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Jeffrey Zeldman Bites Back

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the gives-as-good-as-he-gets dept.

Graphics 162

We got a lot of (shall we say) slightly impertinent questions for Web Standards Project co-founder Jeffrey Zeldman, but that's okay. He reads Slashdot and knows the nature of the beast, and he's hard-core enough to give as good as he gets. So set your humor module to high, then sit back and enjoy Mr. Zeldman's (appropriately impertinent) answers to the 12 questions we forwarded to him.

1) Here's my question:
(Score:5, Insightful)
by FascDot Killed My Pr

If you're such a hotshot web designer, why have you committed one of the cardinal sins of web design: Putting an "entry page" that does nothing but suck bandwidth and make it difficult to "back" out of a site?

Jeffrey:

I'll answer this one piece by piece.

"If you're such a hotshot web designer."

Never claimed to be. Roblimo wrote that glowing description. It's not surprising that some of you, who have no idea what I do, were pissed off when those words of high praise took you to a very simple, low-bandwidth, personal site.

I wish Rob had said "Zeldman is a co-founder of The Web Standards Project" (WaSP), and had explained what the WaSP does, maybe even mentioning the role we played in getting Netscape to throw out its old rendering engine and begin building Mozilla around the standards-compliant Gecko core. I'm guessing people would have overlooked my supposed "design sins" or their distaste for the color orange on my personal site if they had a better idea about what I actually do.

For those who don't know, the WaSP organized a petition drive to persuade Netscape to throw out its old rendering engine and build its new browser around Gecko. Then-group-leader George Olsen of WaSP, along with ThunderLizard's Jim Heid, got 2,000 developers to sign the petition. Netscape is a company that listens - at least, for the last two years, it has been listening - and you all know the result: an upcoming browser that is designed to fully comply with HTML 4, CSS-1, the W3C DOM, XML, and EcmaScript.

No disrespect to Roblimo either. I dig the guy. And what he said is true in a sense. I *am* a web designer and writer, and a lot of the work I've done over the past five years *has* gotten imitated, for better or worse. For instance, oddly enough, the original Mozilla.org (http://www.mozilla.org) was copied from the simple HTML-and-CSS layout I did The Web Standards Project (http://www.webstandards.org/): from the technique, to the color palette, to the crude four-pixel black outlines around content areas. Don't bother checking; the new Mozilla layout has evolved away from that original look, though it still bears trace elements of the original design. A lot of you probably do remember the original Mozilla layout. I'm sure when Roblimo saw it, he realized it was copied from http://www.webstandards.org and I think that's the kind of thing he was referring to in his overly kind introduction to my work.

By the way, I wasn't upset by what Mozilla did; I was flattered by it. You may think it is ugly design, though I'm sure that none of you said so to Mozilla because you believe in the project. It's weird to me that the same people who dig Mozilla would be rude in their comments to someone who, at least in a small way, helped influence the direction of that browser, and who also influenced the initial DESIGN of that project, but whatever. I also talk with Microsoft, because the goal of WaSP is to get standards in *all* browsers, and the fact that I talk to engineers at that company may make me evil incarnate in your book. I can deal with that. If we get better browsers, I'll be satisfied.

I do get copied a lot and often those copies are better than the original. In that sense "VIEW SOURCE" functions like "OPEN SOURCE." ;) I am happy when someone takes an idea of mine and makes it better (and their own).

"why have you committed one of the cardinal sins of web design"

I've been designing websites for five years. I don't claim to be a genius and I'm far from the best designer on the planet, but your take on cardinal sins of a profession you do not participate in is about as meaningful as my comments on your programming decisions would be.

You are parroting Jakob Nielsen or some other expert whose work you've read. You haven't read my work on the same subject (no problem) and you don't know my work as a designer (no problem). Just as in programming, design is about decisions. A designer never sins. He/she makes informed decisions. If you get to know the work, you may understand why those decisions were made. If you never bother to engage with the work - if you merely believe that all design must conform with a small set of rules written by one or two people - you don't understand the nature of the thing you are criticizing. Especially if you spend all of five seconds looking at it, and then rush to be the first to post a rant. There are rules of grammar, too, and James Joyce threw them all out. True, I ain't him. But I am me. All designers make decisions, and if the entire web looked like http://www.useit.com I don't think that would be such a great thing. Anything that departs from the look of http://www.useit.com is violating at least a few of Jakob's "rules," and that's the nature of the beast.

"Putting [up] an 'entry page' that does nothing but suck bandwidth and make it difficult to "back" out of a site?"

The bandwidth sucked is exactly 4K. I think you can handle it.

The "entry page" is a temporary placeholder while I rethink the front end of my personal site. Notice the words "temporary," "placeholder," and "personal." The previous front page was navigational in nature, and it is archived at http://www.zeldman.com/mozillatest.html . The name refers to the fact that the page revealed a bug in recent builds of Mozilla. I have left it online so the Mozilla folks can use it to track down and fix that bug, which they are doing now.

Recently, I've been focused on WaSP and A List Apart (http://www.alistapart.com/), a web design magazine and mailing list I co-founded with Brian Platz. The content on my personal site (275+ pages) has not been my most recent focus, so I determined a while back that it was silly to stop the visitor with a primarily navigational page. I should explain that some people visit zeldman.com for entertainment like The Ad Graveyard; a completely different audience visits for web design info, such as the Ask Dr Web tutorial; and so on. To accommodate those very different visitors, I initially had a core page that was navigational. I didn't put real content on page one, because I was accommodating maybe six completely different audiences, and there was nothing in all that content that would appeal to ALL of them. On http://www.alistapart.com/ I start with content on page one, because the audience is more unified.

Even that old navigational page (http://www.zeldman.com/mozillatest.html), with all its rollovers etc., was very low-bandwidth. I recently got to look at it while stuck at an airport in Stockholm. The airport had five Windows boxes sharing one 56K modem. I looked at some of my favorite sites, and they were all crawling onto the screen. I was pleased that my own front page loaded instantly. I design for low bandwidth, which explains why my work rarely looks like that of "such a hot shit designer." Back to the point. I haven't yet figured out how to restructure the front end of my site, so I put up a 4K placeholder with a bone-simple rollover and a 6 second refresh to the single page at my site that I have been focusing on lately.

Now you know why I have a temporary entry page; now you know why it does "nothing" (it is temporary, and what it does is redirect you); and now you know that it does not suck bandwidth.

How it "makes it difficult to 'back' out of the site" is a mystery to me, so I can't comment on that clause in your question. Personally I find database driven pages much harder to navigate and back out of than 4K html pages. And with browsers that suck, frames-based pages can also be tough to navigate. My 4K page is frameless HTML.

2) I have a question:
(Score:4, Insightful)
by Skinka

What's with that small font www.zeldman.com, haven't you read any (web) usability guides?

Jeffrey:

Yes, I've read them, yes I've written on the subject, yes yes yes.

Along with another WaSP member, I helped influence Microsoft to make ALL web text resizable by the user in IE5/Mac for reasons of accessibility and usability, and we are hoping to get the same from Mozilla. (At the moment, this feature is only available in IE5/Mac. It should be in every browser. It's not in the Windows version of IE and it's obviously not in the current version of Navigator.)

Why small fonts? Personal design decision on a personal site. You can enlarge the type in some browsers, not all. That day is coming.

There are methods of CSS that allow you to resize type in *all* browsers.

Why do I often avoid those methods?

Because they are not supported in most "CSS-capable" browsers.

Absolute font-size keywords are broken in Navigator 4 (all platforms) and IE5/Windows.

Percentages and ems are broken in Netscape 4.

Points are meaningless on computer screens, and the reliance on points in Style Sheets is a widespread authoring error.

Until all browsers support standards, designers will be stuck using pixels or FONT SIZE tags. Or simply making no effort at all to control the appearance and size of type on the web page. If this bothers you, join The Web Standards Project.

(Warning: it is orange. If you "can't get past the color" then I guess you'll have to let big browser companies determine the fate of the web.)

Unless you design web sites every day, you have no idea of the compatibility nightmares involved. But in your own work, I'm sure you have plenty of examples of brain-dead decisions by others that force you to use hacks and workarounds. It's the same in web design.

At the moment, the main text at http://www.zeldman.com/coming.html (the one page in all my work that most Slashdotters seem to have looked at) is laid out with ems. This is wonderful, scalable technology. You can easily enlarge or reduce the type in just about any browser.

Except, of course, that it doesn't work at all in most versions of Navigator 4. If you're using Navigator - and you know you are - you will see large ugly type, not the type treatment I intended. Until we have standards, that's just the way it will be.

3) Not to flame, but...
(Score:5, Insightful)
by mr.nobody

I find it hard to ask HTML questions to someone who has committed the cardinal sin of taking away the status bar with JavaScript.

Jeffrey:

Another cardinal sin.

Hmm. Let's see.

