24 April 2009

Recent times

I am sure you will have noticed that posting has been light on here the last few weeks and I thought it might be interesting to talk a little about what I have been doing.

I have spent most of my spare time working on JSquared. The code base is coming on nicely now. I have completely re-written some parts of it even since the latest release and I am getting close to being code complete for the next version. Some more demos will come soon as well, but you can get more information on that over on the JSquared blog over the coming week or two.

Recently I have achieved the status of Certified Scrum Master. This is something about which I am very excited. I believe that Agile with Scrum is a fantastic engineering process. I have seen it in action myself whilst I worked at LBi and I am actively looking to assist Betfair in making the transition to this process. It can be painful and without doubt we are not yet getting it right, but with time, I am sure we will.

Now that I am officially certified, I feel more able to push things forward with Betfair and I have gained a great understanding of the process. I even think that I might bring some of the principles to my "normal" life, though I am not sure my wife will like a daily scrum meeting!

Hopefully I should be able to work on some more exciting things over the coming months than in the last few and I will be sure to blog about any and all the exciting happenings in the world of Betfair. For now, it seems I am far more an observer than participant in this great interface development world in which I live and work.

5 April 2009

JSquared 2.0

For those of you that might have missed the news, I released JSquared 2.0 today, April 5 2009.

This version represents a massive step forwards for the library. There is a whole new website to go along with the massively revamped code base. The documentation has become much more extensive and the website now features demos of how some of the library works.

The best thing to do is to check out the website for yourself, follow the JSquared blog, download the code and read the docs.

2 April 2009


IE6 is a browser that all web developers hate. Or at least that is the case if you tow the line.

IE6 used to be by far the most common browser and once was the most advanced. However, things have moved on since 2001. Web developers hate IE6 for its poor implementation of standards. Web developers hate the vagaries of the IE6 rendering engine and the performance of its JavaScript engine. These problems are well documented elsewhere.

However, the important people, the ones who matter, the ones who web developers do all their hard work for - the users - they don't seem to care nearly as much. This can be evidenced by the proportion of users who still use IE6. Even today, 8 years after its launch, over 15% of users typically visit a website with IE6. If I were Microsoft, I might just be congratulating myself for making a product so beloved of its users. Of course, where I to do that then I would naively be ignoring the massive proportion of users who have no idea what browser they are using, that there are other browers out there or how to switch.

We as web developers must also not ignore this set of users. There have been a lot of campaigns started recently to end IE6 support. Some have gone even further such as this one I just came across. I support the idea of getting our users using a more modern browser, but its up to them not us.

I don't get the big deal here. I stopped treating IE6 as a "fully supported browser" about 2 years ago. I think the problem here is this idea that a website must look identical in all supported browsers. What is wrong with a website looking subtly different in different browsers?

Of all the websites I have built from scratch in the last 2 years, not one has looked identical in different browsers unless it has been demanded from the client. They all worked in an identical way, but they looked subtly different - generally because browsers have different default rendering styles.

These differences have never been an issue. In IE6 you might get simpler button styles, you might get a more linear visual layout or you might find text looking slightly different. When I have shown them to a client and explained why they are different, the client does not care either - in fact they are thankful for the money and time saved!

I have only had problems with IE6 when I have been maintaining a site where the client has it in writing that browser support will include IE6 and that the site will be identical in all browsers.

In the many many demonstrations to clients that I have made in the last 2 years, I have never once been asked to use any browser other than the one I picked for the demo.

So, I just don't get the big deal with IE6 these days. Lets make a big deal about why we need to make websites look identical in different browsers on different platforms. Lets make a big deal about making websites more accessible. Lets make a big deal about building standards compliant websites with the simplest possible code.

If we spend our energies doing this, then we are more likely to have built-in zero cost support for many many browsers including mobile browsers, not just a narrow set often defined well before the release of a website and therefore out of date at its release.

1 April 2009

CSS Selector Engines

CSS selectors are a great way to pick DOM nodes off a page and many JavaScript libraries use them extensively.

For those that have used JSquared, you will know that there is no CSS selector engine built in. Some people have asked why and I have always said that I think its simpler, faster, easier and makes a better performing application to use standard DOM methods to pick elements.

Well, yesterday I saw TaskSpeed and it got me thinking. I was about to start making a JSquared version of the tests in order to see what the performance was when I cam across this post which proved the point I wanted to make without me having to do any work!

Andrea shows that using native DOM methods is by far and away the fastest way to complete the tests. Whilst this isn't totally related to a CSS selector engine, it does show that native methods are the best and that certainly holds true for the few parts of the test where a selector engine would be used it it existed.

Of course, once all browsers in use support the Selectors API, all will be much improved,