Minneapolis Remembered

Eric Meyer at An Event Apart Minneapolis - photo by Jared Mehle

The show’s over but the photos linger on. An Event Apart Minneapolis was two days of nonstop brilliance and inspiration. In an environment more than one attendee likened to a “TED of web design,” a dozen of the most exciting speakers and visionaries in our industry explained why this moment in web design is like no other.

If you were there, relive the memories; if you couldn’t attend, steal a glance at some of what you missed: An Event Apart Minneapolis: the photo pool at Flickr.

Next up: An Event Apart DC and San Diego. These shows will not be streamed, simulcast, or repackaged in DVD format. To experience them, you must attend. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and every show this year has sold out. Forewarned is forearmed; we’d love to turn you on.


Photo: Jared Mehle.

HTML5 For Web Designers Sells Out

HTML5 For Web Designers, by Jeremy Keith

The first printing of Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers has sold out.

For a book about web forms, semantics, and the history of markup, it’s done pretty well:

  • The book sold 1,000 copies during the first hour of pre-sales.
  • It sold 5,000 copies during the first 24 hours of pre-sales.
  • The first printing sold out within two months.

Haven’t ordered yours yet, and now they’re sold out? Not to worry: a second printing is in the works; orders will ship the week of July 26.

So where’s my book, already?

We ship worldwide. Orders generally ship within 3 days and take 7–10 days to arrive. Some orders take longer, typically because of hold-ups at your local post office, over which we have no control. (Intriguingly, foreign orders shipped quickly, in many cases arriving much sooner than US orders.) We have expedited all remaining shipments to get you your book faster.

We ship via US Postal Service, so no tracking numbers are available.

If you ordered before June 30 and still have not received your order, please be patient a few more days, and thank you for bearing with our learning curve. We know a lot about web design, but we’re still getting the hang of interpreting what mail houses and the US Postal Service mean by “guaranteed fast shipping.”

If you need to speak to someone about your order, write to us.

I want an ebook, not a dead tree! What gives?

Stay tuned; we’re working on ebook versions. Follow @abookapart to learn when they’re released.

CSS3: Love vendor prefixes, resize full-screen backgrounds

A List Apart Issue No. 309. Illustration by Kevin Cornell.

Learn to love vendor prefixes and create full-screen backgrounds that resize to fit the viewport in Issue No. 309 of A List Apart for people who make websites:

Prefix or Posthack

by ERIC MEYER

Vendor prefixes: Threat or menace? As browser support (including in IE9) encourages more of us to dive into CSS3, vendor prefixes such as -moz-border-radius and -webkit-animation may challenge our consciences, along with our patience. But while nobody particularly enjoys writing the same thing four or five times in a row, prefixes may actually accelerate the advancement and refinement of CSS. King of CSS Eric Meyer explains why.

Supersize that Background, Please!

by BOBBY VAN DER SLUIS

Background images that fill the screen thrill marketers but waste bandwidth in devices with small viewports, and suffer from cropping and alignment problems in high-res and widescreen monitors. Instead of using a single fixed background size, a better solution would be to scale the image to make it fit different window sizes. And with CSS3 backgrounds and CSS3 media queries, we can do just that. Bobby van der Sluis shows how.

Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart Magazine.

An InDesign for HTML and CSS?

In “CSS is the new Photoshop” (?), Adobe’s John Nack correctly observes, as have many of us, that “Cascading Style Sheets can create a great deal of artwork now, without reliance on bitmap graphics.” Nack quotes Shawn Blanc, one of several concurrent authors of the phrase “CSS is the new Photoshop,” who cites as evidence Louis Harboe’s iOS icons and Jeff Batterton’s iPhone, both designed entirely in CSS and both only viewable in the latest Webkit browsers, Safari 5 and Google Chrome 5.

He’s not alone: Håkon Wium Lie from Opera predicts that CSS3 could eliminate half the images used on the Web. You can use various graphical tools to generate things like CSS gradients and rounded corners. As people can do more and more in code, it makes sense to ask whether even to use Photoshop in designing Web content.

