iPad as the new Flash


Jeffrey Zeldman Presents

iPad. Never have so many embraced a great product for exactly the wrong reasons.

Too many designers and publishers see the iPad as an opportunity to do all the wrong things—things they once did in Flash—without the taint of Flash.

In the minds of many, the iPad is like Flash that pays. You can cram traditional publishing content into an overwrought, novelty Flash interface as The New York Times once did with its T magazine. You may win a design award but nobody will pay you for that content. Ah, but do the same thing on the iPad instead, and subscribers will pay—maybe not enough to save publishing, but enough to keep the content coming and at least some journalists, editors, and art directors employed.

It’s hard to argue with money and jobs, and I wouldn’t dream of doing so.

Alas, the early success of a few publications—publications so good they would doubtless survive with or without iPad—is creating a stampede that will not help most magazines and interfaces that will not please most readers.

Everything we’ve learned in the past decade about preferring open standards to proprietary platforms and user-focused interfaces to masturbatory ones is forgotten as designers and publishers once again scramble to create novelty interfaces no one but them cares about.

While some of this will lead to useful innovation, particularly in the area of gestural interfaces, that same innovation can just as readily be accomplished on websites built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and the advantage of creating websites instead of iPad apps is that websites work for everyone, on browsers and devices at all price points. That, after all, is the point of the web. It’s the point of web standards and progressive enhancement.

Luke Wroblewski’s Touch Gesture Reference Guide gives designers plenty of ammunition to create dynamic user experiences that work on a wide variety of mobile phones and devices (including iPad) while these same sites can use traditional desktop browser effects like hover to offer equally rich experiences on non-touch-enabled browsers. Unless your organization’s business model includes turning a profit by hiring redundant, competing teams, “Write once, publish everywhere” makes more economic sense than “Write once, publish to iPad. Write again, publish to Kindle. Write again, publish to some other device.”

I’m not against the iPad. I love my iPad. It’s great for storing and reading books, for browsing websites, for listening to music and watching films, for editing texts, presentations, and spreadsheets, for displaying family photos, and on and on. It’s nearly all the stuff I love about my Mac plus a great ePub reader slipped into a little glass notebook I play like a Theremin.

I’m not against iPad apps. Twitterific for iPad is by far the best way to use Twitter. After all, Twitter is really an internet service, not a website; Twitter’s own site, while leaps ahead of where it used to be, is hardly the most useful or delightful way to access its service. Gowalla for iPad is my constant companion. I dread the idea of traveling without it. And there are plenty of other great iPad apps I love, from Bloom, an “endless music machine” by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, to Articles, which turns Wikipedia into an elegant reading experience, to Mellotronics for iPad, an uncannily accurate Mellotron simulator packed with 13 authentic voices—“the same production tapes featured on Strawberry Fields Forever” and other classic tracks (not to mention tracks by nouveau retro bands like Eels).

There are apps that need to be apps, demand to be apps, and I admire and learn from them like every other designer who’s alive at this moment.

I’m just not sold on what the magazines are doing. Masturbatory novelty is not a business strategy.

The future of web standards

Jeffrey Zeldman on the future of web standards.

“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 newer, more mature, more ubiquitous web?”

The Future of Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman

Originally written for .net magazine, Issue No. 206, published 17 August in UK and this month in the US in “Practical Web Design” Magazine. Now you can read the article even if you can’t get your hands on these print magazines.

See also: I Guest-Edit .net magazine.

It’s a wonderful life

When you write “This post has earned one meager response,” meager describes the quality of the response received when, I think, your intent is to describe quantity of responses received. Recast?

Thomas Osborne

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.

I guest-edit .net magazine

Web 2.1. Zeldman guest-edits .net magazine.

A List Apart and .net magazine have long admired each other. So when .net editor Dan Oliver did me the great honor of asking if I wished to guest edit an issue, I saluted smartly. The result is now arriving in subscriber post boxes and will soon flood Her Majesty’s newsstands.

