In Basecamp’s early days “semantic HTML” was all the rage. It still is in some ways, but we were hitting the kool-aid a lot harder than we are today. One area where this has bitten us is in our default styles for the UL element.

When we started styling Basecamp we were mostly working with interface elements, not text documents. True to the semantic kool-aid we used UL tags mainly for tabs, category links, lists of project links, attached files etc. Everything but actual plain-jane bullet lists.

It all worked fine, but just now I wanted to include a bulleted list in some copy I’m sketching for a dialog. Check out how the unordered list looks in this draft using default styles:

That list in the middle is actually a UL. There are no bullets, the font size is wonky, the margins are different. This default must have made sense when all of our ULs followed a certain pattern for interface use. But here in the future, I wish we would’ve been more selective about those styles and left the default alone. Or better yet, we could’ve used DIVs in the first place for those tabs, attachments, and category links. I’ll surely keep this in mind the next time we start a fresh project.