ALA 223: tricks, guides, and giggles

A guide for the first-timer. A new trick for the size-conscious designer. And a bit of a giggle. Three pleasures await you in triple-thick Issue 223 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

The ALA Primer: A Guide for New Readers

by Erin Lynch

New to A List Apart? Welcome! ALA’s own Erin Lynch has picked out a selection of articles that you may want to start with.

Text-Resize Detection

by Lawrence Carvalho and Christian Heilmann

It’s still hard to create page layouts that don’t break if the user increases the type size by more than a few settings. Chris Heilmann and Lawrence Carvalho serve up a way to detect your visitor’s font size settings using JavaScript.

A Standardista’s Alphabet

by Jack Pickard

“A is for Aaron, who fell down the stairs. K is for Kevin, menaced by bears.” No wait, those are just the notes from our last staff meeting. Jack Pickard offers a lighter look at the world of web standards.

[tags]design, a list apart, alistapart, textsize[/tags]

ALA 222: wraparounds and wordsmithing

Save time by tricking PHP into managing your tricky text-wrap problems; use that time to fix your About page. Everybody wins in Issue 222 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Your About Page Is a Robot

by Erin Kissane

Everyone has one. No one likes to talk about it. No, not that. It’s your About page, and it needs a little love. ALA’s Erin Kissane guides you through a beautiful journey of self-discovery.

Sliced and Diced Sandbags

by Rob Swan

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to get text to flow around an irregularly shaped image? Wouldn’t it be even better if we could automate the process? Have no fear: Rob Swan is here to show us the way.

[tags]design, a list apart, alistapart, webdesign, php, writing, copywriting, about[/tags]

Inspiration and perspiration

AIGA | Aquent Salary Survey Calculator
Are you getting paid what you should? Find out with this free online calculator, created by AIGA and Aquent after surveying nearly 6,500 design professionals.
Pantone’s Fall Fashion Color Report
The fashion forecast is for cool, calm colors from the earth. Wear them tomorrow, see them on your website the day after.
Magic 8_Ball on ‘Zune’
Daring Fireball has fun kicking Microsoft’s me-tooism.
CreativeIQ: Create Letterhead Templates in MS Word
Creating letterhead templates in Microsoft Word that don’t suck.
Most Inspired
Design inspiration aggregation.
Netdiver: Outstanding
Design inspiration, collected by Netdiver. Sharp concepts and fresh perspectives.
“People nearby started to panic”
A mobile phone rings on a London-to-New-York flight.
Time Capsules: Douglas Coupland: September 11
From the vantage point of a 52-day book tour that began on September 11, 2001, the author recalls the surreal first days of post-9/11 America.
Congress: Hall Pass Revoked

If Net Neutrality didn’t do enough to get you squirming HR5319 AKA Deleting Online Predators Act AKA DOPA should serve as proof that Congress should no longer be allowed to vote on any laws governing the internet. In case you missed the news, DOPA basically will require all public schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites and chat rooms.

The Agency Model is Dead – Blue Flavor
Brian Fling of new agency Blue Flavor lists “signs of the decline in the traditional agency” and discusses his agency’s nontraditional approach.
AppZapper – Making uninstalls easy
AppZapper for Mac OS X lets you confidently try new apps while knowing you can uninstall them easily. Drag one or more unwanted apps onto AppZapper and watch as it finds all the extra files and lets you delete them with a single click.
Bokardo: Why Netscape Will Succeed
Bokardo, a blog about social web design, says Netscape’s reinvention of itself as a mass-market version of Digg will succeed.
Zach Klein: Connected Ventures + IAC
The guys behind collegehumor.com sell to Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp.

[tags]design, business, inspiration, fashion, color, AIGA, salaries, links, digg, netscape, blue flavor, bbc, douglas coupland, 9/11, 911, writers, book tour, publishing, memoirs, mac os x, macosx, software, net neutrality, online predator, london, new york, nyc[/tags]

Amazonked! (or, the 2nd Edition Dilemma)

Amazon.com gets an enormous number of things right. And it gets them right years before competitors even think of them. Nearly everyone in web design or online sales, when tasked with innovating, simply copies from Amazon. Amazon can even do things traditional, brick-and-mortar stores can’t. For instance, Amazon can stock and profit from items almost nobody is interested in. But there’s one thing Amazon has trouble with: second editions.

Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition was listed at Amazon for nearly a year before the book was written; it could be found by clicking a mislabeled “used and new” link on the first edition’s Amazon page. As no information pertinent to the second edition was available at the time, the “second edition” page used first-edition imagery and text.

The second edition is now available at Amazon, but it is mostly filled with first-edition editorial text and first-edition reader reviews. Its star rating (the at-a-glance, impulse buyer’s decision-making tool) is likewise based on the first edition. Initially Amazon’s second-edition page also showed first-edition cover art, a first-edition table of contents, and a first-edition “look inside the book,” but those errors have been corrected. The other problems may never be corrected, not because Amazon is uninterested or unwilling, but because second editions pose a special problem to Amazon’s databases—and possibly also to its information design. But as it would be bad manners to highlight a problem without proposing a solution, I’ll do so two paragraphs from now.

The problem is not unique to DWWS2E. When Eric Meyer wrote Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2004), the “Editorial Review” on Amazon’s second edition sales page referred to the out-of-print first edition. Two and a half years later, it still does. Most reader reviews also refer to the first edition—so much so, that one reader felt compelled to preface his review by pointing out that he was writing about the book being sold on the page, not about a previous edition.

What should Amazon do?

Replacing first-edition publisher-supplied text with second-edition publisher-supplied text is an obvious place to start. The next right move is less clear, but I think we can find our way to it.

One possibility that initially seems right is probably wrong. Amazon’s DWWS2E page might say, “This book has not yet been reviewed” until a few reviews of the second edition have been written and approved. Likewise, the star rating might be kept blank until a few readers have rated the edition being sold. Yet to have no reviews and no star rating would be wrong in a different way, because a second edition is not a fledgling book taking its first baby steps into a possibly indifferent marketplace; it’s a successful book that has been updated.

A graduated migration is probably in order, and it could work in two phases. When a second edition initially becomes available, how readers felt about the first edition is worthwhile information, at least as a rough buyer’s guide. By this reasoning, when an old title debuts in a new edition, it’s okay to keep up the old reviews and old star ratings, as long as their connection to the earlier edition is clearly labeled.

The second phase follows immediately. Once new reviews and new star ratings trickle in, Amazon should dispense with the old reviews and old star ratings—or make them available on a page where the old edition is still sold, with a “What readers said about the previous edition” link. How many reviews and star ratings should Amazon collect before removing the old reviews and old star ratings? The directors at Amazon, who are brighter than me, and who have access to more data, can figure out that part.

[tags]amazon, publishing, marketing, writing, books, retail, long tail, dwws2e, web standards[/tags]

ALA 219: Automatic layouts and goodbye to <embed>

Two swell authors we’ve never had the pleasure of publishing before bring creative solutions to the 219th issue of A List Apart:

Automatic Magazine Layout

by Harvey Kane

Even if you (or your client) has talented designers on staff, they’ll rarely have time to resize and reposition the images that bring life to a web layout. You need photos laid out automatically, but you’d rather your page not look like it was designed by orangutans. Harvey Kane’s clever script will make your life easier (and your site more attractive).

Bye Bye Embed

by Elizabeth Castro

In the age of Google Video and YouTube, can you embed QuickTime video reliably across browsers without using the invalid EMBED element? Building on the pioneering work of Drew McLellan, Ian Hickson, and Lachlan Hunt, best-selling author Elizabeth Castro sets out to embed without EMBED.

About these authors

Mr Kane is a prolific writer and developer. Ms Castro is a superb author whose HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide has sold more than a million copies. The Sixth Edition(!) comes out next month.

[tags]a list apart, alistapart, web design, webdesign[/tags]

ALA 218: Beauty, behavior, and power

In a triple issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Prettier Accessible Forms

by Nick Rigby

Forms are a pain. Either you can make them pretty, make them accessible, or go a little crazy trying to achieve both. Nick Rigby offers a happy solution.

Behavioral Separation

by Jeremy Keith

Breaking up is hard to do. But in web design, separation can be a good thing. As Jeremy Keith explains, structure, presentation, and behavior all deserve their own space.

