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73 How to Make Your Site Look Half-Decent in Half an Hour Programmers like me are often intimidated by design – but a little effort can give a huge return on investment. Here are one coder’s tips for making any site quickly look more professional. I am a programmer. I am not a designer. I have a degree in computer science, and I don’t mind Comic Sans. (It looks cheerful. Move on.) But although I am a programmer, I want to make my sites look attractive. This is partly out of vanity, and partly realism. Vanity because I want people to think my work is good, and realism because the research shows that people won’t think a site is credible unless it also looks attractive. For a very long time after I became a programmer, I was scared of design. Design seemed to consist of complicated rules that weren’t written down anywhere, plus an unlearnable sense of taste, possessed only by a black-clad elite. But a little while ago, I decided to do my best to hack what it took to make my own projects look vaguely attractive. And although this doesn’t come close to the effect a professional designer could achieve, gathering these resources for improving a site’s look and feel has been really helpful. If I hadn’t figured out some basic design shortcuts, it’s unlikely that a weekend hack of mine would have ended up on page three of the Daily Mail. And too often now, I see excellent programming projects that don’t reach the audience they deserve, simply because their design doesn’t match their execution. So, if you are a developer, my Christmas present to you is this: my own collection of hacks that, used rightly, can make your personal programming projects look professional, quickly. None are hard to learn, most are free, and they let you focus on writing code. One thing to note about these tips, though. They are a personal, pragmatic compilation. They are suggestions, not a definitive guide. You will definitely get better results by working with a professional designer, and by studying design more deeply. If you are a designer, I would love to hear your suggestions for the b… 2012 Anna Powell-Smith annapowellsmith 2012-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/how-to-make-your-site-look-half-decent/ design
74 Should We Be Reactive? Evolution Looking at the evolution of the web and the devices we use should help remind us that the times we’re adjusting to are just another step on a journey. These times seem to be telling us that we need to embrace flexibility. Imagine an HTML file containing nothing but text. It’s viewable on any web-capable device and reasonably readable: the notion of the universality of the web was very much a founding principle. Right from the beginning, browser vendors understood that we’d want text to reflow (why wouldn’t we?), so I consider the first websites to have been fluid. As we attempted to exert more control through our designs in the early days of the web, debates about whether we should produce fixed or fluid sites raged. We could create fluid designs using tables, but what we didn’t have then was a wide range of web capable devices or the ability to control this fluidity. The biggest changes occurred when stats showed enough people using a different screen resolution we could cater for. To me, the techniques of responsive web design provide the control we were missing. Combining new approaches to layout and images with media queries empowered us to learn how to embrace the inherent flexibility of the web in ways to suit our work and the devices used by our audience. Perhaps another kind of flexibility might be found in how we use context to affect how we present our content; to consider how we might use the information we can access from people, browsers and devices to provide web experiences – effectively creating sites that react to initial or changing circumstances in the relationship between people and our content. Embracing flexibility So what is context? Put simply, you could think of it as a secondary piece of information that helps clarify the meaning of the first. It helps set a scene or describe circumstances. I think that Cennydd Bowles has summed it up really well through talks he’s given recently, in which he’s arrived at the acronym DETAILS (Device, Environment, Time, Activity, Individ… 2012 Dan Donald dandonald 2012-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/should-we-be-reactive/ design
75 A Harder-Working Class Class is only becoming more important. Focusing on its original definition as an attribute for grouping (or classifying) as well as linking HTML to CSS, recent front-end development practices are emphasizing class as a vessel for structured, modularized style packages. These patterns reduce the need for repetitive declarations that can seriously bloat file sizes, and instil human-readable understanding of how the interface, layout, and aesthetics are constructed. In the next handful of paragraphs, we will look at how these emerging practices – such as object-oriented CSS and SMACSS – are pushing the relevance of class. We will also explore how HTML and CSS architecture can be further simplified, performance can be boosted, and CSS utility sharpened by combining class with the attribute selector. A primer on attribute selectors While attribute selectors were introduced in the CSS 2 spec, they are still considered rather exotic. These well-established and well-supported features give us vastly improved flexibility in