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Are 99.9% of Websites Obsolete? 546

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the nah-its-just-us dept.
citizenkeller writes "Zeldman is at it again: " Though their owners and managers may not know it yet, 99.9% of all websites are obsolete. These sites may look and work all right in mainstream, desktop browsers whose names end in the numbers 4 or 5. But outside these fault-tolerant environments, the symptoms of disease and decay have already started to appear.""
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Are 99.9% of Websites Obsolete?

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  • by plover (150551) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:15AM (#4237588) Homepage Journal
    It's not even a review. The "sample chapter" presented features such nice conflicts as: web pages that are HTML 1.0 compliant waste bandwidth vs. web pages that are written for IE only turn away 25% of their viewers.

    Near as I can figure out, he's claiming "the web is broken, don't bother."

    The book looks broken. Don't bother.

  • Back in Reality... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexhmit01 (104757) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:17AM (#4237605)
    You can read the Webmaster World [webmasterworld.com] article, "XHTML -- is now the time? [webmasterworld.com]" if you want to read a debate among professionals. There are many pros, primarily developers of small sites, that are advocating dropping NN 4 for XHTML Strict and CSS, but most developers aren't going that route.

    They are developing XHTML 1.0 trans or HTML 4.01, maybe adding CSS to go foward. NN4 will be around for a while, and few people are willing to write them off simply to appease the standards gods.

    In the real world, we build sites for human composition. We separate content from display with our databases and content management. HTML may be an inefficient way to get the data to the browser (XML+XSLT would be ideal, XHTML+CSS would be easier on the browser), but it works. The browser parsers are done.

    Sure XHTML+CSS is easier on the browser, and that may help rendering issues. However, the reality is that old browsers will be with us for a while. Maybe in 5 years this will matter, but not until then.

    Alex
  • by joshua404 (590829) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:20AM (#4237631)
    In the neverending rush to heap more and more gadgets and whizbang technology into browsers, the people that develop them didn't seem to take much of an interest as to their usefulness. Web developers struggling to stay abreast of existing technologies hardly had time to hone their skills on all the latest, bleeding edge (and often contradictory) gadgetry while being pushed by their managers to get their work done "Now, now, now!" Everyone was in such a rush to cash in that nobody put any thought into it.

    Now that the bubble has burst, fixing "obsolete" sites is not a priority. IT staffs have been cut, resources have been redirected into projects that actually turn a profit, or the "web guys" are gone all together. Nobody is around or has time to fiddle with the brochureware homepage.

  • Cause and effect? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Marqui (512962) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:20AM (#4237635)
    Could this be because of the huge numbers of layoffs since the dot-bomb explosion? There are less people being paid to maintain and monitor the data, hence rendering it obsolete. Also, I am sure there are people who "maintain" to just keep the site alive and not actually doing anything as far a changing it since in most cases, it was not their site originally.
  • by Ratface (21117) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:20AM (#4237641) Homepage Journal
    No!

    (Hmm, I was tempted to leave that as is, but I think at least a little explanation is required. Zeldman disagrees with his own thesis in as much as he says that sites like Yahoo! are important because of what they offer not how they look. So QED a site that relies on it's content is not obsolete. Tadaaa!)

  • 99.9%??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:20AM (#4237645)

    Talk about sensationalism. The article just points out that many web sites have mark-up errors in them. Big deal. To go from that to saying that 99.9% of sites are obsolete is just dumb.

    This is just a sensationist way to promote a book. Shame it got onto the front page of Slashdot. It will encourage more to do the same.
  • Uh-huh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:22AM (#4237663) Homepage
    Though their owners and managers may not know it yet, 99.9% of all websites are obsolete

    Methinks somebody is confusing "are obsolete" with "will eventually be obsolete, so long as web browsers suddenly becoms fault-intolerant and the site owners leave things exactly how they are and never ever maintain them, ever".

    (Not to say that I don't agree with what he's saying, but jeez, what a wanker! "I declare that everything, everywhere sucks ass! Huzzah!")

