A decade of WebDev.

What did people do before there was the internet? Well, they … uhm… well there was tv and board games. You had to do stuff using pen (as opposed to an ink-cartridge) and paper. And I think you physically went to a store to buy stuff. But seriously, the World Wide Web (does anyone call it that nowadays?) is only some 15 years old. It was in 1990 that the first browser and webserver saw the light by the hand of this guy called Tim Berners-Lee. So you could say he was the first web developer. But that’s just the prehistory. We’re living in 2005 right now. What was it like for web developers like say in 1995? The web was alive and kicking for 5 years then. Or was it? Let’s have a look at june 1995.

Continue reading “A decade of WebDev.”

Turning off the ‘friendly HTTP error messages’ in Firefox

Get Firefox By accident I stumbled upon this Firefox somewhat equivalent of IE’s ‘Show friendly HTTP error messages’ option. Any webdeveloper should have this turned off by default. How else will you know what the problem is? So here’s how to do it:

  1. Open up a new tab (CTRL+T) or window (CTRL+N).
  2. Type in de addressbar: about:config.
  3. In the filterbar type: error and press enter.
  4. Now set the value of the ‘browser.xul.error_pages.enabled‘ to ‘true‘. Double clicking will do.
  5. Restart Firefox.

Now you’ll get extended warnings instead of the simple warning dialogs when, for example, you accidentaly link to a non-existant domain. Or, like me, the dreaded ‘The document contains no data’.

If you don’t know where to find this in IE: ‘Tools’ > ‘Internet Options…’ > ‘Advanced’-tab > Near the end of the ‘Browsing’-section. > Uncheck.

Usability Week 2005 San Francisco

Nielsen Norman Group This week, from June 20 till 25, the Nielsen Norman Group is holding a conference on usability in San Francisco. This is the last in a series of conferences which were held in New York, Stockholm and London.

The Usability Week 2005 Conference is:

Usability Week 2005 takes you beyond the typical conference experience, offering a three-day usability camp, a two-day intensive on interaction design, and several exceptional day-long tutorials that get both broad and deep on core usability topics. Attend as few or as many days as you like.

My lucky colleague, who somehow managed to be in San Francisco this week, is attending some topics. While we’re sweating it at the office. Being interested in web usability I just want to know what’s being covered. So strolling around the standard search tools it struck me that there are no reports, experiences, comments, etc. to be found. Google, nope. MSN, nothing. Yahoo, uhm. Technorati & Feedster, nada. What could this mean?

  1. Or usability experts don’t know how to blog
  2. Or NNg forces an NDA on every attendee
  3. Or there simply isn’t anything to report
  4. Or …

Dear Mr. Nielsen, please have a look at this aggregated coverage site of the XTech conference. Wouldn’t that be a good idea for your next conference?

The end of IE 5

IE LogoI’ve given up on IE 4 and Netscape 4 a while ago. Meaning I won’t do anything extra for them anymore. They’ll just have to take the page as-is, no unnecessary or fatal script errors though, but that’s where it ends. If it doesn’t work or looks horrible, too bad.

So how about IE 5? Will I say goodbye to that one too? Well, as long as there is a substantial public I will support it. But a quick scan of some statistics is showing a decline. Take a look at the W3Schools stats, which states a 2.8% audience of IE 5 in June. Looking at my own stats, I have to look hard to find any record of IE 5. But this will differ from site to site, so I haven’t written it off yet. So give it another half year or so?

Microsoft itself has a helping hand in the decline by pushing IE 6 with it’s Windowsupdate service, pulling support for Windows 2000, pushing XP and Server 2003. There is even the upcoming IE 7. And more importantly it doesn’t support IE 5 no longer (or at least will do so very, very soon).

Gervase Markham has a nice post about the IE 5 decline. He even invites us, web developers, to drop support for it already. I wouldn’t go that far, yet. Although with so many alternatives available I wonder why anyone will want to keep hanging on to IE 5.

If you’re still using IE 5, please take a look at IE 6, Firefox or maybe Opera. Oh and for those on a Mac. There’s Safari, Firefox or Camino.

What font will we choose next for our site?

Web-enabled fonts Webdesigners have been limited in their choice of fonts for quite some time now. Who doesn’t use Arial, Verdana, Courier, Helvetica, etc. The list isn’t very long as opposed to print designers. I think about 99% of all sites use Arial/Verdana/Helvetica/or a combination, although I’ve seen the use of Tahoma and “Trebuchet MS” rising. (NO, “Comic Sans” doesn’t look good!)

