[webdev] Web Design Update: September 1, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Fri Sep 1 06:35:32 CDT 2006

- Volume 5, Issue 10, September 1, 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.
11: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Computer Science Majors Get Tools To Build Accessibility Into Software
By K. C. Jones.
"IBM has announced a program to give computer science majors the 
technical skills to develop or adapt computer programs for people with 
special needs. The program aims to improve access to Internet and 
workplace technologies for people with disabilities, the aging, and 
non-native language speakers. IBM's new Web-based lecture teaches 
techniques to make electronic documents and the Web more accessible..."

Accessibility: Standards Versus Testing
By Jonathan Kahn.
"...I argue that the state of adaptive technology today can be compared 
to the state of the 4.0 web browsers. I'll attempt to demonstrate this 
with two examples: image replacement and Ajax..."

Accessibility Testing Methodology
By Sandra Clark.
"Part of the problem with testing for web accessibility is the fact 
that while people want an easy way to do it, so much of accessibility 
is subjective that it is impossible for a program to test correctly for 
everything. This is why using online testers like 'Bobby' were such a 
nightmare. While you can use Bobby to tell you that every image tag has 
an alt attribute, there is no way for an automated testing program to 
tell whether the information in the alt tag conforms to what the image 
actually presents...s"

HTML Compatibility Chart
By Ian Lloyd.
Partial list of HTML elements with user agent support notes.

Accessibility Follow-Up
By Jeff Croft.
"...I just want to reiterate my original points, remove the extraneous 
ranting, and see if I can't make myself perfectly clear. Please do read 

Welcome to Accessibility Club
By James Bennett.
"...Web accessibility is a deep and complex subject, and - pardon the 
pun - not always a very accessible one. There are lots of things which 
can impair someone’s use of the web, in lots of different ways, and 
some are more common than others. A lot of accessibility guidelines 
have been propagated over the years based on anecdotal evidence or on 
hypothetical considerations...What solid research there is on the topic 
can be hard to find at times, and hard to understand when you do find 
it. Many of the laws regarding web accessibility are horrendously 
vague. And no matter how hard you try to get it right, there’s probably 
going to be an *** somewhere who will be all too happy to crucify you 
over a particular trade-off you decided not to make. But that doesn't 
mean we should give up. It means we should be willing to adapt, willing 
to share what we know in a civilized manner, willing to make the 
trade-offs we can afford to make, willing to ignore the inevitable 
rogue...and, above all, willing to learn."

Math Description Engine
By National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
"The Math Description Engine Software Development Kit can be used by 
software developers to make computer-rendered graphs more accessible to 
blind and visually-impaired users. It has a simple API that lets you 
easily add alternative text and sound descriptions to your graphs..."


Create Columns with Floats
By Zoe Gillenwater.
"Floating is the primary method for laying out pages using CSS. In this 
tutorial, you'll learn how to create the look of columns using the 
float, width and margin properties. You'll learn the principles for 
creating both liquid and fixed-width layouts of as many columns as you 

CSS Mastery: Page Layout
By Andy Budd, Cameron Moll and Simon Collison.
"One of the major benefits of CSS is the ability to control page layout 
without needing to use presentational markup. This week you'll learn 
how to horizontally center a design on a page, create two and three 
column float based layouts and more."

IE7, Web Standards and CSS Support
By Jesper Ronn-Jensen.
"The Internet Explorer team is preparing to ship the next major version 
of the world's most popular browser. The IE team has written an update 
on which CSS bug fixes that will make it into the final release..."

Advanced HTML Tables and CSS Tutorial
By Mark Lynch.
"People new to HTML should be able to follow this tutorial from start 
to finish and learn how to use tables effectively in your websites. 
Advanced users can probably skim the 1st few pages but will hopefully 
learn something from the later parts..."

Unitless line-height Bug in Mozilla and Firefox
By Roger Johansson.
"When Eric Meyer posted Unitless line-heights (you do not need to use a 
unit when specifying line-height in CSS) earlier this year, I knew that 
at some point I had run into problems with that..."