  • Obselete? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forevermore (582201) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:22AM (#4237665) Homepage
    I wouldn't call that "obselete" so much as "noncompliant"... Obselete would mean that newbrowsers can't run them, not that old ones can't. The problem in't that the technology in the websites has grown old, but that lazy users (those of the WYSIWYG persuasion, among others) and Microsoft devotees have chosen their own set of standards (or merely force out browsers who don't comply with their standards), rather than the ones set out by the people who are supposed to control the specs for html, javascript, etc.
  • Re:YEAH I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ncc74656 (45571) <scott@alfter.us> on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:23AM (#4237681) Homepage Journal
    I cant even keep OUR damn site up and compliant.

    It worked in all the current browsers a year ago. but with IE 6 and the new netscape coming out - you would *THINK* there would be backwards compatability.

    If you had written to the standards instead of just hacking something together until it worked in IE/NS $CURRENTVERSION, odds are pretty good that you wouldn't have this problem now.

  • Sell! Sell! Sell! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:27AM (#4237717)
    TRANSLATION: Buy my book! Buy my services! Need more money!

    Isn't this the same yahoo that claimed to invent the clear pixel spacer? I remember seeing that after I had been using it professionally for quite a long time (as were my peers), we had a good laugh about that one.
  • Coding Insanity (Score:1, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:29AM (#4237734) Journal
    Transition from HTML, the language of the Web's past, to XML, the language of its future.
    XML is nice for many things, but I'd hardly call it the language of the future. Rather than change the world, let's let XML handle some data-bound pages and leave the simple stuff to HTML still shall we?

    Support non-traditional devices, from wireless gadgets and web-enabled cell phones fancied by teens and executives to Braille readers and screen readers used by those with disabilities--again without the hassle and expense of creating separate versions.
    Ain't gonna happen. Last time I checked lynx wasn't going to show images anytime soon, and neither would my cellphone. Some things just won't work for everyone. Unless of course, you want to convert your "picture gallery" to ASCII.

    neither Mosaic (the first visual browser) nor Netscape 1.0 support HTML table-based layouts
    So lets all just use HTML 0.1 with only <br> tags and <a> tags. Whine whine whine...!

    And of course... the most important part...

    ...And more, as this book will show.
    In other words, buy my book so I can fill your brain with a bunch of bitching about current lack of standardization and tell you the way I think things should be done, even though chances are that things will never actually happen according to my ideals...

    No browsers were harmed in the creation of this document - phorm
  • Zeldman (Score:4, Insightful)

    by earache (110979) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:31AM (#4237756) Homepage
    I've always considered Zeldman to be one of those self-proclaimed know-it-alls who has had little real industry experience in high volume, high technology web-sites. Most of his portfolio is brochure-ware that looks like it was done by a team of one. So I've always considered his belly-aching a little simplistic and, frankly, unrealistic in current web development scenarios.

    It's easy to lament the fact that these sites aren't standard, but there are clearly reasons why most of these sites don't fit his vision of standards compliance.

    For one, most sites don't have the budget to develop to standards. It's much easier to code to specifics and use non-standard work-arounds where possible then to boil everything down to the least common denominator (which standards are supported by whom). When I say easier, I mean that years of experience have instilled intimate knowledge in the seasoned web developer that almost comes as instinct now.

    Secondly, all of these "standards" are interpreted differently by the different browsers, so you can't insure consistent look and feel without kludges.

    Third, most of the foundations for these sites were layed out before coding to a standard was even possible, and when the mindset was not focused on any sort of standards compliance.

    Finally, I've always thought that they made writing to standards compliance sound easier then it actually is, because even though it's called a standard, it rarely exhibits standard and consistent behavior across the various platforms. Most art directors and graphic designers - specifically those that migrated from print or traditional design - tend to be exteremly unyielding in the way their designs are interpreted on the web, leaving developers with few options that are fully supported by these so-called standards.

    Personally, I think Zeldman needs to spend some time in the trenches working on a large site with a large development team under real deadlines for real clients. Things are rarely ideal in these circumstances.

    What is it they say about armchair coaches?
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:47AM (#4237835)
    You know, if I pick up a book printed in 1920, it's interface is going to be familiar to me. Table of Contents, Index, Chapters, Body Text, etc.

