News : June 2004
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
This issue of Digital Web Magazine is a special double issue which includes a great product review and an excellent interview. For the product review Will Chatham joins us to give some insight into the extensibility of Mozilla's Firefox 0.9 browser. For the interview Craig Saila returns with a great dialog with Ian Hickson of Opera Software. Both are great articles and both give us a deeper perspective of what has been going on within the browser industry lately. Lastly, I just want to make one more reminder that you have literally less than 24 hours to take advantage of the early bird specials for the WebVisions conference because starting on July 2nd the rates go up. That's all for this week, we'll see you next week with more great articles.
IA vs. Design
Keith writes up a good post about Information Architecture -- A Huge Grey Area? While I think most of this post does reflect what we discussed over lunch, I also feel that there is a lot more to the job of an IA than what we covered. He mentions that he always thought IA included things like "use-cases, content inventories, taxonomy, labeling, site maps, and functional specs." ...and he's right, it does, but we only spend so much of our time doing those kinds of things. This is what is often termed as Little IA vs. Big IA, which I am sure someone like Keith Instone, who has been working on re-architecting IBM, can tell us all about. Anyway, I am sure there are many more lunches in which Keith and I will have together to get to the bottom of this.
Get Read and Linked
As some of you may know, every several months I used to go through the process of emptying out my bookmarks and adding new ones. Well this year I am doing the same thing, only with my RSS feed. What I do is basically look though our referrals, Google, Technorati, Blogdex and other similar sites to see who is linking to Digital Web Magazine. After checking out the site (and if there is enough web design, web development, or information architecture content on the site) I will add it to my RSS feed reader. This is a good way to get noticed within the community without having to write an article (though articles will get you much more attention within the community). So link us in from your blog or blogroll and we'll check it out.
Digital Web Magazine is in search of some experienced and talented volunteer writers. We are interested in article writers. If you have experience in writing articles for publications and you always meet your deadlines we want to hear from you. Here is your chance to get a little bit of exposure for yourself within the web community. Our editorial calendar will be filled up on a first come, first serve basis. So the sooner you contact us the more likely your article will publish within a short period of time. You can submit your article proposal by contacting the editor. No republications please. All articles must be web-centric. No product or service plugs either. See our contributor guidelines for more details.
Information Architecture is not a fad
News has slowed down a bit as I do some weekly commuting between Portland and Seattle for my new job. Meanwhile, something that has been established lately is that Information Architecture is no longer considered a new field according to Andrew Dillon as stated in his article "Out with the New! The IA Summit at Five Years." As someone who just recently joined a company that has at least three full-time Information Architects and several contracting Information Architects, I couldn't agree more. Information Architecture can no longer be taken as just a fad, it has become a standard role within any company who takes their Web presence seriously. If you want to read more about how IA came to be, you might want to start with Peter Morville's great summarized historical article entitled "A Brief History of Information Architecture (PDF)." Also be sure to hear Peter's keynote speech at WebVisions, the early bird specials will only be good through July 1st.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
More and more, designers are working on the same site for months or even years. As new features are added and new needs are identified, a site needs to be flexible to changes, so that post-launch changes can be made quickly and easily. Columnist Jeff Lash returns to explore the topic of Designing for Scalability in the latest edition of his IAnything Goes column. That is all for this week, we will see you next week with additional thought-provoking content. And remember, only one week left to take advantage of the early bird specials for WebVisions.
Samarititis and Findability
Michael Angeles published a post entitled "Acts of random cluelessness" which at first reminded me of what I call "samarititis," a compassionate person who has an addiction to unselfishly help others. I've been there too. After reading further into this post I find that Michael has quite a lot to say about findability and information in a digital age. A good read none the less, one that gets you thinking.
Web Page Analyzer
Speaking of free online testing tools, Andy King tells us that the Web Page Analyzer has been updated. This is a free online tool that anyone can use to test the performance of your web pages. The update includes several new features and changes, here are some of them:
1. more accurate results
2. background css image detection
3. compression detection improved (css/js)
4. PHP/cURL instead of Perl/LWP
5. flash detection
6. improved performance
Give it a spin if you haven't already. I find it very handy to have bookmarked.
