155. Attitude

Paul Boag

On this week’s show: Paul asks if web designers have a bad attitude. Marcus talks about contracts and we take a look at working with browsers.

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Housekeeping

I have a couple of pieces of Headscape news I would like to quickly mention.

  • First, Headscape has some office space we are looking to rent out. If you are looking for a small office in the Hampshire area and like the idea of working alongside us, then check out our video tour of the Barn.
  • Second, Headscape is also recruiting. We are looking for an enthusiastic, talented developer to join our team, working from of our offices in Hampshire. For more information see the job advertisement on Boagworld.

Finally, just a quick reminder to sign up to attend the live recording of Boagworld at SXSW. We would love to see you there.

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News and events

For much more web design news follow boagLinks on twitter or signup for our RSS feed.

Atlas wows FOWA

FOWA Miami has been in full swing over the last week. The line up of speakers was impressive as always. However, judging by Twitter one session stole the show. That was the guys from 280 North showing off a new product called Atlas.

Atlas is built on Cappuccino, an open source framework that makes it easy to build desktop-like applications that run in a web browser.

280 North have already demonstrated the power of Cappuccino with the release of 280 Slides, a browser based version of Keynote.

However, Atlas takes things to a whole new level. In essence it provides a GUI environment within your browser to build powerful desktop like applications. It allows you to build Cappuccino applications without writing code.

When you first watch their video demonstration it really blows your mind. I in no way want to take away from what they have achieved. However, after I got over the initial impact, I realised I had seen this before – It looks very much like Adobe Flex.

Now anybody who listens to my show knows I am not a huge fan of flash. However, I have to wonder if Flash is not better tool for building complex web applications. I can see no real advantage to building it in Cappuccino. In fact as Drew points out in ‘The cost of accessibility‘, Atlas throws up all kinds of accessibility considerations, even if you ignore the fact it is built on Javascript.

Watch the video of Atlas in action, read Drew’s post and then compare it to Flex. Once you are done, post your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear what others think.

Safari 4 is out in beta

Safari 4 homepage

So while we still patiently wait for the arrival of IE8, Apple have gone ahead and released its first beta of Safari 4.

Available for both the PC and Mac, Safari 4 has some impressive UI improvements and a considerable bump in performance. Apple claim that their new browser is 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and more than three times faster than Firefox 3.

When it comes to UI and features Safari 4 ‘borrows’ heavily from Firefox and Chrome. New enhancements include…

  • Top Sites, an attractive display of frequently visited pages
  • Full History Search, where users search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages
  • Cover Flow for history and bookmarks.
  • Tabs have been moved above the menu bar in a direct rip off of Chrome.
  • Smart Address Field, that automatically completes web addresses
  • Smart Search Field, using Google Suggest
  • Full Page Zoom

For us web designers, Safari 4 brings 3 key benefits…

  • It is substantially faster especially for Javascript heavy websites
  • It is the first browser to pass ACID3 so its standards support should be excellent
  • It has built in web developers tools, which are essentially a rip off of Firebug.

Generally the browser has been well received, although I note that Andy Clarke has expressed some concerns about the UI, especially in regards to tabs. He wrote…

Tabs in a real-world filing cabinet don’t change size according to how many files you have. Don’t mess with the metaphor.

I can see where he is coming from and have to agree. However, most of Andy’s comments are minor niggles and overall this is an impressive improvement. For more personally, safari now stands head and shoulders above other browsers.

Cross browser testing

Although the arrival of Safari 4 is exciting, it does bring yet another browser to test on. Increasingly browser testing is becoming unbearable.

To make matters worse it is not always easy to run these browsers side by side. IE is famous for being terrible in this regards. However, it is not alone. Even running Safari 3 and 4 together takes some hacking. Fortunately a post this week entitled: ‘How to run Safari 4 beta and Safari 3 on the same mac’ explained how.

There are also a growing number of services that aid in the process of browser testing. As with everything on the web, the problem is finding them. Luckily a website called the Freelance Folder has brought 7 testing tools together in a handy list.

Litmus Homepage

Some of the services are free, others are paid. Some provide screenshots while others allow you to navigate your site. All allow testing in most versions of modern browsers.

The list includes…

Read the whole post for reviews of each service listed above.

jQuery browser fixes

Unfortunately no amount of testing is going to make up for the shortcomings in browsers. Whether it is a lack of border-radius support in IE or Firefox failure to render text-shadows, every browser has its limitations. In fact there are quite a few things that it would be nice if any browser did.

Fortunately Javascript can help overcome some browser limitations and even enhance them where they all fall short.

Of course, the downside is that plugging these holes is a lot of work. That is unless somebody has already done it for you. That is why I was so excited when Stanton pointed out ‘15 jQuery Plugins to Fix and Beautify Browser Issues‘.