The status bar *does* reveal the url of the page it links to - just like an untreated status bar would do. It also provides ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY. I guess that's a bad thing. I can't see why, but I guess I'll take your word for it. URL = good, URL + additional information = bad. Because you say so.

The title tag also provides additional information, but Question #12 told me that that was okay, even good. Whew! That's a relief.

4) where's the interview
(Score:4, Interesting)
by geekpress

Jeff, I programmed for a web design company in which design issues totally trumped more practical concerns like download time. (In one case, I was forced to create absurdly complex html tables just so that the designer could get his one-pixel rounded corners on his notecard design.) What do you see as the appropriate balance between aesthetics and practical usability?

P.S. That company is now out of business, thank goodness!

Jeffrey:

I almost always design for low bandwidth.

I was creative director at a web firm and had designed a layout with thin black borders (yes I do this same thing over and over again) for a database driven site that would be creating tables on the fly. The design effect would not render in Navigator, but the page still looked fine in Navigator, even without those little black outlines.

It was possible to FORCE Navigator to display the effect by surrounding every table with an additional, empty table. That is sometimes okay, obviously - I've been doing it since we could begin applying rudimentary styling to tables - but on a large page full of data, it would unnecessarily increase the bandwidth per page, force all browsers to burn cycles as they calculated the appearance of complex table-in-table displays, possibly cause display errors, and completely yoke the content to the presentation, making it that much harder to fix later, when we have better browsers.

So I told the company president it was a usability nightmare and a waste of resources and bandwidth and therefore not worth doing.

He told me to do it anyway.

So I quit my job and started my own company.

Rounded edges, high bandwidth, all that stuff can be fine in the right situations, as long as alternatives are provided and rules of accessibility are respected. Usually I persuade my clients to go in the low-bandwidth direction, and I almost always go low-bandwidth on the noncommercial sites I do (zeldman.com, http://www.webstandards.org/ and http://www.alistapart.com/ ).

But high bandwidth is fine for the right audience. Consider http://www.praystation.com, which is a brilliantly designed site by Joshua Davis. It's amazing work. The audience for that site is primarily Joshua's fellow designers, and most of them have T1 or DSL access. Since the site's goal is to push design as far as it can go on the web, and since the audience is known to have fast connections and a desire to see great design, there is absolutely nothing wrong (and lot right) with the higher-bandwidth road taken by this project.

5) Optimism?
(Score:5, Funny)
by Chalst

How hopeful are you that Microsoft can be coaxed into making IE standards compliant? What exactly do you think Microsoft's motive was in not supporting HTML 4.0 completely?

Jeffrey:

It varies by the hour. Sometimes I think they are going to do this and simply have not committed to it because they're not sure they can pull it off. Sometimes I suspect that as the current market leader (guys with the most users) they think they don't have to bother with this. ("Our way *is* the standard." That kind of thinking.) And sometimes I reckon that they're doing this to fuck up Mozilla. ("You're going to support standards? Well, we have more users. You lose.") I don't *know* what they're thinking, but I suspect that different people there are thinking combinations of all the above.

I do know there are engineers there who are committed to supporting standards. Not only because I've met some of them through my work with WaSP, but also because - in the case of IE5/Mac - they've actually pulled it off. Remember, Microsoft (along with Netscape, Sun, invited experts, etc.) helped come up with these standards in the first place. Why would you design blueprints and then not follow them when you build the house? The engineers who participate in the standards process are committed to complying with standards. Some people in management may not be. Or they may be delaying, for short-sighted competitive reasons, or from fear of committing until they are sure they can do it right.

HTML 4 - the LAST HTML - includes dozens of accessibility improvements, and it is insane for any company not to fully support that. Without full support for HTML 4, millions of web users get hurt. That's morally wrong, and it's also just plain bad for business. I think that in time, all browser companies, including Microsoft, will come to see that. I also think the W3C's recent hiring of a conformance manager (http://xmlhack.com/read.php?item=517) signals that the W3C will soon take a more active role in "helping" companies get with the program, support standards, and stop screwing up developers and web users in a game where everybody - including the browser companies - eventually loses.

6) Balancing Technologies
(Score:5, Insightful)
by Proteus

As you are no doubt aware, the technology that drives web site design is advancing rapidly. However, there are still a lot of users who run older browsers, or prefer to use text-only browsers such as Lynx.

Obviously, one wants to reach as large an audience as possible, but not "lag behind" too far. How do you go about balancing the use of newer technology on a site without alienating users of older software, disabled users, and text-only browsers?

Jeffrey:

Using HTML 4, ALT tags, and the TITLE tag goes a long way toward achieving this goal.

So does using CSS for type, instead of FONT FACE and FONT SIZE tags that yoke content to presentation.

I do both these things, and all the other little things you have to do, for instance with framesets. I think there may be some really old (1996) framesets at zeldman.com where I left out full content inside the noframes tags. I'm cleaning that up as quickly as I can. At ALA http://www.alistapart.com/), wherever I used framesets, I included the full text inside the noframes tags, and I also included TEXT versions of all articles.

The next stage is full separation of content from structure, and that means using HTML 4 and CSS (and eventually, replacing HTML 4 with XHTML; and eventually, migrating to XML).

We can't safely do that yet. Gecko is still in development, Netscape 4 has appalling "support" for CSS, IE5/Windows has better but far from complete support, and the only released browser that gets it right - IE5/Mac - has a 6% market share.

SOON. Not soon enough, but SOON, we will look back on this era of stupidity and laugh. Oh, how we will laugh. This is the TRON era and we are striving to reach the MATRIX era.

7) Reverse scenario question...
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Jonny Royale

Have you ever seen anything come from a browser publisher "extending" a standard (Microsoft, Netscape, other), and thought "Gee, I wish that was in the standard"? Examples?

Jeffrey:

Yes.

LOW SRC was a funky old tag from Netscape (dating back to Netscape 1.1) that allowed you to slip a low-bandwidth image into place, and then have it replaced by the more bandwidth-intensive image when the latter finished downloading. For people with very slow connections, it was a useful hack. It also enabled creative web designers to add a certain amount of "SFX magic" (cough) to even the most primitive pages, viewed by the oldest browsers, under the most adverse conditions. That's gone. Too bad. I miss it.

Because of browser offsets in all released versions of Navigator and most versions of Explorer, I wish the "four horsemen of non-validation" (leftmargin, topmargin marginwidth and marginheight) had made it into HTML 4.0 transitional. We won't need them eventually, but until the browsers are smarter, we still do need them. The W3C is always ahead of what the browsers can deliver, of course; but by discouraging these dumb proprietary tags, the W3C has put us in the position where PAGES THAT WILL NOT WORK without these tags will fail at http://validator.w3.org. That kind of failure discourages developers from building standards-compliant pages. It is a small thing, and it is transitional, but DURING THE TRANSITION, I would have liked to see those four stupid tags get approval with a benevolent sigh.

On the other hand, designers who know what they are doing may include these tags and ignore those validation errors, but don't tell the W3C I said so.

Given the brain-dead way Navigator 4 and IE4/5/Windows handled absolute font size keywords in CSS, I *sometimes* wish font size tags were not discouraged YET. I hate them and hardly ever use them, but (for instance) there's no way to get small type in Linux that is actually READABLE without relying on these dumb old non-standard tags. What I really wish in this case, of course, is that Netscape and Microsoft hadn't fucked up this simple CSS technology. So I take the FONT SIZE tags thing back. Uh, never mind. I just wish Netscape and Microsoft had gotten CSS right the first time.

8) Banners
(Score:5, Interesting)
by TheTomcat

This is only vaguely related to design, but directly related to the web, and functionality.

We all know that banners don't work anymore. The only way a business can profit from banners is to show thousands per day. Most users don't even SEE banners anymore. We avoid them the same way we dig in the couch for the remote when commercials interrupt The Simpsons.

Do you have any suggestions to make future, content-based sites profitable?

Jeffrey:

There are several issues here. One is, a lot of the best work is done as a labor of love, and always will be. Those who need a revenue model before they are willing to even think about working will lose one of the golden opportunities of the web, which is free expression and the building of communities, regardless of financial issues. For instance, Slashdot was born as a community and still is one. Eventually, Slashdot got into a position where it could make money, but Slashdot is true to itself and was not corrupted or changed by any commercial considerations. So it is possible to make a good thing and not blow it when the cash register starts jingling. But a lot of other sites and communities have turned to dreck when money was involved.

We all agree that banners suck - Roblimo even wrote an article for ALA on that subject, back when ALA was just getting launched. With a big enough readership, banners *can* be profitable, as they are at Slashdot. But I agree that most of us just hate 'em.

Sponsorships are another possible means of revenue. "This issue of Webmonkey brought to you by Hewlett-Packard." With an entertaining HP minisite available at the click of a link, for those who care. Kaliber 10000 (http://www.k10k.net) has gotten Apple sponsorship, and all that means is, there's a tiny Apple link in the top right hand corner of the front page. If you click it, you get a popup window with text on why the site's designers like their Macs, and links to some current movies in Apple Quicktime format.

