News : August 2008
As you may have seen mentioned elsewhere, Mozilla Labs recently released an alpha version of Ubiquity, their new natural language command tool for Firefox. They have big plans for it, but even now the limited functionality to invoke certain commands is extremely impressive. When you find yourself trying to call it up in unrelated applications you realise just how useful it is destined to become in the future.
New Issue: Web Design by Designers
Digital Web is happy to welcome Ringling College of Art + Design’s Kimberly Elam who encourages us to look to critique of design firm websites to inspire our web best-practices in Web Design by Designers. It is a good article with excellent examples analyzing the designs by the best-of-the-best. Anyone looking to add thoughtful critique to their designing (who isn’t?) will benefit from Kimberly’s suggestions.
Our friends over at AbilityNet have been busy testing the official Beijing Olympics website to see how accessible it is for disabled web users — and though things have improved, they found there were still a number of issues.
AbilityNet’s Judith Garman said: “In this special report we asked disabled users to try out the Beijing Olympics website in our interaction lab. Poor information architecture and a lack of adherence to web standards result in an uneven playing field for disabled sports fans across the world. The Beijing website has clearly been developed with some accessibility principles in mind, however these have been poorly implemented — showing how a purely technical approach to accessibility won’t result in a good user experience.”
You can read more comments, access the full report, and watch clips of the testers on the AbilityNet eNation site.
New Issue: Getting the most out of your library
Digital Web is happy to welcome back former editor William Hicks, who returns as our newest Contributing Writer to ask you if you are Getting The Most Out Of Your Library. Most things about technology change quickly—gadgets, trendy languages, technological capacity…even LOL-inducing memes. Ground the volatility with your local library’s free resources (and sometimes free wifi!). As great as the web can be, the time-refined user experience and information architecture of a library offers many inspiring rewards (even if you’re shushed for giggling more often than you would be at home).
Webmaster Jam Session 2008
There is just 51 days left to register for the Webmaster Jam Session 2008 in Atlanta and space is filling up fast and limited to just 240 attendees. If the price seems high, don’t worry, we got you covered, use the registration code “DIGITALWEB” for a 30% discount!
The speaker lineup includes myself, Jeff Croft, Rob Jones, Dan Rubin, Jina Bolton, Nathan Smith, James Craig, Garrett Dimon, Keith Robinson, Chris Heilmann, Jason Beaird, Ethan Marcotte, John Moore, Brian Oberkirch, Todd Dominey, Ben Chestnut, Rob Weychert and many more!
Start Conference wrap-up
Today I’m attending the Start Conference in Fort Mason, San Francisco, hosted by Mssrs. Veen and Mason. Rather than live-blog a short event, I’m going to try an adactio-style summary. The conference was in interview format; the first session featured Veen walking Ev Williams (Twitter) and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) through their projects’ conception and early growth (along with wayback screenshots and back-of-napkin notes, including a pen drawing of my.stat.us, which later became Twitter). Mullenweg made a side point that startups shouldn’t limit their talent pool—a selection bias toward dudes around San Francisco, thereby ignoring ’99.9%’ of talent, including the Ev Williamses or Matt Mullenwegs in the tech “boonies” (though both are male and relocated-to-SF). Beyond the history and business decisions of MoveableType, Mena Trott answered questions about gender assumptions she’s seen during the growth of Six Apart.
The pre-lunch session featured a variety of beyond-the-web entrepreneurs—Ritual Coffee in SF, Rare Device and a Hollywood screenwriter (Josh Cagan) talked about their entrepreneurial efforts. It also featured a foray into business how-to (the room really perked up for that) with various legal/finance experts about taking a side-project into a full-time gig and protecting your work via ‘chain of title’, corporate entity types, non-competes, employment definitions and more.
Post lunch featured the inimitable Merlin Mann, with funny, cogent soundbytes that made the audience immediately look for podcast recording equipment. Wesabe‘s Marc Hedlund and VC David Hornik followed up with a solid talk about motivation and priorities while being a startup CEO, courting (or avoiding) VCs. Which—post a beer ‘n ice cream and Om Malik’s counter-futurism—led up to the pitch round, which (to my mind) was a weird end to a conference strongly focusing on discounting startup/VC myths. Good conference, conflicting conclusions, but a lot of positive support by smart people…as expected. Were we trying to summarize the startup vibe, or evolve it?
On a final note, it was fantastic to attend a conference where there was almost a line for the women’s room.
New Issue: Environment Effects and a Review of "Web Form Design"
Digital Web welcomes Kyle Mueller to our contributor list this week, with a parable about clutter in How Environments, Real And Virtual, Influence Us. Consider your website like it a physical environment, and focus on tidying up to create the experience you want.
Also, Digital Web’s own Matthew Pennell reviews Review: Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski and gives it high marks. While some might expect something interesting from a design mind like LukeW, “Web Form Design” takes web forms far beyond best practices and turns it into a thorough tour of how to design for users.