RYAN AND TINA Essmaker are my guests for Episode No. 91 of The Big Web Show (“everything web that matters”).
Tina is an illustrator, essayist, photographer, blogger, and the co-founder of The Great Discontent, an online journal of interviews focusing on creativity and risk, and No Little Plans, The Great Discontent’s parent company. By day she manages community for Crush + Lovely and works as a freelance writer.
This episode of The Big Web Show is sponsored by A List Apart, the design magazine for people who make websites.
Enjoy Episode No. 91 of The Big Web Show.
I CAME to AdobeMAX in Los Angeles to give a talk to a room full of designers. Before arriving, I thought of Adobe as a historically important 20th century company that was slowly leaking relevance—a company web designers in the era of responsive design have begun to think of with a combination of fondness and embarrassment, like a beloved but somewhat shameful old uncle.
I came to LA with those perceptions, but I leave with the impression of an exciting 21st century company in emergence.Realistic products for a magical age
The products I saw were both amazing and realistic. It was amazing to see a responsive design prototyping application that works independently and inside Photoshop, created by passionate people who actually work in our field and who consulted with Ethan Marcotte, for Pete’s sake.
That was the amazing part, but the equally important realistic part was that nobody was pretending this tool would be used to deliver final code on your website. It was not a responsive Dreamweaver I saw, but a prototyping tool, to help designers figure out how their responsive design should work (and maybe show the prototype to a boss or client for approval). Just prototyping. Nobody pretending they had a product that would make the difficult craft of front-end design redundant. No such intention behind the product. A product for the real work-flow of 21st century design teams. No marketing puffery, no inflated claims to set designers’ teeth on edge.We are now them
More than that. Every Adobe employee I saw seemed to be excited, happy, and on-board with the mission. I see that kind of energy at good startups and small studios. I never see it in big corporations. It sometimes seemed to me that Adobe hadn’t so much acquired Typekit as the reverse: that the people and thinking behind Typekit are now running Adobe (which is actually true), and that the mindset of some of the smartest consultants and designers in our industry is now driving a huge corporation.
I never expected to see that in my lifetime, and to me, it is even more impressive than the amazingness and realism of the new product line or the transformation of the company from a shrink-wrapped product manufacturer to an inventor of cloud-based services. I never expected to see people like us running companies like that.
It makes me feel good about the future, when so many other things conspire to make us feel the opposite.
THE AMAZING PAUL FORD is my guest in Episode No. 90 of The Big Web Show (“everything web that matters”). In a fast-moving hour, we discuss computer system emulators on the web, designing web archives, the value of context in software and literature, the new tribalism, the fallacy of history, buying records when you are 16, why getting to magic is more important than attaining perfection, the interconnectedness of software design and storytelling, how parenting twins facilitates A/B testing, and loads more. Give it a listen!URLs, URLs, URLs
- A Conversation with Paul Ford, the Now-Former Web Editor of Harper’s Magazine
- Harper’s and the Harper’s Archive
- Save Publishing (bookmarklet)
- The Web is a Customer Service Medium
- Medium of Choice
- Paul Ford on Medium
Paul is a freelance writer and computer programmer. He was an editor at Harper’s Magazine from 2005–2010, and brought Harper’s 159-year, 250,000-page archive to the web in 2007; the system now supports tens of thousands of registered subscribers. More recently he helped the media strategy firm Activate with the launch of Gourmet Live, a re-imagining of Gourmet Magazine for iPad, and co-founded Popsicle Weasel, a small company totally focused on microsites.
He has written for NPR, TheMorningNews.org, XML.com, and the National Information Standards Organization’s Information Standards Quarterly, and is the author of the novel Gary Benchley, Rock Star (Penguin/Plume). Paul programs in PHP, Java, and XSLT2.0, but lately is all about Python and Django. His writing has been anthologized in Best Software Writing I (2005) and Best Music Writing 2009. He enjoys both software and music.
He teaches Content Strategy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His personal website, started in 1997, is Ftrain.com. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Mo and the obligatory cats.
THE ERA of “desktop publishing” is over. Same goes for the era where we privilege the desktop web interface above all others. The tools we create to manage our content are vestiges of the desktop publishing revolution, where we tried to enable as much direct manipulation of content as possible. In a world where we have infinite possible outputs for our content, it’s time to move beyond tools that rely on visual styling to convey semantic meaning. If we want true separation of content from form, it has to start in the CMS.–Karen McGrane, WYSIWTF ∙ An A List Apart Column.
