Tag: <span>List Apart</span>

I’ve been chasing this train of thought for a while now and decided to start writing my thoughts down in the vague hope that they come together in a way that makes sense to others. It seems to make sense to me but, as yet, there are a few grey areas into which I may stumble. So, not so much a train of thought but a car crash of ideas, if you will.

Shoddy metaphors aside, the main crux of my thinking is based in my efforts to find a central point around which I can arrange my knowledge. Obviously my knowledge of some areas is greater than my knowledge of others, but part of this exercise is to start to identify the areas in which I’m lacking and so allow me to investigate them further, to feedback into my train.. no.. car… umm, driveshaft??

OK, let’s start over.

The role of a technical writer is fairly varied, and merrily traipses through several distinct fields. Most technical writers will know a little (or a lot) about many topics, how to structure information or how to create a usable index, they will be also have some knowledge or awareness of, for example, typography and readability issues, they will have some knowledge of working with graphics, and they will also gain knowledge of the various tools they use. Suffice to say that the skill set and ‘earned’ knowledge a technical writer posseses is almost endless.

And that’s all before you consider how much they know about the products that they are documenting

So from that starting point we can see that technical writers already dip their toes into various pools of expertise.

Now, let me just changes hats for a second… right. I am now a web designer.

Look at the knowledge I have attained as a technical writer, with a web designer hat on, there are a lot of parallels. Some are direct, some not so obvious but still discretely linked, after all, regardless of the medium the two disciplines share key facets of importance; content and audience. The delivery mechanism is secondary to those at all times.

Web designers also span several different fields, with some knowledge of HTML, CSS and other languages (usually text based), they too worry about layout and typography to ensure readability is maintained, they plan what type of content will be created, and understand the need to structure that information in such a way that it is explorable. The parallels are many.

So, somewhere in my head I’m wondering why the two disciplines don’t seem to be talking to one another. Is it lack of visibility? Is it just me that thinks it is this way? Are there secret meetings going on as I speak?

One of the reasons I ask is because there is a wealth of information out there that focusses on web design, even spilling over into the social/community aspects of information sharing, which the technical writing world could use and leverage. Have a look at some of the articles on A List Apart, for example. Those which aren’t specifically about code tend to talk in terms of analysis, planning and design. All things I do as part of my job as a technical writer. Boxes and Arrows takes you into Information Architecture territory, with user experience key and, for many of us who work in software development and who can influence both the UI and the Use Cases that help constitute a software application, there is a lot of useful information that we can adapt for our own use.


From my own blogging experience, posting regularly is a good thing. Mr. Neilsen (who, despite reports to the contrary, is sometimes correct) suggests that quality not quantity is the way to go and, for this blog at least, it is something I’m striving towards.

Nailing a posting schedule is part of this and, as the evidence within demonstrates, I’ve yet to crack that egg. In an effort to force myself I’m going to try flipping that argument around for the time being and just posting whenever something catches my eye. No idea if it’ll make any difference but hey, you never know.

So, with that in mind, here are some interesting sites and articles that have zipped across my radar in the past few weeks:

I hope you find them as interesting as I did.


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I’ve not actually checked to see if my site is currently compliant with any XHTML or CSS standard, I would imagine if they are not it is redundant ‘covering’ code anyway… that aside I do try and keep up with the goings-on in the CSS design ‘area’, and A List Apart is a great place to start.

It was with some intrigue that I spotted the article “Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards”, which includes the line “underneath the hood you will find an old jalopy” (OK, deliberately taken out of context). What follows is an interesting look at converting a site to CSS based design AND achieving compliance. Interesting stuff.

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A List Apart 3.0 opens it’s doors.

Bloody gorgeous and packed to the gunnels with useful information and articles.

Why I’m practically drooling over it right now… (not a pretty sight I warrant).

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Itchy design fingers are currently being scratched.

CSS Edge & A List Apart are constantly loaded.

You have been warned.


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HTML Design: If you are aware of the movement towards CSS and away from tables and frames for site structure, read on. If you don’t, I would skip this.

A List Apart and WaSP. Two sites campaigning for the same thing, a move towards acceptance of the standard (as defined by the W3) CSS and XHTML definitions.

The suggestion was that browser makers would try and implement proper support, and we (the designers for want of a better term) would follow and code our sites in nicely degrading XHTML and CSS. So if you used an older browser, you can still access site content without any major issues.

The main man, or one of them, behind this push is Zeldman. A legend in his own living room. Today he posted a suggestion on his own personal site. The suggestion being that “transitional XHTML layouts that include some table-driven formatting feel more and more like a reasonable choice”. He eloquently states his reasons, none of this is his desire, or by his design, and I have to say I agree with him. But is he backtracking? Are we all slaves to the browser makers?

This isn’t an attack on Jeffery Zeldman, on the contrary, I sympathise greatly. As he states, he is being driven to a ‘reasonable choice’ rather than a desirable one.

The last estimate I saw stated that there were around 500,000 blogs. That’s a helluva large petition if you ask me. If I had the energy I would start a campaign. Gimme a few hours though…

Full Report by Zeldman – explains why he came to this decision.

Tech Work

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Zeldman is great. I try and keep up to date with WaSP, A List Apart, and the drive towards fully compliant code and CSS design (no tables here!). However after spending about an hour last night trying to get a little CSS mouseover effect to work, I’m being to agree with this statement.
There are many sites which show the potential of CSS design, so I’ll stick in there. There is still the small issue of compliance by other tools, including Blogger, but I’ll cross those bridges later…

Blogging Work

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A List Apart: Better Living Through XHTML. In my quest for CSS compliance I’ve been tweaking the back end of the site offline. XHTML bit is relatively straightforward to be honest but this is a good article to get you started – if you’re that way inclined.

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