Coming to a theater near you

Even a down-home family man has to sometimes get up and go talk about design, web standards, and other hot topics. Here (and in the sidebar) are the places I’ll go this year—starting with Princeton University, where I lecture this very Saturday.

Better: Design For Social Causes – Princeton

DESIGN AS PARTNERSHIP

Feb. 28, Princeton University, Betts Auditorium

Good web design is not principally concerned with the decoration of screen space. Rather, like all design, good web design concerns itself with understanding and solving problems. Learn techniques and processes that turn nonprofit (and other) clients into partners and ensure that work is focused on audience needs, not the whims of powerful committee members.

SXSW Interactive – Austin

FROM FREELANCE TO AGENCY: Start Small, Stay Small

Moderator. Panel with Roger Black, Kristina Halvorson, Whitney Hess, Mar. 14, SXSW Interactive, Austin Convention Center, Sat. Mar. 14, 3:30–4:30 PM

The web has always attracted mavericks and entrepreneurs, and a rocky economy makes the freelance life more desirable (or at least more inevitable) than ever. So what happens when your freelance business starts to grow? How big can you get without getting bad? How can freelancers and small teams compete with traditional agencies? Hip freelancers and cool agency heads will answer questions, compare experiences, and tell their stories.

BOOK SIGNING

South by Bookstore, Austin Convention Center, Sun. Mar. 15, 3:30–4:00 PM. I’ll be signing copies of Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition.

An Event Apart, 2009

An Event Apart Seattle

May 4–5, Bell Harbor Conf. Center, Seattle

An Event Apart Boston

June 22–23, Boston Marriott Copley Place

An Event Apart Chicago

Oct. 12–13, Sheraton Towers

An Event Apart San Francisco

Dec. 7–8, The Palace Hotel

Besides emceeing with Eric Meyer, I’ll cover the following topics:

A Site Redesign

When and why should you redesign? How can you change the way a site looks, while preserving the way its brand feels? How can “listening to your content” help you retool a design to more effectively (and more excitingly) meet your users’ needs? To uncover these lessons and more, I’ll review the thinking behind my recent redesign of a site you know well.

The Survey, Year Two

Web design is practically the only business in the global economy that is still going at least somewhat strong. Yet, as in years past, not much is known about web designers and developers except what we find out for ourselves. Slice, dice, and digest the data from the second A List Apart survey for people who make websites.

For easy access to these and other events, follow me on Upcoming.

Comments off.

[tags]zeldman, speaking, appearances, calendar, schedule[/tags]

An Event Apart redesigned

There’s a new aneventapart.com in town, featuring a 2009 schedule and a reformulated design. I designed the new site and Eric Meyer coded. (Validation freaks, only validator.nu is up to the task of recognizing the HTML 5 DOCTYPE used and validating against it; the validator.w3.org and htmlhelp.com validators can’t do this yet. Eric chose HTML 5 because it permits any element to be an HREF, and this empowered him to solve complex layout problems with simple, semantic markup. Eric, I know, will have loads more to say about this.)

Family branding concerns drove the previous design. Quite simply, the original An Event Apart site launched simultaneously with the 2005 redesign of A List Apart. Jason Santa Maria‘s stripped-down visual rethink was perfect for the magazine and is imitated, written about, and stolen outright to this day. It was a great design for our web magazine because it was created in response to the magazine’s content. It didn’t work as well for the conference because its design wasn’t driven by the kind of content a conference site publishes. But it was the right conference design for 2005 because the goal at that time was to create a strong brand uniting the long-running web design magazine with the new web design conference that sprang from it.

New goals for a new environment

In 2009, it’s less important to bolt the conference to the magazine by using the same layout for both: by now, most people who attend or have thought about attending An Event Apart know it is the A List Apart web design conference. What’s important in 2009 is to provide plenty of information about the show, since decisions about conference-going are being made in a financially (and psychologically) constricted environment. In 2005, it was enough to say “A List Apart has a conference.” Today more is needed. Today you need plenty of content to explain to the person who controls the purse strings just what you will learn and why a different conference wouldn’t be the same or “just as good.”

The redesign therefore began with a content strategy. The new design and new architecture fell out of that.

Action photos and high contrast

The other thing I went for—again, in conscious opposition to the beautifully understated previous design—was impact. I wanted this design to feel big and spacious (even on an iPhone’s screen) and to wow you with, for lack of a better word, a sense of eventfulness. And I think the big beautiful location images and the unafraid use of high contrast help achieve that.

