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Designing With Web Standards 384

Posted by timothy
from the aren't-standards-banners dept.
carl67lp (Carl Anderson) writes "I was recently charged with redesigning my University division's Web site. I hadn't designed a Web site in quite some time, and I wanted to ensure that I did so with everything being 'proper'--the nature of our projects require as large an audience as possible. When I saw Designing With Web Standards available on O'Reilly's Safari bookshelf, I knew I had to snag it. And now, after finishing the book (the first IT book I've ever read beginning to end!), I'm here to preach the book's virtues as the author preaches those of Web standards." Read on for Anderson's review of the book.
Designing With Web Standards
author Jeffrey Zeldman
pages 456
publisher New Riders
rating 9/10
reviewer Carl Anderson
ISBN 0735712018
summary An excellent guide on designing a Web site with the latest Web standards

Jeffrey Zeldman is one of the best technical writers whose work I've had the pleasure of reading. He is obviously well-educated with regard to the subject, and his passion for the work really shows through. Still, he never comes across as a zealot -- his style is even-handed, thoughtful, and easy to comprehend.

The first part of the book ("Houston, We Have a Problem") is the reason I give a rating of "9" rather than "10." Zeldman spends a perfect length of time on background and history of Web standards (why they're here, and what designers did before they emerged). However, this section seems to suffer from what many technical books suffer from: a case of "We'll see this soon"-itis. While this is perhaps unavoidable in such a treatise, it is nonetheless apparent. Still, it's only marginally distracting.

The meat of the book comes with "Designing and Building." Zeldman first talks about modern markup, then explains the variations on XHTML (i.e. Strict, Transitional, Frameset) and how each ought apply to your design. Here we see more theory than practice, though, but this is welcome -- it lays the foundation for a more cerebral look at distinguishing markup from design. Once Zeldman explains the nuances of that topic, we moveon to the redesign of a Web page constructed with a hybrid table/CSS design complete with all the excellent effects we hope to see in modern pages.

After working through this redesign, Zeldman talks in more detail about the CSS box model (and the browsers that break it), typography, and some of the quirks that Web designers must deal with. Next he touches a bit on Web accessibility--a must-read for everyone, whether you think so or not.

While Zeldman isn't incredibly thorough here, he doesn't need to be--it's a book on Web standards, after all, and this chapter serves to show how accessibility can still be achieved within those standards. He also suggests a couple of other books for more information.

Finally, Zeldman walks the reader through a redesign of zeldman.com, basically as a hands-on summary of the book, and as a guide for future projects. Also included is a "Back End" (i.e., appendix) showing some excellent information about each major browser.

Too often, a book or Web site on XHTML/CSS will dwell only on the "how"--this book shows the "how" and still explains the "why": Here's how you set up an id'ed element; here's why we do that, rather than using a class. It's already opened my eyes to many things I thought I had a handle on, but now realize that I only knew in a cursory fashion.

So, ask yourself: Do you want to design a Web site that will work for everyone, regardless of their platform? Do you want to make sure your Web site is future-proof? If so, you need this book.


You can purchase Designing With Web Standards from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Designing With Web Standards

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  • The back cover (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sir Haxalot (693401) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:16PM (#7095476)
    You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again.

    You can get off the merry-go-round.

    It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti code, insanely nested table layouts, tags, and other redundancies that double and triple the bandwidth of even the simplest sites. Instead, it's time for forward compatibility.

    Isn't it high time you started designing with web standards?

    Standards aren't about leaving users behind or adhering to inflexible rules. Standards are about building sophisticated, beautiful sites that will work as well tomorrow as they do today. You can't afford to design tomorrow's sites with yesterday's piecemeal methods.

    Jeffrey teaches you to:

    * Slash design, development, and quality assurance costs (or do great work in spite of constrained budgets)
    * Deliver superb design and sophisticated functionality without worrying about browser incompatibilities
    * Set up your site to work as well five years from now as it does today
    * Redesign in hours instead of days or weeks
    * Welcome new visitors and make your content more visible to search engines
    * Stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines
    * Support wireless and PDA users without the hassle and expense of multiple versions
    * Improve user experience with faster load times and fewer compatibility headaches
    * Separate presentation from structure and behavior, facilitating advanced publishing workflows
    • Re:The back cover (Score:4, Informative)

      by bamurphy (614233) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:28PM (#7095610) Homepage
      I picked up this book about 2 months ago and it really is one of the best buys on my shelf. Zeldman's book and his sites are wounderful resources that not only contain a good deal of info themselves but point you in the right direction to a really great community of like minded, forward thinking developers.

