This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Simplified Standards needs your help

15th June 2005

We’re getting a lot of questions about Simplified Standards at the moment, and I’ll release the aims and objectives of the website and introduce the team in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can help.

A key feature of the site will be the hot standards and accessibility topics covered, such as image replacement, whether to support IE5 Mac, whether to specify font-size in ems, px or percentage, if CSS3 can be played with yet and so on. Essentially, it will be a list of topics that concern developers the most, seeking to offer the consensus of current opinion regarding each, all in one handy page or feed.

So, help us get the ball rolling. Leave a comment simply stating a subject you know has caused you to worry, or had you searching all over the internet for the latest opinion. Alternatively, what do you think are the stumbling blocks that trip up those trying to come to terms with standards and accessibility? Which topics are difficult to keep on top of due to constantly evolving methods or advice?

Responses

# Karl responded on 15th June 2005 with...

I’ll kick off with CSS layouts and nesting floats etc. What’s the best way? I spent ages at places like the noodleincident and glish trying to work it all out and I still find myself tweaking a layout rather than getting it right first time…

# Tom Woolley responded on 15th June 2005 with...

A one-stop shop for all known browser bugs and how to solve them would be great and save a lot of time.

# Anthony Casey responded on 15th June 2005 with...

Cor there are a lots of things, but none are springing to mind…

Float clearing is one, Firefox is much more fussy about it than IE. Is there a way to avoid adding a redundant element just to clear:both? Or is that acceptable?

XHTML 2? How far is that off. I’ve just looked at the seventh draft of the specs, there’s some interesting things in that.

There’s always the old screen size, liquidity arguments.

As I said there’s hundreds of things.

# Steve Dalgleish responded on 15th June 2005 with...

Drop down CSS lists - beyond Suckerfish drop downs - easy to implement examples of horizontal and vertical drop downs.

# Louise Dade responded on 15th June 2005 with...

It would be useful have a central place that lists the current state of individual countries’ accessibility laws in relation to webpages.  For example, most people are aware of the U.S. Section 508 guidelines, but what about other countries?

It could be something like a page/section per country consisting of summaries of the applicable laws (if possible!), links to more information on the country’s government website, as well as any other relevent information.

In plain simple language too, so you can show it to clients and they will understand at least the need for accessibility, if not the actual details of how it works (that’s our job).

Also, a table of where the laws are similar, and crucially, where they differ would be useful.

# Tim responded on 15th June 2005 with...

I would also consider “Cross-browser compatible forms” as a topic. Regarding styling and interactivity:

  • Scalable textfields with background-images that fit the current font-size.
  • <li>Accessible selections with custom graphics (select-box or DOM-scripted unordered list?)Form validation and error feedback using the DOM.
  • Techniques for scalability in general (as mentioned before)

There is knowledge on several accessibility-sites and references but it’s tricky sometimes.

# Tim responded on 15th June 2005 with...

Uh. And not to forget to fill out forms correctly and avoid restricted tags… Sorry. Looked good in the live preview.

# Alex Armstrong responded on 15th June 2005 with...

This is a great idea and here are some of my questions?

Accessibility:
Content or Nav first?
Should the whole design grow or just fonts (I’m thinking real world examples here)?
Title attribute: does it have a point - if most screen readers DON’T read it out by default.

# Faruk Ateş responded on 15th June 2005 with...

Is it okay if I don’t really have any questions to ask but rather, answers to give? Or are you figuring you have your team put together already and you don’t need any additional help answering the questions?

(is there place for one more on the team? This may be very useful given my own project that I told you about…)

# Jeremy Flint responded on 15th June 2005 with...

One question that comes up for me a lot of times is Forms. Is it ok to use a table for form layout? Should I make use of the fieldset and label elements?

I also get questions about pixels vs. ems vs. percentages vs. keywords (small, x-small, etc.).

# Marty Stake responded on 15th June 2005 with...

When (and if), outside of a main content area, is appropriate to use differently-styled headers as opposed to paragraphs or definition lists… I.E. should headers in sidebar text carry the same weight as the headers in the content area?

