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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup