So, you think you're a webmaster?

9th Feb 2006 ¥åßßå


I'd like to touch upon the subject of attitudes and methods, when it comes to coding, that are rife amongst amateur coders ... usually the sort that call themselves a "webmaster". They get on the big wide web, and it's full of bells and whistles and new toys, and they just want to have them all. So they produce a website using tables (when it'd be far easier and bandwidth friendly to use divs), they have flash buttons (to achieve a rollover effect that could be achieved with css), they use javascript effects (quite a few of which can be reproduced with just css), they also tend to produce fixed width sites (because they're easier) and usually their site only works in IE6 (although a few hours with a validator could cure most of that).

Ok, I might sound like a bitch, but let me tell you why I find all of the above appalling.


One of the main aspects of the web is the WW bit, it stands for "Word Wide" (yeah, yeah, I know you know). What that actually means is, it's available to anyone and everyone in the world (allow me a rose tinted glasses moment) and is controlled and owned by nobody. This means that even a blind man in outer mongolia has the right to expect to browse the internet as freely and easily as anybody else (this is what WAI/508 is all about) ...... lets follow him as he hits a "webmasters" site using a text reader :-

  1. Every image is replaced by the alt text ..... if only they'd included some
  2. Every bit of CSS fails, but that's alright because they haven't discovered CSS yet.
  3. Every bit of javascript on the page fails, so, there go all the special effects, but, more importantly, there goes all of the content that they controlled.
  4. Every bit of flash fails, so there goes all the site navigation, now we're limited to just one page .... and half of that dissapeared with the javascript failing.
  5. All of the nested tables used make the poor text reader work like a demon trying to understand what follows what, now all of the remaining content is starting to sound jibberish, and you can't navigate to another page because the navigation failed with the flash.

So, until the web has a damn sight less "webmasters" and more coders who actually give a shit about the visitor being able to browse through their site no matter what their abilities or needs, I'm afraid it's been reduced to just plain "Web". Of course, the "webmaster" couldn't care less, his stats show that 98% of his visitors are using IE6 with javascript enabled and flash installed ....... they never think to ask "why ?".

What do I know?

I say all this from experience, my first website was a pure javascript controlled monstrosity that only worked in IE (mind you my stats showed me that all my visitors used IE with js enabled), and even though I converted it to be cross-browser compliant it still requires javascript !! I've spent the last 12 months, on and off, recoding my website, and the next version only uses javascript to enhance a visit, if it's enabled, and to still be fully functional with as many bells and whistles as possible, even in a text reader ...... although the galleries will be a tad tough to see in a text reader.

So, if you're a webmaster and you happen to be reading this, here's what I recomend:-

  1. Your website should work with css, flash, javascript turned off.
  2. Your website should not make use of excessive tables for layouts.
  3. Your website should validate for both (x)html and css and, ideally, WAI/508 (this now becoming a legal requirement in several countries, especially for any websites that have anything to do with the government).
  4. Your website should work in all major browsers.
  5. Your website should work at all screen resolutions.

Of course, you don't have to listen to anything that I've said in this post, you have the right to close your browser and carry on being a webmaster ..... just don't be suprised when I visit your site and I close my browser because I'm using FireFox with flash disabled (and frequently with javascript disabled) and I browse at 1280 x 1024 ...... but your stats will still show you that 98% of your visitors use IE6 with javascript enabled and flash installed, so that's not a problem right?





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