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Issue № 359

  • Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery

    by Rian Van Der Merwe · · 5 Comments

    Brasília is a remarkable, bizarre city. An architectural gem built to be Brazil’s “shiny citadel,” it’s now known as a violent, crime-ridden, and congested city—because the architects who designed it weren’t thinking about the millions of people who would live there. This myopia echoes across today’s web landscape as well, where we see monuments erected not for their users, but for the people who built them—and the VCs who are scouting them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rian van der Merwe shows us how to discover before we build.

  • Being Real Builds Trust

    by Steph Hay · · 27 Comments

    Tons of products and services are the best, easiest, simplest, smartest things ever. They also all increase profits, decrease costs, and save you time. And as a result, they all sound the same. These kinds of qualifiers overrun our content because we’re constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, rather than being honest about who we are. But trust inspires confidence, and it’s confidence that compels decision-making. Steph Hay shows us how to win customers by being real with our content.

Issue № 358

  • Learning to Love the Boring Bits of CSS

    by Peter Gasston · · 27 Comments

    The future of CSS gives us much to be excited about: On the one hand, there’s a whole range of new methods that are going to revolutionize the way we lay out pages on the web; on the other, there’s a new set of graphical effects that will allow on-the-fly filters and shaders. People love this stuff. Magazines and blogs are full of articles about them. But if these tools are the show ponies of CSS, then it’s time to give some love to the carthorses of the language. Learn why “boring bits” like selectors, units, and functions will be revolutionary to the way we work—albeit in humble, unassuming ways.

  • Everything in its Right Pace

    by Hannah Donovan · · 15 Comments

    The real-time web started as something we did because we could. Technological advancements like more efficient ways to retrieve large amounts of data, the cloud, and the little computers we now carry around in our pockets made it just a really sexy problem to solve. Successful experiments turned into trends, and those trends are now becoming unquestioned convention. But does the always-on, pull-to-refresh design of Twitter and Facebook make sense your product? Hannah Donovan explores whether real time is the right choice—and how we can instead consider pace.

Issue № 357

  • Beyond Usability Testing

    by Devan Goldstein · · 2 Comments

    To be sure we're designing the right experience for the right audience, there's no substitute for research conducted with actual users. Like any research method, though, usability testing has its drawbacks. Most importantly, it isn't cheap. Fortunately, there are other usability research methods at our disposal. The standouts, expert review and heuristic evaluation, are easy to add to a design and development process almost regardless of budget or resource concerns. Explore these techniques, learn their advantages and disadvantages, and get the low-down on how to include them in your projects.

  • Product Management for the Web

    by Kristofer Layon · · 5 Comments

    Whether we prototype, write, design, develop, or test as part of building the web, we're creating something hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people will use. But how do we know that we're creating the right enhancements for the web, at the right time, and for the right customers? Because our client or boss asked us to? And how do they know? Enter product management for the web, bridging the gap between leadership and customers on one side, and the user experience, content strategy, design, and development team on the other. Learn to set priorities that gradually but steadily make your product (and the web) better.

Issue № 356

  • ALA Summer Reading Issue

    by ALA Staff · · 2 Comments

    Presenting the ALA Summer Reading Issue—our favorite articles from 355 issues of A List Apart. You can also read them all as an epub on your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Readmill, or other e-book reader.

Issue № 355

  • Improvising in the Boardroom

    by Matt Griffin · · 5 Comments

    Stop over-preparing for client pitch meetings. Approach them the way musicians approach improvisation: open your ears and listen. Matt Griffin tells how to forget the slideshows, be genuine, the person that you are every day in your job, and win the clients you should win.

Issue № 354

  • Agreements = Expectations

    by Greg Hoy · · 18 Comments

    Every client/vendor relationship is based on a set of expectations, whether they're stated or not. A lot can go unsaid or unspecified for any project, large and small. Not being specific can lead to disagreements, quarrels, and high blood pressure. But, it doesn't have to be this way. Greg Hoy says that while due diligence is important, being vague is a must. Yes, you read that right.

  • Facilitating Great Design

    by Kevin M. Hoffman · · 6 Comments

    Imagine the most fulfilling, collaborative design meeting you've ever had. Hours seemed to fly by, and those hours were productive. Political and mental barriers melted away and in their place were innovative ideas, or realistic solutions for complex problems. For several shining moments the team worked as one; the conversation or the activity was equally fun and productive, and you left the room feeling smart and empowered. It's highly likely that someone in that meeting was a facilitator, either by design or by accident. Kevin M. Hoffman leads us through what it takes to facilitate great design.

Issue № 353

  • Building Books with CSS3

    by Nellie McKesson · · 22 Comments

    While historically, it's been difficult at best to create print-quality PDF books from markup alone, CSS3 now brings us the Paged Media Module, which targets print book formatting. "Paged" media exists as finite pages, like books and magazines, rather than as long scrolling stretches of text, like most websites. With a single CSS stylesheet, publishers can take XHTML source content and turn it into a laid-out, print-ready PDF. You can take your XHTML source, bypass desktop page layout software like Adobe InDesign, and package it as an ePub file. It's a lightweight and adaptable workflow, which gets you beautiful books faster. Nellie McKesson, eBook Operations Manager at O'Reilly Media, explains how to build books with CSS3.

  • A Case for Responsive Résumés

    by Andrew Hoffman · · 34 Comments

    Grizzled job hunting veterans know too well that a sharp résumé and near-flawless interview may still leave you short of your dream job. Competition is fierce and never wanes. Finding new ways to distinguish yourself in today's unforgiving economy is vital to a designer/developer's survival. Happily, web standards whiz and mobile web developer Andrew Hoffman has come up with a dandy differentiator that is just perfect for A List Apart readers. Learn how to author a clean résumé in HTML5/CSS3 that scales well to different viewport sizes, is easy to update and maintain, and will never grow obsolete.