      XHTML & CSS are tough sometimes, and Zeldman's realistic approach to transitioning to a standard web language is refreshing - he's not a zealot.

      I hope more web designers will jump on board this movement - if we ever want to get paid really well and escape the image of the teen with frontpage coding his uncle's website we need to embrace these kind of ideas.
    • Hm. Zeldman. That seemed familiar. Ah, yes! It is the idio^H^HHTML guru that uses light-grey text on white background. Thank $DEITY for CTRL-G in Opera.

    • by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:00PM (#7096476)
      It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti code, insanely nested table layouts, tags, and other redundancies that double and triple the bandwidth of even the simplest sites.

      *sniff* So long, Slashdot, we'll miss you.

  • Mmmhmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by illuminata (668963)
    So, all those things in the book are great and all, but what about Flash? You can do no wrong with flash, you know.
    • Re:Mmmhmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schatten (163083)
      while you believe there is nothing wrong with flash, there is quite a bit wrong with it in how people utilize it on the web. it is great for menus, but only when necessary. it also doesn't account for usability standards in any way shape or form, expecially for accessibility issues when people do not use a mouse, or are reading from a prompter.
    • Re:Mmmhmm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327)

      Read the book title again. And again, until it sinks in. Flash is not a standard, it's a propriatary technology.

    • Re:Mmmhmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by t_allardyce (48447) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:46PM (#7095788) Journal
      Flash isnt a web standard (it has quite a large user base though). The W3C standards answer to flash is SVG which is pretty similar except it ties in with HTML/XML/CSS etc much better, flash is just a hole in the browser where a plug-in is put, while SVG (can also be a plugin) is much more integrated. SVG is also a 'text' based standard like HTML - ie its made up of tags and stuff so its in theory much easier to write generating software for it and link it with server-side scripts and even with client side java/vbs etc scripts (why re-invent the wheel with flash scripting and proprietory expensive server-side software when you can use existing layers like perl,PHP,java,asp, basically anything?). While flash is a more closed system designed by Macromedia to fill a gap in a business like manner, SVG is structually better - kindof like the way HTML tables were/are used to design sites, they are a work around where-as CSS (if the browser supports it properly) is a far better more structured way to do the job.

      Flash probably runs faster and has more support, plug-ins and editors on most computers at the moment but SVG is catching up (also SVG supports compression which is cool so it can match flash in file-size).

      So basically the book would talk about SVG if it talked about any vector/animation system.

      (And without trying to sound like a troll:
      Flash = Cheap Hack, SVG = Potentially Structured Nirvana)
      • Re:Mmmhmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Performer Guy (69820)
        Except that flash is an overly complex implementation nightmare that is never the same on any two platforms especially when you start getting into animations.

        The SMIL animation spec is ambiguous in places and tries to be all things to all men, failing badly.

        Show me one SVG implementation that is adequately functional. Even Adobe's SVG implementation fails miserably on some very simple tests.
    • Re:Mmmhmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:42PM (#7096308) Homepage
      You can do no wrong with flash, you know.

      Ladies and gentlemen, we now have proof of the existance of the Anti-Christ, here on Earth! First, the user name "illuminata" is too Luciferian to be denied. Next, note the Slash UID 668963 containing "the Number of the Beast". Finally, we have the demonic message itself!

      Prepare for the Apocalypse, for it is surely at hand! Slashdot has spoken!

  • Related resources (Score:5, Informative)

    by polyhue (38042) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:20PM (#7095510)
    He also has an excellent list of related resources and links on design and accessibility:

    http://zeldman.com/externals/
    • Re:Related resources (Score:5, Informative)

      by Penguin (4919) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:33PM (#7095663) Homepage
      In general, a lot of the stories at A List Apart is worth reading: http://www.alistapart.com/stories/

      A site worth visiting is http://www.csszengarden.com/ - having lots of alternate stylesheets.

      I'm currently working on a project with a designer w/clue. Everything regarding looks and design has moved into stylesheets. All I have to do is to structure the data in suitable divs/blocks (with regard of continuity for the simple text-based browsers).
  • You mean... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smackjer (697558) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:21PM (#7095519) Homepage
    You mean it's not enough to make sure it works in IE6 on Windows XP?? I wish more web "developers" were concerned with standards. Not only does it make their job easier, it makes it easier to use their sites (assuming the browser developers are equally concerned with standards).
    • You'd be surprised when you use web standards how well IE6 will render the pages.

