An Open Letter to You, Webmaster II

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Webmaster

Dear Webmaster,

It's been over a year since I last wrote. Business is booming for me which reminded me to get in touch with you again. I'm shocked at the advancements you've made!

Wow -- you've gotten acquainted with JavaScript frameworks! In fact, it appears you've gotten so good with the popular JavaScript frameworks that you're using multiple in each of your client websites. I see jQuery, MooTools, and Dojo in the same page! Good idea -- the more frameworks you add to the page, the more plugins you can add without needing to code any JavaScript yourself. Well thought-out. I also see that you're adding JavaScript frameworks for simple getElementById() selection -- why not? I'm sure you'll use more advanced JavaScript on your client's website at some point, so best to include the libraries now.

I also noticed that you've completely dropped support of Internet Explorer 6. My favorite touch is the "upgrade your browser" message you've added to your client websites, no doubt without their permission. I admire your resolve -- why should you go through the hassle of spending an extra hour to make your site work in IE6? Let the visitor suffer and the client lose business -- you don't need the headache of dealing with IE6. Another intelligent philosophy.

You've obviously taken a search engine optimization class because I can see loads of keywords in every sentence within the content area. Writing content for the user is overrated -- writing content for Google? Brilliant! Who cares if the sentences are so bloated the visitor can't read them; they wouldn't have gotten to the client's website without Google! And I see that despite no search engines still supporting meta keywords, you're still selling them. The client doesn't know any better so we'll keep that between you and I. I also see that your page file names are stuff with 5-10 keywords...genius! Those will most definitely rank highly!

I see you've chosen to keep your CSS verbose. Shorthand CSS is clearly a fad that you aren't going to get tricked into -- clever thinking! Of course shorthand CSS is less code but hell, there's a lot to remember when you use shorthand CSS! And using text-transform to capitalize letters? Please! Why use CSS when you can simply capitalize verbiage with PHP's or easier yet, type in the text with caps-lock cemented down?

You've added your personal Twitter feed to your own website -- great! Sure you often cuss in your tweets and post links to inappropriate media but you SOMETIMES post web-relevant tweets which will help you gain clients. What's also impressive is that you've implemented Google Adsense on your website -- extra income FTW! Who cares if ads for other web design agencies are shown? They already on your website so they've found their desired vendor -- you!

Your website also states that you offer no phone support, only email support within limited hours per day. Now that's an idea based on convenience...not for the customer, but for you. An overwhelming theme with your services. And I understand completely -- you have a busy life! It's not fair that a client call and interrupt anything you're doing.

As always Webmaster, I appreciate what you do. A respected Senior Web Developer like myself cannot put food on the table without help from people like you. You're a dying breed, Webmaster. Stay strong my friend -- serious Web Developers like me need you out there.

Sincerely,

David Walsh
Senior Web Developer

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Discussion

  1. Fabian

    Hehe, nice letter… but then again:

    Quote from your HTML. ;-P

  2. Fabian

    OK, there should be the Meta-Keywords from your source in between those two senteces…

  3. I wish you were exaggerating, but alas. Did some contract work for a video hosting site a couple years back… upon arrival I found they were using jQuery, MooTools, Prototype (replete with Scriptaculous), and Dojo (not to mention a healthy dose of plugins and one-off lightbox and validation scripts). I do have to admit though, I wish my IE6-proofing time was down to an hour… Mr. WebMaster has me owned there.

  4. Laegnur

    I do not share your opinion about IE6. Windows offers an automatic update of IE through Windows Update. If the user does not update yet is because of stubbornness or ignorance.

  5. @Laegnur: You lol me.

    Supporting IE6 means supporting getting paid in my world. I’m 100% for getting paid.

  6. @Laegnur: The stubbornness argument is untrue – many users simple don’t have the option to upgrade because they’re using IE6 in a corporate environment. Many companies have applications or tools tied into IE6 and aren’t in a position to make the significant upgrade investment.

    As far saying “well, people who upgrade are just ignorant” – so you don’t care about offering services to people because they’re not as up to date as you? It’s hardly a great service principle.

    Don’t agree with all of that letter, but some amusing and worthwhile points.

