What to do with Dreamweaver’s invitation to attach more than one style sheet

Do you use Dreamweaver’s built-in layouts and sample pages to start a new design? Then this information is for you.

My precise topic is the ability to add more than one style sheet when you select a CSS layout. In Dreamweaver, when you open a brand new page, go to Blank Page > HTML. You can select a built in CSS layout, such as the 2-column elastic left sidebar one shown here. Among other options on the lower right, you have the option to attach a second style sheet to your layout page when it is created.

link icon will let you browse for another stylesheet

That’s really swell, if you have another style sheet all ready and waiting. Since the CSS layouts are all just shades of gray, it would nice to have a color scheme and some font choices all ready to go and to attach them from the first step. Click the link icon, browse for the style sheet, and when you click the Create button, your new page has both attached. Easy, right?

Browse for the second style sheet to attach

But here’s where it gets tricky. What if you don’t have a style sheet ready and waiting? What if you want to use one of the color schemes built in to Dreamweaver? These are found in the new file dialog under Page from Sample > CSS Style Sheet. They sport names like “Full design Arial Blue/Green/Gray.

a page from sample in the new dialog

It will be easy to use this style sheet. The trick is that you have to start by picking this Page from Sample before you pick your CSS Layout. When you’ve picked one and click the Create button, you get this message.

locked file message

Click View. You get an untitled style sheet that you can save by any name you want. Now you have a style sheet ready and waiting to link to your CSS Layout. Go through the new dialog again, pick your layout, and attach this style sheet at the same time.

You still have some work to do integrating the rules in your two style sheets so that they aren’t conflicting with each other. But you are off to a built-in Dreamweaver start.

Women and The Future of Web Design Conference

FOWD logo

The Future of Web Design (FOWD) Conference was held the week before Thanksgiving in New York City.
One of those in attendance was Kristin Vincent from Webgrrls.

Kristen came home from the conference and wrote a visionary post called The Web’s Future: Peering into the Crystal Ball. She summarized some of the highlights of the conference, but she also went beyond that and gave her own ideas on where things are headed in the web design world. Or as Kristen explained it,

I heard some smart, inspiring speakers, but overall I felt the conference played it a little safe and didn’t lean forward enough to look over the cutting edge. Presentations focused on topics such as:

* How sites are now utilizing AJAX to allow for more dynamic interactions without page refreshes
* How we can design better sites for mobile devices, which are sweeping the globe at a surprising rate
* How user-generated content like blogs, tags, and comments are taking over online spaces

I felt they were filling in the details of a landscape that had been growing on the horizon for a while. I went home that night dreaming of uncharted territory, of things that are still beyond the next hill.

Her first look into uncharted territory reveals her crystal ball for AJAX.

In the future, we will see modules on the page that are triggered to appear dynamically as a result of user actions. These modules will contain content from multiple sites. The number and arrangement of modules on the page will be rules based, and the possibilities will be infinite because designers can’t possibly predict or plan for the series of user actions that will kick off different combinations on the page.

Joshua Davis, the first speaker at the conference, talked about the idea of computational design in art, where he builds design rules and elements of randomness into a program and then runs the program to create artwork. But I’m speculating about a new implementation of computational design that was not influenced by programmatic randomness, but by actions performed by users. And instead of creating art, this would create new transactional e-commerce or learning spaces.

On the topic of mobile devices, Kristin polished her crystal ball to a real sheen. She says,

Now that the device is handheld, lightweight, and easily manipulated, people will want to use it to interact with their physical environment. We’ll be able to point it toward a building and pull up that company’s site or information. (This has already started happening in Asia.) We’ll be able to scan UPC barcodes to add items to an online wish list or to have the item automatically shipped to our homes.

As designers, we are currently limited in how we design for mobile devices because of the small screens. In the future, the screens will be able to stretch or unfold so we can view the full 17-inch monitor size. Or maybe they will become more like projectors and project a full-size screen on the wall or desktop. Keyboards will also need to scale. Mobile devices will beam holograms of keyboards so we can type on virtual keys on any flat surface.

