graphicpush

Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

My New Lamborghini (or Why Some Web Sites Suck)

Recently, I purchased a new Lamborghini. In an effort to flash my new bling, I decided to go see a movie at the local drive-in theatre. What a mistake.

Recently, I purchased a new car—a Lamborghini, actually. In an effort to flash my new bling, I decided to go see a movie at the local drive-in theatre. Although my previous car was a Ford Taurus, this is something I have been doing since I learned to drive.

When I get to the theatre, however, I am stopped at the gate by an “automotive compliance” officer, who politely informs me that the theatre no longer shows movies to Lamborghinis. In fact, they have implemented a strict policy of American-only cars. I look into the parking lot, and sure enough, there are nothing but Fords, GMs and Saturns.

Well, I already purchased my ticket, so I drove in anyway. After I parked, I discovered the audio connection was broken and the screen was blurry. I tried another spot and got the same result. I tried five more, all the same. I look around, but American-car-driving audience was quietly watching the movie, evidently without any technical issues. Thoroughly frustrated, and still seeking to flaunt my new hotness, I leave the theatre. Behind me, a Volvo speeds away and the driver gives the “automotive compliancer” officer the finger. Evidently his experience was no better than my own.

So I try to go to the mall. But when I get off the highway, the road signs get funny. Words are misspelled, letters are upside down, and a few signs are completely blank. It feels like I’ve entered the Eastern Bloc. I look around, but no one else seems to notice, except for a BMW parked along the side of the road. The driver is flipping a map in all directions, but it’s obvious he can’t navigate any better than me. Wait a minute I think. Sure enough, every car around the mall was American made. A Ford sedan zooms past, quickly followed by a lumbering Hummer.

So after meandering around for an hour, I find a back road into the mall. By this time I am sick of driving and looking forward to a fruit slushie in the food court. Then, as I near the mall parking lot, my car runs into an invisible wall. I am shaken, but the damage is minimal. Backing up, I try again and again, but an undetectable force field surrounds the mall. Then an ancient GMC minivan meanders by, right through where I kept getting blocked, with no ill effect whatsoever. I yell a few more obscenities and turn around.

Pissed, I drive my sweet Lamborghini bling home, wondering if I have to go back to my old Ford just to get around. All I know is that both the drive-in theatre and the mall lost all future business from me.

For the analogy-challenged, this is a sampling of my daily online experience. Because I use Opera (the Lamborghini of browsers), I am constantly at odds with sites that promote Internet Explorer—deliberately or otherwise. Common faults:

  • Sites that advertise stupid warnings like “Best Viewed in Internet Explorer.” Get over it. Not everyone uses your browser. (The theatre.)
  • When I do get into a site that promotes one browser or another, stuff doesn’t work. (The theatre, again.) Plug-ins don’t load and layouts become b0rked.
  • Stupid DHTML menus don’t work at all. These IE-only dropdowns with inane animations and ridiculously complex JavaScript effects are built upon the flimsy stilts of proprietary IE code. If I see anything at all, it’s just digital shrapnel scattered around my screen. (The highway.)
  • When I do get to a site that I think is going to work, with no reason whatsoever, my browser crashes. (The mall.) Don’t know why. This may be the fault of the site, or it may be a bug in Opera; regardless, it demonstrates the developer’s lax testing methods.

I understand that the web standards movement has been making huge headway in changing the habits of hundreds (thousands, maybe?) of developers worldwide, but I am constantly finding sites from young developers and designers (high school, college, some younger, some older) that promote bad practices. It’s bad enough when these IE-centric customs are on a personal site, but to sell the practices to clients is detrimental in moving forward with a better web.

commentary + criticism

Alex

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

Maybe you have a point, that is assuming that you are not a slashdot type personality. But increasingly this standard complaint thing is getting to my nerve. While some believe that the rest of the world is stupid, they often forget the fact that those who accuse the rest of being an idiot themselves are actually idiots. For example, the meaning of standard has changed from the true meaning of the standard and become something like “the latest standard”. Even though IE 6 fully supports the standards, people still complain as if it doesn’t support the standards.

But let’s bring the real issue. The IE-centric solutions. I myself, found it much easier to develop for IE, rather than for other browsers. First of all, there are only two real browsers out there (maybe three with safari (khtml)) and those are IE and Mozilla. The rest are not really useful to consider, they are full of bugs, don’t support ton of stuff and when they do they are buggy (opera). I know, you probably think that, it is actually the other way around or that I am too stupid to learn the standards. First of all, just to clear it out, I know your standards quite well, read so many articles about it, and the books you are reading right now. I know almost all the details about html, javascript, css and so on, but I always found IE-5 way more intuitive. In fact, when you finish “designing with web standards” book you will see what I mean. IE-centric sites are justified for the clients, since those who pay more just to support obscure browsers are the ones who are really cheated. Let’s be honest on this issue. Clients are here to make money, they give the specifications, they tell what to do and what not to do. If a client is happy, there is nothing to complain about.

I personally use Firefox, but I think W3C’s box modal was a mistake, which Microsoft engineers wrongly guessed and come up with a better modal (not always but more intuitive at least). Another issue about IE is that, there is more to IE than what you don’t see. There is active-x, there is java, there is .net and so on. This web doesn’t belong to web designers only, who simply design web sites, web is used by many professionals for many number of reasons, so please be respectful to others when you critizie people.

Payne

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

:)

Firstly, I personally am a user of multiple browsers. And I have been quite a vigilant with people I know when it comes to having more than one browser on one’s computer. The university I go to uses 2 different browsers. The company I work for has multiple browsers. So, yes… people – users – do realize this whole “web-standards” duck chase.

