2010: The Year in Web Standards

WHAT A YEAR 2010 has been. It was the year HTML5 and CSS3 broke wide; the year the iPad, iPhone, and Android led designers down the contradictory paths of proprietary application design and standards-based mobile web application design—in both cases focused on user needs, simplicity, and new ways of interacting thanks to small screens and touch-sensitive surfaces.

It was the third year in a row that everyone was talking about content strategy and designers refused to “just comp something up” without first conducting research and developing a user experience strategy.

CSS3 media queries plus fluid grids and flexible images gave birth to responsive web design (thanks, Beep!). Internet Explorer 9 (that’s right, the browser by Microsoft we’ve spent years grousing about) kicked ass on web standards, inspiring a 10K Apart contest that celebrated what designers and developers could achieve with just 10K of standards-compliant HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. IE9 also kicked ass on type rendering, stimulating debates as to which platform offers the best reading experience for the first time since Macintosh System 7.

Even outside the newest, best browsers, things were better than ever. Modernizr and eCSStender brought advanced selectors and @font-face to archaic browsers (not to mention HTML5 and SVG, in the case of Modernizr). Tim Murtaugh and Mike Pick’s HTML5 Reset and Paul Irish’s HTML5 Boilerplate gave us clean starting points for HTML5- and CSS3-powered sites.

Web fonts were everywhere—from the W3C to small personal and large commercial websites—thanks to pioneering syntax constructions by Paul Irish and Richard Fink, fine open-source products like the Font Squirrel @Font-Face Generator, open-source liberal font licensing like FontSpring’s, and terrific service platforms led by Typekit and including Fontdeck, Webtype, Typotheque, and Kernest.

Print continued its move to networked screens. iPhone found a worthy adversary in Android. Webkit was ubiquitous.

Insights into the new spirit of web design, from a wide variety of extremely smart people, can be seen and heard on The Big Web Show, which Dan Benjamin and I started this year (and which won Video Podcast of the Year in the 2010 .net Awards), on Dan’s other shows on the 5by5 network, on the Workers of the Web podcast by Alan Houser and Eric Anderson, and of course in A List Apart for people who make websites.

Zeldman.com: The Year in Review

A few things I wrote here at zeldman.com this year (some related to web standards and design, some not) may be worth reviewing:

iPad as the New Flash 17 October 2010
Masturbatory novelty is not a business strategy.
Flash, iPad, and Standards 1 February 2010
Lack of Flash in the iPad (and before that, in the iPhone) is a win for accessible, standards-based design. Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first.
An InDesign for HTML and CSS? 5 July 2010
while our current tools can certainly stand improvement, no company will ever create “the modern day equivalent of Illustrator and PageMaker for CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript.” The assumption that a such thing is possible suggests a lack of understanding.
Stop Chasing Followers 21 April 2010
The web is not a game of “eyeballs.” Never has been, never will be. Influence matters, numbers don’t.
Crowdsourcing Dickens 23 March 2010
Like it says.
My Love/Hate Affair with Typekit 22 March 2010
Like it says.
You Cannot Copyright A Tweet 25 February 2010
Like it says.
Free Advice: Show Up Early 5 February 2010
Love means never having to say you’re sorry, but client services means apologizing every five minutes. Give yourself one less thing to be sorry for. Take some free advice. Show up often, and show up early.

Outside Reading

A few things I wrote elsewhere might repay your interest as well:

The Future of Web Standards 26 September, for .net Magazine
Cheap, complex devices such as the iPhone and the Droid have come along at precisely the moment when HTML5, CSS3 and web fonts are ready for action; when standards-based web development is no longer relegated to the fringe; and when web designers, no longer content to merely decorate screens, are crafting provocative, multi-platform experiences. Is this the dawn of a new web?
Style vs. Design written in 1999 and slightly revised in 2005, for Adobe
When Style is a fetish, sites confuse visitors, hurting users and the companies that paid for the sites. When designers don’t start by asking who will use the site, and what they will use it for, we get meaningless eye candy that gives beauty a bad name.

Happy New Year, all!

Episode 32: Mandy Brown on publishing, Typekit, and more

MANDY BROWN (@aworkinglibrary) is our guest today, Thursday December 23, 2010 in Episode No. 32 of The Big Web Show, co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and recorded at 1:00 PM Eastern before a live internet audience.

Mandy is co-founder and editor for A Book Apart and a contributing editor for A List Apart for people who make websites. A veteran of the publishing industry, she spent a decade at W. W. Norton & Company, an independent and employee-owned publisher, where her work involved everything from book design to web design to writing about design. She serves as Community and Support Manager for Typekit and writes frequently on the Typekit blog.

Named “Video Podcast of the Year” in the 2010 .net Awards, The Big Web Show covers “Everything Web That Matters” and records live every Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards, often within hours of recording, via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web. Subscribe and enjoy!


P.S. This is the last Big Web Show session of the year. We’ll be off next week. (Something about Christmas and New Year’s.) Thank you for watching and listening. We love you bunches!

