23–24 June 2002
In Issue 146 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites: Time management theories come and go, and we’re glad when most of them leave. But this one caught our fancy. No charts, no grids, no five syllable words — just a simple idea that can help you get more done with less stress. New ALA contributing writer Jeremy Wright uncorks the Pickle Jar Theory of Time Management.
Stilleye offers scripts you can download and use on your own sites. Includes expanding menus, a pixelated text generator, and a fix for MSIE’s automatic margin bug.
Of late we’ve found ourselves bemusedly contemplating the abstract thoughts and equally abstract layouts of WebActivism.
SDG, a newly launched web agency, has taken WaSP’s challenge to heart, and will offer its clients only standards-compliant work. The agency’s corporate site complies with XHTML 1.0 Transitional, CSS, and the Section 508 guidelines, and is not a bad looker.
Recent essentials you may have missed: “Flash Player 6 & broken detection scripts” covers a problem on numerous Flash-based sites, where old browser detection scripts prevent visitors who’ve installed the Flash 6 player from viewing Flash content. “Dingbats instead of text” explores an MSIE problem in which text on web pages shows up as visual symbols instead of words.
21 June 2002 [3 pm | 2 pm | 1 pm | noon]
With chagrin and humility we deeply apologize to twothirty and skinnycorp for our ill-considered comments yesterday. The two sites may somewhat resemble 37signals, and certain elements of twothirty’s text do superficially remind one of 37signals’s sell copy, but those similarities do not make them ripoffs, and suggestions to that effect were out of line.
Many sites resemble each other, and there is only so much self-promotional text you can write without superficially sounding like someone else. Moreover, twothirty’s look and feel has evolved over several years. Discussing these two sites in the same paragraph as comically inept plagiarists like Greedmaster was wrong. We regret yesterday’s statements and will try to be more careful in the future.
Prematurely deboarding the cluetrain, NPR has instituted an anti-link policy. As unenforceable as it is absurd, the new policy smells like something that erupted from a highly-placed suit. NPR, NPR, NPR.
Readers keep asking us if we’ve seen this page, which combines cut-and-paste versions of the outdated outline to Curt Cloninger’s Fresh Styles For Web Designers with an equally outdated version of our Exit Gallery. Sure, we’ve seen it. Doesn’t bother us.
20 June 2002 [noon | 11 am | 8 am]
In the web business? Stuck for a layout? Steal 37signals’s! It’s clean and businesslike and will make you look like the pros you truly are. Unsure what to say about your company? Steal 37signals’s text! If it works for 37signals, it will work for you, too! While you’re at it, steal some Flash navigation from a fancy design site and slap it in a frame at the top. That will show off your versatility.
All done? Great! Now, all you need is a name for your company. Hmm. Names are hard. It should be impactful yet subtle. How about Greedmaster? Yeah, that ought to do it. Congratulations, you’re in business! May you get all the success that’s coming to you.
Wow, that didn’t take long. Greedmaster’s site has closed. Well, not completely. You can still view the ripoff on this index page, though no doubt it too will go offline eventually. This parody site confirms 37signals’s proud position as most-plagiarized flavor of the past few months.
Responding to yesterday’s Report, numerous readers pointed out that in recent versions of Mac OS X, users can selectively disable Quartz antialiasing at small font sizes. Alas, such disabling has no effect on browsers like Mozilla and Chimera that use a combination of Quartz and QuickDraw instead of pure Quartz. And Quartz rendering itself remains problematic. Details are available.
Matt McIrvin sent us a doctoral dissertation on the history of Quartz. Highlights: OS X Quartz preserves character shapes at the expense of sharpness and darkness, while ignoring hinting and altering font metrics. Translation: text is blurry and lighter than it ought to be: grey where it should be black. Letters render at incorrect or at least unexpected widths. Text looks swell on first glance—for instance, in the computer store—but not so great when you actually try to read it. In a subsequent version of OS X, Apple introduces a preference to turn off Quartz font smoothing at small sizes, as in OS 9. Some OS X applications use Quartz, others use QuickDraw. Both technologies allow users to turn off smoothing below a chosen size.
