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W3C: Going in the wrong direction?
A rant and a rave about the implementation of W3C standards
21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 3:04 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Apologies for the length. In short, trying to update an old site to W3C standards has got me very frustrated.

<long rant>I have had websites on the internet for more than a decade. But - and this is an important piece of background information - at heart I'm a writer, or at most a designer of useful facilities, not a programmer. The internet, servers, technology, PHP, html etc. are all means to an end. The 'end' is to share - whether it be information, experiences, opinions, conflicts, etc.. The technology enables us to do sharing, of many, many types of information, from plain text to video to experiences to workspace to whatever.

During the last 6 months we embarked on a project to update our old (html) websites and drag them (literally) into the 21st century. We have been bringing them into line with the standards that operate now, rather than those in place when we started out. It seemed a noble thing to do, for the benefit of people who are kind enough to visit and read our websites.

It has turned out to be one of the most frustrating projects I have ever worked on. And I've worked on a lot over the last three decades.

We don't have complicated websites. Most of our content is text. We are 'web 1.0' through and through, using html with the occasional bit of functionality thrown in (smatterings of javascript and php). But making simple, plain text appear nicely on our website, using W3C standards, has proved infuriatingly difficult.

The problems are many.

One example is that when we developed a page that 'validates' using the W3C validator, we couldn't see anything on the page. For more than 10 years it has shown us text - we bring it up to date and all the text disappears.

So, we tweak it to try and make the text appear and, after a lot of experimentation, we finally get our text back. But, for some unknown reason, in IE7 it jumps off to the right of the screen, but displays correctly in Firefox. So, we tweak it some more so it displays correctly in Firefox - hooray, but then it jumps off the right of the screen in IE7. All these combinations are "valid" according to W3C.

In the end, we manage to find out how to fix it. If you are a Hancock or Mr Bean fan, it is reminiscent of their sketches trying to position the TV arial to get a good picture: to get it working, you end up doing something that is very inconvenient and looks stupid.

But, we do eventually get IE7, Firefox, Netscape and a pda browser all showing us the text. But then we get a complaint from a site visitor that in IE6 the text has jumped off the bottom of the page.

To help in our migration to the 'new age', we have upgraded our computers to IE7, and Microsoft in their wisdom didn't let us have IE6 running alongside IE7. So we had to get an old computer to view the reported problem in IE6.

This turned out to be another journey into things like quirks mode, whether padding is added to the width of an element, and many other differences between the way browsers work. For some problems we encountered, web searches revealed lots of forum pages asking how the problem can be solved, and no pages (that we could find) saying how to solve it.

And it's not just IE. For example, insert a "<br>" between divs and we expect some whitespace to appear. But Firefox will do something different to Netscape, depending on the css settings for the divs above and below.

Looking at the W3 pages, I guess the people involved would claim that the aim of their standards is to remove problems like this, and we are just in a transitional phase. By having clear, agreed rules, then if one follows the rules then you'll always get the same result.

But the direction they are taking is, imho, not going to "lead the Web to its full potential" (as is claimed on the W3 home page). It is going to restrict the web's potential, making development accessible only to an elite who think in a particular way.

If I may use an analogy, it is a bit like saying that, in real life, everyone in future has to communicate using semaphore. There might be some benefits in doing this, having one set of clear rules, but there are plenty more drawbacks. Such a restriction on language would obviously be a massive inhibition to creativity and artistic expression, and it would be unworkable for most of us, apart from the few ('elite') members of society who understand semaphore.

The aim of W3C seems to be to agree common standards. Whilst this may seem laudable, it has become so logic- and rule-driven that it is becoming exclusive. It may end up being the internet-Esperanto.

Please pardon my excursion into soapbox territory, but it is very often the case that people who design do not think logically, and people who think logically do not make good designers. Design is about the aesthetic appearance and appeal, the subjective experience of the user, the visual impact, the overall experience, providing an outlet for artistic talent.

But, with W3C, the designer is frustratingly not allowed to concentrate on those things. One ends up wasting a great deal of time, and getting frustrated, because basic tasks such as centring text on a page can't be done. Or, at least, not easily. One can't just say "<center>" any more. Even "text-align:center;" in the css doesn't always work. To center text on a page, one has to understand a whole new complicated set of rules, about inline or block display, about the different effects of text-align:center and margin:auto.