Reinforcing the high contrast and helping to paint an event-focused picture, wherever possible I used action shots of our amazing speakers holding forth from the stage, rather than the more typical friendly backyard amateur head shot used on every other conference site (including the previous version of ours). I wanted to create excitement about the presentations these brilliant people will be making, and live action stage photos seemed like the way to do that. After all, if I’m going to see Elvis Costello perform, I want to see a picture of him onstage with his guitar—not a friendly down-to-earth shot of him taking out the garbage or hugging his nephews.

So that’s a quick overview of the redesign. The store is now open for all four shows and the complete Seattle show schedule is available for your viewing pleasure. I hope to see some of you in 2009 at our intensely educational two-day conference for people who make websites.

[tags]aneventapart, design, redesign, relaunch, webdesign, conference, events, HTML5, ericmeyer, zeldman[/tags]

Web Design World

Tomorrow I board an Amtrak train bound for beautiful Back Bay Boston, where I’ll have the honor and pleasure of delivering a keynote address for Web Design World. I have a long-standing fondness for this conference and especially for its content director, Jim Heid. I’ve learned a great deal over the years, watching the way Jim understands his audience, educates his speakers to deliver what his audience needs, and structures multiple days of content into an enjoyable learning experience. He’s also a heckuva nice guy.

Dear AIGA, where are the web designers?

Dear AIGA:

I am a member in good standing and was honored to be part of the AIGA site redesign.

I received your email about the AIGA Business and Design Conference and am impressed with the speakers at the main show, as well as the 20/20 presenters. You have chosen brilliant talents who have made major contributions; with such speakers, the conference will undoubtedly be an illuminating and brilliant success.

But in reading the mini-biographies of the presenters, I can’t help noticing that for all the brand directors, creative directors, Jungian analysts, and print designers, one rather significant specimen of the profession is missing. Where are the web (or if you insist, the interaction) designers?

I am probably missing someone, but I count two people with web experience, and neither gets more than 60 seconds of stage time.

In my years as a web designer, I’ve worked with dozens and met thousands of gifted, passionate design professionals who would surely love to spend three days soaking up graphic design brilliance at an event like Gain.

But if no one on the stage shares their experience—and if one of the two speakers with web experience thinks the web is a crude medium where second-rate designers create unmemorable and mediocre works—AIGA is unlikely to reach this audience.

I need hardly add that this audience makes up an ever increasing percentage of the design profession, and performs work that is global in impact.

If you exclude us from the conversation, the conversation may end up excluding you.

Comments are now closed, but you can read what other people had to say.

[tags]AIGA, webdesign, GAIN, conference[/tags]

The lessons of September 11, 2002

On September 11, 2002, I found myself in a place as strange as Vegas. I was there to speak at a web conference. They must have gotten a good deal on the rooms, it being the first anniversary of the attacks.

“They’re holding a conference on September 11th?” I had shouted aloud on receiving my emailed invitation to speak at the show. “How could they?”

And how could I, as a New Yorker, respond to such an invitation?

But people told me if we couldn’t hold web design conferences on September 11th, then the terrorists had won. People said many stupid things back then and still do. I don’t know why I heard wisdom, or the call of duty, in this sophistry. But off I went, persuaded that I was somehow taking a stand against the people who had so grievously harmed us.

On September 10th, I gave my talk to a roomful of hungover IT professionals. On September 11th, I slouched around the conference site at Caesars Palace feeling absurd and unreal and painfully missing the woman who is now my wife. (I love you, honey.)

In New York, George Bush was laying a wreath at Ground Zero. In Las Vegas, I was lying on a sedan chair, watching the animated flag on the JumboTron outside the Bellagio. The pixelated call to patriotism felt not merely inadequate but crazily beside the point. Its 60-second cycle seemed to proclaim that our enemies may fly our planes into our buildings, but damn it, we have big-screen animation.

Many of our subsequent responses to 9/11 have felt like that giant LCD—gung-ho about the wrong things, a garish distraction to keep us from seeing and solving our real problems. But on September 11, 2002, I only knew that it was not patriotic or wise to have left my woman alone in New York City on that day.

And that JumboTrons suck.

And that I hate Vegas.

[tags]myglamorouslife, september11, 9/11, anniversary, webdesign, conferences, lasvegas[/tags]

Photos from An Event Apart San Francisco

Take a dip in the Flickr photo pool from An Event Apart San Francisco 2008. Day Two is about to begin.

