Creating Modern, Responsive Websites With Web Standards

Website Standards and Clean Code

It isn’t that difficult to create a modern website based on current web standards. If your website was built using the latest technology, your site will be super-fast, modern, clean and responsive.

Everyone wants their website to cost less, work better, and reach more people in today’s browsers, screen readers, and wireless devices. The inescapable technological advancements that are happening as we speak are breaking websites all over the internet. A modern website built using the latest coding practices ensures that your website will function properly across all devices and help individuals with disabilities who are using special devices to access and interact with the internet – and stand the test of time.

You don’t have to spend money on trendy, short-sighted, proprietary solutions that will end in disaster. No one can afford to piecemeal a website that will ultimately break sooner than later.

Coding several different stylesheets might have seemed like a great idea at the time, but it is not a rational solution to problems that are continuing to plague site owners and builders.

FORWARD COMPATIBILITY

WaSP (www.webstandards.org) advocates standards that reduce the cost and complexity of site creation and ensure simple, affordable access for all. Today, every browser supports web standards as a matter of course. They work with the designers of development tools such as Dreamweaver. You can find a myriad of web standards educational tools and this information can be found in most languages today.

Apple’s latest WebKit based Safari browser, which powers the iPhone’s web browser, Mozilla powered Firefox, Opera, the WebKit based Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 7+ understand and correctly support XHTML, CSS3, JavaScript, and the DOM.
*Internet Explorer 6 does not support many of the latest web standards, and we can only hope that everyone has moved passed this version of IE. Developers know that we can fix IE6 to some degree, but there comes a time when you have to move forward and not look back. We’ve stopped overkill fixes because newer phones are equipped with the latest browsers and it just doesn’t warrant the extra time and expense anymore to work out ALL the fixes needed for IE6 to view properly.

WHAT IS WEB STANDARDS COMPLIANT?

javascript

JavaScript creates action.  JavaScript is the bomb. This language has given us the ability to create action!
In a perfect world, browsers perfect their support for every single standard. Considering that most software doesn’t come out bug-free, and standards are sophisticated and complex, cross-browser support is actually pretty solid enough that we do develop using the latest standards. HTML5, more accessibility, CSS3, structured markup and deeper DOM and JavaScript function calls are becoming the progressive-enhancement that is pushing the internet into the future. All the big companies such as Apple, MSN, Wikipedia, and WordPress have embraced web standards. Of course, they don’t always achieve perfect validation or pure semantic markup, but a trained developer can make these markup fixes very quickly, and let’s face it, modern browsers are lenient.

STANDARDS ARE THE TOOLS WITH WHICH ALL OF US CAN DESIGN AND BUILD SOPHISTICATED, BEAUTIFUL SITES THAT WILL WORK TODAY AND TOMORROW.

OLD BROWSERS ARE INCOMPETENT, INCOMPLETE, AND HAZARDOUS TO THE HEALTH OF THE WEB.

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT.

More than 90% of all websites are obsolete. They might look good on desktop browsers, but outside of that, the symptoms of decay are starting to appear. Carefully constructed layouts have begun to fall apart, and expensively engineered behaviors have stopped working. As browsers evolve, site performance continues to deteriorate.

Modern browsers are not merely newer versions of the same old thing. They differ fundamentally from their predecessors, and in many cases, they’ve been rebuilt from the ground up. They have a new job: to comply as well as possible with the web standards. As the newer browsers comply with web standards, they are becoming increasingly intolerant of broken code and markup.

THE KNOWLEDGE OF WEB STANDARDS IS A NECESSITY FOR ANYONE WHO DESIGNS OR PRODUCES WEBSITES

BEST WEBSITE NOW ENSURES THAT SITES DESIGNED TODAY WILL CONTINUE TO WORK IN TOMORROW’S BROWSERS AND DEVICES – INCLUDING DEVICES NOT EVEN BUILT OR IMAGINED YET

We believe in “write once, publish everywhere”. It isn’t wishful thinking. We are proud of the fact that our mission statement is “Because it matters”. Our mission follows some basic rules:

Control layout, placement, and typography in desktop browsers while allowing users to modify the presentation to suit their needs.
Develop and support sophisticated behaviors that work across multiple browsers and platforms.
Comply with accessibility laws and guidelines without sacrificing beauty, performance, or sophistication.
Redesign quickly – reducing costs and eliminating unnecessary work.
Support emerging devices from wireless gadgets and smart phones to Braille output devices and screen readers used by those with disabilities with one website.
Offer sophisticated printed versions of any web page.
Stay educated and ahead of the curve to always use real semantic markup.

PAGE RANKING AND SEO

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SEO and Analytics go hand-in-hand.  Believe it or not, companies do not have to spend a lot of money for SEO or Analytics. Well thought out SEO makes your website findable. Content is king. Focus on lean, keyword-rich, buzzword-free content that’s relevant to your customers, and use semantic markup. Copy, CSS layout and HTML5’s latest coding practices are the golden keys to findability.

