[webdev] Web Design Update: September 15, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Fri Sep 15 06:45:28 CDT 2006

- Volume 5, Issue 12, September 15, 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:

05: FLASH.
08: PHP.
12: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


The Effectiveness of the Web Accessibility Audit as a Motivational and 
Educational Tool in Inclusive Web Design.
By David Sloan.
David Sloan finished his PhD in summer 2006. You can download a copy of 

Are Accessibility Evaluation Tools Useless?
By Roger Johansson.
"It is understandable for designers, developers, and content producers 
to want accessibility checking to be as easy as validating HTML. Either 
it validates or it doesn't, and you can let a free, automated tool do 
the work for you. Unfortunately it isn't that easy to evaluate 
accessibility. Since Web accessibility is meant to make sure that 
humans can use websites, a machine cannot (yet) be trusted to determine 
how accessible a site is..."

The Usefulness of Accessibility Audits
By Jack Pickard.
"..So there you have it. Accessibility audits won't just make your site 
more accessible, they'll increase your understanding of the needs of 
disabled users, and this information will help you with future 
developments...accessibility audits are useful. If you can afford one, 
and you're willing to listen and learn from one, and actually take 
whatever actions are needed, then go get one."

Too Much Accessibility
By Bim Egan.
"Before being accused of blasphemy, let me explain. It's my view that 
some HTML attributes, or techniques designed to improve accessibility, 
are often over-used or over-helpfully chosen, resulting in content that 
is less, rather than more, accessible."

Questions and Proposed Approaches for Baseline Specifics
By Gregg Vanderheiden.
"In looking at the baseline issue, three questions have arisen that 
aren't covered well in current documentation on it...The following is a 
pass at answering these questions. Posted here for discussion. "

Accessibility of CAPTCHA
By Gez Lemon.
"Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans 
Apart (CAPTCHA) is a technique that attempts to differentiate between 
humans and machines on ability alone. Whether it's sensory, mobility, 
or cognitive ability, testing the user's ability will always create 
barriers that are insurmountable to some people, particularly when you 
consider than many people with sensory impairments rely on machines 
such as screen readers to overcome their sensory impairments. What 
online services that attempt to protect their resources actually want 
to know isn't the ability of the person at the other end of the 
connection, but whether or not they are trustworthy. This article looks 
at social networking to see if the problem of trustworthiness can be 
solved without relying on the user's ability."

National Federation of the Blind v. Target
By Disability Rights Advocates.
"Federal judge sustains discrimination claims against Target; precedent 
establishes that retailers must make their websites accessible to the 
blind under the ADA...details, including links to downloadable files 
are found at the bottom of this page."
Judge's Order:

By Joe Clark.
"...NFB didn't win the case and might lose it. All that happened was 
that a motion to dismiss the whole thing failed. The ADA has not been 
definitively ruled to include Web sites, let alone commercial Web 
sites. Target, after submitting a seriously half-arsed expert-witness 
assessment, managed to find several screen-reader users who could 
operate the site just fine. It does indeed seem open to dispute that 
the site is inaccessible to blind people..."

Target Hit - But is it a Bullseye?
By Ian Lloyd.
"So, the case is not over yet. Target may not have had it thrown out, 
but they have not yet lost the battle overall. Regardless, there's a 
lesson for any US web site owners who may have uttered statements like 
'Ah, they're just full of hot air - no-one's ever actually been sued 
for this' in the past. I imagine that the big retailers' legal 
departments are, right now, preparing some fairly detailed question 
sheets for their web teams to find out just how vulnerable they are."

Websites For The Blind: Is This The Next 'Year 2000 Compliant' 
By Linda Markus Daniels.
"...This is clearly a case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court on both 
issues raised by Target unless Congress elects to amend the ADA during 
the several year period before this case would reach the Supreme 

Court Denies Target.com Plea for Dismissal
By Matt Bailey.

Blind Customer Applauds Court Ruling on Target Web Site
By John Croman.

Blind Patrons' Lawsuit Against Target Proceeds
By Josh Richman.

Target Accessibility Case Will Go Forward!
By Joe Dolson.


Browser Support for CSS
By Kynn Bartlett.
CSS rules are always interpreted by Web browsers, just as the HTML 
pages those rules style are interpreted. The HTML and CSS standards 
give specifics on how browsers should display those rules-but they're 
not always followed. To design pages with CSS, you not only need to 
know the standards, as presented in the CSS specification, but also 
understand how browsers' quirks and flaws will affect your Web design 

A Positive Attitude to Development
By John Oxton.
"The best way to ensure your CSS is going to work properly is from the 
ground up. John Oxton sets the standard for his series on development 
with CSS. Are you ready to keep up?..."

