phil wilson :: a geek commodity

12:03 AM

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Friday, November 14, 2003

Back in July, I wrote

Keeping to the web theme, has a new site, designed to be more appealing to end users instead of developers. ... [but] it’s particularly strange that the website of one of the most standards-compliant browsers was designed with tables.

To which, Brendan Eich (mozilla.organ, inventor of Javascript, and otherwise genius) replied:

Of course, we mozilla.organs can write CSS-based, table-free pages too. But they don’‘t work very well in browsers run by less enlightened folks we’‘d like to win over. Good end-user marketing trumps standards purity any day.

I look forward to the day when we can have a painfully-correct front page.

Which makes a lot of sense.
So whilst on the one hand I was very pleased that was switching to use a CSS-based layout (with the new design by Dave Shea no less), I was worried that the intended mass audience of the site, users of IE, Opera and Netscape 4 (because yes, it *is* still out there!) would now find the site unusable.

Fortunately, the front page of the site renders pretty much identically in IE6 as it does in the latest Gecko engine. The rest of the site doesn’t quite match up. This is pretty much to be expected – after all, the new site has only been up a few days at the most, but the beta had been up for weeks. Surely things like the misrendering of all the project pages, the owners pages and so on should have been noticed? And if the very latest version of Microsoft's browser (which, lest we forget, is easily the most used browser on the Internet) can't display the pages, what chance have other browsers? I haven't tried with Netscape 4, but unless a completely different version is being served up to that browser, the site is going to appear as plain text. Why should someone upgrade their browser to a browser whose site doesn't even work properly (to them) ?

I like the new design. A lot of good work has gone into it, but overall, other than to please the standards compliance and semantic relevance brigades (waves membership badges), I wonder whether it would have been better to keep the tables-based layouts, but with the new design. After all, like the man says, Good end-user marketing trumps standards purity any day..