A Sale of Two Cities

As the last tickets for An Event Apart Chicago get gobbled up, we announce our final Event Apart show of 2007: An Event Apart San Francisco, October 4–5, Sheraton Palace Hotel. You won’t want to miss this line-up:

Joe Clark

Joe Clark served on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group and now volunteers with the PDF/Universal Access Committee. He emerges from self-imposed retirement to share his wisdom on the subject of Building Accessible Websites.

Jared Spool

Jared Spool has led the usability agenda since 1978, before the term “usability” was even associated with computers. He is one of the world’s most effective and knowledgeable communicators on the subject.

Aaron Gustafson

Between coding usable forms and accessible Ajax, Aaron Gustafson tech-edits A List Apart and writes for Digital Web , ALA, and MSDN. Print credits include AdvancED DOM Scripting and Web Design in a Nutshell, 3rd Ed..

Kimberly Blessing

Developer, standards evangelist, and technical strategist Kimberly Blessing co-leads The Web Standards Project and directs PayPal’s Web Development Platform Team, driving the creation and adoption of standards.

Jina Bolton

Interactive designer and artist Jina Bolton is an web interface developer at Apple and co-author of The Art & Science of CSS. She has consulted for the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, Mass.gov, and others.

Doug Bowman

An influential designer at the forefront of forward-thinking web design, Doug Bowman is Visual Design Lead at Google, where he tries to change the world, a few million users at a time.

Erin Kissane

Erin Kissane edits A List Apart and is editorial director for Happy Cog. She has written copy, advised on brand and content strategy, and provided editorial oversight for clients from startups to Global 1000 companies.

Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria has been recognized for designing stylish web interfaces that balance usability with effective content presentation. His work has won dozens of awards.

And, of course, your hosts:

Eric Meyer

Eric Meyer is the world’s best-recognized and most-read CSS expert, author of CSS: The Definitive Guide, Eric Meyer on CSS and a half-dozen other best-sellers. He has consulted for Apple, Wells Fargo, and America On-Line, among others, and co-founded An Event Apart with your humble narrator in November 2005.

Jeffrey Zeldman

You can read about me here.

Topics at An Event Apart San Francisco will include standards in the enterprise, creating designs that adapt to multiple display types and languages, the art and science of web forms, how to handle design and redesign, the importance of copy and editing, usability, and more.

The two-day event, including meals, swag, and parties, costs $795 (regularly $895) while earlybird savings are in effect through September 7th, 2007. Seating is limited: first come, first served. Hope to see some of you there!

[tags]aneventapart, sanfrancisco, design, development, standards, bestpractices, webstandards, webdesign, webdevelopment, aeasf07[/tags]

The King of Web Standards

In BusinessWeek, senior writer for Innovation & Design Jessie Scanlon has just published “Jeffrey Zeldman: King of Web Standards.” By any standards (heh heh), it is an accurate and well researched article. By the standards of technology journalism, it is exceptional. It might even help designers who aren’t named Jeffrey Zeldman as they struggle to explain the benefits of web standards to their bosses or clients. At the least, its publication in Business Week will command some business people’s attention, and perhaps their respect.

Avoiding the twin dangers of oversimplification that misleads, and pedantry that bores or confuses, Scanlon informs business readers about the markup and code that underlies websites; what went wrong with it in the early days of the web; and how web standards help ensure “that a Web site can be used by someone using any browser and any Web-enabled device.”

Scanlon communicates this information quickly, so as not to waste a business reader’s time, and clearly, without talking down to the reader. This makes her article, not merely a dandy clipping for my scrapbook, but a useful tool of web standards evangelism.

Contributing to the article with their comments are Jeff Veen, manager of user experience for Google’s web applications and former director of Hotwired.com; NYTimes.com design director, subtraction.com author, and grid-meister Khoi Vinh; and Dan Cederholm, founder of SimpleBits and author of Bulletproof Web Design. Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden features prominently as well, and rightfully so.

A right sexy slide show accompanies the article.

And lest a BusinessWeek article lull us into complacency, let us here note that the top 20 blogs as measured by Technorati.com fail validation—including one blog Happy Cog designed. (It was valid when we handed it off to the client.)

