News : April 2005
Speaking of events, my friend Paul Ingram reminds me that Currents 9 is just around the corner. This year it is going to be held at the Seattle Art Museum on May 20th right here in Seattle. Speakers include John Maeda (MIT), Marty O'Donnell (Bungie; Myth, Halo 2), Tim Fisher (MK12), Tina Roth (projekt 2), Angela Shen-Hsieh (Visual i|o), and Kevin Grady & Colin Metcalf from GUM. It's going to be a great event loaded to the gills with inspiration, I hope to see you there! Also, check out other Seattle events such as STC's annual conference and Gnomedex.
When in doubt, ask: Drupal events calendar examples
Hey all, I would like to ask you, our readers, about something I have been working with lately. Does anyone know of any "good" examples of using Drupal to create an events calendar? Added bonus is the site is divided into many different geographical regions, each with their own calendar. If you know of some, please post them in the comments here.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! (You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!) Remember that old Reese's commercial? Contributing author Doug Clifton offers a new take on two great things that go great together: CSS and PHP. His article, "Generating Dynamic CSS with PHP," shows you how to sweeten your peanut butter presentation layer with a little wholesome PHP. Enjoy!
Ideal web team size?
Andy Budd has an interesting post about The Ideal Web Team and several people have posted some good comments and offered alternative lists of who should be on an ideal web team. Including myself, so I won't repeat what I said here. Instead I'd like to direct you to Peter-Paul Koch's articles The Ideal Web Team (part 1) and The Ideal Web Team (part 2). I am not saying seven or five are ideal, in fact, I would say it really depends on the project. For example, I am working on a rather large project that contains six user experience team members (a mix of information designers, usability engineers, information architects, interaction architects, and LIS types). Still with me? Outside of that we have a Flash developer, a programmer (someone who dives into the backend systems), and we are about to bring on a graphical designer. Not to mention the Project Manager and key client contact. So I have to ask, is there really an ideal web team size? Can we really put a number to that? I would tend to believe that the answer is no, but perhaps you have some better insight into this?
Update your feed reader
Dan has a very helpful post about Weeding Feeds which got me to think about the feeds here on Digital Web Magazine. After a quick check of the site's stats there appears to still be an alarming number of readers who are still subscribed to the old Daily News feed. So, before putting into place a 301 redirect, I thought this would be a good time to remind everyone of the two feeds we have today:
- Digital-Web Magazine - Daily News
- This is the RSS version of the blog on the right hand side of the home page
- This feed contains daily news from around the web industry, links to articles, and mentions of new content and information available at Digital Web Magazine
- This is a full-post feed
- Digital-Web Magazine - Latest Articles
- This is the RSS version of the article content you see in the middle of the home page
- This feed contains only announcements of news articles as they are published on Digital Web Magazine
- This is a summary feed
Please update your feed readers accordingly. Thank you.
Pushing the limits
I was having a conversation with Garrett Dimon the other day via IM. We were discussing the whole design and inspiration subject. While it's one thing to allow another design to inspire your design, it's quite another thing to allow that other design to influence your design. I use the analogy of music. It all has its roots somewhere. However, if I listen to a guitar track by Steve Vai, I can distinguish it from, say, Jimi Hendrix or even his teacher, Joe Satriani. A good design, while its roots may be distinguishable, should resemble it's own unique style.
I think there is a lot of "CSS allows us to make boxes" and not enough of "CSS allows us to make anything" ...there is a big difference.. one is using the technology to build things, the other is using the technology to innovate.
We see small nudges in sites like CSS Zen Garden, but out in the wild, it seems people are more comfortable sticking to the basics of what they know well. I am so tired of the common design... I want to see something new, different and exciting.
For example (and for example only), Garrett brought up the point that newspapers have time-tested multi-column layouts. Which is true, however, I don't read newspapers anymore, I read Newsmaps. And he responded with "but the difference there is the medium" ...true, but it's all just information, is it not? It is all just journals, is it not? It doesn't mean we have to follow anyone's lead in UI, layout, or design elements.
I think we all should spend a little more timing pushing the limits, just to test what we have come to know as de facto. We all need to take a risk every once in a while and challenge ourselves, because if we don't, well, then we are no better off than were we were yesterday.
Preaching to the choir
Keith writes an excellent post on something I have been thinking about for a very long time now: Web Standards Blindness. Now, before you start jumping up and down in your chair in a fit of rage, read the full post. What he's talking about is a fact within this industry, there are people who go home and don't read blogs. Yes, amazing concept, isn't it? I know I have put a bug in Molly's ear about this and what WaSP is doing about it. I know they are trying to do something, but there's not easy solution to this problem. So Keith is calling upon the community for suggestions. Got any ideas?
