A List Apart 209
In A List Apart’s year-end issue, Brian Crescimanno provides an extensive yet compact checklist of ways to make your site’s forms usable. And Molly E. Holzschlag stokes the flames of creativity (or of productive argument) by advising web designers to think outside the grid. The issue also features outstanding illustration work by Kevin Cornell and Jason Santa Maria.
Thanks for making ALA 4.0 great: Erin Kissane (editor), Dan Benjamin (system developer), Eric A. Meyer (CSS genius), Aaron Gustafson (production editor), Erin Lynch (assistant editor), and Damon Clinksales (data migration director). Thanks also to the people of TextDrive for hosting above and beyond. Thanks most of all to all of you for reading, bookmarking, debating, and in other ways contributing to A List Apart. Love on ya.
Style vs. Design
With our blessing, the newly launched Adobe Motion Design Center has resurrected our famous article, “Style vs. Design,” originally published in 2000. A few words and references have changed to bring the piece “up to date,” but it is essentially the same article it was five years ago.
First published when web design, buoyed by dot-com dollars, was at its most self-indulgent, the article dared to suggest ...
- That trendy elements are not the same as design
- That design is communication
- That most web design is meant to be used
- That most web design should therefore be usable
It still makes these points and they are still true.
The good news is that in the five years since the article was new, responsible web design has emerged as a practice. And it is being practiced by many people who are first and foremost designers.
The bad news is that college and university design curricula are still mostly about everything but information architecture, usability, application design, user-focused design, accessibility, and web standards.
Roadside link jamboree
While I’m wrapping Web Design World Boston, here are some links for your pleasure:
- In Search of a Perfect Plug-in Technique
- First we had Flash embedding the automated way. It worked in all browsers but it didn’t validate. Then came Flash Satay and UFO, FlashObject and Hixie’s nested objects. Which techniques are most accessible and most reliable? Macromedia accessibility expert and occasional A List Apart author Andrew Kirkpatrick checked them all out and drew conclusions worth reading.
- gotomobile: the mobile usability and UX blog
- In the U.S. a mobile phone is a cell phone for making phone calls. In the rest of the world it’s a rich two-way media device. Starting a year ago, renowned designer Kelly Goto began travelling the world researching how handhelds are used today and discovering the emerging principles of ubiquitous computing. Kelly, who is here lecturing at Web Design World, maintains this mobile usability and user experience blog, to which she posts from her handheld camera/phone/whatever.
- Seed Magazine
- This beautiful and well-written periodical explores the changing role of science in our global culture. New York’s own Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh created the clean, elegant, and playful site design (check out the little colored seedlings at the top left).
- Got big files to share? Files so big you can’t email them? Files too big even for Basecamp hosting and posting? DropSend has you covered. This fresh-off-the-vine web application by Ryan Carson takes ease of use to a new level, working well and simply as advertised. I use it. Try it, you’ll like it.
- Folksonomy is such a lonely word
- In this New York Times Magazine feature, Daniel H. Pink explains folksonomies to the non-digerati. As most people reading this page know, “folksonomy” is IA Thomas Vander Wal’s 2004 coinage for the tag-powered, communal taxonomies that are not merely changing how websites and web products are structured but how information is perceived and categorized all over.
- Greg Storey portfolio
- I’ve always thought Greg Storey was a heck of a designer. Now you can more easily see for yourself just how good he is.
- Oh, the Plazes you’ll go!
- Plazes (beta) is a spanking new web app offering a “grassroot approach to location-aware interaction, using the local network you are connected to as location reference. Plazes allows you to share you location with the people you know and to discover people and plazes around you. It’s the navigation system for your social life and it’s absolutely free.” I’m using it right now and it is cool.
An Event Apart Philadelphia Postpartum
I returned from An Event Apart Philadelphia with a head full of ideas, inspiration, and snot. Walking the snowy Franklin Parkway at 5:30 am after not sleeping for two nights in a row can give you a heck of a head cold. (It wasn’t nervousness about the show that kept me from sleeping; it was my fourteen-month-old’s nighttime restlessness. Will I take the kid on another business trip? You bet.) Mostly I came home happy to have pulled off our first travelling road show and pleased that it seemed to please most who attended.
Attendees came from as far away as Tokyo and London. There were plenty of locals, too. Philadelphia has a tight and engaged design community — you could see it and feel it.
