News : April 2004
New issue of A List Apart
Issue 176 of A List Apart is out. In this issue you will find two great articles, the first is What Is Web Accessibility? by Trenton Moss. As you can guess by the title, the article
A Roadmap to Standards
Dave Shea has posted a great email responce to a friend asking about web standards. If, by some off chance, you are coming late to the game and want to learn more about the how and why of web standard, this post is a good place to start: A Roadmap to Standards. Of course, as Dave mentions, you'll probably want to pick up a copy of Jeffrey Zeldman's latest book, Designing With Web Standards.
Google sets IPO
Well, incase you have been sitting at home today with the TV and radio off, and the dog ran away with the newspaper, Google filed its long awaited IPO today. $2.7 billion to be exact. The search engine market is about to get a lot more interesting. Congratulations to the Google team, a personal pat on the back for Ev and Biz, go get em!
4,000th Subscriber Giveaway
Digital Web Magazine is happy to announce that we are just about at our 4,000th subscriber mark for our email newsletter. To celebrate this milestone we are going to give a way a signed copy of Defensive Design for the Web. This is the book that well help sell your boss on good web design techniques that account for good usability, accessibility, information architecture and just plain old well crafted web design. Special thanks for all of our readers and the web community at large for making this milestone possible.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine Richard MacManus explores how corporate web sites have evolved over the past ten years, putting some of the current and future trends in web design into perspective in his article entitled "The Evolution of Corporate Web Sites." Also this week we have reached another milestone in the redesign of Digital Web Magazine, expect a big announcement shortly. That's all for this week, see you again in seven days.
So what flavor of XHTML do you run? 1.0 transitional? 1.0 strict? There are many doctypes to choose from but some seem to be more commonly used in practice. Keith writes a great post about his thoughts on XHTML strict. The post is entitled XHTML 1.0 Strict Not Ready For Prime Time?. A good read, but don't forget to check out the great comments as well.
Designer Wages and Cost of Living
A great new discussion has sparked up over at Speak Up on the topic of Designer Wages and Cost of Living. Some good points have already been made in the first few comments. To be fair, it would be appropriate to note that some of the results listed in the Salary Survey are "grossly overstated" and not precise enough.
Ten Questions for Keith Robinson
Our modest Editor in Chief, D. Keith Robinson, has been interviewed by the Web Standards Group. The interview is entitled Ten Questions for Keith Robinson. Questions range from his involvement with Digital Web Magazine to standards, accessibility and usability. On a related note, you can expect to see another Web Standards Group interview of other Digital Web Magazine editorial staff shortly.
Text vs. Images
Keith writes a great post about Navigation -- Text vs. Images. Interestingly enough I had this very same debate the other day with the Digital Web Magazine redesign and how to handle the navigation. Clearly we want the user to be able to resize the fonts, but we also want the navigation design to draw the user in more than simply plain text links. As Keith concluded, form ever follows function.
One of the most challenging things I ever had to do in the way of graphics was to create visualization for a series of datasets and for more than 5 dimensions of metrics. We ended up using all three axis, color, shape and size in the visualization. Thankfully today there are sites like Visualisation Patterns (mind the frameset) that help you find solutions to these kinds of problems. [from Elegant Hack]
First GIF and now JPEG
It appears that Forgent Networks is trying to sue several hardware and software vendors for the use of the JPEG image format. Dave Shea has more details on this story here: JPEG Dispute. I am not so worried about users of the JPEG formats being sued, but I do think that this could seriously damage the software industry at large if not stopped at a court level.
Here is a interesting tool that has evolved thanks to the help of social software: Orkut Personal Network Geomap. it is pretty handy for mapping out social networks, well, at least for those in the US. Even more impressive is the GeOrkut Density Map. [from random($foo)]
New issue of A List Apart
Issue 178 of A List Apart is out. In this issue Sergio Villarreal writes a follow-up to his CSS Drop Shadows article. So, without further fanfare: CSS Drop Shadows II: Fuzzy Shadows. A nice touch to add to your CSS design. The only issue, however, is that even though the author is intending this to work in all browsers you won't see the results in IE6. My best guess is that the technique wasn't properly tested.
