10 Things Any Web Developer Worth Their Spit Should Know

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
  1. DOCTYPE Declaration

    DOCTYPE (short for “document type declaration”) informs the browser of which HTML or XHTML standards you would like your code to be checked against. You’re essentially declaring to the browser that these are the rules that you have used to create this page and in return you are expecting that it will render accordingly. Failure to specify a DOCTYPE can lead to unexpected rendering — a developers worst nightmare.

    [ further reading ]

  2. Navigation

    A website’s navigation plays a key role in the success or failure of a site. It allows humans and search engines alike to easily locate the desired information. Or it doesn’t. Navigations made up of Flash or JavaScript/DHTML may seem attractive at first, but ultimately can cripple a website by not allowing search engines to crawl and index the entire site. In addition, viewers that choose not to partake in these technologies can be left with no means to move within the site.

    Most experienced webmasters have left such navigations back in the 90’s with all those AOL discs.

  3. CSS is Not an Option

    In the past webmasters could choose to ignore CSS if they so desired. Those days are gone. CSS is no longer an option, it’s part of the trifecta (see The Separation of Concerns for the trifecta) that makes up a quality website. A good webmaster will use CSS exclusively to define the look and layout of a website.

  4. The Separation of Concerns

    In days gone by web developers would meld HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code all into a single page; like a web page jambalaya. Inexperienced web developers may still do this, but the experienced ones took notice that the make up of any given page is defined by three elements: the content of the page, the presentation of that content and the behavior of that content.

    Realizing this, competent developers have made an effort to keep these three layers separate from one another. Kevin Yank does a fine job explaining our three layers in his article: Simply JavaScript: The Three Layers of the Web

    When building a site, we work through these layers from the bottom up:

    1. We start by producing the content in HTML format. This is the base layer, which any visitor using any kind of browser should be able to view.

    2. With that done, we can focus on making the site look better, by adding a layer of presentation information using CSS. The site will now look good to users able to display CSS styles.

    3. Lastly, we can use JavaScript to introduce an added layer of interactivity and dynamic behavior, which will make the site easier to use in browsers equipped with JavaScript.

  5. Cross-Browser Support

    Any developer that has been building websites for awhile has the battle scars that you get when you try and make your website work on all browsers. Each browser has it’s own idiosyncrasies (some more than others) and designing and redesigning your site to function under each can be a battle; but it’s a battle that must be fought and won.

    [ for more help with cross-browser CSS read this ]

  6. (more…)

The Problem With Web Design

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

There’s no doubt in my mind that the little blocks from Denmark known simply as LEGO are the greatest toy ever. I put in more hours playing with Legos than all other toys combined. I loved to use my imagination to build with them. It really didn’t matter what: a car, a fortress, star destroyer, space station, whatever. It was about taking an idea and bringing it to life piece by piece.

This love to build something from nothing still resides within me; it’s just been replaced with web technologies instead of plastic bricks. Today I build websites, plugins, widgets and anything else that takes life in my imagination. The thing I enjoy most is seeing if I can pull it off — can I get what’s in my head to take form on the web? Most of the time I can.

But there’s something that really bugs me about all of my creations. They simply don’t last. In fact, over the years I’ve found the life span of any web-based product to be short, very short. Of all the websites I’ve built, more are gone than remain. They’ve been replaced by newer versions or completely phased out. There’s no place for nostalgia on the web.

I have a deep jealousy of designs that last. I look at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel which has been around for five hundred years and is in no danger of ever being updated or phased out. Or Beethoven’s 9th symphony which he completed in 1824 and still moves the soul today. I’m betting that even more recent artists like Christian R. Lassen probably never worries about their work becoming dated and needing to be replaced. But in the world of computers, nothing lasts.

Does anyone else find this frustrating or at least a little depressing? Of course it’s not just my work. I already have images of a new 3G iPhone dancing in my head and my current iPod is only two years old. My three thousand dollar computer that I hand built from the greatest specs three years ago doesn’t run today’s DirectX 10 games. How sad…

You have to ask yourself when developing software or web pages if pixel perfection’s really all that important when it’s only going to last a handful of years anyways? Could this be why Microsoft released Vista knowing full well that it was far from done? Microsoft is already talking about their next OS, Windows 7 and Vista is barely out of the wrapper.

I know, it is what it is, the beauty and the curse all rolled into one. The ability to create knowing full well that you will do it all over again in a handful of years. I guess it’s job security, right?

Your thoughts?

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