Nevertheless there hasn’t been much improvement on the type front for some years. This is due to several factors. First the required font has to be installed on the visitors computer. That narrows the choice to the pre-installed fonts by the OS. Although I think BitStream made an effort to embed type in webpages, I haven’t heard or seen anything from them for years. Then there is the resolution of the screens, what kind of screen you’re using (CRT, LCD or TFT), whether ClearType is enabled, what font-size you’re using, eye-fatigue, column-widths, and so on. In short, reading from a display is totally different from reading from paper.
Interesting read: In Search Of: The Best Online Reading Experience and Eight Things You Can Do Now To Improve On-Screen Readability.

There are ways to cheat. You can use images, replace headings dynamically or use Flash. But that isn’t very friendly on us webdesigners. Do you (or your clients) like to startup Photoshop or Flash everytime someone’s come up with a new article heading?

So what is it we’re looking for? More web-enabled fonts, that everybody has installed.

Enter ‘Longhorn’ (the next generation of Windows). Although that OS won’t be here untill (make your bets now) 2007, it’ll bring some relief. Because it’ll bring 6 (six!) new fonts that are presumably more or less web-enabled. In depth review here. But if you just want to see a preview look here (Flash). (Somehow the fonts all start with a C: Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia and Corbel.)

So if it’ll be released in 2007 and everyone (and their mothers) have upgraded, it will be 2010+ before we (webdesigners) have some alternative to the gratuitous Arial and Verdana. …

More about Microsoft & Typography here.

What do search engines see in my page?

Search engines are your ultimate blind visitors. They don’t see JavaScript, stumble over framesets, ignore CSS, feel around HTML-tags and leave them alone, choke on Flash. All they really want to see is content. And that content is plain text. Text that can be indexed, weighed, stored, chunked, ranked & retrieved. Or whatever it is they do…

So if you want a glimpse of what Google/Yahoo/MSN can really see in your pages take a look at the Search Engine Spider Simulator. It’ll take your page, strip off all HTML, media, links, meta-info and commonly used words. What is left is a resumé of all the unique words that are on your page.

Now if this simulator doesn’t return anything maybe that’s your explanation for not being indexed.
No content? Why bother.

IE 7 around the corner…

Looking back at my blog I see that I post a lot about Firefox. But there is another browser around that is even more popular. Yes, Internet Explorer!

Unfortunately IE6 has been around since 2001(?) and hasn’t been updated since. Apart from the occasional Service Pack or Security Update, IE6 has basically remained the same for about 4 years.

You say: “Hold up. The sites I visit are getting more advanced! So IE6 is up-to-date.”

Yes and No. IE6 is a capable browser. It has been ever since its release in 2001(?). But… back then IE6 was just a newbie. The majority of the browsing public was using IE4. And every webdeveloper/-designer can tell you that although the technology was there, ‘we’ had to consider making our pages visible in IE4, and God-Forbid NS4. So there was no way we could use all the nice ‘cool’ features of IE6.

Now that no-one is using IE4 or NS4 anymore (If you do, consider upgrading! Please!) we developers are using more & more sophisticated techniques. Like CSS, XHTML and/or XMLHTTPRequest. The latter was originally conceived in IE4’s RDS, but back then no-one used it. Nowadays Google’s GMail revolves around it. But I digress.

Back to the story. Seemingly to Firefox’s success the developers at Microsoft woke up. Back in january the development team was brought to life again. And they promised a beta version would be available mid-2005. (It’s june already.) I’m not trying to sound negative. But having Firefox as default browser for over half a year I’m anxious to see what comes from Redmond. I see they promise tabs, maybe RSS, …

BUT it will all be ONLY available for people running on Windows XP Service Pack 2! Way to go Microsoft. No longer available for Mac, Windows 2000, Windows 98SE, Windows ME. I personally think that’s not a good strategy. But that’s me.

To do: Upgrade family to Servicepack 2…

Lorem Ipsum Dolor

No this isn’t a fake post. It’s something almost every designer (web or print) out there uses as a placeholder for text in his/her design. But using the same text over and over again can get a little boring. How many headings can you see starting with Lorem ipsum?

Fortunately some people have made fake-content generators for us designers to use. πŸ™‚

First off: The Lorem Ipsum Generator at lipsum.com. You can specify the amount of paragraphs or words. But best of all, you have the option of NOT starting with lorem ipsum. *Thank you!* Repetative text can kill your design. I’ve had clients who thought they we’re getting a 2-column design, because the repeating text created a virtual gutter in the middle… I was young… πŸ˜‰

But wait there’s more. Yesterday I came across Kuro5hin’s list of Web Apps. In there I found the the SCIgen – An Automatic CS Paper Generator. This one basically creates scientific papers on-the-fly, including graphs, figures and citations! Now there’s something your clients won’t understand and will be impressed by.
Actually one ‘report’ was so convincing it was accepted for a submission for a conference…

If you know more I would love to hear about them.

Update: It seems that ‘Lorem ipsum’ isn’t just popular with designer. Technorati seems to be overflowing with people testing their weblog with it. If only they’ve read this post…