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169 Incite A Riot Given its relatively limited scope, HTML can be remarkably expressive. With a bit of lateral thinking, we can mark up content such as tag clouds and progress meters, even when we don’t have explicit HTML elements for those patterns. Suppose we want to mark up a short conversation: Alice: I think Eve is watching. Bob: This isn’t a cryptography tutorial …we’re in the wrong example! A note in the the HTML 4.01 spec says it’s okay to use a definition list: Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words. That would give us: <dl> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dl> This usage of a definition list is proof that writing W3C specifications and smoking crack are not mutually exclusive activities. “I think Eve is watching” is not a definition of “Alice.” If you (ab)use a definition list in this way, Norm will hunt you down. The conversation problem was revisited in HTML5. What if dt and dd didn’t always mean “definition title” and “definition description”? A new element was forged: dialog. Now the the “d” in dt and dd doesn’t stand for “definition”, it stands for “dialog” (or “dialogue” if you can spell): <dialog> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dialog> Problem solved …except that dialog is no longer in the HTML5 spec. Hixie further expanded the meaning of dt and dd so that they could be used inside details (which makes sense—it starts with a “d”) and figure (…um). At the same time as the content model of details and figure were being updated, the completely-unrelated dialog element was dropped. Back to the drawing board, or in this case, the HTML 4.01 specification. The spec defines the cite element thusly: Contains a citation or a reference to other sources. Perfect! There’s even an … 2009 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2009-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 code
170 A Pet Project is For Life, Not Just for Christmas I’m excited: as December rolls on, I’m winding down from client work and indulging in a big pet project I’ve been dreaming up for quite some time, with the aim of releasing it early next year. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for pet projects and currently have a few in the works: the big one, two collaborations with friends, and my continuing (and completely un-web-related) attempt at music. But when I think about the other designers and developers out there whose work I admire, one thing becomes obvious: they’ve all got pet projects! Look around the web and you’ll see that anyone worth their salt has some sort of side project on the go. If you don’t have yours yet, now’s the time! Have a pet project to collaborate with your friends It’s not uncommon to find me staring at my screen, looking at beautiful websites my friends have made, grinning inanely because I feel so honoured to know such talented individuals. But one thing really frustrates me: I hardly ever get to work with these people! Sure, there are times when it’s possible to do so, but due to various project situations, it’s a rarity. So, in order to work with my friends, I’ve found the best way is to instigate the collaboration outside of client work; in other words, have a pet project together! Free from the hard realities of budgets, time restraints, and client demands, you and your friends can come up with something purely for your own pleasures. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to work with other designers or developers whose work you love, the pet project is that excuse. They don’t necessarily have to be friends, either: if the respect is mutual, it can be a great way of breaking the ice and getting to know someone. Figure 1: A forthcoming secret love-child from myself and Tim Van Damme Have a pet project to escape from your day job We all like to moan about our clients and bosses, don’t we? But if leaving your job or firing your evil client just isn’t an option, why not escape from all that and pour your creative energies into somet… 2009 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2009-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 business
171 Rock Solid HTML Emails At some stage in your career, it’s likely you’ll be asked by a client to design a HTML email. Before you rush to explain that all the cool kids are using social media, keep in mind that when done correctly, email is still one of the best ways to promote you and your clients online. In fact, a recent survey showed that every dollar spent on email marketing this year generated more than $40 in return. That’s more than any other marketing channel, including the cool ones. There are a whole host of ingredients that contribute to a good email marketing campaign. Permission, relevance, timeliness and engaging content are all important. Even so, the biggest challenge for designers still remains building an email that renders well across all the popular email clients. Same same, but different Before getting into the details, there are some uncomfortable facts that those new to HTML email should be aware of. Building an email is not like building for the web. While web browsers continue their onward march towards standards, many email clients have stubbornly stayed put. Some have even gone backwards. In 2007, Microsoft switched the Outlook rendering engine from Internet Explorer to Word. Yes, as in the word processor. Add to this the quirks of the major web-based email clients like Gmail and Hotmail, sprinkle in a little Lotus Notes and you’ll soon realize how different the email game is. While it’s not without its challenges, rest assured it can be done. In my experience the key is to focus on three things. First, you should keep it simple. The more complex your email design, the more likely is it to choke on one of the popular clients with poor standards support. Second, you need to take your coding skills back a good decade. That often means nesting tables, bringing CSS inline and following the coding guidelines I’ll outline below. Finally, you need to test your designs regularly. Just because a template looks nice in Hotmail now, doesn’t mean it will next week. Setting your lowest common denominator To maintain … 2009 David Greiner davidgreiner 2009-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 code
