Category Archives: Websites

Bootstrap and semantic CSS/HTML?

Bootstrap’s row and column paradigm sounds a bit “table like” to me… but avoids many pitfalls of HTML table mis-use for web design.

While preparing for an upcoming project that will give me a much (much!) deeper dive in to back-end and full-stack development, I’ve been reviewing/rehashing a lot of my front-end web skills: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AngularJS, etc. In the course of delving in to the well-established Bootstrap framework for websites and web applications I immediately bumped into the paradigm of rows and columns, and the use of divs with “row” and “column” classes, and had a moment of deja vu.

Didn’t we finally get rid of the scourge of tables, and their (mis-)use to format websites? I mean, I was still seeing HTML tables extensively used in law school and university websites within the past couple of years… That was one bad habit that took a really long time for a lot of folks to break. Is marking up, into rows and columns, generic (non-semantic) divs, using (positional, non-semantic) CSS classes some kind of sneaky zombie return of the dread tables?

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The Web vs. Apps, Librarians, and Information Freedom

Beyond choosing “app” or “web” mobile strategies for short-term tactical reasons, libraries have a critical stake in preserving the vitality of an open, standards-based, web. While developer-oriented platform debates between the application web and app-store frameworks can seem far removed from our stake in an open Internet, they deserve more attention from the library community and its allies.

I wrote the other day about the fairly narrow question of whether libraries should develop native apps for mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones, or rely on the web for delivery of their content and services. At least for most libraries, I came down on the side of the web. While acknowledging that needs might differ for some libraries with both very loyal (or very captive) users and a need for very tight integration with already-“appified” vended-content platforms, most libraries should devote their resources to websites while making those sites as mobile-friendly as possible. For most libraries—and certainly those I know best—it is hard to see an “app” strategy as an effective tactical use of resources.

Web Remains More Open

But my real concern goes deeper. There is a vital ongoing discussion about the ecosystem of the device-agnostic web versus the various app ecosystems. But libraries and librarians have mostly not been active enough as part of that debate. And libraries (and, for academic librarians, the scholarly institutions they serve) are parties with a real interest in a thriving, open, Web. As a profession far too often still mired in residual “print vs. online” debates, it is important that we don’t allow significant parts of the web ecosystem to decay just as we are, finally, coming to terms with our role in that ecosystem.
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Apps vs. Web: Should Libraries have Native Mobile Apps?

Libraries can easily outsource the creation of native mobile apps for their libraries. With one, potential, exception related to tighter and “better” integration with vendor apps, I have trouble seeing benefits compared to a thoughtful website strategy.

Not long ago, I received a marketing solicitation from Boopsie, a company that builds native mobile apps for libraries. I have no reason to doubt that their product is good: they have a large portfolio of very reputable libraries ranging from public to general academic to special libraries. Indeed, one of my Law Librarianship in the Digital Age co-authors wrote about his library’s effective use of a Boopsie-built mobile app.

But my strong gut reaction is still deep skepticism that there is any reason for a library to have a native app, as opposed to a responsive or otherwise mobile-friendly website. Or, I should say, with one major exception — itself somewhat troubling to me — I see few compelling advantages for native apps over mobile-friendly websites in library applications.

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“Against” Responsive Design

Responsive design is all the rage. But should readers be given the chance to view the shrunken site as if using a desktop browser? Are there limits for complex websites?

Mobile responsive website designs are all the rage. And for good reason. Designing sites and web applications that preserve their basic content and mark up across devices of all sizes, using now well-supported CSS (and very judicious additional client-side scripting) to adjust their behavior based on the end-user’s device, just “makes sense.” Ignoring small-display devices is not an option. Isn’t this so much more elegant than having completely separate and device-dependent code deliver entirely different website versions to mobile devices? Mobile-responsive designs are heralded as an advance in terms of user friendliness over both websites designed only for the full-sized browser window and over cut-down mobile-specific sites. But are there times when the responsive design itself limits end-user options in an unfortunate way? Unlike with “mobile only” site variants there is simply no way, in a responsive design, to have a button or toggle to allow the mobile user to see a shrunken-down version of what she would see in a large-screen browser window. Is that something we should be allowing for?
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Headings, Lists, and Typography in Library-related posts and pages

I began this post as a WordPress “private post” to test header and list formatting and fonts as I resuscitated my previously-moribund personal blog. I had used a similar “reference” post at Case Western’s law library as an “exhibit,” along with an in-house style guide used by our authoring librarians, to harmonize the ways that we used limited HTML within the content we wrote, and to demonstrate the output authors could expect from the website’s CSS style sheet.

But I modified the original “heading test” private post that I started, to add some comments on the use of structure internal to content units (like blog posts or research guides) commonly written by librarians, and am publishing this post. I’ve also reflected on the possible differences in approaching page structure in HTML5 contexts versus “legacy” HTML page structures. This is a WordPress site, as is the comprehensive law library website that I have developed ( But nothing here, except perhaps for occasional “post” or “page” nomenclature, would be limited to WordPress-based sites.
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New Law Review format on display at Circ. Desk

The Case Western Reserve Law Review has put a lot of really solid work into the typesetting and page layout of their journal. Besides some real benefits for their operation in the pre-production process, this reformatting makes the Law Review uniquely well-suited to viewing on tablet and portable e-reading devices.

Articles are still distributed as a PDF document, rather than in a “reflowable” e-reader format, to retain the standard pagination and footnoting conventions required for citation. But the scale and dimensions of the PDF pages and the text block within them will now be very comfortable to read on major mobile devices without requiring awkward zooming and panning of the screen. A full-issue PDF, including all front-matter (masthead, table-of-contents, etc.) is now provided. Each article PDF now includes a full cover page the same as the one that would be included in the author’s reprint of that article.
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Short Book Review: Typography for Lawyers

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Case Western Reserve University Law School’s library.

Book Cover Image

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Matthew Butterick’s 2010 Typography for Lawyers: Essential Tools for Polished & Persuasive Documents, with a forward by legal (and non-legal) style and usage expert Bryan Garner, is a must-read for law students interested in mastering the presentational aspects of legal documents. A Los Angeles litigator with previous visual-arts experience, including as a font designer, Butterick seems to have taken maximum advantage of his unusual set of credentials in two distinct fields to have produced this book. A companion website is also full of valuable information.
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ICANN and New Top-Level Domains

This post originally appeared in a very similar form on This version has received additional editing, mostly related to format and presentation more than to content itself.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has begun to accept applications to operate new “generic Top-Level Domains.” A “top-level” domain amounts to the right-most portion of a domain name, after the final dot. Venerable examples of “generic” top-level domains include .com, .edu, .net, and .org. Applicants are to propose new TLDs while applying to be the entity that will maintain a registry of that nominated domain. Unlike previous additions of new TLDs, the new policy does not merely envision a specific one-time expansion of the namespace, but instead creates a policy mechanism for continued, possibly rapid, expansion of the number of TLDs in use.

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