Microsoft Redesigns

The new Microsoft Corporation site actually looks decent. Highly optimized markup. There’s gotta be a good story behind this, it’s a complete reversal for Microsoft. Scoble? Hat tip: Doug. Be sure to read the comments.

45 thoughts on “Microsoft Redesigns

  1. Not the best quality markup, as far as I can tell. Tables aplenty, paragraphs wrapped in anchors, no DOCTYPE, and what’s a WBR tag? Surely an improvement from the last incarnation, but why not go all the way? Yet another sign that Microsoft doesn’t care about web standards. *sigh.

  2. Wow. Gotta agree with M. Moritz. It’s new this week, but it contains SCRIPT (yep, uppercase) tags too.

    1st: No doctype, 2nd: “This page is not Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional!” 3rd invalid CSS. Oops.

  3. It’s great how a quick Ctrl+Shift+D in Firefox (w/ dev toolbar extension) can instantly tell you whether a site was designed with any modicum of regard to web standards. In this case, Microsoft fails miserably. Visually, it looks nicer than the previous incarnation, IMO, but under the hood there’s still a lot of work to be done…

  4. I can’t say for certain, but I am sure Doug’s presentation in Seattle had a little to do with the markup. The design, however, was planned way ahead of that. I can say you can expect at least one of the MS properties to redesign shortly and perhaps with web standards compliance.

  5. Oooh! Hot gossip. Thanks Nick.

    Doug tipped me off via IM, but now has an entry up about it, which you all should read:

    http://stopdesign.com/log/2004/08/25/microsoft-advances.html

    Nick talks a little more:

    http://www.digital-web.com/news/2004/08/microsoft_redesigns/

    We’re not talking great standards markup here, but you could definitely see this as a strong first step. Microsoft is emhpasizing web standards with their next release of Visual Studio, it only makes sense for their web properties to reflect this. (But yes the entry was a little tongue in cheek.)

  6. It must be highly optimised, it’s all written on 10 lines. It’s also nice to see they’re using human readable variables (className=’gt0′) – has anyone been showing them perl examples?

  7. Wow. I wonder what all the web standards-hating hardcore IE defenders will do if their mothership goes standards compliant ;-p

  8. I wonder if the M$ designers found they had to use all these hacks to get it to work in IE!!! :))
    Perhaps they will feed back to the IE team.

    Perhaps pigs will fly!

  9. I’m bummed to see some of the harshly negative comments here. Give Microsoft some credit. This is a great step forward for them.

    Sure, they might not (yet) use a doctype. It may not render correctly in every browser, and there are a few small mistakes here and there. But they managed to cut back from 40 tables down to 7 tables. From 40KB down to 11KB. And they’re only serving one version of the page, rather than the old JS sniffing they *were* doing to serve a different version to IE5.5+/Win.

    Instead of picking apart every little thing they might have missed, look at what the potential for what this move might mean. And give Microsoft props for going in the right direction. No idea if MS web teams pay attention to feedback in forums like this, but I certainly wouldn’t want any of them (or teams from *any* company) to backpedal when naysayers write off this move and continue to claim “Microsoft doesn’t care about standards.”

    With this latest effort, they may not be far off from proving that statement entirely wrong. Optimized, standards-based code can help achieve the business needs, goals, and objectives they care about, and they’re surely realizing this.

  10. As Angad pointed out, the site is unstyled in some versions of IE shockingly, it surprises me a JavaScript error could have that effect.

    My test case is IE6 on WinXP Pro (No SP)

  11. I forgot to say I am very impressed by this move from Microsoft, I hope its an indication of things to come. Its annoying they didn’t go the extra mile though, not like they haven’t had enough time/resources either.

  12. the html is ‘horrible’ because its had its whitespace removed to save bandwidth. If it renders on all browsers, why be anal about it? The purpose of html is to tell a browser how to layout graphics and text (and other media), not to be anally retentive about tag casing, when all browser html parser enginesl ignore this anyhow.

  13. Doug is absolutely right in his rant about the fact that most posters have been negative and would be a sufficient enough reason for MS web team to backpedal, saying that since whatever they try people criticise them, why should they even bother in the first place to do anything apart from pleasing the IE crowd and the marketing team?

