the new html rationale

older, wiser and definitely better at html; i read my original html rationale and i can see the seeds were there. i still agree with this person who tapped out a text-only design while roaring drunk. it's not me, it's a person who existed a long time ago, if you'll allow the dissociation.

i suppose i no longer think we should cater to the lowest common denominator; but the fact remains we must have pages which degrade gracefully. It is entirely within our grasp to create a single document which will display the information in any web device. old browsers, new browsers, text-only browsers, screen readers - they can all see or hear the message. perhaps they'll see a slightly different design laid over the message, but they'll get the information.

standards-compliant, accessible pages are a worthy cause; one which you can fight for without having to devote your entire life to it. professional web developers should be doing it as a matter of course. certainly, we have abominations like Netscape 4.x and IE 5.00 to contend with; but given free reign and trust in our abilities, we can create in a manner which does not exclude.

so... what constitutes good web design?

  1. content - the medium is not the message. without content, you have a book with blank pages; a blank video in gaudy packaging. there is no point.
  2. standards compliance - don't use proprietary extensions, don't use deprecated tags, don't make more work for yourself! stick to the standards; write valid code.
  3. clean markup - follows on from the previous point. use CSS and mark up using standard tags, classes and a minimum of div/spans. write a page which will maintain its conceptual structure with the stylesheet turned off.
  4. understand the medium - let the web be the web. it's not print, so don't kill yourself trying to attain pixel-perfect control across all platforms/browsers/resolutions. create a page which will bend with the wind, maintaining its overall shape. so what if the line is solid in netscape four and a nice inset groove in netscape six? both users see a line. your content should be the main event anyway.
  5. graceful degradation - let it look great in the latest browsers, look ok in less recent browsers, and remain funtional in old browsers.
  6. leave the choices up to the user - include ALT text in your images so people don't have to load the graphics; don't force users to install obscure plugins or odd fonts just to make your page work; include "skip intro" on your flash intro page (if you must have one). even if you don't care about their experience, think of it this way - you are but one of millions who have put their work out there. make yours hard to access and they'll simply move on the next page.

this is the highbar. not every page is destined to clear it. but we should aim high. the web is a bright and shiny new medium, with teething problems and difficult teen hormones all at once. we are here, at the very beginning. print has been around for centuries; but the web barely claims multiple decades - for a mass communication medium that's very, very young.

we can make a difference.

2002.04.10

a bit of background - when i wrote the first rationale, i was a uni student who created web pages as a hobby. now i am a full time web developer.


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