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Valentine's Day Massacre

Issue № 212

Valentine’s Day Massacre

by Published in Industry, State of the Web86 Comments

Roses are red, violets are blue, sometimes dear web, we sure hate you.

Daniel Aitken, web designer, proprietor

What angers me in today’s web, is the term “Web 2.0.”  It’s the “2.0” specifically—the idea that the entire web is in for an upgrade, a change for the better to version two.

The web is not a singular application, it is a fluid interface. A means of information distribution, of functionality, of user-interoperability. It does not constrain to any idea of what an application is, because it is the combination of individual applications that make it so fluid.  New coding techniques are constantly created, new hacks and workarounds for non-standards-compliant browsers. New ways of putting together existing code are being thought of and put into use every day somewhere on the millions of web pages the internet is home to. We aren’t yet on web 2.0, or internet 2.0, or computing 2.0. This is a dynamic change that will continue to happen whether or not we apply version numbers. The mass of netizens has triggered the implementation of web based applications, not a developer meeting that decided on the version change.

Greg Altuna, web designer

So, we get down to what I really hate about the web. Browser display issues. I know that browser capabilities have always varied. In my 8 years in this industry, I’ve always understood that 95% of my designs would work without having to do something special for one browser or the other. What I hate, though, is that semantics haven’t flourished and all the companies haven’t taken lessons from the symbolic VHS/Betamax war of the early ’80s. We should all strive for one language, with all browsers being equal. Alas, we cannot seem to get there. All the hub-bub about IE7 coming out with the “fixes” to their display problems still doesn’t take care of the fact that my design will probably still have issues with Opera or IE5.x for Mac for those 8 people out there still using it. It’s frustrating!

Faruk Ates, Web Kaizen specialist

The thing I “hate” (it’s too strong a word, really) about the Web right now is the increase in analysis for the sake of analyzing. There’s enough buzz being created about the state of the web thanks to a plethora of buzzwords becoming increasingly popular and over-used (and over-hyped), and more such things. A magazine like ALA should be the beacon of light in times like these, and focus on nothing but improving the state of the web through offering insightful articles and high-quality techniques that will aid people in creating the best websites found online.

Ryan Ballantyne, student / web developer

CSS is in dire need of an “expand to fit” dimension property. Getting a box to take up all available space but no more is an exercise in hair-pulling frustration under CSS. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to be able to just say “height: expand;” and have it work.

I also hate IE6, and browser bugs in general, but particularly IE6.

Andrew Banks, information architect

What I hate: Microsoft Internet Explorer (even version 7). If another company was in Microsoft’s place, would it have done the same? I don’t know, but Microsoft’s inelegant user interfaces, anti-standards, and, yet, suffocating ubiquitousness make it one of the longest-running pain-in-the-necks in my computing history.

Chris Batchelor, web developer

Very long, stupidly-complex, user-unfriendly URLs—this issue has got to be addressed!

Thomas Bleijendaal, student

…all the differences between the browsers.

Seeking real good information on the internet (school stuff for example) is still very hard. If you try to find some good information about aerodynamics, it’s your day-job. I have been searching for hours, and the only things I found were things I already knew. The idea of the internet being one big library maybe there, but finding scientific information is a pain in the ass. Luckily there’s still an old-fashioned library with books and stuff, so I have been able to find what I was looking for. The internet really needs to grow a lot before it can take the role of being a really good “info-dealer.”

Nathan Brown, technical director

Blogs: Great idea, bad in realization. A great way for ego-trippers with too much time to fill the web with useless content. Granted, some blogs are great resources, but the majority are a load of papp. There should be a blog rating system included in search engines to weed out the real time-wasters.

Spam: Umm… no explanation needed.

Invasive in-page popup ads: There you are following a link to a page. You can see it loading, you can even start reading the article you were after, then all of a sudden some mingingly bright and loud ad pops up from within the page and covers what you were reading.

Thomas J. Brown, web designer and TV producer/director

I hate Mac/IE.

Niklas Brunberg, freelance designer and interaction designer

I’d guess you will and won’t be surprised by my “most hated of today day” choice: AJAX.