targeting elements in CSS, and offer us opportunities for smarter markup. With an attribute selector, you can directly style an element based on any of its unique – or uniquely shared – attributes, without the need for an ID or extra classes. Unlike pseudo-classes, pseudo-elements, and other exciting features of CSS3, attribute selectors do not require any browser-specific syntax or prefix, and are even supported in Internet Explorer 7. For example, say we want to target all anchor tags on a page that link to our homepage. Where otherwise we might need to manually identify and add classes to the HTML for these specific links, we could simply write: [href=index.html] { } This selector reads: target every element that has an href attribute of “index.html”. Attribute selectors are more faceted, though, as they also give us some very simple regular expression-like logic that helps further narrow (or widen) a selector’s scope. In our previous example, what if we wanted to also give indicative styl… 2012 Nathan Ford nathanford 2012-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/a-harder-working-class/ code
76 Giving CSS Animations and Transitions Their Place CSS animations and transitions may not sit squarely in the realm of the behaviour layer, but they’re stepping up into this area that used to be pure JavaScript territory. Heck, CSS might even perform better than its JavaScript equivalents in some cases. That’s pretty serious! With CSS’s new tricks blurring the lines between presentation and behaviour, it can start to feel bloated and messy in our CSS files. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Here are a pair of methods I’ve found to be pretty helpful in keeping the potential bloat and wire-crossing under control when CSS has its hands in both presentation and behaviour. Same eggs, more baskets Structuring your CSS to have separate files for layout, typography, grids, and so on is a fairly common approach these days. But which one do you put your transitions and animations in? The initial answer, as always, is “it depends”. Small effects here and there will likely sit just fine with your other styles. When you move into more involved effects that require multiple animations and some logic support from JavaScript, it’s probably time to choose none of the above, and create a separate CSS file just for them. Putting all your animations in one file is a huge help for code organization. Even if you opt for a name less literal than animations.css, you’ll know exactly where to go for anything CSS animation related. That saves time and effort when it comes to editing and maintenance. Keeping track of which animations are still currently used is easier when they’re all grouped together as well. And as an added bonus, you won’t have to look at all those horribly unattractive and repetitive prefixed @-keyframe rules unless you actually need to. An animations.css file might look something like the snippet below. It defines each animation’s keyframes and defines a class for each variation of that animation you’ll be using. Depending on the situation, you may also want to include transitions here in a similar way. (I’ve found defining transitions as their own class, or mixin, … 2012 Val Head valhead 2012-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/giving-css-animations-and-transitions-their-place/ code
77 Colour Accessibility Here’s a quote from Josef Albers: In visual perception a colour is almost never seen as it really is[…] This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art.Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963 Albers was a German abstract painter and teacher, and published a very famous course on colour theory in 1963. Colour is very relative — not just in the way that it appears differently across different devices due to screen quality and colour management, but it can also be seen differently by different people — something we really need to be more mindful of when designing. What is colour blindness? Colour blindness very rarely means that you can’t see any colour at all, or that people see things in greyscale. It’s actually a decreased ability to see colour, or a decreased ability to tell colours apart from one another. How does it happen? Inside the typical human retina, there are two types of receptor cells — rods and cones. Rods are the cells that allow us to see dark and light, and shape and movement. Cones are the cells that allow us to perceive colour. There are three types of cones, each responsible for absorbing blue, red, and green wavelengths in the spectrum. Problems with colour vision occur when one or more of these types of cones are defective or absent entirely, and these problems can either be inherited through genetics, or acquired through trauma, exposure to ultraviolet light, degeneration with age, an effect of diabetes, or other factors. Colour blindness is a sex-linked trait and it’s much more common in men than in women. The most common type of colour blindness is called deuteranomaly which occurs in 7% of males, but only 0.5% of females. That’s a pretty significant portion of the population if you really stop and think about it — we can’t ignore this demographic. What does it look like? People with the most common types of colour blindness, like protanopia and deuteranopia, have difficulty discriminating between red and green hues. There are also forms of colour blindness like tritanop… 2012 Geri Coady gericoady 2012-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/colour-accessibility/ design