UXnet, a community of purpose?
Peter Merholz writes an interesting post about how User Experience is a Quality, Not A Discipline and proceeds to bash UXnet for whatever particular reason. Dirk Knemeyer replies with The State of User Experience. This is all very interesting as it seems clear to me that Peter believes UXnet is stating that User Experience is a practice purely by its existence. Which I disagree with, User Experience is not a practice. He also makes a claim that UX is trying to establish a community of practice. The reality is, I believe, that UXnet is trying to establish community of purpose [thanks for the link Jay], which is quite different. At any rate, I suppose I'll be the one in the back of the room heckling Peter at WebVisions 2005. I hope to see you there.
Janice Fraser of Adaptive Path writes a great essay entitled "It's a Whole New Internet" which has some great examples of current trends. To quote the essay, "Curious, inventive people are making cool stuff again. There's been a notable shift, and it's incredibly exciting." This essay is a great read, go check it out.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
A little history about WebVisions
In July we will be kicking off another WebVisions event in Portland, Oregon. This is our fifth year for the event so I thought it might be interesting to share with you some historical insight into WebVisions. Below is a list of links to the various sites speakers for each year of the event:
- WebVisions 2001
- Jeffrey Zeldman, Geoff Hiller, Heather Irwin, Gabe Kean, and Molly Sokolow
- WebVisions 2002
- Jesse James Garrett, Gabe Kean, Erik Natzke, Joe Shepter, Seb Chevrel, Kim Markegard, and Brad Smith
- WebVisions 2003
- Jeffrey Veen, Jeff Faulkner, Kelly Goto, Mark Newhouse, and Dr. U.N. Umesh
- WebVisions 2004
- Peter Morville, Anil Dash, D. Keith Robinson, Ernest Kim, Kelly Goto, Matt Owens, Dirk Knemeyer, DL Byron, Jason Fried, Scott Hirsch, Armin Vit, Christina Wodtke, Julie Beeler, Kit Seeborg, Matt Haughey, and Nate Koechley
- WebVisions 2005
- BJ Fogg, Molly Holzschlag, Peter Merholz, Cameron Moll, Tom Byrnes, Bill DeRouchey, Sandro Corsaro, Thomas Vander Wal, Chris Bond, Eric Falat, Alan K'necht, and more to be announced shortly
It seems that the event doubles if not triples in size every years. So I have high hopes of yet another record-breaking turnout this year. I hope to see you there. Also don't forget to check out the Portland UX events page if you happen to be in town.
DevCon at CHI 2005
At CHI 2005 I was invited to participate in the Development Consortium as part of my involvement with UXnet as the local ambassador for the Pacific Northwest. Today UXnet has published a page outlining what happened at Development Consortium and what the outcomes were. There are links to all of the papers including the one Dirk, Matteo and I did (140K PDF). Go check out the DevCon page and let me know what you think.
Things I am experimenting with
I thought it would be interesting to share a list of some of the things I have been experimenting with lately. Mostly tech/geeky things but perhaps of interest anyway.
While some of these things are still pretty primitive or buggy... it still is amazing that we have come this far with methods of sending, receiving, sharing, and processing information. What's next?
Why weighted lists didn't work for us
As Jeffrey pointed out, it seems that weighted tag lists are the new fad. While these can be effective tools in communicating additional information to linked sources they are certainly not the right solution all of the time. This is something we discovered when we considered adding a weighted keyword list to Digital Web Magazine. Through some discussion with various staff members and users it was very apparent that while weighted lists did draw attention to the most popular items on the list, it also introduced a self-perpetuating problem, the same kinds of problems you see with things like "most popular" lists. In simplified form the metric to which visual prominence is established is often exponentially increased when presented to the common user who is a browser. In essence, push was it already being pushed. Those are the user experience problems with weighted lists, I won't even begin to mention the accessibility problems with them (though there are some solitions to those problems).
Matt Haughey makes some good points about the amount of pushback on Ajax. To summarize here: technology is best sold wrapped up in a well-named package. For example how many people do you know that are marketing and selling things that use ieee-1394? Now, how many people do you know who are marketing and selling things that use Firewire? Hint, they are the same thing.
If you can't beat them...
