ALA 261: CSS layout redux; in praise of prototyping

In Issue No. 261 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Faux Absolute Positioning

by Eric Sol

CSS layout is awesome, except when your layout calls for a header, a footer, and columns in between. Use float, and content changes can cause columns to wrap. Use absolute positioning, and your footer can crash into your columns. Add the complexity of drag-and-drop layouts, and a new technique is needed. Enter “faux absolute positioning.” Align every item to a predefined position on the grid (as with absolute positioning), but objects will still affect the normal flow (as with float).

Sketching in Code: the Magic of Prototyping

by David Verba

The rise of Ajax and rich internet applications has thrown the limitations of traditional wireframing into painful relief. When you leave the world of page-based interactions, how do you document all but the simplest interactions? Flowcharts and diagrams don’t work. Prototyping saves the day by focusing on the application and conveying its “magic.” Prototypes can help you sell a decision that is fundamentally or radically different from the client’s current solution or application. Sit a stakeholder down in front of a working prototype and show him or her why your approach is compelling.

[tags]css, layout, ajax, prototyping, information architecture, design, faux absolute positioning, webdesign, alistapart[/tags]

Video: Eric Meyer on generated content

Live onstage at An Event Apart New Orleans, web design conference co-founder and CSS expert Eric Meyer explains why the W3C’s recommendation to allow browsers to insert quotation marks doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense.

Includes audio transcription. Shot by Bonnemaison of Baltimore, MD. Edited by Ian Corey.

[tags]aneventapart, video, ericmeyer, css[/tags]

CSS Menu Writer debuts

Launched today, WebAssist Professional’s CSS Menu Writer™ for Dreamweaver takes the pain out of creating standards-compliant horizontal or vertical navigation menus with nested fly-outs.

I got to spend an hour with the program prior to its release, and was impressed with its flexibility and extreme ease of use. For instance, creating primary and secondary menu levels is as simple as pointing to your files and folders. If the client changes the approved site structure after you’ve already created your page templates, no problem: just drag files and folders to their changed locations and CSS Menu Writer will update your navigation.

The program comes with four horizontal and four vertical menus, each in 12 different color schemes—96 menus to start—with unlimited sub-levels. You can easily create Doug-Bowman-style “sliding doors” effects, as well as doing all the obvious stuff you’d expect to be able to do, like changing menu width, height, margin, and padding; swapping backgrounds and images; and saving custom creations as new presets to reedit or share with colleagues. The program also integrates easily with Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor.

CSS Menu Writer costs $99.99, but if you buy before May 27, it’s just $74.99.

[tags]webdesign, tools, software, webassist, css[/tags]

ALA 256: map rolling & data viz

In Issue No. 256 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Wilson Miner shares techniques for incorporating data visualization into standards-based web navigation patterns, and Paul Smith shows how to replicate Google Maps’ functionality with open source software to produce high-quality mapping applications tailored to your design goals. Read and enjoy.

P.S. Just for the heck of it, we’ve started an A List Apart Facebook group. Saddle up!

Comments off. (Comment in the magazine.)

[tags]alistapart, datavisualization, maprolling, googlemaps, opensource, navigation, standards, webstandards, design, webdesign[/tags]

Zeldman on Talk Radio Today

Live today from 3:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern Time, I’m this week’s guest on “Design Matters with Debbie Millman,” the leading internet talk radio show on the “challenging and compelling canvas of today’s design world.”

If you listen live today at 3:00 pm ET, you can use a call-in number to participate in the show.

Voted “Most Popular Podcast” by the readers of if! Magazine, “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” is an opinionated internet talk radio show with over 150,000 listeners. Previous guests have included Milton Glaser, Stefan Sagmeister, and Ellen Lupton.

The show is produced in the Empire State Building in NYC.

[tags]design, webdesign, talkradio, podcast, debbiemillman, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman, internet, internettalkradio[/tags]

Version targeting, take two

Just when you thought it was safe to forget about version targeting. In Issue No. 253 of A List Apart, for people who make websites…

Read. Discuss. Decide.

Comments off. (Comment inside ALA, where it counts.)

Happy fourth birthday, real world semantics

Four years ago today, Tantek Çelik and Kevin Marks gave a presentation on real-world semantics. Working backwards from HTML extensions like XFN (created by Tantek, Matt Mullenweg, and Eric Meyer), the paper showed how designers and developers could add semantics to today’s web rather than starting from scratch or waiting for a “purer” markup language to bring us an “uppercase semantic web.”

As with ‘most all great ideas, the principles were simple and, in hindsight, profoundly obvious. Do what designers were already doing. Instead of toiling over new languages that might or might not get adopted, use existing (X)HTML elements such as rel and class, and agree on such things as common class names for simple things like relationship definitions.

