Archive for 2007

Bulletproof Web Design, Second Edition

On bookstore shelves today (I hope) is something I’ve been toiling over for the past few months. Bulletproof Web Design, Second Edition is a refresh of the book I wrote for New Riders in 2005. I’ve been humbled by the response of the first edition, and have enjoyed talking about the principles described in the book at conferences and workshops over the last few years. So it was only fitting to give this little blue book a tune-up under the hood.

Book coverThis isn’t a giant update nor a new book entirely. Rather, it brings the examples in line with Internet Explorer 7 (which wasn’t released when the first ed. was published) and adds several more examples based on ems (which were sorely lacking from the original book). There are of course errata fixes and nips and tucks throughout as well, and about 30 additional pages were added in total. All in all, I’m happy to have the book be all the more solid and relevant.

On the surface, writing a second edition of a book seems like an easy little project. One that won’t be too much work, won’t take long, and can easily fit in between other activities. But it’s not like that. It’s like writing another book all over again (even though it’s not another book and a large portion of the text is the same).

I find the actual writing of a book the easiest of all stages. It’s the editing, the back-and-forth, the endless checking and double-checking of Word docs (Word!) and then PDF files. Reading comments, checking comments, adding your own comments. “Should this be bold or code font?”. All of this is necessary of course. But my goodness it’s just as time consuming as the first go-around.

But like anything that takes time and effort in life, you quickly forget the pain and maybe even someday agree to do it all over again.

While today is the official publication date, Amazon is still taking pre-orders only. I’ve yet to see an actual copy myself, so there could very well be a slight delay.

After Media

Last Wednesday, I emerged from Paddington Station and hopped in a cab. “EYElington, please,” I said. “IZlington, you mean,” said the cabbie. “Oh, right.” Then, after asking how much the approximate cost of the trip wil be, he replied, “Whatever it says on the meter.” Twenty minutes and £23 later, I’m at the Business Design Center in the London borrough of Islington (make that IZlington) for @media 2007 — European Edition.

‘Twas a great conference, of course: 2 days over 2 tracks. Lots of inspirational stuff from talented folks of the internets. A special standout though was Drew McLellan and Simon Collison’s tongue-in-cheek battle, High-Noon Shoot-Out: Design vs. Implementation. When Drew starting passing out picket signs that read “There is no fold!” I believe there was no way to top it for the rest of the show.

My talk could’ve gone better I think, as a few few people even told me afterwards I seemed a bit “off”. Ah well, I blame the jetlag. It was the third time giving this talk, and those times previous I’ve received really positive feedback.

The highlight of the trip, was when Jeremy Keith presented me with a bottle of Pinot Noir (and Joe Clark a carton of cranberry juice), on stage during the Hot Topics panel that closed the conference. The wine was a gift for the word “bulletproof” that graces the title of Jeremy’s excellent book, Bulletproof Ajax. It was a nice wine (the label escapes me now, damn I should’ve written it down) and three of us managed to polish it off over the course of the hour. Naturally, I’m thinking a glass of wine should be sitting next to me during _every_ presentation from here on out.

Later during the panel, Joe Clark announced that he has retired from his work on web accessbility. He’s done an enormous amount in the field — and his efforts should be applauded. Best of luck with what’s next, Joe. This follows a recent announcement from Molly Holzschlag leaving the web conference circuit. Again, enormous contributions to the field, and an inspiring speaker.

Two weeks prior to England, the whole family was over in San Francisco for @media America, followed by a few days of sightseeing around the Bay Area. This was a smaller, more intimate affair, with a single track over 2 days. But smaller can be a positive thing, and single tracks work when the presenters are top notch. A standout here was Richard Ishida speaking on internationalization — a topic I’m not directly tied to on a daily basis, yet his presentation was entertaining, informative and delivered flawlessly. Be sure to catch him speak.

My talk in SF went fine, although after a brief segment on microformats, I mistakenly said something like “stay tuned for much more on microformats later today. Tantek Çelik presentation is sure to be *less* cohesive than mine”. Laughter erupts, and at the time I wasn’t entirely sure why. I was enjoying the moment. It wasn’t until Tantek (good sport that he is) came up to me afterwards, chuckling. Oopsie.

Note for next trip: toddlers do not appreciate wine tastings.

Gone Fishing

We’re packing up over here for a little trip to San Francisco for @media followed by a few days of vacation. The whole family is coming with me, and we’re excited about everything, save the 6+ hour flight. Snacks? Check. Sesame Street? Check. Non-noisy toys? Check.

I’m posting this primarily to warn anyone of a delay in email response that’ll begin shortly. Well, there’s always a delay these days, but it’ll be even worse for the next little while.

See you on the left coast, or when we return.

