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Matt Griffin on How We Work

Being Profitable

· Published in Business · 15 Comments

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. Continue Reading

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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.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

In Pursuit of Facebook Happiness

Our level of happiness and satisfaction on social networks is largely determined by the same things that make us happy in the rest of our lives. You can let your timeline be a perpetual reunion of your dullest second cousins or get out there and join some clubs.

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The Doctor Is In

Where should new web designers go to get started? Find out in this first edition of Ask Dr. Web, where A List Apart’s founder and publisher, Jeffrey Zeldman, answers your questions about web design.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Lessons Learned by Being the Client

Great ongoing business relationships are good for both sides. But often developers aren’t in tune with their client’s day-to-day business needs and where their work fits in. And clients’ focus on immediate practicalities can make the developer’s work stressful and unsatisfying. Well, what better way to learn about the needs of the other than by becoming the other?

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

Look at the Big Picture

It’s easy to see that automation can streamline image-optimization for all the varied contexts on the pan-device web. What’s harder to imagine is a future where foregrounding meaningful content in images can be handled by an algorithm. Art direction still requires human intervention, and that’s often a luxury in high-production environments.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

Letter to a Junior Designer

When you’re starting out in design you hunger to fix all the things. Your imagination and passion are boundless. So what turns a junior designer into a seasoned pro? It’s more than experience—it’s an ability to be in the moment and be a whole person.

Matt Griffin on How We Work

My Life with Email

Does your inbox constantly beg for attention? Do you suffer from always-on inbox anxiety? Email can easily take over your life—especially if you’re running a business. If that’s happening, it’s time to get serious about controlling the firehose of asynchronous communication.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

Me and My Big Fat Ego

In a design project, there are usually areas where the client sees room for improvement—and that’s hard to take if your self-esteem is bound up with your work. You need confidence to present your work, but be sure to dial back the ego if it stands in the way of a successful client relationship.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Our Enclosed Space

We tend to forget that the boots-on-the ground web generalists who do great work for small businesses can’t spare the time to implement an entire suite of best practices when they’re trying to solve one sticky problem on a tight deadline.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

Inspiration

In the design world, asking about one’s “inspiration” is often code for “where do you pinch your ideas from?” But the act of copying needn’t be wreathed in euphemisms: just like in art class, we learn by copying the work of the masters. The trick is using the experience to learn and then making the technique or pattern your own.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

Good Taste Doesn’t Matter

Do we truly believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Or do we actually seek out some external standard of good taste in design (and then try to impose it whether it leads to the best solution or not)? We may be happier, and better designers, if we let go of that notion.

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

What We Mean When We Say “responsive”

We keep using that word, “responsive,” but do we all mean the same thing by it? The debate continues, as it should, while the word in its web context works its way into our language. But by the time its meaning coalesces, will we even need it anymore?

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

Delivery Logistics

A client isn't necessarily wrong to specify a PSD as the design deliverable they expect, but part of the design process is making sure we’re communicating with them in the clearest way possible—which could include helping them reexamine their assumptions. Client specs could be based on outdated or secondhand experience.

Matt Griffin on How We Work

Start Coding with Wireframes

As a designer or UX pro, you’ve long suspected you ought to learn to code, but where to start? How about making your next wireframe responsive? When you build wireframes with simple code, you create a deliverable that can be reused while you become more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the web.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Making Time for Side Projects

What’s holding you back from finishing that side project? It’s valuable, but how will you ever find time for it? The secret is…drumroll…real goals and deadlines, and a realistic plan on how to fit it into the open spaces in your schedule. Time to get it on your to-do list and feel the motivation kick in.

