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313 Centered Tabs with CSS Doug Bowman’s Sliding Doors is pretty much the de facto way to build tabbed navigation with CSS, and rightfully so – it is, as they say, rockin’ like Dokken. But since it relies heavily on floats for the positioning of its tabs, we’re constrained to either left- or right-hand navigation. But what if we need a bit more flexibility? What if we need to place our navigation in the center? Styling the li as a floated block does give us a great deal of control over margin, padding, and other presentational styles. However, we should learn to love the inline box – with it, we can create a flexible, centered alternative to floated navigation lists. Humble Beginnings Do an extra shot of ‘nog, because you know what’s coming next. That’s right, a simple unordered list: <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> If we were wedded to using floats to style our list, we could easily fix the width of our ul, and trick it out with some margin: 0 auto; love to center it accordingly. But this wouldn’t net us much flexibility: if we ever changed the number of navigation items, or if the user increased her browser’s font size, our design could easily break. Instead of worrying about floats, let’s take the most basic approach possible: let’s turn our list items into inline elements, and simply use text-align to center them within the ul: #navigation ul, #navigation ul li { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; } #navigation ul { text-align: center; } #navigation ul li { display: inline; margin-right: .75em; } #navigation ul li.last { margin-right: 0; } Our first step is sexy, no? Well, okay, not really – but it gives us a good starting point. We’ve tamed our list by removing its default style… 2005 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2005-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/centered-tabs-with-css/ code
314 Easy Ajax with Prototype There’s little more impressive on the web today than a appropriate touch of Ajax. Used well, Ajax brings a web interface much closer to the experience of a desktop app, and can turn a bear of an task into a pleasurable activity. But it’s really hard, right? It involves all the nasty JavaScript that no one ever does often enough to get really good at, and the browser support is patchy, and urgh it’s just so much damn effort. Well, the good news is that – ta-da – it doesn’t have to be a headache. But man does it still look impressive. Here’s how to amaze your friends. Introducing prototype.js Prototype is a JavaScript framework by Sam Stephenson designed to help make developing dynamic web apps a whole lot easier. In basic terms, it’s a JavaScript file which you link into your page that then enables you to do cool stuff. There’s loads of capability built in, a portion of which covers our beloved Ajax. The whole thing is freely distributable under an MIT-style license, so it’s good to go. What a nice man that Mr Stephenson is – friends, let us raise a hearty cup of mulled wine to his good name. Cheers! sluurrrrp. First step is to download the latest Prototype and put it somewhere safe. I suggest underneath the Christmas tree. Cutting to the chase Before I go on and set up an example of how to use this, let’s just get to the crux. Here’s how Prototype enables you to make a simple Ajax call and dump the results back to the page: var url = 'myscript.php'; var pars = 'foo=bar'; var target = 'output-div'; var myAjax = new Ajax.Updater(target, url, {method: 'get', parameters: pars}); This snippet of JavaScript does a GET to myscript.php, with the parameter foo=bar, and when a result is returned, it places it inside the element with the ID output-div on your page. Knocking up a basic example So to get this show on the road, there are three files we need to set up in our site alongside prototype.js. Obviously we need a basic HTML page with prototype.js linked in. This is the page the user interacts with. Secondl… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/easy-ajax-with-prototype/ code
315 Edit-in-Place with Ajax Back on day one we looked at using the Prototype library to take all the hard work out of making a simple Ajax call. While that was fun and all, it didn’t go that far towards implementing something really practical. We dipped our toes in, but haven’t learned to swim yet. So here is swimming lesson number one. Anyone who’s used Flickr to publish their photos will be familiar with the edit-in-place system used for quickly amending titles and descriptions on photographs. Hovering over an item turns its background yellow to indicate it is editable. A simple click loads the text into an edit box, right there on the page. Prototype includes all sorts of useful methods to help reproduce something like this for our own projects. As well as the simple Ajax GETs we learned how to do last time, we can also do POSTs (which we’ll need here) and a whole bunch of manipulations to the user interface – all through simple library calls. Here’s what we’re building, so let’s do it. Getting Started There are two major components to this process; the user interface manipulation and the Ajax call itself. Our set-up is much the same as last time (you may wish to read the first article if you’ve not already done so). We have a basic HTML page which links in the prototype.js file and our own editinplace.js. Here’s what Santa dropped down my chimney: <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"/> <title>Edit-in-Place with Ajax</title> <link href="editinplace.css" rel="Stylesheet" type="text/css" /> <script src="prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script> <script src="editinplace.js" type="text/javascript"></script> </head> <body> <h1>Edit-in-place</h1> <p id="desc">Dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh.</p> </body> </html> So that’s our page. The editable item is … 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/edit-in-place-with-ajax/ code
