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A reboot for Rob

Okay, so if you would like to rate my new design, that would be neat. Now, welcome to my new design. It has green and magenta and phylacteries (oh yes, I’m using that name now) and should be a nicer format for me to maintain. As Gabriel guessed so well, I will be writing more. It just feels better now.

What is new, what is going on?!

The phylacteries are new and neat. Upon hover, a box pops up that shows the four latest commentators for that post. As we speak, I’m having some issues with linking it properly, but even then it is a quick overview of what happened on what post. I’ve got rid of a lot of stuff, and am rebuilding the pages. They’re broken right now, but will be back later this week. All for the cause of flexibility. There are new humane time stamps, which was cheered upon by several. As a last thing that I like to mention, I’ve followed Andy and now use hCards in my comments. Semantic richness for the people.

“Hey, man, this is broken…”

What is? Please tell me what’s broken via e-mail or in the comments. Also, if you know fixes to the IE issues (there are, um, some…), I would be grateful. Very.

It was Anatoli who coded the JS that powers the recent comment box. He didn’t have the time to make it work everywhere as it should, so if you think you can help out, let me know. So yeah, explore and comment. I like to know what you think.

Contest: Pushing CSS

Update: The pretty swell people of Color Schemer will be giving away their application (Windows or Mac OS X) to the number one. I’d say that’s worth giving it a shot, even if you already tried, like eight times or something (ey Trev?).

Okay, I’ve been working on this for a while, but here it is: my first contest for you and for the audience too. I wrote a simple HTML document with structural markup and some other stuff that makes sense. I present to you the markup: try and make something cool with CSS.

Why?

Because I think we all need challenges every now and then. Also, I guess there could be quite a lot to learn here.

How?

Your tool? Just the CSS.

The idea I have is this: make the page easy to read, well-styled, efficient and reproducable. It’s up to you if you use graphics or not, if you use boxes or not. Just make it Good. Some rules do apply, and they make this the challenge it is: use a maximum of three images (read that correctly, please: three image files), make it work in modern web browsers (IE6 support would be nice, but it’s not a requirement) and go wild on the CSS3 you know. The funkier the better.

What’s in it for me?

Right now, that’s a small issue. I can only promise you fame and glory. If there’s anyone kind enough to give the winner(s) something, I’d be very happy. Contact me please. Mister winner will be receiving the swell Color Schemer app.

Okay, count me in

You can enter your submissions in the comments, but it’s okay if you mail me the link. Files will reside on your own server, but the best three will be hosted on my server.

What will happen to your design? It will end up in a list, with your name, website and maybe email. I’ll add a CC license to it as well. Of course, you may still do with your design whatever you want — tell me, so I can link to your specific CC or individual page.

Also, I’d like to inform the winner and numbers two and three that I’d love them to write a small bit about what CSS they used, and what stuff was really challenging. Just for the educational factor, I guess.

The jury

I found some people on the intarweb who I think are le cool and who were willing to be the jury on this contest. This jury consists of father and web developer John Oxton, great woman and minimalist designster Jina Bolton and kinky Kansas designer Jeff Croft. Impress them!

Well, let’s do this then!

The file is over here. Usage: /?file=http://youraddress.tld/style.css. There’s no deadline yet, but I give you at least one week. If that proves difficult, for whatever reason, I will make sure there’s enough time.

I added some markup to give just a couple more styling options and hooks, and to make it more realistic. Mister Dante will want to edit his submission. Sorry!

My secret passion

With the latest developments in the world of standards-based web design, I finally see an opportunity to spill my thoughts. I have this one passion few people know of. It’s interface design (and its bruvas, IA, UI and usability). Ajax is simply direct and refreshless fetching of data—preferably standards-based execution—and this makes for fully dynamic web applications. I admit that my PHP knowledge is meager and that I know only two lines of JavaScript, but web applications require a different approach of designing.

When designing (in lieu of a better word—if anyone can tell me what is, do so) an application, there is a lot to keep your eye on. Designing a web application requires a designer to dumb down like mad. Take these words from me (and correct me if I’m wrong, I’m still young) if you want, but they’ve proven true for me: when you want to design for a web application, make sure your concepts are as bare as possible. The only way to keep an interface for a web app work well (you gotta consider cross-browser stuff here, people) is to keep it very very very simple. Yes, I know, it might be old news for many of you, but for some reason I keep seeing mistakes.

Key obviously lies in the detail. An interface isn’t a design. Neither is an interface with details a design. An extensible detailed interface (xDI anyone?) however is what I aim for on any project. My most religious followers might have noticed that I have some design conventions going. One of the most glaring ones is my Fitts’s Law whoring. Ones with a good memory will recall my post on this, and I try to comfort myself by thinking that every single occurrence of a ‘bigger link’ in body type was made by a designer who read my post. That aside, I make big links. The current design shows that, Hanni’s design (which I made) as well (not on body content links, but that will be corrected in the new design that’s upcoming).

I like to have some design conventions, not only because it keeps your work signed and personalised, but also because you will perfect your methods, and if practice makes perfect, then conventions are the best practice you’ll get because you keep on using it, over and over and over again.

But to jump back to xDI (it works eh?), what I have in mind is a framework that has enough hooks for a skilled designer to make something pretty of it but will work well regardless of the design. This is of course the Walhalla of every interface designer, but I see it as a great means of making interfaces better, and I hope to get some designers to understand the importance of UI in the process. For now, the interfaces I design are also sweetened by my own graphics skills (this weblog’s layout (layout, not design) is basically a framework with the (lack of) sugar on top), but my goal is to have layouts that will work with and without the sugar, and will work well too. (The sugar should be an optional layer, because the detail in the interface should make it work pretty much just the same. Details are not to be underestimated.) Yes, it’s the ultimate goal, but practice makes perfect.

(I’d like to hear something from the 37signals guys, as they pull off an amazing job with Basecamp and Backpack. I guess that’s what people pay them for, but that matters not. 37signals has a tendency to pretty much rock my proverbial shorts.)