Posts Tagged ‘web standards’

Standards Matter

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

It’s easy to think that, in 2013, we live in an era where as web developers we can say that the war for web standards is over and won. After all, didn’t WASP finally declare their work as done back  in March?

Of course, as they said, it isn’t that simple. As an advocacy group they’ve accomplished their job. But there’s always going to be a need for the community to fight for standards anew, in the face of corporate attempts at mono-browser culture or lazy developers looking to make shortcuts at the expense of accessibility and future compatibility.

As the web continues to fracture into not only multiple browsers, but a wider and wider variety of form factors and devices, from toast to televisions, from watches to phones, standards, and the advocacy of them, become even more important. We’re not just talking about making a site’s CSS look good in four browsers, or ensuring a site is usable for people with accessibility challenges. We’re talking about ensuring our sites, our clients sites, and the sites we use every day being available for use in situations we wouldn’t have needed to consider even six years ago.

Challenges like this make web standards, and events like Blue Beanie Day, relevant even in 2013. And, probably, forever. It’s a challenge that we’ll constantly face as the medium grows and evolves along with our relationship with technology.

Dylan Wilbanks and I spoke about this topic a couple weeks back on Squirrel and Moose, where we discussed in particular an area of increasing importance and debate in the web standards world: that of solutions for responsive images in HTML. The Responsive Images Community Group, chaired by the brilliant, seemingly tireless, and ever entertaining Mat Marquis. A true example of the spirit of the Internet, led by “working class” developers instead of browser manufacturers, who seek solutions to the very real problems they have in their day-to-day work on the web, the RICG is making big strides in ensuring that the HTML of tomorrow will actually meet our needs.

And to me, that’s mighty fine, and means Mat and his compatriots are bona fide Internet Heroes. If there were some sort of Blue Beanie award, I’d nominate them. Instead I suppose we could invent folk tales involving flapjacks and giant blue oxen.

Keep up the good work.


Vindaloo Fart

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
CSSquirrel #92: Vindaloo Fart

Featuring Remy Sharp, Tantek Celik and Bruce Lawson, today’s comic would make the perfect premise for a sitcom. I think “Three Developers and a Squirrel” would have a very nice ring to it. The comic also looks at the stinky mess we’re going to put ourselves into if we fail to recognize the problems of the past so that we can avoid repeating them.

In a move that threatens to undo over a decade of hard work to drag web development out of the horrors of the “Great Browser War” and educate developers to make forward-compatible, standards-compliant websites, the CSS Working Group recently discussed the idea of all browsers adopting -webkit CSS properties. Yep, you heard that right. IE, Opera, Firefox… all using -webkit properties.

This step appears to be intended to guarantee that their browsers will properly render websites being made by short-sighted developers who only bother using -webkit properties for advanced and experimental features in their websites even when the other browsers have their own test implementations such as -o, -moz and -ie.

Short version: They’re considering giving up and handing the browsers of the world over to a bunch of standards-blind morons for short term compatibility gains in exchange for long term problems that will make the current version of Webkit be the IE6 of tomorrow.

I’m not a member of the old guard. In the nineties I was in high school and pretending to be in college while making personal websites that were just short of visually hideous but definitely counted as nauseating. I didn’t know better. But thanks to the efforts of too many dedicated and educating web developers to name I was exposed to the concept of “web standards” and went about the process of learning how to do things properly.

I also landed a sweet job at Mindfly and became a member of the professional web world. All thanks to web standards.

As someone who’s been working on websites professionally for the past five years I’ve had my share of struggles with IE6 compatibility. I hate that browser more than I hate most other things on the planet. Intellectually I know it was the bee’s knees in its era. I don’t care. Its era was a long time ago and being forced to keep sites compatible with it due to the lack of standards in its era is a direct cause of hundreds of hours of suffering on my part. I’m grateful that it is now all but extinct, letting me concentrate on dealing with modern or near-modern browsers with a lot less cussing, sweating and crying.

As it stands now, Webkit is a pretty decent browser engine. Chrome is snappy. I like it. I’m using it right this second. But it’s also only as good as it is today. If we stop bothering to properly style our websites with a forwards-compatible approach, using all available browser extensions for experimental properties as well as the non-extension version of the properties for when they becomes available, then we’re daft. We will be putting ourselves at risk of making today’s Webkit the rotting zombie in the room that we’ll be screaming at in terror ten years from now. We, or developers after us, will be wasting countless hours and drinking more heavily in response to dealing with thousands of poorly-made websites that require compatibility with the -webkit properties we shortsightedly hung everything upon.

We need to stop this.

Need more information? Need inspiration on how to help? Lucky for you I’ve got a list:

  • Read Daniel Glazman’s Call For Action. He’s co-chair of the CSS Working Group, and he knows that this is a very bad thing that needs to be stopped. He even suggests how to do it.
  • Also read Remy Sharp’s article on the topic and his suggestions on how to help.
  • Take direct action and help Chris Heilmann Pre-fix the Web, rooting out Github projects that have gone down the dark side and get them forked back into the light.
  • Get Bruce Lawson’s perspective on the vendor prefix issue, taking advantage of the wisdom he’s gained in trying to educate against this exact sort of problem. Also see the first reference of the dreaded vindaloo fart.
  • And please read Eric Meyer’s pessimistic, but perhaps realistic, assessment of the issue in Unfixed.

Whatever you do, don’t be apathetic. Don’t think to yourself that -webkit only sites are professional or even remotely acceptable. Because they’re not. It takes very little effort to guarantee forward-looking, cross-browser websites with the vast majority of most modern CSS properties. Doing anything less for the sake of ease is lazy, unprofessional, and going to cost someone a lot of money and effort in the future.