    Well, yeah. By 1920, there had been thousands of years during which the presentation of the printed word was gradually improved and codified.

    We're still in the early stages of presenting electronic content, the brainstorming stage, if you will. There's still plenty of room for innovation. Bear with it.

    And I'm surprised at YOUR surprise that 5-year-old technology is considered obsolete in Internet time. Improvements are a GOOD thing.
  • by malfunct (120790) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:49AM (#4237848) Homepage
    The difference is that NTSC (US color television standard) was designed to show up well on the old black and white tv. All of the picture is there you just don't see the fancy color.

    I think the complaint with the web is that things don't gracefully degrade in downlevel browsers, they just die.

    The original intent of the web and html was to distribute content with tags that describe the "purpose" of that content and leave the rendering up to the browser. This meant that I could write a page and my message would get across to anyone even though it might look different to every person.

    Then enter the marketing folk and the desire that a webpage look the same to everyone. That sucked.

    CSS allows better control of the look but still works on the premise that the html (or xhtml) describes the purpose of the content and CSS is around to give hints on how the page should look. It still gives the end browser ultimate control of the rendering and the page could look different to different people.

    If people would design thier webpages realizing that whats important is the purpose of the information and not the look of the information we wouldn't have so many of these problems. The web was designed for information, not for art.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:57AM (#4237907)
    He made no such mistake. He places the burden of interoperability on the producers of the software, not the designers of the sites. You place the burden on the designers, not the producers. From his perspective, the software companies should make sure that their software does not make unnecessary deviations from standard, thus breaking older sites. You think that the designers should predict change and design their sites to take this into account.

    I don't know which philosophy is more unreasonable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:03PM (#4237959)
    I know the past. I can look up the past. Since I'm not psychic, I CANNOT know the future.

    A page written to W3C guidelines in 1997 should work as well (or better) in a brand new browser as it did in a 1997 browser.

    I write for the lowest common denominator possible while staying as W3C compliant as possible.

    If I need something not supported in an earlier standard I use a later one.

    Backward compatible is easy- just write to old specs. If a browser won't render properly written code, that's the user's fault for choosing internet explorer.

    Forward compatibility is impossible, and you would be stupid to even try. If an old tag works, use it. Only use the new tags when you can find no old tag that does what you want it to.
  • Re:Gasp! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Isofarro (193427) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:03PM (#4237968) Homepage
    Who on earth is running a browser earlier than 4.x?

    I'm using Konqueror 3.0 which came with Suse 8.0. Googlebot is version 2.1 according to my logs. The point is that it shouldn't matter what browser you are using, and we shouldn't be fudging markup into tag-soup in an effort to keep certain browsers happy. Rather markup a document cleanly, and use CSS to present the markup -- that way less capable browsers can strip away the CSS and have a default view of the content - which they can markup or manipulate themselves.

    Do you expect stuff to be rendered right if you use an older version of IE/Netscape/Opera?

    No, I don't care about the rendering, but a page would be much more interesting to my little scripts if the markup described the structure of the content appropriately.

    Don't you have to try real hard to even find an older version of any of these browsers?

    Not too hard at all: http://browsers.evolt.org/

  • Pure Bunk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Greyscale (597578) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:07PM (#4238007)
    My servers' web stats show 96.4% of all browsers visiting the servers are Internet Explorer and/or Netscape. The only thing surprising in this article--other than the clearly fudged percentage sited--is that the author advocates, with a straight-face, that because 3-4% of a site's visitors use incompatible browsers this translates into a 99.9% obsolence rate.

    Still, it's always amusing to see someone suit up, gird their horse, and charge at the windmills while proclaiming the revolution.
  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:08PM (#4238011) Homepage

    And now? I pick up a book printed today and find the same, useful interface.


    Yes, but when you pick up that book from the 20's, did they split their sentences with unnecesary commas? And check out Chaucer, is his work obsolete? Would you really want to read it if it were "ported" to 2st Century English?

    After a cursory survey, I'd say that at least 99.9% of the writing on the web is not standards compliant.

