News : August 2003
Mark Pilgrim offers a great definition of the difference between using HTML to style a document versus using CSS: “...because table-based layouts and FONT tags and spacer GIFs are an ongoing nightmare, while CSS is only an up-front nightmare.”
Even more Standards goodness today! Ian Lloyd talks about Web Standards in Standards: Designing for the Future over at Dave Shea's wonderful A Second Voice. This is one that I feel everyone who has an interest in Web standards should give a read. Also, of much less note, is my own Web Standards FAQ's, a living document devoted to answering some common questions about Web standards in real world situations.
Have you seen a great implementation of Flash lately? Maybe a well designed, forward-thinking or standards based site with some minimal yet classy use of a Flash based application or feature? Or an uncommonly usable and accessible all-Flash site? If the answer is yes, let me know, I'm looking for good examples of Flash on the Web for an upcoming community project of mine. Who would have thought they'd be so hard to find?
In this week's Alertbox: Usability 101 Jakob Nielsen offers up a deceptively simple yet very informative overview of usability. This might be old news to some folks, but it's a good place to start and nice bookmark for when you need a usability refresher.
Today Macromedia announced Studio MX 2004, new versions to their popular Web and interactive set of applications.
After much delay we are happy to bring you a great article entitled "Content? Or Dis-content?" by GA.Buchholz. This article brings a whole new meaning to the word "content." I am sure you will enjoy reading this article as much as I did. While we are on the subject of enjoying things, the Digital Web Magazine staff will be taking the next two weeks off for a much-needed vacation and I will be taking the time off for my honeymoon. We will return the 2nd week of August with some more great articles.
Speak Up asks about Life After School. Some of the questions covered range from "Is the effect of attending a graphic design program at a state-run university as opposed to attending a specialized institution?" to "Do you receive a better education at the higher-priced school?" and "Are your chances of landing a succesful job after college more probable if you spend more money on your education?" The thread of comments related to this question is a great eye-opener. Feel free to share your own 2 cents.
For those who haven't heard WebGraphics is now back online and with a nice new look and feel. All CSS driven, all simplistic design. Well done Nate.
News of a petition from Dreamlettes:
We, the undersigned, request that the developers of JAWS
D. Keith Robinson's Gorilla Web Tip number seven Writing Better Web Page Titles. This is actually quite handy information, especially if you plan on getting a 1/2 way decent listing on a search engine, but remember not to keyword spam.
Scott Berkun writes a great article on The myth of discoverability. "Discoverability is often defined as the ability for a user of a design to locate something that they need, in order to complete a certain task." The article goes on to read "Things that most people do, most often, should be prioritized first. Things that some people do, somewhat often, should come second. Things that few people do, infrequently, should come last." ...all common sense, but rarely followed in practice. [from Usability Views]
Dan Cederholm has an interesting way to produce graphical tab elements that can be used as navigational pointers (i.e. "you are here"), he calls them Mini-Tab Shapes.
Another great CSS redesign, this time it comes from industry expert, Jeffrey Veen. It's structured on valid XHTML 1.0 strict, the CSS takes care of the layout and design aspects of the page. And yes, he now has comments on his blog. He is also using the Creative Commons copyright license. Very well done but not over cooked.
Over the past few days we have had the honor of critiquing the up and coming redesign of D. Keith Robinson's web site. We are happy to announce that Keith has launched the new design of Asterisk. It is all CSS driven with improved readability. Keith explains it in more detail on his site. I think the best thing about this process is that Keith really knows how to listen to his users and it shows in his replies to post comments and feedback emails. Very nicely done Keith!
Ok, so we are a few days late getting this week's issue out, we wanted to make sure everyone's electricity was back on so they could read the new issue. In all seriousness, this week we have Jennifer Alvin, our new Assistant Book Review Writer, joining us with a review of Andy King's Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization book. For those who haven't picked up a copy of this book yet, I highly recommend you do so. It will be money well spent. We will see you next week with another great issue.
The post that was here was deleted because... well, Keith had already posted about it earlier. Not that we typically delete posts. We try to follow the Weblog Ethics as best we can... not everyone does, apparently.
