The new workings of the Web require a new way to think about Web design. SimpleBits Dan
Cederholm is a designer and writer who has championed simplified,
standards-based design in his books and his work for high-profile sites
like Fast Company, Inc.com, ESPN, Blogger, Odeo and others. We asked
Dan 3Q's about enlightened Web design:
Q: It seems as though we're moving into a new phase of Web
development — the '2.0' era which will privilege portable, extensible,
syndicated information. Some have called it the era of interfaces.
Whatever the keywords, it seems ripe for the kind of streamlined design
approach you evangelize at simplebits.com. Do you see the same sort of
A: I do think there's a shift underway. It may be more
obvious to those that follow web design and weblog trends, but it seems
like there are more “sites that do things” emerging. And not only do
they do things, but they also feature a focus on function and
readability. I certainly welcome the clean, easy-to-use web apps — and
I hope it rubs off on other types of sites.
I'd like to think it's because people are starting to understand
that the web is a unique medium. It's not about recreating a magazine
or corporate commercial online, it's about connecting the dots and
providing something that people can take part and access in a variety
of different ways.
Another part of the streamlined approach would (I hope) have
something to do with a shift toward using web standards: lean, semantic
markup, CSS for design, and DOM scripting for behavior. The benefits of
these standards are now being applied not just to content-based sites,
but interactive ones as well. And I guess that's all part of the “2.0”
Q: Assume I'm an entrepreneur helming a new startup dedicated
to creating real dialogue with my customers. I get customer created
media, and I want to do all I can to catalyze conversation. What are
three things I should make sure my site does to bring that to life?
A: Well, I'd say you must have an RSS (and/or Atom) feed.
Subscribing and reading feeds through a newsreader is quickly becoming
the only sane way to keep updated of your favorite sites. It saves time
and instantly alerts your readers of new content. Gotta have one.
Secondly, if you can handle the management, allowing comments can be
a big plus. It does require weeding and monitoring, but nothing beats
the two-way dialogue there.
Lastly, I'm going to selfishly say that your site should utilize web
standards. That is the aforementioned semantic markup and CSS for its
design. Part of web standards' promise is reaching more readers —
making it easier for the site builder to do so. Improved search engine
visibility, increased readability on non-traditional devices,
faster-loading pages, easier maintenance, and the list goes on and on.
If you're not embracing web standards now, it won't take long to
realize you'll need to.
Q: In addition to designing, you're an avid consumer of the
Web. Share some links with us that are, for you, clues to better ways
we can design for the Web.
A: Here are some of my favorites:
A List Apart
Really a top-notch source for web design articles. Invaluable stuff, and a must read.
Position is Everything
If you find yourself dealing with CSS on a regular basis, this site is incredibly useful for diagnosing various browser bugs.
CSS Zen Garden
A gigantic pool of CSS-based designs, showing how easy it is to change the appearance of a site, without changing its content.