316 Have Your DOM and Script It Too When working with the XMLHttpRequest object it appears you can only go one of three ways: You can stay true to the colorful moniker du jour and stick strictly to the responseXML property You can play with proprietary – yet widely supported – fire and inject the value of responseText property into the innerHTML of an element of your choosing Or you can be eval() and parse JSON or arbitrary JavaScript delivered via responseText But did you know that there’s a fourth option giving you the best of the latter two worlds? Mint uses this unmentioned approach to grab fresh HTML and run arbitrary JavaScript simultaneously. Without relying on eval(). “But wait-”, you might say, “when would I need to do this?” Besides the example below this technique is handy for things like tab groups that need initialization onload but miss the main onload event handler by a mile thanks to asynchronous scripting. Consider the problem Originally Mint used option 2 to refresh or load new tabs into individual Pepper panes without requiring a full roundtrip to the server. This was all well and good until I introduced the new Client Mode which when enabled allows anyone to view a Mint installation without being logged in. If voyeurs are afoot as Client Mode is disabled, the next time they refresh a pane the entire login page is inserted into the current document. That’s not very helpful so I needed a way to redirect the current document to the login page. Enter the solution Wouldn’t it be cool if browsers interpreted the contents of script tags crammed into innerHTML? Sure, but unfortunately, that just wasn’t meant to be. However like the body element, image elements have an onload event handler. When the image has fully loaded the handler runs the code applied to it. See where I’m going with this? By tacking a tiny image (think single pixel, transparent spacer gif – shudder) onto the end of the HTML returned by our Ajax call, we can smuggle our arbitrary JavaScript into the existing document. The image is added to the DOM, and … 2005 Shaun Inman shauninman 2005-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/have-your-dom-and-script-it-too/ code
317 Putting the World into "World Wide Web" Despite the fact that the Web has been international in scope from its inception, the predominant mass of Web sites are written in English or another left-to-right language. Sites are typically designed visually for Western culture, and rely on an enormous body of practices for usability, information architecture and interaction design that are by and large centric to the Western world. There are certainly many reasons this is true, but as more and more Web sites realize the benefits of bringing their products and services to diverse, global markets, the more demand there will be on Web designers and developers to understand how to put the World into World Wide Web. Internationalization According to the W3C, Internationalization is: “…the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.” Many Web designers and developers have at least heard, if not read, about Internationalization. We understand that the Web is in fact worldwide, but many of us never have the opportunity to work with Internationalization. Or, when we do, think of it in purely technical terms, such as “which character set do I use?” At first glance, it might seem to many that Internationalization is the act of making Web sites available to international audiences. And while that is in fact true, this isn’t done by broad-stroking techniques and technologies. Instead, it involves a far more narrow understanding of geographical, cultural and linguistic differences in specific areas of the world. This is referred to as localization and is the act of making a Web site make sense in the context of the region, culture and language(s) the people using the site are most familiar with. Internationalization itself includes the following technical tasks: Ensuring no barrier exists to the localization of sites. Of critical importance in the planning stages of a site for Internationalized audiences, the role of the developer is to ensu… 2005 Molly Holzschlag mollyholzschlag 2005-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/putting-the-world-into-world-wide-web/ ux
318 Auto-Selecting Navigation In the article Centered Tabs with CSS Ethan laid out a tabbed navigation system which can be centred on the page. A frequent requirement for any tab-based navigation is to be able to visually represent the currently selected tab in some way. If you’re using a server-side language such as PHP, it’s quite easy to write something like class="selected" into your markup, but it can be even simpler than that. Let’s take the navigation div from Ethan’s article as an example. <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> As you can see we have a standard unordered list which is then styled with CSS to look like tabs. By giving each tab a class which describes it’s logical section of the site, if we were to then apply a class to the body tag of each page showing the same, we could write a clever CSS selector to highlight the correct tab on any given page. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not a trivial concept, but actually applying it is dead simple. Modifying the markup First thing is to place a class name on each li in the list: <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li class="home"><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li class="about"><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li class="work"><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li class="products"><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last contact"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> Then, on each page of your site, apply the a matching class to the body tag to indicate which section of the site that page is in. For example, on your About page: <body class="about">...</body> Writing the CSS selector You can now write a single CSS rule to match the selected tab on any give… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/auto-selecting-navigation/ code
