Putting Code Together Since 1987

Posts Tagged ‘standards’

Coming Problems with Web Design

In Design, Web Design, Web Development, Wordpress on February 23, 2008 at 2:34 pm

I just read an interesting article in A List Apart about how browsers that are forgiving of bad markup and css are bad for the web.

And I totally get it.

In fact, a failure of how standards apply to web pages is one of the reasons why, until really quite recently, I’d avoided having anything to do with Web Design. I hated it. I hated that even if you structured your code correctly it would look right only in half the browsers you tested in.

Well, this is going to change over the coming five years. Standards will become far more important, and odd hacks will slowly fade into the background. Browsers, my friends, are going to have to become a whole lot less forgiving.

And there lies the rub – with tougher browsers, building websites will become a lot harder for non-technical types. In fact, it could become near impossible. On the upside, tools like WordPress will be able to offer more choices to the user because the code will know that what it outputs to the browser will work.

So the internet’s going to get a lot better in the coming years… but if you’re not prepared to work hard at it then becoming a web developer or designer is going to become far tougher.

Keep It Standard

In Web Development, Wordpress on February 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I was working with a client recently on their own, customised installation of WordPress… and it was driving me potty.  It was a pretty tiring day, given that our normal training covers concepts such as drafts.  On their installation, you pressed save and the page (no posts on that one) would immediately appear on the navigation.  Not only that, but changing a page order had no effect on the javascript based menu system they’d implemented.

Now, we’re not innocent on this either – we’ve done a few sites that get a long way from standard WordPress behaviour.  But quite quickly we realised that not keeping standard messes you up in certain ways:

  1. Upgrades can be a nightmare as customisation may need to be re-applied – even if it’s just a theme you’ve developed.
  2. Training becomes difficult – especially if the people managing the content aren’t IT or WordPress experts.  They won’t know what is and is not standard and documentation may therefore be confusing.
  3. If you need outside help, they’re going to have a learning curve before they understand what’s going on.
  4. Slapping a load of plugins into WordPress isn’t always the best way to extend the functionality of the system or a theme you’ve bought or downloaded.  It may be better to find a different CMS or a different theme.

So as time went by, we started to keep our themes more standard in their behaviour, and to stick to well known, well written and well supported plugins.  All have to work in standard ways, and any that do quite blatant hacks have to be left well alone – no matter how cute.

I believe the same applies with most software.  If you bought MS Word and then hacked it to work differently, then every other installation of it that you use with it would need the same hack for you to achieve the same work.  And imagine if you implemented this hacked MS Word across a company – new employees wouldn’t know what was going on as they’d know Word, but not this special version, and when a new version came out you’d have a lot of work to do to hack that too.

I used to apply the same philosophy PeopleSoft implementations – recommending against large tranches of customisation, because they became a maintenance and upgrade liability.  The sites that listened to this common advice, tended to have the most pain-free go-lives and upgrades.  The downside was that I was kind of doing myself out of work – what with being a strong PeopleCode developer.  D’Oh!