News : August 2005
Handling RFP Tension
Today, we've got something new on Digital Web Magazine. Columnist Nick Gould brings us Call and Response: Handling RFP Tension - the first installment of his new column The Business End where he'll explore best practices on running a web design business out there in the cruel cruel world. Read more...
Chevrolet.com redesigns for 2006
Jim Amos over at Campbell-Ewald tells me that they just launched a new design for chevrolet.com for 2006. The last launch was a CSS redesign (see Chevrolet Goes Valid), but this time around the site is even more standards compliant than before. This is a great example of a large scale consumer site making use of modern web standards.
Twinsparc and Markup Stamps
Nate Steiner tells me that Twinsparc has been redesigned. Check it out, nice and simple design. If you are a designer and use Illustrator, you may want to check out the Illustrator Markup Stamps, they are pretty handy for giving markup direction to accompany a design. They are easy and fast to use, not to mention very effective.
Pruning the RSS tree
Ok, so since I have been struggling so much with RSS Classification I thought I would go ahead and implement the mother of all classification methods. That's right, simplicity. Pruning the information down to the bare minimum and no more. I was at 1,171 feeds before I started. To give you an idea what having that many feeds is list, imagine marking everything as read around 11:00 PM one night and waking up at 7:30 AM and seeing 4,456 new posts. Ya, that bad. So bad in fact, that the posts from my friends, family and co-workers were getting lost in the mix. So that was pretty much the last straw. I started pruning. I am now down to 465 feeds which left about 980 new posts. Not bad given a few minutes of work. And you know, the funny thing is I feel that I am not really missing any information or news. Here's to the 80/20 rule. What steps are you taking to manage your feeds?
Getting IA Done, Part II and Survey Monkey review
Gathering data and soliciting feedback from users and customers is an important part of continuous improvement and iteration. In part one of today's Digital Web Magazine double issue, Product Review Editor Ken Westin reviews Survey Monkey - a subscription based web application. It is the right tool to help you gather the data you desire? Let Ken help you decide. In part two, IA for the People Columnist Joshua Kaufman continues the discussion on IA best practices he began in June with a little help from you, the readership. Read more....
A List Apart redesigns
A new issue of A List Apart is out. Issue #201 to be exact. But this isn't your typical issue. The folks at ALA have done an entire redesign and backend overhaul. Jason Santa Maria has created a jawdropping beautiful design here under the creative dirction of Jeffrey Zeldman. Dan Benjamin went all out on the backend which is done using Ruby on Rails. You can read all about it in Jeffrey's article A List Apart 4.0. If for some reason it looks like the same site to you, your DNS may not have updated, so try accessing it via IP. Congrats to the whole ALA 4.0 team and all of the contributors and editors who make ALA happen every issue. Also don't foret to check out the new articles in issue 201, Joe Clark and Jim Coudal have some great articles in this issue.
Technorati: Buying a Lemon
It seems there are rumors going around that Technorati is going to get bought. Good for them, but I think they have an obligation to their users to take care of first. You can read my points about The Failure of Technorati if you like, but Jason Kottke puts the nail in the coffin quite well in his post aptly entitled So long, Technorati. I asked it before, but I am going to ask it again: Technorati, are you really listening to your users?
This post has been a long time coming. I have been spending a lot of time over the past several months putting something together. To be a little more specific about what I mean, I am talking about a new venture. Now, some of you know that I already started one venture, Designs by Nick Finck, earlier this year. Well, this is my second venture and it's going to be huge. Not huge in scale, but a big new philosophy in how we do things. You may be asking yourself why I am being so vague about this. That's because we haven't launched yet. that will come, but for now I'd like to hear what interesting and exciting projects you have been working on, because, who knows, maybe this new venture can help you accomplish your goals.
Job: Interactive Web Designer
The project I am currently working on is once again seeking some telented freelancers. We're looking for someone who can take the IA work and translated it into prototypes. Here is the job description:
Boeing is currently seeking an experienced Interactive Web Designer for a social learning web project. Candidates must have at least 3 years of experience as an Interactive Designer. Candidates should be innovative conceptual thinkers and be able to be proactive and involved in the creative process.
