Posts Tagged World Wide Web

Should you design your website for 800×600 or 1024×768?

It seems like an age ago now since we went through the transition of designing websites for 640×400 to 800×600. For the last couple of years we’ve been in the transition from 800×600 to 1024×768.

To explain to those that don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, I’ll explain a little more. In recent times most web designers have been designing websites for computers with a screen resolution of 800 x 600 pixels.The reason for this was that if you designed your website for a higher resolution, you were likely to make the viewing and usability of your website quite difficult for users with a resolution of 800 x 600 (which was the standard).

With the advent of new more powerful graphics cards, huge resolutions has become the standard when purchasing a new PC or laptop. It would be rare to find a modern PC with a resolution less than 1024 x 768 nowadays. Nowadays statistics of people using 800×600 range from as little as 12% to 20%. For me personally, that’s a statistic that is too high to ignore these users.

Recently we’ve also had an upsurge in people using these so called Eee PC‘s when on the road. The majority of these in the 7″ size range have a resolution of 800 pixels or less and what are these systems built for? Using the web.

Unless a client specifically requests that their site is built for a higher resolution, I’d recommend using a resolution of 800 pixel width.

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Where do I stand on web coding standards?

In my business, I’m constantly involved in debates on a regular basis discussing how important developing websites to the latest coding standards actually is.

In most cases, people expect me to be a huge fan of the latest W3C web coding standards. A lot of these people believe that all professional web design agencies should do nothing less than provide my clients with websites coded to the latest web standards.

However the reality is, that although I completely believe in the concept of having web coding standards and that it is for the common good and the future of the Internet, I’m not convinced that every website has to be developed to the latest coding standards right now.

Those that think it is the only way to do websites now are generally egotistical snobs who like to brag about being able to produce standards compliant websites.

I think it’s time to cut out the b*llshit.

Let’s look at the arguments most pro-standards compliant supporters use to justify their cause.

  1. Sites coded to the latest coding standards perform better in the Search Engines
    This statement is simply untrue. A site can perform just as well developed in the old fashioned way as it can in the new way.

    But with all statements related to this topic, it was taken completely out of context and made a fact by those that didn’t really understand what it meant.

    The truth is simple, a properly coded CSS based, compliant standard website should have less code than your old table based website. In theory a search engine should be able to pick up the important content of your website more easily, since there is less code. However, a clean coded website in the old fashioned way can do just the same too.

  2. Quicker and more flexible
    In some cases you can agree with this, but in others you can’t. There are a few things that can be done quickly in HTML that take an age in CSS, but this goes both ways. So I don’t think it’s fair to use this as an argument for the cause.

    Another argument is that CSS based sites download quicker… that too is highly debatable and comes down to how well a site is coded. Here’s a recent study : http://www.decloak.com/Dev/CSSTables/CSS_Tables_02.aspx

    The fact is that in theory a CSS based site will have less code, so it should be a smaller file size. In turn this should relate to a faster download. I completely agree with that.

    However, if the site is badly coded and uses unnesseccary code, it will be the same amount of code as the old way.

  3. Accessibility & Cross Browser Compatibility
    This is one that really gets to me. Most people that use this as an argument don’t really understand what accessibility actually means. So just for you, here’s WikiPedia definition of accessibility:

    “Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment) is accessible by as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” the functionality, and possible benefit, of some system or entity.”

    My only issue with wikipedias definition is the highlighted part. Accessibility is about access for all (http://www.sustainable-design.ie/arch/adapthouse.htm) not just a few people.

    So unless your site is nearly completely text based, your website will not work in old browsers. Have a look at a browser compatibility chart : http://vzone.virgin.net/sizzling.jalfrezi/stylebml.htm

    For me, it is more impressive for a web developer to have his website work well in all browsers than someone who can just code for the latest browsers.

    To date, most webmasters base their website accessibility test on W3C’s WCAG 1.0, which are just that, guidelines. How many web designers that claim to be 100% accessible have actually sat down with someone who has activity limitations? I would imagine very very little.

    Instead, they use a program to test how well their site is coded. Webmasters being webmasters, have spent years hacking their code to work in different browsers, so you can imagine how easy it is to trick a piece of software that just looks for dodgy code. In theory you could have an inaccessible website, that will pass this test, yet it could be claimed to be accessible. Thankfully WCAG 2.0 will focus more on the actual accessibility rather than the websites code.

