Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards

by Daniel M. Frommelt

94 Reader Comments

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  1. Which tools (Dreamweaver, UltraEdit, etc.) you use ?
    thnkx.

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  2. j/k

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  3. We’re not nerds, we’re geeks. Get it right!

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  4. I do all my coding by hand using EditPlus. A majority of serious web coders would probably use HomeSite but I find it bloated and buggy.

    Hand coding is the ideal as it gives you an appreciation of the underlying structure of what you are doing, and that’s what markup is mostly about; structuring and presenting a document.

    Dreamweaver is ultimately for people who don’t really know what they are doing.

    Oh, and Fireworks is the way to go for web graphics.

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  5. Nice article, the idea was there but it needs to go a bit deeper. Ideally Slashdot, and it’s underlying SlashCode need to be rebuilt from the ground up, but as stated in the FAQ under “Have you considered PHP?”, which I believe sums up the rebuilding on the whole, “the effort involved in rewriting it would be prohibitive…”

    If possible, the site would benefit from being rebuilt from backend to stylesheets, not just to comply with standards, but also to address usability and accessibility issues.

    Another thing, not entirely on topic, but after reading the article, I wondered if in the future, instead of “retooling” a site, what about doing an article(s) on creating a site from scratch, from idea to final product, using xhtml, css, php and maybe mysql.

    I believe would be good for people to see how things can be done, from start to finish, and in turn learning some lessons on the process/journey/struggle in developing a site.

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  6. Fantastic article and great food for thought for those large and popular sites that think it may be ‘too hard’ to keep up with standards.

    Thank you for an excellent example to show my clients.

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  7. Hell,

    I wanted to redesign our institution’s webpage using CSS-P Layout upon knowing its advantage over table-based layout design. I tried starting a page from the templates that come with Dreamweaver MX 2004, Page Designs(CSS). I previewed the resulting new layout design using Opera, Netscape 7.1 & Explorer locally in my computer and was amazed by its control in the overall design. All my three browsers were successful in viewing the sample page.

    However, when I uploaded the page into my server, I was surprised to see why it did not show up in my Netscape browser the same way as I previewed it locally in my computer. While Opera & Explorer on the other hand have no problem viewing the page from the server at all.

    I tried uploading the same files again to other server and were successful in viewing the page using the three browsers this time.

    What seems to be the problem here? A Netscape bug or a server problem? Does a server need to be configured to parse a CSS page design?

    Please do check the page:
    (this site does not work)
    http://wwww.cdc-cdh.edu/css_site/csstest.htm

    (this site works)
    http://www.feu-alumni.com/css_site/csstest.htm

    Regards and hoping you can enlighten me,

    Raoul

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  8. Raoul: Sounds like a server problem. Mozilla (and thus probably Netscape 6+) won’t read CSS files that aren’t sent out by the server with the MIME type “text/css”, at least not if the HTML document has a fairly recent doctype. This is not a bug in Mozilla, but I think it’s unnecessarily strict.

    To fix it, the server should just be instructed to send out files ending with “.css” as “text/css”. Under Apache, this can be done either with a .htaccess file (I don’t remember the exact syntax, though. Anyone?) or in the global configuration (which I’m not familiar with at all), if you have access to that. Under other servers, I’m not sure how to do it.

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  9. “id = name [CS]
    This attribute assigns a name to an element. This name must be unique in a document.”
    —http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/struct/global.html#adef-id

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  10. It looks good – but as with many of these layouts then when you reduce the width of browser window all the elements start colliding and looking a bit odd. I’ve stuck with tables for “stretching” layouts so far because of effects like this, despite a string desire to switch to a div based layout. Any ideas?

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  11. “Next week: printer-friendly and handheld-friendly Slashdot with a few simple additions.”

    so, it already 9 days since the article came out. where’s part two?

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  12. Honest question here, but how is that so many “standards” examples and practices involve pages that make such heavy use of javascript?

    Not only does it make the site useless for those visitors without javascript (either disabled due to paranoia or weak mobile browsers), but for all the talk about bandwidth savings javascript remains a client-side service that requires every client to download it—even if it doesn’t apply to a particular client.

    Surely there must be a server-side platform/language out there that can manage all the benefits of providing “web standards” without requiring the use and download of javascript?

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  13. I agree with Greenie above, I don’t know why people use Javascript for so many things.

    A website should still be functionnal without javascript. There is more people out there with javascript disabled/not available than there is people using 4.0 browsers, and still people use Javascript without even thinking about it.

    I’m all for standards-compliance and all, but there’s so many silly things possible with javascript that I always leave it disabled for fear of being annoyed by the current (stupid and useless) funny craze (such as images following your cursor).

