Categories
A List Apart Accessibility Browsers Design development industry Publishing Standards work

Not your father’s standards switch

The DOCTYPE switch isn’t what it used to be.

For most of the past seven years, the DOCTYPE switch stood designers and developers in good stead as a toggle between standards mode and quirks mode. The switch enabled browsers to accurately support the work of responsible designers who cared about accessibility, findability, and lean, semantic markup. It also enabled those same browsers to support the old-fashioned, table-driven junk markup your grandpappy writes.

But when IE7, with its tremendously improved support for standards, “broke the web,” it revealed the flaw in our beloved toggle. The quest was on to find a more reliable ensurer of forward compatibility. Is version targeting the answer?

In Issue No. 251 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Aaron Gustafson of The Web Standards Project and ALA describes the workings of and logic behind version targeting, a proposed replacement to the DOCTYPE switch. It’s an idea whose simplicity you may admire immediately; or you may, at least initially, want to run screaming in the opposite direction.

That’s how ALA‘s Eric Meyer felt, when he first previewed Aaron’s report. So did I. But we came around—and in “A Standardista’s Journey,” the companion piece to Aaron’s article, Eric explains how his thinking about version targeting evolved.

Microsoft is on board to support version targeting in IE8; they hope other browser makers will do likewise. The Web Standards Project worked with the Redmond company to forge this new path in forward compatible design. It’s with Microsoft’s consent that we unveil version targeting in this issue. In a future issue, we’ll discuss the implications for scripting.

[tags]standards, webstandards, DOCTYPE, DOCTYPE switch, forward compatible, forward compatibility, versionlock, IE8[/tags]

Categories
Blogs and Blogging industry technorati widgets work

Adios, Technorati?

Without my permission, Technorati has stuck my photo and its logo in the sidebar of my site’s front page.

Technorati, when it works, provides useful services to blogs and their readers, such as the ability to track third-party responses to a post. (Google Blog Search works the same street, and refreshes more frequently.)

Technorati also indexes “authority,” which is its word for popularity as determined by the number of Technorati users who mark your site as a favorite.

Sooner or later, almost everyone with a blog “claims” it on Technorati by inserting a small piece of JavaScript into their template.

Until recently, that small piece of JavaScript helped Technorati keep track of your site, and that was all it did.

You could configure the script to show your picture and Technorati’s logo but you didn’t have to, and I chose not to.

Technorati called the script an “embed.”

In the last few days, Technorati apparenty converted its “embeds” to “widgets.”

Widgets do more than embeds, and I’m sure they’ll delight some blog owners. But I am not delighted. I wasn’t asked, or even notified. Through investigation (AKA random clicking) I found the widgets page and “customized” my widget not to show my photo and Technorati’s logo (i.e. I manually opted out of something I had previously already opted out of).

Except the opt-out didn’t take. My photo and Technorati’s logo are still stuck in my front page’s sidebar.

I’ll give Technorati a few days to clear its cache (or its head). If there’s still junk in my sidebar come Monday, then it’s adios, Technorati.

[tags]technorati, widgets, opt-in, opt-out, blogs, blogging, blogosphere[/tags]

Categories
events family glamorous Happy Cog™ industry work Zeldman

Facts and Opinions about Zeldman

  1. Yesterday I spoke at BusinessWeek and was interviewed for a podcast that airs next week.
  2. Tomorrow I will speak for Carson at Future of Web Design.
  3. I will not be nicely dressed.
  4. That is because the fancy drycleaner—the best in town—has not yet returned the sharp clothes I wore at An Event Apart San Francisco.
  5. Don’t get me wrong. I do have another dress shirt.
  6. But I wore it to BusinessWeek yesterday. Hence, nothing “tailored” that is also clean.
  7. Which means nothing tailored for my meeting today with a client whose business and premises are somewhat traditional.
  8. All because my drycleaner takes longer to clean my dress shirts than my company takes to design a website.
  9. Almost.
  10. I would switch, but the other drycleaners in my neighborhood tend to shrink my shirts and then deny responsibility for the damage.
  11. So. What to wear.
  12. I might go for the Steve Jobs look.
  13. Or I might go for the “Zeldman” look.
  14. Which, admittedly, is not much of a business look.
  15. But I got into this business so I would not have to dress up. That was kind of the point. Learn HTML, and work in your underwear.
  16. Now that I actually have to dress for clients and the public, I have, in the words of Imelda Marcos, nothing to wear.
  17. Although Imelda was talking about shoes and my problem is shirts.
  18. I could buy a new shirt.
  19. If I didn’t have to work today.
  20. Why, yes, I have been using Twitter. Why do you ask?

