ALA 213

In Issue 213 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Flywheels, Kinetic Energy, and Friction
by Nick Usborne
You want your users to do something—buy things, beg you to work for them, learn how they too can achieve inner peace. So how do you get them to do what you want? Try getting out of the way.
Getting Started with Ajax
by Aaron Gustafson
In this excerpt from O’Reilly’s Web Design in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition, ALA production editor Gustafson takes you aside for a little chat about the birds and the bees. Or maybe about Ajax.

Fr.oz.en en.tre.es

Ma.gnolia’s linkroll feature rules, but, like a list of “last 10 blog posts,” it is forever sending interesting content into the offscreen past. So here, frozen in time, and in some cases with expanded blurbage, are some of the latest bookmarks to appear in—and soon disappear from—the zeldman.com sidebar:

Microsoft iPod
A parody that says a lot about how design processes go wrong.
Google Code: Web Authoring Statistics
Which HTML ids and classes are most common? How many sites validate?
Eyebrow Antics
Illustrator Brian Tapley uses Flickr as a portfolio delivery system.
Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business

What do Boeing, General Motors, and a small bag-clip company have in common? They are all blogging about their business. It’s time for a practical book about business blogging: a book that offers concrete advice, no-nonsense research, warnings about common pitfalls, and real-world examples of business-blog successes and failures. A conversation with your market is stronger and more meaningful with a blog. When you’re ready to bridge the gap between blogging theory and business reality, this book will get you talking, easily and professionally.

So runs the pitch for Peachpit’s upcoming Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business, by DL Byron and Steve Broback (ISBN: 0321395387), now in presale mode. To save 35% and get free shipping, enter this code when you checkout: PP-234P-LKMS. (Journalists and teachers may request free evaluation copies.)
Netdiver’s Best
Long-running, always great design ’zine Netdiver.net publishes its Best Site Designs of 2005.
S5 1.2a2
Eric Meyer’s CSS-based slideshow hits 1.2 alpha 2 version.
Open Letter to AOL
The Open Letter to America Online is a vehicle for the entire internet community to express its “serious concern [about] AOL’s adoption of Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail, which is a threat to the free and open Internet.” The group explains:

In February 2006, AOL announced that it would accept payment for incoming emails. For these certified emails, it would skip its usual anti-spam filters and guarantee delivery for cash. Our coalition believes that the free passage of email between Internet users is a vital part of what makes the Internet work. When ISPs demand a cut of “pay-to-send” email, they’re raising tollbooths on the open Net, interfering with the passage of data by demanding protection money at the gates of their customers’ computers.

ourcommon.com
The design portfolio of Peter Reid.
Fl.ower
Greg Storey blogs the creative process behind Ma.gnolia’s user interface design.
Beggr 2.0 beta
A one-way ticket to easy street.
Images, Tables, & Mysterious Gaps
It lives! Eric Meyer’s classic on CSS layout as intepreted by Gecko—core of Firefox, Mozilla, Camino, and Netscape—finds a new (and hopefully permanent) home at developer.mozilla.org. Rumor has it all the old Meyer writings are or will be available here.
Linkology: How the Most-Linked Blogs Relate
New York Magazine discovers blogs. I usually ignore this kind of coverage by this kind of source, but I’m linking because this is actually a good article of its kind—and of course because it includes A List Apart in its coverage (albeit with blurbage that suggests that the author doesn’t really know what he thinks he knows).

P.S. Mark in Ma.gnolia or del.icio.us or digg this page.

Panelicious

It’s time to pimp my panel at SXSW Interactive ’06:

ROLL YOUR OWN WEB CONFERENCE

Sunday 12 March, 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm, Ballroom F

The Pitch

Should you start a conference? How would you do it? What are the risks and rewards? Successful conference creators will share tips on booking speakers and space, getting the word out, spending and making money, and above all delivering value.

The Poop

I picked people from Canada, Australia, and the U.S. who’ve started their own conferences and asked them to be ready for a no-holds-barred session telling why and how they do it.