Awesome Form v2
By Paul Armstrong.
"Using simple and semantic HTML, this method uses comprehensive CSS to 
create visually pleasing and extremely accessible web page forms for 
all purposes. Why not stop using tables and other extraneous markup in 
your forms, while still keeping them easy to use and visually 

Class and ID Naming Conventions
By Mike Cherim.
"First of all I will state that I had this article in my drafts, 
started with a single line: 'What's in a name?' I was going to offer 
something I felt was logical topic of conversation regarding naming 
classes and IDs for what they are so as to remember them and so they 
would make sense to you and your client. However, between then and now 
I had an unintentional but highly valuable discussion with some fellow 
Web Standards Group members. The topic will remain the same, but the 
advice I'm going to offer has been altered..."

Stackable CSS Columns
By Jonathan Snook.
"Source order is fairly important for me. I like to make sure the 
order makes sense and is practical. For a recent project, I ended up 
using something quite handy. Something I like to call Stackable 

Highlight Microformats with CSS
By Jon Hicks.
"Those that use Firefox with the Tails extension, read no further. This 
is not for you. You have it given to you on a plate, you don't know how 
lucky you are. This is for those of us using Camino, Safari or 

Easy CSS hacks for IE7
By David Hammond.
"At all costs, you should avoid hacks that rely on browser bugs, 
because you can bet on those bugs being fixed in some future version 
and thus causing problems with your code. But still, a lot of people 
were upset when they heard that Internet Explorer 7 was going to have 
the * html quirk fixed. Give us some way to detect IE7 in CSS, the 
people pled. Well, I certainly don't approve of using these kinds of 
hacks (the most appropriate way to detect Internet Explorer and 
specific versions thereof is to use IE conditional comments), but I 
happen to have discovered a few new CSS hacks that work in Internet 
Explorer 7 and they'll be revealed sooner or later, so I might as well 
spill the beans now..."


User Testing is Not Entertainment
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Don't run your studies for the benefit of the people in the 
observation room. Test to discover the truth about the design, even 
when user tasks are boring to watch."

+04: EVENTS.

International PHP Conference 2006
November 5-8, 2006.
Frankfurt, Germany

Forms That Work
November 16 or 17, 2006.
Melbourne Australia

AUIC (Australasian User Interface Conference) 2007
January 30 - February 2, 2007.
Ballarat, Australia

Workshop on HCI and Information Design to Communicate Complex 
February 16-17, 2007.
Memphis, Tennessee U.S.A.

Educause Midwest Regional Conference 2007
March 12-14, 2007.
Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

+05: FLASH.

Flash Development Using Progressive Enhancement
By Bobby van der Sluis.
"Learn how to create Flash experiences that are visible for search 
engines and accessible to the biggest target audience possible."


Scope in JavaScript
By Mike West.
"JavaScript is rife with unexplored nooks and crannies that can trip up 
even the most seasoned programmers. Digital Web Magazine Managing 
Editor Mike West investigates one of the deepest: the basic question of 
scope and context. As he builds up from first principles of variable 
scope to a detailed discussion of advanced context-manipulation 
techniques, you'll gain the knowledge necessary to keep careful track 
of this essential aspect of your scripts."

Will Federal Court Ruling Over target.com Effect Ajax Development?
By Hari K. Gottipati.
"So do you think all these sites can be sued as per the ruling? Oh! boy 
this is scarier than I can imagine!..."

New Web Leaving Millions Behind
By David Senf.
"However, there is a transition underway from mostly text to a more 
whiz-bang graphics-intensive Web. Heralded as Web 2.0, the next 
generation Web boasts of AJAX-enriched sites built from mashups (the 
combination of multiple online sources of information and 
functionality). Incredible user experiences are being developed in this 
manner by the likes of Google, for example. But what is a new frontier 
on the Web risks creating severe limits for disabled surfers."

Securing Ajax
By Scott Dietzen.
"...we wanted to offer some general thoughts on securing Ajax 
applications gleaned, of course, from our Zimbra experience..."


WebAxe Podcasts
By Dennis Lembree.
"Practical web accessibility tips..."

Interview with Jared Smith of WebAIM (Podcast)
By Dennis Lembree  and Ross Johnson.
"Interview with Jared Smith, Associate Director of WebAIM, a highly 
recognized organization which promotes web accessibility. Dennis and 
Ross have a great conversation with Jared, who's a very knowledgeable 
and vital member of the excellent web accessibility organization."

Flashforward Conference Podcasts
By Lynda Weinman.
"This podcast series features interviews with Flashforward speakers, 
who discuss the conference, film festival and the current state and 
future of Flash."

+08: PHP.