78 Fluent Design through Early Prototyping There’s a small problem with wireframes. They’re not good for showing the kind of interactions we now take for granted – transitions and animations on the web, in Android, iOS, and other platforms. There’s a belief that early prototyping requires a large amount of time and effort, and isn’t worth an early investment. But it’s not true! It’s still normal to spend a significant proportion of time working in wireframes. Given that wireframes are high-level and don’t show much detail, it’s tempting to give up control and responsibility for things like transitions and other things sidelined as visual considerations. These things aren’t expressed well, and perhaps not expressed at all, in wireframes, yet they critically influence the quality of a product. Rapid prototyping early helps to bring sidelined but significant design considerations into focus. Speaking fluent design Fluency in a language means being able to speak it confidently and accurately. The Latin root means flow. By design fluency, I mean using a set of skills in order to express or communicate an idea. Prototyping is a kind of fluency. It takes designers beyond the domain of grey and white boxes to consider all the elements that make up really good product design. Designers shouldn’t be afraid of speaking fluent design. They should think thoroughly about product decisions beyond their immediate role — not for the sake of becoming some kind of power-hungry design demigod, but because it will lead to better, more carefully considered product design. Wireframes are incomplete sentences Wireframes, once they’ve served their purpose, are a kind of self-imposed restriction. Mostly made out of grey and white boxes, they deliberately express the minimum. Important details — visuals, nuanced transitions, sounds — are missing. Their appearance bears little resemblance to the final thing. Responsibility for things that traditionally didn’t matter (or exist) is relinquished. Animations and transitions in particular are increasingly relevant to the mobile d… 2012 Rebecca Cottrell rebeccacottrell 2012-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/fluent-design-through-early-prototyping/ ux
79 Responsive Images: What We Thought We Needed If you were to read a web designer’s Christmas wish list, it would likely include a solution for displaying images responsively. For those concerned about users downloading unnecessary image data, or serving images that look blurry on high resolution displays, finding a solution has become a frustrating quest. Having experimented with complex and sometimes devilish hacks, consensus is forming around defining new standards that could solve this problem. Two approaches have emerged. The <picture> element markup pattern was proposed by Mat Marquis and is now being developed by the Responsive Images Community Group. By providing a means of declaring multiple sources, authors could use media queries to control which version of an image is displayed and under what conditions: <picture width="500" height="500"> <source media="(min-width: 45em)" src="large.jpg"> <source media="(min-width: 18em)" src="med.jpg"> <source src="small.jpg"> <img src="small.jpg" alt=""> <p>Accessible text</p> </picture> A second proposal put forward by Apple, the srcset attribute, uses a more concise syntax intended for use with the <img> element, although it could be compatible with the <picture> element too. This would allow authors to provide a set of images, but with the decision on which to use left to the browser: <img src="fallback.jpg" alt="" srcset="small.jpg 640w 1x, small-hd.jpg 640w 2x, med.jpg 1x, med-hd.jpg 2x "> Enter Scrooge Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. Ebenezer Scrooge Given the complexity of this issue, there’s a heated debate about which is the best option. Yet code belies a certain truth. That both feature verbose and opaque syntax, I’m not sure either should find its way into the browser – especially as alternative approaches have yet to be fully explored. So, as if to dampen the festive cheer, here are five reasons why I believe both proposals are largely redundant. 1. We need better formats, not more markup As we move away from designs defi… 2012 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2012-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-images-what-we-thought-we-needed/ code
80 HTML5 Video Bumpers Video is a bigger part of the web experience than ever before. With native browser support for HTML5 video elements freeing us from the tyranny of plugins, and the availability of faster internet connections to the workplace, home and mobile networks, it’s now pretty straightforward to publish video in a way that can be consumed in all sorts of ways on all sorts of different web devices. I recently worked on a project where the client had shot some dedicated video shorts to publish on their site. They also had some five-second motion graphics produced to top and tail the videos with context and branding. This pretty common requirement is a great idea on the web, where a user might land at your video having followed a link and be viewing a page without much context. Known as bumpers, these short introduction clips help brand a video and make it look a lot more professional. Adding bumpers to a video The simplest way to add bumpers to a video would be to edit them on to the start and end of the video file itself. Cooking the bumpers into the