Dan Cederholm on Validation
Dan Cederholm writes A Validation Tale about where and when he personally thinks that it can make the difference. Dan makes some very good points here. The only problem with this is that the validator only reports errors in top level validation but does not go deep enough into your code. For example, you can use an attribute value that is a number, percent or even a letter and the document will still validate, no matter how invalid the value of that attribute is. This has more to do with the programming of the validator than anything else. I know the W3C is working on fixing these oversights, but it will take some time.
New Issue of Boxes & Arrows
A new issue of Boxes & Arrows is out. In this issue are three great articles: Making Knowledge Management Work on your Intranet by Shiv Singh, Innovation Extreme Makeover by Robert Ouellette, and last but not least a Boxes and Arrows Redesign call. They are asking their readership and the community at large to submit redesign comps. They will be accepting submissions until August 1st. At which point a panel of celebrity judges will ponder over each design's usability, stylishness, and clarity to pick the future design of B&A.
User Experience Design Honeycomb
Ten questions for Molly Holzschlag
The Web Standards Group publishes another interview. This one is near and dear to my heart: Ten questions for Molly Holzschlag. As some of you know, Molly was formerly our Associate Editor at Digital Web Magazine and she helped us get to where we are today. For me personally, she has been a source for inspiration, a true guru, and perhaps one of the most recognized women in the community and the industry as a whole. With over 30 books under her wings and a resume that would make most men cry, she continues to be strong at heart and relentless at the huge task of leading us all into the next generation of the Web.
Information Architecture (IA 101)
Subha Subramanian, of gotomedia, has authored a great article entitled "An Introduction to Information Architecture" which covers the 101 of IA. Hopefully, after reading this article, people will stop saying "I like how you made the IA" when they are really referring to the primary navigation bar on a site. Anyway, this article is a great starting point for those who wish to learn more about IA.
The word out on the street is that Webmonkey has been reborn. If you look at the site you will see a new article on Macromedia Contribute2 dated the 18th of June. Just under that you will see an small blurb stating "We're totally back! Webmonkey is alive and kicking, serving up new articles all hot-n-fresh like a stack of banana pancakes. With syrup." Is it true, is Webmonkey back form the dead? If you have the inside scoop, let us know. Gmail invites to the first person with the inside scoop. [from Off The Top]
Digital Web Magazine is in search of some experienced and talented volunteer writers. We are interested in both monthly columnists and article writers. If you have experience in writing articles for publications and you always meet your deadlines we want to hear from you. Here is your chance to get a little bit of exposure for yourself within the web community. Our editorial calendar will be filled up on a first come, first serve basis. So the sooner you contact us the more likely your article will publish within a short period of time. You can submit your article proposal by contacting the editor. No republications please. All articles must be web-centric. No product or service plugs either. See our contributor guidelines for more details.
The lost portfolio
Here is a list of portfolios I know. These are people I either know personally or know through the web community. We cut the list down to individual portfolios that focused on web design. Please use the comments to recommend portfolios that we may have overlooked, but here is the catch, you can't recommend your own portfolio. We are looking for some fresh blood, talent that may otherwise be unnoticed by the web community at large. Here is your chance to give props to your friends. The list is meant to give you an idea of what level of quality of work we are looking for.
Adriana de Barros, Allan White, Daniel Jenett, Dan Cederholm, Dave Shea, Derek Powazek, Didier Hilhorst, Doug Bowman, Drew Europeo, Gabe Kean, Jason Kottke, Jon Hicks, Jose Illenberger, Joshua Davis, Joyce Wong, Kirsten Blair, Matt Owens, Matthew Haughey, Noah Maas, Scott Benish, Shaun Inman, Stephen Voss, and Thomas Brodahl.
It is about use
Jeffrey Zeldman has published a quite lengthy post on his site, something we haven't seen in a long time. The post talks about a design he and his company have been working on and details various comps that were made and which one the client choose. The post is Production for Use. Jeffrey goes on to say, "Design, whether it's automotive design or web design, is about use." Which is so true. To give you another example, read this excellent post about the Digital Web Magazine redesign by Donna Maurer: The proof of the site is in the reading. Just another example of why you shouldn't make judgment calls at first glance, actually using the site will show why some design decisions were made.
