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Why I bitch

May 21, 2001

I haven’t been around as long as Zeldman. I don’t know as much as Eric Meyer. I’m not even as good-looking as Rude Parrot.

So why am I banging on about the same things, here on a Mac site, and not on a Web design site? Why have I been doing this for the past year? (Yes, it’s been a whole year.)

The facile answer is, “I was involved with the start of MacEdition. They let me write some columns and it just grew from there.” But why did I stay?

I admit inertia is a big part of the way I operate. But there is more than that.

The people who know about those other sites are the ones who already know the issues. They are just talking to each other. Here on MacEdition, I at least have a chance to expose newer or less experienced Web authors to the same ideas. Then maybe they’ll go look at the Web Standards Project or AListApart, or get CSS layout ideas from glish.com or Blue Robot.

Then, maybe they’ll save 30kb out of their Web page by switching to standards-based markup (that’s ten seconds of load time for me on my dialup connection on the other side of the world). Maybe they’ll win extra business because previous clients were so impressed with how quickly they were able to redesign their site, and told all their friends. Maybe they’ll save tens of thousands of dollars for their company by using a print media stylesheet, so all the documents on the intranet have a printer-friendly format instead of having two versions of the same content. Maybe they’ll attract masses of new traffic to their Web site because they didn’t need to do a massive redesign to accommodate WAP browsers, and thus they were ready when the WAP users arrived.

There are lots of Mac users in Web design, certainly a higher proportion than in the general business or home markets. And like just about everyone in Web design, they started as amateurs and learned by doing. I know I did. Some are like me, and stumbled on the whole standards thing early in their careers. Others are carrying on with font tags and nested tables and messing around in GoLive in much the same way as their Windows counterparts wielding FrontPage. It’s that second group I worry about and that I write for. Those of you who already know the difference between CSS1 and CSS2, who know what standards are and why they’re good, you’re excused. Go off and read the Naked Mole Rat Report instead if you want. But if you still think that three to five nested tables is a good way to build a Web page, my columns are for you.

Mac users need Web standards

The whole rationale behind the Internet and the Web was that people on different computing systems needed to be able to communicate and share information. The bad old days of proprietary systems had made it difficult; the Internet made it possible again.

Now, at the beginning of the new century, we risk returning to those bad old days. There are thousands of Web designers working on the premise that their audience is entirely comprised of IE users on Windows. And to a first approximation, they are right. Netscape’s market share is dropping like a stone, even here on MacEdition (Mac users use Netscape more than Windows users). The minor browsers are barely above one percent of Web users, if the sites that track these things are to be believed.

So those Windows-centric developers can almost be forgiven for saying, hey, it works in my browser, that’s good enough.

Mac users and especially Mac-using Web designers need to prove to them how wrong they are. Browser manufacturers need to be told to stick to the standards, if they want us to use their products. Tool developers and coders of scripts and modules need to be told that their products need to write valid markup. Web designers need to be told that if they can’t even write a page with balanced tags, they should get out of the industry.

Standards-based Web pages plus standards-based Web browsers means Mac users won’t get left out. Your average Windows-using FrontPage-wielding Web author isn’t going to care if there is a glitch in IE5/Mac’s standards support – and they certainly aren’t going to care about iCab or OmniWeb, assuming they have even heard of them. But if those browsers adhere to the standards, that won’t matter. As long as that Web developer follows those standards, users of iCab or OmniWeb or any other Mac browser will see the site in all its glory, and be able to access all the content.

It’s a big Web out there, and we are a minority in it. Whether we are producers or consumers of Web content, we Mac users need those standards.

— CodeBitch (codebitch@macedition.com) is the grumpy cow who does the HTML production for MacEdition. Read other articles by CodeBitch

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