[webdev] Web Design Update: February 16, 2007

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Fri Feb 16 06:32:03 CST 2007

- Volume 5, Issue 35, February 16, 2007.

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.
10: PHP.
14: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Questioning WCAG 2
By Mike Davies.
"...What web developers need is a document that replaces WCAG 1. A set 
of guidelines that takes into account the significant improvements in 
web technologies since WCAG 1 was first published. I think WCAG 2, by 
itself, will fail to deliver that replacement. I can't see myself 
using, or recommending, WCAG 2.0 until its complemented with guidelines 
about making Flash accessible, making Dom Scripting accessible. I feel 
I'm left to my own devices on these technologies with WCAG 2. Since we 
are already left to our own devices now, how is a War and Peace sized 
abstract recommendation going to improve things?"

Should alt Text Be Used To Paint A Thousand Words?
By Sharon Perry.
"We've all been told that alt text is an essential part of web 
accessibility, but how much detail do we actually need to include and 
who should do it?"

US Organizations Liable Under UK Law?
By Mel Pedley.
"Until recently, it was assumed that the Disability Discrimination Act 
(DDA) only applied to organizations, and web sites, within the UK. 
However, a recent successful complaint brought under the DDA might just 
change that assumption."

The Petition, the 'Prat' and a Political Ideal
By Tom Geoghegan.
"A (UK) government minister has labeled the controversial online 
petitions on Downing Street's website as an own-goal thought up by a 
'prat'. So how does the man behind the site defend it? And does the 
petition reliably reflect national mood?"

Web Accessibility - What is It? What are the Benefits?
By Paul Walsh.
"It's time we started talking about Web accessibility and the benefits 
it can bring to you and your business. It is after all, a specialist 
subject for us. We are in the process of documenting the benefits 
specifically for blogs, but the contents of this post are contextual 
enough for normal Web sites and blogs..."

Why 'left: -9999px;' is Better For Accessibility Than 'display: none;'
By Nick Fitzsimons.
"...So there you go: use one of the off screen methods and the screen 
reader will treat your content as being there; use the display or 
visibility method and the screen reader will discard it, meaning that 
this is a reliable way of concealing content from both a normal user 
and a screen reader user, should you have a reason to do so. But armed 
with the information above, you'll at least know why you're using 
whichever method you apply."


CSS Tabs 2.0
By Joshua Kaufman.
"...They're the same, simple cross-browser tabs, but they use a 
different CSS technique that allows them to work in 17 browsers across 
Windows, Mac and Linux. And they no longer have the ugly alignment bug 
that was caused when the text size was changed..."

Extra White Space in Lists
By Christian Heilmann.
"...The problem is that you most likely have line breaks and tabs in 
between the closing LI and the next opening LI..."


Long Live the User (Persona): Talking with Steve Mulder
By Liz Danzico, Steve Mulder.
"More companies are doing user research than ever before, but what is 
becoming of all the information? Steve Mulder talks about strategies 
for getting research into shape so real people can actually use it. The 
key: user personas."

+04: EVENTS.

CS547 Human-Computer Interaction Seminar
Spring 2007.
Weekly speakers on topics related to human-computer interaction design.
The talks are also available on the Web via Stanford OnLine.

International PHP Conference 2007
May 21-23, 2007.
Stuttgart, Germany

UIST 2007
ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
October 7-10, 2007.
Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

+05: FLASH.

Flash's Weaknesses: Then and Now
By Jonathan Nicol.
"While big steps have been made in certain areas (video, printing, 
plugin upgrades), search engine visibility and accessibility still 
elude Flash. I would like to think there will one day be a 'magic' 
solution to the issue of search engine visibility, but I don't hold 
much hope. What makes Flash powerful is the almost limitless approaches 
developers and designers can take to presenting content, and of course 
this is also what makes it so unfriendly to search engines. Without a 
standardized method of presenting content, I don't see how search 
engines have any hope of making sense of the internal complexities of a 
Flash movie. I guess only time will tell whether this shortcoming can 
be surmounted!"


