Digital Web Magazine

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News : March 2008

Talking Point: You Are Not A Professional

In his latest essay, respected Texas-based designer Andy Rutledge takes a look at the full-time-plus-freelance workforce (of which I’d guess a large proportion of our audience are members), and decides that it is “ill-conceived and unprofessional” behaviour, and demonstrates a “lack of professional commitment and integrity”.

His basic point is that if you have a job as a designer and also operate a freelance design business, you and your employer are “naive” and “flaky”, behaving unprofessionally, and doing a disservice to your clients.

Speaking as one of those designers who holds down a full-time job and also freelances, I’d say the only disservice being done here is by Andy to his fellow designers. His sweeping generalization – that anyone working both a ‘proper’ job and running their own design shop is only likely to be giving 50% of their attention to any given job, can’t be trusted to stick around, and is certain to be unmotivated – is insulting to all those people working hard at evenings and weekends to expand their skills, further their understanding of the industry, and support their families with an additional income.

But what do you think? Do you agree with Andy that commitment can only be assured if you work one job only? Or are you successfully filling both roles while remaining “professional”?

Comments are open.

March 28, 2008 at 2:24 AM

Matthew Pennell

New Issue: E-mail Marketing and our Beanstalk Contest Winners!

MailChimp’s Ben Chestnut is this week’s newest contributor to Digital Web. Ben offers his e-marketing expertise with 10 Tips For Your First Email Campaign. Web marketing and web standards are finally starting to converge, but that hardly means there are long established best practices and guidelines for people new to e-mail campaigns. Ben’s tips are geared for newcomers to e-mail marketing, but are also handy reminders for anyone running campaigns (like Digital Web’s own Nick Finck, who will send ours out shortly!)

Lastly and a bit overdue, I’d like to announce our Beanstalk contest winners!

1. Tom
2. James Beard
3. miklb

We asked Digital Web readers to answer Why do you need a reliable source control system the most? Our winners receive FREE Beanstalk accounts for one year! Winners, please send me you contact information, so we can get you your prizes? E-mail tiff dot fehr at digital dash web dot com. And thank you again to all our participants!

March 25, 2008 at 11:30 PM

Tiff Fehr - Another CSS Framework

Digital Web columnist Nathan Smith has just announced the release of his new CSS framework, It’s similar in concept to the popular Blueprint framework, but it comes bundled with a collection of useful PDF files for sketching your design, and template files for the most common graphics and IA apps, helping you to maintain a consistent approach to your design from paper to the screen.

March 24, 2008 at 1:04 AM

Matthew Pennell

New Issue: SXSW Sketchnotes & Beanstalk Contest Closed!

First, many thanks to all our participants in our contest for free accounts with Beanstalk! The contest is now closed. We will be judging the comment entries tomorrow, and posting the winners shortly!

Secondly, we have a special post-SXSW treat for our readers. Designer Mike Rohde shares his unique South by South West Sketchnotes made during some of the best panels of Southby. We put together a small collection of his work, panel descriptions, podcasts, slides, micro-sites and a short interview with Mike about his style. Take a short foray into SXSW’s panels with Mike’s sketchnotes as your guide.

March 18, 2008 at 9:04 PM

Tiff Fehr

Talking Point: Is South By South West overrated?

If you work on the web, the SXSW Interactive festival last week was pretty hard to avoid (particularly if you’re a Twitter user), and this week there will be the inevitable avalanche of blog posts from attendees — who they met, where they partied, and whether it was better or worse than last year.

But is it, as they say, “all that”? If you didn’t attend, did the fuss and excitement have you turning green with envy — or is SXSW simply a week-long party for A-listers and wannabe blogerati, desperately flickring each other to somehow validate their pitiful obsession with what is essentially simply yet another tech conference?

Comments are open, so let us know — does South By South West actually matter?

March 16, 2008 at 7:31 AM

Matthew Pennell

Beanstalk contest extended!

