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Designing With Web Standards

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the aren't-standards-banners dept.

The Internet 384

carl67lp (Carl Anderson) writes "I was recently charged with redesigning my University division's Web site. I hadn't designed a Web site in quite some time, and I wanted to ensure that I did so with everything being 'proper'--the nature of our projects require as large an audience as possible. When I saw Designing With Web Standards available on O'Reilly's Safari bookshelf, I knew I had to snag it. And now, after finishing the book (the first IT book I've ever read beginning to end!), I'm here to preach the book's virtues as the author preaches those of Web standards." Read on for Anderson's review of the book.

Jeffrey Zeldman is one of the best technical writers whose work I've had the pleasure of reading. He is obviously well-educated with regard to the subject, and his passion for the work really shows through. Still, he never comes across as a zealot -- his style is even-handed, thoughtful, and easy to comprehend.

The first part of the book ("Houston, We Have a Problem") is the reason I give a rating of "9" rather than "10." Zeldman spends a perfect length of time on background and history of Web standards (why they're here, and what designers did before they emerged). However, this section seems to suffer from what many technical books suffer from: a case of "We'll see this soon"-itis. While this is perhaps unavoidable in such a treatise, it is nonetheless apparent. Still, it's only marginally distracting.

The meat of the book comes with "Designing and Building." Zeldman first talks about modern markup, then explains the variations on XHTML (i.e. Strict, Transitional, Frameset) and how each ought apply to your design. Here we see more theory than practice, though, but this is welcome -- it lays the foundation for a more cerebral look at distinguishing markup from design. Once Zeldman explains the nuances of that topic, we moveon to the redesign of a Web page constructed with a hybrid table/CSS design complete with all the excellent effects we hope to see in modern pages.

After working through this redesign, Zeldman talks in more detail about the CSS box model (and the browsers that break it), typography, and some of the quirks that Web designers must deal with. Next he touches a bit on Web accessibility--a must-read for everyone, whether you think so or not.

While Zeldman isn't incredibly thorough here, he doesn't need to be--it's a book on Web standards, after all, and this chapter serves to show how accessibility can still be achieved within those standards. He also suggests a couple of other books for more information.

Finally, Zeldman walks the reader through a redesign of, basically as a hands-on summary of the book, and as a guide for future projects. Also included is a "Back End" (i.e., appendix) showing some excellent information about each major browser.

Too often, a book or Web site on XHTML/CSS will dwell only on the "how"--this book shows the "how" and still explains the "why": Here's how you set up an id'ed element; here's why we do that, rather than using a class. It's already opened my eyes to many things I thought I had a handle on, but now realize that I only knew in a cursory fashion.

So, ask yourself: Do you want to design a Web site that will work for everyone, regardless of their platform? Do you want to make sure your Web site is future-proof? If so, you need this book.

You can purchase Designing With Web Standards from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The back cover (4, Informative)

Sir Haxalot (693401) | about 11 years ago | (#7095476)

You code. And code. And code. You build only to rebuild. You focus on making your site compatible with almost every browser or wireless device ever put out there. Then along comes a new device or a new browser, and you start all over again.

You can get off the merry-go-round.

It's time to stop living in the past and get away from the days of spaghetti code, insanely nested table layouts, tags, and other redundancies that double and triple the bandwidth of even the simplest sites. Instead, it's time for forward compatibility.

Isn't it high time you started designing with web standards?

Standards aren't about leaving users behind or adhering to inflexible rules. Standards are about building sophisticated, beautiful sites that will work as well tomorrow as they do today. You can't afford to design tomorrow's sites with yesterday's piecemeal methods.

Jeffrey teaches you to:

* Slash design, development, and quality assurance costs (or do great work in spite of constrained budgets)
* Deliver superb design and sophisticated functionality without worrying about browser incompatibilities
* Set up your site to work as well five years from now as it does today
* Redesign in hours instead of days or weeks
* Welcome new visitors and make your content more visible to search engines
* Stay on the right side of accessibility laws and guidelines
* Support wireless and PDA users without the hassle and expense of multiple versions
* Improve user experience with faster load times and fewer compatibility headaches
* Separate presentation from structure and behavior, facilitating advanced publishing workflows

Word 24, Paragraph 5, Page 189: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095575)


Re:Word 24, Paragraph 5, Page 189: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095656)



Re:The back cover (4, Informative)

bamurphy (614233) | about 11 years ago | (#7095610)

I picked up this book about 2 months ago and it really is one of the best buys on my shelf. Zeldman's book and his sites are wounderful resources that not only contain a good deal of info themselves but point you in the right direction to a really great community of like minded, forward thinking developers.

XHTML & CSS are tough sometimes, and Zeldman's realistic approach to transitioning to a standard web language is refreshing - he's not a zealot.

I hope more web designers will jump on board this movement - if we ever want to get paid really well and escape the image of the teen with frontpage coding his uncle's website we need to embrace these kind of ideas.

