[webdev] Web Design Update: March 26, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Sun Mar 26 08:05:51 CST 2006

- Volume 4, Issue 40, March 26, 2006.

An email newsletter to distribute news and information about web design 
and development.


SECTION ONE: New references.
What's new at the Web Design Reference site?
New links in these categories:

05: FLASH.
10: PHP.
12: TOOLS.
15: XML.

16: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Breaking Barriers
By Mike Cherim.
"...We often speak of adding things, features, in the name of 
accessibility. And it's true, we can and do, but more often than not, 
these things we 'add' are not to make the page accessible, but rather 
to break down the barriers we put up rendering it inaccessible when we 
made it work well and look cool. We're not going to suggest you don't 
put up these barriers then break them down with features, but thinking 
about it this way may make the process a little more understandable to 
some. When thinking in this light a good developer can analyze 
everything added to the page, identify its inherent barriers, and find 
features or work-arounds to make sure they don't impede disabled users. 
(For the record, by disabled we don't mean it the way you may be 
thinking. Anything can be a disability: lousy equipment, slow 
connection, a handicap? it can all be classified as a user disability. 
It all counts.)"

The Importance of Human Evaluation
By WebAIM.
" The two basic approaches to accessibility evaluation are: 1.) Use a 
software tool. 2.) Use a human evaluator. Usually the best approach is 
to use both a software tool and a human evaluator. Each approach has 
strengths and weaknesses which complement the others and form a more 
complete approach to Web accessibility evaluation. People with 
disabilities can be especially valuable as accessibility evaluators, 
though this approach also has weaknesses."

Improving the Accessibility of Your Web Site
By The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
This document "provides guidance for fixing accessibility barriers in 
existing Web sites. It describes strategies for identifying priorities, 
developing a retrofitting plan, and repairing accessibility barriers 

PAS 78: A New Standard in Web Accessibility
By David Sloan.
"A new UK standard relating to web site accessibility was formally 
launched at an event in London on March 8th 2006. Having commented on 
the draft of the standard last summer, I traveled down to London to 
find out how the published version had evolved."

PAS 78 Launch
By Mike Davies.
Mike's summary of the recently launched PAS 78.

Fisking PAS 78
By Joe Clark.
"...The specification has a lot of typos and is inconsistent in several 
places, to be discussed below. However, I believe the authors have 
succeeded about 85% in achieving a document that teaches untrained 
people how to manage developers and user testing to arrive at an 
accessible Web site. A bit more writing might resolve the remaining 

I'm visually impaired and I can't see the word verification image.
By Google.
Google has enabled a system where blind and vision-impaired users can 
bypass the dreaded CAPTCHA.  Users can request access by email, and 
have access in 24 hours.

Google Struggles with Accessibility as Services Expand
By Christopher Danielsen.
"On the surface, the popular Web search engine Google seems to be 
completely accessible to those of us who are blind. The site has a 
simple design, and all of its links and graphics are properly labeled. 
If all you want to do is a simple Web search, you'll get along with 
Google just fine..."


New Clearing Method Needed for IE7?
By Roger Johansson.
"With the release of the MIX06 build of Internet Explorer...Microsoft 
has declared IE7 'layout complete'. What that means is that no new CSS 
features will be added. This is what you get in the final IE7, though 
there may still be bug fixes. So, now is the time to start testing..."

MIX 06
By Dave Shea.
Dave reports that the  latest IE7 supports the min-width and max-width 
CSS properties, and presumably min-height and max-height.

Nifty Corners Cube
By Alessandro Fulciniti.
"...Nifty Corners Cube, the third version of the javascript and CSS 
solution to get rounded corners without images, has been published 
today. Several are the improvements introduced from the previous 
versions: most of all, I think they're now easier to apply. If you're 
curious, just head over the article. Enjoy!"

Levels of CSS Knowledge
By Emil Stenstrom.
"When you promote web standards, like many of us do, you get to talk to 
a lot of people. If you promote it in a live chat room like #CSS on 
EFNet it gets even clearer: there are a lot of different levels of CSS 
knowledge out there. This article is going to list some of those levels 
along a rating of how this kind of developer will affect the web. Here 
we go..."

