What are web standards and why should you use them? That’s what Opera’s new Web Standards Curriculum hopes to answer. If you’re interested in learning more, visit: http://www.opera.com/wsc/ They’ve got 23 articles available already and an additional 30 planned.

The Web Design Survey 2007

Designers, developers, project managers. Writers and editors. Information architects and usability specialists. People who make websites have been at it for more than a dozen years, yet almost nothing is known, statistically, about our profession. Who are we? Where do we live? What are our titles, our skills, our educational backgrounds? Where and with whom do we work? What do we earn? What do we value?

Read More and Take the Survey!

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Upgrading to CS3

adobecs3.pngCurrently I’m using Adobe Creative Suite 2 Premium. On a limited basis, I’ve been testing out the Photoshop CS3 Beta and figured I should give CS3 a test drive before upgrading the rest of the guys in my department.

I was given the go-ahead to upgrade to CS3 if I wanted to a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve struggled with what version to get. I was torn between getting the Design Premium and Web Premium versions… Honestly, I’ve been toying with the idea of not upgrading at all considering a few of the reviews I’ve read. This morning I ordered Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium (that’s a mouthful!). The source of contention in deciding which version came down to one thing: InDesign CS3.

We do a little bit of print design at PowerServe, but most of it can be done in Photoshop and/or Illustrator without the need for InDesign. As a matter of fact, in the time I have had InDesign I have only used it for one project. (Hardly enough justification to get an upgraded version of the app.) With CS3 Web Premium I’ll gain access to Contribute CS3, Flash CS3, Fireworks CS3… which I definitely think fit in more with the kind of work I do now.

I’m looking forward to using it, and if all works out I’ll be picking up copies of it for my three coworkers in the near future.

A Second Look at Outlook 2007

Outlook 2007 Product Box ShotI wrote an “Open Letter to Microsoft” over a month ago. It was a short diatribe on Microsoft’s decision to use Word’s rendering engine for Outlook 2007 instead of Internet Explorer. Well, I had assumed that it would be quite some time before I had to worry about testing designs in Outlook 2007, but that day came much, much sooner than I had anticipated. I snagged a copy of it off of Amazon.com (product link) for $89.99.The interesting thing that I’ve discovered while using the new version, is that where it fails with rendering emails – it excels in handling contacts, calendaring, etc. The mere fact that the new version of Outlook supports the iCal standard, viewing RSS feeds, etc. makes it a pretty solid upgrade. Having said that, I don’t expect you to run out and buy a copy. How it renders email is a huge flaw, and one I have tried hard to ignore while using the product.

CONS

  • Email rendering sucks. Standards-based email designs blow up. Old School HTML is the only way to fly if you’ve got any customers, clients, etc. that use Outlook 2007. This is the single-most important concern I have over the product, and one that I hope gets addressed in the near future.

PROS

  • Beautiful interface. Everything is logically organized when viewing email. You can view your mail, mail folders, To-Do items, and upcoming tasks all in one window. The inclusion of Vista fonts like Segoe UI, Calibri, Cambria, etc. make everything easy to read… with ClearType enabled, everything looks beautiful.
  • iCal Support. I use Google Calendar as my primary calendaring app. The fact that I can now subscribe to them via Outlook is awesome. I also use Basecamp… and I can import individual project calendars if I choose to. Being able to pull those into a desktop app makes sense. (I only wish I could write to those calendars through Outlook – but that’s a fault of Google and Basecamp, not Microsoft.)
  • RSS Support. Anything that helps bring RSS feeds more mainstream is a win in my book. The only downside I’ve seen with this feature is that it treats new posts like emails… which doesn’t work for me. (I much prefer using FeedDemon/NewsGator Online to keep up on all the feeds I am subscribed to.)

Aside from the most obvious defect in Outlook 2007, it’s a solid upgrade from Outlook 2003. Hopefully, Microsoft will address the rendering issue at some point – but for now, we’ll have to make due with it the best we can.

Sneak Peek

Here’s a little preview of the upcoming design for cdharrison.com:

cdharrison.com sneek peak

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the UI design, trying to make the site easier to use. I don’t have a timeframe for roll-out, but you’ll start to see bits and pieces of the new design starting to appear soon. My site has long been about stuff, and that’s why I’m calling this release “Effercio” (Latin for, you guessed it, “stuff”). This will be the 14th major iteration of the site, and the third since migrating over to Wordpress. (In case you’re wondering, I called v13 “Nanideska”. “Nani deska” is a little Japanese phrase I picked up from watching too much anime in my younger years… it literally means “what” or “what is it?” That’s what I kept asking myself about the direction I was heading with the site and the design…)

Redesigning, or realigning, a site is one of the more rewarding aspects of what I do. You take what works and you make it better. You take what doesn’t work and you throw it out the window.

“The desire to redesign is aesthetic-driven, while the desire to realign is purpose-driven.” – Cameron Moll

With every iteration of this site, and pretty much every site I work on, there is a strong desire for me to push my skills a little bit further. Design, in general, should be fun. It isn’t when you’re doing the same thing over and over again.

So… here’s what you’ll be able to expect with v14:

  • Full Sandbox integration. Sandbox supports microformats like hAtom and hCard right out of the box. It’s a great theme upon which to build a site.
  • Better navigation. Browsing through the ‘stuff’ on my site will be a bit easier than before. Navigation will be more apparent throughout the site.
  • Better organization of content. Categories should be easier to use. Older content should be easier to browse through.
  • Better accessibility. An alternate stylesheet will be available for High Contrast. (I’m hoping to accomodate text-resizing a bit better as well.)
  • Better design. v13 evolved from a theme called Qwilm! … but it’s never been exactly what I wanted. v14 changes all of that.

I’ll post something in the next few days detailing more of my process of taking an idea, mocking it up in Photoshop, and then turning it into a design…

Housecleaning

I’ve been messing with the site a bit, so if things look screwed up, forgive me.

Seeing as this isn’t that far of a departure from what I already had on this site, I’m considering this Version 13.1.0. I’m trying to clean up my templates, add some additional functionality that I’ve been missing, and add little enhancements here and there.

Right now, I’m adding a number of customizations that would be considered transcendent css… It’ll make the browsing experience in modern browsers a lot better than if you’re still using Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 6 or lower, etc. The decision to go this route was dictated by browsing statistics on the site. Most people that come here use Firefox and/or Safari. Yes, IE accounts for a significant part of the traffic, but honestly… if you’re still using an older version of IE it’s time to upgrade. You’ll still be able to access the content here even if you’re using an older browser, but things might look a bit messed up. Take the good with the bad, I suppose…

This is Phase 1… Phase 2 will include the switch over to the Sandbox theme framework. Sandbox supports rich semantic markup, microformats, etc. and I can’t think of a reason not to use it… I’ve already started the process of converting the site over to Sandbox, so you can expect that switch to be made soon. The decision behind this switch is based on making the site more forward compatible. Mozilla has already announced that Firefox 3 will have built-in support for microformats. I hope the Internet Explorer team will follow suit with IE8. We’ll see.