319 Avoiding CSS Hacks for Internet Explorer Back in October, IEBlog issued a call to action, asking developers to clean up their CSS hacks for IE7 testing. Needless to say, a lot of hubbub ensued… both on IEBlog and elsewhere. My contribution to all of the noise was to suggest that developers review their code and use good CSS hacks. But what makes a good hack? Tantek Çelik, the Godfather of CSS hacks, gave us the answer by explaining how CSS hacks should be designed. In short, they should (1) be valid, (2) target only old/frozen/abandoned user-agents/browsers, and (3) be ugly. Tantek also went on to explain that using a feature of CSS is not a hack. Now, I’m not a frequent user of CSS hacks, but Tantek’s post made sense to me. In particular, I felt it gave developers direction on how we should be coding to accommodate that sometimes troublesome browser, Internet Explorer. But what I’ve found, through my work with other developers, is that there is still much confusion over the use of CSS hacks and IE. Using examples from the code I’ve seen recently, allow me to demonstrate how to clean up some IE-specific CSS hacks. The two hacks that I’ve found most often in the code I’ve seen and worked with are the star html bug and the underscore hack. We know these are both IE-specific by checking Kevin Smith’s CSS Filters chart. Let’s look at each of these hacks and see how we can replace them with the same CSS feature-based solution. The star html bug This hack violates Tantek’s second rule as it targets current (and future) UAs. I’ve seen this both as a stand alone rule, as well as an override to some other rule in a style sheet. Here are some code samples: * html div#header {margin-top:-3px;} .promo h3 {min-height:21px;} * html .promo h3 {height:21px;} The underscore hack This hack violates Tantek’s first two rules: it’s invalid (according to the W3C CSS Validator) and it targets current UAs. Here’s an example: ol {padding:0; _padding-left:5px;} Using child selectors We can use the child selector to replace both the star html bug and underscore hack. H… 2005 Kimberly Blessing kimberlyblessing 2005-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/avoiding-css-hacks-for-internet-explorer/ code
320 DOM Scripting Your Way to Better Blockquotes Block quotes are great. I don’t mean they’re great for indenting content – that would be an abuse of the browser’s default styling. I mean they’re great for semantically marking up a chunk of text that is being quoted verbatim. They’re especially useful in blog posts. <blockquote> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Notice that you can’t just put the quoted text directly between the <blockquote> tags. In order for your markup to be valid, block quotes may only contain block-level elements such as paragraphs. There is an optional cite attribute that you can place in the opening <blockquote> tag. This should contain a URL containing the original text you are quoting: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Great! Except… the default behavior in most browsers is to completely ignore the cite attribute. Even though it contains important and useful information, the URL in the cite attribute is hidden. You could simply duplicate the information with a hyperlink at the end of the quoted text: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> <p class="attribution"> <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement">source</a> </p> </blockquote> But somehow it feels wrong to have to write out the same URL twice every time you want to quote something. It could also get very tedious if you have a lot of… 2005 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2005-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/dom-scripting-your-way-to-better-blockquotes/ code
321 Tables with Style It might not seem like it but styling tabular data can be a lot of fun. From a semantic point of view, there are plenty of elements to tie some style into. You have cells, rows, row groups and, of course, the table element itself. Adding CSS to a paragraph just isn’t as exciting. Where do I start? First, if you have some tabular data (you know, like a spreadsheet with rows and columns) that you’d like to spiffy up, pop it into a table — it’s rightful place! To add more semantics to your table — and coincidentally to add more hooks for CSS — break up your table into row groups. There are three types of row groups: the header (thead), the body (tbody) and the footer (tfoot). You can only have one header and one footer but you can have as many table bodies as is appropriate. Sample table example Inspiration Table Striping To improve scanning information within a table, a common technique is to style alternating rows. Also known as zebra tables. Whether you apply it using a class on every other row or turn to JavaScript to accomplish the task, a handy-dandy trick is to use a semi-transparent PNG as your background image. This is especially useful over patterned backgrounds. tbody tr.odd td { background:transparent url(background.png) repeat top left; } * html tbody tr.odd td { background:#C00; filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader( src='background.png', sizingMethod='scale'); } We turn off the default background and apply our PNG hack to have this work in Internet Explorer. Styling Columns Did you know you could style a column? That’s right. You can add special column (col) or column group (colgroup) elements. With that you can add border or background styles to the column. <table> <col id="ingredients"> <col id="serve12"> <col id="serve24"> ... Check out the example. Fun with Backgrounds Pop in a tiled background to give your table some character! Internet Explorer’s PNG hack unfortunately only works well when applied to a cell. To f… 2005 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2005-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/tables-with-style/ code