Degradable Backgrounds for Liquid Layouts
By Christian Montoya.
"I wrote an article about degradable backgrounds for liquid layouts. 
It's all about designing websites the way you might design a fixed 
width website, but still allowing them to shrink down to smaller 


Usability Heuristics Explained
By John Wood.
"Heuristic evaluation is one of the most common ways of identifying 
usability problems on your website. It involves checking a site against 
a set of good practice guidelines called heuristics, the most commonly 
used set of heuristics being those published by Jakob Nielsen. While 
this technique is quick and easy to learn, it can be hard to relate 
abstract guidelines to real site features. This skill comes with 
practice, but to get up and running here is some guidance on 
interpreting the Nielsen's guidelines."

Hotspots and Hyperlinks: Using Eye-tracking to Supplement Usability 
By Mark C. Russell.
This article discusses how eye-tracking can be used to supplement 
traditional usability test measures. User performance on two usability 
tasks with three e-commerce websites is described. Results show that 
eye-tracking data can be used to better understand how users initiate a 
search for a targeted link or web object. Frequency, duration and order 
of visual attention to Areas of Interest (AOIs) in particular are 
informative as supplemental information to standard usability testing 
in understanding user expectations and making design recommendations."

Two Simple Post-Test Questions
By Jared Spool.
"This simple technique of asking two questions often provides us some 
nice insights into where the participant's mind is at and the lasting 
impressions they had from the test experience."

Site Audits 1: Introduction to Site Audits
By David Moore.
"You have a website, and you've been checking its performance against 
the targets you set during its planning (you did set measurable 
targets, didn't you?). You're also monitoring the traffic figures and 
feedback regarding the site. So far so good, but you still not might 
not be getting a real sense of how well your site is functioning - is 
the content up to date and well-written, does the search feature work 
well, are the navigation and orientation clear? A structured evaluation 
can deliver real benefits, providing a detailed picture of your current 
site, helping you create a prioritized roadmap for improvements.

Site Audits 2: How to Conduct an Audit
By David Moore.
"Reviewing your site is important, but there are many different 

Site Audits 2: How to Conduct an Audit
By David Moore.
"In the previous article in this series, we looked at the basics of 
site audits, including why they're useful and the different approaches 
to auditing. This time, we'll look in more detail in how to conduct a 
site audit, using the 'light' version of our auditing tool as a guide."

Site Audits 3: Benchmarking and Recommendations
By David Moore.
"In the previous two months we've looked at why you should carry out a 
site audit, and how best to do it. This month, we conclude the series 
by exploring how to make best use of the information you've gained from 
the audit."

How Personas and Scenarios can Change your Website for the Better, part 
By John Wood.
"This is the first of two articles in which I'll be making the business 
case for using personas and scenarios to improve your website. I'll 
give you a flavor of what's involved in using the personas and 
scenarios and provide a few examples of the kinds of problems we've 
solved for our clients using these techniques. In this first article, 
we'll look at the core concepts of personas, leaving scenarios until 
next month."

+04: EVENTS.

MERLOT International Conference
August 8-11, 2006.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

+05: FLASH.

A Modern Approach to Flash SEO
By Geoff Stearns.
Geoff advises designers who want search engines to index the contents 
of their Flash files to fully separate content from presentation and 
behaviour, and use JavaScript to progressively load the Flash content.


Card Sorting for Intranet Information Architecture
By Nick Besseling.
"A relatively large navigation list (about 50 content areas) of 
'un-substructured' finance related material. The intranet in question 
uses single menu pages for each of 8 main information groups and the 
above list was part of the wider finance information group. Some work 
had already be done on other subsections (i.e purchasing). But the rest 
of the content, which included policies, procedures and other reference 
material, was all in the same sub-section. The list was structured by 
alphabetical order only."


How to Bluff Your Way in DOM Scripting
By Aaron Gustafson and Jeremy Keith.
South by Southwest presentation slides.

