Blog

HTML vs XHTML version statistics

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jul 5, 2015 | 

Web Standards

As part of the online demo at try.powermapper.com we collect summary statistics about pages scanned by our service. One interesting statistic covers versions of HTML and XHTML in common use. As of March 2015:

 

Government accessibility standards and WCAG 2

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jul 4, 2015 | 

Accessibility

This posting summarizes some detailed research into the state of government accessibility standards around the world, as of June 2015. Usually these evolve fairly slowly, although the Jodhan vs. Attorney General of Canada case may change that (governments don’t like being successfully sued by their citizens).

 

Website accessibility: disability statistics

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 5, 2015 | 

Accessibility

This post is a compilation of disability statistics from government agencies and researchers in the US, UK and Canada. The statistics shown have most impact on website use, and help assess the impact of accessibility problems, in terms of numbers of people affected, and likely commercial impact.

 

Accessibility, search engines and social media: how they overlap

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jan 23, 2015 | 

Accessibility

Search engines can’t see and can’t click, so there’s a big overlap between making sites accessible and making sites perform well in search engines. Social media also uses several features that improve accessibility.

 

Page title length for search engines

Posted by Mark Rogers on Apr 23, 2013 | 

SEO

Ever been wondered why there’s a lot of conflicting advice about longest page title allowed in search results pages (SERPS)? The short answer is different search engines have different limits and these limits keep changing. The current official guidelines, as of April 2013, are: W3C recommends a maximum of 64 characters for page titles. Bing recommends a title around 65 characters long. Yahoo used to recommend a maximum title length of 67 characters, but this advice is now obsolete since Bing now supplies Yahoo’s search results.

 

HTML 5.0 becomes W3 candidate recommendation

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 18, 2012 | 

Web Standards

After 4 years of development HTML 5.0 finally exited draft status and became a W3 Candidate Recommendation on Dec 17, 2012. HTML 5 will now go through the final stages of the W3 standardization process before becoming a full Recommendation in 2014 (the final published standard). The only changes now to HTML 5.0 will be bug fixes, fixing typos and the possible removal of "at risk" features. New features will be added to the HTML 5.1 draft specification, which is planned to become a Candidate Recommendation in 2014.

 

SortSite 5 now available

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 6, 2012 | 

SortSite

SortSite 5 is now generally available with over 700 quality checkpoints. New features in version 5 include: Record and replay form actions (Professional version only) Enhanced browser compatibility checks allowing ability to choose which browsers to check Analyze and check changes made to pages by JavaScript ARIA support HTML5 validation Performance improvements - twice as fast scanning some sites Record form actions SortSite Professional allows you to record form actions and replay them during scans to check the results of the form action.

 

Edinburgh winter festivals

Posted by Mark Rogers on Nov 13, 2012 | 

General

The winter festival has just finished in Edinburgh. For 6 weeks, from the start of December to the start of January, the city centre streets come alive day and night with: Outdoor skating in Princes Street Gardens (photo below) Christmas markets with plenty of tasty food and glühwein Ferris wheel, helter skelter and other rides The Hogmany street party - about 80,000 people crowd into Princes Street to celebrate New Year and watch the annual fireworks display   Our office is just round the corner from the Christmas Market, so our usual lunch stops have been dropped in favor of a stall selling bratkartoffeln (German sautéed potatoes).

 

Desktop quarterly releases - Feb 2012

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 21, 2012 | 

PowerMapper

The latest quarterly PowerMapper and SortSite maintenance releases are now available. New features include: View Source command added to right click menu Updated W3 DTDs to match validator.w3.org (pulls in fix for usemap in XHTML 1.1 Second Edition) Added compatibility checks for Firefox 9,10,11 and Chrome 16,17 versions Added support for CSS3 properties that have reach candidate recommendation status Fixes include: Handle zero sized thumbnail images caused by buggy display driver Avoid blank thumbnail images on pages that only contain Flash movies or META refresh directives Don't detect broken anchors in non-standard CSS e.g.

 

W3 ARIA - why doesn't it validate?

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 4, 2012 | 

Accessibility

The W3 ARIA recommendation specifies new HTML attributes (like "aria-describedby") to help screen readers identify relationships between elements. These new attributes tell screen readers about relationships that can't be derived from existing HTML semantics, and usually only obvious from the position of items on screen (e.g. a paragraph of help text next to a form field). Most people who've tried adding ARIA attributes to HTML have noticed that documents don't validate unless the HTML 5 DOCTYPE is used: <!DOCTYPE html>.

