Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Validating themes for Wordpress

George Bray has a new blog "Electric Telephone: Letters home from the high broadband future". One of the postings was on a 3G Wireless Antenna. While the content was good, the formatting of the blog was technically awful, with thousands of HTML: markup errors (inlcuyind hundreds of surplus ) and unnecessary CSS. George responded that he had used one of the supplied themes and a quick search showed there was a whole industry around fixing up poor Wordpress themes. I had assumed it was just Blogger which had non-standard poorly designed themes.

Also I found a W3C MobileOK Wordpress Plugin. It seems a shame that having a design which is quick to download, works reliably and is easy to read seems to be treated as an optional extra, rather than essential feature by the Blogging community.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Future of web standards

Ivan Herman and Mike Smith from W3C are touring eastern Australia from
12 to 20 May, presenting on the future of web standards, HTML5, XHTML and Semantic Technology. There are industry public and research presentations in Brisbane 12 May, Sydney 13 May, Canberra 15 May, Hobart 18 and 19 May, Melbourne 20 May. The tussle between XHTML (lead by the academics) and HTML5 (promoted by the browser writers) is an interesting one. The semantic web has similar issues.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Web Pages for Mobile Phones

The W3C is continuing to progress with how to get web pages into a suitable format for mobile phones and other handheld devices. They have released "Content Transformation Guidelines 1.0" (W3C Working Draft 14 April 2008). These were prepared by Jo Rabin, mTLD Top Level Domain (dotMobi) and describe how web pages can be automatically transformed to make them more suitable for mobile devices.This can be done by a proxy server in between the web server and the web browser, or it can be done by the web server itself or even by the hand held device.

Of course content which was prepared without any thought that it might be read on other than a desktop computer is not going to necessarily transofrm well. The
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 - Basic Guidelines suggest what a mobile device will need and would help in doing the web pages well in the first place.

But a looming problem is that the mobile people are working on XHTML standards and meanwhile a different group is working on HTML 5. This problem becomes apparent in devices such as the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch, which the designers believe can render desktop web pages themselves and so do not activate mobile CSS style sheets.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 04, 2008

Web Browser Support for Print and Screen Presentations

Robert O'Callahan, from, gave a brilliant talk in Canberra, 4 August 2007 about the development of the Firefox. This was a mix of the business and politics of web browser competition, the social aspects of how to do open source development with a global community and the very technical details on how to do better code.

Some of the points I found of most interest were about the value of "Fuzz Testing", the way Firefox is very popular in vertical slice of Central Europe, running from Finland, down to the Mediterranean (for no obvious reasons, which must be a good topic for someone's PHD).

I asked Robert about HTML 5 versus XHTML 2. The W3C's approach of revising XHTML has not found favor with web browser developers at Mozilla, Apple or Opera. The issue, as I see it, is that the browser developers want to built features for interactive applications into their browsers, so that so many non-standard plug-ins and extensions are not needed. But I want to be able to do plain, old fashioned web based static documents which scale and print well. This is so I can use web pages in place of Powerpoint and PDF. I can't see that this would be very difficult to implement.

At present web browsers do not do a good job of printing, tending to break images and paragraphs across pages and not supporting new CSS features for formatting pages. Also web browsers do not do a good job of supporting CSS features for screen presentations.

As a result I have to do three versions of each document: HTML for online viewing, Powerpoint (or Slidy web pages) for a presentation and PDF for printing. If browsers supported formatting just a little better, then I could do it all with HTML, perhaps with just the one HTML file.

Many do not bother with separate versions of documents, and so there are vast numbers of PDF documents clogging up corporate and government web sites. These documents are hard to read on screen, large to download and hard to read by those using accessibility aids and on hand held mobile devices. Most of the documents use no fancy formatting and if the browsers supported web standards just a little better HTML versions would display and print adequately.

Robert argued that doing page breaks and layout well were very difficult problems. But , I don't want it done really well, just a little bit better. How hard it be for the web developer to avoid breaking up and image or a paragraph across a page boundary?

Another quibble I had was the insistence of web developers to include a requirement for quirks and backward compatibility in the HTML 5 standard. As a web author I don't need to know about strange things people did with HTML in the past. Browser developers may well choose to support features and quirks which old versions of HTML had, but I should not need to know of them, as I will not be using them.

If this old baggage has to be in HTML 5 for some reason, then we need "HTML 5 Lite", with them left out (just as there is XHTML Basic). This is not because we want to stop browsers rendering old documents, but have something simple for web designers to use.

I did make an attempt to put some of these points in the relevant W3C forums, but was essentially told: "We browser developers will dictate what the web standards are from now on.".

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

HTML 5 V XHTML 2 web schism

The HTML 5 Editor's Draft, 28 June 2007, was prepared by Ian Hickson at Google and David Hyatt at Apple:
"This specification defines the 5th major revision of the core language of the World Wide Web, HTML. In this version, new features are introduced to help Web application authors, new elements are introduced based on research into prevailing authoring practices, and special attention has been given to defining clear conformance criteria for user agents in an effort to improve interoperability."
HTML 5 appears to be a philosophical split from XHTML 2. Whereas XHTML 2 is for representing documents on screens and print, HTML 5 seems to be for interactive computer interfaces. For example:
"XHTML2 [XHTML2] defines a new HTML vocabulary with better features for hyperlinks, multimedia content, annotating document edits, rich metadata, declarative interactive forms, and describing the semantics of human literary works such as poems and scientific papers.

However, it lacks elements to express the semantics of many of the non-document types of content often seen on the Web. For instance, forum sites, auction sites, search engines, online shops, and the like, do not fit the document metaphor well, and are not covered by XHTML2. "
Much of the philosophy of HTML 5 seems to be embedded in the Apple iPhone. But that device can use ordinary old HTML web pages with CSS to adapt web pages for iPhones and other smartphones.

Also the tone of the document, especially the editor's comments, seem to be much more confrontational, than XHTML's academic style. The HTML 5 editors are essentially saying that they are going to produce a usable standard and so everyone either needs to get on board or get out of their way. An example is:
"Implementors should be aware that this specification is not stable. Implementors who are not taking part in the discussions are likely to find the specification changing out from under them in incompatible ways. Vendors interested in implementing this specification before it eventually reaches the Candidate Recommendation stage should join the aforementioned mailing lists and take part in the discussions."
Much of what the authors are saying makes sense, but the way they are saying it is likely to not go down well in consensus based forums.

Labels: , ,