[webdev] Web Design Update: August 25, 2006

Laura Carlson lcarlson at d.umn.edu
Fri Aug 25 06:22:58 CDT 2006

- Volume 5, Issue 09,  August 25, 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:

03: COLOR.
07: FLASH.
12: PHP.
14: TOOLS.
16: XML.

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

[Contents ends.]

++ SECTION ONE: New references.


Assuring E-Accessibility: Providing Choices
By Pam Berman and Charles Chen.
"TetraLibro is a relatively new movement in publishing meant to provide 
texts in 4 formats; paper-based, accessible XHTML Strict, accessible 
PDF, and Microsoft Reader. The XHTML, PDF, and Microsoft Reader 
versions are placed on a CD-ROM and packaged with the printed book. The 
three electronic versions are included specifically for users with 
certain types of disabilities (sensory, motor, and cognitive) who are 
not able to read the paper-based book. For example, people with 
dyslexia can have the text read to them, etc. Providing multiple 
formats is becoming a popular way to attempt to reach the widest 
possible audience and it is important to take the proper steps to 
ensure that electronic documents truly are accessible to as many people 
as possible."

Positive Steps To Assessing, Monitoring and Comparing the Accessibility 
of Public Websites: Introducing The European Internet Accessibility 
By Jenny Craven and Mikael Snaprud.
"Sometimes, simply launching a website can take a huge amount of time 
and effort, never mind making sure it is consistent with every type of 
web browser and compatible with different types of add-on technologies. 
However, making websites accessible is an issue that anyone with 
responsibilities for web development and web-related policy-making 
should be concerned about..."

Whistle Stop WCAG 2: To Hell ... and Back
By Jack Pickard.
"...In short, work with users with disabilities and disability groups 
to ensure that your sites meet WCAG 1.0 AA as a minimum standard that 
you are seeking to exceed; ensure that you are continually testing your 
sites against your standard and that you are continually revising and 
updating your policies to improve access."

New Study Links Higher Income with Lower Disability Rates
By Sarah Yang.
"...'What was unusual was that we found that people in the middle class 
were still at a disadvantage compared with those at just a slightly 
higher income,' said Meredith Minkler, professor of health and social 
behavior at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and lead author of 
the study, published in the Aug. 17 issue of the New England Journal of 
Medicine. 'The fact that there's a significant difference between 
people at 600 and 700 percent above the poverty level was a striking 
finding of this study.'..."

Has Accessibility Been Taken Too Far?
By Jeff Croft.
"There's something I've been thinking about for a while but have a been 
hesitant to post, for fear of it being taken the wrong way, and fear of 
me being labeled as insensitive. But I've finally decided to just put 
it out there. I'll be careful with my wording and try my best not to 
offend, but I can't promise anything..."

Accessibility Has NOT Been Taken Too Far
By Joe Dolson.
"I feel very strongly that accessibility is a wise business decision - 
providing good access to all visitors is good publicity and opens your 
market wider than it had been before. It is also, of course, the moral 
high ground - not always the strength of business decision making, 
unfortunately. The web is not paper publishing. You cannot treat the 
web as paper. The web is superior to paper for accessibility, if it's 
done right. Why not take advantage of this?...Don't ever try and tell 
me that some minority is insignificant. These are still people; and 
they still have rights and value. You can't just write them off because 
it's inconvenient. Acknowledge that you have failed to provide their 
needed level of accessibility and apologize for it. In the final 
reckoning, you cannot provide access for everybody - but don't tell me 
that it would have been a waste of your time."

Appropriate Use of Alternative Text
By Jared Smith.
"Despite being the first principle of web accessibility, inappropriate 
or missing alt text still plagues the web. This article presents the 
basics of alternative text and through many examples demonstrates the 
proper implementation of alternative text for all types of images."

HTML Web Accessibility Best Practices
By Jon Gunderson.
"The primary purpose of these HTML/XHTML Best Practices is to improve 
the accessibility of web resources at the University of Illinois at 
Urbana/Champaign for students, faculty, staff, and the general 


Details On Our CSS Changes For IE7
By Markus Mielke.
"...In all, we made over 200 behavior changes (bug fixes or new 
features) under strict mode to improve CSS2.1 compliance..."

Sample Downloads From My Book
By Simon Collison.
"Those nice folks at Apress have provided two lovely PDFs for you to 
download, in order to get a flavor of Beginning CSS Web Development, 
which hits the shelves in a week or so..."

CSS3 Preview
By Joost de Valk and Jake Rutter.
"Many exciting new functions and features are being thought up for 
CSS3. We will try and showcase some of them on this page, when they get 
implemented in either Firefox, Opera or Safari/Webkit."

CSS3: What It Means, and What It Doesn't
By Phil Renaud.
"What with standardists ruling the web trends scene right now, the 
emergence of a new specification template for CSS is bound to be a 
major point of consideration in future endeavors. It is not, however, 
going to be remembered as the be-all and end-all of web design in the 
current web culture. But, why not?..."

Understanding CSS Specificity
By Jonathan Snook.
"Specificity can be tricky. Well, tricky to say the word, anyways. 
There's a quick approach that I use that can hopefully help you out..."

+03: COLOR.

Light Text On a Dark Background vs. Readbility
By Roger Johansson.
"...I am not criticizing the aesthetics of inverted designs, just their 
readability. Several light-on-dark sites look fantastic for a few 
seconds or even a minute. I just find actually reading articles on them 
very straining on my eyes, and I hate the way they linger on the retina 
when I look away from my screen...To me this is an accessibility issue, 
the same way many people with impaired vision prefer light-on-dark text 
and may have problems similar to (or worse than) mine when reading 
dark-on-light text. As far as I know, I am not vision impaired. At 
least I have never been told so by an optician or an ophthalmologist. I 
still struggle with high-contrast, light-on-dark designs. So if you 
want to use light text on a dark background, please provide an 
alternate stylesheet that turns the whole design, not just the content 
area, back to dark on light. You should also consider what Mark Boulton 
has to say in Five simple steps to better typography: 'When reversing 
color out, e.g. white text on black, make sure you increase the 
leading, tracking and decrease your font-weight. This applies to all 
widths of Measure. White text on a black background is a higher 
contrast to the opposite, so the letterforms need to be wider apart, 
lighter in weight and have more space between the lines.'..."

Not Quite Black and White
By Mike Cherim.
"...What you offer is up to you, and if your readers don't like it they 
will put up with it if they can or go elsewhere. The accessibility 
advocate in me says make it as reader-friendly as possible or offer 
alternatives. The designer in me says make it sexy. The middle ground 
says make it sexy and readable, or offer both by way of said 
alternatives. Web development isn't easy, and doing it right, really 
right (if that can even be defined), is downright difficult on a good 
day. I wish you luck. I know I need it."

Readability Of Websites With Various Foreground/Background Color 
Combinations, Font Types And Word Styles
By Alyson L. Hill.
"The effects of 6 foreground/background color combinations (color), 3 
font types (Arial, Courier New, & Times New Roman), and 2 word styles 
(Italicized & Plain) on readability of websites were investigated. 
Participants (N=42) scanned simulated websites for a target word; 
readability was inferred from reaction time (RT). An ANOVA showed 
significant main effects for color and font, and several significant 
interactions (Figure 1). A control experiment (N=21) using black text 
on shades of gray (to increase generalizablity to Internet browser 
settings), also found significant main effects for background gray 
level and style, and several interactions (Figure 2). In general these 
results suggest that there is no one foreground/background combination, 
font, or word style which leads to the fastest RT (i.e. best 
readability), but rather a designer must consider how each variable 
affects the other(s)."

Web Colours
By Chris Baker.
"In which I tell how I was caught out by an old 'gotcha' and then go on 
to list useful resources  about choosing colours for websites..."


