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 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.

An Event Apart Seattle

It’s de-lightful, it’s de-lovely, it’s the city on Puget Sound. Join Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria, and Jeffrey Zeldman on Monday 18 September 2006 at Bell Harbor International Conference Center for An Event Apart Seattle, a concentrated, creative learning session that could change the way you approach web design. Save $50 when you register by August 18th, 2006.

Silent phone, secret phone

Two weekends ago, my office phone line and an unknown number of other phone lines in my area went dead. I was in Chicago so it didn’t bother me. By Monday night, Verizon had apparently fixed the problem, and phone service was restored for me and my neighbors.

Come the following Sabbath, Verizon rested again.

If you called my office Saturday morning, you would have gotten a busy signal. If you tried Saturday afternoon, also a busy signal. The same on Saturday night.

Things got interesting on Sunday, if you consider no change interesting.

By Monday morning, the phone line was still dead. Noon brought no sudden restoration of telephony. 2:00? A disappointment, quite frankly. As the sun sets on a New York Monday, the absence of phone service attains a mystical sheen. Call me now. Busy signal. Dial again. Busy signal. Busy, busy, busy signal.

I tried using Verizon’s website to find out how to report the problem but it was like searching the moon for goats.

So I went downstairs to the Verizon pay phone, jotted down the “repair” number listed beside its little coin slot, and dialed it on my mobile.

See, if a pay phone goes down, that’s a problem.

That pay phone repair number was honey. After a mere six minutes of voice menu negotiation, I received my prognosis from the computer voice emulator that provides Verizon’s customers with quality service.

Thus spake Verizon:

“At present there is an outage in your area. Verizon is committed to restoring your phone service by … 8:00 … P.M. … on … Wednesday … June … 14th.”

“Committed to restoring” is the sweet part.

As far as I can tell, the problem involves phone lines, so you can see why it would take one of America’s largest phone companies five days to tackle a brain teaser like that.

Fortunately I only use my telephone to run my business, contact my family, and report medical emergencies. So the next few days should be just fine.

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.

My Count of Monte Cristo

Summer means warm lemonade, sunburned shoulders, and Field-Tested Books at Coudal Partners — with reviews by a double dozen writers who “read a certain book in a certain place.”

The Count of Monte Cristo, field-tested on Mohawk Mountain, Connecticut, is my contribution to this year’s collection.

You can buy an elegantly designed 2006 Field-Tested PDF “book”, including all field-tested reviews from this year and years past, cross-indexed and formatted for portability and printability.

zefrank or zebeans

A man who needs no introduction is joining a line-up that has no equal. New media satirist/superstar zefrank, creator of the show, is coming to An Event Apart NYC. (zefrank replaces Adam Greenfield, author of Everyware.)

Join Tantek Çelik, zefrank, Aaron Gustafson, Jason Santa Maria, Khoi Vinh, Eric Meyer, and Jeffrey Zeldman for two days of design and code in the heart of New York City. Hurry! Early Bird Savings end Friday. Register today.


Eight hours after leaving Laguardia Airport, I must go back.

I’ve got the underwear and striped shirts of a Mr Mbutu Alibekoglu (not his real name) from Fort Wayne Indiana (not his real location) in a suitcase that looked just like ours when I grabbed it off the American Airlines luggage carousel at Laguardia late last night.

I’ll return Mr Alibekoglu’s suitcase; hopefully ours will still be there. American Airlines Lost Luggage couldn’t tell me, mainly because they never answer their phone.

In other news, my office phone was out all weekend, but Verizon seems to be fixing the problem remotely this morning. Already, the phone works again in a buzzy, clicky, clacky, poppy way.

Not that I’ll need an office phone where I’m going.

I’m going to Laguardia, lugging a stranger’s suitcase I picked up by mistake at the end of a weary day. It’s the kind of error you make when tired and travelling with a toddler. You beat yourself up for it, blowing the whole thing out of proportion. But it’s a mistake, not a moral failing; a three-hour chore, not a descent into hell.

Mr Mbutu Alibekoglu’s suitcase contains underwear and socks, not anthrax and grenade launchers. The FBI won’t pounce on you and whisk you to Gitmo when you drag his suitcase into the airport.


Wrapping Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago has wrapped. It felt like the best one yet. Everything clicked.

There were as many designers as coders in attendance, as many Chicagoans as out-of-towners, as many agency people and freelancers as in-house folks, and nearly as many women as men. They engaged at “good morning” and stayed involved all day, asking shrewdly penetrating questions and sharing their own insights and experiences. Energy flowed not only between the floor and the seats but also from one seat to another. It felt like community.

This was the third time out for Eric, Jason, and me. Our talks were sharper and shorter — looser and more relaxed, yet also more focused than before. The rhythm was better. The balance between technical and aesthetic subjects, how much time was alloted to each, the way one theme flowed into another — the music of the day — felt tighter and truer than at events past.

Thanks to our sponsors at Adobe, AIGA, New Riders, and Media Temple, we were able to give away thousands of dollars worth of software, books, and services. (We’ll be doing the same at An Event Apart NYC next month.)

Guest speaker Jim Coudal‘s leisurely stories were like little grenades of inspiration. He tossed them out casually; moments later, they detonated.

The day formally ended with lively critiques of sites submitted by attendees. We tried this once before, at An Event Apart Philadelphia, with mixed results. This time it felt like it really worked. The day informally ended at Timothy O’Toole’s pub, with a mixer sponsored by Jewelboxing.

Time, and the blog posts of those who attended, will tell if the event was as good for you as it was for us. Sincere thanks to all who attended. Thanks also to Dawson, John Gruber, Amy Redell, Michael Nolan, and Orrin Fink.

And a reminder: the Early Bird Rate for An Event Apart NYC ends June 9th. That’s a week from today! On June 10th, the price will increase by $100. So if you’re thinking of attending An Event Apart NYC — two days of design and code — please register soon.