Re:The back cover (1)

Sir Haxalot (693401) | about 11 years ago | (#7095722)

the image of the teen with frontpage coding his uncle's website
Heh where did that come from? :P

Re:The back cover (-1, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 11 years ago | (#7095828)

You fool. Microsoft's Internet Explorer sets the only "Standards" worth following. Who do you want to view your pages...95% of all users out there, or some wierdo from flyover territory with his pre-paid cell phone?

who needs standards (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095477)

as long as theres tons of nekkid chicks

same price at amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095479)

Ref:Amazon has the same price as bn [] .
Spend 50 cents more and get free shipping.

get a different ID, jackass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095513)

Your amazon ID is too similar to mine. Get a different ID! (plus you beat me to the punch, bastard!) Ref: Here's my link anyway... []

Standards (-1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095495)

Standards are for pussies

Re:Standards (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | about 11 years ago | (#7095537)

Standards are for pussies

Don't you Microsoft people do anything but read slashdot all day?

Re:Standards (2, Funny)

insanecarbonbasedlif (623558) | about 11 years ago | (#7095799)

Don't you Microsoft people do anything but read slashdot all day?

Dude, what else am I going to do? Anytime I try to open Word, Excel, or Visual Basic, it crashes. The only thing I can load is Internet Exploder.

Re:Standards (1)

smackjer (697558) | about 11 years ago | (#7095576)

Standards aren't for pussies. Weiners are for pussies. Standards are for those of us who aren't weiners, but possibly have one.

Re:Standards (0, Troll)

Choobius Gothicus (688109) | about 11 years ago | (#7095838)

Obviously this rambling is from someone who picked up PHP last night coding their web site down in mommy's basement while watching Monty Python and eating either day old pizza or szechuan chicken in heavy sauce (can't figure out which) and drinking Jolt cola.

Mmmhmm (2, Funny)

illuminata (668963) | about 11 years ago | (#7095498)

So, all those things in the book are great and all, but what about Flash? You can do no wrong with flash, you know.

Re:Mmmhmm (3, Insightful)

schatten (163083) | about 11 years ago | (#7095529)

while you believe there is nothing wrong with flash, there is quite a bit wrong with it in how people utilize it on the web. it is great for menus, but only when necessary. it also doesn't account for usability standards in any way shape or form, expecially for accessibility issues when people do not use a mouse, or are reading from a prompter.

Re:Mmmhmm (1)

javatips (66293) | about 11 years ago | (#7095563)

The book is about web standards!

Re:Mmmhmm (2, Insightful)

FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) | about 11 years ago | (#7095612)

Read the book title again. And again, until it sinks in. Flash is not a standard, it's a propriatary technology.

Re:Mmmhmm (0, Offtopic)

illuminata (668963) | about 11 years ago | (#7095682)

No shit my budding Sherlock Holmses. This is a joke. The fucktard who downmodded me should realize this as well.

Re:Mmmhmm (0, Offtopic)

FuzzyBad-Mofo (184327) | about 11 years ago | (#7095754)

Next time you tell a joke, try to work in a punchline.

Re:Mmmhmm (0, Offtopic)

illuminata (668963) | about 11 years ago | (#7095762)

Why bother? It's apparent my audience has no brains.

Re:Mmmhmm (4, Informative)

t_allardyce (48447) | about 11 years ago | (#7095788)

Flash isnt a web standard (it has quite a large user base though). The W3C standards answer to flash is SVG which is pretty similar except it ties in with HTML/XML/CSS etc much better, flash is just a hole in the browser where a plug-in is put, while SVG (can also be a plugin) is much more integrated. SVG is also a 'text' based standard like HTML - ie its made up of tags and stuff so its in theory much easier to write generating software for it and link it with server-side scripts and even with client side java/vbs etc scripts (why re-invent the wheel with flash scripting and proprietory expensive server-side software when you can use existing layers like perl,PHP,java,asp, basically anything?). While flash is a more closed system designed by Macromedia to fill a gap in a business like manner, SVG is structually better - kindof like the way HTML tables were/are used to design sites, they are a work around where-as CSS (if the browser supports it properly) is a far better more structured way to do the job.

Flash probably runs faster and has more support, plug-ins and editors on most computers at the moment but SVG is catching up (also SVG supports compression which is cool so it can match flash in file-size).

So basically the book would talk about SVG if it talked about any vector/animation system.

(And without trying to sound like a troll:
Flash = Cheap Hack, SVG = Potentially Structured Nirvana)

Re:Mmmhmm (1)

tarquin_fim_bim (649994) | about 11 years ago | (#7095808)

Seriously, I would welcome a flash protocol, leaving http to hypertext and static images only, oh and one for java applets too.