Create Text-Based Links in Dreamweaver 8
By Khristine Annwn Page.
"In this lesson, you'll develop the initial framework of the site 
structure by developing placeholders for the pages in the Yoga Sangha 
project site. You'll link these pages together using Dreamweaver's 
visual site-mapping tools to create a working test site. Creating this 
kind of framework through pages and links in a bare but functional 
version of the site can help you test the navigation that you have 
developed. Testing the proposed site structure before creating the 
design will help you catch fundamental problems at the beginning of 
development, enabling you to address them more efficiently...."


Competitive Analysis
By Dan Brown.
"User-experience consultant and information architect Dan Brown gives 
us the scoop this week on performing a competitive analysis. Excerpted 
from his new book, Communicating Design: Developing Web Site 
Documentation for Design and Planning, the first section of chapter 
five explains the analysis as a series of conceptual layers--with 
plenty of images to make our choices clear. The remainder of the 
chapter--not excerpted here--digs deeper and demonstrates how to use 
the analysis within a project. Communicating Design covers competitive 
analysis and nine other key documents for web design, including 
wireframes, site maps, personas, and usability reports."

Personas and User Feedback
By Free Usability Advice.
"Question: We already know a lot about our users, and we've created 
detailed personas. Do we need to do usability testing, too?..."

+06: EVENTS.

NCDAE (National Center on Disability and Access to Education) Webcast
Accessibility and the Open Source Content Management Movement
August 30, 2006.

CANUX (Canadian User Experience Workshop) 2006
September 14-16, 2006.
Banff, Alberta Canada.

Getting Real Workshop
October 9, 2006.
Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

FTP Conferences

Web Design World
December 11-13, 2006.
Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.

+07: FLASH.

Flash, JavaScript, and Web Standards: like Sodium and Water?
By Ben Henick.
"...Are many aspects of browser plug-in behavior inarguably broken? I 
believe they are. Does the 'Eolas workaround' in Internet Explorer harm 
the user experience unless JavaScript is used to avoid it? I'm certain 
it does. Does Flash have a place? I definitely think so, though with 
some broad qualifications. However, I also believe that an attitude 
that is universally tolerant of expediency does more to damage the 
typical user experience in the long term, than it does to improve any 
specific user experience in the near term."

Flash, JavaScript, UX, Standards, Apologia, Apologies, and One Man's 
By Ben Henick.
My last two posts here have engendered a lot of anger from some Flash 
developers, and even led to direct questioning of my professional 
skill. Put bluntly, I believe the attacks say at least as much about 
the professionalism of their authors as they do about my own.

Two Accessible Flash Games - Which is Better?
By Andrew Kirkpatrick.
"Net Systems Solutions created a Hangman-game in Flash, and made it 
accessible for screen reader and keyboard users. I encouraged them to 
try to develop a second version of the game, but with some differences 
in the way accessibility is implemented. I'd like to hear from users 
some of their thoughts on these two versions..."

Re: [SEC508] Flash Games Test
By Peter Korn.
"This is a neat test. It points up a lot of the challenges someone 
writing a Flash application (or any applications which runs in a 
plug-in in a browser) has in accessibility..."

Re: [SEC508] Flash Games Test
By Jonathan Avila.
"Andrew and others, I also liked version 1.2 better.  However, both 
have limitations..."


Journeys, Needs, and Trust: A Volkswagon Case Study
By Jason Hobbs.
"...Implementing a user journey usually takes place within a 
pre-established hierarchical structure where the journey is carved in, 
ad hoc, like a highway tunnel through a mountain..."


JavaScript Opens Doors to Browser-Based Attacks
By Joris Evers.
"Security researchers have found a way to use JavaScript to map a home 
or corporate network and attack connected servers or devices, such as 
printers or routers."

Malicious JavaScript: Yet Another Reason for Graceful Degradation
By Roger Johansson.
"My point is that no matter how fun you have while developing your 
scripts, no matter how cool your client thinks your scripts are, no 
matter how much your scripts increase usability, you can never rely on 
JavaScript being available. (Unless you are developing for a closed and 
controlled environment, but I'm talking about websites open to the 
general public here.)..."