[tags]zeldman, businessweek, FOWD, futureofwebdesign, carson, aneventapart, aeasf07, mockturtleneck, stevejobs, apple, twitter[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart An Event Apart family glamorous industry work

We live as we dream

My cold is in its second week; I slept less than four hours last night. Yesterday we decided to check out the housing market in our neighborhood and ended up making a bid. Anxiety woke me at 1:00 a.m. and kept me eyeballing the dark ceiling for hours.

Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, we will publish the findings of the web design survey. The findings document alone will weigh in at more than 80 pages. It has been less work than building the pyramids, but I may revise that opinion by the end of the day.

Lots happening. Watch this space.

[tags]alistapart, survey, careers, webdesign, webdesignsurvey, NYC, apartments[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart Design eric meyer Redesigns work

Just My Type of Site

In i love typography’s carefully curated “15 excellent examples of web typography (part one),” A List Apart, Happy Cog’s twice-monthly magazine for people who make websites, leads the pack at number one. Jason Santa Maria designed this version of A List Apart; Eric Meyer cunningly crafted the CSS; and Kevin Cornell illustrates. Other top-ranking examples of typographic excellence cited include Shaun Inman dot com, FontShop, Jesús Rodríguez Velasco, and Kevin Cornell’s BearskinRug Shop. Congratulations to all 15 extraordinary websites.

[tags]typography, web, design, webdesign, webtypography, webtype, awards, galleries[/tags]

Categories
business businessweek csszengarden Design development family Happy Cog™ industry links Microsoft reportage Standards work Zeldman

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]

Categories
Happy Cog™ jobs work

It’s a dirty job…

And we hope you’ll take it. Happy Cog Philadelphia seeks a fabulous project manager. Must communicate superbly, value great work and great client relationships, respect deadlines and the creative process, enjoy Basecamp and love Philadelphia. Details are available on the 37signals Job Board.

Categories
12 years A List Apart An Event Apart Design Happy Cog™ industry Standards work Zeldman

Hi, Mom!

A Business Week slide show, “Thinking Outside the Design Box,” profiles “10 professionals working at the very edges of their disciplines in order to redefine their industries.” Included are designers Lisa Strausfeld of Pentagram, who helped design the interface for One Laptop Per Child; Robin Chase, the founder of Zipcar; and (ulp!) me.

I’m in there because they needed a pretty face, and because of the whole web standards thing.

The piece is part of “Cutting-Edge Designers 2007,” a Business Week Special Report focusing on innovation that arises out of crossing disciplines and combining technologies.

It’s worth reading, which is lucky, because I would have blogged it no matter what.

[tags]design, innovation, businessweek, designers, zeldman[/tags]

Categories
Design HTML mail industry Standards work

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]

Categories
business Design HTML mail industry Standards work

E-mail is not a platform for design

All these years of internet use later, HTML mail still sucks. You may think I mean “HTML mail doesn’t work properly in some e-mail clients.” And that statement is certainly true. Companies spend hours crafting layouts that may not work in Eudora or Gmail, or may no longer work in Outlook.

Even in programs that support the crap code used to create these layouts, all that hard visual work will go unseen if the user has unchecked “View HTML Mail” in their preferences.

As for CSS, it is partially supported in some e-mail applications and in web apps like Gmail, but only if you author in nonsemantic table layouts and bandwidth-wasting inline CSS. Which is like using a broken refrigerator to store food at room temperature.

But when I say HTML mail still sucks, I don’t mean it sucks because support for design in e-mail today is like support for standards in web browsers in 1998.

I mean it sucks because nobody needs it. It impedes rather than aids communication.

E-mail was invented so people could quickly exchange text messages over fast or slow or really slow connections, using simple, non-processor-intensive applications on any computing platform, or using phones, or hand-held devices, or almost anything else that can display text and permits typing.

That’s what e-mail is for. That’s why it’s great.

E-mail is not a platform for design. Unlike the web, which also started as an exchange medium for text messages but which benefited from the inclusion of images and other media, e-mail works best when used for its original purpose, as the most basic of content exchange systems.

“Designed” e-mail is just a slightly more polished version of those messages your uncle sends you. Your uncle thinks 18pt bright red Comic Sans looks great, so he sends e-mail messages formatted that way. You cluck your tongue, or sigh, or run de-formatting scripts on every message you receive from him. When your uncle is the “designer,” you “get” why styled mail sucks. It sucks just as much when you design it, even if it looks better than your uncle’s work in the two e-mail programs that support it correctly.

