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Topic: State of the Web

  • What We Learned in 2012

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    A new A List Apart means a new design, new features, and renewed excitement about the future. But before plowing full-steam into tomorrow-land, we asked some of our friendly authors and readers to share lessons they learned last year, and how those lessons can help all of us work smarter in 2013.

  • Vexing Viewports

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    Each week, new devices appear with varying screen sizes, pixel densities, input types, and more. As developers and designers, we agree to use standards to mark up, style, and program what we create. Browser makers in turn agree to support those standards and set defaults appropriately, so we can hold up our end of the deal. This agreement has never been more important. That’s why it hurts when a device or browser maker does something that goes against our agreement—especially when they’re a very visible and trusted friend of the web like Apple. Peter-Paul Koch, Lyza Danger Gardner, Luke Wroblewski, and Stephanie Rieger explain why Apple’s newest tablet, the iPad Mini, creates a vexing situation for people who are trying to do the right thing and build flexible, multi-device experiences.

  • Universal Design IRL

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    We talk a lot about building a web that’s accessible to anyone—a web that serves more of us, more fully. But are our own events and conferences as inclusive as the web we’re all working toward? Sara Wachter-Boettcher explores how we can improve the design of our own community.

  • The Web Aesthetic

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    Today, when every device begs to be connected, it has become easier—almost necessary—to accept the adaptable nature of the web. Responsive web design is an emerging best practice, and our layouts are becoming more flexible. But often, innovation is focused on technical implementations while the visual aesthetic remains ignored. To put it another way, we’re embracing “responsive” but neglecting the second part: “design.” Now is the time to seek out an aesthetic that is truer to the medium.

  • What Ate the Periodical? A Primer for Web Geeks

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    We’ve all heard about the painful transition newspapers and magazines are going through. Two decades after the arrival of the web, the search for durable, profitable business models that make sense in the digital age goes on. And it isn’t going well. Advertising, subscriptions, and data-as-service have failed. Now is the time for web developers, designers, and digital strategists of all stripes to lead experiments with making (and saving) money from the things technology and the web are good at.

  • Findings from the Survey, 2011

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    At A List Apart, we are perpetually and ever more deeply curious about the lives and livings of people who make websites. It is a curiosity many of you share. Each year, when we post our Survey For People Who Make Websites, thousands of you take time to complete it. The resulting data presents a living picture of the businesses, backgrounds, and aspirations of professional web workers most everywhere. Presenting the findings of the 2011 survey. Dive in boldly, find out how your situation compares to others’, and keep building respect for this most elegant of professions.

  • Everything in its Right Pace

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    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.

  • Publication Standards Part 2: A Standard Future

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    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.

  • Publication Standards Part 1: The Fragmented Present

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    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.

  • Responsive Images and Web Standards at the Turning Point

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    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.

  • The Best Browser is the One You Have with You

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    The web as we know and build it has primarily been accessed from the desktop. That is about to change. The ITU predicts that in the next 18–24 months, mobile devices will overtake PCs as the most popular way to access the web. If these predictions come true, very soon the web—and its users—will be mostly mobile. Even designers who embrace this change can find it confusing. One problem is that we still consider the mobile web a separate thing. Stephanie Rieger of futurefriend.ly and the W3C presents principles to understand and design for a new normal, in which users are channel agnostic, devices are plentiful, standards are fleeting, mobile use doesn’t necessarily mean “hide the desktop version,” and every byte counts.

  • For a Future-Friendly Web

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    It is time to move toward a future-friendly web. Our current device landscape is a plethora of desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, feature phones, smartphones, and more, but this is just the beginning. The rapid pace of technological change is accelerating, and our current processes, standards, and infrastructure are quickly reaching their breaking points. How can we deal with increasing device diversity and decreasing attention spans? Brad Frost of futurefriend.ly explains how, while this era of ubiquitous connectivity creates new challenges, it also creates tremendous opportunities to reach people wherever they may be.