 

How disabilities affect website use

Posted by Mark Rogers on Feb 4, 2012 | 

Accessibility

This post  follows on from the one on Disability Statistics, and shows how the most common disabilities affect website use.

 

Christmas cards for people with limited vision

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 13, 2011 | 

Accessibility

Well, it’s that time of year again. While I consider myself one of life’s formidably organised Christmas present buyers (I started in August) I seem to fall sadly short when it comes to finding the time to write and post my Christmas cards. I know that to many, card writing seems an outmoded way of sending Christmas greetings, but for many of my ageing relatives, some of whom now live alone, a hand written card arriving in the mail is still much appreciated.

 

Having something to say beats slick presentation

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 29, 2011 | 

Accessibility

Today is World Stroke Day, which aims to raise awareness of the condition. Earlier this week I saw a conference keynote speech by Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovators Dilemma and a Professor at Harvard Business School. He introduced himself by apologizing for hesitating while speaking because he'd suffered a stroke a few months earlier. In spite of this he was an engaging speaker - much better than the other professional conference speakers.

 

PowerMapper and SortSite quarterly releases

Posted by Mark Rogers on Sep 12, 2011 | 

PowerMapper

The latest quarterly PowerMapper and SortSite maintenance releases are now available. New features include: BlackBerry, Firefox 5 and Chrome 12 added to browser compatibility tests Autocomplete for forms Enhanced spell checking options Fixes include: Performance improvements Handle Arabic character encoding in content rules Handle pages with contradictory character encoding in HTTP headers and META charset These are available to all customers with active support and maintenance contracts via the Update Watch feature in each application.

 

SortSite OnDemand August 2011

Posted by Mark Rogers on Aug 29, 2011 | 

SortSite

SortSite OnDemand has just been updated for all subscribers. New features in this release include: Mobile browser compatibility checks for BlackBerry Added Firefox 5 and Chrome 12 to browser compatibility tests Added self-service password recovery Added delete scans and delete scan history Added scope option to quick scan on home page   Bug fixes include: Expand All button in reports was slow on large sites with lots of errors Correctly handle

 

Can website accessibility declarations be trusted?

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 19, 2011 | 

Accessibility

The Design for All Research Group at Middlesex University have produced a report called Declaring conformance on web accessibility asking the question: can website accessibility declarations be trusted? Sadly the conclusion was no, for both self-declared and third-party certifications, confirming the findings of earlier studies. Using a sample of 100 European government and commercial sites claiming accessibility standards conformance, more than 95% were found to have accessibility issues. The study used our automated tool, SortSite, in conjunction with manual testing performed by the accessibility group at the Shaw Trust (see the report for details on methodology).

 

Analytics visualization with PowerMapper Pro 5

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 17, 2011 | 

PowerMapper

One of the great new features in PowerMapper 5 is the ability to overlay data onto a sitemap. Here's an example using data imported from Google Analytics:  To overlay data from Google Analytics: Go to the Top Content report for your site in Google Analytics Choose the Export option at the top of the page and choose CSV (this exports only the data shown on screen, which is 10 pages by default, so you may want to increases the number of rows displayed) Save the exported file somewhere on your PC Create a map of your site in PowerMapper Professional Select the Import command from the File menu Choose the file you saved at step 3 Note: not all of the map styles support data overlays - try the Electrum or Isometric map styles first You're not restricted to Google Analytics - any data that can be exported to a CSV file can be overlaid onto a sitemap.

 

Giving accessible presentations

Posted by Mark Rogers on Apr 9, 2011 | 

Accessibility

A few days ago I attended a presentation given by some UK Government departments - the main topic was providing equality of access to government contracts. There was the usual torrent of PowerPoint slides filled with facts, figures and addresses of websites which publish government contracts.  At the end of the presentations the question and answer session started: Chief Official: "Does anyone have any questions?" Lady in Audience: "Will any of the slides be available after the meeting?" Chief Official: "We'll consult on that afterwards."

 

What your Out of Office reply says about you

Posted by Mark Rogers on Feb 23, 2011 | 

Usability

We just received this Out of Office reply today, in late February: Thank you for your inquiry. We are currently Closed for the Christmas holidays and will reply to your inquiry in the new year. A Merry Christmas to all our clients and all the best for 2011 This isn't an isolated example - here's one we got at the end of 2010: Sorry we are on Holidays and will be back on 23/4/2001 It doesn't look good if your Out of Office reply says you've been on vacation for a decade.