Why Doing User Observations First is Wrong
By Donald Norman.
"Usability testing is like Beta testing of software. It should never be 
used to determine 'what users need'. It is for catching bugs, and so 
this kind of usability testing still fits the new, iterative 
programming models, just as Beta testing for software bugs fits the 
models. I have long maintained that any company proud of its usability 
testing is a company in trouble, just as a company proud of its Beta 
testing is in trouble. UI and Beta testing are meant simply to find 
bugs, not to redesign."

Page Views are Obsolete
By Evan Williams.
"...In summary, there's no easy solution. There's a big opportunity 
(though very tough job) for someone to come up with a meaningful metric 
that weighs a bunch of factors. But no matter what, there will come a 
time when no one who wants to be taken seriously will talk about their 
web traffic in terms of 'page views' any more than one would brag about 
their 'hits' today."

+04: EVENTS.

Card Sorting From the Bottom Up (and the Top Down)
September 14, 2006.
Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A.

Best Practices of Web Design with Web 2.0 for Business Conference
October 18-19, 2006.
Boston Massachusetts U.S.A.

An Event Apart: Deep In the Heart Of Texas
November 6, 2006.
Austin, Texas  U.S.A.

International Day of Disabled Persons
Theme: E-Accessibility
December 3, 2006.

Illinois Center for Instructional Technology Accessibility Courses


Event Handling in JavaScript - an Alternative addEvent Solution
By Robert Nyman.
"Event handling in JavaScript has been an issue for many web 
developers, and countless of people have made their stab of solving it. 
When I wrote my post AJAX, JavaScript and accessibility some commenters 
were asking for a follow-up post explaining event handling in 
JavaScript. My idea here is to give you a basic background and to also 
tell you about a new and interesting solution. So, let's take this from 
the beginning. What's the problem with event handling in JavaScript?..."

Shortening Strings to a Fixed Length in JavaScript
By Christian Heilmann.
"I have this function I've used for quite a long time to shorten a 
string to a fixed amount of characters without breaking in between 


The Paradox of Choice: An Interview with Barry Schwartz
By Jared M. Spool.
"...Barry is a leading authority on the ways that business, economics 
and psychology intersect. UIE's Jared M. Spool recently had the chance 
to talk with Barry about his research on how people make choices. You 
can listen to the podcast of the interview on the Brain Sparks blog. 
Here's the transcript of the interview: "

The Programmer's Bill of Rights
By Jeff Atwood.
"It's unbelievable to me that a company would pay a developer $60-$100k 
in salary, yet cripple him or her with terrible working conditions and 
crusty hand-me-down hardware. This makes no business sense whatsoever. 
And yet I see it all the time. It's shocking how many companies still 
don't provide software developers with the essential things they need 
to succeed....two monitors...a fast PC...choice of mouse and 
keyboard... a comfortable chair...a fast internet connection...quiet 
working conditions..."


Use Old Words When Writing for Findability
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Familiar words spring to mind when users create their search queries. 
If your writing favors made-up terms over legacy words, users won't 
find your site."

+08: PHP.

What are Database Driven Websites (Podcast)
By Stefan Mischook.
"A quick podcast where I explain the basics behind what database driven 
websites are. This podcast targets total beginners."

Uploading Files and Navigating Directories in PHP
By Jacques Noah.
"In this article we are going to look at how to upload files and also 
how to navigate through directories. It is the second part of a 
tutorial that began last week with 'Reading, Writing, and Creating 
Files in PHP'."


WaSP Interviews Blake Elshire
By Rob Dickerson.
"As a student of Interactive Media Design at the Art Institute of 
Dallas, Texas, Blake Elshire learned CSS as part of his course, then 
discovered that not all students were quite as charmed by the 
technology as he was. He shares his thoughts and insights with WaSP 

Accessible WYSIWYG Editors, Part 1 - The Problem
By Alastair Campbell.
"There is an elephant in the corner type of problem in the 
accessibility world, even worse than the problems with PDFs. I'd like 
to outline this problem, and define what a solution would be, even if 
it doesn't exist yet...The elephant in the corner, the big problem is 
that: It is not possible to create an accessible and usable web-based 


How to Redesign a Website
By net.
"Most designers would jump at the chance to revisit their work but what 
is the right motivation for a site redesign and how should the process 
actually work?"

