112. Jina

Paul Boag

On show 112: How to be more efficient using HTML snippets, Jina Bolton on women in web design and moving to a mac.

Download this show.

Launch our podcast player

News and events | Using HTML snippets | Jina Bolton on women in web design | Listener emails

News and events

Some customers are not worth caring about

My first piece of news is a post by Gerry McGovern. In his latest post he argues that some customer are not worth caring about.

The thrust of the article is that by appealing to everybody, you ultimately appeal to nobody. This is something I see repeatedly from clients who define their target audience as “the general public” or “men under 50.”

You also see it among developers who become overly concerned that people using IE4 with Javascript disabled might be unable to access the site. Even content providers suffer from this problem, dumping content on their websites “just in case somebody finds it useful.”

Ultimately building a website has to generate a return on investment and some customers don’t generate that return.

Version targeting rumbles on

Next up is two new articles on A List Apart, which once again tackle version targeting. Jeremy Keith argues against it, while Jeffrey Zeldman defends the position.

I have tried to stay fairly objective in my coverage of this issue. However, although I understand the position of people like Jeremy, I believe that Microsoft have done a good thing.

The arguments against strike me as somewhat naive and arrogant. We live in a world of compromise and yet as compromises go this isn’t a bad one. By adding a single line of code we have the ability to control how the market leader renders our sites. As Zeldman says…

Designers and developers should be popping corks, hugging each other, and weeping with joy. IE no longer sucks. No version of IE will ever again surprise us with unexpected displays or behavior.

Perhaps I am overly pragmatic, caring more about real world scenarios than purity of solution, but I am hopeful about the future.

Let users tagging your posts with delicious

The last news story is two posts from Christian Heilmann. The first is a Javascript technique that returns any delicious tags associated with the current page. This is a great way of introducing tagging to your site, without having to tag all of your own articles. The downside is that when users click on a tag, they are not taken to other articles you have written. Instead they see all delicious links associated with that tag. Good for the user, maybe not so good for retaining users.

The second post by Christian is another Javascript solution. This time he provides a mechanism for walking a user through the key features on your site. It generates an animated series of popup caption boxes beside different screen elements. It is definitely useful for showing off key features to new users. However, I have to wonder if a good screencast wouldn’t do the job better. Nevertheless, it is an interesting proof of concept. Check it out.

Back to top

Feature: Using HTML snippets

If you are part of a web design team or skip constantly between projects, then you might want to consider an alternative approach to writing your HTML. Discover how we became more efficient at Headscape by using HTML snippets.

Back to top

Expert interview: Jina Bolton on women in web design

Paul: Okay. So joining myself and Marcus today is Jina Bolton. How are you, Jina? Good to have you on the show.

Jina: I am doing well. How are you?

Paul: Yeah. Well, other than the weather that we just keep complaining about, things arenít too bad here. We are bearing up under the strain. So, for those of you that havenít come across Jina before, she is now an internationally renowned speaker

Jina: [laughs]

Paul: and author and incredible web designer. And is the kind of quality of person that is selected to appear at South by Southwest (SXSW) Marcus just for your interest that she is the kind of person they are looking for not you.

Marcus: You know, I know that because I got a magazine thing through by South by Southwest and there she was on the cover of it.

Paul: Ummm!

Jina: [laughs] Yeah. I got into a little for that too.

Paul: Why did you get into trouble for that? Who with?

Jina: The company I work or. Iím not really a speaker on behalf of that company, so

Paul: Ahhh, I see.

Jina: and they printed that company name by my name.

Paul: Right.

Jina: Anyway, different subject. [laughs]

Paul: Okay!

Marcus: [laughs]

Paul: And the company you work for will remain nameless and notorious for their strictness over things like that, so

Jina: Yeah.

Paul: There we go. But, basically yes Marcus. They want young attractive, intelligent and clever designer rather than an aging pop-star. Sorry about that.

Jina: [laughs]

Marcus: [laughs] I can live with it.

Paul: Yeah. Jina has been kind enough to let me come on her panel, so that should be fun shouldnít it? Iím looking forward to that.

Jina: Yeah, I think it will be great.

Paul: If we actually get our act together and organize it.

Marcus: But, Jina is obviously that much richer after you have paid her Paul.

Paul: Well yes. You know I did have to bribe my way on. But, it seemed to work, so that is good.

Paul: So, there are so many things we could have gotten Jina on the show to discuss. She seems to be talking a lot about CSS lately. Mainly just by putting the word sex in the title of everything she does, which seems to improve your ratings to no end.

Jina: [laughs] You found my tactic.