If you do decide to only use -webkit prefixes, watch out, because Bruce Lawson will vindaloo fart on you.

Recap: My Refresh Bellingham Presentation – The Ghosts of Web Standards Present

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

On December 16th, 2009, I had the opportunity to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while. I gave a presentation (in front of an audience, even) about web standards! I was invited to speak at Refresh Bellingham, which was a great experience. Discussing the topics of CSS3, HTML5 and Mobile, I definitely bit off a larger chunk than I needed to (in the future I think I’ll pare the experience down to CSS3 and HTML5 unless it’s for a much longer time format), but by the end of the presentation I felt like I’d done a good job of entertaining the audience and maybe teaching some of them a thing or two.

And, by George, that was a really good feeling.

Entitled: “The Ghosts of Web Standards Present: CSS3, HTML5 and Mobile”, the whole thing ran about an hour and fifteen minutes. Fortunately people laughed at all of my jokes, so it wasn’t too torturous. I talked about the varying level of support in modern browsers for new CSS3 and HTML5 features (and how that shouldn’t matter), as well as my thoughts on the need to be ready for mobile devices today in our designs. If I did it again, I’d probably put more advanced CSS3 techniques and HTML5 tricks in, as I uncovered a whole slew of new things I’d not experimented with before while doing research for it.

Although the slides don’t contain the majority of my witty dialog (I’m so modest), I’ve put them up (after some corrections and modifications) for you to look at if you’d like. The background will flash into it’s proper place two seconds after the page loads, by design (I had some issues with the popdown request for the geolocation interfering with the way the background looked on the slide projector).

The Ghosts of Web Standards Present

Comic Update: Max Weir and the Beanicornupus (Web Standards and Foolish Assumptions)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

This Monday was the third annual Blue Beanie Day, which promotes and celebrates the use of web standards to create accessible, semantic web content. Therefore, it provides a fitting backdrop to the Curious Tale of Max Weir. I’m not here to bash Max, as he’s received enough of that already. Rather, I’m spinning out a sort of parallel narrative that will cast a poorly timed comment into the light of folk lore for future web designers to consider.

On Monday one Andy Clarke, British rock star of the web design world, posted an open letter to Taylor Swift on his blog. This letter expressed his admiration for her as a musician and a gentle critique of a serious problem with her website: it is almost completely inaccessible to those with visual impairment or the inability to use a mouse. He details it quite thoroughly and politely, aware that as a musician (and not a web designer) she likely had no awareness of the issue or even touched the code of the site. This post provided a great example of the purpose of Blue Beanie Day, pushing web standards awareness to those who need it.

All was well until around comment #9 on Mr. Clarke’s post, by one Max Weir. You should read the linked comment for the full text, but the gist of his missive is summed up by the following line: This site is an interactive flash experience and thats all there is to it, there are designers who think accessibility, web standards etc and those who focus on creating a immersive experiences only.

This comment by a man who’s Twitter bio is “Design is form and function on equal level”, posted on an accessibility blog post on Blue Beanie Day, formed a nexus of baleful energy that summoned from the deep places one of the dreaded behemoths of nautical lore, the Beanicornupus. Identifiable by its massive blue beanie and gossamer spiral horn, this ravenous monster consumes the flesh of designers who think that “cool media experiences” are more important than ensuring a site can be used by impaired visitors and would consider that making a site this way is a valid business choice.

Poor Max didn’t stand a chance, suffering many grievous wounds at the hands of the commentators even after Andy tried to call them off. Like Captain Ahab, Max underestimated the beast. Today’s comic portrays his final moments, swallowed up by the Beanicornupus, calling out his defiance at the very end.

Max’s gruesome fate can provide a cautionary tale for us all. Web standards aren’t some sort of optional flavoring for some websites. They’re needed by every one of them. Those who choose to ignore that will face mockery from their website creator peers, and their clients will lose customers who aren’t able to access their sites. Although we’d like to think that only musicians, big uncaring media conglomerates, and our grandmothers don’t know the gospel truth of web standards, the fact is, as Andy said (when asking his commentators to stand down): It’s sobering that on Blue Beanie Day where we, who pride ourselves on our support for standards and accessibility, pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, must not forget that the job that Jeffrey started with Designing With Web Standards is far from done.

Comic Update: Don Zeldman

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Jeffrey Zeldman was the subject of a .net interview (glossy PDF version is available here) last week. In addition to slick photos of the man himself in the PDF version, the article’s main meat is near the end, where Zeldman offers advice on surviving the crunch, which includes some basic customer-service skills that I wished was common sense to anyone in any industry, but sadly isn’t. He also includes a tidbit that mirrors advice I’ve taken to heart in the past:

“And a final piece of advice: do cool free stuff that doesn’t make you any money. It will totally grow your brand and get you clients. Putting yourself out there with your writing or your design (especially if you’re a quiet, socially shy nerd who doesn’t like going out and socialising at parties) will help a lot.”

I like that. And, frankly, I’m glad he’s done that himself. The articles and information at A List Apart was a key component from my transition of website wonkery as a side hobby to a career.

To close things up, Zeldman is called “The Godfather of CSS” in the article’s closing paragraph. Immediately my mind slipped to bad movie cliches with that, so today’s comic follows that mobster-related tact, also guest-starring Jason Santa Maria. (I know he’s not a Happy Cog employee these days, but I’m sure he still helps Zeldman out in a pinch.)

It’s a short read, so go read it. There’s some good advice in there, as well as a nice perspective on the past and future of web standards.