Archive for September, 2007

Navigation or content first?

It’s a debate that comes and goes: should your content be before your navigation in the source order and/or in the visual order?

Personally, I use the visual layout of nav on the left, but at the bottom of the source. With a huge nav like a blog generally has, I think Google likes my content better if it’s at the top of the source, and it’s better for screenreader users not to tab through endless nav.

Arguments against content first tend to focus on the subversion of user expectation: it spooks people out too much if the content is first. I say “Tish and Pish!” because I think that’s a red herring—users expect massively-nested tables for layout but doesn’t mean you should do it. I also think that websites are so heterogenous that people expect to have to learn a new layout for each site, anyway.

The reason I mention this is that I read a generally sensible blog post the other day by the American Federation for the Blind called How to Make Your Blog Accessible to Blind Readers which said:

Blind users find top and left-hand navigation bars annoying because the screen reader starts at the top of the page and reads from left to right. It is very time-consuming to listen to the same list of links every time you visit a page. You can get people right to your latest post by putting your navigation links on the right-hand side.

If you are wedded to left-hand navigation, then place a tiny “skip link” at the top, so blind users can jump to the new content. Just don’t forget the anchor!

Assuming that the AFB knows what it’s talking about, that’s pretty clear: put content first, but if you really can’t do that, use skip links (even though “skip links” is a widget that’s does what the browser should do, and Patrick Lauke will give the AFB a collective wedgie for recommending it).

Talking of which, Ian Lloyd has made a video that shows people how to resize text in all the popular browsers called Teach a Man to Fish (or How to Resize Text) which he wants people to link to instead of arseing around with text resize widgets. Do it, or Lauke will give you a wedgie.

WordPress blog ate itself

For some unexplained reason, WordPress got corrupted, decided to uninstall itself, displaying “Looks like you haven’t installed wordpress yet. Try install.php” message with a handy link to install.php so anyone could install a new database. Someone did, which then screwed all the permissions up on my server. Brilliant.

I’ve been cursing my webhost all day, who then explained that it’s a known WordPress problem, found a solution, restored the database and began patiently putting the permissions right. So more good service from my webhosts, NSdesign.

If you understand such gobbledegook, here’s the diagnosis:

We have inserted the necessary values for the wp_user_roles’s option_value of option_name field in wp_options table and fixed this issue.

This error that you received in the word press is due to the incorrect role upgrade for wp_option table.

We have closely examined the databases and checked the database access privilleges. Everything regarding the permission issues were checked and the privileges are verified to be correct. As far as this error is considered it was due to the incorrect role upgrade for wp_option table. We have inserted the correct values for wp_user_roles’s option_value of option_name field in wp_options table in the word press database.

Bloody computers—I hate them. I just love what you can do with them. That’s the killer.

Snake soup

On my first evening back in familiar Thailand, my brother-in-law accidentally killed a snake. This being Thailand, it was immediately decided that we’d eat it.

While some water boiled and some lemongrass and herbs were added, James played with the corpse—it make an excellent substitute train-set.

The scales were scorched and scraped off over fire, seen in this video.

Then, it was gutted and chopped, and after a few minutes it was ready.

It was a lady snake, and so the eggsac was given to me as the guest of honour. It was about the size of my thumb, slightly chewy, but delicious. (Full gallery).

Black eyes and encores

What a splendid Saturday. I went to karate with some degree of trepidation, having done no exercise for four weeks while on holiday. In the meantime, Pete had been giving extra training to the mighty Jenny and Chris, two sibling teenagers just about to take their black belts.

Consequently, Jenny beat me 10 to 5 , which isn’t too bad considering the difference in belts. In kickboxing, a punch or kick is worth a point, but a kick to the head is worth two points; when you’re five feet six, and old, it’s tricky kicking someone’s head.

Then Chris beat me by about 83479238472 to zero, and gave me a cut shin and a black eye as a momento. So I’m looking to get a posse together for next week. If just 25 of us have a go, we can show him a thing or two…

And then to The Adam and Eve for a gig with the band. I love playing The Adam; the fee is risible (it just about covers the strings that Lee breaks and our bar bill), and the stage is approximately the size of a postage stamp, but it’s always a great atmosphere, with people dancing and getting into the music. It’s even better now they’ve got a new sound bloke (who I rudely forgot to thank—thanks Tony!) Once we finished the set, the crowd wouldn’t let us off, so we did most of the songs again, and finished around 2 a.m.

You know it’s a good weekend when you wake on Sunday morning covered in bruises, hung over and hoarse.

Vernacular Web 2

Those who enjoyed my Geocities 96 CSS zen Garden “design” will probably be interested in this essay Vernacular Web 2 by Olia Lialina:

To me, what defines the history of Web is not just the launch dates of new browsers or services, not just the dot-com bubbles appearing or bursting, but also the appearance of a blinking yellow button that said “New!” or the sudden mass extinction of starry wallpapers.

Wat Rong Khun – the white temple

I’ve long been an admirer of the art of Chalermchai Kositpipat, who was one of the prime movers to break Thai buddhist art away from slavishly following tradition and modernise it. So when I heard that he is building a temple called Wat Rong Khun in his home village in Chiang Rai, I was delighted to receive an invitation to look around it.

Chalermchai’s temple is pure white (see gallery), which makes it shine magically in the Thai sun. The entrance to the main prayer hall has a disconcerting sea of hands, reaching out from hell to beg for help.

The wat is still under construction; Chalermchai reckons it will take another 70–90 years to complete, and it’s was splendid to see the workshop full of unfinished giants and dragons.

Then came the obligitory mug to the camera with Ajarn Chalermchai and get some beautiful signed prints of his paintings which he sells to raise money for the building work. This is a fabulous place, and well worth a visit if you’re in Chiang Rai.