[webdev] Web Design Update: December 14, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Thu Dec 14 06:26:10 CST 2006

- Volume 5, Issue 26, December 14, 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:

04: FLASH.
09: PHP.
10: TOOLS.
13: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


First Ever Global Accessibility Survey Reveals Only 3 Percent of 
Websites Tested Reach Minimum Levels
By Nomensa.
"UK-based web accessibility agency Nomensa released the results of the 
first ever global website accessibility survey today. The report, which 
was commissioned by the United Nations (UN), reveals that 97 percent of 
websites tested fail to achieve the minimum web accessibility level..."

Designing Simple, Accessible Forms
By John Oxton.
"John Oxton demonstrates how it's possible to keep forms simple in 
order to attract and retain clients, while also ensuring they are in 
keeping with your site..."

Web Accessibility Groups Not Sharing Best Practices With Designers?
By Steve Lee.
"...Yes, web designers need to work with accessibility experts and 
usability gurus in order to learn the skills which are not trivial. No, 
the accessibility guys are not holding out for profit. They want to see 
a step change in accessibility of web sites and services, including 
those using cutting edge features..."

Open Source Screen Readers?
By Chris Hofstater.
"A few years ago, a handful of Stanford University Computer Scientists 
and professors from their business school worked together on a paper 
discussing the relative security of free and open source systems versus 
security in proprietary software systems..."


CSS Mobile Profile 2.0
By W3C.
"The CSS Working Group released a Working Draft of CSS Mobile Profile 
2.0. This subset of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 2.1 is a baseline for 
implementations of CSS on constrained devices like mobile phones, 
written to ensure interoperability and for alignment with OMA's 
Wireless CSS Specification 1.1."

Hot Dates with CSS
By Christian Montoya.
"Dressing up your dates makes them stand out nicely, and you can do it 
in such a way that they scale well with the rest of your layout (even 
an elastic layout like this one)."

Overlapping Tabbed Navigation in CSS
By Shape Shed.
"A tutorial showing how overlapping tabbed navigation is possible in 
CSS and can be cross-browser compatible, accessible and javascript 

10 Steps to Better CSS
By Shape Shed.
"Coding CSS can quickly get out of control. By following a few simple 
guidelines you can make your life a lot easier..."

Showing Good Form
By James Edwards.
"Earlier this year, I forget exactly when (it's been a good year), I 
was building a client site that needed very specific form widgets, 
where the fields are arranged in a grid. Building this was a challenge 
not just in CSS, but in choosing the proper markup - how should such a 
widget be constructed?"

A CSS-based Form Template
By Prabhath Sirisena.
"Earlier this year I posted an article on a CSS-based form template, 
originally done for the Sahana interface. It was modified based on the 
feedback I received from the readers who stumbled upon the article, and 
the final version made it to the Sahana system..."

Setting a Decent Table
By Kathy Marks.
"So, here's my own personal take on tables. Never use them for 
site-wide layout, unless you plan on leaving town soon after. Never use 
them when a CSS solution is available. Never use them if you can't make 
them accessible. However, if you get in a real bind and have struggled 
to find a CSS solution but can't, it's acceptable to use an occasional 
accessible table. Not preferable, just acceptable..."

Opacity Bugs
By Dave Shea.
"Given its relative new-ness of implementation, I hadn't put the CSS 
opacity property through its paces yet. I found a situation today where 
it seemed to fit, and was a little surprised by the results. Seems that 
of the three browsers that attempt to support it, only Opera really 
does it justice. Check out this test page and you'll see what I mean. 
Hover the image to see the effects I'm describing..."

How One Person Developed the Edge
By Jenny Mok.
When we redesigned the Edge, we not only gave it a fresh look, but we 
made it easier to use. From the inside out, we developed a framework 
that makes the newsletter more flexible to build, design, edit, and 
view. To achieve this, we used Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which 
enables us to separate design from content. Creating the CSS layout 
required some serious forethought because one of the requirements was 
to create one Dreamweaver template that all pages would be based on. 
This is how I approached and built the Edge using CSS..."

+03: EVENTS.