JavaScript Arrays: Pushing, Popping and Shifting
By Jagadish Chaterjee.
"This is the fourth article in the series and mainly concentrates on 
working with multiple arrays effectively..."

AJAX and Accessibility
By Sandy Clark.
"There are a lot of questions out there about Ajax and Accessibility. I 
want to clear up some misconceptions if I can..."

AJAX, JavaScript and Accessibility
By Robert Nyman.
"With the advent of mass-hype for building AJAX solutions, I find it 
necessary to shed some light of AJAX and JavaScript implementations and 
how they relate to and affect accessibility, and to explain how they 
can both co-exist; that one doesn't exclude the other."


Jakob Nielsen Says Function Drives Form (Interview)
By Mike Elgan.
"In our first online video in the Great Minds in Development series, 
Dr. Jakob Nielsen tackles the issues of designing for usability and how 
to maximize usability in the apps you build. In this interview, he 
discusses everything from the proper attitude for programmers (why 
being smart might be bad for your code), to the importance of 
prototyping in design, to the reasons why PDF, Flash and local search 
engines can hurt more than they help."

WaSP Interviews Tim Hannigan
On Queen's University's Conversion to Web Standards
By WaSP.
"After leaving Web design work in the 1990's, Tim Hannigan's interest 
was renewed by the increased discussion, awareness, and use of 
standards in Web technologies in 2003. How have Web Standards, 
accessibility, and content management systems become integral to the 
success of the Queen's site? We talked with Tim to find out."

An Interview with Dean Edwards
By Jonathan Snook.
"Dean talks about his background, explains just why he's waging war on 
browser inconsistencies, and gives a succinct explanation of his 
preferred way of creating objects in JavaScript (using the prototype 

Abolish the Intranet Steering Committee?
By Jane McConnell.
"I met a company last week who told me that had abolished their senior 
management intranet steering committee. They said their intranet was 
mature now, was an accepted way of working, and that the committee no 
longer had reasons to meet."


Improving Search Usability
By John Wood.
"Searching is a crucial feature in any website, but often developers 
don't make it as easy to use as it could be. Here we offer guidelines 
for the three main search components: search controls, the search 
returns, and metadata."

Does Search Need to be in the Upper Right?
By Jared Spool.
"Just because users expect the search box to be in the upper right (at 
least 27% of the time), doesn't mean that they can't adjust to finding 
it in other places. After all, we humans are exceptionally adaptable to 
our surroundings. We can survive when the search box is 400 pixels to 
the left or 100 pixels down...Our experience is a well-designed page 
trumps user expectations every time."

+10: PHP.

Autofilled PHP Forms
By Gavin Andresen.
"PHP makes handling interactive web pages easy--but when you have large 
forms to fill out, errors to handle, and lots of data to pass back and 
forth, you can make your life easier by making PHP fill in all the form 
values for you. Gavin Andresen shows how to make forms auto-populate 
from PHP arrays."

Taking a Look at PHP 6
By Jeroen van der Meer.
"While most web hosts are still in the PHP 4 era, the PHP developers 
are already planning and working on PHP 6. Lets have a look at what's 
been keeping them busy..."


Validity Does not Equal Best Practices
By Roger Johansson.
"I had a laugh when I read Dustin Diaz' post Totally Compliant Markup. 
He's created an example of a completely valid HTML document that goes 
against most best practices. Hilarious, but unfortunately a reality on 
some sites out there. And I've seen worse. Much, much worse..."

iWeb, The New Tag Soup Generator
By Roger Johansson.
"Ok so I'm a little late to this because of my recent connection 
problems, but I can't not say anything about it: I'm seriously 
disappointed by the markup Apple's iWeb generates. It is the tag soup 
generator of 2006."

WYSIWYG Editors And Bad Markup
By XStandard.
This article gives examples of bad markup created by other WYSIWYG 
editors and explains how XStandard makes sure that business users 
generate 'clean', standards-compliant markup every time.

Evaluation of WYSIWYG-Editors
By Peter Krantz.
Tests of several WYSIWYG text editors for producing correct markup 
without seeing the raw HTML.