video file is easy, but should you ever want to update them it can become a real headache. If the branding needs updating, for example, you’d need to re-edit and re-encode all your videos. Not a fun task. What if the bumpers could be added dynamically? That would enable you to use the same bumper for multiple videos (decreasing download time for users who might watch more than one) and to update the bumpers whenever you wanted. You could change them seasonally, update them for special promotions, run different advertising slots, perform multivariate testing, or even target different bumpers to different users. The trade-off, of course, is that if you dynamically add your bumpers, there’s a chance that a user in a given circumstance might not see the bumper. For example, if the main video feature was uploaded to YouTube, you’d have no way to control the playback. As always, you need to weigh up the pros and cons and make your choice. HTML5 bumpers If you wanted to dyna… 2012 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2012-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/html5-video-bumpers/ code
81 Science! Sometimes we want to capture people’s attention at a glance to communicate something fast. At other times we want to have the interface fade away into the background, letting people paint pictures in their minds with our words (if you’ll forgive a little flowery festive flourish). I tend to distinguish between these two broad objectives as designing for impact on the one hand, and designing for immersion on the other. What defines them is interruption. Impact needs an attention-grabbing interruption. Immersion requires us to remove interruption from the interface. Careful design deliberately interrupts but doesn’t accidentally disrupt. If that seems to make sense to you, then you’ll find the following snippets of science as useful as I did. Saccades and fixations As you’re reading this your eyes are skipping along the lines in tiny jumps. During each jump everything is blurred. Each jump ends in a small pause so your brain can take a snapshot of the letters. It arranges them into words, and then parses out the meaning — fast — in around a quarter of a second. The jumps are called saccades. The pauses are called fixations. Sometimes we take regressive saccades, skipping back to reread. There’s a simple example in the excellent little book, Detail in Typography, by Jost Hochuli. If you want to explore the science of reading in much more depth, I recommend the excellent paper, “The Science of Word Recognition”, by Dr Kevin Larson of Microsoft. To design for legibility and readability is to design for saccades and fixations. It’s the craft of making it easy for people’s brains to extract meaning, using techniques like good contrast, font size, spacing and structure, and only interrupting the reading experience deliberately. Scan paths At some point when visiting 24 ways you probably scanned the screen to get orientated. The journey your eyes took is known as a scan path. Scan paths are made up of saccades and fixations. Right now you’re following a scan path as you read, along one line, and down to the next… 2012 Jon Tan jontan 2012-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/science/ design
82 Being Prepared To Contribute “You’ll figure it out.” The advice my dad gives has always been the same, whether addressing my grade school homework or paying bills after college. If I was looking for a shortcut, my dad wasn’t going to be the one to provide it. When I was a kid it infuriated the hell out of me, but what I then perceived to be a lack of understanding turned out to be a keystone in my upbringing. As an adult, I realize the value in not receiving outright solutions, but being forced to figure things out. Even today, when presented with a roadblock while building for the web, I am temped to get by with the help of the latest grid system, framework, polyfill, or plugin. In and of themselves these resources are harmless, but before I can drop them in, those damn words still echo in the back of my mind: “You’ll figure it out.” I know that if I blindly implement these tools as drag and drop solutions I fail to understand the intricacies behind how and why they were built; repeatedly using them as shortcuts handicaps my skill set. When I solely rely on the tools of others, my work is at their mercy, leaving me less creative and resourceful, and, thus, less able to contribute to the advancement of our industry and community. One of my favorite things about this community is how generous and collaborative it can be. I’ve loved seeing FitVids used all over the web and regularly improved upon at Github. I bet we can all think of a time where implementing a shared resource has benefitted our own work and sanity. Because these resources are so valuable, it’s important that we continue to be a part of the conversation in order to further develop solutions and ideas. It’s easy to assume there’s someone smarter or more up-to-date in any one area, but with a degree of understanding and perspective, we can all participate. This open form of collaboration is in our web DNA. After all, its primary purpose was to promote the exchange and development of new ideas. Tim Berners-Lee proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the Worl… 2012 Trent Walton trentwalton 2012-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/being-prepared-to-contribute/ process
