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A very brief standards reivew…

  • Hello. I’m always interested when a new forum crops up. Just some comments about what I’ve seen just by having a quick look in regards to a standards-based approach to design. Please don’t take this personal at all. These are just my personal observations.

    1. I notice that you’re serving the forum as XHTML 1.1 with a content type of text/html, regardless of the user agent. I thought maybe that you were attempting content negotiation, but I see that’s not the case, unfortunately.

    2. Inline styling is used for the “tag cloud” could cause more maintenance down the road. Consider using CSS styles.

    3. The table you are using for the listing of topics for a forum can be improved in terms of accessibility. (summary, caption, scope, etc)

    4. Anyone with a colour deficiency might have an issue differentiation between the topics. The contrast between the white and the light grey is a bit subtle.

    5. Title attributes could be used more than it is now. (Especially in the topic table)

    6. For the most part, the HTML and CSS validate, with the exceptions of such things like <br clear=”all” />

    That’s just a quick glance. Again, take this with a grain of salt. I’m just genuinely interested in any new forums that come out. Over all, not too bad of a job.


    crazybat (aka Marco)

Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)

  • _ck_


    IMHO validation is just a syntax check and the least of bbPress problems right now.

    The most useful doctype for the next decade is:

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "">

    Get back to me when a browser DOESN’T support that ;)

    Makes life sooo much easier. Then posts can contain <b>, <u>, <s> and <i> and all sorts of standards people have been used to for the last decade instead of reinventing the wheel!

    Now instead go round up a dozen php plugin developers and get them onboard and we’ll have some real momentum :)

    Hey _ck_.

    Actually, I think it’ll be more useful when <!DOCYPE HTML> is used and widely supported by user agents, but that’s a whole other story. (

    My point was more about serving up the correct content type, based on the DOCTYPE used. Serving XHTML 1.1 as text/html merits no benefits. It’s tag soup.

    I would think that at least using some sort of content negotiation based on the user agent (serving HTML 4.01 Strict versus XHTML 1.1) would be a good start.

    Sam Bauers


    Thanks for your notes.

    What is the problem exactly with serving XHTML using text/html?

    It’s allowed under the standard:

    XHTML 1.1 documents SHOULD be labeled with the
    Internet Media Type text/html as defined in [RFC2854]
    or application/xhtml+xml as defined in [RFC3236].

    And as far as I know IE6 tends to bork out when you specify “application/xhtml+xml”.

    SamBauers is right, text/html is right and “application/xhtml+xml” + IE6 = headaches. And it’s really not that important.

    On the other hand, the inline styling parts are more of a problem for people who want to design a theme. To edit the tag cloud I had to edit the code so it could support changing colors. If you could make a class for each step, it would be easier to customize the cloud.

    point 4 .. .well I wouldn’t know about it since I don’t have a colour deficiency, but I can barely notice the change of color. Still, because of the structure of the forum, I am able to differentiate between topics easily, might be something to think about.

    Why not help the project out by editing the default theme so it validates properly and is more accessible (I wouldn’t change the text/html part though) without changing the current looks, if it’s properly executed and it doesn’t make things harder for developers, it might become the official one. Collaborate :)


    Just to clarify your point, the reference cited for serving XHTML as text/html is quoted as a note from the current working draft of the XHTML 1.1 from February 2007. It’s not a standard as of yet and I don’t think it should be followed as such.

    As for your point about IE borking with application/xhtml+xml, it absolutely is an issue. Hence, the point about serving the correct DOCTYPE based on the user agent. I’m no PHP guru by any means, so I had to get help in writing the logic to detect the user agent and what content type it could handle, but I know it’s possible as I’m using this mechanism on my site at this time.

    @benbeltran: As for this not being important, I’ll leave that issue for now as I’ve seen way too many discussions spiral off into endless debate. The point is clear though: XHTML served as text/html is tag soup and IE doesn’t like XHTML as application/xhtml+xml. What do you do? Content negotiation or serve it as HTML 4.01 Strict as text/html. IMHO, this is the proper way of dealing with this.

    I will check out this project and try to show you what I’m talking about. In class now, so I have to fly. . .

    Sam Bauers


    What exactly is “tag soup”, and what does it taste like? Is it really a problem? It’s just the MIME type.

    It isn’t so simple to just change the DOCTYPE. Browsers render different DOCTYPEs differently. Especially Internet Explorer.

    I’m much more comfortable leaving the “wrong” mime type in there than having to deal with different layout quirks of different DOCTYPEs.

    Or are you really advocating that we should be dropping back to HTML 4.01?

    Standards are good, but sometimes It’s not wise to sacrifice usability or maintainability for standards. Proper isn’t always best, but when you can do the best properly, then it’s recommended.

    When I said it was not important, I meant it’s not as important as many other things on the forums, I’m the kind of people that sticks to standards when possible.

    And yes, what’s tag soup?According to wikipedia it’s “HTML code written without regard for the rules of HTML structure and semantic”. Honestly I think that applying that phrase to software that is mostly standards compliant is not right. Changing one ingredient doesn’t turn a steak into a soup, this term should be applied to websites that step on the whole HTML specification. It could be “insulting” to call this carefully coded software “tag soup”. But that’s just me …

    It would be nice though, to see what you can contribute to the project, I know your comments are intended to help, and it would rock to see them turn into palpable produce.

    Sam Bauers


    Personally, I’m not insulted, just curious as to the implications of the current approach (which is the same approach I generally take in development – i.e. XHTML 1.1 as text/html). What are we breaking by doing this. If I pass a browser a document with MIME type of text/html or application/xhtml+xml it will pass the document to it’s rendering engine. After that, does it matter?

    It’s quite likely that XHTML 1.1 will stay a draft standard, as the new XHTML 2 and HTML 5 specs are where the action is at the moment. Arguably HTML 4.01 isn’t finished either.

    “Insulting” != Insulting :P … It’s more like calling a great piece of markup tag-soup because of some details is a bit exaggerated, and it could even be an insult to the developers who carefully thought it, but it’s not really serious, nobody is getting angry because of that :)

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