Return of the Son of XHTML Fist

Issue No. 227 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites,™ heralds the revivification and expansion of the A List Apart Store and T-Shirt Emporium.

Redesign/Realign shirt

We are now offering new T-shirt designs that tell the world you are a rebel, a maverick, an original in a world of copies (and you know HTML): Web 2.0, -9999px, and Redesign/Realign. We’ve also stocked gently remixed classics: Warning Sign and XHTML Fist AKA Six Fingers of Doom. And, yes, traditionalists can still stock up on timeless, unchanged ALA logo shirts, avec wreath.

When you’ve donned your shirt, strike a pose in our spanking new (and hard-to-pronounce) A List Apart Shirts Flickr Group.

Testing proves testing works

As you can imagine, choosing the right T-shirt production and fulfillment partner required a massive mental effort, supported by modern research methodologies. We studied all the production and fulfillment companies out there, analyzing market data and poring over spreadsheets. But we didn’t stop there.

We completed a 72-hour card-sorting exercise (with no bathroom breaks), ran double-blind focus groups, and even hired our friends who used to call themselves information architects.

Sure, it was work—weeks of it. But it was worth it. Our grueling, science-based efforts paid off by revealing, as no sloppy shortcuts could have, the best possible choice of vendors. In short, we hired Jason’s wife’s company (also Nif’s!). They are awesome. (More shirt coverage is available at Jason Santa Maria dot com.)

All this … and content, too!

But this issue of A List Apart is not merely about re-opening our store’s doors. It’s about opening your mind. And in this issue, Rob Swan and Matthew O’Neill help us do just that:

In Defense of Difficult Clients

by Rob Swan

We’ve all had bad clients. All too rarely do we find ourselves working for someone who understands what we do, respects our craft, and defers to our judgement. But do bad clients get a bad rap? Can we turn bad client relationships into good learning experiences? Can our worst clients help us better understand and articulate our highest beliefs about our calling? Well, anyway, Rob Swan thinks so. Read this and see what you think.

Super-Easy Blendy Backgrounds

by Matthew O’Neill

Gradients and bevels, bevels and gradients. Bevels, bevels, bevels. Gradients, gradients, gradients. And sometimes, drop-shadows. But mostly, and especially, gradients. Nothing says “Buy me, Google,” like a nice gradient background—especially in a navigation bar. Wouldn’t it be swell if you could get all that goodness without opening Photoshop every time you needed a little gradient bliss? Matthew O’Neill explains how you can. Happy coding and selling out!

Better community through printing

Readers read web pages. Readers print web pages. In 1999, the way to help readers print web pages was obvious to every major site owner: buy a proprietary, multi-million-dollar content management system avec service contract to generate multiple versions of every page. After all, you needed seven versions of every page to handle all the browsers out there; you might as well treat print the same.

In 2001, A List Apart started promoting print style sheets, and by 2003, all the cool kids were doing it. They were also mostly using free or low-cost, generally open-source, content management systems. Yay, open source! Yay, web standards!

But a problem remains: all those ponderous 1999 websites have trained readers to expect a “print this page” button and subsequent in-browser preview. How can you satisfy this basic user expectation while still enjoying all the benefits of web standards?

In Issue 226 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Pete McVicar shows one very good way to do it. His “Print to Preview” combines alternate stylesheets and scripting to…

show how the page will look when it’s printed, perhaps display a preview message explaining what this new view is about, and then automatically print the page.

McVicar’s method isn’t the only way to do this—others will likely be mentioned in the comments—but his technique is straightforward and clean, and it takes care of users without making the mistake of trying to educate them about something in which they’re profoundly uninterested (namely, web development).

Also in this issue: “How to be a Great Host,” by John Gladding. These days, many people’s web business plan looks something like this: “Ajaxy goodness + ???? = Profits!” Other straw men seem to think five blog posts plus text ads by Google plus discussion board software guarantees a buyout by Google. It doesn’t.