That’s pretty exciting sounding stuff. Kristin also had some thoughts on a topic dear to the hearts of BlogHers: user generated content. She predicts,

User-generated content is going to spill outside the Internet arena. As you peruse the cable menu on tv, you’ll be able to see what other people thought of a show to help you decide whether to set your DVR to record it. As silicon chips make their way into paper, newspapers and books will have a place where customers can pull up the latest comments. For instance, I have a favorite recipe of chipoltle nachos with avocado cream dipping sauce that I like to make, and I’d like the option to see what people who like this recipe recommend I also try. I don’t want to pull it up online; I want it to appear in context in my cookbook and to be up to date each time I pull out the recipe.

Kristen didn’t comment on the gender of the speakers issue at FOWD. I took a look at the speakers list out of my own need to satisfy my inner accountant. The conference had the usual dismal ration of male to female speakers. There were three women on the panels.

One of the speakers was Cindy Li from The Adventures of Cindy Li. Cindy is an illustrator. At the conference she talked about using illustration for attraction and value on a web site. Her post about the conference is FOWD 07 New York: Beautifying the web with Illustration.

Another female conference speaker was Jina Bolton from JinaBolton.com. She hasn’t blogged about her experience there, although she did make mention of her plans to be a speaker. Jina talked about the future of CSS. That sounds like the most interesting topic at the whole conference to me, and definitely creates a harmonic convergence in the geeky recesses of my psyche.

The third female speaker was Lea Alcantara. She spoke about branding on the web. Her post about the event, Future of Web Design Wrap-Up contains her impressions of the conference and a link to The Art of Self Branding, a website that she developed based on her presentation at the conference.

Everyone is either a creator or a user of web design these days. No matter what the future of web design turns out to be, it’s going to matter to us all.

Cross posted at BlogHer.

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My web design authors dream team

The other day I was looking at a web design book with ten authors, one for each chapter. All the authors were men.

I write books about web design. I know some other women who do, too. I thought, it would be fun to put together a team of women to write a book about web design. And, of course, as soon as I had that thought, I started ticking off names of women who ought to participate and write a chapter.

Well, okay, it’s my idea, so I get to be one of the authors, don’t I? I could do a chapter on what to include in a web design curriculum or best practices in educating web designers. Or something.

I’ve been looking at the built-in CSS layouts packed with Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 for a classroom seminar I have to give. And I know who did all those layouts. It’s Stephanie Sullivan. She writes for Adobe about Dreamweaver. She co-authored a book about Dreamweaver, she’s a contributor at Community MX. Her personal business site is W3conversions.com. How about a chapter on Dreamweaver from Steph?

Another writer for Community MX is Zoe Gillenwater. Zoe is an absolute genius about CSS. I know this is true because I’ve watched her work on the CSS Discuss list. I also know first hand how brilliant she is because she was the technical editor of my latest book. Her personal site is Pixel Surge. Her chapter? Something about CSS, or maybe Dreamweaver.

Then I thought of Liz Castro. I own every edition of Elizabeth Castro’s best selling book HTML book. The latest is the 6th edition. The book? HTML, XHTML, and CSS, Sixth Edition (Visual Quickstart Guide). She’s written about 10 other books about everything from XML to Blogger. Her personal site is Cookwood Press. She should definitely write a chapter.

The book needs a chapter about blogs, right? How about the co-author of WordPress 2 (Visual Quickstart Guide), Miraz Jordan? She writes the Mactips blog. She’s also published articles in a whole lot of places.

A web design does not live by HTML and CSS alone. No, it needs JavaScript. It needs PHP. It needs AJAX. It needs Dori Smith. Poor Amazon can’t seem to distinguish Dori from Doris, but look for a title about JavaScript, Java, Mac OS, or AJAX, and you’ll know you found Dori. She can add a chapter about programming to my dream team book.

We need something about design strategy in there. Usability, maybe. How about Adaptive Path’s Sarah B. Nelson? Her blog is called Cartographies of Imagination, and since it’s about collaboration, she ought to be a natural contributor to the book.

The book has to have something about design, right? Who else but Robin Williams knows the secrets of design for non-designers? And we can’t forget the graphics side of things. Veerle would be perfect for that chapter. Oh, oh, oh! A chapter on accessibility. By Knowbility’s Sharron Rush, naturally. Sharron blogs at NetSquared now.

