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My Count of Monte Cristo

Summer means warm lemonade, sunburned shoulders, and Field-Tested Books at Coudal Partners — with reviews by a double dozen writers who “read a certain book in a certain place.”

The Count of Monte Cristo, field-tested on Mohawk Mountain, Connecticut, is my contribution to this year’s collection.

You can buy an elegantly designed 2006 Field-Tested PDF “book”, including all field-tested reviews from this year and years past, cross-indexed and formatted for portability and printability.

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Accessibility An Event Apart cities Design development events industry Redesigns Standards Tools work writing Zeldman

Wrapping Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago has wrapped. It felt like the best one yet. Everything clicked.

There were as many designers as coders in attendance, as many Chicagoans as out-of-towners, as many agency people and freelancers as in-house folks, and nearly as many women as men. They engaged at “good morning” and stayed involved all day, asking shrewdly penetrating questions and sharing their own insights and experiences. Energy flowed not only between the floor and the seats but also from one seat to another. It felt like community.

This was the third time out for Eric, Jason, and me. Our talks were sharper and shorter — looser and more relaxed, yet also more focused than before. The rhythm was better. The balance between technical and aesthetic subjects, how much time was alloted to each, the way one theme flowed into another — the music of the day — felt tighter and truer than at events past.

Thanks to our sponsors at Adobe, AIGA, New Riders, and Media Temple, we were able to give away thousands of dollars worth of software, books, and services. (We’ll be doing the same at An Event Apart NYC next month.)

Guest speaker Jim Coudal‘s leisurely stories were like little grenades of inspiration. He tossed them out casually; moments later, they detonated.

The day formally ended with lively critiques of sites submitted by attendees. We tried this once before, at An Event Apart Philadelphia, with mixed results. This time it felt like it really worked. The day informally ended at Timothy O’Toole’s pub, with a mixer sponsored by Jewelboxing.

Time, and the blog posts of those who attended, will tell if the event was as good for you as it was for us. Sincere thanks to all who attended. Thanks also to Dawson, John Gruber, Amy Redell, Michael Nolan, and Orrin Fink.

And a reminder: the Early Bird Rate for An Event Apart NYC ends June 9th. That’s a week from today! On June 10th, the price will increase by $100. So if you’re thinking of attending An Event Apart NYC — two days of design and code — please register soon.

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family glamorous Publishing Standards work writing Zeldman

All in

Three Saturdays ago, my father had a heart attack. Last Saturday, we rushed our baby daughter to the emergency room. In-between, my wife had to undergo scary and uncomfortable medical tests.

Everybody is fine, even my dad (truth in advertising: aspirin really can save your life) but my once-brown goatee has gone shock-white.

Everybody is fine, so take a deep breath and savor the unusually high pollen count.

Something else took place in these same tense two weeks: I finished my book. Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition (DWWS 2e) left my hands last night and will reach shelves this summer.

When I agreed to write DWWS 2e, I mistook the job for a quick spruce-up. After all, what I’d said in the first edition about the benefits of standards-based design was still true: accessibility and semantics make your content easier to find and faster and cheaper to distribute. And the browser most people used when I wrote the first edition hadn’t changed in five years, so how tough a rewrite could I be facing? I figured I was looking at an updated screenshot or two, a changed URL, and maybe a couple of sticky notes.

About four months into the grueling (but also magically riveting) process, I realized that what I was doing was writing a book.

A lot of 2e will be familiar to the book’s fans, but a lot is new. And new is work. New is infinite wash-loads of work. Messy, exhausting. At some point in the infinite rinsing and lathering I was told the book had to be finished by last night. And so it has been.

I wouldn’t have made it alone. Erin and Ethan were right in there, carrying me.

I finished. I finished while grappling with sudden existential crises involving the people I love most. But then, my mother died while I was finishing my first book. Books kill.

This is me being cheerful after completing a rather strong second edition.

2e! 2e! My father and daughter and wife are well. My book is good. My song is sung.

