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An excellent article on web standards, user centricity &

Discussion in 'General Webmaster Helpdesk' started by Alexandru Ungur, Sep 14, 2004.

  1. Alexandru Ungur

    Alexandru Ungur New Member Webmaster

    here is the link:

    and the article for the impatients ;)
    Why we are so zealous

    * 2 comments made
    * add comment
    * Reported by liorean

    Recently the question What’s with the neverending table fixation? Did I miss that meeting too? Not to sound flippant, but wtf is wrong with you people? was asked in a thread in the feedback forum on CodingForums. This is my answer…

    Nothing is wrong with us. Nor with most of the rest of the web development world. There are a number of reasons why we reiterate some things over and over, and at the basis of those lie a few very important concepts:

    * Most web development takes place with an aim of reaching out to the maximum number of users. The desired user group may vary, but the thing is that you must do something to attract those users. Things that are popular get linked and links gets indexed in search engines and thus these sites spread to more people. Things that are not popular doesn’t get linked and thus get less of a spread. This is the deepest reason for User Centricity in these concepts.

    * User Centricity leads you onto the path to Usability. Usability is all about how to empower the user to do what he wants on your page with as little hassle about it as possible. Usability means that you use easily understood navigation schemes (For your users’ sake, don’t use frames!), you avoid confusing users (Scrollbars should look like scrollbars usually looks.), you avoid making users angry (Don’t use popups, don’t prevent right clicking, don’t intrude in the user interface.), you help users when you can (Form validation is neccessary.).

    * User Centricity also leads you onto the path to Accessibility. Accessibility is about making as many potential users as possible able to use your site. This doesn’t mean that you should strip it down to the lowest common denominator level, but rather that you should build with the lowest common denominator as your ground level for all users, and then add improvements on that for users with more capable user agents. This means that you should avoid colour combinations that colour blind will have trouble with. It means that you should structure your site so that a user with a PDA, cellular phone or TTY should be able to easily navigate on it. It means that you should try to make the most out of your content on any given medium. Styling, scripting and interaction should be improvements on a structure that carries on it’s own, not requirements for it work.

    * Accessibility in turn leads on the path of Compatibility. Backward compatibility with generation 4 browsers today is no longer such an important requirement since those user agents are almost dead, but you still have Lynx and TTYs and aural browsers to think about. In a way, you can excuse requiring a user to upgrade an ancient (but not a merely old) version of a user agent if there is a more recent one to be found, but you can’t in the same way require a user to change user agent; especially when that user agent is unsupported on the system they are using or when they can not use that user agent for other reasons.

    Lateral compatibility is of course most important. You can’t require a print, desing or media outfit with all Mac computers to use a Windows browser. You can’t require a huge behemoth of a corporation using all UNIX to use a Windows browser. You can’t require a single user using a Mozilla or Opera browser to use Internet Explorer. It’s their choice for their own reasons, and in web design it’s the web designer that must conform to his users’ demands. Otherwise the users will go elsewhere. So, you should code something that all current user agents have the same level of support for.

    Then there if forward compatibility, and this is where things get interesting - mostly because forward compatibility with regards to iew means adding things that already exists in op/moz/saf. We can’t know in detail what the future holds, but we can see trends and we can see standards. We don’t know what Microsoft are going to do do with their browser next (though we can speculate), but we know how the standards they don’t currently support are written, and we know how these are implemented in the other browsers. Forward compatibility means that we use things that are guaranteed to still work for example is Microsoft improves the standards support of their current browser.

    * User Centricity also leads us on the road towards Privacy. Users require us to keep their private data confidential and private, and they expect that we don’t try to find out more about them than what they are freely willing to give. Asking is polite. This of course extends to all areas of information gathering.

    * One of the largest concerns is neither Privacy nor Accessibility nor Usability- it’s Security. Users expect you to not abuse their system. However, they know that some don’t respect their security, and thus some take meassures against abuse. They turn up their security settings. They turn off ActiveX and scripting. They change browsers and they change email clients. This is probably the most important argument for why you should never lock your site to a single user agent, whatever user agent that might be.

    Well, I haven’t addressed the Semantic Web and that precious table issue yet, have I? So, what connection lies in between these concepts and the semantic web? Well, several connections. Most important are the search engines. Search engines are nowadays the most common way of finding sites on the web, and there are many reasons why a search engines like semantic coding. First of all, a table design is usually much heavier on non-relevant structure, and also seldom places the most important content early in the document. Seach engines prioritize documents with more content and less structure very highly, placing especially high importance in the beginning of documents. Also, several search engines place importance in the semantic meaning of elements when indexing their content. Another important thing is the already mentioned accessibility. Tables do not render the same as consequtive block elements in non-visual or non-screen/projection media. The order is different and often less relevant. There are other reasons, but this rant is long as it is already.

    Just remember that you code for the user, and the user visits you because what you code is good.

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