Back in 2004 we had been running Headscape for three years. Things were going well but personally I was a little dissatisfied with my career. I just wasn’t as excited about the web as I had been and was lacking a new challenge and direction.
Anyway, we won a new client that was particularly concerned about accessibility and so I realised I had to brush up my skills in this area. I decided to see if I could find a book on the subject. Bizarrely I ended up buying Designing With Web Standards. I am not sure why I thought it was going to be about accessibility but for some reason I did. Anyway when it arrived from Amazon I quickly discovered that although it did touch on accessibility it was about so much more.
I remember what I now refer to as a pivotal moment in my web career. I was sitting in bed reading your book. I knew nothing really about CSS (other than for setting fonts/colours and I couldn’t see what was wrong with the old way of doing things). However as I read, it was like a slow realisation. I remember vividly turning to my wife and saying “This book is amazing. I am going to have to relearn everything I know about building websites”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand the enormity of what you were suggesting was overwhelming but on the other hand it was just the injection I needed in my own career.
I reached the end of the book and made a decision. I was going to move the whole of Headscape across to standards based design. Not only that was I was going to do it as soon as possible. By 2005 we had made the transition and have never looked back.
So far this is probably not dissimilar to other stories you have heard. However, it doesn’t stop there. I obviously started to follow your blog and you mentioned you were coming to speak in the UK at @Media 2005. For me this was too good an opportunity to miss. I wanted to see this guy who had turned our business upside down. Myself and my cofounders at Headscape booked on the conference.
However, the moment that changed everything for me (yes again) was right at the beginning of the conference. Patrick asked various bloggers in the audience to stand up as he mentioned each of their sites. I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and the knowledge in the room. It left me desperate to be apart of that. I left the conference and started building boagworld.com the very next day.
I guess my point is this. If I hadn’t bought your book by accident we would never have attended @Media and if I had never done that I would never have founded boagworld.com. Boagworld has transformed Headscape and brings in approximately 90% of our new business. You have helped our business grow, reinvigorated my own passion for the web and allowed me personally to do things (such as travel the world) that I would have only dreamed of.
That deserves my thanks.
Paul Boag [Web Strategist, Broadcaster, Author & Rabble Rouser]
SUGGEST YOUR FAVORITE sites, apps and people and celebrate the best of the web.
Nominations for the 13th .net Awards are now open at www.thenetawards.com. We want you to help us find 2011’s best of the web and there are 16 categories to choose from. This year there’s a renewed focus on emerging talent with new Awards including the Young Designer, Young Developer and Brilliant Newcomer Awards – presented in association with Happy Cog.
Last year the Awards clocked up more than 95,000 votes, and winners included Ravelry (beating Facebook and Twitter as Best Community Site!), Modernizr (Open Source App of the Year) and Typekit (Web Application of the Year). The mighty Jeffrey Zeldman, meanwhile, scored a hat-trick, bagging awards as Standards Champion and for Design Agency of the Year and Video Podcast of the Year (for The Big Web Show, co-hosted with Dan Benjamin).
“WE KICKED OFF WITH a discussion on web platforms, perhaps the most widely-changing aspect of the web in the past 18 months. Zeldman began with a story about his efforts to check in to his upcoming flight to SXSW from a taxi cab in New York. He entered his details into his airline’s mobile app and clicked the ‘log in’ button, only to be taken to their desktop website which required Flash to log in, which inevitably, his iPhone didn’t support. How did this kind of user experience failure occur? …
“Moving on, the panel began to discuss publishing. The advent of plugins like Readability and a new product Roger Black is working on called TreeSaver allow readers to specify how they want to see content, and the advent of web standards means that content is generally separated from presentation, to the benefit of the reader. Zeldman made the point that the entire platform is for content, which makes it odd when some products are designed with the content being the last thing in mind.”
“The paywall quickly came up and the overwhelming ethos from the panel was “if you have exclusive great stuff, people will pay for it”. Dan Mall suggested that traditional publishers didn’t understand alternative modes of publishing and were attempting to price them at the same rate as their paper-and-ink versions. Mandy Brown joked that many publishers saw the iPad as their saviour, just like they did with the CD-ROM back in the 90s. She also made the point that despite its web-savvy audience, the A Book Apart project’s sales were 75% print. …
Paul MacInnes is the editor of the Guardian Guide and Matt Andrews is a client side web developer at the Guardian. Full coverage of SXSW 2011 at guardian.co.uk/sxsw
In Episode No. 28 of The Big Web Show, Dan Benjamin and I talk about what we’re thankful for, awards, visibility, public speaking (and why you should do it), Pub Standards, meetups (and why you should start or join one), and how to make a change in your career and the industry.
THE UNDER-KNOWN HAVE EVERYTHING going for them except recognition. Let’s do something about that. Name talented web designers who deserve wider attention. Include at least one URL and a Twitter-length comment as to why their work merits wider study. Post to this thread. Thanks.