Categories
Design industry Publishing Standards writing

Everyware

Adam Greenfield has written one of the most provocative books in years. If the right people read it, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing may do for the coming, computerless computing interface what Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things did for design generally. Like Norman, Greenfield argues for good design not as an aesthetic issue but as an ethical and business imperative. There is an urgency and clarity to every word.

Everyware is both a prescription and a warning. Although films like Minority Report have made such ubicomp staples as the gestural interface look a bit silly, these kinds of interactivity are coming soon to a wall or object near you. Depending on who designs them and by what principles, they will work beautifully or badly. Everyware will enhance our lives by anticipating our needs or it will destroy our privacy — or both.

Besides Don Norman’s book, the other piece of writing I sometimes thought of as I read Everyware was Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Writing in 1937, Benjamin pondered what the existence of photographic reproduction did to the status of the unique work of art. If the Mona Lisa can be reproduced by lithography, what is the value of the Mona Lisa?

It’s not that Greenfield writes like Benjamin (he doesn’t). It’s that both writers see and can describe changes in the world to which their contemporaries are oblivious. Greenfield is a friend and former member of Happy Cog so I have an interest in seeing his book do well. But if I didn’t know him or couldn’t stand him I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about how design and technology are shaping our time.

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Accessibility Design development events industry Standards writing

Fine Corinthian Leather

Sophia Marie Dominey
A very healthy eight pounds, eleven ounces.
Dissecting The Process
or: How an A List Apart Illustration Comes Together, by the illustrator himself, Kevin Cornell.
simplifier lab
Phoebe Espiritu’s fine blog on the quest for simplicity and minimalism in design.
Rogue Librarian: SXSWi Takeaways
Carrie Bickner Zeldman’s writeup of her SXSW Interactive panel on Digital Preservation and Blogs. See also:
Digital Preservation Panel at SXSWi
Librarian Avengers’s notes on the same panel. See also:
Digital Preservation: What and Whom Are We Saving?
Bill Anderson’s notes on the same panel.
Vantan.org
Personal site of Vanessa Tan, devoted Netizen and musician, blogging from Singapore.
Aspen Design Summit
AIGA-sponsored retreat.
This is Powazek
Beauteous and well-written site of cofounder of JPG Magazine (and creator of bunches of other fab web content, none of which I need to tell you, ’cause you know)
Behind the WaSP Redesign
Designer Clarke discusses creative process. See also:
WaSP Annual General Meeting
Transcribed by Muffin Research Labs.
Does Your Blog Have a Business?
SXSW Interactive panel transcribed by Auscillate.com.
CSS Floatutorial
In CSS layout, float is all. Maxdesign’s step-by-step guide shows how to float elements such as images, drop caps, and next and back buttons to create image galleries, inline lists and multi-column layouts.
CSS Tweak
Now with in-page Help! Andy Peatling’s free web-based tool optimizes your CSS files. “It will take any CSS file and optimize the syntax, grouping your style declarations into shorthand where possible. It can also remove comments, and strip whitespace for maximum compression.”
A brief history of the “clenched fist” image
Like it says.
GrayBit v0.5 Beta
“GrayBit is an online accessibility testing tool designed to visually convert a full-color web page into a grayscale rendition for the purpose of visually testing the page’s perceived contrast.”
Interior Desecrations
Horrible home design from the classic halls of Lileks.
George Bush: I Don’t Know Much About Designing Rugs
In Design Observer.
Accessible Web Developers
A public group at ma.gnolia. Creating accessible (and mobile-friendly) sites.
Brit Pack
Proud members.
More Ma.gnolia Marks
See all 345 (and counting) of Apartness’s bookmarks.
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Design industry links people photography Publishing writing

