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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.
It is arguable that there is no goal in web design more satisfying than getting a beautiful and intuitive design to look exactly the same in every currently-used browser. Unfortunately, that goal is generally agreed to be almost impossible to attain. Some have even gone on record as stating that perfect, cross-browser compatibility is not necessary.
While I agree that creating a consistent experience for every user in every browser (putting aside mobile platforms for the moment) is never going to happen for every project, I believe a near-exact cross-browser experience is attainable in many cases. As developers, our goal should not just be to get it working in every browser; our goal should be to get it working in every browser with a minimal amount of code, allowing future website maintenance to run smoothly.
In this article, I'll be describing what I believe are some of the most important CSS principles and tips that can help both new and experienced front-end developers achieve as close to a consistent cross-browser experience as possible, with as little CSS code as possible.
Experienced developers understand that CSS3 can be added to new projects with progressive enhancement in mind. This ensures that content is accessible while non-supportive browsers fall back to a less-enhanced experience for the user.
But developers could face a situation where a client insists that the enhancements work cross-browser, demanding support even for IE6. In that case, I've collected together a number of options that developers can consider for those circumstances where support for a CSS3 feature is required for all versions of Internet Explorer (IE6, IE7, & IE8 — all of which are still currently in significant use).
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In one of our previous articles, I put together a list of 7 must-see videos related to web design. Since then, I've come across a number of other videos from conferences and events, and I thought I would share some of those here. The list includes a brief description of each video, some notable quotes from the presentations, and related links. So, sit back, take your time and enjoy some great technical insights and design principles from some well-known web designers, developers, and conference speakers.
The Influence of Print Design, by speaker Jason Santa Maria. Part of the MFA in Interaction Design program, this is a candid and personal discussion of how print design and the technique of "storytelling" have affected the designs of the speaker in his professional career as a web designer.
Ah, the ubiquitous CSS sprites one of the few web design techniques that was able to bypass "trend" status almost instantly, planting itself firmly into the category of best practice CSS. Although it didn't really take off until well after A List Apart explained and endorsed it, it was discussed as a CSS solution as early as July, 2003 by Petr Stanícek.
Most web developers today have a fairly strong grasp of this technique, and there have been countless tutorials and articles written on it. In almost every one of those tutorials, the claim is made that designers and developers should be implementing CSS sprites in order to minimize HTTP requests and save valuable kilobytes. This technique has been taken so far that many sites, including Amazon, now use mega sprites.
Is this much-discussed benefit really worthwhile? Are designers jumping on the CSS sprite bandwagon without a careful consideration of all the factors? In this article, I'm going to discuss some of the pros and cons of using CSS sprites, focusing particularly on the use of "mega" sprites, and why such use of sprites could in many cases be a waste of time.
Although much valuable information for all sorts of web and print professionals can be found online, it is often difficult to weed through all the noise and find good quality content. I believe it's vital that professionals in different creative fields supplement their online learning and research through well-edited and high-quality print publications.
Print magazines, more often than not, are well-researched and are headed by top-notch editorial staff, usually containing information and resources on the cutting edge of their respective industries' trends and happenings. To that end, to help you fulfill part of your offline research needs, I've compiled a list of print magazines that are of interest to professionals in three different categories: Web Designers, Digital Artists, and Photographers. And be sure to comment so you can tell us your personal favourite print magazine, if you don't see it listed here.
Each year, the battle for television ratings begins. Networks unveil their latest creations, jockeying for position in the ratings race, doing everything and anything within their means to gain and keep as many viewers as possible. Months, sometimes years of planning, preparation, marketing, shooting, and editing are laid bare on the "tube" for all to see. Some shows fail miserably and are cancelled after a few months. Others thrive, and become the next big thing. They all hope to become the next American Idol.
Television broadcasts continue to have a major impact on society — both in positive and negative ways. Whether you have a long-standing love affair with your television set, or you just use it to kill the monotony when you're taking a break from the internet, I'm sure you'll agree that, due to the overwhelming impact TV has had on modern society (and on television producers' pocketbooks), techniques and principles unique to television broadcast production and marketing are worth examining.
Let's see if there are lessons to be learned from the television broadcasting medium that can be applied to web development, design, and related fields.
In a recent article about unusable and superficial beer and alcohol websites, I made the claim that using left-hand vertical navigation is an out-of-date method in modern web design. In the comments, a few people wondered why I said this. I was surprised that it got any attention at all, because it was a brief comment in the article, and didn't constitute a substantial part of the argument I had put forth. Nonetheless, I decided to write an article describing what I feel is a solid case against using vertical navigation in modern web design.
Naturally there are exceptions to every rule, and I'll discuss those briefly at the end. But first I'm going to present five reasons why vertical navigation should not be used and why designers and architects should almost always construct their sites with horizontal navigation in mind.
It should be noted here that when I refer to "vertical navigation", I'm talking about the top-level, primary means of navigating a website. This would not include left or right sidebars that have secondary links and call-to-action areas that are perfectly acceptable in many circumstances.
In an online world now dominated by CSS layouts, CSS-styled HTML lists have become invaluable tools in a CSS developer's toolbox, due to the HTML lists versatile and graphically flexible nature. All this despite some of the obvious browser inconsistencies that can affect the styling of the different types of lists available in HTML coding.
If you're new to CSS, this article should provide a good overview of the different types of lists available, as well as some of the browser quirks that occur in relation to HTML lists, with some helpful advice that should prevent those quirks from becoming major road blocks to good design.
In addition, we'll look at a showcase of various uses, techniques, and tutorials that utilize HTML lists. All of this should put strong emphasis on the importance of using lists in modern web design, reminding even experienced coders how HTML lists can improve the flexibility and maintainability of a website.
I was pretty excited when I came up with the idea of examining and showcasing some of the most famous beer and alcohol-related websites from a number of countries around the world. After all, who doesn't like the odd drink now and again? (Well, besides me — I can't stand alcohol in any form.) Surely this would make for an interesting article that would elicit quite a few comments. Well, if that's the result, it wouldn't be for the reasons I suspected when beginning to research this piece.
Instead, I've concluded — due to problems related to typography, accessibility, and usability — that the apparent "beauty" present on many of the websites related to this industry is merely "skin deep". To put it quite bluntly, the designers and developers in the beer and alcohol website industry should be ashamed of themselves for creating such horrendous user experiences. My analysis here will attempt to inspire modern-day designers and developers to avoid imitating the superficial design and development techniques employed by these web professionals.
But I won't just focus on the negative. There are some positive things to be mentioned, and a showcase of some of the nice sites is certainly in order, so that will round out the article (and might even fool a few of the "I'm here for the pictures" visitors).