      The problem I run into a lot is NS4.x, right now I plan on using stylesheets to give NS4 users a very basic layout.

      At this stage of the ballgame, it is not worth sacrificing a design edge if it works in IE6/Moz/NS7 simply because it can't be redone in a timely manner with NS4.

      Anyone else out there doing the same for NS4?
      • Re:You mean... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3 AT phroggy DOT com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:57PM (#7095896) Homepage
        Make your main stylesheet, then figure out which things don't work correctly in Netscape 4 (e.g. the width of a box incorrectly includes the padding, so for NS4 you should add the left and right padding when specifying a width). Where they differ, put the Netscape 4 code in the main stylesheet and the standards-compliant code in a second stylesheet. Comment the main stylesheet so you remember which code is specific to Netscape 4. Then load your stylesheets like this:

        <link rel="stylesheet" href="/main.css" type="text/css">
        <style type="text/css"><!--
        @import url(/not-netscape4.css);
        --></style>

        Any browser except Netscape 4 will load both stylesheets, so the standards-compliant code in the second one will override the Netscape 4-specific code in the main one.
      • Yes. NS4 is seven years out-of-date at this point. IT'S OLD SOFTWARE. Almost anyone using it now is using it because they're afraid of change rather than for any other reason.

        But I do try to make my sites "degrade" nicely for NS4. (I know of a few users of our sites who are stuck with NS4 because even Phoenix is too hard on their systems and they can't afford to upgrade.) If the layout lines up neatly down the left edge of the page in NS4 and the site is still useable, I consider my work done.
    • You mean it's not enough to make sure it works in IE6 on Windows XP?? I wish more web "developers" were concerned with standards. Not only does it make their job easier, it makes it easier to use their sites (assuming the browser developers are equally concerned with standards).

      Keep in mind that it's just as easy to build a standards-compliant site that doesn't work in IE6 on Windows XP. ;-)
      • When I was first doing the main layout for my web site [freezope.org], I tried using fixed positioning for the sidebar. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in IE, so I had to scrap it. Similar things have happened when I used other perfectly valid HTML constructs that weren't supported by the web browser that delivers "The Web the Way You Want It".
    • You're right, most web pages are too browser-specific. (Irony of ironies, slashdot.org has serious display issues on Netscape 7.1.) But it's not because web developers are lazy or stupid. It's because of a very basic mistake made by the people who invented the web.

      The original idea behind the web was that it was a simple distributed application for sharing information at places like CERN [web.cern.ch]. They didn't worry about look-and-feel issues because they didn't think there would be any. If you're just using the we

  • Do you want to design a Web site that will work for everyone, regardless of their platform?
    YES!!!

    Do you want to make sure your Web site is future-proof?
    ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!

    If so, you need this book.
    oh

  • by ColoradoSkier (684478) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:23PM (#7095550)
    Eric Meyer on CSS. I finished Zeldman's book about a week ago and am now going through Eric Meyer on CSS. Zeldman tells you what needs to be done, and gives some examples, Eric Meyer gives you a bunch of practical examples. Guess this is why can be purchased as a pair at Amazon...
  • First Book is Better (Score:4, Informative)

    by Davak (526912) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:24PM (#7095559) Homepage
    I agree that he is an excellent tech writer. However, I thought his first book was much better than this one.

    A Review Can Be Found Here [codekit.com]

    Although I am not very good at web design... what I have learned, I learned from this guy. He rocks.

    Davak
  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:24PM (#7095562) Journal
    The only standards you need to follow are the W3C Web Standards [w3c.org] They even have a validator for your convience if you need to make sure that your code is valid. I did that at my summer internship and over the course of a summer was able to make our 1000+ page website 99% w3c complient. It might take you a few days to get in the rythym of doing things, but once we had our site up to html 4.01 standards, we never had a problem with any browser compatability issues, and we tested all the way back to Netscape 4.7.
    • To add to this, one can follow all the rules making pages comply yet still provide poo usability due to ill-thought layout and navigation on top of a good framework.
      For starters, if you're not familiar with him, here is Jacob Nielsen's site. [useit.com] He is usability guru formerly from Sun.
    • Unfortunately, when browsers (MSIE is the worst of these, and it's getting better) do outright non-standard things, you have to accomodate them. Telling the user that 'well, the unenforceable standard wasn't followed' doesn't make them happy.