172 The Construction of Instruction If the world were made to my specifications, all your clients would be happy to pay for a web writer to craft every sentence into something as elegant as it was functional, and the client would have planned the content so that you had it just when you asked, but we both know that won’t happen every time. Sometimes you just know they are going to write the About page, two company blog pages and a Facebook fan page before resigning their position as chief content writer and you are going to end up filling in all the details that will otherwise just be Lorem Ipsum. Welcome to the big world of microcopy: A man walks into a bar. The bartender nods a greeting and watches as the man scans the bottles behind the bar. “Er, you have a lot of gin here. Is there one you would recommend?” “Yes sir.” Long pause. “… Never mind, I’ll have the one in the green bottle.” “Certainly, sir. But you can’t buy it from this part of the bar. You need to go through the double doors there.” “But they look like they lead into the kitchen.” “Really, sir? Well, no, that’s where we allow customers to purchase gin.” The man walks through the doors. On the other side he is greeted by the same bartender. “Y-you!” he stammers but the reticent bartender is now all but silent. Unnerved, the man points to a green bottle, “Er, I’d like to buy a shot of that please. With ice and tonic water.” The bartender mixes the drink and puts it on the bar just out of the reach of the man and looks up. “Um, do you take cards?” the man asks, ready to present his credit card. The bartender goes to take the card to put it through the machine. “Wait! How much was it – with sales tax and everything? Do you take a gratuity?” The bartender simply shrugs. The man eyes him for a moment and decides to try his luck at the bar next door. In the Choose Your Own Adventure version of this story there are plenty of ways to stop the man giving up. You could let him buy the gin right where he was; you could make the price more obvious; you could signpost the pla… 2009 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2009-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 content
173 Real Fonts and Rendering: The New Elephant in the Room My friend, the content strategist Kristina Halvorson, likes to call content “the elephant in the room” of web design. She means it’s the huge problem that no one on the web development team or client side is willing to acknowledge, face squarely, and plan for. A typical web project will pass through many helpful phases of research, and numerous beneficial user experience design iterations, while the content—which in most cases is supposed to be the site’s primary focus—gets handled haphazardly at the end. Hence, elephant in the room, and hence also artist Kevin Cornell’s recent use of elephantine imagery to illustrate A List Apart articles on the subject. But I digress. Without discounting the primacy of the content problem, we web design folk have now birthed ourselves a second lumbering mammoth, thanks to our interest in “real fonts on the web“ (the unfortunate name we’ve chosen for the recent practice of serving web-licensed fonts via CSS’s decade-old @font-face declaration—as if Georgia, Verdana, and Times were somehow unreal). For the fact is, even bulletproof and mo’ bulletproofer @font-face CSS syntax aren’t really bulletproof if we care about looks and legibility across browsers and platforms. Hyenas in the Breakfast Nook The problem isn’t just that foundries have yet to agree on a standard font format that protects their intellectual property. And that, even when they do, it will be a while before all browsers support that standard—leaving aside the inevitable politics that impede all standardization efforts. Those are problems, but they’re not the elephant. Call them the coyotes in the room, and they’re slowly being tamed. Nor is the problem that workable, scalable business models (of which Typekit‘s is the most visible and, so far, the most successful) are still being shaken out and tested. The quality and ease of use of such services, their stability on heavily visited sites (via massively backed-up server clusters), and the fairness and sustainability of their pricing will determine how lice… 2009 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2009-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 design
174 Type-Inspired Interfaces One of the things that terrifies me most about a new project is the starting point. How is the content laid out? What colors do I pick? Once things like that are decided, it becomes significantly easier to continue design, but it’s the blank page where I spend the most time. To that end, I often start by choosing type. I don’t need to worry about colors or layout or anything else… just the right typefaces that support the art direction. (This article won’t focus on how to choose a typeface, but there are some really great resources if you interested in that sort of thing.) And just like that, all your work is done. “Hold it just a second,” you might say. “All I’ve done is pick type. I still have to do the rest!” To which I would reply, “Silly rabbit. You already have!” You see, picking the right typeface gets you farther than you might think. Here are a few tips on taking cues from type to design interfaces and interface elements. Perfecting Web 2.0 If you’re going for that beloved rounded corner look, you might class it up a bit by choosing the wonderful Omnes Pro by Joshua Darden. As the typeface already has a rounded aesthetic, making buttons that fit the style should be pretty easy. I’ve found that using multiples helps to keep your interfaces looking balanced and proportional. Noticing that the top left edge of the letter “P” has about an 12px corner radius, let’s choose a 24px radius for our button (a multiple of 2), so that we get proper rounded corners. By taking mathematical measurements from the typeface, our button looks more thought out than just “place arbitrary text on arbitrarily-sized button.” Pretty easy, eh? What’s in a name(plate)? Rounded buttons are pretty popular buttons nowadays, so let’s try something a bit more stylized. Have a gander at Brothers, a sturdy face from Emigre. The chiseled edges give us a perfect cue for a stylized button. Using the same slope, you can make plated-looking buttons that fit a different kind of style. Headlining You might even take some cues from… 2009 Dan Mall danmall 2009-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 design
