According to Jeffrey Zeldman it is a good thing that CSS 1 (and 2.1) wasn’t very advanced, because otherwise it would have been too overhelming for newbies.
Mr. Zeldman even claims that “This striving to be understood and used by the inexperienced is the underlying principle of all good design, from the iPhone to the Eames chair.” I love Eames chairs for their looks, but I’ve never encountered a chair that’s hard to use, so I don’t really get this comparison. And CSS is not an iPhone. An iPhone is just a product, but working with HTML and CSS is a proper job. Surely a person can be expected to invest time and energy in learning a new job?
Now I understand Mr. Zeldman’s argument that adoption of standards would have been slower if CSS had been harder to learn. However, in my experience, having too many options isn’t what makes CSS hard. If you don’t understand a property or a selector, you can choose not to use it. The biggest problem for newcomers is inconsistency of browser support. This is the main reason why some developers still use tables.
And the reason some designers and developers prefer Flash over HTML/CSS is actually because of the limited possibilities of the latter. Many things that can easily be done in Flash are difficult or even impossible to do with standards-compliant techniques. So yes, by all means make CSS richer and more complex. As long as the specs are clear and well written (I emphatically agree on that one) I don’t believe it would do any harm. Quite the contrary, actually.
Among web developers there’s a heated debate going on about Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), the very old, yet very much alive browser by Microsoft. Many designers and developers want to put banners on every site telling IE6 users they should upgrade. People are even talking about not ‘supporting’ IE6 any more.
The problem is that many IE6 users have no choice. In many cases they are using IE6 at work, where system administrators don’t allow them to upgrade to a modern browser. And some people simply aren’t very computer-savy and are afraid to mess with their software.
I don’t think we should stop these people from visiting our web sites. I don’t even want to make their experience worse by putting up banners that will only confuse or annoy them (after all, having to use IE6 on a daily basis is hard enough in itself).
However, this doesn’t mean that every website should look the same in both IE6 and modern browsers. That’s what progressive enhancement is for, isn’t it? I’m planning to start using more and more CSS3. This may mean visitors using IE6 don’t get to see each and every little detail, such as rounded corners and alpha transparencies. But everything should still be visible and usable. After all, the web is about open access to information for all. Let’s not forget that.
Today is Ada Loveday Day, and even though I don’t write for this blog very often, I felt I should take part. Working in technology still is something many girls don’t want to do because they feel it’s not for them. We need more role models! Women like Leah Buechley and Lady Ada.
Leah Buechley is the inventor of the Lilypad Arduino, a small, goodlooking version of the Arduino that can be used with fabric to create e-fashion. The (Liliypad) Arduino is a great introduction to technology for those who are afraid it’s just for nerds (which isn’t true, of course). Last year I attended a workshop by Leah at Mediamatic in Amsterdam which was great.
Lady Ada wrote a very entertaining and useful introduction to working with the Arduino. She also sells components.
What I love about these women is the way they make working with technology both accessible and fun. When I was in high school I used to hate physics class. If I’d known about (Lilypad) Arduino’s I’m sure that would have been different.
After watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk (previous post) I decided to read her book Eat, Pray, Love. And it left me somewhat disappointed. Sure it was an entertaining read, but she also comes across as incredibly self-absorbed, self-obsessed and self-indulgent. I don’t think I’d recommend the book.