Categories
Accessibility Design Happy Cog™ Ma.gnolia Usability Zeldman zeldman.com

The feed is gone

Over the weekend, I added my Ma.gnolia bookmarks feed to my blog post template, such that every post would be followed by links to and descriptions of the last five external web pages to have caught my fancy. Inserting the feed into the template was easy and took all of three minutes.

This morning, I removed the feed.

Why I inserted the feed

From 1995 until around the time Happy Cog worked on the Ma.gnolia design project, one of the things I wrote about here was other people’s websites. I did it because I was passionate about web design, and so were the people who read this site. And of course, writing about other people’s sites also provided a ready form and steady stream of content. From 1995 until about 2001, I wrote here several times a day, and had millions of readers.

Then married life, and a business that grew in spite of my lifelong effort to avoid commercial success, ate into my blogging time. Today I write less frequently and have fewer readers. In an effort to provide linkage even when I don’t have time to write posts, I added my Ma.gnolia feed to my site’s sidebar in 2006. (It’s still there, on my front page. You may need to scroll down to see it.)

A flaw in the design

Not everyone notices the Ma.gnolia feed in my sidebar, due to a flaw—one of many—in the way I redesigned zeldman.com in 2004. (I used to redesign this site several times a year, but haven’t touched it since Spring of 2004.)

When I redesigned zeldman.com in 2004, I thought it would be “neat” to make my sidebar’s linked text almost the same color as the background until you hovered over it. The idea being that the focus was on the site’s content, not all the little crap in the sidebar. The sidebar was like sand, and you, the reader, were like a beachcomber with a metal detector. Hover the metal detector over the sand, and you might find a quarter. Hover over my sidebar, and you might find additional content.

Like most “neat” ideas that aren’t entirely practical, this one required compromise in the execution. The result is a conventional sidebar with low-contrast text. Because of the low contrast, lots of people (including people with certain kinds of dyslexia) pay little attention to the sidebar’s content. So I need to redesign.

But meantime, slipping the Ma.gnolia feed out of the sidebar (on blog posts) and into the body of posts itself seemed like another neat idea. People who’d ignored the Ma.gnolia feed in the sidebar would now, finally, bask in its glory. Every post would end with the last five third-party links I’d reviewed. Neat, neat, neat.

Why I removed the feed

This morning I removed the feed from the body of the blog posts for a technical reason and a design/usability reason.

Technically, as we all know, it’s not a great idea to pull content from a third-party site. The third-party site can be slow. It can get hacked. It can even go down, causing one’s own pages not to finish rendering. (As I write this, Ma.gnolia’s server appears to be taking a little nap—an infrequent occurrence, although the server is often slow. As for my embedded Twitter feed, like yours, it suffers from near-constant narcolepsy.)

And from a design usability perspective, the idea just didn’t gel. For one thing, people would dig up old posts and write comments on them about sites newly added to the Ma.gnolia feed. Owing to the age of the posts, those comments were unlikely to be found by other readers. And as soon as the feed updated, the comments would become nonsensical, because they discussed content no longer found in the post.

So the feed is gone.

[tags]design, usability, ma.gnolia, zeldman.com, happycog, links[/tags]

Categories
37signals Community Design events Ideas

Looks good to Mies

The Seed Conference, held in Crown Hall (the “Cathedral of Modernism” designed by Mies van der Rohe) is a one-day event about design, entrepreneurship, and inspiration. Learn about taking control of your own work by seeking out methods to inspire new thinking and adopt unconventional ideas about collaboration and business.

Speakers include Jason Fried, Jim Coudal, Carlos Segura, Jake Nickell and and Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Edward Lifson, and Gary Vaynerchuk. An open panel will follow the presentations and the day will conclude with a reception on the lawn of Crown Hall, featuring wines selected by Mr. Vaynerchuk. Registration is $499/person; attendance is limited to 270; seats are going fast (with nearly 50% sold out in the first week).

[tags]seed, seedconference, design, conferences, segura-inc, carlossegura, 37signals, coudal, threadless, vaynerchuk, edwardlifson[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart Accessibility Design development Publishing Standards Tools

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]

Categories
business Design

WordPress 2.5 Preview

Yesterday, Matt Mullenweg opened the kimono on WordPress 2.5, built by Automattic and designed by Happy Cog:

“For the past few months, we’ve been working with our friends at Happy Cog—Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Santa Maria, and Liz Danzico—to redesign WordPress from the ground-up. The result is a new way of interacting with WordPress that will remain familiar to seasoned users while improving the experience for everyone. This isn’t just a fresh coat of paint—we’ve re-thought the look of WordPress, as well as how it’s organized so that you can forget about the software and focus on your own creative pursuits.”

Although 2.5 is still just in preview, the current build is solid enough to build a house on. I’m using it right now. (You’re soaking in it.)

Most of the buzz I’ve seen so far is enthusiastic about the new features, the new look, and the emphasis on usability.

There’s been some nice early press coverage, too. From a detailed review at Technosailor, “10 Things You Need To Know About WordPress 2.5:”

“By far the most comprehensive change in this release was the complete rethinking of how WordPressers do their administrative tasks. Happy Cog Studios was enlisted to do usability research and testing—with the emphasis being on usability research.”

And this, from Wired Magazine:

“Although WordPress 2.5 includes some nice new features like better plugin management, full-text feeds, and built-in photo galleries, the most immediately obvious change is the sleek new look, which comes courtesy of Jeffery [sic] Zeldman and the Happy Cog design team.”

Much more about WordPress 2.5 will soon be revealed. We love this product—it’s the tool that got me to stop hand-rolling zeldman.com after lo, these many millennia—and we’re thrilled to be part of its rejiggering.

[tags]wordpress, 2.5, happycog, design, redesigns[/tags]