Even though it doesn’t work right in many e-mail applications, and even though many users dislike it, HTML appeals to clients because it’s another place to stick their logo. And it appeals to the kind of designer who thinks everything, even a bullet hurtling toward his own skull, would improve if decorated. I hate that kind of designer almost as much as I hate people who hate design. That kind of designer gives all designers a bad name, and is chiefly responsible for the slightly amused contempt with which many business people view designers, art directors, and “creative” people generally.

Say it with me: HTML is for websites. CSS is for websites. GIFs and JPEGs are for websites.

ASCII means never having to say you’re sorry.

Discussion closed

The conversation has moved on. Feel free to contribute to the follow-up posts.

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.

Eight points for better e-mail relationships

Okay, so under the right circumstances, when people have requested it, e-mail can be a platform for design. Here are eight ways to make it work better (and avoid pissing off people who hate HTML mail).

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

Categories
A List Apart An Event Apart Community Design development Diversity industry work

Web Design Survey closes soon

I took it! And so should you. The Web Design Survey, 2007.

As it turns out, the profession that dare not speak its name has a lot to say for itself. Over 30,000 people have taken a few minutes to help create the first (soon-to-be) publicly available data about people who make websites. And you?

If you haven’t yet filled out The Web Design Survey, now is the time: the survey closes on 22 May. Our thanks to all who have already participated.

[tags]webdesign, survey, web design survey, ala, alistapart, design, development[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart Design development industry work

The profession that dare not speak its name

I took it! And so should you. The Web Design Survey, 2007.

Question: If web design makes the new information age possible—if it creates new markets and new products, generates significant global cash flow, changes the way companies and non-profits interact with the public, and employs untold legions of specialists—why, until now, hasn’t anybody tried to find out more about it as an industry?

Hypothesis: No one has tried to measure web design because web design has been a hidden profession.

The hypothesis is neither far-fetched nor particularly insightful. If you think about it, it’s obvious. Web design has been hidden because its workers have, for the most part, been masked by old business and old media categories. Call it death by org chart:

  • A producer, designer, and developer collaborate daily on their non-profit’s rather unwieldy website. The producer’s business card claims she is an Associate Communications Coordinator. The designer’s title is Art Director. The developer is called an Assistant Director of IT. All three are really web professionals—but nobody calls them that, and nobody at the organization solicits their opinions except on small, technical matters. This, even though the website handles nearly all public communication and fund-raising, and these three are the only people in the organization who know about usability and design.
  • On paper, a large law firm employs only one web employee despite having a vast public website and an even bigger intranet site. Her title is webmaster, although she is really a graphic designer with HTML, CSS, PHP, and usability expertise. On the corporate org chart, she reports to one of the partners, who is charged with supervising the website in his free time. He knows nothing about websites, so she handles everything. Once a month they have lunch; once a year she gets a nice raise. Because she reports to an attorney, she is part of Legal.
  • On paper, a daily news magazine employs just one “web” employee. His title is webmaster, although he is really a developer, and he is slowly being squeezed out. The actual web development work—and there is a ton of it, every day—is performed by two IT staffers. A half dozen other folks work on page templates and site image production; on paper, they are graphic designers. The site is directed by a committee representing the editorial, advertising, and marketing departments. But regardless of their placement on the org chart, they are really web people, making web content and web layout decisions that are then executed by the “graphic designers” and “IT guys.” In all, nearly fifteen workers toil over the magazine’s website each day, yet the magazine’s web “staff” consists of one guy who’s about to take an early retirement.

There are many self-proclaimed freelance web designers and developers, and many staff people with those (and related) titles, but there are also hundreds of thousands of “hidden” web designers and developers, and this partly accounts for the business world’s indifference to us.

But the hidden workers are coming out of the shadows. Over 12,000 people filled out The Web Design Survey during its first 24 hours online. Average completion time was 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Not a bad start. Keep spreading the word.

[tags]webdesign, survey, web design survey, ala, alistapart, design, development[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart An Event Apart business Design industry Women's Studies work

The Web Design Survey

A few days back, we remarked on the strange absence of real data about web design and the designers, developers, IAs, writers, project managers, and other specialists and hybrids who do this work. In all the years people have been creating websites, nobody bothered to gather statistics about who does this work, using what skills, under what conditions, and for what kinds of compensation.

In the absence of statistics specific to our field, commissioning research got us only so far. It was time to take the next step.

I took it! And so should you. The Web Design Survey, 2007.

Presenting A List Apart’s first annual web design survey. The information it collects will help us form a long overdue picture of the ways web design is really practiced around the globe. The more people who complete the survey, the richer and more detailed the picture will become.

