Molly Holzschlag and Andy Clarke gave a talk last night at the North East Usability and Accessibility Group at Northumbria University, entitled “Standards and the Design of Usable Sites”. Congrats to Tom and the University team for putting on a good event - with wine and nibbles too!
Molly opened the show with a run-down of the history of standards on the web. It’s amazing how far the web has come in such a short time and having hand-coded many a table-based page in the early days, I don’t think I could ever go back to coding that way - in fact I think it would take me quite a while to remember all the tricks we used to have to employ to get the pages to work in the browsers of the day. She did a great overview of modern web standards and the Layer Cake way of coding - structure, content, presentation, behaviour - though every time she used the term, the film kept jumping into my head.
An interesting thing to which Molly alluded was that even if the IE team got the browser up to spec. with all standards/recommendations, then they still have to ensure it plays nicely with Windows Vista and this requirement would overrule any standards in the case of conflict. Personally this is not something I’d even thought about having an impact on the development of IE. I could understand (to an extent) them not wanting to break all their big client’s sites, but this adds another dimension. I can’t imagine all the pressure the IE team are getting from all sides in the run-up to the launch of IE7.
Molly also mentioned the use of microformats and their potential for the future of the web. After hearing them talked about at the Carson Summit they are something I’ll be taking more notice of.
Andy’s talk focussed on the extent of user experience on the web. He illustrated the old way of doing things when trying to provide accessible content to as many people as possible - Betsie on the BBC and Amazon Access. His point was that these methods may provide the main content of the full version but provide none of the user experience which is available on the ‘full’ version.
He then ran through the design of elements of Karova store and how they employed ‘Tesco testing’ to get some eye-opening usability data - in this case the difference in how men and women process on-scren layouts.
Molly and Andy are great public speakers and a big thanks to them for making the effort to come to Newcastle.