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Does Microsoft Care About Web Standards?

April 29, 2004

The question must seem absurd. After all, Microsoft is a member of the W3C and an active participant in the development of web standards. Each new Microsoft product announcement seems to include more standards compliant buzzwords than the last. True, Microsoft doesn’t always deliver complete standards compliance, but nobody’s perfect. At least they’re trying. Or are they?

While Microsoft may pay lip service to web standards, a look at their product line suggests they have no interest in supporting the standards they’ve helped create. Face it, xHTML and CSS just aren’t as sexy as .Net and web services. Microsoft clearly has other priorities and a closer investigation of the facts seems to indicate that support for web standards is hardly a blip on their corporate radar.

Allow me to elaborate with a few examples:

Microsoft.com: Any discussion about Microsoft’s support for web standards should begin with their corporate website. If Microsoft cared about web standards, you would expect them to use those standards on their own website. You’d probably even expect their home page to validate (or at least come close). Instead, Microsoft can’t even be bothered to declare a doctype.

I realize valid HTML is a controversial topic. We all know how hard it is to keep a site valid. One day your site validates, the next day some stray entity or attribute throws your site out of compliance. My point is that those of us who are serious about web standards make an effort. Microsoft’s failure to declare a doctype on their home page indicates they’ve made no effort.

Dig deeper into the source code of Microsoft.com and you’ll find one coding atrocity after another (font tags, nested tables, and embedded images that simulate a styled list, etc.). It’s as if the developers of Microsoft.com have no clue what CSS is, let alone how to use it. To Microsoft’s credit, they seem to be using their own tools to create and maintain their website. My problem with those tools is that they encourage the worst sort of design habits. They certainly don’t encourage the use of web standards. Which leads me to . . .
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posted by kirkb @ 12:26 pm under
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Do You Care About Accessibility?

March 31, 2004

It was a moment that is quickly becoming legendary in certain web design circles. The first of many accessibility panels at the 2004 SXSW Interactive conference was well underway when Jeffrey Veen stepped onto the stage just as it was his turn to present. Unexpected travel delays had prevented him from arriving on time for the Accessibility is For Everyone session. As a result, Veen missed the initial presentations by a panel of noted accessibility experts and appeared to walk into the room cold to deliver his portion of the session.

Against a backdrop of hyper sensitivity to accessibility issues Veen steps up and announces, “I don’t care about accessibility.” Veen’s proclamation was met with a few nervous chuckles followed by an uncomfortable moment of silence before he began to build his case.
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posted by kirkb @ 3:22 pm under
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Suddenly Accessibility Is Beautiful

March 22, 2004

The HiFi Design with CSS session generated a fair amount of shock and awe at this year’s SXSW conference. The CSS Zen Garden continues to raise awareness of the amazing possibilities that web standards present. Accessibility advocates are awed by the beauty of standards based design and simultaneously shocked that so many leading designers are citing accessibility as one of their primary goals. Suddenly accessibility is cool (and beautiful too). It’s every accessibility advocate’s dream come true, except some of us seem to be sleeping in.
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posted by kirkb @ 7:40 pm under
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Word to xHTML Revisited

March 10, 2004

A few weeks ago one of our clients called to notify us that one of their web pages didn’t look quite right. The site in question had recently been redesigned using web standards and was table free. This site uses our Content Management System (CMS) to publish pages using xHTML 1.0 strict templates. What could possibly go wrong?

A quick check of the page in question produced interesting results. The page rendered perfectly in Mozilla, Opera, and Safari. Internet Explorer was another issue entirely. The columns seemed to melt together in ways that defied web physics.
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posted by kirkb @ 10:48 am under
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Texas Or Bust

March 6, 2004

The Alt Tags team is heading to Austin next week for the 2004 South By Southwest Conference (SXSW). SXSW initially began as a music industry conference focusing on independent recording artists, then eventually expanded to include film and interactive media (the Internet to you and me). My last SXSW conference was over a decade ago in the pre-web era, so it will be interesting to see how SXSW has evolved over the years.

Based on the list of panels for this year’s conference we’re looking forward to several days of informative sessions devoted to accessibility, usability, and web-standards. We’re particularly excited about the prospect of so many of the leading figures in the emerging web standards community being in one place at the same time.

posted by kirkb @ 6:44 pm under
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Netscape 4: Government Standard or Urban Legend?

February 15, 2004

I can’t believe that it’s 2004 and we’re still hearing anecdotal stories about how certain government agencies have standardized on Netscape 4 and require all agency related web development to support this archaic browser. This, of course, creates a trickle down effect where developers believe they must support Netscape 4 because so many government agencies still use this browser. The result is that developers are afraid to design with web standards because of Netscape 4′s notoriously poor support for CSS.

I have to say that I’m skeptical about these claims. Are these agencies completely unaware of Mozilla and the fact that it’s FREE? How do they rationalize standardizing on seven year old technology when the best web browser on the planet is available at no cost?

If possible, I’d like to debunk this myth once and for all so we can all move forward with accessible, standards-based design. If anyone has hard evidence of government agencies that still use Netscape 4, please post a brief comment here. I’d like to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

posted by kirkb @ 9:27 pm under
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Exporting Word to xHTML

January 14, 2004

I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently marveling over Microsoft Word’s complete inability to generate clean xHTML, or even clean HTML for that matter. It is the year 2004 after all — you would think a company with Microsoft’s resources would be able to figure this stuff out.

Microsoft’s latest offering, Word 2003, features the ability to export to numerous formats including XML and two varieties of HTML (filtered and regular). I have to admit that I held out some small hope that ‘filtered’ would produce the sort of clean code we’ve all been waiting for. No luck, the resulting HTML still included embeded ‘mso’ class references on every element. I can understand, and even appreciate, the applications attempt to generate a document specific stylesheet. I’d appreciate it even more if I could turn that ‘feature’ off.
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posted by kirkb @ 1:09 pm under
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