    The rest are l337 5kr1pt k1dd135.
  • by Monkeyman334 (205694) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:15PM (#4238062)
    I don't know where you get your stats, but it's 8% that don't use IE. I agree the book looks like a joke though. Take this quote for example:

    The irony is that no one beside Yahoo's management cares what Yahoo looks like. The site's tremendous success is due to the service it provides, not to the beauty of its visual design (which is non-existent).

    I just want to know, what part of this makes it obsolete? That it uses html work arounds, looks right, or is a great service?

    Then he goes on to complain about this extra html causes huge bandwidth charges, which I can assure you are negligible, even over millions of page views. If you take a look at my August statistics [oswd.org], on the 22nd you can see the sysadmin disabling mod_gzip. On the 28th, you can see me panicking about bandwidth and switching our old font tags to CSS. You can see the page views are about the same as the 27th, but the bandwidth goes from 871megs to 838megs. 40 megs is a very small difference for possibly breaking browsers that don't support CSS! Seeing as the bandwidth for a site like Yahoo is bought in bulk, even a gig of difference a day wouldn't be that much. And this is with mod_gzip turned off, that 40 meg gap would be turned to nothing if it was on. With yahoo, most of their bandwidth is in news images and content anyway, not their design. So I wouldn't recommend taking the time to read his book, or even the sample chapter, it's bogus for sure.
  • by Arker (91948) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:21PM (#4238144) Homepage

    ...who don't understand what HTML is.

    Secondly, all of these "standards" are interpreted differently by the different browsers, so you can't insure consistent look and feel without kludges.

    You're not supposed to be able to. That's not what HTML does.

    HTML is a content language. The whole beauty of it is that the final presentation is NOT THE DESIGNERS RESPONSIBILITY. No web site will look the same on all platforms - that's the point.

    Finally, I've always thought that they made writing to standards compliance sound easier then it actually is, because even though it's called a standard, it rarely exhibits standard and consistent behavior across the various platforms. Most art directors and graphic designers - specifically those that migrated from print or traditional design - tend to be exteremly unyielding in the way their designs are interpreted on the web, leaving developers with few options that are fully supported by these so-called standards.

    The people you are talking about are not 'web designers' - cannot be, because they don't have a clue what the web is. If you cannot accept the fact that your content can be presented different ways (including to blind people) as appropriate to each individual client, you have no business on the web. Make .pdf files or something.

    I know someone will interpret this as flamebait, and someone else will probably tell me to 'get with the real world' or the like, but in fact I am just telling you the truth, and I'm quite grounded in the real world. There has been no shortage of people explaining these simple facts about what HTML and the Web are, in simple terms and moderate tones, from the very beginning - and sadly there has been an overabundance of self-styled 'designers' that refuse to understand the medium and insist on trying to make it what they want it to be, instead of what it is. REAL designers work with their medium, they take the time to learn how it works and why, and they produce designs that are appropriate to it, rather than insisting that every media work the way their favourite one does and breaking it every time they touch it. And that is something that every decent art teacher in the world tries to teach his students. Sadly, the students, particularly the ones that go into web design, don't often listen. I'm not trying to pick on you personally, but your clueless post makes an excellent example I must admit.

    'Designers' that couldn't be bothered to understand the medium of the web before proceeding to dump their work on it have done great damage to the web, and that's something I happen to care about quite deeply. Your ad-hominen attacks and dismissals of Zeldman aside, he makes a point that is absolutely true, and will have real economic consequences. All that patched up proprietary spaghetti code of mal-formed HTML-abuse IS coming down. While standards compliant pages from the very earliest days of the web still display perfectly in the latest nightly builds of Mozilla, the pages written by people with the philosophy your post shows ARE becoming obsolete, very quickly. In a way, the 'designers' that can't be bothered to learn their medium have won - the new standards will allow them to do what they always wanted to do, and what HTML was never designed to do - to specify layout and 'look and feel' issues. But it will require them to do it in ways that consistent with the underlying philosophy of HTML and the web - something they've never shown any interest in doing before. I expect to hear a lot of whining from that corner in the coming years, but don't look to me for sympathy.