Related resources (5, Informative)

polyhue (38042) | about 11 years ago | (#7095510)

He also has an excellent list of related resources and links on design and accessibility:

Re:Related resources (4, Informative)

Penguin (4919) | about 11 years ago | (#7095663)

In general, a lot of the stories at A List Apart is worth reading:

A site worth visiting is - having lots of alternate stylesheets.

I'm currently working on a project with a designer w/clue. Everything regarding looks and design has moved into stylesheets. All I have to do is to structure the data in suitable divs/blocks (with regard of continuity for the simple text-based browsers).

Re:Related resources (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095715)

What is there to know? You just need a easy way to navigate the site, a truly nice logo and avoid animations, ok maybe just a little for that little special touch :)
In short, something like this. []

Re:Related resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095800)

LOL, I don't know what I liked the most, the "truly nice logo" or the "animated special touch"! It gets my vote for the ugliest page ever :D

Re:Related resources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095863)

Oh my stomach hurts :D

You mean... (3, Insightful)

smackjer (697558) | about 11 years ago | (#7095519)

You mean it's not enough to make sure it works in IE6 on Windows XP?? I wish more web "developers" were concerned with standards. Not only does it make their job easier, it makes it easier to use their sites (assuming the browser developers are equally concerned with standards).

Re:You mean... (1)

aliens (90441) | about 11 years ago | (#7095757)

You'd be surprised when you use web standards how well IE6 will render the pages.

The problem I run into a lot is NS4.x, right now I plan on using stylesheets to give NS4 users a very basic layout.

At this stage of the ballgame, it is not worth sacrificing a design edge if it works in IE6/Moz/NS7 simply because it can't be redone in a timely manner with NS4.

Anyone else out there doing the same for NS4?

Re:You mean... (1)

deuce868 (673251) | about 11 years ago | (#7095825)

One of the hospitals I work with forces all staff to NS4. I agree, I only make sure the page is readable in NS4...that is all I am willing to promise these guys.

Re:You mean... (0)

doctor negative (532827) | about 11 years ago | (#7095885)

Just out of curiosity, is anybody still using NS4? Is there any reason to?

Re:You mean... (1)

smackjer (697558) | about 11 years ago | (#7095891)

IE6 does do a good job with standards-compliant HTML.

The problem is it's often too lenient, letting you get away with missing closing tags, not-quite-right JavsScript, and providing some features not found in any other browser (<marquee>, anyone?)

Re:You mean... (4, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | about 11 years ago | (#7095896)

Make your main stylesheet, then figure out which things don't work correctly in Netscape 4 (e.g. the width of a box incorrectly includes the padding, so for NS4 you should add the left and right padding when specifying a width). Where they differ, put the Netscape 4 code in the main stylesheet and the standards-compliant code in a second stylesheet. Comment the main stylesheet so you remember which code is specific to Netscape 4. Then load your stylesheets like this:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/main.css" type="text/css">
<style type="text/css"><!--
@import url(/not-netscape4.css);

Any browser except Netscape 4 will load both stylesheets, so the standards-compliant code in the second one will override the Netscape 4-specific code in the main one.

Re:You mean... (1)

Phroggy (441) | about 11 years ago | (#7095818)

You mean it's not enough to make sure it works in IE6 on Windows XP?? I wish more web "developers" were concerned with standards. Not only does it make their job easier, it makes it easier to use their sites (assuming the browser developers are equally concerned with standards).

Keep in mind that it's just as easy to build a standards-compliant site that doesn't work in IE6 on Windows XP. ;-)

Re:You mean... (1)

forevermore (582201) | about 11 years ago | (#7095870)

assuming the browser developers are equally concerned with standards

After struggling for weeks/months designing a new site, I can assure you that they are all adhering strictly to html and javascript standards. Unfortunately, no one seems to agree about what those standards are.

"the first IT book I've ever read" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095523)

I guess that's why it's the best

Re:"the first IT book I've ever read" (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 11 years ago | (#7095586)

And at less than 500 pages, just how well can it cover those same "standards"? [joke mode on] Maybe they used CSS to do the page layout, and set the default font to xxxxxxxx-small? [joke mode off]

So, ask yourself (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | about 11 years ago | (#7095540)

Do you want to design a Web site that will work for everyone, regardless of their platform?

Do you want to make sure your Web site is future-proof?

If so, you need this book.

A good follow-up book is... (5, Informative)

ColoradoSkier (684478) | about 11 years ago | (#7095550)

Eric Meyer on CSS. I finished Zeldman's book about a week ago and am now going through Eric Meyer on CSS. Zeldman tells you what needs to be done, and gives some examples, Eric Meyer gives you a bunch of practical examples. Guess this is why can be purchased as a pair at Amazon...

My Film. Of Review the (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095551)

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Re:My Film. Of Review the (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095602)

"he on I've you everyone, be practice"
So true, so true. I couldn't agree with you more chief.

First Book is Better (3, Informative)

Davak (526912) | about 11 years ago | (#7095559)

I agree that he is an excellent tech writer. However, I thought his first book was much better than this one.