All awards should go from old uncles (like me or @zeldman or who ever) to young people. They need it.
A fair point. To which I reply:
When Happy Cog wins an award, it is going to young people. It’s young designers like Stephen Caver, Yesenia Perez-Cruz, Joey Pfeifer, Mike Pick, Kevin Sharon, Drew Warkentin, Brian Warren, young UX designers like Whitney Hess and Jessica Ivins, young developers like Jenn Lukas, Mark Huot, Ryan Irelan, Matt Clark, Aaron Gustafson, Tim Murtaugh, and Allison Wagner, and young project managers like Rawle Anders, Dave DeRuchie, and Brett Harned whose work is being recognized. (Apologies to young-at-heart Kevin Hoffman, Chris Cashdollar, Russ Unger, and Robert Jolly.)
When I stood up with Happy Cog’s co-presidents to accept “design agency of the year,” it was on these young folks’ behalf that I accepted it. I am a vessel of their talent and of our clients’ willingness to support their users instead of making safe, committee-friendly choices. It would be wrong of me to refuse the award on the grounds that I am better known than some members of our staff.
We work for these people called clients. And while Jane HTML may know of Jeffrey Zeldman and Happy Cog, Joe Client does not. Moreover, Joe Client may not know how to evaluate agencies. He may know little about web standards and “user experience.” He probably doesn’t follow you or me on Twitter, and doesn’t participate in our community’s passionate debates about everything from the proper semantics for sub-navigation to the value of eye-tracking. He doesn’t know from that stuff, but he knows that if an agency has won awards in a respected competition, that agency must know a little something about what it is doing. If our goal as an agency is to do and spread good work, it makes business sense for us to accept an award from a respected forum of our peers.
By the way, we did not enter the .net Awards, we were nominated for them by the community. Accepting the nominations was like accepting a compliment—the gracious thing to do. Not that I’m apologizing.
So much for “design agency of the year.” I accepted “video podcast of the year” on behalf of my brilliant partner Dan Benjamin, who creates superior streaming content for people who make websites. It is his work more than mine that was honored. And as for “standards champion,” I’ve already said who I think deserved that nod this year. But I accepted the community’s verdict with a blush and thanks.
Winning anything invites enmity; winning three awards is asking for a backlash. But I know that’s not where you’re coming from.
Are awards bad?
I used to hate awards, too. I’ve only recently started coming around.
Designers and creative directors I respect and worked for in the past were almost always winning and judging awards shows. Their work was brilliant, and the awards were a tool they used to balance their power against that of tough-minded account executives and clients. When a client said make the logo bigger, a creative director could turn quietly to his or her wall of awards, and the client would back down.
Nevertheless, awards shows are always political to some extent, and those who don’t win often find fault with those who do. Like you, I had a distaste for awards shows when I started on my own (plus I didn’t think any award show got the web). For over a decade, largely because of my feeling, which other Happy Cog muckety-mucks shared, our agency ignored awards shows.
But we are modifying our views on this, and not merely because we just won a bunch of awards we didn’t even seek (as well as a few that we did). Our industry needs real design discussion, peer review, and recognition. I believe in the .net Awards, as their partnership with A List Apart attests. They are the best our industry has.
Personally, I’m inspired to start actually seeking awards, because Joe Business gets them, and I like to see designers working.
I appreciate the purity of your point of view, and I recognize it as a discussion point, not an attack. We are friends, and you’re a gent. Maybe I am wrong. But I’m beginning to think we don’t need no awards, we need good awards. And when good work wins, it inspires more good work.
Whether you hate awards or love them, the most important thing is to keep wins and losses in perspective, and remember that you’re only as good as your last idea.
The 10K Apart Challenge had a simple premise: Could you build a complete web application using less than 10 kilobytes? … A joint effort between An Event Apart and MIX Online, the 10K Apart reaped 367 web applications in 28 days—everything from casual games to RIAs—that demonstrate, even with their tiny footprints, what is truly possible with modern [web] standards.
Read about the winning entries: 10K Apart – IEBlog.
Don’t worry about people stealing your design work. Worry about the day they stop.” – J.Zeldman LTTP 12.14.10
Happy Cog’s redesign of the Scientific American website, featuring wicked web fonts Prelude and Brunel, is alive!
For the Happy Cog team:
Sacrebleu! The French edition of the ebook of Monsieur Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 For Web Designers is in the top five sellers in the iTunes Store Français.
To answer your other questions: an eBook version in English is coming to books.alistapart.com next week, will soon thereafter also be sold via the iTunes Store, and will be followed by a PDF version. Get those downloading fingers in shape now!
In What I learned at An Event Apart Minneapolis, Marc Drummond writes:
A really good session, in my opinion, is not about the how, it’s about the why. … A really good session, through arguments and examples, stories and slides, humor and deep thoughts, compels you to try something new. A great session exposes you to something you haven’t done before and inspires you to take action, change the way you do things.