175 Front-End Code Reusability with CSS and JavaScript Most web standards-based developers are more than familiar with creating their sites with semantic HTML with lots and lots of CSS. With each new page in a design, the CSS tends to grow and grow and more elements and styles are added. But CSS can be used to better effect. The idea of object-oriented CSS isn’t new. Nicole Sullivan has written a presentation on the subject and outlines two main concepts: separate structure and visual design; and separate container and content. Jeff Croft talks about Applying OOP Concepts to CSS: I can make a class of .box that defines some basic layout structure, and another class of .rounded that provides rounded corners, and classes of .wide and .narrow that define some widths, and then easily create boxes of varying widths and styles by assigning multiple classes to an element, without having to duplicate code in my CSS. This concept helps reduce CSS file size, allows for great flexibility, rapid building of similar content areas and means greater consistency throughout the entire design. You can also take this concept one step further and apply it to site behaviour with JavaScript. Build a versatile slideshow I will show you how to build multiple slideshows using jQuery, allowing varying levels of functionality which you may find on one site design. The code will be flexible enough to allow you to add previous/next links, image pagination and the ability to change the animation type. More importantly, it will allow you to apply any combination of these features. Image galleries are simply a list of images, so the obvious choice of marking the content up is to use a <ul>. Many designs, however, do not cater to non-JavaScript versions of the website, and thus don’t take in to account large multiple images. You could also simply hide all the other images in the list, apart from the first image. This method can waste bandwidth because the other images might be downloaded when they are never going to be seen. Taking this second concept — only showing one image — the only co… 2009 Trevor Morris trevormorris 2009-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 code
176 What makes a website successful? It might not be what you expect! What makes some sites succeed and others fail? Put another way, when you are asked to redesign an existing website, what problems are you looking out for and where do you concentrate your efforts? I would argue that as web designers we spend too much time looking at the wrong kind of problem. I recently ran a free open door consultancy clinic to celebrate the launch of my new book (yes I know, two shameless plugs in one sentence). This involved various website owners volunteering their sites for review. Both myself and the audience then provided feedback. What quickly became apparent is that the feedback being given by the audience was biased towards design and development. Although their comments were excellent it focused almost exclusively on the quality of code, site aesthetics and usability. To address these issues in isolation is similar to treating symptoms and ignoring the underlying illness. Cure the illness not the symptoms Poor design, bad usability and terribly written code are symptoms of bigger problems. Often when we endeavour to address these symptoms, we meet resistance from our clients and become frustrated. This is because our clients are still struggling with fundamental concepts we take for granted. Before we can address issues of aesthetics, usability and code, we need to tackle business objectives, calls to action and user tasks. Without dealing with these fundamental principles our clients’ website will fail. Let me address each in turn: Understand the business objectives Do you ask your clients why they have a website? It feels like an obvious question. However, it is surprising how many clients do not have an answer. Without having a clear idea of the siteʼs business objectives, the client has no way to know whether it is succeeding. This means they have no justification for further investment and that leads to quibbling over every penny. However most importantly, without clearly defined business aims they have no standard against which to base their decisions. Everything beco… 2009 Paul Boag paulboag 2009-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 business
177 HTML5: Tool of Satan, or Yule of Santa? It would lead to unseasonal arguments to discuss the title of this piece here, and the arguments are as indigestible as the fourth turkey curry of the season, so we’ll restrict our article to the practical rather than the philosophical: what HTML5 can you reasonably expect to be able to use reliably cross-browser in the early months of 2010? The answer is that you can use more than you might think, due to the seasonal tinsel of feature-detection and using the sparkly pixie-dust of IE-only VML (but used in a way that won’t damage your Elf). Canvas canvas is a 2D drawing API that defines a blank area of the screen of arbitrary size, and allows you to draw on it using JavaScript. The pictures can be animated, such as in this canvas mashup of Wolfenstein 3D and Flickr. (The difference between canvas and SVG is that SVG uses vector graphics, so is infinitely scalable. It also keeps a DOM, whereas canvas is just pixels so you have to do all your own book-keeping yourself in JavaScript if you want to know where aliens are on screen, or do collision detection.) Previously, you needed to do this using Adobe Flash or Java applets, requiring plugins and potentially compromising keyboard accessibility. Canvas drawing is supported now in Opera, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. The reindeer in the corner is, of course, Internet Explorer, which currently has zero support for canvas (or SVG, come to that). Now, don’t pull a face like all you’ve found in your Yuletide stocking is a mouldy satsuma and a couple of nuts—that’s not the end of the story. Canvas was originally an Apple proprietary technology, and Internet Explorer had a similar one called Vector Markup Language which was submitted to the W3C for standardisation in 1998 but which, unlike canvas, was not blessed with retrospective standardisation. What you need, then, is some way for Internet Explorer to translate canvas to VML on-the-fly, while leaving the other, more standards-compliant browsers to use the HTML5. And such a way exists—it’s a JavaScript library called … 2009 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2009-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 code
