web design & documentation Archives
Definitely still some issues with Typepad's post-by-email... 2016
... which is how I'm getting my non-reply tweets logged here on MetaGrrrl.com.
Many annoyances—CSS being ignored, category showing as text not applied properly, URLs in shortened form, truncated message text, images not passed through—are making me think before long I will have to bite the bullet and completely rebuild the site in software that's better maintained. Maybe for its 20th birthday...
Oo! New glasses? Haircut? Redesign! 2012
It's not a radical change, but my online self is now looking more put together thanks to the skilful minstrations of Mr. Lance Arthur.
Do let me know if you find anything amiss, but, frankly, after the work he did both for appearance and cleanliness of the underlying code, you're more likely to find something working that used to be broken (or at least kinda janky).
The biggest changes took place on Discardia.com, which is now not only prettier, but more functional and a far better reflection of Discardian principles.
Hiring someone who actually knows what they're doing is worth every penny.
As you can see, exciting changes are taking place around here.
It took me quite a long while, but I have—over a decade after it ceased being my day job—finally embraced the fact that since I'm not a web designer anymore, that means I can hire someone else to do it for me. Because the someone I have hired is also one of my most trusted friends, this revitalization of my sites will take place with the same devil may care attitude as changes I made myself in the past. You may see all sorts of crazy, halfway-to-their-final-state stages of the process. Pardon, as they say, our dust.
[animated gif of construction guy]
Gameful design 2012
RT @fraying: This. Yes.
Mastery is Well-Informed Improvisation 2012
RT @rands: Two Universes – Portal as great design
Keepin' it real 2012
RT @thelancearthur: Got Work? Because I Got Time. Front-end design and coding, the old fashioned way: by hand.
Facebook's contextless timelines 2010
It's totally unclear what this Facebook post is about. Presumably some question-of-the-day or something, but who knows?
I like the Google User Experience Guidelines. "The Google User Experience team aims to create designs that are useful, fast, simple, engaging, innovative, universal, profitable, beautiful, trustworthy, and personable."
1. Focus on people – their lives, their work, their dreams.
2. Every millisecond counts.
3. Simplicity is powerful.
4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
5. Dare to innovate.
6. Design for the world.
7. Plan for today's and tomorrow's business.
8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
9. Be worthy of people's trust.
10. Add a human touch.
We could have a far worse 500lb gorilla, I must say.
Coders of web sites may be interested in these clever tips from Niall Kennedy: Sniff browser history for improved user experience. Smart cookie, that Niall...
A tour of Dinah's cube 2006
Why do that? (NYPL online style guide to XHTML) Here's why. (Jeff Veen's The Business Value of Web Standards)
JJG and Peter Morville Information Architecture principles. S.R. Ranganathan quote "To be literate is to possess the cow of plenty"
(obscurely positioned where most do not see it: )
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
- George Bernard Shaw
I've had this quote up at work for at least the last two jobs.
Good customer service 2005
Good work, Netflix. I just went to the site to rate the movie I watched this evening (Just One Night, 2 stars, funny but just too choppy to sustain itself) and got this message:
The Netflix store is temporarily unavailable because of scheduled maintenance work.
This store is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Well, almost ...
Every now and then we have to perform maintenance to the Web store equipment. Right now, we're working hard to give you an even better shopping experience.
According to your computer's clock, it is currently 11:46 PM
It is anticipated that the site will be available again at 02:00 AM ( ~ 134 minutes )
We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.
Please visit us again soon.
Now that is how to do a system downtime message.
Prediction: a shift to the right 2004
As I begin using my Treo 600 more to access the web, I'm becoming more aware of the annoyance of wordy top and left-hand navigation areas when I have to scroll past them to get to the main content of the page. I made the decision to avoid this in my own designs long ago after testing sites in screen readers. As more web users gain access through narrow, linear browsers, I expect a general design trend of main content moving up and left while navigation and less important content moves down and right.
XHTML and quotes in code 2003
Anyone know any happy rebuttal to this grumpy comment from a developer?
