Useful Links: JavaScript curriculum, Avatars, Dreamweaver extension makers

Opera adds core competencies in JavaScript to its curriculum, avatars matter, and a search for the perfect Dreamweaver extension maker. More. . .
More . . .

JavaScript in Town! announces new articles in the Opera Web Standards Curriculum with 13 new articles on the core competencies for JavaScript. Opera also announced the final CSS article in the CSS track of their curriculum.

Why Your Avatar Matters from Hivelogic gives you some ideas about the importance of your avatars. Hivelogic didn’t say this, but I must add, don’t change your avatar all the time. Be consistent.

In comments on  the post Dear Adobe, Here’s an idea for you, it was mentioned that the best way to introduce new capabilities like what I suggested for RDFa was via the Dreamweaver extension route. I thought of Project Seven, but learned that they aren’t particularly interested in building a tool for this. I started looking for other Dreamweaver extension makers. I found Hot Dreamweaver and Kaosweaver in a quick search, but I don’t know if this idea would appeal to them. Are there other Dreamweaver extension gurus out there that I don’t know about who might think this is a good idea? If you know of any, please leave a name and a link to the website.

Report from WDN 09: Educating the Next Generation of Web Professionals, III

Live blogging first afternoon session . . .

JavaScript with Derek Featherstone

DerekDerek talked about how to make JavaScript “not the enemy.” He talked about unobtrusive JavaScript and things that are going on in the scripting world and with Ajax. He said Ajax is to web pages what instant messaging is to email.

JavaScript needs to be used in a responsible way. It needs to be taught to be used sensibly. If JavaScript is built on a structure of logic, structure, presentation and finally behavior then most users will be able to access content.

In the current crop of web apps, there is less focus on the backend, HTML, and CSS and a huge focus on JavaScript. In a situation where the focus is on powering everything by JavaScript, then everything isn’t guaranteed to be there in terms of content. The potential to topple is there when the main focus is not the foundation but the behavior layer.

Problems: there’s not security in JS. You can’t expect JS to be enabled in the users browser. There’s no official accreditation for JS.

Educators need to help initiate a change in the perception of JavaScript. Things can be accessible if they use JS. It may be open to everyone with a low entry barrier for development, but it isn’t a toy. Rather it’s a critical part of a design.

Best practices are progressive enhancement, maintainability and modularity. Remove the random browser element.

JavaScript frameworks can help remove random browser elements and improve  maintainability of JS. But frameworks don’t necessarily make anyone a better coder.

The market needs good JS developers because scripting is where the future is going. So education needs to focus on quality-oriented JS developers.

A teaching tip he showed is to connect the syntax of CSS and the syntax of JS. Put them together side by side and show how to get to all elements of a certain kind in CSS and how to get to all elements of a certain kind in JS.

Review: Universal Design for Web Applications

by Web Teacher
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★★★★★ Universal Design for Web Applications by Wendy Chisholm and Matt May is from O’Reilly (2008). This is a great little book. It manages to take a new approach to accessibility that includes HTML, CSS, scripting, AJAX, RIAs and does it briefly in a clear and simple way. A perfectly accessible book.

Anyone teaching HTML, CSS, scripting, AJAX, RIA or topics such as creating iPhone apps should have this book on hand. The thing I like most about this book is that it does so much with so little space. I didn’t really learn anything new about accessibility—I’m fairly well informed on the topic. But someone who was not already knowledgeable could get the essentials with ease from this book. Although the authors stress that the book is not a WCAG 2.0 tutorial, they also make it clear that the information in the book can be used to achieve Level A success with WCAG 2.0.

If every student coming out of a class on HTML, CSS, scripting, AJAX, or some RIA had the background in this small book, the web would be well on the way to universally accessible.

Here’s a look at the table of contents:

  1. Introduction to Universal Design
  2. Selling it
  3. Metadata
  4. Structure and Design
  5. Forms
  6. Tabular Data
  7. Video and Audio
  8. Scripting
  9. Ajax and WAI-ARIA
  10. Rich Internet Applications
  11. The process

There’s also an appendix with a cross-reference to universal design for web applications that uses 20 questions based on Level A Success Criteria on WCAG 2.0 specs.

Summary: Easy, practical, and comprehensive. Good for reference or a course in accessibility.

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Useful Links: Game Ratings, Naming Conventions, JQuery tutorial

Entertainment Software Ratings Board provides a database of games that can be searched by rating. These are ratings for age-appropriateness and content, rather like movie ratings. If you are buying games for kids this year, it’s a handy resource.

More on developing naming conventions, Microformats and HTML5 Andy Clarke talks about naming conventions in an outside-the-box look at a mashup of microformats and HTML5.

jQuery Tutorial: DOM Manipulation and sorting JQuery is a lightweight JavaScript library that helps you quickly develop events, animations, and AJAX interactions.

Findability: Is your blog as findable as possible?

