Craig is a Director of OptimalWorks Ltd, a UK consultancy dedicated to building award-winning websites implementing standards, accessibility, SEO, and best-practice techniques.

Craig's articles

  1. HTML5 Forms: The Markup

    This is the first in a three-part series about web forms. We’ll cover the basic markup in this article before progressing to styling and the client-side JavaScript validation APIs. I recommend you read this even if you’re already familiar with forms — there are many new attributes and gotchas!

    HTML forms may be mundane but they’re essential for the majority of web sites and apps. In HTML4, input fields were limited to:

    • input type="text"
    • input type="checkbox"
    • input type="radio"
    • input type="password"
    • input type="hidden" — for data the user cannot view
    • input type="file" — for uploads
    • textarea — for longer text entry
    • select — for drop-down lists
    • button — generally used for submitting a form, although input type="submit" and input type="image" could also be used.

    Also:

    • CSS styling possibilities were limited
    • custom controls such as date and color pickers had to be developed in code and
    • client-side validation required JavaScript.
  2. Firefox 29: Mozilla’s Biggest Browser Upgrade Since 2011?

    Firefox 29 was released on April 29, 2014. The number may not seem significant, but this is the biggest update since Firefox 4.0 was released in March 2011. That version was beset by speed issues and add-on incompatibilities — has Mozilla learned from their mistakes?…

    New Australis Theme

    It’s been delayed a few times but the new Firefox theme has arrived.

    Firefox 29 theme

    Firefox 29 menuAt first glance it looks similar to Chrome with its rounded tabs and hamburger icon, but you’ll soon discover differences.

    The main menu is a set of icons similar to the Android version. These can lead to slide-out sub-menus when clicked. However, it’s far more customizable and icons can be moved anywhere — even to the classic menu and toolbars (except the add-on bar which has been scrapped). The only item which cannot be moved is the hamburger itself; a slightly unusual decision given that users have been clicking the top-left menu for three years and may prefer it there.

    Individual tabs are separated by a subtle line — only the active tab is given an obvious rounded appearance. I like the concept and it’s easier to locate the tab you’re using. My only criticism is they’re a little too rounded and distinctly different from the square-cornered address and search boxes. Mozilla has resisted the temptation to merge the two boxes like other vendors — I can’t say it bothers me either way.

    Firefox 29 customization

    Australis has quirks. I’m not yet sure whether it’s an improvement or simply different but the enhanced customization is welcome. If you don’t like it, install the Classic Theme Restorer add-on and you’ll be back to where you started.

  3. What’s New in WordPress 3.9

    WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System. (Some will argue it’s not a CMS. To them, I say: WordPress is a System for Managing Content — stop being persnickety!) Several reasons for its success:

    • WordPress is free.
    • It’s easy to install, use and extend. Novice developers and content editors have a shallower learning curve than similar products.
    • There are plugins and themes to suit every requirement.
    • An active community means support and development resources are easier to find than most software.

    WordPress adoption has reached critical mass. Other systems may be prettier or have a more elegant code base, but it’s difficult to recommend an alternative when WordPress is so ubiquitous.

    WordPress 3.9 was released on April 16, 2014. It’s a major release so your existing installations won’t auto-update; you’ll need to log in and follow the update instructions. Plugin and theme incompatibility is rare, but you should back-up and investigate further before starting. You did back up, didn’t you?

    What can users and developers expect from the new version?…

  4. Quick Browser Screenshot Testing at Modern.IE

    This article was sponsored by modern.IE. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!

    Web developers understand the importance of rigorous testing on multiple mobile, tablet, and desktop browsers. We do. Honestly. It’s simply that it takes too long! There are only so many hours in a day and testing often falls far down our list of priorities. We’ll do it once we’ve implemented one more essential feature, read the latest SitePoint HTML5 article, grabbed a coffee and — oh — it’s 5pm.

    Testing across multiple devices may be tedious but, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes to fix the inevitable problems. You may have a great device lab or use Virtual Machines from modern.IE but the psychological jump from developer into tester mode is daunting.

    Easy Multi-Device Testing

    Fortunately, modern.IE has another solution for quick and dirty testing. The free screenshot automation tool powered by BrowserStack loads your site on a range of mobile and desktop devices and presents captured screens within a matter of minutes. The process is simple and painless…

    Open modern.ie/screenshots in your browser:

    test website

    Enter the address of a page you want to test and hit enter:

    test website

    The results are generated and presented — click any thumbnail to view the full-size image. Option buttons allow you to:

    • download a PDF containing all screenshots;
    • share the results via email, Facebook or Twitter; and
    • generate a poster of your site!

    There are also links to further tools and help resources should you need them.

  5. How to Test Browsers on Virtual Machines from Modern.IE

    This article was sponsored by modern.ie. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!

