To my friend who thinks I should not accept awards.

OLIVER REICHENSTEIN—iA to Twitter friends like me—thinks it is wrong for experienced designers to accept design awards. Oliver says:

All awards should go from old uncles (like me or @zeldman or who ever) to young people. They need it.

A fair point. To which I reply:

  1. When Happy Cog wins an award, it is going to young people. It’s young designers like Stephen Caver, Yesenia Perez-Cruz, Joey Pfeifer, Mike Pick, Kevin Sharon, Drew Warkentin, Brian Warren, young UX designers like Whitney Hess and Jessica Ivins, young developers like Jenn Lukas, Mark Huot, Ryan Irelan, Matt Clark, Aaron Gustafson, Tim Murtaugh, and Allison Wagner, and young project managers like Rawle Anders, Dave DeRuchie, and Brett Harned whose work is being recognized. (Apologies to young-at-heart Kevin Hoffman, Chris Cashdollar, Russ Unger, and Robert Jolly.)

    When I stood up with Happy Cog’s co-presidents to accept “design agency of the year,” it was on these young folks’ behalf that I accepted it. I am a vessel of their talent and of our clients’ willingness to support their users instead of making safe, committee-friendly choices. It would be wrong of me to refuse the award on the grounds that I am better known than some members of our staff.

  2. We work for these people called clients. And while Jane HTML may know of Jeffrey Zeldman and Happy Cog, Joe Client does not. Moreover, Joe Client may not know how to evaluate agencies. He may know little about web standards and “user experience.” He probably doesn’t follow you or me on Twitter, and doesn’t participate in our community’s passionate debates about everything from the proper semantics for sub-navigation to the value of eye-tracking. He doesn’t know from that stuff, but he knows that if an agency has won awards in a respected competition, that agency must know a little something about what it is doing. If our goal as an agency is to do and spread good work, it makes business sense for us to accept an award from a respected forum of our peers.

By the way, we did not enter the .net Awards, we were nominated for them by the community. Accepting the nominations was like accepting a compliment—the gracious thing to do. Not that I’m apologizing.

So much for “design agency of the year.” I accepted “video podcast of the year” on behalf of my brilliant partner Dan Benjamin, who creates superior streaming content for people who make websites. It is his work more than mine that was honored. And as for “standards champion,” I’ve already said who I think deserved that nod this year. But I accepted the community’s verdict with a blush and thanks.

Winning anything invites enmity; winning three awards is asking for a backlash. But I know that’s not where you’re coming from.

Are awards bad?

I used to hate awards, too. I’ve only recently started coming around.

Designers and creative directors I respect and worked for in the past were almost always winning and judging awards shows. Their work was brilliant, and the awards were a tool they used to balance their power against that of tough-minded account executives and clients. When a client said make the logo bigger, a creative director could turn quietly to his or her wall of awards, and the client would back down.

Nevertheless, awards shows are always political to some extent, and those who don’t win often find fault with those who do. Like you, I had a distaste for awards shows when I started on my own (plus I didn’t think any award show got the web). For over a decade, largely because of my feeling, which other Happy Cog muckety-mucks shared, our agency ignored awards shows.

But we are modifying our views on this, and not merely because we just won a bunch of awards we didn’t even seek (as well as a few that we did). Our industry needs real design discussion, peer review, and recognition. I believe in the .net Awards, as their partnership with A List Apart attests. They are the best our industry has.

Personally, I’m inspired to start actually seeking awards, because Joe Business gets them, and I like to see designers working.

I appreciate the purity of your point of view, and I recognize it as a discussion point, not an attack. We are friends, and you’re a gent. Maybe I am wrong. But I’m beginning to think we don’t need no awards, we need good awards. And when good work wins, it inspires more good work.

Whether you hate awards or love them, the most important thing is to keep wins and losses in perspective, and remember that you’re only as good as your last idea.

Awesome web apps in 10k or less

The 10K Apart Challenge had a simple premise: Could you build a complete web application using less than 10 kilobytes? … A joint effort between An Event Apart and MIX Online, the 10K Apart reaped 367 web applications in 28 days—everything from casual games to RIAs—that demonstrate, even with their tiny footprints, what is truly possible with modern [web] standards.

Read about the winning entries: 10K Apart – IEBlog.

Scientific American redesign

Happy Cog’s redesign of the Scientific American website, featuring wicked web fonts Prelude and Brunel, is alive!

Roger Black Studio did the print redesign and supervised the project; Font Bureau created Prelude; Paul Barnes designed Brunel and Webtype hinted it.

For the Happy Cog team:

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!

We’re speechless

In What I learned at An Event Apart Minneapolis, Marc Drummond writes:

A really good session, in my opinion, is not about the how, it’s about the why. … A really good session, through arguments and examples, stories and slides, humor and deep thoughts, compels you to try something new. A great session exposes you to something you haven’t done before and inspires you to take action, change the way you do things.

Based on my experience, I plan to focus even more on understanding users for the sites I work on, strategize more about content, focus on mobile and adaptive layouts, consult existing patterns for interfaces, humanize interfaces, work more iteratively, start using HTML5 and CSS3 techniques that will save loads of time and give Dreamweaver CS5 a try.

While I might have run across information about these topics before, now I feel the urgency in putting these techniques in the top tray of my toolbox, where I will use them more frequently.

SlideShowPro adds HTML5

Todd Dominey at Happy Cog.

Most of us web folk are hybrids of one sort or another, but Todd Dominey was one of the first web designers to combine exceptional graphic design talent with serious mastery of code.