Think Outside the Grid
Capsule Review: ActionScript 2.0 Training CD
Lynda.com's new CD-ROM Learning ActionScript 2.0 in Macromedia Flash MX 2004 ($149.95) is a great alternative to the growing number of books on the subject. Author Joey Lott brings a personable style to the video tutorials, which cover several core principles of the language with good example projects. The CD includes hours of well-paced quicktime movies that step through these concepts in a logical manner that ensures that users will "get" what they're seeing. It may not be appropriate for total novices, but it's a good visual learning tool for anyone else who does scripting in Flash. I personally took a lot away from the CD, and will keep it on hand for future reference. Only downsides: a technical glitch prevented me from seeing a couple of the movies, and the printed paper disc label looks cheapo. I look forward to checking out more of their titles.
New issue of Digital Web Magazine
This issue of Digital Web Magazine is a special double issue. We have a great article from Ken Westin on cover the concept of iterative processes through redesigning in public. His article is entitled This Old Website: Web Renovations, and as you can guess by the title, he uses the metaphor of renovating houses instead of rebuilding them from the ground up. Also in this issue is a great review by Jesse Nieminen for those of you who are seriously considering setting up a small-scale audio studio right from the comfort of your own workstation. The review is entitled Computer-Based Music Production on a Budget and covers Other World Computing's Mercury Extreme G4 / 1.25-1.33 GHz processor, M-Audio Ozone, Tech 21 Trademark 10 amplifier, Pro Tools Free, Logic 6, Propellerheads Reason 2.5, Ableton Live, Bias Peak 4, and Waves plug-ins. Yes, a whole pile of audio hardware and software. That is all for this week, we will see you again in seven days.
10 Questions For Eric Meyer
The Web Standards Group is for web designers and developers who are interested in web standards (HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, XSLT etc.) and best practices. Currently, Russ Weakley conducts an interview entitled 10 Questions for Eric Meyer.
Usability via Information Architecture
Keith writes an excellent post about Usability Via Information Architecture. Have you user-tested your wireframe lately? Well, ok, it is a bit more invovled that, but keith again hits the nail on the head. We need to involve our actual users from the beginning... this includes the information architecture phase of any project.
SEO and Accessibility
Big Mouth Media publishes a great series of chapters on Search Engine Optimisation and Accessibility. I would say this is a new trend for the web industry. Tying SEO with accesibility has clear benefits to both the user and the site. A great followup to Brandon's Optimizing Your Chances with Accessibility article. [from InfoDesign]
The Information Architect's Library
Today the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture (AIfIA) announced the launch of the Information Architecture Library, a huge resource of books, articles, blogs and more all related to the field of IA. This is one for the bookmarks.
New issue of Boxes and Arrows
A new issue of Boxes and Arrows is out, in this issue you will find Making guidelines part of the team by Tanya Rabourn as well as Remote Contextual Inquiry: A Technique to Improve Enterprise Software by Jeff English and Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo. Also in this issue is a great article by Andrew Hinton entitled Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research.
Today's "what were they thinking" goes to Apple's .Mac iTour page. As a colleague of mine stated "I challenge you to find one piece of actual text on that page (other than the copyright)." For the bonus prize, there is no alt text on any of those images. Not a single populated alt tag to be found. What this means in terms of ROI is that no search engine will ever rank this page anywhere near the top of the list for its content. Not to mention no screen reader will ever utter a word when visiting this page.
A9 critique / Yahoo! Maps
Paul critiques A9 over at Whitespace. I am still waiting to see a Yahoo! Maps critique, because there seems to be new features every day, as Christina points out, you can now locate the nearest Wi-Fi connection using Yahoo! Maps... not to mention your favorite Italian or Thai restaurant.
Is Usability Dead?
While we are on the subject of Usability Gilbert Cockton publishes Usability is dead, long live Product Value, which as near as I can tell is essentially a rant about where usability is going and why. Some insight into how we can fix this is suggested, but no real clear solutions.
Selling Usability by Design
Keith publishes a pretty well-rounded article on Selling Usability By Design. Several good points are mentioned here including this one: "Design is part of what makes sites usable." So true, yet so often misunderstood by both usability and design experts.