The Cluetrain guys have spoken about this model of corporate sponsorship as well.

I think about it sometimes. For instance, http://www.alistapart.com/ could be "brought to you by" Macromedia or Adobe. But to tell the truth, I don't really pursue this idea because I'm not motivated by money when it comes to creating web content. I simply want to create or choose the right content, and totally control it, and I'm not sanguine that I could do that if I *had* corporate sponsorship. Thinking about it some more is on my to-do list, but it's about 500 layers down in the list. I make enough money designing websites that I don't worry about "revenue models" for my content sites. It is a real issue, though. Just one I haven't bothered with personally, yet.

9) Jeff, your CSS suck
(Score:4, Insightful)
by Nicolas MONNET

I quote from your website:

H1 {font: bold 24px verdana, helvetica, arial, sans-serif; margin-top: 0xp;}
H4 {font: 12px verdana, helvetica, sans-serif; margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 10px;}

So why, tell me, WHY did you use PIXELS (px) instead of POINTS (pt), thereby overriding my painfully crafted DPI settings, rendering your all page unviewable on my Linux machine?

Jeffrey:

Refer to the answer to Question 2. Also refer to this Word from the WaSP column:

http://www.webstandards.org/wfw/ieah.html

The best way to style text - and the way the W3C recommends - is to use relative sizes or absolute size keywords.

Both these methods are completely broken in Navigator 4. Totally frickin' useless. Don't shoot the messenger. Netscape agrees, and that's why they threw out their old rendering engine and started from scratch.

And absolute size keywords are stupidly mis-supported in IE4/5 for Windows, where "medium" means large, and "small" means medium.

Faced with this maddening stupidity on the part of browser makers, designers/developers have two choices:

Do not style text at all. Have a nice day.

*OR* rely on pixels, which work in all "CSS-capable" browsers.

I sadly choose the latter until the browsers fully comply with W3C standards.

As to POINTS versus pixels, points are absolutely meaningless on the web, and the fact that they are used by thousands of developers who should know better proves only how little CSS is understood by the development community.

Certain point sizes may work on your platform in your style sheet. That proves that certain point sizes work on your platform in your style sheet. Cross-platform it is not transportable, and points are print-based units of measurement that have no meaningful relationship to the wonderful world of monitor resolution.

For a good discussion of CSS problems, see Todd Fahrner's "Beyond the Font Size Tag: Practical HTML Text and Styling" at http://style.metrius.com/font_size /livetext.html (Unfortunately, even some of *THESE* techniques do not work in more recent versions of Navigator 4.)

In a few months, there will be exactly two browsers that get CSS-1 right: Mozilla/Nav 6 for all platforms, and IE5/Mac which we have now. Since neither has dominant marketshare, developers will still face huge obstacles when trying to do something as SIMPLE and BASIC as size text on the web. Many will stick with pixels, which are the only CSS technique that actually WORKS across browsers and platforms.

In addition to all these nightmarish problems with our browsers, there are special challenges with Linux, because unless Linux users install additional scalable fonts, you can follow all the rules for good CSS, and avoid "problem" font sizes, and still create pages that look jaggy or are unreadable on a lot of people's machines. I worry about this all the time, but I don't have a solution for it. I have actually gone back to using the stupid The way to advance the medium is to get absolute font size keywords and relative font sizes right in CSS, finish implementing HTML 4, and give us the W3C DOM, XML, and EcmaScript. (And then wait two years for users to upgrade.)

10) Pixel based alignment and HTML
(Score:4, Insightful)
by mcelrath

One of the most disturbing trends that I see in web design these days is the trend toward trying to control layout at the pixel level. As HTML (Hypertext Markup) was not intended to be a graphics language, what is your comment on this?

Jeffrey:

Separation of style and content is the way forward.

The problem is the browsers.

When I revised my "Ask Dr Web" tutorial at http://www.zeldman.com/askdrweb/, along with other pages at http://www.zeldman.com/, to use CSS layouts instead of tables, certain versions of Navigator 4 began crashing.

Actually crashing from basic CSS-1.

I wrote about this at A List Apart, ("The Day the Browser Died") and because of this, Netscape invested some time and resources to fixing some of these bugs in Navigator 4. It didn't catch them all, and it didn't catch them in Linux. These bugs will never be fully fixed in Navigator 4, because Netscape is wisely spending its energy to finish the Mozilla browser. Unfortunately, this means that Netscape users will continue to face serious usability hazards throughout the web until Netscape 6 is released ... *OR* it means that developers will continue to use TABLES for layouts for the next two years (as Jakob Nielsen has predicted).

If you look at these pages - http://www.zeldman.com/steal.html or http://www.zeldman.com/icon.html are other examples - you will see that we are talking about extremely BASIC layouts. An expert from the CSS pointers group actually volunteered hours of her time trying alternate combinations of the very basic CSS on those pages to see if she could find ways to stop Netscape from crashing. She could not; neither could I. Netscape did what it could for its 4.0 users, but it can't do anything more until the next generation is released.

On my personal site I made the tough decision to leave these pages as-is. I don't have time to recode them all using tables.

You can agree or disagree with that decision.

Linux folks can either use the Mozilla or Opera betas to navigate those pages in safety and comfort.

It's worth noting that W3C pages also crashed Netscape 4, for the same reason.

What happens when Netscape's browser is this badly damaged? I get hate mail from people who don't understand the issues involved. I also got a letter of thanks from Netscape's Eric Krock, because good companies WANT us to help them find bugs in their software.

As an example of this, many sites (including yours) use font size=1 to acheive a font that is fairly uniform in pixel size across browsers. Anyone with a high-resolution screen will tell you that this is highly annoying, since it results in an almost unreadable font.

See above for the explanation as to why developers are stuck using 1994 technology to support late-1990s browsers. The same questions, the same answers.

The good thing - the ONLY good thing - about the font size tag is that it is user-resizable. The rest of this has been answered above.

Forcing netscape to use a larger font size often destroys the layout of the page. What's worse, some pages use dynamic fonts and other features to force this on the user.

Right, although in some cases it is justified.

As another example, many pages use the table , and layer to specify the exact size in pixels of portions of the page, and then put a little notice at the bottom ("This site best viewed at 800x600") or some such.

Yes, that is usually a bad design decision. Whenever possible, I use what Glenn Davis (WaSP and Project Cool co-founder) calls "liquid" design ... design that reflows to exactly fit the visitor's monitor. That's almost always a better way to go. Examples of my liquid designs include http://www.alistapart.com/, http://www.the-adstore.com, and most of zeldman.com. If you dig long enough in zeldman.com, you'll come upon pages older than the NYC subways, that simply use BAD design ... though at the time, it wasn't all that bad.

Liquid design is not always appropriate but it is generally best.

What are standards groups doing to fix this?

Nothing. The W3C can't make better or more intelligent designers out of people, and neither can the WaSP, whose sole purpose is to agitate for W3C standards in browsers (and eventually in web authoring tools).

We can try to lead by example. http://www.webstandards.org/ is liquid (aside from the front page, which is "semi-liquid" owing to the large low-rez graphic) and it validates.

MEMBERS of standards groups can write articles on the subject and hope that people read them. Of course, if people "can't get past" a 4k splash page, they will not learn about my articles on the subject.

Will I be looking at pages designed for 800x600 (or worse, 640x480) with my 1920x1440 screen forever? Will persons with laptops at 640x480 be unable to read the web soon? Will standards bodies ever require percentage-of-screen width and height specifiers, or even better, implement table width=30ch to specify sizes in relation to the current font size?

Standards bodies can recommend certain authoring practices, and they can develop standards that make such practices possible, but they cannot enforce good authoring.

11) Evaluate Slashdot
(Score:5, Interesting)
by Pseudonymus Bosch

What would you change, what would you add, what would you remove in Slashdot?

Jeffrey:

It's a community and it works. It has achieved visibility, notoriety, and even commercial success without giving an inch. Pretty awesome achievement. What would I change?

Sometimes the longer threads take a long time to load, due to back-end technology, platform and server issues. The technology works better on Linux than it does on my platform of choice (Mac OS) but, hey, that's okay.

I know you want me to comment on the design. Design is subjective. Black backgrounds and teal are not my favorite color scheme (though I used black backgrounds at the 1995 Ad Graveyard (http://www.zeldman.com/ad.html) and the January 1997 Furbo Filters so who am I to talk? The main thing I was trying to do at Furbo was get CSS to work - and to let people know about Craig Hockenberry's and my Furbo Filters, which were the only Photoshop plugins at the time that dealt with the web-safe color palette - at least to our knowledge.)

