taking joy in human unreason

Website work; touching on web design canon

I’m still working on the site. In getting things validated, I discovered a highly annoying problem derived from using w.blogger in conjunction with BlogWorks XML—all my posts had double the open and close paragraph tags. Looking at the source code of any archive (or letting the validator do so), any opening paragraph was coded as a <p><p>, and closing tags were done similarly. Also, any lists (<ol> or <ul>) were surrounded by paragraph tags, which does not make for valid XHTML.

I had some trouble using Brinkster’s database querying tool to get the double-opening paragraph marks replaced. I could do the closing tags easily enough with UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE (post_content, '</p></p>', '</p>rn');, but couldn’t do the opening tags.

So I wrote another ASP script, downloadable here. Directions are in the ASP file, but you basically just need to update the connection variables—your username, MySQL server, password, etc. The usual. (Should I start making a page of these little things?) It replaces all doubled opening and closing paragraph marks, blockquotes with paragraph marks right before them (which causes funny formatting), and the cases of lists being surrounded with paragraph tags. Have fun, report errors.

Mathias recently posted a beautiful web design canon suggestion that has served as a bit of a whip cracking for me. I used to be very meticulous about directory structure and expanding abbreviations, but I’ve slipped lately. No longer! The webmistress is back—at least while she has time to be.

However (don’t say “uh-oh” yet), I disagree slightly with some of the points he makes. Yes, titles in anchor tags are useful and necessary, but only on links where the text of the link doesn’t explain the relevant information, as Mark originally suggested. Adding titles to every link seems redundant unless you’re actually providing extra and useful information about the link. That’s nitpicking, and maybe Mathias implicitly meant “where it’s not redundant”, but that may be an important distinction to make.

I’d also disagree (a little more strongly) with the forced capitalization of headings. I know good and well that this is the newspaper work getting to me, but I’ve picked up what I’ll call the French style of titling: first word and proper nouns only. (So-called the “French style” because, well, that’s how all the French articles I read in high school were titled.) But it’s also an acceptable, “official” style for publications, and shouldn’t be knocked.

While I’m at it, I’ll chomp lightly on the relative linking, although I’ve just changed my navigation links to be relative. I’ve changed hosts and servers (but not domains) so much over the past few years that absolute linking was a must to keeping this site maintainable. So while it’s a good suggestion, and one that probably should be made, I totally understand/sympathize with folks like David being set on absolute links.

To Mathias’s web design canon suggestion, I’d add an emphasis on relative font sizes (particularly now that I’m going blind!) and defining acronyms and abbreviations. Even if you have a hardcore techie crowd, and write primarly hardcore techie posts, it never hurts to define an acronym/abbreviation for those who are learning or whose heads are already too stuffed with acronyms to be able to sort out all of them without additional research. Particularly those who are learning or new to the field at hand, though. I can’t recall how many times I’ve wished medical website would define the obscure acronyms they use so I could better understand the context of what I reading…

  • Yay, WordPress! Congratulations on the switch!

    Relative font sizes and defining acronyms and abbreviations are indeed good suggestions. I myself try to use these as much as possible.

    I mentioned the use of acronyms in my post (under “title attributes”), though you’re right — they deserve more attention.

    Relative font sizes is something I still have to implement on my site, to be honest… It’s just too easy to use px instead of em!