second class site visitors

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Greetings One & All

Can I assume that all the webmasters among us are at least aware that many  
types of visitor/UA with consequent varying abilities visit our sites?  
good, I'll take that as a given.

Most will also have jumped through the hoops necessary to ensure the web  
site is presentable in an array of graphical browsers.  Been wondering (as  
I do from time to time) what hoops we build for ourselves?  care to share?

Seems to me that trivial markup (tm) just works (tm) in any UA, also most  
CSS either works or fails in a graceful manner.  CSS used for position is  
the pandora's box where things start to get quirky - still with me?

Can I assume we will completely discount UA sniffing?  good.

ok - next we have CSS hacks - usually used to nudge an errant UA into  
line.  As time goes by and UAs are upgraded the list of hacks and counter  
hacks grows - and will never be complete, nor can we ever be sure that any  
individual hack will not trigger undesirable behaviour in an untested UA.

We have CSS mediatypes of course - and these have their uses, but it's a  
bit crude and I'm not convinced entirely accurate.

I'd guess that the needs of those with a visual impairment (or other  
physical disability) are now well known - if not widely catered for -  
among webmasters and I'd be among the first to agree that the current  
state of the web is generally not good enough.

Please let me propose the notion that today's 2nd class web citizens are  
not the disabled.  No, this dubious distinction is awarded to those  
visitors using their Cell-Phone/PDA.  In fact the very sites that would be  
most useful (navigational/maps, location/nearest/what's-on,  
travel/time-tables, etc.) are among the worst at providing their content  
in a usable manner regardless of browsing environment.

On the web: The only thing that can be sure of is that nothing is certain.

William Tasso

Re: second class site visitors

William Tasso wrote in <op.s4u0aofkm9g4qz->:
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I'm inclined to agree.

Of course since I've been saying something of the sort for several years
it would be a bit dumb of me to change my opinion now that web browsing on
mobile devices is really taking off.

Maps are the only things that should be at all difficult to make easily
accessible to small browsers. I've not had to make a site that provided
maps, but the way I've always assumed it can be tackled is by offering the
maps in different sizes. The general principle being let the user choose.

It's the key growing market at present. A lot of people in the UK don't
have a PC but have a web capable mobile phone.

"live fast, die only if strictly necessary"

Re: second class site visitors

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It's interesting to note that many sites (e.g. the BBC) are now
providing PDA-specific, and cell phone-specific pages. Maybe that's a
realisation that a 'one-size-fits-all' is an excellent philosophy -- but
is not necessarily practical ?

Jake ( -- just a 'spam trap' mail address)

Re: second class site visitors

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That's probably a decent "given" as long as you don't assume that
awareness equals implemented catering.

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I'm still jumping through hoops.  I'm probably a relative newcomer
compared to most here, I'm still learning how to do the things I want
to do, and haven't finished doing most of them yet.  Hoops we build
for ourselves?  I've chosen to jump through the hoop that I call "no
client side assists", meaning no client-side scripting, no client-side
data storage, no client-side plugins.  It's a tough hoop to jump
through I guess, but worth the work imo.  It may seem insane to some
but if you look at it as an extremist approach to the "use trivial
markup" concept it might make a good deal more sense.

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Not sure I'm completely following but probbaly fairly close.  I try to
keep markup simple.  I'm not CSS-knowledgable yet, have only used a
few snippets here and there for specific purposes.  Feeling my way in
slowly as I have time (read: not) or as necessity forces (read:
sometimes).  I find the idea of using absolute positioning in CSS to
be insane, but maybe that's because I don't understand everything.

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By "UA sniffing" (a new term for me) I assume you mean providing
different content based on UA?  I've been doing a lot of work on robot
identification for various reasons, but as far as actual content I'm
taking a lowest-common-denominator approach.  Using both alt= and
title= for graphic mouseovers, using tweaked specifications for a few
symbols like &trade because some older browsers don't recognize the
proper names, other small things like that to keep things working in a
more across-the-board way.  There are so many UA's and so much control
over what is specified as UA that doing anything vital based on what
the UA claims to be is questionable effort.

