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Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

HTML

Things Web Developers Should No Longer Do

Note: This is opinion, of course, but what’s your opinion? What would you add or subtract? What web design trends do you think have passed their “sell-by” date?

 

* infinite scroll
* min-height:100vh
* hamburger menus on desktop
* autoplaying videos
* carousels
* dropdown menus
* modals
* disabling zoom
* gray text in white
* articles split across multiple pages
* scrolljacking
* full-width hero images
* icon fonts
* tables for layout
* browser sniffing
* device detection

(per ‏@aardrian @rogerjohansson @heydonworks and others)

 

And another perspective:

adrianholovatyApr 27, 2:00pm via Twitter Web Client

How you could tell a site was well-crafted:
2002 all-CSS layout
2003 nice URLs
2005 ajax
2010 responsive
2016 works offline w/ serviceworker

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 CSS, HTML No Comments

Google Tools

For several weeks I have been talking about Google as a search engine company.  That is true, but let’s also remember that they are a for-profit corporation.  While their search engine is the reason we go to their site, the primary source of their revenue is from selling ads. Yes, I am sure they would love for us all to use their search because it’s theirs, but in the end they want us to use their search because that’s where the ads (or at least many of them) are.

Google has a deep understanding of this, and almost everything they do ultimately has some tie to improving their search returns. Google has become the dominant search engine because they have historically anticipated what people want from a search and produced the best returns. The better the quality of the search the more people they have using the service, and the more people using the service the more ads they can display. They therefore realize that it is in their own best interest for us to publish quality web pages. In order to continue improving their search returns they need us to produce better content. To that end, they have introduced several online resources that help us do our jobs better.

Reading the products page on the Google Developers site is exhaustive. I had intended to do a list of the more useful items there, but the length of the article that would have created changed my plans. Instead here are two new offerings.

Web Starter Kit

This is actually the product that prompted this post. It is a new package that provides an optimized set files to get you started on a new HTML5 project. It has everything you need to make the site responsive for mobile and optimized for download speed.

Web Fundamentals

Another relatively new feature, this site aims at providing a curated set of best practices for web development. Think of it as an online boot camp for webmasters. It is primarily geared toward developing on a mobile platform but the lessons and tips presented are useful anywhere.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 HTML, Search No Comments

Should we continue to support IE7?

While looking through the analytics for yesterday’s post, I decided to take a look at browser use and see how many of our visitors are still using IE7.  We have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work on templating style sheets, and to be honest IE7 compatibility has been the last thing on our list — we build the site for everything else and then come back in and add a hacks file to make it work in CSS.  Now that we are spending more of our time working on things like mobile views, I have to ask whether keeping sites working under IE7 is still worth the effort.

The numbers show that we are pretty much inline with national usage figures — about 4.5% of our traffic comes from IE7.  On one hand I would love to say that is enough of a minority that we don’t have to worry about it, but in absolute numbers that is more than 30,000 page visits per month.

I think it might be enough, though, to warrant taking a middle-ground approach.  Do all sites need to look the same in every browser? (correct answer)  We can therefore move forward with our project and realize that we can still design our site to meet current-generation browsers without completely leaving behind IE7.  We can design our sites so that IE7 users don’t get all the bells and whistles, but still get the heart of the content that you are trying to convey.  This is the difference between supporting a browser and optimizing for it.  We can do one without doing the other, make sure that everyone can use our site, but reserving the majority of our time on the experience that will be shared by the vast majority.

Thoughts?  Where does everyone else stand on the issue?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 CSS, HTML, Programming 2 Comments

Life Without Modern Development Techniques

Most of us can parrot web development best practices until we’re blue in the face. Design with CSS, take advantage of inheritance, use semantic markup, separate design from content, etc. Last week we took on a new project that made the importance of these recommendations sink in – by stripping them all away.

Our department has several mass-email jobs that are sent out on a regular basis. Thus far they have all been standard plain-text messages. It has been decided, though, that we should make the move to putting them into a web template and sending out the message as HTML.

As I started pulling everything together one thing became immediately clear – as much as we bemoan the inconsistencies between web browsers, they don’t compare to the differences in how email clients render HTML code. In order to make the display work across even the most common clients you have to throw out the last five years of web development and go back to the basics. This means layer upon layer upon layer of nested tables, untold numbers of colspans and rowspans, style elements applied to every paragraph, and being careful to minimize the number of images and their file size.