178 Make Out Like a Bandit If you are anything like me, you are a professional juggler. No, we don’t juggle bowling pins or anything like that (or do you? Hey, that’s pretty rad!). I’m talking about the work that we juggle daily. In my case, I’m a full-time designer, a half-time graduate student, a sometimes author and conference speaker, and an all-the-time social networker. Only two of these “positions” have actually put any money in my pocket (and, well, the second one takes a lot of money out). Still, this is all part of the work that I do. Your work situation is probably similar. We are workaholics. So if we work so much in our daily lives, shouldn’t we be making out like bandits? Umm, honestly, I’m not hitting on you, silly. I’m talking about our success. We work and work and work. Shouldn’t we be filthy, stinking rich? Well… okay, that’s not quite what I mean either. I’m not necessarily talking about money (though that could potentially be a part of it). I’m talking about success — as in feeling a true sense of accomplishment and feeling happy about what we do and why we do it. It’s important to feel accomplished and a general happiness in our work. To make out like a bandit (or have an incredible amount of success), you can either get lucky or work hard for it. And if you’re going to work hard for it, you might as well make it all meaningful and worthwhile. This is what I strive for in my own work and my life, and the following points I’m sharing with you are the steps I am taking to work toward this. I know the price of success: dedication, hard work & an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen. — Frank Lloyd Wright Learn. Participate. Do. The best way to get good at something is to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing that you want to be good at. For example, a sushi-enthusiast might take a sushi-making class because she wants to learn to make sushi for herself. It totally makes sense while the teacher demonstrates all the procedures, materials, and methods needed to make good, beautiful sushi. Later, … 2009 Jina Anne jina 2009-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 business
179 Have a Field Day with HTML5 Forms Forms are usually seen as that obnoxious thing we have to markup and style. I respectfully disagree: forms (on a par with tables) are the most exciting thing we have to work with. Here we’re going to take a look at how to style a beautiful HTML5 form using some advanced CSS and latest CSS3 techniques. I promise you will want to style your own forms after you’ve read this article. Here’s what we’ll be creating: The form. (Icons from Chalkwork Payments) Meaningful markup We’re going to style a simple payment form. There are three main sections on this form: The person’s details The address details The credit card details We are also going to use some of HTML5’s new input types and attributes to create more meaningful fields and use less unnecessary classes and ids: email, for the email field tel, for the telephone field number, for the credit card number and security code required, for required fields placeholder, for the hints within some of the fields autofocus, to put focus on the first input field when the page loads There are a million more new input types and form attributes on HTML5, and you should definitely take a look at what’s new on the W3C website. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of how much more fun form markup can be. A good foundation Each section of the form will be contained within its own fieldset. In the case of the radio buttons for choosing the card type, we will enclose those options in another nested fieldset. We will also be using an ordered list to group each label / input pair. This will provide us with a (kind of) semantic styling hook and it will also make the form easier to read when viewing with no CSS applied: The unstyled form So here’s the markup we are going to be working with: <form id=payment> <fieldset> <legend>Your details</legend> <ol> <li> <label for=name>Name</label> <input id=name name=name type=text placeholder="First and last name" required autofocus> </li> <li> <label for=email>Email</label> <input id=… 2009 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2009-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 code
180 Going Nuts with CSS Transitions I’m going to show you how CSS 3 transforms and WebKit transitions can add zing to the way you present images on your site. Laying the foundations First we are going to make our images look like mini polaroids with captions. Here’s the markup: <div class="polaroid pull-right"> <img src="../img/seal.jpg" alt=""> <p class="caption">Found this little cutie on a walk in New Zealand!</p> </div> You’ll notice we’re using a somewhat presentational class of pull-right here. This means the logic is kept separate from the code that applies the polaroid effect. The polaroid class has no positioning, which allows it to be used generically anywhere that the effect is required. The pull classes set a float and add appropriate margins—they can be used for things like blockquotes as well. .polaroid { width: 150px; padding: 10px 10px 20px 10px; border: 1px solid #BFBFBF; background-color: white; -webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); -moz-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); } The actual polaroid effect itself is simply applied using padding, a border and a background colour. We also apply a nice subtle box shadow, using a property that is supported by modern WebKit browsers and Firefox 3.5+. We include the box-shadow property last to ensure that future browsers that support the eventual CSS3 specified version natively will use that implementation over the legacy browser specific version. The box-shadow property takes four values: three lengths and a colour. The first is the horizontal offset of the shadow—positive values place the shadow on the right, while negative values place it to the left. The second is the vertical offset, positive meaning below. If both of these are set to 0, the shadow is positioned equally on all four sides. The last length value sets the blur radius—the larger the number, the blurrier the shadow (therefore the darker you need to make the colour to have an effect). The colour value can be given in any forma… 2009 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2009-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 code
