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You should write about topics that keep you up at night, passions that make you the first to show up in the office each morning, ideas that matter to our community and about which you have a story to tell or an insight to share.
We’re not looking for case studies about your company or thousand-foot overviews of topics most ALA readers already know about (i.e., you don’t have to tell A List Apart readers that Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web). But you also don’t have to write earth-shaking manifestos or share new ways of working that will completely change the web. A good strong idea, or detailed advice about an industry best practice make excellent ALA articles.
Where we’ve been
Although A List Apart covers everything from accessible UX and product design to advanced typography and content and business strategy, the sweet spot for an A List Apart article is one that combines UI design (and design thinking) with front-end code, especially when it’s innovative. Thus our most popular article of the past ten years was Ethan Marcotte’s “Responsive Web Design”—a marriage of design and code, accessible to people with diverse backgrounds at differing levels of expertise.
In the decade-plus before that, our most popular articles were Douglas Bowman’s “Sliding Doors of CSS” and Dan Cederholm’s “Faux Columns”—again, marriages of design and code, and mostly in the nature of clever workarounds (because CSS in 2004 didn’t really let us design pages as flexibly and creatively, or even as reliably, as we wanted to).
From hacks to standards
Although clever front-end tricks like Sliding Doors, and visionary re-imaginings of the medium like Responsive Web Design, remain our most popular offerings, the magazine has offered fewer of them in recent years, focusing more on UX and strategy. To a certain extent, if a front-end technique isn’t earth-changing (i.e., isn’t more than just a technique), and if it isn’t semantic, inclusive, accessible, and progressively enhanced, we don’t care how flashy it is—it’s not for us.
The demand to create more powerful layouts was also, in a real way, satisfied by the rise of frameworks and shared libraries—another reason for us to have eased off front-end tricks (although not all frameworks and libraries are equally or in some cases even acceptably semantic, inclusive, accessible, and progressively enhanced—and, sadly, many of their users don’t know or care).
It will be interesting to see what happens to the demand for layout hack articles in Medium and web design publications and communities over the next twelve months. It will also be interesting to see what becomes of frameworks now that CSS is so capable. But that’s not our problem. Our problem is finding the best ideas for A List Apart’s readers, and working with the industry’s best old and new writers to polish those ideas to near-perfection.
After all, even more than being known for genius one-offs like Responsive Web Design and Sliding Doors of CSS, A List Apart has spent its life introducing future-friendly, user-focused design advances to this community, i.e., fighting for web standards when table layouts were the rage, fighting for web standards when Flash was the rage, pushing for real typography on the web years before Typekit was a gleam in Jeff Veen’s eye, pushing for readability in layout when most design-y websites thought single-spaced 7px Arial was plenty big enough, promoting accessible design solutions, user-focused solutions, independent content and communities, and so on.
Call to action
Great, industry-changing articles are still what we want most, whether they’re front-end, design, content, or strategy-focused. And changing the industry doesn’t have to mean inventing a totally new way of laying out pages or evaluating client content. It can also mean coming up with a compelling argument in favor of an important but embattled best practice. Or sharing an insightful story that helps those who read it be more empathetic and more ethical in their daily work.
Who will write the next 20 years of great A List Apart articles? That’s where you come in.
Publishing on A List Apart isn’t as easy-peasy as dashing off a post on your blog, but the results—and the audience—are worth it. And when you write for A List Apart, you never write alone: our industry-leading editors, technical editors, and copyeditors are ready to help you polish your best idea from good to great.
Come share with us!