  • by Jahf (21968) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:24PM (#4238164) Journal
    You're talking about forwards compatibility of the HTML code (being able to render properly on future browsers, where the onus of compatibility is on the HTML author).

    The parent was talking about backwards compatibility of the browsers (being able to properly render old HTML code in a new browser, where the onus of compatibility is on the browser author).

    It's semantics, but I didn't start the nitpick :) Either term works for this application as long as you are looking from the correct side of the issue.

    As for the parent that wanted browsers to be backwards compliant ... that works, but only if you write your code compliant 100% to standards. That means leaving out all the proprietary cruft (which became especially prevalent in the "4.0s" of Netscape and IE) -as well as- all of the stuff that doesn't work in a cross-browser environment.

    This is very hard to do if you want interactive sites, or at least was until recently when most browsers began to pay more attention to standards such as the DOM (document object model).

    Again, we're back to a very basic problem. Do you write your page to work in old browsers or do you use the latest standards? I'm less concerned with this (as the author of the book seems to be) than I am with the idea of writing code to today's standards and having it work in future browsers.

    I as a user understand that I'm taking my experience in to my own hands if I try to load a modern page into Netscape 1.0 (but it is fun some times :).

    However, words can't express my frustration when I have the most modern browsers available and I can't load a page because it was written for an older browser. This happened to me yesterday when trying to sign up for a service from my phone company. The reps kept saying "I see that option, you should have it to". 30 minutes later I decided to load the same page into a 2 year old browser and it worked fine. It had used some tags that were horribly broken, not in any standard, and later abandoned by all involved.

    If the modern browsers had had to be compatible with everything since the dawn of the web, they would be twice as large and 4 times as buggy. I would much rather that web authors stick to published standards and not rely on proprietary tags for public pages.

    From what I see, this is what the book's author meant by "obsolete" and I agree. Most websites, if locked down and not changed for 3 years, would no longer render in the browsers that are new in 3 years.

    While they will naturally work to fix these issues as the new browsers are released, they would not have to if they wrote to the basics. And the problem with fixing things as they evolve is that some pages (like that damned phone company page) get ignored and by the time they're found no one knows how to fix them.

  • by prgammans (134908) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:30PM (#4238223)
    But the problem is that most designers are NOT following these standards ,they keep using non standard features of the older browsers, thus the software writers now have a dilemma of the own making i grant.

    They have two choices, Only render the pages that follow the standards and have 99% of sites non functional in there browser or allow it to work so there browser can be used today.

    The only company that could currently force the updating of many sites is our favorite company Microsoft and even then I'm sure there would be resistance to a browser that only followed the standard.

    So the burden had to be on the designers of the site to pull them into line with the standard, once the browsers can render strictly to the standard such as mozilla and opra etc.

  • by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:31PM (#4238228)
    If a browser won't render properly written code, that's the user's fault for choosing internet explorer.

    That may be nice to say on a hobby site, but if a website does anything business related, you can't have this kind of kindergarten mentality.
  • by hillct (230132) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:35PM (#4238268) Homepage Journal
    At one point durring the heyday of the .com gold rush, people threw money at companies which claimed the ability to draw increadible proffits at some undetermined point in the future. Some onsider this long term thinking, while others consider it foolishness.

    Website designers have learned this lesson well. They strive to serve their business clients by allowing them interact with the largest customer base possible by using clunky non-standard, bandwidth-consuming techniques to get outdated browsers to render their stores in the desied fashion.

    You really can't blame website designers for this, nor can you blame site owners. The designers are working to meet their client's requirements, which is to make money, by being accessible to the largest percentage of the available customer base.

    The fault, dear brutus, is in ourselves. Website visitors are at fault, for using browsers which promote this non-standard architecture. Certainly no one will use a browser which is strictly standards complient such that any non-standard website would not be visible, because that would diminish the user's internet experience; but this is what's required. We need to force site owners to become standards compliant, which will in turn improve efficiency throughout the net.