If you want to tell your wife you love her, you can't buy her flowers any more. You have to lie on the floor facing north, with your right hand pointing south-west and your left arm bent, and pointing within 30 degrees of the moon. Other enthusiasts will know exactly what you mean, but your wife will think you've gone crackers.

Why am I writing this? Well, it is largely a rant and a rave. I have a piece of text around which I want to have some white space, but I've got another fight on my hands. The browsers seem determined not to let me have my white space, and it's the straw that broke the camel's back.

If anyone in this list is involved with developing W3C standards, please remember that semaphore users make up a tiny proportion of the population. To enable the web realise its full potential, the standards have to be intuitive and easy to use - "ease of use" is a phrase used aplenty on the w3 website, but not what I experience in practice.

I'm not saying the rules shouldn't be logical and provide consistency. But I am saying that they should also support the thinking of the person who has a design mentality, and not provide a constant source of frustration.

Bring back the quill pen. Long live html!</long rant>

 

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 3:46 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Good rant - I'll bet we have all felt something like this. At the same time, the W3C is not composed of stupid people, so permit me a few counter-points.

Design is about the aesthetic appearance and appeal, the subjective experience of the user, the visual impact, the overall experience, providing an outlet for artistic talent.

But, with W3C, the designer is frustratingly not allowed to concentrate on those things.

HTML is a document-centric language, and definitely NOT a layout language. All the layout capability and image capacity is essentially an uncomfortable add-on to the original idea. HTML is only a subset of SGML.

The main idea is that we have a MARK-UP language (that's the "M" in HTML) for a pre-existing document. Not a way to code a design, but a way to add semantic mark-up information to a document. Making this mental leap is one of the best things I ever did to make my web development experience more easeful.

... basic tasks such as centring text on a page can't be done.

Depending on whether you are using tables or divs, declare a width and then try one of these approaches for your overall container element:

<div style="margin:0 auto;"></div>
<table style="margin:0 auto;"></table>

It's true that things are seeming to move in a more inscrutable direction. but as you've noted, the need for a mark-up language that works on many types of user agents, even some not yet invented, is what's driving this process. The W3C may be more visionary that we can currently perceive.

rocknbil

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 4:05 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would only pose one thought -

You've really learned a lot during this process though, haven't you? And you can now apply these principles to a new vision of artistic expression?

Coming from an art background, I encountered this long before the web, by applying artistic expression to the printing industry. The same conflict of Apollonian vs. Dionesian, logic vs. intuition, artistic vs. calculation plagued me for a while . . . until I learned to work with this newly defined canvas.

Eventually you will come to see these restrictive principles as an new palette upon which to paint. Think about Piet Mondrian, who restricted his expression only to primary colors. Expression can find it's way through restrictive principles, once you become familiar with the tools.

It does get easier, once you get past the growing pains you begin to know what to do, how to head off some of these problems, and can get back to the expressive side of your work.

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 7:18 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't think it is getting easier. I've already tried Tedster's centering solution, for example, but it doesn't always work in all browsers.

Eventually you will come to see these restrictive principles as an new palette upon which to paint.

I think I understand the point you are making, and sometimes restrictions can lead to a new, creative form of art. When learning a musical instrument, for example, learning the rudiments can open up a fantastic repertoire of sounds and expression. And there are some new and innovative things that we've done on our site that were inspired during the process of grappling with some of the rules of the internet (though, not W3C).

My concern with what you say, however, is that the 'restrictive principles' aren't going to create a new palette that can complement other art forms, they are going to determine that there is only one palette. Even after all my 'learning', I still find each day more and more time is spent trying to overcome the foibles not only of different browsers but also of W3C.

I also understand the need that Tedster identifies for a universal mark-up language. But this isn't the only need, and in fact it is not even the most important one. One of the original ideas behind the internet, as I understand it, was to open the world of information up to the masses. The creation of a (single) set of restrictive practices in W3C is closing it again. Only a very, very small percentage of the people I know would be willing and able to get to grips with centering text on a html page - not because they are unintelligent, but because of the obscurity of the processes involved. Our standards are becoming lower because we are finding increasingly hard to achieve something 'acceptable' in all browsers that is W3C compliant. We have good designs on paper, but we can't recreate that look on the screen because of the problems with the markup language. And for the most part all we are talking about is text, a few images and white space (it is the white space that is often the biggest problem).