A Review Can Be Found Here []

Although I am not very good at web design... what I have learned, I learned from this guy. He rocks.


The only standards on web code is.... (5, Informative)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | about 11 years ago | (#7095562)

The only standards you need to follow are the W3C Web Standards [] They even have a validator for your convience if you need to make sure that your code is valid. I did that at my summer internship and over the course of a summer was able to make our 1000+ page website 99% w3c complient. It might take you a few days to get in the rythym of doing things, but once we had our site up to html 4.01 standards, we never had a problem with any browser compatability issues, and we tested all the way back to Netscape 4.7.

Re:And that is what he advises (1)

polyhue (38042) | about 11 years ago | (#7095620)

The book clearly states your message - and multiple ways of insuring it, using the w3c validator, and tools such as HTML Tidy; also accessibility guidelines (required for gov't sites for example)

A main strength of the book and something that separates it from every other design or tech book is its focus on the PRACTICAL BUSINESS REASONS for being standards-compliant, not just the warm fuzzy feeling.

And I think he makes the case much better than nearly every programming book that claims you'll save time and money using language X.

web standards are really only half the battle. (2, Interesting)

UrgleHoth (50415) | about 11 years ago | (#7095686)

To add to this, one can follow all the rules making pages comply yet still provide poo usability due to ill-thought layout and navigation on top of a good framework.
For starters, if you're not familiar with him, here is Jacob Nielsen's site. [] He is usability guru formerly from Sun.

Re:web standards are really only half the battle. (2, Insightful)

smackjer (697558) | about 11 years ago | (#7095699)

Very good point. Just because your browser renders the page as intended doesn't automatically mean that navigation will be intuitive, or that the user will stick around.

Re:web standards are really only half the battle. (1)

UrgleHoth (50415) | about 11 years ago | (#7095704)

Ok, I misspelled his name, its Jakob Neilsen. Sorry

Re:web standards are really only half the battle. (1)

selderrr (523988) | about 11 years ago | (#7095730)

ouch.. what a narcisist [] !

Of all the nerds I've seen, this one must have the most pics of himself online.

Re:web standards are really only half the battle. (1)

kisrael (134664) | about 11 years ago | (#7095780)

I suspect that those are the equivalent of an actor's "headshot", mostly for use in 'official' documents, like for the pamphlet of something where he was a speaker.

Narcisist nerds [] will generally aim for more obviously interesting pictures to show off.

Re:web standards are really only half the battle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095774)

usability guru...yeah right...

did you look at his site? my 4yr with MS Frontpage can produce sites like this. Usability does not have to suffer boredom and lack of flare (remember, 15 pieces of flare are only a recommendation...)

I listened to this guy at a seminar in '98 and was bored to tears. Design a website and have your friends and family demo it...if they can't use it, they WILL tell you.

Re:The only standards on web code is.... (1)

el-spectre (668104) | about 11 years ago | (#7095702)

Unfortunately, when browsers (MSIE is the worst of these, and it's getting better) do outright non-standard things, you have to accomodate them. Telling the user that 'well, the unenforceable standard wasn't followed' doesn't make them happy.

That said, I LOVE standards, but you have to fudge it a lot. I've always coded my HTML a coupla years behind the bleeding edge, and I don't have too many problems.

Re:The only standards on web code is.... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 11 years ago | (#7095906)

I've always coded my HTML a coupla years behind the bleeding edge, and I don't have too many problems.
Yes, that's exactly the solution. There is a very large subset of HTML, including much of XHTML/DHTML/CSS/$INSERT_BUZZWORD_HERE, which works just fine in any reasonably recent version of Netscape/Mozilla, IE, Opera, Konqueror/Safari, etc. And frankly, if you're trying to do something outside this subset, you're probably designing a crappy, irritating, overly complex website anyway.

Re:The only standards on web code is.... (2, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | about 11 years ago | (#7095779)

A site I'm building has a lot of browser-specific CSS code - stylesheets that will only be loaded by certain browsers. Every bit of it validates at (except for internet-explorer.css, which is only loaded by MSIE 5 and 6 on Windows, and is loaded using conditional comments which the W3C validator doesn't parse). The problem isn't creating code that the W3C says is valid, the problem is creating code that works as you intend across multiple browsers, which the W3C won't help you with.

Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful tool, but it doesn't eliminate the need for practical books like this.

Standards? What standards? (2, Funny)

Tebriel (192168) | about 11 years ago | (#7095565)

Since when does the web have standards?

Re:Standards? What standards? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095626)

IE6 is the standard, W3C and Mozilla are just trying to change it to an 'open standard' darn kids, always breaking things. just because you where their first (Mozaic and Netscape3) doesn't make you right. 95% of the internet users out their can't be wrong about what is standard.

(yeah, you know you want to hit that flaimbait button.)

Re:Standards? What standards? (1)

Tebriel (192168) | about 11 years ago | (#7095721)

Why waste a mod point on an AC?