83 Cut Copy Paste Long before I got into this design thing, I was heavily into making my own music inspired by the likes of Coldcut and Steinski. I would scour local second-hand record shops in search of obscure beats, loops and bits of dialogue in the hope of finding that killer sample I could then splice together with other things to make a huge hit that everyone would love. While it did eventually lead to a record contract and getting to release a few 12″ singles, ultimately I knew I’d have to look for something else to pay the bills. I may not make my own records any more, but the approach I took back then – finding (even stealing) things, cutting and pasting them into interesting combinations – is still at the centre of how I work, only these days it’s pretty much bits of code rather than bits of vinyl. Over the years I’ve stored these little bits of code (some I’ve found, some I’ve created myself) in Evernote, ready to be dialled up whenever I need them. So when Drew got in touch and asked if I’d like to do something for this year’s 24 ways I thought it might be kind of cool to share with you a few of these snippets that I find really useful. Think of these as a kind of coding mix tape; but remember – don’t just copy as is: play around, combine and remix them into other wonderful things. Some of this stuff is dirty; some of it will make hardcore programmers feel ill. For those people, remember this – while you were complaining about the syntax, I made something. Create unique colours Let’s start right away with something I stole. Well, actually it was given away at the time by Matt Biddulph who was then at Dopplr before Nokia destroyed it. Imagine you have thousands of words and you want to assign each one a unique colour. Well, Matt came up with a crazily simple but effective way to do that using an MD5 hash. Just encode said word using an MD5 hash, then take the first six characters of the string you get back to create a hexadecimal colour representation. I can’t guarantee that it will be a harmonious colour palet… 2012 Brendan Dawes brendandawes 2012-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/cut-copy-paste/ code
84 Responsive Responsive Design Now more than ever, we’re designing work meant to be viewed along a gradient of different experiences. Responsive web design offers us a way forward, finally allowing us to “design for the ebb and flow of things.” With those two sentences, Ethan closed the article that introduced the web to responsive design. Since then, responsive design has taken the web by storm. Seemingly every day, some company is touting their new responsive redesign. Large brands such as Microsoft, Time and Disney are getting in on the action, blowing away the once common criticism that responsive design was a technique only fit for small blogs. Certainly, this is a good thing. As Ethan and John Allsopp before him, were right to point out, the inherent flexibility of the web is a feature, not a bug. The web’s unique ability to be consumed and interacted with on any number of devices, with any number of input methods is something to be embraced. But there’s one part of the web’s inherent flexibility that seems to be increasingly overlooked: the ability for the web to be interacted with on any number of networks, with a gradient of bandwidth constraints and latency costs, on devices with varying degrees of hardware power. A few months back, Stephanie Rieger tweeted “Shoot me now…responsive design has seemingly become confused with an opportunity to reduce performance rather than improve it.” I would love to disagree, but unfortunately the evidence is damning. Consider the size and number of requests for four highly touted responsive sites that were launched this year: 74 requests, 1,511kb 114 requests, 1,200kb 99 requests, 1,298kb 105 requests, 5,942kb And those numbers were for the small screen versions of each site! These sites were praised for their visual design and responsive nature, and rightfully so. They’re very easy on the eyes and a lot of thought went into their appearance. But the numbers above tell an inconvenient truth: for all the time spent ensuring the visual design was airtight, seemingly very little (if… 2012 Tim Kadlec timkadlec 2012-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-responsive-design/ design
85 Starting Your Project on the Right Foot (and Keeping It There) I’m not sure if anything is as terrifying as beginning a new design project. I often spend hours trying to find the best initial footing in a design, so I’ve been working hard to improve my process, particularly for the earliest stages of a project. I want to smooth out the bumps that disrupt my creative momentum and focus on the emotional highs and lows I experience, and then try to minimize the lows and ride the highs as long as possible. Design is often a struggle broken up by blissful moments of creative clarity that provide valuable force to move your work forward. Momentum is a powerful tool in creative work, and it’s something we don’t always maximize when we’re working because of the hectic nature of our field. Obviously, every designer is going to have a different process, but I thought I’d share some of the methods I’ve begun to adopt. I hope this will spark a conversation among designers who are interested in looking at process in a new way. Jump-starting a project I cannot overstate the importance of immersing yourself in design and collecting ample amounts of inspiration when beginning a project. I make it a daily practice to visit a handful of sites (Dribbble, Graphic Exchange, Web Creme, siteInspire, Designspiration, and others) and save any examples of design that I like. I then sort them into general categories (publication design, illustration, typography, web design, and so on). Enjoying a bit of fresh design every day helps me absorb it and analyze why it’s effective instead of just imitating it.  