Buzz Archive: January 2004

XML Basics

Starting last month, Intranet Journal ( began hosting a series of articles on the topic of XML. These short articles help to demystify XML. A document authored with XML allows for the transformation and sharing of data or content between various devices and people.

The first article,
XML Basics and Benefits (12/08/2003)

A second article in the series,
XML Basics, Part II: The Key Concepts (1/13/2004)

Both articles are authored by P. G. Daly. A third article is planned(February 2004?) and will give a full XML example using a movie catalog. Information about the terms well-formed and valid along with the distinction between these terms will be given.

Definition Lists

Definition Lists: misused or misunderstood?

“There are two points of view about the use of definition lists. Some people believe that definition lists should only be used for terms and definitions. Others believe that definition lists can be used to tie together any items that have a direct relationship with each other (name/value sets). This second point of view is supported by an example within the W3C specifications…”

For this and other helpful advice on the humble <dl>, don't miss Max Design's article.

The Business Case for Web Accessibility

Continuing the subject of accessibility, Andy Budd wrote a good article last week that makes the business case for catering to the widest audience possible. Andy identifies groups of people who have problems accessing the web, and explains how building web sites they are able to use can positively impact your bottom line.

Accessibility: Looking Good

Still not convinced that good design can be accessible? Canada has no specific accessibility laws, per se, but that hasn't stopped my fellow countrymen Scott Baldwin and Michael Clarke from leading the way.

Announced by Scott last year, a recent press release outlines the Vancouver-based North Shore Credit Union's push for accessibility on their web site. The first credit union in Canada to do so, and indeed a pioneer in the financial industry when it comes to equal access on the web, NSCU also succeeds in looking good.

And heading to the east coast, Michael has just launched the official web site for the annual Rolling Rampage wheelchair 10k race. It looks incredible, while supporting most AAA guidelines. An interesting debate sparked by the site has sprouted on AccessifyForum, which asks how accessible an accessible site really is. But the implications go well beyond Rolling Rampage alone, and shouldn't distract from the great job Michael has done.

Bravo to both designers and their clients for having the vision to go beyond the status quo and offer some truly excellent and socially responsible work!

Online Event: IT Accessibility

The Information Technology Technical Assistance & Training Center (ITTATC) Announces An Audio Conference on January 26, 2004 from 2-4 PM ET.

The Third Annual State Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Initiatives: STATE OF THE STATES

This event is free. Registration information available.

The audio conference will provide information on laws, policies, programs and processes that have been implemented at the state level. Panelists will address strategies to improve accessibility - laws, policies and programs. Panelists will also address Accessible Information Technology: the benefits, the roles of implementation, successes, challenges, and ongoing needs.

The event will be moderated by Deborah Buck, Director of State IT Accessibility Programs for ITTATC, and Michael Morris, Chair of the ITTATC State IT Initiatives Workgroup. Panelists will include key participants from various states. A question and answer period will be included.

Previous events are available as captioned videos or transcripts at the ITTATC: Webcast Archives

Upcoming ITTATC events.

Feb 4, 04 | Washington , DC
4th Annual Web-Enabled Government Conference and Exhibition

Feb 17, 04 | Online Event
Designing Universally Accessible Web Resources

ITTATC provides accessibility training and technical assistance related to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act for industry, state officials, trainers, and consumers.


W3C has promoted the XHTML Print module to Candidate Recommendation status today. Aimed at low-end printers and sub-optimal printing conditions, the design objective of XHTML-Print is to provide a relatively simple, broadly supportable page description format where content preservation and reproduction are the goal.

CSS Filters

A time will come when you simply can't get a CSS-based design working well across the browsers. While there is still debate on the potential side effects of using them, CSS hacks and filters will frequently get you out of a jam. When used wisely and judiciously, they can be a life-saver.

To that end, Chris of Dithered has put together an astounding compendium of more or less everything that is currently known about targetting browsers and hiding CSS.

