Web Fonts & Typography: The Good & The Bad

A few weeks ago, there was some minor buzz about fonts and typography on the web. The story centered on the new updates on Firefox to support the @font-face rule in CSS. This rule can enable fonts from a remote location to be downloaded and rendered by the webpage calling it. (The status quo is that the fonts must reside in the user’s local machine in order to be used.)

To be honest, I’m over the fence over this development.

On one hand, I’m really looking forward to the use of new fonts as a native capability of web designers. The potential is just immense– designers will no longer be captive to the likes of Verdana, Georgia, Arial, and Tahoma, work-arounds such as image replacement techniques will be a thing of the past, and this may even open up new opportunities for font foundries. Accessibility-wise, tons of images as text will give way to properly styled text.

On the other, there are two main issues that keeps me from doing cartwheels all over the place: a) The potential misuse of the fonts, opening a Pandora’s box of new usability problems and even security issues; and b) the DRM of the web fonts. (How will people pay for the fonts & bandwidth?)

These two issues have the potential to be deal breakers but there are possible solutions to them.

For the usability issues, this puts the onus on browser makers to put better font override features to turn-off #font-face rendering. Designers must also anticipate the use of standard fonts as a replacement to the non-standard fonts.

The DRM issue is a little trickier. I seriously doubt that foundries will just give up their fonts– unless there’s a sponsor involved. Perhaps a company like Adobe or Google can sponsor fonts for designers. Another possible model is licensing where the company’s font servers can allow/disallow access to the typefaces based on a registry of licensed websites.

I’m pretty sure that the direction of web fonts & typography will go towards the @font-face direction, and I do hope that the stumbling blocks will be overcome.

I’m honored: Standard Web Standards Recognized as “Disabled-Friendly”

I’m very proud to share that Standard Web Standards was recently recognized by a body comprised of government agencies and non-government organizations for its web accessibility features.

The Philippines’ National Council on Disabiliy Affairs, National Computer Center of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, Vision Office Support Services Ltd. and the Philippine Web Accessibility Group gave several websites commendations during the form function & class Web Conference last July 10, 2009.Plaques were presented to the website owners for including accessibility features, and promoting web standards, usability and accessibility.

The other websites that were recognized as “disabled-friendly” were:

  1. http://www.philcecnet.ph – Official Philippine E-centerCommunity Portal of the National Computer Center represented byDr. Angelo Juan Ramos (Government)
  2. http://www.blinding-light.com – Personal Website of Ms.MikoReznor (Anna Monica Esguerra)
  3. http://www.lilianefoundationphil.org – Official Website ofLiliane Foundation Philippines represented by Sis. AgnetiaNaval, National Coordinator (Non-government Organization)

Disabled-friendly awards winners

Awardees (from left): Regnard Raquedan, Eloisa San Mateo, Sis. Agnetia Naval, Anna Monica Esguerra, Jojo Esposa of PWAG and NCDA Executive Director Geraldine Ruiz (seated)

I’d like to thank the agencies for the honor and recognition of the extra effort I put in to make my blog more accessible. 😀

(Photo from Jojo Esposa’s Picasa Web Album)

form function & class Web Design Conference All Set!

After several months of preparation, planning and the occasional frustration, the form function & class Web Design Conference is all set on July 10, 2009 at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

Just a few more reminders to those who will be attending the event:

  • Payment – Early payment can be done at the AIM Marketing office (3rd floor). Look for Ms. Mel Solomon for the payment of cash or check (payable to the Philippine Web Designers Organization). Online and bankd deposit options are available. Please visit the confirmation site for more information on the payment schemes.
  • Lunch – Many people have been asking, so here’s a clarification: lunch will be served at the event.
  • Adobe CS4 Raffle – Only those who have registered at the Adobe User Group – Philippines Adobe Groups site and present at the event are the ones eligible. The cut-off for membership is at 12nn on July 10, 2009. The final list of entries will be based on the people who are physically present in the event.
  • Google AdWords vouchers – Only the first 100 non-student registrants will get a Google AdWords voucher. We will have different registration tables for those who have reserved & paid/not paid and walk-ins. We have developed a system to give everyone a fair chance to get a Google AdWords voucher, regardless if you have paid or not.
  • Additional Slots – We initially booked the event to have 400 slots, but dur to the demand, we have increased it by 50. Still, folks who would like to come must reserve a slot at the confirmation site.

For more information on the event, feel free to email me or post a comment on this blog post. 🙂

Spoke at the 14th Graphic Expo

I was invited to give a couple of talks in behalf of the Philippine Web Designers Organization (PWDO) at the 14th Graphic Expo in Pasay City. The talks I gave centered on two aspects of what I’m very much interested in: Web Standards and Freelancing for the Web. Those two speaking slots were held on two different days, but the weather was just bad (like storm-like bad).