You might have noticed Digital Web did not publish an issue this week. Due to the supreme distraction of SXSW and the fact a large portion of our staff (well, four of nine) was in attendance, we took a short break. We’ll be back next week in our usual fashion! In the meantime, we have extended our contest for free Beanstalk accounts for another week. The new deadline for your comment-submission is next Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at midnight (Pacific Daylight time). Reminder! The contest entry question is:

Why do you need a reliable source control system the most?

Head on over to our post detailing the contest and enter!

March 12, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Tiff Fehr

Last Day of SXSW (sad face)

I got to a slow start for the last day of SXSW due in no small part to the Great British Booze-up and SXNW I missed the early morning panels, but caught some of Peas in a Pod: Advertising, Monetization and Social Media. After lunch we caught the keynote with game designer Jane McGonigal, speaking on the future and unique engagement benefits of ARGs. It was a really good keynote that caused me to rethink my attitude toward gaming. (I’m glad a female attendee asked Ms. McGonigal on her thoughts about ARG participation versus stereotypes about gamers and general gender differences in gaming habits and styles.)

Currently I’m in Considerations for Scalabale Web Ventures, which is still (thankfully) mostly above my head. I’m simply not the type of developer to want to get into server loads, scalability hardware issues, I/O issues or the like, but it is good to know where the conversation and technologies are headed. The panel is casual but extremely competent with the best scalability advice from flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg, WordPress and Media Temple. For those looking at scalability issues and the best open-source way to put together a hardware framework for web apps, the podcast might be very helpful.

March 11, 2008 at 2:15 PM

Tiff Fehr

SXSW Interactive, Day Four

Monday saw a couple of great sessions here at South By South West. At 10am — and in front of a large crowd, despite the previous evening’s bowlingLea Alcantara discussed The Art of Self-Branding. Her five key points that your personal brand should encompass: Relevance, Design/Presentation, Message/Communication, Understanding of the customer, and Consistency, could equally well be applied to agencies or corporate entities as well as to yourself. She demonstrated the difference a coherent brand can make with a comparison of the two personal finance sites, Wesabe and Mint – go check out her presentation when the slides are online for more details.

In the afternoon, it was time for one of the most eagerly anticipated panels of the week, at least by designers. The Design Eye Fab Five (this year consisting of Andrei Herasimchuk, Bronwyn Jones, D. Keith Robinson, Ryan Sims, and Paul Nixon) have been making over popular sites since 2004, demonstrating the value of good design to a variety of content types. This year, they took on the decidedly uninspiring SXSW Registrant Directory in Design Eye for South By, and revealed an ambitious proposal to replace the current dull system with a fully-featured social network, really making best use of the valuable data that has access to. The site has additional material that wasn’t covered in the presentation for you to download, although disappointingly there is still no detail on the thought process or decisions that went into the redesign.

March 11, 2008 at 10:00 AM

Matthew Pennell

SXSW Interactive, Day Three (am)

It seems appropriate to start today’s stormy SXSW Day Three by stealing Matthew’s thunder (har har) at being the only DW staffer actively blogging the conference. I only caught the tail end of Lost in Translation? Top Website Internationalization Lessons. But like most other internationalization-themed panels, articles and conversations, it’s a difficult topic. We can continue to lecture to ourselves about the benefits and strategy of internationalization (and agree with each other across the board), but without business momentum it will remain a rarified field in web design/development.

Matthew and I are currently in Social Networking and Your Brand. Given the collective character of the panelists— Paul Boag of boagworld, Mark Norman Francis of Yahoo! Europe, Jina Bolton of Sushi & Robots, Steve Smith of orderedlist and Steve Ganz of LinkedIn —the panel is very entertaining. But by way of a driving point, it is kind of wandering around. They all agree that in building a professional brand around your name, you really need intent, consistency and honesty to establish an readily recognized online social identity. Outside of that advice, the panel really focused on digital identity damage control and ways to clean up after yourself. Though it must be said that amid the highly social, highly documented events during SXSW, a reminder that public Twitter comments sit against our professionalism is always welcome.

