Peter Ottery and the CSS redesign of the SMH

In Archive by Fredy Ore

Last night I had the opportunity of attending the Sydney June meet of the Web Standards Group (WSG), a local chapter of developers and designers pushing for web accessibility. The night included a presentation by Peter Ottery, head of design for F2 on the process involved in converting The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne The Age sites into full CSS transitional from HTML tables.

The night was fun and very interesting and was also great to meet Russ Weakley for the first time, IA friend Chris and some peers and lecturers from IML at UTS.

Overall the talk by Peter was really excellent, he shared his views, obstacles and methods encountered during the process of conversion which was somewhat organic and evolved during a process of 2 years. Education was interestingly one aspect that resulted from the conversion, not necessarily by the developers involved and their technical challenges, but across the board, including Editors, Marketing managers and others for changing to CSS.
The design of the CSS eg. where to put nested DIV’s, etc. was also fundamentally created using these principles of education – “if we put the DIV tag here, the editors will realise their photo is too big”.

One very interesting aspect I found was that the adoption, application and use of CSS is not purely a Technical one. Its whole concept is central to reaching a larger number of users and expanding market share. A sentiment that is shared by other interactive departments within a project including marketing & advertising. It is for these reasons the business added value of such conversion is necessary, and to not necessarily unleash the Nielsen’ness within me, it stems from User centeredness.

The night was attended largely by developers but included, designers, interaction designers and information architects.