The Flash Risk: Ignoring usability for aesthetics

There is a case being heard in a California courtroom at the moment that may have serious implications on the future of pure visual corporate/government websites built on technologies like Flash. There are a number of these websites like this around that typically comprise of a fairly featureless HTML wrapper page for an all-singing and dancing Flash animation. The class action lawsuit brought against Target Corp (the website owner) is on the grounds of its online store not meeting the same accessibility standards as their physical equivalents or California legal guidelines for shopping outlets. Whilst many Flash websites have an HTML equivalent for Target did not and consequently vision and physically impaired users could not purchase goods as screen readers and keyboard shortcuts do not work in Flash environments.

CSS redesign saves ESPN 730TB a year

The cost of redesigning an old table/image based site around CSS can be outweighed by the bandwidth savings as associate art director for Mike Davidson points out:

In the interview he explains the logic behind the redesign and the massive bandwidth savings they were able to achieve (approximately 730TB a year). Given the actual saving per hit was only 50Kb the huge overall bandwidth illustrates the magnitude of the Web space. Designing high-bandwidth sites with lots of images, table-based design or even worse Flash is just asking for trouble in the long-term if the ultimate objective is to create a popular site. It is no good generating lots of advertising revenue from page views if this traffic ends up costing far more.

Another fix to Joomla's RSS feeds

By default Joomla's RSS feeds do not provide an absolute URL to the content item which leaves the RSS looking like the following:

This is okay when the RSS source is the host website but if you are running the feed through FeedBurner some feed readers (and Technorati) can get confused. When they get confused the resulting URL to the source item becomes:

'Fixing' Joomla's RSS feed

By default Joomla changes all formatting in RSS feeds to CDATA (ie non-html interpretable) fields. This creates ugly and very difficult to read feeds sometimes. To fix this edit the following file:


Find the line that reads:

$item_description = mosHTML::cleanText( $item_description );

at approximately line 197, comment it out.
This should create more aesthetically pleasing RSS feeds (with working hyperlinks and image tags).

Next go to about line 266 where the line that reads: '$item_link = sefRelToAbs( $item_link );' and add:

Very nice CSS replacement for the SELECT MULITPLE tag

The title pretty much explains everything. The SELECT form tag has a MULTIPLE option but in practice this turns very ugly very quickly. This little CSS hack provides the functionality of the tag without the user-interface nightmares.


Nice CSS Graphs

Simple CSS based graphs for web display. Far simplier than generating static images or using SVG.

A Great Site with a Funny Name 

The name is hard to say ten times fast but the demos, scripts and discussion is undenyably fantastic. Extremely useful for leading edge web-based interface scripts and ideas.


Great CSS/Javascript Image Resize Script

A blog post from AgilePartners describes how upcoming web applications like Fluxiom achieve the dynamic image resizing effects illustrated in their promotional material. It turns out to be very simple (Javascript modifies the CSS image size property) yet the effect is really cool. True 'image resizing' is not employed, large images are downloaded to the browser and then it is left up to the browser's own display engine to perform the dynamic resizing. In a high bandwidth environment this does not matter but for people stuck in 56k modem land it is just one more nail in the coffin for their enjoyable Internet experience. There is almost a need now for web developers to be able to distinguish between low and high bandwidth users in the same way browser or Javascript detection is employed.

Joomla!/Mambo Overview

At the moment this site is still on Mambo but when things quieten down I will be migrating across to Joomla! as I have a feeling it will have a stronger development path. I just wrote the following email to my friend in order to give him some information about Mambo/Joomla! so I figure why not post this up on the site so that if anyone else asks in the future the information in close at hand.

Joomla! is a completely open-source fork of Mambo. Mambo 4.5.2 code-wise is identical to Joomla! 1.0 except there's a few security/bug tweaks and different graphics are used. At the moment components/modules are compatible between the two systems but I can see a day when this won't be the case in the not too distant future.

Joomla! 1.0 released

Download Joomla!
Joomla! is a completely open-source branch of Mambo, a popular content management system I use for this site. There has always been some difficulty with the licensing of Mambo which has caused friction between the owners of the intellectual property and the open source developers.