Zach Shepherd's WordPress Blog

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Category: Solutions Log

After reading Kyle Smith’s post about solutions logs, I decided to create a new category for my blog just for solutions logs. If posts in this category seem to be overwhelming, I can look into removing them from the main page and the feed used on planet.cosi.

posted by Zach at 8:46 am  

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Version Targeting

One hot topic in the web development world since I last posted was the version targeting in IE debate. People more knowledgeable than I have already spoken on the issue, and I’m really not quite sure what to think, so I’ll just provide some links.

Some links related to the issue:

posted by Zach at 2:42 pm  

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Accessible Charts

In the latest issue of A List Apart, Wilson Miner write about Accessible Data Visualization with Web Standards. Using XHTML and CSS, he manages to produce some very nice charts. They aren’t nearly as fancy as the Google Charts API or Open Flash Charts, but they are accessible and simple (from a markup standpoint as well as an implementation standpoint).

posted by Zach at 2:41 pm  

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Google’s way isn’t always the best way.

On the whole, I love google products, but they certainly don’t get all the details right all the time.

A little while ago A List Apart featured the article Sign Up Forms Must Die by Luke Wroblewski. In it, he cited one of several things I disagree with Google’s approach to: signup forms. Instead of forcing a potential user to go through the trouble of signing up before they even know if the service is worth having, websites can allow the user to experience the product and then sign up for an account (Wroblewski calls this process “gradual engagement”).

Another long-standing issue I’ve had with Google is Gmail’s terrible support for mail consolidation. Yes, they allow you to “Add another email address”, a wonderful feature, but the implementation is terrible. It will show the “From:” header as the address you selected, but the “Sender:” header is populated with the gmail address you’re sending from (even if your “From” address is another gmail account, which there is absolutely no excuse for). It allows you to reply from the same address mail is sent to, but doesn’t support conditionals (for use with lists and domains and such; I want to reply to anything to * from my Clarkson address). In addition, there is no way to sort your “From” addresses (and they aren’t even sorted in some undesirable way that can’t be changed; from what I can tell, they’re completely random).

posted by Zach at 2:39 pm  

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Back in February, I read an interesting article by Alex Bischoff on A List Apart entiled “Keeping Your Elements’ Kids in Line with Offspring”. He proposed a (not-so-original) way to circumvent browser css pseudo-class inconsistencies (using javascript to apply full classes as appropriate), but applied it to something new: the offspring pseudo classes (:first-child, :last-child, :only-child, etc.). The javascript files to apply the classes are available through Google Code.

As painful as it is to need to use javascript to enhance static styling, I think he hits the nail on the head with his mention of progressive enhancement. I can envision a variety of cases where the pseudo-pseudo-classes could be utilized to enhance display while still keeping the page functional for users without javascript. I can’t wait to see what the design world comes up with once more of css3 is supported.

posted by Zach at 2:37 pm  

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interesting Design Blog

Keegan recently showed me some stuff on 2Modern’s Design Blog. It has posts about all sorts of interesting design-related “stuff” from useless trinkets, to works by artist-designers, to architecture. I found it to be an interesting read (although I think the things it linked to were more interesting than the site itself) and was surprised to see how much of the design psychology applied to computer science.

posted by Zach at 7:00 pm  

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Copyright and Music

An open letter to the CIRA recently posted on Digg got me thinking about the wide leeway the Supreme Court gives Congress in its interpretation of the Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 (also known as the Intellectual Property Clause).

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

This short (and in my opinion, highly specific) piece of the Constitution is the only clause related to Intellectual Property Rights. In my opinion, the clause specifically states that the purpose of the protection of Intellectual Property Rights is to promote the progress of science and useful arts for a limited time.

How do copyrights lengths on the order of lifetimes encourage progress? I just can’t imagine that the current interpretation is what the writers had in mind. The Supreme Court needs to step up and do their job; they need to place some reasonable boundaries on what Congress can place under the umbrella of copyright.

posted by Zach at 2:33 am  

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Project Management

A recent article on A List Apart made some interesting points about project management. The article, Hat Heads vs. Bed Heads, used the metaphors of “hat heads” (representing the management side of the project team) and “bed heads” (representing the creative side of the project team) to talk about how to manage projects at an overview level. While it’s an article mostly targeted at large development teams in an industry environment, much of the content is applicable to smaller teams and other environments. I’m not sure that I agree with all of the details, but it’s certainly an interesting perspective on the matter.

Edit – Looks like when I changed the wording of my second sentence, I didn’t do it very well.

posted by Zach at 12:08 am  

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Importance of Information

Information is invaluable in any field, and it is especially so in one structured about information itself, such as web development. As Shane Diffily talks about in the A List Apart article Educate Your Stakeholders!, everyone in the entire website creation process needs to be sufficiently well educated about the process and the decisions involved in it. I’ve seen many cases where the process skips from a client requesting a website to the client being asked for a description of what they want. They don’t know what they want. It isn’t that they’re unintelligent, it’s just that they’re often uneducated or poorly educated at best about the process, the possibilities, and what they need to consider when making decisions. Somewhere along the line, the client needs to get the information necessary to make informed decisions.

posted by Zach at 4:02 pm  

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Undo as a Standard Feature

Why isn’t undo a standard feature in every user interface? I can’t speak for the rest of the human race, but I know I’ve made my fair share of mistakes selecting “Okay” on those annoying pop ups. It’s entirely automatic; you see a pop up, you skim it and hit okay, only pausing to think about what it said after it’s too late. As Aza Raskin says in the A List Apart article Never Use a Warning When you Mean Undo, people form habits of simply clicking okay without pausing to think about the consequences, and there’s no good way to force them to stop and think. Because of that, providing the ability to undo a possibly dangerous action is just as important (if not more so) than warning users of the danger in the first place. Why not take them time to add the undo and make the application a little more user friendly?

posted by Zach at 2:30 am  
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