I might change the color scheme and some other things if Rob Malda went on a crack run and asked me to redesign Slashdot, but that ain't likely to happen. And I think the design of Slashdot is just fine. It focuses you on the breaking stories, allows you to read more (or not), and provides access to almost everything else on the site via small navigation units. In terms of usability it is damn good, and it has plenty of attitude.

Of course, it commits the "cardinal sin" of teal, but I can get past that.

12) Do you agree with Nielsen?
(Score:4, Interesting)
by Pseudonymus Bosch

I have no idea about you and your views, but I have read lots of the Alertbox columns by Jakob Nielsen.

Do you agree with him? Do you disagree? What about?

Jeffrey:

I agree with his comments on oral sex and wearing white after Labor Day.

And I like that he can get $25,000 to talk for an hour. I'll do the same for half that amount.

I also agree with Jakob that most websites should be usable by as many people as possible.

What I have done about that is help found The Web Standards Project, so we can actually achieve that goal instead of using duct tape and lasagna to build sites that work for "most" people. And I try to make my pages accessible in spite of the limitations of current browsers and some of the cross-platform issues discussed above.

If you are interested in my views, you can read them at http://www.alistapart.com/, Adobe.com (here, http://www.adobe.com/we b/columns/zeldman/20000320/main.html, for instance), http://www.webstandards.org/ and of course at http://www.zeldman.com/. If you can get past the 4k splash page.

At least you share the use of TITLE attributes in hyperlinks (a good feature that Slashdot shouldn't chomp away).

Thanks! The reason Slashdot chomps title tags is probably because they are not supported in Netscape yet. They are an important usability feature, and in some browsers they also offer nifty low-grade special effects - along with the opportunity for contextual ampliciation or ironic commentary.

jeffrey

Can't act. Can't sing. Can dance a little.

http://www.zeldman.com
http://www.alistapart.com
http://www.happycog.com
http://www.webstandards.org

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Off-topic comment on Slashdot (2)

pen (7191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063676)

Whew, I finally found an article where I could post this.

Is it just me, or does something have to be done about the black background?! It makes selecting text in Netscape hellish, because Netscape thinks the text is sitting on black background (when it is actually sitting on the white table.)

--

Re:Sorry, the flames of your design were justified (2)

h0h0h0_ (180368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063677)

Maybe you are deliberatley failing to mention Web content as opposed to web design when you speak of cardinal sins but if i get it straight; you would miss and pruposely skip usable (don't mind the pun) content entirely because of a cardinal sin? Authority will always shift with the tides of change, but for future reference, even with Zeldman's anti-database web interface design: Zeldman has many more points of interest when it comes to creating web pages that blend in perfectly well with the next gernations of web designers who will be using (sorry dude) generated and templated HTML/XML as opposed to Designed code. More thought will be placed into the information (see XML) than the presentation. Most of zeldmans rules apply more tightly overall to this paradigm than nielsens.

Why?

Minimal Crude layout exposes the information more readily than information/presentation overload. And I don't mean color scheming by this (even though Zeldmans only thot on Slashdot was Teal color). To get to the point before I sink myself: If I, a non-designer with a some taste in look and feel but more apt to figure into business logic more than anything, was working with a small team of individuals and did not have the ability for cash outlay to create a team of so called "experts" were to design a "page" (or plate of info) I would definatley make the information and not the design clear to the users, but in a tasteful way and in a way that will stick around for at least 3 years. Black borders are ubiq. Splash is Ubiq. Anything else is fringe and frill.

The Face -= o_O

Re:Thank you! (1)

chrischow (133164) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063681)

he didn't mention iCab at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i think i'll sue... just as soon as i stop crying

Tsk tsk, Ren. (2)

The Queen (56621) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063683)

I'll be the first to say that most websites are horribly clogged with features you consider 'cardinal sins', but I don't really think his is that bad. (Granted I'm at work on a Windoze machine, I may feel differently trying to browse it on Linux...that IS what you meant by 'putting off potential readers', right?)
After seeing this story I went through his whole site, and though I think he has a big bone for CSS which kinda makes me cringe, he does have a lot of worthy info, not to mention some good stories to share. His low-res graphics and sparse layouts were like a breath of fresh air compared with the overstuffed sites I have to build for my clients. (Contrary to popular polls, average web surfers WILL wait for stuff to download, and things that don't work get blamed on their OWN machine, not the offending website. Moms across the nation don't read /. and a lot of people think the Internet lives in their monitor. Scary but true...anybody who's ever done any amount of tech support can back me up on this.)
Unless you yourself are also a web designer and you've been able to avoid all these non-compliance issues in your work, don't be so uppity.

The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk

Really? I didn't know that. (2)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063684)

I've never heard of it before, what with BrowserWatch Chat being down and all.

Good that you mentioned it, any browser that is out now that does things properly deserves a mention in this thread to show Mr. Zeldman that IE5/Mac is not the only browser in the world capable of doing things properly.

Preparation makes a lot of difference... (1)

Colz Grigor (126123) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063687)

I read Mr. Zeldman's website, linked to from the request for questions post, prior to thinking about any question to submit to him. He explains a great deal of why he does things one way and not another there. Yet several of these interview questions ask him to practically repeat what he said on his own website.

If I were Mr. Zeldman, I'd have been insulted by several of the questions asked because of the tone taken with the question and the fact that the answer was already out there. It's worse to attack someone out of ignorance than it is to attack them out of difference of opinion.

If the readership of /. represents the mob hoard and the mob hoard publicly shows its ignorance by attacking someone needlessly, I'd rather get my news for nerds somewhere else. I think an apology to Mr. Zeldman may be in order.

::Colz Grigor
--

Working Web Designers my *ss... (1)

zorgon (66258) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063688)

Yes. Thank you! The web is supposed to make things easier for the end user -- it's not supposed to be an exclusive playground for geeks. And you know, I used to be a 'real working web designer' -- had a Web site back in mid-1994 -- but when it got to be more difficult to interpret a page of HTML than 10,000 lines of FORTRAN I gave up. That was about the time animated GIFs appeared, which just about finished it off for me.

Re:Here's an idea... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1063689)

Back button? Who leaves the Navigation Toolbar? That takes up way too much screen space.

On Netscape 4, I always use the right click menu to go back. With redirectors, I'm always forced to move the mouse all the way up to the Go menu, and backup that way.

What Am I Missing Here? (3)

webword (82711) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063690)

The status bar *does* reveal the url of the page it links to - just like an untreated status bar would do. It also provides ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY. I guess that's a bad thing. I can't see why, but I guess I'll take your word for it. URL = good, URL + additional information = bad. Because you say so.

I don't see the URL. I only see the "additional" information. I've got some pocket change. I'm willing to buy a clue if I need one...

John S. Rhodes
WebWord.com [webword.com] (Usability Vortal)

*Applause* (2)

DonkPunch (30957) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063691)

Right on! Here's 172 Karma points (probably less after this post) backing you up, AC!

Re:Entry pages (2)

smileyy (11535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063692)

Why not have a proxy server that strips out those nasty things like refresh elements, javascript, and other elements that you find distasteful?

Re:"I don't know art... (2)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063693)

I'd like to know what you think of Zeldman's work outside his "personal site" realm. Please take a look at alistapart [alistapart.com] and see if you have the same complaints. Also, what do you think of webstandards.org [webstandards.org] ?
I'm not flaming you, but your comment recieved a lot of attention even though you apparently didn't see much of his work. I'd like to know if you have a problem with all of it or just Zeldman.com

The verdict is in: (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063694)

Zeldman is either color-blind or trapped in the 70's.

The only orange uglier than the one he can't stop using was the carpet in my first apartment. But that was SHAG.
--
Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?

Here's an idea... (1)

adamk (67660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063695)


Hold the back button down till the history list pops up... Move down two selections and release.

Adam

mucking with font size and style (3)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063696)

Until all browsers support standards, designers will be stuck using pixels or FONT SIZE tags. Or simply making no effort at all to control the appearance and size of type on the web page.
I think we'd be better off if folks would make less effort to control the size and font of type on the page.

I spend a significant amount of time configuring my browser to use a font style and size that, when combined with my monitor, video card, OS, and lighting environment, causes me the least eyestrain. My choice on my Mac at work is different than my choice on my Linux box at home. I'd appreciate it if you would respect that.

Sure, for headers and side notes and the like get fancy, but for the main body of text please leave my preferences intact.

(Yes, it took me a while to learn that lesson, and you may find a page on one of my sites that I haven't updated since I learned it; that's laziness, not hypocracy, on my part.)

Re:"I don't know art... (1)

adamk (67660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063697)


Oooh... So we know that four other people agree with you... Four out of how many readers/moderators?

Adam

Dave Siegal Anyone? (5)

StoryMan (130421) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063698)

Yeah, I agree. The whole concept of "entry portal" is a weird one -- I never liked it.

Hey, does anyone remember David Siegal? 5 years ago or so he was semi-influential. I remember his take on these portal pages was that they were absolutely vital to a good website.