Check out the css Zen Garden... (5, Informative)

phallstrom (69697) | about 11 years ago | (#7095577)

I happened across this site the other day... it really shows off what CSS can do. No idea how it looks in IE, but in Firebird it's pretty amazing. Pick a design from the left and note that it's all style sheets... []

Re:Check out the css Zen Garden... (1)

r4lv3k (638084) | about 11 years ago | (#7095802)

Mod parent up... this is a beautiful website that demonstrates the power and beauty of CSS. They encourage readers to contribute stylesheets for their website, and have a truly mind-opening gallery of CSS.

The first thing I did when I found zen garden was make a CSS that looks like the old phrack [] website. Ugly yet beautiful in its own carcinogenic green terminal way :)

I think the whole point of CSS is that you don't need to be a graphic designer to make a good website. You can use div tags to organize your content, and get an artist to help with a slick stylesheet and GIF^H^H^HPNGs later if you want.


So, where's the web site? (3, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | about 11 years ago | (#7095581)

Where is the completely compliant web site that thet reviewer was designing prior to reading this book? It would be pretty darn interesting to see what it looks like.

future-proof? no such thing (2, Insightful)

proj_2501 (78149) | about 11 years ago | (#7095585)

A Web page that was HTML 3.2 compliant is not standards-compliant at all these days.

How do we know the W3C won't change the standard AGAIN in three years?

Re:future-proof? no such thing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095675)


It is still HTML 3.2 compliant.

It may not follow the latest standard, but a browser should still be able to render it correctly.

W3C standards are not changed. New ones are added.

Re:future-proof? no such thing (1)

proj_2501 (78149) | about 11 years ago | (#7095719)

And then when XML-only browsers pop up, all these old pages become unviewable.

Although, that will probably never happen.

You're making no sense. (2, Informative)

rjh (40933) | about 11 years ago | (#7095844)

And then when XML-only browsers pop up, all these old pages become unviewable.

Yes. Just like you can't view a WordStar 6.0 document in a Web browser.

Free hint: XML is not HTML. It's close, but it's not the same. Any HTML document that is conformant to a given HTML specification can be rendered by any competent HTML browser that's conformant to that specification. If you don't believe me, I can find some very, very old web pages that far predate the 4.01 standard, yet are conformant to the standard of their time, and Firebird renders them perfectly.

Saying "yeah, and when XML-only browsers pop up, all these old pages become unviewable" is a trivial statement. If it's XML-only, then it's not a freaking HTML browser, and it makes no sense to complain that an XML-only browser can't grok HTML. Just like it makes no sense to complain that Firebird can't render WordStar 6.0 documents.

Re:future-proof? no such thing (3, Insightful)

geoffspear (692508) | about 11 years ago | (#7095679)

Yes it is, as long as its doctype declaration doesn't claim it's XHTML or something. Standards compliance has nothing to do with following the latest standards, it has to do with following some standard. 99% of the stuff on the web today doesn't follow whatever standard it claims to follow.

Re: not true (3, Insightful)

polyhue (38042) | about 11 years ago | (#7095680)

It will be standards-compliant to its specified version number. If you're compliant with HTML 4.01 today, you will be 5 years from now even if the current spec is XHTML 23. You may not be up-to-date, but you're compliant with the specified version, and a client will be able to render the page with the appropriate DTD and so forth. (afaik)

Re:future-proof? no such thing (1)

xeo_at_thermopylae (585330) | about 11 years ago | (#7095793)

But that HTML 3.2 document will display adequately in more browsers than will an HTML 4.0 or XHTML document!

The W3C MarkUp Validation Service [] will validate to different standards (choose from the "Type" selection list), so I can validate to HTML 3.2 or even HTML 2.0 if I wish.

Buy It Link (3, Informative)

_newwave_ (265061) | about 11 years ago | (#7095593)

Bookpool [] is always cheaper!

If only the boss could understand the virtues (4, Insightful)

192939495969798999 (58312) | about 11 years ago | (#7095625)

It seems to me that the larger problem with web standards' adoptions is that many managers would prefer to just have crap, so long as they can have it "right now", and forego the longterm financial savings that web standards coding can provide. I would like to see a book on how to implement a web standard or two that will really save a lot of time right from the beginning, versus the kinds of major changes that take weeks to months to implement -- weeks & months that no small-business manager wants to pay for.

Re:If only the boss could understand the virtues (1)

thenextpresident (559469) | about 11 years ago | (#7095876)

This book also covers that. It talks about why standards are important and cost effective from a business point of view. You can use these ideas in promoting standards in your work place.

Zeldman.. Hmmph! (2, Insightful)

Cyphertube (62291) | about 11 years ago | (#7095627)

I like standards. I like accessibility and usability. I hate Zeldman's site. It's like hypocrisy in motion. If I lectured on web design and make sites usable, I might improve my site from where it is.