COMPANIES THAT KNOW THE SIMPLICITY OF GREAT SEO ARE PROSPERING. THOSE THAT DON’T ARE FALLING BEHIND.

ACCESSIBILITY – THE HEART OF WEB STANDARDS…

Accessibility makes sure your content can be read and your site can be used by everyone, no matter what device they browse with, and regardless of physical ability. Innovation is the soul of accessibility. Accessibility is legal standard for judging and enforcing the accessibility of sites. This is great news because the world is being pushed into one single standard.

If you use standards-based designing principles, you not only make your content easy for search engines to find, it will also enable visually disabled people who use screen readers to navigate your websites content.

Screen reader users navigate web pages by tabbing from h2 to h2 and from section to section, just like sighted users navigate by visually scanning. When structuring your site semantically, pay particular attention to forms and tables. Provide keyboard access for those who are unable to use a mouse. Keyboards and assistive devices are the gateway to online user experience.

WELCOME MILLIONS OF VISITORS TO YOUR SITE WHO ARE LOCKED OUT – YES – THERE ARE MILLIONS OF DISABLED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET

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Google web crawlers look for relevancy of content when a user types in an inquiry.
Think of web crawlers as blind users – Google is the biggest blind user on the web. Dish out appropriate content, well written and well structured, and you not only serve the blind folks in your audience, you also attract millions of sighted ones.

It wouldn’t be smart to exclude disabled Americans. This demographic would take up a city the size of Los Angeles or New York City. Millions!

If you think blind people don’t buy products online is missing the point and the boat. Don’t be blind yourself to the true nature of the audience you reject – you are still reaching the non-disabled populace this way by conforming to access guidelines and many others who would have ordered your products over the phone if only your site let them.

Section 508

Section 508 requires all websites under its jurisdiction to provide “equal or equivalent access to everyone” to accommodate the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, the physically disabled, and people who have photosensitive epilepsy and it spells out what accessibility really means. This law covers computers, fax machines, copiers, telephones, transaction machines, and kiosks, as well as other equipment used for transmitting, receiving, or storing information. It also covers many websites. Section 508 became U.S. law in 2001 and applies to the following:

  • Federal departments and agencies (including the U.S. Postal Service)
  • Deliverables from contractors who serve them
  • Activities sponsored or funded by the Federal government
  • Activities sponsored by states that have adopted the regulations
  • This is just skimming the surface and you can find plenty of resources to explain what the exact standards are and how to apply them along with specific things to do to make your site 508 compliant.

The bottom line is that if you design with web standards and follow the guidelines, your site should be accessible to screen readers, Lynx, mobile devices, and old browsers as it is to modern, compliant browsers. Standards and accessibility converge in agreeing that one web document should serve all readers and users. Even Flash and PDF’s can now be made accessible.

MYTH: ACCESSIBILITY IS EXPENSIVE

Most tasks to bring a website to its best take minutes to accomplish. Simple tasks like adding a label to your web form or writing a table summary. Type a brief alt text for each image – which is a no-brainer. High level conformance is going to obviously fall under another category and will cost more. If you want to author closed captions for web videos or to caption live streaming media news feeds in real time see Joe Clark’s “Best Practices in Online Captioning” . (www.joeclark.org/access/captioning/bpoc)

I highly recommend the following cited book for anyone who builds things for the internet. Web Standards is such an exciting concept that ties us all together. Where we go from here who knows, but right now we are accomplishing a great thing using Web Standards, and this book is a must have.

You can find the latest Standards and beta versions of some brilliant new concepts existing on the W3C website. Their HTML5 Validator is a great place to find semantic errors within your page. Go to http://validator.W3.org/ for the latest information.

Jeffrey Zeldman with Ethan Marcotte (2010). Designing with Web Standards, Third Edition. Berkeley, CA. New Riders.

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CSS3 – Design with Color Control and Opacity

CSS3 has the ability to control color opacity.

There are many degrees of translucence between total transparency and total opacity.  Web Designers often use opacity for visual appeal in conjunction with mouseover events for pop-up photo galleries as well as drop-down and flyout menus.

hex_colorsColor is a big part of a website, and you can color anything and everything using CSS.

There are 16 valid color names:

black, silver, gray, white, maroon, red, purple, fuchsia, green, lime, olive, yellow, navy, blue, teal, and aqua.

Hex Codes

Virtually all modern screens can show at least 16.7 million colors, and CSS provides several ways to define all those colors.  The most common method of defining colors is to use a hex code.  This allows you to define a color using three pairs of hexadecimal numbers representing red, green and blue.  A zero indicates none of that color.  An ff indicates that color at full strength.  Example: #000000 is black – none of any color; #ffffff is full white – full strength of every color; #ff0000 is red – full strength, no other color; #00ff00 is green – no red, full strength green, no blue.