In .net magazine Issue No. 206, on sale 17th August in UK (and next month in the US, where it goes by the name “Practical Web Design”), we examine how new standards like CSS3 and HTML5, new devices like iPhone and Droid, and maturing UX disciplines like content strategy are converging to create new opportunities for web designers and the web users we serve:

  • Exult as Luke Wroblewski shows how the explosive growth of mobile lets us stop bowing to committees and refocus on features customers need.
  • Marvel as Ethan Marcotte explains how fluid grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries help us create precise yet context-sensitive layouts that change to fit the device and screen on which they’re viewed.
  • Delight as Kristina Halvorson tells how to achieve better design through coherent content wrangling.
  • Thrill as Andy Hume shows how to sell wary clients on cutting-edge design methods never before possible.
  • Geek out as Tim Van Damme shows how progressive enhancement and CSS3 make for sexy experiences in today’s most capable browsers—and damned fine experiences in those that are less web-standards-savvy.

You can also read my article, which asks the musical question:

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 newer, more mature, more ubiquitous web?

Today’s web is about interacting with your users wherever they are, whenever they have a minute to spare. New code and new ideas for a new time are what the new issue of .net magazine captures. There has never been a better time to create websites. Enjoy!


Photo by Daniel Byrne for .net magazine. All rights reserved.

Episode 13: Voices That Matter

Editor Michael Nolan walks writer Aarron Walter through the fine points. Photo: Ari Stiles.

Editor Michael Nolan walks writer Aarron Walter through the fine points. Photo: Ari Stiles.

All our Big Web Show interviews are personal to me and feature people who make a difference in our community, but this week’s guest is especially special. Michael J. Nolan (@mikaln) is the acquisitions editor who “discovered” me, and who has brought to light (or should I say brought to print) more web leaders with distinctive voices and visions than just about anyone out there.

Michael works as a senior editor for Pearson’s New Riders and Peachpit imprints, focusing on web design and development. His first book in the genre, David Siegel’s Creating Killer Websites, was a mega success and jump-started discussion on how to design the web. It was followed by a long list of books from a Who’s Who of digerati, including Jeffrey Veen, Clement Mok, Richard Saul Wurman, Derek Powazek, Jesse James Garrett, Christina Wodtke, Dan Cederholm, Garr Reynolds, Joshua Porter, Dan Brown, Kristina Halvorson, Marty Neumeier, and Jeffrey Zeldman (that’s me!).

Michael is proud of the positive impact books these Voices That Matter have had on the medium, which he sees as humankind’s best last chance to survive and prosper. I’m proud to know Michael and to be his friend.

As always, Big Web Show co-host Dan Benjamin will join me for this special hour of insights into how publishing really works, where it’s going, and how it will survive—plus, I hope, plenty of stories about your favorite authors and designers, and tips on how to identify talent for those who are hiring, and how present yourself as a talented and desirable catch for those who are trying to boost their visibility and career prospects.

Please join us this Thursday, July 22, at 1:00 PM Eastern for the live taping of Episode 13.

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.

AEA Minneapolis

An Event Apart Minneapolis 2010.

An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, has posted its Minneapolis 2010 schedule. Join Eric Meyer and me and ten amazing guest speakers on July 26-27, 2010 for two great days of design, code, and content:

Monday, July 26

9:00am–10:00am

Put Your Worst Foot Forward

Jeffrey Zeldman, author, Designing With Web Standards, 3rd Ed.

Nothing teaches like failure. Web standards godfather and An Event Apart cofounder Jeffrey Zeldman shares some of his biggest blunders as a designer, entrepreneur, and creative director, and how each mistake taught him to be better at what he does. Study what the problem was and why the mistake seemed like the right answer at the time; see why it turned out to be a really bad idea after all; and learn the great positive lesson each mistake taught.

