Fresh outta beta

When I was younger, I considered myself too “creative” to work on anything that wasn’t cool or exciting. Eventually I buckled down and became a genuine client services professional. For over two decades, I brought my best to every job, no matter how dull.

So much for that. Today I can choose what I want to work on. And I choose projects that are cool, fun, and personally meaningful. In that context, I link to Ma.gnolia.

Designed by Happy Cog and taken out of private beta 15 February, Ma.gnolia is a new social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lose a web page, even if it moves or goes offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. Not to mention a Linkroll I like so much I use it here at zeldman.com.

Gnolia Systems envisioned the product and made it run. (The heavy programming? That’s all them.) Happy Cog developed the user pathways, brand identity, and creamy site design. The best part? Leading a dream team of Tanya Rabourn (information architect), Greg Storey (user interface design), Jason Santa Maria (brand identity design), Erin Kissane (brand director), and Mr Eric Meyer (semantician and technologist).

Beneath the law, beyond the validator

O say, can you see? If not, can you sue?
Designing With Web Standards made the point that an inaccessible site could get its owner in trouble. Now a blind student is suing Target, claiming that its inaccessible site violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and various U.S. state laws:
Unitless and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Although the W3C validator claims that A List Apart’s CSS is flawed, our CSS is actually fine; the validator has a known bug that causes it to incorrectly flag unitless line-heights as errors. So why write unitless line-heights? Eric Meyer, who created A List Apart’s CSS, explains. His post is not only the best primer I’ve ever seen on the subject, it is the only primer I’ve ever seen on the subject—and the only one you need.

Don’t be a beta hater

Yes, Happy Cog has a layout problem in Internet Explorer 7 beta. Not to worry: According to Molly Holzschlag of The Web Standards Project, Microsoft has fixed the problem, as we’ll see in a future IE7 release. The current beta chokes on this rule:

div#headwrap h1	{
	background: transparent url(/i/happycog.gif) 
		top left no-repeat;
	margin: 0;
	border: 0;
	padding: 0;
	padding-top: 100px;
	overflow: hidden;
	height: 0px !important; /* for most browsers */
	height /**/:100px; /* for pre 6.0 IE Win */
	}

It’s an image replacement technique that uses an alternate box model hack.

Designers use box model hacks to compensate for inaccuracies in the way some browsers (mostly Microsoft’s) calculate element widths with respect to padding and borders. I wrote this rule to insert my agency’s logo at the top of the page in visual browsers while presenting a text equivalent for screen readers and nongraphical browsers. The hacks force older Microsoft browsers to display these elements correctly.

When Microsoft released IE5, it was great for its day, but not always accurate. When they released IE6, it was better but not perfect. The company then declared victory and announced that the browser was dead and there would be no more IE browsers forever.

So designers got busy compensating for the standards deficiencies of IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 (and other companies’ browsers), using hacks like those seen here. The idea is to take the hackery out of markup, where it never belonged, and hide it in style sheets.

IE7 beta’s standards accuracy is already very good and getting better, and, despite what you might have heard to the contrary, Microsoft’s engineers are working with the community (and in particular with The Web Standards Project) to identify and fix CSS bugs and errors and to compensate for hacks like the one seen here. Using IE7? Finding bugs? Microsoft and The Web Standards Project want to hear from you.

Read these now

Hungry? Want another bullshit sandwich?
Andy Rutledge in UX Magazine: “Bad design harms business, it does not help it. Websites like Boingboing, Google and eBay are successful in spite of their poorly designed sites, not because of them.”
Blogs versus the NY Times in Google
Jason Kottke at kottke.org: “In 2002, Dave Winer of Scripting News and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times made a Long Bet about the authority of weblogs versus that of [The] NY Times in Google…. I decided to see how well each side is doing by checking the results for the top news stories of 2005.”
Metamorphosis
Dan Benjamin in The Hivelogic Narrative: “[W]riting in second person had a negative impact on something critical to the ‘success’ of Hivelogic: it significantly diminished the frequency of posting.”
Airbag: Cheap
Greg Storey in Airbag: “I am loving Google’s new search service based in China. It’s faster and brings up only the most relevant results without having to be some kind of search engine algorithm enthusiast.”

Dominey, Santa Maria, join Event Apart roster

It is pure pleasure to announce that famed web designer, developer, author, blogger, and entrepreneur Todd Dominey and fast-rising art director/designer/blogger Jason Santa Maria will join Eric Meyer and me on the speaker’s platform at An Event Apart Atlanta.

Todd Dominey is a living preview of tomorrow’s web designer: busy with client services, but also creating his own products; delivering powerful graphic design but always in the context of what the user needs to see; adept at web standards and Flash.

As for Jason Santa Maria, I hired him at Happy Cog and entrusted him with the redesign of A List Apart, so I think he’s pretty good.