Didier Hilhorst posts a beauty on SuperfluousBanter entitled Research: Product Interaction which sheds some light on to what his thesis is going to be about. Didier shows how customer experience (marketing), interaction design (human-computer interaction) and usability (user research) all play an important role. He also calls upon his readership for help in finding good examples.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
Search Engine Optimization is easy to implement on standard XHTML driven sites, but what about sites that use Flash, PDFs, audio files or rich media? How do you optimize them for search engines? In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine columnist Alan K'necht explores the topic of "Search Engine Optimization and Non-HTML Sites." For each media type Alan identifies the problem and find the best solution to optimize it for search engines. That is all for this week, we will see you next week with additional thought-provoking content.
Paying what it is worth
On a related note, companies should also be willing to pay for what the services are worth. I can't tell you how many potential projects I have turned down because the client was, what the industry calls, a bottom feeder or a tire-kicker. In other words they were looking for the best deal they could find. Folks, if price is a primary concern for determining if a company will hire a vendor for a project, maybe they should not be looking at professional vendors to begin with. Be reasonable with your price point and you will see that the results will be rewarding.
Standing up for your rights
Jason Fried posts a powerful stance on ethics within the Web industry. The post is entitled On Principle: Standing up for your rights and I frankly could not agree more. Not only should work be paid in full before ownership is transferred, but companies that hire vendors should be willing to come to terms of agreement when it comes to how the work will be promoted (i.e. can they put it in their portfolio, can they use the company name in their client list, etc.).
Usability Testing Useless?
Lane Becker, of Adaptive Path, makes a pretty bold statement by saying 90% of All Usability Testing is Useless. He gives a very interesting perspective on the issue, I highly recommend you read this.
I am sure you have seen the Gmail invites going around (If not, check out whitespace, dezwozhere, jluster, minjungkim, widgetopia, wholelottanothing, and about 100 other sites). Well, just because it's the trendy thing to do these days: I have seven, yes seven (7) Gmail invites to give away. So instead of doing some kind of contest, I would like to do a scavenger hunt. Yes, that's right, a virtual scavenger hunt to be exact. Your results can be sent to me via the feedback page. Do NOT post your findings in the comments as we want to keep this as fair as possible. With that said, here is what I need:
- The cost in USDs of a 1 year (Group A) Professional membership at AIfIA.
- The URL for the canard launching art.
- The first and last name of the animator and illustrator that "boxes with jewels."
- Who said, "I fall more and more in love with this tool everyday." and about what.
- The names of Ernest Kim's former and current employer.
- The tile of chapter 10 of Christina Wodtke's last book.
- The year in which my current employer founded their company.
- The name of the person who came up with "Wordpress"
- The total length in inches of a medium sized clip-n-seal.
- The current URL for Veen Diagram.
- The date of Jeffrey Zeldman's birthday.
- The first year WebVisions was held.
- What the "D" stands for in D. Keith Robinson.
- The difference in numbered pages between the 1st and 2nd edition of the Polar Bear book.
- The keynote of the first WebVisions and approximate room temperature.
New Issue of A List Apart
In this issue of A List Apart you will find three great articles. First Dynamic Text Replacement by Stewart Rosenberger, then second Dynamically Conjuring Drop-Down Navigation by Christian Heilmann, and last but not least, Creating Liquid Layouts with Negative Margins by Ryan Brill. All three are great articles but my favorite happens to be the article on liquid layouts. Go check it out.
Yahoo! Mail redesigned
It seems that Yahoo! has launched the redesign of Yahoo! Mail today. The site does use more CSS for the design, but the layout is still driven by tables... which is not always a terrible thing, but in this case it is as the performance of the pages is dramatically slower thanks to the addition of a refined design which uses more graphics. In Yahoo!'s own words it is "a streamlined interface that's even easier to use." If you asked me what architecture has changed or what usability enhancements have been made, I'd have a hard time trying to identify those for you. To top things off, the link to their help page listed in the email that announces the redesign to existing users points to a 404 error.