    Look, I worked for four months on my last big project with several big development teams, supervising and providing the accessible code, giving usability tips, etc.

    I’m not willing to sound too harsh, but not many posters here seem to realise the constraints one has to face for each and every teeny-weeny decision about accessiblity, standards, etc.

    Examples?

    – You provide accessible links and then the marketing department wants Flash because it’s *the* thing that moves and is nice and pleasing

    – You spend several days to render a very complex layout and then realise that because the system is not completely seamless you have to backpedal and recode a huge part of the web app to be made of framesets

    Etc, etc.

    Not many posters here seem to have had such an experience. (and again, I’m not willing to sound like a troll by saying that, that’s just my impression)

    So yes, the MS site is far from perfect, but I like their overall work: notably, their branding policy throughout the whole site is *good*. Their navigability is well thought-out and coherent for the whole site –considering the huge number of pages involved, it’s not a small trick.

    I’ve used their site as an example of good branding and navigability on a big-scale website for a long time and do not intend to stop doing so. They are heading in the right direction with their new design. Cheers to them.

  14. “A trip of a thousand miles, begins with one step..” And i begin that they’ve taken the right one towards fixing their website. Let’s just hope that in the next few years they find the time/energy/need to push it that much further, and take a second big step in the journey. You can’t expect them to make such a huge change at once. Either way, it looks pretty good in my opinion.

  15. One thing that I had noticed recently:

    It used to be that if an app crashed, and you chose to submit your crash details to MS, you’d get a nastygram if you were using something other than IE as your default browser.

    Now, it seems to be friendly to foreign browers. To me, that is a bigger step forward for MS than a page redesign. Let’s hope that we see more of this interoperability trend.

  16. It seems to me its serving 2 versions. In firefox theres no gradient header on the micrsoft logo, and theres no hover affects on the homepage left navigation…

    Any one else getting this?

  17. I’m bummed to see some of the harshly negative comments here. Give Microsoft some credit. This is a great step forward for them.

    You’re kidding, right? This is the largest software company in the world! When amateurs and development shops with one or two employees are doing better than them, I find it very hard to give them any credit whatsoever. Sure, it’s an improvement, but given the resources and expertise they have, I would have expected a hell of a lot more.

    the html is “˜horrible’ because its had its whitespace removed to save bandwidth.

    If they were that concerned about saving bandwidth, they could save a lot more in much easier ways, e.g. putting inline styles into external stylesheets, stripping out extraneous things like X-Powered-By headers, gzip content encoding…

    If it renders on all browsers, why be anal about it?

    You mean “renders decently”, right? Apart from the unstyled example given above, it’s a fixed-width design. When I have a sidebar open, it doesn’t all fit in properly, and when I have it closed, there’s an unsightly blue bar down the side that is just a waste of space.

    Doug is absolutely right in his rant about the fact that most posters have been negative and would be a sufficient enough reason for MS web team to backpedal, saying that since whatever they try people criticise them, why should they even bother in the first place to do anything apart from pleasing the IE crowd and the marketing team?

    I’m sure Microsoft aren’t jumping through hoops to please posters here, so why would they backpedal for not being appreciated?

    I’m not willing to sound too harsh, but not many posters here seem to realise the constraints one has to face for each and every teeny-weeny decision about accessiblity, standards, etc.

    I could agree with you if the mistakes were all of the “compromise” nature, but they are not. Take missing units on lengths, for example. There is only two possible reasons that I can think of for that – gratuitous incompatibility and ignorance. If you can think of another explanation, I’m all ears.

  18. Doug / s t e f — I certainly think this is a good first step for Microsoft, but I don’t know if I buy the idea that we have to coddle Microsoft and give them the kind of positive reinforcement you give a five year old when they’re learning to read. They’re all grown-ups over there; they can pick up a copy of Designing With Web Standards and Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide just like we all did. I just can’t imagine that a company so huge, with resource that titanic, needs a pat on the back for every half-baby step they make towards web standards; shouldn’t it be expected from a major market leader?