WYSIWYG Text Editors Reviewed
By Laurence Veale.
"Question: We're looking to use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You 
Get) editor for some text fields in our application. We need to 
configure it to have certain formatting functions turned off, and we 
need the ability to add some custom functions. Do you have any 

+12: TOOLS.

Greeking Machine
By Duck Island.com.
"Our Greeking Machine will produce up to 50 random paragraphs of actual 
Latin text in Lorem Ipsum style. Lorem Ipsum is the style preferred 
most by typesetters and designers who create print design and layout 
compositions. Lorem Ipsum and Greeking, or Greeked text can be produced 
as well as, several other pseudo languages including Hillbilly and 
Metropolitan. Greeking is the method whereby Lorem Ipsum style text is 
created to fill a composition. Greeking replaces actual structured 
sentences with false text which is considered less distracting."

Colour Contrast Analyser
By Vision Australia.
"It is a tool for checking foreground & background colour combinations 
to determine if they provide good colour visibility. Determining 
'colour visibility' is based on algorithms suggested by the World Wide 
Web Consortium (W3C)"


Effective Style with em
By Jonathan Christopher.
"There are different ways to style text according to the medium on 
which the text will appear. It is generally accepted that using em 
units to scale your text is the best method."


More Alike Than We Think
By Whitney Quesenbery.
"What happens when a site has to appeal to a wide range of people? How 
do you sort out their different usability requirements? Will they 
conflict, and if so, how do you prioritize them?"

Don't Fight Over Your Home Page
By Laurence Veale.
"Most organisations spend most of their design time focusing on the 
homepage, often in tense negotiations with different departments, each 
jockeying for prominent positions in the global navigation. It's 
understandable, as the homepage is the most coveted piece of real 
estate on your site. So how do you keep everyone happy? It can 
definitely be an exercise in compromise, but here we offer some 

Stop Creating ROT
By Rachel McAlpine.
"Redundant, outdated and trivial content (ROT): you're soaking in it. 
First and second generation web sites and intranets are full of ROT. 
It's almost inevitable when you have a web site but no system for 
reviewing content regularly."

The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites
By Mark Daoust.
"...As website owners, it is very easy to get caught up in the design 
of our websites. We want to present our businesses to visitors in the 
best way possible, and as we get familiar with web technologies and 
design techniques, it is easy to focus solely on the design of a 
website from the standpoint of what looks good rather than the message 
our website conveys. What we need to keep in mind, is that websites are 
meant to be used ? used for reading, used for network, used for 
shopping, etc. Websites, like any other marketing tool, convey a 
message and are an invitation for visitors to trust us. Our design 
needs to reflect this. Take a moment today to look over your website. 
Is it really easy to use? Have you been more worried about the look of 
your website than its functionality? Would it be more effective if it 
were simpler in its design?"

+15: XML.

Why XForms Matter, Revisited
By Kurt Cagle.
Given the rising proliferation of 'component toolkits', I see a coming 
period where everyone's going to be trying to get THEIR component 
interfaces accepted as the "standard" ones. The XForms components 
actually handle almost all of these cases, provides a standard, open, 
non-proprietary solution that suffers only from lack of education and 
exposure, and with its presence now in Mozilla (and numerous versions 
available in IE, including both ActiveX and pure Javascript versions) I 
see XForms poised to become the de facto forms technology within the 
browser world."

[Section one ends.]


+16: What Can You Find at the Web Design Reference Site?

Accessibility Information.

Association Information.

Book Listings.

Cascading Style Sheets Information.

Color Information.

Dreamweaver Information.

Evaluation & Testing Information.

Event Information.

Flash Information.

Information Architecture Information.

JavaScript Information.

Miscellaneous Web Information.

Navigation Information.

PHP Information.

Sites & Blogs Listing.

Standards, Guidelines & Pattern Information.

Tool Information.

Typography Information.

Usability Information.

XML Information.

[Section two ends.]



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Until next time,

Laura L. Carlson
Information Technology Systems and Services
University of Minnesota Duluth
Duluth, MN U.S.A. 55812-3009
mailto:lcarlson at d.umn.edu

[Issue ends.]

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