Re: Awards and award attitude :(

by "Paul Rudolf" <paul(at)>

 Date:  Sun, 26 Sep 1999 12:46:29 -0700
 To:  "The Web Center" <admin(at)>
 Cc:  <hwg-basics(at)>
  todo: View Thread, Original

-----Original Message-----
From: The Web Center <admin(at)>
To: Paul Rudolf <paul(at)>
Cc: hwg-basics(at) <hwg-basics(at)>
Date: Sunday, September 26, 1999 3:43 AM
Subject: Re: Awards and award attitude :(

>This subject is something I consider important, but to tell you the truth,
>have yet to discover a cost-effective way to handle it.  I would be willing
>to offer a free included service to new designs, if I could do so without
>entirely disrupting my schedule, so it's not a matter of me being too
>To clarify:
>The problem is that clients, while not totally unreasonable, want
>web sites.  We live in a society with strong visual orientation, and with a
>solid foundation in visual I am sure you have discovered
>in your own work. I can not (have not yet figured a way to) get the clients
>to pay for several hours of extra work preparing and testing their new
>for every possible type of browser that might hit it.  There just isn't any
>way they are going to pay me an extra 10 hours to debug a site for this,
>to mention the fact that I may be suggesting the removal of all the "eye
>candy" they want.

This is definately a consideration.  My rebuttal is that the small business
or personal web site will comply on a voluntary basis.  The larger
organizations or public service sites may be forced into compliance by law,
or at least by as much force as the ADA can muster.  If you read throught
the W3's WAI section, you may realize that there are many organization
starting to come foward to push the accessability issue.

If I remember the statistics in one of the linked pages in the WAI section,
12% of every American has some sort of disability.  The majority of these
disabilities are visual.  People with disabilities spent, in 1997, over $150
Billion on non-essential goods and services.  Building a site strictly for
"eye-candy" sure seems like bad marketing to me.

Justifying "cost-effective" for now is really not an issue.  Being able to
understand and implement accessability issues in the coming years could be a
"gold-mine".  It's more than just whistle blowing for a cause, there is some
selfishness in the issue, as a look in the stats above will show.

>I did try providing a "text-only" alternative once, but was told by people
>supposedly knowledgeable about such things that this was a poor substitute
>for several hours of work making my site validate on a dozen different
>browser types.  Now, I don't want to ignore the issue, and I don't want to
>subscribe to the "take the money and run" philosophy, but I am somewhat
>irritated at the conflict here.  I didn't supervise browser designs, and so
>I am stuck with what is, just like everyone else.

This is really the beauty of CSS.

>Especially irritating is the fact that a text-only page, even if just a
>synopsis of the site and perhaps leading to basic, HTML-only order or
>contact forms, can be an economical solution.  The same template can be
>reused, the copy needs to be manipulated for the primary site only, and
>only a few seconds extra work can be placed on this page.  Do you have an
>opinion on this type of approach?

Again, the beauty of CSS.  The use of style sheets, and I'm still a beginner
in this field, will allow you to concentrate on content for your actual web
page.  The style sheet adds (just like the name implies) style, placement,
the look and feel of the site.  If your visitor happens to be aggravated
with the majority of the sites, and if they have created their own style
sheet, your content is totally visible.  Don't get me wrong, this approach
will not work for a picture gallery type of site.

For instance, if you look at my former employer's site at , you will see that it is in frames, yet when an
older browser, or even a text browser is used, the site is totally
navigable, and without the need for a "text only" copy.

As most of us, just as the majority of web designers, often overlook how the
people that don't speak-up feel about our work, we tend to forget about
features that will really make our site an award winner.  For instance, how
do we know what browser the person giving the award is using?  If this
person is a NN user, the award could be lost with the "Best viewed with IE"

On the template issue, I use server side includes for many of the standard
forms, my banners, my navigation buttons, as well as my copyright section
(with links for the site) and of course, my "flag flying" section.  The
nicest part of this method is that only 1 file needs to be edited to change
the appearance of the entire site.  Unlike the FrontPage approach of
included files.  In this case, yes, you only change 1 file, but when you're
done, the entire set of HTML pages need to be uploaded to the site.

One example of accessabilty compliance is really simple.  Look at your use
of the alt= attribute.  Most of us describe the button, or have the text
tell us what will happen when the button is activated.  (BTW, I make this
mistake alot.)  Here's the example.  You have a list of navigation buttons
using graphics and a linked text field alongside.  You, just as any
conciencious builder would do, describe the link in the alt= field.  Now
look at the page with LYNX.  You see the text describing the button, the the
text of the button.  Very confusing.