But wait. There’s more!

The book still needs chapters from Rachel Andrew, Shelley Powers (we really need more than one chapter on programming), Kelly Goto, and Molly Holzschlag. I couldn’t possibly leave out Molly, she’s written 25 or 30 web design books all by herself. And she worked on the Web Standards Project. Oh, that’s right, there are other female web design writers from the Web Standards Project, like Shirley Kaiser. Oh, my. Help me, I can’t stop. This is waaaayyyyy more than the ten chapters the men needed. Could we add additional quality information about topics the men overlooked? Or a prolog, an introduction, an epilog? Guest footnotes?

I know I’m missing someone really important, too. Who is it?

Cross posted at BlogHer.

Web Standards Group Interviews Notre Dame Web Group

An interesting interview by Holly Marie Koltz at the WaSP site: Notre Dame Web Group – The Web Standards Project “The University of Notre Dame Web Group, formed through the Office of Public Affairs is responsible for the production of websites which embrace standards and accessibility at the university-though the work they do does not stop there. The group undertakes work on several strategic fronts, including work experience with student interns and taking part in the CMS procurement process. WaSP EduTF had the fortunate opportunity to interview Steve Smith about what is making a difference at the University of Notre Dame.”

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Why Making Web Pages is So Much Fun

In my life I have attempted all sorts of things that might be termed creative endeavor. I’ve been a writer all my life, filling notebooks that would stack a couple of yards high with handwritten meanderings. I possess yellowed newspaper clippings of articles I wrote for the school newspaper in high school and college. I wrote my first book on my first computer, a Commodore 64, and have the big floppy (truly floppy) discs to prove it.

It is a blessing to readers everywhere that I don’t have the technology to read or print the writing on those old floppy discs, but it was fun writing it at the time. Imagine: 64 K of RAM, no mouse–only arrow keys, and software that would allow me to save 12 whole pages of text in a single file!

I went through a macrame phase and learned to tie every kind of knot that could possibly be incorporated into a wall hanging, a plant hanger, a purse, or a belt.

I went through a pottery phase and learned to throw cups, bowls, plates, and vases which I covered with my favorite glaze–maybe yellow.

I taught in public schools and colleges and spent hours dreaming up creative ideas for lessons, presentations, bulletin boards, and projects. When the cooperative learning movement came along, I had so much fun with it that I wrote several books about teaching writing using cooperative learning.

In 1995 I learned HTML and am still hooked on the creative thrill that comes from making a new web page. I’ve seen it in students, too. They manage to get a few words or an image to appear on a web page and they are thrilled with the achievement. It’s an addictive type of creativity, too, because it is so easy to make changes: instant gratification at the press of a few keys. You simply get lost in it–you are in the zone, oblivious to anything but your creative process.

Of all the creative activities I’ve enjoyed over the years, I am convinced that making web pages is the best and most fun. Maybe I feel that way because I have stayed with it for almost ten years now, a much longer streak of success than I had with macrame or pottery. But that isn’t it. The real reason why making web pages is so wonderful just occurred to me this week.

It occurred to me this week because I am packing to move. I’m downsizing, too. So I’ve been throwing away or donating all sorts of tired old macrame plant hangers and eccentrically shaped mixing bowls and brittle strips of ancient newsprint. Everything I don’t donate or discard, I have to find a place to store: some wall, some cabinet, some shelf, some drawer has to be available to hold this object I created with such a burst of enthusiasm.

That’s when I realized. Web pages don’t take up any space. They are just a few bytes of data on my computer and on a server. Otherwise they are part of the ether: massless, weightless, invisible. They don’t have to be boxed up and moved, they don’t need any wall space or shelf space when I get to my new place. Yet I can get that old creative thrill by producing a new web page at any time. THAT’S why making web pages is so much fun.

What are the conventions of Web Design?

These web sites are identical – or are they? [phnk] This survey compares 10 web sites through elements of their layout: styles, page construction and elements. The survey seeks similarities and differences between those well known web sites, built by famous, talented designers. The finding from this small survey is that the designs resemble themselves very much.

This would be an interesting discussion coupled with some of the ideas in Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think in which he elaborates on the expected aspects of a web page that make it usable.