Business case for web standards

Here’s something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a long while. So long, in fact, that the wiki was last updated over 18 months ago. Still, it contains loads of great information for standardistas wishing to promote web standards in a business.

The business case for web standards wiki initiated by the great Chris Heilmann is the place to be. If you’ve had success, or heard arguments against using web standards that aren’t yet in the wiki, please contribute.

Together we can change the world. A bit.

Spoof email example

At a party last night a friend of mine told me about a new spoof email he’d seen. I wasn’t aware of it (I don’t keep my ear very close to that particular ground) but here’s an example just forwarded to me:

> Subject: Attention - Important Notification
> Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 05:14:44 -0600
> From: tech-admin <>
> To:
> Attention!
> On October 22, 2009 server upgrade will take place. Due to this the
> system may be offline for approximately half an hour.
> The changes will concern security, reliability and performance of mail
> service and the system as a whole.
> For compatibility of your browsers and mail clients with upgraded server
> software you should run SSl certificates update procedure.
> This procedure is quite simple. All you have to do is just to click the
> link provided, to save the patch file and then to run it from your
> computer location. That's all.
> Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and sorry for
> possible inconveniences.
> System Administrator
> __________ Information from ESET Smart Security, version of virus
> signature database 4520 (20091018) __________
> The message was checked by ESET Smart Security.

Scarily real, huh? The “” subdomain makes it look very official. So, be careful out there.

Share your stats

There’s a meme on Twitter at the moment entitled Share your Stats where web guys are sharing statistics about the browsers viting websites. I’m not sure who started this meme, but I guess they are trying to get a feel for how prevalent Internet Explorer is, particularly version 6. You know most web developers don’t like Internet Explorer 6, right?

Anyway, I have a few sites I can share the statistics for. Here they are:

Share Your Stats meme results
Website Browsers Operating systems
Firefox Internet Explorer Safari Chrome Opera Windows Mac Linux 51.47% 29.11% 9.55% 5.04% 1.79% 75.88% 16.87% 6.55% 69.68% 18.28% 4.81% 4.15% 1.10% 77.50% 15.62% 6.28% 34.58% 51.40% 8.41% 2.80% n/a 86.92% 8.41% 0.93% 65.73% 11.32% 8.45% 9.77% 2.88% 73.52% 16.72% 9.11% 45.40% 33.97% 12.06% 5.71% 2.86% 80.95% 17.14% 1.27% 16.91% 75.21% 3.83% 2.23% 0.46% 93.45% 4.73% 1.14%
Large business website 7.52% 81.22% 9.01% 1.63% 0.35% 90.28% 8.71% 0.26%

That’s pretty much what I expected, with a very large proportion of visitors to the more commercial sites weighted towards Internet Explorer and Windows. For the other sites, particularly those with a heavy web development slant, the statistics show a wider spread of browsers. It’s good to see Chrome making inroads, but these kind of results must be somewhat disheartening for Opera.

Personal welcome WordPress plugin, as used by

A little while ago a guy called Jim contacted me to ask for a small addition to my Personal Welcomes for WordPress MU plugin. It was a good suggestion and easy to do, so I did it. Then I realised I’d seen something on TV about this guy, so I asked him to write something about what they ar doing, and how they are using my plugin. Here’s what he put:

After being featured on PBS for taking our canine cancer survivor Jerry on
the road trip of a lifetime, viewers flocked to to find out
more. As blog and discussion forum traffic grew, we migrated the website to
WordPress MU so we can now offer free Tripawds Blogs for others to share
their own three legged dog stories.

We use Chris Taylor’s Personal Welcomes plugin to send each new member a
personalized message, welcoming them to the Tripawds Community, and
providing them with helpful links to make the most of their blog.

This handy plugin allows us to create different templates with specific
messages for those who signed up without creating a blog, or those who
created a blog but haven’t yet posted anything. The admin panel for Personal
Welcomes now provides convenient links to new blogs so we can easily edit
each welcome message we send with relative comments, thus creating a truly
personal welcome for each new user.

Many thanks to Chris for his helpful plugin, and quick attention to our blog
links feature request!

It’s great to hear of someone using one of my plugins, especially for a site making a difference to people … or in this case, dogs! Good luck for the future Jim.

Friends Reunited: How not to build a website

I got an email today from Friends Reunited, which I’m sure everyone knows well. Apparently they have a new website. My curiousity got the better of me. I wish it hadn’t.

Firstly the page I saw when I followed the “have a look at your brand new homepage” link looked like one of those full-of-advertising sites, and not a good one:

Friends Reunited 1

See? Ugh. Where’s the information about what’s new? Where’s anything?

Fortunately they provide a “Don’t show me this page again” link. Except, uh-oh…

Friends Inaccessible

It’s not a link. They’ve fallen for the old ASP.NET “let’s make every link, NOT a link!” trick. By using the ASP.NET PostBack “feature” they’ve made their site inaccessible to any visitors without JavaScript – including, and you’ll like this, Google. Let me be plain: ASP.NET PostBack breaks the web.

Now before anyone gets their knickers in a twist (hello, colleagues), here’s a caveat. Friends Reunited has people visiting using pretty much every permutation of browsing technology possible. They are a big, public site. And the web is, according to Douglas Crockford, “the most hostile software development environment imaginable”, so breaking the basic building blocks of the web is bad. Really bad.

It’s not that I don’t like ASP.NET, it has some fantastic features. Repeaters, for example, are genius. And recently I’ve been developing some custom controls which offers amazing power to the developer. Masterpages, too, are fantastic. But to get something so fundamental as links so fundamentally wrong, was BIG mistake on the part of Microsoft. And unfortunately, due to ignorance and many other reasons, too many developers write websites using PostBack – despite there being alternatives and plenty of help to escape it.

One of these days I hope to write a proof of concept showing how Microsoft could have built the same features as PostBack into ASP.NET, but without the pitfalls. Oh for more geek time.

Anyway, on with Friends Reunited. So I click the not-quite-a-link, still hoping that something great awaits me. Alas, it was not to be:

Friends Broken

Yup, I got an error. Oh well.

So it’s goodbye Friends Reunited. Not only do you have an inaccessible site, but one you proudly advertise to your users which promptly falls over at the first click. Not that it matters to me much, everyone uses Facebook anyway.