March 10, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Tiff Fehr

SXSW Interactive - The Contextual Web, Nick Finck

Digital Web’s founder and publisher, Nick Finck, on The Contextual Web:

“There are four Elements of Context – the User, the Task, the Environment, and the Technology. Who is your user and what obstacles are they facing; what task are they trying to complete; what is the environment in which they are working; and what kind of computer or device are they using? Designing interactive experiences is not limited to the web on your computer or phone – consider gas pumps, fridges, or devices like Microsoft Surface.

“Outside of the home or office, I want to access websites within a particular context – my iPhone. But if the site is not optimized for mobile, or the information I need on the move is not there, I cannot complete my task.

“Some important considerations for the mobile context: Fitt’s Law; load time (e.g. Leaflets version of NY Times); optimize your markup; optimize the UI (e.g. the Flickr homepage); content readability and page width (solution: mobile-specific site with optimised text that is readable by default); navigation also needs to optimized for the small-screen size (solution: move nav to the side or the top, make it large and easy to click on, and make in-page navigation hotspots big); ‘search-ahead’ is very useful; make buttons context-specific, e.g. click a phone number to call it.

March 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Matthew Pennell

Readers at SXSW, we want to hear from you!

If you are a Digital Web Magazine reader and you are attending SXSW Interactive 2008, we would like to hear from you. Several staff members including myself (Nick Finck), Matthew Pennell, Tiff Fehr, and Frances Berriman are at SXSW. If you see one of us please come say hello. If you don’t post a comment on this blog entry to let us know you are at SXSW and we’ll email you to meet up. As a last resort, Blue Flavor along with Rain City Studios is hosting the SXNW party and you should be able to find me there. We just want to hear your thoughts on the magazine, how you use it, what you feel could be improved and so forth. If you want to give us some input we’d love to hear from you.

March 9, 2008 at 4:21 PM

Nick Finck

ExpressionEngine 2.0 preview

Big news from EllisLab today at SXSW, where they are demonstrating the upcoming ExpressionEngine 2.0. Derek Allard announced that EE will be powered by CodeIgniter, their open-source PHP framework. This is a big deal, immediately expanding the community base of both systems and ‘promoting’ CI developers to instant ExpressionEngine experts, as well as giving CodeIgniter a bunch of very powerful libraries that were only previously available in EE.

They also revealed the new look for the EE admin panel, designed by Veerle Pieters – the UI has been completely re-imagined; as well as reducing the number of multi-nested menus, it also seems to be much more customizable to allow you to add custom content to the back-end for your clients. There’s a lot of (jQuery-powered) scripting and Ajax trickery going on too, allowing ever more granular levels of customization.

March 9, 2008 at 3:00 PM

Matthew Pennell

SXSW Interactive, Day Two (am)

Although there were a couple of introductory panels yesterday afternoon, Saturday is the start of SXSW proper. And the schedule this year is quite simply insane – there are anything up to fifteen(!) simultaneous presentations, panels, and readings at any one time, so choosing what to see can be a near-impossible decision.

For anyone who is here in Austin wondering what to see, my strategy for getting the most out of the week is that whenever faced with a clash between two or more sessions, I’ll try to go for the presentations by individuals over multi-person panels every time — because if you’re here to learn, you want to have someone talk to you, not to their friends. Panels can be great, but too often the complaint I hear from attendees is that: “…they weren’t saying anything that me and my buddies couldn’t have talked about with just as much authority and passion.”

Which is why I’m currently listening to Naz Hamid give his talk, Design is in the Details, and feeling like I may just be a better designer at the end of the session than when I walked in.

