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]

An angry fix

Some of the best minds working in web standards have been quietly or loudly abandoning the W3C. Björn Hörmann is the latest. His reasons for leaving the W3C QA Group make compelling reading (hat tip: Terje Bless). I believe in W3C standards, particularly the ones you and I use every day, but I worry about the direction in which the W3C is headed.

Beholden to its corporate paymasters who alone can afford membership, the W3C seems increasingly detached from ordinary designers and developers. Truth be told, we and our practical concerns never drove the organization. But after ordinary designers and developers spent nearly a decade selling web standards to browser makers and developing best practices around accessibility and semantics, one hoped the W3C might realize that there was value in occasionally consulting its user base.

Alas, the organization appears unconcerned with our needs and uninterested in tapping our experience and insights. It remains a closed, a one-way system. Like old-fashioned pre-cable TV advertising. Not like the web.

To be fair, the W3C solicits community feedback before finalizing its recommendations. But asking people to comment on something that is nearly finished is not the same as finding out what they need and soliciting their collaboration from the start.

We require coherent specifications based on our and our users’ actual needs. Upcoming accessibility and markup specifications fail on both counts. We require validation tools that work and are kept up to date. Instead, tools are still broken years after problems are reported.

Two things could happen. Either the W3C will make a course correction, or the standards-based design community will look elsewhere.

[tags]web standards, w3c, wcag, xhtml, web design, microformats[/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]

An Event Apart NYC Schedule

A detailed schedule of An Event Apart NYC has been posted at aneventapart.com and reproduced below for your convenience. Join Tantek Çelik, Ze Frank, Aaron Gustafson, Jason Santa Maria, Khoi Vinh, Eric Meyer, and Jeffrey Zeldman for two days of design and code in the heart of New York City:

9am – 5pm, Monday 10 July & Tuesday 11 July
Scandinavia House
Victor Borge Hall — Level A
58 Park Avenue, New York City, NY 10016
Map | Hotel info

Victor Borge Hall is located on Level A, one floor below ground. Enter at the front door on Park Avenue and take the elevator located at the rear of the entrance hall, across from the ground-floor Gift Shop. Wheelchair-friendly restrooms are located on Level B, accessible via the elevator.

Seating is lecture-style, in a comfortable and exquisitely designed theater space, and doors open at 8:00 am. There is no Wi-Fi at this venue, but we will provide downloadable files the night before the show for those who wish to follow along on their laptops.

Schedule

An Event Apart NYC runs from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. We have a lot to cover, so the event will start promptly. Arrive early to get a good seat! Doors open at 8:00 am; for best results, plan to show up between 8:00 am and 8:30 am. Here is what you can expect over the two days of this conference:

DAY I – DESIGN DAY

9:00 am Welcome and Housekeeping [Zeldman]
9:05 am Textism (Writing User Experience) [Zeldman]
Better design and better usability through word choice. Editing for designers.
10:05 am BREAK!
10:15 am Solving (Re)Design Problems [Jason Santa Maria]
Visually repositioning a beloved brand (namely, A List Apart). Design as problem solving. Knowing which problems to solve.
11:00 am Bringing A List Apart Together [Eric Meyer]
How someone like Eric Meyer takes a design and turns it into a living, breathing web page.
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Sponsor Giveaways
Adobe, Media Temple, New Riders and AIGA Press will hand out valuable software, services, and books for free.
1:15 pm A Day in the Life of a Design Director [Khoi Vinh]
From sun-up until the stroke of midnight, Khoi Vinh will take us through a typical day inside the NYTimes.com design group.
2:15 pm What’s the Story? [Zeldman]
Finding brand narratives that set your site apart from others like it. Seizing inspiration from limited budgets.
2:50 pm BREAK!
3:00 pm Web 0.2 [Ze Frank]
A personal, down-in-the-trenches view of how the technology revolution impacts the way we communicate with a mass audience.
4:00 pm DESIGN CRITIQUES [Jason Santa Maria, Khoi Vinh, Ze Frank, Zeldman]
A rip-snortin’ romp through the design and architecture of sites created by some of the smartest people in the world (namely, the attendees of An Event Apart NYC).

DAY II – CODE DAY

9:00 am Welcome and Housekeeping [Eric Meyer]
9:10 am Hard-Core CSS [Eric Meyer]
An in-depth exploration of what makes CSS work, how it works the way it does, and how you can make it work harder for you.
10:10 am BREAK!
(You’ll need it)
10:30 am Microformats [Tantek Çelik]
What are microformats, and how can they transform the web? Tantek Çelik, co-founder of the microformats movement, tells us what’s already happening and what comes next.
11:30 am “One True Layout” overview [Eric Meyer]
Incredible stroke of genius or gross hack to be shunned? Eric analyzes this new CSS layout technique and examines the pros and cons, both immediately and into the future.
12:30 pm Lunch
1:30 pm Sponsor Giveaways
1:45 pm So you want to be a DOM Star [Aaron Gustafson]
What does it take to be a great front-end developer in today’s marketplace? Aaron Gustafson lays it all on the line.
2:40 pm BREAK!
3:00 pm Web Standards Second Edition [Zeldman]
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
4:00 pm Code critiques [Eric Meyer, Aaron Gustafson, Tantek Çelik]
A fast-paced, rough-and-tumble review of markup, style, and scripting on a select group of sites created and submitted by attendees.

Food

Catering is by Restaurant Aquavit, the country’s premier Scandinavian restaurant, and includes vegetarian choices.

Lunch

  • July 10: Gravlax Club, Grilled Scandinavian Shrimp, and Roasted Mushroom sandwiches. Salad and potato salad.
  • July 11: Smoked Salmon, Spice Roasted Pork Loin, and Roasted Mushroom sandwiches. Salad and pasta salad.

All Day Long

Freshly Brewed Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, Selection of Teas, Assorted Soft Drinks and Sparkling Water.

Afternoon Pick-Me Up

  • July 10: Assorted Cookies
  • July 11: Basket of Fruit

Details

It’s a non-smoking event. Sorry, smokers! Still photography is permitted, but audio and video recording are forbidden, except by our official videographer, Mister Ian Corey. Sorry, recordists and videographers! As always, please be considerate when taking pictures. And speaking of pictures…

Flickr Group

We’ve established a Flickr group for those of you who want to share your photos with the world: flickr.com/groups/aeanyc2006.

Disclaimer

This schedule is subject to change. We’ll do our best to make the experience live up to what we’ve mentioned here, but cannot guarantee a perfect 1:1 correspondence. We thank you in advance for understanding any changes we may be forced to make due to events, people, and other stuff beyond our control.

New York 2006 news

An Event Apart RSS feed

Subscribe and keep track of all the comings and goings of An Event Apart.

[tags]an event apart, aneventapart, design, code, conference, 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]

Wrapping Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago has wrapped. It felt like the best one yet. Everything clicked.

There were as many designers as coders in attendance, as many Chicagoans as out-of-towners, as many agency people and freelancers as in-house folks, and nearly as many women as men. They engaged at “good morning” and stayed involved all day, asking shrewdly penetrating questions and sharing their own insights and experiences. Energy flowed not only between the floor and the seats but also from one seat to another. It felt like community.

This was the third time out for Eric, Jason, and me. Our talks were sharper and shorter — looser and more relaxed, yet also more focused than before. The rhythm was better. The balance between technical and aesthetic subjects, how much time was alloted to each, the way one theme flowed into another — the music of the day — felt tighter and truer than at events past.

Thanks to our sponsors at Adobe, AIGA, New Riders, and Media Temple, we were able to give away thousands of dollars worth of software, books, and services. (We’ll be doing the same at An Event Apart NYC next month.)

Guest speaker Jim Coudal‘s leisurely stories were like little grenades of inspiration. He tossed them out casually; moments later, they detonated.

The day formally ended with lively critiques of sites submitted by attendees. We tried this once before, at An Event Apart Philadelphia, with mixed results. This time it felt like it really worked. The day informally ended at Timothy O’Toole’s pub, with a mixer sponsored by Jewelboxing.

Time, and the blog posts of those who attended, will tell if the event was as good for you as it was for us. Sincere thanks to all who attended. Thanks also to Dawson, John Gruber, Amy Redell, Michael Nolan, and Orrin Fink.

And a reminder: the Early Bird Rate for An Event Apart NYC ends June 9th. That’s a week from today! On June 10th, the price will increase by $100. So if you’re thinking of attending An Event Apart NYC — two days of design and code — please register soon.

A List Apart adds Job Board

I have always wanted A List Apart to connect web designers with web design jobs and never gotten around to making it happen. Now, thanks to 37signals, it’s on.

Starting today, the sidebar of A List Apart displays one random job from the 37signals Job Board — a new job on every page. It’s a great match for ALA readers seeking work and web-smart businesses with jobs to offer.

Companies including The New York Times, CNET, Facebook, Adobe, and American Express already use the Job Board to find today’s brightest web minds. Now they will find more of them. The best designers, developers, and information architects in the world read A List Apart, to the tune of 14 million page views a month.

14 million a month! I don’t know of another web publication that reaches so many clued-in professionals. ALA readers are uniquely concerned with accessibility, web standards, and crafting exceptional user experience through deeply considered design, writing, and structure.

Over the years, ALA readers have written to tell us that they owed their careers to skills our magazine helped them hone, and concepts our magazine laid before them. Adding the 37signals Job Board to our sidebar is a logical next step.

I am delighted to think that one day soon, we’ll get email from readers who found great jobs through A List Apart. And I’m even more thrilled to think about all those web standards fans taking their accessibility concerns and user experience chops to great companies like Crate and Barrel, TBWA, and American Express.

Today, the 37signals Job Board comes to A List Apart. Tomorrow, standardistas go to work at leading companies. The revolution will be salaried.