Today Apple has introduced Motion, a reasonably priced motion graphics application set to release sometime this summer. The hope is that the product will compete aginst simular products such as After Effects. [from What Do I know]
Experience Design 101
For the Sake of Consistency
Ryan Toyota writes a great piece asking for Consistency in Design. I think we can all agree on this point here. I used to think marketing campaigns worked on this level. Experience a commercial; expect to see the same kind of visual design at the store. Well, as we know this is far from the truth. There are lessons to be learned in User Experience. [from Elegant Hack]
New issue of A List Apart
Issue 177 of A List Apart is out. In this issue Joe Di Stefano writes an article entitled The Problem, the Balloon, and the Four Bedroom House which explores the idea of how good processes can tame unruly projects. Also in this issue Aaron Gustafson authors the article Let Them Eat Cake which talks about the growing debate between accessibility and usability.
New issue of Digital Web Magazine
Blogging for Business
Here is a great article about blogging for business by Nick Wreden; 10 Rules for Corporate Blogs and Wikis. Be sure to check out the link to Michael Angeles' presentation Blogging in Corporate America. Also check out these presentations I did at Web Design World 2003 (The Why and How of Blogging) and SXSW 2004 (Blogging for Business) on the subject. After all, we are at 1,821,459 known and indexed blogs and counting. [From Meryl's Notes]
The Web Craftsman
Keith writes perhaps one of the best the post of the year today. It is entitled A Rant and A Few Resources for the Well Rounded Web Craftsman. I am not linking to this just because he stole my title, but the point he makes about the constant bickering within the community is right on the mark. In addition, the resources he suggests are perhaps the primary tools that any web craftsman should have in their toolbox.
The Learning Curve of Web Standards
If you're not part of the converted and wondering what steps to take to become a convert, Bobby van der Sluis offers some solid tips on how to overcome the Learning Curve of Web Standards for experienced web professionals willing to make the transition to standards-based design, but are unsure of how to start. Via mezzoblue.
What is in a Name?
Josh Williams has finally stepped up when it comes to the use of his site's name, Yellowlane. In his post "One Word to Rule Them All" he talks about how the name (or brand if that's the case) is intended to be one word, all lower-case. Now we all know that Stopdesign and Mezzoblue are single words with only initial caps. I think Josh is pretty lucky that this is his only problem with his site's name. Judging by the 30 or so variations, I am not so sure anyone realizes this site has a three word name without a hyphen: Digital Web Magazine. Aside from that, we have the issue where my name is often linked as if Digital Web Magazine was my own personal site. Unfortunately, that lives elsewhere, but thanks for thinking of me. I shouldn't have to say this but this site is more than just me, it is run by a dedicated team of contributors and staff from editorial to communications and all kinds of technical advisors in between. So when you think of Digital Web Magazine, think of it as a collective of dedicated talent and expertise.
Mousing Behavior Visualization
Andy Edmonds is in the process of finishing his masters thesis, He has compiled some pretty good results here: The Making of a Visualization: Notes on Mousing Behavior in Menus. This brings to the table the issues surrounding navigation and menus. As you see Digital Web Magazine has a menu along the right side of the page, however we have found that even though the mouse tends to stay on the right side of the page near the scrollbar, the user actually looks to the left side of the page for the primary navigation. More info can be found here in this great article by Michael Bernard. Needless to say the redesign will include a navigation on the left side of the page.
Brand and Color
While we are on the topic of brands and colors I thought it would be interesting to take an informal and very non-scientific survey of brands. I asked two questions to a series of designers and experts within the web industry (by no means Brand experts). The first question I asked was to identify a "huge" brand. The top results in order were IBM, Apple, GE, Nike, Microsoft, Coke, Pepsi, and McDonalds. The second question I asked was to identify Apple's corporate color. In order, the results were: white, blue, and silver. For the second question, none of the respondents were 100% sure their answer was correct. This is because the answer is none. Apple does not have a corporate color according to it's Media Services department. Keep in mind that Apple is a global top 50 brand. What does that say about color and brand recognition?
Color Symbolism vs. Wayfinding
Didier suggests that we should say "SuperfluousBanter: To Hell with Color Coding." While I agree with a lot of what he is saying here but I have to disagree with the overall point that we shouldn't use color coding because it conflicts with the brand and meaning of the color. Does Adobe want to say "stop" or "danger" when they use red on their site? Does HP? How about Xerox or Coke? Does IBM want to communicate "cold" on their site because they used blue? How about Microsoft? Ok so, yes, color conveys meaning (on a symbolic level) but I don't think that is what the average user identifies with. Color also means different things to people in different cultures. Users often relate color to association and not to symbolism as Didier suggest. User testing can go a long ways to showing you how your site?s actual users will relate to the color.
