New peelinc.com website goes live

Monday evening I made the new Peel, Inc.1 website live: www.peelinc.com. This is the fourth major version of the website since the domain first appeared circa 1998. The first three versions can be found on the Way Back Machine (sans some stylesheets and images by the looks of it) and were released, roughly, in 1998, 2004, and 2006.

Unlike the prior versions, this one is not designed by me, but by a real designer: Peel, Inc.’s lead designer Jenny Polk. Hence why it looks so much better than all the prior ones. The original plan was for Jenny to design the page frameworks in a tool that would export sane HTML/CSS and hand it off to me to massage into the individual pages. I figured, it’s been 20-something years since the first WYSIWYG HTML tools, surely they’ve come leaps and bounds and do Smart Things. No, oh no. If anything they’ve gotten worse with the advent of CSS (no, Fireworks, I don’t want the whole page rendered into a bitmap and broken up into tiny separate images each within their own absolutely-positioned divs!). Instead she designed all the pages and handed me a PDF of what she wanted it to look like and I dove into vim to put it down into code. After getting past my issues with the CSS box model it went fairly smoothly.

There are still layout things that I’m not completely happy with. It would have been easiest to specify a “page size” in pixels and design everything to that. I hate websites like that, although now I realize why designers do it that way. Instead I designed what I really wanted: a fully-fluid design that scales decently with the window. It isn’t perfect, window sizes < 950 pixels wide don’t layout ideally and sizes > 1200 pixels wide look a little sparse, but it was the best I could do with my crappy CSS skills. With today’s screen sizes these seem like reasonable boundaries.

In the end I’m very happy with the new design. Jenny did an amazing job and it’s by far the most professional looking website the company has ever had. I’m 95% happy with my execution of her design. Maybe after a couple of months I’ll come back and give the CSS a fresh look to see if I can’t iron out that last 5%.

1 It’s become obvious that new coworkers and Seattle acquaintances don’t know the skinny on Peel, Inc. It’s my family’s printing/publishing business based out of Texas. I’m the not-so-humble IT guy who wrangles the 1s and 0s in whatever form they take and have for the past 20-something years. You never escape a family business.

CSS box model woes

This weekend I spent a couple of hours struggling with a new DIV-based layout design for peelinc.com (it’s not up yet, don’t bother looking). The core of my problem was that I was designing for the border box model but the browser was rendering it with the W3C content box model. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to explicitly state that I wanted the border box model that things started working correctly.

And really W3C – content box model? Trying to develop a fully-fluid layout using the content box model is nuts.

Except I couldn’t get IE8 to render using the border box model even though it’s supported. And yes, I had the !DOCTYPE specified so it was suppose to be rendering it in standards compliance mode. After enough digging I figured out that despite the DOCTYPE, it was rendering it in IE7 compatability mode instead. Arg. I was able to get IE8 to cooperate by using the IE document compatibility meta tag:

<meta http-equiv=”X-UA-Compatible” content=”IE=edge” >

Yet another reason why I hate hate hate IE.

But now, thankfully, the page renders exactly as I had intended on Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and IE8 without any browser hacks (if you don’t consider telling IE8 to use the freakin’ standards a hack). No idea what it’ll look like on IE6 or IE7, but frankly I’m not worried if it looks a bit wonky in those — the content will still be perfectly readable.

Facebook’s Pages replacing profile information

If any of you have viewed your own Facebook profile recently, I’m sure you’ve seen that pesky dialog that popped up soliciting you to link your profile to Pages.

Part of me appreciates what Facebook is doing: trying to massage a group of arbitrary text labels into a more structured set of data. For instance, on my profile I have ‘Michael Buble’ under Favorite Music. If I accepted the request to link to the Michael Buble Page, the string “Michael Buble” is removed from my profile and replaced with a link to a page all about Michael Buble.

There’s a downside however: information about what Pages you link to is completely public. So while you may have your information like your employer or education shown only to your friends, once you convert those to Pages that information is open to everyone, not just people who are logged into Facebook.

This to me is a grievous privacy violation. By changing this data, which Facebook is strongly wanting you to do based on the fact that the stupid pop-up comes up every time you access your profile, you’re changing the privacy level of your information without even knowing it.

So far I’ve ignored the more-annoying-by-the-day pesterings to link my profile to the suggested Pages, mostly because I haven’t decided which information I want being released to the world at large.

Edited to add: I just unselected all the solicited links and sure enough — all of that data was removed from my profile. Oh well, I guess that’s just a little less information about me floating out on the web. Facebook: you suck.