On behalf of all web designers and developers, thank you, Tantek and friends, and happy birthday.

[tags]microformats, semantics, realworld, tantek, xfn, hcard, 4years[/tags]

ALA 252: New library, long hallway

In Issue No. 252 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Keeping Your Elements’ Kids in Line with Offspring

Alex Bischoff introduces Offspring, a JavaScript library bringing the power of advanced CSS selectors to browsers that can’t quite handle the real thing.

The Rules of Digital Engagement

Jonathan Follett takes another trip down the the long hallway, looking at ways to collaborate, communicate, and manage conflict in virtual space.

[tags]javascript, libraries, longhallway, ala, alistapart, webdesign[/tags]

Comments off. Talk on ALA!

An Event Apart New Orleans

An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, kicks off its 2008 season with An Event Apart New Orleans, a monster, 19-hour, two-day creative session. Join us April 24–25 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for two intense, 9.5-hour-long days of learning and inspiration, featuring twelve of your favorite web design authors.

  • See Dave Shea, co-author, Zen of CSS Design, explore what makes sites flexible visually, experientially, and code-wise.
  • See Jeff Veen, design manager, Google, explore how new thinking, born of creating the latest generation of web apps, is being infused into design practices.
  • See Robert Hoekman Jr., author, Designing the Obvious, perform slam-bang, on-the-spot usability reviews of sites submitted by our live audience on the fly.
  • See Cameron Moll, author, Mobile Web Design, uncover the differences between good and great design.
  • See Aaron Gustafson, co-author, AdvancED DOM Scripting, go beyond “unobtrusive” JavaScript to truly meet users’ needs, no matter what their device or platform, by applying the principles of “progressive enhancement” to client-side scripting.
  • See Andy Clarke, author, Transcending CSS, explain how comic books inspire his award-winning web layouts.
  • See Stephanie Sullivan, co-author, Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, explore practical, standards-based approaches and techniques to some of today’s toughtest design challenges.
  • See Aarron Walter, author, Building Findable Web Sites, explain “findability bliss through web standards SEO”
  • See Brian Oberkirch, Publisher, Like It Matters, review, catalog, dissect, and champion small design victories that daisy chain to create a delightful overall user experience.
  • See Jason Santa Maria, designer, Happy Cog, share techniques for maintaining individuality and brand distinction in a world of generic templates and design sameness.
  • See An Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, present two new talks that shed brilliant light on the darkest corners of CSS.
  • As for me, I’ll be doing two new sessions on the whatness of web design (what it is, what it ain’t, and why it matters) and the whereness of web standards (as in, where we are with them).

It’s the longest, biggest, densest, hardest, coolest show we’ve ever done, and we’re doing it where Louis learned to blow his horn. Join us if you can.

Can’t make New Orleans? Join us in these cities!

  • Boston, June 23–24
  • San Francisco, August 18–19
  • Chicago, October 13–14

Tickets for all four shows are on sale now.

[tags]aneventapart, webdesign, conference, neworleans, aeaNOLA08[/tags]

Let me hear your standards body talk

Jeremy Keith’s “Year Zero” beautifully explains why the W3C needs our backs, not our bullets.

The W3C is maddeningly opaque and its lieutenants will sometimes march madly into the sea, but it is all that stands between us and the whirlwind.

Slow the W3C will always be. Slow comes with the territory. If you glimpse even a hint of the level of detail required to craft usable standards, you’ll understand the slowness and maybe even be grateful for it—as you’d be grateful for a surgeon who takes his time while operating on your pancreas.

But the secrecy (which makes us read bad things into the slowness) must and will change. To my knowledge, the W3C has been working on its transparency problems for at least two years and making real change—just very slowly (there’s that word again) and incrementally and hence not at all obviously.

Key decision makers within the W3C intend to do much more, but they need to get their colleagues on board, and consensus-building is a bitch. A slow bitch.

If designers and developers are more aware of the problems than of the fact that the W3C is working to solve them, it’s because the W3C is not great at outreach. If they were great at outreach, we wouldn’t have needed a Web Standards Project to persuade browser makers to implement the specs and designers and developers to use them.

Designers sometimes compare the slow pace of standards with the fast pace of, say, Flash. But it is like comparing the output of the United Nations to the laws passed by a small benevolent dictatorship. When a company owns a technology, it can move fast. When a hundred companies that mistrust each other need to agree to every detail of a technology that only exists insofar as their phones and browsers support it, surprise, surprise, the pace is quite slow.

The W3C is working on its speed issues, too. It’s been forced to work on them by outside groups and by the success of microformats. But detailed interoperability of profound technologies no company owns is never going to happen half as fast as we’d like.

You want instant gratification, buy an iPod. You want standards that work, help. Or at least stop shouting.

[tags]w3c, standards, webstandards[/tags]