Archive for June, 2004

Stockholm™ Stock Web Icons for Sale

I’ve just made available a set of 35 stock web icons for sale (through PayPal), dubbed Stockholm™ (stock icons, Cederholm… yikes) . They come in just one size: 16×16. They come in just one format: GIF. But at $45 (USD), they’re an inexpensive way to add a little pixel goodness to your personal or commercial web site or application.
Stockholm icons
You may recognize many of the icons from this very web site. I had started working on the set some time ago, which in turn inspired a mini-redesign, which in turn inspired me to standardize a full set at 16×16 pixels and make them available for purchase (royalty-free), in response to frequent requests from readers who wished to reuse my icons.
There are of course other destinations for buying fully-featured sets at various sizes and formats — and I’m certainly not looking to get rich off of selling these. Nor will I be focusing entirely on icon design. But creating small icons is fun, and a part of interface design that I’ve always enjoyed and put a lot of effort into. So here’s to trying new things.
I’ve turned comments on for this post, should there be any questions about the icons, purchasing, etc. I expect there to be kinks to work out in the whole process.

Wireless City

I’m writing this entry sitting in a café in downtown Salem. Nothing new and exciting with that concept. But what is exciting is that I could be writing this entry from the juice bar up the street, the museum, or any number of spots around town.
A privately-funded, free, open Wi-Fi network has opened in Salem — and spreads across a major portion of the downtown. is responsible for setting up the project, getting the city and businesses involved, often getting them to help out with the recurring costs. A similar network was set up on Boston’s Newbury Street a while back, but this is on a much larger scale.
Normally, Wi-Fi “hot spots” are often available by businesses willing to set up the network and eat the costs themselves. But the idea here is to make the entire city “hot” in order to provide free access to anyone.
It makes sense from both a business and community perspective. Here I am, getting out of my closet/office (a much needed activity these days), spending a little dough at the café. The access is free, and I may be inclined to come back — not only this café, but any of the other businesses that are within the network.
If other cities haven’t already set up similar networks, I’m sure they will. Imagine if every city started offering free access — getting people online that might otherwise not be able to afford it. I won’t delve into the security concerns this brings up.
And I predict that the number of beverage-related laptop illnesses will dramatically rise. You heard it here, first.

A Validation Tale

While I nod my head in agreement to recent thoughts on validation and it’s place as a piece of the web design puzzle, I’m reminded of where and when I personally think that it can make the difference.

Why the heck is the footer crammed all the way over in the right column?

A mildly ficticious scenario, but one that is certainly plausible. The display issue could be anything really. You’ve poured over every last CSS declaration, searching for the key that’s throwing off the entire design. Hours may go by after trial and error, removing code, adding it back it, etc.

Then you throw it through the validator.

Line 326, column 6: end tag for “div” omitted…

Of course. All better now.

I’m merely illustrating a point — that (for me personally) validation is key as part of the building process. Checking to make sure my “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed eliminates several possible culprits if I’m running into display issues. If I know the code is plumb and square, I can at least move on to other investigations. It doesn’t solve everything, but a solid foundation keeps some of the guesswork at bay.

There are other reasons for validation of course — reasons that may or may not make 100% sense depending on the (approximately) 6,593 factors that go into an average web site. A singular person may not have complete control over all of the code that makes up an entire site. If a team is involved — it takes everyone to want validation in order to make it happen. Tools and feeds and software must be part of the game. Editors, managers and developers have have to understand the importance of forward compatibility and a higher threshold of consistent device and browser support. But oftentimes, these things (or people) are out of our direct control. This is what makes validation hard.

So I try to stay valid as much as possible — and the building process is certainly a convenient time and place where it happens the most.

Inconsistent Consistency

It also relates to another topic that I’ve been thinking about lately. That basic validation appears to be more important when using CSS layouts, as opposed to old-school methods. I don’t have any solid research to back any of this up right now, but hear me out.

In the past, when all of the presentation was tied in directly with the content (read: nested table layouts), browsers were extremely forgiving. Forget (perhaps purposely) to close those <td> elements? Most browsers wouldn’t care and would render your intentions without any problems. This led to all sorts of bad habits. I guess we could place part of the blame on the browser…

Anyhow, forget to close <div> or <ul> elements while implementing a complex CSS-based layout and I believe most browsers won’t be as forgiving. More importantly I think the results will be extemely varied depending on the browser.

I’m certainly not referring to unescaped ampersands or other small details that could be out of the site builder’s control — but I believe basic validation on the framework of a site is crucial when working heavily in CSS.

Web Standards Link Bonanza

As a result of the Great Book Giveaway Contest, 485 comments were collected, each with a link to a favorite article, web site or weblog entry relating to web standards.

Steve Smith has kindly formatted these comments into a nice, neat, easily digestible list of links, complete with titles.

Shaun Inman put together a similar list (coming soon) which lists every URL posted, along with a tally of how many folks shared the same article.

Both Shaun and Steve deserve a pat on the back for all of their hard work. This is a great collection of links — so thank you once again to all who entered.


And the Winners Are…

Whoa. When I intitially planned the book giveaway, I envisioned myself writing each comment number on a sheet of paper, ripping them into little squares and drawing three winners out of a hat (a baseball cap of course, likely embroidered with a “B”). What I didn’t anticipate was the 485 comments that were entered in a mere 48 hours.

Writing 485 numbers was out of the question. Ryan suggested I write or use a script to randomly generate the three winning numbers. A great idea. I even took an easier route — employing the use of a random integer generator that completed the task through a simple web form.