Yes, there is a need to develop standards for interoperability and advanced functioning. But it is also important (if not more so) that simple web page creation remains simple, and one only need to learn difficult stuff in order to do difficult stuff.

Oh, dear, back into rant mode again - and I didn't mark it up as a rant!

Thanks for listening.

encyclo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member encyclo us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 7:41 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would add that the W3C validator is a "grammar" checker: you can create a gramatically-correct phrase in English which makes no sense whatsoever. The validator cannot interpret meaning, so placing an element covering another, or off-screen etc. is perfectly valid in terms of syntax, even if illogical. The validator is a mere tool to aid development, nothing more.

Most or all of what you are seeing is due to browser inconsistencies, which come about due to the lack of a consistent implementaion of existing standards (HTML4, CSS2). The lack of a respected standard hampered web design much more than it helped over the last few years.

DrDoc

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 9:16 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok, I'm going to be a bit mean here, but you'll see where I'm going with this.

First of all, you state that:
We have been bringing them into line with the standards that operate now, rather than those in place when we started out.

I have had several websites going for over a decade as well. I consider myself being very much up-to-date with the standards. I code to the standards. I employ them to their fullest extent. So, I hate to tell you that you are wrong :) The standards haven't really changed. A paragraph is still marked up using <p>. A header is still marked up as <h1>..<h6>. A <table> still signifies a table.

At heart I'm a writer, or at most a designer of useful facilities, not a programmer.

Your goal should be to use semantic markup ... markup that makes sense. If you are writing an article, use <h1> for the main heading, <h2> for each sub heading, <h3> for each sub heading below an <h2> etc. Use <p> for paragraphs. Use plain and simple HTML to mark up your document. Don't worry about styling or aligning or anything like that.

Now, once you have your HTML structure clean and proper, determine a few things you want done.

You want all paragraphs to have a leading indent? Great! Add this to your stylesheet:
p {
text-indent: 3em;
}

You want certain paragraphs/headings/whatever to have their text centered? Great! Add this to your stylesheet:
.c {
text-align: center;
}
Then, each element that should be centered, assign a class attribute with a value of "c".

You want the whole page content to be centered in the viewport? Great! Add a <div> as the outermost element (inside <body>), assign it an ID (let's say "wrapper") and add this to your stylesheet:
body {
text-align: center;
}
#wrapper {
margin: 0 auto;
text-align: left;
width: 750px;
}

Then keep doing that for each new styling ... adding them one at a time. Very soon you'll be getting a hang of it. If you don't know how to style a certain effect, take a trip to the CSS Forum [webmasterworld.com], and we'll be more than happy to help you.

Standards compliant markup is not difficult. All it takes is determination, and knowing that you have to start in one place facing the direction of another. You can't try to do it all at once. Start with clean markup, then style. Start with clean markup, then style. Start with clean markup, then style. ... and then restyle to fit your needs.

Many of us have already wandered this path. I promise you it can be done. And you shall have kudos for having the desire to do so. You won't regret it.

And, for the love of everything green and fuzzy -- ignore fancy things like electricity ... I mean, fancy things like XHTML. Browser support alone is a reason to stay clear of it. And, who needs XHTML to display a regular website? No one. That's what HTML is for. Stick to HTML and CSS, and you'll be golden. And, hey, still up-to-date as far as standards go! Anyone who tells you anything else does not know what they are talking about.

[edited by: DrDoc at 9:18 pm (utc) on June 24, 2007]

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 9:18 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

The lack of a respected standard hampered web design much more than it helped over the last few years.

I agree we need a respected standard.

I don't think W3C is a standard that I 'respect' because it makes simple things unnecessarily complicated (eg: centering text). The standard is not easy to understand and to an end user it seems to create more problems than it solves. It makes it hard for many people to adopt, on our websites at least, because of its particular type of logic.

You could argue that a bad standard is better than no standard. Perhaps. But I would have thought it not beyond the wit of man to produce a good standard, one that achieves interoperability without making the writing of html a voodoo art.