Candidates must have experience developing extensive HTML Prototypes for complex web experiences. Ideal candidates will have exceptional experience with designing and developing sites using CSS positioning for layout and XHTML for structure. Experience in illustration and iconography, industrial design, information architecture, or social software is desirable.
Candidates should have the materials and resources in place to work from home 80% of the time and the ability to meet weekly in the Seattle area. Candidates must have access to Word, Acrobat, a graphical editing tool such as Photoshop and Illustrator, and a text or HTML editor (optionally Dreamweaver as a WYSIWYG editor).
Candidates with a more diverse background in ares such as physical interface, kiosk and usability will get more consideration. To apply send samples of your work that demonstrate creative and innovative thinking along with a copy of your resume to Ryan Turner.
The Elements of Design
Ahem. Class? Eyes front and put down your pea shooter. Joshua David McClurg-Genevese offers the second installment of his excellent Design in Theory and Practice column. Today, Joshua-David builds our design fundamentals knowledge with a primer on the elements of design: point, line, form (shape), texture and color. Read more...
Social Software's Software
It seems there is a new trend among social software which is beginning to bug me already. With the two newest social software sites to join the mix is Imeem and Plazes. Both of these sites claim to offer something different than the competition (what that is exactly I have no idea). That aside, both of these sites offer a downloadable client. Now, being that I prefer to use the Mac I find this annoying. I must download and install the client in order to use Plazes. I am not sure about how it works on Imeem but apparently they will force you to download it, which is far worse. Here are a few tips to those planning to launch a social software site or service:
- Tell us how you are any different than O'Reilly Connection, LinkedIn, Orkut, or the 100 other similar sites out there.
- We went to your site to use your site, not your web client, don't force us to run a web client to use your site.
- If there is no other way around forcing us to use a client, at least offer us the options a Mac, Windows, or Linux client.
With that said, I am probably never going to sign up with either of these services not simply because of the client, but also because of the lack in any clear benefits they offer vs the competition.
Browser Stats: Market Share Doesn't Matter
Since there seems to be a lot of news flying around about Firefox losing market share I thought I would remind everyone that market share only matters to the browser manufactures. What you as a web professional should be concerned with is you browser usage stats on your own sites. For example, a browser could have only 1% market share, but if 99.5% of your site's traffic is that one lousy browser, well, you best pay attention to it. With that said, here are the browser stats to date for Digital Web Magazine:
|Browser||Session %||% Change|
|Internet Explorer||21.69%||down 6.21%|
As always, it is important to note that this is a developer site, not a consumer site so the stats do not reflect mainstream web usage. Also, be sure to check out my previous stat reports if you like: February 28, 2005, December 16th, 2004, November 14th, 2004, and October 25th, 2004.
Mobile Web Design, part 2
Cameron Moll has published the 2nd part of Mobile Web Design entitled Methods to the Madness. Again, it was tech edited by Brian Fling who will begin hearing a lot more about in the up and coming months. This is turning out to be a really great in-depth series on designing for the mobile world. Again, I highly recommend you take a moment and read this, it will be helpful because, like it or not, we're headed to a mobile web.
RSS Feed Classification
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about RSS feeds and how we are reading them and the value they provide. This thinking was provoked once I started trying out NewsGator. I went through the process of exporting some of my web development and design feeds in FeedDemon to OPML so I could import them into NewsGator. It says I currently have 1,177 feeds. So I spent the last few weeks getting used to the new tool.
It turns out that after reviewing most of my feeds, well, a large majority of them are pretty much useless. I have reached the point that subscribing to RSS feeds has become counter productive. The signal to noise ratio is no longer on the side of a strong signal. So I am now pruning back these feeds. But it wasn't until I had them all sitting there in front of me did I realize how much garbage I subscribe to. I realized real quickly that the feeds I really value were getting lost in the waves of general press feeds and feeds for subject areas I am just not into. I was losing control of my content.
