Posted by Neil Crosby on February 2, 2005 12:37 AM
As reported at the Web Standards Project, MSN.com is now using CSS as the basis of its design. It’s great to see another major website (I know that the target audience of this site would generally never visit MSN.com, but it is still a major website!) taking up the mantle of Table Free Design.
I know that this is my second Microsoft related entry in twenty-four hours, but bear with me. It’s a good thing that someone at Microsoft has decided to push at having some sort of standards compliance. Of course, the CSS based site that they’ve created at the moment, doesn’t look very good, but it’s a start. Would it be stupid to think that if Microsoft’s websites start using CSS for layout then correct support for CSS in Internet Explorer might be pushed to a slightly higher priority in the development of Internet Explorer 7? Well, yes, it probably would be stupid to hope that. I can dream though, can’t I?
The site is also now using the XHTML 1.0 doctype. Of course, the site isn’t being served with the correct doctype for XHTML, but you can’t have everything, can you? In this case, you can’t even have the site validating completely. There are currently 28 XHTML errors on the home page, but to be honest that’s probably down by hundreds from the number of errors that the site would originally have had. If you think about the number and type of legacy content management systems which MSN would be using, it’s a very good sign that they’ve managed to get the number of errors as low as they have already. I know from my experience at the Remote Sensing Group at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory that getting legacy CMSes to produce validating code can be a nightmare. Here’s hoping that with a little bit more time they’ll wrinkle out those last few errors.
Unfortunately for a CSS based site though, it just doesn’t look that good. It’s a decent enough first try, but it just doesn’t look finished. Hopefully, it isn’t, and there’ll be improvements made over the next few days. What is interesting is that while the site looks “acceptably similar” on all tested web browsers which are currently in development, the site breaks quite nastily in IE/Mac. This leads to the question, “Is IE/Mac enough of a minority browser now that even Microsoft will ignore it, or is this just a temporary oversight?”. My money is on the latter.
As well as CSS for “normal” machines, the new MSN site contains rules for handheld devices. Whilst I have no personal experience with these myself, it’s very nice to see Microsoft trying to ensure that the site will be displayed acceptably on a wide range of devices.
Even though things aren’t perfect yet in the new CSS world of MSN, it’s nice to see that someone has been allowed to make the push to make their site more usable for the masses.
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