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I went to a company’s Web site today to get their address. I’ve got an appointment with the company next week and I wanted to put their address in my calendar. The company’s Web site uses white text on a dark background, so when I copied the address and pasted it into Outlook, I couldn’t see it. It pasted into Outlook as white text.

Now you could argue that this is an Outlook problem. And it is. Outlook should be smart enough to realize that pasting white text on a white background is silly and correct the color for you. But since Outlook and other applications have this problem, you need to take that into consideration when putting together your Web site.

When you put information on your Web site, you need to remember that the text you write might be used in ways that you didn’t think of. Potential clients, customers, and partners might copy and paste any text you have on the site into another document. You need to test your content in alternate environments.

Another common problem is companies that set their text as a graphic or in Flash. I’ve seen countless companies that place their phone number in a big graphic banner at the top of each page. That makes it impossible to copy and paste the phone number into a contact manager. It also introduces accessibility problems. Customers might be trying to look up your phone number from a text-only web browser on a mobile phone.

It’s impossible to account for all the ways that someone might try and access and use your information. You’ll never test for them all. The thing to remember is that every non-standard thing you do will increase the odds that someone’s going to have a problem.

Ryan
July 11, 2003 6:27 AM

One related thing that really annoys me is the bug in IE that makes it nearly impossible to copy a block of text on a site that uses CSS for table-less layout. Even if the CSS validates and you're using fully compliant XHTML, IE chokes when you try to highly a bit of text and ends up highlighting the entire page (or most of it), including the graphics. Yes, the person can do a CTRL-A and then trim down what they don't need, but it can be a real hassle to delete out loads of navigation for a single sentence or paragraph. I hate to have to "take away" that ability when designing a standards-compliant site, but I feel like the need to have a well-designed and structured site takes precedence over the ability cut-and-paste. When people complain I just have to tell them "It's an IE problem. You might want to try Opera or Mozilla..." Sometimes they actually do. :) (One co-worker has a copy of Opera installed just for cutting and pasting from our web site and intranet.)

Kevin
July 12, 2003 10:14 AM

Here's one that makes no sense to me: Putting the address or contact info as an image. I can understand maybe an email address to try to do some spam-guarding, but the address & phone number?!

Big John
July 13, 2003 12:16 PM

Quote: "One related thing that really annoys me is the bug in IE that makes it nearly impossible to copy a block of text on a site that uses CSS for table-less layout." What bug is that? I have a number of tableless layouts, and have no trouble. Try this page: http://www.positioniseverything.net/bughouse.html If that monster avoids the bug, then it can't be that prevalent. IIRC, that copy bug only happens under certain nesting conditions.

Mark W.
July 14, 2003 8:46 AM

To get around that cut-and-paste headache, I use "Paste Special..." and select unformated text. Problem is not every application has this feature. Plus, I wonder how many people know of other ways to paste.

Ryan
July 15, 2003 10:59 AM

Big John -- hm, interesting. What specific nesting conditions manifest this bug? I'd love to find a way around it so I can stop telling people "it's an IE bug..."

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