An Event Apart: Hardboiled Web Design

by Luke Wroblewski May 25, 2010

In his Hardboiled Web Design presentation at An Event Apart in Boston, MA Andy Clarke stressed the importance of designing from the top down to create awesome Web experiences that take advantage of the latest capabilities of CSS. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • Heroes matter because they give people hope in a resolution or a better future. We root for heroes because we need them to show us the way. We should be informed by rules but never constrained by them.
  • Many people think we can’t start using CSS3 yet. And when we do, we can only do small things like adding rounded corners and drop shadows. There’s a lack of enthusiasm to do much better.
  • Progressive enhancement was first coined seven years ago. There is a lot of good intention in starting with basic mark-up and layering on presentation, then adding interactions. The mistake we make is treating visual design the same way.
  • Progressive enrichment: is treating design elements as visual rewards for people whose browsers that can support them.
  • We are restricting ourselves from the creative possibilities possible in CSS3. The limitations are not technical, they are in our heads. Internet Explorer is not holding us back –the way we think about things is. We need to change how we communicate Web design to clients and bosses.
  • The fact that Web designs have to look the same in every browser is dated and needs to change. It just can’t happen. Different browsers have different capabilities based on when they are released and who made them. We just have to accept this.
  • There is no such thing as a CSS3 standard. It is intentionally broken up into a series of modules that browser manufacturers can choose to implement if they wish.
  • W3C is not an innovation body. They do not develop standards that everyone that goes and implements. Instead it is a group of companies that lobby for specific features and competitive advantage.
  • We need to ignore the politics and use all the tools we can to create incredible designs for the Web. Design for the best browsers, then think intelligently about what happens with browsers with limited capabilities.
  • CSS3 selectors allow you to avoid using lots of presentation classes. Keep mark-up lean, small, and portable. Allow CSS selectors to manage presentation details. Nth-type selector gives you some more control then Nth child.
  • Each interface should be appropriate to the capabilities of the software people are using. NO one will know that things that don’t look the same in other browsers. People use one browser.
  • What does browser testing mean when things are built for the capabilities of the browser? You can’t just check for pixel-specific layout. Previously, there was not as much variation in browsers. But now there is a lot capability differences.
  • If we write hacks to make things look good in IE, what is Microsoft’s incentive to make their browser better? Please say no to Microsoft filters.
  • We have a huge potential to design a lot of amazing stuff using CSS3 stuff now. Not just visual treats but fundamentally different designs across the browsers.
  • People are not hiring us to show up, but to lead. Develop more forward-looking approaches. Stop developing by looking backward.