It was at this point that I had a thought, what about classifying feeds? What if feeds contained meta data about what kind of content would most commonly be published within that feed overall? Perhaps even meta data describing the kind of content found in each individual post? I am curious what your thoughts are on this, is it good idea or a bad idea?
Some small changes to the blog
Ok, some of you may have noticed that I am starting to make a few changes to this blog in the way of content.
I am no longer going to be titling the new issue entries as "New Issue of Digital Web Magazine" because, as you can see, that isn't very conducive to searching nor feed headline browsing. Instead I will be using the basic description of the new content as the title of those posts. My reasoning behind this is, well, if you want to keep track of new articles, you should already be subscribed to the articles feed (the feed itself can be found here). This feed is more about news and update information.
Second, I am going to be doing some more internal linking to pages within Digital Web Magazine that may be getting overlooked. For example, if I am writing about CSS, I may link to the CSS topic page or if I am writing about a specific issue, like Web 2.0, and there is an article about this topic, I may reference that Web 2.0 for Designers article. I hope this doesn't come across as annoying. The goal is to get readers into pages they may not have otherwise realized existed on this site. Previously I was leaving up to the reader to browse our archives, but it has become clear that this may need a little more prompting.
I hope these changes are beneficial to you, our readers, and if not, we'll make more changes until we get it right.
The Ontology Debate
Those of you outside of the IA and LIS loops may have missed this thread, everyone else, well, I am sure you have read about it. It all started out from a post by Clay Shirky called Ontology is Overrated... simple enough and to the point. Not so fast, Peter Merholz followed it up with a humorous post entitled Clay Shirky's Viewpoints are Overrated... a bit austere I suppose, but good points all the way through. Then Gene Smith followed it up with, well, his Ontology is Overrated follow-up post. This is where I really love Gene's writing style and use of colorful ...umm, nouns. And if that doesn't turn your stomach wait until you read the debate about Web 2.0. Some days I wonder if we all spend too much time disagreeing with each other and not enough time, well, as Gene put it, helping people find shit.
The Failure of Technorati
Today Paul has pointed out something I have been complaining about for some time now regarding Technorati. His post is entitled Technorati AKA Sorry there are too many requests... and aptly so. I mentioned this same issue in their first redesign (see Comments on the Technorati redesign), and in their most recent redesign (see Thoughts on the Technorati beta). So why is it that the folks at Technorati are still failing to deliver one of the most fundamental principals of a quality web service: reliability. Why is it that this is the one thing they decided to pass over not once, not twice, but three times? For this reason, I and many other potential Technorati users have chosen not to use their service on a regular basis. Technorati, are you really listening to your users?
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine: Christopher Schmitt interview
This week, Digital Web Magazine sits down for coffee with Christopher Schmitt, the lead author and project manager of Professional CSS. Draw up a chair and join our conversation as Christopher talks about Professional CSS, online collaboration and what it might take to get the tables 'n' spacer .gif crowd to change their heathen ways. Read more...
Builder UK on a roll
Builder.com UK has published a few very handy back to the basics articles on usability... not to mention the material is presented in a layout that is not polluted with ads like their U.S. counterpart site. The first article is entitled Two simple but effective usability inspection techniques which covers Thinking Aloud and the Cognitive Walkthrough. The second article covers The usability specialist's favourite: Heuristic evaluation. Both great 101 articles for those just getting into usability.
O'Reilly Connections for tire kickers
I have been kicking the tires on O'Reilly Connections for a short bit now and it seems to be a little further ahead of the game as far as social networking sites go. This could be because it's more tech/geek centric and includes the ability to search for connections with specific technical skill sets (think of them as tags.. sort of). I also like the way that the rating and ranking of connections has been greatly downplayed here... it's no longer a big pissing match. The activity going on within one's network is also pretty manageable... say goodbye to annoying network member spam emails. If you're not already signed up with the beta, let me know and I'll pass you an invite it you are interested. If you are already signed up, well, seek me out or it may be a little bit of time before I find you on the network.