      That said, I LOVE standards, but you have to fudge it a lot. I've always coded my HTML a coupla years behind the bleeding edge, and I don't have too many problems.
      • I've always coded my HTML a coupla years behind the bleeding edge, and I don't have too many problems.

        Yes, that's exactly the solution. There is a very large subset of HTML, including much of XHTML/DHTML/CSS/$INSERT_BUZZWORD_HERE, which works just fine in any reasonably recent version of Netscape/Mozilla, IE, Opera, Konqueror/Safari, etc. And frankly, if you're trying to do something outside this subset, you're probably designing a crappy, irritating, overly complex website anyway.

    • A site I'm building has a lot of browser-specific CSS code - stylesheets that will only be loaded by certain browsers. Every bit of it validates at validator.w3.org (except for internet-explorer.css, which is only loaded by MSIE 5 and 6 on Windows, and is loaded using conditional comments which the W3C validator doesn't parse). The problem isn't creating code that the W3C says is valid, the problem is creating code that works as you intend across multiple browsers, which the W3C won't help you with.

      Don't
    • Web standards are not a validator. Remember HTML and XML and thier bastard child XHTML are a DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGES. Every element has SEMANTIC value. Something no validator can check. I've seen too many XHTML sites made by people who clearly have no idea how to implement the standard to make this conclusion. A validator only means it's parsable, it does not mean that a document complies philosophically with the W3C. You'd be surprised at the number of XHTML sites using tables for layout.
  • by Tebriel (192168) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:24PM (#7095565)
    Since when does the web have standards?
  • by phallstrom (69697) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:25PM (#7095577)
    I happened across this site the other day... it really shows off what CSS can do. No idea how it looks in IE, but in Firebird it's pretty amazing. Pick a design from the left and note that it's all style sheets...

    http://www.csszengarden.com/ [csszengarden.com]
    • My first view of this site was like yours. But then I began to think - all these designs are basically similar. A lot of bitmaps, and clever positioning CSS.

      What is more interesting is what is missing:
      1. No liquid layouts.
      2. Few designs that are fully robust against changes in font size.
      3. Almost all designs rely 100% on bitmaps for their graphic design. Has anyone tried a pure CSS no bitmap design using borders, styled text, etc? That's much more of a challenge.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:25PM (#7095581) Homepage Journal
    Where is the completely compliant web site that thet reviewer was designing prior to reading this book? It would be pretty darn interesting to see what it looks like.
  • A Web page that was HTML 3.2 compliant is not standards-compliant at all these days.

    How do we know the W3C won't change the standard AGAIN in three years?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nonsense.

      It is still HTML 3.2 compliant.

      It may not follow the latest standard, but a browser should still be able to render it correctly.

      W3C standards are not changed. New ones are added.
      • And then when XML-only browsers pop up, all these old pages become unviewable.

        Although, that will probably never happen.
        • by rjh (40933)
          And then when XML-only browsers pop up, all these old pages become unviewable.

          Yes. Just like you can't view a WordStar 6.0 document in a Web browser.

          Free hint: XML is not HTML. It's close, but it's not the same. Any HTML document that is conformant to a given HTML specification can be rendered by any competent HTML browser that's conformant to that specification. If you don't believe me, I can find some very, very old web pages that far predate the 4.01 standard, yet are conformant to the standard of
    • Yes it is, as long as its doctype declaration doesn't claim it's XHTML or something. Standards compliance has nothing to do with following the latest standards, it has to do with following some standard. 99% of the stuff on the web today doesn't follow whatever standard it claims to follow.
      • Actually, most sites that claim to adhere to standard xy or z do. The real problem is that most site don't claim any standard at all.

        There are plenty of good sites that are standards compliant, but most sites just don't care, and it's partially due to the fact that some places use bad code (my bank [bbandt.com] for one, which renders the front page, but you can't login [ps, if anyone knows anything about the .fsp extension for pages, let me know] under Moz/NS7; when I contacted them they told me that it was because
    • Re: not true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by polyhue (38042)
      It will be standards-compliant to its specified version number. If you're compliant with HTML 4.01 today, you will be 5 years from now even if the current spec is XHTML 23. You may not be up-to-date, but you're compliant with the specified version, and a client will be able to render the page with the appropriate DTD and so forth. (afaik)
    • My understanding is that the W3C has stated that they intend 4.x to be the last version of HTML. We've about exhausted the markup realm, all extensions will probably be handled with CSS and DHTML.
  • Buy It Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by _newwave_ (265061) <slashdot.paulwalker@tv> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:26PM (#7095593)
    Bookpool [bookpool.com] is always cheaper!
  • It seems to me that the larger problem with web standards' adoptions is that many managers would prefer to just have crap, so long as they can have it "right now", and forego the longterm financial savings that web standards coding can provide. I would like to see a book on how to implement a web standard or two that will really save a lot of time right from the beginning, versus the kinds of major changes that take weeks to months to implement -- weeks & months that no small-business manager wants to pay for.
  • Zeldman.. Hmmph! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cyphertube (62291)