181 Working With RGBA Colour When Tim and I were discussing the redesign of this site last year, one of the clear goals was to have a graphical style without making the pages heavy with a lot of images. When we launched, a lot of people were surprised that the design wasn’t built with PNGs. Instead we’d used RGBA colour values, which is part of the CSS3 specification. What is RGBA Colour? We’re all familiar with specifying colours in CSS using by defining the mix of red, green and blue light required to achieve our tone. This is fine and dandy, but whatever values we specify have one thing in common — the colours are all solid, flat, and well, a bit boring. Flat RGB colours CSS3 introduces a couple of new ways to specify colours, and one of those is RGBA. The A stands for Alpha, which refers to the level of opacity of the colour, or to put it another way, the amount of transparency. This means that we can set not only the red, green and blue values, but also control how much of what’s behind the colour shows through. Like with layers in Photoshop. Don’t We Have Opacity Already? The ability to set the opacity on a colour differs subtly from setting the opacity on an element using the CSS opacity property. Let’s look at an example. Here we have an H1 with foreground and background colours set against a page with a patterned background. Heading with no transparency applied h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); } By setting the CSS opacity property, we can adjust the transparency of the entire element and its contents: Heading with 50% opacity on the element h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); opacity: 0.5; } RGBA colour gives us something different – the ability to control the opacity of the individual colours rather than the entire element. So we can set the opacity on just the background: 50% opacity on just the background colour h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.5); } Or leave the background solid and change the opacity on just th… 2009 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2009-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 code
182 Breaking Out The Edges of The Browser HTML5 contains more than just the new entities for a more meaningful document, it also contains an arsenal of JavaScript APIs. So many in fact, that some APIs have outgrown the HTML5 spec’s backyard and have been sent away to grow up all on their own and been given the prestigious honour of being specs in their own right. So when I refer to (bendy finger quote) “HTML5”, I mean the HTML5 specification and a handful of other specifications that help us authors build web applications. Examples of those specs I would include in the umbrella term would be: geolocation, web storage, web databases, web sockets and web workers, to name a few. For all you guys and gals, on this special 2009 series of 24 ways, I’m just going to focus on data storage and offline applications: boldly taking your browser where no browser has gone before! Web Storage The Web Storage API is basically cookies on steroids, a unhealthy dosage of steroids. Cookies are always a pain to work with. First of all you have the problem of setting, changing and deleting them. Typically solved by Googling and blindly relying on PPK’s solution. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the 4Kb limit that some of you have hit when you really don’t want to. The Web Storage API gets around all of the hoops you have to jump through with cookies. Storage supports around 5Mb of data per domain (the spec’s recommendation, but it’s open to the browsers to implement anything they like) and splits in to two types of storage objects: sessionStorage – available to all pages on that domain while the window remains open localStorage – available on the domain until manually removed Support Ignoring beta browsers for our support list, below is a list of the major browsers and their support for the Web Storage API: Latest: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (desktop & mobile/iPhone) Partial: Google Chrome (only supports localStorage) Not supported: Opera (as of 10.10) Usage Both sessionStorage and localStorage support the same interface for accessing their co… 2009 Remy Sharp remysharp 2009-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 code
183 Designing For The Switch For a long time on the web, we’ve been typographically spoilt. Yes, you heard me correctly. Think about it: our computers come with web fonts already installed; fonts that have been designed specifically to work well online and at small size; and fonts that we can be sure other people have too. Yes, we’ve been spoilt. We don’t need to think about using Verdana, Arial, Georgia or Cambria. Yet, for a long time now, designers have felt we needed more. We want to choose whatever typeface we feel necessary for our designs. We did bad things along the way in pursuit of this goal such as images for text. Smart people dreamt up tools to help us such as sIFR, or Cufón. Only fairly recently, @font-face is supported in most browsers. The floodgates are opening. It really is the dawn of a new typographic era on the web. And we must tread carefully. The New Typesetters Many years ago, before the advent of desktop publishing, if you wanted words set in a particular typeface, you had to go to a Typesetter. A Typesetter, or Compositor, as they were sometimes called, was a person whose job it was to take the written word (in the form of a document or manuscript) and ‘set’ the type in the desired typeface. The designer would chose what typeface they wanted – and all the ligatures, underlines, italics and whatnot – and then scribble all over the manuscript so the typesetter could set the correct type. Then along came Desktop Publishing and every Tom, Dick and Harry could choose type on their computer and an entire link in the typographic chain was removed within just a few years. Well, that’s progress I guess. That was until six months ago when Typesetting was reborn on the web in the guise of a font service: Typekit. Typekit – and services like Typekit such as Typotheque, Kernest and the upcoming Fontdeck – are typesetting services for the web. You supply them with your content, in the form of a webpage, and they provide you with some JavaScript to render that webpage in the typeface you’ve specified simply by adding … 2009 Mark Boulton markboulton 2009-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 design