  7. I fully support dropping IE6 support for personal projects or non-profits. But if you’re selling a service without completely informing your clients then that’s fraud, frankly. imho

  8. @Thomas Aylott: 100% agreed.

  9. Laegnur

    @Thomas Aylott: No one spoke of not informing customers.

  10. Derrick Nelson

    Dear Senior Web Developer,

    People still use IE 5, too. Do you support that with your code? No? I see. So, you’re willing to criticize people for drawing a line in the sand simply because they drew theirs slightly further ahead than yours? What formula do you use to determine what percentage of business you allow yourself to deny to your clients and still keep a clear conscience?

    I notice that you also criticize those using JS frameworks solely for getElementById() replacement. Is this a joke? Are you telling them that they’re somehow misusing the framework? You realize that the entire purpose of a JS framework is to make every-day, mundane tasks more compact, convenient, and easier to code, yes? Does this not qualify? Is this a bandwidth issue? What if said developer links to a shared resource like Google’s framework repository? In that case, he’d actually be -saving- bandwidth.

    And CSS is for styling. Altering case and capitalization is not styling; it’s content modification. Using a back-end language to transform the text before it reaches the browser is not only more efficient and less bandwidth-intensive, but it’s also more consistent. Not all of your end-users will have support for CSS.

  11. @Derrick Nelson: Per your points:

    1. IE5 is less than 1%, so no I do not support it. One percent is my rule.
    2. If you just want $ to get elements by ID: window.$ = function(id) { return document.getElementById(id); } That just saved you the loading of an entire framework.
    3. Server-side capitalization hurts your SEO badly. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THIS IN A SEARCH ENGINE!

  12. Agreed that browsers with < 1% usage do not get supported unless it's specifically asked (and paid) for. Especially IE 5.

  13. MLaZz

    Once again, a great post!
    I only wish that it wasn’t true…but still..here we are!

    About IE6: I only make websites work and show perfect, but not add any extra ‘sugar’ – stuff that is supported in only certain browsers (e.g. rounded borders – this one applies to all IE browsers actually).

  14. Laegnur

    @MLaZz: That is my position. Web design that meets standards. Without extra support for browsers that do not.

  15. This is realy funny :p

    Sort of reminding me a little bit of my first website..

    It was a blog… But without administration, so I putted in a new post, by hand in the HTML source files.. At least it was XHTML strict.

    Oh and my home made text file counter… I REALY miss that thing ! :D

  16. Garyb

    You should try to fix your own site before you complain about others. NOTHING Validates on this site. not the (x)html, CSS, or 508!! Clean your own house before complaining about others!

  17. @Garyb: Fair enough, although since this is my blog, I’m not as obsessed with a green check for semantics. I’m more strict with customer sites. That said, functionality > semantics.

  18. Jay

    @David: Do you look at each client’s specific traffic to determine that IE 6 is greater than 1%?

    Instead of basing it on an arbitrary statistic that varies from site to site, why not leverage the work of others with YUI graded browser support?

    http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/articles/gbs/

    (I’m sure you’re aware of this, just find it odd that you use 1% as a cut-off, when that 1% could vary substantially from client to client)

  19. “And CSS is for styling. Altering case and capitalization is not styling; it’s content modification.”
    @Derrick Nelson: That just made me LOL. How about we look at it this way: What’s the semantic value of THESE WORDS RIGHT HERE? I don’t know in what situation whole words are actually written in all caps in the real world. Instances of CSS text-transform are meant to stylistically change the appearance of words which would still make sense in their original style without the transform.

    @Fabian: I don’t see meta keywords in David’s source so let’s just assume they used to be there. I just hope David didn’t charge David a fat wad of dough to put meta keywords on David’s website. It isn’t client work. No harm, no foul. And God knows it was probably generated by some WP plugin to begin with.

  20. Ahh loving these comments. I’m 100% on Davids side.

  21. I love them too Sean. But, I’m on the ” others’ ” xD

  22. If only it took just and hour to make a site work with ie6!!

  23. Mason Stewart

    Geez what a day for intense discussion on the IE6 issue. Check out all the comments on http://www.smashingmagazine.com/ over their dropping support for IE6. Great article, David.

  24. Braxo

    As far as IE6 goes, I make my sites work and look the same across all the browsers.

    I take it as a challenge to my skills as a developer.