    Internet Explorer remains the world’s second most-used browser with almost one in four users on the desktop. A high proportion of those are from large businesses and government agencies yet, despite the commercial opportunities, few of us devote enough time to testing IE until it’s too late. The solution is to test early and test often — especially the older browsers.

    Testing IE poses a challenge; it’s available only on Windows and, even then, you can install only one version at a time. Emulators and IE’s own document modes can help but you should never trust them for anything more than basic layout checks.

    A few years ago it would have been necessary to install and maintain a suite of PCs with various combinations of Windows and IE. Fortunately, we can do the same without hardware using Virtual Machines.

    What are Virtual Machines?

    You’ve possibly seen emulators that run old operating systems such as Amiga OS, games consoles, or arcade machines on Windows, Mac, or Linux. In essence, these are Virtual Machines (VMs) that make the original OS and software think it’s running on real hardware. In reality, it’s all happening within the host PC’s memory.

    We’re not limited to old OSs — we can emulate a real PC and run any platform we desire. For example, we can run Windows XP in a VM application on Windows 8.1 so we can retain older, incompatible software. Because it’s handled as a data file, we can start, stop move or restore XP anytime we choose.

    Virtual Machines therefore provide a mechanism to run any edition of Internet Explorer from a Windows, Mac or Linux host. There’s little excuse — you probably have the software already and Microsoft provide a range of free Windows/IE VMs at modern.ie.

  6. Is Today the Beginning of the End for IE8?

    The age of Windows XP is over. Microsoft’s most successful OS was launched on October 25, 2001 and was the first to use the stable NT kernel for both mainstream and business desktops. Starting April 8, the OS is no more. Microsoft has dropped support; you won’t receive updates or technical assistance. Software compatibility will decrease and XP will become a tempting target for criminal crackers.

    Few Operating Systems reach the ripe old age of thirteen. While XP reviews were positive, the early months were problematic; it struggled on existing hardware and it took time for manufacturers to release compatible drivers. However, once those issues were eradicated, XP usage peaked at 76% in January 2007.

    XP’s long life owed much to the Longhorn/Vista debacle. The next release of Windows took five years to appear and suffered a disastrous reception. Windows 7 did much to address the reputation of the OS but, by that time, people had been using XP for eight years and had grown accustom to its features and quirks. XP usage was only overtaken by Windows 7 in 2012 and, even today, almost one in five users retain the aging OS.

    XP users have received plenty of warnings about it’s demise but that doesn’t mean it’ll stop working. People will continue to use XP and Office 2013 unless they have the budget and/or hardware to upgrade. The UK government has even paid $9 million for an additional twelve months of support — largely because 85% of the National Health Service still uses XP (and, somewhat shockingly, IE6).

  7. Browser Trends April 2014: Signs of Stability

    There was little to report in last month’s browser trends Do the latest figures from StatCounter show any significant movement?…

    Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, February 2014 to March 2014
    The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

  8. Demystifying JavaScript with Todd Motto

    Todd Motto is helping to demystify some of the misconceptions about how difficult JavaScript really is. Craig spoke to him about his talk coming soon at Future of Web Design.

    SITEPOINT (Craig Buckler): Hey Todd. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

    TODD: Hey! I’m Todd, I’m 23, and a JavaScript and HTML5 developer. By day I’m lead front-end engineer at Appsbroker – we’re a Google Enterprise company that specializes in Cloud Platform technology solutions, which means we develop lots of fantastic software. By night, I’m an open source evangelist where I write scripts, utilities, plug-ins, frameworks and boilerplates. I’ve worked for Intel and Rolling Stone magazine during the past year and love teaching others about web and software development.

    SITEPOINT: How did you get into conference talking?

    TODD: I started doing a few smaller presentations — nothing bigger than a roomful of people — until last year when I flew out to San Francisco for HTML5 Dev Conf. While I was there, I visited a friend at Google who invited me to teach a workshop. I absolutely loved it! I wanted to do more sharing knowledge and teaching when I was contacted by Future Insights to speak at FOWD. I’ve spoken at a few meet-ups and events since last year to a variety of audiences.

  9. Untying Digital Adaptation with Paul Boag

    Paul Boag is everywhere. I recently spoke to him about his new book “Digital Adaptation” and his related talk at Future of Web Design in London during early April.

    SITEPOINT (Craig Buckler): Hey Paul. There are few people yet to encounter you on the web, but tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

    PAUL: That question should be easy to answer but, over the years, I’ve started to find it much more difficult. It used to be simple — I was a web designer. However, it’s a long time since I have coded anything other than my own website. I keep my hand in but would be embarrassed to call myself a web designer these days.

    I guess I am a business adviser or digital strategist. I help organizations do two things; adapt to the changes that digital have brought to the world and demonstrate how to use new tools to their full potential.

    I achieve this either through working directly with organizations via my digital agency Headscape and by speaking and writing about the topic.