Donna Maurer has an interesting post about her methodology for Selecting scenarios for a usability test which I find very interesting. I would be curious to hear what methods you (our readers) used for selecting scenarios. Most of the methods I have used in the past have proven to be less effective and seemed to point only to the more common knowledge issues with the sites I was working on.
Both sides of job finding
It's a very good day when you can find both a blog for the interviewer and the interviewe. Now I don't think the people of Microsoft's Jobblog (the inside looking out) interviewed Aaron Boodman, but he has a great post about his experience Interviewing at Microsoft (the outside looking in). I hope for a day where we can start seeing blogs about products and blogs about people who use those products.
What makes a good rate card?
Ok, with all the tension going on over the weekend via people who just don't get it, I thought it would be good to present you with a nice Monday morning laugh. This rate card was posted via Signal vs. Noise, a 37Signals property. Some people are already dubing it "the idiot tax" while others suggest that they should include "$500 if you want it yesterday." Be sure to catch Jason Fried's presentation at WebVisions 2004. Share your suggestions via the comments.
Happy birthday Mr. Robinson
That is right Digital Web Magazine's Editor in Chief, D. Keith Robinson, just celebrated his birthday. Yes, I know I am a day late with this news, but that is only because my wife and I have been busy finding a new city to become a part of... Mr. Robinson's city of residence to be exact; Seattle. I am sure the thought of knowing his boss is now just minutes away horrifies Keith to some degree... he'll survive. At any rate, happy birthday ol
Speak up about Web Standards
For those of you confused my Burnt Out on Web Standards post the other day. Let me clarify some of the confusion in the most simplest terms I can: we need to stop advocating standard to each other within the community (we already get it) and start figuring out ways to convince those John and Jane Does at ACME corporation and ACME design studio to learn about standards and to work towards a more standard compliant web. Disagree? Well, WASP has given you a chance to voice your opinion in their Web Standards Survey. So if you haven't done so already, go complete it and state your view on the subject.
Business Logs goes pro
Paul Scrivens (whitespace) emailed me today to tell me that his new business has launched today. So what's so special about that? Well, Paul and his crew over at Business Logs plans to focus exclusivly on blogs. "we started Business Logs to bring the power of weblogs, wikis, and other online collaboration tools to organizations," says Scrivens, co-founder of Business Logs. Paul shares the limelight with a great team which includes Matthew Oliphant (usabilityworks.org) and Mike Rundle (Phark). Some of the services the company will offer include reputation management, knowledge management, communication consulting, market level blog analysis, and professional blogging services.
Burnt Out on Web Standards
Keith writes a well articulated post about why he is Sick of Web Standards. And you know, after reading the post all the way through, I have to agree and I don't think I am alone here. This is by no means saying that web standards are not important or that we should ignore them. No, far from it. I just feel that most of the experts who have spent the last four plus years advocating standards to the masses really have only convinced the involved web community and barely even dented the web industry as a whole. Are you burnt out as well? What kind of other topics would you like to see us cover here? Post your comments.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
Usability and design are two fields that collide more often than not. But why is that? In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine columnist and web designer Didier P. Hilhorst explores how we can all get along in his article "Apples and Oranges." A must read for anyone whole wants to work towards a compromise and co-existence within the web industry. This is Didier's second issue of his Art of Interaction column and with the addition of article comments there is plenty of potential for intellectual discussion. That is all for this week, we will see you next week with additional thought-provoking content.
Robinson on Contingency Design
Keith Robinson makes some excellent points about how Poor Contingency Design Can Cost You. In addition to the rather humorous experience Keith had with a web order form (well, Keith may not think so), he also pitches the 37signals book Defensive Design for the Web by Jason Fried, Matt Linderman, and the rest of the 37signals crew. 37signals and maybe Adaptive Path seemed to have cornered the market on Contingency Design for now, but I suspect that will all change shortly. I would love to hear what your experiences have been with bad Contingency Design. Feel free to post your story in the comments. Also, don't forget to check out Jason Fried's excellent presentation at WebVisions 2004.