Progressive Development: Stop Postponing Joy!
By Steven Champeon.
"...Progressive Development is the revolution of evolution. Instead of 
shocking changes, it provides constant, gradual changes that are better 
for users and for business. It builds on sound, standards-based 
construction techniques. And it saves money..."

Ugliness, Social Design, and the MySpace Lesson
By Joshua Porter.
"I've been attempting the impossible: trying to get a clear picture of 
the whole MySpace/Ugly issue...Design all about use. Most web sites 
exist to be used (and many to make money) and if yours doesn't have 
people using it then it's not designed well...One distinction we can 
make is between the visual and social design of MySpace. The visual 
design, though it communicates what it needs to ('this is your social 
life'), is objectively ugly as it doesn't follow nearly any established 
visual design principles like balance, symmetry, and harmony. That's 
OK, as far as it goes. But the design of the social element of the 
site, the community aspects like the appearance of Tom as a friend in 
every profile, is amazing. Little touches like that make people feel 
right at home, as does the site's ability to react to its audience 
quickly. This is great social web design. Bad visual design. Good 
social design..."

By Ze Frank.
"...Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. 
But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is 
pretty damn cool. Regardless of what you might think, the actions you 
take to make your MySpace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over 
time, as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it's possible 
that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and 
artistic ability."

The Benefits of Footnotes in Webpages
By Jesper Tverskov.
"Good old footnotes are undervalued in webpages. Even serious 
commentary and longer articles and reports often use mediocre tooltips 
made with the title attribute as a poor substitute. Footnotes are much 
more usable and accessible..."

The End of Deference and the Rise of Customer Power
By Gerry McGovern.
"The Web empowers the customer more than it empowers the organization. 
This shift in power is only beginning to be felt."

Poor Usability Implicated in Rejection of Mobile Internet
By Ann Light.
How usability can impact mobiles...'Three quarters (73%) of people with 
access to the Internet through their mobile phone are not taking 
advantage of it. Amongst the reasons for not using mobile Internet were 
being frustrated by slow-loading pages (38%), problems with navigating 
websites from a phone or PDA (27%) and some websites being completely 
unavailable on mobile phones (25%).'..."

How to Write Technical Documentation
By Jeff Atwood.
"I was browsing around the CouchDb wiki yesterday when I saw Damien 
Katz' hilarious description of how technical documentation really gets 
written. You know, in the real world..."

+11: XML.

The Big Picture on Microformats
By John Allsopp.
"You've heard the buzz about microformats, and you've probably been 
meaning to use them on your sites--perhaps they're sitting somewhere 
near the bottom of your list of things to do. In his new article, John 
Allsopp gives us a snapshot of what's happening with
microformats today, and he challenges us all to move them closer to the 
top of the pile."

Add Microformats Magic to Your Site
By John Allsopp.
"Heard of the semantic web? Using Microformats everyone can contribute 
to the richness of the web. John Allsopp explains how."

A microformats blog.

Why XHTML is a Bad Idea
By Emil Stenstrom.
"XHTML is often mentioned when you talk about web standards of 
different kinds, and many believe that it's the future of the web. I'm 
of a different opinion and this article explains my reasoning..."

IBM Not Happy at All
By Daniel Glazman.
"...Let me translate that into more human-readable form...if we cannot 
defeat WebForms immediately, let's use 'guerilla warfare tactics' 
ourselves and burry it under W3C process and compromises. We'll make 
XForms percolate into WebForms and in the meantime, XForms 
implementations will be everywhere and we'll beat WebForms. We're a big 
company with big power and forces, we surely can do that, we already 
did it."

[Section one ends.]


+12: 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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