In an upgrade (OS X 10.1.5), Apple debuts a bridge technology that enables QuickDraw to use parts of Quartz. This combination technology drives everything from the Mozilla “Silk” patch and the new version of Chimera to the latest revision of Microsoft Office. In these applications, font smoothing is on at all sizes, regardless of user preferences. Smoothing throws off spacing, adversely affecting web layouts. Quartz font metrics mess up the rendering of Type 1 fonts. There are additional problems and trade-offs—enough to fill a book—but these are the highlights.
Until these bugs are fixed, Mac OS X users will have a tough time reading many sites, and Mac OS X-based designers will not see what most of their users see, leading them to make choices that may not work for many of their readers. We love Apple and have high hopes for OS X. Once these problems are ironed out, we have no doubt that other OS makers will imitate Apple’s pioneering efforts. But for now, we’ll continue to use OS 9.
On a related note, readers have informed us of two problems in IE5 for Mac OS X. Repeatedly clicking our DOM-driven show/hide links causes this site’s content area to widen beyond the designed width. Repeatedly changing style sheets via the “Skin” buttons in our Jakob Nielsen corner does likewise. We don’t know why any reader would repeatedly swap skins or show and hide content, but bugs are bugs, and these have been reported to Microsoft.
19 June 2002 [4 pm | 10 am]
Need work? Live in New York City? The New York Public Library’s Digital Library Division is looking to hire a senior web developer and a technical project manager. Both jobs require significant experience and a desire to work for The New York Public Library. Pay won’t be as high as what you might have made during the dot-com boom, but what is?
Apologies for yesterday’s silence here. We’ve been working our hairy potatoes off. Updates to A List Apart Magazine have likewise fallen behind schedule. There’s plenty of stuff in the pipe, but we haven’t found time to produce it yet.
Five2One’s Daniel J. Cody comments on a continuing trend in which independent content sites beg their readers for money. The site in this case is Kuro5hin, which is asking its fans to cough up $20 US. Cody does not approve. The tin cup doesn’t bug us, but we’d pay cash money if we could pronounce the site’s name without fear of social embarrassment.
Todd Dominey bemoans the supposedly improved text rendering in OS X 10.1.5 and Mozilla 1.1a, which now antialiases all web text via the Quartz graphics engine. Our sentiments exactly.
At 12px and above, high quality antialiasing greatly improves the appearance and readability of onscreen text. Below 12px, it has the opposite effect, particularly on faces designed for the screen, such as Georgia, Verdana, and Geneva. Georgia and other serif faces fare far worse than the sans-serifs.
Apple used to know this. In OS 8 and 9, antialiasing is switched off below 12px. (In OS X you can switch off antialising at small sizes, but Mozilla and Chimera will continue to antialias small text anyway, due to a bug in the new “combination” version of Quartz and QuickDraw.) We hear that Mozilla’s engineers are now working to improve kerning and other spacing issues caused by the interaction between Mozilla’s “silk” engine and Apple’s Quartz.
17 June 2002 [5 pm | 1 pm | 9 am | 8 am]
We’d like a filing cabinet, and please make it lean ... sideways! Oh, and could you give it a nonsensical URL and make the image twice as big as it appears on the page? We’re breaking in a new high-speed connection, and bandwidth is no object.
You’ve just seen what can happen when the client takes over his site’s maintenance. How can you protect the sites you design? Train your clients, create a style guide, and ask Jesus for help. Our thanks to Lou Brothers for unearthing this wreck.
In a surprisingly engaging exchange of ideas, Pixelsurgeon, known for their graphics, interviews Jakob Nielsen, known for “using almost no graphics” on his personal site, and also, of course, known as a highly vocal critic of web design—especially of the kind practiced by Pixelsurgeon. Worth reading. Also this week, Pixelsurgeon chats with Todd Purgason, creative director of multiple award-winning Juxt Interactive, influential visual designer, and outspoken critic of ... Jakob Nielsen.
Need maps for your web or print projects? Map Resources has over 1,000 royalty-free, fully editable, multi-layered maps in Illustrator format, available for immediate downloading. Use them to create Flash or SVG presentations, as well as more conventional raster web images (gif, jpeg).