322 Introduction to Scriptaculous Effects Gather around kids, because this year, much like in that James Bond movie with Denise Richards, Christmas is coming early… in the shape of scrumptuous smooth javascript driven effects at your every whim. Now what I’m going to do, is take things down a notch. Which is to say, you don’t need to know much beyond how to open a text file and edit it to follow this article. Personally, I for instance can’t code to save my life. Well, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true. If my life was on the line, and the code needed was really simple and I wasn’t under any time constraints, then yeah maybe I could hack my way out of it But my point is this: I’m not a programmer in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, what I do best, is scrounge code off of other people, take it apart and then put it back together with duct tape, chewing gum and dumb blind luck. No, don’t run! That happens to be a good thing in this case. You see, we’re going to be implementing some really snazzy effects (which are considerably more relevant than most people are willing to admit) on your site, and we’re going to do it with the aid of Thomas Fuchs’ amazing Script.aculo.us library. And it will be like stealing candy from a child. What Are We Doing? I’m going to show you the very basics of implementing the Script.aculo.us javascript library’s Combination Effects. These allow you to fade elements on your site in or out, slide them up and down and so on. Why Use Effects at All? Before get started though, let me just take a moment to explain how I came to see smooth transitions as something more than smoke and mirror-like effects included for with little more motive than to dazzle and make parents go ‘uuh, snazzy’. Earlier this year, I had the good fortune of meeting the kind, gentle and quite knowledgable Matt Webb at a conference here in Copenhagen where we were both speaking (though I will be the first to admit my little talk on Open Source Design was vastly inferior to Matt’s talk). Matt held a talk called Fixing Broken Windows (b… 2005 Michael Heilemann michaelheilemann 2005-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/introduction-to-scriptaculous-effects/ code
323 Introducing UDASSS! Okay. What’s that mean? Unobtrusive Degradable Ajax Style Sheet Switcher! Boy are you in for treat today ‘cause we’re gonna have a whole lotta Ajaxifida Unobtrucitosity CSS swappin’ Fun! Okay are you really kidding? Nope. I’ve even impressed myself on this one. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to tell you the ins and outs of what I actually did to get this to work. We’re talking JavaScript, CSS, PHP…Ajax. But don’t worry about that. I’ve always believed that a good A.P.I. is an invisible A.P.I… and this I felt I achieved. The only thing you need to know is how it works and what to do. A Quick Introduction Anyway… First of all, the idea is very simple. I wanted something just like what Paul Sowden put together in Alternative Style: Working With Alternate Style Sheets from Alistapart Magazine EXCEPT a few minor (not-so-minor actually) differences which I’ve listed briefly below: Allow users to switch styles without JavaScript enabled (degradable) Preventing the F.O.U.C. before the window ‘load’ when getting preferred styles Keep the JavaScript entirely off our markup (no onclick’s or onload’s) Make it very very easy to implement (ok, Paul did that too) What I did to achieve this was used server-side cookies instead of JavaScript cookies. Hence, PHP. However this isn’t a “PHP style switcher” – which is where Ajax comes in. For the extreme technical folks, no, there is no xml involved here, or even a callback response. I only say Ajax because everyone knows what ‘it’ means. With that said, it’s the Ajax that sets the cookies ‘on the fly’. Got it? Awesome! What you need Luckily, I’ve done the work for you. It’s all packaged up in a nice zip file (at the end…keep reading for now) – so from here on out, just follow these instructions As I’ve mentioned, one of the things we’ll be working with is PHP. So, first things first, open up a file called index and save it with a ‘.php’ extension. Next, place the following text at the top of your document (even above your DOCTYPE) <?php require_once('uti… 2005 Dustin Diaz dustindiaz 2005-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/introducing-udasss/ code
324 Debugging CSS with the DOM Inspector An Inspector Calls The larger your site and your CSS becomes, the more likely that you will run into bizarre, inexplicable problems. Why does that heading have all that extra padding? Why is my text the wrong colour? Why does my navigation have a large moose dressed as Noel Coward on top of all the links? Perhaps you work in a collaborative environment, where developers and other designers are adding code? In which case, the likelihood of CSS strangeness is higher. You need to debug. You need Firefox’s wise-guy know-it-all, the DOM Inspector. The DOM Inspector knows where everything is in your layout, and more importantly, what causes it to look the way it does. So without further ado, load up any css based site in your copy of Firefox (or Flock for that matter), and launch the DOM Inspector from the Tools menu. The inspector uses two main panels – the left to show the DOM tree of the page, and the right to show you detail: The Inspector will look at whatever site is in the front-most window or tab, but you can also use it without another window. Type in a URL at the top (A), press ‘Inspect’ (B) and a third panel appears at the bottom, with the browser view. I find this layout handier than looking at a window behind the DOM Inspector. Step 1 – find your node! Each element on your page – be it a HTML tag or a piece of text, is called a ‘node’ of the DOM tree. These nodes are all listed in the left hand panel, with any ID or CLASS attribute values next to them. When you first look at a page, you won’t see all those yet. Nested HTML elements (such as a link inside a paragraph) have a reveal triangle next to their name, clicking this takes you one level further down. This can be fine for finding the node you want to look at, but there are easier ways. Say you have a complex rounded box technique that involves 6 nested DIVs? You’d soon get tired of clicking all those triangles to find the element you want to inspect. Click the top left icon © – “Find a node to inspect by clicking on it” and then select … 2005 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2005-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/debugging-css-with-the-dom-inspector/ process