By changing the alt="description of this button" to simply alt="*" the
button now appears as a "bullet" in the text browser, yet still looks great
on the graphical browser.

>Personally, I would consider Accessibility a primary directive in design,
>I could use CSS.  Since I can't, until such time as the browsers allow it
>(probably about the time HTML 5 hits!), then I am still looking for

I think we all agree that the internet mass use either IE4 or 5, or NN.4 and
even IE3 supports some CSS.  My server log files show these browsers and
their various versions and operating platforms to be at around 86%.  (This
is not counting spiders or robots.)  WebTV is growing, at least according to
my log files, and I believe WebTV supports some CSS.  WebTV access to my
server has about doubled in the last 6 months, and my site has very little
to offer.

By using the theory and directives of accessibility, and put them with the
CSS recommendations, you can still build a flashy site that shows well in
the newer, more compliant browsers, but the old browsers are still capable
of getting to the most important part of the web site -- The Content!  Take
a good look at , not just the Bobby Validator.  There are a few
directives that get me "tweaked", like <body title="something">.  This puts
the "tool tip" wherever you place the mouse, covering up "content".
Although probably very useful, it bothers me and may be totally unacceptable
by some customers.

The first time I heard of CSS I was too scared to play with it.  However,
after looking at some of the site simplification methods CSS offers, I
wouldn't consider starting a site without using CSS.  There are other
methods, such as Server-Side-Includes to make our life easier, with a little
more initial time investment.

Let me give you this as an example of "bull headed non-compliance",
ignorance of design, and assumptions of what the visitor is using.

I have a long time friend of over 25 years.  This person became an Amway
distributor about 6 years ago, and got really hyped when the new Quixtar
site was under development.  (note: I am not an Amway dealer, this is for
example only)  He was given the "hype" that a lot of us, as web developers,
get about "hits" and "new web technology".  At the time, my "friend" was
running the first version on Win 95, IE3 which came with MS Plus!, standard
16 color video at 640 X 480, and a 240 meg h/d.

Needless to say, he didn't have the h/d space to install the plugins, didn't
have the resolution or color scheme to view the Flash intro, nor did he have
the knowledge to understand the "Accept this Cookie" message.  He never got
to see the site.

To those of us that realize some of the ISP's "hit numbers", many times
relates to the total amount of objects downloaded by the visitor.  If you
have 20 graphic images on your first page, a hit counter that calls into an
outside counter company, a banner or two, etc., this could easily lead to 30
"hits" for just 1 visit.  If you have a missing image, the "hit" count can
increase by even one more, to generate the "missing image" icon.

The opening day of Quixtar, I fired up my old Linux text based Web Browser,
went to the site, and refused cookies.  I couldn't get in.  Now, keep in
mind, this is an e-commerce site, boasting that it's a place where you drop
your money, and leave with promises to ship.

Just by refusing "cookies", I couldn't get in.  Am I the only person in the
world that does this?

Going back a few months, I looked at their preview site.  I had to install
the Flash plugin to watch a movie.  I couldn't get to their info page
without it.  Their site was totally unreadable via text browser, or if
graphics are turned off.  How do the WebTV people do this.  Is Flash even
available as a WebTV option?  (sorry, my ignorance on this subject)

As recent as 1 year ago, I came to the conclusion that everyone in the world
set their monitor resolution to 800 X 600, so I designed my sites
accordingly.  Guess what I build to now?

In a way it's sad to think we have to makes sites compatible with non-frames
or non-table capable browsers.  It almost seems as if we need to work in the
past to bring our work or art to the public.  The real point is DO build for
the new browsers, but always consider that there are some people that will
never be ever to see the results.  If this percentage is acceptable to you
or your clients/customers, then continue your methods.

Then again, how are we going to deal with HTML 5?  Personally, I haven't
looked at the specifications, but it seems as if I have a lot of learning
ahead.  And, will this code be compatible with IE4 and such?  I sort of
compare the Web with the new digital TV standard.  Do you really think that
all TV stations will only broadcast in digital format, and all at once?
They too, need to be backwards compatible.

With out getting into fees, I will say that my rates for bringing an
existing site to accessibility standards is a lot HIGHER than building a
normal commercially acceptable site.  Yes, I build the non-compliant and
browser specific sites also.  There is always the customer that wants his
site to good on his computer, and could care less, or wont understand that
the world doesn't see the site on "his" computer.

In closing, I must say that the members of this list are here to learn from
the more experienced, as well as the more experienced learning from the
"newbies".  I think we should not only help the others on this list, but our
stories, opinions and solutions should be shared.  At least, by joining
these lists, we bring ourselves to wanting a higher level of excellence than
the web authors that only claim to be the best.

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