You can also use a three-digit shorthand syntax to express colors where each pair of digits has matching characters.  The browser actually doubles each of the digits to translate to six digits.  Example:  #000 is short for #000000; #0f0 is short for #00ff00.  The letters aren’t case-sensitive, so you can use uppercase or lowercase.

RGB Codes

rgbRGB is another way to express any of the 16.7 million colors.  Like hex, you define a color using a combination of red, green, and blue, but you use the 255 decimal range of 0 to 255, and you don’t need the # character.  The syntax used is rgb(red,green,blue).  You replace the red, green, and blue each with a whole number in the range of 0-255 to indicate the amount of that color.  Or, optionally, each number can be a percent in the range of 0% to 100%.  You can’t mix percent and numbers though.  Example:  rgb(0,0,0) is black, and it is the same as saying rgb(0%,0%,0%) or hex code #000!  There is no technical advantage or disadvantage to any particular method, it’s your call.

HSL Color

hslAnother way to express any of the 16.7 million colors available to you is Hue, Saturation, and Lightness (HSL) which is based on the concept of a hypothetical color cylinder.  The syntax for expressing color using HSL is hsl(hue, saturation, brightness).

Hue is the basic colors of the rainbow, and all the colors circle the hypothetical cylinder.  The cylinder is round, so 360 degrees around.  Red is at 0 degrees, green is at 120 degrees, blue is at 240 degrees.  At exactly 360 degrees, it goes back full circle to red.

Saturation increases as you move out from the center of the cylinder.  It is how much of the color there is.  Picture a bottle of perfectly red ink.  That would be 100% saturation, near the outside of the cylinder.  Take a drop of that ink and drop it into a glass of clear water.  It’s red, but it is at a low saturation, maybe 1%, near the inside of the cylinder.

Lightness is how much light is hitting the color.  No light is 0 (zero) and would render it black near the bottom of the cylinder.  Too much light (100) would render white at the top of that imaginary cylinder.

So looking at hsl(hue, saturation, brightness), you replace hue with hue expressed as a number indicating degrees around the cylinder with red at 0 (zero), green at 120, and blue at 240.  You can use any number in the range of 0 to 360.  You can express saturation as a number the range of 0% (no saturation) to 100% (full saturation).  Lightness, too, ranges from 0% (totally dark) to 100% (totally light) with 50% being the standard lighting.

It is important to keep in mind that hex, RGB, and HSL are just different ways of expressing the same 16.7 million colors.  There is no right way or better way.  It is up to you, the developer.

Translucent color expression is made using rgb() or hsl() coloring methods and using a fourth value for opacity.

Opacity, or transparency, and translucency all describe how much you can see through something.   The syntax for transparency is rgba(red, green, blue, opacity) or hsla(hue, saturation, lightness, opacity).  The “a” stands for alpha transparency.  The opacity value is new to CSS3 so some older browsers won’t handle them correctly.  You will want to set a background color as the default for the older browsers followed by the hsla() or rgba() values, including the opacity value.  The newer browsers will read the second value in this statement:

#wrapper {
background: white;
background: rgba(255,255,255,.8);
}

The opacity value is a number between .01 to .99 – the larger the number, the more opaque the color.  Zero is no opacity (transparent) and 1 is opaque.

Opacity property

The opacity property also has the syntax opacity: value;.  The value can be any number in the range of 0 to 1 where 0 is totally transparent and 1 is opaque.  This property is great because is applies to images and entire containing elements!

<td style=”opacity: .1″>
<image src=”images/felix.jpg” alt=”felix the cat” />
</td>

You can give each cell its own opacity value using an inline style.  You can have elements on a page that are completely invisible by using the syntax visibility: value; with either hidden or visible for the value.  It still takes up the space although it is not visible.

Use the syntax display: none; if you want to remove an element from the flow entirely. Use display: block; to make it visible.

By default, block elements are however tall they need to be to contain their content.

So, this has been a great lesson for me and I hope it helps someone else down the road.

Christina Descalzo
Kennesaw State University – HTML5 & CSS3 Certified

HTML5 and CSS3 – Background Image Positions

It’s All Relative

ansley-1-25The viewport you view pages on comes in many sizes.  The viewport is not the page.  You have to scroll inside the viewport to see the entire page.   Setting up the clear difference is going to help understand how background images work.

Top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right and center center can apply to a div, or to the viewport.  You position things relative to either.  These positions apply to the viewport, or to the page.