325 "Z's not dead baby, Z's not dead" While Mr. Moll and Mr. Budd have pipped me to the post with their predictions for 2006, I’m sure they won’t mind if I sneak in another. The use of positioning together with z-index will be one of next year’s hot techniques Both has been a little out of favour recently. For many, positioned layouts made way for the flexibility of floats. Developers I speak to often associate z-index with Dreamweaver’s layers feature. But in combination with alpha transparency support for PNG images in IE7 and full implementation of position property values, the stacking of elements with z-index is going to be big. I’m going to cover the basics of z-index and how it can be used to create designs which ‘break out of the box’. No positioning? No Z! Remember geometry? The x axis represents the horizontal, the y axis represents the vertical. The z axis, which is where we get the z-index, represents /depth/. Elements which are stacked using z-index are stacked from front to back and z-index is only applied to elements which have their position property set to relative or absolute. No positioning, no z-index. Z-index values can be either negative or positive and it is the element with the highest z-index value appears closest to the viewer, regardless of its order in the source. Furthermore, if more than one element are given the same z-index, the element which comes last in source order comes out top of the pile. Let’s take three <div>s. <div id="one"></div> <div id="two"></div> <div id="three"></div> #one { position: relative; z-index: 3; } #two { position: relative; z-index: 1; } #three { position: relative; z-index: 2; } As you can see, the <div> with the z-index of 3 will appear closest, even though it comes before its siblings in the source order. As these three <div>s have no defined positioning context in the form of a positioned parent such as a <div>, their stacking order is defined from the root element <html>. Simple stuff, but these building blocks are the basis on whic… 2005 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2005-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/zs-not-dead-baby-zs-not-dead/ design
326 Don't be eval() JavaScript is an interpreted language, and like so many of its peers it includes the all powerful eval() function. eval() takes a string and executes it as if it were regular JavaScript code. It’s incredibly powerful and incredibly easy to abuse in ways that make your code slower and harder to maintain. As a general rule, if you’re using eval() there’s probably something wrong with your design. Common mistakes Here’s the classic misuse of eval(). You have a JavaScript object, foo, and you want to access a property on it – but you don’t know the name of the property until runtime. Here’s how NOT to do it: var property = 'bar'; var value = eval('foo.' + property); Yes it will work, but every time that piece of code runs JavaScript will have to kick back in to interpreter mode, slowing down your app. It’s also dirt ugly. Here’s the right way of doing the above: var property = 'bar'; var value = foo[property]; In JavaScript, square brackets act as an alternative to lookups using a dot. The only difference is that square bracket syntax expects a string. Security issues In any programming language you should be extremely cautious of executing code from an untrusted source. The same is true for JavaScript – you should be extremely cautious of running eval() against any code that may have been tampered with – for example, strings taken from the page query string. Executing untrusted code can leave you vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks. What’s it good for? Some programmers say that eval() is B.A.D. – Broken As Designed – and should be removed from the language. However, there are some places in which it can dramatically simplify your code. A great example is for use with XMLHttpRequest, a component of the set of tools more popularly known as Ajax. XMLHttpRequest lets you make a call back to the server from JavaScript without refreshing the whole page. A simple way of using this is to have the server return JavaScript code which is then passed to eval(). Here is a simple function for doing exactly that … 2005 Simon Willison simonwillison 2005-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/dont-be-eval/ code
327 Improving Form Accessibility with DOM Scripting The form label element is an incredibly useful little element – it lets you link the form field unquestionably with the descriptive label text that sits alongside or above it. This is a very useful feature for people using screen readers, but there are some problems with this element. What happens if you have one piece of data that, for various reasons (validation, the way your data is collected/stored etc), needs to be collected using several form elements? The classic example is date of birth – ideally, you’ll ask for the date of birth once but you may have three inputs, one each for day, month and year, that you also need to provide hints about the format required. The problem is that to be truly accessible you need to label each field. So you end up needing something to say “this is a date of birth”, “this is the day field”, “this is the month field” and “this is the day field”. Seems like overkill, doesn’t it? And it can uglify a form no end. There are various ways that you can approach it (and I think I’ve seen them all). Some people omit the label and rely on the title attribute to help the user through; others put text in a label but make the text 1 pixel high and merging in to the background so that screen readers can still get that information. The most common method, though, is simply to set the label to not display at all using the CSS display:none property/value pairing (a technique which, for the time being, seems to work on most screen readers). But perhaps we can do more with this? The technique I am suggesting as another alternative is as follows (here comes the pseudo-code): Start with a totally valid and accessible form Ensure that each form input has a label that is linked to its related form control Apply a class to any label that you don’t want to be visible (for example superfluous) Then, through the magic of unobtrusive JavaScript/the DOM, manipulate the page as follows once the page has loaded: Find all the label elements that are marked as superfluous and hide them Find ou… 2005 Ian Lloyd ianlloyd 2005-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/improving-form-accessibility-with-dom-scripting/ code
