AEA Boston 2008 session notes

Early, initial linkage and reviews. Let us know what we missed!

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: Understanding Web Design

Luke Wroblewski: “Jeffrey Zeldman’s Understanding Web Design talk at An Event Apart Boston 2008 highlighted factors that made it challenging to explain the value and perspective of Web designers but still managed to offer a way to describe the field.”

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: The Lessons of CSS Frameworks

Luke Wroblewski: “At An Event Apart Boston 2008, Eric Meyer walked through common characteristics of several Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) frameworks and outlined lessons that can be learned from their structure.”

Functioning Form – An Event Apart: Good Design Ain’t Easy

Luke Wroblewski: “Jason Santa Maria’s Good Design Ain’t Easy talk at An Event Apart 2008 argued for deeper graphic resonance in the presentation of content online.”

KarlynMorissette.com: An Event Apart: Day one schedule

Karyln is an educator who attended An Event Apart Boston 2008, sat in the front row, and took fabulous notes. This summary post links to her individual notes from each session of day one.

Karlyn’s session notes are informative, opinionated, and fun to read, and include photos of speakers and presentations. Well worth your time!

KarlynMorissette.com: An Event Apart: Day two schedule

Karyln assesses day one and posts links to her individual notes from each session of day two (except for the last session, as “you had to be there” for the live critiques).

Idiot Banter: An Event Apart session notes

Notes from all sessions.

Slide sharing

Luke Wroblewski – An Event Apart: Web Application Hierarchy

“In my Web Application Hierarchy presentation at An Event Apart Boston 2008, I walked through the importance of visual hierarchy, visual principles for developing effective hierarchies, and utilizing applications of visual hierarchy to communicate central messages, guide actions, and present information. Download the slides from my presentation.”

Quirksmode: AEA Boston slides

From Peter-Paul Koch’s presentation on unobtrusive scripting.

[tags]aneventapart, design, webdesign, conference, aeaboston08, session notes, downloads[/tags]

So long, Boston. We’ll be back.

An Event Apart Boston 2008 is over but the memories and photos linger on.

Eric and I started An Event Apart because we saw the need for a live, concentrated, learning and sharing experience about best practices and inspiration for the standards-based web design community. Thanks to brilliant speakers, phenomenally dedicated and supremely competent staff, and an extraordinary and growing attendee base of passionate practitioners, the show is steadily becoming the thing of which we dreamed.

And the food was pretty good, too.

Thank you for the ideas, jokes, and kick-ass Keynote graphics, Luke, Jeff, Jared, Ethan, ppk, Chris, Andy, Kim, Jason, and Doug.

Thanks also to our wonderful sponsors, Adobe (who gave away six copies of Creative Suite 3), GoodBarry (who packed goodies for everyone), and (mt) Media Temple (who threw a party so good, many people who attended don’t remember having been there).

Most of all, our deep thanks to all who came. Without you, Eric and I would be two lonely crackpots with a theory that web design matters. It will sound insincere because I have a vested interested for saying and thinking this, but you are truly the smartest and coolest “audience” going, and I put audience in quotes because you are so much more than that. So, you know, thanks.

Thank you, Boston. We’ll be back in 2009. (And now, on to San Francisco and Chicago.)

Watch this space for AEA Boston session notes and download links, coming momentarily.

[tags]aneventapart, design, webdesign, conference, aeaboston08[/tags]

CSS Menu Writer debuts

Launched today, WebAssist Professional’s CSS Menu Writer™ for Dreamweaver takes the pain out of creating standards-compliant horizontal or vertical navigation menus with nested fly-outs.

I got to spend an hour with the program prior to its release, and was impressed with its flexibility and extreme ease of use. For instance, creating primary and secondary menu levels is as simple as pointing to your files and folders. If the client changes the approved site structure after you’ve already created your page templates, no problem: just drag files and folders to their changed locations and CSS Menu Writer will update your navigation.

The program comes with four horizontal and four vertical menus, each in 12 different color schemes—96 menus to start—with unlimited sub-levels. You can easily create Doug-Bowman-style “sliding doors” effects, as well as doing all the obvious stuff you’d expect to be able to do, like changing menu width, height, margin, and padding; swapping backgrounds and images; and saving custom creations as new presets to reedit or share with colleagues. The program also integrates easily with Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor.

CSS Menu Writer costs $99.99, but if you buy before May 27, it’s just $74.99.

[tags]webdesign, tools, software, webassist, css[/tags]

An Event Apart New Orleans: thank you and adieu

An Event Apart New Orleans is over, but the memories and photos linger on.

Maybe it was the people. Maybe it was the extraordinary speakers. Or the staff, who made everything hum and shine. Or the keenly focused film crew. Maybe it was the sponsors. Or that crazy party. Maybe it was just the king cakes.

Whatever it was, these two days of peace, love, and web design felt to me like our best show yet.

