Webinar with Bill Scott of Netflix, Yahoo + 20% Off

Bill Scott of Netflix, formerly of Yahoo, will be hosting the Future Practice webinar tomorrow, helping web designers learn how to create designs that are easier to implement by illustrating the UI engineer’s point of view. And you, my dear readers, get 20% if you enter the code VTWBNR when signing up.

I recorded a bit of our rehearsal with Bill. He’s killer smart — an O’Reilly author and frequent presenter — but has a great laid back style that’s such a pleasure to learn from. Here’s a ~7 minute edit:

Build a CMS, go to heaven

Brian Alvey, speaking on a panel about CSS back at SXSW, asked, “Who’s building a CMS on these tools that spits out valid markup? Not many. A few. They’re going to heaven.”

Well, I don’t exactly believe in heaven, but to play it safe I wrote an article illustrating a few different ways you could integrate cascading style sheets with content management systems. The ideas came to me while I was working on a big Vignette-powered project, but the function is fairly easy to build in. The change is less about technology and more about organization and process: designers become empowered to improve the design through CSS as frequently and easily as authors change text.

It’s also just as useful on smaller systems, as demonstrated by Textpattern.

Dynamic Text Replacement

Once the HTML is finished loading, our script will search it for specified elements (h2, span, etc.) and replace the text inside of them with an img tag. This dynamic img tag has its alt attribute set to the original text, and its src attribute set to the URL of the PHP script that we just installed. The PHP script then sends back a custom PNG image, and voila: custom headings.

That is whacked.

Textpattern auto CSS?

I’ve been thinking about ways to edit CSS from a content management system, and fascinated by Dean’s description of Automatic CSS mode in Textpattern

Automatic CSS mode, style sheet editing is taken to a sophisticated new level, using an editing interface and organizational method intended to make CSS parameters more readable and logical. Any existing style sheet can be ‘poured’ into the editing interface and modified indefinitely.

Any Textpattern users out there? Does the Auto CSS mode UI look the same as this, or different? My email address is over there in the nav bar.


Designing a site now that has to push the envelope of how CSS must be able to tweak the layout, much like CSS Zen Garden but for an ecommerce application. We’re also using a content management system, so the interplay of CSS and CMS becomes interesting. I think I can simplify the CMS templates so they only have to reflect business logic, and all the differences in presentation are done in the CSS. Still, it changes how I think about content types. Normally I’d only think about how granular the content types need to be to work in every template. Now I’m also thinking about what I want to appear in separate DIVs too. Not sure if that will end up being more granular or not. Dave Shea posts related thoughts about the relationship between markup and CSS flexibility.

Besides all the usual advantages of CSS, it should be an easier implementation as CSS development is easier than CMS template development. I think.

Real-Time Design

While trying to surf the Staples website with Mozilla:

The web browser you are using is incompatible. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Our site currently supports only Internet Explorer version 4.0 and 5.0. This is due to the advanced features used in the real-time designer.

Well heck, if I had a real-time designer with advanced features I wouldn’t give a hoot about Mozilla either.

Validation, The Movie

I’m gradually going around my site, cleaning each room, applying a template here, fixing a link there. In the process I’m finally getting around to reading Owen’s Validation, a persuasive argument for proper code, which could have been subtitled ‘Markup for the Long Now‘…

My view is validation is very important, and not because I’m a stickler for rules. I actually dislike rules…I don’t think it’s widely understood how unique the code is. This is an attempt to make a code that can go decades and centuries, getting broader in scope without ever shutting out it’s early versions. Because that’s what we need the code to do: this code is for recording what we think.

He also points to the handy Gazingus validation bookmarklets and, of course, the W3C validator.

Aside: A funny image in my head of people 50 years from now initializing their virtual museum to learn about early 21st Century Internet communication. The readable content consists almost entirely of CSS tutorials. The aural connection says, ‘Before the Great XML Convergence of 2023 humans actually used keyboards to type medium-specific display information, or used crude applications to generate non-standard display code…