The Panelists

  • Jason Fried is the president of 37signals, a Chicago-based purveyor of fine web-based collaboration tools for the small business and freelancer market.
  • Molly Golightly has been an organizer of the volunteer-run Webzine conference series since its founding in 1998. Her commitment to Webzine is to bring topics and people you won’t find elsewhere to the stage.
  • After years of music, graphic design, and web development projects, Bruce Livingstone started iStockphoto, “the world’s best royalty-free photo agency.”
  • Maxine Sherrin is a co-convenor of Web Essentials. She believes in bringing people together at events not just so they can learn, but so they can build an industry, resist isolation, and make real connections that will survive the tyranny of geography.
  • Eric Meyer is a globally recognized authority on CSS and web standards. After years of speaking at other people’s events, he co-founded An Event Apart with Jeffrey Zeldman, giving him an eye-opening look at the other side of the conference business.

In other news…

Elsewhere in Conferenceville, An Event Apart Atlanta has sold out.

Fresh outta beta

When I was younger, I considered myself too “creative” to work on anything that wasn’t cool or exciting. Eventually I buckled down and became a genuine client services professional. For over two decades, I brought my best to every job, no matter how dull.

So much for that. Today I can choose what I want to work on. And I choose projects that are cool, fun, and personally meaningful. In that context, I link to Ma.gnolia.

Designed by Happy Cog and taken out of private beta 15 February, Ma.gnolia is a new social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lose a web page, even if it moves or goes offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. Not to mention a Linkroll I like so much I use it here at zeldman.com.

Gnolia Systems envisioned the product and made it run. (The heavy programming? That’s all them.) Happy Cog developed the user pathways, brand identity, and creamy site design. The best part? Leading a dream team of Tanya Rabourn (information architect), Greg Storey (user interface design), Jason Santa Maria (brand identity design), Erin Kissane (brand director), and Mr Eric Meyer (semantician and technologist).

A List Apart 212: Love and Hate

For the Valentine’s issue of A List Apart, we asked you, our gentle readers, what you love and hate about the web.

If you love this issue of A List Apart, give yourself a warm hand. If you hate this issue, slap yourself.

Miss the deadline for submitting your hugs and hates? Not to worry! Join the discussions.

Beneath the law, beyond the validator

O say, can you see? If not, can you sue?
Designing With Web Standards made the point that an inaccessible site could get its owner in trouble. Now a blind student is suing Target, claiming that its inaccessible site violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and various U.S. state laws:
Unitless and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Although the W3C validator claims that A List Apart’s CSS is flawed, our CSS is actually fine; the validator has a known bug that causes it to incorrectly flag unitless line-heights as errors. So why write unitless line-heights? Eric Meyer, who created A List Apart’s CSS, explains. His post is not only the best primer I’ve ever seen on the subject, it is the only primer I’ve ever seen on the subject—and the only one you need.

Don’t be a beta hater

Yes, Happy Cog has a layout problem in Internet Explorer 7 beta. Not to worry: According to Molly Holzschlag of The Web Standards Project, Microsoft has fixed the problem, as we’ll see in a future IE7 release. The current beta chokes on this rule:

div#headwrap h1	{
	background: transparent url(/i/happycog.gif) 
		top left no-repeat;
	margin: 0;
	border: 0;
	padding: 0;
	padding-top: 100px;
	overflow: hidden;
	height: 0px !important; /* for most browsers */
	height /**/:100px; /* for pre 6.0 IE Win */
	}

It’s an image replacement technique that uses an alternate box model hack.

Designers use box model hacks to compensate for inaccuracies in the way some browsers (mostly Microsoft’s) calculate element widths with respect to padding and borders. I wrote this rule to insert my agency’s logo at the top of the page in visual browsers while presenting a text equivalent for screen readers and nongraphical browsers. The hacks force older Microsoft browsers to display these elements correctly.

When Microsoft released IE5, it was great for its day, but not always accurate. When they released IE6, it was better but not perfect. The company then declared victory and announced that the browser was dead and there would be no more IE browsers forever.

So designers got busy compensating for the standards deficiencies of IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 (and other companies’ browsers), using hacks like those seen here. The idea is to take the hackery out of markup, where it never belonged, and hide it in style sheets.

IE7 beta’s standards accuracy is already very good and getting better, and, despite what you might have heard to the contrary, Microsoft’s engineers are working with the community (and in particular with The Web Standards Project) to identify and fix CSS bugs and errors and to compensate for hacks like the one seen here. Using IE7? Finding bugs? Microsoft and The Web Standards Project want to hear from you.