Zeldman makes life tough on older viewers, disabled, and newbies. His labels are quippish and arrogant, his colours too similar, fonts too small and not resizeable in the most prominent browser out there.

Take a look around and you'll probably find better books on standards. Or, if you must, take the gospel of Zeldman and water it down with a little Jakob Nielsen.

He supplies alternative styles (2, Informative)

xenoc_1 (140817) | about 11 years ago | (#7095815)

Couldn't you see the rather obvious box for selecting different text contrast/size? He uses alternate stylesheets. That even works in IE6. So no problem in the "most prominent browser".

But it's easier to complain...

Re:He supplies alternative styles (1)

Cyphertube (62291) | about 11 years ago | (#7095893)

Obviously if I didn't notice it right away, it's pretty damn poor usability.

What about CMS solutions? (5, Interesting)

RichardtheSmith (157470) | about 11 years ago | (#7095628)

Forgive me if this sounds clueless, but most people who are given the
task of setting up a web site are going to be looking at ways to not
have to do it from scratch. There are a lot of CMS (Content
Management Systems) out there, some free, some not. What *I* really
need is an O'Reilly book about CMS that helps wade through all the
stuff that's out there right now so the reader (me) can make an
informed decision about which way to go.

I did a quick check of the O'Reilly web site and all their CMS info
revolves around XML and Java. This does not help me.

Re:What about CMS solutions? (3, Informative)

Cyphertube (62291) | about 11 years ago | (#7095810)

It depends on what you need. CMS is a very, very broad term, and most people are looking for a WCMS (Web Content Management System) when they say it, even though their true needs may be different.

I would recommend getting the Content Management Bible, which you can learn more about here [] . It covers the various systems out there. One company I worked for realised they needed a Digital Asset Management system, like Artesia [] , and not something like Interwoven [] .

Good luck! And remember that O'Reilly isn't the only reasonable tech publisher out there.

Hmmph. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095643)

I read the book, and the book review, and I can't disagree more. There was NO plot development, the characters were flat and uninspiring, the writer clearly has never been to any of the locations he wrote about, and the ending was absolutely anti-climactic. I mean, COME ON! Where's the zip? Where's the spice?

Someone get this guy a GF (3, Funny)

Greedo (304385) | about 11 years ago | (#7095654)

Am I the only one who noticed that his website [] is Supported by XDate Speed Dating, 30Dates Speed Dating, and for free online dating,

Maybe he should take a break from writing and get out to the bar a bit more.

Re: Don't! (1)

polyhue (38042) | about 11 years ago | (#7095703)

Well don't tell his wife, he got married lately. (Congrats!)

Re:Someone get this guy a GF (1)

J. Jacques (708438) | about 11 years ago | (#7095705)

I believe he's married, actually.

Re:Someone get this guy a GF (2, Informative)

jdeisenberg (37914) | about 11 years ago | (#7095797)

1) He's married.

2) As for his site sponsorship, see: this link []

Geesh, don't be silly... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095659)

Just open up MS-Word and use File-->Save As
web page
Voila! You have now created the perfect web page in ten seconds!
Microsoft takes care of all of the standards stuff so you don't have to worry your pretty little head about that. No really...don't worry.
No...don't do "View Source"

Standards make life easier for everyone. (1)

Maul (83993) | about 11 years ago | (#7095668)

Taking a few extra steps to ensure standards compliance is well worth it.

I've found that standard compliant web pages tend to be more interoperable between browsers (sadly, there will still be differences). This makes it easier for you since you won't have to work as hard to find ways to make your site look good in several browsers. It makes it easier for viewers because they can use the web browser they like the best.

The only problem is that there are a lot of people who still browse on old hardware that has Netscape 4.x on it. Netscape 4.x tends to mangle CSS pretty badly.

Re:Standards make life easier for everyone. (1)

dmeranda (120061) | about 11 years ago | (#7095824)

Then you must be excluding MSIE from your tests. Getting web pages to successfully validate against the W3C validators is just the beginning.

So, do you serve up your latest XHTML pages with a standard mime type of "application/xml+xhtml"? Or are you still using the old deprecated "text/html"? Ooops, IE doesn't understand the new standard mime type. Or oops, you didn't realize that was the new standard (it's burried out there on W3C). That's just one very small example of the details you have to deal with if you are very serious about standards conformance.

I'm not trying to discourage you though. I have spent countless hours making web pages just about as perfectly conforming as I can, using the STRICT standards. I have throughly read every related W3C spec, RFC, Unicode specs, etc. Also throw in usability standards, and other related standards. I've also done this with dynamically generated webpages, which means I had to code the whole thing myself because almost no web application "platforms" are fully compliant or even capable of producing strictly-compliant webpages. It's a really tough job to do it well, and not to break stupid browsers (but it is selfishly satifying once you achieve that and prove that it can be done).

