Stefan Hayden

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Archive for the 'design' Category

Just to stir up some trouble I thought I’d point out some of the more amusing points of SXSW.

Jason Santa Maria really has a love hate relationship with Stan. Holistic Web Design used some illustrations of stan as users point of view and you could almost see Jason cringe.

Sean Inman is a tiny tiny man. He’s extremely slight and most likely wears his facial hair proudly as to not be mistaken for a high schooler or perhaps a small child.

Jason Kottke
is always hard to spot at conferences but that’s only because no one’s looking in the right places. If you are in a panel look to the far back corner to find the man who hides so well.

This year Jason offers other advice like “Never Get Married”. Something he should say as much as he can if he really wants his wedding to go well in the next 2 weeks. All I can say is if I donated to do I get a wedding invitation? I think so.

Eris Stassi must be web designs little secrete. Her occasional posts on her blog were very reflective and deep though very far between. Clearly she has a lot of clout as she really directed the Holistic Web Design panel in there decisions and really seemed to be a diving force in how amazing the redesign of Plazes seemed to be. Not to mention that she is truly beautiful.

Jason Santa MariaI’m surprised that with so few big named women in web design Eris does not get more attention. Perhaps it’s good that the web design bolgosphere only cares about content and could care less if your pretty or not. Though it seems most big named designers are not ugly at all. I mean look how pretty Jason Santa Maria is. Talk about one sexy beast.

(thanks to Laughing Squid for the pic of JSM)

sxsw, sxsw2006, jasonsantamaria, erisstassi, seaninman, kottke

Sunday was very low key. Only a couple of sessions really stood out. Meet Judy Jetson was interesting but not overly so. We still seemed to be so frighted of teens using technology that we can’t get past it. Of the 3 one did mention sconex which was pretty cool even though it was just in passing.

The Keynote with Jason Kottke and Heather Armstrong was good. I never got in to Dooce but I do like Kottke. I think it’s funny that so many designers can agree on something like web standards but still can’t accept pro blogging as something respectable. I meet Jason briefly at AIGA and he’s a really nice guy.

In fact he’s the opposite of what anyone might think. If you ever want to find Jason at a conference you just need to look for some one with a power book in the corner who is trying to disappear. I’ve never seen anyone who wanted to blend in to the background as much as Jason does. I could tell he was best on stage when he was talking to Heather and forgot about the audience.

Running Your New Media Business and Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Start up Decisions was good but nothing revolutionary. If anything I like hearing over and over again the same thing at similar panels. I hope that when I start my own mew media company I might even do the right thing the first time around.

Holistic Web Design was by far the best presentation of the day. All of the members of the panel help completely redesign and the results were amazing. I loved to hear each one talk about the project, what they changed, why and how it effects the end user. Eris Stassi (who abandoned her blog several months ago) really did an amazing job of directing the redesign and I have even more respect for her then I had in past years.

sxsw, sxsw2006

Traditional Design and New Technology was slow panel. Liz Danzico (who might be angry at me) was a great moderator and continues to ask great questions every time I see her. The panel bright up many problems but didn’t really offer anything close to an answer. JSM seemed the closest to bring actual conversation to what seemed mostly like a doom and gloom panel about how design sucks on the internet. They kept saying the technology wasn’t at a point where we can just forget about it. I don’t know if they are waiting for technology to stop but I think a large part of web design will be new technologies and functionality that can be added to websites. If they are waiting for technology to get to a point where it gets out of the way of making a website I think they have a long wait. Technology will continue to change and challenge how websites are made. Design needs to learn how to exist in that or die trying.How to be a superhero

How to be a web design superhero was mostly fluff and I’m not really sure who that was supposed to help. Perhaps people who want to design but have no idea how to start. Not the people who really seem to come to SXSW. They did have the prettiest presentation I’ve ever seen with a really engaging panning and sliding around. I not sure if it was Keynote or not but it sure looked cool. I wonder if they had the rights to use those super hero images. They looked like Alex Ross painting but it’s been so long sine I’ve followed comics that I can’t really be sure.

Fried and Coudal did a great job of summarising the entire conference and were great over all. Couldal is greatly suited to be a moderator and I wish he had even more involvement in the conference. AIGA’s presenter in Boston, John Hockenberry, was not amazing and I think Coudal could have easily stepped in and taken over. He’s just so personable. Fried pointed out to a yahoo employee that yahoo wastes a lot of money. Basically saying they suck and it got a big reaction from the crowd. ‘m sure that will come up again and again around the web with funny headline everywhere.