I think Adobe should be freaking out a bit, but in a constructive way.

So far, so good. But Nack’s “constructive” suggestion for Adobe, quoting Michael Slade, is to create “the modern day equivalent of Illustrator and PageMaker for CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript.”

Nack acknowledges that this will be difficult. I propose that it will be impossible. Says Nack:

As I noted the other day, “Almost no one would look inside, say, an EPS file and harrumph, ‘Well, that’s not how I’d write PostScript’–but they absolutely do that with HTML.”

Well, there is a reason they absolutely do that with HTML. PostScript is a programming language designed to describe page layouts and text shapes in a world of known, fixed dimensions (the world of print), with no underlying semantics. PostScript doesn’t care whether an element is a paragraph, a headline, or a list item. It doesn’t care if a bit of content on one page cites another bit of content on a different page. PostScript is a visual plotting language. And HTML is anything but.

HTML is a language with roots in library science. It doesn’t know or care what content looks like. (Even HTML5 doesn’t care what content looks like.) Neither a tool like Photoshop, which is all about pixels, nor a tool like Illustrator, which is all about vectors, can generate semantic HTML, because the visual and the semantic are two different things.

Moreover, authoring good HTML and CSS is an art, just as authoring good poetry or designing beautiful comps in Photoshop is an art. Expecting Photoshop to write the kind of markup and CSS you and I write at our best is like challenging TextMate to convert semantic HTML into a visually appropriate and aesthetically pleasing layout. Certain kinds of human creativity and expertise cannot be reproduced by machines. Yes, there are machines that create music, and a composer like Brian Eno can program such systems to create somewhat interesting aural landscapes, but such music can never be the Eroica or “This Land is Your Land,” because there is no algorithm with the creative and life experience of Beethoven or Woody Guthrie.

Adobe already has a fine product in the code arena. Some hand coders knock Dreamweaver, but it does about as good a job as is possible of converting groupings of meaningless pixels into chunks of valid code. It is unreasonable to expect more than that from a tool that begins by importing a multi-layered Photoshop comp. Of course you can do much more with Dreamweaver if you use its code merely as a starting point, or if you use it simply as a hand-coding environment. But that’s the point. Some things, to be done right, must be done by the human mind.

There’s something to what Nack says. Photoshop could be made friendlier to serious web designers. Adobe could also stop ignoring Fireworks, as Fireworks is a better starting place for web design. They might even interview serious, standards-oriented web designers and start from scratch, as a new tool will suffer from fewer political constraints and user expectations than a beloved existing product with deep features and multiple audiences.

But while our current tools can certainly stand improvement, no company will ever create “the modern day equivalent of Illustrator and PageMaker for CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript.” The very assumption that a such thing is possible suggests a lack of understanding of the professionalism, wisdom, and experience required to create good HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Fortunately, a better understanding is easy to come by.

SlideShowPro adds HTML5

Todd Dominey at Happy Cog.

Most of us web folk are hybrids of one sort or another, but Todd Dominey was one of the first web designers to combine exceptional graphic design talent with serious mastery of code.

Being so good at both design and development that you could easily earn a fine living doing just one of them is still rare, although it looks like the future of our profession. One of the first serious designers to embrace web standards, Todd was also one of the few who did so while continuing to achieve recognition for his work in Flash. (Daniel Mall, who came later, is another.)

Finally, Todd was one of the first—along with 37signals and Coudal Partners—to abandon an enviably successful client services career in favor of full-time product development, inspiring a generation to do likewise, and helping bring us to our current world of web apps and startups.

A personal project that became an empire

In Todd’s case, the product was SlideShowPro, a project he designed for himself, which has grown to become the web’s most popular photo and video slideshow and gallery viewer. When you visit a photographer’s portfolio website, there’s an excellent chance that SlideShowPro powers its dynamic photo viewing experience. The same is true for the photo and video gallery features of many major newspaper and magazine sites, quite possibly including your favorites.

SlideShowPro

But deliberate lack of Flash support in the iPad and iPhone, while lauded here on February 1, 2010 as a win for accessible, standards-based design (“Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first”), presented a serious problem for developers who use SlideShowPro and readers who enjoy browsing dynamic photo and video galleries.