328 Swooshy Curly Quotes Without Images The problem Take a quote and render it within blockquote tags, applying big, funky and stylish curly quotes both at the beginning and the end without using any images – at all. The traditional way Feint background images under the text, or an image in the markup housed in a little float. Often designers only use the opening curly quote as it’s just too difficult to float a closing one. Why is the traditional way bad? Well, for a start there are no actual curly quotes in the text (unless you’re doing some nifty image replacement). Thus with CSS disabled you’ll only have default blockquote styling to fall back on. Secondly, images don’t resize, so scaling text will have no affect on your graphic curlies. The solution Use really big text. Then it can be resized by the browser, resized using CSS, and even be restyled with a new font style if you fancy it. It’ll also make sense when CSS is unavailable. The problem Creating “Drop Caps” with CSS has been around for a while (Big Dan Cederholm discusses a neat solution in that first book of his), but drop caps are normal characters – the A to Z or 1 to 10 – and these can all be pulled into a set space and do not serve up a ton of whitespace, unlike punctuation characters. Curly quotes aren’t like traditional characters. Like full stops, commas and hashes they float within the character space and leave lots of dead white space, making it bloody difficult to manipulate them with CSS. Styles generally fit around text, so cutting into that character is tricky indeed. Also, all that extra white space is going to push into the quote text and make it look pretty uneven. This grab highlights the actual character space: See how this is emphasized when we add a normal alphabetical character within the span. This is what we’re dealing with here: Then, there’s size. Call in a curly quote at less than 300% font-size and it ain’t gonna look very big. The white space it creates will be big enough, but the curlies will be way too small. We need more like 700% (as in this … 2005 Simon Collison simoncollison 2005-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/swooshy-curly-quotes-without-images/ business
329 Broader Border Corners A note from the editors: Since this article was written the CSS border-radius property has become widely supported in browsers. It should be preferred to this image technique. A quick and easy recipe for turning those single-pixel borders that the kids love so much into into something a little less right-angled. Here’s the principle: We have a box with a one-pixel wide border around it. Inside that box is another box that has a little rounded-corner background image sitting snugly in one of its corners. The inner-box is then nudged out a bit so that it’s actually sitting on top of the outer box. If it’s all done properly, that little background image can mask the hard right angle of the default border of the outer-box, giving the impression that it actually has a rounded corner. Take An Image, Finely Chopped Add A Sprinkle of Markup <div id="content"> <p>Lorem ipsum etc. etc. etc.</p> </div> Throw In A Dollop of CSS #content { border: 1px solid #c03; } #content p { background: url(corner.gif) top left no-repeat; position: relative; left: -1px; top: -1px; padding: 1em; margin: 0; } Bubblin’ Hot The content div has a one-pixel wide red border around it. The paragraph is given a single instance of the background image, created to look like a one-pixel wide arc. The paragraph is shunted outside of the box – back one pixel and up one pixel – so that it is sitting over the div’s border. The white area of the image covers up that part of the border’s corner, and the arc meets up with the top and left border. Because, in this example, we’re applying a background image to a paragraph, its top margin needs to be zeroed so that it starts at the top of its container. Et voilà. Bon appétit. Extra Toppings If you want to apply a curve to each one of the corners and you run out of meaningful markup to hook the background images on to, throw some spans or divs in the mix (there’s nothing wrong … 2005 Patrick Griffiths patrickgriffiths 2005-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/broader-border-corners/ design
330 An Explanation of Ems Ems are so-called because they are thought to approximate the size of an uppercase letter M (and so are pronounced emm), although 1em is actually significantly larger than this. The typographer Robert Bringhurst describes the em thus: The em is a sliding measure. One em is a distance equal to the type size. In 6 point type, an em is 6 points; in 12 point type an em is 12 points and in 60 point type an em is 60 points. Thus a one em space is proportionately the same in any size. To illustrate this principle in terms of CSS, consider these styles: #box1 { font-size: 12px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border:1px solid black; } #box2 { font-size: 60px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border: 1px solid black; } These styles will render like: M and M Note that both boxes have a height and width of 1em but because they have different font sizes, one box is bigger than the other. Box 1 has a font-size of 12px so its width and height is also 12px; similarly the text of box 2 is set to 60px and so its width and height are also 60px. 2005 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2005-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/an-explanation-of-ems/ design
