A new edge

Been wanting another shiny new example of tableless design that pushes CSS and web standards to their limits and doesn’t look back? Not just another personal site or weblog, but a good-size content site from a well-known company? We get a big fix with the redesign of Netscape DevEdge. Not sure how much traffic DevEdge gets, but Eric Meyer and team at Netscape deserve a lot of praise for pushing a high-profile developer-centric site to showcase advanced web standards usage.

Three separate articles documenting their work, methods, and decision process are already available.

I’m impressed with the thoughtful considerations made and techniques they’ve pulled off here. Ok, the aesthetic may not be as polished (in my opinion). From reading the first paragraph of Eric’s post today, I think he might reluctantly agree. But step back and look at the bigger picture.

At its heart, this is still a browser company. A subset of the company just stepped up to the plate with a very public example of how web standards can be used to produce a single, interactive, more accessible, and very maintainable content site. And the DevEdge team went out of their way to make sure the result is not specific or solely tailored to their own browser product.

Not every feature DevEdge is hyping works in the entire browser set we usually consider standards compliant these days (eg, the CSS dropdown menus in IE5/Mac). And they’re up front about that. But noteworthily, the team stepped back from being absolute CSS purists, and squeezed in a bit of JavaScript to ensure the interactive dropdown menus also worked in Opera 7 and IE 5.5+/Win. They could have easily turned their heads high with the assurance it already worked in their own browser family. They didn’t.

True, Opera redesigned their marketing/download site much earlier as a tableless XHTML/CSS layout (around the same time we launched the Wired News redesign in October of last year). But a resource of developer articles and tools is a slightly different beast. DevEdge includes a lot of thinking in this redesign which pushes accessibility and CSS usage several steps further. Lots of techniques used for us all to study, deconstruct, and use as inspiration for our next project. And I think that’s kind of the point.

Now, if only I had found the time before I left Wired to do something similar for another beloved resource.