Buzz Archive: February 2004

The benefits of Web Standards to your visitors, your clients, and you

Presentation to the Web Standards Group, Macromedia User Group and Cold Fusion User Group at MXDU2004: Day Zero. [ Via wg ]

CSS Spec Updates

Word comes in from Tantek Çelik that the CSS Working Group has been busy. The past few days have seen the publication of the following goodies:

Of particular interest is the new ‘reader’ media type, built with screenreaders in mind. Those keeping tabs on the development of image replacement techniques may recall Joe Clark's edifying article on A List Apart last year which highlighted access problems with FIR, and perhaps even his proposal of a new media type around that time. The investigation and follow-up discussion has begun to bear fruit; well done, Joe.

Congratulations to the Working Group for this milestone. (Feedback may be directed to the www-style mailing list.)

XForms Validation

The XForms Institute announced the launch of its new Web service, currently in beta: Free Online XForms Validation. The site also hosts interactive XForms tutorials and content from the O'Reilly book, XForms Essentials authored by Micah Dubinko.

The online service validates XForms documents by URL, file upload and text area input options are coming soon. If an XForms document is not available, the site provides several XForm sample documents to try and an XForms Bookmarklet will allow users to validate from their own browser.

XForms is W3C's name for a specification of Web forms that can be used with a wide variety of platforms including desktop computers, hand helds, information appliances, and even paper.

Additional information about XForms can be found at the XForms FAQ and XForms for HTML authors both at the W3C.

XForms 1.0 became a recommendation on October 14th , 2003.

IE Navigation Just Got Better

We've had the ability to add navigation options via the link element for accessibility purposes for some time now. But as with so much of what ails, user agent adoption has been slow in coming, especially for Internet Explorer.

Users of Mozilla may already be familiar with the Site Navigation Bar, which can be set to appear when additional link related options are available. What's interesting to me is how quickly I became dependent on this toolbar! It's clear that many users who don't need the accessibility assistance will also benefit from having navigation options via the browser, enhancing the user experience of those web sites using link for accessible navigation.

But for users of IE, this feature has never been available, until now. Thanks to Thomas J. Gritzan, folks using IE for Windows can download the free <link> Navigation Toolbar. It's easy to install and even comes with some unusual, useful extras such as a pop-up blocker and a Google search bar.

For an excellent article by Sander Tekelenburg that describes how to use link for navigation, check out “Navigating the WWW”. The article eloquently describes the challenges and working solutions related to link based navigation.

Both the toolbar and article are currently available in English and German.

XHTML Modularization Take Two

Over at the W3C the good folks of the HTML Working Group have released a working draft of Modularization of XHTML 1.0 - Second Edition for community review.

Interesting items in the draft include implementation of abstract modules using XML schemas and a number of corrections based on three years of practical use.

Passing Validation Muster

Whew. We passed the XHTML validation test that Keith randomly conducted. He makes a few good points about how hard it is to stay valid. When validating a page, you fix the errors encountered. Who is to say tomorrow it will validate when you slip in your blog entry or something of the sort. In reality, we strive for validated pages and like human nature, we goof. Keith does a better job of making the point. [ Via Grok]

What is CC/PP and Why Should I Care?

CC/PP is not a new idea - it's been in development at the W3C for some time now. Yet, many web designers and developers are unaware of what it is, much less how it integrates with XML, XHTML and XSLT in an effort to improve device independence.

The W3C offers WaSP and its readers insight into CC/PP and how it is expected to grow and influence our work for years to come.

why you foxy browser, you

The Mozilla Foundation has released version 0.8 of Mozilla Firebird, but with a slick new name, “Firefox”. As the browser proceeds toward its much anticipated 1.0 version release, it continues to please many people with its clean lines, fast rendering, and of course - excellent commitment to web standards.

Along with the Firefox release, there's an updated preview version available for Mozilla Thunderbird, The Mozilla Project's entry in enterprise level email software.

What can we say? Go go Mozilla!

Sweet as chocolate, impenetrable as a Swiss bank vault

A recent study of Swiss administration and corporate sites says that out of 68 sites, only eight are fully accessible.