Issue № 352

  • Publication Standards Part 1: The Fragmented Present

    by Nick Disabato · · 16 Comments

    ebooks are a new frontier, but they look a lot like the old web frontier, with HTML, CSS, and XML underpinning the main ebook standard, ePub. Yet there are key distinctions between ebook publishing's current problems and what the web standards movement faced. The web was founded without an intent to disrupt any particular industry; it had no precedent, no analogy. E-reading antagonizes a large, powerful industry that's scared of what this new way of reading brings, and they're either actively fighting open standards or simply ignoring them. In part one of a two-part series in this issue, Nick Disabato examines the explosion in reading, explores how content is freeing itself from context, and mines the broken ebook landscape in search of business logic and a way out of the present mess.

  • Publication Standards Part 2: A Standard Future

    by Nick Disabato · · 13 Comments

    The internet is disrupting many content-focused industries, and the publishing landscape is beginning its own transformation in response. Tools haven’t yet been developed to properly, semantically export long-form writing. Most books are encumbered by Digital Rights Management (DRM), a piracy-encouraging practice long since abandoned by the music industry. In the second article of a two-part series in this issue, Nick Disabato discusses the ramifications of these practices for various publishers and proposes a way forward, so we can all continue sharing information openly, in a way that benefits publishers, writers, and readers alike.

Issue № 351

  • Responsive Images and Web Standards at the Turning Point

    by Mat Marquis · · 42 Comments

    Responsible responsive design demands responsive images, images whose dimensions and file size suit the viewport and bandwidth of the receiving device. As HTML provides no standard element to achieve this purpose, serving responsive images has meant using JavaScript trickery, and accepting that your solution will fail for some users. Then a few months ago, in response to an article here, a W3C Responsive Images Community Group formed, and proposed a simple-to-understand HTML picture element capable of serving responsive images. The group even delivered picture functionality to older browsers via two polyfills: namely, Scott Jehl's Picturefill and Abban Dunne's jQuery Picture. The WHATWG has responded by ignoring the community's work on the picture element, and proposing a more complicated img set element. Which proposed standard is better, and for whom? Which will win? And what can you do to help avert an "us versus them" crisis that could hurt end-users and turn developers off to the standards process? ALA's own Mat Marquis explains the ins and outs of responsive images and web standards at the turning point.

Issue № 350

  • Say No to Faux Bold

    by Alan Stearns · · 22 Comments

    Browsers can do terrible things to type. If text is styled as bold or italic and the typeface family does not include a bold or italic font, browsers will compensate by trying to create bold and italic styles themselves. The results are an awkward mimicry of real type design, and can be especially atrocious with web fonts. Adobe's Alan Stearns shares quick tips and techniques to ensure that your @font-face rules match the weight and styles of the fonts, and that you have a @font-face rule for every style your content uses. If you're taking the time to choose a beautiful web font for your site, you owe it to yourself and your users to make certain you're actually using the web font , and only the web font ,  to display your site's content in all its glory.

  • Application Cache is a Douchebag

    by Jake Archibald · · 48 Comments

    We're better connected than we've ever been, but we're not always connected. ApplicationCache lets users interact with their data even when they're offline, but with great power come great gotchas. For instance, files always come from the ApplicationCache, even when the user is online. Oh, and in certain circumstances, a browser won't know that that the online content has changed , causing the user to keep getting old content. And, oh yes, depending on how you cache your resources, non-cached resources may not load even when the user is online. Lanyrd's Jake Archibald illuminates the hazards of ApplicationCache and shares strategies, techniques, and code workarounds to maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain for user and developer alike. All this, plus a demo. Dig in.

Recent Columns

Matt Griffin on How We Work

Being Profitable

So you own a business. It’s the best job you’ve ever had, and it will be forever—as long as the business stays viable. That means understanding when it's profitable, and when you may have to make some adjustments. Don’t worry—it doesn’t require an accounting degree and it won’t turn you into a greedy industrialist.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

I Don’t Like It

The most dreaded of all design feedback is the peremptory, “I don’t like it.” Rather than slinking back to the drawing board, it’s important to get clarity on what the client is reacting to. Guiding this conversation can turn a show-stopper into a mutual win.

Recent Blog posts

Ten CSS One-Liners to Replace Native Apps

Håkon Wium Lie is the father of CSS, the CTO of Opera, and a pioneer advocate for web standards. Earlier this year, we published his blog post, “CSS Regions Considered Harmful.” When Håkon speaks, whether we always agree or not, we listen. Today, Håkon introduces CSS Figures and argues their case.

Longform Content with Craft Matrix

Jason Santa Maria recently shared some thoughts about pacing content, and my developer brain couldn’t help but think about how I’d go about building the examples he talked about. The one fool-proof way to achieve heavily art-directed layouts like those is to write the HTML by hand. The problem is that content managers are not always developers, and the code can get complex pretty quickly. That’s why we use content management systems—to give content managers easier and more powerful control over content.

Ten Years Ago in ALA: Dynamic Text Replacement

Ten years ago this month in Issue 183, A List Apart published Stewart Rosenberger’s “Dynamic Text Replacement.” Stewart lamented text styling as a “dull headache of web design” with “only a handful of fonts that are universally available, and sophisticated graphical effects are next to impossible using only standard CSS and HTML.” To help ease these pains, Stewart presented a technique for styling typography by dynamically replacing text with an image.