New issue of A List Apart
In issue 176 of A List Apart are two great articles. The first is Power To The People: Relative Font Sizes by Bojan Mihelac and the second article is Web Accessibility and UK Law: Telling It Like It Is by Trenton Moss. Both are very interesting reads. I find Bojan's article to bring an interesting perspective on the issue, however it is best to know thy audience. For example, on Digital Web Magazine, the large majority of the readership knows how to reside the text in their browser (a feature not currently implemented in this design, but will be in the up and coming redesign).
Gurus vs. Bloggers
Design by Fire brings you a rather hilarious Celebrity Deathmatch, only this time around it is Gurus vs. Bloggers. Note: It appears Zeldman is playing both sides of the table, he is listed as a blogger, but shouldn't he be a guru? ...was he drafted?
New issue of Boxes and Arrows
Three great new articles are out in this issue of Boxes and Arrows. First a great article by Lynn Stott entitled Information Architecture: A Rose by Any Other Name..., then a article on Card sorting: a definitive guide by Donna Maurer and Todd Warfel, and last but not least an article by Tanya Rabourn entitled Making guidelines part of the team. All great reads.
New issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this issue of Digital Web Magazine we are happy to bring you a new column by Didier P. Hilhorst entitled "Art of Interaction." In his first edition of this column Didier brings web design back on the agenda with his great article aptly titled "The Designer Is Dead, Long Live The Designer!" in which he examines the role of aesthetic quality in web design. Also thanks to Didier we are one step closer to completing the long over-due redesign of Digital Web Magazine. Expect to see the new design up before the end of spring. That is all for this week, see you again in 7 days.
Personas and Readership
Keith writes a great post about Personas For Content Development. I think he makes some excellent points about why and how personas can be helpful even after the design phase. We created some personas here at Digital Web Magazine for the redesign that is going on, it was quite helpful during the wireframing process though I can't say we used them a whole lot during the UI design process. Thanks to Christina Wodtke for the hard work on those.
Are you XFN friendly?
Matt Mullenweg has announced the launch of Exefen a handy tool that allows you to add XFN rel values to your page's links and retains the original markup without any additional changes. In a word, "impressive."
Managing Web Projects
Paul has published a great piece entitled Managing Change which only hits the tip of the iceberg in dealing with changing scope and project management. Scope, Schedule, and Resources: It's amazing at how simple these few fundamental components are yet most any project I have seen always seems to miss the concept that changing one will affect the rest. This leads to either project delays, over worked employees, or under bided projects.
What ever happened to all of the Web Designers?
Keith writes a beautiful post on the art or practice of Web Design in general. His posted is aptly named "Web Design is Web Design" For those of you who are long time readers and see my comments when I say things like "web designers, not to be confused with graphic designers" this is exactly what I mean. Keith said it better than I could have when he said, "Web design should be recognized as a discipline unto itself." Bravo, Keith, bravo.
Extreme Information Design
Here is an interesting use of information design. Apparently the site takes stories found in Google News and translates them into this newsmap visualization. The bigger stories get more realestate. The colors categorize the stories by topic (sports, tech, business, etc). There are a ton of other things going on here that I have yet to figure out, but plug away at it and see how it works. Pretty amazing, or as Cal put it "spectacular." [from iamcal]
InfoDesign Interviews Jared Spool
Each month, InfoDesign will interview a thought leader in the design industry, focusing on people who are identified with or show strong sensibilities to the design of information and experiences. This month we learn that Jared loves chocolate chip cookies (and more).
March Entries for Version 2 Now Online
The deadline has passed and the March entries for the Version 2 redesign contest are available for viewing. Voting begins on April 5th. Check out Version 2 to see a screenshot of the April redesign candidate - the Internet Movie Database.
Veen on Why Content Management Fails
Behind the scenes of Basecamp
Since we here at Digital Web Magazine started using Basecamp to manage our project we have found it to be a truly powerful tool that takes processes and organizes them in a convenient web based package. Well, the same folks who developed the system are now offering a workshop entitled "The Building of Basecamp." It is a one day workshop that details the lessons learned in building a real-world web-based application.