[thelist] doctype mess up, and a design rant

Carol Stein techwatcher at accesswriters.com
Sat Mar 29 08:31:52 CST 2003

Hi, all --

Think I'm confused by your confusion...

>I'm doing the same thing (XHMTL and HTNL 4 doctype) for a client - 
 									[sic -- HTML 4.0, I assume]
>he needs well-formed Code for his Content Management System. The 
>Output of the CMS is tag soup (HTML 4.0 + proprietary tags), but it 
>needs well-formed code to transform it to XML and apply different 
>XSLT style sheets ( so all I have to do is plain HTML, which comes 
>easier to me than writing XML/XSLT).   Maybe Epicentric works in a 
>similar way.

As I understand XML, it is not compatible with HTML because of the lack of
closing tags that are acceptable to HTML 4.0 (especially no closing </p>!);
also since XML allows custom tags (even, possibly, programming), the normal
syntactical codes of HTML need to be in "all small" letters (i.e., capital
letters could mean something else). Further, using proper (XHTML) syntax
such as <br /> when the tag has no content does not bother HTML 4.0 at all.

Now, given this, why is it a problem to declare XML and use HTML 4.0 as the
doctype? The reason I switched over a year ago to XHTML coding style is
that it WILL BE forward compatible when I want to do XML (if that happens).
After all, switching a doctype declaration is pretty simple, while getting
the conversion perfect required (for me) one last eyeballing of the code
after I ran my conversion (HTML --> XHTML) program.

All right, it's a problem because people design weird stuff requiring hacks
to work around browser bugs... WHY does everyone do this, anyway? The au
courant style of the Web seems ridiculous from my perspective -- from
reading this list it seems as if Web "designers" spend literally hours
trying to make perfect little rounded boxes around text tabs (used for
navigation) match up in all browsers. Sigh.

My goal is a document that communicates effectively online, so if I
discover some "design" (visual) element really doesn't work in some browser
(that I expect an end-user to surf with), I'd give up that design element.
If necessary I'd explain (or demonstrate) the problem to my client, but I'd
figure out a cleaner interface that worked in all relevant browsers. Is the
problem that clients demand their designer make a site identical (in some
respects) to some site they like? Or does the "designer" get obsessive over
that particular look?

The Web really *isn't* a magazine. Icons (for navigation, in particular)
don't make much sense in a magazine because we want to entice readers to
turn to the proper page, which entails persuasive text. But icons (for
navigation, expecially) *do* make sense on the Web, since they're clickable
(links) and [should] appear in many places and we don't need to work very
hard to get the surfer to go there (it's not like they have to look up, or
remember, a page number, and physically turn pages, having been motivated
sufficiently to pass up the distracting content and ads along the way). Of
course, if we did use icons, we wouldn't have to work very hard to put
pretty boxes around them, since a box (if desired) would be part of the
icon; all we'd have to do is make the icons the same height.

In the old days, I always came up with some visual design for a site, often
using what I called an "organizational metaphor," and used the home page to
describe briefly what the main nav links led to (whether the nav links were
icons or text). These days when I quickly hack out a site, I just create a
string of sans-serif large text labels (as an include [SSI] in all but the
home page, of course). Sometimes I put a slash between the labels, and I
use CSS hover properties to remove any ambiguity the surfer might feel
about them. It's boring, and ugly, but it gets the job done quickly for my
(nonpaying) clients (mostly nonprofit groups). But then I'm not a
"designer." Hasn't it been well over 2 years now since this "new look" of
aping magazines became the latest fashion on the Web? Can't some designer
who's actually creative come up with a new look? The Web is largely,
visually, boring and ugly, which seems rather ridiculous. Also, an
increasing number of sites are inaccessible without Flash, which I find
incredibly annoying. I refuse to put the Flash "reader" on my box, and I
can't even imagine a site with content so valuable it could make me change
my mind about this.

We have this wonderful CSS, which lets us change the look and feel of a
site quickly, but we're wasteing more and more time chasing a really poor
illusion of what a site should look like. 

grumble, grumble, grumble... 

Most browsers have an aspect ration in which width is longer than height.
Navigation should be horizontal rather than vertical, unless there's a good
reason to do it another way.
(What do you expect on a Saturday???)

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