Thursday, June 28, 2007

What is XHTML?

There are times, when discussing HTML, that XHTML enters the discussions. A lot of clients have expressed confused ideas when it comes to XHTML.

There are two reasons for the development of XHTML. The first is clean up, and remove, vestigial code. As HTML developed a lot of standards and code snipets were proposed, some never got off the launch pad, some were developed and died on the vine and others remained and are in existence today. XHTML is a new standard that will better organize the standards and remove unwanted code.

The second reason, and one that excites developers, is the ability for each developer, each company to extend the language as needed. In affect XTHML promises two seemingly contradictory goals. The first is that it would remove the dead weight of past mistakes and second it would allow each developer, each organization to make its own code - and hence their own mistakes; their own dead weight of no longer needed code. Of course, that means that each developer, each organization, can also keep their code libraries in order and up-to-date.

What does it mean to you the business user? Nothing at all. If XHTML is adopted as a standard your organization’s existing code will still work. It would mean that the next time one does a site redesign the developers would start incorporating XHTML elements. This is a coding issue and is something that should not be a concern to the business user anymore than any other coding issue. It will be years before XHTML becomes a standard and more years after that before your site becomes "unusable." For all we know XHTML will never be adopted.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Launching New Windows

I’ve not been as opposed to opening new windows as Jakob Nielsen. If you have a site that is populated overwhelmingly by expert users then there are many very good reasons to open new browser windows and little-to-no downside.

To the extent that Nielsen is talking about ads or gratuitous using of “new technology” for its own sake I agree with him. There are also some sites which open new windows for every link - these are not professionally developed sites and for that reason I don’t consider them as part of this discussion.

To the extent that you have a site that is populated with average users I agree with him. One of Nielsen’s missions is to constantly remind computer professionals – developers, designers (as well as Usability Professionals) that the average user gets lost a lot more often than we do AND gets confused, bewildered and frustrated when lost. And that’s important, angry frustrated customers don’t come back; confused and bewildered staff waste time and are resentful that they’re forced to figure something out.

Still the mantra that one should NEVER create new windows is, I predict, soon going to be obsolete. Now that IE 7 has come out with tabbed browsing it will soon become part of virtually every web user’s repertoire.

The questions that will then need to be answered over the next few years is: how many people take advantage of the tabs? And does the use of tabs make opening new windows more acceptable, as predicted above, or does the average user continue to be thrown by use of opening new browser windows?