W3C Validator Redesign

Thursday, May 13, 2004 at 7:07 pm | Comments off

As we all know, the W3C recently redesigned their validator. While it might be marginally better than the old design, frankly, it still sucks. I think the simple fact that sites such as the W3C's have such poor designs and are overall not at all user friendly makes it harder than it has to be to promote web standards.

Personally, I think it's too bad they didn't open this up to the community and allow people to submit designs for the validator. I would have been willing to give it a shot and I'm quite sure that many others would have as well. It's a shame that they can't put a bit more priority (even a tiny bit!) on design and usability. I'm certain that had they opened this up to the community, some very nice designs would have been submitted - perhaps even some of the "big names" would have gotten involved.

Ah well, maybe the next redesign will look good.

Comments

Chris
May 14th, 2004
4:49 AM | #

It's that old case. Lots of good content or a really nice looking site. For some reason people don't have both.

example;

Yahoo
W3
Google
eBay

all very basic looking sites but have the best content.

Robert Wellock
May 14th, 2004
6:29 AM | #

People have run such mock competitions on the W3C Designs before; much like the Zen Gardens. But the W3C receives Millions of hits per-day from all sorts of user-agents so basically they have to deign to the lowest base browsers.

I cannot say a slip on a Banana-Skin and a Tree of Knowledge is really that appropriate as a background since it doesn't have the alternative text.

lavalamp
May 14th, 2004
6:34 AM | #

For what it's worth I really like the new validator design, simplistic yet artistic. There is still a lot of whitspace that looks like it needs to be filled in though, and most of the other pages on the W3C look like I designed them. :p

It is hard to just slog through the specifications without having some eye candy sometimes.

CM Harrington
May 14th, 2004
4:43 PM | #

Ugly, sure, but unusable? I don't think it's so bad. The primary interface [enter address or upload page] is fairly straightforward. Sure, it assumes you know what a URI is, but then again, if you are bothering to validate your page to the W3C recommendations, you are assumed to understand some basic industry jargon.

As Robert posted above, the validator receives millions of requests a day. The page design has to be sparse in order to keep bandwidth and I/O costs down.

How do you propose to make it more usable?

Ryan
May 14th, 2004
5:19 PM | #

My comments about usability were less aimed at the validator than they were at the W3C's site in general. And yes, I realize that the specs are just that - specifications for browser makers, but I still think the site could be more user friendly.

While bandwidth usage probably is a concern, they've got over 60kb in images on the validator page. At that, I think a much nicer design could have been implemented.

CM Harrington
May 15th, 2004
1:25 AM | #

Aaah, yes, nevermind then. The W3C.org site does blow some serious goats.

If you have lots of content, it's pretty useless unless it is presented in a manner that is easily understandable and accessible. Perhaps one of these days the W3C people will figure that one out.

Paul Jr
May 16th, 2004
3:18 AM | #

I'm with Lavalamp; I don't see what everyone hates. Sure, it's not as pretty as this site, or many others, but why does it have to be? People don't really come to sites to admire the looks, they come for information, services, et cetera, although pretty design is nice, it's not always that necessary. I don't think it's that important for the W3C site to be all decorated up.

Ryan
May 16th, 2004
10:12 AM | #

It doesn't even have to be pretty. I'd settle for something other than downright ugly.

Jona
May 17th, 2004
5:04 PM | #

I kind of like the way they did the top menu... I agree that it should look better, but at the same time, like Robert Wellock pointed out, they have to cater to the lowest standards...

Omega
May 17th, 2004
9:52 PM | #

I like the design as well, or at least better than the previous one. It's very usable IMHO, and it's not unattractive. I guess the right word would be mediocre; the design _could_ be MUCH better, but it's not bad, relatively speaking.

As for coding for lower browsers- if I were them, then I'd just have it so lower versions received no styling, just raw XHTML. Then they could be more free with their future designs. I'm sure they can manage it; they managed to make the validator, didn't they? ;)

Ryan
May 17th, 2004
9:56 PM | #

"then I'd just have it so lower versions received no styling, just raw XHTML."

Or even a lightly styled version, and the @import rule could be used to send decent browsers a decent design.

Omega
May 17th, 2004
10:09 PM | #

Good call. Or just let people with bad browsers suffer... like anyone with a low version browser gets redirected to a page that installs every trojan known to mankind. Hey, if you want incentive to switch/ upgrade browsers that'd work just fine... *evil grin*

<offtopic>On Infinity Web Design's homepage, you have http://version4.infinitywebdesign.com/ as the adress to check within the 508 link to the Cynthia Validator. I'm not sure if this was intended, or something you forgot to take out once you made the page public.</offtopic>

Sam Ingle
May 17th, 2004
10:30 PM | #

I always do my validation links via PHP_SELF, that way it validates the current page rather than the index. (that is on validators that don't support the referer.)

