Suggestions from a Web Educator for the Dreamweaver Folks at Adobe

I’ve been teaching Dreamweaver again. Yeah, I do it all the time, I know. I have some ideas about what Dreamweaver needs to do to make life easier for newbies who haven’t been using the product forever like I have.

The New Document Options

The Dreamweaver New File dialog box

The Dreamweaver New File dialog box

These suggestions deal with the options for people who are opening a new file and starting to work on a new site.

  1. Get rid of the fixed width layouts.
  2. Provide a 1, 2 and 3 column responsive layout
  3. The Fluid Grid layouts are very complex. Find a way to make them more user friendly. In fact, if there were enough useful responsive layouts provided in the layouts category, fluid grids could go away, period.

The CSS Designer

Regarding the CSS Designer interface, when media queries are present, even if all the CSS rules are in a single stylesheet, the CSS Designer lists them as separate stylesheets. It would be clearer if the terminology was different. Perhaps something like “save the styles in” or “locate the style in” to indicate where to place them in the single stylesheet.

In the panel where the selectors are listed, it would be very helpful if some sort of divider or identifier could be included to indicate which selectors went with which part of a stylesheet. When there are media queries, there are several selectors by the same name. Yes, I know that the selectors at the end of the stylesheet would be the ones used in the @media rules, but that isn’t obvious to someone rather new at CSS.

Why Adobe Should Care About This

I see people who are new to Dreamweaver in my classes. If Adobe wants them to convert to subscribers and users, they need to pay attention to the learning curve on the product. I can’t tell you statistics on how many of the people who come to learn Dreamweaver go away thinking maybe they’ll use WordPress instead, but it’s a good percent. Putting aside my female tendency to be modest –  I’m a good teacher. I’m doing everything humanly possible to make successful Dreamweaver users out of my students. Some attention from the Adobe Dreamweaver team should go into the same consideration.

Adobe Creative Cloud: The Good News and the Bad News

good vs. bad

The good news about subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud is that you always have shiny fresh, updated software. You’re up to date all the time.

The bad news about subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud is that you always have shiny fresh, updated software. Every time you update it’s different and you have to figure things out all over again.

Twitter Tip: The List vs. The Follow

Follows vs. followers: a twitter tip

About a year ago I started a new pop culture/entertainment blog called Old Ain’t Dead. I started a new Twitter account for it as well @OldAintDead.

In the service of my new topic, I wanted to follow the tweets of many people and sources who write about entertainment and the stars making the pop culture news.

I also wanted to get people to follow my new Twitter account. A much harder proposition. It’s a slower process to get followers than it is to find people to follow.

I didn’t want the numbers to be out of proportion when potential new followers looked at my twitter profile. My regular Twitter account, where I tweet about web design topics, is @vdebolt. There I have more followers than people I follow.

twitter profile for @vdebolt

Having more followers than accounts I follow looks okay.

It’s great to have lots of followers in proportion to the number you are following. Makes you look interesting.

But what about the @OldAintDead Twitter account. If I were following 2000 entertainment accounts and only 412 people were following me, it would look as if over 1500 people decided not to follow me back. Someone seeing my profile would think I’m not worth following.

Screen grab of my Twitter Profile

The proportion of following to followers is fairly equal because I put public figures in a list.

My numbers are about equal now. That’s okay with me. So how did I manage to keep track of people I want to follow without actually following them?

I used a list. I took all those people and organizations I wanted to read like @Variety and @ShondaRhimes – people who would never follow me back – and I put them in a list. I called the list #mediawelike. I put actors, shows, media sites, networks, and those kinds of accounts in the list.

For my @OldAintDead Twitter feed, I follow real people who follow back, people who sometimes read my blog and people who are willing to engage in a conversation about something on Twitter.

I use Tweetdeck for watching Twitter in a browser. On my phone, I use Hootsuite. (Hootsuite doesn’t have an option for viewing lists.) Here’s what I see in my Old Ain’t Dead Twitter feed in Tweetdeck.

