Buzz Archive: January 2005

Once Bitten...

Sam Palmisano, the CEO of IBM, challenged his entire company to migrate to Linux for their desktop systems by the end of this year. Turns out things aren't going so well.

IBM is running into this one tiny little problem. You may have heard of it, it's called Internet Explorer. See, many internal IBM web applications were written with IE-proprietary code, and darned if that isn't just one big, huge migration hurdle right there.

If the object lesson here isn't obvious enough, this is the point: When you code for a single browser, you create a tight lock-in to that particular software that you will later regret. Instead, if you embrace web standards and code for any browser, your sites and applications will continue to work without a costly code re-purposing budget.

I Got An “Easy Button” For You

If you’re an especially sharp-eyed WaSP reader and you’re shopping for office supplies, you might have seen that Staples just redesigned their customer rewards center. While the new look isn’t a huge departure from the old yellow ‘n’ red, things under the hood look quite different—the site’s new layout is driven entirely by CSS and (oh-so-nearly valid) XHTML. One can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of things to come for other Staples properties—guess we’ll wait and see.

Ain't suspense fun?

Ground Up, Accessibility

In a Digital Web Magazine article this past week, a W3C web accessibility specialist Matt May offers up a short primer for web designers. The article, Accessibility From The Ground Up, gives a quick overview and answers key questions regarding accessible web design.

Accessible design or authoring may seem like a challenge, though checking work can be easy for important items. Manual checking is often needed, and some items may not require complicated software or additional tools. For instance, my mouse is beginning to misbehave and I need to use the keyboard to navigate websites and search pages. Over the past few weeks, I am again discovering just how difficult it is to navigate online content using a keyboard. Toss your mouse in a drawer or out of use and visit your sites, perform web searches, or work online without your mouse for an hour, a few hours, or the day. Work with your software and no mouse. (I give this challenge to students during accessible design lectures.) You will see how difficult it can be and you may discover some ways your web content and tools can be delivered or improved for others using keyboards. Rearranging content, links, or search boxes may make the web content much more accessible. Many people may not use a mouse, including those using portable and handheld web devices, people with a broken mouse (like myself), and those who cannot use a mouse (motor of physical disabilities, blind users, etc). You may find some content or tasks cannot be accessed without a mouse.

Of additional interest is an excerpt from the last section of the article,

Getting help from your vendors

And speaking of tools, unless you're doing all of your work in Notepad, you should be asking for more from your authoring tool.

Matt makes many quick, and excellent points in this article. We should remember to take the time to ask for improvements in our Browsers, Media Players, Application Software, and Authoring Tools. Unless we ask, the software or application developers may not realize just how important these items are for its users or consumers. Though improvements are happening, there is a need for better accessibility, standards, and CSS support. You might wonder how to ask for improvements... Comment at forums, supply feedback, utilize contact methods or mail, join the beta testing forums/teams where or when possible, or make a phone a call. Ask other people to do the same.

Because You KNow Someone Will Ask...

Every once in a while, you might wind up with a project sponsor who since 1997 hasn't let go of their opinion that aniGIFs are the panacea for web design ennui.

For you hapless, Bruce Lawson has adapted the CSS Zen Garden template.

[Warning: may cause seizures in susceptible viewers.]

[From L. Michelle Johnson, who swears she got it from WaSP Co-Founder and Emeritus Zeldman]

Buzzwords, Web Design, and Me

There is a saying amongst engineers:

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

Making the rounds is an AP Wire story admitting that the stench hasn’t gone away: “Tech Marketing Words Getting Scrutiny.”

At the very least, I can relate. As of the end of September, web site design and production had been a going concern in my life for nine years.

So where was I during the high times five years ago? I was resolving personal grief, but almost as much I was ducking the bullshit.

This thought keeps on coming back to me, as I was invited to participate in a panel at this year’s SXSW Interactive (but had to turn down the invitation on account of finances). I won’t disclose the panel topic (partly because the IA of doesn't allow me to link to the description of the event), but knew before I refused that institutional politics will loom hugely over the entire discussion — and told the organizer as much when she asked for my feedback.

Institutional politics, and the buzzwords that feed them, are a huge obstacle to standards adoption.

When the Web Standards Project was founded in 1998 — as the buzzword dot com mania was in its ascendancy — the goal was simple: agitate and educate so that any given page or site, free of hacks, conditionals, plugins, and grief, would meet fairly exacting sponsor expectations.

On the user agent side, that goal has nearly been achieved in terms of its original scope: most web browsers with a version number higher than four (and new browsers published in the past few years) need little in the way of hacks, conditionals, plugins, or grief to render site designs created with standards friendly production techniques in mind .

The new target is education and outreach, and buzzwords — rather, the lack of them! — are a big part of that.

The following paragraphs, near to the conclusion of the wire story cited, especially stole my attention:

“Ryan Donovan, a Hewlett-Packard Co. public relations director, concedes that terms like ‘data migration’ and ‘optimizes agility’ — both of which are found in the company's press materials — might confuse average readers. But the company uses those phrases in documents intended for technology experts and executives, he says.

“ ‘This is the language that they’re comfortable with, and it’s our job to make sure that we’re speaking to them in a language that they understand,’ Donovan says.”

I want a ticket to the planet that Mr. Donovan lives on, just to see what it’s like. The language they speak there must be quite the sugary creature, and with my sweet tooth I’m sure I’d be entertained beyond the limits of good sense.

...Because I like parody and caricature.

The WaSP’s non-buzzwords, meanwhile, aren’t sugary, but piquant:

  • low-maintenance
  • style
  • works
  • fast
  • productivity
  • simply

...And so on.

One of the WaSP’s goals for the first half of this year is to launch a new site at this location that will point directly to our education and outreach goals. Learn resources will be updated and expanded, and features will be added to the site that will make it easier for those outside of our core group to make a visible contribution to the WaSP’s goals.

We promise that it’ll be buzzword-free... especially since buzzword mania was the biggest contributor to the problems the WaSP was founded to solve.

Macworld Expo and Web Standards: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I just got home from Macworld Expo, and I spent some time looking around through the eyes of someone who cares about Web standards…

The good: If you have OS X, and you don't have TextWrangler 2.0 from Bare Bones, go download it now. It's okay, I'll wait. Back now? Hey, it's free, it's from the same folks who make the amazing BBEdit, and did I mention that it's free? It doesn't have quite all the same features as BBEdit, but you should check it out if haven't yet. BBEdit is simply the finest text editor money can buy on OS X, and TextWrangler is a good way to get that first taste that'll make you want more.

The bad: Apple's newly-announced Pages application looks like a wonderful little lightweight page layout program… and a terrible disaster as a HTML editor. Yes, it does let you export as HTML but trust me, you shouldn't. The number one complaint about MS FrontPage is that it has a tendency to make pages that only look good in IE/Win. Pages created in Pages don't even look good in Safari.

The ugly: The only thing that looked worse than the way Pages-generated pages looked in Safari was how "View Source" looked for those same pages in Safari. Any application newly released in 2005 that doesn't know how to add a DOCTYPE to the page, well, shouldn't be used to create pages. Please.

Apple, please, please — either fix the HTML that Pages creates, or remove the HTML option entirely. The last thing the Web needs is more crap.

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