    I like standards. I like accessibility and usability. I hate Zeldman's site. It's like hypocrisy in motion. If I lectured on web design and make sites usable, I might improve my site from where it is.

    Zeldman makes life tough on older viewers, disabled, and newbies. His labels are quippish and arrogant, his colours too similar, fonts too small and not resizeable in the most prominent browser out there.

    Take a look around and you'll probably find better books on standards. Or, if you must, take the gospel of

    • Couldn't you see the rather obvious box for selecting different text contrast/size? He uses alternate stylesheets. That even works in IE6. So no problem in the "most prominent browser".

      But it's easier to complain...
  • by RichardtheSmith (157470) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:30PM (#7095628)
    Forgive me if this sounds clueless, but most people who are given the
    task of setting up a web site are going to be looking at ways to not
    have to do it from scratch. There are a lot of CMS (Content
    Management Systems) out there, some free, some not. What *I* really
    need is an O'Reilly book about CMS that helps wade through all the
    stuff that's out there right now so the reader (me) can make an
    informed decision about which way to go.

    I did a quick check of the O'Reilly web site and all their CMS info
    revolves around XML and Java. This does not help me.
    • It depends on what you need. CMS is a very, very broad term, and most people are looking for a WCMS (Web Content Management System) when they say it, even though their true needs may be different.

      I would recommend getting the Content Management Bible, which you can learn more about here [metatorial.com]. It covers the various systems out there. One company I worked for realised they needed a Digital Asset Management system, like Artesia [artesia.com], and not something like Interwoven [interwoven.com].

      Good luck! And remember that O'Reilly isn't the onl

    • Forgive me if this sounds clueless, but most people who are given the task of setting up a web site are going to be looking at ways to not have to do it from scratch.

      Then this information is equally valuable to those coding those CMS systems, writing the modules that generate HTML and CSS and JS and all that good stuff. Actually, it's more important -- if you're generating HTML from a single module in a larger CMS site, it's essential to use good HTML-compliant code so that it doesn't accidentally break
  • by Greedo (304385) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:32PM (#7095654) Homepage Journal
    Am I the only one who noticed that his website [zeldman.com] is Supported by XDate Speed Dating, 30Dates Speed Dating, and for free online dating, xdate.com?

    Maybe he should take a break from writing and get out to the bar a bit more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:32PM (#7095659)
    Just open up MS-Word and use File-->Save As
    web page
    Voila! You have now created the perfect web page in ten seconds!
    Microsoft takes care of all of the standards stuff so you don't have to worry your pretty little head about that. No really...don't worry.
    No...don't do "View Source"
    NO! Don't! EVERYTHING IS OK!! STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD
  • Taking a few extra steps to ensure standards compliance is well worth it.

    I've found that standard compliant web pages tend to be more interoperable between browsers (sadly, there will still be differences). This makes it easier for you since you won't have to work as hard to find ways to make your site look good in several browsers. It makes it easier for viewers because they can use the web browser they like the best.

    The only problem is that there are a lot of people who still browse on old hardware th
    • Then you must be excluding MSIE from your tests. Getting web pages to successfully validate against the W3C validators is just the beginning.

      So, do you serve up your latest XHTML pages with a standard mime type of "application/xml+xhtml"? Or are you still using the old deprecated "text/html"? Ooops, IE doesn't understand the new standard mime type. Or oops, you didn't realize that was the new standard (it's burried out there on W3C). That's just one very small example of the details you have to deal

  • ... someone could spring and buy a copy for our hosts [w3.org]?

    Granted, some parts of the W3 standards are worth breaking (wrap attributes in textrea inputs, for instance), but c'mon.

    J
  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:44PM (#7095778)
    Reading tech books from start to finish is quite underrated. I find that if you don't read every word in a tech book, one often misses important information that can save a lot of time.
  • Imagine a world where valid xhtml/css websites rendered the same in all browsers. Imagine a world without Internet explorer.... ahhhhhh.