Macromedia Studio 8 announced
Macromedia has finally made the announcement of Studio 8. The release is largely focused around customer feedback from around the world. I am happy to have been apart of that preview process and it's great to see these suggestions coming to life in the product itself. I am going to focus on some of the things new in Dreamweaver 8 as that is what I am most familiar with. One of the coolest features is drag and drop XML-based content such as RSS which is just another sign that RSS is here to stay. They have also added hinting for XML and XSLT. Another very cool feature is CSS associations so if you are editing some markup in one place it will show you all of the rules and style sheets that influence the design of that markup block. This works for sites that use several different style sheets for layout, typography, and section specific styles as well. Dreamweaver 8 as well as Studio 8 itself is expected to be available in September. You can find out about more new features in the various Studio 8 products by visiting the Studio 8 site. It's well worth checking out.
The User Experience of OSS
Over a year ago Jay Fineberg wrote a post entitled The cathedral and the bazaar of user interface design. The post covers the topic of the state of UI design in Open Source Software (OSS). Just the other day I had a short discussion with Bob Goodman on the UXnet local ambassadors mailing list about this very topic. The discussion stated when I started seeing reference to Open Source Usability, and Open Source Information Architecture. Why is it that we can't just call it what it is: usability and IA? That aside, it's good to see that OSS is starting to realize that to gain greater adoption they will need to deliver products that are not only functional, but usable and offer a good user experience. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments for this post.
Why you should care about the Mobile Web
Cameron Moll has published Part One: State of the Mobile Web with Brian Fling as technical editor. If you design, develop or otherwise create Web Sites and don't think mobile has anything to do with what it is you do, think again. This article by Cameron is a great place to start. Also, if you are in Seattle, you may want to check out the monthly Seattle Mobile meetings. Another great resource is, of course, Brian's Mobile Design site. Mobile is in the cards for what is to come for the Web, like it or not.
Seattle freelance Information Architect wanted
Attention Seattle freelance Information Architects. The project I am working on for Boeing is looking for someone to help out with wireframes and other IA tasks. This is a full time freelance project. At this time we are only looking for those in the Seattle area as it requires 20% of the time to meet face to face. Here's the job description:
Boeing is currently seeking experienced freelance Interaction Designers / Information Architects for a social learning web application project. Candidates must have at least 3 years of experience as a freelance Interaction Designer / Information Architect. Candidates should have experience developing extensive wireframes for complex web applications. Experience with developing process flows, sitemaps and other IA deliverables is a plus. Candidates should have the materials and resources in place to work from home 80% of the time. Candidates must have access to Word, Visio, Acrobat, and optionally OmniGraffle. Candidates with a more diverse background will get more consideration.
To apply contact me with examples of your work and I'll get you in touch with Paul Ingram for an interview.
Second Story looking to hire
Julie Beeler from Second Story in Portland, Oregon tells me that they are looking to fill a few new positions.
"We are looking for two great Interactive Media Producers and a Director of Operations to help us meet the demand for our work. These are rewarding opportunities for experienced individuals that share our passion for interactive media, our love of great content and our commitment to creating memorable experiences."
For those who don't know about Second Story, they are a very creative shop that produces web sites and multimedia projects with a focus on story telling. Julie gave a run down of some of their projects, "We have lots of exciting, diverse projects on our plate including all the interactive media installations for the McCormick Freedom Museum, the Liberty Memorial Museum and the National Library of Medicine. There are kiosks for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Getty and the Yellowstone Old Faithful Visitor Center. Forthcoming websites for the National Postal Museum, the National Archives and the Art Gallery of Ontario will redefine collections-based storytelling while two entertaining sites for National Geographic and Starbucks will take visitors on journeys around the world."
If these jobs sound interesting to you go check out their careers page.
New Issue of Digital Web Magazine
We're back again this week with another special double issue of Digital Web Magazine. This week, first time contributor Mario Parise, a color blind web designer, offers his unique insight into color theory for the color blind. In part two of today's double issue, contributing book reviewer Karen Morrill-McClure reviews Professional CSS by Todd Dominey, Christopher Schmitt, Dunstan Orchard, Mark Trammell and Ethan Marcotte. Is Professional CSS worth your hard-earned dollar? Let Karen help you decide. Read more....