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RE: web page layout standards

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 11:39:49 -0800
To: "'Daniel Hiester'" <alatus@earthlink.net>, "'www-html'" <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <006101c06605$9fe41b10$0100a8c0@aries>
Daniel Hiester wrote:
"There are no standards specifying how you are to make a web page appear.
You
leave that one up to common sense, and logic. Determine the function of your
site, and then find a form which fits the function in a fasionable way. You
get bonus points if that form / fashion involves a visual theme related to
the site's function."

Yes, and no. Really, the initial question is a bad one. Web page layout
standards? If layout is what you're thinking when you *start* to build a Web
page, then you're going about it all wrong. You've misunderstood the nature
of the medium.

When you set out to build a Web "page" (really a document on the Web), you
should first consider the structure of the document itself. Write the page
in clean, commented, valid XHTML strict, using whitespace, blank lines, and
indentation to make your code readable. Mark up the parts of your document
properly, i.e., paragraphs in <p> elements, headings in <hn> elements and
nested properly, etc. Leave out all formatting. Don't even think about how
the page will look! That includes not using <br> elements to add space or
tables for layout!

Once you have the document written, take a look at in in a common browser.
It should look good, but plain. Now add a link to a style sheet, open a new
file for the style sheet, and start stylin'. Begin with body, p, a, etc.
While you're doing this, be sure to check the page in numerous browsers. I
typically have open at this time: Netscape 6, 4, 3, and 2; IE 5.5 (thanks to
Bill, only one at a time); Opera 4; Lynx 2.8; WebTV Viewer; and occasionally
a specialty browser like pwWebspeak.

If you followed XHTML strict properly, your page should look great in Lynx.
If you tried to use <br> elements (<br /> in XHTML) to add space, it's going
to look terrible in Lynx. If you used XHTML properly, it will also look fine
in Netscape 2 and 3. Forget making any changes there. (The one exception is
images, which might require you to switch your DTD to transitional and add
the border and align attributes.)

Now use the style sheet to make the pages look good. Any decent graphic
designer can do this (though they may grouse about the limitations it places
on them). To make life easier, use JavaScript to serve a different style
sheet to Netscape 4. One style sheet for IE, Opera, and NS6, another (added
to the first to override it where necessary) for NS4.

If you absolutely must do so, change the DTD to XHTML Transitional and go
back and add a simple table for layout (but make sure it is readable when
linearized -- check Lynx!). Try to avoid this whenever possible.

If you have access to server side programming (JSP, ASP, Cold Fusion, Tcl,
whatever), you can serve different pages to different browsers. This is a
great solution. You can write one page to serve Netscape 4, and one to serve
everyone else (though a separate style sheet might be necessary for WebTV).
But even with Netscape 4 your page should be valid XHTML Transitional and
should meet at least all Priority 1 guidelines in the Web Content
Accessibility Guidelines.

Daniel wrote:
"But this isn't exactly the list to discuss this on."

Oops. Hey, it's Christmas. Can't we have a little fun? Please, Santa?
Please?


Daniel:
"Well, okay, technically, there are accessibility guidelines, and there is a
seperate list for that, I think."

What do you mean "technically"? How about "morally" or "ethically" or
"professionally" or "intelligently"?

The mailing list is listed here:
http://www.w3.org/Mail/Lists.html

The accessibility guidelines are listed here (and yes, of course you should
use them... need it even be said?):
http://www.w3.org/WAI/Resources/#gl


Daniel:
"However, I think that the web was founded
upon the principle that individuality is not a bad thing, and the specs are
designed to be as flexible as possible, enabling millions of different,
unique individuals, to express themselves on the Internet. This may not have
been the w3c's intent, but it is still the ideal that dominated the
pre-corporate Internet."

Oh, but I think that that's exactly what they (W3C) had (have) in mind, at
least if the words of Tim Berners-Lee are anything to go by.

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Thursday, 14 December 2000 14:33:59 GMT

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