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

Workflow Orchestration for the Wary

Workflow consolidation is the key to alleviating suck, ennui, and (some of) the dangers of human error. If only it weren't so arcane and sysadmin-y. Don't be put off by past trauma or bad first impressions—task runners and build tools are here to help you take control of your own destiny.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

The REAL Real Problem with Facebook

The Facebook news feed: featuring the perfect lives and perfect kids of people you barely know, and sometimes glimpses of weird opinions from friends you thought you knew perfectly. Maybe our understanding of identity has outgrown the design of our virtual interaction spaces.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Your Side Project as Insurance Policy

You’re never too young and healthy to make sure you can keep income coming in if sudden misfortune strikes. Often our livelihood depends on our physical abilities—such as typing code. Having a product as a side project can offer security if your daily work is disrupted by illness or injury.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

The Silent Subcontractor

Subcontracting for an agency can sometimes leave a freelance designer in the shadows, unable to talk directly with the client during the project, and unable to show their own work in their portfolio later.

Matt Griffin on How We Work

Let’s Do It! What Are We Doing?

When you’re asked to give a quote on a project, you face a dilemma. Ballpark it and hope for the best, or spend unpaid time working up a proposal that may not lead to work after all? There’s a third way that’s better for you and the client.

Karen McGrane on Content

Responsive Design Won’t Fix Your Content Problem

For years, we’ve told clients to serve the same content to every platform. We explained that Responsive Web Design allows content to squish itself into any container. Is it any wonder, then, that the belief has slowly grown that RWD can act as a substitute for actual content strategy?

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

Never Heard of It

We’re keen to appear up on all things dev. We work hard to stay informed, but sometimes we have to admit we didn’t see that tweet or don’t know about that new framework. Well, so what?

David Sleight on New-School Publishing

He Ain’t Snowfalling, He’s My Brother

Not many newsrooms have the wherewithal to produce their own “Snow Fall,” and that, some say, dooms the NYT’s experiment to becoming a mere blip in the history of periodical web design. But it’s not all about per-article cost-effectiveness. The ambition that drives these efforts is exactly what the publishing business needs.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

The Monster Within Us

There's a monster within you and me—we all have it. It's driven by primitive needs and it's relentless, but—plot twist—it's trying to save your life. Only it doesn't understand what's going on and it can hijack your thinking and actions in an instant, making you a menace, or at least a jackass, to everyone around you. Scared yet? Fortunately, there's a great technique for keeping the monster at bay.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Does Our Industry Have a Drinking Problem?

The social events surrounding conferences are an integral part of the experience—and they mostly involve getting together over drinks. But as the industry becomes more inclusive, we gain more people for whom drinking isn’t a good option. It's time to add more ways to party and meet up that give us a chance to network with all of our peers—and maybe even leave us feeling up for that second-day morning workshop.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

Open for Business

The web is a record of all you share (and over-share). So why would you risk looking less than perfect right where potential clients will be getting to know you? Because it’s also the best way to show them how honest, hardworking, and reliable you are—and helps you connect with people who can fill in gaps in your knowledge and sympathize with your ups and downs. So how do you find the right level of openness that can actually help your business?

The W3C on Web Standards

Performance Matters

Web performance depends on much more than JavaScript optimization. Fortunately, the W3C's Web Performance Working Group has given rise to new APIs that help developers measure performance more accurately and write faster web apps.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Pricing Underpins Everything You Do

Hindsight is a wonderful thing—I can now see that many of the difficulties we experienced as a service business could have been avoided with a different pricing model. Yet what was ultimately one of our biggest mistakes gave us experiences we could draw on when deciding on a pricing model for our product.

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

Do as Little as Possible

I make websites for mobile phones. Or, at least, that’s what I used to say. Nowadays, it’s complicated.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

The Merry Stormtrooper

“I work at Microsoft,” I said. “Oh? Ha,” she said. Knife. Twist. It was over.

Laura Kalbag on Freelance Design

Good Designers, Good Clients

In the web community, it often seems like client work is what people do when they need money to fund the projects they really care about. I might be considered an oddball for not aspiring to work in a hip startup or create a product out of a side project. I love working in client services.