[tags]design, webdesign, standards, webstandards, webstandardsproject, WaSP, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman, veen, jeffveen, simplebits, dancederholm, bulletproof, khoivinh, subtraction, wired, hotwired, nytimes, happycog, zengarden, css, csszengarden[/tags]

For web developers and iPhone users

XRAY web developer’s suite
Fab, free bookmarklet for web designers and developers analyzes any element on a web page with a click. Must be used to be appreciated. Part of a forthcoming suite of free, cross-browser web development tools from Westciv. Suggested improvements and bug reports welcome. Currently works in Webkit (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox, Camino, etc.) browsers; an IE version is coming. Don’t miss the “Acknowledgements, Thanks, and Inspiration” credits, which link to great JavaScript and visual resources.
How to Rip DVD Movies To Your iPod Using Free Software
Great, straightforward how-to by brilliant author/developer Mark Pilgrim walks you through the process of setting up HandBrake, a free, open source app, to rip DVDs to your iPod. Last updated in 2005, several versions of HandBrake (not to mention several generations of iPod) ago, so screen shots will not always match current versions. But the settings advice is still accurate, and even applies to the iPhone, with its giant wide screen.
Ripping even a short movie you own takes a long, long time. I tested Pilgrim’s advice on a flick our toddler loves, so my iPhone could double as a parental aid during family trips. It took over five hours to burn an 86 minute film, but the results were beautiful.
For more video conversion advice, see the 12 December 2005 Macworld Secrets column, Convert video for the iPod. Summary: Upgrade to QuickTime Pro and export for iPod. Works great and works fast. One’s iPhone now sports Charlie the Unicorn and will soon host short home movies shot on a point and shoot digital camera and formatted by that camera as AVIs.

[tags]web development, bookmarklets, developer tools, rip, DVDs, iPod, iPhone, Apple[/tags]

ALA 241: better UI, scriptless trick ponies, and the deathly hallows

In Issue No. 241 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Never Use a Warning When you Mean Undo

by Aza Raskin

Are our web apps as smart as they should be? By failing to account for habituation (the tendency, when presented with a string of repetitive tasks, to keep clicking OK), do our designs cause people to lose their work? Raskin’s simple, foolproof rule solves the problem.

Conflicting Absolute Positions

by Rob Swan

All right, class. Using CSS, produce a liquid layout that contains a fixed-width, scrolling side panel and a flexible, scrolling main panel. Okay, now do it without JavaScript. By chucking an assumption about how CSS works in browsers, Rob Swan provides the way and means.

Plus, in Editor’s Choice, from 23 November 2001:

Reading Design

by Dean Allen

With so many specialists working so hard at their craft, why are so many pages so hard to read? Unabashed text enthusiast Dean Allen thinks designers would benefit from approaching their work as being written rather than assembled.

A List Apart explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices. Explore our articles or find out more about us.

[tags]alistapart, aza raskin, rob swan, dean allen, UIdesign, undo, CSS, absoluteposition, liquid layout[/tags]

Better know a speaker: Dan Cederholm

Dan Cederholm is the brilliant mind behind Bulletproof Web Design and Web Standards Solutions and he’s bringing his highly acclaimed talk, “Interface Design Juggling,” to An Event Apart’s Chicago stage. We took a few minutes to dig deeper into what’s going on with Dan these days and what he’ll have in store for us.

Coming soon: Better Know A Speaker interviews with Lou Rosenfeld, Jeremy Keith, Liz Danzico, Luke Wroblewski, and more!

[tags]aneventapart, simplebits, cederholm, dancederholm, aeachicago2007[/tags]

bgcolor follies

Yahoo! in magenta. If you forget to set your site's background color, your visitors may do it for you.

A reminder for people who make websites: if you forget to set your site’s background color, your visitors may set it for you.

In three minutes, I found three sites that forgot this basic rule of web design. Set your browser’s background color to something heinous (I chose magenta) and click around the web. You may be surprised. Don’t forget to check your own site!

[tags]bgcolor, webdesign, color, yahoo!, segura-inc, 800flowers[/tags]

Eight points for better e-mail relationships

Campaign Monitor has taken me to task, and I find it hard to dispute their primary contention:

To say as a blanket statement that HTML email impedes communication is an extraordinary generalisation. There are many times when a well designed, and well laid out HTML email can be a lot clearer, easier to scan and overall better experience than the equivalent in plain text.

They’re got a point. Having read and considered Campaign Monitor’s comment and other sensible responses to my 8 June post, I agree that my brush was too broad.

A few well-designed, well-considered, communicating visual elements, in the context of a well-written, time-respecting, communicating HTML e-mail message, sent only to people who have asked to receive it, and formatted to work across applications and platforms, can indeed enhance communication.