Top Web Books of 2010

It’s been a great year for web design books; the best we can remember for a while, in fact!” So begins Goburo’s review of the Top Web Books of 2010. The list is extremely selective, containing only four books. But what books! They are: Andy Clarke’s Hardboiled Web Design (Five Simple Steps); Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers (A Book Apart); Dan Cederholm’s CSS3 For Web Designers (A Book Apart); and Eric Meyer’s Smashing CSS (Wiley and Sons).

I’m thrilled to have had a hand in three of the books, and to be a friend and business partner to the author of the fourth. It may also be worth noting that three of the four books were published by scrappy, indie startup publishing houses.

Congratulations, all. And to you, good reading (and holiday nerd gifting).

A Book Apart No. 2: CSS3 For Web Designers, by Dan Cederholm

CSS3 For Web Designers by Dan Cederholm

DAN CEDERHOLM IS THE FIRST front-end developer I’ve ever worked with who got everything right. Typically when one person is designing in Photoshop and another is converting that design to code, the coder makes at least one or two decisions that the designer will feel moved to correct. For instance, the designer may have intended a margin of 26px, but the coder writes 25px. Or the designer establishes a certain distance between subhead and paragraph, then accidentally changes that distance in a single instance during a Photoshop copy-and-paste error, and the coder slavishly copies the mistake. No front-end developer, however good, reads minds, right?

Wrong. Dan Cederholm reads minds. When we have hired him to code other people’s visual designs, he gets everything right, including the parts the designer got wrong. Maybe that’s because Dan is not only a front-end developer, he is also an extremely gifted designer with a strong personal vision and style, which you can see by visiting work.simplebits.com. Not only that, Dan invariably translates a designer’s fixed Photoshop dimensions into code that is flexible, accessible, and bulletproof. That’s only to be expected, of course, as Dan is a leading and pioneering advocate of accessible, standards-based design and the author who coined the phrase “bulletproof web design.”

Designer, coder, pioneer. That would be plenty of achievement for anyone, but it happens that Dan is also a born teacher and a terrifically funny guy, whose deadpan delivery makes Steven Wright look giddy by comparison. Dan speaks all over America and the world, helping web designers improve their craft, and he not only educates, he kills.

And that, my friends, is why we’ve asked him to be our (and your) guide to CSS3. To be sure, there are (a few) other high-end CSS gurus who write beautifully and wittily, and whom we might have approached. But most are not designers. Dan is, to his core. He dreams design, bleeds design, and even gave the world a new way to share design.

You couldn’t ask for a smarter, more design-focused, more detail-obsessed guide to the smoking hot newness and conceptual and browser challenges of CSS3. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip:

HTML5 For Web Designers is a hit in the US iTunes store.

UPDATE: As of today, 27 September 2010, Jeremy’s book is ranked 33. It has climbed 11 points since yesterday.

Jeremy Keith’s excellent HTML5 For Web Designers, the first publication from A Book Apart, is a hit in the American iTunes store.

Comments, if you wish, may be left at Flickr.

Episode 19: Beyond Usability with Aarron Walter

Aarron Walter

Designer Aarron Walter guests on Thursday’s episode of The Big Web Show, co-hosted by Dan Benjamin and taped before a live internet audience.

Aarron is the author of one of my favorite web design books, Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond (New Riders, 2008). It’s the book that explains the connection between “search engine optimization” and good, accessible, semantic markup. (Buy your clients a copy.) He works as the lead user experience designer for MailChimp, bringing ease of use and even fun to web-based email marketing and list management. He is also a popular conference speaker; the author of an upcoming A Book Apart mini-tome on emotional design; and the lead of the WaSP InterACT curriculum project, “a living, open curriculum based upon web standards and best practices, designed to teach students the skills of the web professional.”

The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”) is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards, often within hours of taping, via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.


HTML5 For Web Designers: The eBook

HTML5 For Web Designers

Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers is now available as an epub at books.alistapart.com.

If you bought the paperback, watch your inbox for a special discount on the ebook. (To take advantage of this offer, enter the discount code in page 2 of the shopping cart’s checkout process, after you put in your billing information.)

Also, be on the lookout for our second book, CSS3 For Web Designers by Dan Cederholm, forthcoming this Fall. Upcoming A Book Apart topics include progressive enhancement, content strategy, responsive web design, and emotional design by industry-leading authors Aaron Gustafson, Erin Kissane, Ethan Marcotte, and Aarron Walter.

HTML5 Pour Les Web Designers

Sacre bleu! The French edition of the ebook of HTML5 For Web Designers is in the Top 5 sellers on iTunes Français.

Sacrebleu! The French edition of the ebook of Monsieur Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers is in the top five sellers in the iTunes Store Français.

To answer your other questions: an eBook version in English is coming to books.alistapart.com next week, will soon thereafter also be sold via the iTunes Store, and will be followed by a PDF version. Get those downloading fingers in shape now!

Return to Sender

About 40 copies of HTML5 For Web Designers out of the first 10,000 sold have been returned to us because the recipients moved, or there was an error in their address.

Returns come from every continent on the globe. Japanese returns are quietly beautiful. French returns are vaguely contemptuous.

Returned books – A Book Apart