IT’S ANOTHER Full-length Friday! In this 60-minute video caught live at AEA Boston, Luke Wroblewski (Mobile First) explores multi-device design from the top down (desktop to mobile) and bottom up (using mobile to expand what’s possible across all devices):
AVI FLOMBAUM, dean of The Flatiron School, is my guest in Big Web Show Episode No. 89. A 28-year-old Rubyist, Skillsharer, storyteller and entrepreneur, Avi founded Designer Pages and NYC on Rails before creating The Flatiron School—a 12 week, full-time program designed to turn you into a web developer.
Listen to Episode No. 89 of The Big Web Show.URLS, URLS, URLS
GREG STOREY of Happy Cog is my guest in Episode No. 88 of The Big Web Show (“everything web that matters”). We discuss the Austin tech and design scene; real and virtual office models; Greg’s upcoming book (with Carl Smith) for people transitioning to web design; new methods of publishing on multiple platforms; and the inspiration behind the Digital PM Summit.
Listen to Episode No. 88 of The Big Web Show.URLS, URLS, URLS
In eighteen years leading interactive creative and development teams, Greg Storey has launched projects for industries ranging from education to retail, gaming to medicine, media to politics. His amazing roster of clients includes Sundance Film Festival, The Nation, W3C, MSNBC, Today Show, AOL, New York Magazine, DiVX, and SpeedTV.
Greg’s ideas, and his work as a creative director and designer, have been profiled in Communication Arts, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC-TV, Salon Magazine, The Associated Press, and beyond. He serves as a resource for journalists, researching new media stories for a number of well-known publications.
As a writer, he has become a voice in the web design and development community through his personal site, Airbag Industries, and publications like A List Apart. Greg serves on the Board of Advisors for South by Southwest Interactive and has been a presenter as well.
In 2005, Greg started his own studio, which grew to eight employees and a number of strategic partners in less than four years. In 2009, Jeffrey Zeldman and Greg Hoy approached Greg Storey with a plan to merge his company with Happy Cog. Today, Greg oversees the operations and expansion of Happy Cog’s newest base of operations in Austin, TX.
This episode of The Big Web Show is sponsored by An Event Apart.
WE INTRODUCE new web design skills and share design business growth strategies in Issue No. 373 of A List Apart for people who make websites:Hack Your Maps
by YOUNG HAHN
Ever taken apart a digital map? Worked with a map as a critical part of your design? Developed tricks, hacks, workarounds, or progressive enhancements for maps? Walk through a design process to implement a modern-day web map. Let’s make maps part of the collective conversation we have as designers.Growing Your Design Business
by JASON BLUMER
If you want to grow in a sustainable, satisfying way, then you need to pay attention to how you’re growing, not just how much. After all, a bigger company isn’t necessarily a better one. Let’s look at four common pitfalls of growth in the design industry, and how to avoid them.
Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart.
SQUARESPACE CEO and founder Anthony Casalena is my guest in Episode 87 of The Big Web Show (“everything web that matters”).
We discuss the platform’s capabilities and the three markets it serves (consumer, designer, developer); the journey from one-person start-up to 120-person company; the launch of Squarespace’s ecommerce platform; how to design a start-up that makes money the day it launches; ways to build community around a non-open-source platform; the effectiveness of good old-fashioned traditional advertising in marketing an internet company like Squarespace; staffing up and laying people off; and much more.
Anthony is the founder and CEO of Squarespace, which he started from his dorm room in 2003. During the company’s early years, Anthony acted as the sole engineer, designer and support representative for the entire Squarespace platform, allowing for it to be a stable and profitable business from the outset.
In addition to his main responsibilities in running the company and setting overall product strategy, he remains actively involved in the engineering, design, and product teams within the organization. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Maryland.
This episode of The Big Web Show is sponsored by Shutterstock.com. Use offer code “BIGWEBSHOW3” to save 30% off any Shutterstock photo package.
IN EPISODE No. 86 of The Big Web Show, I interview Monkey Do studio’s Michael Pick and Tim Murtaugh.
Mike, Tim, and I discuss the A List Apart redesign, responsive images and type, CSS Zen Garden, organic design processes, the future of CMS systems, designing a food truck app, and more.