I also remember that Siegal (Siegel?) came off as a pompous horse's ass on his website: http://www.davidsiegal.com

I think he published a book, too -- something about influentual web design -- I dunno.

And he had some weird-ass essay back in 1994 or so -- "The Balkanization of the Web"

Whatever happened to Siegal? If you go to his site and poke around, you'll find that the guy is a certified loony-tune. He had all sorts of bizarre, pompous ideas about web design and -- oddly enough -- writing screenplays. He started promoting his '9-act screenplay structure' and then explained that if you didn't agree with the 9-act structure, you didn't understand it -- go back and read it again.

He used to have a dining journal, too -- all his appointments with famous people, what they (and he) ate, and what they talked about.

And then, suddenly, silence. He stopped updating his dumb journals, stopped pontificating, and didn't complete his 9-act screenplay structure page.

Anyway. Why mention this? Well, the idea that slashdotters -- much like Siegal in halycon days -- complaining to Jeff about "cardinal sins". I mean, what the hell? -- who set the rules about this stuff? And which pope decreed the sins of web design? David Siegal? Berners-Lee? And we're not talking minor sins -- we're talking cardinal sins -- big ones.

Man, I'd like to get the 10 commandments of web design. I hate to sin with this shit -- and cardinal sins? Whoa-boy, not me. I'm just a little Cold Fusion/PHP peon. I don't want to get involved in no cardinal sinning.

"You'll burn in hell for that 4K entry page."

Damn, I'm starting to sweat. "Father? Father? Forgive me, for I have created a portal."

"Was it a big portal?"

"Um, well, 4K, I think."

"Okay, keep it under 8,000 bytes -- " whispering -- "any more, and we'd have problems."

"Father?"

"Yes, my son?"

"Bless me, please."

"In the name of the Father."

"Shit, thanks."

"Don't mention it."

So where o where is David Siegel? Has he Forsaken Me?

Siegal? Siegal? You pompous fuck! Where art thou? Thou hast forsaken thy flock! Come back, save us from bad design!

Re:Sorry, the flames of your design were justified (1)

adamk (67660) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063699)


And where do you get off speaking for all Slashdotters? I for one do not feel that Nielsen speaks for me, and I am a slashdotter. Ergo, you are wrong.

Adam

Re:Question #3: WRONG!(mistrust, misplaced) (1)

polin8 (170866) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063702)

Do you really trust the status bar? If some nefarious designer wants to send you offsite, they can redirect you, and you'll never know from the status bar. Or they could fake the status bar, or they could use pop-ups. Wakes you up in a cold sweat. huh?

Re:Another way to conduct interviews (1)

matman (71405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063705)

I duno if you're just being sarcastic... but it'd be hard to manage, especially with larger interviews. Remember that online metallica chat thing that they were trying to do? Well, there would be no way to manage that chat, let everyone say what they wanted, and still get anything answered. I think that the slashdot moderation concepts would help, and the fact that a person being interviewed could review questions at their leisure is another plus :)

Re:Color blindness? (2)

grappler (14976) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063708)

And not only that, but his comment that he would change the color scheme if asked to work on Slashdot's design. No way! Regardless of whether you like the scheme or not (I wouldn't use it when I do my own sites) you gotta realize that that green color is now an integral part of Slashdot's IDENTITY. Indeed, part of the reason I wouldn't use it is because that look pretty much belongs to Slashdot now. Who am I to change that?

If the site went through a major overhaul, the color is one thing I would hope they would keep.

Anyways, I like Zeldman. He's a good guy. Anyone working like he is for universal standards support is ok in my book :-)

--
grappler

Re:Entry pages (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063710)

Is it forgotten that the "extra" intro page is there to help you count page impressions.

A hop through page you don't need to see again is to help estimate the page hit count - people don't go back to the intro so you don't get two counts when the re-navigate you site.

I know there are other techniques for this but I recall that that's where it came from.
.oO0Oo.

Man, what a bunch of angry nerds. (2)

tcd004 (134130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063711)

There were better questions posted on that forum.

too bad they weren't moderated up.

tcd004

Here are my AICN [lostbrain.com] and Microsoft [lostbrain.com] parodies, where are yours?

I like the idea, but... (1)

iamriley (51622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063713)

This would give too much power to the interviewee. What would stop him or her (<flame> supposing /. interviewed women...</flame>) from tactfully posting questions that he or she wants to answer.

Granted, we would get a lot more out of interviews that turn out like this one did, but it wouldn't always work well. At least with the way /. conducts the interviews now, the interviewee isn't in control of the questions that are to be answered.

Re:The verdict is in: (1)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063718)

Is that it? I'm thinking the color he's used is one of the 2xx "Netscape safe" colors in the oranges that he thought highlighted things well. It is an attention getting color, and though I don't like it very much, I do like the background color on alistapart because even though it's not white it contrasts well with the black text, making it very readable.

Points versus pixels (3)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063719)

As to POINTS versus pixels, points are absolutely meaningless on the web,
Given the diversity of monitor sizes and resolutions, how are pixels at all a meaningful measure of font size?

Opera and CSS-1 (1)

arcade (16638) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063720)

Rumors say that Opera is 100% CSS-1 compliant, but I cannot guarantee it. If it is, then Jeffrey is wrong when he says that its only two browsers that will be CSS-1 compliant in a couple of months time.

There is already one.


--
"Rune Kristian Viken" - arcade@kvine-nospam.sdal.com - arcade@efnet

"Makes it difficult to back out" (4)

xant (99438) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063721)

How is that a web designer, even one who does not profess to be a hotshot, does not get this? I was prepared to take him at his word that zeldman.com is just a personal sandbox, until I read his statement that he doesn't understand what about an entry page makes it difficult to "Back out" (hit the back button on a browser) of a site. I'll explain it in diagram form.

[Orig] ===> [Entry] *redirect* ===> [Main page]

When you first navigate to the site, you land on Entry. After n seconds, you get redirected to Main page. While on main page, you wish to visit the last site you navigated to, [Orig]. So you hit Back, perhaps having forgotten [Entry], perhaps simply expecting that page not to be "in the way". "Back" works by taking you to the last URL the BROWSER requested, not the last URL YOU requested, so you go from right to left and land on Entry, and then get redirected back to Main, the page you were trying to BACK OUT OF.

This is nothing short of painful for those of us who actually KNOW how to use our browsers (and know, for example, that the Back button can take you back more than one site at once if you know how to use the dropdown list). For naive users it's dumbfounding. I believe some commercial sites use this fact intentionally to keep people on their page. And that's why it's TERRIBLE web design. If you aren't at least aware of this effect, I don't see how how can be much of a web designer.

Re:Oral Sex (1)

h0h0h0_ (180368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063722)

Well actually the .shtml hasn't been created yet, and the search only picks up pages that have already been written. Hey it's good usability.

The Face -= o_O

Two or three other areas as well... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063723)

There are also a few other less obvious spots where some text seems to have been lost - sentances just end abruptly and another starts.

Please fix!

What's wrong with flaming orange??? (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063724)

I think that it's a highly charged color, in that people either love it or hate it. I've seen some sites in which flaming orange has looked really great, but other people will look at the site and say "what's up with that orange?"

And teal sucks. Always has, always will. Fortunately, Slashdot uses more of a blue-green than teal.

bah, that doesn't mean anything (2)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063725)

"Linux folks can either use the Mozilla or Opera betas to navigate those pages in safety and comfort." - Answer to question 10.

Thats pretty meaningless. It doesn't mention at all that Opera is going to be a more CSS complaint browser then Mozilla, or that it already is better then IE5/Windows. Hell, from what he said, how would you even know there is a release version that isn't for Linux?

Mouse Button (1)

h0h0h0_ (180368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063741)

Click back once.
Click back again.

If Frustration occurs

Triple click back.

----------------------

And you would be where?


The Face -= o_O

I was about to say the same thing (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063742)

Thanks for stealing my thunder, natalie :oP

Close, but not quite. (2)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063743)

Opera 3.62 isn't 100% css1 compliant, but its the closest Windows browser in release right now. (Webreview's leader board puts it at over 85%, which is a significant lead over IE).

You have to remember that Opera didn't have CSS support at all until 3.5, so this is their first stab at it. Coming out with the best support on their first try really says something.

IIRC - Opera 4 is slated to be 100% CSS1 complaint, as well as having major support for CSS2 (there is a list of what they won't support yet, as opposed to a list of what they will). This will put it miles ahead of IE for either platform, Mozilla, or pretty much anything else out there.

Re:Hmm... what about Opera? (1)

albamuth (166801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063744)

I hope non-beta Opera for BeOS will come out soon. I'm sick of it crashing every two minutes but I love the functionality so I'm usually browsing with Netopia and bringing up Opera just to handle the fancy-schmancy pages.