March 8, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Matthew Pennell

SXSW Interactive (day 1)

Today the mass sojourn begins. Geeks from all over the world head to a little town known as Austin for a web conference by the name of South by Southwest Interactive. This year the travel didn’t go so smooth for most of us. Several flights in and out of Dallas were delayed due to snow out of all things. For those of us flying directly into Austin from Denver, Vegas, and other locations travel isn’t so bad. There’s already been several large herds of people going to dinner and then to drinks off 6th street. I myself have been busy hammering away the details on my presentation for Saturday only to take a break for a midnight dinner at the notorious Magnolia Cafe were geek ideas for the next killer apps are discussed and new companies are formed seemingly overnight. Tonight there were few from the web industry at the cafe, my guess is because most of them are still stuck in Dallas. Tomorrow should be pretty exciting and we are hoping for a more insightful blog post summary that goes beyond the weather and travel.

March 7, 2008 at 2:37 AM

Nick Finck

IE8 Beta 1 released!

Hot on the heels of their announcement to support standards-mode rendering as the default, the Microsoft IE8 team released a public beta 1 today! Give it a try! CSS smoke tests (Digital Web columnist Jonathan Snook is live-twittering his testing) should start to come in soon. I’ll try to cross-link them here. In the meantime, IE deserves a whole hell of a lot of credit for being this responsive to the web geek community, so I encourage you to comment on their IEBlog posts.

March 5, 2008 at 2:00 PM

Tiff Fehr

New Issue: JavaScript Date Methods

…No, I don’t mean getting yourself a date via JavaScript. You’re on your own on that one. But Digital Web is happy to have our newest contributor Lawrence O’Sullivan offer his advice on Extending The JavaScript Date Object with User Defined Methods. JavaScript’s internal date-manipulation skills are a bit underdeveloped, but Lawrence brings it all under control with some smart prototype inheritance. (Insert your own joke about dating/prototype-inheritance here.)

In other news, we’re running a contest with Beanstalk! Between now and next issue, you can win a free account on Beanstalk, a new, friendly version of the popular source control software Subversion. Beanstalk also offers collaboration tools and built-in integration with Basecamp, Campfire and the like. For more information about version/source control and backups, as well as Beanstalk’s full list of features, visit their site.

To enter the contest, simply answer the following question in the comments on this post:

Why do you need a reliable source control system the most?


Digital Web staff and the folks behind Beanstalk will be following the contest entries and selecting the winning answers! We’ll post the winners with next issue’s post, so stay tuned!

March 4, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Tiff Fehr

IE8 Changes Direction Towards Standards

Today Microsoft announced that IE8 will render standards mode by default. This is a fairly big reversal from the initial stance that web professionals would need to include a special instruction, X-UA-compatible, to render a website in standards mode, rather than the default rendering currently in IE7 (I think I got that right — I’m still working through the comments about the first announcement just a few weeks ago).

While many people might feel surprise and vindication that the IE8 team heard (and heard and heard again) our collective dismay, I think we should take the opportunity in their reversal to tone down the knee-jerk abuse heaped on IE as a whole. In fact, let’s go one-over: what if web professionals actively helped the IE8 team correct issues with the next version?

IE8 not going to be perfect out-the-door, and we’re still going to work to bring our websites in line. In fact it is likely we’ll be supporting IE6, IE7 and IE8 simultaneously, for a lot longer than we would probably like. But rather than make the IE team chase down blog posts and comments about the inevitable standardista-rankling bugs (where they’re already on the defensive due to our immature ranting, I might add), what if we put our effort into a collective bug list? Would that really be a waste of our time and effort, or would it help bring IE8 into a true collaborative position in the web community? Once that collaboration is built into both sides, it is going to be hard to drop. This is a rare chance, in my mind, and we need to think about it with a bigger perspective than one additional tag.

I should note that I got a rare chance to share a happy hour drink with the IE8 team last week, shortly after they got word about the change. They gathered their resources, swapped war stories of previous versions’ upheavals and hunkered down for very long hours to meet the new goal. While it was hardly a formal interview, the team is a very smart bunch who fully understand the web-standards perspective and are very happy to discuss it. So how about we discuss it with them?


March 3, 2008 at 4:01 PM

Tiff Fehr

Media Temple

via Ad Packs