A screen grab from Tweetdeck

The Old Ain’t Dead Twitter feed

You see my Home feed, which is where I see the accounts I follow. I also keep open a notifications column. You also see the column for tweets coming in to the #mediawelike list. By using the list, I can keep the number of people I follow in a reasonable ratio compared to the number who follow me.

Creating a list is simple. In a browser, go to the Lists tab on your profile page. The create a new list option can be found there.

The new list button

The new list button

Makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. No, wait. Wrong song.

Just go make a list.

Web Standards Sherpa Closing: UPDATED

It’s the end of an era. The web site that dedicated itself to publishing articles about best practices and web standards at webstandardssherpa.com is shutting down.

Web Standards Sherpa site header

Here’s how Aaron Gustafson, the founder, put it in his announcement on Facebook.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that we are closing Web Standards Sherpa. As of April 2, we will be archiving the site in order to keep the valuable insights and techniques shared by our authors available in perpetuity.

To make that archive a reality, the Sherpas teamed up with Environments for Humans to create an online conference called Sherpa Summit. The summit features four expert sessions and live Q&A roundtable sessions that will let attendees from all over the world take part.

The online conference is on April 2, and you can save 20% if you register now using the discount code SHERPA.

UPDATE: Because of illness, the Sherpa Summit had to be postponed until April 23. A side effect of the delay is that you get more Sherpas for the Round Table Q+A’s: Steve Fisher and Dan Rubin!

Check it out and sign up here.

Review: Badass: Making Users Awesome


Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra is from O’Reilly (2015). This book is about motivation and skills and progress and brain science. It shows you how to use motivation and skill levels and learning progress by being badass, by modeling badass, and by giving you the badass version of learning how to be badass.

If you know who Kathy Sierra is and what she’s already done as a writer and programmer, you’ll recognize what she’s talking about in this book. It’s been her topic before and she’s come back to it with a powerful teaching device – this book. Kathy’s premise is you don’t just want a great product, you want great users. You want users who find it easy to learn to be experts with your product. Even when your product is complicated and hard to learn to use at an expert level, if you approach helping users the right way, they will reach the badass level as users.

The book if full of lively graphics, funny illustrations, and simple but powerful charts.

A chart showing how an upgrade to software can move users from competent back to feeling like they suck

This chart shows exactly how I feel about every new upgrade of Dreamweaver CC. Each time I open it, I go back into the suck zone on something. Getting the labels on form fields – oh, no, I suck. Creating a new selector in the style sheet – oh, no, I suck. Using the fucking fluid layout grid – oh, no, I suck. Kathy explains how to help users avoid that oh, no, I suck sensation with upgrades and with new skills mastery in general. The people at Adobe are definitely not using all of Kathy’s suggestions to help users move to badass with updates to their products.

A chart showing the good practice is in the zone between what your good at and what you are bad at

Even something as basic as practicing a skill to get better at it has brain science examples to help you design experiences for users that let them practice the right way. There are also chapters on how to help users filter out brain spam so they can concentrate on things that matter. Here’s the table of contents:

The table of contents for Badass: Making Users Awesome

Just looking at the table of contents tells you a lot about how this book works, and how Kathy Sierra uses her deep understanding of brain science and user experience to craft an experience for you that will leave you feeling badass.

If you want to learn how to create and market a product that your users will love using and will recommend to others, read this book. After you’ve read it, go back and look at how it was written. What were you asked to do as you read? How were you helped to understand the points made? How were you helped and supported as a reader to become an expert in making users awesome? What patterns and perceptions sneaked into your brain without you knowing how it happened?

Kathy Sierra has always been about creating awesome users, and this book can help you be about that, too.

Welcome back to the conversation, Kathy. You were missed.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of Badass: Making Users Awesome (rating: 5 stars)

Summary: Kathy Sierra shows you how to make your users keep coming back by helping them be badass at using your product.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. Opinions are my own. Links to Amazon are affiliate links. Here is my review policy. .