More detail (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063745)

Keep in mind that this is Average Joe making these comments. I'm no expert on usability.

Yes, orange is attention getting. That's why it should be used 1) sparingly and 2) to highlight something important. For instance, alistapart uses it as the background for the header (foreground: light orange). The most charitable description is: it provides a...bold...border.

The size of the navigation links on the right (still alistapart) would be great in print media (where I would have to look at them at most once), but for navigation they aren't so hot. The size is such that I have to actually pause to read each one (to wait for my eyes to swivel from left to right) and locating the mouse-pointer against the busy-ness is somewhat difficult (especially because of the mouse-over effect distracting the eye).

I don't like the status-bar effect much in general for the following reasons:

1) My eyes follow the mouse pointer. Continually glancing down at the statusbar is at best non-intuitive and at worst poor ergonomics.

2) If you need to provide an "explanation" of a link, that's an indication that the link itself is poorly designed. Don't give extra info through another channel--fix the first channel.

3) It's easy to get "burned" following a link if you can't see where it goes.

Well, that's about it until someone pays me to do this. 8^)
--
Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?

Re:Color blindness? (2)

orabidoo (9806) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063746)

yeah, I don't know what he dislikes so much about teal, it looks like a pretty OK color to me, not the most distinctive out there, but very nice and very legible on a white background. IMO there *are* a few *really cardinal* sins in web design, and they're all usability/compatibility issues: requiring javascript for navigation, being unusable on systems with font sizes different from what the authors had, and a few more like that, using images without alt tags, etc.

Re:Lost part of text? (2)

Roblimo (357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063763)

Thanks. Noted. Fixed.

(I don't see any other discrepancies, at least using NN 4.7X in Linux.)

- Robin

Re:Mouse Button (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1063764)

Of *course* you can get back to where you started from, eventually. That's not the point. The point is that the designer has thoughtfully provided a block for you to stumble over while surfing. That is *bad* design, and I don't care who does it, it's *still* bad design. Chris Mattern

Vector Based Pretty Stuff (3)

albamuth (166801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063765)

We need an open-source version of Flash. Or is that what XML is supposed to be?

Anyway, vector-based rendering seems most logical solution for the web but surely there is more efficient way to send the information over, rather than acii files? Perhaps browsers should allow for html.Z, shtml.Z or some sort of standardized compression format. Client processors are surely fast enough to handle unsipping files on the fly. This whole huge column of posts would zip very nicely, I'm sure.

Yeah, thats why I like Opera. (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063766)

One of the toolbar buttons is a handy "Kill all the document colors" button. I can hit that on just about any page and end up with black text on a white background. Great for those lousy sites that have white text on a white background (using a black background image, which I don't load because I have images disabled for speed reasons).

Dead Ads -- bwahahaha :) (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063767)

Thanks, those [zeldman.com] are great..

Geez, between that, LostBrain [lostbrain.com] , ModernHumorist [modernhumorist.com] and others I've spent way too much time laughing this week.

omg, the background is really black. (1)

segmond (34052) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063768)

I never realized the blackground was black till today, I always saw it as white!

Re:mucking with font size and style (1)

FJ!! (88703) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063769)

Absolutely. Mr. You-Don't-Make-Sites-You-Can't-Comment (Ha! Yeah, fucking right). insists that he just has to control sizes and that he just has to control exactly what it all looks like. Perhaps Mr. Zeldman could explore making sites that compromise better with what people want to read than what he thinks his fabulous artistic vision of type should be.

I know what my preferred font size is. He doesn't.

Re:Joyce's grammar (1)

webster (22696) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063770)

Even Finnegans Wake has grammatically well-formed sentences underlying its puns.

That's right. It was Faulkner who turned violations of grammar rules into a writing style.


Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation

Question #3: WRONG! (2)

mr.nobody (113509) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063771)

I never intended my comment to actually be moderated up as a question to send to Mr. Zeldman, but whatever. After reading his response I think it only appropriate that I answer his (mis)statements.

The status bar *does* reveal the url of the page it links to - just like an untreated status bar would do. It also provides ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY.

Contrary to what you have written, you're website does not give me the URL of the page that I am going to. One link, the one to alistapart.com, does, but that is the only link that reveals the URL and then it is only because you included it as part of the description. Netscape Navigator never shows a URL. IE also keeps the URLs a secret. I swapped computers and still the URL was hidden from view. I'm not sure what page you are looking at, but it isn't zeldman.com. At zeldman.com you'll find the "ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY" that you spoke of, but not any URLs (save the one I spoke of above).

The point of all this, which you may or may not understand, is that I (and quite a few others who responded to my post and with whom I have discussed the subject in general) want to know where I am going. On your site I have to trust you that when I click on a link I'll go to the page you said I would. Quite frankly, I don't trust you. Furthermore, I don't trust any webpage I go to. When I am about to click on a link I want to see that I am not being taken off-site to another page with who-knows-what on it.

You have one link for free web graphics ("Steal"). How do I know that you aren't taking me to some "sponsor" that pays you by the click-thru? I would if the URL was there. However, there is none. Like I said before, I don't trust you, so I want to know where I am going.

Perhaps I should be a little more trusting of my fellow web designers, and I try. During normal everyday browsing it helps to have JavaScript turned on, especially with the number of online accounts, credit cards, investments, etc., that I have. When I surf sites where the chances of deception are high however (hacking/cracking, etc.), I turn JavaScript off.

Now as for the "Question #12" comment...huh?

Liquid Design? (1)

jdashton (187025) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063772)

I'd like to learn more about Liquid Design. Are there online or printed refs that describe liquid design techniques?

Re:Close, but not quite. (1)

ChristTrekker (91442) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063773)

What's the URL to the list you mention? I've been looking for that.

This poster is right, mostly. (2)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063774)

Looking at it in Opera 3.62, the Toolbar buttons on the main page (after the splash page) do show you the url. The large image directly below them, and the news headlines, don't. They have descriptions, with no url.

Re:Sorry, the flames of your design were justified (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063780)

I really don't see how templated design and XML support Zeldman over Nielson. If anything, Neilson's mantra is that content and organization are everything. The use of templates and stylesheets reenforce this view because it keeps the focus on the data, not the frills.

The Slashdork crowd is pathetic. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1063781)

It's a real pity that Jeff had to be subjected to such (largely) insulting and arrogant questions.

This so-called community likes to think they are better than everyone else, and that no one outside this pathetic clique should be treated with any respect. Was it really necessary to say that his CSS work 'sucks'? Is it really necessary to insult him as being a 'hot shot' (something he didn't even call himself)? And talk of cardinal sins...well folks, how many of you are real working web designers?

The fact that the 'moderators' upped these insulting questions to '5-insightful' or whatever just speaks volumes about this place.

Newsflash, slashdorks: You don't represent the views of the Linux/*BSD community. You're just a bunch of whining nerds with overly-inflated egos.

TITLE anyone? (2)

Pseudonymus Bosch (3479) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063782)

at least you share the use of TITLE attributes in hyperlinks (a good feature that Slashdot shouldn't chomp away).
Thanks! The reason Slashdot chomps title tags is probably because they are not supported in Netscape yet. They are an important usability feature, and in some browsers they also offer nifty low-grade special effects - along with the opportunity for contextual ampliciation or ironic commentary.

Hey, I've got two interviewed webdesigners that think the TITLE attribute of <A> is good.
Will Slashdot start admitting it? And using it in the stories?
__

Re:Lost part of text? (1)

achbed (97139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063783)

Reading through the post, it looks like any paragraph over a certain length got cut, and merged with the next paragraph. I counted at least 3 of these (including the one cited already).

OK, I checked 'em out.... (2)

carlos_benj (140796) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063784)

"Please take a look at alistapart and see if you have the same complaints. Also, what do you think of webstandards.org?"

While I think the overall design is better on these two sites, his color choices lead me to believe he has some unresolved Halloween issues to deal with.

carlos

Re:The Slashdork crowd is pathetic. (1)

FJ!! (88703) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063785)

And talk of cardinal sins...well folks, how many of you are real working web designers?

We are real working web users.

Since we're the ones who end up paying the bills for web designers, it counts for a hell of a lot more.

Backing out of sites with Splash Pages (1)

forgey (84323) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063786)

Jeffrey,

When that fellow was talking about your splash page making it difficult to back out of your site I think he was referring to the 6 second refresh.

Pages that do that make it difficult to back out of a site because when you hit back to try to return where you came from it hits the refresh and tries to forward you again. It's not that big a deal because you just have to hit back again quick enough (and 6 seconds is a long time), but it can be quite annoying.

forge

The CSS Leader Board (2)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063787)

http://webreview.com/pub/guides/style/lboard.html

It shows Mac IE5 right at 100% (if you read the note), with Opera being the highest Windows browser at 85.1%.

If all goes according to plan, Opera 4 will also have 100% on that list, as well as a good deal of CSS2 (which isn't reflected there). Mozilla in theory should get a 100 as well.

