Re: Why CSS On Older Browsers Is Broken

kynn recently wrote, quote
The problem facing web designers is not "making the textual information 
accessible", it's "making the page look like what I want it to look like."

if this is the aim of the graphic designer, then why aren't graphic 
designers besieging the campuses of the major UA manufacturers, INSISTING 
on full support for CSS2, SVG, XSLT, SMIL, and the like? (at least to the 
base level of conformance outlined for each individual spec which includes 
a conformance section)

i find it hard to pity the plight of the graphically oriented designer, 
especially when, what we (as a group) are constantly being told that what 
they most want -- namely, that what they see when they design a page is 
what the end user will receive, have rendered, and perceive when they visit 
that page -- is ONLY feasible through adherence to standards, and even 
then, it will still always remain subject to variations in hardware, 
nationalized versions of products, the situation under which the content is 
retrieved, etc.

so, i fail to see the point of castigating the WAI for being insensitive 
(or downright hostile) to the graphical components of web design...  first 
of all, it's page authoring, not graphical design that is under discussion 
-- there is nothing inherently visual slash graphical about the web; that 
today's web is overwhelmingly visually oriented is the product of 2 
inter-related phenomena:

(1) a deeply ingrained predisposition for the visual -- "seeing is 
believing" is the principle tenet of the visually oriented (dare i say, 
materialist, in the strictest sense of the word?) culture of which today's 
visually-oriented web is but a reflection; and

(2) it should come as no surprise that the use of visually oriented tools 
that, at heart, rely mainly upon the designer's hand-eye co-ordination and 
aesthetic sixth sense to create pages, leads to the construction of pages 
that only truly work as intended if they can be visually perceived -- 
unless, of course, the author is willing to evaluate and repair the output 
of the tool used to create the page, which usually entails editing document 
source by hand...  no, i'm not insisting that every page author be fluent 
(or even conversant) in the markup languages that the tool they are using 
to create content for the web employs -- that would be as ridiculous as 
limiting driver's licences to someone who can completely disassemble and 
reassemble an automobile...  and yet, without the requisite tools -- such 
as an ATAG compliant authoring tool that automatically (where possible) and 
interactively (where there is no a priori solution) creates pages that 
contain (a) valid markup; (b) well-labeled and appropriate structural 
elements; (c) content with which the user can interact in the modality that 
best fits that individual user's circumstances -- what's an individual page 
author to do?

the answer is quite simple: raise a ruckus...  complain to the authoring 
tool manufactures whenever their tool spits out invalid, inaccessible, and 
browser-dependent markup; complain to the user agent developers about their 
lack of support for standards (in whose drafting, i might add, they played 
a significant role), but don't come to the WAI complaining that its members 
just don't understand the needs of the visually dependent...  in the end, 
kynn, what is more important?  that the visitor to your site receive the 
content you wish to share, or that your page is rendered with absolute 
fidelity on every machine that hits your page?  if your concern as a page 
author is the former, then i suggest you gather an army of webmonsters and 
lay siege to the UA and AU manufacturers -- or, at least, lash yourselves 
to their corporate flagpoles; otherwise, if you insist on quote thinking 
like a graphical artist unquote, my advice would be to stick to a strictly 
graphical medium, such as print, which can be used to deliver "final form" 
documents, in which the content is irreducibly wrapped an immutable style 
in order to be delivered to _passive_ recipients......

like it or not, the web is NOT, nor was it ever intended to be, a graphical 
medium -- that it is a medium that is capable of delivering graphics is 
part of what makes it a very powerful tool, but the essence of the web is 
communication, not decoration...  if i am accessing your content, why 
should you care whether i appreciate your autumnal color scheme or 
not?  what about someone accessing your page with a wireless, monitorless 
device?  yes, styling is part of the package, and has a place in design, 
but it should not be the make-or-break point for page authors...  and if it 
is, don't complain to the WAI -- complain to those whose support for CSS is 
either broken or absent...  and get used to the fact that an increasing 
number of people don't care one whit what stylistic devices are employed on 
a web site -- they want content, not color schemes and stylistic 
effects...  yes, attention to stylistic detail and the development of a 
consistent quote look and feel unquote are undeniably important aspects of 
web design, but they should neither interfere with, nor be an essential 
component of comprehending, the content being delivered...   and who is to 
say that the color scheme you applied is actually autumnal?  isn't the 
underlying meaning of the color scheme a product of the brain of the 
beholder?  what meaning would the colors that, in north america, are 
considered autumnal, have to a resident of the gobi or kalahari deserts -- 
that is, if they even paused to reflect upon it as anything other than a 
possible annoyance?  would it have any meaning at all, or would it be akin 
to wearing white clothing to a wedding in southeast asia (where, in many 
cultures, white is the color of mourning), or wearing white clothing to a 
north american or european funeral (where black is the color of mourning)?

what is vision, other than the interpretation of a natural phenomenon, a 
process which is shaped either by acceptance or rejection of one's own 
cultural influences and biases?  which is why it is impossible to 
communicate a universalizable message (such as, "hey, i'm happy it's 
autumn!") stylistically...  it's the thought that counts, right?  and it's 
the thought (in this case, "hey, i'm happy it's autumn!") that you are 
attempting to convey through the use of what you perceive as an autumnal 
color scheme...  but your color scheme is only one manifestation of the 
content that you are trying to convey, which is "hey, i'm happy (or at 
least know) it's autumn!"

so, what is content?  solely the message that the author is attempting to 
convey, regardless of the markup used to create the conduit for the content 
or the modality in which the content is received and perceived...  and, 
unless content can be received by the user in his or her modality of 
choice, you aren't communicating with others, you're dictating to others...