Paul: Yeah. It seems to work for you Jina, so thatís good. But we wanted to go for a little bit of an unusual subject. I wanted to really look at the role of women within web design because well letís face it, your kind of a rare breed in some senses Jina. There arenít as many women in web design as perhaps there should be. And I just thought that it might be an interesting subject. And Iím sure that you have some opinions on it and so maybe we can encourage I know that there are a lot of women that listen to our show that maybe havenít moved full-time into the world of web design and maybe youíve got some advice to offer. So thatís the kind of plans. Does that sound okay with you?

Jina: Sure.

Paul: Good. Okay, well letís kick off then just by asking a really kind of obvious question, but kick us off with this Do you believe that women provide something unique to the world of web design, and if so what is that? Is there actually a difference? Is there something that makes womenís role unique?

Jina: Ummm. Well I think that there is something unique being brought to the table, that personís own personal style because I think that men and women have the same skill set. Now of course there are a lot of women that have a feminine style, so they do bring that into play, but I think it is more style than it is the natural skill of designing itself.

Paul: Okay. So, do you believe that there are kind of genetic differences really? ëTheyí make all kinds of things for example that woman have better color perception than men, but men have probably got better 3D acuity and things like that. Do you think that that actually makes a difference? Or is that all so marginal, that itís not that big deal?

Jina: Well I havenít really thought about that to be honest. As for color, I donít know. I guess, you know, a woman sense of color perception is supposed to be more acute. Maybe they could bring better colors to the table, but I think the skill sets are pretty much the same. I guess, you know, a lot of men can design for men and men can design for women. I think the skill sets are the same.

Paul: Oh, okay. So you wouldnít believe say, for example, if there was a website that was primarily aimed at a female market that it should be a female designer that works on a site like that?

Jina: Ah, well. So I do think that a female designer would have an easier time knowing how to cater to a female audience because they are that audience. But I donít think that it would make the website design better. I think a man would be just as capable in creating for that female audience.

Paul: Ah, that is interesting. Marcus, what do you think about that? I kind of always naturally presumed that somebody is more capable of designing for their own gender.

Marcus: Iím surprised by Jinaís answer to be honest. But, thinking about it, it is something that you think ëYeah, it makes more sense for women to design for women.í but really itíd to do more with the content. I think it would be hard for a man to produce content for a site aimed at women. But maybe the design is something, like Jina says, is more the designers have a set bunch of skills and whether you are a man or a woman it really doesnít make any difference. So it is more of a content issue.

Jina: I do agree that it would be easier for a woman to do it, because like I said she is that audience so sheís gonna know what kind of things a woman would like. But, I donít think that would make the website design any better because a man would be able to do just the same.

Paul: Hmmm.

Jina: You know it is kind-of sort-of like to ëbring issues into ití. Like, I had a firm that was from India who was asked to design for the National Civil Rights Museum and his isnít African-American, nor was he even American, but he did a fantastic job. So, I think for gender it would kind of the same. Like, if he was African-American he probably would have had an easier time but he would still have been creative with the artistic part.

Paul: So basically, he had to work harder to achieve the good design, but he could still do it.

Jina: Right.

Paul: Hmmm. Yeah. I do see where you are coming from on that. You mentioned earlier about a kind of feminine style to design. Do you think there are differences in style? What would you class as being a particularly feminine style of design?

Jina: I think it is really color choices and font choices, as well as certain patterns like some designers I think of at the top-of my head *Vera-Ley* and *Legha Alfanterra* they both you know if you look at there websites they are very very feminine. You know my website is really feminine looking, but I think it is because of the colors theyíve chosen and the font choice weíve picked and as well as the patterns. I notice a lot of guys tend to go for the grungier things and the girls kind-of go for more of a clean look. But I think those are stylistic differences.

Paul: So when do you think that kind of where do you think that comes from? You know is that something that is trained into us? You know, blokes tend to go for grungiest stuff? Even from being a kid I guess ëboys are blueí and ëgirls are pinkí, you know, all that kind of thing.

Jina: [laughs]

Paul: But, how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture do you think?

Jina: Ewe I have no idea. [laughs]

Paul: [laughs]

Marcus: [laughs]

Jina: But, I do think it comes from the way people are brought up like you said ëgirls are pinkí and ëboys are blueí. I think it is really what that person has come to like as they have grown up.

Paul: Hmmm.

Jina: To be honest, Iím not a real fan of pink at all

Paul: [laughs] Good for you.

Jina: but I use it in my website for some reason. [laughs]

Paul: [laughs] I mean yes. You see the trouble that you are making Jina, is that we are trying to make informed comments on this show and nothing that we ever say on this show is informed.

Jina: I think, this topic is kind of just subjective I guess.

Paul: Yeah. Basically you are saying that I picked a dumb subject. That is what you are saying isnít it?