Mr Dominey has now solved that problem:

SlideShowPro Mobile is an entirely new media player built using HTML5 that doesn’t require the Flash Player plugin and can serve as a fallback for users accessing your web sites using these devices. But it’s not just any fallback — it’s specially designed for touch interfaces and smaller screen sizes. So it looks nothing like the SlideShowPro player and more like a native application that’s intuitive, easy to use, and just feels right.

The best part though is that because SlideShowPro Director (which will be required) publishes the mobile content, you’ll be able to provide the mobile alternative by simply updating the Flash Player embed code in your HTML documents. And just like when using the SlideShowPro player, because Director is behind the scenes, all your photos will be published for the target dimensions of these devices — which gives your users top quality, first generation images. The mobile player will automatically load whatever content is assigned to the Flash version, so the same content will be accessible to any browser accessing your web site.

A public beta will be released in the next weeks. Meanwhile, there is a video demo. There’s also an excellent Question and Answer page that answers questions you may have, whether you’re a SlideShow Pro customer or not. For instance:

Why mobile? Why not desktop?

We believe that (on the desktop) Flash is still the best delivery method for photo/video galleries and slideshows for it provides the most consistent user experience across all browsers and the broadest range of playback and customization options. As HTML5 support matures across all desktop browsers, we’ll continue to look into alternate presentation options.

Into the future!

Responsive design is the new black

Collylogic.com, retooled as responsive design. The wide version.

The blog of Mr Simon Collison, retooled as responsive web design. The wide version.

Collylogic.com, retooled as responsive design. The narrow version.

The blog of Mr Simon Collison, retooled as responsive web design. The narrow version.

See more versions in Mr Collison’s “Media Query Layouts” set on Flickr.

Read the article that started it all. Coming soon as a book by Mr Ethan Marcotte from A Book Apart. (The current A Book Apart book, Mr Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers, ships Friday. Mr Ethan Marcotte will be our guest this Thursday, June 24, on The Big Web Show. Synchronicity. It’s not just an LP by The Police. Kids, ask your parents.)

The beauty of responsive web design becomes obvious when you see your site in smart phones, tablets, and widescreen desktop browsers. It’s as if your site was redesigned to perfectly fit that specific environment. And yet there is but one actual design—a somewhat plastic design, if you will. An extensible design, if you prefer. It’s what some of us were going for with “liquid” web design back in the 1990s, only it doesn’t suck. Powered by CSS media queries, it’s the resurrection of a Dao of Web Design and a spiffy new best practice. All the kids are doing it.

Well, anyway, some of the cool ones are. See also the newly retooled-per-responsive-design Journal by Mr Hicks. Hat tip: Mr Stocks. I obviously have some work to do on this site. And you may on yours.

Seen any good responsive redesigns lately?


Fink on Web Fonts

In Issue 307 of A List Apart for people who make websites:

Web Fonts at the Crossing

by Richard Fink

Everything you wanted to know about web fonts but were afraid to ask. Richard Fink summarizes the latest news in web fonts, examining formats, rules, licenses, and tools. He creates a checklist for evaluating font hosting and obfuscation services like Typekit; looks at what’s coming down the road (from problems of advanced typography being pursued by the CSS3 Fonts Module group, to the implications of Google-hosted fonts); and wraps up with a how-to on making web fonts work today.

A List Apart: Web Fonts at the Crossing


Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart


Web Standards, 1452–2011

DOCTYPE HTML. Screenshot from an upcoming presentation on web standards.

And I’m off on a mini road trip to Penn State and its annual web conference, where I’ll be honored to deliver the opening keynote on standards-based web design, from 1452 to the present.

The Penn State Web 2010 Conference (@PSUWebConf) takes place Monday and Tuesday, June 7 and 8, 2010 at the Penn Stater Conference Center. Patti Fantaske is chair. The conference is for all who manage, write, edit, design, program, or administer websites or web content at university offices, departments, colleges, and campuses.