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I’m back

And there are photos. I wanted to post last weekend but I returned to one of those hectic post-holiday weeks that makes you question the value taking a break from work at all. Still, it’s nice to be in demand, and the fresh memory of hammering down 4000 ft of rock-strewn mountain in the fog soon dispels any such thoughts. (That’s what I call fun in case you were wondering.)

So what’s been happening while I was away?

Odeon cinemas – purveyors of corn-infested sugar, microwaved cheese, saccharine-coated ice and undersized seats – have finally lost the plot completely. Instead paying to fix their own inaccessible, invalid, table driven IE/Win specific mess of a site, Odeon decided to spunk cash on the lawyers and send them in to shut down Matthew Somerville’s accessible version of their box office. Apparently people are trying to use Matthew’s site instead of Odeon’s official site – who’d have thought it. Maybe Odeon’s lawyers should be spending the cash getting their beaks into the Disability Discrimination Act instead. Andy’s written a letter in complaint, so should you.

And talking of IE/Win specific sites, in their attempts to move to Web Standards, “All Music Guide”: has gone back to the dark ages and built a ‘site optimised for Internet Explorer 5.5+ for Windows’. In fairness they claim to be working on the browser incompatibility issues but, having just gone through a similar exercise myself, it’s still something they could and should have got right first. More commentary on Stylish Scripting and cityofsound.

Per-site style sheets using CSS signatures is a concept new to me. As explained by Eric Meyer, site authors add a CSS signature, by way of a body id, to each page on their site so that readers can modifiy a user style sheet for styles specific to that site. For example:

<body id="www-clagnut-com">

Adding rules to a user stylesheet to change the colors:

#www-clagnut-com {background:black; color:yellow;}
#www-clagnut-com * {background:black; color:yellow;}

However, I couldn’t do this with Clagnut as I already use body ids for per-page styling, a technique often used for global navigation. As suggested elsewhere a more portable solution would be to apply a CSS signature as a class rather than an id. As Simon Willison points out, ‘the sites that really need altering are highly unlikely to carry them.’ To this end, a number of solutions have emerged to automatically add an id or class to any site using Mozilla extension, in particular Phil Wilson’s approach using URIid and ChromEdit.

I also learned from PhotoMatt that a site author can disable the IE6 image toolbar with this simple meta tag:

<meta http-equiv="imagetoolbar" content="no" />

A client recently asked for this removal of functionality but until now, I didn’t think it was possible (they were happy enough when I showed them how to disable it in their own browser though). I’m still not sure disabling this functionality on a site basis is a good idea though; it’s akin to removing the right click in my opinion. Alex King has started some excellent discussion on the subject. I particularly agree with Alex’s argument: ‘Users are using a browser, not a web site. It is not the designer/developer’s job to cripple their software.’

A security flaw was found in Mozilla (and related browsers). As I understand it, the issue is restricted to Windows versions. A fix was released almost immediately.

Andy Clark explains a handy bit of accessible DOM scripting for allowing users to hide unrequired form fields. Useful discussion ensued.

Simon Collison brings together a round table of designers to discuss the methods in which visited links should be displayed. There are some pretty interesting responses to some of Simons questions here. A great read for those who want to venture outside of the default link styles.

It’s a slightly different question, but an important point highlighted by Simon Willison was that of styling links with colour blind readers in mind. Folks, please don’t do what the otherwise worldly Jeff Veen does and remove the underlining from your links and make them dark red. As many of you know, I am colour blind; this means I can’t distinguish this colour from black – in other words it looks to me like Jeff doesn’t have any links in his blog.

Jeff’s inaccessible choice of colours is a classic example of why the afore-mentioned site-specific style sheets are a good idea. Fortunately Jeff has implemented a CSS signature, so I have added this line in my Firefox user style sheet to make Jeff’s links apparent to me:

#veen-com A {text-decoration:underline}

Jason Kottke has an interesting take on the Gmail invite scenario – fuzzy whitelisting . Every email address that an Gmail invitation is sent to is a real, (probably) trusted email address and could potentially be white-listed. Perhaps some clever heuristics based around who is emailing whom could refine this system (but privacy advocates would probably have issues with this).

Ben Hammersley’s XHTML Validator to RSS is one of those why didn’t I think of that it’s so obvious gems. Every time the RSS feed is called, the supplied URL (your site) is checked against the W3 validator. If it fails you’re told as much in the feed, if not the feed remains empty (some positive feedback here would be a little more comforting, but that’s nit picking).

And before I left for France I forgot to adjust my fantasy team for the Euro 2004 final so, having lead at the semi-final stage I ended up third instead of winning as I surely would have, since I was going to bank everything on Greece too [honest, ahem]. The winner of the blogger’s group was the venerable Nick Tebbutt.