Cork’d Finds a New Home

When “Dan Benjamin”: and I launched “Cork’d”: a year ago, our primary goal was achieved immediately: building something we _personally_ wanted to use to discover and share wine. Twelve months later, it turns out other people wanted to use it as well, and we’ve had a blast listening to the community, improving the site and watching it grow (to over 20,000 users today).
One thing became clear throughout the evolution though: that the site always deserved far more attention than it received from its founders. We were building Cork’d on nights and weekends, and keeping up with new site features, member requests, etc. often took a backseat to other client work and dayjobs. Cork’d needed a new home — but not just any.
h4. A New Home
After talks with companies large and small, we realized we didn’t want Cork’d to become just an advertising bucket for a media company that would most likely let it fizzle out. It was important to us to find a home that would _get_ what the site does and how it uniquely fit in the wine world. We’re happy to announce today that *Cork’d has been acquired by a newly formed company* with “Gary Vaynerchuk”: of “Wine Library TV”: at the helm.
“Gary”: has been changing the wine world as host of WLTV has built a rabid following of wine fans (“Vayniacs”, they’re called — myself included) with his energetic take on making wine _fun_ — this is precisely the same mantra we had building Cork’d. But Gary also really _knows_ wine — something Dan B. nor I can really claim. The recycling guy in my neighborhood knows how much I love wine (and regularly) — but that doesn’t mean I _know_ wine. You know? To get an idea of the show, be sure to check out “this video summary”:
Gary really _gets_ community. And with his mix of knowledge, energy, fresh take on wine, and his embracing of technology and the web, we’ve found a _perfect_ fit. And that’s really what’s most important for the site — that Cork’d continue to grow under an organization that gets wine, gets the web, gets what Cork’d was trying to do, etc.
We’re excited that Gary along with “Rails”: whiz “Erik Kastner”: will be able to take the site to the next level (something it’s always deserved), integrating Cork’d and live tasting, having a real wine authority behind it. Cork’d will not only continue on — but it’ll get even better. For the last month or so, we’d been helping transition the site over, and out of that came some cool new features:
* A switch to the more widely used 100-point rating system.
* “Cork Board” on every profile page to start discussion between members.
* Easy import of wines for CellarTracker members.
* New identity and layout for Wine Library TV, to further tie the two destinations together.
Gary and team have more things in the works like support for “OpenID”:, mobile and more. Dan B. and I will remain on as advisors, but we leave the site in very capable and enthusaistic hands. Cheers to WLTV and the future of Cork’d!
h4. A Learning Experience
The last year has been a tremendous learning experience on so many levels. Sure it’s just a little wine site that Dan B. and I created in our spare time — but the process of building, maintaining, and transitioning was filled with lessons and “ah, so that’s how this all works” moments.
Working with Dan B. taught me volumes about how Rails can be a fantastic environment for designers to create in. I’ve talked about it before — but the concept of using “Subversion”: (SVN) and “chipping” away at the interface _in real time_ made it a bit like sculpting the application. I’m hooked.
I credit Dan B.’s talent as a developer for being able to easily handle the real brunt of the work here — having spent most of my time handing over XHTML and CSS templates to clients and then walking away, seeing and _learning_ how everything falls into place by watching Dan work his magic was invaluable. And fun.
Read more about “the Cork’d acquisition over at Hivelogic”:
h4. What’s Next?
It’s been a busy Spring, with the Cork’d transition, large client projects, and a book revision in the works. But I’m looking forward to the Summer to brainstorm on the future. An office move, expansion and a new SimpleBits-branded product are all probable — we’ll just see how all the juggling goes.


Ethan and I would like to direct our fellow Boston-area compatriots here. And should you join us and other web geeks for beverages and (hopefully) interesting conversation, you will be presented with one of these — a token for future meetups, fife n’ drum battles and other potential Society events.

A Few Sites I’ve Been Enjoying Lately

“… is a collaborative weblog for illustrators, artists, cartoonists, and anyone who likes to draw. Visit us daily for a dose of links and creative inspiration.” Inspiring, indeed — and updated often.
Brand New
Fascinating re-branding commentary. I’m still sobbing over the terrible DQ update.
Like It Matters
Brian Oberkirch on all things social media. Smart dude.
Flip Flop Flying
Entertaining and often hilarious weblog of pixel artist Craig Robinson.
John Allsopp’s weblog covering the world of microformats. See also his newly published book on the same subject. More on this later.
Animated GIFs group on Virb
Both Mr. Sims and Mr. Marcotte warned me that I’d get lost in here and kiss the day goodbye. They were right. The ultimate in lo-fi, mashup, “video” goodness.

Chunky Icons Shirt Winner

Admittedly, I loved _all_ the guesses as to the meaning behind the five icons that grace the front of the newly printed Chunky Icons T-Shirt. But we have to choose one. And so, it’s my privilege to crown Cliff as the the winner of a free shirt. His entry #comment4 was as follows:

Modern hieroglyphics which translate roughly to:

‘Silence your cellphone, Dude, or ship out, OK?’