 

Timeline of web standards: 1994-2010

Posted by Mark Rogers on Feb 9, 2011 | 

Web Standards

This diagram shows how web standards have developed since 1994. Originally HTML and related standards were discussed and agreed by a small group of interested parties on a mailing list. Later the W3 was formed, and it put in place increasingly rigorous processes, with increasing amounts of public consultation. While solid process and consultation is a good thing, one striking point is how long it now takes to get W3 standards from Draft to Recommendation status.

 

PowerMapper Software - roundup of 2010

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jan 22, 2011 | 

General

Here's a month-by-month review of the important events of 2010 for our company and customers: Jan - PowerMapper 5.0 Released PowerMapper 5.0 was released to support and maintenance customers. New features included: new map styles; analytics data import; data visualization; map notes. Feb - Management Buyout PowerMapper Software completed the acquisition of Electrum’s PowerMapper and SortSite product business as part of a management buyout (MBO). Mar - Draft of new Section 508 accessibility standards The US Federal Access Board released a draft refresh of the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines Apr - Customer base expands to 30% of Fortune 100 Sales figures revealed that PowerMapper and SortSite were used by more than 30% of the Fortune 100.

 

Usability disasters

Posted by Mark Rogers on Nov 11, 2010 | 

Usability

Today is World Usability Day, so I'm going to talk about some famous usability disasters. As web developers we're lucky - our usability shortcomings almost never kill anyone. Some famous examples of fatal usability problems include: The Airbus 320 crash in Jan 1992 partly caused by a mode switch in the wrong position. The mode switch changed the meaning of descent rate numbers entered into the autopilot and was toggled by a small switch in a large bank of other switches.

 

Web standards implementation process

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 31, 2010 | 

Web Standards

The HTML 4.01 standard was introduced in 1999, but 11 years later, no major vendor fully implements it.

Controversial, perhaps, but also true. A lot of flak is rightly directed at Internet Explorer’s lack of standards support, but the other browser vendors aren’t blameless either.

 

World Standards Day 2010

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 14, 2010 | 

Web Standards

October 14th is World Standards Day: this year's theme is making the world accessible for all, which we're passionate about (both personally and as a company).  Over 650 million people globally are affected by some kind of disability, and one quarter of the world population is over 60, so accessible products and services have a huge audience. Remember, accessibility benefits everyone: Wheelchair ramps in buildings make them easier to get into with prams.

 

New offices in Edinburgh

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 12, 2010 | 

General

We've just moved to new offices in Edinburgh in the rather stunning St Andrew Square. We spent a long time choosing offices since they had to match quite strict sustainability criteria: Easy access to public transport (the train station is 3 minutes walk, the bus station is the other side of the square, and the new tram system will run through the square) Accessible to wheelchair and low vision users (quite hard to find in Edinburgh which is full of very old buildings that are hard to make accessible) Energy efficient with recycling facilities (the office has recycling bins everywhere, with special bins for toner cartridges which go to a recycling charity) Plenty of space for future expansion The new offices fit the bill perfectly, with the bonus of a great view across to Edinburgh Castle.

 

Business of Software 2010

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 9, 2010 | 

General

Just back from the Business of Software Conference 2010. Met some interesting people and heard lots of great speakers, but two really stood out. Firstly, Derek Sivers, a musician who founded CD Baby, then sold it for $20 million and gave the money to charity. He set up the site to sell his band's CDs, then people from other unsigned bands asked him to sell their CDs as well. Fast forward 10 years and he's running a thriving business.

 

Shaw Trust accessibility testing

Posted by Mark Rogers on Sep 21, 2010 | 

SortSite

I had the privilege of visiting the Shaw Trust's accessibility testing center recently. The Shaw Trust is a UK charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently. As part of their work they provide accessibility testing services to a range of organizations worldwide. Their accessibility testing team employs people with a range of disabilities, using different assistive technologies. This means their testing is very thorough and sets a gold standard for the rest of the accessibility community. The commitment and enthusiasm of the team was brilliant, and watching them at work really brings home the challenges and obstacles some websites present.

 

New blogging platform

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 8, 2010 | 

General

We've just switched this blog from Blogger to a self-hosted solution. Blogger was great, but we have more control over the look and feel of the new platform, which means better integration with the rest of the site.