Jina: No, no.

Paul: [laughs]

Jina: A good topic to talk about it, but it is kind of confusing.

Paul: Yeah.

Jina: You know and when I started out doing websites, I used to do websites for rock bands. And all of those sites I did were grungy so I am kind-of contradicting myself.

Paul: Ahhh. So I mean, I guess the big question is that whether you know obviously the industry that you have chosen is a male dominated industry. There are far more men out there. Certainly there are far more high profile men out there on the speaking circuits and writing articles and all of the rest of it. I mean do you perceive that as a problem?

Jina: I am not really sure if ëproblemí is the word. I do think it is getting better. I see a lot more women speaking now and even attending conferences. I see more and more women in attendance. And of course, more women writing articles in books, but I think it may have to do with that it is a fairly new field, in comparison to other design related fields. And so now that it is getting taught in schools, more and more women will start getting into it.

Paul: Hmmm. I mean that raises quite an interesting question. You know, how did you get into it then? From you know, what is your background and how did you end up being a web designer?

Jina: Well actually, my Dad was playing around with making his own personal website and I was intrigued by the idea of publishing to the Internet. So he kind of showed me really-really basic-basic HTML using font tags and tables.

Paul: Yeah.

Jina: I grew up as an artist so I went to art school and I was actually going to be a print designer, but as I was learning HTML it became my hobby and it just kind of merged and became my job.

Paul: Hugh. Okay, fair enough. It is just interesting to know. Okay, so do you think we should be you know you talked about that there are female designers learning at school these days on how to become web designers. Do you think we should be doing active as a community to encourage women to come into the profession? I mean, I know for an example, that there was a lot of talk at one stage about proactively discriminating in conferences to encourage there to be more women speakers. Publications need to make a point of using female authors in order to you know setup role models almost artificially. Is that something you would encourage or do you think that is a slippery slope?

Jina: I have mixed feelings on that. As a woman, I have definitely benefited from people that were looking for more female speakers or more female authors so it has definitely helped me. But, I think discrimination is sort of a fine line and if a guy is more capable and more skilled he really should have more of that opportunity than a woman who is not as skilled. I wouldnít want her to get in, just because she is a woman. But, the fact that there are more opportunities is helpful so I am kind-of on the fence on that one. It is sort of like the same way I feel, and I know this might be considered controversial, but the whole you know like when you get a job. Are you getting hired in my case, if I get hired because I am a woman and I am half Asian versus somebody who maybe is a White male, but who are a lot more skilled than me. I donít know how I feel about that. You know, I am all for more opportunity, I think that is a really good thing. But I think that any discrimination is discrimination.

Paul: I mean it is an interesting one, as somebodyís employer, and I donít know Marcus will feel about this but there are occasions when I really think we miss out as a company. I am sorry to say, we are an all male company, all thirteen of us. And not because we have gone out to be that, in fact precisely the opposite. Weíve often offered woman jobs and they have turned us down actually.

Jina: [laughs]

Paul: And it is a very sad reflection on us. But, I mean Marcus how would you feel about actively going out and saying ëRight, okay, we want to hire a female designer because we want that female perspective.í?

Marcus: I am not too sure how I feel about that, from an employment point of view. As an employer, I think you have to look at who is the best candidate. But what I was thinking about when we were talking about earlier, and this goes back to what I am not talking at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year

Paul: [laughs]

Jina: [laughs]

Marcus: and one of the reasons of why I am not doing that.

Paul: Itís because youíre White, middle-aged and middle-class.

Marcus: No, but one of the things the people who are organizing the panel have to look at different they have to think about ëOkay we are going to have a bunch of panels talking about business, a bunch of panels talking about designí you canít have everything. All the panels cannot just talk about business, for example. So you have to think, okay we will have to split it equally between the different types of genre, if you like. Now, doing that we also want to have an equal split between men and women, I donít think there is anything wrong with that. As an employer it is a different thing. I am not sure, where the law stands on that.

Paul: Ummm!

Marcus: Iím not sure we actually would be able to say we have to have a female employee, or whatever. I think you would be discriminating against other people by doing that.

Paul: Yeah, I guess you are. But, I think we are actually (I have to be honest) I think we suffer as a business to some degree. A classic example of that was not long ago we worked on a website for a higher education institution where over 75% of the people that went there were women. And we were having to do a design. We did the first design and we put it in front of bearing in mind all of our designers are men and we put in front of some test users and the overwhelming response back was ëYouíre trying too hard. You know it is kind of overly feminine.í And it would have been so much easier in that situation if we had a female designer there just to say ëGuys. You really donít need to make it pink and you donít need the little fairies in the corner.í

Marcus: [laughs]

Jina: [laughs] Exactly, you donít want to go with crochets with pink and flowers unless that is the brand you are going for.

