Web design: On the Web, yesterday's bleeding-edge technology is today's standard

Let's say you are doing a bit of DIY about the house, building that patio deck you always wanted, and your friend, who has graciously agreed to help you, measures the first board and tells you to cut another one to 350.3 centimetres. You look at your tape measure and realise that it's an old one using inches. What do you do? Easy: convert 350.3cm to inches by dividing it by 2.54. This gives you about 138 inches. Cut the board and you are in business.

What was wrong with good old inches, feet and yards? These units were the standard for centuries. The problem was that the Imperial measurement system had some rather vague and arbitrary conversions between smaller and larger units - I can never remember how many yards in a mile - while the metric system allows you to convert from smaller to larger units quickly and efficiently. But despite the fact that most of Europe - and the world, for that matter - has switched to the new and improved system, there are several hold-outs in the world, most notably the US, who are stuck in a rut using the old standard and refusing to change.

This brings me to my point: standards are great, but if we didn't try to improve our standards we would all still be swinging from tree to tree, trying to figure out which one had the best bananas.

In the world of the Web, yesterday's bleeding-edge technology is today's standard. The stuff you complain about crashing your browser now may well be the accepted norm with the next browser release. That said, these things only become standards if we, the people creating for the Web, actually use them.

Consider frames and columns. Netscape introduced both of these tags a while back, hoping to give designers better control over layout. But while designers have embraced frames - since there was really nothing else that could do what they do - no one has really used the column tag because the table tag did a good enough job and most browsers supported it. Frames are now a part of the official HTML specification, but no one really remembers the column tag.

In last week's column, we looked at several of the current standards on the Web, but what about the future? Right now there are several standards coming out from the World Wide Web Consortium that will change the way you work with the Web. Although many of the abilities of these coming standards are either not yet available on the Web, or only in the 4.0 browsers, they are the ones to watch and be ready to use.

Cascading Style Sheets - Level 2 CSS2 picks up where CSS1 left off, improving on most of its features. Some of the exciting design improvements coming with CSS2 include the ability to set up different layouts for different output media (screen, printer, overhead projector, etc), the ability to control the appearance of the mouse cursor, and the ability easily to add sound to your document.

Cascading Style Sheet - Positioning Netscape's ill-fated layer tag was a great idea, but CSS-Positioning is moving in to fill that gap. CSS-P let's you place text, graphics, tables, or anything else that appears in the screen exactly where you want it, either absolutely or in relation to the other objects on the screen. In addition, you can "layer" objects on top of each other, and, using JavaScript, move them around, hide or show them, or have them change their appearance.

Document Object Model DOM is the road map that allows us to identify the different parts of an HTML document so that they can be accessed using JavaScript. The only problem, right now, is that both Navigator and Internet Explorer use different maps. Help is on the way. The W3 is working on a standard DOM that should be ready by the time we see the 5.0 browsers.

If this brief introduction has left you wanting more, never fear. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of the bleeding-edge technologies available on the Web, how to use them and ways to use the new technology without keeping older browsers out in the cold.

Jason Cranford Teague can be contacted at indy_webdesign @mindspring.com

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent