Stefan Hayden

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Archive for the 'design' Category

SXSW has become the barometer for the web. While SXSW gets people to vote on what they would like to see I want to take a look at what has been submitted and accepted as possible options. I’ve sorted this list so we can see who the big players are. You can meet me at the bottom of the list for a little analysis.

content (28)
business / funding / entrepreneurial (26)
web design / graphics (24)
community (20)
miscellaneous (19)
social networks (18)
education / sociological (17)
hacks / programming (16)
blogging (15)
branding / marketing (15)
work / career (15)
web 2.0 (15)
DIY / creativity (14)
how to (14)
user generated / open source (13)
gaming / virtual worlds (12)
web audio / web video (12)
politics / social activism (12)
wireless / digital convergence (11)
CSS / standards (11)
browsers / web apps (9)
usability / accessibility (9)
social networking (0)


Content is king. No surprise there but users are the ones making it now. I don’t see this getting smaller any time soon. If user generated content doesn’t have it’s own conference yet I think it will be coming up in the near future. This is also inline with how high up the list community is.

Business and Entrepreneurship is still a large topic while we are in this web boom. It was also a big topic last year and I mostly found it annoying. If you read the blogs about web start ups and how tos these panels do not bring much else to the table. I think at this point even I could run a panel on “How to Shoestring Your Startup”.

Design seemed a bit light last year so hopefully that will pick up. There is a good amount of traditional design mixed in with new techniques and ideas. I’m excited.

The extremes are more interesting so lets jump to the bottom.

Not much on CSS, just like last year. Most of these panels seem a little stale. I can only complain about the W3C so much.

Accessibility is still small and the web still has a long way to go. I can’t tell if this will stay a niche topic or if it will ever take off like CSS did. Most people seem to be awear of it but don’t want to do much about it.

No social networking? Okay I’m biased since I work at one. I think social networking is starting to loose some of it’s shine. Facebook jumped the shark when they claim they were worth 2 billion and MySpace jumped when they added horoscopes and books. They are little more then a portal now. Social networks have been so successful they are just being integrated in to everything. That’s why the bill in the Senate to block MySpace also accidentally blocks 90% of every other web site on the web.

sxsw, conference, webdesign, Entrepreneurship

Print magazine has an interesting chart of chic lit covers. I can’t say the article is glowing about the genre in general.

I’ve often had people ask me for good books for an intro to graphic design. I’ve never had an answer until now. About Design has a great round up of books that will help teach the basics.

Though I’m over a month late I just noticed Design by Fire is back. It’s always interesting the personal discovery people go through when they come back to blogging.

It’s really interesting to see designers get more and more in to development. Luckily I’m just getting used to Subversion. I wonder how long till A List Apart has a tutorial for Vim.

Well this redesign is a long time in the making. There are still plenty of loose edges to clean up but as long as you don’t dig too deep everything should be fine.

This redesign is feature rich with lots of additional feeds and functionality.

You’ll notice to the right my info from Last.fm, Trackslife, Netflix, and links from Del.icio.us. Since I’m using all of these services I might as well put them in one place where everyone can see.

The easiest way to integrate an RSS feed is with MagpieRSS which made adding Del.icio.us and Netflix super easy.

Anything that’s not in an RSS feed become a bit more difficult. Tackslife has an RSS feed but it’s horribly formed for getting out small bit of information.

Last.fm only has weekly artists in an XML file and while it would be nice if MagpieRSS supported XML it dies not.

Anything not in an RSS file I got the info with cURL and the pregmatch function as I’ve outlined before.

One last feature that is a great trick is how the site re-sizes if they screen is smaller then 1024. Re-size to 800 and the 2 columns will turn in to 1. Thanks to Collylogic for the tip on how to make it happen.

All and all I’m very happy with the final outcome and I’d love to help anyone who wants similar RSS integration in to their website. I’d love to hear any feedback!

Did you know that Firefox, Opera and possibly Safari have a minimum font size? I didn’t.

It’s easy to think of why you would want one. If I’m making a browser I don’t want my users to come across a website with tiny font they can not read.

As a designer if I want a tiny font for whatever reason I should be able to choice one. IE give you the ability to choose any font size.

FireFox has it’s default size at 10px and it can be found in Tools > Options… in the Content tab under the Font’s & Colors’ advanced tab.

