[thelist] Can we get on with some work, please? My thoughts on "targeting effectively".

Mark Howells mark at mountain.ch
Tue Mar 26 16:51:15 CST 2002

It's been an interesting couple of hours, reading through the whole thread
in one go, so I thought I'd post my thoughts on the subject/s. Short of
staying here all night for the next couple of days to write some brilliant
and cutting replies to the most negative posts, there's not much more I can

Firstly, the best piece of advice in the whole of the thread, which is
useful to every professional here.

> i make clients sign-off when I expressly warn them that it will negatively
> impact some users...
> and when the clients come back to me, and they sometimes do,
> asking why their aunt vinnie can't see it, i can explain with a clear
> mind and proper documentation...

Secondly, a note that I'm using the term web developer rather than web
designer, as a lot of people here and elsewhere seem to see the word
"design" and think "Photoshop design" rather than "system design".

Now, my own 2 Rp*.

- The primary rule of web development is that web developers and designers
build websites so that other people can use them --  the fact that web
developers, who know what cool CSS and Javascript is when they see it, also
use the internet is entirely incidental. If people can't use websites, then
they'll go elsewhere online (or...shock...even offline) to get what the
want. You provide a service and if you can't do it properly due to a lack of
effort, then you shouldn't be doing it professionally.

- If you're a professional developer working for a client, part of your job
is to inform the client of the result of their decisions. If a client
chooses to block access to their site to visitors without IE6 and Flash,
make sure they know the pitfalls. If they decide to make a bad business
decision after being advised by an expert, that's their prerogative.

- If visitors can't get what they want, then visitors will get it elsewhere.
The importance of that result isn't a web developer's decision, it's a
client's decision. If they don't care about losing 1% (4%, 6%, 10%,
whatever) of their potential clients, nor about the negative spin-off
publicity that this will receive, then that's their choice.


- This has been said a million times: the web is not print. You can't use an
example of offline media to justify an online design. Reversing the
analogies that crop up here, it would be the same as saying that newspapers
must be outlawed because you can't resize the page. Totally ridiculous.

- Working twelve to fourteen hours a day on web application design knocks me
out sometimes and if I can produce a highly effective website with less
work, then I'll do it. For me, CSS and XHTML means that I can use less code
to create a website that is highly effective in almost all of the browsers
that have visited my website and my employer's clients' sites over the past

- Stripping out tables from the layout in my current CMS project has reduced
the total flat HTML file size of the project from 2.8 MB to 1.7 MB. By
adding 35kb of CSS files to this total, I've achieved an almost identical
layout in NN4 -> Mozilla 0.9.9 on Mac and PC. Using CSS wherever possible
isn't about blocking users with NN4, it's about optimising your code.

- Optimising your site so that visitors with Netscape 4 see an alternative
version doesn't mean that they see an ugly version.

- One of the results of using optimal code is that time spent on updates,
bug fixes, design adjustments and new browser accommodation will take a heck
of a lot less time.

- Efficiency is not laziness.

- The argument about whether to rely on Javascript or not is ridiculous. The
object of any website is to get a visitor from the entry point to their (or
the client's) goal, whether it be content or a successfully completed order
process. This has always been the aim of web development and it always will

- Making your site "accessible" doesn't necessarily mean that you have to
provide people using a Lynx text browser with the full content of your site.
It means allowing the majority of users (probably with IE) full access to
your site, while providing users with minority browsers sufficient content
to make the site worthwhile or functionally successful. For example, a
portfolio site is useless if people can't contact you unless they're using
Mozilla 0.9.9 on Windows.

- Stop waiting for it to become law before you do a proper job and
accommodate disabled visitors -- the odds are that you will be at least
visually impaired one day, so think how you would feel if most of the web
were off-limits to you. You don't have to compromise your design principles
to accommodate most disabled users, just accept that designing every pixel
in Photoshop is less important than allowing access to a lot more people.

- Write an essay in English, without using terms that are particular to
British English, American English, Antipodean English and so on. Now write
one that employs a lot of American English terms and phrases. Which one will
be interpreted correctly by more people? Now apply this metaphor to HTML and
web browsers.

- The future of the web as laid out by the World Wide Web Consortium is
based on the separation of structure and design. That's not a personal
choice or opinion, it's fact. They know what they're talking about, because
parts of their membership invented the WWW and a large base continues to
lead its development.

- The web is a constantly developing environment. Don't expect to be
successful in your chosen field if you base your designs and coding methods
on a method you learned five (or even two) years ago. Read a book. Join a
list. Listen to experts who have more experience and / or knowledge from you
and be happy to become more knowledgeable.

- Websites are transient. They are not books. Don't expect that a site which
will be built now will remain standing in five years' time without code

- Be excellent to each other.

Now, can we get on with some work, please?

Mark Howells
(*Swiss will know.)

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