Cliff’s translation can also be a lesson to us all. Congrats!

I’ll also take this opportunity to mention that the shirts are flying off the shelves, and a re-order has already been placed for a second run. If you’ve ordered within the past week, bear with me for a possible slight delay on a few sizes.

New Chunky Icons T-Shirt

t-shirtJust in time for Spring, the all-new Chunky Icons Tee is available, selling fast, and shipping immediately! This is a limited-editon run that includes a numbered, signed letterpressed card and free stickers. The shirt is printed by the fabulous folks at Acme Prints on “Army” American Apparel (of course). You will love it.

On the front are five icons lined up in a row (from the Chameleon Chunky stock icon set over at our IconShoppe). Your task is to come up with what they mean. Best answer added as a comment here wins a *free shirt* (comment before April 7, 2007 to enter). On the back yoke is a small SimpleBits logo mark. Just because.

More detailed views of the shirt are available in this Flickr photo set.

An Event Apart Boston

Don’t wait for An Event Apart to come to your city — just make plans to catch the next one wherever it is (Seattle is next). AEA Boston was probably the first two-day, single-track conference where I felt like _every_ session was extremely valuable. I came away from each presentation either inspired or educated (or both). The easy, 20 mile commute to Boston didn’t hurt either, and having Kerry and Jack see me speak for the first time was fantastic (at one point up on stage, I could hear “Dada!” from the back, and I’ll tell you … that calms the nerves).

Interface Design Juggling slidesI had fun talking about “Interface Design Juggling” — a potpourri of color, typography, favicons (yes, favicons!), microformats and bulletproofness. This was the first run through of this particular set of ideas, but I think it went pretty smoothly. I was relieved to hear several people thank me for devoting time to favicons — a fun topic that I think deserves more attention. And I’m looking forward to expanding that segment in the future.

The latest updated versions of the slide deck can be found here (in PDF form) for those that were in attendance. As usual, they might not make sense without the commentary — and more importantly some of the transitions are muddled into a single slide (Keynote kept crashing when I tried to export each transition into its own slide).

Thank you to Jeffrey and Eric for inviting me to speak — it was quite an honor to share the bill with such an amazing group.

SXSW 2007

John Allsopp said in Vancouver last month, “you bring people together and stuff happens”. He was referring to Web Directions North at the time, but you could certainly apply that to any good conference. And it’s true, there’s no substitute for meeting with like-minded people in physical space. Stuff happens that wouldn’t happen otherwise on either end of bits and bytes.

SXSW 2007 came to a close earlier this week, and the reasons for returning have been confirmed yet again: going to SXSW is about people. The panels and presentations are a bonus — but it’s primary asset (for me) is about connecting and reconnecting with people. People who share a common thread about the work we do and the stuff that matters in relation to that work.

SXSW was big this year. I missed the previous year, and so it seemed _really_ big compared to 2004 and 2005. An overwhelming schedule, not enough time to see everyone, etc. Surely they’ll reach a point of maximum capacity — but it doesn’t appear there’s a cap on attendees. This year, I put far less pressure on myself to stick in panels all day. Instead, I chose a few I couldn’t miss, then didn’t mind skipping a few because lunch (and interesting conversation) ran later than expected.

In terms of the overall vibe of the conference, I think Jeremy Keith nails it here

… technology is being relegated to its correct role: a tool for allowing people to connect and share their stories. Whether it’s Ruby on Rails, Ajax, tagging or the World Wide Web itself, I got the feeling that what really matters now is personal communication — storytelling by any other name.”

It didn’t occur to me until after reading Jeremy’s post — but there was a _real_ quality to the things people were excited about, talking about, working on, etc. That was motivating and inspiring.

I’d be on any panel with Brian Oberkirch. The guy just makes it easy. It was fun talking about something other than CSS, and our _power session_ panel ran more like an interview about working remotely, outside the Bay Area and what that means in creating for the web. I wish we had time for questions though, as several people came up to the stage after the session ended and we all had some really interesting discussion that would’ve been great for the whole room. Ah well. I’m half-hoping they ditch the 25 minute sessions next year.

I was also honored and flattered to introduce Andy Clarke and Jason Santa Maria: Bullet Tooth Web Design: Plan Your Web Site like Pulling off a Robbery. The room was _packed_ (and rightfully so to see those dudes) and the gag was a funny one. The best part was the continuation of the metaphor throughout all of the Q&A, with the audience framing their questions as if the entire thing was rehearsed.

All in all, good fun. I’m getting more and more out of the smaller, more focused conferences these days, but in getting the most bang for your buck, you can’t beat Austin in March.