ALA 284: scaling video, avoiding burnout

In Issue No. 284 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Creating Intrinsic Ratios for Video

by THIERRY KOBLENTZ

Have you ever wanted to resize a video on the fly, scaling it as you would an image? Using intrinsic ratios for video and some padding property magic, you can. Thierry Koblentz shows us how.

Burnout

by SCOTT BOMS

Does every day feel like a bad day? Blurry boundaries between work and home, and the “always on” demands of the web can lead to depression and burnout. Learn the signs of burnout and how to maintain your bliss.

And don’t miss this issue’s Editor’s Choice:

The ALA Primer: A Guide for New Readers

by ERIN LYNCH

New to A List Apart? Welcome! ALA’s own Erin Lynch suggests a few good places to start reading. (Originally ran: September 12, 2006.)

Comments off.

A new answer to the IE6 question?

In “Universal Internet Explorer 6 CSS,” Andy Clarke proposes a novel approach to the problem that has vexed standards-based designers since time immemorial (or at least since we could quit worrying about Netscape 4).

The problem is IE6. Outdated but still widely used, especially in the developing world, its inaccurate and incomplete CSS support forces web designers and developers to spend expensive hours on workarounds ranging from hacks, to IE6-only styles served via conditional comments, to JavaScript. Some refuse to serve CSS to IE6 at all; others stop IE6 users at the gate. In some situations (personal site, web app used by first-world hipsters), ignoring IE6 may work; but mostly it doesn’t.

After a brief but thorough tour of current IE6 solutions and their limitations, Andy unveils his zinger. He proposes to serve IE6 users a set of universal styles completely unrelated to the design of the site in question. Not unlike Arc90’s awesome Readability plug-in, the styles Andy has designed concern themselves with typographic hierarchy and whitespace. Here’s the theory: make the page easy to read, make it obvious that somebody designed it, and the IE6 user will have a good experience.

(By contrast, block styles from IE6, as some developers suggest, and that user will have a bad experience. Most likely, in the absence of styles, the user will think the page is broken.)

No hammer fits all nails, and no solution, however elegant, will work for every situation. But if we’re open minded, Andy’s proposal may work in more situations than we at first suspect. Where it works, it’s what business folk call a “win, win:” the visitor has a good reading experience, and client and developer are spared tedium and expense.

Check it out.

[tags]IE6, workarounds, design, development, webdesign, hacks, legibility, styles, CSS, andyclarke[/tags]

Redesign in progress

Here’s a little something for a Wednesday evening. (Or wherever day and time it is in your part of the world.)

The body and bottom of the next zeldman.com design are now finished. Tomorrow I start working on the top.

Have a look.

Looks extra sweet in iPhone.

I’m designing from the content out. Meaning that I designed the middle of the page (the part you read) first. Because that’s what this site is about.

When I was satisfied that it was not only readable but actually encouraged reading, I brought in colors and started working on the footer. (The colors, I need not point out to longtime visitors, hearken back to the zeldman.com brand as it was in the 1990s.)

The footer, I reckoned, was the right place for my literary and software products.

I designed the grid in my head, verified it on sketch paper, and laid out the footer bits in Photoshop just to make sure they fit and looked right. Essentially, though, this is a design process that takes place outside Photoshop. That is, it starts in my head, gets interpreted via CSS, viewed in a browser, and tweaked.

Do not interpret this as me dumping on Photoshop. I love Photoshop and could not live or work without it. But especially for a simple site focused on reading, I find it quicker and easier to tweak font settings in code than to laboriously render pages in Photoshop.

If you view source, I haven’t optimized the CSS. (There’s no sense in doing so yet, as I still have to design the top of the page.)

I thought about waiting till I was finished before showing anything. That, after all, is what any sensible designer would do. But this site has a long history of redesigning in public, and the current design has been with us at least four years too long. Since I can’t snap my fingers and change it, sharing is the next best thing.

A work in progress. Like ourselves.

[tags]zeldman, zeldman.com, redesign, webdesign, css, code[/tags]

ALA 282: Life After Georgia

In Issue No. 282 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites:

  • Can we finally get real type on the web?
  • Does beauty in design have a benefit besides aesthetic pleasure?

Real Fonts on the Web: An Interview with The Font Bureau’s David Berlow

by DAVID BERLOW, JEFFREY ZELDMAN

Is there life after Georgia? We ask David Berlow, co-founder of The Font Bureau, Inc, and the first TrueType type designer, how type designers and web designers can work together to resolve licensing and technology issues that stand between us and real fonts on the web.

In Defense of Eye Candy

by STEPHEN P. ANDERSON

Research proves attractive things work better. How we think cannot be separated from how we feel. The next time a boss, client, or co-worker scoffs at the notion that beauty is an important aspect of interface design, point their peepers here.

A List Apart explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.

[tags]alistapart, type, typography, realtype, truetype, CSS, beauty, design, aesthetics[/tags]

“Taking Your Talent to the Web” is now a free downloadable book

Taking Your Talent To The Web, a guide for the transitioning designer, by L. Jeffrey Zeldman. Hand model: Tim Brown.

RATED FIVE STARS at Amazon.com since the day it was published, Taking Your Talent to the Web (PDF) is now a free downloadable book from zeldman.com:

I wrote this book in 2001 for print designers whose clients want websites, print art directors who’d like to move into full–time web and interaction design, homepage creators who are ready to turn pro, and professionals who seek to deepen their web skills and understanding.

Here we are in 2009, and print designers and art directors are scrambling to move into web and interaction design.

The dot-com crash killed this book. Now it lives again. While browser references and modem speeds may reek of 2001, much of the advice about transitioning to the web still holds true.