Based on my experience, I plan to focus even more on understanding users for the sites I work on, strategize more about content, focus on mobile and adaptive layouts, consult existing patterns for interfaces, humanize interfaces, work more iteratively, start using HTML5 and CSS3 techniques that will save loads of time and give Dreamweaver CS5 a try.
While I might have run across information about these topics before, now I feel the urgency in putting these techniques in the top tray of my toolbox, where I will use them more frequently.
Most of us web folk are hybrids of one sort or another, but Todd Dominey was one of the first web designers to combine exceptional graphic design talent with serious mastery of code.
Being so good at both design and development that you could easily earn a fine living doing just one of them is still rare, although it looks like the future of our profession. One of the first serious designers to embrace web standards, Todd was also one of the few who did so while continuing to achieve recognition for his work in Flash. (Daniel Mall, who came later, is another.)
Finally, Todd was one of the first—along with 37signals and Coudal Partners—to abandon an enviably successful client services career in favor of full-time product development, inspiring a generation to do likewise, and helping bring us to our current world of web apps and startups.
A personal project that became an empire
In Todd’s case, the product was SlideShowPro, a project he designed for himself, which has grown to become the web’s most popular photo and video slideshow and gallery viewer. When you visit a photographer’s portfolio website, there’s an excellent chance that SlideShowPro powers its dynamic photo viewing experience. The same is true for the photo and video gallery features of many major newspaper and magazine sites, quite possibly including your favorites.
But deliberate lack of Flash support in the iPad and iPhone, while lauded here on February 1, 2010 as a win for accessible, standards-based design (“Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first”), presented a serious problem for developers who use SlideShowPro and readers who enjoy browsing dynamic photo and video galleries.
Mr Dominey has now solved that problem:
SlideShowPro Mobile is an entirely new media player built using HTML5 that doesn’t require the Flash Player plugin and can serve as a fallback for users accessing your web sites using these devices. But it’s not just any fallback — it’s specially designed for touch interfaces and smaller screen sizes. So it looks nothing like the SlideShowPro player and more like a native application that’s intuitive, easy to use, and just feels right.
The best part though is that because SlideShowPro Director (which will be required) publishes the mobile content, you’ll be able to provide the mobile alternative by simply updating the Flash Player embed code in your HTML documents. And just like when using the SlideShowPro player, because Director is behind the scenes, all your photos will be published for the target dimensions of these devices — which gives your users top quality, first generation images. The mobile player will automatically load whatever content is assigned to the Flash version, so the same content will be accessible to any browser accessing your web site.
A public beta will be released in the next weeks. Meanwhile, there is a video demo. There’s also an excellent Question and Answer page that answers questions you may have, whether you’re a SlideShow Pro customer or not. For instance:
Why mobile? Why not desktop?
We believe that (on the desktop) Flash is still the best delivery method for photo/video galleries and slideshows for it provides the most consistent user experience across all browsers and the broadest range of playback and customization options. As HTML5 support matures across all desktop browsers, we’ll continue to look into alternate presentation options.
Into the future!
I have known 37signals CEO Jason Fried since he was a young copywriter who reminded me of me, only smarter and more confident. Like many of you, with a mixture of awe and pleasure, I have watched him change our industry, along with book publishing and business generally. Dan Benjamin and I are delighted to announce the mercurial Mr Fried as our guest on The Big Web Show. Join us today, 1 July 2010, for the live taping at 1:00 PM ET.
Jason’s official bio is brief, but he can write at length when he wishes: see Rework, Getting Real, and Defensive Web Design, each a classic, and to each of which he was principal co-writer and guiding force. Besides saying no to meetings, contracts, and VC money, Jason and 37signals are famous for godfathering a speedy, iterative form of web application design; for gifting the industry with Ruby on Rails; for creating a suite of beloved (yes, really) business productivity web apps; for mastering and then abandoning client services in favor of making stuff; for somehow, in the midst of all that busyness, churning out tons of fine content on their popular blog; and for being roommates with the equally fantastic Coudal Partners.
Can’t wait to interview Jason Fried in front of a live internet audience today. Hope you’ll join us.
The Big Web Show is taped live in front of an internet audience every Thursday at 1:00 PM ET on live.5by5.tv. Edited episodes can be watched afterwards (often within hours of taping) via iTunes (audio feed | video feed) and the web.
In Should Publishers Attend SXSW?, Lorraine Shanley of Publishing Trends answers her own question this way:
Yes, because sxsw offers a chance to see options for the future—amazing gaming, interactive software, inventive marketing, creative content development and deployment. But as Will Schwalbe … said, “If publishers come to sxsw to create their own sessions track, they’ll learn nothing. If they come to attend panels on subjects about which they know nothing, they’ll learn an enormous amount.”
The PDF version of the April issue includes additional SXSW coverage (with nice things said about our panel and A Book Apart), data on how different generations find books, search engine conversion strategies, and more.