Changes & Transitions

I am in the process of changing my hosting and will move my websites and eventually this blog to a new hosting service. I will finally have all of my projects in one environment, which I hope will give me more time to focus on writing and creating sites that are meaningful to those who want to learn web design as well as develop self-directed learning skills. I am also designing websites again, and will host some of my clients on the new hosting environment. It is an exciting transition for me as I continue to find more focus in retirement, although I am still teaching as an adjunct Professor.

Since my retirement and transition to adjunct teaching I am beginning to focus on work with faculties who are interested in developing digital literacies through training in a variety of social software tools and processes. I have taught a class for beginning web design students that was a similar approach, but I find that without good models of how software and networking can be effective and expansive for learning, these vital skills will not be easily available to the majority of students. So a transition to working with other teachers in a new type of professional development is slowly underway.

Once my new hosting and domain transfers take place, I will continue to post at this site until I can establish the new environment.

New Theme, New Ideas

Sometimes its fun to simply select someone else’s theme and focus on writing. At this stage I am more interested in designing information, than designing the theme. I like the bold look of this theme, the ease of reading and the simple navigation of categories. This has been an overwhelming quarter and its good that it is about done. This is a new beginning – with time to write and share experiences.

This is my last week as a full-time instructor, and even though I will teach a few classes in the winter quarter, I mostly look forward to the challenges ahead, and the new things I want to accomplish. I may even build a few websites along the way, and perhaps even make a difference in my community….

Web design & development has grown in leaps and bounds since I began teaching back in 1997. And it is easy to see that there were more major additions and changes to the focus of our industry this past year, than any I can remember. The dot com crash of 2000 was mild compared to the dramatic changes that are occurring because of the rapid expansion of internet capable devices. The impact of responsive web design is almost overwhelming as there are so many frameworks and practices in place, yet some areas that simply are not working effectively yet. The new year will surely find better solutions for images, and perhaps even browser adjustments. It should be an exciting year and a great time to be a web design learner and professional.

What really is difficult in our business is design thinking, how do you solve the new types of problems clients will come to us with – that have never been tackled before? Who dreamed that over 50% of the computer use in this country would be on a 320×480 viewport? And the number will probably increase more rapidly than we can say responsive design. How about designing a clients e-commerce solution for a mobile phone? There are not yet established patterns for Responsive Web Design yet; flex layout and grid layout specifications are coming soon, not to mention more focus on scripting and developing personal frameworks to speed our coding effort. We have to have great tools for learning, just to keep up with the changes! But we still have the challenges of the impact of the web on our global village as the major challenge.

The real learning experience available to all of us, is through collaboration with colleagues who are working to solve the current issues with RWD. It is an important time to realize how social networking will be important to our forward progress, as changes will still be rapid and confusing at time. We need to stay connected to the larger design community to keep up with the changes. We really need to focus on design thinking at this stage, and get to the essence of what we are working to accomplish.

It’s been a good run with great people – I’ll be around teaching part-time for a while, but the ebb and flow of this life is changing – I will be doing the things that matter to me – trying to make a difference….

Designing for the ebb & flow…

The Web is finally actualizing into its own thing. The transition from print design and human tendency to “hang on to the old” is about gone. We are entering another new phase of web design. We are now at the threshold perhaps, of really inventing what will be the web of the future. John Allsopp wrote about “A Dao of Web Design” in A List Apart back in 2000. In that article he referenced a number of excerpts from the Tao Te Ching. One of those related to the designer’s need to control web pages, whereas The Sage “…accepts the ebb and flow of things, Nurtures them, but does not own them,” Tao Te Ching; 2 Abstraction.

We are in that state with the new tools and technologies arriving daily, and it is our responsibility to nurture them, but not own them. As web designers we are faced with a multitude of devices we are designing for – including mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, game consoles, and soon most likely, the display in my Honda! There are more people connected using mobile phones today than those using desktops/laptops. This could be a really big hassle for web design, but instead we have arrived at a time when the tools and the technologies are available to solve these problems and allow a more holistic approach to design. Responsive Web Design guru, Ethan Marcotte, suggests in a recent interview in .NET, that “we can finally design for the “ebb and flow of things,” referencing the Allsopp article stated above.

Responsive Web Design represents a transition from fixed styles to flexible design that includes fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries layered together to create a responsive design. Responsive in the sense that we can design sites that are responsive to the devices out there rather than remaining stuck in a single device mentality. Obviously we need more design focused on Mobile computing, as well as the rapidly growing tablet products. Responsive web design allows us to address all of these devices in one website.

So we will evolve our teaching with Responsive Web Design, learning the various techniques available, and the rapidly growing bank of frameworks and new technologies that address the issues we face. But one site for all devices is not a simpler solution in that we are designing for different users – a user may be on his/her laptop in the morning, using their tablet during the lunch hour, and then their mobile as they head to a meeting. Same user, different devices, and different needs! It will require thinking skills, paying attention to how these different devices involve different needs. It is challenging but exciting. Web design is becoming more important in the global landscape, and from where I view it all, it’s getting to be much more fun and meaningful!

