Categories
art direction Design Jason Santa Maria Layout people Web Design work

Art direction on the web?

On Tuesday morning, while Malarkey was furiously getting himself uninvited to Håkon Lie‘s Christmas parties, and oneself was busy publishing the latest issue of A List Apart, and the jungle drums spoke of nothing but Firefox 3, Jason Santa Maria quietly slipped a torpedo into the harbor.

Jason didn’t just redesign his website, he issued a call to arms. And what he called for was real art direction on the web.

Now, over the years, plenty of others have called for art direction on the web, and some have achieved it. Quite famously, starting in September 1996, Derek Powazek achieved it with the original {fray}, an independent, non-commercial, personal storytelling site featuring the finest writers and illustrators on the web, not a few of whom {fray} discovered and launched. Stories like Lance Arthur’s A Little Black Death, Molly Steenson’s Pulling a Geographic (now sadly stuck in a loop), and Rebecca Eisenberg’s Mugged weren’t just compellingly written; they were compellingly written and art directed. The drama of viewing and wondering what the next page held was part of the reading experience, as it is in visually leading print magazines like Seed and Wired.

{fray} was a magnificent achievement and still is, and if design officialdom didn’t recognize it at the time, and hasn’t recognized it since, the fault lies with officialdom.

But {fray} was not only a labor of love, it was also a labor of labor—each page lovingly hand crafted in the browser-centric HTML of the time. And today we are modern and streamlined, not only in our markup, but in our means of production. We’re all about blogs and zines, templates and CMS platforms. Nobody but weird Unibomber-like hermits and Tantek hand-codes individual pages anymore.

And it is to that environment—to our environment—that Jason’s redesign speaks, calling for real art direction in the context of template-and-CMS-based publications.

Well, here is my experiment: a very simple setup for fast design and art direction around content. I’m approaching this is much the same way one would approach the design of a magazine: a system for the way content gets handled, but every layout and story can take on a look of their own within that system.

It’s just a blog, like any blog, although better looking than most. Housed on what is essentially a beefed-up open source blogging platform. Beefed up just enough to allow the writer/designer to change colors, typefaces, and the position and shape of copy blocks on a per-post basis as needed.

Speaking of beef, where is it? Where are all these posts with unique layouts within an overarching and unifying system of design? They have yet to be written and produced. But I’ve seen the comps and know some of what is coming, and it is going to be a lovely, drawn-out feast.

And even if it were not half as lovely as it will be—if Jason, instead of being one of our leading web designers, were a visual illiterate—the idea would still matter, and this proof of concept would still merit our gratitude.

[tags]artdirection, webdesign, jasonsantamaria, derekpowazek,{fray}[/tags]

Categories
An Event Apart video Web Design

Video: Cameron Moll on natural mapping

Onstage at An Event Apart New Orleans, 2008, designer Cameron Moll discusses what happens when a computer novice bumps heads with a computer expert. HD video by Bonnemaison of Baltimore, MD. Edited by Ian Corey. The next show is An Event Apart Boston, June 23–24, 2008. That’s next week!

[tags]cameronmoll, video, aneventapart, webdesign, conference[/tags]

Categories
An Event Apart conferences content Design events Web Design Zeldman

Video: Got Live in New Orleans

Caught live at An Event Apart New Orleans 2008, new, widescreen video clips featuring Andy Clarke on web layout and yours truly on journalism and the web are now online for your viewing pleasure at An Event Apart’s website. Immaculately captured by Bonnemaison of Baltimore, MD, and crisply edited by Mister Ian Corey, these quick clips provide a glimpse into the two-day experience that is the AEA web design conference.

More An Event Apart video clips are on their way. Keep watching the skies.

[tags]aneventapart, webdesign, conference, videos[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart business Career client services content Design work writing

ALA 259: Career and Content

In Issue No. 259 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

The Cure for Content-Delay Syndrome

by Pepi Ronalds

Clients love to write copy. Well, they love to plan to write it, anyhow. On most web design projects, content is the last thing to be considered (and almost always the last thing to be delivered). We’ll spend hours, weeks, even months, doing user scenarios, site maps, wireframes, designs, schemas, and specifications—but content? It’s a disrespected line item in a schedule: “final content delivered.” Pepi Ronalds proposes a solution to this constant cause of project delays.

Why Did You Hire Me?

by Keith LaFerriere

Landing a new job or client is difficult in this economic climate. Undelivered contractual promises and work environment shortcomings can transform that challenge into a long-term nightmare. Keith LaFerriere shows how to get paid what you’re worth; how to fight for control of your projects using management tools corporate cultures respect (even if they don’t understand your work); and how to tell when it’s time to jump ship.

[tags]alistapart, webdesign, tips, content, writing, editors, editorial, control, career, client services[/tags]

Categories
An Event Apart cities Community conferences creativity CSS Design development San Francisco

Flowers in your hair

An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, has posted its San Francisco 2008 schedule. Join us August 18–19, 2008 at the Palace Hotel for two jam-packed 9.5-hour-long days of learning and inspiration with Heather Champ, Kelly Goto, Jeremy Keith, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Cederholm, Tantek Çelik, Jeffrey Veen, Derek Featherstone, Liz Danzico, Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer, and Jeffrey Zeldman.

