas
By John Herren.
"Call them obscure, call them pointless, call them 'newbie mistakes.' 
Whatever you call them, you've more than likely been tripped up at some 
point in your PHP coding journey by seemingly odd or illogical 
behaviors of the language. With PHP being a loosely-typed language, 
funny things are bound to happen. PHP is an easy language to pick up 
for the casual coder--things should "just work." But not everyone comes 
into PHP development with a strong programming background, so here are 
some charming examples of ways PHP can trip you up if you aren't 
careful. Put on your thinking caps--here comes the science! "

Use PHP to Strip the Last Character in a String
By Christopher Jason.
"Whether you're working with a string created from a database query or 
array, here's a cool trick to strip the last character (comma) of a 
comma separated list of values using PHP."

The Great Microsoft Blunder
By John C. Dvorak.
"Internet Explorer is a dead albatross...So what can Microsoft do about 
its dilemma? First, it needs to face the fact that this entire 
preoccupation with the browser business is bad for the company and bad 
for the user. Microsoft should pull the browser out of the OS and 
discontinue all IE development immediately. It should then bless the 
Mozilla.org folks with a cash endowment and take an investment stake in 
Opera, to influence the future direction of browser technology from the 
outside in. Then, Microsoft can worry about security issues that are 
OS-only in nature, rather than problems compounded by Internet 
Benefits of CSS
By Cameron Olthuis.
"Well the fact is there is a lot of benefits of using CSS. I'd even go 
as far as saying I can't really see any negatives to layouts based on 
Cascading Style Sheets. The only thing that could possibly be a 
negative in my opinion is so called browser issues, but once your 
skills improve it shouldn't really be a problem. Anyway, here's some of 
the benefits that I could come up with, if you have anything I miss 
please contribute."

+10: TOOLS.

A free online service called Browsershots (still beta) has launched. 
You provide it with a URI and it will take real screenshots in 
different browsers of that page.


The (In)accessible Web
aka Discriminating Against Individuality & Handicap
By Felix Miata.
"Setting primary content text size to other than medium puts the author 
in the unenviable position of disagreeing with his readers about what 
type sizes they find best. Trying to substitute author judgment for 
readers' is presumptuous, at best...The reason personal computer 
settings are adjustable is so that users can enjoy having their 
personal computers meet their own personal needs. Many users do 
precisely this; however large or small is their number matters not, 
only that any do, and all are entitled to. Among those that do are 
apparently not very many web authors. Most presume most users don't 
exercise their entitlement, and so don't exercise their own, so as to 
see as they presume most users see. If they did adjust their browsers 
to their personal preferences before creating their page styles, not 
only they would enjoy the results they prefer, but so would presumably 
all sighted visitors. This major strength of the web is, unfortunately, 
much too infrequently enjoyed."

Browser Defaults Are Not Too Big
By Felix Miata.
"...If the author thinks the text is too big on his page, then he needs 
to change his own browser default, and not mess with dad's. He's 
probably where the author will be in 20-30 years, and he won't like 
that tyranny any more than dad does. A user's actual default size 
shouldn't matter to anyone except the user. So, a designer arbitrarily 
setting a size for normal paragraph content at 76% of whatever it 
happens to be serves no purposes other than barring some users, 
impeding other users, inhibiting people who have sampled the web and 
found it too difficult from trying again, and pleasing designers too 
daft to understand they can have their preferred size just as easily by 
suitably setting their own defaults, thus giving everyone a win."


Dimensions of Usability: Defining the Conversation, Driving the Process
By Whitney Quesenbery.
"Have you ever wondered if your colleagues or clients really understand 
usability? Too often, standards or guidelines substitute for really 
engaging our business, technical and design colleagues in a discussion 
of what usability means. By looking at usability from five dimensions, 
we can create a consensus around usability goals and use that 
definition to provide the basis for planning user centered design 

Dividing User Time Between Goal And Tool
By Jared Spool.
"...Working to minimize the time our user spends on these elements will 
only improve her overall experience, making her more likely to come 
back to the site and recommend it to her friends. Do you know what 
parts of your design are tool time elements? Could you reduce or 
eliminate these elements without reducing the quality of the user's 
results? Do you know where goal time comes in? Could you find ways to 
increase the user's exposure to this part of the experience?"

Making Your Web Site Senior Friendly
By National Institute on Aging/National Library of Medicine.
"People age 60 and older now constitute the fastest growing group of 
computer users and information seekers on the World Wide Web.1 They go 
on line principally to find health information, to plan personal travel 
and for e-mail.2. While advanced age is not a hindrance to computer or 
Internet use, there are normal, gradual age-associated declines in 
vision and certain cognitive abilities that may limit the use of 
electronic technology. In the last two decades, the National Institute 
on Aging has funded a number of basic and applied cognitive aging 
studies, focus groups and usability tests, and survey research on how 
age-associated changes affect computer use..."

Corporate Usability Maturity, Stages 1-4
By Jakob Nielsen.
"As their usability approach matures, organizations typically progress
through the same sequence of stages, from initial hostility to
widespread reliance on user research."

How Much Effort Does It Take to Create a Great User Experience?
By John Rhodes.
"The purpose of this article is to provide you with a way to measure 
the level of effort required to successfully complete a project in 
respect to user experience. This is a powerful merging of project 
management, user experience, requirements and best practices. And, it 
is simple enough for a little monkey to use. More accurately, it is 
simple enough for me to use...My main point is that it is possible to 
figure out how hard you have to work to create a great user experience. 
This topic has only been loosely explored by others. The key is that 
you have to understand what your users face while also knowing how well 
your organization can meet users needs. The formula shows how to get 
your arms around all of this at once. "

Podcasting Fails to Impress, Claims Forrester
By Ann Light.
"Podcasting is not attracting users, despite consumer awareness of the 
new form of content delivery, finds a new study by Forrester 

[Section one ends.]


+13: 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