This post lists 15 jQuery plugins that provide some incredibly useful browser enhancements such as…

  • Rounded corners for IE
  • Get browsers to display columns of equal height
  • Cross browser text shadow
  • Fixed position footers
  • Preloading images
  • Fixing IE overflow problem
  • Increase the size of click targets
  • Vertically Center An Element

A word of warning – Using third party plugins is fine if they are coded well. However, use too many and they may conflict causing problems. Use with caution and with a light touch!

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Feature: 7 Harsh Truths about running online communities

In ’10 harsh truths about corporate websites’ I highlighted some of the problems I perceive in how companies run their websites. However, many organisations are not content to simply run a website, they want to run an online community too. Read More

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Listeners feedback:

I went to have a look on the forum for a good question and found this posted by Dave:

I am in the process of sorting out contracts and legal stuff. I came across this article – http://24ways.org/2008/contract-killer – from 24 ways and Andy Clarke and I think it is a fantastic example of a contract which is well written and doesn’t sound too stiff (if you know what I mean). Does anyone else have any examples or tips when writing a contract.

Why have a contract in the first place?

Bearing in mind I have never actually had to refer to one of the hundreds of contracts Headscape has produced in the past seven years, this is a fair question.

The main reason is that it focuses both parties’ minds on the job and what is required to make that job happen. It’s a kind of comfort blanket too knowing that if anything does go wrong, there’s a bunch of stuff in place to help resolve it.

How do we do it?

We split all of our contracts into two separate documents: a ‘Statement of Work’ and ‘Terms and Conditions’.

The Statement of Work is simply a description of the project written in ‘standard’ English. Roughly speaking, it’s a more solid version of the original proposal replacing, for example, ‘We could design X’ with ‘Headscape will design X’. It covers tasks, responsibilities, testing, technologies, project management, timescales, pricing, payment milestones etc. Basically, it is a detailed outline of the project that could be compared to the ‘Schedule’ of some contracts.

We have a standard set of terms and conditions that ideally (from our point of view) just simply refer to the statement of work in question therefore binding our terms and conditions to that particular project.

Our terms and conditions are written using fairly legalistic terms. Though this can sometimes mean that our clients, who may not be versed in legalese, have to take advice on what we’re proposing, I can’t remember a single complaint. I guess what I’m saying is that this appears to be the norm and taking legal advice on any contract, written in plain English or legalese, has got to be a good idea.

I agree that legalese can by irritating. Although I can understand a fair amount of it, it has taken a long time for me to learn even the small amount that I do know.

I once had a lawyer tell me that, when he was attending a class at law school on the subject, the teacher said that legalese existed only to allow lawyers to charge the rates that they do. I think his tongue was in his cheek, but on reflection, this actually makes sense if you view legalese as a kind of legal code that takes years of study to master.

I’m not sure. I guess my only concern in producing a contract using layman’s terms is if it is dismissed in the event of a dispute.

Our terms and conditions include the following:

  • The date of the contract
  • Who the contract is between (actual legal entities)
  • Definition of terms
  • Obligations
  • Deliverables
  • Payment
  • IPR (who owns what, what they can do with it, and when)
  • Confidentiality
  • Liability (often the biggest sticking point)
  • Default
  • Termination
  • Communication
  • Governing Law (which country’s law applies)
  • Signatures of the parties (most important!)
It’s not a fight – be prepared to negotiate

It is quite rare that our terms and conditions come back with no amendments. We believe that responsibilities and liability are evenly balanced but often a client’s lawyer will disagree. A cynical person might say that they are looking for issues to justify their fee, but it is possible that a particular point may not be right for some clients.

For example, we include the line “The Contractor shall have the right to incorporate, in a readily viewable location, a credit and hypertext link in the Deliverables.” In other words we can have a ‘Web design by Headscape’ link on the site. Some clients object to this and, if so, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just go with it.

However, there are times when you will think certain amendments or additions to the contract are unfair. Be prepared to stick to your guns but make sure you explain why. If you’re in any doubt, take legal advice.

Some organisations will flatly refuse to sign our terms and conditions and insist that we use theirs. From our point of view this is not ideal because these terms and conditions are usually created for contractors that have absolutely nothing to do with web design. They often talk the physical delivery of deliverables and the like but, experience has suggested to me that these contracts, generally speaking, are all very similar. The only thing that we insist upon in these cases is that the statement of work is referenced in the client’s terms and conditions.

Make sure the damn thing is signed!

Bearing in mind the effort that is put into creating these documents, always make sure that they are signed. This sounds obvious but I have had the odd clients over the years that, to avoid their internal legal team, has given the ok on the documentation but always found an excuse not to sign it.

It’s easy to say ‘well, we’re getting paid’ in these situations but, if things go wrong, you will

not have a leg to stand on.

So, in summary, contracts are good for everyone and worth investing effort in them and make sure you take legal advice if you’re not sure what you’re a client is asking you to agree to.

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