The W3C on Web Standards

Around the World Wide Web in Eighty Minutes

London-based web designer Phileas Fogg IV has teamed up with his internationalization friend Jean Passepartout III to explore the world’s typographic conventions...

David Sleight on New-School Publishing

The Hands in the Cookie Jar

As I write these words, my fiancée and I are just a few weeks away from our wedding day. We’ve been planning the big event for months now, dutifully pushing through a thicket of caterers, photographers, bands, and too many other vendors to mention. And while we’ve been making the rounds online to pore over reviews and double-check details, advertisers have been triangulating our movements.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

How Do You Go on Vacation?

The idea that everyone should get time off away from their business, perhaps even completely disconnected from the internet, is a pervasive one.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

Shades of Discoverability

Many modern digital products enable complex, emergent behavior, not just pure task completion. We’re building habitats, not just tools; yet we often think of discoverability only in terms of task execution.

Karen McGrane on Content

Douglas Engelbart and the Means to an End

ENIAC, the world’s first programmable digital computer, was completed in 1944. Today, more people have access to mobile phones than have access to toilets. There are more mobile internet users in the developing world than in the developed world. It took just seventy years to get from a device the size of a two-story building to a device that fits in your pocket.

The W3C on Web Standards

Security Affair

Apps are shifting more logic to the client, which is changing the security landscape. These are exciting times for the web.

Nishant Kothary on the Human Web

It Is What It Is

One of my first managers — we shall call him Bob — had a saying that used to drive me nuts. To most of my complaints about workplace dysfunctions in our manager-employee one-on-ones, Bob would respond, “It is what it is.”

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

The Local Shops of the Web

A local shop is part of an ecosystem — here in England we call it the High Street. The owner of a local shop generally has no ambition to become a Tesco or WalMart. She’d rather experience steady growth, building relationships with customers who value what she brings to the community.

Karen McGrane on Content

The Alternative is Nothing

We’re witnessing one of the latest waves of technological disruption, as mobile devices put access to the internet in the hands of people who previously never had that power.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

On Changing the World

We hear it mostly from proud CEOs and recruiters, as a sweet nothing designed to tempt candidates to drop their counter-offers, or a statement in a desperate pitch deck. We’re changing the world! All it takes is a few hundred fearsome intellects and laptops. Are you in or out?

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

You Can’t Do Everything

In any given day I can find myself reading up on a new W3C proposal, fixing an issue with our tax return, coding an add-on for our product, writing a conference presentation, building a server, creating a video tutorial, and doing front end development for one of our sites. Without clients dictating my workload I’m in the enviable position of being able to choose where to focus my efforts. However, I can’t physically do everything.

Karen McGrane on Content

WYSIWTF

Arguing for “separation of content from presentation” implies a neat division between the two. The reality, of course, is that content and form, structure and style, can never be fully separated. Anyone who’s ever written a document and played around to see the impact of different fonts, heading weights, and whitespace on the way the writing flows knows this is true. Anyone who’s ever squinted at HTML code, trying to parse text from tags, knows it too.

The W3C on Web Standards

Digital Publishing and the Web

Electronic books are on the rise everywhere. For some this threatens centuries-old traditions; for others it opens up new possibilities in the way we think about information exchange in general, and about books in particular. Hate it or love it: electronic books are with us to stay.

David Sleight on New-School Publishing

Passing On Our Rights

Last month, a U.S. District Court handed down a decision that’s pretty awful if you care about consumer rights and digital content.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

Hellish Other People

Childish, inaccurate, bizarre, and condescending? Perhaps—but you can’t just ignore articles like that. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s Seven Rules for Managing Creative People sets lofty standards for missing the point. At its nadir—“Creatives enjoy making simple things complex, rather than vice versa”—it ranks among the most baffling things ever written about creativity.