Does it cover... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095683)

... the maddening differences between Internet Explorer, Mozilla/Firebird/Netscape 6x-7x, Opera, Netscape (butchered v4x), Safari and of course, Lynx? If the developers of all the different browsers out there read this book, would they even agree on how to execute and implement it? Not likely as long as the Suits they work for all have their own adjendas.

Ummm (0, Flamebait)

DaveKAO (320532) | about 11 years ago | (#7095700)

Microsoft browsers follow standards MUCH closer than Netscape. Mozilla is good, but still has some problems. Tables and Styles just do not work in Netscape 4.0, and have limited use in 6.0 and above. I find that 40% of my design time goes to formatting (using supposed standards) for IE 6, and the rest goes to trying to manipulate Netscape/Mozilla/Macs into displaying the proper way.

I don't agree (1)

justMichael (606509) | about 11 years ago | (#7095841)

I do ALL of my development on a PowerBook with Camino (Mozilla based) and the only browsers I have to tweak for are Netscape 4 and IE 5. Mostly for Netscape 4.

If you know what things the different browsers can handle and what makes them puke it's not that bad. You end up with some legacy width and height tags for Netscape 4, but the CSS aware browsers will ignore them.

You also want to sniff the browser to feed it CSS that it can handle, I have found that some tag's will destroy a page in Netscape 4 and IE 5, so there a 3 CSS files for NS_4, IE_5 and everything else.

Don't get me wrong, I will never get Netscape 4 to look the way I want, but according to my logs, I don't need to.

Re:Ummm (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 11 years ago | (#7095849)

I agree that Netscape 6.0 did have some issues, but that browser was released three years ago and hardly anyone ever used it because it was so slow and buggy. Even fewer continue to use it today.

I'd spend my time checking the site with Netscape 7.x or Mozilla 1.0.x or Mozilla 1.4.x instead. Can you give a specific example of "limited use" of tables and styles in one of those browsers?

Re:Ummm (5, Informative)

dastrike (458983) | about 11 years ago | (#7095889)

Internet Explorer violates a lot of standards. And is otherwise nasty to work with.
  • CSS level 1: Not full support despite MS claiming so. E.g.background-attatchment: fixed; works only on the <body element.
  • CSS level 2: Quite a mess, lots of things are broken, e.g. the infamous issues with the box model, and lots of things are not implemented, e.g. position: fixed;
  • XML support is flaky at best, it tends to complain about DTDs even though they are valid.
  • Other nasty quirks such as when having a <?xml ... ?> declaration, then it ignores the doctype and reverts to quirks mode with all the broken box models and such.
  • Violation of the HTTP specification by ignoring the media type received from the server. Internet Explorer will most of the time second-guess the media type instead. tml#sec7.2.1 []
    If and only if the media type is not given by a Content-Type field, the recipient MAY attempt to guess the media type via inspection of its content and/or the name extension(s) of the URI used to identify the resource.
I design according to the standards and using Mozilla and Opera 7 as the design references, and then adjust the stylesheets for IE's buggy behavior, so that it renders fine there as well.

Yes but! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7095726)

Until Debian Linux ships a standards compliant browser in the stable version, I as a web deisgner have to stick with NShtml because debian potato still uses netscape 4.8 as its default browser.

Sigh, and I have 20 clients too, which go all googaah over (blink) tags. (I am a debian certified consultant)

This book is excellent (1)

denisb (411264) | about 11 years ago | (#7095727)

I would say this book is as close to a 10 as possible.

The first historical overview mentioned is very nice, but can be skipped. However I feel it is an important part of the book, and gives weight to the arguments on why using the standards way later on. It also gets designers new to the web up to date on what has passed, and highlights mistakes that were made (so we can possibly avoid them again).

Otherwise I agree fully with the author, the book is indeed both well written, has a nice flow and really gives good arguments why this is the right way, and how to do it the right way. The authors attitude is never arrogant, and the solutions are always practically oriented and work well in real-life (unlike a lot of other books on HTML and CSS).

My take on this book is that if you want to read one book on web design this should be it. Of course after having read this book you probably change your mind and start looking for other literature by the same author :)

Dead issue (-1, Flamebait)

NineNine (235196) | about 11 years ago | (#7095751)

This is such a dead issue, it's laughable. Really. This book would have been useful in say, 1999, but today, it's a moot fucking point. It's kinda' like a rant about how Betamax is the "official standard". It's ridiculous, outdated, and purely academic. There hasn't been a significant (or even insignificant) change in web browsing in years, and there's unlikely to be one any time soon. And when there is, it's highly unlikely that everything is going to break.

Re:Dead issue (1)

ghoting (542145) | about 11 years ago | (#7095892)

Ya, and that's why the fella a couple posts above yours says,
Ummm (Score:1)

by DaveKAO (320532) on Tuesday September 30, @10:36AM (#7095700)
Microsoft browsers follow standards MUCH closer than Netscape. Mozilla is good, but still has some problems. Tables and Styles just do not work in Netscape 4.0, and have limited use in 6.0 and above. I find that 40% of my design time goes to formatting (using supposed standards) for IE 6, and the rest goes to trying to manipulate Netscape/Mozilla/Macs into displaying the proper way.
If there was nothing useful in this book, then statements like that wouldn't be made.

