Topically hot

I’m heading up to London for the next few days to soak up all the knowledge being distributed at this year’s Web Directions @media. I wish it weren’t a double-track conference—no-one should have to choose between Lea Verou and Douglas Crockford—but I’ll be doing my best to maximise my knowledge acquisition while fending off feelings of FOMO.

As well as attending, I’m also going to be facilitating. So I’m not just going there as an fomo-ing attendee; I’m also going to be a mofo-ing facilitator.

Yes, it’s that grand ol’ @media institution: The Hot Topics Panel (sszzz!):

A popular @media tradition, hosted by Jeremy Keith, the final session for day one will feature a selection of speakers discussing questions posed by conference attendees. A lively conversation and some passionate debate will occur, so bring along your questions and enjoy the robust discussion.

Last year’s panel was a blast. Now I am rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation. I get to play Wogan again. I have no idea who I’ll pulling up on stage but I’ve quite a stellar list to choose from.

I also have no idea what we’ll be discussing/debating/arguing/quibbling about but I hope that by the time the panel actually starts I will have amassed some suggestions. Conference attendees can provide burning questions on the day, through whatever medium they choose; a tweet, a scrap of paper, a sandwich board.

I’d like to get a head-start on gauging the relative mean temperature of various topics. After all, the nature of the topics should probably influence my decision about who to coerce into getting up on stage with me.

That’s where you come in. What burning web design and development topics are keeping you awake? Is there something that really grinds your gears? Vent for me. Vent into my comment form.

(Yes, comments are open. No, you shouldn’t just write “First!”)

Have you published a response to this? :





# Posted by Chez on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 6:45pm

Alex Mitchell

Something that really bothers me is when people use the Cufon javascript/canvas method of displaying fonts. This causes elements to react slowly to hover effects, scrolls, and the like. Not to mention that in Chrome (I’m not sure about other browsers) Cufon makes the font look really pixelated and hard to read. I’d say having your page run (not load) very slowly is worse than having the wrong font displayed somewhere. Use the @font-face for browsers that support it and have a nice back-up default set of fonts for the rest.

Ben Barnett


I’ve recently worked on new design & build for a high traffic website who have a brand font. This font was available on Fontdeck, which was cool. We used it.

BUT it rendered like poo on Windows XP. On this OS, IE7 actually rendered the font better than the latest Google Chrome. So much so that it wasn’t even legible at sub 14 pixel fonts. Windows 7 was far better however, but a lot of users are still on XP.

This isn’t Fontdeck’s fault. We checked the actual font, and the hinting simply didn’t exist to help out. I agree that the chances are many of the XP users probably couldn’t care less whether they’re seeing the site in the brand font, but still, what’s the best solution?

Do we fork our code and fall back to system fonts on an OS level? @font-face support wouldn’t help us on this.

Do we hack at the font and add the hinting ourselves whilst on paid client time? They didn’t want to pay for it.

I wonder if anyone has found a good solution to this.

Tom Hume

"As the set of languages and considerations required for web development proliferates, View Source becomes increasingly irrelevant and a distraction from building the new tools the web needs. Discuss."

P.S. Massive respect for your "Your website" field in comments requiring me to type "http://" at the start. (I’m only being half-sarcastic, too - its omission is a personal bugbear ;))

# Posted by Tom Hume on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 10:38pm

terence mcmanus

i think if there was an "add audio comment" to blogs.. it would be interesting.. it could be prefaced with a 10 word title ( or something )..i’m not sure if they exist, but it seems it could be easy.

Enrique Gonzalez

Some hot topics that have been keeping me awake in 2010/2011 are:

1) True Responsive Design

What exactly is Responsive Design? What is the most effective way to implement it? Is web design and development utilizing media queries the best way to accomplish this? Or are there better ways to enhance the user experience by transitioning from traditional point and click PCs and web browsers to native mobile platforms/apps and touch interfaces and so on?

2) Designing for Touch and the Future

Touch interfaces are not new, we have applied old design models to touch interfaces. As designers how do we take full advantage of the touch interface? What are good examples of designers pushing things forward? I have 10 fingers, two hands, and two wrists but 99% (not a real stat) I seem to be using only the thumb and index finger of my dominant hand.

3) Social media v. Ownership + Privacy

I am a moderate user of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Linked in and I am afraid of all of them. The #2 in charge of the institution I work for started following me on Twitter yesterday, people keep tagging me on Facebook photos, and publications have inquired to use my photographs on Flickr. These and other social networks provide what I consider to be great benefits but there is also a cost to them which I, and possibly many, are not aware of. I can easily type up a list of questions that I have wondered about in regards to social media but have not bothered to research, I think because for the moment ignorance is bliss.

These are the three topics that immediately came to mind. I hope you find this useful.

# Posted by Enrique Gonzalez on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 6:00am


First!! (Sorry couldn’t help it)

Mobile web is still huge, and is a minefield really, do you go native or web, what frameworks would you use for UI if any. Pros and cons of the big ones, best way to implement them on the web, whether to use progressive enhancement to use the same content, or whether to redirect to a mobile friendly version of the site.