  • The Vendor Prefix Predicament: ALA’s Eric Meyer Interviews Tantek Çelik

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    During a public meeting of the W3C CSS Working Group, Mozilla web standards lead Tantek Çelik precipitated a crisis in Web Standards Land when he complained about developers who misunderstand and abuse vendor prefixes by only supporting WebKit’s, thereby creating a browser monoculture. Tantek’s proposed solution, having Mozilla pretend to be WebKit, inflamed many in the standards community, especially when representatives from Opera and Microsoft immediately agreed about the problem and announced similar plans to Mozilla’s. To get to the bottom of the new big brouhaha, exclusively for A List Apart, our Eric Meyer interviews Tantek on Mozilla’s controversial plan to support -webkit- prefixed properties.

  • An Important Time for Design

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    Design is on a roll. Client services are experiencing a major uptick in demand, seasoned design professionals are abandoning client work in favor of entrepreneurship, and designer-co-founded startups such as Kickstarter and Airbnb are taking center stage. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that design has a massive role to play in the evolution of the web and the next generation of web products. The result, says Cameron Koczon, is that designers have now been given a blank check, one that lets web designers band together as a community to change the way design is perceived; change the way products are built; and quite possibly change the world.

  • What I Learned About the Web in 2011

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    As the year draws to a close, we asked some A List Apart readers to tell us what they learned about the web in 2011. Together their responses summarize the joys and challenges of this magical place we call the internet.  We need to continue to iterate, to embrace change, and challenge complexity to keep shipping.  Above all, we must continue to reach out to one another, to teach, to support, to help, and to build the community that sustains us.

  • Say No to SOPA

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    A List Apart strongly opposes United States H.R.3261 AKA the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), an ill-conceived lobbyist-driven piece of legislation that is technically impossible to enforce, cripplingly burdensome to support, and would, without hyperbole, destroy the internet as we know it. SOPA approaches the problem of content piracy with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole web in gasoline. If passed, SOPA will allow corporations to block the domains of websites that are “capable of” or “seem to encourage” copyright infringement. Once a domain is blocked, nobody can access it, unless they’ve memorized the I.P. address. Under SOPA, everything from your grandma’s knitting blog to mighty Google is guilty until proven innocent. Learn why SOPA must not pass, and find out what you can do to help stop it.

  • The ALA 2011 Web Design Survey

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    The profession that dares not speak its name needs you. Digital design is the wonder of the world. But the world hasn’t bothered to stop and wonder about web workers, the designers, developers, project managers, information architects slash UX folk, content strategists, writers, editors, marketers, educators, and other professionals who make the web what it is. That’s where you come in. Take the survey!

  • Findings from the Web Design Survey, 2010

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    For the fourth year in a row, we’re proud to present the findings from the survey for people who make websites. Once again, we have crunched the data this way and that, figured out what the numbers were telling us, and assembled the sliced and diced data-bytes into nifty charts and graphs for your edification and pleasure. As in years past, what emerges is the true picture of the profession of web design as it is practiced by men and women of all ages, across all continents, in corporations, agencies, non-profits, and freelance configurations.

  • Conversation is the New Attention

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    Baby’s got backchannel! If everybody at the conference is staring at their Twitter stream instead of at the person who’s doing the speaking, maybe the speaker should meet them halfway. Migrating speaker presentations to the backchannel can empower the audience while enabling the speaker to listen carefully to their responses. The broadcast model of presentations is dead! Long live the conversation model.

  • Orbital Content

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    Bookmarklet apps like Instapaper and Readability point to a future where content is no longer stuck in websites, but floats in orbit around users. And we’re halfway there. Content shifting lets a user take content from one context (e.g. your website) to another (e.g. Instapaper). Before content can be shifted, it must be correctly identified, uprooted from its source, and tied to a user. But content shifting, as powerful as it is, is only the beginning. Discover what’s possible when content is liberated.