Paul: Yeah, I mean that is a good question actually. Do you think there is any bear in mind there is a lot of male designers out there that are listening to this show what are the absolute no-noís? How can they design for a feminine audience without kind of really going over the top? You know, is there any kind of advice you can give, or is it just kind of feel as you go along?

Jina: I think you definitely want to get critiques from women, like if you have peers letís say you are working at a design agency and there are female designers around you, get their opinions. If you donít really have that, I donít know, I guess go to Starbuckís or something

Paul: [laughs]

Jina: and get some critiques because I am just up more for just keeping it simple and clean.

Paul: Yep. That sounds like good advice. I think we are going to have to wrap it up there Jina. Not because I am bored with talking to you, but because the sound quality on Skype sucks so much today. I think weíre gonna have to get you back on the show another time to share maybe some more stuff.

Jina: Okay.

Paul: I donít know, maybe when you are over in the UK that might be possible. Iím sure that it will happen before too long.

Jina: That sounds good.

Paul: Okay.

Jina: And it might even be our Internet connection. I am sorry about that.

Paul: Thatís alright, these things happen. I blame Marcus personally. I never have problems except for when he is on.

Jina: [laughs]

Marcus: Ha ha ha.

Jina: Thatís awful.

Paul: [laughs] Okay. Thanks very much for your time and we will talk to you again soon.

Jina: Okay. Alright.

Paul: Bye.

Back to top

Listeners email:


This week we have a couple of questions about SXSW:

Rich asks…

I am attending sxsw for the first time this year. What should I expect and how can I get the most out of it?

Last year was my first year at SXSW and to be honest it is overwhelming. Before I went I planned out all of the panels I was going to attend but to be honest I wasted my time. I don’t think it is really possible to prepare for a 10 track conference. Ultimately what you go and see will be dictated by how much energy you have left after the various parties you were attending the night before!

Talking of parties, in my in my opinion it is the social aspects of SXSW that is really the most interesting. At the end of the day, you can find out about most of the topics covered online. However, it is meeting and chatting with other web designers that is the really inspiring bit. To this end I would suggest two ideas.

First, take time to just sit in the corridors and get chatting with people. If you are in a good conversation, don’t worry too much that you are missing the panels. Its amazing who you meet just sitting around. Oh yes, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anybody. Most people are friendly and if they are not… screw them!

Second, if there are people you know already attending or if there are people you want to meet add them on Twitter. That way you can see where they are and what they are up to. As a newbie last year, twitter was how I found out where all the best parties were. Definitely add me as I intend to keep twitter up to date with my comings and goings.

Talking of parties and socialising Matthew asks…

Have you considered doing a live show at SXSW?

We have considered it but have decided against it. To be honest, sxsw is manic enough without adding a live show. What is more, I don’t think live shows are that interesting to those that are not attending. This means we will not be releasing a show on the 12th March. However, we will be recording as many interviews as we can cram in, which we will be using over the coming weeks and months.

Although we are not doing a live show, that doesn’t mean we wont have opportunity to meet up. Boagworld is once again sponsoring the Great British Booze up, which is happening on Monday 10th March from 7:30pm at Shakespeare’s Pub (314 E. 6th Street). Full details at http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/403331/

Moving to the mac

Brenda asks…

You mentioned on the Christmas list that you recently converted from Windows to Mac. How did it go? Did you have to buy all new software, or were you able to convert licenses for some of it? What was the learning curve like? What do you miss most from Windows? What would you say the overall budget for this was (emptying out that duct tape wallet)?

A very timely question Brenda. With Marcus intending to buy a mac, we have been discussing the switch. I have to say that for me it went very well. Within a week I was entirely happy working on my new macbook and could do everything I did under windows and more. I have certainly never looked back and can honestly say I miss nothing.

However, I confess I was in a luxurious position. Unlike most people I had Headscape to pay for the raft of software I had to purchase. Admittedly companies such as Adobe allowed me to transfer my license from windows to the mac (after jumping through some hoops). However, that was not always the case. Fortunately most of the software I purchased was only $30-40 each. However, that can quickly mount up. The biggest waste was on Microsoft Office. To begin with I couldn’t imagine life without Outlook and Word. In hindsight, I really didn’t need it. iWorks which costs a fraction of Office does everything I need and Apple Mail is a much more pleasurable experience than Outlook. I didn’t keep track of how much I spent on software, however I would guess it was $200-300.

Overall it was a great move and I love not only the mac OS but the great software being developed by some very cool mac developers.

To leave an audio comment for the show skype “boagworldshow” or call +44 20 8133 5122.