331 Splintered Striper Back in March 2004, David F. Miller demonstrated a little bit of DOM scripting magic in his A List Apart article Zebra Tables. His script programmatically adds two alternating CSS background colours to table rows, making them more readable and visually pleasing, while saving the document author the tedious task of manually assigning the styling to large static data tables. Although David’s original script performs its duty well, it is nonetheless very specific and limited in its application. It only: works on a single table, identified by its id, with at least a single tbody section assigns a background colour allows two colours for odd and even rows acts on data cells, rather than rows, and then only if they have no class or background colour already defined Taking it further In a recent project I found myself needing to apply a striped effect to a medium sized unordered list. Instead of simply modifying the Zebra Tables code for this particular case, I decided to completely recode the script to make it more generic. Being more general purpose, the function in my splintered striper experiment is necessarily more complex. Where the original script only expected a single parameter (the id of the target table), the new function is called as follows: striper('[parent element tag]','[parent element class or null]','[child element tag]','[comma separated list of classes]') This new, fairly self-explanatory function: targets any type of parent element (and, if specified, only those with a certain class) assigns two or more classes (rather than just two background colours) to the child elements inside the parent preserves any existing classes already assigned to the child elements See it in action View the demonstration page for three usage examples. For simplicity’s sake, we’re making the calls to the striper function from the body’s onload attribute. In a real deployment situation, we would look at attaching a behaviour to the onload programmatically — just remember that, as we need to pass varia… 2005 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2005-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/splintered-striper/ code
332 CSS Layout Starting Points I build a lot of CSS layouts, some incredibly simple, others that cause sleepless nights and remind me of the torturous puzzle books that were given to me at Christmas by aunties concerned for my education. However, most of the time these layouts fit quite comfortably into one of a very few standard formats. For example: Liquid, multiple column with no footer Liquid, multiple column with footer Fixed width, centred Rather than starting out with blank CSS and (X)HTML documents every time you need to build a layout, you can fairly quickly create a bunch of layout starting points, that will give you a solid basis for creating the rest of the design and mean that you don’t have to remember how a three column layout with a footer is best achieved every time you come across one! These starting points can be really basic, in fact that’s exactly what you want as the final design, the fonts, the colours and so on will be different every time. It’s just the main sections we want to be able to quickly get into place. For example, here is a basic starting point CSS and XHTML document for a fixed width, centred layout with a footer. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>Fixed Width and Centred starting point document</title> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="fixed-width-centred.css" /> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> </head> <body> <div id="wrapper"> <div id="side"> <div class="inner"> <p>Sidebar content here</p> </div> </div> <div id="content"> <div class="inner"> <p>Your main content goes here.</p> </div> </div> <div id="footer"> <div class="inner"> <p>Ho Ho Ho!</p> </div> </div> </div> </body> </html> body { text-align: center; min-width: 740px; padding: 0; margi… 2005 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2005-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/css-layout-starting-points/ code
333 The Attribute Selector for Fun and (no ad) Profit If I had a favourite CSS selector, it would undoubtedly be the attribute selector (Ed: You really need to get out more). For those of you not familiar with the attribute selector, it allows you to style an element based on the existence, value or partial value of a specific attribute. At it’s very basic level you could use this selector to style an element with particular attribute, such as a title attribute. <abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr> In this example I’m going to make all <abbr> elements with a title attribute grey. I am also going to give them a dotted bottom border that changes to a solid border on hover. Finally, for that extra bit of feedback, I will change the cursor to a question mark on hover as well. abbr[title] { color: #666; border-bottom: 1px dotted #666; } abbr[title]:hover { border-bottom-style: solid; cursor: help; } This provides a nice way to show your site users that <abbr> elements with title tags are special, as they contain extra, hidden information. Most modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Opera support the attribute selector. Unfortunately Internet Explorer 6 and below does not support the attribute selector, but that shouldn’t stop you from adding nice usability embellishments to more modern browsers. Internet Explorer 7 looks set to implement this CSS2.1 selector, so expect to see it become more common over the next few years. Styling an element based on the existence of an attribute is all well and good, but it is still pretty limited. Where attribute selectors come into their own is their ability to target the value of an attribute. You can use this for a variety of interesting effects such as styling VoteLinks. VoteWhats? If you haven’t heard of VoteLinks, it is a microformat that allows people to show their approval or disapproval of a links destination by adding a pre-defined keyword to the rev attribute. For instance, if you had a particularly bad meal at a restaurant, you could signify your dissaproval by adding a rev… 2005 Andy Budd andybudd 2005-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/the-attribute-selector-for-fun-and-no-ad-profit/ code