Yet unsolicited mail, as all internet users know, makes it hard to use e-mail to communicate with friends, family, and work mates. Trying to defeat spam, we miss messages from business partners and loved ones. Add unsolicited graphics and broken formatting to that mix; send tons of it to a business person who is trying to check e-mail while out of the office, and you have a recipe for road rage on the information superhighway.

Perhaps reasonable people could agree to the eight notions put forward below.

Note: As in my previous post, I’m about to preach to the choir. Designers reading my site and using Campaign Monitor or other fine mail services (such as Deck advertiser MailChimp, cough) already know and practice ’most everything I’m about to recommend. The following is not a pledge. Pledges don’t work. People don’t change their behavior or business practices because someone with a blog asks them to be nice. Okay? So this is not directed at my readers or Campaign Monitor’s customers, who, I believe, will agree:

  1. Unsolicited HTML mail (like unsolicited mail generally) is an abuse. Send HTML formatted mails only to those who’ve opted in. Always offer a text mail version.
  2. Consider making text mail the default, and HTML mail the optional opt-in. Typically, where choice is provided, the HTML option is checked by default. Many users—because they assume the experts who created the web service are looking out for their best interests—don’t change defaults. This doesn’t mean they all actually want HTML mail. If the default switches to text, then you can be reasonably sure that those who opted for HTML mail probably want it.
  3. On your website, provide a sample of your HTML newsletter so people can judge for themselves if it’s something they want to receive.
  4. As in all design, consider every element before adding it. Remove everything that does not help you communicate.
  5. Test. I can’t count the number of banks, e-commerce and travel services that send me HTML-formatted transaction records, receipts, itineraries, and other jim-jams that do not work in my mail platform. These businesses never offer a plain-text version, let alone an opt-in choice with a test link to see if I like what they have to offer and verify that my mail client likes it, too. Broken mail doesn’t win friends and influence customers (except to change vendors). I am likelier to switch travel services than e-mail clients.
  6. Never send bulk e-mail to a list of people who haven’t agreed to receive messages from you. (This, of course, will never happen, but it belongs in the list anyway.)
  7. E-mail blaster product providers, please offer a streamlined option for those who choose to send their subscribers text-only. Don’t make us design HTML mail templates we have no intention of using, and jump through hoops to make sure our users never see the dummy HTML mail format you asked us to create. (Not directed at any company in particular; suggested as a product differentiator slash best practice.)
  8. Learn how HTML mail works (or doesn’t) across as many platforms as possible, and work with the manufacturers to improve support for web standards. This is not my job. I did my job where web standards are concerned (you’re welcome!), and turned over The Web Standards Project to a new generation of leadership. And as I never send HTML formatted mails, not only is it not my job, I wouldn’t even be qualified to do it. But standardistas who are compelled by their clients to create HTML mails (or who choose to do so) are gently urged to do their part in diminishing wasted bandwidth and enhancing semantics.

Related posts

When is e-mail like a bad website?

Nokia sent a friend an HTML e-mail message. I’ve broken it into five screen shots, because it won’t fit on one. E-mail, as a medium, really doesn’t want to carry all this freight.

E-mail is not a platform for design

ASCII means never having to say you’re sorry.

[tags]HTML mail, e-mail, marketing, internet marketing, design[/tags]

An Event Apart Chicago 2007

Tickets are now available for An Event Apart Chicago 2007, August 27–28, at the Chicago Marriott Downtown. It’s two days of web standards, best practices, and creative inspiration with…

Plus your hosts:

  • Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, Eric Meyer on CSS
  • Jeffrey Zeldman, publisher and creative director, A List Apart, author, Designing With Web Standards

Jam-packed with education and inspiration

On the agenda:

  • Search analytics for fun and profit
  • Secrets of the CSS Jedi
  • Using JavaScript and the DOM without feeling dirty
  • “The seven lies of information architecture”
  • Best practices for form design
  • Writing the user interface
  • Designing your way out of a paper bag

Learn how to use data you didn’t even realize you were collecting, to find out what your users really want. Discover how different forms, fields, and labels make or break interactions. How color, typography, and visual metaphors influence perception of your site and brand. How to make personal projects more successful and daily work-for-hire more fulfilling.

Register early and save

Your Conference Pass includes admission to all sessions at the two-day Chicago conference, snacks and lunch on both days, access to all social events, and a bag of swag. If you register by July 27, it’s yours for $795 ($100 off the standard pricing). Frequent Apartniks (those who’ve attended a previous Event Apart event) save an additional $100. More information is available at aneventapart.com.