Tommy Gun and Fedora

Well, it’s rather the implementation of it that gets my eyes twitching and boggles my mind. There is a simple reason behind this and the reason is spelled “browser back button.” Anything that has to do with an AJAX application isn’t bad, in fact I find it wonderful and plan to use it in upcoming projects. However, as a person surfing the web I’m baffled by the normal text fields “powered by AJAX” that suddenly empty themselves when the back button is used.

Many more casual users will find this even more irritating, not knowing what to blame when their back button is no longer working as they expect it to.

Kevin Callender, web developer

Trying to find enough time to catch up on new blogs, trends and learn about new APIs/widgets.

Robin Cawser, student

MySpace. I absolutely hate myspace.com everything about it. From the concept of it, to the people at my college who use it, to the fact that the design is made from nothing but tables and iframes. It’s something the internet could do without: a website that promotes use of table layouts, spacer GIFs, CSS generators. (Ian Corey, filmmaker / designer

Pay-per-clicks. Google ads on blogs, etc. I don’t mind so much. It’s the results that appear above the natural listings that piss me off. Most of the time they aren’t even approaching accurate and just get in the way. Go ahead, search for “tsunami victim” on Yahoo!. The first listing on the page will offer you “The best deals on tsunami vicitims.” Sometimes I like to just click away on those things and pretend I hear quarters dropping out of the sky someplace.

Cindy Couldwell, website designer and photographer

Mega corporations that rail against the open-sourceness of the web. For example, all these pirating and copyright law disputes. Songs, movies and TV shows can move about Internet at light speed. These companies have to come up with distribution plans that give the users what they want. Instead of throwing up laws and walls, why not make things accessible. iTunes manages to have a pretty good method of distribution (not perfect, but better than most).

Friendster: Stop emailing, I dropped you already.

Sean Curtis, web developer

I hate how many websites are still absolutely covered with adverts (smileycentral adverts are everywhere!). I hate spyware/malware of any kind. I hate the lack of CSS support in Internet Explorer. I hate the amount of trolling happening on blogs/forums.

Nicola D’Agostino, journalist, translator, occasional print and web designer and musician

What I hate: the cult of personality on the web and the misuse of technology. Things like Flash, PHP, or CSS, abused and improperly used to 1% of their potential that become a technical or fashion statement, a victory of means over goal, and a way to make Tim Berners Lee’s dream a bit more difficult to achieve.

Todd Dominey, designer 1

The short attention spans and unnecessary urge to criticize, accuse and ridicule.

Brandy (bran) Fox, illustrator

What I loathe about the web are design decisions that affect user experience. Chief on my list are overly-complicated Flash sites or graphical interfaces that make navigating or even understanding what the site is about difficult or ambiguous.  Also, sites that automatically launch in a new frame or browser window leave me (the user) feeling out of control. I really, really hate that. Pop-ups are pop-ups, no matter how they’re applied.

Enrico Francese

One thing I hate in the web sites I happen to visit is the linking to e-mail addresses through the mailto: protocol. When I click on an e-mail address a client application starts up. That’s ok if I am working on my pc and I have my e-mail accounts set on it, but I wonder: how can I post an e-mail if I don’t have a client account on that PC? Websites who wish to get contacts should use a form instead.

Henry Francis, musician

I find most Flash presentations to be tawdry eye candy—visibly and audibly offensive—with little or no informative content (a.k.a. information).  Furthermore, when a Flash animation does present information, it inevitably does so at an idiot’s comprehension speed—that is, although the image may be changing rapidly and dramatically, the actual rate of information transfer is painfully slow.  Also annoying is the fact that after the information (if any) is purveyed, there is nothing that can be cut and pasted.  I don’t have the time or patience to sit and watch dumb Flash presentations.  In short: we are not amused.

Charles Gordon, web consultant

Ads are now officially out of control on most media pages.

Basically anything with Flash. It is hard to believe how many years worth of studies have indicated that site visitors hate “intro” screens—and yet how common they still are.

Those sites that launch a small browser “application”.

Just about any car manufacturer’s web site, see the two points above.

Companies that throw tons of money into their web pages and come up with crap; see all three points above.

Carole Guevin, editor

Having to deal with pop-ups!!! And still be wowed by the portfolio quality…

Huw Gwilliam, interface designer

Legacy browsers stemming the creativity next gen browsers are happy to convey.

