Hi John, thanks for agreeing to this interview! Could you introduce yourself a bit to our readers?
Sure! I’ve been a software developer, running my own company Westciv, with my business partner Maxine Sherrin since 1993. We’ve been selling software online since 1995, which of course lead us to web design and development (my interest in hypertext goes back to the 1980s, and our first application was in fact a hypertext knowledge management system.
I was also doing some teaching in college back in the mid 90s, when CSS emerged. It instantly piqued my interest, and I started incorporating it into my courses. I went looking for a decent CSS editor (this is 1996 or so), and found that all left a lot to be desired. So I wrote one – Style Master. It’s 9 years old now, and has been on the Mac and Windows since 1999.
As part of developing Style Master, we developed a lot of resources for people to learn CSS – what is now the “Complete CSS Guide” was originally called “Everything you ever wanted to know about Style”, CSS tutorials, browser compatibility charts, and so on. The site has been viewed by literally tens of millions of folks, and is still a very popular site. We are working on an overhaul, so keep an eye out there.
As part of my early work with CSS, I was involved with the Web Standards Project (WaSP), in particular as one of the “CSS Samurai“. Our role was to critique in a positive and constructive way, the support of CSS in the leading browsers at the time. We identified the top 10 problems in each, with suggestions for how to go about fixing them. Tod Fahrner’s original “Acid Test” came out of this project, and I continue to believe it was the single most effective WaSP project.
More recently, I’ve been involved with organizing the Web Directions Conferences in both Australia and Canada. These are conferences focussed on the needs of professional web designers and developers.
Well that shows you know what you’re talking about, now we’d like to know what your opinion is about the current status and direction of CSS3 development?
Well, in many ways, it’s very slow. Both in terms of the development of the specifications by the CSS Working Group at the W3C, and also in terms of the browsers themselves.
However, I think the last 6-9 months in particular there has been a marked uptick in the pace of development, particularly on the browser side of things, and above all, with Safari. In fact, this seems to me one of the most exciting times in terms of CSS development in the last decade.
What I think Safari, Mozilla and Opera are doing right is that they are using the browser specific extensions like -webkit- and -o-, and also, all the features they are implementing, for example box-shadow and border-radius, automatically degrade gracefully – if a feature isn’t supported in a browser, then the user doesn’t see it, and yet, there is no impact on their user experience, other than not getting the full visual effect. Which makes adopting any of these features as a developer/designer risk free.
Which CSS3 tags do you already use in your work?
Ok, you caught me there :), tell us about them!
border-radius– to give rounded edges to the heads up display (HUD) windows. Now, Mozilla’s support for border-radius is still not great, so I use
-webkit-border-radius, but not
-moz-border-radius. This shows why browsers adopting this convention for experimental features is so important.
- To make the heads up display windows semi-transparent, I use
- To give the HUD windows a “floating” effect, I use
Which new features would you like to be using in your designs?
I think that transitions will be everywhere soon – used well, they’ll be great. Used badly, they’ll be the new <blink>.
I particularly like the appearance property, which lets a developer specify that an element should look for example like a button, or a popup menu. As we move increasingly to webapps rather than websites, this is going to be a very powerful feature.
You’re one of the organizers of Webdirections North, will you feature css3 in the program there?
As with last year, I am sure there’ll be coverage of CSS3 properties, though we don’t have a specifically CSS3 focussed session. I suspect by Web Directions South 08, and Web Directions North 09, it will be time to have sessions focused particularly on CSS3.
We at css3.info are committed converts to Microformats, but they’re still pretty niche. What one thing would you like to see happen in order to popularise them?
I think with Firefox 3 baking user support for microformats directly into the UI will bring the attention of microformats to a much wider audience. When people can simply see the location of a business on Yahoo or Google Maps, or add a contact to their address book, or an event to their calendar with a single mouse click, I think there’ll be an “ah ha” moment for a lot of people. It would be nice to see this kind of functionality in the next version of IE (the right noises are coming out of Microsoft re that), Safari, and other browsers.
That’s it. Thanks a LOT John for participating!
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