Plus dumb clients always grind my gears, I end up having to spend hours, if not days, talking them through how the web works in a nutshell.

# Posted by Chris on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 11:39am


We need a way to write HTML and CSS at a higher abstraction level. While the language has changed and the markup strategies have changed, the college graduates I’m seeing are still doing things mostly the way I did. Text editor, PHP or SSI for repetitive structures. And a lot of what we’re writing is boilerplate.

But web pages are getting much more complicated and design more advanced and complex, and we’re asking more and more flexibility out of our CMS systems. I’m thinking HTML and CSS might now be too low-level for what we’re trying to accomplish. I’ve been playing with SASS and HAML, and they’re great, but it took a lot of time for me to get those tools integrated into my workflow. Is there a way we can apply DRY principles to static page development, before it gets to the CMS stage?

# Posted by John on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 11:51am

Brad Koehler


I suppose the really obvious topic at current is responsive design. Personally I feel like I should be using it, but I am at current working a contract at a larger financial company where it isn’t really a viable option (due to internal processes) and they don’t like to step away from what they know or take any risk what so ever.

How would you go about selling an idea like responsive design to a big international company? When you aren’t meeting the head honchos, but are infact there with the work force.

Another issue that I personally have is that the industry seems to be moving so fast at the minute that I seem to be sprinting just to keep up, with HTML5, CSS3, Responsive design, Boiler plates popping up left right and center, tonnes of mobile devices to look at and test on. How do you keep up to date, without going insane? I could use a few more hours in the day.

I’m disappointed to not be able to make it to @media but will be scouring the web for videos afterwards



Noisiness of "web celebrities" which, though generally good, sometimes descends into a silly shouting match that, for us generic devs, raises questions over having any respect of your opinions.

(aside) - By this I mean people such as yourself (but not actually you) who either speak at events or participate in the W3 in some way or other. Sometimes it seems like you don’t realise the spectrum of developer types and roles. And that we outnumber you by the thousand.

What’s been at times interesting now looks like the contents of a childish forum with the discussion around hgroup. It really seems that people don’t like hgroup just because, and that’s it. What started as a good discussion around how to implement it or if there was any accessibility worth has turned into a decision that some people have taken to just dislike it, with others joining the band wagon on that basis alone.

Whatever the pros and cons of the element, and this isn’t the place for the discussion (as numerous other blog articles are doing fine on that), the simple fact is that it’s in the spec, just like the marquee tag. I don’t like that one, won’t use it but I’m not so troubled about whether it should be in the spec or not.

What I do want to know and am interested in seeing is how people interpret these new tags, how they may potentially develop (pathing the cowpaths rather than forcing a particular route).

It would be more productive if high profile developers left their personal opinions to the pub and spent their efforts helping (as the HTML5 doctors do) people figure out how to use the new tags in projects, how to change client thinking over to responsive web design and so on. This is a lot more constructive than taking a personal gripe to make a mountain out of a molehill.

The same could be said for IE (it’s not that bad, especially the current version) and a whole range of other topics. Sure point out the bad parts but weigh it up with some constructive criticism and (shock horror) something nice too.

# Posted by graham on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 12:05pm

James Childers

Topics on my mind lately:

  1. Teaching clients how to use a CMS. Seems impossible. They never fully grasp the concept.
  2. Using boilerplate code templates… good, bad, does it matter?
  3. Responsive Design best practices.
  4. Mobile JavaScript solutions such as Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile.
  5. Creating HTML5-based mobile applications using PhoneGap.


The future of ruby on rails, just another framework for us developers to beat? You have mastered SQL and RoR comes along and has it’s one way, when do frameworks enable and when do they ‘disable’ the developer?

# Posted by Nadine on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 1:14pm

Nicole Sullivan

Lea Verou says on her gradients site that "the number of gradients and color stops [needs to be] worth the effect". I wonder how she handles that trade-off, what the edge cases look like, and how big is too big for a CSS3 image replacement?

Stephanie Sullivan - How do you handle fallbacks for CSS animations? To what extent do you try to give users of older browsers the same experience?

Relly Annett-​​Baker - How is mobile be different from the desktop experience? (actually, I’d love for all of the speakers to answer that)

Dave Balmer - How do you gracefully degrade the user experience when you have insufficient frame rates to handle full animation?

All of the above - what is the coolest thing they have seen done with CSS 3?

Al Stevens

Hello Jeremy,

I would ask: "Is designing for mobile a red herring?".

# Posted by Al Stevens on Friday, May 27th, 2011 at 1:42pm

Previously on this day

13 years ago I wrote South Parking

In which I spend a day in the epicentre of geekdom.

14 years ago I wrote That syncing feeling

I’ve been getting my emails, contacts and calendars in order.

17 years ago I wrote Cameras are kryptonite to Starbucks

I had no idea when this picture was taken that I was opening myself up to a potential tirade from a Starbucks manager. Lawrence Lessig has the story: