Ground Control to Zachstronaut: Status Report


Iterative Development

Ground control didn't like zachstronaut sitting on the launch pad with a storm of content brewing just off the coast (there is a lot of stuff I've been eager to post online), so the site blasted off a bit early. Because of this there are a couple of areas in particular that I plan on redesigning and/or re-factoring later: comments and the projects page.

Fixed Positioning Fun

The design for this site — with the rocket that blasts off as you scroll and the lunar horizon that rises to greet you with the footer — was accomplished with some clever use of CSS, specifically: position: fixed; and background-position: fixed; All of the pixel artwork and icons I did by hand. The craters on the moon were especially fun to draw.

Updated: jQuery Animating Same-Page #Links Bugs


Hey, read this first: There has been I'm sure many further enhancements since my patches. I'd check up on the smooth scroll github project hosted by Karl Swedberg. He is the original author of the code that I patched and has been maintaining everything.

Update: I have developed a potential fix for the Opera bug Karl Swedberg discussed in his comment on this post. Update #2: I've made further changes after Karl's second comment.

When designing this site I decided I wanted to animate smoothly scrolling to same-page #links, such as my link to the moon. I decided to use the "improved" version of the animated scrolling code originally written by Karl Swedberg. I've since found two fixed three bugs with this code. Read the rest of this post for the details and fixes.

Video: Frigid Vacuum of Space (aka Minnesota)


On Thursday the air temperature in Minneapolis, MN was -20°F, or really damn cold °C for our European friends. Random fact: -40°F converts to -40°C. Would I lie to you?

My friend Colin sent me a message saying that he was going to try throwing a cup of hot water into the air to make snow. I was skeptical until he said his experiment was a success, at which point I rushed downstairs with a mug of near boiling water. The results were so entertaining that I went back inside for cameras and other water tossing volunteers crazy enough to go outside in this weather. Embedded video evidence after the bump.

3… 2… 1… We have ignition!


zachstronaut is blasting off into the year 2009. I am Zachary Johnson, and welcome to my website. I've launched various web sites going back to 1996, but I didn't have a place to post my many thoughts and projects in geek and software niches such as web design, web application development, and video game experimentation. Now I have that place.

Semantic, Accessible HTML is Good for Business


I had the very big pleasure of speaking at the April 2008 MinneWebCon, the first year of this annual Minneapolis-based web design and development conference. My topic was something I am incredibly passionate about: valid, semantic, accessible (X)HTML. I've been a downright zealous advocate of this in the years leading up to my presentation, and it is something I continue to promote and defend.

The title of my presentation was "Semantic, Accessible HTML is Good for Business." Not only is semantic and accessible markup something that is technically and academically superior, but it bridges the gap into every day reality by being financially and strategically advantageous.

Here is the abstract I submitted for this talk:

With wide support for CSS by today's browsers, you can make your visual design a reality and use semantic, accessible HTML. This session explores what semantic HTML is, describes the business returns you can get from designing with standards, and demonstrates how CSS enables you to honor your visual web designs with even strict semantic markup and advanced accessibility considerations in place.

Please check out my full slide deck online.

For those of you who don't like reading, here are some of those business reasons for semantic, accessible markup straight from my conclusion slide:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Speak Google's language so it can send people to your site.
Accessibility - Legal and Ethical Mandate
Spend less money on lawyers and feel good, too.
Accessibility - Mobile Devices, Future Uses
Takes almost no effort, so why not?
Quick and Easy (Cheap) Redesigns
Leave more time for innovation, or redesign more often.

One could certainly add a couple more things to this list, namely:

  • CSS layouts created with semantic markup use less bandwidth than old crufty <table> layout code
  • Valid, semantic markup plays nicely with JavaScript, including great libraries and extensions (e.g. jQuery).

One last cool tidbit of information about all of this is a small personal joy. I actually spoke immediately after Eric Meyer's morning keynote on the exact same stage as him! Pretty cool experience. For the record, he's a pretty swell guy.