[tags]aneventapart, an event apart, chicago, aeachicago07[/tags]

From Bulgaria With Love

An Event Apart Boston 2007 was the best attended show since Mr Meyer and I founded our design conference scarcely sixteen months ago. Attendees came from as far away as Singapore and India. They hailed from Bulgaria (2), Canada (12), Estonia (1), Finland (2), India (1), Ireland (1), Latvia (1), Singapore (1), Sweden (1), the UK (3), and the US (510).

In all, 546 web artisans descended on Boston for our two-day event. The engagement and commitment of this audience were electric. Rather than waste pixels on my impressions of the show, I submit these third-party posts and artifacts:

Photos and slide shows

Flickr Event Apart Boston 2007 photo pool
Featuring swag, special effects, and the elusive decopus.
Ethan Marcotte’s Event Apart slides
Viewing slides without seeing the speaker’s live presentation is like trying to understand world events by looking at a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nonetheless, here are the slides from “Web Standards Stole My Truck!”
Dan Cederholm’s Event Apart slides
Beautiful slides (same disclaimer applies) plus a nice little post.

Posts and commentary

Pelennor Fields Day One
Pelennor Fields Day Two
Matt Winckler’s quick summaries and reviews of the presentations. “The goal is to provide a few-sentence summary of each talk, followed by my quick rating on a scale of 1 to 10, followed again by my brief explanation of the rating.”
stevekarsch.com: An Event Apart, Day One
stevekarsch.com: An Event Apart, Day Two
Steve Karsch’s notes make you feel as if you were there.
Chausse.org: Thoughts from An Event Apart
“An Event Apart Boston was a great experience. Whenever I’m at a conference, I get an insatiable urge to drop whatever I’m doing with my life and become an expert at whatever the speaker’s talking about. Anyway, a few notes.”
An Event Apart Boston – from the Aten Blog
Justin Toupin, co-founder and design lead for Aten Design Group, reviews the show: “The conference was amazing. Nine expert speakers presented on a range of topics from the conceptual to the practical. I’ve never been so happy to sit in one place for so long.”
Ed’s Development Blog: Back from AEA
Ed Higgins: “It was the first conference I’ve been to that I’ve been sad about it ending. Typically the last day of most conferences just drags… At AEA, every session was gold and I wish it could’ve lasted longer.”
AEA Boston, Day One: Jeffrey Zeldman’s Writing the User Interface
Cromulent Code: write-up of “Writing the User Interface,” my talk on Day One of An Event Apart Boston 2007. “How text contributes to a site/s usability and branding.”
Grapefeed: An Event Apart
Grapefeed’s experiences at An Event Apart Boston included a nerve-grinding, last-minute scramble to an alternate train station when the Back Bay station was sealed off because of a gas leak. (Same thing happened to me.)
ivantohelpyou: Notes from An Event Apart, Boston, Day
Blow by blow impressions.
impending post explosion
Stellargirl: “Just got back from An Event Apart Boston… I totally feel like the kid in that Far Side cartoon who says, ‘May I be excused? My brain is full.’”
days without a job: An Event Apart – Boston
“First day of a two day conference was great. We were told that there were more than 500 attendees!”
Zeldman Gem of the Day
Hardly a gem, but this excerpt captures part of the thrust of my talk on “Selling Design.”
Cameron Moll: AEA Boston
Highlights from the perspective of a (great) speaker.
Adobe’s Scott Fegette: CS3 Launch at An Event Apart
“I’ve been answering questions all day at An Event Apart about the new CS3 products. Even better, I gave away … three advance copies of CS3 Web Premium to three lucky attendees. An Event Apart is a really great mix of disciplines all centering on site design and development. I’ve talked to educators, government developers, indie web production shops, animators and video pros- just in the last hour alone.” (Adobe was a sponsor of An Event Apart Boston.)
Meyerweb: After Boston
Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer: “I see the attendees at AEA as the craftsmen and women of the web. Sure, there are shops mass-producing sites, the way a factory churns out cheap clocks. That’s fine if you just want something to put on your nightstand. But if you want an elegant, finely tuned work of art that you’d hang in a prominent place, a clock that is as much a point of pride as a timepiece—you find a craftsman. And that’s who came to Boston. That’s who comes to An Event Apart.”

[tags]aneventapart, aeaboston07, aeaboston2007[/tags]