Disparate fonts on different OSs—there must be a way of improving things so there is more flexibility. Maybe the designers as a community could be canvassed as to what would be good fonts to include.

Accessibility. Not making things accessible, but clients asking the impossible and not understanding the issues. So time and budget is wasted, and designs are compromised to the lowest denominator.

Anthony Ina, application designer

It’s the scourge of the internet. I have to hear about it everyday. Entire projects are based on it. It is the first bandwagon that the business types jump on. It’s responsible for ruining the aesthetics of every project I’ve done. Its name is “Search Engine Optimization.”

Car and Violin Case

Yes, I am fully aware of why it is important to you, Mr MBA. Yes, I understand that organic traffic basically means free revenue, and of course I realize that direct deposit on the 15th and 30th aren’t divine intervention. Yes, I get it, you want to block out the competition. Ok, ok, I understand we’re helping the user by movin’ our site up. I get it!

What if we focused on deploying quality content, instead? What would the result be if instead of this SEO mania, we rolled a out a truly useful product?  You know, maybe people would come back, not because of how we rank, but because we offered them value. Isn’t that your prized word, Mr MBA? Ever heard of CraigsList?

As a designer, I am offended by all of this junk I now have to accommodate. It serves no human purpose and does nothing for the user. It ruins my aesthetics. Everything has to be “real text” because it weights higher. I now have people that don’t even know how to view source asking if the alt “tags” have keywords in them.

Frederikke Jensen, marketing assistant

I just hate when the text and menus keep expanding to the right when you are on a large monitor—the text is so hard to read.

Katie Keenan, web designer

I hate cross-browser issues!

Amanda Kern, professor, graphics technology

It’d be nice if the browser creators would stop being stubborn and just make one internet browser so us web designers didn’t have to spend 25% of our time constantly testing, especially testing across multiple browsers. I think all web designers agree that if there was less time spent testing and developing work arounds there’d be more time for us to spend designing and less time losing our mind.

WYSIWYGs. Although I love them, they save time (sometimes), they often make things so simple that someone with little or no clue about the web can produce a mediocre web site. And it’s even harder to convince web design students why they need to learn to program by hand as well.

James King, software engineering student / bar supervisor

Adverts, I know they’re necessary for some websites to exist, but I much prefer a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach.

Overuse of Flash. www.2advanced.com have got it right, most Flash websites have not.

Crap content, no matter how much it is dressed up.

“No right click” scripts.

Matti Laakso, art director

“There are four kinds of murder: Despicable, loathsome, condonable and praiseworthy.” As for web’06, the despicable category includes the following:

  • web “services” designed purely for IE users;
  • baroque build-tables-like-it’s-1998 websites—and the practice of building such sites even today;
  • the hype that’s never gone away—now it’s just focused on “blogs” instead of “homepages”;
  • required support for browsers published half a decade ago;
  • pay sites that don’t clearly identify as such when Googled;
  • violent overreaction from various copyright holders extending to sillyness (such as trying to patent the “shopping cart” concept);
  • hype about “web 2.0” as if anything’s radically changed for nearly a decade. Maybe for the investors, but not for builders/users;
  • blurring of the line between editorial and advertising content;
  • the US still declining to adhere to a logical TLD naming convention (e.g. .mil, .gov and .edu still being US TLDs, whereas they should be .mil.us, .gov.us etc. ... as if the ’net were just a southern-half-of-North-America thing—measly 5% of the planet’s population)
  • google.cn

Various other things would come to mind as well but I should be cutting my rant short and not steal any more company time… :-)

Richard Lawson, web and intranet application developer

The current lack of Accessibility and the inability of content to be accessed in a consistent and friendly manner by all individuals using all manner of different tools.

AJAX (It’s not ready yet & it will turn off a lot of good coders)

The lack of mature content layout technology really irritates me. CSS is good as a start, but we need to leap beyond that. We need smart Layout Managers like Java’s GUI Layout Managers; tools that can be given hints and rules and will do sensible jobs of presenting and adapting the content for the current presentation format. All browsers currently contain a layout manager of some sort. What we need is a standard allowing alternates to be invoked and parameterised. I am pleading for this. Can we have it soon? I’m willing to work on this endeavour.