DrDoc

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 9:25 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't think W3C is a standard that I 'respect' because it makes simple things unnecessarily complicated (eg: centering text). The standard is not easy to understand and to an end user it seems to create more problems than it solves. It makes it hard for many people to adopt, on our websites at least, because of its particular type of logic.

While I understand why you feel this way, I disagree. I'm not saying you're wrong ... I just disagree.

The reason why separating style and content seems to foreign is the result of three things:

1) the sloppy coding style of the 90s
2) a browser market (of the 90s) with no support for standards (heck, CSS was an adopted standard in 1996! ... IE just came fully on board with IE7 ...)
3) misconceived HTML standards

The last one is the cause of a big problem. Despite the advent of CSS to take over content styling, new HTML standards still "supported" the old ways of assigning colors, borders, fonts, text alignment. Had everyone been more forced to adopt CSS early on, we would not be in this awkward situation today. And no one would find that pulling styling out of the HTML was a strange thing to do.

I don't find it strange today. In fact, I'm thankful that CSS exists, as it makes it easier to code, with leaner and better performing pages as a result. Yes, you heard me. Easier, leaner, better.

Luckily, the three bullets above are a mere chapter of history. Instead they have been replaced with:

1) standards are acknowledged as useful
2) golden browser support for standards
3) properly structured standards which support the initiative of separation

[edited by: DrDoc at 9:28 pm (utc) on June 24, 2007]

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 9:36 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I hate to tell you that you are wrong :) The standards haven't really changed.

So I'm OK leaving all my pages with <center> and <font>? I wish I'd known that 6 months ago, it would have saved a lot of trouble.

Thanks for the css lesson. You say my goal should be to use semantic markup. That's making the goal technology-driven.

I view my goal as being to help my site visitors and authors achieve their goals. To do that, I provide good looking pages, with good functionality, that are easy to use, that load fast, that both my authors and site visitors find a good experience. The 'standards' are just one of the many means to that end.

And what could be more semantic than putting <center>text to be centred</center>, or putting <br> when you want an extra blank line.

On the contrary, putting "<style> .c {text-align:center}</style> <p class="c">text to be centred</p>" is not 'semantic' as far as the majority of the population are concerned. It is only 'semantic' to a minority who think in a particular kind of way.

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 9:42 pm on Jun 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't find it strange today. In fact, I'm thankful that CSS exists

I agree that CSS is useful. I repeat my earlier point that I'm not saying we shouldn't have a standard, and I'm not saying we shouldn't have CSS.

But simple things should be simple to do.

We should have a good standard, not just any standard, and W3C is not a good standard for many of the reasons I've explained.

thecoalman

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 12:00 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

On the contrary, putting "<style> .c {text-align:center}</style> <p class="c">text to be centred</p>" is not 'semantic' as far as the majority of the population are concerned. It is only 'semantic' to a minority who think in a particular kind of way.

Let me point out why the CSS approach is preferable to the <center> approach.

You've built your site, for arguments sake lets say it's 200 pages. You now decide you want those paragraphs aligned right, if you're using an externally linked stylesheet, you open it with your editor and change center to right, save and upload... you're done.

On the other hand if you have used the <center> tag good luck, you have to find and replace every instance where that was used. On top of that if you used it elsewhere such as on links you would have to manually check every instance where you have applied it.

I'll take the single line edit everytime.

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 12:07 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi 21-blue,

You ask is the W3C going in the wrong direction?

Not in my opinion

But the direction they are taking is, imho, not going to "lead the Web to its full potential" (as is claimed on the W3 home page). It is going to restrict the web's potential, making development accessible only to an elite who think in a particular way.

I can understand your frustration - cos I have been there! - but I think your being a bit harsh

All they have done/are doing is devising/defining a set of simple standards. Of course, when combined they are 'complicated', but they aren't all that difficult for a coder to understand

You say you're a writer... Fine

However, for you to complain about the w3C standards is, to me, like a tour guide complaining about the car park or the lobby

You're writing content that you want people to read

The w3C simply suggests how that content should be delivered

You/your organisation is perfectly free to ignore any/all of the suggestions

During the last 6 months we embarked on a project to update our old (html) websites and drag them (literally) into the 21st century

If you are a Hancock or Mr Bean fan, it is reminiscent of their sketches trying to position the TV arial to get a good picture

If you are ever going to embark on a similar exercise in the future, I would suggest that, (excuse the different metaphor) rather re-inventing the wheel and then test-driving it, how about you find a wheel that looks and behaves in a way that would suit your content, and then simply plagiarise it

There are oodles of good-looking, fully-functional AND valid sites out there

For example, insert a "<br>" between divs and we expect some whitespace to appear. But Firefox will do something different to Netscape, depending on the css settings for the divs above and below.

