Wednesday, May 24, 2006

SIFR3 - An Alternative

SIFR is an awesome concept. I hate sacrificing the visual quality of my web sites in favor of accessibility and search engine compatibility, and so when I learned about SIFR I immediately fell in love with the idea. Its not great that we have to resort to these kinds of things to achieve our web design goals, but if it works well, then why not?

As I started using SIFR 2, I became more aware of its limitations. SIFR doesn't allow for dynamic text re-flow (which is vital to liquid layouts). Also, if you modify the text size of your page using View > Text Size (or equivalent), SIFR doesn't resize the text for you. These are not deal breakers, since SIFR is still better than using images. But these limitations are nonetheless a "stone in my shoe", as it were. People (my clients and end users alike) don't care if you're using Flash to display the headers, as long as they don't notice it. But as soon as they try to change font sizes and it doesn't work, they begin to become dissatisfied with the work.

Also, I found SIFR 2 difficult to configure. It was quite a chore to get it to work in my layouts, and the process of updating a special SIFR stylesheet was not intuitive. Also, I had to explain to the other developers why we had to include this whacky css file in the first place.

As SIFR 3 did not seem to be on the horizon, I began developing my own version. My goal was to create a SWF header replacement solution that supported dynamic text reflow, on-the-fly text resizing, and did not require special stylesheets. Ideally, it would get all same style information as the headers it would replace, and be a truly seamless integration. Also, it would be compatible with Flash Player 6 and higher, take advantage of Flash 8 font technology where available, and be compatible with as wide a range of browsers as possible.

I borrowed some ideas from the SIFR 2 libraries (standing on the shoulders of giants), and discarded others. Things like browser detection and cross-platform compatibility were abstracted into other parts of my overall JS framework. And I tested, tested, and tested some more.

And in the end, I was successful. I met every objective I set out to achieve. So now I'm considering releasing the source code into the public domain. I've seen the feature list for SIFR 3, which is currently in Alpha, and I've seen the Alpha page too, and I'm not sure whether SIFR 3 will support text reflow as my library does. Also not sure whether it will allow you to set the size of the text using your browser. So, I think there's a possibility my library will be useful to some people.

I don't consider my work to be competing with SIFR at all. I have no intention of matching SIFR feature-for-feature, since I'd rather just use SIFR than do all that development and testing myself. But I do think my work is pretty good, and I'd like to see it help someone other than me. So, in the near future I'll be scrubbing the code, writing a little documentation, and posting a demo page where you can see it in action.

Let me know if you think you would find a SIFR alternative useful, and I'll work to deliver a high-quality product.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous John Hattan said...

Count me interested. Sounds great.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Justin Rhoades said...

Very interested. Let's see it!

9:50 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Yes please! Is it usable yet?

I'm looking for something that intelligently displays v6 swfs or v8 swfs depending on what's available - sIFR3 seems to be dumping support for everything apart from v8 Flash...

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