No matter what you do in the CSS the font will not get smaller then 10px. If you don’t know there is a minimum in place you can really get caught off guard as you become baffled that the CSS isn’t doing what you want.

I really didn’t think 9px font size was really that unreasonable.

Firefox

While I am happily employed it’s been interesting watching the design job listings on 37 signals. It was an interesting choice for 37 signals to start a job posting board and to charge $250 for a 30 listing. They knew they had the eyes and ears of both people in the industry and the people who want to be in it. It’s not hard to see them hosting resumes for another obscene amount of money.

An interesting point about the listing is the order they list the categories. Design is first, followed by programming, with Miscellaneousranked above executive (which is just amusing).

Unlike craigslist all of the listings for the whole world are on the same page which creates a unique view of the world. Where are the people whounderstand the web starting their companies. It seem like all people are talking about the bay area but as the image shows there are startups all around the country.

Here’s a quick map of American and where the 30 listings on 37 signals currently are. I’ve yet to master the Google maps API for a dynamic map based off the rss feed. maybe next time.

37singals, design, startups, googlemaps, jobs

Drupal 4.7 was just released. I’ve attempted to use it before and found it extremely complicated. There is no doubt that it’s powerful though and lots of great community sites use it.

It’s seems this release they have a done a lot to make it easier to use though I’ll bet it still has a high learning curve. While they seem most proud of their new ajax goodness I’m interested in checking out their new php templating system.

I’ve gotten very used to the php templating on WordPress and I’ll be overjoyed if I can figure out how to design with drupal.

Interested? Check out this great screencast of what’s new and how to install.

drupal, wordpress, templating, screencast

I noticed an interesting quirk of Firefox today. It happens when you are on a page that requires a login to view.

If you wait for your login to expire and then view source you don’t get the source of the page you are looking at. Instead you get the html of what ever page you get kicked to when your login expires.

When you view source in Firefox it seems to go back to the server and re-download the page source. The Server see that you are not logged in and serves you the login expired page. So the HTML it shows you is different from the page you are looking at.

This seems like a really weird quirk. I have no idea why it can’t just use the local copy it clearly has already downloaded. I suppose it would not be an issue in most situations. Though it can be confusing when you are trying to figure out what in the world is going on.

firefox, quirk, viewsource

About Design asks what counts as entry level designer? Basically asking why all entry level designers suck.

I find this question interesting as well. I just graduated with a BFA from a liberal arts school, TCNJ. It was a hard program and there were many night where entire classes stayed up all night to finish projects.

I’ve heard lots of talk about how sub par design students are these days and how they don’t have the wide range of skills they used to.

I’m not entirely sure if that’s true or if the times have simply changed. I can say that a lot of time is spent at school simply learning the basics. A class in web design, a class in illustrator, a class in photoshop. it’s easy to see where other things can fall through the cracks with some much time just learning the tools.

Was there more time in the past with fewer programs to learn? I have heard people say that it’s the people who are the problem. that the golden age of design is over. I have a hard time believing that and think it has to have something to do with the process. Where does the education break down?

design

With so many changes in store for the upcoming $100 it must be earlier in production then I thought. Here is a choice excerpt:

Negroponte said one meeting with an unnamed display manufacturer spotlighted the importance of high-volume manufacturing.

“I said, ‘We’d like to work with you on the display. We need a small display. It doesn’t have perfect color uniformity, it can have pixel or two missing, it doesn’t have to be that bright,” Negroponte recounted. “The manufacturer said, ‘Our strategic plan is to make big displays with perfect color uniformity, zero pixel defects and to make it very bright for the living room.'”

“I said, ‘That’s too bad, because I need 100 million a year.’ They said, ‘Well, maybe we can change our strategic plan.’ That’s the reason you need scale,” Negroponte said.

Too funny.

laptop, Negroponte

If you change the HTML and the CSS of a page there is a decent chance that a user will get the new HTML but not the new CSS. This is especially true for sites with high usage and users that come back to the site several times a day.

If they only get the new HTML but not the new CSS then the site will break, the user will get confused, and you will look unprofessional. On the development site of this the problem is already solved. Having a Dev server as a place to test code is standard practice but how does this translate to CSS?

The problem is that the CSS is cashing on the client side and there isn’t an obvious way of telling the browser to un-cache it. Luckily the key word is obvious. Though it’s not in wide use there is a quick hack that will keep your CSS as fresh as your HTML.