Re:What's wrong with flaming orange??? (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063788)

Fortunately, Slashdot uses more of a blue-green than teal.

Er, teal [dictionary.com] is blue-green.


--

OT (1)

fReNeTiK (31070) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063789)

Damn this is funny shit.

You know you got the perfect trolling technique? Not that your post is anywhere near a troll, but the way you begin it in a serious tone, with links and details, and then slowly derail into utter nonsense... Brilliant.

Where are my mod points when I need them?

Re:Color blindness? (1)

GeZ117 (162744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063790)

I use Slashdot in light mode. No teal. No black. No orange. No images. Display fast. Much better. All black on grey background. Not funny. Not sexy. But fast. That's what I want. Fast. Fast! FAST! An highway needs to be fast. An highway is not teal, nor orange, nor funny, nor sexy. An highway must be fast and practical. A "data super-highway" must be fast and useful too.

All website with dynamically generated content and user registration should propose something like the "light mode".

Re:Color blindness? (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063791)

I mean, isn't this the point of web-browsers? To give the reader control because the web-designers of the world have, on average, the design sense of a slug on LSD?

I don't know. I think you could have said that back in the old days when programmers did web design, but nowadays I think the design of the major sites are pretty clean (Amazon, cnn, Yahoo, ZDNet, name your poison). In fact, I'm trying to think of a good example of a major web site with lots of traffic that truly has bad design. Any suggestions?

As for Lynx, I'll never understand certain Linux people who want to live in a totally colorless, character-based world.


--

Re:Question #3: WRONG! (2)

carlos_benj (140796) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063792)

"Contrary to what you have written, you're website does not give me the URL of the page that I am going to. One link, the one to alistapart.com, does, but that is the only link that reveals the URL and then it is only because you included it as part of the description. Netscape Navigator never shows a URL."

Navigator shows no URL's on alistapart either, but several show up on webstandards.org (but not all).

carlos

Re:Points versus pixels (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063793)

Given the diversity of monitor sizes and resolutions, how are pixels at all a meaningful measure of font size?

They aren't. Unfortunately, Zeldman has failed to notice that almost every other site on the Internet has managed to use standard font tags, and somehow... they manage to work correctly! <valley girl>Like, oh my gawd!</valley girl>


--

Joyce's grammar (1)

RobotWisdom (25776) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063794)

There are rules of grammar, too, and James Joyce threw them all out.

Nuh-uhn.

Even Finnegans Wake [robotwisdom.com] has grammatically well-formed sentences underlying its puns.

Web Usability (4)

h0h0h0_ (180368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063796)

To be honest, I didn't know about Jeffery Zeldman before I read his response to the dotters questions. And I was completely unaware about his influence on web design. It's extremely refreshing to get another point of view because as an OOP turned Semi web, i was extremely turned of by Jakob N's "Web Usability guides", and hunting through the avant-art-production realm of the web looking for techniques became more of a bother that took way from the enertaining side of things. Zeldman is simply blending the many worlds (usability, crispness, presentation and performace) and not taking a bite out of anyones headspace with comments about "The future should be this". It was nice to see more of a geek coder point of view. In the nicest way possible.
It's nice to take a breath from all the "Pshockwave Psychos" and "Image freaks". I'd like to incorporate many more design ideas (even if they are crude, it renders well on my brain as well on the screen) on my site Media-Mixer [media-mixer.com] . It's very nice to be able to sponge some knowledge from someone who gets techincal but is nowhere near as airheaded as Brute Force Art Design people.

The Face -= o_O

Couple Questions. (1)

Devil Ducky (48672) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063798)

I know it's not the time to ask questions, but now I have new ones.

1. I see that you have gotten a lot of changes for IE5/mac, What response have you gotten from Microsoft about changes to IE5/win or IE5/*NIX?

2. When you're not getting suggestions included into Mozilla, who's objecting to them? The Mozilla Group or Netscape/AOL? Have you had good relations with both groups? And does AOL get in the way?

Ok, it's more like a few questions.

Devil Ducky

Uninformed Fellow (2)

FFFish (7567) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063802)

"In a few months, there will be exactly two browsers that get CSS-1 right: Mozilla/Nav 6 for all platforms, and IE5/Mac which we have now."

Bullshit.

*Right Now* Opera v3.6 gets CSS1 more 'right' than MSIE5.

Opera v4 is in beta testing. It's aiming for CSS2 and XML (with CSS styling).

You'd think a fellow who does HTML design as part of his living would know about Opera. It's a helluvagreat tool for designing W3C-compliant tagging and CSS.

Of course, perhaps it's because Opera costs a rockin' thirty bucks. It seems many people figure 'free' is better than 'great' or 'now'...


--

Re:Points versus pixels (2)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063803)

They aren't. The interviewee is obviously stuck on some lesser platform that isn't able to render points at the proper physical size. Too bad for him. On XFree86 I can tell the X server that my screen is 16 inches high and 12 inches wide. Shockingly, X actually renders 18-point fonts 1/4" high! Oh X, how do I love thee?

Many Macintosh people also have their monitors set to 72 dpi. So, to be quite frank, I think the author should revise his opinion to say that points are a useless metric on his platform. And they are sure a helluva lot better than using pixels. What an uniformed asshole.

Re:Vector Based Pretty Stuff (1)

earache (110979) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063804)

As for point one, there is SVG (scaleable vector graphics) [w3.org] . IE 5 implements something similar (before people jump to conclusions, Microsoft came up with this before the w3 announced, and have been helping this become a standard).

As for the second part, most HTTP responses are compressed if the client handles gzip and the server handles gzip, which most do. There are ISAPI filters that enable this on IIS, and apache modules that do this same thing too.

the sinister mister earache.

Re:Lost part of text? (2)

YoJ (20860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063805)

Question 6:

... I included the full text inside the The ...

Question 9

... using the stupid The ...

-Nathan Whitehead

Re:bah, that doesn't mean anything (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063806)

Hell, from what he said, how would you even know there is a release version that isn't for Linux?

A lucky guess perhaps? [opera.com]
--

Re:Color blindness? (1)

SJS (1851) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063807)

What's all this discussion about color?


Oh, wait. Lynx doesn't care, and I tell netscape to "always use my colors" and "always use my fonts".


I mean, isn't this the point of web-browsers? To give the reader control because the web-designers of the world have, on average, the design sense of a slug on LSD?


Everyone involved in creating web-pages should at least read Edward Tufte's Envisioning Information [logica.com] . Good stuff.

"What an uniformed asshole." (1)

legLess (127550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063808)

Your word-choice errors aside (uniformed? uninformed?), you really need to buy a clue. So you can configure X to your liking. So what? How many people browse under X, compared with other platforms? Or compared with the dominant platform (Windows, remember)?

Your sad little bigotry (The interviewee is obviously stuck on some lesser platform) says much more about you than about Zeldman's platform of choice. Anyone can design a web page that renders perfectly on one platform - this isn't even hard. The point of the web is that all the "lesser platforms" should still be able to access content in a readable form.

I fear I will start a flamewar, but (1)

GeZ117 (162744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063809)

Konqueror [konqueror.org] is also 100% CSS-1 compliant, and mostly CSS-2 compliant. It's also able to render bi-di text, and to use Netscape plugins. Of course noone talked about it, everyone out there hate everything that start with a "K" (I even heard one day a moron lamenting because he's lost his kernel sources rpms by doing a rm -rf k*).

Re:Man, what a bunch of angry nerds. (1)

sredding (107116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063810)

Keep trolling man...

Thank you! (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063811)

I posted about this way down near the beginning of the thread, but its good to see other people commenting on this as well.

He seems to have made a very horrendous oversight, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. Maybe he's a Mozilla advocate and doesn't want to mention Opera for fear of people discovering it? Or maybe its the money? Or maybe its just an oversight and an accident?

I'd love to hear from him on this, why did you ignore Opera except in the context of a "Linux Beta" that doesn't mention its usefulness at all.

Re:"Makes it difficult to back out" (2)

GeZ117 (162744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063812)

What is awful is when the n seconds are set to a ridiculously low value (the minimum), and the splash page is empty: you see a gray background for some times, then the page begin to display, and you naively believe it was an heavy page that take a long time to load, whereas it was in fact two pages with one hidden. After discovering the trick, and if we need to consult the site anyway, we can make a bookmark to the true page. That's where frames comes in action to prevent you from bookmarking what you want.

What a nightmare: a splash entry frame. This would be the ultimate evil.

Re:The verdict is in: (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063813)

Wow. That background cleared my nasal passages. Once my eyes adjusted, it wasn't TOO bad, though.
___

Re:Off-topic comment on Slashdot (1)

sredding (107116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063814)

Even if /. adhered to the standard, Netscape still doesn't.

Would it make a difference?