Presenting Data and Information
One Day Workshop with Edward Tufte
January 29, 2007 in San Diego, California U.S.A.	
January 30 or 31, 2007 in Los Angeles, California U.S.A.
February 2, 2007 in Phoenix, Arizona U.S.A.

HCIEd 2007
Annual Conference for Human Computer Interface Educators from Industry 
and Academia
March 29-30, 2007.
Aveiro, Portugal

+04: FLASH.

The Demise of Flash: 8 Main Reasons
By Tadeusz Szewczyk.
"As a former Flash developer turned CSS zealot in the last 3 years I 
want to present the 8 main reasons for the demise of flash..."

Anti-Flash Standardistas - You're Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your 
By P.J. Onori.
"The more I read attacks on Flash, the more I end up shaking my head in 
confusion. Honestly, I am a little surprised this is still being 


How to Get Clients to Look at Wireframes...Properly
By Caroline Jarrett.
"It was the same old story. I was working with Whitney Quesenbery on 
some wireframes for a client's web site. As usual, she'd done a lovely 
job on the design. As usual, I'd fussed around with content. We'd done 
our usual cross-checking and refinement. Proudly, we emailed them 


Writing Responsible JavaScript
By Drew McLellan.
"Drew McLellan investigates some of the ways JavaScript can be written 
to help it co-exist responsibly within your pages, and other pages too. 
We could all do with a little bit more peaceful co-existence over the 
holidays, couldn't we auntie. Pass the gravy."

Revealing Relationships Can Be Good Form
By Ian Lloyd.
"Ian Lloyd labels up and ships out a tip for improving the usability of 
form labels. Whilst checking the labels on the gifts under your tree, 
why not take some time out to check the labels on your forms and see 
where it might be appropriate to add some extra touches."

Dear JavaScript Library Developers...
By Christian Heilmann.
"I am now publishing my wish list for any JavaScript library developers 
or maintainers. Before you start a new library or expect people to be 
able to use yours immediately you might want to give these points some 
thought. For library users this list might be a good 'heads up' to see 
how much work has to go into using a library or how to pick the right 
library for the job at hand..."

Accessible JavaScript: Beyond the Mouse
By James Edwards.
"In this article, I'd like to provide a little gratification to those 
attempting to make their web applications accessible. To achieve this, 
I'll talk about some of the more basic, solvable issues relating to 
JavaScript accessibility, as we take an introduction to 
device-independent scripting..."


Joe Clark Talks - 'It's time for Tim Berners-Lee to accept defeat'
By Steve Faulkner.
"When people talk about web accessibility he is hard to avoid. 
Invariably Joe Clark's name, work or reputation as a fierce intellect 
and his 'scorched earth' critiques of WCAG 2.0 amongst other subjects, 
will be a part of the conversational landscape. You may not agree with 
him, but he usually has something thought provoking to say. Joe talks 
here about the Open and Closed Project and other things. "

Tips for Designing Powerful RIAs: An Interview with David Malouf and 
Bill Scott
By Jared M. Spool and Joshua Porter.
"UIE's Jared M. Spool and Joshua Porter recently had the chance to talk 
with expert web application designers, Bill Scott and David Malouf, to 
discuss Rich Internet Application (RIA) development, AJAX, and other 
important issues surrounding the creation of sophisticated web apps..."

Project Management Made Easy
By D. Keith Robinson.
"A few months ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I was 
pretty good at managing projects. Must of the projects that I manage 
come in on-time, on- or under-budget and with relatively few problems. 
More importantly the projects I manage usually leave everyone involved 
happy and feeling like they'd accomplished something. Now, don't get me 
wrong, I've been managing projects for years and it's not always been 
like that. I used to really hate managing projects, probably because I 
didn't really know how and I made project management into something 
much more complicated than it is..."

Does Technology Make Managers Lazy?
By Gerry McGovern.
"...It amazes me the amount of organizations out there that still 
believe that to create a better intranet or public website, all they 
need to do is choose the right content management software. These 
organizations are not thinking about the quality and effectiveness of 
the content. They'll employ junior people to put up this content, and 
then a couple of years later they'll wonder where it all went wrong. 
I've yet to meet an organization that has successfully implemented 
personalization either for their intranet or their public website. This 
is not because the concept of personalization is wrong. Properly 
implemented, it is a very sophisticated and powerful way to give 
customers what they want. There are many reasons it fails miserably, 
however. One of them is that organizations feel that all they need to 
do is install this fancy software, turn it on, and, hey presto, a 
wonderful website emerges. No need to worry about the quality of the 
content. No need to worry about how well it is structured and 
organized. The magic software looks after all that..."

