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Encouraging Standards-Based Web Development. Presented by: Shan Osborn and Geoffrey Elliott, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The evolving technical landscape. Originally, only a handful of Laboratory staff developed web sites.

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encouraging standards based web development

Encouraging Standards-BasedWeb Development

Presented by: Shan Osborn and Geoffrey Elliott,

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

the evolving technical landscape
The evolving technical landscape
  • Originally, only a handful of Laboratory staff developed web sites.
    • HTML initially designed as a markup language to structure and describe content separate from presentation.
  • Companies eager to establish a unique, branded web presence wanted more.
  • Netscape/Microsoft responded by creating browser-specific presentational elements which were adopted by the W3C.
  • Developers subverted existing markup elements for presentational benefit.


identifying the problems
Identifying the problems
  • Web developers were not cultivating a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of web site development.
  • Isolated work environment did not allow for knowledge sharing and teaming.
  • Level of quality and consistency diminished.


identifying our goals
Identifying our goals
  • To provide a set of standards that would enable staff to team effectively and learn from one another.
  • To provide the information and tools staff need to implement the standards in their work.
  • To provide a process for reviewing work to ensure staff are learning and using the new tools and methods.


things to consider
Things to consider
  • The standards must be flexible enough to adequately support diverse customer/project needs.
  • The standards must focus on forward compatibility while still allowing pages to degrade gracefully for older browsers.
  • Adhering to the standards must not dramatically increase the time or cost of development.
  • The structure of the standards must allow for future updates without extensive staff re-training.


things to consider contd
Things to consider (contd)
  • The standards must provide the means to measure staff performance and career development progress.
  • The standards must not conflict with existing Laboratory publication and information release policies.


research and discoveries
Research and Discoveries
  • First action was to investigate how other institutions attacked the problem.
  • Our situation is not unique!
  • Similar institutions tended to go for a pre-defined look/feel for all pages/sites developed throughout their organizations.
  • Our only realistic option was to aim for code compliance with W3C recommendations and Section 508 requirements.


determining the standards
Determining the standards
  • The standards were divided into categories to help make implementation/compliance easier for staff. For example:
    • Syntax
    • Display/Browser Support
    • Scripts
    • Directories & Files
    • Site Documentation


requirements syntax
Requirements: Syntax
  • Pages must validate against the included document type definition.
  • Images must include appropriate alt text.
  • Special characters must be encoded (e.g., ™).


requirements browser support
Requirements: Browser Support
  • Pages should be designed for current (and future) browsers that support:
    • HTML 4.01
    • CSS Level 1
    • DOM Level 1
  • Pages must degrade gracefully for older browsers such as Netscape 4.x.
  • Pages must be useable in text browsers, PDAs, cell phones, etc.


requirements scripts
Requirements: Scripts
  • Scripts should function in all supported browsers.
  • If a browser lacks the necessary functionality, provide documentation to the peer reviewer and be sure to alert users.
  • Scripts must be appropriately commented (e.g., function descriptions, explanations of complex code, reasons for disabled code.


requirements directories files
Requirements: Directories & Files
  • File and directory names should be descriptive of their content.
  • File and directory names should not include uppercase or special characters.
  • Files should be organized in separate directories to avoid clutter (e.g., images should be stored in an “images” or “media” directory).


requirements documentation
Requirements: Documentation
  • A text file named “siteinfo.txt” will contain the names of the developer(s), content owner(s), server locations, and site URLs.
  • Each site must contain a directory named “site-info”, which will contain the siteinfo.txt document, and a copy of the completed Peer Review Checklist.
  • Staff must document any deviations from the standards along with the reason for the deviation (e.g., budget/time constraints, outside customer requirements).


promoting quality
Promoting quality
  • A Peer Review Process was developed to
    • Help staff develop good, consistent coding practices
    • Share knowledge and techniques
    • Give management a tool for measuring staff performance.
  • Staff are eligible to become peer reviewers after consistently demonstrating knowledge and compliance with the standards and best practices over a period of time.


stepping through the process
Stepping through the process
  • Templates for each level of a web site are prepared and submitted complete with production or dummy content.
  • Reviewer checks code for validation and compliance with department standards.
  • Templates are tested on various platforms and browsers for functionality and browser-specific issues.
  • Completed Peer Review Checklist is returned to the developer for resolution of any non-compliance issues.


tools of the trade
Tools of the trade
  • We established a department web site with
    • Links to both internal and external developer resources, e.g.,
      • Lab policies and procedures
      • W3C specifications
      • Instructional resources
      • Lab writing style guide
    • Sample HTML Template
    • Sample Stylesheet
    • Web Development Standards Checklist
    • Contacts.


a little training never hurt
A little training never hurt
  • One-on-one training:
    • Project-specific informal reviews and instruction
    • General career-development instruction
  • Brown Bag Presentations
    • One-hour overviews of the standards and what they mean
  • Hands-on classes:
    • Creating standards-compliant web pages
    • Designing for accessibility
    • Developing with Cascading Style Sheets


our work has just begun
Our Work Has Just Begun
  • These standards are not static; they will be reviewed and updated as necessary to incorporate new technologies and industry practices.
  • Staff are expected to keep abreast of current industry trends. (Who are we kidding?)


questions comments
Questions? Comments?
  • Shan Osbornshan.osborn@pnl.gov
  • Geoff Elliottgeoff.elliott@pnl.gov