And so it went. I entered the range (1-485) and number of random numbers desired (3) and clicked the “Get Numbers” button.

The Winning Numbers

Congratulations to:

  • 76 (Chantal Ide)
  • 222 (Peter)
  • 342 (Chris Luebbe)

Kindly send me your mailing addresses so that friends of ED can send you the goods.

A Bundle of Links

First of all, a big thank you to all those that entered. I wish I could give you each a free book. The flip-side to this is that we’ve amassed a gigantic list (naturally there are several repeats) of quality articles on the topic of web standards.

I’d love to convert the comments to a nice n’ tidy list at some point (volunteers? :-) — as I think it’ll be a wonderful bookmark filled with some indespensable info.

Thanks again for participating. And I of course must mention that if you didn’t win, the book can still end up in your hands by way of more traditional methods.

The Great Book Giveaway Contest

To celebrate the launch, and now availability, of Web Standards Solutions, I’m running a little book giveaway contest.

How to Enter

Add a comment (1 per person, anonymous comments will not be counted) to this entry with a link to your favorite article or weblog entry regarding web standards. The topic is wide open — markup practices, CSS tips and tricks, general web standards thoughts, etc. The idea here is twofold. Hopefully we’ll have a nice collection of links for people to browse, while at the same time we’ll have a pool of entries in order to pick a winner.

How to Win

To keep things fair, and to give everyone an equal chance to win, I’ll be drawing three numbers out of a hat (or some such device) — pure BINGO style. Each number corresponding to the number that’s automatically (and sequentially) assigned to each comment.

Entries must be received before 11:59pm EST on Friday June 18.

Update: The contest is now closed. The winners will be chosen and announced soon. Thanks to all who entered!

The Prizes

t-shirt and bookEach of the three winners will receive one free copy of Web Standards Solutions and one friends of ED T-shirt from the publisher. Did I mention that both were free? Delivered to you.

Good luck to all!

I Wouldn’t Call it a Redesign

I’ll admit, all this recent redesiging is infectious. More importantly though, it made me realize that the previous SimpleBits design had been up for probably over a year. At the very least, it needed some “freshening up”. And isn’t this what’s fun about the web? The constant flux?

Much of the design and concepts remain the same. So much so that you may be asking “what’s different?”. The inspiration for the subtle update emerged from a set of icons I started working on a while ago.


I toyed with the idea of selling the icons as set — but realized I liked them too much and thought I’d stretch the SimpleBits pixel “brand” a bit further and fold them into the template.

Prefer the old design?

No worries. The old stylesheet is still available as an alternate and can be activated in the dashboard (top right corner). It was also probably a good idea to keep the old theme around, as there are a few examples in the book that reference that design. The markup remains almost untouched, while the CSS methods are essentially identical as well.

Speaking of icons…

The many talents of Josh Williams and co. have released three full stock icon sets over at Icon Buffet – and they’re now on sale. If you dig icons — check out their amazing work.

Pressed and Ready

I received word from a former neighbor that I had a UPS package delivered to our old address. Today I picked it up (luckily just a few blocks away), and it turned out to be my author copies of Web Standards Solutions.

stack o' booksBeing able to physically thumb through the book is very surreal. The results of a better part of a year are finally printed and ready for consumption. I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out. And I’m sure this means they’ll be shipping any day now from Amazon, and will hopefully start appearing in bookstores.

A single book can never be all things to all people, but I have high hopes for this little book. I hope that people enjoy it, as well as find it useful. It was fun to write and a gigantic learning experience.

As a teaser, here are a few of my favorite (yet corny and ridiculous) subheadings from the book:

  • Wrapper’s delight
  • Totally tabular
  • Worth its (font-)weight in bold

There are more of course… some better, mostly worse.

So if you haven’t ordered yet, now’s a good time to do so, as the wait won’t be long at all.

Exercising Power and Other Notes

While working out at the gym today (a rare occurrence), I was looking around the room, noticing that everyone was stepping, pedaling and treadmilling away. And then it hit me — what if all gyms around the world were all plugged into some sort of global turbine? We’d have a constant source of clean power!

I was then reminded of a stroke of genius I once had somewhere around the 3rd grade. My idea was to install a small hand crank appliance in every home througout Earth. Everyday, your duty as a citizen would be to crank the handle for a set time — nothing strenuous, say… 5 minutes. Perhaps a bonus system could be devised to award those that crank longer than they need too.

Anyway, the general idea was that, by the power of numbers, we’d all be powering the world. Self-sufficiently.

Other Notes

In unrelated news, I’ve moved some things around recently — adding a Publications section to house articles, tips, and other works that aren’t web sites themselves. This is also where the Photos section now lives, in case you miss it from the primary navigation.

I’ve also unceremoniously dubbed the weblog portion of the site “Notebook” (neither exciting, nor out of the ordinary), adding a tab to the navigation that brings you to the archives page for date, keyword or category browsing. Yay for site news.

And in unrelated to the unrelated news, I’m turning 30 tomorrow. Normally, I’d never think to announce my birthday. Everybody has them. Every year. But I suppose it’s a milestone worth pondering. I feel numb to it at the moment — and I think this makes perfect sense. People over 30 will probably tell you that turning 30 is no big deal, perhaps even saying that it’s “great!”. People under 30 will tell you that they don’t want to turn 30 — that it seems “old”.

So here I am stuck in the middle not sure what to think. It’ll work itself out in time though.