How Google Finds Your Needle in the Web's Haystack
By David Austin.
"As we'll see, the trick is to ask the web itself to rank the 
importance of pages..."

Dropdown Low Down
By Tyssen Design.
"Dropdown (horizontal) or flyout (vertical) menus abound on websites 
and come in many different flavors. They are also put together in a 
number of different ways, some done with javascript, some with 'pure' 
CSS and some a mixture of both. They also have varying degrees of 
usability and accessibility..."

+09: PHP.

Debugging Techniques for PHP Programmers
By Tyler Anderson.
"Explore various methods for debugging PHP applications, including 
turning on error reporting in Apache and PHP, and by placing strategic 
print statements to locate the source of more difficult bugs through a 
simple example PHP script. The PHPeclipse plug-in for Eclipse, a slick 
development environment with real-time syntax parsing abilities, will 
also be covered, as well as the DBG debugger extension for PHPeclipse."

Securing PHP Contact Forms
By Jonathan Nicol.
"One of the great benefits of PHP is that it is quick and easy for 
non-programmers to learn the basics of the language and begin to add 
server-side logic to their websites. This simplicity is a double edged 
sword, as many novice programmers are unaware of PHP's security 
vulnerabilities and inadvertently create web applications that..."

Batch Processing with PHP
By Jack Herrington.
"What do you do when you have a feature in your Web application that 
takes longer than a second or two to finish? You need some type of 
offline processing solution. Check out several methods for offline 
servicing of long-running jobs in your PHP application..."

The Basics of Implementing Adapter Objects with PHP
By Alejandro Gervasio.
"DevShed takes a look at another of the design patterns in a new series 
starting with this new tutorial a look at the implementation of Adapter 
objects in PHP. You may have already encountered situations in coding 
PHP applications in which you would like to use inheritance, but could 
not for one reason or another. Fortunately, there is an alternative for 
these situations that can help you achieve the same result. In this 
first article in a two part series, you'll learn about the adapter 
pattern.They start off with the basics of the Adapter pattern and move 
quickly into the first definition of a class using them a directory 
processor. Once that's built, they show how it all works with a more 
practical example."

Supporting Legacy Browsers, or Not
By Mike Cherim.
"So what are the goals: 1. The content itself must be accessible to all 
users. 2. Styling support for older browsers isn't necessary..."

Supporting Legacy Browsers, or Not
By Mel Pedley.
"Following a conversation about the problems of supplying accessible 
content to old (legacy) browsers Mike Cherim came up with a PHP 
solution that would allow developers to serve very plain content to 
legacy browsers but rich content to everyone else. There's nothing 
wrong with Mike's code but I felt it could be tidied up and, possibly, 
tweaked to give faster performance. After all, if you're going to use 
this on a big, high traffic site, performance could become an issue."

+10: TOOLS.

Firebug 1.0 Beta
By Joe Hewitt.
Firebug 1.0 Beta is out. It has some wonderful new features. "Firebug 
integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your 
fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, 
HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page."

By Pete Freitag.
"I have just launched another documentation shortcut site, this time 
for CSS: cssdocs.org. It allows you to get to CSS documentation from 
the url, for instance type in: cssdocs.org/text-decoration to go to the 
W3C documentation for the text-decoration property."


Compose to a Vertical Rhythm
By Richard Rutter.
Richard Rutter scrutinizes the typographical proportions and spacing 
that gives a written page its rhythm. Help your page sing like the 
herald angels, and still have time for a mince pie and brandy.


What Did We Learn This Year?
April McGee and Mary Michaels.
"...annual year-end summary of usability research."

Web Browsing on Mobile Phones - Characteristics of User Experience
By Virpi Roto.
"...In her dissertation research, Virpi Roto has interviewed users of 
mobile browsers in several countries, and identified characteristics 
that help improve the mobile browsing user experience if taken into 
consideration. In addition to user and use context, all the system 
components should be taken into account: device, browser, network 
infrastructure, and web site. A partial outcome of the research is a 
visualization method called Minimap, which has gathered publicity as 
the first practical way to view Web pages on a mobile phone. The method 
has been used in Nokia S60 phones since 2006..."

