Winter is coming. As April draws to a close and the lakes start to freeze over, we are proud to bring you another installment of Super8: 8 excellent April articles as suggested by the team at August.
Did we miss something important over the past month? Add a comment at the bottom of the article.
1. 15 years of Dao.
Read it here.
It’s rare in this ephemeral digital age that an article is still relevant 15 years down the track. A List Apart examines John Allsopp’s impressively prophetic article, A Dao of Web Design, first published in 2000.
15 Years of Dao is a collection of excerpts and testimonials from various writers and digital professionals all of which reinforce the importance of Allsopp’s original article, even today. Dan Cederholm, cofounder and designer of Dribbble, writes:
“I often revisit John’s article when I need a reality check about what the heck we’re all creating here … The more people read it – and really understand it – the better the web will be.”
It’s great to get an array of perspectives on one of the most influential and enduring articles in the field of web design. The interpretations serve to underline the inspiration and astonishing number of insights that can be pulled from one well-reasoned piece of writing.
2. How to write with substance.
Read it here.
Most writers (including me) are guilty of this from time to time. Guilty of letting our ego get in the way of our message. In trying to sound knowledgeable at the cost of comprehension. In souring our thoughts through attempts to impress.
We often enter thought cycles where we repeat points when we should aim to use the right words the first time.
Writing is difficult, there’s no doubt about that. But Gregory Ciotti asserts that, like a sculptor, we should look to chip away from the raw material of our writing; slowly, steadily, until only the essential substance remains.
A great read for any writer looking to improve (aren’t we all?), Ciotti offers practical tips and tricks for getting the job done. Tips such as imagining you are writing for a person you know well, as opposed to a faceless, ambiguous audience. From building structure to earning and re-earning your readers’ attention, this article provides great insight and actionable advice.
3. Leading teams.
Read it here.
What is strong leadership? What are the values or qualities that underpin a great leader? Why do people who seem to embody all the qualities we usually associate with leadership sometimes struggle to effectively mobilise team efforts?
These are the kinds of questions answered in this Change Factory article. In the instances where leadership appears wanting, they assert it is often due to a lack of three main elements: consistency, congruence and competence.
The article identifies how shortcomings in the team relate to what Change Factory refers to as the ‘three C’s of team leadership’. It’s a simple, practical framework for evaluating what constitutes strong leadership.
4. The old man and the pen.
Read Hear it here.
Nominated by Nancy Csutoros (LinkedIn)
It is so easy to get caught up in the lifestyle of your craft, in the idea of what a certain pursuit is supposed to entail, as is clearly expressed in Robert Bruce’s Allegorical Podcast.
This short story has a strong message for aspiring writers and, for that matter, just about anyone else following a creative pursuit.
It is a message we have all heard before. We all know that success in any venture ultimately comes down to determination and a resolute devotion to your chosen craft.
But the powerful delivery (that voice…) of Bruce’s podcast drives the sentiment home like never before. For god’s sake, don’t waste your life! Let go of the superficial, and remember that being a writer is about writing.
5. Under fire in India: Facebook’s internet.org launches in Indonesia.
Read it here.
Facebook’s contentious venture into philanthropy, Internet.org, launched in Indonesia (population 250 million) back in February. Despite Facebook’s message of improved opportunity and education within the developing world, there have been some real concerns around net neutrality.
Many assert that Facebook is, in essence, creating a separate internet in which they hold plenipotentiary control of the online market in these areas. The argument is whether Facebook is creating an unequal playing field. By handpicking some companies, it is, in effect, limiting the opportunities for local businesses to compete.
Mark Zuckerberg counters this argument. He believes the program is a stepping stone for developing countries, with the initial experience aiming to give many users sufficient incentive to upgrade to full access. For the time being, Zuckerberg says “some connectivity is definitely better than none”. While the internet is not yet financially viable in many developing nations, Facebook holds it gives the public the opportunity to access the internet.
Although first announced back in 2013, this has been a topic of heated debate of late, most likely due to recent marketing and implementation efforts from Facebook.
(For more on the subject of Facebook’s endeavour, listen to Sarah El-Atm’s chat with Patricia Karvelas on the ABC’s RN Drive program).
6. How we gathered 2.7K emails & 6.2K page views in 72hrs spending only $150.
Read it here.
Michael confronts a harsh reality. The best content marketing isn’t the work which costs the most, or in which you’ve spent the most time fine-tuning. It’s not even the work that garners the most industry recognition or wins accolades.
The best content marketing is simply the most efficient – the creation that yields the maximum output from a minimum of input. This is not, however, to say that content should not be high quality, only that the time invested in it justify the means.
Part of accepting this is setting aside any prejudices and hang-ups you may have about certain tactics or types of content. Especially when the data indicates that something works. To take something reliable, something proven, and to put your own spin on it can be a great thing
Michael’s article covers what it takes to create good, effective content. He discusses how to promote it in a way that makes consuming that content an engaging experience for readers – what he refers to as “experiential content with context.”
It’s an excellent case study with plenty of stats and insight to back it up – definitely worth a read.
7. Seven things every designer needs to know about accessibility.
Read it here.
Nominated by Gary Mason (LinkedIn)
In his article for Medium, Jesse Hausler supplies a set of guidelines for web designers that addresses some of the gaps and shortcomings commonly seen in current practices. By building sites in accordance with these guidelines, designers will be able to build sites that meet the standards outlined in Section 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
The most important point made in this article – an insight applicable beyond the area of development – is that constraints, parameters and frameworks, opposed to popular belief, do not restrain creativity. As has been proven time and time again by everyone from advertising experts to child psychologists, having a set of pre-defined rules creates an environment in which creativity thrives. This is because creativity is the process of problem-solving; of finding ways to make things work in spite of limitations.
Beyond this, Hausler also advises that we remember that we are not designing for our peers or colleagues, but for diverse user bases. It’s an outlook as seemingly obvious as it is insightful.
Providing a great selection of resources for testing the accessibility of your site – such as the W3C’s Authoring Practices for Design Patterns, WebAIM’s Colour Contrast Checker or Dragon NaturallySpeaking – this article is useful for everyone looking to improve their knowledge of accessible design.
8. Why design will change the world.
Read it here.
Some might say that Luke Van O has high expectations for design. To say that any one field of knowledge will save the world is a weighty claim. Yet this is exactly what Van O argues in his article for Sex, Drugs & Helvetica.
Understanding a situation within the broader context and finding the right answer is ultimately about asking the right question. Questions are what inform strategic design.
Survival in dynamic industries requires a shift in the way you think about and approach challenges. You can’t bank on loyalty, nor can you live in ignorance of incipient change – you must always strive to ask the right questions. These questions may seem somewhat esoteric and beside the point, such as “why do I exist now, and why should I do so tomorrow”, but they can lead to a surprising clarity of purpose.
Never stop asking questions. Just make sure they are the right questions.