How to Plan Manpower on a Web Team

by Shane Diffily

Just how many people does it take to properly manage a website? It depends on the website. Author Shane Diffilly offers some suggestions on determining your site’s manpower needs.

[tags]a list apart, alistapart, web design, webdesign[/tags]

DWWS 2e Cover Preview

Today, with a couple of minor corrections not shown in the following sneak preview, we approved front and back cover art (PDF, 161 KB) for Designing With Web Standards, 2nd edition. And with that, the last bit o’ the book flew off to the press. Somewhere a bell bonged and an angel got his wings.

You may notice that the second edition’s cover is green, and may recall that the cover of the first edition was orange. Boy, was it ever orange. Boy, is the second edition ever green. Peachpit, editor Erin and I discussed all kinds of possible cover art makeovers, but in the end I decided to change only the color.

Actually in the beginning I decided to change only the color. Then I pretended to keep an open mind while alternatives were discussed—my favorite being the Dorian Gray notion that my photo would age while the rest of the cover stayed the same.

Writing this second edition showed me that when it comes to web standards, some things have changed and others haven’t.

Things change, things stay the same

Since I wrote the first edition, the community of standards-aware designers has mushroomed. Better best practices have emerged, replacing the second-best practices with which we launched the revolution. More designers, developers, and content people preach and practice accessibility, and more clients request it. You find semantic markup, unobtrusive scripting, and CSS layout where you never expected to find them, and increasingly you find them coupled with good design, good usability, and even (eek!) good writing.

Without much hoopla and with even less press, web standards are powering findability and the “Web 2.0” applications that have made the web hot again for investors and shallow journalists.

All this is new and most of it is good, yet too many sites are still inaccessible, and too many clients and bosses (not to mention too many designers), if they know about standards and accessibility at all, still have it dead wrong. It is for them, even more than for you, that I wrote this book.

Today someone asked how she could persuade a colleague to include accessibility and standards compliance in the requirements for a major site redesign. I can’t meet with every hostile boss and nay-sayer on the planet, gently persuading each of them to see the light. But I can talk to them through the quiet pages of DWWS 2e, if you would like me to.

The pitch

Save 37% off the cover price when you pre-order Designing With Web Standards, 2nd edition at Amazon. Please note that Amazon’s listing currently shows the wrong cover art, the wrong table of contents, and the wrong excerpts. Not to worry. It’s the right book (and Amazon will correct the error soon).

[tags]zeldman, dwws2e, webstandards, web standards, newriders, peachpit, designing with web standards[/tags]

Friends in Need

Joe Kral Needs Help
Type designer and Test Pilot Collective founder Joe Kral recently survived emergency surgery. Now his medical bills are killing him. (Like millions of Americans, Joe is uninsured.) Visit Joe Kral Needs Help to contribute, if you can — or buy one of Joe’s fonts from Veer.com. (Veer will send all revenue to Joe.)
Digital Web needs an editor
When I’m not reading A List Apart, I read Digital Web Magazine. It’s a wonderful and deep resource of information about web design and user experience. In the past few years it’s grown particularly wonderful, in large part thanks to Editor-in-Chief Krista Stevens‘s ability to recruit great thinkers and writers. Alas for Digital Web, Krista will step down at the end of 2006. If you have what it takes to replace her, Digital Web needs you.

A List Apart intern

Thanks to all who applied for the A List Apart internship. We now have more qualified candidates than we can hire, so we’ve stopped accepting letters and resumes. The chosen one will hear from us soon. If you are not chosen, don’t feel bad. Everyone who wrote in was great. Deciding between you is like choosing a favorite star.

A List Apart Magazine, “for people who make websites,” is looking for one good intern.

You will help Erin and Jeffrey cope with incoming, potential articles. You will be a gatekeeper, honest and true. You will see concepts weeks before the public sees them. You will know where the bodies are buried. You will work hard for no wages. You will love it. Your name will appear in the illustrious A List Apart credits. You will dine out on your new fame.

All this and more (hard work) awaits the chosen one. Will she or he be you? Please write and tell us a little about yourself and why you’d like to be an ALA intern. Include a resume (informal is fine) and a brief discussion of an ALA article you enjoyed, along with the reasons you enjoyed it and anything you’d change about it. Please also include your views on the hyphen and the serial comma.