10 May 2004 2 pm est | updated 11 May, 11 am est

In today’s Report:
Blog This
Now anyone, at virtually any experience level, can own and manage an attractive and standards-compliant personal site.

Blog This

Now anyone, at virtually any experience level, can own and manage an attractive and standards-compliant personal site.

Yesterday, Blogger, the self-publishing service that launched a thousand weblogs, reinvented itself. The new version is more competitive with Movable Type and other high-end blogging packages on the “features” level, while striving to be easier for novices to use than any other web publishing software.

New in this version: good-looking, standards-compliant (XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS layout) templates created by some familiar names from the world of standards-based design. Plug, play, and go.

Who, what, where

Adaptive Path consulted on ease of use issues and site flow. You can practically smell Jeff Veen and his Adaptive Path colleagues in Blogger.com’s smart, info-driven architecture.

Doug (Stopdesign) Bowman redesigned Blogger.com and supervised the creation of user templates. In addition to his own designs, Bowman secured the services of Dan Cederholm, Todd Dominey, Dan Rubin, Dave Shea, and yours truly. Zeldman/Happy Cog designed three templates for the project: Mr Moto, Ms Moto, and Son of Moto.

(To see them or any of the new templates, you must create an account. Like all the designers, I wish we could simply link directly to the templates, but Google rightfully wishes to avoid tempting the ethically challenged. Actually, there is a way to link directly to the templates, but we respect the wishes of Google and Pyra. Update: With Google’s blessing, you can view the templates without creating an account, via Penmachine or Phil.)

Creative challenge

The creative challenge was to come up with a distinctive look and feel that was not driven by brand attributes. This is harder than it sounds. Most designs spring from the soil of the brand. You design one way for a “fun, easy” brand, and quite another way for a brand that wishes to position itself as cutting-edge, for example. But the Blogger templates had to be flexible enough to appeal to almost any writer, writing in almost any style, on almost any topic.

Largely, then, the project became an exercise in Style.

Bottom line (news value)

Your Aunt Maureen, my uncle George, and your cousin who is “afraid of ‘the computer’”—pretty much anybody—can now have a professionally designed weblog built with semantic markup and torture-tested style sheets.

Other views

8 May 2004 weekend edition

In today’s Report:
What is Art Direction?
Stephen Hay tackles the question in this week’s A List Apart. This week’s New Yorker shows how art direction provides a framework for understanding written content.
Contrast-o-meter and other adjustments
The zeldman.com redesign continues, with a new feature for laptop users and other adjustments.
Yet Another Fine Job Opportunity
IconNicholson seeks client-side developer.

What is Art Direction?

In this week’s issue of A List Apart, for People Who Make Websites, Cinnamon Interactive’s Stephen Hay introduces the principles and techniques of the art director, and shows how art directional concepts can shape memorable user experiences.

For another insight into the meaning and power of art direction, look no further than the cover illustration of this week’s New Yorker Magazine. (Note: The cover illustration is apparently no longer available, as The New Yorker rotates its online covers each week by assigning the same name to an ever-changing parade of JPEG images. So. What was it? It was oil wells against a black night sky, spurting red — presumably, blood instead of oil. It had great impact when viewed, but may sound silly and ineffective when described in words.)

This New Yorker issue contains Seymour Hersch’s story on the torture of Iraqui prisoners at the hands of American soldiers in Abu Ghrai. The cover art prepares the reader for the horror within by bringing visual life to an anti-war cliche. It is as if Francis Bacon were painting an image out of Stephen King. To put it mildly, this is not your typical (arch, detached, bemused) New Yorker cover. The shock of the image tells you, before you even open the magazine, that something new and terrible is contained in its pages.

That is art direction. At its best, it makes you feel—and think.

This week’s ALA went to press later than normal. We (the editorial and production staff) debated even running an issue at the end of a week in which hope seemed almost extinguished. Conducting business as usual seemed wrong. In the end, we met our weekly deadline because readers were counting on us. And because that is what we all do. We go on.

Remaining entries in today’s Report should be viewed in this same light of resisting absurdity and despair.

Contrast-o-meter and other adjustments

A few laptop users reported that the redesigned zeldman.com was hard to read on their low-contrast screens. The new contrast-o-meter should help. I planned to offer this little feature before relaunching, but you know what they say about launches and plans. In any case, it is here now.

The book mini-site is finished, too, and there is also a front page image rotation script courtesy of Dan Benjamin (article, latest version).

—Or would be, except that I’m going for that whole “untitled movie still” feeling, and the image at the top of this page captures it better than anything else I’ve come up with. So for now, one image, no rotation.

Yet Another Fine Job Opportunity

New York IT services firm IconNicholson, whose clients include EMI Music Publishing, L’Oreal, Motorola, Prada, MoMA, and The Met, is looking for a client-side developer:

Applicants must be comfortable in a team setting, as well as interacting and brainstorming with designers and art directors. Strong XHTML/CSS skills are required, but familiarity with “traditional” tables-based markup is also needed (to service legacy clients and sites). Experience working with ASP, JSP and other server-side languages is preferred. Basic Photoshop skills are a must, as is an awareness of cross-browser and -client compatability.

Send resume and sample URLs to jobs@iconnicholson.com.

Previously in The Daily Report...

Design opportunity: Free the Slaves
Better design for a better world.
Campbell-Ewald wants you
Work in the standards-friendly digital division of the ad agency that produced Elmore Leonard.