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The number of CSS hacks I'm using is trivial, since most of my current
usage of CSS amounts to "hacks" that are generally accepted by most
browsers.  Most of my layout is still table-based, though it may not
(and probably won't) always be that way.

Hacks are a bitch generally.  I've found that the place one needs them
most is on the borderline of do-ability.  Often the best approach is
to recognize and accept the limitations of the environment and indulge
in some rework or redesign to make things work more simply and
clumsily, gaining reliability in exchange for that loss of

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I'm not that CSS-knowledgable yet, will get there when feasible.

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I can't claim to totally understand those needs, but one does not
crack out of the egg knowing everything.  I am a longstanding KISS
practitioner though my simplicity often seems complex and convoluted.

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I would suggest moving toward catering to cell/pda users slowly and
cautiously.  From past experience I have learned that very often
technology overtakes efforts to cater to lack of technology and makes
the caterer look foolish.  As an example in programming terms, quite a
number of people spent a lot of effort developing complex overlay
managers, then along came virtual memory going "ha ha look at you
wasting your time on overlay managers!"

Not having had a pda in several years, and choosing cell phones with a
minimum of high-tech features (it's a phone after all), I'm not sure
what the current state of the technology is.  When last I looked it
was limited primarily by screen resolution.  I remember when computer
screens were character based 80 wide by 24 tall.  A few years later
they were pixel-based and you could get 800x600 resolution.  Now we
have higher resolution, faster refresh, everything better.  As long as
there is demand for better functionaltiy, technology will work to
decrease that demand until the money has been spent, and there seems
to be plenty of desire for cuter and more gimmicky cell phones and
pda's so perhaps some effort will also be made to make them more
technically capable in the process.

The obvious point is that if webmasters start through jumping through
cell/pda hoops one of these days they're very likely to have silly
looks on their faces for doing a lot that turned out to be unnecessary
because of advances in technology.

I would also caution against assuming that because a site shows up
poorly on a cell/pda the fault is that of the site; it could be, or
perhaps it is the fault of the cell/pda, it's not clear to me that it
needs be one way or the other.

On the other hand, webmaster efforts put toward trivializing their
markup while maximizing their site's functionality can only be gainful
regardless of which directions technology twitches.

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Certainty is a siren that should better be interpreted as a foghorn,
there are rocks behind it.


Re: second class site visitors

Some sites even have special pages for the mobile browser, of course.


Brian Gaff....Note, this account does not accept Bcc: email.
 graphics are great, but the blind can't hear them

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Re: second class site visitors

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hi Will

that's a time saver
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occasionally i resort to alcohol.
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nope. lost me there.

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yup, the heck with that.

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hate 'em. how much of that stuff is going to break in IE7?

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disagree strongly. print style sheets work pretty good. check mine out :)

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agree, but browsers have been getting much better and users are much better
educated these days. i think the focus of the 'semantic web' is heading
towards engines and indexing as the accessibilty factor.

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not too sure about that. phones aren't going to be looking at the same web
we are. have you checked out WAP? and the design challenges imposed by such
small screens? forget about it. pocket PC maybe, hand held or PDA, some of
them, but those itty bitty phone screens? that's why ring tones are the
wallpaper of the phone era.

Re: second class site visitors

Well in a perfect world, that might be the case, but I still think
numerous web sites, especially commercial ones can be prob lematic.  I can
only speak from the perspective of a blind user, but I think web masters
should consider that if a site is too full of unlabeled graphics and
links, or if it refreshes every 30 seconds, or other things, potential
customers will just walk away.
I don't mind shopping on the web, but I'd like to shop, not spend
inordinate amounts of time dithering with my screen reader, or the site
itself trying to figure out the layout used.

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