Making money with your blog design skills was mostly rehashing old information. I was hoping to hear some information about blog design that was different then regular websites beyond that you had to know how to use the blog technology. Though the panel was lacking in new information they were all great. The moderator was interesting, knowable and great at controlling the time flow. The panelist were extremely personable and I want to go to subscribe to all of there blogs right now.

Kathy Sierra‘s Creating Passionate Users has to be up for best presentation in the conference. I think she blew about 200 minds in the most informative presentation I’ve ever seen. I’ll definitely be looking for the notes in the near future to bring back to Sconex.

Photos: Andy Budd and kitseeborg


SXSW is just around the corner and to get the most out of you need to be well organized. I was hoping to hoping to skill most of the big named presenters since I have read so much about past panels with them. In general it’s funny that the panels that are most popular and have really made me want to go to SXSW are the ones I want to avoid. This is an expensive trip and I really want to get the most out of it instead of hear Tantek talk about micro formats again, which at this point I think I have a good grasp on.

After the 3 day AIGA conference I was exhausted. I can’t wait to see how I’m going to go to a conference all day and then, hopefully make it to some events at night for 4 days in a row.


10:00 amBeyond Folksonomies: Knitting Tag Clouds for Grandma

11:30 amHow to Be A Web Design Superhero

2:00 pmJim Coudal / Jason Fried Opening Remarks

3:30 pmHow to Increase Creativity at Work

5:00 pmStarting Small: Web Businesses for the Rest of Us


10:00 amSink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions

11:00 amMeet Judy Jetson: How Technology is Transforming 21st Century Teens

2:00 pmKeynote Conversation: Heather Armstrong / Jason Kottke

3:30 pmRunning Your New Media Business

5:00 pmHolistic Web Design: Finding the Creative Balance in Multi-Disciplined Teams

–This one is rather star studded and I will need to make sure to get there early.


10:00 amCSS Problem Solving

11:30 amStandard Deviation: Hacks and Dirty Tricks for the Web

2:00 pmCraig Newmark Keynote Interview

3:30 pmDesigning for Community with ‘Zero-Advertising’ Brands

3:30 pmCreative Subplot: The Viral Edition

–clearly I’ll have to pick one but I might wait till the last minute to really pick which it will be.

5:00 pmDesign Eye for the List Guy

–I might want a backup for this one as it’s probably going to fill up fast.


10:00 amBuilding a Start-Up Technology Company

11:30 amHow to Be a Virtual World Entrepreneur

2:00 pmBurnie Burns Keynote

3:30 pmDogma Free Design

5:00 pmBruce Sterling Presentation: The State of the World

sxsw, conference

Google has come out with a WYSIWYG editor to go along with there brand new web hosting service. In general the service is mediocre and on par with most other services. 100 mbs of storage with the ability to up load images. The editor is smooth though lacking in features. Clearly there is room for improvement and a straight forward path of features to add. This is a product aimed at people who don’t know what they are doing and so no web designer need to worry about losing their jobs yet.

What is interesting is the code it created. Google is know for writing bad code and discarding standards. The Google front page alone, in all it’s bleakness, has 66 errors. Making a quick page and running through a validator shows only 10 errors which is a large reduction.

Looking deeper in the the code you can see they have put some good effort in to making this a new age editor. About 95% of the design in done in CSS. Al the code is very readable though there are browser hacks abound and it will be interesting to see how that degrades with time.

I don’t know if they are storing the entire text file of HTML or generating the page on the fly. If it’s generated on the fly they can update the CSS as needed but if it’s all saved to a static file they might be saving hacks that will one day be a big problem to fix.

While no techy person is going to be overly impressed buy this release I think it’s mostly a good thing that will hopefully help people who don’t know what they are doing make better formed websites.

google, pagecreator, w3c, validate

Check out YALit which is a site for young adult book release dates that I’ve been working on with Keri for a few weeks now. This obviously serves what I like to call a “super niche market” which is sad because I will not become world famous for building it and yet wonderful because this is a resource that is greatly needed by the young adult literature community.

How needed? After being listed in google for about a week we are already seeing tons of people organically finding the site. Not to mention that we’ve already been pick up as a resource on the YALibrarian blog.

While having a simple one stop shop to find out what is coming out when is great I hope to also build a small community to help support the site. Book release dates are not distributed in any logical fashion and it will take a wider then we currently have to catch every single book release date.

I’d love to hear any questions or suggestions you might have.