334 Transitional vs. Strict Markup When promoting web standards, standardistas often talk about XHTML as being more strict than HTML. In a sense it is, since it requires that all elements are properly closed and that attribute values are quoted. But there are two flavours of XHTML 1.0 (three if you count the Frameset DOCTYPE, which is outside the scope of this article), defined by the Transitional and Strict DOCTYPEs. And HTML 4.01 also comes in those flavours. The names reveal what they are about: Transitional DOCTYPEs are meant for those making the transition from older markup to modern ways. Strict DOCTYPEs are actually the default – the way HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 were constructed to be used. A Transitional DOCTYPE may be used when you have a lot of legacy markup that cannot easily be converted to comply with a Strict DOCTYPE. But Strict is what you should be aiming for. It encourages, and in some cases enforces, the separation of structure and presentation, moving the presentational aspects from markup to CSS. From the HTML 4 Document Type Definition: This is HTML 4.01 Strict DTD, which excludes the presentation attributes and elements that W3C expects to phase out as support for style sheets matures. Authors should use the Strict DTD when possible, but may use the Transitional DTD when support for presentation attribute and elements is required. An additional benefit of using a Strict DOCTYPE is that doing so will ensure that browsers use their strictest, most standards compliant rendering modes. Tommy Olsson provides a good summary of the benefits of using Strict over Transitional in Ten questions for Tommy Olsson at Web Standards Group: In my opinion, using a Strict DTD, either HTML 4.01 Strict or XHTML 1.0 Strict, is far more important for the quality of the future web than whether or not there is an X in front of the name. The Strict DTD promotes a separation of structure and presentation, which makes a site so much easier to maintain. For those looking to start using web standards and valid, semantic markup, it is important… 2005 Roger Johansson rogerjohansson 2005-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/transitional-vs-strict-markup/ code
335 Naughty or Nice? CSS Background Images Web Standards based development involves many things – using semantically sound HTML to provide structure to our documents or web applications, using CSS for presentation and layout, using JavaScript responsibly, and of course, ensuring that all that we do is accessible and interoperable to as many people and user agents as we can. This we understand to be good. And it is good. Except when we don’t clearly think through the full implications of using those techniques. Which often happens when time is short and we need to get things done. Here are some naughty examples of CSS background images with their nicer, more accessible counterparts. Transaction related messages I’m as guilty of this as others (or, perhaps, I’m the only one that has done this, in which case this can serve as my holiday season confessional) We use lovely little icons to show status messages for a transaction to indicate if the action was successful, or was there a warning or error? For example: “Your postal/zip code was not in the correct format.” Notice that we place a nice little icon there, and use background colours and borders to convey a specific message: there was a problem that needs to be fixed. Notice that all of this visual information is now contained in the CSS rules for that div: <div class="error"> <p>Your postal/zip code was not in the correct format.</p> </div> div.error { background: #ffcccc url(../images/error_small.png) no-repeat 5px 4px; color: #900; border-top: 1px solid #c00; border-bottom: 1px solid #c00; padding: 0.25em 0.5em 0.25em 2.5em; font-weight: bold; } Using this approach also makes it very easy to create a div.success and div.warning CSS rules meaning we have less to change in our HTML. Nice, right? No. Naughty. Visual design communicates The CSS is being used to convey very specific information. The choice of icon, the choice of background colour and borders tell us visually that there is something wrong. With the icon as a background image – there… 2005 Derek Featherstone derekfeatherstone 2005-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/naughty-or-nice-css-background-images/ code
336 Practical Microformats with hCard You’ve probably heard about microformats over the last few months. You may have even read the easily digestible introduction at Digital Web Magazine, but perhaps you’ve not found time to actually implement much yet. That’s understandable, as it can sometimes be difficult to see exactly what you’re adding by applying a microformat to a page. Sure, you’re semantically enhancing the information you’re marking up, and the Semantic Web is a great idea and all, but what benefit is it right now, today? Well, the answer to that question is simple: you’re adding lots of information that can be and is being used on the web here and now. The big ongoing battle amongst the big web companies if one of territory over information. Everyone’s grasping for as much data as possible. Some of that information many of us are cautious to give away, but a lot of is happy to be freely available. Of the data you’re giving away, it makes sense to give it as much meaning as possible, thus enabling anyone from your friends and family to the giant search company down the road to make the most of it. Ok, enough of the waffle, let’s get working. Introducing hCard You may have come across hCard. It’s a microformat for describing contact information (or really address book information) from within your HTML. It’s based on the vCard format, which is the format the contacts/address book program on your computer uses. All the usual fields are available – name, address, town, website, email, you name it. If you’re running Firefox and Greasemonkey (or if you can, just to try this out), install this user script. What it does is look for instances of the hCard microformat in a page, and then add in a link to pass any hCards it finds to a web service which will convert it to a vCard. Take a look at the About the author box at the bottom of this article. It’s a hCard, so you should be able to click the icon the user script inserts and add me to your Outlook contacts or OS X Address Book with just a click. So microformats are useful after all. Free… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/practical-microformats-with-hcard/ code

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