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Re: CSS only sites


From: Terence de Giere
Date: Mar 8, 2003 9:01PM

Absolute positioning in CSS still has a relative sizing effect if the
relative units of length are used (as in parts of the CSS for the
glasshaus.com site). The newest CSS browsers handle this well for
positioning although there are sufficient differences that make it
difficult for a single CSS file to work well with some designs for all
these browsers.

The problem is the older browsers that sometimes fall to pieces in
trying to render this CSS. WebTV completely falls apart and is a jumble
with this kind of coding. If we just follow standards, i.e., the W3C
recommendations, then WebTV would be a non compliant device, but there
may be a need to support it. So the final design becomes a compromise
between how much time and expense can be used to support adequate
presentation for less than stellar CSS capable browsers, or to deal with
the minor quirks of the most recent CSS browsers. HTML format and the
use of tables, alas, is much more stable for cross-browser visual

The W3C's goal of single authoring for Web pages still seems a dream too
far off in the distance. Nonetheless a number of developers have made a
good shot at coming up with creative solutions here. I think many
graphic designers have some difficulty with CSS because it provides a
'flatter' look to pages, a less three-dimensional appearance than they
are used to with conventional graphics programs. With the older methods
of page layout and graphics programs, the designer can cut up a graphic
and assemble the pieces in a complex table, whereas with CSS one
normally needs to know how to code CSS in some detail to create complex
formatting effects; it is less visually intuitive. Also making web
pages stretch and have the ability to change the size of boxes and type
tends to be less in favor with designers. However some kinds of
designers do well with a more flexible visual approach. What comes to
mind are the title sequences for motion pictures; some are more
interesting than the movie themselves, with type and position undergoing
truly elegant and visually appealing transformations.

Web design tends to be taught from the visual angle, and still has a
strong correlation with design for printed media where the designer can
have every size, position and color just so. I think a good strong
course in the principles of SGML/XML should be part of every Web design
course, so designers (and programmers) have a better understanding of
document structure, and the need to structure information in a more
abstract space. Designers may not want to go into detail about this, but
having a feel for principles would help with teamwork. Maybe they should
watch movie titles as well. I feel the visual presentation of a web site
should be able to handle the user setting the font size perhaps double
or even triple (with a large monitor) the default size and still
maintain some decent sense of visual perspective and layout. Once the
size gets bigger than that we are in the realm of low vision technology
where just being able to see letters and words in the correct order
becomes the dominant concern.

I have found talking to programmers, that they tend to be weak in HTML,
because it is relatively simple compared to the difficulties they
experience with interactive programming and application development, and
they just do not spend much time with it. They normally know only a
subset of the elements, and are unaware of the many restrictions placed
on their sequence in the document. Of course any programmer involved
with an accessibility project soon becomes aware that HTML structure is
essential for accessibility. I think those of us that frequent this
forum realize how much time is involved keeping up with all the details
of accessibility, and how much we have not figured out yet, and how
difficult it must be for the members of a team with many different
perspectives to grasp and coordinate the nuances of accessibility and
usability in web pages.

Terence de Giere

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