Losing Focus

The SXSW conference in the US has seen a few (notable) people voicing their concerns over a growing trend in web design. Several web designers and developers seem to be over-concerned with the techniques in building a website, (such as pure CSS driven layouts and semantic markup) whilst losing focus in what truly matters in the construction of the website — it’s design, usability and functionality.

This struck a chord in myself. I’ve always maintained that you can just as easily have an awful website written in pure CSS as you can with a mess of nested tables. Validation by no means guarantees you have a ‘good’ website. A good website to me involves a number of factors (in order) —

  1. Informative with high quality content.
  2. Intuitive to use.
  3. Aesthetically pleasing.

The way it was marked up maybe comes in joint third on that list.

That is not say that I care about the quality of the markup. As a web developer myself, of all people, I care about this stuff, but it should never be used as some kind of justification of a good website. I fully expect that the people authoring websites should use the best tools for the job (at this moment in time, CSS and XHTML) and to write code that adheres to current good practice (WAI guidelines and web standards). This should be taken as read, but never as proof of a job well done. It’s only one part of a much larger picture.

Further commentary —

Posted 10 years ago

I haven’t seen many bad XHTML/CSS sites. Not by designers and developers, anyway. One thing I know for sure is that Flash and cluttered table-based sites frustrate me as a user

Tommy · www · 10 years ago

Nice point. I’ve recently made a comment about this issue on my weblog (http://www.soxiam.com/archives/000075.php) as well. Specifically, I was intrigued when I read an article by Jesse James Garrett (of AdaptivePath) regarding the current trends in Information Architecture and realized much of what he said echoed my sentiments toward the issues the web designers are facing:

"...If our discipline continues to develop along its current course, we will have developed an entire body of knowledge about information architecture that amounts to little more than a set of tips and tricks for beating the test. Meanwhile, the real creative problems inherent in our work will remain as poorly understood as they are today..." – Jesse James Garrett

soxiam · www · 10 years ago

As I remember a friend of mine say (http://www.tom.me.uk), "Why are you using XHTML?".

Why are you? There is no benefit over HTML 4.01 (Whatever flavour) unless you’re integrating it into an XML system.

So why are _you_ using XHTML? Personally, I’m anally-retentive about having clean markup so that maintenance is easier. XHTML or HTML 4.01 strict.. the only difference is /> tags on certain elements! ;)

Andrew · www · 10 years ago

Good question Andrew. I guess I use it because there’s little reason not to. Also, it means that if I - or anyone else - wants to integrate a site I’ve built into an XML system in the future, the mark-up is already valid XML. If building using XHTML from the start removes the need for adding /> in the future, then why not?

Matt · www · 10 years ago

Yep Matt, in my case (and indeed your case) theres no reason _not_ to use XHTML, but for a lot of webdevelopers who are just learning CSS, they would benefit from the extra flexibility of 4.01 Transitional to get that all-motivating ‘This document validates as..’ page.

A benefit I’ve recently come up with, is if you code carefully in XHTML, your site will be visible on the newer phones. Wap 1.2.1 (Pulled a number from the top of my head, sorry) uses XHTML and CSS as well as WML so you can code one site and have it visible by all.

Still, I only learnt of this after I made my site, so only my 404 page is visible by my phone ;)

Andrew · www · 10 years ago

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