Being so good at both design and development that you could easily earn a fine living doing just one of them is still rare, although it looks like the future of our profession. One of the first serious designers to embrace web standards, Todd was also one of the few who did so while continuing to achieve recognition for his work in Flash. (Daniel Mall, who came later, is another.)

Finally, Todd was one of the first—along with 37signals and Coudal Partners—to abandon an enviably successful client services career in favor of full-time product development, inspiring a generation to do likewise, and helping bring us to our current world of web apps and startups.

A personal project that became an empire

In Todd’s case, the product was SlideShowPro, a project he designed for himself, which has grown to become the web’s most popular photo and video slideshow and gallery viewer. When you visit a photographer’s portfolio website, there’s an excellent chance that SlideShowPro powers its dynamic photo viewing experience. The same is true for the photo and video gallery features of many major newspaper and magazine sites, quite possibly including your favorites.

SlideShowPro

But deliberate lack of Flash support in the iPad and iPhone, while lauded here on February 1, 2010 as 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”), presented a serious problem for developers who use SlideShowPro and readers who enjoy browsing dynamic photo and video galleries.

Mr Dominey has now solved that problem:

SlideShowPro Mobile is an entirely new media player built using HTML5 that doesn’t require the Flash Player plugin and can serve as a fallback for users accessing your web sites using these devices. But it’s not just any fallback — it’s specially designed for touch interfaces and smaller screen sizes. So it looks nothing like the SlideShowPro player and more like a native application that’s intuitive, easy to use, and just feels right.

The best part though is that because SlideShowPro Director (which will be required) publishes the mobile content, you’ll be able to provide the mobile alternative by simply updating the Flash Player embed code in your HTML documents. And just like when using the SlideShowPro player, because Director is behind the scenes, all your photos will be published for the target dimensions of these devices — which gives your users top quality, first generation images. The mobile player will automatically load whatever content is assigned to the Flash version, so the same content will be accessible to any browser accessing your web site.

A public beta will be released in the next weeks. Meanwhile, there is a video demo. There’s also an excellent Question and Answer page that answers questions you may have, whether you’re a SlideShow Pro customer or not. For instance:

Why mobile? Why not desktop?

We believe that (on the desktop) Flash is still the best delivery method for photo/video galleries and slideshows for it provides the most consistent user experience across all browsers and the broadest range of playback and customization options. As HTML5 support matures across all desktop browsers, we’ll continue to look into alternate presentation options.

Into the future!

37signals’ Jason Fried live today on The Big Web Show

I have known 37signals CEO Jason Fried since he was a young copywriter who reminded me of me, only smarter and more confident. Like many of you, with a mixture of awe and pleasure, I have watched him change our industry, along with book publishing and business generally. Dan Benjamin and I are delighted to announce the mercurial Mr Fried as our guest on The Big Web Show. Join us today, 1 July 2010, for the live taping at 1:00 PM ET.

Jason’s official bio is brief, but he can write at length when he wishes: see Rework, Getting Real, and Defensive Web Design, each a classic, and to each of which he was principal co-writer and guiding force. Besides saying no to meetings, contracts, and VC money, Jason and 37signals are famous for godfathering a speedy, iterative form of web application design; for gifting the industry with Ruby on Rails; for creating a suite of beloved (yes, really) business productivity web apps; for mastering and then abandoning client services in favor of making stuff; for somehow, in the midst of all that busyness, churning out tons of fine content on their popular blog; and for being roommates with the equally fantastic Coudal Partners.

Can’t wait to interview Jason Fried in front of a live internet audience today. Hope you’ll join us.

The Big Web Show 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.

Photo © John Morrison – Subism.com

Should Publishers Attend SXSW?

In Should Publishers Attend SXSW?, Lorraine Shanley of Publishing Trends answers her own question this way:

Yes, because sxsw offers a chance to see options for the future—amazing gaming, interactive software, inventive marketing, creative content development and deployment. But as Will Schwalbe … said, “If publishers come to sxsw to create their own sessions track, they’ll learn nothing. If they come to attend panels on subjects about which they know nothing, they’ll learn an enormous amount.”

The PDF version of the April issue includes additional SXSW coverage (with nice things said about our panel and A Book Apart), data on how different generations find books, search engine conversion strategies, and more.

Download PDF.

Ed Bott’s Lament

In “IE9: Microsoft’s new browser gets no respect at all,” ZDNet’s Ed Bott sees seething contempt where I intended even-handed calm, and asks why my discussion yesterday of the tone of a months-old IE announcement failed to discuss yesterday’s keynote at MIX10, which I didn’t see.

Ed, for the record: I didn’t see the MIX10 keynote, which took place while I was traveling home from SXSW Interactive and after I wrote “IE9 Preview.” I wasn’t responding to the keynote. I was responding to the article I linked to, “An Early Look at IE9 For Developers.”

As a hint, I linked to the article in my lede and referred to it by name.

Hours after I wrote the post, while I was sitting in a jet between Austin and New York, Microsoft unveiled updated information about IE9, with good news on its web standards support, which I’ve since had confirmed by neutral developers—neutral in the sense that their allegiance is to web standards, not to any particular browser or platform.

I look forward to studying up on the latest IE improvements. Contrary to your inference, I respect browser engineers as I respect people generally. Indeed, Chris Wilson, former IE lead, and Tantek Çelik, former IE/Mac lead, are my friends. Heck, a few nights ago, Tantek and I were partying like brothers at SXSW Interactive and I have often written glowingly about his and Chris’s achievements on behalf of web standards and browser UX.

I’m surprised that you built a whole article out of refuting things you inferred but I never said. Slow news day?