An Introduction to the W3C DOM
By Steve Chipman.
Steve Chipman gave a talk to his colleagues at AOL recently entitled An 
Intro to the DOM. He walks through plenty of code samples, beginning 
with the simple stuff and moving up to more complex scripts.

When to Use Drag and Drop (some informal research results)
By Leisa Reichelt.
"One of the great challenges of Interaction Design these days is that 
we now have a plethora of new ways to design interaction on the web 
than we did just a few short years ago...it is also important to note 
that choosing a drag and drop interface also significantly compromises 
your ability to deliver an accessible interface. This should always be 
an important consideration when selecting an interaction method..."

Object-Oriented Concepts
By Tim Huegdon.
"As Senior Web Developer at Rentokil Initial, I am required to be 
technical lead within the team. This also means making sure the 
technology is understood and used correctly. With this in mind, I've 
recently noticed that many of my team-mates obviously don't understand 
the underlying concepts of OOP. For this reason, I've prepared this 
short tutorial on the concepts - to be followed by more detailed posts 
on execution in Javascript and in PHP."


Web Design World Videos
Google Video Search Results.


The Rules of Navigation
By Jesse James Garrett.
"No website could exist without it but, if you don't get the planning 
phases right, it's very easy to get your navigation all wrong. 
Location, location, location is the key."

+12: PHP.

Validating PHP User Sessions
Kevin K. Nelson.
"Before we start digging into how to manage user sessions, it is 
important to first understand what sessions are for. In a nutshell, 
sessions are the way that we 'maintain state' from one page to the 
next, that is, how we identify specific users across multiple page 
requests. The ability to track users as they go from one page to the 
next using sessions allows us a number of options, such as tracking 
where they are going (web statistics) or to verify credentials for a 
specific section of the site..."

Object-Oriented PHP Part 1: Definition
By Tim Huegdon.
"Following on from my posts 'Object-Oriented Concepts' and 
'Object-Oriented Javascript', I'm going to take a look at OOP in PHP."

Reading, Writing and Creating Files in PHP
By Jacques Noah.
"Reading and writing to files can be useful if you do not require the 
storing of important data, such as a web counter. I must warn you 
though, that this method of storage should not be used to store 
passwords and other critical information, as it is not safe. Here we 
will discuss how to handle files and directories in PHP, specifically, 
how to create, read and write them..."

Build Your Own PHP Style Sheet Switcher
By Roger Johansson.
Want to have a style switcher that lets your site's visitors choose a 
different style sheet? Want it to work even if there is no JavaScript 
support? The trick is to use a server-side language like PHP, which is 
what I use for my style switcher.


The Changing Face of University Websites
By Maish Nichani.
"Many university websites are in redesign mode. And that's good news 
for the web standards and user experience communities. It signifies not 
only that the community initiatives are bearing fruit, but also that we 
can now expect to see a much faster and wider adoption of these 
initiatives, especially in the public sector. This article lists some 
important areas of focus of these redesigns..."

KTH (Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan) Goes Web Standards
By Emil Stenstrom.
"Sweden's largest technological university, KTH, just launched their 
new site and I'm proud to say that I've been responsible for the HTML 
and CSS for it. I'd thought I'd take some time and tell you about the 
techniques I used and the reasons behind using them. Let's start with 
some background..."

More W3C Controversy
By David Baron.
"The first thing to understand about the W3C is that it is a 
consortium. Over 400 companies pay the W3C to be members of the W3C, 
which allows them to participate in many W3C activities. The W3C then 
has over sixty technical employees who work on the things that the 
members are paying for...'Follow the money' is often given as a good 
way to figure out motive..."