    Unfortunately, very few sites out there that work in all browsers correctly are compliant.

    I guess it's a toss up: have a little validator button proudly displayed somewhere on your site and have a few display errors in Internet Explorer or have a messily coded site that is slow, but works.

    • Unfortunately, very few sites out there that work in all browsers correctly are compliant.

      That's because there are very few sites that are compliant to begin with. Around 99% of the pages on the web don't validate with the W3C HTML validator, including the one you're reading right now!

      I would bet, however, that the pages that do validate tend to work better across all browsers. That's because validated pages don't contain the serious structural problems that are most often the problem on pages that don

  • Standards are nice. It's a cryin' shame nobody follows them though. Sure, it takes considerably longer to make your site standards-compliant and geeze, we can't cut into our bottome line, can we? We gotta get that site out right away. Screw Mac users. Or screw AOL users. Let's just code for IE. It's a nice dream but unfortunately I don't see it being used in the real world.

    Another unfortunate tidbit...I work for one of those places. I know the aggrivation of trying to get compliance through to people who
    • ...it takes considerably longer to make your site standards-compliant...
      I suppose it does if you delberately use IE proprietary code, and then try to make it standards compliant. But if you write standards compliant code from the beginning, it should be just as easy, and then typically the code works perfectly fine in all browsers and is easier to maintain, too.
  • by Jonas Öberg (19456) <jonas@gnu.org> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @01:53PM (#7095862) Homepage
    Our faculty of the university at which I work has decided on a new layout for their web pages. This was done and delivered to us by a PR agency. I feared that it might be bad, but that fear didn't even come close to what I had to witness.

    Imagine having to tell our users (many of which are using GNU/Linux or Macintosh) that our web site only works reliably in Windows with Internet Explorer 6.0 and above. Just because a PR agency can't develop web pages. It's impossible. I had to do something about it.

    So when I implemented the layout for our department (scheduled to go live later this month), I scrapped everything they had done. I took a printout of their page (as it looked in Internet Explorer) and marked up what colors and fonts they had used.

    Then I set down and wrote the same thing using XHTML/1.0 Strict and CSS1. This was about two days work, but the finished result now validates using w3c's validate tools, and it works reliably in all browsers I've managed to try, all the way back to Mosaic and Netscape 3, with or without images (yes, Lynx, Links, w3 and other text browsers work very well indeed too).

    Not only did I get the pages to validate. By using CSS, I was able to get rid of several images they had been using with their design. The overall size of a page, including graphics and CSS, now weighs in at about 35 kbytes. This is compared to around 120 kbytes with the proposed code.

    And even better, most things can be cached by the browser (CSS code and images). The only thing that needs reloading when you hit subsequent pages is the dynamic XHTML code, which weighs in at around 5 kbytes, compares to 40 kbytes in the proposed code.

    Now, I think our students will like us. This result is even better than the pages that we have today. They render quickly and effortlessly even on old equipment or on extremely slow links.

    I havn't been able to convince the faculty to make my code the "default" yet, but they might get the idea once people start noticing that our pages load much more quickly than the rest of the faculty pages.

    So, using standards isn't always about making things render nicely in all browsers. It gives you a while heap of nice side effects that isn't worth sneezing at.
  • Stop IE Now! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by naztafari (696863)
    It's irritating the way the world is enslaved to such an awful spyware-magnet standards-flouting browser as MS Internet Explorer.

    Microsoft declared IE6 SP1 as the last standalone browser for lame-ass reasons. The truth is, they're only truly integrating IE into the next Windows Operating System for the first time, to prove their 'point' in the anti-trust case that they couldn't remove the browser from the OS.

    If IE really was such an integral part of the current slew of windows versions, how come it ta
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:00PM (#7095922)
    It's no surprise [w3.org] that CmdrTaco didn't write this review.

    *cough*

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @02:03PM (#7095941) Homepage Journal
    Using XHTML and CSS makes maintenance a lot easier. It makes for leaner code, which results in faster-loading pages. Zeldman's book shows you how to apply XHTML/CSS in a manner that actually works in the real world. In order to get even more value out of the Zeldman book, check out its logical companion, Speed Up Your Site [websiteoptimization.com], which focuses on optimizing your code for speed, and for search engine visibility.

  • Well isn't all that .asp .net stuff that standard, doesn't everyone have IE. Well then they should be required to or they can't use my web site. I don't want to be bothered with things I can buy from Microsoft. They invented the Web didn't they, no that was Gore, but they wanted to, so we should let them own it.