A New Issue of gotoreport
The second issue of gotoreport went out late last night thanks to all the hard work by Subha Subramanian. Special thanks to Kelly Goto for letting me be a part of this great publication. In this issue Dave Rogers begins his column, The User Advocate, in which he publishes a great article entitled "Everything I know about usability I learned from scooping ice cream." Also in this issue is a great article by Stephan Spencer about Online Customer Service: Make It Easy For Your Customer To Do Business With You and of course this issue wouldn't be complete without something free, so Erik Burns has written "Want Free Beer??" which is a great article on what he calls Cafe Testing, the new low-calorie alternative to traditional market testing. All of these articles are worth reading so get to it.
Stopdesign Phase II
Doug Bowman has entered into phase 2 of his redesign for Stopdesign. As doug put it, "Baby's got new shoes." And I hate to sound like I am impartial or unfair to some of the other redesigns that have been happening lately, but damn, this one is nice! Doug goes into more details about Phase II in his post "Stopdesign, Reloaded" ...though, since this is the 3rd redesign wouldn't it be "Stopdesign, Revolutions?" ...just a thought. Oh, and for those of you who are really into typography, Georgia is back.
Dan Cederholm interview on WSG
When I was at SXSW this last year I was able to finally meet Dan Cederholm. It was a great experience being able to talk to him about some of the stuff he has done and hear his ideas on things. His simple style is what really makes him shine in my book. Well thankfully you can find out more about Dan in this great interview from the Web Standards Group: Ten questions for Dan Cederholm. [from Web Graphics]
Merge and Split: issues with XFN
Michael Angeles is in the process of redesigning his site. He is merging her portfolio site (studioid.com) with his personal (urlgreyhot.com). I have seen a lot of designers and developers doing this lately, but I have also seen a lot of designers and developers separating their consulting business sites from their personal sites. This is one of the reasons why XFN doesn't always work out right. For example, have a personal site (nickfinck.com), a project site (digital-web.com). If someone was to link to my name but using the digital-web.com URL, technically XFN could not be used as digital-web.com is not synonymous with Nick Finck. Things get even messier when sites merge and split focus.
Serif vs. San-Serif
There is one rule in web design that we have stated many times before only to debate it and debate it again. We even went so far as to prove it and then defined it. I must admit serif typefaces look a lot better on a Mac with its aliasing, but that is about it... it looks better, it doesn't perform better. We remember that form always follows function right? So why are we still seeing designers who insist on using serif typefaces for the body of large blocks of text? I have no idea. If you disagree, post a comment here and prove me wrong with facts specifically devoted to online screen reading.
What makes a good Customer Experience?
Mark Hurst has posted a beautifully crafted Exercise in Customer Experience. I see this kind of thing going on quite often and it is really sad. It is sad that a company would spend so much money on experience and fail to actually meet the customer's needs. I agree that experience is always important, but let's be honest here, their needs should be the top priority. [from Meryl's Notes]
Canadian election Web sites flunk standards test
Canada has an election underway. Joe Clark and Craig Saila ran major parties' sites through the validators and did a quickie accessibility check. Sure enough, they all failed miserably: Election sites flunk standards test.
Peter Merholz writes about Explicit Design in his post "Thinking About Audience Segmentation." He has some great examples of how you can use audience segmentation to your advantage when designing a site. My favorite example is Hay Net, I first saw this in Jeffrey Veen's presentation at WebVisions in 2003.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
In this week's issue of Digital Web Magazine columnist Alan K'necht examines the pros and cons of both traditional paid marketing and organic word-of-mouth marketing for web sites. While one of these methods may be good for immediate short-term results, the other is good for meeting long-term goals. Alan's article is entitled "Organic or Paid Marketing" and it is all about changing visitors into readers and users. A must read for anyone who intends to increase not just traffic on their site, but readership as well. See you next week with another great issue.
Zeldman.com turns nine
Today zeldman.com celebrates its ninth anniversary. Congrats to Jeffrey for continuing to publish great content year after year.
Real ROI with Web Standards
Keith makes a great post about Web Standards ROI... so what makes this post any different than any of the other Web Standards ROI posts and articles you have read in the past? Well, one specific thing: he shows the numbers. Keith covers the details of two very similar projects, one without web standards and one with web standards such as CSS. This is a must read.