Without seeing your code, I can only guess... and my hunch is that the 'problem' originates elsewhere (i.e. not in the immediate div)

Design is about the aesthetic appearance and appeal, the subjective experience of the user, the visual impact, the overall experience, providing an outlet for artistic talent
But, with W3C, the designer is frustratingly not allowed to concentrate on those things

I agree about the 'aesthetic appearance' bit but think you have added 2 and 2 and come up with 22

I'm not saying the rules shouldn't be logical and provide consistency. But I am saying that they should also support the thinking of the person who has a design mentality

I promise I don't mean/want to sound patronising/condescending/etc (which would be rather silly, given my level of (in)competence) but (yeah, I know, the 'but' word - so shoot me!) you are a designer... so design your content and seriously consider letting an expert coder deliver your content - it'll save you a shedload of headaches

My concern ... is that the 'restrictive principles' aren't going to create a new palette that can complement other art forms, they are going to determine that there is only one palette.

Rest assured, the exact opposite is true, thanks - I suspect in large part - to the 10 years of work on CSS at the w3C [w3.org]

7.3 Recognized media types [w3.org]
...
The names chosen for CSS media types reflect target devices for which the relevant properties make sense.
all Suitable for all devices.
aural Intended for speech synthesizers. See the section on aural style sheets for details.
braille Intended for braille tactile feedback devices.
embossed Intended for paged braille printers.
handheld Intended for handheld devices (typically small screen, monochrome, limited bandwidth).
print Intended for paged, opaque material and for documents viewed on screen in print preview mode. Please consult the section on paged media for information about formatting issues that are specific to paged media.
projection Intended for projected presentations, for example projectors or print to transparencies. Please consult the section on paged media for information about formatting issues that are specific to paged media.
screen Intended primarily for color computer screens.
tty Intended for media using a fixed-pitch character grid, such as teletypes, terminals, or portable devices with limited display capabilities. Authors should not use pixel units with the "tty" media type.
tv Intended for television-type devices (low resolution, color, limited-scrollability screens, sound available). ...
Note. Future versions of CSS may extend this list. Authors should not rely on media type names that are not yet defined by a CSS specification

One question: why are you - a designer/writer - concerened about such matters and diverting your skills/attention towards html, css or whatever?

After all, newspaper journalists don't (usually) control the advertising, printing distribution, etc departments

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 1:06 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Let me point out why the CSS approach is preferable to the <center> approach.

A key word you use, here, is 'preferable'. I am not free to exercise my preference and ignore the standard's suggestions because the center tag is deprecated. You can do what you prefer, and I have to do what you prefer as well. It is like inventing the keyboard and then banning biros on the basis that most keyboard users prefer keyboards because they can create text that is more easily understandable to computers. It's hard luck to the biro users. Just as there are still lots of biro users, there are lots of people who just want to write simple (but well presented) html.

how about you find a wheel that looks and behaves in a way that would suit your content, and then simply plagiarise

First, that would be copyright theft. Second it would be marketing suicide. And third it gets in the way of creativity. We have a look and feel to our sites that fits our branding. Having to sacrifice that to fit the standards is getting the priorities all wrong. Standards should help us achieve that unique look, not make us sacrifice it.

One question: why are you - a designer/writer - concerened about such matters and diverting your skills/attention towards html, css or whatever?
After all, newspaper journalists don't (usually) control the advertising, printing distribution, etc departments

That's an interesting assertion. On the big newspapers you are correct. But the vast majority of people who produce newsletters are small operations - e.g: a church or club newletter cannot afford to have separate departments doing separate jobs, nor can they afford to pay coders to update all their website content. Perhaps those types of user don't turn up in a forum like this, but there are lots of them.