The trick is to pass a variable on the end of the CSS file like so:

<link rel="stylesheet" xhref="http://www.stefanhayden.com/style.css?version=1" type="text/css" />

What does ?version=1 mean? This is what a URL looks like if it’s passing a GET variable from one page to the next. To the browser it means the page is dynamic and it needs to get a new version because code may have changed. The browser has no way of knowing if the CSS file is actually dynamic or not.The trick is to change the number each time you update the CSS file to make sure the browser always downloads the new code.

When a browser looks to see if it has anything cashed it compares file names. If you have “style.css” in your cashe then it’s not going to download it again. But if the browser compares “style.css?version=1” to what the new HTML is “style.css?version=2” then the browser thinks they are different files and needs to download the new CSS file.

The other reason this works is because you can add anything you want after the ? and the web page just ignores it unless it’s an actually variable on the page.

This seems to be a really good solution to version css and yet so few seem to use it. The only 2 sites I know of who do is Odeo and Sconex. Yet clearly we are in the middle of a big web boom with CSS being used every where. How are other people versioning their CSS so it doesn’t break the user experience?

In general I can’t see to many other solutions. You could make the CSS file parsed by the web server and pass headers with different cacheing info. I have not tried this but I’ll bet the browser would still cache the file as it does not know it is dynamic even if it is. You could rename the CSS file with .php but clearly no one is doing that and I’ll bet there is a browser out there that would not apply the styles because of that.

No every one gets to work on a large production site but with so many jumping in the area and quickly updating the service I’m surprised this subject has not been covered.

odeo, sconex, css, versioning, hack

AmberThis week at Inside the Net Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte talked about SXSW. Amber actually made it down though I didn’t bump in to her at SXSW. What surprised me is that Amber was really surprised at how many designers were there.

Maybe it’s just me but SXSW has always been design first and technology second. Even when the panels are about standards the focus is design. Why Amer thinks this is just a Tech Web 2.0 conference baffles me.

Does any one agree with me? Designers own SXSW and though it’s fun to talk about business and technology the focus will always come back to design even if I have to get on stage and drag it there myself.

insidethenet, sxsw2006, sxsw, ambermacarthur, leolaporte

Notes

Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps (more)

How to Convince Your Company to Embrace Standards (more)

WaSP Annual General Meeting

Microformats: Evolving The Web (more and more)

Web Standards and Search Engines: Searching for Common Ground

Holistic Web Design: Finding the Creative Balance in Multi-Disciplined Teams (more)

Web 2.1: Making Web 2.0 Accessible (more)

Demystifying the Mobile Web (more and more)

How to Make the Most of Maps

Sink or Swim. The Five Most Important Start-up Decisions

Tantek Çelik Presentation: Creating Building Blocks for Independents

How to Bluff Your Way in DOM Scripting (more)

How to Be A Web Design Superhero (more)

Traditional Design and New Technology (more and more)

OSX and Longhorn Development

Video Blogg Business Models

Ambient Findability

Learning From Comics

Craig Newmark Interview (more and more)

Standard Deviation

Cluetrain Seven Years Later

Creating Passionate Users

The Wisdom of Crowds

Opening Remarks: Jim Coudal and Jason Fried

How to do Precisely the Right Thing at all possible times

Bruce Sterling (more)

Dogma Free Design

Design Eye for the List Guy

Wasp Task Force (WTF)

CSS problem solving

Smaller, Faster, Lighter

Design and Social Responsibility

Starting Small: Web Business for the Rest of Us

Does Your Blog Have a Business? (more)

“Zero-Advertising” Brands

Serious Games for Learning

Digital Convergence

Cyberplace: Online in Offline Spaces — and Vice Versa

Book Digitization and the Revenge of the Librarians (still looking but here are some pannelist notes: here, here and here)

Slides

How to be a Web Design Superhero

Float like a butterfly (Ethan Marcotte)

Microformat slides

Design Eye for the List Guy

How to bluff your way in DOM Scripting

Traditional Design and New Technology (full post)

Video

Joi Ito interviews people at SXSW (original post)

Audio

SXSW Podcasts

Avalonsta Podcast feed

Further Reading at Squidoo: SXSW 2006

sxsw, sxsw2006, notes, slides, reference