Victor Lombardi, information architect

While the W3C has nurtured many noble technology efforts, they don’t seem to understand what fueled the success of Tim Berner Lee’s original creation: simplicity. The HTML that originally enabled the web’s popularity is now so complicated that merely creating an attractive, standards-compliant page is too difficult for most pioneering web authors. My box of chocolates goes instead to software that will succeed with simplicity where the W3C failed (Apple’s iWeb?).

Michael Lovett, digital media developer

Some things never change.  A few years ago, everyone wanted a Flash site. Now, everyone wants AJAX. Nevermind that everyone asking for it has no idea what it is and how it should be used.  I’m just waiting for the Adobe/Macromedia team to include an AJAX template into Dreamweaver and watch it all blow up. (I love AJAX for its appropriate uses, just not everything.)

Aaron Robert Martone, web developer / graphic artist

…it’s sad to see so many websites on the ’net—both from self-touted professionals, as well as major brand name companys—whose sites are visually unappealing, broken, and using antiquated code/standards. The freedoms the web provides are a double edged sword which also allow for many low production-value sites, which can ultimately take away from a user’s online experience.

Alex K. Molteni, information architect

The lack of a personal web space. Today people will have a weblog without a personal domain name, images on flickr, links on delicious, files on yahoo, myspace accounts, chat, video, skype, etc. If I want to learn about Joe Smith, I have to go everywhere but their own web site.

Having to log in to everything. I have too many profiles across mulitple computers, services, and accounts. I’m thinking of dumping them all for a Palm with a 2GB memory card.

Create “on” dates for webpages. When was this information published? This year, four years ago, yesterday? How applicable is it to us?

Too much chatter about technologies and not enough chatter about responsible/appropriate applications of said technologies.

Nick Ohrn, student, web designer

With my focus being on standards-compliant web design—integrating proper XHTML and CSS components—I find it particularly frustrating when “web designers” do not use the full range of tools at their disposal to create web sites and pages that are cross-browser compatible and semantically logical. I’m not even talking about scripting languages or dynamic elements. I mean plain old, bread-and-butter XHTML and CSS.  The site that I visited today that gave me the most frustration was The Amazing Message Plant. Viewing the site in Firefox, elements are completely out of sync with their surroundings.  In Internet Explorer, the website is quite attractive.

Michelle O’Reilly, web designer

Number 1: Clicking on a link which is actually a link to a PDF file—and I have not been warned or told anywhere on the page! That drives me absolutely bonkers!

Number 2: In most cases, horizontal and vertical navigation systems used together are confusing and drive me nuts as well.

Justin Pegram, web designer/developer

I’m really tired of the limitations imposed on web designers/developers by companies like Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, etc. When are these companies going to stop reserving browser updates for major revisions and start granting web users—and as a result developers—access to a browser that is actually up to date with current standards?

  • When can I use a transparent .png without having to worry that Internet Explorer isn’t going to render it properly?
  • When can I use text-shadow?  Safari has had this for ages and you’re telling me that no other browser (WebCore-based alternatives aside) has managed to implement this yet?
  • When can I use data URLs?
  • When can I use display: table;?
  • When can I use advanced CSS selectors?

When is Microsoft going to realize that they have created the mess that the web is in today with their “de facto” standard browser and actually take the time to create a browser that works (and keep it updated)? This isn’t just an issue for Microsoft alone, though. While Mozilla and Opera make valiant efforts trying to create browsers that adhere to standards, they still fall short despite the fact that they fall short far ahead of Internet Explorer. As the company with the largest stake in the browsing community it is Microsoft’s responsibility to do these things.  As for the smaller-stake companies competing against Internet Explorer, they need to be doing this as standard practice.

Tom (’Mas) Pickering, webmaster / web designer

Internet Crime & Junk: it’s so prevalent that most people still fear connecting, let alone conducting business there. A new machine, connected to broadband, is subject to infestation within minutes and causes no end of frustration for consumers and the technical people like me that they turn to.

Browser Incompatibilities: as a developer, I spend too much time and effort on accommodating the Spawn of Gates and others at the expense of the straight markup and CSS that’s supposed to be our standards.

