As web designers, we concern ourselves with how users move from page to page, but forget the needs of those whose purpose is to be still. Learn the design techniques that create a mental space for reading. Use typographic signals to help users shift from looking to reading, from skimming along to concentrating. Limit distractions; pay attention to the details that make text readable; and consider chronology by providing transitions for each of the three phases of the online reading experience.
In space no one can hear you scream, and in a global economic meltdown, no industry—not even web design—is safe. But as a web designer, your skills and products are suited to ride out hard times, as long as you stay busy. Learn the seven steps to (relative) security in good times or bad: 1. Keep clients happy. 2. Know your goals. 3. Use your initiative wisely. 4. Communicate. 5. Put in a full day’s work. 6. Do it right. 7. Find the love.
Web education is out of date and fragmented. There are good people working hard to change this, but because of the structure of higher education, it will take time. As part of a year-long journey to discover where we are in web education and where we need to go, Leslie Jensen-Inman interviewed 32 web design and development leaders. The consensus: technology moves too fast for college and university curricula to keep up. How, then, can educators create a sustainable foundation for the future?
No industry can sustain itself if it doesn’t master the art of cultivating new talent—an art that requires close ties between practitioners and educators. Yet web design education consists mainly of introductory Flash classes and the occasional 90s-style HTML table layout tutorial. How drastic is the web design education gap, and what can be done to close it? Designer, developer, and web design educator Aarron Walter of The Web Standards Project surveys the state of the curricula.
Workers of the web!
Evolt.org, the amazing resource for web developers, turned 10 on Sunday, 14 December. Well done!
Editor Erika Meyer and her staff want to know how they can better serve their community. To find out, they’ve created a survey. Reader responses will help shape the road map for Evolt’s future development. Take the survey and help shape the next decade of Evolt.
In 2004, Dave Shea took the CSS rollover where it had never gone before. Now he takes it further still—with a little help from jQuery. Say hello to hover animations that respond to a user’s behavior in ways standards-based sites never could before.
The rise of the social web demands that we rethink our traditional role as builders of digital monuments, and turn our attention to the close observation of the spaces that our users are producing around us. It’s time for a new metaphor. Consider cartography.
In Issue No. 265 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: The web is a conversation, but not always a productive one. In “Putting Our Hot Heads Together,” Carolyn Wood shares ways to transform discussion forums and comment sections from shooting ranges into arenas of collaboration. Plus: Because of limited awareness around Deafness and accessibility in the web community, it seems plausible to many of us that good captioning will fix it all. It won’t. In “Deafness and the User Experience,” Lisa Herrod explains how to enhance the user experience for all deaf people.
P.S. The Survey for People Who Make Websites closes Tuesday, August 26. Don’t miss your chance to help educate the world about the practice of our profession. Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.
[tags]alistapart, deafness, user experience, UX, accessibility, collaboration, discussion, comments, community [/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.
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.
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.
CSS layout is awesome, except when your layout calls for a header, a footer, and columns in between. Use float, and content changes can cause columns to wrap. Use absolute positioning, and your footer can crash into your columns. Add the complexity of drag-and-drop layouts, and a new technique is needed. Enter “faux absolute positioning.” Align every item to a predefined position on the grid (as with absolute positioning), but objects will still affect the normal flow (as with float).
The rise of Ajax and rich internet applications has thrown the limitations of traditional wireframing into painful relief. When you leave the world of page-based interactions, how do you document all but the simplest interactions? Flowcharts and diagrams don’t work. Prototyping saves the day by focusing on the application and conveying its “magic.” Prototypes can help you sell a decision that is fundamentally or radically different from the client’s current solution or application. Sit a stakeholder down in front of a working prototype and show him or her why your approach is compelling.
What does it take to build an online community like Flickr’s? And how can we tell if interface design conventions we take for granted actually help or hurt users? In Issue No. 258 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, George Oates, a key member of the core team that shaped the Flickr community, tells what it will take to build the next Flickr (hint: the answer isn’t Ajax). And Jessica Enders drops some science on the widespread belief that zebra stripes aid the reader by guiding the eye along a table row.