Building a community takes time and work. No amount of social bookmarking and tagging can rush that process. But you can learn to avoid mistakes. And you can save time by following time-tested approaches. (Learning from your mistakes is overrated.) Gladding’s article is filled with smart, “first do this, then do that” tips that can help you grow your site’s audience with discussion that works.

Better printing. Better community-building. Better read A List Apart 226!

[tags]alistapart, webstandards, community, forum, printing, stylesheets[/tags]

ALA 225: tested premises, proven resources

In fall-hued Issue 225 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites, Maurizio Boscarol argues that a greater emphasis on user testing is needed to make accessibility guidelines and practices work better (Working With Others: Acessibility and User Research). And in part two of a series for beginning web designers, Erin Lynch and the ALA staff list a slew of useful third-party sites, and encourage you to add your favorites (The ALA Primer Part Two: Resources For Beginners). All this plus the illustrational genius of Mr Kevin Cornell.

[tags]alistapart, accessibility, design[/tags]

ALA 224: Krista, Q tags & trench wisdom

In Issue 224 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we welcome to our staff someone we’ve long admired.

Krista Stevens brought a strong voice and vision to Digital Web as that magazine’s editor-in-chief. In addition to her editorial and managerial gifts, Krista has a fab eye for fresh writing talent. It thrills us to welcome her as A List Apart‘s acquisitions editor.

We also have two fine new articles:

12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards

by Ben Henick

Slick tips and life lessons for the standards-challenged—which, on any given day, includes practically all of us. Semantic markup and CSS layout bring wondrous benefits, but at a cost of frayed nerves and bitten fingernails. Read this article and get fewer headaches. Author Henick last wrote for us in Issue 100. Here’s hoping we hear more from him, sooner.

Long Live the Q Tag

by Stacey Cordoni

“The Q tag has been around for nearly nine years, ever since the first version of HTML 4.0. Its purpose is to handle short, inline quotations that don’t require paragraph breaks.” For instance, the text I just quoted belongs inside Q tags. Trouble is, in all these long nine years, Internet Explorer for Windows (it’s awesome!) has never supported the Q tag. New ALA author Stacey Cordoni crafts a workaround.

Edited by Erin Kissane. Illustrations by Kevin Cornell.

[tags]alistapart, design, webdesign, semantics, qtag, css, webstandards[/tags]

ALA 223: tricks, guides, and giggles

A guide for the first-timer. A new trick for the size-conscious designer. And a bit of a giggle. Three pleasures await you in triple-thick Issue 223 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

The ALA Primer: A Guide for New Readers

by Erin Lynch

New to A List Apart? Welcome! ALA’s own Erin Lynch has picked out a selection of articles that you may want to start with.

Text-Resize Detection

by Lawrence Carvalho and Christian Heilmann

It’s still hard to create page layouts that don’t break if the user increases the type size by more than a few settings. Chris Heilmann and Lawrence Carvalho serve up a way to detect your visitor’s font size settings using JavaScript.

A Standardista’s Alphabet

by Jack Pickard

“A is for Aaron, who fell down the stairs. K is for Kevin, menaced by bears.” No wait, those are just the notes from our last staff meeting. Jack Pickard offers a lighter look at the world of web standards.

[tags]design, a list apart, alistapart, textsize[/tags]

ALA 222: wraparounds and wordsmithing

Save time by tricking PHP into managing your tricky text-wrap problems; use that time to fix your About page. Everybody wins in Issue 222 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Your About Page Is a Robot

by Erin Kissane

Everyone has one. No one likes to talk about it. No, not that. It’s your About page, and it needs a little love. ALA’s Erin Kissane guides you through a beautiful journey of self-discovery.

Sliced and Diced Sandbags

by Rob Swan

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to get text to flow around an irregularly shaped image? Wouldn’t it be even better if we could automate the process? Have no fear: Rob Swan is here to show us the way.

[tags]design, a list apart, alistapart, webdesign, php, writing, copywriting, about[/tags]

ALA 221: Navigation and writing basics

Building better website navigation. Engaging readers with writing that keeps them coming back. Issue 221 of A List Apart is all about the basics.

