Internetworld gets web standards all wrong

This post is mostly applicable for Swedish readers, but I believe most of you in other countries stumble across this fairly frequently too.

Here in Sweden we have a publication called Internetworld , whose target group is mostly private users and small businesses. Their articles mostly deal with business gain, short press releases what has happened in the field of technology with things like new services on the web, Firefox increasing its user base etc. Out of general interest I read it, amongst a lot of other publications, just to stay on top of what’s going on and what people are talking about.

When I had worked a while in the internet business, I soon realized that they aren’t always exactly spot on with their articles, especially when it comes to technology choices, coding tips and its likes. However, what they’ve written has mostly been harmless and can at least be of some help to amateurs starting to code.

However, I just browsed through the latest issue with an article entitled “Web standards part 1 – Adapt the web site for different web browsers”. Just reading the headline, I realized it probably wasn’t going to be good. After going through it I came to the conclusion that it isn’t as bad as I first thought, they do, at least partly, try to convey the message that there actually is something out there called web standards and it is there for the device “Code once, run everywhere” kind of equivalent for web code.

Unfortunately, though, they have some parts and quotes that I sincerely think will hurt new web developers’ attitude towards web developing and that’s the reason for me writing this. They briefly touch on the fact that there are different interpretations by web browser vendors how web standards should be implemented. While that is to some degree true, it’s seldom knowledge that beginners need to know, it’s usually only interesting on a pretty high level, as long as you start out the correct way when you build your web sites. And it’s rarely a problem when you write HTML/XHTML, it’s usually when you code CSS that this will be more evident (which will, as I understand, be touched on in an upcoming part in this series).

The conclusion of the article is to follow web standards if you have no idea about your target group; otherwise, offer them an enhanced and web browser-specific version that only works under certain circumstances. Another conclusions is that web standards is an “advanced technique” and question if it’s worth to require that out the users to have such modern web browsers to be able to use your web site; talk about not understanding web standards.

I don’t know where to begin with to describe how damage such an attitude will do. Sure, naturally most if not every web site out there will work better in a later version in, say, Internet Explorer or Firefox than in Netscape 4 but that doesn’t give you the right to shut out users with an older web browser. It’s all about progressive enhancement.

Another thing is that even if you do know a lot about your visitors and the statistics, that situation can almost change overnight. Build an Internet Explorer-version on proprietary code just to realize a month later that many of them have started using any other web browser out there. Also, does anyone really know how many web browsers there are out there? Hundreds and hundreds, let me tell you that. Different web browsers on different operating systems, PDAs, cell phones, digital TV boxes et cetera. The only way to make sure that your code will work is to follow web standards. No, web standards will not solve your every problem, but that’s the closest you can get and definitely your best bet if you’re serious in what you do.

Let me quote some pieces in the article:

There are a number of reasons where you gain from following web standards, but here are also occasions when you don’t, which we will explain in some of the following tips.

After that, I never find any tip where the difference is proved. Also, that’s just the mindset that’s so dangerous and there has to be a realization that while web standards maybe won’t save the day automatically, they will never hold you back either.

In modern HTML, that is often referred to as XHTML…

What kind of crap is that? There’s HTML and there’s XHTML; they are two different things and none of them are really more modern that the other. Something that really bothers me is that that isn’t even mentioned and doctypes are totally left out. No wonder you think there are differences out there if you don’t know how to choose a doctype and what effects that choice will have on the rest of the code.

Usually the unit px (pixels) is the one unit that gets interpreted most alike amongst the web browsers

While I kind of get what he’s going for, like percentage rounding errors in some web browsers and its likes, talk about killing the accessibility factor. You can’t make such a statement that will give such repercussions without explaining it in a more detailed way. And what about ems? Ever heard of those?

 

Conclusively, maybe I’m way too hard on this guy. After all, I do sincerely believe that he meant well with the article and tried to help people, but my fear is just that he did as much harming as helping; hence this post.

17 Comments

  • Rowan Lewis says:

    Just another sad case of a 'Pro' whith out a clue. πŸ™

  • Wow, that must be pretty frustrating to read such articles. In the internet, I mean, anyone can write anything, so information is likely to be (at least partially) incorrect. But in a print magazine, they really should care about getting people who are really in web standards and know about advantages/disadvantages and especially about writing short and precisely what that's all about. (And not short and unprecise, such as "In modern HTML, that is often referred to as XHTML…")

    Robert, you should get a guest column in this magazine. πŸ˜‰

  • I agree with you Robert, these kind of articles hurt the reputation of web standards. Sadly, the tone in the article is fairly close to what I hear from web developers around me that run big websites: "It looks good, but has no business value". We need more successful (at least in sweden) sites to show people that they really are better, that people buy more from sites that work everywhere and are fast to load…

    The sites that get converted also needs to get the recognition they deserve and their developers raised to the skies for their efforts.

  • Jens Wedin says:

    I also read the magazine and do like some articles thay have but they are the ones about people who are working with internet. I have never liked the how-to and schools articles they have, most of the time, they are aiming too low I think. I think that is the problem, they do not really know who is reading the magazine. If you are a pro developers you just think every developing article suck, if you are a private person you might think some of them are too hard.

    I do think the magazine has gotten better the last few numbers with more articles of people working with internet, both business people and developers instead of having these how-to's.

    If they should continue with these kind of articles I think they should ask people who really work as developers, as you as an example πŸ™‚ I know that another Swedish magainze, Cap & Design, Roger from 456 Berea street writes now and then.