111 Minna Gallery (MediaTemple party)

[tags]aeasf08, aneventapart, webdesign, conference, sanfrancisco[/tags]

Lower East Side Lit

Monday, July 28, at 7:00 PM, in the company of my fellow field testers, I’ll be giving a reading at Coudal Partners’s Field Tested Books Live. Join us on the rooftop of the Delancey at 168 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002 (map). Admission is free.

Scheduled readers:

  • Ben Greenman
  • Liz Danzico
  • Steven Heller
  • Ron Hogan
  • Matt Linderman
  • Randy Cohen
  • Randy J. Hunt
  • Debbie Millman
  • John Gruber
  • Jon Parker
  • Andy Ross
  • Jason Santa Maria
  • Maud Newton
  • Michael Surtees
  • Michael Bierut
  • Scott Korb
  • Mike Sacks
  • Pitchaya Sudbanthad
  • Jeffrey Zeldman

[tags]fieldtested, coudal, delancey, zeldman, live, readings[/tags]

What happened here

It’s been a month for milestones.

On May 31, my site turned 13 years old.

On June 7, making the previous milestone and all others possible, I had 15 years without a drink or drug.

On Saturday June 28, Carrie and I celebrated five years of marriage by hiring a babysitter, eating a meal, and bumming around the east village.

Between these landmarks came a flight to Pittsburgh and back-to-back train trips from New York to Washington DC, and Boston.

In the last-named burg we put on a two-day design conference for people who make websites.

At home during this same period, our daughter outgrew last month’s clothes, began swimming, got a big-girl bed, attended and graduated summer camp, stopped being even slightly afraid of school, hung out with her grandma, and advanced so much intellectually and emotionally that it would qualify as science fiction if it weren’t the lived experience of ’most everyone who has kids.

Between all that came the usual tumult of client meetings, client projects, and potential new business, giddily intermingled with the publication of two A List Apart issues. Make that three issues as of tomorrow.

Been busy.

If I had to pick an image to symbolize the month, it would be me on a rerouted slow Amtrak train from Boston to New York, using an iPhone and one finger to peck out a strategic response to an 80 page RFP.

That would have been the image, but now there’s a new one. For now there’s today.

On the calendar it is Happy Cog New York’s moving day. Today I pack up what for 18 years was either my apartment or Happy Cog’s New York City headquarters (and was most often both).

I hit bottom in this place. Ended a short-lived, tragically wrong first marriage. Rebuilt my life one cell at a time. Found self. Found love. Became a web designer. Found the love of my life. Married well, had a magical child. Wrote two books. Made money and lost it a couple of times over. Founded a magazine. Co-founded a movement. Worked for others. Freelanced. Founded an agency. Grew it.

It all happened here.

This gently declining space that has been nothing but an office since December and will soon be nothing at all to me, this place I will empty and vacate in the next few hours, has seen everything from drug withdrawal to the first stirrings of childbirth. Happiness, anguish, farting and honeymoons. Everything. Everything but death.

Even after our family moved, the place was never empty. The heiress to an American fine art legacy came here, to this dump, to talk about a potential project. Two gentlemen who make an extraordinary food product came here many times to discuss how their website redesign was going.

When I wasn’t meeting someone for lunch, I went downstairs to this wonderful little place to take away a small soup and a sandwich, which I ate at my desk while reading nytimes.com. Helming the take-away lunch place are three Indian women who are just the sweetest, nicest people ever. The new studio is just far enough away that I will rarely see these ladies any more. I will miss them.

I will miss Josef, the super here, with his big black brush mustache and gruff, gently-East-European-accented voice. He will miss me, too. He just told me so, while we were arranging for the freight elevator. We were kind to him after his heart attack and he has been kind to us since he arrived—the last in a long series of supers caught between an aging building and a rental agent that prefers not to invest in keeping the place up. The doormen and porters, here, too, some of whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years, my God. Can’t think about that.

I will miss being able to hit the gym whenever I feel like it and shower right in my workplace.

And that is all.

This is the death of something but it is the birth of something more. We take everything with us, all our experiences (until age robs us of them one by one, and even then, they are somewhere—during the worst of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she reacted, however subtly, to Sinatra). We take everything with us. The stink and glory of this place will stay on me even when we are set up in our slick new space. It will be with me long after the landlord’s collection letters have stopped. This place, what happened here, will live until my head cracks like a coconut, and then some.

And now I pre-pack. Adieu, adieu.

[tags]happycog, moves, moving, newyork, NYC, design, webdesign, alistapart, wedding, anniversary, zeldman, zeldman.com, 5years, 13years, 15years[/tags]