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web stuff

Saturday, October 25, 2003

oh i could just spends days and days here learning

I subscribe to three design lists (Evolt, Webdesign-L, and one more that is not very useful but I haven't had a chance to get rid of it (from Graphic Design Network I think).

At any rate, in Webdesign-L there is an ongoing discussion going about the A List Apart site redesign (my take below). In one of today's posts, James Craig provided a link to an example of how to scale blocks in web pages--something I've been mulling for a project I'm starting. Of course, I had to check out his site, cookiecrook2, and from there I found his project Accessibility Internet Rally: 2003 Training, developed for a web accessibility training seminar presented in Austin (read all about it in the Intro--I wish there were events like this one around here).

I've barely begun to look at this presentation and already I know I'll be spending loads of time exploring things. Unlike most "we'll post the slides on the Internet" presentations which, really, mostly suck because there are no notes or context, this is so fully developed it should be used as the pattern for how to post presentations on the web. There are three versions: the presentation, the webpage version, and a plain text version. Superbly done. A LOT of work.

And I have a LOT to learn about making the sites we build completely accessible. So I'm relieved that there is such a great, easy-to-follow resource for this topic.

The site is finally organized! Hurray! They did that part of it well (it's about time). A lot of useful information finally categorized and organized to make it easy to find stuff. And the discussions are linked to the actual articles even. A definite improvement over ALA v. 2, which was a an example of how NOT to architect an information site. So kudos to Zeldman et al for finally taking the time to organize ALA.

Now for the stuff that is not good. You have to figure out how to link to stuff--the page links are not visible in either the address bar of the browser or in the status bar. Why, I don't get, but it makes it a real pain in the ass to try to link to a page or to email a page link. Maybe there's a point to this, or maybe it's just the way Frankensite (whatever that is) works (the system used to publish ALA). It's damned visitor-unfriendly.

I'm not crazy about the look. It's not ugly, just boring. Nothing special. Nothing inspiring. I much preferred the look of v. 2 as it was at least dramatic and when you arrived at the site you knew exactly where you were. Now it looks like a thousand other blogs. The logotype is also extremely ugly--maybe it was MEANT to look like two eyes and a nose, but the "a"s sure are fugly. Don't know what the font is, don't want to know other than to be able to avoid using it. (There is no colophon unless it's in the stylesheet, which I haven't looked at yet.)

So, the ALA redesign succeeds in that it finally is structured for the actual USERS (which should've been done properly from the start) but is irritating because there are some standard usability features missing and ho-hum in the look department.

Makes me wish I had the time to finish the InfoPulse redesign get it up this week. The design is done--but the meat (content) is not yet finished. I guess I should at least get the new portfolio items up ... [sigh]
posted by lee on 10/25/03 at 12:14 PM

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Friday, October 10, 2003

bandwiz launched (again!)

We've been working like mad to finish up the redesign / remodeling of Bandwiz. We finished!

Last March, we redesigned the site for the first time. It looked great, but it wasn't what we recommended -- not for a corporate site. The client wanted a Flash splash page, which we strongly advised against, and settled for a Flash movie taking up a great deal of the home page. The client wanted things like headings turned in to graphics, vs. html, which we also advised against -- at least on the home page. The client wanted the site editable in Macromedia Contribute, which we set up, but which didn't work well because the staff assigned to doing the maintenance never bought into the job.

The site had okay traffic, but nothing spectacular. It was basically a company-centric site (a vp-stroker site), which was a shame because the company has such a great product (see below).

New marketing VP. Who took a look at the site, asked us a bunch of questions such as "How do we get ranked higher in the search engines?" and "How do we make this site more visitor-centric?" And listened, thought things through, planned out her strategy, asked us more questions, had us develop prototypes, got feedback, and let us develop the site the way it should be in order to meet the goals of the site: to provide information about the product Bandwiz sells, which is software that provides an affordable ECDN (enterprise content delivery network).

The basics are done. It's a good site structured so that it will be easy to maintain and to add enhancements such as a demo or interactive content. There are a couple of things we still need to install on the site, such as a registration management system and a content management system for the news / press releases section -- but it's very functional now. It's going to be interesting to watch how the redesign has an impact on traffic and conversions. So check out Bandwiz and let me know what you think.

