Thursday's lunchtime links

Written by Adrian Holovaty on August 15, 2002

SitePoint redesign -- Just for kicks, Simon Willison has redesigned SitePoint, a popular design site, using an all-CSS layout. This is proof positive that even complex layouts can be duplicated using style sheets. (Also see Steve Clay's Amazon.com redo.) News sites should step up to the plate. (On a related note, good discussion continues in the comments to my Why news sites don't use XHTML and CSS post.)

Washingtonpost.com now officially requires users to provide personal information, which is stored in a cookie, in order to access some stories. From what I could tell, it started yesterday afternoon/evening (Eastern Time). But which stories bring up the registration prompt? As far as I can tell, only metro stories. Other stories (politics, health, etc.) remain "free" for the time being. (Also see my previous blog entry.)

Nathan Ashby-Kuhlman: Technical restrictions hinder customization -- "Why is it that people like me can run server scripts and databases on our personal sites for less than $100 a year in hosting fees, but producers at sites with huge budgets and dedicated datacenters are stuck with static HTML and no control over content management systems?" I've wondered the same thing, brother. I've wondered the same thing.

Comments

Posted by Kent on August 15, 2002, at 11:38 p.m.:

It's unfortunate to see Washington Post going the way of NY Times, LA Times, among others, in requiring personal information to access news stories. At least WP hasn't required personal information to access all stories. Not yet.

Posted by Jay Small on August 16, 2002, at 1:42 p.m.:

Registration itself is not unfortunate. It still beats paid subscriptions or pay-per-view content. What's unfortunate for consumers is that making "free" content available to them, while attempting to cover costs with advertising they won't find too intrusive, and allowing them to remain completely anonymous, has not proven to be a sustainable business model. But what did we expect?

Besides, registration properly handled can make some aspects of dealing with a large site more efficient. If you ascribe to the "one-login-gets-you-all-services-on-this-site" method, then you can eliminate separate users/permissions routines for message boards, archives, newsletters etc. Users have to register for those things if they want them anyway, so why not lump all the log-in scripts together?

Posted by Wohleber on August 16, 2002, at 2:17 p.m.:

I viewed Steve Clay's Amazon redo with Internet Explorer and it was interesting to see the page begin to render before the stylesheet had finished loading. That's arguably a bug not a feature, but it was educational because it dramatically albeit fleetingly illustrated how an all-CSS layout permits complex design while keeping the content simply and logically structured.

You can also see this when using Mozilla to visit pages that have alternate stylesheets, such as the Mozilla FAQ page, which has two alternate stylesheets (accessible in Mozilla under View > Use style.

Posted by Adrian on August 16, 2002, at 8:38 p.m.:

Personally, I can live with the Post's current setup because the site doesn't make me choose a username and password and/or fill out an extremely intrusive questionnaire, a la latimes.com. But my concern, as I've mentioned before, is that users who disable cookies -- and there are many -- will have to enter this information all over again for each page. I haven't tested this theory yet, but I smell a rat.

Posted by Adrian on August 16, 2002, at 8:51 p.m.:

Wohleber: Here's another aspect to the stylesheet load-time rendering phenomenon -- if a page is designed with no layout tables, only CSS, then it'll render automatically as it loads. This is a lot faster than using a layout table, which doesn't render until the full contents of the table are loaded. Yet another advantage of the CSS-based approach.

On a related note, I've become addicted to the "Toggle CSS style sheets" favelet, available at favelets.com. It's a bookmarkable piece of JavaScript that turns off style sheets, so you can see how the page is structured. Very cool, and very valuable as a learning tool.

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