    Can't wait till we need to apply for visas for our Passport access to other countries.

  • Check out how slashdot made out...

    URI:
    Encoding: iso-8859-1
    Doctype: HTML
    Errors: 407
    Revalidate With Options
    :
    Show Source Outline
    Parse Tree ...no attributes
    Validate error pages Verbose Output

    * Note: The URI you gave me, , returned a redirect to .
    * Line 71, column 115: cannot generate system identifier for general entity "alloc_id"
    * Line 71, column 129: cannot generate system identifier for general entity "site_id"
    * Line 71, column 139: cannot generate system identifier for general entity "
  • ...when is Slashdot.org going to become W3C compliant?

    What's it called when someone tells you do do something, and then does the opposite?

    Oh yes, that's hypocrisy.

  • Do not use style sheets to adjust the font size and the spacing between lines. I am not alone in having a high resolution laptop screen and I've seen too many pages that are unreadable. I adjust the settings in my browser to increase the font size so I can read it. However, when I get to one of these pages where they make the font size really small I adjust the font size so it's big enough to read. However, the font is larger but the spacing between the lines is the same, so all the words are crowded to
  • by faust2097 (137829) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:48PM (#7096949)

    I know most of the /. crew thinks of web design as a frivolity [the people who manage /. certainly do] but adopting CSS [yes, even for layouts] is important for a number of reasons. It introduces structure to the content that makes it easier to generate, maintain and manipulate. It means that people using old/weird clients [yes, even line-mode browsers] can still use your site. It means that search crawlers have a better chance of getting good info from your site. It means that engineers won't have to support wonky javascript for rollovers or browser sniffing. It also means that programmers never get that Friday at 4:30 pm phone call from angry marketroids who are upset that something is a pixel off. Isn't that worth it?

    For designers this is important as well, as it can make your job easier in some ways. It can also make it more difficult, explaining to your client/marketing person/product manager that it's not going to look identical in every browser is a tough sell at this point. Also, web design is finally becoming its own discipline. As designers we are now responsible for helping our clients and coworkers structure their information in ways that is more flexible and useful. We're not painters anymore, we're part of the construction team.

    Is support perfect across all clients? Nope. Will it ever be? Hell no. Is it good enough? YES.

    Here's some links that show off the potential of CSS:
  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @03:51PM (#7096988) Homepage

    If you want the largest audience possible, then using the latest web standards, such as promoted by Zeldman, is not what you want to do. The reason for this is because not all web browsers in current use work with these standards. And there are many reasons people won't or can't upgrade those browsers.

    There is a way to make web pages so that they can use standards, and still work on older browsers. However, you might not like the end result. What you get on the older browsers is a very poor presentation. For example, if you define the look of your page in cascading stylesheets, when viewed on a browser with no support for CSS, you get crap.

    Boundary conditions are even worse. If the browser is a version that tries to support something, and does it wrong, you can get even worse that crap. It might not work at all.

    Mixing standards can cause problems as well. Here is an example. Lots of designers seem to like blue backgrounds for the side rail menus. But lots of web browsers default to blue for hyperlink text. If you specify the color of the text in a stylesheet, but specify the background color of a table cell (or worse, the whole page), in HTML, then you can end up with a situation where some of what you specify is acted on, and some is not. You'd end up with blue text on a blue background, and therefore unreadable.

    It would be great if everyone could upgrade to the latest browser. But if you are trying to reach the widest audience possible, you do have to consider that many in that audience will be using older computers which have smaller drive space, smaller RAM space, slower CPUs, and can only run older versions of operating systems and browser software. While Linux might well be a great replacement for old versions of Windows on those machines, you still have the problem if shaving a recent version of some Linux distribution down to fit, and getting a huge obese browser to run on a tiny, slow, machine.

    Here is an example of a real web site [state.tx.us] done in a way that displays terrible on some browsers. You can see what it looks like in Netscape 4 in PNG [ipal.org], or JPEG [ipal.org], or true color GIF [ipal.org] (works on Netscape 2 and later) formats. If you scan very close in the blue area on the left (this does not work with the JPEG image), you can see that the colors are #5a61a9 for the background, and #5b61a9 for the text (specified by their HTML in the body tag, so they intentionally did this). By radically exaggerating the red plane (e.g. everything #5a and below is made #00, and everything #5b and above is made #ff), you can see (PNG, [ipal.org] JPEG [ipal.org]) the text was really there. And you'd think that a state government would be concerned enough about making their site available to all audiences, including the economically disadvantaged who can just barely even get a computer and internet access. But no, they don't actually care (I talked to these people, and they really don't care). Here is another crappy web site [state.oh.us]. By comparison, this site [wv.gov] and this site [state.pa.us] look fine in this older browser.