    If only, bandwidth were more expensive, this problem would already have been fixed, as the bandwidth costs of ineficient non-standard site design would be far mor visible.

    It really is a foustian bargain. Reduce revenue by modernizing your website thereby making it inaccessible to older browsers and thus reducing your potential customer base and save money on bandwidth usage, then wait for web users to upgrade their browsers so as to be able to view your site, and build up your custoemr base once again; or, cater to every antiquated browser in existance, so as to maximize your potential customer base, and accept the increased bandwidth costs.

    In the long term, with a little short term pain, this problem will be resolved, but in the short term, there really is no good answer.

    --CTH
  • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:39PM (#4238308) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    all of us temporarily lost something more important: the chance to create a usable, accessible Web built on common industry standards. We lost it when designers and developers, scrambling to keep up with production demands during the short-lived Internet boom, learned non-standard, browser-specific ways of creating sites, thus bringing us to our current pass whose name is obsolescence.

    Yeah, that's right. It was the fault of all those developers who didn't have the forsight to see the standards that would eventually be approved years later. What were they thinking?

    It didn't have anything to do with the standards process being slow, or diverging from the needs/demands of the market (HTML 3.0). And even after the standards were finally approved with buy-in from the browser makers, no blame rests with both Microsoft and Netscape for serious bugs in their 4.x browsers, often causing their browsers to crash on many CSS features.

    Yep, those developers were at fault. They learned bad techniques, when those techniques were the only way to accomplish what their customers wanted. They continued to use them when the 4.x browsers would crash on standard-based markup. Even after the really serious problems were cleared up in IE5.x, they still used their old tricks. And now, damn them, that 6.x browsers have been available for only a year or so, they haven't redesigned all the world's websites to be fully standards compliant (and broken on 4.x and some 5.x browsers which are still in heavy use).

    Yep, if anyone's to blame, it's those developers.

  • by pcause (209643) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @01:13PM (#4238588)
    The problems this article discusses were created by browser implementation problems and limits of the earlier HTML versions. Netscape in particlar, was terrible to write HTML for. While Microsoft actively rev'ed IE, Netscape did little, and the problems of building Web sites to support the current users increased. When NS6 arrived, it was actually worse than NS4!

    There is much redundant code because NS and to a lesser degree, IE, didn't do things like inheritance of formats correctly. Developers were forced to try various hacks until they found something that worked. Having gone through the pain, and with new stuff to do, the developers were not willing to remove what worked. Browser developers made certain that the old pages worked, even if they were incorrect, because to fail to do so was to lose users and gain a terrific amount of ridicule in various publications and online sites (including Slashdot).

    The issue is if you run a public Web site, you have to support what the public has, not what is convenient for the developer. And the public takes time to update their browsers. The pace of update has quickened over the last 12 months, but before that you had to code for NS4.0x or some real per centage of users couldn't visit your site. IN particular, the South American and other foreign markets were very slow to upgrade their browsers. Sites like Yahoo, who are truly global, must support just about all of the terrible, broken browsers that exist.

    With the cutbacks in IT spending, little money exists to make changes to Web sites that are not absolutely required. Changes are made to fix terrible problems and do things to bring in new revenue. That is it. I also think this author really underestimates the effort to build a great site that supports all the required browsers and is cmpleeing to users. Anyone can make a home page, making a great site is hard and expensive. Look how few great sites there are.

  • by earache (110979) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @01:13PM (#4238590) Homepage

    You're not supposed to be able to. That's not what HTML does. HTML is a content language. The whole beauty of it is that the final presentation is NOT THE DESIGNERS RESPONSIBILITY. No web site will look the same on all platforms - that's the point.

    That's all fine and good in a utopian environment, but that simply isn't a realistic target. There are layers of indirection that cloud and complicate the development of a website, and although the developer might be educated, bubbling that education up through the designers, the art directors, the projects managers, the account people and, finally, the client would come at significant cost, both economic and strategic.

    The truth is that intentions of implementation have little real world bearing on it's actual use. Screw-drivers were intended to turn screws, but people use it for all different purposes from opening cans to picking teeth to scratching their backs. Intention can never surpass need, and if you need this object or technology to perform a function, you will find a way to make it do so.