Ryan
May 17th, 2004
11:50 PM | #

"On Infinity Web Design's homepage, you have http://version4.infinitywebdesign.com/ as the adress to check within the 508 link to the Cynthia Validator."

Thanks, I fixed it...

Seth Thomas Rasmussen
May 20th, 2004
4:32 PM | #

I agree with you. I understand that they need to cater to a much wider audience than most, but there are definitely things that could be done to enhance the usability and aesthetics of it while keeping it compatible with all. For one, even though they have the jump links, I think the results should be the first thing you see on the page. Followed by the information and revalidation options currently at the top. I mean, that just seems intuitive to me...

Jemaleddin
May 24th, 2004
3:05 PM | #

Ryan, the validator pages are all volunteer run. If you'd like to donate some of your time, check the info on their feedback page.

olivier (W3C Validator Team)
May 24th, 2004
7:41 PM | #

"I think it's too bad they didn't open this up to the community": Note that "they" are actually a team of volunteers, not a grumpy faceless W3C dragon. And that team is opened to a very large community, see the feedback page: anyone can contribute style improvements by participating in discussions or getting involved in the development, which is certainly exceptional for a very "big" site.

To be fair, I guess the actual question is not "Why are all big sites (including the validator) so ugly?" but "Why are so few open-source projects (including the validator) looking good?"

My experience with community driven projects tells me that bold, full re-designs (or design contest winners) are often bound to failure, because however good they may be, there seems to always be (at best) half of the community thinking it "sucks". Step by step design, usability and style improvements, however tedious, seem to work better in such a context.

Whether the style used by the validator, or any high traffic site for that matter, "sucks" is a highly subjective stance. And while dissent - and ranting, even - are one thing that can push things forward, they are not the best use of a designer's time, especially with regards to open source projects...

Ryan
May 24th, 2004
8:00 PM | #

Olivier,

Thanks for the note. It was very informative, and perhaps I should have checked into the process more before posting this rant. Out of curiosity, how hard is it to get involved, even on a minor level such as critiquing the design(s) used on the W3C's site? Obviously you guys aren't (and most definitely shouldn't) just going to jump at any design someone throws at you.

"My experience with community driven projects tells me that bold, full re-designs (or design contest winners) are often bound to failure"

But what if a minimal design (as is currently being used) were to be created, with a bit more of an eye toward aesthetic quality? Obviously, you can never please everyone, but in my own personal opinion, a slightly different approach to the design would definitely up the number of people who are pleased with it.

"Step by step design, usability and style improvements, however tedious, seem to work better in such a context."

Perhaps you are right. Is the validator design process still an ongoing project that one can get involved with?

"And while dissent - and ranting, even - are one thing that can push things forward, they are not the best use of a designer's time, especially with regards to open source projects..."

I guess this brings me back to wondering how hard it is to get involved. If time is kind to me, and some frees up, I'd be willing to put my money where my mouth is, and donate a bit of time trying to help the situation. Perhaps I could even recruit a few other designers to lend a hand.

olivier (W3C Validator Team)
May 24th, 2004
10:53 PM | #

Ryan,

You're correct in saying we don't usually embrace any design thrown at us - not that it happens very often! - for the reasons I stated in my first message.

I am not naive about the step by step approach either, patch a patchy design and you're quite likely to still have a patchy design - but it seems to be accepted more easily, and I hope the efforts go in the right direction.

We are still in the process of improving the design... Experimenting with different UI techniques (tabs or expand-collapse for the results sections, etc.), and a few people (thread 1, thread 2) are already trying to help.

How hard is it to join in and lend a hand? It depends... The primary place to do that would be the mailing-list, and its traffic (mixed bag of calls for help, bug reports and actual discussion on the tools - depends on where we are in a release cycle, too) can annoy some people. Other than that, I think it's rather easy to bring in good ideas.

The idea of getting a few designers to join in and form a small task force focused on improving the usability and design is quite tempting.

Ryan
May 25th, 2004
5:50 PM | #

"The idea of getting a few designers to join in and form a small task force focused on improving the usability and design is quite tempting."

Hopefully I can tempt you further. ;)

If it sounds like there is any possibility that such a thing could be created (even a one-time task force to critique and provide design suggestions for the validator) I'd be very interested in talking with you. As I mentioned earlier, I'd be happy to talk to a few other talented web designers, who I'd guess would be more than willing to help out.

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