Secondly, I agree that while some believe that the rest of the world is stupid, they often forget the fact that those who accuse the rest of being an idiot themselves are actually idiots. By “choosing side”, one does sacrifice the benefits – to a certain extent – of the other “side”. Again, multiple browsers thingy…

Thirdly, “audience culling”. I think it’s just inevitable, particularly nowadays. You can’t expect everyone to go along as fast – or as slow – as the the rest of the world. You can’t – for the sake of 2% of your target audience – sacrifice the overall design/usability/accessibilty/etc. You can’t expect to save everyone.

Lastly, IMHO, a better use experience is more important than being simply standards-compliance.

I kinda understand where you both are coming from. Thing is… do most users even care?

Kevin

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

First, I am not the “slashdot type.” :)

One of the reasons I fully support forward-thinking web standards, is that I believe sites should be “write once, publish anywhere.” If done well, the standards aspect should be completely transparent. Clients (at least mine) do not pay extra for this—a site built with standards will work anywhere out of the box; there might be discrepancies, but the whole layout is not going to hell with any browser not made by MS.

I don’t think most users care about HTML, much less standards. Why should they? They only care about when a site doesn’t work. This further underlines the need for transparency in development; a user should not once think about why the menus don’t work, why some div is nine miles to the right and text is laying all over each other.

As for the box model … well, I write for IE first and then “hack” a proper version that works in Firefox and Opera. This may be backward, but I’m not going to kid myself on who the web audience is. (Even on graphicPUSH, the numbers are overwhelmingly in IE’s favor.)

Paul D

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

Personally, I write nice XHTML-strict code and test in Firefox while I’m doing it. Once I’m done, I test in IE and fix the bugs. I also test in Opera, but there are rarely (if ever) any bugs to fix there.

Once I switch to Macs (soon), I might use Safari for development testing instead.

Matthew

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

Alex: IE fully support the standards? It doesn’t support XHTML (XHTML only works because the MIME type is by default “text/html” – if you use the correct type “application/xhtml+xml” it won’t work), it doesn’t support CSS2 fully (tried using the :focus, :before or :after pseudo-elements?) and what it does support is buggy, and doesn’t support a load of XML stuff either.

Opera, on the other hand, has no problems with any of the above. I can’t speak for Gecko/Moz though, not using it actively. I should think it’s fine though.

You say the meaning of standard has changed. Well, I’m not so sure, but I won’t go into it. All I know is that, according to the W3C, XHTML and CSS2 are “web standards” which should be supported by web browsers. IE supports neither fully, and not XHTML at all if you do it the preferred way.

Oh, and before you go and saying something is buggy, find proof, why don’t you? I’ve been using Opera since 7.1 and the only bugs I’ve found have been introduced in the betas and stamped out by final. And yes, I’m a web developer too. From my experience, if I write good code, Opera gets it right 100% of the time, Gecko 99%, and IE 10%. And that 10% is on the simple stuff.

Willem

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

> Once I’m done, I test in IE and fix the bugs.

My tactics as well. I’ve noticed it’s more work to do it the other way around.

> I can’t speak for Gecko/Moz though, not using it actively.

Using FireFox as my standard browser, I can confirm that the mentioned CSS properties work as intended, and that the correctness-percentages are accurate enough, although I’d give IE some credit: maybe 25%.

But I’m still unsure why my site is dislodged in Opera. Any Opera-zealots willing to help out?

Kevin

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

> But I’m still unsure why my site is dislodged in Opera. Any Opera-zealots willing to help out?

Sure. If you are talking about http://www.pliv.com/ it looks fine to me. Using Opera 7.51

fiftybyfifty

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

I know that a lot of people recommend building a site in Firefox, then fixing it up in IE. I tend to find that the long way round. Mainly because I know that the right way will work in Firefox, it’s IE that throws me all the time.

Recently I’ve been working in both at the same time (IE not maximized – layered over Firefox): a quick refresh of Firefox will assure me everything is alright.

Greg

wrote the following on Monday December 20, 2004

I use firefox to build my sites. I often go for days without a single glance at IE. I reciently finished the main page of a web site that I was developing.

Fully tested and worked in Firefox, I prodly hosted the page locally for my friends to see. Much to my surprise, the feedback I got was less than diserable. My friends thought my site looked like a monkey with steroids had designed it, and some even went as far as to describe its layout as something microsoft would do. Understandably quite upset, I checked the site out in MSIE. Yes, my friends were corrrect, it was… bad. I revalidated the web site, looks good. MSIE was also not rendering my 32bit PNG’s properly.

MSIE is not standards compliant, as put foward by the W3C.I use Firefox to build my sites. I often go for days without a single glance at IE. I recently finished the main page of a web site that I was developing.

Fully tested and worked in Firefox, I proudly hosted the page locally for my friends to see. Much to my surprise, the feedback I got was less than desirable. My friends thought my site looked like a monkey with steroids had designed it, and some even went as far as to describe its layout as something Microsoft would do.

Understandably quite upset, I checked the site out in MSIE. Yes, my friends were correct, it was… bad. I revalidated the web site, looks good. MSIE was also not rendering my 32bit PNG’ properly.

MSIE6.0 is not standards compliant, as put forward by the W3C, and I laugh at anyone who thinks it is. Sure it may have support active-x and .NET, but aren’t they proprietary Microsoft technologies? Because it supports one operating system does not make it instantly standards compliant.

The standards were put in place to ensure that the designer does not need to worry about the ability for their page to render in all the different browsers. If Microsoft got together and hired a few more Indians and slapped up a new version of MSIE (3 years in the making), other makers of other browsers would be more inclined to make their browsers compliant.

User experience, as Payne pointed out, is the most important element, but the only way to obtain that is if the designer did not have to worry about how pages would render, and would their site work in different browsers.

I have two browsers running at the moment, it looks to be the only way until MSIE 7.0 comes out.