Two years ago was the first time I had heard of South by South West and last year was the first time I read every single blog that covered it. During SXSW it’s easy to get lost in it all and feel like the entire blogosphere is there. This year is the first I’ll be attending and while plans are being made and panels forming up I thought it would be a good idea to just double check and make sure I actually read every single website last year.

Jumping over to trusty wikipedia to find out the best sxsw resources I was greeted by the saddest wikipedia article I have ever seen. Why is the biggest and best web design conference accompanied by such a horrible entry? I have my theories. The SXSW web site is nothing to scoff at and it a great resource unto itself and there are any number of blogs that covered it minute by minute.

Many companies use the wikipedia entry as a marketing tool and that is something I’m sure SXSW can afford to over look. Either way this stub of an article is just depressing and the web designers of the world need to step up and finish this article.

sxsw, wikipedia, design, artical, interactive

There is an interesting middle ground I think a lot of new designers get stuck in. They’ve read every blog and seen every hack. They read the new A List Apart article so fast that their RSS reader doesn’t even know it’s been updated. At this point they run out of blogs to read. It’s easy to keep up with invention since all you had
to do was read it. It’s the other guy (or gal) who had to invent it.

It’s at this stage where designers start to feel they’ve learned all they need to know. Masters of CSS and the internet. The problem is that CSS isn’t as easy as just reading about it. The problems you run in to are
always once that no one has written an article about. No matter how many blogs you read there is no substitute for experience and meeting the problem head on.

This is the problem I have run in to. I “know it all” but I have yet to be able to apply it all. The only way to make it over that last hill is to code and code and code till magically you can fix anything. I don’t have enough focus to code new and challenging web pages 24/7 as simply coding can be tedious work.

Instead I’ve turned to new subject areas and being the dawn of 2006 JavaScript is clearly a big part of the future. So while I’m learning CSS through sweat equity I’ve found a new subject to read everything I can on. Hopefully by the time I truly am a master at CSS I will be ready to start working on my black belt in JavaScript as well.

By continually switching off  and learning about the next wave of technology before it is truly a requirement for designers hopefully I will always be ready to see what is ahead and start learning it.

css, javascript

Well Google Analytics is out and now every other stat counter is doomed. Right? Who can stand up to google? I refuse to believe any of this is true and that Google’s entrance in to stats will make little impact with Mint or Measure Map.

Who has made the claim that google will crush all and have actually used Analytics? Wow it’s complicated. There are so many menus and half the time I have no idea what the graph is even representing. A large portion of the interface is also devoted to adwords campaigns and detailed study of how people move though your website. More then 50% of Analytics is devoted to stat tracking that 90% of the people using it for free will have little use for.

Is google making a mistake? No of course not. Google is just not trying to get me to use their software. What they are really looking for is a way for people to get more out of adwords and spend more money with google. This will be good for corporate or high volume websites that advertise through adwords but few others. Google is going after the fortune 500 companies who will dump tons of money in to adwords. That is who their site is optimised for.

Now lets look at Mint and Measure Map. Who are they optimised for? While I have not used Mint there are some very glaring things that show it might not be for everyone. For one it only works in Firefox and Safari. Second it’s biggest focus is on referrers and how people came to your site and less on what they did when they actually got there. That alone shows that this is not a stat tracker for every one and Sean Inman has always been forward about that. He’s not trying to compete with Google. His market is the small web site owner who wants to know hoe people are coming to his site. Google offers the same functionality but it’s berried in adwords specific jargon and other tracking that most sites have no need for.

Measure Map is so easy to understand

Measure Map is even another step down. It’s stats in it’s most simplistic form. It gives you exactly what you want to know and no more. Even my grandmother would understand the stats that Measure Map is putting out. Another things no one is pointing out is that Measure Map is blog specific. If you don’t have a blog you can’t even use Measure Map. This is not a site wide solution and there is no reason to be. I’ve only used it for a couple of days and I’m amazed how such a clean and simple interface can display so much information. Websites like this help remind me that graphic artists like Sean Inman, Jeffrey Veen, and myself need to be more involved in web startups.

I actually plan of dropping Analytics in the near future. It’s not giving me anything I can’t get anywhere else. Measure Map has shown me data in a way I have not seen before and has helped me see my blog in a new light. Google’s Analytics will be bigger then Mint or Measure Map but they will not own the market. Mint and Measure Map provide uniquely distinct stats in a way google can’t and in that light they have already won.

measuremap, mint, seaninman, jeffreyveen, analytics, google, stats, counter, blog

I recently had a chance to help Liz Danzico over at AIGA with some podcasts. First one on the block was An Event Apart being held in philly with three of my heroes, Jeffery Zeldman, Eric Meyers, and Jason Santa Maria. While I did little more then cut some audio together and take some work off of Liz’s hands I’m all to excited to be involved with all of it. Check out Jeffery talk about all sorts of crazy stuff and stick around to hear my name at the end! Lets hope this is only the first time my name is in the same place as Jeffery’s.

