Review: Deliver First Class Web Sites

Deliver First Class Web SitesDeliver First Class Web Sites: 101 Essential Checklists by Shirley Kaiser (Sitepoint, 2006) is an excellent web design resource. The author has collected information and tips on web design for years, publishing at Web Site Tips, long one of Web Teacher’s recommended resources. Now she’s put it all together in 101 essential checklists that guide the reader with best practices for developers, managers, and designers.

The topics are not covered in-depth. Instead, each item to check is explained in brief. There’s enough detail so that the reader knows what’s needed, how to do it, and why it’s important as a best practice. For example, in Chapter 10, Creating Accessible Web Sites, an item in the checklist on forms says, Place prompts to the right of checkboxes and radio buttons on forms. Kaiser then shows a screen capture of how that looks. The next item in the checklist says, Wrap the label element around its related input element whenever possible. Here Kaiser provides a code sample showing how to correctly use the label element with the input element, and a brief explanation as to why that’s important for accessibility.

Topics include preparing and managing content, usability, color, information architecture, navigation, standards, accessibility, optimization, search engine optimization, design, testing, ecommerce and site launch.

This is a very useful book for anyone who is planning a new site, managing others who are responsible for building a site, or bringing an older site up to current best practices. Instructors will love it as a resource and could use it to make sure that their projects and lessons cover all the important aspects of a topic. It would also provide teachers with useful checkpoints on which to base a grading matrix. A highly recommended resource.

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Jim Thatcher’s expert declaration about target.com

Don’t be scared off by the legal looking stuff in the top screen or two of Jim Thatcher’s expert declaration. This is fascinating reading, even though it is a legal document. Once you get into the actual declaration it’s easy reading, too.

Thatcher tells about his background and why he’s qualified as an expert in this case. Then he explains point by point why the target.com site fails to be accessible to a blind user. The site fails on many points that are easily fixed.

Any instructor teaching a class that explained best practices for accesssibility would explain to students how to avoid these failures as core knowledge for the course. To me, it ties in with my question from a couple of days ago: What’s the problem? Why didn’t Target find web builders who regarded accessibility features such as alt text and form labels as intrinsic to any design? A company shouldn’t have to be taken to court to be forced to provide such commonly acknowledged accessibility features. What’s the problem when a major retailer puts up a huge profit-making site intended for millions of shoppers and doesn’t develop the site using basic accessiblity standards? What bit of information is missing from the corporate decision maker’s site-launch-equation that would prevent such blatant mistakes from being made in the first place?

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What’s the problem?

I mentioned a few weeks back that I’m writing a new book. A feature of each chapter is a real world example that demonstrates some aspect of the chapter using valid HTML, valid CSS, and accessible design. In other works, a standards-based site.

I search for the real world examples using the sites that purport to catalog good CSS design examples, but when you run the basic validation tools on these examples, they don’t measure up. If you want a truly good standards-based design you have to go to a designer’s site, not to a regular, run-of-the-mill commercial site that would be visited by normal people who are not web designers. What’s holding back the everyday working business sites? Is it too hard, too steep a learning curve, too much browser incompatibility? After all these years, shouldn’t more average Jane or average Joe web production people be capable of using standards? Surely it isn’t only the 0.01% of the population who are standardistas who attempt to do good work with standards-based design.

Make my day. Tell me about a good example. I’d love to be proven a liar about the lack of good examples.

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