10:15am–11:15am

DIY UX: Give Your Users an Upgrade

Whitney Hess, Strategic Partner, Happy Cog

Have you fallen in love with your solution and forgotten the original problem? Are you certain that your product actually makes people’s lives better? Not every company can hire someone like me to help you listen to your users, so you’re gonna have to learn how to do some of this stuff yourself. I’ll show you techniques to find out who your users are, what they really need and how to go about giving it to them in an easy to use and pleasurable way. And it doesn’t have to bankrupt you or kill your release date.

11:30am–12:30pm

The CSS3 Experience

Dan Cederholm, author, Bulletproof Web Design and Handcrafted CSS

In a fast-paced hour of design ideas and techniques, learn how advanced CSS and CSS3 can add richness to your site’s experience layer, and discover the role CSS3 can play in enhancing interactivity.

12:30pm–2:00pm: LUNCH

2:00pm–3:00pm

Mobile First!

Luke Wroblewski, author, Web Form Design

More often than not, the mobile experience for a web application or site is designed and built after the PC version is complete. Learn the three reasons web applications should be designed for mobile first instead: mobile is exploding; mobile forces you to focus; and mobile extends your capabilities.

3:15pm–4:15pm

Learning To Love Humans—Emotional Interface Design

Aarron Walter, author, Building Findable Websites

Humans, though cute and cuddly, are not without their flaws, which makes it a challenge to design for them. By understanding how the wet, mushy processor works in these hairy little devils, you can design interfaces and web experiences that will have them hopelessly devoted to your brand. Aarron will introduce you to the emotional usability principle—a design axiom that identifies a strong connection between human emotion and perceived usability. Through real-world examples, you’ll learn practical interface design techniques that will make your sites and applications more engaging to the humans they serve.

4:30pm–5:30pm

Anatomy of a Design Decision

Jared Spool, Founder, User Interface Engineering

What separates a good design from a bad design are the decisions that the designer made. Jared will explore the five styles of design decisions, showing you when gut instinct produces the right results and when designers need to look to more user-focused research.

7:00pm??pm

Opening Night Party

Sponsored by (mt) Media Temple

Media Temple’s opening night parties for An Event Apart are legendary. Join the speakers and hundreds of fellow attendees for great conversation, lively debate, loud music, hot snacks, and a seemingly endless stream of grown-up beverages. Venue details will be announced soon.

Tuesday, July 27

9:00am–10:00am

Everything Old Is New Again

Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, 3rd Ed.

Faux columns. Sliding doors. Image replacement. We rely on these techniques on a near-daily basis, but how will they be affected by the expanding vocabulary of CSS3? Will they be reworked, slimmed down, or abandoned altogether? An Event Apart cofounder and CSS mastermind Eric Meyer pulls some old standbys out of the toolbox and applies the capabilites of CSS3 to see how they can be made leaner, meaner, and more powerful.

10:15am–11:15am

Paranormal Interactivity

Jeremy Keith,
author, DOM Scripting

Interaction is the secret sauce of the web. Understanding interaction is key to understanding the web as its own medium—it’s not print, it’s not television, and it’s certainly not the desktop. Find out how to wield HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to craft experiences that are native to the web.

11:30am–12:30pm

Patterns, Components, and Code, Oh My!

Erin Malone, co-author, Designing Social Interfaces

Designing with patterns sounds like a great idea on the surface. But what does it really take to identify and write patterns? And just what do you do with them once they are created? Rounding out the pattern library with components and code can help prototyping and design move faster, leaving time to solve more challenging problems. This session will discuss the benefits of and issues that arise from designing with patterns, and show how to stay creative while doing so.

12:30pm–2:00pm: LUNCH

2:00pm–3:00pm

Message and Medium: Better Content by Design

Kristina Halvorson, author, Content Strategy for the Web

Designing for multichannel content delivery (mobile, anyone?) means an entirely new set of considerations and challenges for web professionals everywhere. Unfortunately for content creators, it’s nearly impossible to predict whether their writing will maintain impact and readability across each and every platform. But forget about the medium for a minute; it’s the message that matters most. We’ll learn how to identify your key business messages, how they inform your content strategy, and how they impact multi-channel content development and design.

