[webdev] Web Design Update: December 7, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Dec 7 06:26:53 CST 2006

- Volume 5, Issue 25, December 7, 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.
09: TOOLS.
12: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


What's Up with Accessibility in 2007
By Sharron Rush.
"Access to the web for people with disabilities is a topic that has 
gained a lot of attention in the years since 1999, when Knowbility was 
founded. At that time, the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines were still in Draft 
versions. Section 508 had been reauthorized, but the standards that 
would define web accessibility for US government agencies had yet to be 
adopted. It was not at all uncommon to receive blank stares from highly 
experienced programmers and web developers if the subject of 'web 
accessibility' was introduced. As 2006 draws to a close, that has 
changed dramatically..."

Defining 'Accessibility' and Texas House Bill 2819
By Jim Thatcher.
"...Texas House Bill 2819 makes the requirement of accessibility clear 
and it makes the requirement practical."

Accessibility Legislation - an Insight
By Urte Meinhardt.
Summary of accessibility policies by country.

Before and After Demonstration [DRAFT]
By W3C.
"The 'Before and After Demonstration' is a multi-page resource suite 
that shows common accessibility barriers using practical examples. The 
demonstration consists of an inaccessible Web site, an accessible 
version of the same site, as well as information about the demonstrated 
barriers. This demonstration does not attempt to cover every checkpoint 
of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) nor to provide an 
exhaustive list of examples but to demonstrate some key aspects of Web 

CBC Online Video: Shall we do this properly?
By Joe Clark.
If we're gonna start offering TV shows for download (and I'll use the 
word 'we' advisedly), then we have to be better than the private 
sector, which captions nothing...I'd like to hear a rational argument 
why TV broadcasts should be captioned but TV downloads shouldn't. No? 
Then let's continue. The only rational standard is for downloaded 
versions to be captioned if the original TV show was. Since CBC 
Television and Newsworld have 100%-captioning requirements, which 
they're still ignoring...in theory every show will have captions. We 
can do a couple of things..."


Rounded Corner Boxes the CSS3 Way
By Andy Budd.
"If you've been doing CSS for a while you'll know that there are 
approximately 3,762 ways to create a rounded corner box. The simplest 
techniques rely on the addition of extra mark-up directly to your page, 
while the more complicated ones add the mark-up though DOM 
manipulation. While these techniques are all very interesting, they do 
seem somewhat of a kludge. The goal of CSS is to separate structure 
from presentation, yet here we are adding superfluous mark-up to our 
code in order to create a visual effect. The reason we are doing this 
is simple. CSS2.1 only allows a single background image per element..."

Methods for Testing in Multiple Versions of IE
By Zoe Gillenwater.
"Internet Explorer 7 (IE), released in October 2006, greatly improves 
its CSS rendering capabilities. However, it's only available for 
Windows XP and Vista, so we still have to support IE 6 ? and possibly 
IE 5.5 and 5.0, depending on your site's audience ? for some time to 
come. Unfortunately, the integration of IE into the Windows operating 
system, and Microsoft's refusal to allow multiple versions of it to run 
at the same time, have made testing web sites in various versions of 
the ubiquitous browser difficult. There are, however, ways it can be 
done, and the advent of IE 7 has brought some new methods out for our 
consideration. In this article I'll provide an overview of the current 
methods available for testing multiple versions of Windows IE and 
provide the pros and cons of each method so you can decide which suits 
you best."

Vertical Centering with a Shiv Div
By Matthew Tretter.
"Lots of designers have used this trick to vertically center blocks of 
known size in browser windows but, as Jon Hicks points out, some 
content may be cropped if the browser window is too small. Though it 
requires a little extra markup, my solution addresses this problem by 
positioning a shiv div instead of the content itself..."

Going Mobile: Development and Preparation
By Joe Dolson.
"...If accessibility is about ensuring your visitor's ability to use 
and enjoy your website, then it's not an unreasonable goal to develop a 
site to be usable in the maximum variety of situations. Once you become 
aware of the overlap between handheld browser compatibility and 
accessibility, it hardly seems like a major step to jump into mobile 
device compatibility. With the rapid growth of the handheld browser 
market, it's unwise not to at least consider mobile browsers while 
developing your website..."

Faster Development with CSS Constants
By Rachel Andrew.
"Anyone even slightly familiar with a programming language will have 
come across the concept of constants - a fixed value that can be used 
through your code. For example, in a PHP script I might have a constant 
which is the email address that all emails generated by my application 
get sent to."


Expert Usability Review vs. Usability Testing
By Lisa Halabi.
"In the usability world there are two ways of evaluating an existing 
website: expert usability reviews and usability testing. But what's the 
difference? And which one's better?"

+04: EVENTS.

MX San Francisco
February 2-13, 2007.
San Francisco, California U.S.A.

Computer/Human Interaction 2007
April 23-May 3, 2007.
San Jose, California U.S.A.