TIM MURTAUGH has been building web sites since 1997 and specializes in delivering standards-based HTML5/CSS templates. His eye for design and serious affinity for clean code allow him to painlessly integrate his templates into larger systems without sacrificing user experience or aesthetics. Tim started in the non-profit world, moved on to start-ups, shifted to an agency, upgraded to publishing, and from thence: Monkey Do. Tim can be found on Twitter at @murtaugh.
This episode of The Big Web Show is sponsored by Shutterstock.com. Get 30% off any package with discount code “BIGWEBSHOW3.”
THERE IS ALWAYS more to the story than what we are told. I am not omniscient. It is better to light a single candle than to join a lynch mob. Other people’s behavior is not my business. Truth is hard, epigrams are easy. Anything worth saying takes more than 140 characters. Blogging’s not dead. F____ the 140 character morality police.
IN ISSUE No. 72 of A List Apart for people who make websites:“Like”-able Content: Spread Your Message with Third-Party Metadata
by CLINTON FORRY
Spread your content and control its appearance on Facebook and Twitter. Use third-party metadata tools (Facebook OG, Twitter Cards) without feeling dirty.Material Honesty on the Web
by KEVIN GOLDMAN
Kevin Goldman forecasts increased longevity for our work and our careers if we apply the principles of material honesty to our digital world.
Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart
DAN CEDERHOLM is my guest on Big Web Show No. 85, sponsored by Lynda.com.
Dan is co-founder and designer of Dribbble, a vibrant community for sharing screenshots of your work, and the founder and principal of SimpleBits, a tiny web design studio. A recognized expert in the field of standards-based web design, he has worked with YouTube, Microsoft, Google, MTV, ESPN, Electronic Arts, Blogger, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, and others. He also received a TechFellow award for Product Design & Marketing in early 2012.
Dan is the author of four books: CSS3 For Web Designers (A Book Apart), Handcrafted CSS (New Riders), Bulletproof Web Design (New Riders), and Web Standards Solutions (Friends of ED). He’s currently an aspiring clawhammer banjoist and occasionally wears a baseball cap.
A VIRUS spoofing my return email address has apparently been emailing many people. I know this because some of these viral email messages bounce back to my Gmail account as undeliverable. Mistaking these reports for actual messages sent by me, Gmail has decided I’m too active a user, and forbidden me to send any more mail today.
I’m a Google Apps user with a multi-gigabyte Gmail account and I’ve sent less than a dozen actual messages today because I am home sick with a cold. But Gmail doesn’t know that. And Gmail doesn’t care. Because Gmail isn’t real, not even in the David Sleight sense. It’s a set of equations programmed by fallible human beings, and it controls my life and yours.
There is no one to talk to at Google about my service problem because there is no there there. The services I pay for are delivered by robot magic in the cloud. When something goes wrong, it just goes wrong. There’s nobody to track down the virus’s origin and make it stop. There’s nobody to say, “This user hasn’t actually sent these messages.” (I keep marking the returned mails as “spam,” but Google hasn’t caught on, probably because customer service problems aren’t supposed to be reported by inference.)
My friend wears a shirt that says “The Cloud Is A Lie,” but that isn’t quite the truth. More like, the cloud is a customer service problem. One I just found myself on the wrong end of.
Google to customer: Go fuck yourself. In the cloud.
IMPROVE UX through front-end performance, and front-end performance through symbol fonts, in Issue No. 371 of A List Apart:Improving UX Through Front-End Performance
by LARA SWANSON
Adding half a second to a search results page can decrease traffic and ad revenues by 20 percent, says a Google study. For every additional 100 milliseconds of load time, sales decrease by 1 percent, Amazon finds. Users expect pages to load in two seconds—and after three seconds, up to 40 percent will simply leave. The message is clear: we must make performance optimization a fundamental part of how we design, build, and test every site we create—for every device. Design for performance; measure the results.The Era of Symbol Fonts
by BRIAN SUDA
Welcome to the third epoch in web performance optimization: symbol fonts. Everything from bullets and arrows to feed and social media icons can now be bundled into a single, tiny font file that can be cached and rendered at various sizes without needing multiple images or colors. This has the same caching and file size benefits as a CSS sprite, plus additional benefits we’re only now realizing with high-resolution displays. Discover the advantages and explore the challenges you’ll encounter when using a symbol font.More From A List Apart
- Better Navigation Through Proprioception – CENNYDD BOWLES on UX & DESIGN
- W3C is Getting Some Work Done – THE W3C on WEB STANDARDS
- Give a crap. Don’t give a fuck. – KAREN MCGRANE on CONTENT
- Font Hinting and the Future of Responsive Typography – NICK SHERMAN on TYPOGRAPHY
- The Flirty Medium – FERTILE MEDIUM by DEREK POWAZEK
- W3C in the Wild – THE W3C on WEB STANDARDS
- The Future is Unevenly Superdistributed – DAVID SLEIGHT on NEW-SCHOOL PUBLISHING
- Looking Beyond User-Centered Design – CENNYDD BOWLES on UX & DESIGN
- …and of course A BLOG APART
“‘My mom launched a company,’ it read in her inventive spelling.” A moving, empowering true story on business, motherhood, and making a difference.