Karen McGrane on Content

Explaining Water to Fish

Seems like user-centered design just isn't all it's cracked up to be. We're told that user-centered design is limiting and we need to look beyond it. It's just not good enough, because it doesn't consider all the variables involved. Jared Spool tells us that user-centered design never worked. Even Donald Norman weighs in to discuss ways that human-centered design may be considered harmful.

The W3C on Web Standards

The Web on Mobile and Beyond

People used to stare at me and laugh, back in 2005 when W3C launched its Mobile Web Initiative to advocate the importance of the web to the mobile world. Now I am the one smiling much of the time, as I did most recently during the 2013 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, one of the largest events to focus on mobile devices and networks.

David Sleight on New-School Publishing

They Keep Using That Word

The word "real" gets tossed around a lot when people compare physical objects and digital ones. That's fine for casual conversation, but when publishers use that kind of sloppy language it reveals serious flaws in how they think about their products and businesses.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

Better Navigation Through Proprioception

Close your eyes and touch your nose. How did you do it? How did you sense where your hand was, and direct it to the right point? You’re not using sight, hearing, taste, smell, or touch (except right at the end). Instead, you’re relying on proprioception: the sense of your body’s position in space, and the position of various parts of the body in relation to each other.

The W3C on Web Standards

W3C is Getting Some Work Done

In 2014, W3C turns 20. In web years that's something like 200. We last redesigned the W3C homepage and other top pages in 2008 to provide more content, clearer navigation, and other conventions of site design. But a lot has changed in five years, and we want to revamp the site in time for our twentieth birthday.

Karen McGrane on Content

Give a crap. Don’t give a fuck.

How do you know if you're doing a good job? There's always an external way to measure quality—being prepared, attending to the details, listening to the collective wisdom about what it means to do good work. Give a crap about the little things, and you're good. What about doing a great job? There's no checklist, no guidelines that will get you there. Being great means being vulnerable; not giving a fuck about what other people think. It's harder than it sounds.

Nick Sherman on Typography

Font Hinting and the Future of Responsive Typography

Font hinting has been the source of countless headaches for type designers and users. In the meantime, some of the most fundamental and important elements of typography still can’t be addressed with the web of today. Rather than being seen as a tedious chore whose demise will be celebrated, hinting might actually provide the essentials for truly responsive design, and vastly expand the possibilities of digital typography for designers, publishers, and readers.

Fertile Medium by Derek Powazek

The Flirty Medium

Our brave new digital world allows us the freedom to flirt safely, but that’s both good and bad. In this special Valentine’s Day edition of Fertile Medium, we explore online flirting from two different perspectives.

The W3C on Web Standards

W3C in the Wild

W3C really wants to hear from web designers and developers. We want our specs to be useful to you and to keep up with real-world issues. We've set about to broaden our community and to find new feedback channels that work better for busy web professionals. If you're reading this, you're part of the community we want to talk with more.

David Sleight on New-School Publishing

The Future is Unevenly Superdistributed

Tools that give users ever more control over formatting, timeshifting, and sharing will continue to proliferate. This steady growth runs directly counter to the simple, one-to-many broadcast model enjoyed by many publishers in the past.

Cennydd Bowles on UX & Design

Looking Beyond User-Centered Design

User-centered design has served the digital community well. So well, in fact, that I'm worried its dominance may actually be limiting our field. The terms “user experience design” (UX) and “user-centered design” (UCD) are often used interchangeably. But there's an important distinction.

Fertile Medium by Derek Powazek

Picture Yourself in a Boat on a River

Welcome to Fertile Medium, an advice column for people who live online. Each edition, I’ll take a question from you about living and building social spaces online, and do my best to answer. Want to ask a question? Tweet to @fertilemedium or call (415) 286-5446 and leave a message.

Karen McGrane on Content

Windows on the Web

You have five minutes while waiting for a friend to meet you for lunch, so you find yourself shopping for a new pair of shoes. When your friend arrives, you put the phone away, but leave the web page open to help you remember what you found when you get home.