The NetGuide Awards & XHTML

Pete has posted his annual review of NetGuide nominated sites.

Interesting reading!

I notice Russell is claiming bragging rights for having the only site which is fully HTML and CSS-compliant.

I was a bit disappointed to read this comment though:

“One thing I did notice is the number of sites now using XHTML, but still using tables for layout. I’m looking at you Trade Me. It seems so frustratingly stupid, why go to all the trouble of moving to XHTML and not use it semantically?”

From: Validation the 2007 NetGuide Awards

This time 12 months ago Trade Me didn’t even have a DOCTYPE.

That was embarrassing!

Moving to XHTML (as part of the migration to .NET) was a big job and shouldn’t be underestimated. We’ve removed a massive amount of non-semantic mark-up as part of that process. But we’ve also been pragmatic about it. Where it was significantly easier to use HTML tables for layout we’ve used them. The net result is that our pages are now mostly valid and much smaller than they used to be, but still with a lot of room for improvement.

There are a lot of people who are very passionate about web standards. That’s a good thing. But sometimes I think they approach their evangelism with a little too much vigour.

Give people some credit for the improvements they make.

Remember that they are often hard won.

Don’t confuse better for best.

P.S. It was a good night at the NetGuide awards for Trade Me. We picked up the award for ‘Best Trading Site‘ as well as ‘Best Motoring Site‘ and ‘Best Real Estate Site‘. Full credit to everybody who has contributed to those successes and thanks too to everybody who voted. And congratulations to SmileCity for picking up the ‘Site of the Year’ award. :-)

6 thoughts on “The NetGuide Awards & XHTML”

  1. Interesting comments about the tables, Rowan. It does seem odd that you’ve gone to the effort to implement XHTML but have kept tables in some areas that could easily be replaced with divs.

    The very first table on the home page is just a wrapper for the navigation bar. This could (and should) be a div, I couldn’t see why the table is needed here. At least you’ve used an unordered list and CSS for the tabs, instead of using table cells which would have been easier.

    The second table is also just a wrapper for the utility bar which could also be replaced with a div. There’s even an old-school 1px transparent gif stretched out to make sure the table cell doesn’t shrink smaller than 100px.

    The next table is arguably where you could say that using divs here introduces too many problems for cross browser compatibility. It’s always difficult to get a fluid layout with columns that works in all browsers, but it’s definitely possible.

    I think that TradeMe would still need to make good use of tables to display search results and listings, as this is the type of data that is suited to tables.

  2. Trade Me wasn’t the only site that used XHTML and not use semantic mark up – but it was the only site I knew that had moved to XHTML. biggie.co.nz, for example, had 4.01 HTML pages with XHTML markup, but it was fairly minor (meta tags maybe?).

    But as New Zealand’s biggest, most visible site that’s been publicly going through a technical migration I assumed you’d be moving to semantic mark up as well as .NET. I also realise there’s a cost analyst in moving to semantic markup (bandwidth, caching, development, testing, etc). But you did say after all that smart developers read your source code. ;)

    I’m not a web standards zealot nor am I confusing better for best, you should see the mark up mess I have to deal with on a daily basis. Next year I think I’ll be doing more detailed tests, but I’ll never be able to show the rationale of why the mark up is that way.

  3. First off, great to see trademe won those awards (you know success has got to you a fraction though when they are simply footnotes though right? ;)

    More seriously, the table comments don’t seem all that valid. I’ve listened and read about your systems and it was clear that being technologically perfect was not high on the TradeMe agenda – becoming an outstanding business was.

    It’s certainly easy for people to cast stones when their experience extends to their blog and maybe a corporate marketing site. You’re operating a business online with over a billion page views a month – you *really* don’t want to make any mistakes. When things are just working happily and you’re generating income as you are at TradeMe it would be a hard sell to change anything just because it is what the geeks think is right. I believe this is what holds many geeks back from being successful business owners – they get overly hung up on things that just don’t matter to 99% of the market.

    It’s great seeing such openness about the state of your software and equally pleasing to see that post purchase TradeMe is taking a moment to tidy up some parts of their platform.

    – JD

  4. It’s important, like you say, to be pragmatic in the development of any application with regards to web accessibility. Congratulations on the tidy up of your code to make it valid. I am sure that was a huge task!

    It concerns me when people wave the validity flag without truly considering their users. Accessibility is subjective so running a page through the W3C validator doesn’t tell you much about it, tables or no tables.

    What I would be genuinely interested in is how many complaints you have had about the usability of your website by blind, site impaired or other-wise impaired users. Surely as NZ’s site with the broadest coverage you would have a lot of exposure to such feedback?

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