    • by telbij (465356) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @12:27AM (#7100908)
      First of all, those sites you mentioned are anything but shining examples of using the 'latest web standards.' Not only do they not validate, but they aren't even attempting to follow Zeldman's philosophy at all. Your close-minded self-righteousness only reveals your lack of knowledge about the web standards movement. Zeldman is no idealist; he is not espousing 'the latest web standards'. He specifically talks about using web standards to solve real world problems. Using his approach you can create sites that look great in IE 5, 5.5, 6, IE Mac 5, Opera, Mozilla, Netscape 6, 7, Konqueror and Safari while degrading to be perfectly accessible in Netscape 4-, IE 4-, Lynx, etc.

      Now, depending on your audience, you may have to make sure the Netscape 4 version looks visually impressive, but don't think for one second that building your site using tables, bgcolor attributes, and font tags will be done without sacrifice. In web design there is ALWAYS sacrifice, it's just a question of what. If you build a web site using Zeldman's method you sacrifice:

      • Complex layout in browsers v4 and under.
      • Certain techniques that were refined during the era of the v3 and v4 browsers for pixel precise layouts.
      Now if you resort to tables and font tags and the rest you are sacrificing:
      • Size - pages quickly become bloated with nested tables, redundant font tags and unnecessary images.
      • Legibility - Everything is nested in table after table with no clear meaning to different tags.
      • Forward-compatibility - You are betting on browser makers continuing to support non-standardized metrics that arose by coincidence.
      • Accessibility - You don't need standards to support accessibility, but the two really go hand in hand. Using HTML tags as they were intended improves accessibility for non-standard user agents. Adding alt attributes, summaries, skip navigation links and more advanced techniques that are possible with standards make your site infinitely more usable for a blind person.
      • Degradability - If your tag soup doesn't work in a browser you likely get something messy. If a browser doesn't support a standards-based page then maybe you lose the text formatting, but the information is still there.
      • Development time - sure standards are hard to use if you've spent 10 years perfecting image slicing and table nesting, but table-based layouts are much more difficult to modify, update, output from server-side scripts, screen-scrape, or otherwise mess with in typical ways that web designers/developers are often asked to do.
      Your excuses for dismissing standards are all red herrings. No matter how you develop, you are going to have to test your pages in all your target browsers anyway. However, using standards gives you a better chance with untested and future browser releases. Of course they are far from perfect, but resorting to outdated techniques doesn't improve the situation, regardless of how comfortable you might be with it.
  • Convince your PHBs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aquitaine (102097) <{sam} {at} {iamsam.org}> on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @04:24PM (#7097311) Homepage
    If you are having trouble convincing management that your site needs to be comply with web standards and you are at all involved with Federal contractors, academia, or any kind of service agency, drop me a line; I am a developer for the Program on Employment and Disability, and we do a lot of work with Section 508/W3C WCAG guidelines in addition to encouraging XHTML, and a big chunk of that is trying to make policy wonks and PHBs aware of these issues in terms that mean things to them. (especially if there is a legal risk to not writing compliant pages, as there is for many people that may not realize it).
  • by linuxbaby (124641) * on Tuesday September 30, 2003 @06:48PM (#7098818)
    Since many Slashdot readers are Mozilla users, I think you'll appreciate this little code bit for your devbox, below.

    This PHP code (and following head tag) put at the very top of any HTML page will tell Mozilla that the .html page following is actually application/xhtml+xml.

    Then if you make ANY little mistake at all in your (X)HTML code, it will completely fail on you, as if it was a script, showing you the exact error and where it lies. It's been a priceless way to check my XHTML syntax without always linking over to w3.org

    <?php
    /* XHTML proper header for browsers that accept it. If using Mozilla, this is a GREAT way to make sure your XHTML validates! */
    if(isset($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT']) AND stristr($_SERVER['HTTP_ACCEPT'], 'application/xhtml+xml'))
    {
    header('Content-type: application/xhtml+xml');
    }
    else
    {
    header('Content-type: text/html');
    }
    ?>
    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN"
    "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd">
    < html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en">
    <head>

    etc. (not sure why slashdot comment is adding ; before html xmlns

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