    I don’t want to be overly critical; there are some real, measurable improvements to be found here — reduction in use of tables, overall file size reductions; all worthwhile achievements. However, I just can’t get by the fact that a behemoth like Microsoft, with effectively infinite resources and the ability to hire or acquire the best talent available, is reduced to suffering from ‘divitis’ and ‘classitis’.

    And when I say that Microsoft doesn’t care about web standards, I mean that I haven’t seen anything encouraging so far. Reading through the IEBlog and Channel 9, all I see are hedges and corporate speak about their intentions for the next version of Internet Explorer (if it’s even called that when it is in Longhorn). “We’re going to balance… we’re considering all options… thank you for your feedback, but at this time we cannot comment…” etc. etc. This was a very real opportunity for Microsoft to prove all of us ‘haters’ wrong in terms of their web design and development strategy, and it comes out half-baked. Does the W3C validator not exist? Do we have to include HTML 1.0 attributes?

    I can understand the inherent difficulty in producing another version of Internet Explorer for all the current running versions of Windows; but all of us have to deal with the various flavors of IE and all the cross-platform, cross-browser issues. I expect no more of them than I do of myself; even less so.

    But I’ll grant you that some in the web developement community are too critical at times and not supportive of those working to get into the Super Kool Kids Klub of top-end web designers/developers. I’ll try to be more even-handed in the future.

  19. Sam and Angad — it’s not two different versions they’re serving. You’re just seeing the results of some proprietary gradient transformations they’re using in the header and footer which really only work in IE/Win and whoever else may have implemented filter:progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Gradient()

  20. Regardless of the way it looks on the outside, this is in no way a ‘step’ towards standards compliance. There isn’t a single thing about the markup that meets even the minimum of what can be considered ‘standards compliant’. There is nothing semantic about the markup, there is no document structure, there are plenty of proprietary (IE only) filters, events, and tags. The only heading tag is an H4, probably used because of its size, not its position in the document structure. It isn’t even possible to figure out which version of HTML they were shooting for (probably 3.2) since there’s no DOCTYPE. There is still nothing here except 1998 markup minus a little cruft with a fresh new face. This was not a ‘step towards standards compliance’, this was a redesign with a bandwidth savings, nothing more.

    If anyone is going to say this a step towards standards compliance, I suggest they get off Microsoft’s payroll before they say it.

    Go on, point to one thing that’s standards compliant about the markup. The P tags inside A tags (an inline element containing a block element)? The onmousenter/onmouseleave events? The fact that there has needlessly been a class specified on over 75% of the elements in the page? C’mon point to something.

    And if any of the designers/developers were at Doug’s presentation, it sure doesn’t seem like they took notes.

    I’m ashamed to see how far the bar on standards compliance has been lowered just because people feel Microsoft is in need of a hug.

  21. Michael and Chris Moritz are quite right. It isn’t a big step. It should be done properly, if you’re actually even trying. I think it’s an improvement, but I wouldn’t call it a step towards semantics (remember MSN Search <html language="Javascript">?) or validation of some form of XHTML. Nice try, but please go a little bit further, and make it cool. Zeldman does it. Meyer does is. Heck, most of the smart webdesigners do it! So please…

  22. Unfortunately Jim Dabell and Chris Moritz are quite right.

    The effort on the surface does not mean that the job was well done.

    /me bows in acknowledgement 😉

  23. The reason there’s no gradients is because it’s using DirectX Transforms for the gradients. No image. No extra download. Just a tiny bit of code to the client. This’ll work on FireFox, except that the FireFox team refuses to “integrate into the OS” in this way, even though DirectX is an industry standard for everything it does, including transforms.

    This is a step in the right direction. Feel free to point out things the team could be doing better as criticism is always valid in a case like this, but don’t assume that just because it’s not the way you’d do it that Microsoft doesn’t “support standards” (who the hell comes up with these vague terms?).

    Also, for Matt here. This isn’t a complete reversal. MS has been saying for 2 years that theyr’e working to support standards more. Everytime they do you all laugh your asses off and ask for some proof. They’ve just given it to you. And that’s not enough.

    I know from knowing the team on this that this has been nearly 2 YEARS of work. Sure they didn’t get everything right and there are probably thousands of bugs. But they’ll do their best and it’s constructive criticism which will help more than…

    Where’s that comment?