There were problems. We were promised WI-FI for 150 people and barely had bandwidth for half that many. Some seats were more comfortable than others.
But most of the surprises were pleasant. Every attendee got a free book from New Riders—titles by Dan Cederholm, Hillman Curtis, Steve Krug, Marty Neumeier, Jakob Nielsen, Eric Meyer, and yours truly. Twenty people got free web hosting for a year courtesy of Media Temple. AIGA gave away posters, Pixelworthy gave away drinks. The event would not have been half so good without the caring support of these fine sponsors.
Jon Aldinger, Daniel Mall, Peter Santa Maria, and Rob Weychert provided invaluable ground support on the day of the show and the day before. Filmmaker Ian Corey videotaped the whole day for secret purposes that may be revealed at a later date.
The Philadelphia Standards Organization, blogging live, published the day’s schedule, to which we mostly adhered. In future posts here or at aneventapart.com I may talk more about what we covered and why. For now, I'll defer to my co-host Eric Meyer, our special guest Jason Santa Maria, and various lovely people who came to the show:
- Mr Meyer’s thoughts
- More of Mr Meyer’s thoughts
- Mr Santa Maria’s thoughts
- Flickr Event Apart photo pool (Flickr! beta is a Yahoo! product)
- AEA blog posts from all over (Del.icio.us! beta is a Yahoo! product as of today)
- AEA Technorati (Technorati has no exclamation point and is not yet a Yahoo! product but the day is young)
No rest for the wicked
I am now at Web Design World, Boston; tomorrow I’ll keynote on web standards and do a session on the radically under-covered subject of writing as interface design. See some of you here and the rest when I return.
A List Apart 208
In Issue No. 208 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we focus on simplicity, both in practice and theory.
- Printing a Book with CSS: Boom!
- Bert and Håkon gave the world CSS. Now they give us another use for it. Namely, controlling real-world printing jobs. Call it a microformat. An innovation. A heresy. The authors call it “boom!”
- Power to the People
- Your dad doesn’t care about AJAX, Mr Robinson discovers.
More Event Apart AIGA podcasts, Mom!
AIGA, the professional association for design, presents “Talking with Jason Santa Maria: An Event Apart, #04” and “Talking with Zeldman: An Event Apart, #03.”
Each week leading up to An Event Apart Philadelphia, AIGA talks with founders and guest artists about what attendees can expect from the conference. Subscribe to AIGA’s Podcast Directory RSS feed to stay abreast.
This week, AIGA’s Liz Danzico talks with Jason Santa Maria about being An Event Apart’s first guest speaker, his involvement with the first critiques, and upcoming plans for Stan, his virtual persona.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group has released Working Drafts of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and HTML Techniques for WCAG 2.0 and a First Public Working Draft of Understanding WCAG 2.0. Following WCAG makes Web content more accessible to the vast majority of users, including people with disabilities and older users, using many different devices including a wide variety of assistive technology.
When finished, WCAG 2.0 will clarify what was vague in previous Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines. It will also come with developer-friendly techniques and glosses, making accessibility easier to understand, and accessible markup easier to build into the sites we create.
At the conference here in Gijón I have spent days with some of the leaders of this WAI and WCAG 2.0 activity. What they are doing has the potential to help all web users and all of us who serve them.
- To Spain! To Spain!
- Tomorrow his family and your humble narrator fly away for seven days in beautiful Gijón, Asturias, Spain, where it will apparently rain all week and where your present host will address the W3C on the subject of standards-based design.
- Wish you were there
- The New York Public Library is hosting incredible live events. Last month, we watched John Hope Franklin and William Jefferson Clinton discuss race in America. Last night, in “The Battle Over Books,” Google’s David Drummond and an all-brain cast led by Lawrence Lessig and Allan Adler vigorously debated the Google Print Library Project (or as it was renamed yesterday, Google Book Search). My brain is still on fire. If you live in the New York City area or will visit soon, join the mailing list for your chance to attend one or more of these fascinating public programs.
- Dead Can Play
- Jon Noring of Sound Preserve writes:
The Department of Special Collections at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Davidson Library recently placed online, with free access, over 5,000 sound recordings as part of its Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. The recordings date from the 1890s to the 1920s and were transferred from Edison cylinders using state-of-the-art equipment. Besides MP3 and streaming audio, the raw transfers are also available for DIYers to try their own hand at audio restoration.