Everyone has heard of search engine optimization, right? But have you heard of findability? I hadn’t, until recently.

The term “findability” seems to originate with Peter Morville, who published a book called Ambient Findability in 2002. Blogger DonnaM wrote about it in 2004 in Usability testing for findability. Jakob Neilsen wrote about it in 2006 in Use Old Words When Writing for Findability. In 2008, I happened to read Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter and I got very excited about how simple changes to my blog might make it more successful.

In fact, when I wrote Review: Building Findable Websites on my blog, I said,

Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter (New Riders, 2008) is one of those rare books that is so full of good ideas, it makes me enthusiastic about what I can do when I put the book down and go work on my blog or website.

As Walter defines it, findability includes accessibility, usability, information architecture, development, marketing, copywriting, design, and, oh yeah, search engine optimization. Walter continues to try to popularize the concepts, and recently published Findability, Orphan of the Web Design Industry at A List Apart. He starts right off with the orphan metaphor and works it all the way through:

Once upon a time in a web design agency, there lived a sad little boy named Findability. He was a very good boy with a big heart for helping people…

* find the websites they seek,
* find content within websites, and
* rediscover valuable content they’d found.

He used his arsenal of talent for planning, writing, coding, and analysis to create websites that could connect with a target audience.

A bit later in the article he sums up findability as,

The fundamental goal of findability is to persistently connect your audience with the stuff you write, design, and build. When you create relevant and valuable content, present it in a machine readable format, and provide tools that facilitate content exchange and portability, you’ll help ensure that the folks you’re trying to reach get your message.

What are some of specific techniques for findability discussed in the book? The book talks about markup strategies, which include web standards, accessbility, and microformats.

In terms of web standards, that means to separate stucture (the (X)HTML) from presentation (the CSS) from behavior (the JavaScript) to create sites that are accessible both humans and machines. Use modern code that follows the rules and check how you’re doing with a validator. Use alt attributes with images, encode characters, use tags that communicate semantically by making page hierarchy clear. There are a number of other markup tips such as which tags are essential and whether or not to use meta tags. Regarding images, get rid of image maps, and if you replace headings with snappy looking images make sure you do it accessibly. Microformats include hCalendar, hCard, hReview, hResume and others. These are nothing more than standardized ways to present certain information with HTML and CSS that the search engines (and a lot of other apps) recognize. I’ve been using hReview on Web Teacher for some time now. I can verify that reviews I write this way make the search engines very happy.

In terms of server-side strategies, the book talks about building file structure, 404 pages, URLS, and server optimization for speed. It discusses naming everything from the domain name to files, folders, and URLs. There’s advice for moving pages or whole domains and how to use redirects and custom file-not-found pages to keep them findable in the new location.

Creating content that drives traffic is another important aspect of findability. Walter says quality content is on topic, fills a niche, conveys passionate interest, is trustworthy, appealing, original and appropriate. There are also many types of content beyond the blog post. You could consider other types of publications such as white papers or articles, links, reviews, recommendations, syndication, and user generated content in comments and forums as part of your content. You can also add RSS feeds from other sources such as, Flickr, job sites, events and other worthy feeds to your content.

Of course, most of us here are concerned with blog findability. The strategies include regular posting, linking and trackbacks, original templates, post titles, archives, topics, and special sections on the blog for things like popular posts and recent posts.

Be sure your site has a search feature. If you use Ajax, Flash, audio and video be sure you are not locking out some of your potential readers. If you have a normal web site and not a blog, try to build a mailing list so that you can contact readers and lure them back to the site regularly.

Merely summarizing the high points here created quite an imposing list of things to do. Fortunately, Walter thought through which actions are the most important and beneficial for you. The final chapter in the book tells you how to prioritize the changes you may need to make and helps you tackle them starting with the most useful first.

I happen to know Aarron Walter. We work together on a curriculum project for the Web Standards Project. I contacted him about this article and asked him to identify the two most important things a blogger could do to improve findability. Here’s his response:

1. Customize your permalink structure to include keywords in your URLs. Many blog platforms make it easy to define the structure of each blog post URL. Ideally you want each URL to contain the same keywords as those in your post title.

2. Define your update services. When you publish on your blog, it automatically notifies (called a ping) many tracking services instantly so your content gets indexed by search engines and various other services. Be sure to define which update services your blog should notify. WordPress keeps a comprehensive list of the top updates services at

Helpful resources for making your blog more findable:
Aarron Walter’s site: free download of Findability Strategy Checklist
Findability Checklist
– A Blog Not Limited: Getting Semantic With Microformats, Part 1 the first of a series on microformats by Emily Lewis
– SEO Blog: 10 Coding Guidelines for Perfect Findability and Web Standards
– SEO Blog: The 10 Worst Findability Crimes Committed by Web Designers & Developers
– BlogHer: Melanie Nelson’s Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics

Cross posted at BlogHer.

Related post: Review: Building Findable Websites