So this may be the next big trend coming our way; Counter-Googling. I would call this more of a background check than anything else, though I am not sure how much detail Google plans on depending if they model this into some kind of service on their site. This could potentially open the door for a new level of cyber stalkers, which is not specifically a good thing. [from A Whole Lotta Nothing]
If you've ever wanted to redesign Jakob Nielsen's UseIt.com, now is your chance. Bob Sawyer and Built For The Future have launched ReUSEIT, a design challenge for coders, and a coding challenge for designers. Here
Only 10 more days until the big day. Postings here will be less frequent until August 23rd, and then they will be almost non-existant until I return from my honeymoon on September 5th. Also, former Digital Web Magazine columnist, David Wertheimer, will be married on the same day in NYC. Congrats David and Amy!
It's rhetorical question time: How can a fully-abled person possibly understand what makes a site accessible or not? The UK Disability Rights Commission seeks to answer precisely that. They've commissioned a fantastic demonstration of just a few things that can cause major problems for even the slightly disabled, and I
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out. In this issue Jason Withrow writes an article on cognitive Psychology & IA: From Theory to Practice and Challis Hodge writes about Semiotics: A Primer for Designers, but I have to say, my favorite article in this issue is Louis Rosenfeld's editorial on (Not) Defining the damn thing which goes back to the whole Interaction Architect issue and the reason why I still call myself a Web Designer.
Andy Arikawa makes some good points in Keep creativity alive. The short article covers the issues surrounding designer's block and how to deal with it.
J. Greely has taken Cal's Graphics::ColorDeficiency perl module and created a good test page: Random Web Colors (hint: reload the page after your first visit). The test demonstates what people with some degree of color-blindness may see. He has included tests for Protanopia, Deutanopia, Tritanopia, Protanomaly, Deuteranomaly, Tritanomaly, Typical Monochrome, Atypical Monochrome, and of course, normal vision. [from iamcal]
Keith Robinson offers up some insight into why you should Switch To Mozilla. As one reader said, "A nicely worded article, not too techy." I just downloaded and installed Mozilla Firebird 0.6.1 and man is it slim and quick!
A few new articles are out today. Gerry McGovern talks about The evolution of large websites and the stages they go through. Having first hand experience with maintaining large corporate sites, I agree with Gerry's points. Also today, Jakob Nielsen publishes an alertbox article on Information Pollution which covers the idea of "less is more" or "keep it simple" as Peter-Paul Koch likes to say in his column. [from InfoDesign]
Matt Robinson launches Web design postcards. No, it's not what you think. These are postcards you email to the designers and owners of sites that haven't quite picked up on the best practices of the web, very clever. [from LCKY]
Mark Hurst writes a long humorous and true in a sad sort of way rant about the state of User Experience and why we don't get much respect. The rant is entitled "Usability Professionals Must Disappear" and I couldn't have said it better myself. To reiterate my point that I periodically have made over the past three or so years, good Designers do IA, Usability, UX, and so on and so forth. It's part of their job. It's a part of their responsibility as an employee.
Here is another great article by Dirk Knemeyer entitled "Business is about people." While this maybe a lot like Business 101 for most of you, the fact remains that a lot of business fail to follow through with their commitment to people and people's needs. Technology and tools are great, it is what allows you to move forward, however it would be short lived if what you are developing is of no use to people. Consider that the tin can was invented in 1813, the can opener was not invented until 1858. The modern can opener with rolling and cutting wheels didn't surface until 1870.
Last night I was fortunate enough to meet DL Byron of Texturadesign. He was in town for a CHIFOO lecture entitled, "Stephen Hawking & Me: Accessibility, practicality and standards." In his presentation he went through the process so describing some of the issues he had with developing for accessibility while still using Flash for part of the presentation. The site he was developing was Clip-N-Seal, a site focused on a bag sealing product Byron designed. All in all the presentation was a big eye-opener on what is and isn't possible with Flash accessibility and what challenges you may encounter along the way when you are trying to make a site accessible. The end result, however, is well worth the time an effort. See the presentation link above for more details.