For the Web Standards talk, the audience was primarily non-web designers, but potential clients of web designers. (I initially thought I would be educating designers, but it was OK.)I had to adjust the talk to focus more on the benefits of looking for designers or companies that used Web Standards. I pointed out things like the ease of maintenance, the potential cost-savings on hosting & bandwidth, and the workflow benefits. If Web Standards were a product, I was like a salesman for it. 😛

On the next talk, I gave a talk about working freelance and doing web projects. It was less technical, but equally interesting. Personally, the talk was easy to prepare for because most of the content and stories were from my own personal experiences (Like working with web design clients from hell :P). It also helped that I shared some “serious” business-related stuff I learned from my MBA studies, but I think what resonated was the true-to-life stories of freelancing.

After the talks, I realized that the Graphic Expo is a good venue for PWDO to promote itself and its mission. Since the Graphic Expo is one of the biggest trade shows in the Philippines on print & digital graphics, I seriously believe that this year’s event won’t be the last PWDO will be participating in.

On a side note, thanks to Jonel Uy for the post on the Graphic Expo launch.

Whoa! A New Search Engine? (Wolfram Alpha)

In the past couple of weeks, a new search tool had been getting a lot of internet ink: Wolfram Alpha.

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is a tool that makes its distinction by not scouring through billions and billions of pages, but rather computing the response on the fly. Meaning, if you type in an item, say “internet users,” Wolfram Alpha will compute, or piece together its reponse from its data banks. In contrast, Google (and any other search engine) will return existing web pages it deems best fit to the search query.

This is an intersting take on the evolution of “answer engines”. People usually seek the help of search engines to get the answer for a particular problem and Wolfram Alpha ups the ante by deriving the answer by itself, rather than taking a backward-looking approach.

What does the future hold? Perhaps search engines that can “predict” things based on artificial intelligence.

Smart Sandbox: When Cross-platform Integration has Issues

In the past week,Smart Communications launched Sandbox, The Philippine telecoms giant’s entry into the local social network scene. Sandbox boasts an integrated social community on the web and mobile platforms. From the Sandbox site’s own words:

Sandbox is a portal that brings all content and services you love on the web all in one place.

In Sandbox, you can create your own profile and update your status for your friends to see. You can upload and view photos and videos, write a blog or join a forum discussion. You can also go shopping on line. You can send and receive email and download music, games and various other content.

I’ve been part of the beta testing group and I’ve had the chance to use it before the public launch. So, is Sandbox any good?

Here are some blog posts to give you an idea how the site is:

For a local social network, it’s pretty ambitious because it’s trying to wean mobile phone users into using an integrated web & mobile service. From a usability point of view, the service has to be very seamless and the whole process of transitioning should be efficient and satisfying. And this includes proper error handling.

But if you look at one of the crucial functionalities, Sandbox falls pretty flat.

The functionality I’m talking about is the password retrieval system and basic support.

If you forgot your password, Sandbox will only send your password to your mobile phone. Hypothetically, that shouldn’t be a problem, but for the last few days, I have yet to receive the password from the mobile number I registered.

In addition to that, there is a more grave flaw: the lack of an easy way to contact the Sandbox site support staff for help. If you look hard enough, you will discover in the site’s FAQs that you need to send an email to a certain address to be able to contact Smart. Apart from your call for help, you have to send a screenshot of your problem. Can you imagine succesful social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn putting the burden completely on the user to provide the information to get support?

The fact that there are issues with the web & mobile integration means that support & sufficient user feedback mechanisms should be in place to make it easier for new users. Seemingly little things like these make the user experience a much more painless and satisfying one.

I’ve already given some recommendations in improving the navigation, particularly in the mobile platform. I’ve gone as fas as recommending the delay of the launch unless these issues were solved.The site went live with most of the issues still there.

Way to go Smart.

function() & .class Web Design Conference

I’m pleased to share the launch of the Philippine Web Designers Organization‘s big event for 2009: the<form> function & .class Web Design Conference.

The event will on July 10, 2009 at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, Philippines. The conference aims to get every web designer in the Philippines, experienced and beginning, together and spend a day of learning and networking. The event’s program is as follows:

  • 8:00am-8:45am – Registration
  • 8:45am-9:00am – Opening Remarks and Introduction to PWDO bySophia Lucero
  • 9:00am-9:45am – Design 101 byRico Sta. Cruz
  • 10:00am-10:45am – Interaction Design by Nap Lara
  • 11:00am-11:45am – Web Standards, Accessibility and Usability byRegnard Raquedan
  • 12:00nn-12:45pm – Lunch
  • 12:45pm-1:15pm – Disabled Friendly Awards byJojo Esposa
  • 1:15pm-2:00pm – Sponsor Talks
  • 2:00pm-2:45pm – Workflow byMarco Palinar
  • 3:00pm-3:45pm – Industry Tips byGail dela Cruz-Villanueva
  • 4:00pm-4:45pm – State of the Web byLuis Buenaventura II
  • 4:45pm-5:15pm – Panel Q&A

We’re now busy marketing the event and looking for sponsors, and we need all the help we can get. If you know of a company that will benefit from reaching 400 young & tech-savvy folks in one single venue, please direct them to the event website. I guarantee that it will go a long way in helping the Philippine Web Design community. 🙂