If you can't beat them, buy them... or so the story goes for Adobe which announced today that it will be purchasing Macromedia for approximately $3.4 billion. While this may not seem like that significant of an event to some within the industry I can assure you that we reached a turning point in the industry today.. or the end of an era to look at it from a different perspective. I don't know about you but I am clinging on to my copy of Homesite 5.0 for dear life... though I will still continue to experiment with Studio MX. Todd Dominey has some comments on the news and John Hanna suggest a new logo treatment. And for all of those wondering, no this is not a late April Fool's joke... it's as real as it gets.
Garrett Dimon of Your Total Site launches his own personal site at garrettdimon.com. It's so simple it's kind of scary. All of the basic elements and navigation are there where you expect to find them, yet there is no navigation bar or menu. It's a one column layout with very little design elements, yet I feel it works pretty well. Great job Garrett. You can read more about the details in this post.
Jeremy Keith has some good points he raises in his post Fixed fashion. I highly recommend you read it through, twice, sleep on it, and read it again... especially if you disagree. Rob Mientjes also has some comments about this in his post on Internet as the medium. This is not the first time you have heard about this debate from us and probably won't be the last. It's best to really try to understand the "other" perspective on this sooner than later.
Pacific Northwest UX community events
In coordination with UXnet and several local associations and organizations I am pleased to announce the launch of two new local user experience community event calendars. Now you can read about Seattle Events and Portland Events in one place. Bookmark these pages and expand your UX knowledge and network.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
Those of us working in small Web design studios (sometimes studios of one) are jacks-of-all-trades striving to become well-rounded Web craftsmen. We're business development specialists, information architects, designers, developers, usability specialists and bill collectors all rolled into one. This week, contributing author Karen Morrill-McClure brings us a great article on setting site goals to help bring clarity to the sites you design for the benefit of your clients, their customers and ultimately your bottom line.
Webby Awards nominees announced
It looks like the nominees for the 2005 Webby Awards have been announced. Nominees of note are Creative Commons, Boing Boing, Flickr, Hicksdesign, The Meatrix, Nike Speed, iStockphoto, 43 Things, and Skype. This year I was happy to be both a reviewing judge as well as a finalist judge. There were a lot of great sites that I would have liked to have seen nominated and a lot of great sites that did make it to the finalist round. Congrats to all.
WebVisions speakers announced
Some of the speakers for WebVisions 2005 have been announced. The list includes BJ Fogg, Molly Holzschlag, Thomas Vander Wal, Cameron Moll, Peter Merholz, Alan K'necht, Bill DeRouchey, Tom Byrnes, Sandro Corsaro, Kevin Smokler, Chris Bond, and Eric Falat. Early Bird registration is only $85 so sign up before you miss the discounted rates.
Appreciative Inquiry workshop
On the same project we have also been focusing on appreciative inquiry (an innovative approach to changing organisational culture). If you happen to be in Seattle, you might want to check out Steven Cato and Peggy Holman's Appreciative Inquiry Workshop. It's going to be held May 18-20 in the Chinese Room of the Smith Tower downtown.
Working on a project where ethnography (the qualitative description of human social phenomena based on, in this case, years of fieldwork) has been properly executed has been a real eye opener for me. Dina Mehta has found a handy list of Ten steps to successful ethnography. Go check it out.
IA Stencils for Visio
It seems that JJG's Visual Vocabulary for Information Architecture is making the rounds again. Also I just got word that Garrett Dimon is serving up his own IA Stencil. Meanwhile my own IA Stencils are also freely avilable online. For those who are using Omnigraffle, you might want to check out the list of links to Omnigraffle Palettes for IA on my stencils page as well.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
Digital Web Magazine is back this week with an action-packed double issue. James McNally returns with his musings on the ideas, people and stories that make South by Southwest Interactive (SxSWi) the festival you can't miss next year. Plus, the always hilarious Dave Linabury brings us a great interview with Joe Gillespie of the long-running site Web Page Design for Designers. He also created the Mini 7 font and is a multimedia fine artist (among many other things). Together, they explore the roller coaster ride of Joe's 50 cat years on the Web. Enjoy.
Back from CHI 2005
Yes, I am already back from CHI 2005 (it was a short visit). I had an excellent time meeting with other community organization leaders for the Portland UX leadership summit on Saturday and a great time in the Development Consortium on Sunday with all of the national organization leaders. It was great to finally sit down and talk through how we all can work together. Expect more news on the UXnet site shortly.
Like all things on the Web and in our life there comes a point where things just need to change. So starting today there is a little change going on here around the Digital Web Magazine office. We are going to make this transition as subtle as possible. Now, while I can't officially comment on the change or the purchasing price, I can say that the branding department has already stepped in and made some adjustments to the logo. When in doubt force-reload. [editorial note: this was an April Fools joke]