Prolific has posted some charmingly nostalgic childhood snapshots along with a diary entry about growing up international.
Long-running indie literary ’zine afterDinner has redesigned and is now calling itself “afterDinner: for Readers.” The site no longer looks or feels like the web version of a traditional print magazine. Instead it resembles a news blog. A parallel afterDinner: for Writers offers immediate feedback for writers seeking critiques. Online in one form or another since 1 April 1997, the not-for-profit site is designed and published by Alexis Massie.
Nice redesign at Fairvue Central, plus notes on the disappearance of numerous personal sites.
Carrie Bickner, co-author of the NYPL Online Style Guide, has up and quit her job as Web Coordinator for The Branch Libraries of The New York Public Library. As of today, Carrie’s business card will read: Assistant Director of Digital Information and System Design for The Digital Libraries of The New York Public Library. Congrats on the new job, hon. Carrie will also be speaking at Web Design World 2002, Seattle.
15 June 2002 [6 am]
iStockphoto, New Riders, and Zeldman present the iStockphoto T-Shirt Design Contest. Win a Holga medium format camera, gift packs, T-shirts, and an autographed copy of a (cough) somewhat interesting book.
14 June 2002 [6 pm | 3 pm | 10 am]
A new Happy Cog IDENTITY page discusses “finding the heart of the site,” a phrase that will be familiar to readers of Taking Your Talent to the Web. Download Chapter 3 (PDF) for more on this notion.
Bookmark this: CSS: A Guide for the Unglued by Owen Briggs of The Web Standards Project. “This is not a complete resource, this is a fast resource. These are the sites that I refer to first, and that I tell people to read. When you want more, just about all of them have their own links to good sites.”
Happy belated sixth anniversary to Jezebel, a Heather Champ site. Belated birthday greetings to Josh Davis, open source Flash dadaist and bon vivant. Belated greets too to Netscape Navigator 4, whose fifth birthday coincided with The Web Standards Project’s relaunch. Two out of three ain’t bad.
10 June 2002 [10 pm | 10 am]
In “Browsing Around For New Targets,” Wired News breaks the story of The WaSP’s relaunch, scheduled for Tuesday 11 June 2002, and discusses the group’s focus on developer education as the passport to delivering the true power of web standards.
Now that browser makers have heeded the call of web standards, their long-delayed promise can finally come true — if designers and developers understand and use web standards. To help our peers in the community do just that, The WaSP will relaunch tomorrow.
Andy King’s Webreference.com newsletter previews the relaunch from a personal (and personnel) point of view, corrects a small error in Wired’s coverage, and includes a brief interview about what you can expect from the relaunched WaSP site, including its new LEARN section helmed by Shirley Kaiser and Molly E. Holzschlag. Andy and WebReference have long supported web standards. Thanks, Andy!
In today’s Meyerweb, CSS expert and Netscape standards evangelist Eric Meyer responds to the anonymous developer comment that ends the Wired News article on the WaSP relaunch.
To the developer’s question, “Do you know how much I get paid” for knowing how to code the same web page seventeen different (and incompatible) ways, Eric responds:
“Yep. And can you imagine how much more you’d be paid if you knew how to code to standards, thus delivering a superior product with outstanding delivery capabilities? Not to mention what kind of reputation you’d build up for doing so, and how much more you could charge then?” (More at Meyerweb.)
Method Studios is an effects house specializing in digital imagery for films, commercials, and music videos like Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird.” Not that we’re pimping Method. We’ve just always dug that video. (Requires Quicktime player.)
7 June 2002 [9 am | 7 am]
Congratulations to The Mirror Project on its first anniversary. The community site designed and conceived by Heather Champ now brags over 7,000 contributions, and has changed the way many of us think about chromium toasters, rear-view mirrors, and similarly reflective surfaces.
Walking down a dangerous street at night, a man reassures himself by whistling.
In an interview conducted by Meryl Evans, Molly Holzschlag of The Web Standards Project and Bruce Lawson of Glasshaus discuss usable design as an interative process, and the importance of knowing—and designing for—your audience.
Nine years ago today, shaking and sweating, a man who thought his life was over shuffled into a dank room filled with folding chairs and laughing people and surrendered.
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