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Two articles by Sheri German at Community MX explain their collections of CSS snippets for Dreamweaver. CSS tutorials – Introducing the CMX CSS Snippet Collection – Part One – Intermediate tutorials for CSS and Part Two. Not only do they provide the snippets to install in Dreamweaver, but they also provide tutorials that explain what each snippet does and when it is needed.

Accessibility: Super Nanny for the Web

Okay, so I have a dirty little secret. I watch Super Nanny. Here’s the scenario: there is this family with two parents, kids, a home, jobs, everything according to the American dream. Except that there is total chaos at home because the kids are out of control. What should be the fulfillment of a dream is more like a nightmare. Super Nanny arrives to save the day and issues the same basic instructions everywhere she goes:

  • Be consistent
  • Set rules and follow them
  • Get on their level
  • Reward good behavior
  • Give advance warnings
  • Explain everything
  • Facilitate good choice-making

It strikes me that Super Nanny is like accessibility–bringing order to a dream that manifests as a nightmare for those with barriers to success.

The July 2004 Working Draft from the W3C, How People with Disabilities Use the Web, is a highly readable (especially for the W3C) description of some of the barriers to success for people using the web, and the super-nanny-like accessibility help that can let them be successful. Check it out and follow the links to more information if you aren’t already doing what is needed.

In a perfect world, every family would have good parenting and every website would have good accessibility. If you can move the world closer to perfection in either of those areas, please do.

Tooltips Tips and htc tips, too

Writing at Community MX, Big John and Holly have a two part series about CSS for making tooltips. In CSS Tooltips – Part One they explain how to generate tooltips with a title attribute. In Part Two they describe how to whip IE into shape for this using a csshover.htc JScript which is called with a conditional statement. Part Two is especially interesting if you have ever considered using an htc file to workaround IE problems.

Review: The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightment for the Web

Zen of CSS Design The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web by Dave Shea and Molly E. Holzschlag is a valuable book. It would not serve as the basis for a semester’s curriculum, but is a resource to augment the curriculum. I suggest you make students engaged in any form of visual communication for the web aware of this book.

The premise of the book is to discuss some of the designs from CSS Zen Garden. Sometimes the discussion is visual, sometimes it is technical. Depending on the design being deconstructed, the discussion might deal with anything from classic design principles, typography, Photoshop techniques, CSS techniques, browser filtering, creating thematic elements, best practices, semantic HTML, or even the creative process itself. The authors took an all-inclusive approach to visual design, and delved into everything from the importance of negative space to the uses of negative margins.

I found it to be the kind of book that sparked a good deal of creative thought in me, causing me to to consider how an idea or technique could be used in my own work, and sending me to the computer to try things out myself. My graphic design skills are meager at best, so any new way of improving the graphical appearance of my sites is always fascinating to me. In particular, many of the techniques used on CSS Zen Garden involving background images seem within my powers, so I read slowly with frequent pauses for pondering.

Since each example at CSS Zen Garden uses the same HTML, the discussion of many of the examples dealt with the array of creative ideas and CSS layout techniques used to present the page in unique ways. Technically speaking, there is a vast amount of knowledge about CSS worked into the exploration of each design.

In the history of the development of the web, CSS Zen Garden represents a major world-shaping milestone. CSS languished on the fringes before CSS Zen Garden demonstrated its possibilities. Now, all-CSS sites are more and more common, even mainstream. If you are trying to bring your students into a standards-based, all-CSS world, this book will help you show them the way.

As an aside for those of you who were interested in my previous post Why colleges should stop teaching Fireworks as a primary web design tool, take notice of the way this book presents the image files used to make up a site’s graphics. Not as a layout to be sliced up and exported to HTML, but as a set of related graphics that can be used individually to build a look.