Major changes in Web design/development

Now that I have finally had the time to read Andy Clarke’s “Transitioning CSS: the fine art of web design”, I sense that I am discovering the next level of web design, one that challenges the way we currently think about the design process. His ideas and suggestions for a new set of “best practices” not only makes sense, it evolves the art and changes the emphasis from design to making meaning.

Clarke notes that “it has been a common working practice in both print and Web design for designers to lay out their pages using Greeking text (the familiar Lorem Ipsum)…Mock text doesn’t provide the meaning you want in order to begin immediately marking up you documents semantically”. The challenge is that we cannot possibly work with the specifics of well-formed semantic markup without the content that defines the meaning of what is to be marked-up.

This changes the process of designing. No longer can we create our layouts before understanding the content. Clarke suggests changing the workflow following a content-based process. His content-based workflow includes many familiar steps:
Gather the content.
Work with wireframes to organize and present that content.
Create static designs to demonstrate creative concepts and layout ideas.
Write meaningful markup that structures the content.
Work with CSS to implement the design (Clarke, p. 104).

These steps lead to creating an “interactive prototype” which is used to communicate with everyone on the development team and with your clients. It helps designers make design iterations and refinements and to test them with users and with clients.

While some of the terms may sound like what we have been doing, they take on new meaning in a content-out workflow. This new process will obviously strengthen the design and development of web sites. It represents a fine tuning of web design as it evolves with the web, ever changing and becoming more important to the daily lives of users. It also represents a quality distinction, with even greater emphasis on the meaning of the content, rather than design out of the box. The challenges represented in these changes will be worth the effort and further distinguish our role as interactive designers as a unique and demanding art form.

Transcending CSS is not only an important book for our industry, it takes all of the previous books and challenges us to take the instruction they have provided to the next level. I personally feel that this book is must reading for all interactive media students and practitioners.
Create a dialogue
Because we must experience the process before we will be very successful in understanding it, I suggest we begin a dialogue about our thoughts and experiences with “Transcending CSS”. Current students, grads, and faculty all have a vested interest in getting up to speed with this process. If you blog, lets share our blog addresses so we can work with one another. If the forum is your favorite choice for communicating, let’s make our forum a true “community of practice” and grow our experiences together.

Personally I have decided to create a new site about web-based apps and learning tools as a way of discovering the new processes that Clarke is describing. I would welcome anyone (students, faculty, and grads) to join me in this project as I think there is a lot that can be accomplished with a team environment. You may want to tackle a project alone, or form a group to work on the principles of transitioning css.

Please respond with your comments to this blog if you are interested in participating and what you would like to do.

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