If it was such a dead issue, it wouldn't be a huge event when a major site (,, finally adopts a modern standard and aims for compliance.

This book would have been useful in '99, sure, but it's far from a moot point now.

Perhaps... (1)

dark_panda (177006) | about 11 years ago | (#7095772)

... someone could spring and buy a copy for our hosts [] ?

Granted, some parts of the W3 standards are worth breaking (wrap attributes in textrea inputs, for instance), but c'mon.


Here's to reading books from start to finish (2, Insightful)

TheNarrator (200498) | about 11 years ago | (#7095778)

Reading tech books from start to finish is quite underrated. I find that if you don't read every word in a tech book, one often misses important information that can save a lot of time.

Standards aren't standard (1)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | about 11 years ago | (#7095812)

Imagine a world where valid xhtml/css websites rendered the same in all browsers. Imagine a world without Internet explorer.... ahhhhhh.

Unfortunately, very few sites out there that work in all browsers correctly are compliant.

I guess it's a toss up: have a little validator button proudly displayed somewhere on your site and have a few display errors in Internet Explorer or have a messily coded site that is slow, but works.

Too bad nobody follows standards (1)

chia_monkey (593501) | about 11 years ago | (#7095845)

Standards are nice. It's a cryin' shame nobody follows them though. Sure, it takes considerably longer to make your site standards-compliant and geeze, we can't cut into our bottome line, can we? We gotta get that site out right away. Screw Mac users. Or screw AOL users. Let's just code for IE. It's a nice dream but unfortunately I don't see it being used in the real world.

Another unfortunate tidbit...I work for one of those places. I know the aggrivation of trying to get compliance through to people who just won't listen. *sigh*

Usings standards to save size (5, Informative)

Jonas ÷berg (19456) | about 11 years ago | (#7095862)

Our faculty of the university at which I work has decided on a new layout for their web pages. This was done and delivered to us by a PR agency. I feared that it might be bad, but that fear didn't even come close to what I had to witness.

Imagine having to tell our users (many of which are using GNU/Linux or Macintosh) that our web site only works reliably in Windows with Internet Explorer 6.0 and above. Just because a PR agency can't develop web pages. It's impossible. I had to do something about it.

So when I implemented the layout for our department (scheduled to go live later this month), I scrapped everything they had done. I took a printout of their page (as it looked in Internet Explorer) and marked up what colors and fonts they had used.

Then I set down and wrote the same thing using XHTML/1.0 Strict and CSS1. This was about two days work, but the finished result now validates using w3c's validate tools, and it works reliably in all browsers I've managed to try, all the way back to Mosaic and Netscape 3, with or without images (yes, Lynx, Links, w3 and other text browsers work very well indeed too).

Not only did I get the pages to validate. By using CSS, I was able to get rid of several images they had been using with their design. The overall size of a page, including graphics and CSS, now weighs in at about 35 kbytes. This is compared to around 120 kbytes with the proposed code.

And even better, most things can be cached by the browser (CSS code and images). The only thing that needs reloading when you hit subsequent pages is the dynamic XHTML code, which weighs in at around 5 kbytes, compares to 40 kbytes in the proposed code.

Now, I think our students will like us. This result is even better than the pages that we have today. They render quickly and effortlessly even on old equipment or on extremely slow links.

I havn't been able to convince the faculty to make my code the "default" yet, but they might get the idea once people start noticing that our pages load much more quickly than the rest of the faculty pages.

So, using standards isn't always about making things render nicely in all browsers. It gives you a while heap of nice side effects that isn't worth sneezing at.

Stop IE Now! (2, Offtopic)

naztafari (696863) | about 11 years ago | (#7095873)

It's irritating the way the world is enslaved to such an awful spyware-magnet standards-flouting browser as MS Internet Explorer.

Microsoft declared IE6 SP1 as the last standalone browser for lame-ass reasons. The truth is, they're only truly integrating IE into the next Windows Operating System for the first time, to prove their 'point' in the anti-trust case that they couldn't remove the browser from the OS.

If IE really was such an integral part of the current slew of windows versions, how come it takes ridiculously long to load when you enter a URL into the address bar of an explorer window, and that the people at LitePC [] was able to remove IE from the Windows operating system?

Bunch of liars. Guys, help educate everyone and have people switch to either Mozilla [] or Opera [] -> Makes Windows boxes more secure and gets rid of the need to buy those stupid superflous pop-up killers. (you can pick up viruses or spyware just by surfing a maliciously coded website and hitting the wrong button)

None of my family and friends use IE anymore after I educated them about the dangers of IE.
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