Thank you to everyone who joined us in New Orleans.

[tags]aeanola08 aneventapart webdesign conference conferences events neworleans[/tags]

Happy fourth birthday, real world semantics

Four years ago today, Tantek Çelik and Kevin Marks gave a presentation on real-world semantics. Working backwards from HTML extensions like XFN (created by Tantek, Matt Mullenweg, and Eric Meyer), the paper showed how designers and developers could add semantics to today’s web rather than starting from scratch or waiting for a “purer” markup language to bring us an “uppercase semantic web.”

As with ‘most all great ideas, the principles were simple and, in hindsight, profoundly obvious. Do what designers were already doing. Instead of toiling over new languages that might or might not get adopted, use existing (X)HTML elements such as rel and class, and agree on such things as common class names for simple things like relationship definitions.

On behalf of all web designers and developers, thank you, Tantek and friends, and happy birthday.

[tags]microformats, semantics, realworld, tantek, xfn, hcard, 4years[/tags]

In defense of version targeting

We knew when we published this issue of A List Apart that it would light a match to the gaseous underbelly of standards-based web design, but we thought more than a handful of readers would respect the parties involved enough to consider the proposal on its merits. Alas, the ingrained dislike of Microsoft is too strong, and the desire to see every site built with web standards is too ardently felt, for the proposal to get a fair viewing.

The always dapper Mr Jeremy Keith provides a pleasantly thoughtful exception to the massive glowering.

Jeremy sees that version targeting offers a solution to the problem of keeping Microsoft’s Internet Explorer on the web standards track, but he quarrels with an implementation detail: namely, that if you omit the meta element that instructs IE to behave as a particular version—in other words, if you opt out—the browser defaults to IE7’s rendering.

Jeremy thinks, if you opt out by omitting the meta element, the browser should default to the latest version’s rendering, be that version IE8, IE10, or IE412.

I respect Jeremy—all the more so after reading his reasoned response to a bombshell proposal—but disagree with his reasoning on this point.

In his post, Jeremy provides the following example to prove that the “IE7 rendering=default” decision is broken:

Let’s say you’re building a website right now that uses a CSS feature such as generated content. Any browsers that currently support generated content will correctly parse your CSS declarations. Future browsers that will support generated content should also parse those CSS declarations. This expected behaviour will not occur in Internet Explorer. IE8 will include support for generated content. But unless you explicitly declare that you want IE8 to behave as IE8, it will behave as IE7.

It sounds reasonable, but it’s an unlikely scenario, and the exact opposite of what will happen over and over again out there in the real world of web development, which, for too many, is a fallen world.

Jeremy, since you are among the tiny minority of enlightened web developers who know what generated content is, and who care that IE8 will support it (and since you read ALA), you will know to include a meta element that instructs IE8 to act like IE8—or you will use “edge” to instruct IE14 to act like IE14. Easy-peasy. No hardship for you.

By contrast, the many developers who don’t understand or care about web standards, and who only test their CSS and scripts in the latest version of IE, won’t opt in, so their stuff will render in IE8 the same way it rendered in IE7.

That sounds bad, but it’s actually good, because it means that their “IE7-tested” sites won’t “break” in IE8. Therefore their clients won’t scream. Therefore Microsoft won’t be inundated with complaints which, in the hands of the wrong director of marketing, could lead to the firing of standards-oriented browser engineers on the IE team. The wholesale firing of standards-oriented developers would jerk IE off the web standards path just when it has achieved sure footing. And if IE were to abandon standards, accessible, standards-compliant design would no longer have a chance. Standards only work when all browsers support them. That IE has the largest market share simply heightens the stakes.

When I look at the scenarios of who is likely to do what where web standards and version targeting are concerned, the IE7 default for those who don’t opt in appears to be the correct design decision. Of couse I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

Regardless, the discussion raised by Mr Keith is exactly the kind of discussion our community should be having.

Unfortunately, the conversation we’re mostly having so far is neither thoughtful nor helpful. But perhaps when the shock dies down, a few more people will consider the merits of version targeting.

To help them do so, let me break it down the way I did for myself:

  • With version targeting, IE stays on the path of web standards.
  • Without it, ineptly made websites “break,” putting IE’s standards compliance at risk.
  • If IE were to stop supporting standards, standards would stop working.

I’d love to live in a world where the vast majority of websites were compliant and accessible. But that’s not the real world. At least, not today.

Today too many sites aren’t semantic, don’t validate, and aren’t designed to specs of the W3C. Idealists think we can change this by “forcing” ignorant developers to get wisdom about web standards. Idealists hope, if sites suddenly display poorly in IE, the developers will want to know why, and will embark on a magical journey of web standards learning.

You feel that way because you are special.

You care about semantics and accessibility because it’s right.

That’s how we’re going to get more converts. By persuading more people that it’s right.

We won’t get converts by breaking sites and ridiculing their creators for not knowing as much as we do.