Actually, I think Todd Dominey and Jason Santa Maria rock harder than Metallica and am thrilled that we will have them both on our stage. I hope some of you can join us at An Event Apart Atlanta.

  1. Blog post
  2. An Event Apart: Speakers
  3. Todd Dominey mini-bio
  4. Jason Santa Maria mini-bio
  5. Eric Meyer’s website

A List Apart 211

In the 211th edition of A List Apart, for people who make webites:

  • In Search of the Holy Grail — Matthew Levine’s three-column CSS layout avoids the usual semantic sacrifices. Is it the ultimate of its kind?
  • Home Page Goals — Indie web powerhouse Derek Powazek articulates the unique set of design goals a home page requires to create a smart and welcoming impression.

Plus, listen up, ALA readers! A List Apart wants to know what you love—and hate—about the web right now…whatever makes you swoon or drives you nuts. We’ll feature a selection of responses in our next issue.

An Event Apart Atlanta

Messieurs Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman are pleased to announce An Event Apart Atlanta:

On 3 April 2006, America’s favorite pastime (designing with web standards) will come to the 755 Club at Turner Field, as the famed ballpark’s spectacularly furnished club hosts An Event Apart Atlanta.

An Event Apart is a concentrated, one-day learning session on modern web design. Check the Event Apart Philadelphia page to get a sense of how the first event, held in the Franklin Institute, went down. Transpose from Philly to Atlanta, think ballpark instead of museum, and you get an inkling of what to expect.

Online registration starts soon; seating will be limited. Subscribe to An Event Apart’s RSS feed to stay ahead of the curve. Can’t make Atlanta? Event Apart seminars in Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles are up next.

Four things

I blame Mark Simonson.

Four jobs I’ve had
  1. Writer for The Washington Post and City Paper
  2. Laborer in a PVC coating factory
  3. Art director
  4. Keyboardist (Yatz, Spoons, Pop Maru, Insect Surfers)
Four movies I can watch over and over
  1. Rushmore
  2. Swing Time
  3. North By Northwest
  4. Best in Show
Four places I’ve lived
  1. New York City
  2. Washington DC
  3. Bloomington IN
  4. Pittsburgh PA
Four TV shows I love
  1. The Office (Brit.)
  2. Arrested Development
  3. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  4. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer
Four places I’ve vacationed
  1. Istanbul
  2. Rome
  3. San Francisco
  4. London
Four of my favorite dishes
  1. Madras Rava Masala at Dosa Hut
  2. White Omelette at Penelope
  3. Sag Paneer
  4. Tofu in Spicy Ramen
Four sites I visit daily
  1. Coudal Partners
  2. Daring Fireball
  3. Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)
  4. A List Apart
Four places I would rather be right now
  1. Anywhere with Carrie, baby, and doggie.
  2. Seriously.
  3. That is my answer.
  4. Home best.
Four bloggers I am tagging
  1. Eric Meyer
  2. Tanya Rabourn
  3. Jason Santa Maria
  4. Greg Storey

Bookmarks for a rainy Monday

Fresh and preserved petals from my Ma.gnolia bookmarks…

AJAX, Web 2.0 and the Threat to Digital Archives

The more layers of mediation there are between you and the information you’re trying to preserve, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to access that information in the future. For historians, this problem is particularly painful; as information gets wrapped in more and more layers of technology, the profession increasingly relies … on the work of preservationists who keep this “stuff of history” around for future generations.

Create photo galleries in XHTML and CSS
Jonathan Younger’s Photon plugin lets you create photo galleries (like this one, designed by the incomparable Douglas Bowman) by exporting albums from Apple iPhoto to leading blog software environments. Photon supports Movable Type, TypePad, Blojsom, and WordPress. And because it is open-sourced, developers can extend it to work with non-iPhoto gallery software and with additional blogging tools.
Create photo galleries in Flash
Atlanta-based web designer Todd Dominey is that rare artist who understands user experience and graphic design, web standards and Flash. In consequence, his SlideShowPro, a dynamic photo gallery/slide show component for Flash MX 2004, is as luminous as it is utilitarian.

A film apart

Couldn’t make it to An Event Apart Philadelphia? Curious about what you missed? Our new, two-minute video reveals all. Well, anyway, it reveals what can be shown in two minutes. Shot on location at The Franklin Institute by filmmaker Ian Corey, it’s packed with thrills, chills, and design geekery.

See Zeldman explain why, the more words you have, the less you communicate. See Eric Meyer unveil the code behind last year’s best web layout. (Okay, so I’m prejudiced.) See Jason Santa Maria squeeze genuine typographic goodness out of two utterly common fonts. See lucky attendees win nifty prizes. See the music, hear the light.

Updated 24 January: SMIL video captioning by Andrew Kirkpatrick. Video playback requires QuickTime 7.