Many designers are afraid to look at too much design for fear that they’ll be tempted to copy it, but I feel a steady influx of design inspiration reduces that possibility. You’re much more likely to take the easy way out and rip off a design if you’re scrambling for inspiration after getting stuck. If you are immersed in design from a variety of mediums, you’ll engage your creative brain on multiple levels and have an easier time creating something unique for your project. Looking at good desig… 2012 Bethany Heck bethanyheck 2012-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/starting-your-project-on-the-right-foot/ process
86 Flashless Animation Animation in a Flashless world When I splashed down in web design four years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was animate a cartoon in the browser. I’d been drawing comics for years, and I’ve wanted to see them come to life for nearly as long. Flash animation was still riding high, but I didn’t want to learn Flash. I wanted to learn JavaScript! Sadly, animating with JavaScript was limiting and resource-intensive. My initial foray into an infinitely looping background did more to burn a hole in my CPU than amaze my friends (although it still looks pretty cool). And there was still no simple way to incorporate audio. The browser technology just wasn’t there. Things are different now. CSS3 transitions and animations can do most of the heavy lifting and HTML5 audio can serve up the music and audio clips. You can do a lot without leaning on JavaScript at all, and when you lean on JavaScript, you can do so much more! In this project, I’m going to show you how to animate a simple walk cycle with looping audio. I hope this will inspire you to do something really cool and impress your friends. I’d love to see what you come up with, so please send your creations my way at rachelnabors.com! Note: Because every browser wants to use its own prefixes with CSS3 animations, and I have neither the time nor the space to write all of them out, I will use the W3C standard syntaxes; that is, going prefix-less. You can implement them out of the box with something like Prefixfree, or you can add prefixes on your own. If you take the latter route, I recommend using Sass and Compass so you can focus on your animations, not copying and pasting. The walk cycle Walk cycles are the “Hello world” of animation. One of the first projects of animation students is to spend hours drawing dozens of frames to complete a simple loopable animation of a character walking. Most animators don’t have to draw every frame themselves, though. They draw a few key frames and send those on to production animators to work on the between frames (or twe… 2012 Rachel Nabors rachelnabors 2012-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/flashless-animation/ code
87 Content Planning Demystified The first thing you learn as a junior editor is that you can’t do everything yourself. You must rely on someone else to do at least part of what must be done: the long-range planning, the initial drafting or shooting or recording, the editing, the production, the final polish. All of those pieces of work that belong to someone else take quite a lot of time — days, weeks, sometimes months. If you’re the sort of person who wrote college term papers the night before they were due, this can come as a bit of a shock. To my twenty-two-year-old self, it certainly did. It turns out that the only real way to avoid a trainwreck with editorial work is to get ahead of the trouble, line everything up carefully, and leave oodles of room for all the pieces to connect on time. The same is true of content strategy, content planning, and just about everything to do with content on the web, except for the writing itself — and that, too, usually takes far longer than anyone expects. If you’re not a professional editor and you suddenly find yourself dealing with content creation, you’re almost certainly going to underestimate the time and effort involved, or to skip something important in the planning process that pops up to bite you later. Without good content, it doesn’t matter how well designed or coded your web project is, because it won’t be doing the thing it’s meant to do. And even if content is far from your specialty, you may well end up being the only one willing to coordinate it far enough in advance to avoid a chaotic ending. Whether you’re hiring writers and editors for a big project, working with a small client, or coaxing some editorial help out of a co-worker, getting the planning work done correctly — and ahead of time — will allow you to orchestrate a glorious ballet of togetherness, instead of feverishly scraping together something to put on your site when the deadline looms. So get out the graph paper and the pocket protector, because we’re going to go Full Nerd on this problem. Know your poison Anyone who’s… 2012 Erin Kissane erinkissane 2012-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/content-planning-demystified/ content