  • I've been interviewed for one or two Internetworld articles, and I am not at all surprised by this. They either need to find a couple of journalists/writers who work or have worked in the web industry, or they can go back to writing about the "top 50 free programs to make your computer faster" and "the complete list of free dialup services in Sweden".

    CAP & Design, despite being design oriented, actually tends to get things more right, and from my contact with them my impression is that they realise the importance of web standards and accessibility. And I'm not saying that just because I write for them ;-).

  • Martin S. says:

    I hope you emailed them the url to this post?

  • E-mailed? Surely you're protesting in front of their offices right now, aren't you! Even though that won't do much good on a sunday, it's the thought that counts. πŸ˜‰

    Seriously now. It's horrible indeed and I hope you and/or Roger will get them to realize how wrong they have been.

  • Pid says:

    If it's a factual, (rather than opinion), piece they surely have an editorial duty to present the information therein as accurately as possible.

    However, it's an unfortunate fact of life that poor journalistic standards are rife.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Rowan,

    That might be a way to put it, but I don’t really know anything about the author to say if this is a temporarily let down or his general level.

    SilentWarrior,

    I do agree with you, but on the other hand, if someone writes a blog post on the Internet with incorrect information, it will be filled with comments pointing out the errors.

    The difference with magazines is that while they usually accept reader letters, they choose which one gets published and they have the freedom to edit it. True, web site owners can do the same with comments, but I think that happens rarely.

    Robert, you should get a guest column in this magazine.

    Ha ha, thank you! πŸ™‚ To be serious, I wouldn’t say no if I were to be asked to write an article, for instance, about how to follow the correct DOM when using JavaScript, and what an unobtrusive approach is all about.

    Emil,

    Absolutely. Good web sites need to get the recognition why they’re so good, why they’re accessible to most people and so on.

    I hear the same from some of the web developers I meet, and it’s an attitude I want to quench.

    Jens, I agree, they definitely have some good articles as well. But like you say, I share the stance that they seem to have a problem finding their target group for technical articles.

    Roger,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s been a long while since I read CAP & Design, but I’ll take your word for it about their attitude towards web standards. πŸ™‚

    Martin S,

    Actually, at first, I didn’t send them an e-mail about this; I was thinking that I would come off as anyone else just having an opnion about everything they write (and yes, there are a lot of those people out there too).

    But after seeing the feedback here, I sent an e-mail today informing them about this post. I wrote that I don’t expect a reply but that I wanted them to at least be aware of my post and its comments.

    Pid,

    I would call it more of a factual piece than an opinion-based one. If it’s an editorial duty that has failed or not, I would say it’s up to their editor to make that call.

    Johan,

    Yes, probably. I don’t really know where the future is heading, but I sincerely do hope more magazines will be like Treehouse when it comes to interesting articles, consistency and quality.

  • Johan says:

    This is global I think:

    You have eg Computer Arts UK, a very good magazine for anything webdesign related. But then every country ahs his usual magazines we all know with articles 'make your first webpage in 10 steps', etc … Plus they are aimed too at the corporate world that uses IIS and asp. Or a free CD with LINUX ware on it.

    My greatest concern is like artists here in Belgium can get a free newspaper with superb articles about anything art.

    I think there should be at least a magazine in Europe that does the same: bring quality articles that can be spread widely. The usual magazines will always fall short once a while: you need consistent quality like the Treehouse Magazine maybe. I think if you make promotion for good magazines in any descent newspaper stand, it will eventually be read by thousands.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    In modern HTML, that is often referred to as XHTML…

    I think it's time to reintroduce capital punishment in our country. πŸ™

  • I cannot read those hieroglyphs and couldn't find the page in question via the search.

    Though it doesn't surprise me they basically said; web browser-specific versions are good if you don't understand standards. πŸ™

  • Olly says:

    I hope you'll be writing to the magazine in question to put them right – or better, write an article on the subject for them.

  • Jens Meiert says:

    I recently stumbled over some articles in German magazines I only took a look at because we receive these mags as vouchers for our press department. Gosh. It was just ridiculous, be it what they write about web standards in general, HTML, CSS, or accessibility – mostly wrong, and totally put into misleading context, if there was any. (And I felt absolutely confirmed in my conviction that there actually are no magazines which are worth reading, not even for beginners.)

    What I also found "interesting" was that all authors were dark horses, there was nobody known in the German IT landscape. (Wouldn't this be the first thing I'd do as a publisher, getting experts and names aboard?)

  • Caislander says:

    It is theses "Pros" that keep sites like mine (a web development) in business πŸ™‚ I read throught alot (more when I have time) of articles, tutorials and blogs. And the amount of poor/bad/misinformation out there is amazing (I am sure i didn't need to tell you guys that) but it seems that evereyone that can signup with an account from blogger has become a "Pro" on some aspect of web developement, I have no idea how some newbe coder is supposed sort through the chaff to find the useful info πŸ™

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Tommy,

    That sounds just a tad harsh… πŸ™‚

    Robert W,

    Sorry I didn't mention it, the article isn't on their website. And yes, that sums up the article pretty well…

    Olly,

    I sent an e-mail to the author of the article, I thought that to be sufficient. As mentioned above, if they ask me to I'll write an article for them.

    Jens,

    That is probably very common everywhere, you will seldomly find well-known names in such magazines.

    Caislander,

    Well, all the better for you then! πŸ™‚

  • […] ernetworld, they have a series started in the last issue about web standards. Robert Nyman talked about the first article last month, and although I think […]

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