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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

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CSS Sprites: Useful Technique, or Potential Nuisance?

Ah, the ubiquitous CSS sprites — one of the few web design techniques that was able to bypass "trend" status almost instantly, planting itself firmly into the category of best practice CSS. Although it didn't really take off until well after A List Apart explained and endorsed it, it was discussed as a CSS solution as early as July, 2003 by Petr Stanícek.

YSlow

Most web developers today have a fairly strong grasp of this technique, and there have been countless tutorials and articles written on it. In almost every one of those tutorials, the claim is made that designers and developers should be implementing CSS sprites in order to minimize HTTP requests and save valuable kilobytes. This technique has been taken so far that many sites, including Amazon, now use mega sprites.

Is this much-discussed benefit really worthwhile? Are designers jumping on the CSS sprite bandwagon without a careful consideration of all the factors? In this article, I'm going to discuss some of the pros and cons of using CSS sprites, focusing particularly on the use of "mega" sprites, and why such use of sprites could in many cases be a waste of time.

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Print Magazines for Web Designers, Digital Artists, and Photographers

Although much valuable information for all sorts of web and print professionals can be found online, it is often difficult to weed through all the noise and find good quality content. I believe it's vital that professionals in different creative fields supplement their online learning and research through well-edited and high-quality print publications.

.net / Practical Web Design .Net / Practical Web Design

Print magazines, more often than not, are well-researched and are headed by top-notch editorial staff, usually containing information and resources on the cutting edge of their respective industries' trends and happenings. To that end, to help you fulfill part of your offline research needs, I've compiled a list of print magazines that are of interest to professionals in three different categories: Web Designers, Digital Artists, and Photographers. And be sure to comment so you can tell us your personal favourite print magazine, if you don't see it listed here.

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Don’t Touch That Dial — Lessons Web Designers Can Learn From Television Broadcasts

Each year, the battle for television ratings begins. Networks unveil their latest creations, jockeying for position in the ratings race, doing everything and anything within their means to gain and keep as many viewers as possible. Months, sometimes years of planning, preparation, marketing, shooting, and editing are laid bare on the "tube" for all to see. Some shows fail miserably and are cancelled after a few months. Others thrive, and become the next big thing. They all hope to become the next American Idol.

Google on an Television

Television broadcasts continue to have a major impact on society — both in positive and negative ways. Whether you have a long-standing love affair with your television set, or you just use it to kill the monotony when you're taking a break from the internet, I'm sure you'll agree that, due to the overwhelming impact TV has had on modern society (and on television producers' pocketbooks), techniques and principles unique to television broadcast production and marketing are worth examining.

Let's see if there are lessons to be learned from the television broadcasting medium that can be applied to web development, design, and related fields.

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The Case Against Vertical Navigation

In a recent article about unusable and superficial beer and alcohol websites, I made the claim that using left-hand vertical navigation is an out-of-date method in modern web design. In the comments, a few people wondered why I said this. I was surprised that it got any attention at all, because it was a brief comment in the article, and didn't constitute a substantial part of the argument I had put forth. Nonetheless, I decided to write an article describing what I feel is a solid case against using vertical navigation in modern web design.

Poli Maraton

Naturally there are exceptions to every rule, and I'll discuss those briefly at the end. But first I'm going to present five reasons why vertical navigation should not be used and why designers and architects should almost always construct their sites with horizontal navigation in mind.

It should be noted here that when I refer to "vertical navigation", I'm talking about the top-level, primary means of navigating a website. This would not include left or right sidebars that have secondary links and call-to-action areas that are perfectly acceptable in many circumstances.

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Styling HTML Lists with CSS: Techniques and Resources

In an online world now dominated by CSS layouts, CSS-styled HTML lists have become invaluable tools in a CSS developer's toolbox, due to the HTML lists versatile and graphically flexible nature. All this despite some of the obvious browser inconsistencies that can affect the styling of the different types of lists available in HTML coding.

Stepmenu in Styling HTML Lists with CSS: Techniques and Resources

If you're new to CSS, this article should provide a good overview of the different types of lists available, as well as some of the browser quirks that occur in relation to HTML lists, with some helpful advice that should prevent those quirks from becoming major road blocks to good design.

In addition, we'll look at a showcase of various uses, techniques, and tutorials that utilize HTML lists. All of this should put strong emphasis on the importance of using lists in modern web design, reminding even experienced coders how HTML lists can improve the flexibility and maintainability of a website.

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The Unusable and Superficial World of Beer and Alcohol Websites

I was pretty excited when I came up with the idea of examining and showcasing some of the most famous beer and alcohol-related websites from a number of countries around the world. After all, who doesn't like the odd drink now and again? (Well, besides me — I can't stand alcohol in any form.) Surely this would make for an interesting article that would elicit quite a few comments. Well, if that's the result, it wouldn't be for the reasons I suspected when beginning to research this piece.

Corona Age Verification Screen

Instead, I've concluded — due to problems related to typography, accessibility, and usability — that the apparent "beauty" present on many of the websites related to this industry is merely "skin deep". To put it quite bluntly, the designers and developers in the beer and alcohol website industry should be ashamed of themselves for creating such horrendous user experiences. My analysis here will attempt to inspire modern-day designers and developers to avoid imitating the superficial design and development techniques employed by these web professionals.

But I won't just focus on the negative. There are some positive things to be mentioned, and a showcase of some of the nice sites is certainly in order, so that will round out the article (and might even fool a few of the "I'm here for the pictures" visitors).

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Designing Websites for Kids: Trends and Best Practices

How would you like to design a beautiful, colorful, stimulating website that is captivating, memorable, and allows you to let your creative juices flow without the need to worry too much about usability and best practices? In today's web design market, it's rare that such a project would present itself — unless you were asked to design a website for children!

Club Penguin

Websites designed for children have been largely overlooked in web design articles and design roundups, but there are many beautiful and interesting design elements and layouts presented on children's websites that are worthy of discussion and analysis. There are also a number of best practices that are exclusive to web design for children's sites — practices that should usually not be attempted on a typical website.

This article will showcase a number of popular commercial websites targeted towards children, with an analysis of trends, elements, and techniques used to help keep children interested and stimulated.

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