Sorry, the flames of your design were justified. (3)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063815)

Don't pay any heed to all those crowds of people saying they didn't like your design, it's nothing to do with your design. Remember all the similar flames Jakob Nielsen (who we "parrot") got when he was interviewed here?

...No?

...Funny that, I don't either.

Sorry, I think you'll find that the truth is the opposite of what you're trying to portray: Slashdotters like to cite Nielsen as an authority on how to do it right because we feel *he* speaks for *us*. We're not taking what he says on faith; most of it is things we've all said ourselves from time to time, and we're damn glad that there's at least one high-profile Web designer prepared to say it, and make a convincing case for it too.

Since your pages are personal, you're not obliged to make anyone like them, but personally I can't see the point of deliberately publishing something in a way that puts potential readers off. I know I reach straight for the "back" button when I see those cardinal sins.
--

Help! Help! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1063816)

I'm being oppressed!

I'm sorry, Jeff. (4)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063817)

I had what I thought was a pretty good question, and I saw a few others that were more worthy. I'm sorry the bitter little moderators chose to pummel you with so many angry worthless questions. If I have anything to ask in the future, I'll submit it to Dr. Web.

Entry pages (2)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063818)

Jeff makes a good point about entry pages not chewing up much bandwidth like FascDot originally said, and about it being a temporary placeholder, but personally I find them utterly annoying. I don't know if they're a "cardinal sin", since I'm not the Web Pope, but IMHO it's one stupid web trick that should be discouraged in most situations.

It's also nice to see the Slashdot guys forwarding some questions in an interview that didn't follow the "Gee, we love your work, what do you think about this?" department.

Interesting... (1)

VampDragon (188260) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063819)

As a newbie in the design business, it's great to hear about how others cope with the problems of designing for high-speed web people as well as low-speed lemmings that aren't even sure what a "right-click" is... Now if I can only convince my boss about some of these points...

Another way to conduct interviews (3)

matman (71405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063820)

I think that it would be useful to have the interviewie respond to questions in the forum as it is live. Then, a few days later, the best questions and answers could be posted as a summary. Then, you'd get more questions answered... the interviewee could give short answers to easy questions, cutting fewer questions out from answering.

Oral Sex (3)

rvr (15565) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063821)

I searched on http://www.useit.com/ to see if I agree with Jakob and Jeffery on oral sex. There were 4 hits. All I could find was a reference to people in Montana still having babies, so related activities must be happening.

ciao,
-rvr

Hmm... what about Opera? (5)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063822)

I must be missing something here... but every time he mentions CSS support, Opera is completely ignored.

Whats going on?

I mean they currently have the #1 Windows browser for CSS support in release, and if you compare the lists of what will be done, Opera 4 is going to flat out beat Netscape 6 in the realm of CSS2 support (IE5 isn't even a contender here).

But you don't mention it at all. I don't understand... why mention how great IE5/Mac is repeatidely and how great Mozilla is going to be, and completely ignore Opera? Hello, its great *now*!

It also has far easier support for a user to over-ride lousy layouts on pages with their own preset colors, and a handy zoom function for making those small pages readable (where the document layout over-ride option doesn't do it). I mean really, half the complaints you make about browser problems don't exist in Opera, and yet you completely ignore it.

Help me out here, why are you ignoring them?

Re:Off-topic comment on Slashdot (1)

h0tr0d (160151) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063824)

If you pay attention the text will change color as you select it. Mine turns blue. I really don't find it any harder to select text on /. using Netscape than I do using IE or Opera.

gack. Usability? (2)

joey (315) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063825)

(Warning: it is orange. If you "can't get past the color" then I guess you'll have to let big browser companies determine the fate of the web.)

I stopped reading here, disgusted.

Let me get this straight. If I want to help determine the fate of the web, I must allow a web page to force me to view it in a particular color? And this is about usability? From his comment, it would seem it's more about big comanies forcing you to see what they want you to see on the web. No thank you.

Gag me with a spoon.
--

Re:"What an uniformed asshole." (3)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063827)

Zeldman is the one that missed the point. My point is that Zeldman is trying to correct for a flaw in my platform that doesn't even exist. As a substitute for the non-problem, he has given me the problem that his fonts are a particular pixel height on my screen, which might be unreadable or annoyingly huge, depending on the device. If point sizes don't work (they generally do), then the author shouldsimply be content to not specify the sizes of fonts.

His recommendation ranks right up there with all the other pompous shit that people pull in the name of visual control. Lots of popular web sites like to inform me that I don't have Flash (I do), or that they don't support my browser (they do). It's sheer ignorance.

There are two correct solutions to the problem, neither of which are to specify font sizes in pixels. The first is to use the intersection of HTML tags that are supported by the various browsers. The second is tocode to the standard and wait for the browsers to catch up. Either way, making assumptions about platforms and output devices is not the way to do things.

Suppose my output device is a printer. How big are Zeldman's 24 pixel H1s going to be then? About 0.04 inches. Unreadable garbage. Just deliver the content for fuck's sake.

Re:The verdict is in: (1)

sredding (107116) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063828)

There is no need for any web site to ever specify a background color, foreground color, font, or font size.

Right... we'll get to that... right after everyone stops using the new browsers and goes back to using Mosaic or Lynx.

HTML for real browsers, not "perfect" browsers (2)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063829)

I certainly agree with Jeff that all browsers should scale fonts properly. But that doesn't alter the fact that the browsers that many people use (everybody who uses Netscape on non-Windows platforms, for instance) do not scale fonts properly, or at all.

I strongly disagree with the practice of designing web pages for "The Way Browsers Ought To Work", and ignoring the way most browsers actually work out in the real world.

Jeff wrote is web page so it can't be read on my Sun workstation unless the font can be scaled up from his teensy tiny font size, and since Netscape on the Sun doesn support that yet, his web page is entirely unreadable.

Good web page design is designing so that it is accessible for everyone, not just those people who use the browser you think is best.

Thats kind of the point though, its impossible. (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063831)

Well, unless you want to do basic text all the time, which I wouldn't really mind.

If you want any flash to your site at all though, it gets tremendously difficult to design it for every browser, because of how bad most browsers are. What can you do?

I mean really, if you can't design stuff according to the standards, then where do we stand?

Lost part of text? (4)

crumley (12964) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063832)

Part of the answer to question 7 (about web extensions) seems to have been cutoff by question 8 ( about banners). Could somebody fix that?

Right now it says:

Given the brain-dead way Navigator 4 and IE4/5/Windows handled absolute font size keywords in CSS, I *sometimes* wish
8) Banners(Score:5, Interesting)

Color blindness? (3)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063833)

How can anyone dislike a nice color like Teal (the Slashdot color), yet apparently really like flaming, burning orange?

Why do I have a feeling that one needs protective eyewear in order to enter his house?


--

Re:Entry pages (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063834)

Jeff makes a good point about entry pages not chewing up much bandwidth like FascDot originally said, and about it being a temporary placeholder, but personally I find them utterly annoying.

One of the biggest annoyances is that they mess up the "back" button behavior, you clikc back and end up on the same page you started from. There's a (possibly) easy fix for this, the browsers simply should remove any auto-forwarding page from the stack of viewed web pages. I believe I have registered this as a Mozilla feature request.

Re:Another way to conduct interviews (2)

Roblimo (357) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063835)

Or, one day, we could do live chat follow-ups. Give us time, give us time...

- Robin

"I don't know art... (2)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063836)

...but I know what I don't like.

I was not parroting anyone in my comment, nor did I get the sense that anyone else was.

I read Roblimo's praise with a great deal of interest and thought to myself "here's a chance to see a well-designed, easy to use site". I followed the link. It looked like something a teenager-turned-"web-consultant" would create. I immediately left and made my comment.

Clearly at least 4 other people agreed with me (I post at 1). Since there were many such comments (plus moderations of those comments) AND since none of these got moderated out of existence I think we can say that this was a widespread reaction.

Maybe the problem was the hype that Roblimo gave us. Maybe your non-personal work is very different. But the fact remains that your design put a lot of people off. If you are doing it for "artisitic" reasons, then be my guest. But if you are desiging commercially, then I suggest you listen to the masses.

What do I (and at least some of the masses) want?

-Every page has meaningful content
-Simple clear navigation
-Easily readable text including appropriate choice of color and font/font size.
-Don't mess with my browser (i.e., leave the buttons and status-line alone)

Whatever else you say about Slashdot, it follows these simple but important rules. No crazy java[script] here, just straight HTML (not entirely compliant HTML, but HTML nonetheless).
--
Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?

Re:I'm sorry, Jeff. (1)

crisco (4669) | more than 14 years ago | (#1063837)

Yeah, I burned my mod points to try and push some of that back down and raise some worthier questions that were actually worth discussing and I paid the karma price to little avail. But who cares. We did get to see Mr. Zeldman stand up to the stupid questions and explain himself reasonably. And he threw in a few tidbits of goodness along the way.
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