    This leads me to my gripe that the "standards" body developing these "standards", few of these people come from the trenches, and few understand how people really need and want to use HTML, so of course we have this problem of forcing a round peg through a square hole. The standards committees are comprised mostly of academics and browser engineers, let's see some major web developers up in that hizzy!

    The people you are talking about are not 'web designers' - cannot be, because they don't have a clue what the web is. If you cannot accept the fact that your content can be presented different ways (including to blind people) as appropriate to each individual client, you have no business on the web. Make .pdf files or something.

    You say don't tell you to get with the "real world", but, well, "get with the real world". What you are describing is good for an academic view of the world, but academics and reality rarely ever cross in any sort of truthful or useful manner. The fact is you can preach this until you're blue in the face, but your understanding isn't nescessarily the whole truth on the matter, nor should it be. People use technology for whatever needs they think it can solve, so people are going to use HTML to solve problems it may or may not have been intended for, and the world is going to need to adapt and accept this.

    I think Zeldman is an alarmist and a bit of show man, I don't think the issue is these sites not keeping with the standards, but the standards not keeping up with the needs.

  • by mattsucks (541950) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @02:08PM (#4238992) Homepage
    The clients of my HTML application(s) are primarily school systems. Big rich ones with the latest greatest mostest wonderfullest hardware that money can buy (or that corporations can donate) down to dirt-poor schools with 3 Mac 030's in the back running the Oldest Browsers Known To Man. My job is to insure they they ALL can properly access the system. It is not my job to tell my clients "you have to upgrade or you can't play". I'm not being paid for that. I'm being paid to develop a system they can all use as-is.

    I guess my argument with Zeldman's "conform to the standards or die" approach boils down to the fact that the browsers used by my clients often do not conform to the standards. Hey, it would be nice to be able to use CSS or XHTML. I'd love to. Make my life a WHOLE lot easier. But then I'm not meeting the requirements of my clients, which is the whole reason I'm doing this in the first place.

    --matt
  • by JamieF (16832) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @04:07PM (#4239920) Homepage
    Anyone who can afford to turn away business in this economy, please, do everyone else a favor and do it! Seriously. There are plenty of folks who need work, and if you are not interested in coding for NN4, somebody else may be. If nobody is, great; you have forced that non-customer (since you're turning them away) to move on to a better browser, and they may even become a customer again when they have a browser you do feel like supporting.

    This should be a simple economic issue. If it's really that much of a pain in the butt to support NN4, price that extra work at a point where you're OK with having to do it. If it's worth that much to your customer, then you have no excuse complaining; just do the work and take your money Lots of other system-requirements / target platform decisions work like this (do we port to MacOS, do we port to MS SQL Server, do we port to Linux, do we port to iPlanet Web Server, etc.) so this isn't exactly a radical idea. If it's not justifiable from a business sense, just don't bother, but if it is, adjust your prices and STFU.

    There are companies out there which have standardized on NN4 and haven't upgraded to NN6.2 or NN7 yet. Bless them. If not for them we'd all be coding in MS-HTML and MS-CSS, or XML and MS-XSL, and wondering why IE 5 was the last browser they released. One of these days they'll upgrade to NN7 (or something similar) and life will suck less. Until then, do your job and separate business logic from presentation, so the only part you have to re-code and QA for NN4 is the presentation layer. XSLT can help with this.

  • by bedessen (411686) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @07:00PM (#4241224) Journal
    are the least of your problems... seven? You gotta be kidding me. Anyone actually design like this, even in the dark ages?

    Uhh, ever view the source of this slashdot page you are currently reading? Try it some time. Each block of comments at a given indent level is a nested table. It's called "Nested" for a reason. (I can't belive anyone actually uses that godawful "Threaded" option that's the default, but it too uses nested tables as well.) And the the entire block of comments themselves are nested in a table, which itself is nested. Notice the page layout, the menus on the left, the 5% black borders on the margins, etc, those are all from tables.

    Deeply nested tables are more common than you would think, because webmasters use tables for specifying page layout.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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