Archive for May, 2004

To the Baltic and Back

We’re packed and ready to head out on our overnight flight to Stockholm. We have a one hour stop-over in Iceland — a place I’d love to visit properly someday.
I’ll be happily unplugged and offline for the next nine days. And who knows, when I return, perhaps a certain book will be back from the printers.
So until then, may your markup be lean, and your style unprecendented.

Reveal

Every year I’m amused by a certain catch phrase that sweeps the media. Last year it was “cold snap” — at least here in the Northeast United States. Everyone was using this phrase. Predictably, every weatherman found a way to work in the hip term, but hearing it being used in normal conversation was the real true sign that “cold snap” had made the big time.
At the grocery store: “that’ll be $29.54. Can’t wait till this cold snap ends. It’s been brutal.”
Previous to last year I had never heard these two words used in conjunction. And this last winter it disappeared and was never uttered again. It had reached its Tipping Point, and people moved on to other ways of describing how cold the weather was.
This year, it’s “reveal”. Specifically when used as a noun. This word is everywhere, and we can blame reality television for it. Any makeover show — or one with a surprise ending will use this to describe the portion of the program that you just can’t miss.
“The big reveal is coming up… right after the break.”
I’m guessing that “reveal” has almost reached its tipping point. And I’m wondering if that moment will be obvious to us all. Perhaps this coming November, Tom Brokaw will tease the announcement of the next US president, by stating that the “big reveal” is moments away. Then we’ll be looking to what next year’s catch phrase will be.

ESPN Search

In a week filled with redesigns and launches, I have another small one to add today.
screen shotI’ve had the pleasure of working with ESPN.com recently, and the first results have found their way onto the site in the form of a from-the-ground-up redesign of ESPN Search.
A stronger, more cleanly organized design was the goal here, along with several added features, including a “Most Searched” pop-up window that launches from the home page that matches the look and feel of the new section.
Toggling between ESPN and Web results is now easily achieved by familiar tabs — utilizing the Sliding Doors concept (gee, that one must be a keeper, eh?) to allow for the number of results to appear in hypertext next to the tab’s label. Because of their square shape, I was able to simplify the CSS a bit, by only using one large image instead of two. A larger portion of the background image is revealed when more text is added or if the user bumps up the text size.
Using an unordered list also makes it easy to add more tabs in the future for other search filtering options.
Flexiblity was also key for building the player and team “modules” — where stats and other links related to a particular team or player could vary in number in length — yet still keep a rounded box shape and design. I’m quite happy in the way all text on the site is adjustable for low-vision users, with the design expanding along with it.
For reasons beyond anyone’s direct control, the new Search pages will not validate — but I would hope that (even without validation at this point) the improvements in accessibility, managability and file size aren’t diminished because of it. So, hats off to the ESPN.com team for continuing to make web standards a priority. It’s been great working with them so far.

Skoal

In less than two weeks, Kerry and I will be heading to Sweden for a 1-week vacation. Neither of us have been there before, and it’ll surely be the farthest distance either of us have traveled.
Swedish flagI’m getting fired up for the trip — especially that, while we’ll be staying in Stockholm at the beginning and end of the trip, the middle was left open to go where we think will turn out to be interesting.
So, that said — have you been to Sweden? Do you live there? Suggestions for sights, cities, towns and Swedish beers are welcomed.
There of course is the possibility that I’ll run into a few other Cederholms — however legend has it that the name is synonymous with crime throughout Scandinavia. Perhaps I’ll keep it to myself until I find out in person.

A Better Blogger

The big news today is the rebirth of Blogger — not only a new version of the application, with tons of new features, but also an undeniably friendly, pleasing and rock-solid redesign of Blogger.com by Doug Bowman and Adaptive Path.
Be sure to read Doug’s informative write-up on the entire project over at Stopdesign.
TicTacIn a very small way, I was fortunate to have taken part in the project, by designing a template that can be selected by the thousands of the Blogger users.
TicTac (also available in blue flavor) was my contribution to an all-star cast of web designers who, collectively created over 20 free templates. The design was inspired by a pattern that I see each and every day — on my shower curtain, and coincidentally, works well with the new “rounded” theme of the new Blogger.
Extra care was taken to ensure the design would be flexible enough for any amount of content at any text size. For example, the header uses a vertical version of the Sliding Doors technique (sliding windows?), where if the Blogger user has a long site title, or if the user bumps up the text size, the header graphic (separated into two pieces) willl “spread apart” to accomodate it.
It was fun adding to the relaunch in a tiny way — and just think, Blogger users can also choose their site to be designed by Jeffrey Zeldman, Dave Shea, Todd Dominey, Dan Rubin — and not to mention Douglas Bowman himself. All standards-compliant, 100% CSS — and free. Very cool!
So, hats off to Doug, Adaptive Path and the Blogger team for pulling together a great relaunch. And with Google behind it, there’s no telling how many new users will be turned on by the value of weblogs.

SimpleQuiz › Part XVI: Launching Windows

This question comes in from Keith Robinson — and it’s a good one. Recently, Keith had been working on a project using the XHTML 1.0 Strict doctype — but ran into a dilemma when he needed to launch certain links into a new window.

No worries, the target attribute is all we’ll need here:

<a href="somewhere.html" target="_blank">link</a>

But sadly, the target is deprecated and unallowed in XHTML 1.0 Strict (probably lumped in with the demise of frames). So we have a few options. We could stick with Strict and use any number of JavaScript methods to pop the new window. Or we could be rebels and use the target attribute, ignoring validation errors. Or lastly, we could switch to the XHTML 1.0 Transitional doctype and use target, staying completely valid.

Q: When using the XHTML 1.0 Strict doctype, how would you launch windows in a new window?

  1. Strict doctype + JavaScript pop-up solution
  2. Strict doctype + target="new" + Ignore validation error
  3. Switch to XHTML 1.0 Transitional doctype + target="new"

Scalable Mini Tabs

Previous to this week, the mini tabs that power this site’s navigation used a fixed pixel font-size. It’s been something that has always bothered me (there could be worse things). So, in an effort to try to use relative font sizing as much as possible going forward, I thought I’d revisit the way the tabs were styled.
closeup of navigationIt only took a little tweaking, and now the navigation scales perfectly if the user bumps up the text size a few notches. I’ve updated the mini tabs example page by adding the relative font-size version for those that are currently using this method — but now would like the text to be scalable. The new method continues to use a single unordered list.
It turned out so well, that I finally went ahead and switched the entire site over to use relative font-sizes (using keywords in this case).
I settled on assigning a base keyword font-size of small on the <body> element, then using percentages for everything below. What was interesting was the differences in say, a value of 85% across all browsers using default settings. Some interpretations would be noticably different — but by experimenting with in-between values like 82%, some browsers appear to “round up” to the nearest 5 or 10 multiple, while others would accept the value. This turned out to be a good thing — tweaking the percentage values to get the text to appear at least similar across the board when viewed with default settings.
It’s impossible (and useless) of course to get it precisely consistent — because that’s not the promise of relative font sizing. Heck, isn’t that what pixels are for? ;-) But it’s nice to think that, if the user wanted to, they could increase the text for the entire page and still absorb the design as intended.

Mountaintop Corners

A new article I’ve written for A List Apart has been published today. Mountaintop Corners discusses the simple (yet bulletproof) technique of shaving off pixels to form rounded boxes. By creating round corners this way, it enables us to use CSS to create flexible containers that can also change in shape and color with quick and easy edits.