HTML and CSS Reference
Usability on the Web has improved in the past few years, but not nearly as much as it can or should. All but the
best sites can benefit by refocusing more on the readers and less on the writers and the designers. A few simple
changes aimed at improving usability—such as increasing the font size (or not specifying it at all) or combining
form fields—can have disproportionately great returns in productivity. This is especially important for intranet
sites, and any site that is attempting to sell to consumers.
Smell: Slow Page-Rendering Times
If any major browser takes more than half a second to display a page, you have a problem. This one can be a
little hard to judge, because many slow pages are caused by network latency or overloaded databases and HTTP
servers. These are problems, too, though they are ones you usually cannot fix by changing the HTML. However,
if a page saved on a local file system takes more than half a second to render in the web browser, you need to
refactor it to improve that time.
Smell: Pages Appear Different in Different Browsers
Pages do not need to look identical in different browsers. However, all content and functionality should be
accessible to everyone using any reasonably current browser. If the page is illegible or nonfunctional in Safari,
Opera, Internet Explorer, or Firefox, you have a problem. For instance, you may see the page starting with a
full-screen-width sidebar, followed by the content pane. Alternatively, the sidebar may show up below the
content rather than above it. This usually means the page looks perfectly fine in the author's browser. However,
she did not bother to check it in the one you're using. Be sure to check your pages in all the major browsers.
Anytime you see something like "Best Viewed with Internet Explorer," you have a code smell, and refactoring is
called for. Anytime you see something like Figure 1.1 , you have a huge code smell—and one that all your
readers can smell, too. Internet Explorer has less than 80% market share, and that's dropping fast. In fact,
even that is probably vastly overestimated because most spiders and bots falsely identify themselves as IE, and
they account for a disproportionate number of hits. Mac OS X and Linux users don't even have an option to
choose Internet Explorer. The days when you could design your site for just one browser are over.
Figure 1.1. Wal-Mart locks out non-IE users.
[View full size image]