If W3C standards are based on the principle of having dedicated coders separate from the people who generate content, then it is going completely in the wrong direction. In our case it would add a significant cost overhead (and an unnecessary one). I'm trying to shorten the path between author and publication, not lengthen it. The internet has opened up online publishing to the masses and enabled new, lean businesses to spring up. Going back to the old model of separate coders is very much a retrograde step.

As I've already said, I'm not saying that we shouldn't have CSS. There are many things I want to control centrally, which CSS allows me to do. But there are well established principles of 'good standards' (from all sorts of industries) that W3C seems to break - mainly to do with ease of use and understandability.

buckworks

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 1:50 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you're trying to achieve white space by using <br>, you're at least partly missing the point about separation of content and presentation. That may be the root of your problem.

If you're any good as a writer, you should have no difficulty thinking in terms of headings, subheadings, body text etc. and marking things up accordingly. As DrDoc says, start with clean markup, THEN style it (or get someone else to).

Don't get too hung up on the thought that your pages must look exactly the same in every browser. As long as things work as they need to and the differences aren't stupid-looking, it's sometimes easier and a better use of your time just to live with some variations between browsers.

thecoalman

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 2:43 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

It is like inventing the keyboard and then banning biros on the basis that most keyboard users prefer keyboards because they can create text that is more easily understandable to computers. It's hard luck to the biro users. Just as there are still lots of biro users, there are lots of people who just want to write simple (but well presented) html.

Nobody has "banned" anything, however just like the biro user that must adapt to a keyboard if they want to communicate with something that only accepts typed text you too will have to adapt if you want to stay within standards.

If the standard was adapted to everyones needs it's no longer a standard.

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 3:04 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

If the standard was adapted to everyones needs it's no longer a standard.

User needs are the raison d'etre for standards. It does seem that the tail has started wagging the dog in this area.

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 3:29 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

It is like inventing the keyboard and then banning biros on the basis that most keyboard users prefer keyboards because they can create text that is more easily understandable to computers. It's hard luck to the biro users. Just as there are still lots of biro users, there are lots of people who just want to write simple (but well presented) html.

I agree that it's like inventing the keyboard but NOT that that biros have been banned

Anyone is still FREE to use biros. Furthermore, using the protocol that the head of the w3C invented [inventors.about.com], you can publish Micro$oft Word documents and PowerPointless files on the web and you do not have to adhere to ANY standards

First, that would be copyright theft.

I said plagiarise, not copy... and anyhow, a good many superb sites endorse/promote a 'copyleft' (or similar) philosophy

Second it would be marketing suicide

You know this to be an absolute? Or is it just a guess based on anecdotal evidence? Extrapolating from what I have seen, I'm guessing that 1000s of high-profile businesses around the whirled have sites that continuing to generate healthy incomes (maybe even profits) despite - or perhaps because of - a reluctance to reinvent the wheel on the technology front, instead trusting the experts

And third it gets in the way of creativity

Please forgive/ignore me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that you have the concepts of content and layout firmly intertwined - in my opinion, this is not a good thing

...small operations ... cannot afford (my empahsis) ... to pay coders to update all their website content.

And nor do they HAVE to

Perhaps those types of user don't turn up in a forum like this, but there are lots of them.

Well, at least one of 'em is here: me!

If W3C standards are based on the principle of having dedicated coders separate from the people who generate content, then it is going completely in the wrong direction.

I would agree

However, for simple layouts, no 'expert skills' are required as the BASICS of CSS are very, very simple

I know, it took me less than 10 hours to 'train' someone with NO prior html or css skills (although they were pretty hot at word-processing) to update their CONTENT on a site that they DESIGNED and I implemented their site...

I wouldn't even dream of teaching them how to modify the CSS though

It sounds to me like you think the w3C ought to devise a system that accommodates champagne tastes on beer budgets: TANSTAAFL [google.co.nz]

You pays yer money, you takes yer choice

I'm trying to shorten the path between author and publication

Like I have said, no one HAS to adhere to the standards but, to me, it seems that you'd like to bypass the path completely

The internet has opened up online publishing to the masses and enabled new, lean businesses to spring up

And this is always a good thing? Oh, yeah, I read it on the 'net, so it must be true

Going back to the old model of separate coders is very much a retrograde step.