Now if I just had time to finish the redesign of InfoPulse! A great redesign, very elegant, but we've been so busy with client projects we haven't had time to even update our site. There are additions to the portfolio, for example, that we haven't had time to add in, let alone code the new design. But I'm NOT complaining. Far from it.
posted by lee on 10/10/03 at 03:18 PM

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Sunday, July 27, 2003

a site for the soul

I found ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News courtesy of an Edward Tufte comment in his ASK E.T. "column."

ArtsJournal has a link to an article about the 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which is now available. The article was in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which mentioned that the Manual has it's own website (though did not provide a link to it).

The 15th edition has a lot to say about citing web references, and rules for usage related to sources found on the Internet. Yay! You can buy it via that website for the measly sum of $55, or you can get it via Amazon for $38.50.

And this all came about because I was reading an article on Boxes and Arrows (linked to the right) about information design. Not a very good article -- don't bother unless you're curious.
posted by lee on 07/27/03 at 12:35 PM

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Friday, June 27, 2003

new software to try ... and it’s not over yet ... and my todo list ...

Well, I haven't entirely figured out this RSS thing -- I almost understand what it is. At any rate, Nick Bradbury, the genius behind my favorite program, TopStyle (a great CSS editor plus), has beta released FeedDemon, which is interesting. You can download the beta here: FeedDemon. I managed to add my RSS feed ( without much trouble at all. The beta works for a month, sez Nick, but he doesn't know yet what the pricing will be.

I thought I'd be pretty much finished with most of the website I'm working on by end of day Friday. Hah! But really, it's almost done -- the home page is tricky and it's taking me longer to build it than I anticipated. But it'll be done as far as we can make it done by Sunday evening, maybe 12 more hours of work between us (Stanley & me, I mean). I'm just glad he found a new used van so he isn't fretting so much about not having his box to haul around his work stuff. It's a pretty good deal, too, from Dan Perkins Used Cars in Milford. Our sales guy was Mike Cap(etc.)

So this weekend I have to finish the website stuff, finish an ebook I've been working on and have been anxious to finish because I like it, do a little work on, and, since the weather is FINALLY going to be nice, finish planting stuff -- they stuff that hasn't gotten root rot, anyway. Oh, and figure out how to install MT on our new server. And play with the dog.

Anyway--time to go to sleep. Almost.
posted by lee on 06/27/03 at 10:54 PM

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Saturday, June 14, 2003

web redesign babblecrap from Meta Group

Craig Roth wrote this for ZDNet: Web Technology / Web Site Redesign Primer - Tech Update - ZDNet, June 8, 2003

By 2004, portal frameworks will become the centerpiece of a presentation infrastructure that acts as a fulcrum to aggregate reusable application, content, analytical, and collaboration components for highly dynamic user interfaces. By 2005, organizations will exploit portal frameworks to deliver contextual business workspaces, enabled via maturing XML and Web service standards. Through 2007, portal vendors will increasingly leverage enterprise infrastructure services.

He then proceeds to state what should be the obvious but isn't because he throws so much bullshit babblespeak in it you need to translate it into English before it even begins to make sense.

Now, I know Roth is an IT analyst for Meta Group and I know analysts tend to write in pompous, inflated language in order to justify the obscene amounts their companies charge for basic research (I know several Gartner Gods) or for a single research report, but this article takes it to a whole new level.

It's no wonder companies like Meta Group aren't doing so well--if I were an executive looking for some answers and saw babblecrap like this, I'd realize that not only would it cost me a bundle to hire Meta Group or Gartner to write up a report and come up with a PowerPoint or two, but I would also have to hire someone to translate it all.

There are better resources for figuring out what to do with your corporate website and / or intranet. How you proceed depends on your audience. Here are a couple of places to start: from Webmonkey, a fairly comprehensive how-to written in English. Clickz, which provides tons of useful information. Or ask any competent independent web designer firm. If you avoid the agencies, you avoid the bloat (both in process and in fees).
posted by lee on 06/14/03 at 07:26 AM

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Monday, June 09, 2003


amorphoscapes by stanza. I can't explain what it is--a fusion of images and noise?

And here is Einstein Archives Online. If he wrote it, it's probably here somewhere.

