‘Carthage must be destroyed’

This was going to be an entire new section of Webstandards.TO, but it threatened to become an ongoing Sisyphean burden of the sort I am now trying to avoid. So here is a simple list of candidates for a new concept I hope to spread throughout our little industry: FAILED REDESIGNS.

A failed redesign is a Web page created from scratch, or substantially updated, during the era of Web standards that nonetheless ignores or misuses those standards. A failed redesign pretends that valid code and accessibility guidelines do not exist; it pretends that the 21st century is frozen in the amber of the year 1999. It indicates not merely unprofessional Web-development practices but outright incompetence. For if you are producing tag-soup code and using tables for layout in the 21st century, that’s what you are: Incompetent.

When teenagers’ hobbyist blogs (short for “Web logs”) have better code than brand-new Web sites, somebody’s doing something wrong. And that somebody is you, the developer. In a just society you would simply be fired; in an Orwellian society you would be sent to a reëducation camp. Failing either of those, you could at least read a book and upgrade your skills to a point where you are no longer a total laughingstock.

And yes, if you are the developer of any of these sites and we should ever meet, I will tell all of this to your face, and I certainly reserve the right to publicly ridicule your site onstage in the future. Because you’re worth it.

Failed Redesigns of 2005: “Because You Should Have Known Better”

The rumpled-velvet mafia: Queer Day, Queerty, Xtra

Web development, like the related domain of graphic design, is something we simply are not good at, and it shows. Two news-aggregator blogs, Queer Day and Queerty, were redesigned and launched, respectively, in ’05. Queer Day dropped tables for layout but retained a tag soup whose special ingredient is divitis. And you’ve gotta love a relaunch in which the editor cries for help:

[C]an anybody tell me why the three horizontal lines surrounding the navigation and photos are messed up in Internet Explorer? I’m truly baffled. In IE the top line of the three vanishes and the other two below grow in height to taller grey bars, something not happening in better browsers. May I suggest a Mozilla Firefox shift for you PC users in the interim?

May I suggest learning your craft while we’re waiting?

Queerty minces off with the tiara for Failed Blog Name of the Year and one-ups Queer Day for nonsemantic code. (To paraphrase Wayland Smithers, “It’s been my experience that inversion and semantics don’t mix, sir.”)

Meanwhile, the “not-for-profit” Canadian homosexualist publishing empire Xtra goes retro with its tables for layout, the kind of thing that was hot when Kylie was. I’m sure Pink Triangle Press publisher-for-life Ken Popert knows a good site when he sees one, and this is it. (Did you know that this “not-for-profit” corporation takes in a shitload of money from gay sex phonelines and cruising sites?) The use of Microsoft-everything should have been our first warning.

Errors (HTML/CSS): Queer Day 133/unparsable; Queerty 75/unparsable; Xtra 161/10

Salon

Looks like a failed blog and, today, will not even load its homepage without confronting me with an “immersive” ad. Because it actually makes an effort at semantics yet still produces an unusable site (with sample alt text of small story image, no less), Salon is the single-biggest disgrace in for-profit Web publishing (or, as it used to be known, “content”).

Errors (homepage): Five (no character encoding)/unparsable

Wi-Fi [“Wiffy”] Networking News

It pains me to include this one, because author Glenn Fleishman is no slouch and specifically stated that the late-2005 redesign included standards compliance. Sadly, with a character-encoding mismatch; somewhat poor semantics (applicable catchphrase: NEEDS MORE LISTS); five dozen validation errors; and annoying, if hard-to-avoid, tables for layout in sidebar Google ads, the redesign fails. Sadly.

Errors: 70/unparsable

Michael Geist

Influential professor, blogger (short for “Web logger”), and columnist, and something of a hero of mine, Geist’s blog is a nightmare of nested tables and spacer GIFs. (Try bumping up the font size. Did anybody responsible for the site ever try that?) Egregiously overcomplex and slow to load – ironic considering Geist is a champion of modernized copyright régimes that take technological reality into account. You’d think that 21st-century HTML would be right up his alley.

Fun fact for fellow fanboys of all genders: When I complained, Geist and I had this exchange –

Thanks for the note. Sorry you don’t like it. We used open-source Mambo as the underlying technology. I appreciate the standards-compliance concerns. I do have to say that the response has been very positive thus far and the site is much stickier, with visitors typically reading about three times as many pages as before.
The design and the underlying code are two things, as you know. Your design is simple to achieve in a CSS layout with few or no validation errors. I trust you understood that was the basis of my complaint. It’s grand that other people like it, but not really on topic.
No problem here – you don’t like my website, don’t visit it.
You don’t like Canada’s copyright laws, move.

Errors: 1,102/26

Disco Museum

For sheer unreadability and cluelessness with the basic component of the Web, the hyperlink, Disco Museum snatches the trophy from Uma Thurman’s manicured hands. (I know you’ve seen sites uglier than this one, but don’t they usually have blink and marquee action happening? Burn, baby, burn! Epileptic inferno!)

If you think I shouldn’t be picking on a wee personal site like this, my response is: It takes a special breed of disco fan to do something even this tacky. More tables on the page (46) than grams of cocaine up a Grace Jones nose.

Errors: 57 (no character encoding), no CSS

The Morning News

divitis, all-but-nonexistent semantics; much too much JavaScript; failed attempts at munging E-mail addresses; tiny table for layout. Given their announcement of the new design, more could have been done. (Remember, if you trumpet your new design and it stinks, you’ll get called on it.)

Errors: 56/unparsable

New York Observer

They hired Choire Sicha for up-to-the-millisecond blogging (short for “Web logging”), but their code is from the era of rotary-dial phones. A full 44 tables; spacer GIFs galore; 18 iframes for advertising; extensive style declarations in head; and unmatched notoriety for the worst permalinks on the Web.

Then we come to the matter of pink-on-pink text, in which even the rumpled-velvet mafia would scarcely dare to be seen in public.

Errors: 212/1 (!)

TagWorld

“Building the social Web” one table at a time (and then seven more in one gulp). Amusing preponderance of a sequence –

<td><div><img no alt text></div></td>

– that is no doubt a product of TagWorld’s wholly-owned subsidiary, RedundantWorld.

For shits and/or giggles, try visiting TagWorld in Lynx:

Your browser is not compatible with TagWorld. Please use one of the following.

[1][LINK]
Firefox

[2][LINK]
Internet Explorer 6.0 or above

Errors: 9 (no character encoding)/unparsable

Honourable mention

  1. Editor and Publisher (2004)
  2. Puretracks (2004)

    Thank you for visiting Puretracks.com

    Currently our website supports Internet Explorer 5.0 and above on the Windows operating system (Win 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP / 2003), and is available to Canadian residents only.

    We value our Mac audience, however the Windows Media player for the Mac platform is not currently compatible with Microsoft protected audio content.

    Puretracks is currently working to make our service available to Mac users. [sic throughout]

  3. And who could forget Chapters (q.v.)?

Fly the flag!

Feel free to nominate your own Failed Redesigns, using the helpful tag to make your nominations trackable.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.01.04 15:47. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2006/01/04/failed/

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