Brainstorms and Raves

Notes on Web Design, Development, Standards, Typography, Music, and More

Tue

6

AUG

2002

W3C’s been busy with XHTML, CSS, and more

W3C has been busy, as always, this time with some new XHTML and CSS:

XHTML news:

XHTML 1.0, Second Edition Recommendation is now published. Check out the W3C’s handy diff-marked version to see the changes highlighted.

XHTML 2.0 Working Draft is now available online for review and comments. This upcoming version is not intended to be backward compatible with its earlier versions. Appendix A will describe the differences from XHTML 1.1, but as of this morning the information is not yet posted to the W3C site.

CSS news:

CSS 2.1 “last call working draft” is also published online. The “last call” part means that you still have until August 30th to submit comments and feedback before it becomes a formal recommendation.

What’s CSS 2.1 and why are they doing this when they’re already working on CSS 3? Good question. Among other things, CSS 2.1 corrects a few CSS 2.0 errors.[1] CSS 2.1 also builds on CSS 2 and CSS 1, supporting media-specific style sheets, content positioning, table layout, internationalization features, and some user interface properties.

According to the W3C, CSS 2.1 simplifies Web authoring and site maintenance by separating the presentation style of documents from the content of documents.[2] If you’ve checked out any of the CSS 3 working drafts, you may also see CSS 2.1 as a stepping stone toward the modularization of CSS.

Who cares?! And why should designers and developers care?! Well, maybe you don’t, but if you’re at least curious, read on.

Speaking of media-specific style sheets:

Media-specific style sheets can be a terrific convenience for designers and developers, allowing easier and greater flexibility and more features for visitors. I’ve been writing here about thinking forward, separating content from presentation, and allowing for greater flexibility with designs for PDAs, screen readers, aural browsers, and more since Brainstorms and Raves began. It will seem like the blink of an eye when these alternatives are standard and mainstream.

While you don’t have to use media-types for your sites to have good printing results or work on a PDA, using the CSS media-types can provide guidance to the devices and help ensure their usability, while also allowing more flexibility for the screen versions. Newer browsers that support web standards already support many of these media-type CSS features. (See my notes below about media-types testing.)

A couple of examples:

  1. The Web Standards Project site takes advantage of this with a separate style sheet for print. If you check it out, you’ll see there’s not much there and that it takes very little effort to do this while also creating a better print version.
  2. I’m currently designing / developing a new site that also takes advantage of media-specific style sheets but in a different way from WaSP’s site. Since it’s a community service site that provides online resources, the print version will print out the URLs of the resources while the screen version will have hyperlinked site titles, hiding the URLs. It’s fast and easy with CSS. When it’s ready for show and tell time, I’ll post the URL here.

Using CSS media-types is currently available but it’s also a forward-thinking approach. If you check out the CSS 3 working drafts, you’ll see lots going on in this direction and a modular approach.

Forward thinking, saving money, saving time:

In terms of time, effort and bottom-line cost for clients, it’s been a no-brainer for my own clients, although yours may certainly be different. Some clients don’t care and don’t want to know about the development part and just want a site that works for their visitors, serves their purposes well, and doesn’t cost them their life savings.

Without exception to date, though, when I’ve discussed the concept of a forward-thinking site, every client has appreciated an approach that can last without breaking with the next browser versions, that works on existing browsers, and even works fine with older browsers. No one is locked out, they stay within their budget, and that’s what they want.

Speaking of budget, the bottom line is money in nearly all cases. Since no one’s locked out of the site, they have more visitors and more potential income. Redesign costs money, and if it’s forward-thinking from the start, that will save them money in the long run. In the short run, duplicate pages for specific browsers aren’t needed, changes in presentation can be made globally with a style sheet change rather than changes to individual pages, and they save money that way, too. Everyone wins. Visitors and clients are all happy, and my business hums along with all the client referrals. It’s not that simplistic, of course, but that’s the overall drift.

More on CSS media-types and browser support

Rachel Andrew, who’s on the WaSP Dreamweaver Taskforce, has a terrific tutorial on CSS and media types to show you what they are, how to use them, and some examples. Rachel has also been testing the media-types and now has an updated results page with the rundown of which browsers support which elements.

[1] Abstract, Cascading Style Sheets, level 2 revision 1, CSS 2.1 Specification, W3C Working Draft 2 August 2002. Accessed August 06, 2002. <http://www.w3.org/TR/2002/WD-CSS21-20020802>

[2] Abstract, Cascading Style Sheets, level 2 revision 1, CSS 2.1 Specification, W3C Working Draft 2 August 2002. Accessed August 06, 2002. <http://www.w3.org/TR/2002/WD-CSS21-20020802>

11:06 am, pdt 6 August, 2002 Comments, Trackbacks ·

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