Beware of Over Simplification in UI Design

One of the trends I've noticed in the software world is a drive towards simple User Interfaces. I think in general this is a good thing, as often times UIs are cluttered with too many options, which can overwhelm and confuse the user. Apple and Google are famous for their clean simple UIs. But I wonder if you can take UI simplification too far?

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Use Firebug to debug IE bugs

Firstly, I realize that there are Firebug knockoffs available for IE (IE 8's developer tools are supposed to be pretty cool). But if you don't want to use those (or if those options don't have a Firebug feature you want), you can still use Firebug in Firefox to track down IE rendering issues.

I did this the other day when a div was running off the page in IE. In Firefox, I used Firebug's Inspect tool combined with the CSS explorer to find the CSS class and attribute that was probably causing the trouble in IE. Then I tweaked the CSS and tried the page in IE. Sure enough, that fixed the problem. I LOVE Firebug! :)

Also, I should note that Firebug has a version that works in IE and other browsers, Firebug Lite. But I haven't tried this yet so I'm not sure if it's as helpful as the other IE debug tools. But looking at the site, it looks like the Lite version has a lot of the same cool Firebug features.

Web Browser Y2K

You would think we developers would have learned our lesson after the Y2K debacle...but I guess not. We are now faced with a similar problem, but this time dealing with browser version numbers.

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Reasons not to use Captcha

I don't get as angry about Captcha as I used to, but on occasion someone asks me why I don't like it. I figured I'd post this list here so I can have something to reference, instead of having to brainstorm everytime I'm asked the question.

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Free Google Webinar

If you use Google tools for your websites, you may be interested in this free webinar that Google is offering. It will cover three of their tools for web heads:

  1. Google Webmaster Tools
  2. Google Analytics
  3. Google Website Optimizer

The webinar is July 8th at 9 am Pacific time.

I'm not a Flex developer...and here's one reason why

A lot of my ColdFusion and PHP developer friends like to tell me that I should become a Flex developer. I have various reasons why I haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but here's one of the biggest reasons:

Enough said.

IE 8 will render Standards mode by default

This is BIG news, in my opinion. For those of you that haven't followed the controversy surrounding the upcoming IE 8, here's some background. In December, Microsoft announced that IE 8 had passed the Acid 2 test. This means that IE 8 will be as standards compliant as the other browsers. However, in January Microsoft popped our bubbles when they announced that IE 8 will NOT render sites in standards mode by default.

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Acid3 test in the works

Now that all the major browsers have passed the Acid2 test, Ian Hickson has started work on the next challenge to the browser makers. Acid2 focused on HTML and CSS standards. Acid3, on the other hand, will focus on the DOM and ECMAScript.

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Are you a lazy web designer?

Saw this interesting story today that lists 10 signs you're a lazy web master. It seems to be more focused on design, something that many of us ColdFusion programmers don't need to worry about (someone else does that for us), but it's still interesting. I don't agree with all of their points, but my personal pet peeve is listed: programming for one browser only. I hate it when people do that. Even if you're designing for an Intranet site where know everybody is using IE, how do you know it will be like that indefinitely? Will it be fun to revisit that site in 5 years if your company dumps IE for something else? It's better to stick with the standards today, IMO. In IE 6, it was difficult to do a standards compliant site, because all of the standards weren't supported (especially a lot of CSS stuff), but IE 7 is much better at supporting the W3C standards, so we don't have that excuse anymore.

SharePoint now runs microsoft.com

I subscribe to the SitePoint TechTimes newsletter, and today's discussed the new microsoft.com launch (I think it's a bit old by now). One newsletter reader sent in the following letter, which sheds some very interesting light on SharePoint, and Microsoft's development practices. It makes me want to drop ColdFusion today and convert everything to SharePoint! ;)

from .NET developer Rick Mason:

"One of the big new features of the new microsoft.com home page (big from their point of view anyway) that you missed is that it's built on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS), which was just released along with Office 12, Vista et al. The last version of SharePoint was too slow for a high-traffic public web site, and the new homepage is an advert for MOSS, a way of saying, 'look, if it can handle a site this busy, it can handle yours'.

The sad thing is that, out of the box, the HTML produced by MOSS is awful. We're talking layout tables nested five deep, invalid attributes all over the place, alt text for images strictly optional, table headers marked up as td even when it's styled with a class called "header", menu items in a completely different part of the page to the menu header, even font elements for goodness' sake! The list goes on.

Clearly, to get the new home page up to the standard it is they have gone to a lot of effort to bend SharePoint to their will. The frustrating thing is that they didn't do that work in the base product, so every savvy web developer working with SharePoint has to repeat it all themselves. This is an example of one department of Microsoft starting to "get it", and another part remaining as clueless as ever despite a lot of badgering.

This also makes your comment about the lack of RSS more interesting, because, like IE7, MOSS is riddled with RSS feeds. It's not just that they didn't get around it, they must have consciously decided to turn them off.

I'm a .NET developer working on a new MOSS-based extranet, trying to produce a standards-based site as best I can."

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