[tags]sanfrancisco, aeasf08, aneventapart, design, webdesign, UX, web, conference, conferences[/tags]

Categories
Accessibility Adobe Applications architecture client services Code CSS Design development eric meyer Tools Web Design WebAssist work

CSS Menu Writer debuts

Launched today, WebAssist Professional’s CSS Menu Writer™ for Dreamweaver takes the pain out of creating standards-compliant horizontal or vertical navigation menus with nested fly-outs.

I got to spend an hour with the program prior to its release, and was impressed with its flexibility and extreme ease of use. For instance, creating primary and secondary menu levels is as simple as pointing to your files and folders. If the client changes the approved site structure after you’ve already created your page templates, no problem: just drag files and folders to their changed locations and CSS Menu Writer will update your navigation.

The program comes with four horizontal and four vertical menus, each in 12 different color schemes—96 menus to start—with unlimited sub-levels. You can easily create Doug-Bowman-style “sliding doors” effects, as well as doing all the obvious stuff you’d expect to be able to do, like changing menu width, height, margin, and padding; swapping backgrounds and images; and saving custom creations as new presets to reedit or share with colleagues. The program also integrates easily with Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor.

CSS Menu Writer costs $99.99, but if you buy before May 27, it’s just $74.99.

[tags]webdesign, tools, software, webassist, css[/tags]

Categories
A List Apart

A List Apart saved from the deep

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.

[tags]alistapart, webdesign, magazine, publishing[/tags]

Categories
Applications Design development Ruby on Rails

ALA 257: the why and how of Ruby on Rails

Issue No. 257 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, is about the why and how of Ruby on Rails:

Creating More Using Less Effort with Ruby on Rails

by Michael Slater

The “why” of Ruby on Rails comes down to productivity, says Michael Slater. Web applications that share three characteristics—they’re database-driven, they’re new, and they have needs not well met by a typical CMS—can be built much more quickly with Ruby on Rails than with PHP, .NET, or Java, once the investment required to learn Rails has been made. Does your web app fall within the RoR “sweet spot?”

Getting Started With Ruby on Rails

by Dan Benjamin

The “how” of Ruby on Rails: Hivelogic’s Dan Benjamin prepares non-Rails developers, designers, and other creative professionals for their first foray into Rails. Learn what Ruby on Rails is (and isn’t), and where it fits into the spectrum of web development and design. See through the myths surrounding this powerful young platform, and learn how to approach working with it.

[tags]alistapart, rubyonrails, webdesign, development, RoR, ruby[/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]

Categories
Accessibility An Event Apart cities Community Design development eric meyer events industry New Orleans Standards Zeldman

An Event Apart New Orleans

An Event Apart, the design conference for people who make websites, kicks off its 2008 season with An Event Apart New Orleans, a monster, 19-hour, two-day creative session. Join us April 24–25 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for two intense, 9.5-hour-long days of learning and inspiration, featuring twelve of your favorite web design authors.

  • See Dave Shea, co-author, Zen of CSS Design, explore what makes sites flexible visually, experientially, and code-wise.
  • See Jeff Veen, design manager, Google, explore how new thinking, born of creating the latest generation of web apps, is being infused into design practices.
  • See Robert Hoekman Jr., author, Designing the Obvious, perform slam-bang, on-the-spot usability reviews of sites submitted by our live audience on the fly.
  • See Cameron Moll, author, Mobile Web Design, uncover the differences between good and great design.
  • See Aaron Gustafson, co-author, AdvancED DOM Scripting, go beyond “unobtrusive” JavaScript to truly meet users’ needs, no matter what their device or platform, by applying the principles of “progressive enhancement” to client-side scripting.
  • See Andy Clarke, author, Transcending CSS, explain how comic books inspire his award-winning web layouts.
  • See Stephanie Sullivan, co-author, Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, explore practical, standards-based approaches and techniques to some of today’s toughtest design challenges.
  • See Aarron Walter, author, Building Findable Web Sites, explain “findability bliss through web standards SEO”
  • See Brian Oberkirch, Publisher, Like It Matters, review, catalog, dissect, and champion small design victories that daisy chain to create a delightful overall user experience.
  • See Jason Santa Maria, designer, Happy Cog, share techniques for maintaining individuality and brand distinction in a world of generic templates and design sameness.
  • See An Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer, author, CSS: The Definitive Guide, present two new talks that shed brilliant light on the darkest corners of CSS.
  • As for me, I’ll be doing two new sessions on the whatness of web design (what it is, what it ain’t, and why it matters) and the whereness of web standards (as in, where we are with them).

It’s the longest, biggest, densest, hardest, coolest show we’ve ever done, and we’re doing it where Louis learned to blow his horn. Join us if you can.

Can’t make New Orleans? Join us in these cities!

  • Boston, June 23–24
  • San Francisco, August 18–19
  • Chicago, October 13–14

Tickets for all four shows are on sale now.

[tags]aneventapart, webdesign, conference, neworleans, aeaNOLA08[/tags]