Now I just wish I had the time to poke around in these places now. But I seriously have too much to do. Among the things on my list is moving this site to our new server, which means figuring out how to install MT properly in a different setup.

But not tonight.
posted by lee on 06/09/03 at 10:06 PM

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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Zeldman wrong—a rethink? Sort of.

In my comments section, Alexander Johannesen had this to say about my opinion that Zeldman is wrong about the IE/Win lack of support for PNGs:
No, he is right; MS does not fully support PNG, not even in the latest IE incarnations. What you are referring to is the MS-only way of putting an Aplha on images through CSS, and has got nothing to do with PNG in itself which has got Alpha support in its native format. Netscape, Opera, Mozilla all have better PNG support, and in this case Microsoft should be ashamed of themselves.

I see what they're getting at: MS should be fully supporting PNGs without the need to resort to CSS hacks or proprietary DirectX filters, etc. They're right, MS SHOULD be ashamed.

But still, the lack of native IE/Win support for the complete PNG format doesn't mean you can't use them because there are DirectX hacks to support them. So you CAN support those lovely alpha transparencies in IE.

Yes, we should continue to bitch and moan about IE not being standards-compliant--maybe MS will get it and make my job a lot easier. But in the meantime, since IE is not 100% compliant, and IE is the browser used by the vast majority of surfers and probably will be for some time to come, my advice is this: "Deal with it." The bitching and moaning can be pretty offputting without the "but ... "

Aaron Boorman of youngpup has a script called Sleight that he says makes PNG graphics work as normal in Win32 IE5.5+. I haven't tried it yet, so I don't know how well it works. I saw this link on Evolt, where there is a semi-useful article about and useful discussion of PNGs.
posted by lee on 05/27/03 at 09:33 AM

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Friday, April 18, 2003

American Mavericks website

American Mavericks is a website developed by Minnesota Public Radio to feature a new series about "maverick" music composers. Interesting interesting interesting topic -- but what a badly designed website -- yuck. It's confusing, very hard to read and too many elements of the worst of what grunge already did to death. At least the pages of black on white are readable, and the text size is changeable. It's badly in need of some intelligent navigation / indexing / architecture.

But, dive in -- there's a lot to explore here. Just be patient about finding the good stuff, such as the Online Rhythmicon. The listening channels are very cool, and if you choose to download the 365 player, it's easy and unobstrusive.
posted by lee on 04/18/03 at 10:20 AM

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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

web designer’s cornucopia

Web Design References is an amazing resource site -- it lists about 3000 resources for web designers, organized by topic (annotated too!) It's maintained by Laura Carlson in the Information Technology Systems and Services Dept. at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. There's also a link to a webdev list. Saw this today in the Webdesign-L list.
posted by lee on 04/15/03 at 08:13 AM

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Wednesday, February 19, 2003

W3C CSS specs pages - a rant

The W3C just posted a new version of its CSS specs: Cascading Style Sheets. The big flap is it doesn't look right in IE6, which many say is a smack in the chops for Microsoft because IE6 isn't completely standards-compliant. However, if you look at the page in Netscape 6, it looks like crap as well. In Opera 6, it looks better. But it's still crappy looking. Maybe it's the DESIGN ITSELF that's bad and not compliance issues with the browsers?

Maybe if the standards were ever FINISHED it wouldn't be such a problem? Why do I have to download some obscure, weird browser to see what CSS is SUPPOSED to look like? Maybe the W3C has gone off so far into esoteria-land it's become impossible to comply with all the standards? What about taking into consideration the REAL world of web users? Is it really an issue of standards, or is the underlying issue really Microsoft-bashing?

All I know is I'm sick to death of having to make CSS work in every flipping browser out there. For neurotwitch, I decided to hell with it, I coded for IE because, frankly, the vast majority of visitors to not just this site, but to ALL sites, visit with IE browsers.

The W3C CSS standards have become limitations because I cannot use so many of them and have any hope at keeping all of my clients' sites up to date and compliant. CSS is supposed to make my job easier -- but all it has done is make my job a hell of a lot harder. Sure, I would love it if every browser was completely compliant with whatever crap the W3C decides to issue--but it's never going to happen.
posted by lee on 02/19/03 at 09:17 AM

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