184 Spruce It Up The landscape of web typography is changing quickly these days. We’ve gone from the wild west days of sIFR to Cufón to finally seeing font embedding seeing wide spread adoption by browser developers (and soon web designers) with @font-face. For those who’ve felt limited by the typographic possibilities before, this has been a good year. As Mark Boulton has so eloquently elucidated, @font-face embedding doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Font files can be quite large and FOUT—that nasty flash of unstyled text—can be a distraction for users. Data URIs We can battle FOUT by using Data URIs. A Data URI allows the font to be encoded right into the CSS file. When the font comes with the CSS, the flash of unstyled text is mitigated. No extra HTTP requests are required. Don’t be a grinch, though. Sending hundreds of kilobytes down the pipe still isn’t great. Sometimes, all we want to do is spruce up our site with a little typographic sugar. Be Selective Dan Cederholm’s SimpleBits is an attractive site. Take a look at the ampersand within the header of his site. It’s the lovely (and free) Goudy Bookletter 1911 available from The League of Movable Type. The Opentype format is a respectable 28KB. Nothing too crazy but hold on here. Mr. Cederholm is only using the ampersand! Ouch. That’s a lot of bandwidth just for one character. Can we optimize a font like we can an image? Yes. Image optimization essentially works by removing unnecessary image data such as colour data, hidden comments or using compression algorithms. How do you remove unnecessary information from a font? Subsetting. If you’re the adventurous type, grab a copy of FontForge, which is an open source font editing tool. You can open the font, view and edit any of the glyphs and then re-generate the font. The interface is a little clunky but you’ll be able to select any character you don’t want and then cut the glyphs. Re-generate your font and you’ve now got a smaller file. There are certainly more optimizations that can also be made such as … 2009 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2009-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 code
185 Make Your Mockup in Markup We aren’t designing copies of web pages, we’re designing web pages. Andy Clarke, via Quotes on Design The old way I used to think the best place to design a website was in an image editor. I’d create a pixel-perfect PSD filled with generic content, send it off to the client, go through several rounds of revisions, and eventually create the markup. Does this process sound familiar? You’re not alone. In a very scientific and official survey I conducted, close to 90% of respondents said they design in Photoshop before the browser. That process is whack, yo! Recently, thanks in large part to the influence of design hero Dan Cederholm, I’ve come to the conclusion that a website’s design should begin where it’s going to live: in the browser. Die Photoshop, die Some of you may be wondering, “what’s so bad about using Photoshop for the bulk of my design?” Well, any seasoned designer will tell you that working in Photoshop is akin to working in a minefield: you never know when it’s going to blow up in your face. The application Adobe Photoshop CS4 has unexpectedly ruined your day. Photoshop’s propensity to crash at crucial moments is a running joke in the industry, as is its barely usable interface. And don’t even get me started on the hot, steaming pile of crap that is text rendering. Text rendered in Photoshop (left) versus Safari (right). Crashing and text rendering issues suck, but we’ve learned to live with them. The real issue with using Photoshop for mockups is the expectations you’re setting for a client. When you send the client a static image of the design, you’re not giving them the whole picture — they can’t see how a fluid grid would function, how the design will look in a variety of browsers, basic interactions like :hover effects, or JavaScript behaviors. For more on the disadvantages to showing clients designs as images rather than websites, check out Andy Clarke’s Time to stop showing clients static design visuals. A necessary evil? In the past we’ve put up with Photoshop because it … 2009 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2009-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 process
186 The Web Is Your CMS It is amazing what you can do these days with the services offered on the web. Flickr stores terabytes of photos for us and converts them automatically to all kind of sizes, finds people in them and even allows us to edit them online. YouTube does almost the same complete job with videos, LinkedIn allows us to maintain our CV, Delicious our bookmarks and so on. We don’t have to do these tasks ourselves any more, as all of these systems also come with ways to use the data in the form of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs for short. APIs give us raw data when we send requests telling the system what we want to get back. The problem is that every API has a different idea of what is a simple way of accessing this data and in which format to give it back. Making it easier to access APIs What we need is a way to abstract the pains of different data formats and authentication formats away from the developer — and this is the purpose of the Yahoo Query Language, or YQL for short. Libraries like jQuery and YUI make it easy and reliable to use JavaScript in browsers (yes, even IE6) and YQL allows us to access web services and even the data embedded in web documents in a simple fashion – SQL style. Select * from the web and filter it the way I want YQL is a web service that takes a few inputs itself: A query that tells it what to get, update or access An output format – XML, JSON, JSON-P or JSON-P-X A callback function (if you defined JSON-P or JSON-P-X) You can try it out yourself – check out this link to get back Flickr photos for the search term ‘santa’* in XML format. The YQL query for this is select * from where text="santa" The easiest way to take your first steps with YQL is to look at the console. There you get sample queries, access to all the data sources available to you and you can easily put together complex queries. In this article, however, let’s use PHP to put together a web page that pulls i… 2009 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2009-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 code