Here are the values for background-image positions:

background-image: url(…), url(…);                 /* two images if you’d like */
background-attachment: value;                     /* scroll OR fixed which centers it in the viewport*/
background-position:  horizontal vertical;     /* replace horizontal with left, center or right – the vertical is optional – default is center, or specify top, center or bottom */
background-repeat: repeat or no-repeat or repeat-y or repeat-x;   /* default is top left for no-repeat */
background-size: width height; (unit of measure); OR auto; (maintain aspect ratio); OR cover; (no distortion sizes the image to fill the height and width, some clipping of the image will occur to avoid distorting the image); OR contain; (will have gaps around it to preserve proportion)  /* this is the file’s properties set in a unit of measure.  */

CSS3 multiple background images 

body {        /* Four corner images and one background image repeated */
background-image:
url (thefile/imagecorner1.png),
url (thefile/imagecorner2.png),
url (thefile/imagecorner3.png),
url (thefile/imagecorner4.png),
url (thefile/background.png);
/* Their positions followed by a comma */
top left,
top right,
bottom left,
bottom right,
top left;
/* How each repeats */
background-repeat:
no-repeat,
no-repeat,
no-repeat,
no-repeat,
repeat;
background-attachment: fixed;
background-color: #ff0072;
}
It all happens in the CSS….

The shorthand property – easy on the code, but doesn’t work in older browsers:

The syntax for the shorthand property to specify the different stylistic values on a single line using spaces to separate the values:

background: url (path) position / size repeat-style attachment color;   /* the syntax */

background: url (path) center / contain no-repeat fixed black;      /* an example */

Remember:

1.  the default size of an image is the actual size of the image as defined by the dimension in the image file.
2.  Default tiling is set to repeat in all directions.
3.  If you don’t specify the background-attachment file or have no content yet (which means the page has no height), center will put it at the top of the viewport in the center.
4.  You position images relative to the page OR to the viewport.  Background-attachment: fixed; along with background-position: center and no-repeat will contain the image in the center of the viewport – even if the page is empty.
5.  Get the perfect image background when you say background-position: left top; when used with background-size: cover, and the image size you’d like (ie., 1024 x 729) set in pixels at 72  pixels per inch (dpi).  You can set your styling and positioning anyway you’d like.  You can also set the opacity for images and I have covered that in my article Design with Color Control and Opacity.

Play with the different positions – that is how you will get good at it.

Christina Descalzo
Web Design and Development

Google Analytics and Developer Tools

Google Analytics 

Google Analytics account management is a highly flexible system that you can use to track multiple web properties and to set up reporting access for a variety of users. Google makes it easy to understand how the basic Analytics accounts and profiles work.  Anyone with a website should sign up to see their website’s statistics.

Using the Google Web Developer Tools to extend Google Analytics

Web Developers have the ability to help their clients extend the functionality of the Google Analytics service from customizing data collection for web and mobile devices. The ability to access Analytics and automate reporting data and even build your own Analytics solutions is amazing. The Google Analytics developer platform provides access to the resources used to collect, configure, and report on user-interactions.

The Core Reporting API can query for dimensions and metrics, which can be used to produce customized reports. This API allows you to build custom dashboards to display Google Analytics data and can automate reporting.There are 3 fundamental concepts underlying the Core Reporting API:
1. How reports relate to users and profiles.
2. The structure of a report and how to build queries.
3. Working with the API response.

Metrics are the individual measurements of visitor activity on your site, such as visits and page views. Dimensions break down metrics across some common criteria such as country or browser. You can customize which metrics you want in your report data.

Writing an application that accesses Google Analytics data is a complex process. It requires the use of various APIs and an understanding of key concepts and certain programming languages. A basic overview is as follows:

•Authenticate and Authorize a user
•Create an Analytics Service Object
•Query the Core Reporting API and Management API
•Handle API responses
•Output results

Loading the Analytics client is an important step and is required to query the Analytics APIs. Google takes you through the process with a very easy tutorial and even gives you a breakdown of how to do this. You even have a choice of using Java, Python, PHP or JavaScript languages.

Once you’ve registered a project in the Google APIs console, authorized access to Google Analytics Data and created an Analytic Service Object, you can use the Analytics Service Object to query the Google Analytics APIS.

Query the Management API, Core Reporting API, and Output the Results

Now we can use the Analytics Service Object to query the Management API to retrieve the first Profile ID, and then query the Core Reporting API with the profile ID to retrieve the total number of visits for a specific date. The responses for each query will need to be handled, and the results outputted to the user.

The data returned from the API can be thought of as a table with a header and a list of rows. Each API response consists of a header that describes the name and data type of each column. The response also contains a list of rows, where each row is a list of cells with data in the same order as the headers.

Google Analytics is used by individuals, small businesses, and large corporations to track millions of websites. The program provides opportunities for you to reach this audience and make a big impact because businesses can target customized campaigns whether you use the basic Analytics or the Developer Tools.