Archive for ‘standards’ category

Televised Backward Compatibility

Having only had HDTV in the house for roughly 48 hours, I’ve already found something interesting to note. While watching “the game” last night (the second in a series I won’t talk about until we have some good news) I was amused by the little tricks that the designers use while serving screen elements that’ll work with both normal television and HDTV screen widths. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?
figureWhen FOX needed to show an informational banner across the bottom of the screen (see figure), the sides would fade out in a gradient while watching in HD. My guess (and I didn’t check) is that normal TV viewers don’t see the gradient at all, rather the banner just flows across the entire screen. The gradient edges are probably there — but only appear if you have a widescreen HDTV.
The parallels here to web design are obvious: that steps are taken to ensure a usable experience, regardless of screen size. Now aren’t the television designers lucky to have just two, predictable widths to deal with?
I’m also beginning to notice other design choices that reflect the growing number of HDTV customers. Many commericals are presented in 16:9 format, and some add colored bars on top and bottom that seem to purposely mesh visually with the black bars on left and right that appear when a square image is shown on a widescreen.
Having to support two viewport sizes must be challenging — but like the web, designers are finding creative ways to make both experiences work.

Accessibility Progress

Chip Adams was kind enough to point me (along with several other colleagues) to some pretty interesting (and positive) news.

Reported in an article at Excite News, titled Web Sites Agree to Be Accessible to Blind: Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Priceline.com and Ramada.com have agreed to make significant changes to their sites specifically for those browsing with screen reading software and other assistive technology.

That’s of course great news. And I also found this quote rather interesting:

We hope it’s going to be influencing other companies throughout the United States so that the 10 million blind and visually impaired people can fully participate in our society at all levels. —Carl Augusto, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind.

10 million. For anyone who wonders if the accessibility of a site is important, or whether or not people browse your site with screen reading software–it’s an awfully large number of people to ignore. And that’s just in the U.S. alone.

Without extra effort, building on a foundation of lean, structured markup can do wonders for a site’s accessibility, and it appears that with Priceline and Ramada publicly acknowledging the importance–things are headed in the right direction.

Bulletproof Slants

While working on the navigation for a project recently, I had the want/need to do something like this:

example

Nothing ground-breaking or cutting edge here (and certainly not meant to solicit ooohs and ahhhs from the gallery), yet when faced with a little challenge such as the design above, I do my best to make things as bulletproof as possible.

Humor me, while I elaborate.

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Subscribable Validation

Ben Hammersley has just built something brilliant. There’s been lots of talk lately about validation. It’s hard. Maintaining validation is harder.
To make things easier on yourself, check out Ben’s fantastic XHTML Validator to RSS widget. Append a URL to the script, and subscribe to it using your favorite newsreader. Woilla! An RSS feed for validation errors. Updated whenever you’d like of course. You don’t even need to think about checking for validation errors manually anymore.
This is instantly useful. Bravo, Ben.

A Validation Tale

While I nod my head in agreement to recent thoughts on validation and it’s place as a piece of the web design puzzle, I’m reminded of where and when I personally think that it can make the difference.

Why the heck is the footer crammed all the way over in the right column?

A mildly ficticious scenario, but one that is certainly plausible. The display issue could be anything really. You’ve poured over every last CSS declaration, searching for the key that’s throwing off the entire design. Hours may go by after trial and error, removing code, adding it back it, etc.

Then you throw it through the validator.

Line 326, column 6: end tag for “div” omitted…

Of course. All better now.

I’m merely illustrating a point — that (for me personally) validation is key as part of the building process. Checking to make sure my “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed eliminates several possible culprits if I’m running into display issues. If I know the code is plumb and square, I can at least move on to other investigations. It doesn’t solve everything, but a solid foundation keeps some of the guesswork at bay.

There are other reasons for validation of course — reasons that may or may not make 100% sense depending on the (approximately) 6,593 factors that go into an average web site. A singular person may not have complete control over all of the code that makes up an entire site. If a team is involved — it takes everyone to want validation in order to make it happen. Tools and feeds and software must be part of the game. Editors, managers and developers have have to understand the importance of forward compatibility and a higher threshold of consistent device and browser support. But oftentimes, these things (or people) are out of our direct control. This is what makes validation hard.

So I try to stay valid as much as possible — and the building process is certainly a convenient time and place where it happens the most.

Inconsistent Consistency

It also relates to another topic that I’ve been thinking about lately. That basic validation appears to be more important when using CSS layouts, as opposed to old-school methods. I don’t have any solid research to back any of this up right now, but hear me out.

In the past, when all of the presentation was tied in directly with the content (read: nested table layouts), browsers were extremely forgiving. Forget (perhaps purposely) to close those <td> elements? Most browsers wouldn’t care and would render your intentions without any problems. This led to all sorts of bad habits. I guess we could place part of the blame on the browser…

Anyhow, forget to close <div> or <ul> elements while implementing a complex CSS-based layout and I believe most browsers won’t be as forgiving. More importantly I think the results will be extemely varied depending on the browser.

I’m certainly not referring to unescaped ampersands or other small details that could be out of the site builder’s control — but I believe basic validation on the framework of a site is crucial when working heavily in CSS.

Web Standards Link Bonanza

As a result of the Great Book Giveaway Contest, 485 comments were collected, each with a link to a favorite article, web site or weblog entry relating to web standards.

Steve Smith has kindly formatted these comments into a nice, neat, easily digestible list of links, complete with titles.

Shaun Inman put together a similar list (coming soon) which lists every URL posted, along with a tally of how many folks shared the same article.

Both Shaun and Steve deserve a pat on the back for all of their hard work. This is a great collection of links — so thank you once again to all who entered.

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Standards Around the House

I bought a window shade yesterday. I measured the window. I went to the store (yes that store). I pulled a 23″ shade off the shelf and brought it home. It fits perfectly.

Last year, we bought a new dishwasher. We pulled the old one out and ordered a new one. When the new model arrived, it fit — perfectly.

NOTE: I promise this site will not turn into HomeImprovementBits.

I’m merely making a point here. That home improvement is made easier by standards. Someone like myself can walk into a store, buy a garbage disposal hose, and more than likely it’ll fit just right. I can also purchase a new doorknob and nine times out of ten it’ll fit the door without any major adjustments.

Predetermined, standard measurements make life easy for people who build and maintain houses. When a new owner needs to update or maintain their home, standards make it easier to fix or improve it.

This wasn’t always the case, of course. Not all houses built prior to the twentieth century utilized standards. This didn’t mean that houses built without standards were bad houses — it just meant that updating, fixing or maintaining these houses required extra work.

Oftentimes, people buy old houses and renovate them. Once the hard work in renovating a house is complete, the owner can take advantage of standard sizes and measurements to make maintaining the house easier.

There is a list a mile long of improvements that my wife and I would like to make to our old house. But making those improvements takes time — and money. We’re just trying to check off one item at a time knowing that, once the work is done, things will get easier.

SprintPCS Redesigns With XHTML/CSS

Congratulations to France Rupert and team on launching a newly redesigned SprintPCS.com this past weekend.

The site was completely rebuilt, with web standards in mind, using a CSS-based layout on top of clean markup. Aside from a few known rendering issues, the site looks excellent and the home page validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. More details are provided in a brief explanation linked from the index page.

It’s an exciting time. Even large companies are now beginning to see the benefits of building sites a better way and internal web teams are learning the advantages of designing pages that load fast, are more accessible, and easier to maintain. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more of these relaunches announced. It’s a great thing.

More about the redesign with some notes from France’s personal site.