187 A New Year's Resolution The end of 2009 is fast approaching. Yet another year has passed in a split second. Our Web Designing careers are one year older and it’s time to reflect on the highs and lows of 2009. What was your greatest achievement and what could you have done better? Perhaps, even more importantly, what are your goals for 2010? Something that I noticed in 2009 is that being a web designer 24/7; it’s easy to get consumed by the web. It’s easy to get caught up in the blog posts, CSS galleries, web trends and Twitter! Living in this bubble can lead to one’s work becoming stale, boring and basically like everyone else’s work on the web. No designer wants this. So, I say on 1st January 2010 let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to create something different, something special or even ground-breaking! Make it your goal to break the mold of current web design trends and light the way for your fellow web designer comrades! Of course I wouldn’t let you embark on the New Year empty handed. To help you on your way I’ve compiled a few thoughts and ideas to get your brains ticking! Don’t design for the web, just design A key factor in creating something original and fresh for the web is to stop thinking in terms of web design. The first thing we need to do is forget the notion of headers, footers, side bars etc. A website doesn’t necessarily need any of these, so even before we’ve started we’ve already limited our design possibilities by thinking in these very conventional and generally accepted web terms. The browser window is a 2D canvas like any other and we can do with it what we like. With this in mind we can approach web design from a fresh perspective. We can take inspiration for web design from editorial design, packaging design, comics, poster design, album artwork, motion design, street signage and anything else you can think of. Web design is way more than the just the web and by taking this more wide angled view of what web design is and can be you’ll find there are a thousand more exiting design possibilities. N… 2009 Mike Kus mikekus 2009-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 business
188 Don't Lose Your :focus For many web designers, accessibility conjures up images of blind users with screenreaders, and the difficulties in making sites accessible to this particular audience. Of course, accessibility covers a wide range of situations that go beyond the extreme example of screenreader users. And while it’s true that making a complex site accessible can often be a daunting prospect, there are also many small things that don’t take anything more than a bit of judicious planning, are very easy to test (without having to buy expensive assistive technology), and can make all the difference to certain user groups. In this short article we’ll focus on keyboard accessibility and how careless use of CSS can potentially make your sites completely unusable. Keyboard Access Users who for whatever reason can’t use a mouse will employ a keyboard (or keyboard-like custom interface) to navigate around web pages. By default, they will use TAB and SHIFT + TAB to move from one focusable element (links, form controls and area) of a page to the next. Note: in OS X, you’ll first need to turn on full keyboard access under System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts. Safari under Windows needs to have the option Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage in Preferences > Advanced enabled. Opera is the odd one out, as it has a variety of keyboard navigation options – the most relevant here being spatial navigation via Shift+Down, Shift+Up, Shift+Left, and Shift+Right). But I Don’t Like Your Dotted Lines… To show users where they are within a page, browsers place an outline around the element that currently has focus. The “problem” with these default outlines is that some browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox) also display them when a user clicks on a focusable element with the mouse. Particularly on sites that make extensive use of image replacement on links with “off left” techniques this can create very unsightly outlines that stretch from the replaced element all the way to the left edge of the browser. Outline … 2009 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2009-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 code
189 Ignorance Is Bliss This is a true story. Meet Mike Mike’s a smart guy. He knows a great browser when he sees one. He uses Firefox on his Windows PC at work and Safari on his Mac at home. Mike asked us to design a Web site for his business. So we did. We wanted to make the best Web site for Mike that we could, so we used all of the CSS tools that are available today. That meant using RGBa colour to layer elements, border-radius to add subtle rounded corners and (possibly most experimental of all new CSS), generated gradients. The home page Mike sees in Safari on his Mac Mike loves what he sees. Meet Sam Sam works with Mike. She uses Internet Explorer 7 because it came on the Windows laptop that the company bought her when she joined. The home page Sam sees in Internet Explorer 7 on her PC Sam loves the new Web site too. How could both of them be happy when they experienced the Web site differently? The new WYSIWYG When I first presented my designs to Mike and Sam, I showed them a Web page made with HTML and CSS in their respective browsers and not a picture of a Web page. By showing neither a static image of my design, I set none of the false expectations that, by definition, a static Photoshop or Fireworks visual would have established. Mike saw rounded corners and subtle shadows in Firefox and Safari. Sam saw something equally as nice, just a little different, in Internet Explorer. Both were very happy because they saw something that they liked. Neither knew, or needed to know, about the subtle differences between browsers. Their users don’t need to know either. That’s because in the real world, people using the Web don’t find a Web site that they like, then open up another browser to check that it looks they same. They simply buy what they came to buy, read what what they came to read, do what they came to do, then get on with their lives in blissful ignorance of what they might be seeing in another browser. Often when I talk or write about using progressive CSS, people ask me, “How do you convince clients to … 2009 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2009-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 business