    If you can’t make a website that won’t work without javascript, a lot of people don’t even bother enabling it, they just go elsewhere.

    In my opinion, Javascript is only useful for forms and similar cases.

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  14. Greenie wrote: “Honest question here, but how is that so many “standards” examples and practices involve pages that make such heavy use of javascript?”

    Don’t know what you’re talking about. The answer is that, to the best of my knowledge, many “standards” examples and practices don’t make any use at all of JavaScript.

    Or did you mean to reply to the “JavaScript Image Replacement” article? Well, that’s kinda like the exception that confirms the rule. If you look around the websites of people who take web standards seriously, you’ll find that they’re avoiding JavaScript as far as humanly possible, even in cases where JavaScript has previously been considered the only solution.

    When said people resort to JavaScript, there usually aren’t any other options. One example that springs to mind is PNG images. IE/Win doesn’t support alpha channels in PNG by default, but there is a way to make it, using JavaScript a la Microsoft. There simply isn’t any other way to achieve it. Certainly not server-side. But of course, there’s always the option of not using PNG alpha at all, or not caring about it working properly in IE/Win.

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  15. “Did you have a point beyond, “I already said this?” It almost seems like you are saying that it hasn’t been fixed is evidence of something in particular, but as it is not evidence of anything in particular—except that they’ve not been “made valid”—your words are a bit confusing”

    Yep, I had a point, and I think everyone else might have seen it: Despite the issue being raised several times over the years, including by me two years ago, SlashDot’s administrators still haven’t fixed their site’s templates. Given the claims on the SlashCode web site that this is easy, the fact that it hasn’t been done for SlashDot is evidence that either the SlashDot administrators don’t care enough to fix them, or they don’t know enough about HTML/CSS to know how to do so. I suspect the former, but I’m willing to believe the latter.

    [sorry about the delay in replying, I’ve been on the road AGAIN]

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  16. flaimo wrote:

    >>“Next week: printer-friendly and handheld-friendly Slashdot with a few simple additions.”

    >>so, it already 9 days since the article came out. where’s part two?

    delayed by the u.s. thanksgiving holiday i should think

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  17. Precisely. We celebrated Thanksgiving instead of publishing another issue of ALA.

    The next ALA issue comes out Friday 4 December and will include Part II of the Slashdot article.

    I just changed the copy to read “Next time” instead of “Next week.”

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  18. hi,
    there were complaints, about that the css enabled page does not scale well, if using very large fonts.
    I’m not an CSS expert, but playing around with the proper display value, it should be possible to make content, leftcolumn, centercolumn, and rightcolumn to behave like a table.
    This way the font-scaling problem might get solved.

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  19. Quote:
    It looks horrible with iCab. Hopefully iCab will improve its CSS support soon, but until then we still need to check the website look in every browser and avoid using unsupported CSS features.

    Dude, iCab has had zero CSS support for the past four years. It is for all intents and purposes dead. The only people I can see continuing to use it are die-hard Microsoft haters running Mac OS 9. On OS X, there’s no shortage of standards-compliant browsers. At this point iCab can be considered a browser with roughly the functionality of lynx.

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  20. “The next ALA issue comes out Friday 4 December and will include Part II of the Slashdot article.”

    Friday 5 December? ;)

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  21. >> Friday 5 December? ;)

    yeah, yeah. it’s out now.

    http://www.alistapart.com/issues/165/

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  22. Am I the only one that thinks markup should never contain words like “leftcolumn,” “centercolumn,” and “rightcolumn?” What if an alternate stylesheet has the columns switched? What if a future version of the page doesn’t use columns at all?

    Yet I see this all the time. Sometimes the markup is as horrible as “bluetext,” “bold,” etc. This is not what CSS is all about.

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  23. The slashdot redesign contains the following code:

    <div id=“overall”>
      <div class=“header”>

    Just wondering if you used a guideline for whether id was used in place of class. I suppose I would base my decision to use id for structural elements that do not repeat. Is there any other reasons?

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  24. Ref: http://www.alistapart.com/discuss/slashdot/2/#c5678

    Peter,
    I know this is a few months after the event but as a hosting compnay that’s been trying to deliver a solution around the basis of the /. site these three things that you cite are really important:
    1). Fix non-standard /. markup
    2). ????????
    3). Profit!
    They are all things that we’ve had months of hair pulling and a majority of it is the inability of the coders to use any form of standardisation, let alone WS.
    No’3 is the hardest for us to come to terms with as virtually no-one this year is going to look at re-tooling unless there’s visible profit!
    McQ

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