@Media 2008 (atmedia2008) Day 2

Professional front-end engineering – Nate Koechley

Although large parts of this session are essentially the same as Nate has presented before it was still good. It’s no surprise that it is similar content since it comes from Yahoo’s best practices so they’re unlikely to change that quickly. A few points I thought I’d highlight are; Progressive Enhancement rather than Graceful Degradation, JavaScript verifier (JSLint), front end unit testing (YUITest), JSDoc,  Firebug to test form/post attacks, save CSS/JS files as UTF-8, pre-load new assets before a new product launch to avoid complaints about slow start up since the new assets are not yet cached, try to keep to <256 colours to use PNG8, iPhone caches only ~20 items, avoid using @Import.

I had a quick chat with Nate and discussed .net server controls vs. JavaScript libraries and using the server to overcome some of the multi-file issues. Nate told me about the YUI.net project that is working on combining the two so I’ll have to take a look at that. The discussion of using post-processing or streaming of multiple files as a single file stream were interesting. I was concerned that given Yahoo’s extensive testing of seemingly almost every permutation downloading CSS/JS that there was some problem with servers side code. Nate assured me that there wasn’t any specific issue and that Yahoo teams were free to chose. Of course he explained again that the use of Yahoo compression techniques would help alleviate these problems.

I enjoyed this presentation although it was a little rushed and I had seen a fair bit of this before.

Rating – 0 doodles – 8/10

Building on the shoulder of giants – Jonathan Snook

The basic premise of this was to use the libraries out there since they’ve gone through the rigour of testing, browser problems, etc. I liked Jonathan but I thought the point was a bit too laboured and one hour was too much. I did like the time-line demo and the idea of small amounts of code to create a good site is appealing but it’s a fairly easy point to make.

Rating – 10 doodles – 6/10.

PS. I really liked Jonathan’s responses in the later panel discussion. His responses were mature and well-rounded and didn’t pander to the frankly crowd pleasing answers from a couple of the other panellists! He is clearly a smart man and I’ll certainly be adding him to my RSS reader.

The why & which of JavaScript libraries – John Resig

John, the originator of the JQuery library, gave a great talk about the alternative libraries. I must confess that I’m almost 100% professionally in the Microsoft world but I do have a little experience of playing with one of those libraries, Yahoo’s YUI. So I did find the various pro’s and con’s of the libraries interesting. I also like John’s honest look at why libraries are good, and also why they might be bad. The libraries John concentrated on were;

Rating – 0 doodles, 8/10

WAI-ARIA – It’s easy – Steve Faulkner

I admit I thought this was going to be about a tool to check your site but I’ve obviously been out of the accessibility loop for too long. Steve explained that it was a set of attributes that helped explain to a (usually) screen reader. Of particular interest was the ideas of a role and pre-canned/pre-localised explanations of how to use controls. It looks good but the one area that I found difficult to understand was that of compliance. If you have new attributes but don’t change the underlying schema rules then it will break the page. The reasoning was that you’d use JavaScript to inject the ARIA attributes. As someone pointed out that relies on JavaScripts, but what worried me is that still produces invalid mark-up. Changing the DOM representation of the mark-up to be essentially invalid doesn’t sit will with me. It would surprise me if a compliant browser would simply refuse to allow non-standard attributes and personally I’d hope it wouldn’t. Avoiding changing the underlying schema’s is a convenient hack, I think it would have been better to create spin-off schemas or use the modular nature of schemas to add a new set.

Back to the presentation, Steve did have more than his fair share of presentation gremlins which did derail the flow.

Rating – 0 doodles – 7/10

Global Design: Characters, Language, and more – Richard Ishida

I really enjoyed Richard’s presentation last year and this was going well, for me, until I think Richard thought he was losing the audience. In this presentation Richard delved into the technical reasons of why you want to chose Unicode and encode with UTF-8. Richard gave some useful tips, such as turning off the dreaded BOM wherever possible, not bothering with the language meta-tag,  using both language attributes in the xml declaration, not using xml declaration for IE6 (cause it pushes it into quirks mode – one I did know).  As a developer I was enjoying the technical stuff but Richard seemed to realise that this wasn’t what all the audience wanted so he quickly took the level back up again and then rushed through the remaining slides.

Rating – 0 doodles – 7/10

The core of the talk can be found in the following W3C Unicode tutorial

PS. I was a little disappointed that Richard didn’t respond to one of the panel questions (he was in the audience) about why data is important to accessibility as the panel struggled and kept thinking, "we just heard Richard tell us for 1 hour about the importance of encoding to making localising/globalising a site" – a form of accessibility.
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