DALTON CALDWELL is my guest on today’s Big Web Show, sponsored by Happy Cog™. In one of the most interesting discussions we’ve ever had on the show, we go deep on the essence of social software, ponder if everything that starts out great on the web turns to crap, explore how different business models inevitably shape digital experiences, get the real story behind some of the most popular software in internet history, and overturn more than a few canards.
Dalton is the CEO and co-founder of App.net, an ad-free social platform and API. App.net aims to be the backbone of the social web through infrastructure that developers can use to build applications and that members can use for meaningful interactions.
Previously, Dalton founded the music-sharing service imeem in 2003, serving as CEO until its acquisition by MySpace in 2009. Dalton graduated with honors from Stanford University in 2003 with a a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and B.A. in Psychology.
I HAVEN’T GRIPED about a run of bad luck with Apple products for some time, because I haven’t experienced such a run in years. So I was due. So pretty much all the Apple products I own are now malfunctioning, each in its own special way—a way that interacts cunningly with the malfunction in another Apple product I own to prevent me from, say, accessing internet content, or getting photos out of my camera and onto a device where I can view and edit them.
The interlocking details of these curiously synchronous malfunctions are of little general interest, but the cultural assumptions surrounding their discussion may merit some small call on your attention.
People used to talk about the Zeldman Curse, meaning things went wrong with my Apple software or hardware that didn’t go wrong with anyone else’s. But that was never true, of course. Google any problem I wrote about back then, and you’d find lots of other people having the same problem, usually quietly, on an out-of-the-way Apple message board, which only rarely contained an actual, working solution.
Media-wise, Apple was always mum on these subjects—the one exception being 2010′s notorious iPhone 4 antenna problem which supposedly doomed Apple and the iPhone and of course did neither because it wasn’t really a big problem and it was easy to fix.
But those other things that sometimes went wildly wrong for some users of some Apple products? Those things, nice people didn’t talk about. As a community, Apple fans were Victorians when it came to malfunctions of the hardware or software body, and those who complained—like Victorians seeking sexual information—were to be shunned.
This ban on complaint never stopped me because my filters are different from yours, and because I needed the psychological release that came with writing more than I needed your approval.The real meaning of Apple design
Now, we all know Apple is smart. Their sales pitch is design, but not in the “pretty” sense people who don’t know what design is think I mean when I say the word “design.”
Their stuff is pretty, but that surface prettiness is merely an objective correlative—an indicator, if you will—for the beauty and emotional satisfaction of a generally seamless computing experience. It’s the comparative ease of creating and managing a music library, not the attractiveness of the surrounding chrome, that makes people connect personally with iTunes. Like the best websites, Apple products anticipate what you will need to do, and make it easy for you to do it, thereby enabling you to focus your attention on the content with which you are engaged, instead of on the interface that facilitates your interaction. Interaction design. Experience design. That’s what Apple is brilliant at.
And even when the hardware is visually gorgeous—like the MacBook Air, my road machine as a frequent speaker—the real selling point isn’t that visual beauty; it’s the fact that this powerful computer weighs little more than a pad of paper. You can toss it in your handbag or backpack and run out the door. That whole deskbound computing experience? The Air freed you from it even before the iPad came along.Ingenious
If a brand’s whole essence is bound up with good experience, it makes sense for the brand to handle bad experiences quietly and with skill. This Apple does in its stores. If something goes wrong with a piece of hardware, or if an individual piece of software is malfunctioning in ways you can’t fix after fifteen minutes with the Googles, you walk into the Apple store, and a smiling initiate fixes the software for you, or replaces your bum iPhone with a free new one. Walking out with a free new iPhone kind of makes you forget that you were angry at Apple for the problems of the iPhone you walked in with.The house that Jack wired
But you can’t lug your apartment or your whole network routing setup to the Apple store when your MacBook Air says it can’t connect to the internet because another device is using its IP address (even though no device is). And you can’t plug into ethernet because the Air doesn’t support it. And if you bought that ethernet converter enabling you to plug an ethernet cable into your Air, that’s when you find out that most ethernet cables don’t actually fit into that thing Apple sold you for $50. You can’t bring the Air into the Apple store to be diagnosed and fixed because it connects beautifully to the internet over Wi-Fi everywhere but in your home. And that happened suddenly, after you hadn’t changed anything about your network.
