Tuesday, August 11, 2009

siuc web conference

It was my pleasure to attend part of the Web Conference, held at Rehn Hall on Mon. Aug. 10. Since my wife is out of town and I had childcare only in the morning, I could attend only in the morning, and even yet only part of that, since it was the first day of vacation and we, young boys and I, had trouble getting out the door early enough.

So, I missed the first part of the one that was probably most useful to me, about css stylesheets. The presenter, from housing, introduced csszengarden, a site I really like and one that hopefully will introduce me a little better to stylesheets.

The fact is, my web skills have grown hopelessly out of date, with no time to take classes or learn such things as stylesheets, javascript, etc. I have time for pop art, but no time for classes. Sometimes I'm made more aware of this just as I stand around and talk to other designers, many of whom are also doing it basically in their free time.

One thing you pick up is people's attitudes; for example, how to deal with fringe groups. It's one thing to worry about the blind, they say; of course you're going to have to go out of your way. It's another to worry about people on an IE5 on Mac. What do you owe them? If they're less than 5%, don't worry.

There's a push to open-source design; I confirmed my son-in-law's advice that everyone moved from tables to divs a few years back. it hasn't improved much; in some ways divs are just as bad.

Nevertheless, I was lucky to be here, and lucky to learn, and I knew it. The second presenter was from the school of journalism and taught how to be aware of and stay aware of the words that would be picked up by the searches, and displayed therein. A headline writer, she was aware of global traffic, local people, site visits, attraction and such; she was onto Jakob Nielsen and the accessibility guidelines; she reminded us of description text; she gave us the image of trying to pick up academy-speak on an iPhone (the kid moves the phone farther and closer, and squints); and how to make academy-speak into blunt powerful headlines & bullets (there are magic bullets, she said). Like poets, she shoots for big meaning, small words; she has a scorn for "click here" left over from the old days. Invite the reader to experience, she said. We can tighten, she said; we can put it in steps, even if it's the Woody shuffle. A silence hung in the air, no questions, while the one I had (how do you get away with a url like that?

Finally, Curt Wilson, who turns out to be an old friend of mine, and his talk on security. This went from SQL injections, to the different kinds of attacks; cross platform, etc. Keep updating your apps, he said. Adobe Reader is the newest one to attack, he said. When there's something to protect, that's when you need to worry about security; we at SIUC have a lot to protect. I had to leave this early, again for childcare reasons; I was in awe of his ability to know the difference between these kinds of attacks; it's a science, is all I can say.

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