W3C and the Overton Window
By Mark Pilgrim.
"In recent weeks I've noticed a burst of chatter about certain W3C 
standards, the working groups that define them, and the W3C itself. I 
have followed (and occasionally participated in) web standards 
discussions for several years, and I've been trying put this recent 
flurry of activity in context...I believe it can best be explained in 
terms of the Overton window....Overton window is a visualization tool 
used by 'think tanks' that want to sway public opinion on certain 
issues. You start by outlining the continuum of possible opinions on an 
issue, including opinions which seem ridiculous or unthinkable. Then 
you figure out the narrower range of opinions that people currently 
consider reasonable. This range is the Overton window. The job of the 
think tank is to move the Overton window in a certain direction, so 
that ideas that were once unthinkable become acceptable to discuss, and 
ideas that were once radical become popular and perhaps even become 
policy. Along the way, certain ideas that were once popular may 'fall 
out of favor' and become taboo..."

W3C and the Broken Process + Two Shining Examples of Committee-based 
Specification Development Done Right
By M. David Peterson.
"Mike Champion (somebody who just so happens to have some experience 
with the W3C process) has done a nice job of pulling both sides of the 
argument together into what I would term a pretty fair analysis of the 
entire situation at hand, and the reality (both + and -) of each. 
*DEFINITELY* worth a read!..."

Public BETA Brown University's New Home Page
They are looking for feedback:

Validation Funnies
By Lisa Sabin.
Can't remember where I came across this - but I chuckled, as only a 
developer could...

+14: TOOLS.

Class Scanner Tool Set a.k.a. Drew made me do it
By Chris Heilmann.
"For an upcoming Microformats related project, Drew McLellan asked me 
to come up with a small script that includes all the tasks you need to 
deal with classes."


Design for Browser Size - Not Screen Size
By Jesper Ronn-Jensen.
"...Web designs should optimize for a maximum available browser window 
of 1000x600 pixels. As screens get better and bigger, users rarely 
maximize browser windows, which is why we're probably better off 
optimizing for a smaller window, such as 900x600. Still, the layout 
should be liquid so that content fill the users current browser content 
area, regardless of the size. Also, do not design for a specific 
browser window size, as it varies between users, especially users with 
large screens..."

Giving You Fitts
By Jensen Harris.
"...The key takeaway for interface designers is clear: the further away 
a button is from the current mouse position, the larger it needs to be 
to achieve the same average acquisition speed. Put another way, there 
are two main ways to improve mouse efficiency: put the controls closer, 
or make them bigger..."

Do You Know What's in Your Long Neck?
By Gerry McGovern.
"A website that doesn't understand what's in its Long Neck is doomed to 
under performance, if not outright failure..."

Your About Page Is a Robot
By Erin Kissane.
"Everyone has one. No one likes to talk about it. No, not that. It's 
your About page, and it needs a little love. ALA's Erin Kissane guides 
you through a beautiful journey of self-discovery."

HCC (Human-Centered Computing) Education Digital Library
Brainchild of Jim Foley and Stephen Fleming.
"This library and web portal contains material useful for undergraduate 
and graduate education in Human-Centered Computing, Human-Computer 
Interaction and related areas. Its contents consist of a variety of 

True Web Usability - Principles Over Laws
By Jon Jackson.
"What is Usability? What makes a Web site usable? How can you prove 
that a Web site is usable? And how does usability affect me? These are 
all valid questions and I'll attempt to answer them here."

+16: XML.

SVG Support in Opera 9
"List of supported elements in SVG..."

Blogging the State of SVG Implementations
By SVG Wiki.
"You've just reached SVG.org, the premier community website aiming at 
bringing all the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) users, developers and 
enthusiasts together to a single place on the Web...."

By Spartanicus.
"Quite a few people have jumped on the XHTML bandwagon, this article 
examines the claims made about XHTML, and it lists the problems that 
arise from using it..."

[Section one ends.]


+17: 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.]



WEB DESIGN UPDATE is available by subscription. For information on how 
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The Web Design Reference Site also has a RSS 2.0 feed for site updates.


As a navigation aid for screen readers we do our best to conform to the 
accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN) guidelines.  Please let me know 
if there is anything else we can do to make navigation easier. For TEN 
guideline information please visit:


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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