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My very first Web design job was in 1994 for the Computer-Mediated Communications Magazine, created by then Web guru John December. Back then, we didn't have Ajax or DHTML. No CSS, and tables were still to come. Images had only just been added in a new-fangled browser called Mosaic. I had been trained in print design, and I understood the importance of space for creating visual hierarchy, so I spent a month just to create the table of contents, and used the list tag to indent entries because it was the only way to add indents. John looked at it and bitterly complained “That’s not what list tags were intended to be used for!” I leaned a valuable lesson that day: If code and design are going to live together in peace and harmony, there was going to have to be some give and take on both sides.
I’m older now (as I hope we all are), and I’ve been through the Web designer’s gauntlet. I’ve worked in agencies and corporations. Freelancing and contracting. I’ve done sites for small mom-and-pop shops and multinational corporations. I’ve bid on hundreds of projects. I’ve won many, but lost more. I once stayed up for 26 hours straight to make a deadline completing an LOE (Level of Effort) for a major telco, only to lose it to a rival agency that I would then end up working for myself.
I spent 3 months once completely rearchitecting a major travel Web site only to have the online travel agency partner switched just days before delivery. I’ve been in meetings arguing with the creators of Internet Explorer over the merits of DRM applied to fonts. I once hired a top-name design agency to redesign a multimillion-dollar media Web site, only to realize that they simply were not listening to…
OK, lest I start sounding like Grandpa Simpson telling stories about the good ol’ days—like the time I took the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you'd say—Now where were we, oh yeah … I’M NOT GOING TO TELL STORIES LIKE THAT IN THIS COLUMN.
This column is for you to ask questions about Web design and for me to find the most current answers. I’m not here to ruminate in the past but to help you find the best solutions for today. If you are a Web designer confused and confounded by your choices or lack there of, ask me a question.
Think of me as your personal Magic 8-ball of Web design. But unlike the magic 8-ball, I promise not to be vague in my answers.
As The Smiths sang, “Ask me, ask me, ask me…" What should you ask me about? Let’s see. Here are a few thing I’m ready to talk about (in no particular order)…
... and any other Webby buzzwords you can think of!
I also plan to do a monthly “How the hell did they do that?” column. If you come across a particular technique while you surf hither and yon around this Web thingy and you don’t know “how the hell they did that,” send me the link and a description of the cool thing you are looking at (specifically). That way I don’t think you are looking at some other cool thing that you are not.
Ok, enough of the hard sale. This week I get to ask the question.