Re: Why CSS On Older Browsers Is Broken

At 09:50 PM 9/29/2000 , Gregory J. Rosmaita wrote:
>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?

Leading question, really.  Are you willing to accept an answer
that does not agree with your own?

In truth, what is more important _will vary from author to
author_ and if we try to tell authors that their importance levels
are worthless to us, we are as bad as if they try to tell us that
the disabled are a worthless audience.

>if i am accessing your content, why should you care whether i appreciate your autumnal color scheme or not?

Well, maybe I want to evoke a specific reaction through colors.
Maybe I want to let you know that I update the page every now and
then.  Maybe I am demonstrating the power of stylesheets.  You
probably haven't noticed, but I tend to cycle through my color
choices every couple of months by changing the CSS.  People have
told me they _enjoy_ that.  I'm not sure why you sound as if
you are out to _deny_ them that enjoyment.

Yes, I'm purposely misinterpreting you here, but I also feel that
the implications of your current approach lead to a rhetoric
which _insists_ that visual design is worthless and has no
value, and if we say that, we have lost the battle right there.

>what about someone accessing your page with a wireless, monitorless device?

But that's not what we're talking about here.  We're talking about
the difference between two approaches -- one which works fairly
reliably on most browsers, and one which does not.

Let's look at it by benefits:

HTML Presentation    -  Displays in older browsers
                      -  Displays in newer browsers
                      -  *Does not* display in wireless devices

CSS Presentation     -  *Does not* display in older (pre 4.0) browsers
                      -  Displays in newer browsers (with bugs)
                      -  *Does not* display in wireless devices

So, either approach is going to work in newer browsers, and neither
approach will work in wireless devices.  But what we are talking
about here is the Netscape 3 browser -- the older browser which DOES
display HTML markup, and which does not display CSS.

By these criteria, for anyone who _does_ place a priority on
graphical design, CSS is an inferior method to putting color and
font choices in body and table tags.

>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 --

The WAI are the ones saying "thou shalt use CSS" which is a broken
technology.  If you ask me, we probably should cut our losses and
give up on CSS because the situation is not likely to improve.  
Insisting on CSS as The One True Way has been a failure from the

And keep in mind that styling may be a make or break point for many
authors.  It is a very cavalier thing for someone (especially a
blind web designer) to dismiss styling as not being vitally
important to the web design process.  A number of web designers will
tell you differently -- what, suddenly the whole world is wrong and
the WAI are the only people with the truth?  No wonder people get
the wrong idea about web design.  No wonder they are quick to dismiss
us and find our guidelines threatening.

>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...

Content is in the eye of the communicator.  Color can be content, as
with my "autumn" look.  (I'm really not sure what you would suggest as
an "alternate modality" on each page which expresses the same thing.)

>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...
>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?"

Gregory, you know I love you to pieces so when I say this, don't
take it personally:

       It would be very nice to live in the world you describe.

Meanwhile, back in our world, it's pure folly to suggest that lack
of interoperability and lack of standard adherence is going to
suddenly put a bunch of web designers out of work.  We are vastly
over-emphasizing the importance of our work if we run around with
doom and gloom pronouncements like this.  When Liz and I started
Idyll Mountain Internet in 1995, most of our competitors were using
scare tactics to convince potential clients that "if you don't have
a web site within 6 months, you will be out of business."  We never
liked that approach and haven't ever used it.  Guess who is out of
business?  Those competitors.

What's my point?  I don't think it's realistic at all to claim that
web designers will be going hungry if they don't support accessibility
and web standards.  To claim otherwise is to ignore the evidence
around us -- people can and will get by just fine in their jobs,
thankyouverymuch, by doing what they've done all along.  Sure, you
will probably point to a few cases such as IBM's Olympics screw-up
or AOL or something -- but those are rather isolated.  The sad truth
is that you can make a HUGE amount of money these days in the web
industry without ever having read the HTML 4 specification.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we are going to put
people out of business if they don't line up with us.  Let's instead
concentrate on how to solve the problem.

And what's the problem?

It's convincing web designers -- the VAST MAJORITY of whom tend to
be primarily visual people -- that designing things the way we suggest
is going to be better than doing it another way.

The only way we can convince an audience of that is if we _do_ take
their needs seriously, and not just write them off as crazy light-
dependent artistes who are one step away from a soup kitchen because
they value the appearance of their web sites.


Kynn Bartlett  <>          
Director of Accessibility, Edapta     
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet
AWARE Center Director            
Accessibility Roundtable Web Broadcast 
What's on my bookshelf?               

Received on Saturday, 30 September 2000 20:21:27 UTC