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Good Code

UPDATE: March 2009

The content below was written @2004. While much of it holds true, the browsers we code for have changed. We focus on FireFox and Internet Explorer 7 & 8, making adjustments for IE6 for clients, however this site (since we are the client) draws a line in the sand by dropping support for IE6. We do support Safari for Mac. Why Safari and not IE6, when clearly IE6 remains a much larger audience than Safari? Simply put, supporting Safari doesn't add much time to a budget as there are normally minimal tweaks, while IE6 remains a nightmare. The only way we can help make IE6 go away is to stop our own support at the risk of losing projects.

We still hold true to the tenant of using tables for some client's layout issues. While structurally, all sites we code are XHTML non-table layouts, there are occasionally issues where clients who do not have much HTML experience need to update portions of a web page that is more complex than they can handle. We just don't feel its fair to expect them to deal with tableless layout in these situations.

On with the 2004 content...

Well-Formed HTML

One of the most oft abused and misunderstood aspects of website design is the code itself. That’s easily understood. Code is just something generated by a WYSIWYG application, right? Why spend money on what is essentially free, since Microsoft’s FrontPage comes with almost every MS operating system? Don't have FrontPage? You can write your good code with any text editor. There’s also the popular, “my nephew can make HTML!”

The reason Way Cool Web Design most often updates a site for a client is because they feel that it does not visually represent their company well or because it is confusing to the user. But clients also often say things like, “my current website looks weird on my friend’s machine.” That’s not good code, ladies and gents, whether it’s HTML or CSS, or whatever. And it doesn’t matter how good your nephew’s intentions were.

Bad Code, or Bad Browsers?

It could be argued it’s not actually the lack of well-formed HTML at fault but rather bad browsers on the majority of users’ machines, which can certainly be a valid point if the HTML is indeed formed well. In any case, it is your website’s reality, no matter who or what is at fault. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer that fate.

There are almost always paths around code pitfalls. It really is a matter of the coder’s competancy and/or concern for creating good code. Occasionally it has to do with a client’s budget as well. Good code takes time. Ask your nephew about this.

Browser Compatibility

Way Cool Web Design takes browser compatibility very seriously. We’ve laboured over developing code techniques that achieve cross-platform display sameness with a minimum of the degradation that occurs in the oldest browsers of the bunch. Every web site design we create is currently coded to display well in, and is then tested in, the following browser/platforms:

  • PC IE 6.0
  • PC IE 5.5
  • PC IE 5.0
  • PC N 6.0 →
  • PC FireFox .8 →
  • PC AOL 7.0 →
  • Mac Safari 1.2 →
  • Mac FireFox .8 →
  • Mac N 6.1 →
  • Mac OSX AOL →

What About Mac IE? What About (insert favorite browser here)?

We do support Internet Explorer on the Mac, if the client has room in the budget for it. That stinks, we know. But rest assured if your budget has an extra 10-15% available for us to devote to working out all the curveballs Mac IE 5.2.3 throws, we’re willing. In fact we’re very good at knocking those curveballs outta the park (can your nephew say the same?), but we can’t penalize the vast majority of clients who are not concerned with this dying browser market. By the way, this site is beautiful in Mac IE 5.2.3. Now, that’s good code!

As for other browsers, it’s pretty much the same deal. The market usage of other browsers is so small that we can’t support them unless that cost is tacked onto what a normal site would cost. When/if those browsers enter the mainstream, rest assured we will develop for them.

TABLE Tags For Layout

There exists an abnormal amount of hubbub about “tableless layout” these days. TABLE tags were initially created to hold only tabular data on web pages — spreadsheet type of layouts with rows and columns. There existed very little assistance in HTML for complex layout and so designers began using the TABLE tag to help control site layout. There are some points of discussion about whether it is right or not to continue using them now that CSS allows for more control of layout.

This has almost no meaning for the majority of surfers, rightly so. However, nefarious nested tables have reportedly been known to crash browsers but we’ve never actually seen it happen. Visually impaired users however, who often employ screen readers (and other technologies) to navigate the internet, can have trouble with tables. And of course, the admirable goal of separating data code from display code helps keep HTML relevant into the years ahead.

This site uses no TABLE tags. However, depending on the client’s budget we can employ hybrid HTML design, which means we do the best we can not to use TABLE tags for layout unless we can’t quickly achieve design goals another way. At this point in the growth of CSS, it simply cannot easily achieve the same layout effects as can TABLE tags. Many clients’ budgets simply do not extend far enough to cover the hoops that full CSS sites can require the coder to jump through. There will come a day when tables are used only when there is tabular data on a page but that day is not today. If you envision tableless layout for your website we can absolutely achieve fully tableless, advanced CSS layouts as long as we plan for it early in the design stage.

Every site we deliver has been tailored to the client’s needs according to their budgetary allowances and target audience. Tables or not, Way Cool Web Design is up to the task.

You did a phenomenal job! I really like the site – you certainly took it to the next level!

Peter G., Author
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