Luuk Platschorre, web designer and art director

Pages which are up one year, and missing the next. People disappearing behind ever-changing nicknames. Critical data getting lost by non-secure connections, servers, organisations, local laws, methods. The degradation of information-value.

Content seems to be not as important as the time you need to publish it on the web. Try to find great information you’re sure was on the web 5 years ago—not there anymore.

“Citius, altius, fortius”—the olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger. Seems to apply to the web, with one addition—”brevius”: shorter.

Jake Rayson, web builder

There’s no easy way to write typographically correct content. :-(

That pretty much sums it up really. I can use … ’ ” ©, etc. But this is beyond the capabilities of the most popular word processors out there—bring back easy apostrophes and em dashes!!

Louis Rosenfeld, publisher

Like a lot of old farts, I miss the days when the Internet had the feel of a small town where everyone seemed to know each other.  But my sense of loss is nothing new; those good old days—say, 1988—really pre-date the web era.

Nicolas Schudel, digital media designer

That the dominating browser is the least standards compliant. I am sure you have heard this a zillion times before.

That we cannot use full PNG transparency yet.

That somebody can still reserve a domain name, not use it, and wait until somebody coughs up enough money to buy it from them.

Prasanna Srivatsav, student

Unsolicited content including child pornography and spam. This is something that needs to be curbed ASAP. I applaud the work of the IWF in working towards a safer web. But a similar community is missing from countries that most need it: the developing ones.

Mike Stone, semi-retired

The thing that most annoys me on web pages is poor hyperlink text. I remember reading articles published in the last century advising against the use of “click here” or “You can find more information here”, etc. However, this practice is still far too prevalent and there is no excuse for it. Not even laziness! For instance, in my second example above there is no more work involved in putting the opening anchor tag before “find” making the much more user-friendly link “find more information here.” In fact, many times the sloppy approach involves more work as in; “[Such-and-Such] has more information on [the subject]. Click here.” instead of “[Such-and-Such] has more information on [the subject].” Most of the time this sloppiness is also exhibited in the content of the web page, I find.

Jeff Wilkinson, engineer / part-time web developer

What drives me most nuts is how the promise of CSS is crippled by all the hacks needed to do anything really useful with it. Many designers are very clever in finding all these ways to do what-should-be-ordinary things that will mostly work over a variety of browsers and browser versions, but all those hacks shouldn’t be necessary. And the legacy of junk they’ll leave in our sites is horrible to think about.  Who really wants to come back in 2 years and try to maintain or clean up all those hacks when there is a new set of (probably equally buggy) browsers to code for.

Paul Williams , web consultant / senior developer

…the fact that the major telecoms in the US are trying to “own” the ’net. That will only rub off onto the telecoms in UK and Australia, where I alternate between. Also not liking that people still don’t seem to care about the use of their sites in other browsers. All I’m asking is that they at least look at it in Firefox or Safari to see what crap they are putting out. :-)

Jonathan Wiznuk, web designer and developer

Sites whose sole purpose is to dazzle and impress yet lack meaningful and useful content. I’m beginning to dislike the use of Flash when the same content could be presented much better in XHTML/CSS and reach a wider audience on a broader range of devices. After graduating from a College Multimedia Course I specialized as “the flash guy” at various web companies, yet now I’m avoiding it’s use where possible and convincing clients to go with non-Flash XHTML/CSS for growingly obvious reasons.

I don’t particularily enjoy sites that immediately pop-up fullscreen, as if to say “We deserve your whole screen, get ready for something important.”

Jamey Wright, web developer

It’s annoying how the Microsoft ASP.NET platform is completely ignored by the “standards” gurus, blogs, and article authors. ASP.NET 2.0 is a completely viable and affordable alternative to open source. In my particular case I needed a server to host the numerous websites I wanted to build. My box runs Windows Server 2003 Web Edition & SQL Server 2005 Express. For coding my sites I used free MS Visual Studio tools. The total amount of money that went from my wallet to Microsoft was $399. That’s all. Now I have a box that I can launch as many sites as I want to dream up. In addition, all versions of the new product generate clean XHTML 1.1 if you like and check for accessibility. It is time for the “standards” community to take an honest look at the new MS tools instead of pretending they don’t exist or are unaffordable.

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