Depending on how you answer it, the survey has up to 37 questions, nearly all of them multiple choice. A fluent English speaker should be able to complete the survey in ten minutes or less.

In structuring the sections on employment, we patterned certain questions along the lines established by previous surveys undertaken by AIGA and The Information Architecture Institute. The similarity will afford easier comparisons across the three surveys. This comparability will be useful because some “web designers” are also (or primarily) designers, and thus also fall under AIGA’s umbrella, while other “web designers” are primarily information architects.

Hosted by An Event Apart, the survey will remain open until 22 May, 2007. After we close it, we’ll slice and dice the data and present our findings in a future issue of A List Apart.

Help us increase accurate knowledge about—and deepen respect for—the profession of web design. Take the survey and spread the word. (You might even win a free ticket to An Event Apart, a 30GB video iPod, an Event Apart jump drive, or a funky A List Apart T-shirt.)

Also in this issue of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

The Long Hallway

by Jonathan Follett

In the virtual conference room, no one can hear you scream. Social networking enables knowledge workers like us to build virtual companies with no office space and little overhead. But can we make them succeed? Follett dissects the skills required to create, manage, and grow the virtual firm.

Contrast and Meaning

by Andy Rutledge

Yes, Virginia, design does matter. Better web page layouts aren’t only about aesthetics. A layout with clear hierarchies can turn scanners to readers, and readers to members. Learn how visual contrast can turn lifeless web pages into sizzling calls to action.

[tags]webdesign, survey, design, development, compensation, business, alistapart, AndyRutledge, JonathanFollett, longhallway, thelonghallway[/tags]

Categories
Design development Happy Cog™ work

Happy Cog Philadelphia is Hiring

Fresh on the Job Board:

Happy Cog Philadelphia is looking for an experienced freelance front-end (presentation layer) developer with strong design sensibilities. You must live and breathe semantic XHTML and CSS and understand how design and layout decisions manifest themselves in the world of markup. It helps if you’ve worked with Content Management Systems like EllisLab’s ExpressionEngine and can integrate templates within this environment. You must be in the Philadelphia area and be able to work with us on site. Details are available on the Job Board posting.

[tags]happycog, hiring, webdesign, markup, css, expressionengine[/tags]

Categories
Design Happy Cog™ Redesigns work

Happy Cog redesigns AIGA

If you develop green technologies, you dream of selling your idea to Al Gore. If you run a design agency, you fantasize about winning AIGA as a client. Originally founded as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA sets the agenda for design as a profession, an art, and a political and cultural phenomenon. In the world of design, at least in the U.S., there is nothing higher.

When AIGA approached Happy Cog to redesign their site, we figured we had no chance at all. With nothing to lose, we spoke bluntly.

We told them they had fifteen years of great content that nobody could find. We suggested that an emerging class of designers who needed what AIGA had to offer did not know AIGA and could not connect with its web presence. The site could do more, and had to do more, to reach these users. We said AIGA’s site above all others should make brilliant use of typography. It should be a joy to read—and it was not.

I reckoned AIGA would hire a more obviously design-focused shop. “Designy design” agencies is how I think of such places, and I mean no disrespect by it. AIGA would, I figured, shrug off our fairly harsh words and choose someone more agreeable. Instead, they hired us.

Months of intense collaboration later, Happy Cog’s redesign of AIGA has launched. We junked the old structure, flattened the hierarchy, and surfaced the content. We gave the site’s years of brilliant writing by the likes of Ellen Lupton and Steven Heller an appropriately readable home—one that demonstrates what web typography can achieve.

And to make the site as inspirational as it is educational, we introduced a second narrative to the user experience: dynamically chosen selections from AIGA’s design archives visually intrude at the top of every page, inviting designers to dive into the archives whenever they seek refreshment.

AIGA’s Ric Grefé, Denise Wood, Liz Danzico, and Kelly McLaughlin guided us throughout the process. They are brilliant collaborators. Chicago’s Thirdwave created the robust and sophisticated back-end architecture required to support our detailed and unusual design requirements.

Thousands of pages of old content, none of it semantically marked up, and none of it structured to match our new requirements, have been fairly seamlessly integrated into the new design. Naturally there are still some bugs (not to mention validation hiccups) to work out. AIGA, Thirdwave, and Happy Cog will be working to patch these little bumps in the days ahead.

I creative directed the project, but its quality is purely due to the incredible team that worked on it:

More information is available at Happy Cog and on Jason’s and Dan’s sites. Better still, just dive into the new AIGA.org.

[tags]aiga, design, redesigns, webdesign, happycog[/tags]

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