Category Archives: Web Standards

Its like rejuvenation

I couldn’t resist the temptation to blatantly quote Howard Stern whack packer Blue Iris, as the phrase describes my recent adventures in web design perfectly. It had been way too long; way too long since I’d put myself back in student mode, way too long since I’d let HTML 5 and CSS 3 take shape without paying too much attention, and way too long since I’d posted here. So without further ado, lets take a look at what’s happened in web design over the past six months:

  1. Zeldman released Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition.
  2. HTML 5 and CSS 3 support gain traction.
  3. WordPress 3 set to drop any day now.
  4. The BIG Web Show launched.
  5. jQuery still rocks.

Lets take them one at a time:

1. Zeldman has released Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition.

The king is back. And this time he’s got a sidekick. That’s right, Jeffrey Zeldman released the 3rd edition of the book that changed the web industry, and he signed up Ethan Marcotte as his trusty co-author this time around. I just blazed through the book in a week, and I’m gearing up for a second run-through. Needless to say, not only will this book give you a rock-solid foundation for building modern web sites, its been updated with current technologies in mind, including new kids on the block, HTML 5 and CSS 3. Also, a special treat this time around is a companion volume, Developing with Web Standards, released simultaneously. Author John Alsopp picks up where Zeldman leaves off, providing the practical solutions to Zeldman’s powerful theory. I’m giving myself a bit of time to digest Designing with Web Standards prior to diving into Developing, but look for a full review of Designing to come over the next few weeks here at Withinsight. All I can say for now is, bravo.

2. HTML 5 and CSS 3 support gaining traction.

HTML 5 and CSS 3 not only offer all kinds of fun new goodies for web designers and developers alike, they’re now starting to gain real support. In addition to the support already provided for new HTML elements and CSS properties in browsers where you’d expect it like Firefox, Chrome and Safari, it appears that IE9 has completely jumped on the bleeding-edge standards wagon. While the finalized specs are still years off, if all major browsers support them with the release of the next version of IE, we’ll be able to start using them reliably very soon. Actually, you already can, but more on that in bullet 4. If IE9 really does support HTML 5 and CSS 3 as well or better than other modern browsers, this may just be the kick that IT departments and large corporations need to drop their “IE6 fo’ life” mantra. Exciting times indeed.

3. WordPress 3 is set to drop any day now.

WordPress 3 will support multi-site installations, meaning you can install WordPress once and create multiple blogs from the single installation. I’m so happy I think I just made a mess in my pants. This means no more upgrading multiple installations of WordPress with each release, centralized plugin management, and huge swaths of citizens rejoicing in the streets for weeks on end. Well, maybe not that last part, but this one feature alone would be enough for me for one upgrade. I’ve played with the beta 2 release a bit, and its super-simple to setup multiple blogs, and basically acts like WPMU did, where you can select subdomains or subdirectories for all your additional blogs. The potential is making me dizzy. Roo-haa.

4. The BIG Web Show launched.

Zeldman’s The BIG Web Show launched recently, and just concluded its third episode this past Thursday. If you like web design, pay attention. Episode 2 featured Jeremy Keith as a special guest, promoting his latest book, HTML 5 for Web Designers, which is slated to drop in June. Remember when I mentioned using HTML 5 and CSS 3 now above? Good! In The BIG Web Show, episode 2, Keith explains how you can start supporting the semantics of HTML 5 now by using standard class names for your divs that correspond to the HTML 5 elements. Not only does it make transitioning in a future redesign easier, it makes explaining your classes to other designers or developers 100 times easier when you hand off your work because you can just point them to the spec. Fantastic. Also, kind of a sub-bullet here, HTML 5 for Web Designers is the first book from A Book Apart publishing! I’m overjoyed with this new publishing company and will likely gobble up each and every offering they proffer from here until infinity.

5. jQuery still rocks.

I really only started working with jQuery personally about a year ago, and since then the library has really gone full-blown as the hands-down most popular JavaScript library in existence. Not only has it been included in the download of WordPress for a while now, its hosted by Google in its compressed form, which means if you link to the Google version and your site visitors already visited a site that also links to the Google version of jQuery, they don’t have to download it again. In addition, all the JavaScript examples in Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition are in jQuery, because it just makes JavaScript so much more concise and is easy for the uninitiated to pick up, having a syntax very similar to CSS selectors.

So that’s it for now, stay tuned for more frequent updates as I’m completely turned on by the impending release of WordPress 3 and impending web standards developments. This truly is an exciting time to be a web developer. Cheers!

Review: Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm

Book review of Dan Cederholm’s Web Standards Solutions

Web Standards Solutions by Dan CederholmWeb Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook is just that: an essential guide and reference that builds upon the theory presented in Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing with Web Standards with real-world practices.  Dan Cederholm is a designer working full-time in the field, and he presents practical and easily understood examples in a light tone.  This book is nothing less than essential for today’s working web designer.  Oh, and did I mention the 2nd edition is just around the corner, slated for release in May 2009?

Part One: Get Down with Markup

The book is split into two sections: the first reviews markup and creative methods of implementation, the second delves into CSS and solves many of the issues facing the modern CSS designer.  I’ve got over ten years of experience in the web design field, and I was simply amazed at some of the practical solutions to problems that I had faced.  Covering the essentials, from lists, headings, tables and forms, to expanding their usage through markup minimization and the application of Microformats, Web Standards Solutions contains inventive methods that are not only web standards compliant, but will save you time in your day to day projects.

One of my favorite chapters was the one covering anchors.  Countless times I’ve used semantically meaningless empty anchors to have the user jump lower in an HTML page.  This solution seems almost rudimentary, but gives meaning to my markup.  Its really almost comical how many decisions you make while coding without stopping to consider the implications when working a full-time job.  Another favorite that I put into immediate practice over at NESN.com was the chapter on tables, and the relations we can establish between data.  Taking the knowledge I took from Dan’s review of table markup, I combined it with the hCalendar chapter from my Microformats book and built the team calendars on NESN.com.  Check out the Red Sox schedule as an example.

Part Two: SimpleBits of Style

The second section of the book covers practical usage of CSS.  The one chapter I have referred to frequently is the section on building CSS layouts.  Cederholm breaks down CSS layout into four distinct methods, communicated in their most simplistic format, to ease the learning curve and also simplify the transition of using them as skeletons for your site designs.

Another technique I’ve pulled from this book is the “faux columns” created by repeating a background image vertically.  I’ve used this on just about all my sites I’ve designed since reading the book, and would recommend the investment so you can do the same.

The fact that Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook is an essential piece of the web designer’s arsenal is undeniable.  I have a personal connection to the book, as Dan makes reference to and uses in some of the book’s examples the Boston Red Sox, and their path to the title in 2004, when the 1st edition was originally published.  Being from the Boston area and working for NESN I definitely found the examples delightful.  Also going to Endicott college in Beverly, MA, I spent a good amount of time in Salem, where Dan’s SimpleBits studio is located.

The second edition of Web Standards Solutions is set for release in May, 2009. You can purchase Web Standards Solutions over at Amazon.com.

Rating

  • Overall: 8 out of 10