Recently in Accessibility Category

I have no idea what key I hit, but suddenly, Alex’s voice is everywhere.

When I open a new Firefox tab. When I close one.

When a popup message appears. When I open System Preferences (to see if I can uncheck anything so the voice will stop talking to me!).

It was amusing initially but it’s starting to get a little obsessive-compulsive as it reads out every little step I take.

Admittedly, Alex’s voice is the most accurate and human like. I prefer listening to him over Bruce and Fred. There are lots of things you can make Alex do for you.

But could someone please tell me how to turn him off? :)

[Update: Turns out I hit Command + F5 by accident and that turned Alex on. I’ve just put him back to rest.]

Twitter's invalid code

May 2, 2007 8:26 PM | Comments (3)

There I was, happily ranting away about Web Standards again when Ryan Lin pointed out that my page had XHTML errors. Eep! How did that happen?

Firstly, I missed a couple of stray ampersands in my 'Asides' column. I'm usually quite picky with invalid URLs, but was so excited to hear that Prince William was single again (yeah right), I forgot to modify the URL accordingly. Heh.

However, there were still so many bugs! It turned out that my Twitter badge was the main source of errors and warnings, due to the use of 'embed' instead of 'object' tags. I tried switching to the Javascript version, but it too had errors and warnings. I started reading Flash Satay on A List Apart, and managed to reduce a number of errors, but it wasn't enough as Twitter had many other parameters that were still considered invalid.

I cried out for help - where else but on Twitter... and help came in the form of Dominik Schwind who kindly pointed me to another website which had exactly what I was looking for. Although it was entirely in German, thank God that HTML, like LOVE, is a universal language. So I was able to modify my own parameters - which this dude cleverly separated out - and voila! No more validation errors!

Thanks a lot guys... solved this within 45 minutes ;-) Geek power rules.

i-took-the-2007-survey.gif If you've ever done web design before, do take this survey. Some of the answers I gave made me smile, because it's been years since my job title was 'web designer'.

While web designing is not my main role anymore, as an overseer of numerous projects I still use my whip judiciously. We can all play a part. Singapore clients must ask for web standards and accessibility to be applied to their projects, so that agencies will realise there is a demand and bother to learn the stuff.

However, clients must know some code too - because some agencies will claim they do apply web standards, but when you look at their code there are tables (not for tabular data) and font tags (or something that obviously looks like a .style1 created in Dreamweaver). There are still vendors out there who design fancy bullet points by using a two-column table. They insist that they comply - 'But we do use CSS to colour the table background!' Be warned.

Singapore schools much teach students about web standards and accessibility. So far the only design students I've met who know about web standards, learnt it on their own. When it comes to the web, it isn't just a huge graphic that you splice into multiple cubes and plonk onto a web page. But I'm thinking the mindset is more like, 'Who cares, it's just more work and we have other projects to rush. Teacher won't grade us on our coding. It can work in IE, rite?'

I've spoken to people who are trying to adapt to web standards. You can tell who they are, as their code is a mix of valid CSS and tags embedded within HTML. These are the people we should encourage and teach. I'd call them the real 'transitionals'. They see some value in web standards but have told me that a lot of time is required for their designers to learn how to make the switch.

Well, I'd say in the long term, more time is saved. You will no longer need to re-code all your pages to change a visual element on all of them. You will no longer have to tell your server to generate print-friendly pages using a separate template. You will no longer have to design separate web pages that can be viewed on mobile devices, projectors, or be listened to by visually handicapped people.

Unless you're the type of agency who likes to charge by the amount of time spent on the project. I'm not impressed with that. A proactive, innovative agency could propose other useful features for the website and the client may take it on. Only an agency that's totally out of ideas will fall back on outdated coding techniques and do nothing else to help themselves. And we wouldn't want to hire them, would we?

Today I got home from work late, had dinner and started designing a mockup for my church's new website. At work, I am more of a project manager/New Media-PR person than a designer, but every now and then it is good to revive the skills I picked up as a web designer/technologist a few years ago.

At recent church meetings and at work, I've brought up the benefits of using web standards, particularly Cascading Stylesheets. For the more technically savvy folk, I usually explain the important of separating style from content. For an even more able colleague yesterday, I explained the rise of XML and how we are currently in transit mode with XHTML, which is why our code has to be tidy.

I've always been sensitive to people's reactions to my ideas. So, for web standards, I usually avoid going into technical details when talking to laypersons. I move straight into the benefits like the time saved by amending only one stylesheet as opposed to changing the font tags in every paragraph on each page. Those who are interested to learn more, can then find out what exactly needs to be done.

If there's time, I like to show CSS Zen Garden - it always has a 'Wow' factor. I usually display the visual aspect of the web page first, then its source code. Then I switch to another template, and show them that most of the code's still the same - the only thing that's changed is the stylesheet. Everyone gets it after that.

If I want to demonstrate how different stylesheets can be used on the same website, I'll take them to our internal staff newsletter, which looks very different when you print it out. Elements which are not necessary on paper, such as the nav bar, and certain images, are removed from the print version. I explain to them that the same thing can be designed for mobile devices, so there is no need to have many different versions of the same website.

Back to my church revamp. Given the fact that our new site map has 3-4 levels of navigation, I forsee someone might ask me for one of those fancy dropdown menus. Naturally if that happens, I only want to use CSS dropdown menus. However, many examples I found involve the website being aligned to the left. This example is the best I've seen so far - good to look at, and centred. And it has 'tentatively' valid XHTML, according to the W3C validator. Do let me know if you find any more.

Out of nostalgia, I decided to use my G5 Mac to work on the mockup. My preferred weapon is still Fireworks. I seldom use Photoshop except for editing photos. Fireworks is easier to use in the sense that you can draw layouts quickly, and create Symbols and hotspots with one or two clicks or presses of a button. Of course both programs are now part of one big family...

Technorati Tags: CSS

Websg meetup #2

March 2, 2007 12:54 AM | Comments (3)

Lucian has summed things up nicely on the main WebSG blog.

I arrived late but managed to catch the last bit of Yuhui's presentation.

Then I finally got to see what Chu Yeow looked like. In the past few years he empathised with my not being able to use Firefox, while I ogled his handiwork at Bezurk and the fact that he wrote a book on Firefox.

Lucian gave his talk on Microformats which you can read about in more detail here. I remembered he was blown away by Tantek Çelik's presentation at SXSW last year. This year I may attend a panel on the latest microformats, also featuring Tantek. Haven't had time to plough through all the panels and arrange my schedule. Yet.

In between talks, I was distracted by this extension of Kevin's. I mean, the video camera he strapped to his head. He used it to take a video of all of us. I looked disillusioned due to something else which happened earlier that day. Still, he managed to make video interviews with some of us, including myself. You can tell I am obviously shorter than Kevin. Off the top of my head, quite literally.

I also got to meet Veron of Sparklette, and Brennan! Gah, these people are so much younger than I am. The usual suspects Ivan (our 'host'), Coleman and Preetam were there too.

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