The No-Knead Approach to Information Architecture, 1 of 5
By Louis Rosenfeld.
"...Grappling with a large, intimidating information architecture 
challenge? Here's my new thinking-boiled down to four easy, no-knead 
steps. I'll be posting them serially in the coming weeks, and I hope 
you'll find these steps useful: Step #1: Ban the word "redesign" from 
your meetings. Step #2: Determine who your most important audiences 
are. Step #3: Determine each primary audience's 3-5 major needs. Step 
#4: Make damned sure your site addresses each of those needs."


Avoiding Evil JavaScript
By Kevin Yank.
"Bad JavaScript is worse than no JavaScript at all, because it can 
prevent some users from accessing your site. There are at least three 
groups of people that you need to look out for when adding JavaScript 
to the mix, and I've listed them here in order of increasing 

DOM Scripting Essentials in Under 10 Minutes
By Christian Heilmann.
"...I just recorded one of the sessions on the essentials of DOM 
scripting and put this 'dry run' screencast on my server for you to 
check out..."

How Can I Track the Change in a Form Field Before the Form Was Submitted
By Christian Heilmann.
"...A much cleverer version is to run only one loop when the form was 
submitted and compare each field's defaultValue property with the value 
property. It is not that known, but every field has a defaultValue 
property that stores what has been the value in the value attribute 
when the element was rendered. The value property stores what was 
entered in the field at the time you read it out. When the two don't 
match, the user has altered the field..."


The Village Stew
By Nathan Smith.
"Some web design projects suffer from lack of leadership. We've all 
seen the results? - home pages overflowing with everything including 
the kitchen sink, or sites without focus that, in the end, don't pay 
off for the client or their visitors. Nathan Smith shares two stories 
that will help you explain? to both your clients and your team? the 
importance of leadership, focus, and structure when building a site."

Web 2.0 Video: Complete Transcript
By Jesper Ronn-Jensen.
With the help and encouragement of Claude Almansi, I have now 
transcribed the web 2.0 video 'We are the web'.


The Humble Breadcrumb
By Jonathan Nicol.
"Recently I designed a site that had two navigation menus: a global 
navigation bar and a breadcrumb trail. It was the first time I had ever 
used breadcrumbs as the only form of secondary navigation, and it got 
me thinking about this humble form of website navigation..."

Search Doesn't Work Out-of-the-Box
By James Robertson.
"...This briefing outlines some of the activities needed to make search 
effective, highlighting key steps that can be completed within just a 
few days..."

+10: PHP.

Using Abstract Factory Classes in PHP 5 to Work with Online Forms
By Alejandro Gervasio.
"Any PHP developer who has worked with pattern-based programming in PHP 
for a while knows that the abstract factory pattern is useful for 
building classes that return (to client code) objects whose type depend 
on the content where they're used. Welcome to the final installment of 
the series 'Using abstract factory classes in PHP 5.' If you're 
interested in learning the key concepts of this helpful pattern, this 
three-part series will teach you how to apply it by developing numerous 
educational examples..."

Working With Fractions In CSS and PHP
By Bernard Peh.
"Most of us are uncomfortable with using fractions when witting 
programs. If we encounter a fraction, we will first convert it into a 
floating point number (with decimals) and proceed from there. Most 
programming languages would prefer to use 0.5 as opposed to 1/2 because 
the later conflicts with the syntax of the languages. In this article, 
I will discuss an approach to working with fractions in PHP and CSS in 
one of the projects that I have done..."


Are Teachers the Final Link in the Chain?
By Virginia DeBolt.
"...education and teacher training are the last link in the web 
standards chain...The technical people have all figured out that web 
standards work and make life easier. The corporate interests have all 
figured out that web standards bring a better return on investment and 
make good business sense. The accessibility advocates have all 
determined that web standards promote accessibility. The browser makers 
have all (finally, mostly) come into compliance with web standards. 
Everything is in place, everyone is convinced, but new sites are still 
being created using less-than-standards compliant code. Is education 
holding us back?...It seems that all those busy, over-scheduled 
teachers in all the large and small colleges and universities around 
the country haven't gotten the word yet. They haven't had the training 
they need. They haven't had time to figure out CSS for themselves. They 
don't have the textbooks and resources they need. They are hamstrung by 
outdated requirements and antique regulations for technology education. 
And, as a result, they are not turning out students trained in 
standards, ready for industry jobs, who can produce sites based on best 