...there are well established principles of 'good standards' (from all sorts of industries) that W3C seems to break - mainly to do with ease of use and understandability

Care to list some examples? Cos, to be honest, I don't understand

User needs are the raison d'etre for standards

I suspect the terms 'wants' and 'needs' are being confused here

For a visitor to a site to be regarded as a 'user', they 'need' - at the v least - the ability to read/hear your content. The w3C have suggestions on how best - in the immediate and long term- this can be acheived

The site's owners (and vistors) might 'want' to cut corners, shorten the path between author and publication, mix content with layout, whatever

And they're entirely free to do so - isn't that Tim Berners Lee a nice chap?

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 4:05 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I get the impression that you have the concepts of content and layout firmly intertwined - in my opinion, this is not a good thing

You are correct, in that I don't see them as the separate entities that they are in conventional publishing. Although, currently this view mainly applies to a small (but growing) part of our site where we dynamically create css on-the-fly using Php, in order to get some particular visual effects. In fact, in that part of the site, the layout IS the content, or most of it.

However, I do also want our authors to be able to have some creative control over the layout of the content they contribute. I see that as a good thing.

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 4:33 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think you might like Amaya [w3.org] - despite its origins ;)


Using Amaya you can create Web pages and upload them onto a server. scratch, they can browse the web and find the information they need, copy and paste it to their pages, and create links to other Web sites....

Amaya maintains a consistent internal document model adhering to the DTD...

Amaya always represents the document internally in a structured way consistent with the Document Type Definition (DTD). A properly structured document enables other tools to further process the data safely...

Amaya allows you to display the document structure at the same time as the formatted view, which is portrayed diagrammatically on the screen.

I'm not sure how 'finished' the project is, but last time I looked it worked AND explained HOW

[edited by: tedster at 7:20 pm (utc) on June 25, 2007]
[edit reason] make quote shorter [/edit]

DrDoc

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 4:37 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just a quick comment ...
You seem to confuse semantics with presentation.

Semantics has nothing to do with how a particular element is rendered on your page. That's a matter of styling.

And, hey -- want all your paragraphs centered? Great! Add this to your stylesheet:
p {
text-align: center;
}

Want the same justified? Great! Change that line to:
p {
text-align: justified;
}

The point is -- regardless of how it appears, it is still a paragraph and remains marked up as such. Want to change the styling? You're free to do so, and as was already pointed out, in a much simpler way than editing the markup.

You say my goal should be to use semantic markup. That's making the goal technology-driven.

I view my goal as being to help my site visitors and authors achieve their goals. To do that, I provide good looking pages, with good functionality, that are easy to use, that load fast, that both my authors and site visitors find a good experience.

No, the goal is not technology driven. Semantic markup is flexibility driven. Semantic markup gives you flexibilities unavailable using deprecated markup. Usability and accessibility increases, along with an increased freedom to design and redesign without changing the markup. (For an eye opener that highlights design/redesign without changing the actual HTML structure, take a stroll over to CSS Zen Garden [csszengarden.com].)

You say you want to help your visitors and authors? You want to provide good looking pages and good functionality, improve ease of use, loading time, and experience? Well, clean markup and CSS will do that for you. <center> and <font> will not. ... and never did.

buckworks

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 4:38 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

can browse the web and find the information they need, copy and paste it to their pages

Does anyone besides me see a problem with that?

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 5:11 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Does anyone besides me see a problem with that?

Probably many, many people will see a problem with that

However, many others (and it's irrelevant if it's more or fewer) don't - and I'm one of them

I have copied and then adapted shed-loads of code in several languages from the net: but and it's a BIG but, ONLY where the authors explicitly say how it can be OK to do so - usually a credit in the source code... no drama for me, any of my clients or their site visitors

This approach has eliminated maybe a couple of hundred 'resources' so far (approx eight years)

I also know I am not alone in thinking that if it's on the net, it's in the public domain

Plus, who the h*ll cares if someone nicks your code? Not me! Rather, I'm quite flattered when it happens - esp when I get an email from the 'copier' to say thanks

Aren't most people subscribed to sites like this to 'share' what they know?

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 5:17 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

You seem to confuse semantics with presentation.

I think you missed my point. Semantics is to do with meaning, but whilst the markup example you provided is technically semantic, it is meaningless to most of the population.