3:15pm–4:15pm

A Dao of Flexibility

Ethan Marcotte, co-author, Handcrafted CSS and Designing With Web Standards, 3rd Edition

“The Way is shaped by use, but then the shape is lost.” Our sites are accessed by an increasing array of devices and browsers, and our users deserve a quality experience no matter how large (or small) their display. Are our designs ready? Explore sites that think beyond the desktop and have successfully adapted to their users’ habits. Ethan will also discuss how bring an extra level of craftsmanship to our page layouts, and revisit popular CSS techniques in this ever-changing environment.

4:30pm–5:30pm

How the Web Works

Jeff Veen, author, Art & Science of Web Design

Turns out that the fundamental principles that led to the success of the web will lead you there, too. Drawing on 15 years of web design and development experience, Jeff will take you on a guided tour of what makes things work on this amazing platform we’re all building together. You’ll learn how to stop selling ice, why web browsers work the way they do, and where Rupert Murdoch can put his business model.


Register through June 28 and save $100 off your conference pass. Hurry: tickets are first-come, first-served, and seating is limited.


HTML5 For Web Designers

HTML5 For Web Designers, by Jeremy Keith.

WHEN MANDY BROWN, Jason Santa Maria and I formed A Book Apart, one topic burned uppermost in our minds, and there was only one author for
the job.

Nothing else, not even “real fonts” or CSS3, has stirred the standards-based design community like the imminent arrival of HTML5. Born out of dissatisfaction with the pacing and politics of the W3C, and conceived for a web of applications (not just documents), this new edition of the web’s lingua franca has in equal measure excited, angered, and confused the web design community.

HTML5 For Web Designers

Win free copies of HTML5 For Web Designers on Gowalla!

Just as he did with the DOM and JavaScript, Jeremy Keith has a unique ability to illuminate HTML5 and cut straight to what matters to accessible, standards-based designer-developers. And he does it in this book, using only as many words and pictures as are needed.

The Big Web Show

Watch Jeremy Keith discuss HTML5 with Dan Benjamin and me live on The Big Web Show this Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern.

There are other books about HTML5, and there will be many more. There will be 500 page technical books for application developers, whose needs drove much of HTML5’s development. There will be even longer secret books for browser makers, addressing technical challenges that you and I are blessed never to need to think about.

But this is a book for you—you who create web content, who mark up web pages for sense and semantics, and who design accessible interfaces and experiences. Call it your user guide to HTML5. Its goal—one it will share with every title in the forthcoming A Book Apart catalog—is to shed clear light on a tricky subject, and do it fast, so you can get back to work.


4 May 2010
Jeffrey Zeldman, Publisher
A Book Apart “for people who make websites”
In Association with A List Apart
An imprint of Happy Cog

The present-day content producer refuses to die.

And don’t miss…

More Mod on the Digital Book

Embracing the Digital Book by Craig Mod.

A Reading Heatmap: Key passages illuminated by layering all readers’ highlights for the same text.

LAST MONTH, he wowed us with Books in the Age of the iPad, a call to make digital books as beautiful as printed ones. This month, Craig Mod is back with Embracing the Digital Book, an article (or blog post if you must) that begins as a critique of iBooks and Kindle and moves on to discuss the e-reader of our dreams, complete with reasoned social features:

I’m excited about digital books for a number of reasons. Their proclivity towards multimedia is not one of them. I’m excited about digital books for their meta potential. The illumination of, in the words of Richard Nash, that commonality between two people who have read the same book.

We need to step back for a moment and stop acting purely on style. There is no style store. Retire those half-realized metaphors while they’re still young.

Instead, let’s focus on the fundamentals. Improve e-reader typography and page balance. Integrate well considered networked (social) features. Respect the rights of the reader and then — only then — will we be in a position to further explore our new canvas.

Embracing the digital book — Craig Mod


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?