In their detailed study, based on the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines, they found the usual stumbling blocks:

  • Complex table layouts don't linearize
  • Javascript navigation doesn't work without Javascript
  • Form elements must be clearly labeled
  • Non-scalable text is unreadable
  • Frames with useless names ("Left", "Spacer Right", "Top" etc) are, well, useless

To be fair, only seven sites were declared completely inaccessible; most of the sites were merely very hard to use.

A detailed printed 64-page report is available in German.

Accessible UK train timetable

Great Britain, while famous for many things, is perhaps best known for the efficiency and promptness with which it runs its rail systems.

Each day millions of citizens are transported in comfort and style from the doorsteps of their homes, to offices, schools, shopping centres, and any number of other destinations.

It's travel nirvana.

However — and I'm loath to sully the name of UK transport like this, but the truth must out — this beautiful and admired system has one small flaw: the National Rail Enquiries web site.

Javascript, cookies, and the ability to see iframes are just some of the barriers placed in front of users of this service. Yes, people are being denied the pleasure of interacting with UK rail transport, and it makes my blood boil.

Matthew Somerville was similarly incensed and as a consequence has taken the time to produce an accessible version of the train timetable. This, along with accessible versions of six other sites (Live Rail Departure Boards, Odeon Cinemas, the Hutton Inquiry, the BBC, Directory Enquiries, and a Comic Shop Locator) show that there really is no need to employ such exclusive design strategies.

You can see, and use, all of Matthew's redesigns at

Two DOM3 Modules Reach Proposed Recommendation Status

On Thursday the W3C released the DOM Level 3 Core and Load & Save modules as Proposed Recommendations. This is the final stop on the path to being a full-fledged W3C Recommendation. Both modules will be open for implementation feedback until March 5.

Top businesses ignore accessibility

Businesses are missing a large audience by failing to make their Web sites accessible. A Nomensa FTSE report finds that 79 percent of the Web sites did not provide alternate text for images, 56 percent did not have useful alternate text, and 77 percent did not allow the font size to be rescaled.

I believe this is accurate based on my recent experience of judging Web sites to determine whether or not they should be considered for a nomination based on their quality.

Validator, heal thyself?

A long-standing bug in the W3C's CSS validator is receiving some high-profile attention: Jeffrey Zeldman, fellow WaSP Douglas Bowman, and web design magazine A List Apart discuss the validator's seeming unwillingness to parse Tantek Çelik's Box Model Hack, a popular and long-standing trick used to hide CSS from less standards-compliant browsers.

While there are a number of workarounds available for those looking to circumvent this particular validator quirk, the fact remains that the W3C needs your help in order to improve upon its tools; its applications are open source, and are maintained by volunteer developers as time, work schedules, and personal lives permit. So if you're irked by a particular bug, then grab some source code and get involved. After all, the validators play a large part in making standards-based web development possible — let's try to lend a hand, so that we can keep it that way.

CSS: Beyond the Retrofit

Sure, you've heard the rumors. Heard the kids on the street talking about selectors, inheritance, and structured markup. Want to learn more, but not sure where to start? Well, have no fear — the inimitable Molly Holzschlag is here to help with CSS: Beyond the Retrofit. Taking us from markup to cascade, Molly's article walks us through the fundamentals of CSS, better allowing us to truly code in style.

Okay, it's officially too early to be funny.

Orkut no friend to the blind

Anders Jacobsen points out that Orkut, the latest in a seemingly endless string of social networking clones, fails the most basic accessibility requirement: ALT attributes on images. Specifically, the images that you select to accept or reject someone as your friend.

So-and-so added you as a friend.
Is So-and-so your friend?

Update: Apparently Orkut also uses CAPTCHA images on registration -- images of words distorted to make them difficult to read by computer programs. CAPTCHA images have their supporters; their aim is to make the system more useful overall by preventing spammers from auto-registering thousands of accounts. But thought needs to be put into such a system to make sure it is accessible to as many people as possible. One technique is to provide a link to a music file where the user could type the word they hear. Neither technique satisfies everyone, but the combination of techniques vastly reduces the number of people being discriminated against.

None of the debate over CAPTCHA has any bearing on the original report, though. The lack of ALT attributes on "Yes" and "No" buttons is simply inexcusable.