Once again, Digital Web Magazine is in search of some talented cover artists. Not all artwork submitted will be accepted. If you are interested, please contact us.
Kicking off another month we are happy to have Dave Shea, the cultivator of the CSS Zen Garden, join us with an article on the Fahrner Image Replacement method (also known as FIR). In this article Dave explains how FIR can be used to add graphical elements to a CSS design but still have the compatibility of basic HTML text. This article is a must read for any designer who wants to push the boundaries of web design yet still have something as structurally sound as a typical CSS based layout. That's all for this week, see you next week with more great content.
Keith Robinson has a habit of articulating his point very well. In his latest post, The "Information Architecture" Community Has a Problem is a prime example of his ability to distil the noise down to the core problem. Look, I am as tired of arguing how to define the damn thing as much as the next guy, but right now I think we should focus on getting business done and less on trying to make up some fancy new job title for really the same role as we had before. I am with Keith, we are really just Web Designers... that's how our clients and employers think of us. As I said before, good web designers know IA, UX, ID, etc. I can't honestly foresee the day where I change Designs by Nick Finck into something like Interaction Architecture by Nick Finck.
Donald Johansson has created a great site about color theory and color matching called Colours on the web. This site is worth a bookmark. Be sure to dig deep into this site and check out some of emotions related to various colors. [from LucDesk]
Jeffrey Zeldman has published his keynote presentation on Designing With Web Standards and his session on Accessibility and Section 508 from Web Design World 2003. The text may appear large because these pages were designed for use as projected slides, if you want adjust the text you can resize the fonts in your browser.
Dave Shea is a man who gets very little sleep. This should be obvious by the recent announcement about the redesign of MezzoBlue, new zesty CSS layout, same good old UI. You can read about the details here.
Keith Robinson is at it again, Gorilla Web Tip Number Five: The Myth of Perfect Web Design. Keith gives some very practical advice that all web designers should know and understand.
Another new issue of A List Apart is up. In this issue Brandon Olejniczak, whose name I won't attempt to pronounce, writes a great article on Using XHTML/CSS for an Effective SEO Campaign. For those still keeping up with the latest acronym buzz, SEO is Search Engine Optimization. Also see Shirley Kaiser's article, Designing for Search Engines and Stars and, of course, the Andrew King interview on Digital Web Magazine.
An interesting article mentioned on the AIFIA list about Why We Get No Respect. I don't know if I would go so far as to say that we need to add Interaction Architects to the lists of titles/roles within a web team. It is overkill. This is why we have Information Architects and Information Designers. Good designers know the creative side of things. Good programmers know the technical side of things. Good usability engineers know about the user's needs. Good Information Architects and Information Designers know all three; the creative, the technical and the user.
Here is an old post we found about some of the problems with the Windows XP GUI. An old post, but a very good read. Meanwhile Mark Pilgrim explains How to install Windows XP in 5 hours or less... no joke.
Nik Rawlinson has posted some tests he did on various sites using The Lynx Effect. Lynx was the first browser I ever experienced coupled with my first HTML editor, Pico. Though, in this example, he is using Lynx for windows, it gets the same point across of how it must have looked in a Linux shell. One thing to note is that Lynx gives you a really good perspective on how screen readers view your sites and what spacer GIFs with alt attributes look (or read) like.
Six Apart has announced the Preview release launch of TypePad. I'll be kicking the tires. However, in all honesty, I can't see paying $14.95 per Month for this when I could just use MovableType or Blogger with almost the same features (not quite, but almost). Meanwhile, the Basic version seems more reasonably priced, however the features place it below my expectations of what I need blogging software to do for me. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.
Local Portland designer and good friend of mine Gabe Kean has launched his own personal portfolio filled with some of the best design work he has done over the years while working at places like Second Story and publishing Born Magazine. Also check out his Digital Web Magazine interview from last year.
A new issue of Web Page Design for Designers is out. This month Joe Gillespie writes about Factor-X, or what makes a site's design and content work, and what doesn't. Also in this issue Joe reviews Macromedia Homesite 5.2 and Bare Bones BBEdit 7.0.4 and to follow it up he has authored an obituary for the Netscape Browser.