Show 98: Flybe Farce

On this week’s show: Paul looks at the ongoing role of the website manager. Marcus looks at when to allow a loss leading project and instead of an expert section we are looking at the ultimate web design reading list.

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News and events | Loss leading projects | Ongoing role of the web designer | Web designers reading list | Question of the week

Housekeeping: Prizes and problems

A free ticket for FOWD (New York)

With the 100th boagworld show coming up on the 20th October I am beginning to feel guilty. After all its going to be such a great time and all you poor Americans are going to miss out. I know how hard done by you all are and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t offer something as compensation.

Fortunately the guys at Carsonified are insuring that at least one of you poor hard done by Americans have something to cheer you up! They are offering you the chance to win a free ticket to the Future of Web Design conference in New York City between the 6-8 November. The ticket normally cost $195 and you get to see great speakers such as Jeffrey Zeldman, Andy Clarke, and Ryan Singer.

Now obviously this is not as good as going to the recording of the 100th boagworld but you will have to just struggle through. For your chance to win a ticket simply email me your name by the 22nd October and we will pick a random winner. For more information on the conference itself visit futureofwebdesign.com.

Download problems

From time to time I get emails from you complaining that episodes of Boagworld are getting cut short in itunes. Its rare but does happen. Unfortunately this is one of itunes less publicized ‘features’. I just wanted to say that the files are complete, the problem is that the connection gets dropped part way through and itunes thinks it has finished. If this happens to you simply delete the file and re-download it from scratch. It almost always comes down fine second time.

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News and events

Em Calculator

Personally, I love using ems. Although I don’t use them extensively on every site I build but I do use them a lot. They strike me as the perfect compromise between the pixel perfect control of fixed design and the accessibility and flexibility of fluid. Ems based sites scale as the user increases text size providing a rudimentary zoom functionality.

However I am not claiming that ems are perfect. They are not always the most appropriate solution and have their own technical difficulties. One personal problem I always had with ems was working out the sizing. The problem is that ems inherit from one another. 1 em may equal 10 pixels in one part of the HTML but equal something entirely different deeper down because of inheritance.

I always hated maths and so it is unsurprising that this inheritance issue made my brain want to dribble out of my ears. You can therefore imagine my relief to discover this week that somebody has built a great little em calculator that works out this nesting for you. Simply set the base size and then add the nested tags and em setting for each. The calculator does the rest.

Check it out. I guarantee if you work with ems regularly you will think it is a real time saver.

How to disarm 10 difficult client observations/requests

Next up, a great article about dealing with clients. We all know what it feels like, client after client churn out the same old comments…

I’ll know what I like when I see it.

or…

I love beige; can we get more beige in this?

… the list goes on. These kinds of questions are horribly frustrating and despite the fact that we hear them time and again we are often left floundering as to how to respond. This article lists 10 such comments from clients and proposes some ways to respond to them.

Obviously everybody has to respond to these questions in a way that suits them. However, it is still interesting to see how others suggest you answer these questions. Check it out and then post how you would respond to those questions in our comments.

The resurrection of downloadable fonts

Next up, the return of the downloadable font. Some call it the Holy Grail of web typography. Others just believe it would be used and abused. However, whatever you think you cannot deny that being able to define whatever font you like on a website is something that there is demand for.

The idea has been around since 1998 but different implementations of it by browser manufacturers meant it never gained traction. However according to a number of courses including Robert Nyman it looks like it is back on the cards again.

Both Safari and Opera have now implemented a standards based solution to the problem called @font-face, which is certainly good news. However, until IE and Firefox follow suit this is still not going to get a lot of traction. We will have to wait and see.

Creating better user personas

I feel like I have been talking about user personas a lot recently. They are certainly a tool I have been using for a long time and with good reason. I find them incredibly useful in focusing the designer and client on who they are developing for. They help to define functionality, content, tone and design.

However although I have done an introduction to personas on the show I have avoided going into too much depth. Developing a really good persona is a skill and I am far from an expert. However, if you do want to learn more about personas then you should consider reading Ten Steps to Personas a relatively short article outlining some more advanced techniques.

Now I should warn you up front this is not the easiest of reads. It is certainly more heavy duty than most of the things we cover here. However, I wanted to mention it because I know many of you are already using personas and this will take you to the next level. Also if all else fails it has a very useful chart outlining the steps accompanied by lots of pretty pictures ;)

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Marcus’ bit: When to allow a loss leading project

Even after going on at length in this podcast about making sure that contracts are in place, tasks are recorded in detail, requirements consultations are paid for and project management effort is not underestimated – all to avoid under-charging – sometimes there are occasions when you should take a hit and do a project as a loss leader. In this week’s show Marcus explains why loss leaders are sometimes a good idea.

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Paul’s corner: Ongoing role of the website manager

While writing my book I have been thinking a lot about the role of the website manager. In particular it has struck me how underestimated the role is. One aspect of the job that is particularly overlooked is the long term commitment involved. In the book I talk about what that ongoing role is and what companies need to consider if they are going to properly support a website over it life. Fortunately my publisher is keen for me to share my thoughts on various aspects of the book so I have put together a blog on the ongoing role of the website manager.

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Web Designers reading list

Instead of doing an ask the expert section this week I thought I would answer the single most common question I get from people who listen to this show…

What books would you recommend.

This is something I have blogged and spoken on before but I am going to give you my latest list of top picks based on my ever growing reading list.

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Question of the week

What books would you recommend about web design? Answer in the comments.

  • http://www.dljwebdesign.co.uk Daniel James

    Transcending CSS
    It’s by Andy Clarke and should be on any web designers list.
    This book has helped me achieve a more unified approach to design and will certainly help if you suffer from excessive use of the div.
    Love the Podcast, I have a few to catch up on so am listening to two a day and going slowly mad.

  • http://www.alexdesigns.com Alex Harris – alexdesigns.com

    Too funny, as you were saying there are download problems with itunes and the episodes are getting cut off. I was thinking “hasnt happen to me” then instantly #98 cut off. Laughed to myself.
    I deleted it and redownloaded, now it works fine.
    Good stuff.

  • http://www.456bereastreet.com Roger Johansson

    The name’s Roger Johansson, not Robert Nyman ;-).

  • Rory Fitzpatrick

    I’ll second “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug – a must for anyone working in any shape or form with web sites. For anyone involved more in web applications then “Designing the obvious” by Robert Hoekman is another good one, also “Designing Interfaces” by Jennifer Tiddwell. Then again what do I know about web design, ‘officially’ I’m a Software Engineer…..whatever that means!

  • http://www.microedge.co.uk Steve Williams

    Yet another great show!
    I loved the “I’ll know what I like when I see it.
    ” I have had that a few times…….
    I think that they should move the Rugby World cup to make way for 100th episode.
    Let’s face it 100th Boag is far more important and more exciting than the Rugby!
    Steve.

  • http://darrenstuart.com Darren Stuart

    great show but I have to say Bulletproof web design is a great little book a lot like css mastery as is the html mastery book.
    http://www.simplebits.com/publications/bulletproof/

  • http://www.shatterglass.net Brett

    Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm is the greatest book ever written in any language on any subject.
    Disclaimer: I may change my ranking slightly after checking out the other books on Paul’s list.

  • http://www.tollady.com Benjamin Tollady

    That ems calculator is the business!

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