Usability Weaknesses Inherent In Portals
By Joe Lamantia.
"Portal user experiences suffer from a number of inbuilt usability 
weaknesses that the building blocks are designed to eliminate. For 
instance, flat tile schemes assume all tiles are structurally the same, 
and that they have no relationship to any other tiles. This makes all 
tiles of equal importance to the portal's information architecture. 
[Welcome to Flatland...] Yet any designer or information architect 
addressing diverse user needs and goals knows that the priorities of 
users make some content more important than others, and that the 
structure of the user experience should reflect these priorities and 
any necessary relationships..."

Designing Web Applications for Use
By Larry Constantine.
"Web-based applications, like all software systems, are obviously 
intended for people to use. Not so obvious is that users may not be the 
single most important factor in the application design equation. This 
is not an academic argument, particularly for the harried designer or 
development manager who must decide how and where to spend limited time 
and other resources. What should be the real focus of your design 

Simplicity Is Highly Overrated
By Don Norman.
"Yes, we want simplicity, but we don't want to give up any of those 
cool features. Simplicity is highly overrated."

By Joel Spolsky.
"...If you're using the term 'simplicity' to refer to a product in 
which the user model corresponds closely to the program model, so the 
product is easy to use, fine, more power to ya. If you're using the 
term 'simplicity' to refer to a product with a spare, clean visual 
appearance, so the term is nothing more than an aesthetic description 
much in the same way you might describe Ralph Lauren clothes as 
'Southampton WASP,' fine, more power to ya. Minimalist aesthetics are 
quite hip these days. But if you think simplicity means 'not very many 
features' or 'does one thing and does it well,' then I applaud your 
integrity but you can't go that far with a product that deliberately 
leaves features out. Even the iPod has gratuitous Solitaire game. Even 
Ta-da List supports RSS..."

Simplicity Ain't So Simple, Part I: Decide What to Hide
By Nick Bradbury.
"...If you're a developer, take a look at your UI and try to figure out 
whether all those tool buttons really need to be there by default. 
Chances are you can hide a lot of them, which will make your 
application simpler to learn without making it any less powerful..."

Simplicity Ain't So Simple, Part II: Stop Showing Off
By Nick Bradbury.
"One mistake I see developers make over and over again is that we make 
a feature look complicated just because it was hard to create.  We may 
not be aware of it, but we want our customers to know when we sweated 
blood during development, so we'll design a feature's user interface in 
a way that shows off how much work went into it. We're doing our 
customers a disservice when we do this.  We should instead show off how 
good we are at making complex things simple..."

Simplicity Ain't So Simple, Part III: Don't Add Features You Can't 
By Nick Bradbury.
"...before you add that cool new feature to your software, take a 
minute to consider whether the benefit to your application is worth the 
time you'll spend supporting it.  You don't want to find yourself 
unable to keep up with the competition because you're spending too much 
time supporting features you didn't really need to add in the first 

The Gift to Be Simple
By Leo Robert Klein.
"People want the features but they don't want the complexity. 
Furthermore, they'll prove extremely reluctant to try out a site, if in 
order to accomplish their goals they've got to master every feature on 
the thing. If this weren't the case, 'Advanced Search' would be the 
first stop of even our most neophyte users."

+13: XML.

XML and the Next Web (and the Previous...)
By Simon St. Laurent.
"XML has changed the Web dramatically over the last decade, though not 
at all as originally planned. XQuery, though, is gathering steam to 
drive a new round of potentially invigorating changes, even as Ajax 
heads down the JSON path..."

Making XML Beautiful Again: Introducing Client-Side XSL
By Ian Forrester.
"Ian Forrester gives an introduction to using XML's forgotten child, 
XSL, as a client-side transformation language. Like a warming wooly 
scarf against the biting winter wind, Ian shows how XSL can be used to 
take the edge of even the ugliest XML documents to make them beautiful 
again. Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

[Section one ends.]


+14: 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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