ISSUE 19  News & opinion | updated 7/14/03   

  This web stuff keeps ya humble

It was more about two months ago that I started working on a redesign of this site. After about a year and a half, it was simply due for a facelift. I've gotten useful feedback from visitors who wanted a simpler, more graphic look. Plus, I wanted to incorporate ideas that seem important, like a proportional layout structure that resizes to fit whatever size browser window you choose (try it, you'll see!). I also began experimenting with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), an important part of evolving web standards.

Without going into the gory details, let me tell you that I learned (and am continuing to learn) an awful lot about what I know and don't know. From time to time I'm lulled into thinking that I understand web design pretty well. I teach it at Cuyahoga Community College, so I've been pretty diligent about trying to keep on top of the field. Yet creating what looks like a pretty simple design for this site has taken me hour after frustrating hour of trial and error.

Some of my problems are shared by every web designer: the fact that different browsers (Internet Explorer, Netscape) and different platforms (Mac, PC) render documents differently. Unlike in the print world, it's not possible to create a design that always looks exactly the way you want.

[Design that works anywhere]

Other problems are of my own invention: it took me many hours over several days to realize that my style sheets were not working because I was using numbers at the beginning or end of the name ("10PurpleTxt" doesn't work, "Purple10Txt" does).

And so on. As you can see, I still have a lot of work to do to get the entire site updated, but this is a start. Please tell me what you think of the new design.

[The old look]  [Send your comments]

After a day of working on web stuff, I spent Saturday evening at a wonderful new bookstore on Shaker Square, Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I came away inspired by the work of several artists, including Joseph Cornell and Jacob Lawrence.

Looking at the variety of formats and styles in books (one called FreshCream is packaged inside of a clear plastic pillow; another small volume called Good/Grief makes paper work like video), I realized that we still have a lot of exploring to do before electronic media comes into its own as a creative medium.

[FreshCream]  [Good/Grief]

Big money
On the theory "better late than never" I finally signed up with Ameritrade and made a purchase of Apple stock. As a Mac user since the earliest days of 1985, I've watched the company's stock rise & fall over the years. One day a few years back I thought about buying when everyone was predicting the company's imminent collapse. The next day the Microsoft investment in Apple was announced, and I watched the stock gradually rise until it peaked at nearly five times what I would have paid. I'd missed out on a huge profit! So here I am, thinking that when OS X comes out it will signal a new day for Apple Computer, and I'll finally be rewarded for my loyalty. Foolish hope? Stay tuned.

[Ameritrade site]  [Mac OS X]

Learn that HTML!
Another lesson that's been made excruciatingly clear to me as I work on this site is that even a good WYSIWYG web layout program like Macromedia Dreamweaver makes plenty of mistakes that can only be found by studying the HTML code it generates. For anyone who's hoping to avoid learning HTML by using Dreamweaver, GoLive, or a similar program, give it up! The software still isn't up to the task of creating HTML that works properly in all situations. In fact there are times that I'm pretty sure I spend more time cleaning up Dreamweaver's mistakes than it would have taken me to write the HTML by hand. For routine, simple layouts tho, it's a big time-saver, and it does have a number of timesaving features that I appreciate whenever I use them.

-Al Wasco, February 4, 2001


HOW Top Ten
It's always makes my day to see that someone has linked to Interactive Design Forum. In this case, the recognition we received from HOW magazine online translated into a 300% increase in daily hits.

Also bringing new visitors (in smaller numbers) is a link from Critique magazine, one of the better design theory publications.

We appreciate their support, and recommend you pay them a visit too.



Not your average book

Book in a pillow

Not practical either — you have to cut the plastic pillow open to get at the book — but it stretches our expectations of what a book can be.






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