On another note I’m happy to be helping AIGA get more involved in web design. Hopefully I will be able to not only be able to get the print world to take notice but get more web designers involved in AIGA. So many seem to not join because AIGA doesn’t do much for web design and I hope we can bring the kind of value to AIGA that will give web designers a reason to be more involved.

aiga, podcast, webdesign, zeldman, jasonstantamaria, ericmeyers, lizdanzico, aneventapart

I’m fairly new to PDF creation. I’ve outputted my share through Illustrator, Photoshop and Quark but have put too much thought in to it as I mostly have not had a need for it. My resume is in PDF and that’s about it. Working on a little beta feature presentation for the Sconex reps I need to up the PDF anti and really make it shine.

Screen shots don’t scale well. When my senior portfolio teacher made me print out 11×17 print outs of my website I was less then pleased at the 200 dpi print out of a 72 dpi file. Damn you internet and your low resolution. A similar problem happens when you save a screen shot to PDF. The default zoom is default to what ever the user’s Acrobat (or in my case Foxit) is set too. This means that if the zoom is set for anything other 100% your screen shot looks like crap and you don’t look very professional.

The trick is to force any PDF reader to open up at 100% so the screen shoot looks as crisp as it does on the site. Most times I’m fairly impressed with Adobe’s help files, but Acrobat’s seem to be rather sparse. Search through google got me no results either.

What you need to look for is the Open Options, which on Acrobat 5 is listed under File > Document Properties > Open Options. Here you can set all the different things you want to happen when anyone opens your PDF. The one I was looking for was the magnification which was set to default and I simply changed it to 100%. Now every one can see my beautiful screenshots with out Acrobat Messing them up.

acrobat, pdf, foxit

Odeo\'s new flash mp3 player
Praise the lord! Odeo has released a new mp3 player. The last player consisted of a play button and a stop button with the additional ability to pause while playing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally reloaded the page forcing me to listen from the beginning. While having to listen from the beginning would drive most people away I kept coming back knowing that Odeo provided such a service that I could not get anywhere else. I just don’t want to download mp3s to my computer and be forced to be locked to that one machine. I feel more people will ruin in to this problem as handheld devices become more ubiquitous.

One interesting change of interface is the play button. Previously you could play, pause or stop. Stop would make the mp3 play from the beginning while pause would let you pick up where you left off. Now there is only one button that toggles between play and stop. This time though stop does not put the scrubber back at the begging of the file but instead pauses.

The new interface is just beautiful. I was begging for a way to advance with in the mp3 since the beginning and I’m glad that they didn’t just tack one on but instead completely redesigned the user interface. I am so so excited that I’m really having trouble forming coherent thought about it. If you have not checked Odeo out now is the time to do so. They don’t seem to have made any big announcement but I see this as a reinvention of the site since it is so focused on audio files.

odeo, podcasting, podcast, update, mp3, flash, web2.0

Eric Meyers came by Boston today and gave a talk on A List Apart similar to what he talked about at Web Essentials 05. It was much more informative with the slides in front of my face as opposed to just the podcast. While the ideas and concepts were nothing new to me it was good to have it reiterated and pounded in to my head. As much as I know about semantic mark up I constantly find my self making common mistakes.

While I love my laptop that Sconex got me I don’t know how good the wireless card is that is built in. It found the wireless network in the MIT building but couldn’t connect. All well, no live blogging for me. I’ll have to play with my wireless dongle and see if that works any better.

Tantek has a great presentation up on Semantic XHTML. To many designers, my self included, get lost in DIV soup when there are tons of usable tags that come with meaning already built in. If you know CSS and are looking for a way to hone that skill this is the presentation to look

Some stuff like Semantic tables still really confuses me. I know I can get it if I try!

xhtml, tantek, s5

aiga_design_conference_2005.gifI looks like AIGA has posted a lot of their own pictures to Flickr and they photographed every volunteer but me! Guess that’s what I get for lurking in the dark dark back stage and spending most of the rest of the time practically running getting stuff for back stage. All well.

aigadc2005, aiga, boston, flickr