It’s yours. Enjoy.

Oh, yes, here’s that ancient Amazon page.


Short Link

Update – now with bookmarks

Attention, K-Mart shoppers. The PDF now includes proper Acrobat bookmarks, courtesy of Robert Black. Thanks, Robert!

Real type on the web?

A proposal for a fonts working group is under discussion at the W3C. The minutes of a small meeting held on Thursday 23 October include a condensed, corrected transcription of a discussion between Sampo Kaasila (Bitstream), Mike Champion (Microsoft), John Daggett (Mozilla), Håkon Wium Lie (Opera), Liam Quin (W3C), Bert Bos (W3C), Alex Mogilevsky (Microsoft), Josh Soref (Nokia), Vladimir Levantovsky (Monotype), Klaas Bals (Inventive Designers), and Richard Ishida (W3C).

The meeting started with a discussion of Microsoft’s EOT (Embedded OpenType) versus raw fonts. Bert Bos, style activity lead and co-creator of CSS, has beautifully summarized the relevant pros and cons discussed.

For those just catching up with the issue of real type on the web, here’s a bone-simple intro:

  1. CSS provides a mechanism for embedding real fonts on your website, and some browsers support it, but its use probably violates your licensing agreement with the type foundry, and may also cause security problems on an end-user’s computer.
  2. Microsoft’s EOT (based on the same standard CSS mechanism) works harder to avoid violating your licensing agreement, and has long worked in Internet Explorer, but is not supported in other browsers, is not foolproof vis-a-vis type foundry licensing rules, and may also cause PC security problems.

The proposed fonts working group hopes to navigate the technical and business problems of providing real fonts on the web, and in its first meeting came up with a potential compromise proposal before lunch.

Like everyone these days, the W3C is feeling a financial pinch, which means, if a real fonts working group is formed, its size and scope will necessarily be somewhat limited. That could be a good thing, since small groups work more efficiently than large groups. But a financial constraint on the number of invited experts could make for tough going where some details are concerned—and with typography, as with web technology, the details are everything.

I advise every web designer who cares about typography and web standards—that’s all of you, right?—to read the minutes of this remarkable first gathering, and to keep watching the skies.

[tags]web typography, typography, standards, webstandards, W3C, fonts, embedded, @fontface, EOT, workinggroup[/tags]

Is your (website’s) underwear showing?

It’s astounding how many web designers forget to specify a background color on their site. They’ll spend months iterating wireframes and design comps; write CSS hacks for browsers predating this century; test their work on everything from Blackberries to old Macs running System 7; and of course they’ll validate their markup and style sheets. But after all that, they’ll forget to apply a background color to their site, and they won’t think to check for it.

To see it in action, set your browser’s default background color to magenta, or something equally piquant. Then visit websites. You may be surprised.

If you find a site with its underwear showing, please share it in the new Underwear showing (web design) group on Flickr.

[tags]design, webdesign, underwear, showing, color, backgroundcolor, interface, interfacedesign, errors[/tags]

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]

Art direction on the web?

On Tuesday morning, while Malarkey was furiously getting himself uninvited to Håkon Lie‘s Christmas parties, and oneself was busy publishing the latest issue of A List Apart, and the jungle drums spoke of nothing but Firefox 3, Jason Santa Maria quietly slipped a torpedo into the harbor.

Jason didn’t just redesign his website, he issued a call to arms. And what he called for was real art direction on the web.

Now, over the years, plenty of others have called for art direction on the web, and some have achieved it. Quite famously, starting in September 1996, Derek Powazek achieved it with the original {fray}, an independent, non-commercial, personal storytelling site featuring the finest writers and illustrators on the web, not a few of whom {fray} discovered and launched. Stories like Lance Arthur’s A Little Black Death, Molly Steenson’s Pulling a Geographic (now sadly stuck in a loop), and Rebecca Eisenberg’s Mugged weren’t just compellingly written; they were compellingly written and art directed. The drama of viewing and wondering what the next page held was part of the reading experience, as it is in visually leading print magazines like Seed and Wired.

{fray} was a magnificent achievement and still is, and if design officialdom didn’t recognize it at the time, and hasn’t recognized it since, the fault lies with officialdom.

But {fray} was not only a labor of love, it was also a labor of labor—each page lovingly hand crafted in the browser-centric HTML of the time. And today we are modern and streamlined, not only in our markup, but in our means of production. We’re all about blogs and zines, templates and CMS platforms. Nobody but weird Unibomber-like hermits and Tantek hand-codes individual pages anymore.

And it is to that environment—to our environment—that Jason’s redesign speaks, calling for real art direction in the context of template-and-CMS-based publications.

Well, here is my experiment: a very simple setup for fast design and art direction around content. I’m approaching this is much the same way one would approach the design of a magazine: a system for the way content gets handled, but every layout and story can take on a look of their own within that system.

It’s just a blog, like any blog, although better looking than most. Housed on what is essentially a beefed-up open source blogging platform. Beefed up just enough to allow the writer/designer to change colors, typefaces, and the position and shape of copy blocks on a per-post basis as needed.

Speaking of beef, where is it? Where are all these posts with unique layouts within an overarching and unifying system of design? They have yet to be written and produced. But I’ve seen the comps and know some of what is coming, and it is going to be a lovely, drawn-out feast.

And even if it were not half as lovely as it will be—if Jason, instead of being one of our leading web designers, were a visual illiterate—the idea would still matter, and this proof of concept would still merit our gratitude.

[tags]artdirection, webdesign, jasonsantamaria, derekpowazek,{fray}[/tags]