Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

Hack: To or not to

Ever since Peter-Paul Koch put online his [quirksmode] web site, his opinions caused quote a stir in web design community. He openly opposes most of the techniques and guidelines many of us advise.

In the Keep it simple column at Digital Web, PPK published an article where he advised developers to avoid the use of hacks, since some new browser version might fix the bug used for hack but not fix the very behavior you are trying to hack.

In the latest article, PPK posted a list of CSS hacks that could be considered safe, since they apply to dead browsers (NN4, IE5/Mac), and dismissing anything else, since the “live” browsers are updated and can fall into a trap he explained in the original article.

I agree with the point about new browser versions and bug fixing. Yes, that can happen. And that’s all I agree with.

Confirmed

My observation is confirmed by one of the developers of the next version of Visual Studio and ASP.NET.

It’s nice to know. I’ve worked on high-profile .NET project where I insisted as mad to be XHTML compliant, so I won’t have to code using tables since the content was screaming for simple layout.

I was able to persuade everyone in the end, but the damn thing got me lots of problems. All Web controls in ASP.NET 1.1 Framework produce the code which belongs to 1998. Pages for that projects are now mostly a bunch of divs and spans, since that was the closest I could get (without forsing the server-side guy to write complete set of custom controls for outputing meaningful markup).

It will still need work to make it all semantically meaningful, but changing divs and spans to hx & co. will be much simpler than turning table & co. to it.

Wait and see.

Bad and good UI

It’s shame how wonderfull features can be diminished by junior-high-grade mistakes.

I visited today new MS Office web site and got the following warning at the top:

Warning: You are viewing this page with an unsupported Web browser. This Web site works best with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or later or Netscape Navigator 6.0 or later. Click here for more information on supported browsers.

So I followed the link to page where they practically repeat the same information above.

I clicked the “No” button at the bottom and was pleased to see wondefull use of DOM - form has changed to allow instant user feedback. But then, when I clicked on “Next” button, I got Javascript error saying that Mozilla couldn’t find the form with rather obscure name (it has : in the middle of it).

No feedback from my side then.1 Average user will see no way out of this situation and will leave the site.

An excellent user-interaction followed by developer error. Sigh.

Learn from other’s mistakes.

1 OK, I lie. This error was eating me somewhere in the back of my head, so later I went to this page in IE and reported it.

Text eligibility testing

During the development of the new web site for a client, my company arranged small user testing on text size and fonts. We aimed to find out what font family + size + line-height combination is the favourite among average users.

Since client is a bookie, they have a fairly large amount of phone operators which are sort of ideal testers for this kind of stuff.

Competitors were (all tests were run on Windows platform):

  1. Tahoma + 11px font-size + 120% line-height

  2. Tahoma + 12px font-size + 100% line-height

  3. Verdana + 11px font-size + 100% line-height

Survey of 19 of their office staff resulted in:

  • 4 picked (1)

  • 6 picked (2)

  • 9 picked (3)

Every person surveyed that wore glasses opted for the option (3). This was the decisive factor - web site will use this setting for static content (text boxes at the bottom).

Although the number of people is not that big, it still shows that when you have to use small fonts, Verdana simply rules. Problem are users that don’t have it when Verdana’s overall biginess can backslap you; here it’s a minor problem, since log analysis shows that 99% of users are Win/IE5+ users.

Verdana is also rendered well on Mac OSX.