Specs SVG Technology

State of SVG, state of the Bird

I was quite pleased to see all of the activity related to SVG in the HTML5 working group’s public email list. I agree with those who say that HTML5 needs to be able to work with any unknown vocabulary via namespaces, rather than try to coerce a HTMLized version of SVG and MathML. A case in point is the vocabulary items providing metadata information about the image that Inkscape puts into SVG documents. Creative Commons, Dublin Core, its own stuff–Inkscape believes in metadata.

In the meantime, I will continue using XHTML with my SVG design integration. I was momentarily peeved about the repetition of the “draconian” error handling of XHTML every time anyone even mentions the topic. However, I’ve since decided that rather than be peeved, I should feel flattered. According to the people who talk about the “draconian” nature of XHTML, I must then be some kind of superwoman to be able to support it. Hey, go me.

Burningbird currently demonstrates my new philosophy of design, though not necessarily using a specific design I will keep–though it is bright and cheerful in a “Horton Hears a Who” way, and I need bright and cheerful with all the rain and flooding we’re having. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, the site uses a relatively simple SVG image as flexible background, in addition to other SVG for decorative accents. For IE or other user agents that can’t process SVG, I provide a tiny repeating blue striped background, so that they don’t get a plain page. Different but decent.

Though I use the rgba function to set the semi-transparent background of the center column and sidebar, I first define a background color using hex notation:

        background-color: #fff;
        background-color: rgba(255,255,255,0.8);

Browsers that don’t support the rgba function yet will pick up the hex notation, getting a nice coordinated blue center column, with white for content and sidebar; otherwise, they’ll pick up the rgba notation, with a completely transparent center column, and semi-transparent sidebar and entry area.

Safari and Firefox support rgba, but Opera doesn’t at the moment (it most likely will in the next beta release). However, again the design is such that it degrades gracefully and looks decent even without support for this CSS3 color module attribute. Or I think it looks decent, though lord knows I’m not a web designer. Let’s say my use of the technology is sound, but my design sense may suck, depending on your perspective.

I’ve also implemented text-shadow, in this weblog and at Burningbird. The sub-headings have a very tiny text-shadow, which really makes the text pop out nicely:

        text-shadow: #ccc 1px 1px 2px;

Opera and Safari both support text-shadow, but there’s no adverse impact with browsers that don’t. It adds a nice polish, but that’s all it is, polish. I really like it, though, and can’t wait until Firefox implements it.

All in all, Safari is currently the browser with the most advanced support for my design concepts, with Firefox a close second.

Another interesting point on the design is the flexibility as to scale. The background scales large for larger monitors, but the entire content will resize based on browser window size, as well as font size and resolution. If you resize the window small enough, the sidebar pushes to the bottom. This is not a bug–the sidebar gets pushed out of the way when the web page is accessed by a smaller device, such as an iPhone. It’s still there, but not taking up valuable real estate.

In fact, the photo and the bright yellow box currently showing also demonstrate the scaling–the yellow box is a SVG element that is constrained to size to the parent container, but preserve aspect ratio; the photo will display at its maximum width, but scale down as the window scales. All in all, the site can scale to an infinite width or down to a minimum 40em in width, and still be readable. The site even works with my Kindle, either using the mobile CSS, or when using the Kindle’s advanced web browsing, the scaled down width and the blue stripe background (though in gray tones, of course).

Best of all, you can zoom the text and the whole site zooms out, so that the words per line length is consistent.

That’s the key to my site designs in the future–not trying to get the sites to look the same in all devices, but looking good for each. Or at least good enough while still giving me the opportunity to try out new technologies. We’ve fixated too much in the past on making sure a site looks “the same” in all browsers. We’ve crippled our creativity trying to make sites look “the same” in all browsers. This was someone’s anal design “rule” set out long ago, and it’s time we toss the bugger aside.

I promised Bud a writing on SVG and performance, especially as compared to raster images (such as PNG, JPEG, and GIF). I actually checked out the WebKit code to see how it manages graphics, and was surprised at how easy I was able to follow the code considering that I haven’t worked with C++ since my old Windows programming days. The WebKit code is well organized and documented, with a minimum of tricksy coding. It really is an excellent product–not the least of which that it will probably be the first browser to pass Acid3. It or Opera, they’re both very close.

Anyway, the writing will be coming after my site redesign, after I finish proofs, after I get the next book started, but I wanted to quickly mention my discovery, in the course of my explorations, how committed Apple is to the use of SVG–in browser and out–because of the scalability. Think of it: if you have a desktop icon that you want to look good in a tiny screen, as well as a monster 60 inch television, would you want to use raster images? Of course not. OK, then, would you want to invent a graphics format, or use one that already has extensive tool support, as well as earning you brownie points with the development and open source communities?

*beep* time’s up

Apple chose wisely. Still, I was surprised at the strength of commitment Apple has to the integration of SVG into its products. And this despite HTML5 disapproval. Hey, go fruit.

Update Opera is stating they’ve reached 100/100 on Acid3. Congratulations Opera! Can’t wait to get my hands on a working tech preview. When I do, I’ll run it against the *Firefox Minefield edition, and the latest WebKit build and we’ll see how they’re all doing. The real test is getting 100/100 with a publicly accessible browser version.

I will declare a winner in my Acid3 races once I’ve seen the 100/100 with my own little eyeballs. Being as I’m superwoman and all.

*Oh, and IE8, too.

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