After being neck-deep in these templates for a few days, with one more to go, I’ll never again take proper techniques and procedures for granted. It also means don’t bring me a tables-based design and ask for my honest appraisal of it… 🙂

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Monday, January 31st, 2011 HTML No Comments

eduWEB: Higher Style for Higher Education Websites

Design and usability: that was the focus of the eduWeb conference session led by Stewart Foss, a former college webmaster and founder of edustyle, a showcase for the best higher education web designs.

Here are some of the thoughts I came away with: › Continue reading

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Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 CSS, HTML No Comments

Back from eduWEB

Michael and I are back from eduWEB and are pretty much recovered after a week in the big city. Over the course of the next week or two we will be sharing some of our experiences and insights.

From a completely non-professional side, the first piece of advice I can give is (if you’re heading to a city that can support this anyway) to forget about the taxi and use the local train/bus system.  Most transit systems will let you buy a pass for unlimited rides for a week.  Use them and get to know the city you’re going to.  The end result will be a much more enjoyable trip as you’ll find things and go places you never would have elsewhere.

On to the professional, starting with “The Next Big Thing”,  the opening Keynote given by Google’s Dimitri Glazkov.  There was a mixed reaction to this program.  The biggest idea coming out of the talk was the possibilities of HTML5 + CSS3 … and the fact that we won’t likely see all of that for a long time because of the nature of browser development.  We did see demos of some 3D Transformation that is taking place right now with the help of web kits.  You can see these for yourself at http://webkit.org/blog/

Monday, July 27th, 2009 CSS, HTML 1 Comment

There is an entity on your computer screen…

The word “entity” sounds like something creepy from a horror or sci-fi film, but HTML entities are actually beneficial. They allow webmasters to put typographical characters on their pages that don’t appear on their keyboards, including characters from mathematics, finance, and even letters from other alphabets. › Continue reading

Friday, April 24th, 2009 HTML No Comments

New Addresses for Validators

We have put the finishing touches on the validators we announced in late January. There are now several ways to get to the validators depending on how you best remember them. The W3C validators are not all at one URL, so we’ve taken both approaches. You can access them from the subdomains the W3C uses (jigsaw, feedvalidator, etc) or you can use the validator.tamu.edu base domain with paths.

If there are any other helpful open source validators you would like to see inside the firewall please contact us and we will see about getting them online here. These validators are part of our commitment to helping the campus community produce the highest quality web work possible.

W3C HTML Validator

W3C CSS Validator

W3C Feed Validator (RSS and ATOM)

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 CSS, HTML, Ongoing Projects 1 Comment

Local Validators (HTML, CSS, RSS/Atom) Live!

Drum roll please! The webmasters group is proud to bring you local copies of all three validators! The HTML validator has been up for a while. You can find it by going to http://validator.tamu.edu/w3c-validator/.

The second validator, which admittedly took us a while to bring up, is used to validate CSS 1 and 2 and is available at http://validator.tamu.edu/css-validator.

The final validator – a little bonus for being so patient with us on the CSS validator – is the RSS/Atom feed validator available at http://validator.tamu.edu/feedvalidator/. Try this example (one of our feeds) to see the results.

Sure, you could use the external services available at http://validator.w3.org, but your site will have to be exposed through the firewall. The beautiful thing about our local validators is that they are fast, useful to sites not available through the firewall (test and dev sites), and can be entered into Firefox and Opera as the default validators when using plugins such as the Firefox Web Developer Toolbar.

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Web Development Tools and Local Validators

Nick DeNardis over at .eduGuru recently wrote a post on web development tools. These browser plugins and websites help developers with issues pertaining to website validation, link checking, accessibility, page performance and more. He listed the W3C Markup Validator (aka HTML Validator), but did not list the W3C CSS Validator or the Feed Validator. He did list some browser plugins that will do similiar validation.

I’d like to add one thing to his list for universities in general – running a local copy of the W3C validation services is very valuable. We already run a local copy of the Markup Validator and will very shortly have local copies of the CSS validator and Feed Validator running as well. Having a local copy really helps when validating sites that are still behind the firewall and not accessible via URL to the W3C copy.

You can also set Firefox to use the local copies of the validators as well which will usually lead to faster validation results. It is a good idea for any web developer to take a look at Nick’s list and play with some of the tools you haven’t seen before.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 Accessibility, Browsers/Plug-ins, Future Projects, HTML 1 Comment

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