- Rebooty Call
- Each year May 1st Reboot invites designers around the world to rethink, re-skin, and rekindle their websites. The 2006 Reboot is now accepting sign-ups. As he did last year, creative director Paul A. Szypula is organizing the global digital event. Shake your Rebooty!
AIGA/AEA Podcast II: a Man called Meyer
AIGA, the professional association for design, presents “Talking With Eric Meyer: An Event Apart Podcast #02.”
This week, AIGA’s Liz Danzico and An Event Apart’s Eric Meyer discuss the comparison between code and chisels, and why designers need to care about what’s under the hood.
It’s eight minutes and 16 seconds of pure design geek joy. Happy listening!
Talk is free, fonts are cheap, and it’s time to refresh your stock (icon) portfolio in today’s Report.
On beyond podcast
AIGA, the professional association for design, kicks off a weekly series of Event Apart-themed interviews with podcast the first, in which AIGA’s Liz Danzico drills your humble narrator on the whos, what, whens, and whys of our upcoming conference. Tune in next week for podcast the second, featuring a man called Meyer.
For the type nerd on your Kwanza list
Indie Fonts, a fantastic showing of 2000 faces from the likes of Chank, Garage Fonts, Test Pilot Collective, and 15 other hot indie foundries (plus 33 fonts on CD) is normally a steal at US $39.95. But if you buy by 14 November it's available at the ridiculously cheap price of US $19.95.
But wait, there’s more. For $40 you can get Indie Fonts 1 and Indie Fonts 2, featuring work by Mark Simonson Studio, Jukebox, Atomic Media, and many more. Ho, ho, ho!
The corporate world can be ugly. But it just got prettier with 52 finance and commerce icons covering capitalist concepts like transactions, credit, and interest. Newly available from Stockicons at a CFO-friendly US $179 are two add-on sets: Harmony and Contour.
Stockicon sets are designed to be used in commercial works, software projects, and websites, and are brought to you by The Iconfactory.
I feel pretty
Another lecture season kicks off this week with my lunchtime keynote address at Active Insights, WebSideStory’s two-day user forum on best practices in digital marketing. Catch me if you can: Thursday, 10 November, the Grand Ballroom, the Roosevelt Hotel, Madison Avenue at 45th Street, New York City.
A List Apart 207
In Issue No. 207 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we highlight a few unexpected consequences — both positive and negative — of common interface design and accessibility choices.
- High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization
- It’s no coincidence that search engines love highly accessible websites; in fact, by designing for accessibility, you’re already using effective search-engine optimization techniques. Andy Hagans explains yet another reason to pay attention to accessibility.
- Design Choices Can Cripple a Website
- Do you test your designs? If not, Nick Usborne wants you to take responsibility for your design choices and the very quantifiable effect they can have on websites that are built for business.
The unshaken world looked on in horror as school buildings collapsed on children during the Kashmir earthquake. Carrie and I watched a man clawing at rubble because his little girl or boy was somewhere under there. A television journalist, reporting from the scene, said every child in that village had died.
Television journalists report on all kinds of awful events from all kinds of places, and it is part of their job to calmly relate even the most terrible facts. Yet this particular television journalist, standing just a few feet away from the grief-maddened parent, looked as if he, too, had been crying.
Then the 24-hour news cycle turned its attention to the next scandal, the next storm, the next talking point.
But the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India who survived the earthquake don’t have the option to change the channel. Three million are homeless and a harsh mountain winter is setting in. Three million who survived will die in the coming weeks if not enough is done to help them.
It will take money and effort. And both are wanting.
You would think the governments of rich western nations would consider saving three million lives a no-brainer. For one thing, they are human lives, and from our pulpits and benches we constantly and truthfully proclaim that human life is an absolute value.
There are humanitarian reasons to make every effort to save these lives. There are ethical reasons, spiritual reasons, and even (though it is horrible to say so) political reasons, given that most victims are Muslim and the west has, to say the least, not done the best job of winning Muslim friends lately. But that is just logic and ethics and the religious duty of one human being to another, and thus not enough is being done.
So it is up to us, the people, to reach into our pockets and give whatever we can to aid agencies working to save lives in South and Central Asia.