I commend Aaron Gustafson for his courage and intelligence and thank him and his small band of colleagues, and the engineers they worked with at Microsoft, for offering a way forward that keeps web standards front and center in all future versions of IE.


Discussion is now closed, but you can enjoy the 235 responses that came in before we shut the iron door.

[tags]microsoft, IE, versiontargeting, alistapart, ALA[/tags]

An Event Apart New Orleans

An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, kicks off its 2008 season with An Event Apart New Orleans, a monster, 19-hour, two-day creative session. Join us April 24–25 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for two intense, 9.5-hour-long days of learning and inspiration, featuring twelve of your favorite web design authors.

  • See Dave Shea, co-author, Zen of CSS Design, explore what makes sites flexible visually, experientially, and code-wise.
  • See Jeff Veen, design manager, Google, explore how new thinking, born of creating the latest generation of web apps, is being infused into design practices.
  • See Robert Hoekman Jr., author, Designing the Obvious, perform slam-bang, on-the-spot usability reviews of sites submitted by our live audience on the fly.
  • See Cameron Moll, author, Mobile Web Design, uncover the differences between good and great design.
  • See Aaron Gustafson, co-author, AdvancED DOM Scripting, go beyond “unobtrusive” JavaScript to truly meet users’ needs, no matter what their device or platform, by applying the principles of “progressive enhancement” to client-side scripting.
  • See Andy Clarke, author, Transcending CSS, explain how comic books inspire his award-winning web layouts.
  • See Stephanie Sullivan, co-author, Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, explore practical, standards-based approaches and techniques to some of today’s toughtest design challenges.
  • See Aarron Walter, author, Building Findable Web Sites, explain “findability bliss through web standards SEO”
  • See Brian Oberkirch, Publisher, Like It Matters, review, catalog, dissect, and champion small design victories that daisy chain to create a delightful overall user experience.
  • See Jason Santa Maria, designer, Happy Cog, share techniques for maintaining individuality and brand distinction in a world of generic templates and design sameness.
  • See An Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, present two new talks that shed brilliant light on the darkest corners of CSS.
  • As for me, I’ll be doing two new sessions on the whatness of web design (what it is, what it ain’t, and why it matters) and the whereness of web standards (as in, where we are with them).

It’s the longest, biggest, densest, hardest, coolest show we’ve ever done, and we’re doing it where Louis learned to blow his horn. Join us if you can.

Can’t make New Orleans? Join us in these cities!

  • Boston, June 23–24
  • San Francisco, August 18–19
  • Chicago, October 13–14

Tickets for all four shows are on sale now.

[tags]aneventapart, webdesign, conference, neworleans, aeaNOLA08[/tags]

Faster, pussycat

Have you ever bought clothes while traveling, and been unable to fit everything in your suitcase when it was time to go home? That suitcase is what my days are like now. For starters, The Wife and I are buying an apartment—or at least we are attending all the meetings, filling out all the paperwork, hiring all the attorneys and assessors and brokers and fixers, faxing and messengering and hand-delivering all the documents, auditing all the books, returning all the missed calls, sending all the e-mails, digging through spam traps for all the missed e-mails, rescheduling all the appointments, raising all the money, applying to borrow all the much more money, digging and refilling all the holes, and running up and down all the staircases that are supposed to lead to us owning a place.

Timing is the secret of comedy and an ungovernable variable in life. Our first-time homebuying marathon comes during one of The Wife’s busiest weeks at The Library, and amid a frenzy of new client activity at Happy Cog and the planning of next year’s An Event Apart conferences. In my idiocy, I agreed to speak at other people’s conferences, which means I need to create the content for those engagements. I am days behind in everything because completing the Findings From the Web Design Survey sucked nights, days, and dollars. It was our Apocalypse Now. The dog is sick and requires constant watching. The Girl must be taken to preschool and picked up and played with and loved and taught and put to bed.

My life is like everybody’s. I’m too busy and I’m grateful for everything, but I worry that I will miss some detail, forget some essential, give less than everything to some e-mail or document review or design.

I intended to write about the Findings From the Web Design Survey on the night we finally published them, but there was nothing left inside. I intended to write about them this morning, but instead I have written this excuse for not writing about them. During my next break between brokers, I will clear up one area of confusion as to the motivation behind the survey’s undertaking.

Meantime, Eric Meyer, the survey’s co-author and co-sponsor, has written nice pieces about practical problems overcome in the survey’s creation, and how to keep probing the data for new answers and new questions.

[tags]aneventapart, alistapart, webdesignsurvey, design, survey, happycog, homeownership, NYC, newyorkcity, newyork[/tags]

Please and thank you

An Event Apart thanks its attendees, speakers, and sponsors for a great 2007, and announces dates and locations for 2008. Please join us next year! New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago.

[tags]aneventapart, aea2008, neworleans, boston, sanfrancisco, chicago[/tags]