And it’s not just you, because your colleague gets the same error message on his Apple computer in the design studio you share. And it isn’t the way you configured your networks, because you hired a guy to configure the one in your studio, while you configured the home one yourself, using only Apple hardware and software. And the guy you hired to wire your studio is competent, because that is what he does for a living, and has done for 20 years, as his bald head attests.
And you want the Air to connect to the internet because you want to get photos off your camera, and you can’t do that with your desktop Apple computer (an iMac) because iPhoto will not open in that computer. iPhoto will not open in that computer because your iPhoto library is corrupted, and the usual secret fixes for that problem (Command-Option open) do not work. Besides, the iPhoto library on your MacBook Air is also corrupted.
Your iMac is set to open Aperture when you connect your camera to it, but Aperture shares iPhoto’s library, so if you plug your camera into your iMac, Aperture spins uselessly and stops responding, just like iPhoto does.
You can sometimes force iPhoto to open on the Air by holding down Command-Option on launch, but if you did that, the photos would just sit there, because the Air cannot connect to the internet in your home. So you couldn’t share the photos on Flickr or Instagram or Facebook, and what would be the point of having taken them? And besides, the Air has no room for photos because the Air has no room on its little bitty drive. And you can’t edit photos on your Air because it’s a “light” computer by design. So even if iPhoto wasn’t broken on your Air, and even if it had room on its itty bitty drive, the best you could hope to do would be dump a bunch of photos into it and then not edit or share them.
The iMac has internet access, but neither Aperture nor iPhoto will work on it because of the aforesaid corruption problem.
So I’ve bought iPhoto Library Manager to fix the corruption in my library, and I believe it will do that, but it’s been working on the problem for fourteen hours so far and it is not even halfway finished. Yes, I have a large library. By tomorrow night, if the software has worked, I may be able to access my photos—although there is the very strong possibility that when I connect the camera, Aperture will open, and will freeze, because it doesn’t know that iPhoto Library Manager has built an entirely new photo library, because that’s how iPhoto Library Manager solves the problem. So tomorrow night, when iPhoto Library Manager finally stops grinding away at my corrupted photo library, I may need to uninstall Aperture just to get the photos off my camera.
I also can’t access internet content outside my living room because my walls are thick and my network no longer recognizes my Airport Extreme (so I’m waiting for Apple to deliver another one) but that would be a third kvetch in the same post, and two is all you get.
So I think maybe Apple is telling me to go out and spend time with my friends on this cold but sunny morning, and to only use computers in my studio, where they and the internet magically work. Only, why would Apple tell me that? How does that message get me to buy more of their stuff? It doesn’t, logically. And yet I know I will buy more and more of their stuff. I’m probably buying some right now.
I should acquire an unfaithful mistress and lavish her with jewelry I can’t afford. At least then people would understand.
SCOTT JEHL of jQuery and Filament Group fame is my guest in today’s Big Web Show podcast.
[And for more Scott Jehl design and development wisdom and wizardry, please enjoy today's Full-Length Friday Web Design Video at An Event Apart. Scott Jehl: Interacting Responsibly (and Responsively!) is a brilliant 60-minute exploration on how to improve the responsiveness (if you will) of responsive web design.]Thanks For The Pepperoni
This episode of The Big Web Show is sponsored by Lynda.com, an online learning company with more than 77,000 video tutorials that teach software, creative, and business skills. Try lynda.com free for 7 days by visiting lynda.com/bigwebshow.About Scott Jehl
Scott is a web designer and developer at Filament Group, a smart studio that creates sites and applications for a range of clients and commonly contributes ideas and code to the open source community. He co-authored Designing with Progressive Enhancement, has written for A List Apart, and 24 Ways, and speaks at conferences including An Event Apart, Breaking Dev, and Mobilism.