There will be more about Responsive Web Design in the near future. In the mean time, here are some of the articles, books, websites, frameworks, etc. that I have been reading, and pondering. Please share the resources you find that inform you about this important era and responsive design.

Ethan Marcotte’s article on A List Apart: http://alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design (started the conversation)

His book published by A Book Apart: http://www.abookapart.com/products/responsive-web-design

Dan Cederholm’s new book: Bulletproof Web Design, third edition; http://simplebits.com

Examples of Responsive Web Design:

http://paravelinc.com

http://trentwalton.com/2011/05/10/fit-to-scale

http://thedolectures.co.uk

http://atxwebshow.com

http://netmagazine.com/features/ethan-marcottes-20-favorite-responsive-sites (these are pretty special)

http://mediaqueri.es/ – Media Queries

http://www.netmagazine.com/features/21-top-tools-responsive-web-design

And one of the interesting new frameworks related to Responsive Design: http://lessframework.com/

Changes are now!

It is time that we engage in a broader conversation, through our blogs, google+, twitter and other collaborative tools you may add to the process. Web design has been changing over the last year or so, and today we find ourselves with better languages (html5, css3 at least) and better concepts for our frameworks and support apps such as Less (lesscss.org), Sass (sass-lang.com), Twitter’s Bootstrap (twitter.github.com.bootstrap) and support files in html5 Boilerplate (html5boilerplate.com) and Andy Clarke’s 320 And Up (stuffandnonsense.co.uk/320andup). We also need to pay full attention to Responsive Web Design ( http://alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design ), which is rapidly becoming the best practice of the era of numberless devices that web designers must include whenever we design a new interactive project.

Where to begin is not easy to figure out. Perhaps the best place to begin is to get a more collaborative and focused conversation started between students and instructors, students and students, all of us and others in the broader global community of web designers.

This blog is about to become more active, actually a new version of Webstuff2, perhaps Webstuff3 to indicate a next level. It is not easy to write regularly, but there is too much going on to simply hold on to it, or try to slip it into a curriculum that is becoming somewhat stifled. I firmly believe that a curriculum is more than what happens in the classroom however, and it is time to find out how much we can grow, just because we want to learn more, and be the best at what we are doing.

This intro to the “webstuff3 era” will be followed with an article about Responsive web design, as well as a list of resources that everyone should be reading. More soon.

Is the web design market changing?

Have you ever considered that new technologies may in fact be shrinking our market for “web design”? And what of the rise of frameworks and libraries and a growing use of content management systems such as WordPress by professional developers? Robert Capps “The Good enuf rvlutn” in Wired’s September ’09 issue is a must read that may find us discussing these types of issues on the forefront of the information and communication technologies challenge.

I have personally felt for some time now that we needed to bring mobile design into our program, and as I researched it I found a rich and exciting new type of opportunity. While mobile applications – the sophisticated games and location aware apps and all the unique tools that you can’t live without get all the attention, there is also a world of integration between standard web sites and mobile websites. There is much that can be developed with XHTML/CSS/Javascript given the outstanding tools that Apple provides for the iPhone development process. These development tools are now available to our students through our Developer status with Apple. But I also realize that if we eventually are primarily designing for mobile sites rather than desktops, what will that mean for our industry? What effect will “good enough” have in the process?

The Capps article describes how “entire markets have been transformed by products that trade power or fidelity for low price, flexibility, and convenience”. Pure Digital, makers of the Flip video camera, made the discovery that good enough tech that is cheap, fast, and simple works every time. (The Flip just got challenged with Apple’s new Nano, as another example). And everyone knows that mp3 recordings are poor quality compared to CD’s, but the added advantage of take it with you everywhere cheaply and conveniently has become more important than fidelity.

Clay Shirkey, quoted in the article, sums up with “there comes a point at which improving upon the thing that was important in the past is a bad move”. Other examples of this concept in the article bring the point home and causes one to stop and ponder. What is the real purpose of our projects and where is web/mobile based communication heading? Or we may see these changes and discover the new types of opportunities that we will be privileged to develop!

Ugrade your WordPress now!

There was a “worm” reported over the weekend that is seriously affecting older versions of WordPress that are located on private hosting environments. WordPress.com sites are not affected as they are automatically updated to the latest versions as they are released.

It is serious, and not very visible unless you know what you are looking for. Please read the following articles to get the details:
From Matt Mullenweg: http://wordpress.org/development/2009/09/keep-wordpress-secure/
and from WordPress.org on how to upgrade: http://codex.wordpress.org/upgrading_wordpress/
and if you have problems: http://smackdown.blogsblogsblogs.com/2008/06/24/how-to- completely-clean-your-hacked-Wordpress-installation/

It is not panic time, but it is serious and you should upgrade quickly to avoid any problems.

WordCamp Dallas Reminder

I completed my registration for the WordCamp Dallas informal conference to be held in Frisco, Tx. March 29 – 30. I highly recommend all students interested in blogging and all things web-development to go to this convenient conference and do some valuable networking, as well as learn from experienced users and developers. Mark Mullenweb, founder of WordPress will be one of the speakers. For only $20 you get two days of group meetings and lots of networking opportunities. I look forward to seeing a bunch of IMD students at the conference.

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