Year-end blowout

What makes for a good design book?
Lou Rosenfeld, co-creator of information architecture, is looking for people who like to read. Specifically, he is looking for people who like to read about design and user experience. Are you one of them? Then here is your chance to sound off. What vital topics aren’t being covered (or aren’t being covered well) in the design and user experience books you buy? Where are publishers falling down? What are you dying to read? Let Lou know what you think.
Technorati is hiring
Technorati, a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the blogosphere, seeks a modern web developer, “proficient in state of the art LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) development, with emphasis on PHP and Apache.” More to the point, says Chief Technology Officer Tantek Çelik, the company is looking for one who has kept up with CSS, semantic markup, microformats, and unobtrusive JavaScript.
Even more to the point, Technorati is looking for a smart web person who is tired of big-company bureaucracy, secrecy, and in-fighting, and seeks greater emotional and professional fulfillment—in other words, Technorati is looking for a web person who wants to make a difference. Yes, they really do write job descriptions that way, and not only in San Francisco, where Technorati is based. (Tags: technorati, jobs, webdevelopment.)
Freight for sale
FREIGHT (available from Phil’s Fonts) is a superbly detailed font family created by Brooklyn type designer Joshua Darden. Optimized for screen display, Freight is ideal for web interface design. You can also use it as a default font for such daily computing tasks as reading and writing email—makes a tasty break from Verdana and Georgia. Recent Darden fonts include Meta Headline (created at the behest of Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz) and lovely, funky Omnes.
Kids with cameras

In Calcutta’s red light district, over 7,000 women and girls work as prostitutes. Only one group has a lower standing: their children. Zana Briski became involved in the lives of these children in 1998 when she first began photographing prostitutes in Calcutta. Living in the brothels for months at a time, she quickly developed a relationship with many of the kids who, often terrorized and abused, were drawn to the rare human companionship she offered.

Zana held weekly photography workshops between 2000 and 2003. There the children learned camera basics, lighting, composition, the development of point-of-view, editing, and sequencing for narrative. To Zana’s delight, equipped with inexpensive point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, the children produced incredible work. Their images are explosions of color: self-portraits, family pictures, street scenes, stunning tableaus of Bengali life.

Ruby on Rails podcasts
Audio interviews with David Heinemeier Hansson, who invented Rails and manages it as an open source movement, plus Ruby on Rails heavyweights and pioneers including Dave Thomas, Chad Fowler, Rick Olson, and A List Apart’s Dan Benjamin.
Fairplay defined
Everything you ever wanted to know about the digital rights management technology built into Apple’s iPod, iTunes, and iTunes Music Store. (Except how to turn it off.)
Categories
Design industry Publishing writing Zeldman

Style vs. Design

With our blessing, the newly launched Adobe Motion Design Center has resurrected our famous article, “Style vs. Design,” originally published in 2000. A few words and references have changed to bring the piece “up to date,” but it is essentially the same article it was five years ago.

First published when web design, buoyed by dot-com dollars, was at its most self-indulgent, the article dared to suggest …

  • That trendy elements are not the same as design
  • That design is communication
  • That most web design is meant to be used
  • That most web design should therefore be usable

It still makes these points and they are still true.

The good news is that in the five years since the article was new, responsible web design has emerged as a practice. And it is being practiced by many people who are first and foremost designers.

The bad news is that college and university design curricula are still mostly about everything but information architecture, usability, application design, user-focused design, accessibility, and web standards.

[tags]zeldman, adobe, style vs. design[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart Accessibility Design events work writing Zeldman

I feel pretty

Another lecture season kicks off this week with my lunchtime keynote address at Active Insights, WebSideStory’s two-day user forum on best practices in digital marketing. Catch me if you can: Thursday, 10 November, the Grand Ballroom, the Roosevelt Hotel, Madison Avenue at 45th Street, New York City.

A List Apart 207

In Issue No. 207 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, we highlight a few unexpected consequences — both positive and negative — of common interface design and accessibility choices.

High Accessibility Is Effective Search Engine Optimization
by Andy Hagans
It’s no coincidence that search engines love highly accessible websites; in fact, by designing for accessibility, you’re already using effective search-engine optimization techniques. Andy Hagans explains yet another reason to pay attention to accessibility.
Design Choices Can Cripple a Website
by Nick Usborne
Do you test your designs? If not, Nick Usborne wants you to take responsibility for your design choices and the very quantifiable effect they can have on websites that are built for business.