Taglines and Truisms, and ten years of 24ways

Ten years ago, in 2005, my friend Drew MacLellan asked if I would contribute a short article to the then new 24ways, “advent calendar for web geeks” and “a daily dose of web design and development goodness” throughout December.

At the time I’d just finished a design for a company I owned and had written about some of the techniques I’d used in my chapter of the ‘Web Standards Creativity’ book. It made sense to expand on those techniques for 24ways, so I wrote about CSS’ z-index property and stole my title from Pulp Fiction, ‘Z’s not dead baby, Z’s not dead’.

It’s funny looking back, but ten years ago, few people understood CSS positioning very well and fewer understood the z-index. It’s also fun to see me predicting that:

In combination with alpha transparency support for PNG images in IE7 and full implementation of position property values, the stacking of elements with z-index is going to be big.

Every year, Drew asked for a new article and so in 2006 I wrote about using CSS to embed ‘Production Notes’ into HTML prototypes, something that I’d left out of my ‘Transcending CSS’ book.

In 2007 I was speaking at conferences about comic book inspired layouts and so wrote about that in ‘Underpants Over My Trousers.’

2008 was a big year as it was then that I used 24ways to open source my now popular ‘Contract Killer’ contract. It’s since been used around the world by thousands of web designers and developers and is one of the things that I am most proud of in my career.

In 2009, in the run up to writing my second book, ‘Hardboiled Web Design,’ I shared ‘Ignorance Is Bliss,’ a story about how much to tell clients about differences in a design between browsers. It was a controversial article with 139 comments posted in the week that comments were open.

I carried on the progressive enhancement discussion a year later in ‘Circles of Confusion’ where I applied a photographic term to the fidelity of design on the web.

In 2011 I explained that ‘There’s No Formula for Great Designs’ and discussed how we can achieve “a feeling of natural balance between elements and the grid they’re placed on.”

In 2012, weeks before Anna and I launched our Unfinished Business podcast, I wrote about why there’s really no such thing as “too expensive” and how to address that in conversations with clients over money. I titled the post ‘Monkey business” as that was going to be the name of our podcast. Weeks later, we discovered another podcast with the same name, so changed it to ‘Unfinished Business.’

Last year, in ‘The Command Position Principle’ I wrote about how to take a ‘commanding’ position in negotiations with clients and now this year, the tenth year I’ve been writing for 24ways, I’ve written about ‘Taglines and Truisms,’ how we should use something that’s true about us to write a tagline that helps potential clients to understand who we are and what we do.

Start by writing a list of truisms about your company. Write as many as you can, but then whittle that list down to just one, the most important truth. Work on that truism to create a tagline that’s meaningful, difficult to be argue with and, above all, uniquely yours.

I’m very proud to have contributed to 24ways for the last ten years and proud to be associated with an industry project that’s maintained such a high standard and enthusiastic following. Happy tenth anniversary 24ways and a very happy Christmas to all of you.


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