    I judge developers who opt out and go the easy, “Display a message for the user to change browsers,” are not confident in their programming and beneath me in their programming swagger.

    I wait until the end to do ie6, and it only takes a few hours to get everything all set. Just have your front-end marked-up/generated in XHTML strict and it’s easier than you think.

  25. Jillian Nichols

    I approve 100% of the letter. I always smirk when I see a note about the WEBMASTER at the bottom of a poorly-made website.

    To commentators – Does it really take you over an hour to fix sites for IE6? That surprises me. I used to have a difficult time with it but after a while I’ve come to understand what works and what doesn’t, and I just use a conditional style sheet to nicely degrade anything fancier that doesn’t display correctly.

  26. Yeah with IE6 TBH I don’t really have a problem, The code i write is clean and semantic including the css so my sites mostly come out looking good in IE but better in modern browsers.

  27. Ahmed

    One of my clients said:
    IE6 was released on August 27, 2001.
    If they haven’t upgraded their computer since then I don’t want them as a client.

    And he actually runs a business website. This is my favorite type of clients!

    And David, you’re truly nasty in parts of your open letter. Unless you mean those who pretend to be GOD-like designers/developers, then I totally agree.

    Ahmed/digital

  28. Damon Sharp

    On the ie6 issue. You have draw a line somehere. If we don’t start NOT supporting older browsers, the longer they will hang around. If there is no push, upgrades will never happen.

  29. Nick

    Great post and I agree. But giving me frameworks to use is like giving me weed, they’re just gonna make me lazy.

  30. sean

    I agree to a point. I won’t go out of my way to support an 8 year old browser, but I will make it functionally complete. For example, css rounded corners will be easy and fast in ff3, but IE6 users get square corners.

    …and they deserve square corners. Yeah I said it.

  31. Wow. The whole IE6 point as well as the bit about JavaScript libraries is spot on.

  32. sean

    @Jillian
    I can help you if you want <3

  33. Derrick Nelson

    @David Walsh: Per your responses:

    1) Global browser market share != client browser market share.
    2) Fair enough, but I’d still argue that you waste more bandwidth with unneeded images around your blog than a developer does including a minified framework from a shared resource, regardless of how many or few features he chooses to use out of it.
    3) YOU SHOULDN’T BE STYLING ANYTHING BUT ACRONYMS IN ALL CAPS ANWAY, AS IT’S VERY UNPLEASANT TO LOOK AT IN ANY CONTEXT. I don’t understand why you think it’s somehow not as much of an eyesore on your website as it is on a search result.

  34. @Derrick Nelson: I think it’s a stretch to say that all-capped text can’t be styled well.

  35. Derrick Nelson

    @David Walsh: I’ve never seen all-capped text in a non-graphical context that wouldn’t look better in normal case, but I suppose that’s just one man’s opinion.

    However, I think it’s a much bigger stretch to cite SEO as your only bone to pick with non-transformed, capped text, considering how easy it is to make sure said text never even makes it onto your search results one way or the other.

  36. My only comment is in regard to the all caps…. I prefer to sanitize and format all incoming data before writing to the database. First, it makes sense to santize and format data before validating since the data may change after sanitzation, etc… Second because there may be many different devices connecting to the database and not all of them may support stylesheets. So rather than having to duplicate text-tranform logic for every DOS app or email template I prefer to control this from a single point.

    That means the only text transforming I do is to uppercase, for 2 reasons: the SEO point above, and that some screenreaders (I’ve heard) will interpret all caps as initialisms (Y… O… U… S… H… O… U… L… etc)

  37. Chester

    How did you get a picture of my Dad?

  38. So glad you made a point about developers dropping IE6. Some IE entirely. In fact I was on MooTools IRC last night had an IE issue. 4-5 people just said. Its IE. Don’t support it. Mailing list however helped me solve the problem.

    That being said I am slightly guilty of using MooTools before I genuinely need its functionality. I’ll keep an eye on that. Good post, fun to read.

  39. @Derrick Nelson: I agree with david. Caps text has its place.

  40. @Derrick Nelson: Just can’t help but feel like you are totally bad ass webmaster my friend.