 

Release: PowerMapper 5.0

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 10, 2009 | 

PowerMapper

We've just launched PowerMapper 5.0, which will be available to all customers with a support and maintenance contract before the end of the month. New features in this release include: Two new map styles Import data from Google analytics or webmaster tools Overlay imported data onto site maps (little graphs are drawn next to page thumbnails) Add design notes to maps (use this when using the site map as a blueprint for site re-development) Extract links from Flash sites Resizable page thumbnails Support for non-European character sets including Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean User interface improvements including customizable toolbars and new map wizard Exporting meta data Support for Windows 7 We'll talk about the new features in more detail in follow-up posts.

 

SortSite certified for Windows Vista

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 3, 2009 | 

SortSite

For the past month or so we've been working hard to get SortSite Certified for Windows Vista. This involves testing against a slew of test cases which makes sure your application plays well with Windows, including Restart Manager support, which means SortSite saves and restores current state if an overnight restart occurs (usually as the result of Windows applying automatic updates on the first Tuesday of every month). After a few weeks of internal testing against Microsoft's "Certified for Vista" test specification, we submitted our application to VeriTest last week.

 

Reseller program

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 4, 2009 | 

PowerMapper

Part of the our sales strategy for 2009 is expanding our reseller program. In January we signed up Dell, Compucom and QBS Software. We're always on the lookout for new resellers, and offer generous discounts for volume sales.

 

Release: SortSite 3.1

Posted by Mark Rogers on Feb 10, 2009 | 

SortSite

Last week we released SortSite 3.1. The main theme of this release was expanded browser compatibility rules. We now have a lot more checks for incompatible CSS, HTML and JavaScript - as well as adding support for Google Chrome. We've reorganized the compatibility summary so you can now see at a glance which browsers a site works in. Other features in this release include: page weight checks; new accessibility summary; and greatly reduced memory consumption on large sites (up to 75% less memory in some cases).

 

Release: SortSite 3.0

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 16, 2008 | 

SortSite

On Dec 11th 2008 the W3C released the long awaited WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines. The first draft was published in Jan 2001, so they've been 8 years in the making. For comparison, it took NASA 8.5 years from Kennedy's 1961 speech to land a man on the moon. On Dec 16th 2008 Electrum released SortSite 3.0, the first commercial accessibility tool to support the final W3C WCAG2 recommendation. In addition to support for WCAG2 there's been a host of user interface improvements, including the ability to set a corporate web site quality policy and share that with co-workers.

 

Release: SortSite 2.07

Posted by Mark Rogers on Sep 30, 2008 | 

SortSite

We shipped the SortSite 2.07 maintenance release earlier this month. Changes include a new scheduler, improved performance (up to 10x faster on some sites) and fixes for a number of false positives reported by users. Fortunately false positives are pretty rare - we only see 3 or 4 reports a month. Any user can report a problem using the Report Broken Rule menu option - we log these and endeavor to fix them in the next maintenance release (although anything reported in the week before a release is usually deferred to the next release).

 

Release: PowerMapper 4.15

Posted by Mark Rogers on Aug 26, 2008 | 

PowerMapper

We shipped the latest maintenance release of PowerMapper over the weekend. The focus of this release was improving performance on large sites. Scanning a large site is now up to 10x faster (depending on network speed). We were aiming for a 2x speed improvement, so we're pretty thrilled. We also updated Google sitemap export to match the current (0.9) schema from sitemaps.org, and fixed a crash on the Japanese version of Windows XP.

 

SortSite online demo

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jun 24, 2008 | 

Web Standards

This blog has been pretty quiet for the last few weeks because we’ve been busy releasing an online version of SortSite.

This lets you take SortSite for a spin without having to install any software.

 

PowerMapper 4.12: export to PNG and HTML

Posted by Mark Rogers on Apr 30, 2008 | 

PowerMapper

We released PowerMapper 4.12, the latest release of our site mapping tool, a couple of weeks ago, with some long overdue features: Export maps as HTML Export maps as PNG (useful for using maps in reports/presentations) Excel Site Report (useful for information architecture/site redesign) SortSite 2.04, our link checking and web site testing product was released at the same time and also has a new HTML export option.