    On and just to add more to this argument, you can create an accessible website no matter which route you take in terms of coding standards.

With our clients, we’ll continue to give them the pro’s and con’s of each different techniques. It must be noted that a lot more people care more now about the latest coding standards than working in older browsers.

The change is coming, so make sure you evaluate all issues before deciding on which route to take your website. Both ways have equal pro’s and con’s associated with them.

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Worst site of the week – IrishBroadband

I was finding it hard to find one this week. Most sites I’ve been on have been pretty good this week, until I went looking for a broadband package…

www.irishbroadband.ie – has to be one of the worst sites I’ve been on in a long time. Aesthetically it’s clean and bright, but from a functionality and UX point of view it is terrible site.

For example, when you choose “Business Users” from the homepage, you get 3 boxes. SOHO, SME’s & Corporate. When you’ve decided which one you are, there is a button that says “Find out more”. Fair enough… However when you click this, you get a little pop-up box that has a small description and two large buttons. One says “Full Story” and the other “Order Now”. “Full Story” means absolutely nothing to me and is completely out of context and I certainly don’t want to order anything yet, so eh.. I’ll just click off. I should have clicked “Full Story” as I would have got more information on the product, but that wasn’t very clear. There are plenty of examples similar to this on the website.

Poor website, which I imagine was developed in-house.

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Install PHP 5 with IIS 7 (Windows Vista)

PHP

I had to get my hands dirty today and get a look at some code we’re developing. Having not developed personally in quite some time, I had no reason to have IIS installed, nevermind PHP!

So I set off on the task of installing PHP 5.2 on my Windows Vista machine. And here’s how I did it.

  1. Install IIS7
    Control Panel > Programs and features > Turn Windows features on or off
    From here I selected Internet Information Service. I dug a little deeper into Worldwide Web Services and turned on the ISAPI extensions.
  2. Download & Install PHP
    Download PHP http://www.php.net/downloads.php – for simple set up, get the zip package.
    Unzip your files to your preferred location, mine is C:\PHP
    Copy the php.ini-dist file into your windows folder. (C:\windows\php.ini)
  3. Open IIS Manager
    From your start menu, type iis and hit return to open IIS Manager.
    Select “default web site” and double click, “Handler Mappings”.
    On the right hand side – select “Add Script Map”In the dialogue that opens enter the following:
    Request Path: *.php
    Executable: C:\PHP\php5isapi.dll (*NOTE*: if this is where you’ve stored the unzipped files)
    Name: PHPClick OK. Then you will be asked “Would you like to enable the ISAPI extension”, choose Yes.
  4. That’s It!
    You might want to check it with a phpinfo file.
    e.g. Create a text file and type <? phpinfo(); ?>. Save this file as phpinfo.php, copy it into your C:\inetpub\wwwroot. Go to your browser and open http://localhost/phpinfo.php

Enjoy! :)

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CarZones ridiculous integration options

We’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now, it’s a pretty standard website with the only major piece of coding being the used car search.

The client was already a signed up member of CarZone and really had no need to ditch them because the system worked quite well for them. However, what they did want to do was integrate the search more into their website so that they make it easier to use and get more content on their website.

On approaching CarZone, they gave two ridiculous integration options that in my mind are beyond belief.

Option 1 was to template a hosted solution on CarZones server. This wasn’t a goer for us because the site also had a Content Management System. So if anything changed, like the navigation or special offer etc. we would have to provide them with a new template each time. Obviously this didn’t make sense at all for the client.

Option 2 was for the results to be provided in an iFrame. Of course in my opinion, the further away from iFrames the better. We all know about the compatibility issues surrounding them, never mind the the fact that they can be quite restrictive in terms of layout etc.

After much consultation with CarZone, I was left feeling quite disappointed and badly treated when I tried to find other integration options. They refused to take simple suggestions on board that could have made this an easy integration for both parties. Even waving money in their face didn’t make a difference!

I was told, even after insisting it wasn’t, that the iFrame was an adequate solution. I’m sorry, but from a professional developers point of view anything to do with iFrames is not a solution. Maybe it is for beginners – but certainly not for pro’s who can do other things in a similar timeframe, yet have a much better solution in the end.

What’s really sad is that in this day and age, with all the hype about Web 2.0, one of Ireland’s leading websites can’t make the simple transition to providing basic xml feeds for their clients.

Come on CarZone, be a bit more creative instead of just sitting back and taking your clients money! Start providing a value add!

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