W3C sets recommendations for mobile Web standards

W3C pushes handheld devices forward with its approved technical specs for mobile Web standards. The spec, Composite Capability / Preference Profiles (CC/PP): Structures and Vocabularies 1.0, enables mobiles phones and PDAs to communicate with Web servers. The CC/PP 1.0 spec uses RDF (Resource Description Framework).

Lunch, Internet Explorer, and You

Robert Scoble, a Microsoft employee and prominent weblogger, recently had lunch with Microsoft's Internet Explorer team. You read that correctly: there is an IE team, and they're apparently hard at work. After providing some insight into how the development team operates, Robert asks his readers what they'd like to see from IE's developers. Looking for improved standards support in Redmond's ubiquitous browser? Weigh in with your own thoughts via Robert's weblog.

Developer Toolbars

Wouldn't it be nice to have one-click access to the validators? And surely there's an easier way to snap your browser window to a specific resolution without manually dragging a corner? Wouldn't the world be a better place if you could turn CSS off at any time, and back on again just as easily?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, you need a developer extension for your browser. Steve Faulkner has recently released one for Internet Explorer called the Accessibility Toolbar, but the features go far beyond simple accessibility checks.

There are a few options for Mozilla/Netscape/Firebird/Camino: we've mentioned Checky in the past, which has since hit version 2.0. Also available is Chris Pederick's Web Developer, and WaSP's own Chris Casciano has put together another called the PNH Developer Toolbar.

Update: Michael Cacciottolo informs us of his MOZiE, which offers previews in both MSIE and Mozilla on top of one-click access to many of the same functions as the toolbars mentioned.

WaSP Interviews: Ryan Carver

This third edition of WaSP Interviews talks to Ryan Carver about the standards-based redesign of Lee Jeans'

Ryan discusses the Google boost for the site thanks to his clean markup, the heartache of flicker, the heartbreak of licensing creative work, and a brilliant technique for using the cascade part of Cascading Style Sheets. Read the interview.

Nice Menus!

Better late than never. Posted last month, SuperfluousBanter's Didier Hilhorst explores some smokin' menu effects in The Art of Navigation.

As noted in the text, some usability and accessibility best practices were harmed in the making of these menus. Proceed with caution (but be prepared to drool).

Standards On Your Bookshelf

As though you needed more proof that 2003 was a great year for standards, check out the Best Books for 2003 compiled by The Designer's Bookshelf. Surrounded by a trove of excellent titles, the only two books listed under "Best in Web Design" are Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards and fellow WaSP Molly Holzschlag's Cascading Style Sheets: The Designer's Edge. It can't be coincidence that these best-of-breed books both deal with web standards, can it?


Horizontal and vertical centering, together at last. Joe Gillespie shows us how at Web Page Design For Designers.

PHP and Web Standards Conference

PaWS is the PHP and Web Standards conference, scheduled to take place from February 20th to 24th in Manchester, England. The call for papers has gone out, with a deadline for submissions of January 17th. The dual focus on PHP and standards based web development should make for some interesting discourse.

:hover in MSIE

You may have seen the Pure CSS Menus demo on Eric Meyer's css/edge, it has been around for a while. The premise: pure CSS menus, no scripting necessary. The catch: they don't work in Internet Explorer.

Well, not so fast. Thanks to Peter Nederlof, with a slight bit of script-based tweaking you can work around this. See his explanation and demo page. (box model errors plague the latter, which means IE5 won't display the style as intended, although it should demonstrate the behaviour regardless)

What makes this solution better than complex DHTML-based menus? Structure, baby, structure. View the source XHTML for a quick peek at the simple list of <ul> and <li> elements. The result: a clean separation of content and presentation, semantically proper code and generally accessible menus.

Standards '03

We're back, and we brought presents! The holidays have kept most of us at WaSP away from the nest, but rest assured that 2004 will ring in some big new developments around here.

For now, let's look back on the year that was. Here are some highlights (and a few inevitable lowlights) of 2003:













And last, but definitely not least, it was discovered during the course of re-capping that we somehow missed announcing our two newest members late last year, Simon Willison and Dunstan Orchard. Whoops, sorry about that boys. A belated and much-deserved welcome to you both.