Where Am I?

by Derek Powazek

It’s 2006 and we’re still messing up global navigation. Derek Powazek gets back to basics and offers a few simple guidelines for getting it right.

Gentle Reader, Stay Awhile; I Will Be Faithful

by Amber Simmons

Bloggers and copywriters take heed: it takes more than daily publication to build relationships. Amber Simmons provides advice on engaging readers and keeping them coming back.

Authors

Working the web since 1995, Derek M. Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek’s claims to fame include designing the Blogger “B” and the Technorati identity, writing Design for Community, and cofounding JPG Magazine. He is the cofounder and chief design officer of 8020 Publishing.

Amber Simmons is a freelance writer and a web designer at the University of Texas at Austin. In her free time, she writes about religion and ethics at Breathless Noon. She can occasionally be found wrangling with code at Technical Poet.

About A List Apart

A List Apart explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices. Explore ALA’s articles or find out more about the magazine. A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites, is published by Happy Cog™.

Credits

Editor: Erin Kissane. Art director: Jason Santa Maria. Semantician: Eric A. Meyer. Illustrator, watercolorist: Kevin Cornell. Production manager: Erin Lynch. Technical editor: Aaron Gustafson. Editorial intern: Henry Li. Production management interns: Andrew Fernandez and Russell Heimlich. Directed by moi.

ALA 220: Problems and Solutions

Issue 220 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites, is all about problems—avoiding the avoidable and coping with the rest. Stuck for design ideas? Lost your work? Issue 220 can help.

Interns Andrew Fernandez and Russell Heimlich contributed mightily to this issue. As always, the visual stylings of Mr. Kevin Cornell add sauce and savor. Bon apetit!

I Wonder What This Button Does

by Mike West

We’ve all lost work to file overwrites and other minor disasters. There are remedies—and as Mike West explains, you don’t have to possess awe-inspiring technical skills to take advantage of them.

Designing Through the Storm

by Walter Stevenson

As designers, we all face the inevitable slump. That point where our creativity stagnates and we find ourselves at a dead end. Walter Stevenson offers suggestions on staying productive and creative.

A List Apart explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on designing with standards. Explore ALA’s articles or find out more about the magazine. A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites, is a publication of Happy Cog™.

[tags]a list apart, alistapart, web design, webdesign[/tags]

ALA 219: Automatic layouts and goodbye to <embed>

Two swell authors we’ve never had the pleasure of publishing before bring creative solutions to the 219th issue of A List Apart:

Automatic Magazine Layout

by Harvey Kane

Even if you (or your client) has talented designers on staff, they’ll rarely have time to resize and reposition the images that bring life to a web layout. You need photos laid out automatically, but you’d rather your page not look like it was designed by orangutans. Harvey Kane’s clever script will make your life easier (and your site more attractive).

Bye Bye Embed

by Elizabeth Castro

In the age of Google Video and YouTube, can you embed QuickTime video reliably across browsers without using the invalid EMBED element? Building on the pioneering work of Drew McLellan, Ian Hickson, and Lachlan Hunt, best-selling author Elizabeth Castro sets out to embed without EMBED.

About these authors

Mr Kane is a prolific writer and developer. Ms Castro is a superb author whose HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide has sold more than a million copies. The Sixth Edition(!) comes out next month.

[tags]a list apart, alistapart, web design, webdesign[/tags]

ALA 218: Beauty, behavior, and power

In a triple issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Prettier Accessible Forms

by Nick Rigby

Forms are a pain. Either you can make them pretty, make them accessible, or go a little crazy trying to achieve both. Nick Rigby offers a happy solution.

Behavioral Separation

by Jeremy Keith

Breaking up is hard to do. But in web design, separation can be a good thing. As Jeremy Keith explains, structure, presentation, and behavior all deserve their own space.

How to Plan Manpower on a Web Team

by Shane Diffily

Just how many people does it take to properly manage a website? It depends on the website. Author Shane Diffilly offers some suggestions on determining your site’s manpower needs.

[tags]a list apart, alistapart, web design, webdesign[/tags]