This issue could easily be solved, for example, by allowing Css shortcut tags (that automatically close at the next tag) eg: instead of:
<span class="e">Text1</span>
<span class="e">Text2</span>
<p>...
Allow:
<example>Text1
<example>Text2
<p>...
That syntax is much easier to use.

The alleged problems with <center> are overstated, methinks. The center tag is equivalent to <p class="center">. I really don't see any need to deprecate it.

As regards <font>, this could still be a useful complement to css, for people who only author a handful of pages, or if they want local control to throw in the occasional unusual font.

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 5:29 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I also know I am not alone in thinking that if it's on the net, it's in the public domain

Overcrowding in prisons is also becoming a problem. Though, it's unlikely to get that far in your case - exclusion from the search engines in response to a DMCA is more likely.

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 5:34 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

w3C Definitions and Conventions [w3.org]

Deprecated
A deprecated element or attribute is one that has been outdated by newer constructs. Deprecated elements are defined in the reference manual in appropriate locations, but are clearly marked as deprecated. Deprecated elements may become obsolete in future versions of HTML.

We recommend that authors avoid using deprecated elements and attributes whenever practical. To this end, we provide alternatives to them when appropriate in the specification. In most cases these depend on user agent support for style sheets.

User agents should continue to support deprecated elements for reasons of backward compatibility.

It doesn't mean you can't use them...

I think it means:
don't go complaining to them (the people who wrote the protocol) if/when, in years to come, that your visitors who ARE using 'modern' browsers, complain that your site looks like cr@p

Of course, anyone is free to write their own protocol and, if it's better, it's likely to supersede the others

That's the beauty of the 'net, there are NO rules

buckworks

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 5:44 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think you missed my point. Semantics is to do with meaning is to do with meaning, but whilst the markup example you provided is technically semantic, it is meaningless to most of the population.

21_blue, you're the one still missing the point. Markup is not semantic, it's the content of the document that is semantic. Markup is applied to the document according to the semantics of the document.

Properly done markup is driven by what the document means, not by how you want it to look. That comes later.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 6:59 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Four years ago I posted about this very point as advice in our "New To The Web" forum. It's one of the most important factors that I had missed in my early years on the web. When I "got it", everything changed about the way I create web pages -- including my approach to search engines.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started [webmasterworld.com]

thecoalman

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 7:25 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

The center tag is equivalent to <p class="center">.

Hold onto your seat this may be one of those light bulb moments... It can be equivalent providing you define the class "center" in your external stylesheet.

The alleged problems with <center> are overstated, methinks.

Alleged? If you hard code something and want to change it you have to do it manually and there's no if ands or buts about it. It's certainly not overstated either, by removing the formatting from the HTML you're free to format it however you want now or in the future. Properly done you can change the entire look and layout of a site overnight whether it's 20 pages or a million pages.

21_blue

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 7:56 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

Deprecated elements may become obsolete in future versions of HTML... It doesn't mean you can't use them

Hmmm.... I'll have to think about that.

21_blue, you're the one still missing the point. Markup is not semantic, it's the content of the document that is semantic. Markup is applied to the document according to the semantics of the document.

OK, I see your point. I think we were talking at cross purposes. I understand you are saying that the markup is supposed to convey the meaning/significance of the part of the document to which it applies. And in cookie-cutter applications, one can then hide the CSS from the author because the layout for each element can be a one-time only decision.

But that isn't the direction we're going. The position of text sometimes conveys a meaning (eg: centred above a horizontal line it conveys one meaning, right and left have different meanings). Colour, layout, words and white space can all convey meaning, and much more powerfully than words alone. All these will need to be accessible to our authors for them to be creative in the way we want them to be.

Properly done you can change the entire look and layout of a site overnight whether it's 20 pages or a million pages.

You could still do this with <center> - in the same way that other tags can be changed by css. The only difference would be usability/readability. And that is my central point - I already use CSS extensively. I'm not advocating we drop it, but make it easier to use.

lavazza

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3377351 posted 8:17 am on Jun 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

You could still do this with <center> - in the same way that other tags can be changed by css

NO! YOU CAN'T!

I already use CSS extensively

And if you think you can, then you are probably using CSS very, very badly

------

P.S. Read tedster's linked post... it's well written, concise and to the point and might (hopefully will) shed some light for you on how wrong it is to keep going on about mixing content and presentation

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