  41. ArthasMX

    @Laegnur: 100% agreed hehehehe

    @Thomas Aylott: 100% agreed

    @Jillian Nichols: 100% agreed…btw, hi beautifull :D

    hehehe, this is really funny….
    DIE ie6!!!

    and hey, people still uses IE6, because all those “technical” guys, installs winXP with no SP, that’s why my sister,brother,mother,grandpha,friends and too many people still uses that damn crap! hehe

    and it does takes me more than 1 hour to fix all ie6 errors!!

    and yes! im working on that problem rightnow, so im angry!!

  42. @ArthasMX: Please refrain from hitting on female commenters. It’s my blog so that means I get first crack! Hahaha. J/K.

  43. Sean

    @Laegnur: assuming corporate suits are not dictating this, of course.

  44. Ben

    @David Walsh: Wish it only took an hour to make things work in IE ;)

    @Braxo: Websites don’t have to look the same across browsers! That’s the sort of thinking that causes our clients to expect rounded corners in IE!

    @Derrick Nelson: You should always use CSS to transform text into uppercase. People using screen readers will have to listen to your entire capitalised paragraph read out letter by letter because the screen reader sees it as an acronym.

  45. senshikaze

    on ie6:
    as a not professional web designer, i don’t support ie 6. at the very least at work i will make sure it passes in ie7 and leave it at that(i have rounded borders and shadows for myself in ff :) ). at home (remember, not pro web designer) i don’t use windows at all. So ie6 for me is non-issue.

  46. Facundo Corradini

    @Derrick Nelson

    Uppercase text can look good on some sites, specially on short headers or in a site logo. In that case, using CSS to capitalize it provides you a better adaptability to future changes and to other platforms (like using a different format on emails or in your admin panel, etc), works better for SEO, and prevents accessibility issues.

  47. dailce

    I use js framworks, mootools or jquery, are you saying it’s bad to use a single framework? Don’t get it :(

    As for ie6, I hate it, too hard to fix the errors and png issues, yes I’m a rookie. How can I test ie6 on Windows?

  48. @dailce: Using either mootools, jQuery or another framework isn’t bad but once you start adding 3-4 it gets messy.

    Fixing IE6 issues is like feeding a fussy eater and that you will learn how they like their food/CSS and i find IE Tester quite good for testing IE6.

  49. John Soon

    That picture is hilarious!!

  50. Ben

    Slightly unrelated, but I just looked at this blog on my android phone, styled PERFECTLY for mobile! Kudos David!

  51. dailce

    Where is he now? (the guy in the picture) LOL

    Anyway, I got my ie6 style fixed up, however, still can’t find the right png fix :( Man I hate ie6!

  52. Ben

    @dailce: Use this for PNG fixing in IE6
    http://www.dillerdesign.com/experiment/DD_belatedPNG/

  53. Derrick Nelson

    @Ben: I don’t use capitalized text at all, save for acronyms. If you are in the habit of capitalizing entire paragraphs, you are definitely a “webmaster” ;)

    @Facundo Corradini: I don’t agree that uppercase text ever looks good as anything but an abbreviation. There are many other ways to accentuate headers and logos besides transforming them to caps. Besides, most logos are graphical, and you can’t text-transform those, anyway ;)

  54. Ben

    @Derrick Nelson: Haha ok so entire paragraphs was definitely an exaggeration, but I often find myself capitalising nav links, headers and other items for readability or design reasons. There’s nothing wrong with that, thanks to CSS text-transform.

  55. mahdi

    Cool letter , haha Sometimes I find my self lazy on css shorthands ….
    Good reminding . I always forget if the font size is first or font weight .

  56. Matthew McKinney

    @Robin Cannon: I am not a Pro, however I have noticed that in IE8 you have an option to support sites/pages that were specifically written for an older browser version. So, if a client wants/needs to support an older version because they have software that was written or is going to be written specifically for an older browser then they have that option with IE8. So, we can still drop IE6 with respect to new code when a client has that sort of need. Unless, of course, you are the one coding for the older browser then you would have to accommodate this need, but for the most part I don’t see a need to support IE6.

    I never have liked IE anyway. I tend to support it last in my code, but I am not doing this a a profession. I just love to write code even though I am not good I still have fun and I am getting better thanks to people willing to help me learn.

    Great letter.

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