Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman

I’m a bit late to the party with this one, having felt a bit short changed by Jeffrey Veen‘s tome, I wasn’t in any rush to be preached to by a standards purist like Zeldman. But this is where I was completely wrong about the approach taken by Designing with Web Standards.

Zeldman’s book is well written, insightful, and probably one of the few books you really should own if you’re a professional web designer or developer. Zeldman hasn’t just walked the path of standards compliance – he’s paved the way for those who follow, and I defy any web professional to tell you that the standards he fights for have made it harder to create websites.

For a good couple of years now I have designed my sites with CSS and tried as hard to be standards compliant as the nuancies of validation will allow, yet after reading this book I’ve found myself stripping my code of extraneous mark-up that I now realise is bloat.

If I had to find something to complain about, it’s the occasional quips from Zeldman that show he’s trying too hard to be witty, for example; “…about as useful as a beard on a baby.” That’s probably the worst he has too offer, but many times the pace of a chapter is tripped by phrases or entire paragraphs of text to that effect. Just like the “classitis” mentioned in Chapter 7, the flowery comedy moments are surplus to requirements, especially since the rest of the writing is as warm and light hearted as the subject will allow.

To be perfectly honest, though, that would be nit-picking to a high degree when compared to the benefits offered by the advice in this book. This title is on sale at Amazon at the moment, and if you’re a web pro that hasn’t already, you really should pick it up and reap the benefits at your earliest opportunity.

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When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood…

Here we are on the most spooky dooky night of the year, yet it seems to have passed much like any other. Except for a valiant effort from the canteen staff at work (zombie brains on the menu = home made burgers), Hallow’een 2003 has passed without the atmosphere I fondly associated with the night when I was younger.

And I’m not talking six or seven years old here – I actually made a huge effort to go out trick or treating when I was around seventeen. Me and long lost pal Colin spent two weeks making our outfits back then, using poster paints on cardboard boxes for back-packs and sewing patches onto overalls so we could venture out into the cold night air as the Ghostbusters. We had put flashing LED’s on our back-packs, built guns out of cardboard tubing and silly string cans with cables running to the back-packs. We even had the little flashy receiver thing from a Lazertag set that we pretended was a ghost detector!

To top it off, we had green slime – that stuff you get in a tub from toy shops that’s horrid to the touch, but, when smeared liberally, indicated a Ghostbuster who had earned his stripes out in the field.

The hook was ace – we’d knock on a door in trick or treat fashion and when the occupant answered we’d go “Good evening, ma’m, we’re the Ghostbusters!” then offer a slimy hand for a shake. When the occupant recoiled in horror at the slimy handshake, we’d add “Sorry about that – occupational hazard!” and we were golden!

Then the one who hadn’t done all the talking to that point would hold aloft the ghost detector, LED’s blinky-blink-blinking and announce that there was definately something very strange going on in the neighbourhood. At that point, we were in the front door and seeking bounty.

We managed to keep a few occupants talking with faux Ghostbusters banter, you know – “Have you experienced any paranormal activity recently? Is your cat in season?” stuff like that, until the next set of trick or treat’ers arrived. More often than not, the next bunch of suckers would be dressed like ghosts. We’d offer to help solve the problem for the occupants there and then – haul open the door and blast the kids with the cans of silly string. Even if you’re dressed like Freddy Kruger and Rosanne’s love-child, it’s still brown underwear time when all this stuff is unleashed upon you from the hallway you were expecting goodies to appear from!

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