    “amateurs and development shops with one or two employees are doing better than them, I find it very hard to give them any credit whatsoever.”

    Ah, yes, too little too late. Constructive or what.

  24. This’ll work on FireFox, except that the FireFox team refuses to “integrate into the OS” in this way, even though DirectX is an industry standard for everything it does, including transforms.

    No reason except that DirectX is a Windows standard not a Web standard. Sure DirectX is a standard way of doing things under Windows, but that doesn’t help the Firefox team when they are writing Firefox to run on Macs and Linux boxes as well as Windows.

  25. Actually, DirectX runs quite happily on BSD and most version of Linux, as well as Mac. Not sure why you’d think it wouldn’t. It’s a fairly open API, and is even being used by the Mono guys as a replacement for some of the weirder .NET graphics libraries (for things just like DirectX Transforms, actually).

    Just spoken to one of the Team members, and they are reading this post and taking it in as part of their ‘community feedback’ which is part of every post-launch series of meetings. Keep it coming 🙂

  26. I believe there was a proof of concept DirectX implementation for Konqueror a while back.

    Ah, yes, too little too late. Constructive or what.

    You are talking as if complying with the specifications is some insurmountable problem that Microsoft are desperately working towards, when in reality, the increased use of CSS is simply a reflection of the trend of increased developer know-how with CSS.

    I simply don’t believe Microsoft were attempting to comply with the HTML and CSS specifications. If they were attempting to do so, they would have at least ran the homepage through the validator and picked up the easy fixable things like missing lengths. Those types of errors are indicative of an attitude that has no regard for the specifications whatsoever.

    So yes, it is “too little, too late”. But it is trivial for the world’s biggest software company to do better than this. The fact that they did “too little”, including errors that left their own web browser in an unstyled state, is appalling, and I see no reason to believe that they would do any better no matter how constructive the criticism they get is. I bet if somebody fixed all the problems and sent the fixes to them, they wouldn’t even use them.

  27. Rest assured, microsoft.com people are reading this thread”¦

    Then somebody tell them to hire some codemonkeys and developers who understand (x)HTML and CSS as least as well as the average 14-year-old, because whoever is coding the markup now doesn’t get it.

  28. Actually, DirectX runs quite happily on BSD and most version of Linux, as well as Mac. Not sure why you’d think it wouldn’t.

    What?? I’m calling your BS:

    You show me a link to driver downloads from DirectX from Microsoft that work on Mac.

    (OT, but I can’t let this one go. After all, the major reason games for mac lag behind is because they have to be converted from DirectX to OpenGL…)

  29. I know from knowing the team on this that this has been nearly 2 YEARS of work. Sure they didn’t get everything right and there are probably thousands of bugs. But they’ll do their best and it’s constructive criticism which will help more than”¦

    Where’s that comment?

    Right here.

    One days work and now it’s tableless, the HTML is 8k leaner (overall page only lighter by 5k), much more semantic, valid XHTML, valid CSS, passes both Section 508 and WAI, and looks and works the same across all the browsers I tested (excluding Mac).

    I give you — microcruft

    Tell the team they can have the code real cheap. I’ll leave perfecting it as an exercise for the them (since I ain’t sayin’ it’s perfect).

  30. I got this conspiracy cricket buzzing in my head that this so called “step towards standard compliance” is Microsoft’s welcome party for the coming Fx release, as they now can point the finger and say: look, their browser can’t do gradients right, can’t show hovers, you just miss so many things you better run for “ultimate browsing satisfaction with our state of the art product”.

  31. I’m quite sure that it’s an evolution to the Microsoft site, but we have to agree that we are talking about one of the biggest company in the world. I think it is expected much more from “the best programmers/designers”. If it was any web site of any company, i would think it was a very good markup, but if we analise things, it’s not that good after all, it could easilly by much better. The question is, how long did it took for them to construct this? If it was as all things “everything is for yesterday”, then it far enouth, but, if they had the time, they could easilly do much better…

  32. I am highly impressed by God. I think His Creation is marvellous, and we are all so lucky to live here and share the joy of being alive and in love with such beauty.

    Surely we should all thank … Him.

    Who is Bill Gates? Is he a Creator too?

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