190 Self-Testing Pages with JavaScript Working at an agency I am involved more and more on projects in which client side code is developed internally then sent out to a separate team for implementation. You provide static HTML, CSS and JavaScript which then get placed into the CMS and brought to life as an actual website. As you can imagine this can sometimes lead to frustrations. However many safeguards you include, handing over your code to someone else is always a difficult thing to do effectively. In this article I will show you how you can create a JavaScript implementation checker and that will give you more time for drink based activity as your web site and apps are launched quicker and with less unwanted drama! An all too frequent occurrence You’ve been working on a project for weeks, fixed all your bugs and send it to be implemented. You hear nothing and assume all is going well then a few days before it’s meant to launch you get an email from the implementation team informing you of bugs in your code that you need to urgently fix. The 24ways website with a misspelt ID for the years menu Being paranoid you trawl through the preview URL, check they have the latest files, check your code for errors then notice that a required HTML attribute has been omitted from the build and therefore CSS or JavaScript you’ve hooked onto that particular attribute isn’t being applied and that’s what is causing the “bug”. It takes you seconds drafting an email informing them of this, it takes then seconds putting the required attribute in and low and behold the bug is fixed, everyone is happy but you’ve lost a good few hours of your life – this time could have been better spent in the pub. I’m going to show you a way that these kind of errors can be alerted immediately during implementation of your code and ensure that when you are contacted you know that there actually is a bug to fix. You probably already know the things that could be omitted from a build and look like bugs so you’ll soon be creating tests to look for these and alert when they are not … 2009 Ross Bruniges rossbruniges 2009-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 process
191 CSS Animations Friend: You should learn how to write CSS! Me: … Friend: CSS; Cascading Style Sheets. If you’re serious about web design, that’s the next thing you should learn. Me: What’s wrong with <font> tags? That was 8 years ago. Thanks to the hard work of Jeffrey, Andy, Andy, Cameron, Colly, Dan and many others, learning how to decently markup a website and write lightweight stylesheets was surprisingly easy. They made it so easy even a complete idiot (OH HAI) was able to quickly master it. And then… nothing. For a long time, it seemed like there wasn’t happening anything in the land of CSS, time stood still. Once you knew the basics, there wasn’t anything new to keep up with. It looked like a great band split, but people just kept re-releasing their music in various “Best Of!” or “Remastered!” albums. Fast forward a couple of years to late 2006. On the official WebKit blog Surfin’ Safari, there’s an article about something called CSS animations. Great new stuff to play with, but only supported by nightly builds (read: very, very beta) of WebKit. In the following months, they release other goodies, like CSS gradients, CSS reflections, CSS masks, and even more CSS animation sexiness. Whoa, looks like the band got back together, found their second youth, and went into overdrive! The problem was that if you wanted to listen to their new albums, you had to own some kind of new high-tech player no one on earth (besides some early adopters) owned. Back in the time machine. It is now late 2009, close to Christmas. Things have changed. Browsers supporting these new toys are widely available left and right. Even non-techies are using these advanced browsers to surf the web on a daily basis! Epic win? Almost, but at least this gives us enough reason to start learning how we could use all this new CSS voodoo. On Monday, Natalie Downe showed you a good tutorial on Going Nuts with CSS Transitions. Today, I’m taking it one step further… Howto: A basic spinner No matter how fast internet tubes or servers are, we’ll always need spi… 2009 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2009-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 code
192 Cleaner Code with CSS3 Selectors The parts of CSS3 that seem to grab the most column inches on blogs and in articles are the shiny bits. Rounded corners, text shadow and new ways to achieve CSS layouts are all exciting and bring with them all kinds of possibilities for web design. However what really gets me, as a developer, excited is a bit more mundane. In this article I’m going to take a look at some of the ways our front and back-end code will be simplified by CSS3, by looking at the ways we achieve certain visual effects now in comparison to how we will achieve them in a glorious, CSS3-supported future. I’m also going to demonstrate how we can use these selectors now with a little help from JavaScript – which can work out very useful if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t change markup that is being output by some server-side code. The wonder of nth-child So why does nth-child get me so excited? Here is a really common situation, the designer would like the tables in the application to look like this: Setting every other table row to a different colour is a common way to enhance readability of long rows. The tried and tested way to implement this is by adding a class to every other row. If you are writing the markup for your table by hand this is a bit of a nuisance, and if you stick a row in the middle you have to change the rows the class is applied to. If your markup is generated by your content management system then you need to get the server-side code to add that class – if you have access to that code. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> <html xmlns=""> <head> <title>Striping every other row - using classes</title> <style type="text/css"> body { padding: 40px; margin: 0; font: 0.9em Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; } table { border-collapse: collapse; border: 1px solid #124412; width: 600px; } th { border: 1px solid #124412; background-color: #334f33; color: #fff; padding: 0.4em; text-… 2009 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2009-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 code

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