 

Search 101 - how search engines work - part 2

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 13, 2008 | 

SEO

In Part 1 we covered how a search engine crawler visits web pages. In this part we're going to investigate how words on web pages are indexed. You'll recall the three phases of search engines: Crawling (or spidering) the web, finding pages people want to search Indexing words on web pages Searching the index (i.e. the bit that happens when you type a search into Google) A search engine index works very like the way the index in book works: in a book each word in the index lists page numbers the word appears on; in a search index each word has a list of pages the word appears on.

 

SortSite 2.03: export reports to Word

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 13, 2008 | 

SortSite

We've just released SortSite 2.03 with a feature many of you have been asking for: export to Word RTF. RTF is supported by all major word processors, including Word and OpenOffice. This allows you to add value to the reports by exporting them, then editing them in Word to add your own logo and executive summary. You can then print or PDF them before presenting them to your customers.

 

PowerMapper and SortSite now available boxed

Posted by Mark Rogers on Mar 1, 2008 | 

PowerMapper

In response to customer requests we're making PowerMapper and SortSite available in retail boxes, with help of the folks at SwiftCD.   The first boxes should be rolling out of production on Monday, and will be available to buy from our web site early next week.  

 

Search 101 - how search engines work - part 1

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jan 30, 2008 | 

SEO

Having some background on how search engines work is very useful when you're trying to optimize your site. We hope we've a bit of perspective on this, having spent the best part of a decade implementing search engines and web crawlers. How do words on a web page end up searchable? This happens in three phases: Crawling (or spidering) the web, finding pages people want to search Indexing words on web pages Searching the index (i.e.

 

Release: SortSite 2.0

Posted by Mark Rogers on Jan 9, 2008 | 

SortSite

I've not posted many entries over the last couple of months because we've been busy getting SortSite 2.0 ready to ship. SortSite is a link checking and web site testing tool. The 2.0 release contains a bunch of new features, but my three favorites are: Issue Maps, which show how errors are distributed across your site Inventories, which show all pages, images, CSS and JavaScript files used on your site Source View, which shows your HTML/CSS source code annotated with any issues discovered in the code, and help text that shows you how to fix the problem Other stuff in this release includes a new installer that fully supports Vista UAC, a built-in RSS reader and a standards compliance scorecard.

 

HTML vs XHTML part 2

Posted by Mark Rogers on Dec 22, 2007 | 

Web Standards

In 2006 we converted our site from HTML 4.01 to XHTML 1.0. It seemed like it should be straightforward. After all, we reasoned, XHTML 1.0 is compatible with HTML so it should just be a case of changing the doctype from HTML to XHTML? Wrong.

 

HTML vs XHTML part 1

Posted by Mark Rogers on Nov 12, 2007 | 

Web Standards

There are a lot of good reasons for switching to XHTML, but there are some drawbacks as well. Imagine you're responsible for a major e-commerce web site, and you make the decision to migrate the entire site from HTML to XHTML, serving it to standards compliant browsers (like Firefox) using the W3C recommended MIME type application/xhtml+xml. A couple of months after the switch someone types <br> instead of <br/> when making a minor edit to the main site template.

 

Google hidden text penalties

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 16, 2007 | 

SEO

Google wants sites in its index, but it doesn't want sites that use sneaky techniques to increase their rankings. If Google detects a site using these techniques, they penalize the site's ranking (or remove it altogether). Google has a set of freely available guidelines on the sort of techniques they frown on, but it's often difficult to know when you're breaking them - especially if you're not the one writing the site code.

 

Getting certified for Windows Vista - part 2

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 12, 2007 | 

PowerMapper

We got our test results back from VeriTest this morning - first time pass - PowerMapper is now Certified for Vista. Apart from the installer, the main bit of engineering work needed to ensure certification was support for Vista Restart Manager. This is one of the best hidden features in Vista - it allows the OS to restart your application where it left off after a reboot or a crash. Needless to say it needs a bit of work: your app needs to register a command line option used by the Restart Manager via the RegisterApplicationRestart API call.

 

Getting certified for Windows Vista - part 1

Posted by Mark Rogers on Oct 5, 2007 | 

PowerMapper

After some hard work we've finally submitted PowerMapper, our site-mapping product, for "Certified for Vista" testing (aka logo testing). The previous version had gone through the "Designed for XP" test, so we thought it would be easy to get certified for Vista. We were wrong. The tests themselves are split into three areas: Security and Compatibility (test cases 1-10) Most desktop apps should pass these tests with few, if any, modifications.