Introduction to Regular Expressions
By Rob Williams.
"One of the most common tasks as a programmer that you'll end up coming 
across is string manipulation. You can run from it, you can hide from 
it, but eventually you're going to have to end up doing it (and usually 
on a fairly frequent basis!). Fortunately, a special set of tools 
commonly called "regular expressions" can often save you a great deal 
of time and effort, helping you achieve goals that you never thought 
possible. The downside, of course, is that you have to learn how to use 
these "expressions", and they can be quite confusing at times. In this 
article we'll take a beginner's look at what regular expressions are 
and see through examples how they can help you in your day to day 

No More Cryptic Error Messages with PHP Custom Error Handlers
By Melonfire.
"PHP comes with built-in tools to let the developer trap script errors 
and divert them to their own user-defined error handler. You can 
program this handler to display a more informative error message, log 
the error to a file or database and/or take remedial action."


W3C Change: Introduction
By Eric A. Meyer.
"...If the W3C can get back on track, I wouldn't want to see it 
replaced. If it can't, then it will be replaced, no matter what I or 
anyone else has to say. That doesn't mean it would cease to exist, of 
course. It would simply become less and less relevant. I have some 
ideas about how the W3C might avoid such a fate, but they aren't things 
that I can cover in a single post. Instead, I'll do it in three parts, 
and the three topic areas..."

Teaching Web Design, Part 2
By Christian Montoya.
"This past week, the flood gates opened: intro to CSS. Not CS:S or CSS, 
but CSS? the one I really like. We knew it would be tough. Introducing 
a fresh technology to students who know very little about computer 
science and still think far too visually when it comes to websites is 
never easy..."

eGovernment Site Credibility: Comparing Speed, Accessibility, Typos, 
and Validity
By Andrew B. King.
"In our opinion, all of the five government sites tested had 
credibility problems. All five sites failed our size and download time 
guidelines, all had typographic errors, all failed our accessibility 
tests and WCAG Level 3 (although only one failed Bobby's Section 508 
test), and only one site, Canada, passed the W3C's (X)HTML validator."

A Standardista's Alphabet
By Jack Pickard.
"'A is for Aaron, who fell down the stairs. K is for Kevin, menaced by 
bears.' No wait, those are just the notes from our last staff meeting. 
Jack Pickard offers a lighter look at the world of web standards."


Text-Resize Detection
By Lawrence Carvalho and Christian Heilmann.
"Chris Heilmann and Lawrence Carvalho serve up a way to detect your 
visitors' text size settings using JavaScript."


Why People Persist with Using Paper Forms
By Caroline Jarrett.
"Have you ever wondered why your shiny new online form isn't getting 
the use it deserves, and the boring old paper still keeps poring in?..."

Streamlining UX Increases Conversion by 20 Percent
By Jared Spool.
"More evidence that streamlining the user experience can impact the 
bottom line..."

When the Web Team Gets it Totally Wrong
By Gerry McGovern.
"...Too many web teams exist in a vacuum, and they end up creating 
websites that are essentially acts of vanity publishing. There's 
organization focus, organization-speak and an assumption that customers 
will just love to read sentences that begin with the name of the 
organization. Web teams are often obsessed with the mechanics of what 
they do. Conversations are filled with design-speak, techie-speak, 
usability-speak, and information architecture-speak. It is necessary to 
understand the mechanics but it is much more necessary to understand 
the customer. It's not enough to occasionally test your customers like 
you were monitoring whether they had contacted some rare disease yet. 
You've got to learn to live in their world, see with their eyes, hear 
with their ears, view the website with their limited experience. You've 
got to learn to really care about your customers, and, most 
importantly, to realize that what you care about, they really couldn't 
care less about."

+12: XML.

Microformats Cheat Sheet
By Dave Child.
"The Microformats cheat sheet is designed to be printed on an A4 sheet 
of paper and live by a designer or developer's desk, to make life a bit 
easier. A description of what is on the cheat sheet follows, or if you 
are impatient, you can go straight to the full size Microformats cheat 

The Anatomy of an RSS Feed
By Kris Hadlock.
"RSS has become the standard data format for communicating syndicated 
information to a large audience. RSS is an XML format that consists of 
designated elements that conform to the XML 1.0 specification. This 
week we look at the elements in this structure."

Wherefore Art Thou, SVG?
By Kurt Cagle.
...Adobe this week made an announcement that was, while not unexpected, 
yet another blow - they were choosing to stop supporting the Adobe SVG 
Viewer in any fashion, to make it unable for download by the end of the 
year and to effectively dismantle the last vestiges of SVG outside of 
the fairly secondary roles that that standard plays in Adobe products 
in favor of their own FLEX language, acquired from Macromedia during 
the merger last year. Meanwhile, work has effectively stopped on the 
Mozilla Firefox SVG implementation, at least until after the release of 
Firefox 2.0, and while it is certainly hoped that the program will be 
continued the rumors at this point are somewhat grim, with the very 
real possibility that SVG is considered to be disliked politically by 
certain factions within the organization in favor of the WHATWG Canvas 

[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.]



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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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