Steven Champeon turned web development upside down, and created an instant best practice of standards-based design, when he introduced the notion of designing for content and experience instead of browsers. In part one of a series, ALA’s Gustafson refreshes us on the principles of progressive enhancement. Upcoming installments will translate the philosophy into sophisticated, future-focused design and code.
When Google was little more than a napkin sketch and the first dot-com boom was not even a blip, we started a magazine for people who make websites. Celebrate A List Apart’s first decade. Join me for a look back at the way we were—and why we were that way. Find out what we’ve done and who did it with us, peek into our process, and get a clue about what’s next.
A List Apart, for people who make websites, is slowly changing course.
For most of its decade of publication, ALA has been the leading journal of standards-based web design. Initially a lonely voice in the desert, we taught CSS layout before browsers correctly supported it, and helped The WaSP persuade browser makers to do the right thing. Once browsers’ standards support was up to snuff, we educated and excited designers and developers about standards-based design, preaching accessibility, teaching semantic markup, and helping you strategize how to sell this new way of designing websites to your clients, coworkers, and boss.
Web standards are in our DNA and will always be a core part of our editorial focus. Standards fans, never fear. We will not abandon our post. But since late 2005, we have consciously begun steering ALA back to its earliest roots as a magazine for all people who make websites—writers, architects, strategists, researchers, and yes, even marketers and clients as well as designers and developers. This means that, along with issues that focus on new methods and subtleties of markup and layout, we will also publish issues that discuss practical and sometimes theoretical aspects of user experience design, from the implications of ubiquitous computing to keeping communities civil.
The trick is to bring our huge group of highly passionate readers along for the ride. My wife likens it to piloting the Queen Mary. (Q. How do you make the Queen Mary turn left? A. Very, very slowly.)
We review hundreds of articles and publish dozens. Some web magazines seem to have those proportions reversed, and some readers don’t seem to mind, and that’s fine. But any content you see in ALA has been vetted and deeply massaged by the toughest editorial team in the business. And when you see a new “design tech” article in our pages, you can be sure it has passed muster with our hard-ass technical editors.
Moreover, the fields of meaningful new CSS tricks have mostly yielded their fuels. We’ve done that. We’ve done it together with you. While a few new lodes of value undoubtedly remain to be tapped, we as a community, and as individuals who wish to grow as designers, need to absorb new knowledge. ALA will continue to be a place where you can do that.
When we began focusing on web standards in 1998, we were told we were wasting readers’ time on impractical crap of little value to working designers and developers. But we kept on anyway, and the things we learned and taught are now mainstream and workaday. While we apologize to readers who are again being made irritable by our insistence on occasionally presenting material that does not fall directly within their comfort zone, we hope that this experiment will prove to be of value in the end.
Due to an almost magical series of administrative, record-keeping, and usability errors, the domain registration for A List Apart momentarily lapsed this morning.
It was like a disturbance in the Force, or a warp in the Matrix.
While the site continued to display correctly here in New York City (and in many other places), it was replaced in some locations by a come-on page encouraging viewers to register the domain for themselves. Mystically, no spammer or squatter did.
It was all the more miraculous considering how many people had twittered about the site’s sudden availability. It was like thousands of people shouting the exact location of a lost purse bursting with cash. And no crook scooping it up.
On renewing the domain by phone (as I couldn’t use the website, due to those administrative, record-keeping, and usability errors), I learned that someone had spotted the problem before I did … and renewed the domain on my behalf. Thanks, Shashi.
And thanks to all who called, e-mailed, texted, and messaged me.
P.S. Depending on location and DNS vagaries, some of you may see the come-on page for a while longer, but A List Apart is okay, really.