XTech 2007
May 15-17, 2007.
Paris, France


You Cannot Rely on JavaScript Being Available. Period.
By Roger Johansson.
"...It's very disturbing to see this trend of not giving any (or 
enough) thought to what will happen when a browser doesn't support the 
technologies you want to use. It's even more disturbing to see the 
JavaScript framework craze sweeping through the developer community 
make people use JavaScript for all sorts of things that are better done 
without it. JavaScript frameworks seem to have a lot in common with the 
DHTML libraries of the late nineties - start using them and common 
sense goes out the window unless you have the experience to use them 
right. I admit that I too went overboard with scripting around the turn 
of the century. But I think I learned my lesson. I really hope I did."

Hide And Seek in The Head
By Peter-Paul Koch.
"If you want your JavaScript-enhanced pages to remain accessible and 
understandable to scripted and noscript users alike, you have to think 
before you code. Which functionalities are required (ie. should work 
without JavaScript)? Which ones are merely nice-to-have (ie. can be 
scripted)? You should only start creating the site when you've taken 
these decisions..."

Tasty Text Trimmer
By Drew McLellan.
"In most cases, when designing a user interface it's best to make a 
decision about how data is best displayed and stick with it. Failing to 
make a decision ultimately leads to too many user options, which in 
turn can be taxing on the poor old user. Under some circumstances, 
however, it's good to give the user freedom in customizing their 
workspace. One good example of this is the 'Article Length' tool in 
Apple's Safari RSS reader. Sliding a slider left of right dynamically 
changes the length of each article shown. It's that kind of awesomely 
magic stuff that's enough to keep you from sleeping. Let's build one..."

JavaScript/HTML Portscanning and HTTP Auth
By Stefan Esser.
"Several people were researching HTML portscanning during the last 
days. Basically this is nothing more than requesting stuff through the 
link tag, because it halts page rendering and checking how long it 
took. A typical timing attack that people nowadays even use to break 
RSA keys. The funny thing about this new JavaScript-less portscanning 
is however that they do not mention how they want to get an IP range to 
scan in. A person that disables JavaScript will most probably not have 
Java activated and without Java there is no public method to get the 
victim's local IP. Considering the HTML scanning speed it might take 
months to scan all possible private IP addresses. If you can scan a 
Class-C subnet in 2 minutes then you will need more than 91 days to 
scan only the private IP addresses in the 10.x.x.x subnet. Have fun 
with that... (and especially if the interesting sites are not reachable 
by IP but only by hostname. So you might find out that a server is up, 
but you still cannot attack it)..."

Bruteforcing HTTP Auth in Firefox with JavaScript
By Stefan Esser.
"Yesterday I blogged about a way to bypass HTTP Auth popus that used a 
'abuse the server' approach. Today I will show a way to bypass HTTP 
auth in Firefox and in some cases bruteforce HTTP auth in Firefox in 
some situations..."

JavaScript Scanning and expose_php=On
By Stefan Esser.
"The good thing about images is that JavaScript can check if they are 
loaded and what size they are. With this ability it is trivial to 
detect if PHP is running on an URL if expose_php=On. Here is the little 
proof of concept..."

User-Proofing Ajax
By Peter Quinsey.
"Ajax offers the ability to avoid both needless browser behavior like 
page reloads and useful browser behavior like error handling. When good 
web apps go bad, Peter Quinsey's guidelines and techniques can help you 
and your users stay informed and productive."


Interview with Simon Collison
By Carolyn Wood.
"...Simon Collison, aka Colly, is one of the most talented people 
around and he has a lot to say in my interview with him, about his 
design process, his love of illustration and music, working with 
clients, Erskine Design, and much more..."

Avoid Edge Cases by Designing Up Front
By Ben Henick.
"By the time they reach the coding stage, many web projects are a 
tangle of exceptions -- and that can make standards-based development a 
nightmare. Better planning may be exactly what you need to avoid markup 
derangement or, even worse, a dysfunctional product."

Words as Pointers, and the Meaning of Web 2.0
By Tim O'Reilly.
"I had a great exchange with Steven White the other day in the comments 
on my entry Why Web 2.0 is More Than a Buzzword."

Web 2.0 = the web
By John Allsopp.
"Tim Berners-Lee gave us...the name 'world wide web' (and I mean quite 
literally gave). It's served us well for 15 years. I think it sill 
works well. Let's keep using it a little while longer yet eh?.."

Web 2.0: The Power Behind the Hype
By Jared M. Spool.
"...Problems not withstanding, we still feel that this emerging 
standard, combined with other new tools, such as AJAX and open source 
infrastructures, makes for a new and exciting environment. There's been 
a tremendous amount of hype surrounding all these new developments, 
but, for once, we are thinking that there really is some power that is 
beneath the hype that is worth paying attention to."