# mike responded on 15th June 2005 with...

I think my biggest worry/concern/question/topic has to be IE7 and what fix’s will it have and what problems will it caus to some of those hack’s everyone has been using. will a site need hours of repairs, days? weeks? that I believe is a great subject

# LintHuman responded on 16th June 2005 with...

I remember that Gez Lemon once had an assistive device chart (screen readers and such) that listed their behaviour under certain conditions. It’s no longer at Juicy Studio and I don’t know what became of it. In the light of new DOM-based Web applications, a resource that covered the behaviour of assistive devices would be invaluable.

# Jesse responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Hrm… Thinking of the state of web dev on my campus…

Browser hack best practices and how to manage them, positioniseverything is a cool resource but is it the best? IE7 the script seems like a reasonable solution - is it?

JS do’s and don’t with perhaps a library of scripts to try and combat DW-esque code. I like the whole ‘use JS for good not evil’ approach.

Acceptable browser list - maybe include the date the browser it was released and on what platform. Maybe even list the known exploits and then link to ‘browse happy.’ ;) Guess browse happy should really have that….

Forms, tables, and tigers.. oh my. I think both forms and tables are probably the most screwed up thing in the WYSIWYG editors 99% of our 500K web pages are created in. Be nice to really put companies like Macromedia on the spot for it… but to be PC, educate the users of said technology with how to make their stuff better.

That is all for today ;)

# Andy Beeching responded on 16th June 2005 with...

A section dedicated to sorting out IE quirks would be useful. Poistioniseverything is fine, but for the newbie CSS designer, all the terminology and jargon can make for some fairly dry reading, and at the end the solution is still not quite clear sometimes. Perhaps some sort of wizard/diagnosis app would be cool.

You could split all of IE’s varying browser quirks into groups, and let a user drill down to find out their answer. For example, floats not aligning right—> 3px jog diagnosed, solution apply this to that.

Text below 1 em not resizing right? Apply this and this to fix etc..

Also, best practises with lists for navigation.. when to use ul, or dl? And float or inline tutorials (basic emulation of effects that many have achieved with tables)

# Kate responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Something I’ve been meaning to work on — a non-techie list of the WCAG checklist.

Not too simple, obviously, but something I can give a graphic designer and say “Okay, this is what we need to design for.  Can we do that?”

# Matthew Pennell responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Did anyone say image replacement yet?

Mobile design.

What to use for a graphical button (img? image-replaced text? button?)

Hack management (might be old ground, but good to have it centralised).

Ooh - a central database for webmasters to provide their browser resolution and OS data, so it can be aggregated and we can see how many people are still on 800x600, etc. (might have to exclude techy sites though)

Um… do they all count as standards?

# Martin Smith responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Access Keys - when, how, standard keys
Forms - Tables, no table? legends - no legends? Fieldsets if only using a couple of fields?
Text resizing - ems, %, px
Contrast
Fixed or stretch?
accepted site width - 640, 800, 1024?
Backward compatability - IE5!!!
Sausages - grilled, fried or baked?
Dress to the left or right?

# Simon Collison responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Awesome feedback, folks. A few of the suggestions we’d already considered, but it’s interesting to see why some are so problematic.

I’ll admit that the site will need to grow, so not everything will be covered immediately, but we’ll give it a go.

Also, the aim of the site is to be simple, and we’re keen for it not to grow into a monster. We’ll take some key subjects and run with them.

Thanks for feedback. More welcome, but please, no more emails asking to be part of the team - the briefing room is full.

# Faruk Ateş responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Kate,

A project of mine is going to provide a designer-friendly version of the WCAG checklist (as well as the entire WCAG itself, along with a non-official set of guidelines). If you want to help (or anyone else for that matter), give me a shout…

# PlinkyPlonk responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Hi! I’d like to just say I think this is a great “why hasn’t this been done before” idea!

I’m quite new to CSS, what I’d like to see is a solid standard use of using CSS - for example, the best way to layout a site from scratch.

Also what I’d like to see isn’t something preachy about using no tables. I can’t see why they’re so evil. Since the uptake of style sheets and the move towards ‘DDA compliancy’ (here in the UK, I think it’s called something different in the US), ironically eveything seems to break. For every screen reader that can read a page OK, I’m sure there are 50 users that can’t see sites and give up because they’re using IE on the Mac. Light use of tables seems to work around the problem… Even big sites don’t display properly. Multimap doesn’t even display properly.

