## “Modern” web design antipatterns

I am so fucking sick of modern web design where standard HTML form elements are reimplemented using <div> and Javascript.

For example: my mortgage provider just unleashed a new web design on the world. Functionally it’s identical to the old website, but it looks slightly shinier. It’s also completely non-functional for me.

When I try to log in, it gives me my wish-it-were-two-factor “secret question.” I enter my answer. I press Enter, and nothing happens. So I click the submit button – which is, as it turns out, a <div> with attached JavaScript. That JavaScript changes the <div> text to “please wait…” and then it sends off an asynchronous API request. When it gets the response from the server, it then changes the location URL in my browser.

Congratulations on reimplementing <form> the long way around!

Oh, and this process took way longer than it needed to, and I thought maybe it wasn’t working at all. So I opened up their contact form – which, as it turns out, only replaced the page content with that because of course everything’s a “single page application” now. I started filling it out, and when the first form submission finally came back, oops, suddenly I’m logged in! (Meaning I’ve now lost the contact form I was already halfway done filling out.)

So I opened up the contact form again in another tab, and found that I couldn’t tab into the requisite “state” drop down box (because of course I need to give my city and state to provide website feedback, for some reason). So I clicked on it, and tried typing “wa” – and nothing worked. It didn’t jump down to “Washington.” It didn’t even jump to “Washington” then back to “Alaska.” Oh, and of course cursor keys didn’t work either – I had to use my mouse to scroll and click and this hurts my wrist and is slow and error-prone. (Oh and I should add that there was no scroll bar on the selection box either, the expectation was that I’d know to use my scroll wheel and be able to! This is not something you can rely on!)

Because it turns out that the dropdown box, rather than being a <select>, was a fucking <div> with JavaScript to set the value. And doesn’t have any keyboard access. For bonus points, they invented some HTML tags like <dropdown> to contain it. Why?! Standards exist for a reason! What happens in some future HTML verson where the <dropdown> tag becomes a thing? Except it wouldn’t because fucking <select> already exists and has since HTML fucking 1 point 0.

Because, of course, they reimplemented <form> and <select> the long way around.

Why the fuck do people make their lives harder like this? Peering into the page source, everything was obviously built using Angular, which is just… bad. Really bad. I see so many Angular sites that do this. And there’s absolutely no reason for most Angular sites to be based on Angular.

It’s so maddening. You have to do more to get less functionality, that would already be handled by the browser in a cross-platform, humane, accessible manner!

So I sent them this message on their contact form:

Hi, your new website doesn’t function correctly in a number of web browsers, including Safari on macOS. After receiving the challenge question it simply hangs for several minutes. Also, your contact form no longer follows accessibility guidelines and doesn’t support keyboard entry for people with e.g. mobility impairments, and I suspect it won’t work correctly with many screen readers either.

Please don’t reimplement basic browser functionality; for example, there’s no reason for the <div class="dropdown"> with added JavaScript when browsers already have <select> widgets which work perfectly fine.

I bet they get back to me with something like “We apologize, but we only support the Chrome browser. Please download it at google.com/chrome” or something. Because we learned nothing after the whole debacle that was MSIE 6, apparently.

Anyway. Fuck modern web design. Make your shit out of plain old HTML. Seriously. Please. You can build asynchronous, self-updating sites using standard JavaScript and basic DOM methods without a lot of work, and that’s only in the case that you need to – and you probably don’t.

Not everything needs to be a fucking single-page “app,” for fuck’s sake. It buys you nothing except for a bad user experience when things don’t go perfectly.

## Sleep diagnosis

So, after many years of being aware of a problem with my sleep, I finally saw a sleep specialist. It was good to learn that whatever is going on can be figured out and treated.

What’s really frustrating is what led to me taking this long, and how much I’ve been shamed for having this disorder and how I’m yet still being shamed for having not taken care of it sooner.

## Authl: Yet another project I don’t have time for

So, I’ve started yet another web programming project, a generic authentication wrapper library for Python. Because I need something like this for Publ and just want to do it once.

## Medical terminology for trans healthcare

I am finally enrolled in Kaiser Permanente’s transgender healthcare program. (Why I didn’t get enrolled when I first signed up for it is a mystery, but whatever.) Today I finally received my insurance form for submitting reimbursement claims for my hair removal.

It gave me a diagnostic code of F649 with an explanation of “Uncomfortable with one’s gender.”

This is… not great phrasing.

## Some WebSub-Atom observations

As part of testing my WebSub changes for FoF, I decided to switch to a WebSub hub for myself that provides some subscriber analytics and so on. One neat thing about how WebSub works is that the “hub” layer is completely modular and it really doesn’t matter at all which one you use, and if the one you use has problems you can switch to another one just by changing the URL in your feed and all subscribers will eventually seamlessly migrate (at their next normal polling interval); if anyone even notices a problem it will just be that they don’t receive a push update during that polling interval. (Which, let’s be honest, is incredibly unlikely for most RSS feeds.)

Anyway, because of these new analytics, as well as information I gathered from my new WebSub-supporting reader, I now know a bit more about the state of WebSub.

Update: A lot more supporting readers have shown up in my stats in the two years since I published this article! Please see this entry for a list.

## Mastodon instance rambling

Lately most of my social networking has been via Mastodon, which is basically an open source, semi-distributed equivalent to Twitter. When I first joined a few years ago I got an account on the flagship instance, but not much later ended up switching to queer.party. Unfortunately, queer.party has had several scaling issues – similar to a lot of the other small instances – and while it hasn’t gone down entirely, it’s so backlogged that it’s gotten to be pretty much useless.

On Mastodon there’s a general feeling that anyone with a mastodon.social address isn’t savvy because they don’t “get” Mastodon, that the whole point to it is that it’s distributed and you don’t have to be on a single central instance and so on. But the problem is that most of the instances – and there’s quite a lot of them – aren’t run in a way that can be expected to scale over time.

Most instances are maintained as a spare-time thing by someone, but instance management is more and more becoming a full-time job. I am incredibly grateful that Maffsie is willing to run the instance even on that basis, don’t get me wrong! But all the same I’d like to be on an instance where it doesn’t regularly go down or have massive backlogs (7 hours, at present) or random weird federation problems.

The problem with Mastodon in this case is that any Mastodon instance, regardless of the user count (or a user limit), will continue to grow without bounds for as long as it’s being used, and as the ActivityPub network grows, the amount of stuff that every instance needs to keep track of will grow too.

## On the current dumpster fire

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.

[…]

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

To everyone who wonders why trans people are always so unhappy, or why I keep on caring about politics and getting upset about things I can’t control, THIS IS WHY.

This policy isn’t just about nomenclature or bathrooms (although those are both very important!), it also affects me directly in terms of the health services I can receive. It is yet another case of the Republicans being the party of personal freedom but only for the freedoms that they want.

Gender is (partially) a social construct, chromosomes don’t tell the whole story, intersex people exist, trans people exist, dysphoria is real, choose love, be kind.

I refuse to be legislated out of existence.