Criteria for Using Web 2.0
By Alastair Campbell.
"...I distilled the main issues down to three criteria. I'm not 
claiming anything new here, but I do keep having to stress these: 1. 
The end-user must have a motivation for using the functions. 2. The 
functionality must not hinder the business. 3. The functionality must 
be feasible within the technological and resource constraints of the 


More on Meaningless Link Labels
By Jared Smith.
"...alternative text for an image should convey the CONTENT and 
FUNCTION of the image. Defining function can be quite difficult. Here's 
a few tips..."

Why Intranet Search Fails
By Gerry McGovern.
"Intranet search performs miserably because most organizations do
not properly manage their content..."

Use Sitemap Standards to Help Search Engines
By Tony Patton.
"Sitemaps provide a way for Web sites to specify what pages within the 
site should be indexed and what new content has been added. Tony Patton 
offers an overview of the sitemap standard..."

Accessible Dynamic Links
By Mike Davies.
"Although hyperlinks are the soul of the World Wide Web, it's worth 
using them in moderation. Too many links becomes a barrier for visitors 
navigating their way through a page. This difficulty is multiplied when 
the visitor is using assistive technology, or is using a keyboard; 
being able to skip over a block of links doesn't make the task of 
finding a specific link any easier. In an effort to make sites easier 
to use, various user interfaces based on the hiding and showing of 
links have been crafted. From drop-down menus to expose the deeper 
structure of a website, to a decluttering of skip links so as not to 
impact design considerations. Both are well intentioned with the aim of 
preserving a good usability experience for the majority of a website's 
audience; hiding the real complexity of a page until the visitor 
interacts with the element..."

+08: PHP.

Optimizing System Performance
By George Schlossnagle.
"In this second part of a two part series, you'll learn how to use 
debuggers and optimize performance. It is excerpted from chapter 12 of 
the book Zend PHP Certification, written by George Schlossnagle et al."

My Experience Moving to PHP5
By John Lim.
"In August of this year, we decided to move from PHP4 to PHP5 for all 
our future PHP development..."

Querystring Functions
By Dave Child.
"Adding and removing variables to and from URLs using PHP is a 
relatively simple process admittedly, but I have a couple of functions 
I use often to make the process even less time-consuming..."

Vanilla on Rails: The Coexistence of PHP and Ruby
By Jesse Skinner.
"I'm going to debunk another myth that might keep you from trying out 
Ruby on Rails (or any other new server language). MYTH: Once you start 
using Rails, you have to do everything in Rails..."

+09: TOOLS.

By Nate Weaver.
"Paparazzi! is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of 

Screenshot Settings
By Bruce Phillips.
"This application is a GUI method for changing the screenshot (screen 
capture) settings in Mac OS X v10.4 (Tiger). Note that you can also 
drag-n-drop a folder onto this application to change the default 


Web Design is 95 Percent Typography
By Information Architects.
"95 Percent of the information on the web is written language. It is 
only logical to say that a web designer should get good training in the 
main discipline of shaping written information, in other words: 

Best Fonts for the Web
By Kathy Marks.
"For years I've been meaning to put together a "cheat sheet" of fonts 
and font alternatives for quick selection but never got around to it. 
Today I finally got so tired of Arial and Helvetica that I sat down to 
write a few out."

More About Web Fonts: Basics and a Few Surprises
By Kathy Marks.
"During my venture into typography, I collected a hodgepodge of 
information and tips on using type on the web. In the hope of making 
sense of it all, I've tried to organize these jottings. Most are basics 
that I've included as helpful reminders, but I also found a few 

The Font Controversy: Ems, Percentages, Pixels and Points
By Kathy Marks.
"To conclude these notes about fonts, I turn to the Great Size Debate. 
In summary, the controversy concerns what unit of measurement designers 
should use to size text. The topic is, of course, much more complex 
than that statement conveys. In fact, reams (or screens) have been 
written on the issue. The primary points are these..."


The Complexity of Simplicity
By Luke Wroblewski.
"Though many business strategies and publications continue to trumpet 
the power of simplicity in the design of digital products, for lots of 
companies and product teams, simplicity doesn't come easy..."

Progressive Disclosure
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Progressive disclosure defers advanced or rarely used features to a 
secondary screen, making applications easier to learn and less 

How Many People Does It Take to Turn Off a Vista PC?
By Charles Arthur.
"Let's see: three separate teams each of eight programmers and testers 
and designers and a manager, plus six layers of managers for each team, 
plus an ubermanager for them all - that's 43. The number comes from 
Moishe Lettvin, who spent his 'worst' year out of seven at Microsoft 
working on a feature for Vista which he says 'should've been designed, 
implemented and tested in a week"...."

+12: XML.

Differences Between HTML and XHTML
"Although HTML and XHTML appear to have similarities in their syntax, 
they are significantly different in many ways..."

Is RSS a Bad Idea?
By Christina Wodtke.
"Okay, admittedly I'm stirring the pot here, but I was just thinking: 
why do we care so much about RSS?..."

[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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