The above phrase [target = "_self"] is enclosed inside a single-quoted parameter which is enclosed inside a double-quoted attribute value. It is thus a triply nested parameter value which (therefore) cannot be enclosed in quotes because XHTML-compliant HTML provides only two levels of quoting.
DEVELOPER COMMENT: This is an excellent example of perfectly good HTML which has no XHTML-compliant phrasing.
Puttin' the Grrr in the Grrrl 2003
So how do you know you're still a web designer even though your job is supposed to be "Product Manager"?
When you spend the day debugging HTML and style issues.
Why, by all that is good in this world, would a table with 4 rows, where the top and bottom rows are dark blue and the middle two are light blue, look fine in Mozilla 1.2.1, Netscape 7 and Netscape 4.7 and then in Internet Explorer 6 have a light blue row atop the dark blue. ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!
The table is surrounded by a form, but removing the form's opening tag doesn't get rid of the problem.
The top row, dark blue, has this
That style is
font-family: Verdana, Geneva, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #000000; background: #3B6EE0;
The table and the tr for the top row have no style calls.
I want danger pay.
IA gang sign 2003
[Information Architecture gang sign shared on Flickr on March 11, 2004.
Riddle commented a year later saying: "I didn't see anybody flashing gang signs at the IA Summit this year. Very disappointing. Although I think I did see a Flickr shot of someone who localized it to 'AI' for Montreal..."]
I was just starting to read this new Boxes and Arrows article MSWeb: An Enterprise Intranet #1 about the massive intranet at Microsoft and how some knowledge engineers (information architects, whatever the hot term du jour is) tackled it. I was brought up short by this sentence:
It’s nearly impossible to develop a successful information architecture against a backdrop of explosive content growth, content ROT, and the political twists and turns common in any organization."content ROT?" thought I, "What do they mean? Return On Time, maybe? But how is that bad?" So I went searching on Google (God bless Google) and found, in a slide presentation done by my Adaptive Path buddies no less, that ROT in this case stands for
and is a mnemonic for weeding out useless content.
I will have to go back and read that article later, but it's time to leave work and go enjoy one quiet solitary evening before computer maintenance, book release party, welcome home parties and my subsequent collapse.
How should I spend my time this evening? Cleaning the apartment, listening to a book on tape, going to bed early.
How will I probably actually spend my time? Playing The Game Neverending.
Image caching prohibited at the server level? 2002
A programmer friend just approached me with an odd problem which I couldn't explain. Basically what he's seeing is this:
On Server A, you can do a search and the results page will load and in the log you'll see the requests coming in from the client for the navigation image files. Then you can hit next to go to the next page of results and you won't see the image files re-requested since the browser already has them.
On Server B, when you search the behavior is the same until you hit next. Then the next page loads and requests all the navigation image files as though it was the first time it had ever heard of them. And if you hit next to see the 3rd page of results, again it will request all the navigation images.
He's seeing this in the same browser, so it appears to be an issue on the server not the client side.
Anyone got any idea what's going on?
One environmental note: Server A & B are, theoretically, running exactly the same proprietary web server which is integrated with the searching software.
Design as a process, not an event 2002
One of the better ideas I came across while researching for my masters thesis was William K. Horton's description of design as "a continual process of successive refinement" in his book Designing And Writing Online Documentation.
He describes this in a diagram thusly:
"Development of online documentation is iterative, cumulative, and empirical. It is iterative in that several cycles of development are required, cumulative in that you learn and improve through each cycle, and empirical in that improvements are based on testing and experience with working prototypes of the system."
I think this concept can be readily extended to all sorts of online development and, based on my experience with my bookstore, to other projects as well. The key factor is to do something from which to improve. Yes, you should think first, but don't feel you must solve every question in the first specification. "Ready, aim, aim, aim, aim...." won't get you anywhere.
Ah, the lovely horror 1999
of the Interface Hall of Shame is always good for a bit of lunchtime browsing. And now back to work with a renewed sense of hopelessness!