The more I read about CSS the more I get confused… excuse my naivety, but can’t many of the ‘box model’ problems be sorted out by specifying a ‘strict’ doctype - will that force IE into playing ball?

Anyway, I suppose what I’d like to see is something easy to use, structured, well-explained (on a level that easy for laymen to understand). Education is the main thing to push this way of working further. For everyone who’s probably read this and thinks I’m dumb for questioning why tables are evil, you need to get a take-up for everyone who’s outside this ‘CSS-club’ and get an environment set up where people shouldn’t be afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions. Not everyone is (or is required to) work at the cutting edge. It needs to have low-level support to get people into it. After years of letting Dreamweaver bodge things, it’s a culture shock for designers to work in this ‘new’ way!

Great idea, btw

Plinky

# JohnO responded on 16th June 2005 with...

A central repository (perhaps final word???) on serving XHTML as text/html.  The discussion has taken place over many spread out areas/blogs.

# Rob Waring responded on 16th June 2005 with...

The browser vs. feature table would be great if you can get it on CC or similar. I also like the sound of a list of user agent percentages with multiple people inputting on it.

# stu responded on 16th June 2005 with...

Heading tags ... what are the best/correct ways to use them, why does having a

then a

cause problems for some validators, etc.

# Sticky responded on 17th June 2005 with...

Great idea yet again! 

For people trying to teach themselves CSS there are *so* many different tutorials out there and some contradict each other, some don’t cover one particular item whereas another one that does cover it, ignores something else.  So you end up reading twice the amount you really want to.  A simple table of popular tutorials and what they cover would be nice.  (Which is probably quite a lot of work)

Another useful thing would be a glossary - written in ‘proper English’ (and other languages if possible).  So when you read somewhere about a “class selector” you can pop to this section of your site and read what it actually means, with useful example.

Quite a few other things have been mentioned already - such as use of javascript, background images do’s and don’ts etc. 

One more possible idea.  When I was recently looking for browser statistics regarding what resolution people browse the interweb at I found literally hundreds of results all of which gave completely different readings.  The same goes for cookie availability and JavaScipt useage.  A central table for this sort of data would be most excellent!

Bravo on another great idea.
My Burgerman print has its own frame and is pride of place on my desk now :)

Sticky

# Matt Sephton responded on 17th June 2005 with...

An overview of browser usage statistics.

Tom Woolley, you need to go to www.quirksmode.org

# Charles Roper responded on 18th June 2005 with...

I’d go with a set of ‘best practice’ articles. There are so many techniques out there, it’s difficult to know which to use in any given situation. For instance, what’s best practice for 2/3/4/x column layouts; what’s best practice for IR; best practice for liquid layouts; best for graceful degredation and progressive enhancement; accessibility; browser hacks. The list could go on and on. Some step-by-step case-study style tutorials would be excellent too. Like this, for example: http://www.maxdesign.com.au/presentation/wentworth/

# Jason Liske responded on 19th June 2005 with...

IE mac? Are you kidding me?

whats that like .5 % of the market?

# Simon Collison responded on 20th June 2005 with...

Jason: I assure you IE5 Mac is an issue many developers have to think about. We’ve built sites for whole teams where they’re all still on OS 9, and you simply cannot tell a client that it’s ok because nobody else will be using it. How can a client be happy if what they see on IE5 Mac is a horrible site? I’ve also worked with a lot of clients in publishing who still use OS 9. Many people never made the jump to OS X, and we have to consider them.

# Dave responded on 20th June 2005 with...

Future updates of CSS2 and beyond. Where these will beable to work in existing browsers

# Paul Watson responded on 20th June 2005 with...

A summary of standards support on the various mobile phone and pda browsers is urgently needed. 

If I want to find out the exact pixel layout that IE5.2 Mac on a G4 with a certain screen size will give a particular CSS layout there are 500 websites that will tell me (and a few that will give me a screen capture if I type in my URL). 

Now try to find out how it will look on a Motorola V980 or a Nokia or…

There’s just no information on this subject.

# Olly responded on 21st June 2005 with...

Two I can think of:

- Print Stylesheets - best practses here.

- Zoom layouts.

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