A List Apart 215: triple issue

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

A More Accessible Map
by Seth Duffey
Nifty web maps powered by Google and Yahoo! APIs are all the rage. And rage is what a visually impaired user may feel when trying to use them. Is there a way to make beautiful web maps accessible? In a word, yes. Techy designers, you won’t want to miss this step-by-step guide.
Community Creators, Secure Your Code!
by Niklas Bivald
Don’t be like MySpace. Well, okay, be like MySpace in attracting millions of users. But don’t be like them in exposing your site and your users to virtual vandals. Protect your community site from malicious cross-site scripting attacks. Part one of a two-part series.
Everyware: Always Crashing in the Same Car
by Adam Greenfield
Ubiquitous computing is coming. In some ways, it’s already here. Shouldn’t we think about what we want it to be? In our last issue, we published the introduction to Adam Greenfield’s Everyware. In this issue, we run the book’s conclusion.

It’s spring in this part of the world, and this issue’s color scheme by art director Jason Santa Maria reflects that pleasing circumstance. (ALA’s color scheme changes every issue, but you knew that.) Production editor Aaron Gustafson contributed significantly to the issue’s editorial content. Watercolor illustration by Kevin Cornell. Editorial assistance by Erin Lynch. Behind-the-scenes system improvements by Dan Benjamin. Erin Kissane edits the magazine. Published by Happy Cog.

Fine Corinthian Leather

Sophia Marie Dominey
A very healthy eight pounds, eleven ounces.
Dissecting The Process
or: How an A List Apart Illustration Comes Together, by the illustrator himself, Kevin Cornell.
simplifier lab
Phoebe Espiritu’s fine blog on the quest for simplicity and minimalism in design.
Rogue Librarian: SXSWi Takeaways
Carrie Bickner Zeldman’s writeup of her SXSW Interactive panel on Digital Preservation and Blogs. See also:
Digital Preservation Panel at SXSWi
Librarian Avengers’s notes on the same panel. See also:
Digital Preservation: What and Whom Are We Saving?
Bill Anderson’s notes on the same panel.
Vantan.org
Personal site of Vanessa Tan, devoted Netizen and musician, blogging from Singapore.
Aspen Design Summit
AIGA-sponsored retreat.
This is Powazek
Beauteous and well-written site of cofounder of JPG Magazine (and creator of bunches of other fab web content, none of which I need to tell you, ’cause you know)
Behind the WaSP Redesign
Designer Clarke discusses creative process. See also:
WaSP Annual General Meeting
Transcribed by Muffin Research Labs.
Does Your Blog Have a Business?
SXSW Interactive panel transcribed by Auscillate.com.
CSS Floatutorial
In CSS layout, float is all. Maxdesign’s step-by-step guide shows how to float elements such as images, drop caps, and next and back buttons to create image galleries, inline lists and multi-column layouts.
CSS Tweak
Now with in-page Help! Andy Peatling’s free web-based tool optimizes your CSS files. “It will take any CSS file and optimize the syntax, grouping your style declarations into shorthand where possible. It can also remove comments, and strip whitespace for maximum compression.”
A brief history of the “clenched fist” image
Like it says.
GrayBit v0.5 Beta
“GrayBit is an online accessibility testing tool designed to visually convert a full-color web page into a grayscale rendition for the purpose of visually testing the page’s perceived contrast.”
Interior Desecrations
Horrible home design from the classic halls of Lileks.
George Bush: I Don’t Know Much About Designing Rugs
In Design Observer.
Accessible Web Developers
A public group at ma.gnolia. Creating accessible (and mobile-friendly) sites.
Brit Pack
Proud members.
More Ma.gnolia Marks
See all 345 (and counting) of Apartness’s bookmarks.

Zeldman.com Reloaded

With a book half-written, two conferences looming, and waves of client work smashing the levees, it seemed a good time to change hosts and funnel this old hand-tooled site into a modern content management system.

The site is now powered by WordPress (why?) and hosted by Media Temple (why?). The hand-rolled summaries feed has retired. In its place is full-text RSS 2.0. There is also a full-text Atom feed for those who like their tofu extra crunchy.

Feeds and browsers

As the DNS rolls over, revealing this post, the retired RSS feed will seamlessly redirect to the new. If you’re reading this but seeing the wrong feed when you click the little RSS badge in your browser’s address bar, you’re using Apple’s Safari, and it’s clutching dead files in its cache. Quit the browser and restart OS X to make Safari find the new feed.

(Safari users may not need to do any of this, of course. Bang-your-head-against-the-desk Safari caching problems typically only affect site owners and developers.)

Hacky sack

I wanted WordPress to do things my way, which meant getting under the hood. I needed to finish before SXSW, which starts tomorrow. And I didn’t have time to learn anything new.

So I asked Noel Jackson (home, agency, software) to do the light hacking required to make WordPress my beast. He made it happen well and fast.

Still to come

Haven’t implemented comments yet. Still considering how best to do so. May not get around to it until after An Event Apart Atlanta. Comments. Gar. After nearly 11 years without. Huge. Gotta ponder. As for My Glamorous Life, for the time being that part of the site is sealed off until I figure out how (if at all) I want to carry it forward.

Basically, though, we’re open for business. Welcome back. (If you haven’t read Why WordPress? and Why Media Temple?, now might be a good time to do that.)

[tags]zeldman, wordpress, blog[/tags]