Standard Compliance has Two Different Meanings
By Sean Fraser.
"Websites that are standards compliant may not been seen as 
standards-compliant. It actually makes sense. However, when I was first 
learning how building websites with web standards was done, it made me 
crazy. Web standards is Web Standards. Everyone should want websites 
that are compliant with web standards doctrines. Or, as commonly 
stated, 'Everyone should have standards complaint sites'. Sites whose 
(X)HTML and Cascading Styles Sheets (CSS) pass validation, meets 
Accessibility guidelines and Universality principles. That's simple. 
Then, you've got 'Standards-Complaint Mode'..."

Tutorials on Microformats
By Roger Costello.
"Microformats enable you to enrich your web pages (HTML, XHTML, RSS, 
Atom, Blog, XML). They don't affect how your web pages are rendered by 
a browser. But they have a huge (positive) impact on the ability of web 
tools to collect, understand, and process the information in your web 
pages. Microformats are tiny bits of information injected into web 
pages. When you add together the tiny bits of information over 
thousands or millions of web pages, you have a mountain of valuable 
information that can help with searching, understanding, and processing 
the web. There is a growing collection of microformats..."


WCAG 2 Response on Relative Units
By Alastair Campbell.
"I had submitted a comment on WCAG about relative units, and looking 
through my incoming links with Google's new external links tool, I 
discovered that they had taken it on, partially...."


Do Government Agencies and Non-Profits Get ROI From Usability?
By Jakob Nielsen.
"Although the gains don't fall into traditional profit columns, there 
are clear arguments for improving usability of non-commercial websites 
and Intranets. In one example, a state agency could get an ROI of 
22,000% by fixing a basic usability problem."

The Ethics of Brain Scanning and Usability
By John S. Rhodes.
"...consider how functional MRIs might be used in the realm of user 
experience, usability testing, and information architecture. Assuming 
that the intention is to increase usability and improve life for users, 
this presents no real problem. But, if this information is used to 
profile or stereotype users, especially for certain marketing 
activities, then we should be concerned."

Designing from Both Sides of the Screen
By Kevin Godby.
"This week in HCI 522, I presented a number of design guidelines from 
Ellen Isaacs' and Alan Walendowsk's book 'Designing from Both Sides of 
the Screen: How designers and engineers can collaborate to build 
cooperative technology'. The guidelines in the book fall under four 
basic tenets: On being a butler; Don't impose: respect physical effort; 
Don't impose: respect mental effort; Be helpful..."

How Much Control Should our Users Have?
By Kathy Sierra.
"...As user capability (knowledge, skill, expertise) increases, so 
should control -- at least for a lot of things we make, especially 
software, and especially when we're aiming not just for satisfied users 
but potentially passionate users. The big problem is that we make our 
beginning users suffer just so our advanced users can tweak and tune 
their configurations, workflow, and output...The simple rule we so 
often forget is: The amount of pain and effort should match the user's 
perceived payoff. In other words, the user has to think it's worth 
it...Like everything else, it all comes back to user education. The 
more we help them learn and improve, the more control they can 
handle... and appreciate. By putting the user first, it's our job to 
give them the responsibility they want, but only when we know they're 
ready to handle it."

+14: XML.

Serving Up XHTML With the Correct MIME Type
By Keystone Websites.
"...For most websites, authoring in HTML 4.01 is perfectly sufficient. 
Most of the features available in XHTML are available in good old HTML. 
However, some sites may wish to take advantage of the extensibility of 
XML, so delivering in XHTML with the correct MIME may be important. For 
this reason, Keystone Websites has developed a technique that takes 
advantage of the PHP server-side scripting language. Web pages can be 
served in one of two ways..."

[Section one ends.]


+15: 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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