Archive for March, 2008

Decision or Bug?

I just logged a bug report after doing a little testing with the IE8 Beta. Overall, the progress and standards commitment in the latest effort is fantastic and exciting. Hats off to the Internet Explorer Team.

There’s one lingering decision that appears to have carried over though, and it’s an important one. I say “decision” since, by now, there clearly must be a reason why it’s still there. I’m also reminding myself that this is still a beta release. But the earlier we chime in on things, the better, right?

Here’s what I logged:

As with previous versions of Internet Explorer, the IE8 Beta also fails to resize text using the “Text Size” tool when fonts are sized in pixels. Most would consider this a bug, where the user should be able to trump any size specified by the page author, regardless of the unit specified. I remained boggled as to why this has been a consistent design decision.

It creates an accessibility issue for readers with poor or low vision, while making pixels a less than desirable choice for the page designer. In an ideal world, the designer should be able to specify fonts in any unit he or she desires (px, em, percentage, etc.) while the reader should have ultimate control over the size, using the browser’s controls. IE’s “Text Size” tool would appear to be broken when a reader attempts to adjust fonts on a page where fonts are sized in pixels. Surely confusing.

Thanks for listening, and keep up the excellent progress!

Disagree? I’d love to hear it :)

Dagen H

Inspired by a tweet from Mikipedia, I did a little Googling for “Dagen H”, the day that Sweden reversed its traffic from the left side of the road to the right side, 40 years ago:

On September 3, 1967, at 04.50 in the morning, the traffic everywhere in Sweden was directed over to the right side of the road and stopped. Everything stood absolutely still for 10 minutes, and at 05.00, when it started again, all road users in Sweden from heavy trucks to cyclists were already on the right side of the road, and they have stayed there since.

What’s even more amazing is that there were actually less fatalities and accidents during that September than in previous Septembers (although a possible result of people being more alert just after the switch).

But it could be proof that, even the most rigid and essential standards can be reversed if the warning is long enough and well-organized.

Safari 3.1 Develop Menu

Web Inspector

The just-released Safari 3.1 has a new “Develop” menu (check the Advanced tab in Preferences to activate it). I usually rely on Firefox’s Web Developer Toolbar for testing and diagnostics — but preferring Safari as my general browser of choice, I was happy to see some native tools baked-in.

I often run these “bulletproof integrity tests” after finishing an initial design: disabling styles, javascript and images to check for readability and flexibility. Favlets and Firefox extensions have made this easy for years, and Safari’s new Develop menu has several of these. Excellent, I said.

It also ships with a Web Inspector (think Firebug), which allows you to break down a web page by listing it’s various files, drilling down to see computed styles and DOM info. At first glance this looked exciting and very promising, with “editable CSS” promised in the release notes. Unfortunately, you can’t edit the full CSS file (a feature we’d all love, and one that’s found in other developer extensions), but rather choosing “Inspect Element” by right clicking on a web page’s element will activate a semi-confusing-but-comprehensive status on that particular bit of code selected. I was initally confused by choosing “Inspect Element” on one of the CSS files in the list view in an attempt to edit it, only to find that the Inspector was in fact inspecting itself (which is apparently built with HTML and CSS). Heh, recursive inspection. Recurspection. Inspursive.

It seems I wasn’t the only one confused, with a chorus of Twitterers wondering the same thing: how the heck can I edit the CSS? The answer is by choosing “Inspect Element” from the browser window (a right or ctrl click), then double-clicking a property from the Styles sidebar in the Web Inspector — but not in the “Computed Style” box that’s also in the sidebar.

So, it’s a start. I’d love to see full live editing of CSS and HTML in a future version — but it’s nice to see the beginning of all of this built right into the browser.

Marked Up & Styled

We held the third gathering of the Markup & Style Society last night (a local Boston-area meetup for web geeks that Ethan Marcotte and I started a while back). This one was different and contained more awesomeness, for a variety of reasons.

The kind folks at Filament Group hosted the event at their downtown Boston studio. The incredibly generous Freshview donated 18 pizzas, beer and wine for all 50 attendees. Freshview are makers of Campaign Monitor, the popular email newsletter campaign app, as well as creators of useful tools and resources for newsletter designers. Thank you thank you, Freshview.

Adobe donated two copies of CS3 Web Premium that we raffled off along with a few books at the end of the night. So we knew at least two people would go home happy no matter what happened.

Markup and Style SocietyWhile previous meetups have all been about beer and socializing, we may have surprised people with four short talks. A free, mini conference if you will. Ethan gave a brilliant presentation on some tricks he’s enabled in his freakishly bulletproof, fluid layout (Ethan’s write-up). I rambled on about “Gridlasticness”: taking an em-based approach to a strict grid. Josh Porter talked about craftsmanship as it relates to the web — a topic near and dear to my heart. It was sprinkled with “right on” moments and quotes like this, regarding the Shaker design philosophy:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful, but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Scott Jehl closed the show with an excellent talk on how progressive enhancement plays a big role in the projects he tackles at Filament Group. Read more about Filament’s process over at their newly launched lab (Filament’s Maggie Costello Wachs’ write-up).

All in all, ’twas a great night, and it made up for seeing just one single panel at SXSW just days earlier. We’ll have to do it again soon. Blatently tooting our own horn here, Patrick Haney dug it, evidenced by his tweet:

Really felt like I got more out of the four short talks tonight at M&SS than I did at a week of SXSW

Thanks to the speakers, sponsors and especially Filament for the venue. We’ve also been planning on adding more formal workshops or full day conference-style events to the mix in the future. New England needs more of this, methinks. Stay tuned.

Update: Jenny Bergman has posted some wonderful photos of the event. Thanks, Jenny!

SimpleBits Seeks Apprentice/Assistant

Dear Esteemed Readers: I need help. I suppose I’ve needed help for quite some time. But I wasn’t in a hurry. Things have settled down enough to start a formal search for an eager assistant/apprentice/intern to help SimpleBits grow a tiny bit more.

I’m trying to keep an open mind about who you might be. In essence, I’m looking for the right person instead of trying to fill a well-outlined job description. Here are a couple important details about this little position that we’re looking to fill:

  • Part-time. Mostly likely, just one day a week at a reasonable hourly rate.
  • You’ll work onsite in our small studio here in downtown historic Salem, Massachusetts. We’re situated in an old brick row building with a great coffeeshop on the first floor. Being onsite is an important part of this search. I miss collaborating with someone in person, with a goal of building a fun place to come to work to everyday.
  • You’ll hopefully have some HTML and CSS experience, perhaps you dabble in backend development or graphic design. You might help test and do research, or you might help mail t-shirts or help develop future SimpleBits ideas and products. There’s a variety of places you could plug in here—it all depends on finding the right person and focusing on the strengths they might have.
    Best of all though, you’ll definitely have fun. And you’ll get to work on some cool projects. Interested and local to Massachusetts? Please send over some info about you, and we’ll get the ball rolling.