as for making people aware of what quote alternate unquote modalities are 
like, a tool such as len kasday's WAVE <>, speaks silent volumes to page 
authors who don't own a screen reader or tracking magnifier -- an ingenious 
eye AND ear opening experience -- try reading the flow of a poorly defined 
page to another person who isn't looking at your monitor, and you'll see 
slash hear what an impressive thing len's done...

kynn, i'm not saying that there isn't a place for the graphical mind set on 
the web, but it shouldn't be allowed to become the bedrock upon which the 
web itself is built...  the visual is only one output modality, and by far, 
probably the most expensive, in terms of display and quality of 
reproduction, etc., so it's a matter of survival for page authors to begin 
to think in terms of device independence, interoperability, and usability 
(of which accessibility is, if not a subset, then a facet) -- if the 
majority of the world either doesn't speak an author's stylistic language 
or can't interact with an author's pages in the way the author intended 
(namely, on a system capable of faithfully reproducing his or her handiwork 
when encoded in a standards compliant markup language, rendered by a 
standards compliant user agent) to whom is that author speaking?

so, rather than stating, as you did, that, quote:
The problem facing web designers is not "making the textual information 
accessible", it's "making the page look like what I want it to look like."

if web designers fail to consider interoperability and usability (which, of 
course, includes accessibility--one's a subset of the other!) when creating 
content for the web; AND if they don't insist that the tools they use to 
create content and the tools available to individuals to receive content 
adhere to standards (including the User Agent and Authoring Tool 
Accessibility Guidelines); AND if they don't stop to consider why some of 
us, mantra-like, constantly harp upon the separation of style from content, 
the problem for a lot of people involved in web design today will 
ultimately be, "how do i pay my rent?"


At 10:01 AM 9/29/00 -0700, you wrote:
>At 03:27 AM 9/29/2000 , Alan J. Flavell wrote:
> >On Wed, 27 Sep 2000, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
> > > web designers will _not_ accept styled text as a solution because
> > > of the following:
> > > (1)  CSS is not widely implemented yet and excludes older browsers.
> >Excuse me butting in, but this assertion should not be allowed to
> >stand unchallenged.  I suspect that you presented this as a parody
> >rather than as something that you believe yourself, but, since it is
> >such a widespread response, then I respectfully suggest it needs to be
> >more overtly challenged.
> >The whole point of the stylesheet concept is that it does NOT "exclude
> >older browsers".  On the contrary, its proper use ensures access to
> >the content by older browsers (minus some details of the presentation,
> >of course).
>No, it's accurate, and you are not thinking like a graphic
>I am troubled by the continued insistence that graphical web
>designers' needs are "not really needs" and the callous way in
>which we dismiss their concerns.
>Is it _any_ surprise that we get back the same attitude when we
>talk about accessibility?  Frankly, the WAI folks are _more_
>arrogant in dismissing graphical designer needs than graphic
>artists ever are in dismissing the needs of people with
>Let's look at why older browsers are excluded by CSS.
>I'll use my web page as an example.  ( for
>those who haven't read my .sig.)
>Right now it's orange and yellow and all sorta autumny.  I use
>tables and I apply styles, colors, and fonts using only CSS.
>If you use Internet Explorer 4+, Opera 3.6+, or Netscape
>Navigator 4+, you will see a happy autumnal web site, and you
>will have access to the content of the site.
>If you use an older browser, or one which does not support
>CSS (or have CSS turned off), you will see a very plain, default-
>colors web site, and you will have access to the content of the
>  From an accessibility standpoint, this is GREAT and it is how
>things are meant to function.
>  From a graphic designer standpoint this is a TERRIBLE TRAGEDY
>and demonstrates exactly why CSS is not reliable -- because it
>doesn't work in old browsers!  My design, my feel to the site,
>the look I was trying for -- it's completely GONE in Netscape
>Now, if instead of using CSS, I had used attributes on the
>body tag and the table elements, and maybe some well-chosen
>solid-color graphics, I _would_ have the same presentation on
>each browser.  I could look at it in Netscape 3, Netscape 4,
>Opera 4, and IE 5.5, and it would WORK on all of them!
>CSS is provably BROKEN for the needs of the graphic artist.
>Remember -- this is an artist who CARES ABOUT BACKWARDS
>COMPATIBILITY.  For YEARS we have been trying to impress people
>with the need to support older browsers -- and now that our
>hypothetical designer is doing that (supporting Netscape 3,
>where a pure CSS model would not work), he's told it can't
>be used?  Buh?
>And this isn't even starting to get into the Netscape 4
>implementation.  Look at in Netscape 4
>and in IE 5.  There are three-D buttons visible in IE, but
>they are GONE and the font styling is WRONG in Netscape.
> >But some designers express "needs" which are perverse in WWW terms -
> >and that cannot be achieved anyway.  But in attempting to achieve the
> >unachievable, they can produce some disastrous consequences.
>It's perfectly achievable.  Graphic artists have figured out
>how to get the effects they want.  You want to replace these
>workable solutions with broken solutions which are not
>backwards compatible, because you do not see the problem which
>is being solved.  The problem facing web designers is not
>"making the textual information accessible", it's "making the
>page look like what I want it to look like."
>It is truly a shame that there are so few graphic artists
>involved in these discussions, and it is no surprise that we
>continue to make specifications which will not be applied, because
>we discount the valid concerns of the people who will have to
>apply these standards.
>Kynn Bartlett  <>          
>Director of Accessibility, Edapta     
>Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet
>AWARE Center Director            
>Accessibility Roundtable Web Broadcast 
>What's on my bookshelf?               

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Received on Saturday, 30 September 2000 19:42:47 UTC