88 Think First, Code Later This is a story that’s best told from the end, and it’s probably one you’re all familiar with. You, or someone just like you, have been building a website, probably as part of a skilled and capable team. You’re a front-end developer, focusing on JavaScript – it’s either your sole responsibility or shared around. It’s quite a big job, been going on for months, and at last it feels like you’re reaching the end of it. But, in a brief moment of downtime, you step back and take a look at the code as a whole. You notice that the folder called “jQuery plugins” suddenly looks rather full, and maybe there’s evidence of several methods of doing the same thing; there are loads of little niggly fixes in the bug tracker; and every place you use Ajax the structure of the data is slightly different. You sigh, and your shoulders droop slightly, and you think “Yeah, we’ll do that more cleanly next time.” The thing is, you probably already know how to rewrite the start of this story to make the ending work better. This situation is not really anyone’s fault – it’s just an accumulation of all the things you decided along the way, all the things you agreed you’d fix later that have disappeared into the black hole of technical debt, and accomodating all the “can we just…?” requests from around the team and the client. So, the solution to this is easy, right? More interminable planning meetings, more tightly controlled and documented specifications, less freedom to innovate, to try out new ideas and enjoy what you’re doing. Wait, that sounds even less fun than the old way. Minimum viable planning Actually, planning and specifications are exactly what you need, but the way you go about them can make a real difference, both to the quality of your code, and the quality of your life as a developer. It can be as simple as being a little more thoughtful before starting on any new piece of functionality. Involve your whole team if possible, or at least those working on what you’re doing. Canvass opinions and work out what the solution… 2012 Stephen Fulljames stephenfulljames 2012-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/think-first-code-later/ process
89 Direction, Distance and Destinations With all these new smartphones in the hands of lost and confused owners, we need a better way to represent distances and directions to destinations. The immediate examples that jump to mind are augmented reality apps which let you see another world through your phone’s camera. While this is interesting, there is a simpler way: letting people know how far away they are and if they are getting warmer or colder. In the app world, you can easily tap into the phone’s array of sensors such as the GPS and compass, but what people rarely know is that you can do the same with HTML. The native versus web app debate will never subside, but at least we can show you how to replicate some of the functionality progressively in HTML and JavaScript. In this tutorial, we’ll walk through how to create a simple webpage listing distances and directions of a few popular locations around the world. We’ll use JavaScript to access the device’s geolocation API and also attempt to access the compass to get a heading. Both of these APIs are documented, to be included in the W3C geolocation API specification, and can be used on both desktop and mobile devices today. To get started, we need a list of a few locations around the world. I have chosen the highest mountain peak on each continent so you can see a diverse set of distances and directions. Mountain °Latitude °Longitude Kilimanjaro -3.075833 37.353333 Vinson Massif -78.525483 -85.617147 Puncak Jaya -4.078889 137.158333 Everest 27.988056 86.925278 Elbrus 43.355 42.439167 Mount McKinley 63.0695 -151.0074 Aconcagua -32.653431 -70.011083 Source: Wikipedia We can put those into an HTML list to be styled and accessed by JavaScript to create some distance and directions calculations. The next thing we need to do is check to see if the browser and operating system have geolocation support. To do this we test to see if the function is available or not using a si… 2012 Brian Suda briansuda 2012-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/direction-distance-and-destinations/ code
90 Monkey Business “Too expensive.” “Over-priced.” “A bit rich.” They all mean the same thing. When you say that something’s too expensive, you’re doing much more than commenting on a price. You’re questioning the explicit or implicit value of a product or a service. You’re asking, “Will I get out of it what you want me to pay for it?” You’re questioning the competency, judgement and possibly even integrity of the individual or company that gave you that price, even though you don’t realise it. You might not be saying it explicitly, but what you’re implying is, “Have you made a mistake?”, “Am I getting the best deal?”, “Are you being honest with me?”, “Could I get this cheaper?” Finally, you’re being dishonest, because deep down you know all too well that there’s no such thing as too expensive. Why? It doesn’t matter what you’re questioning the price of. It could be a product, a service or the cost of an hour, day or week of someone’s time. Whatever you’re buying, too expensive is always an excuse. Saying it shifts acceptability of a price back to the person who gave it. What you should say, but are too afraid to admit, is: “It’s more money than I wanted to pay.” “It’s more than I estimated it would cost.” “It’s more than I can afford.” Everyone who’s given a price for a product or service will have been told at some point that it’s too expensive. It’s never comfortable to hear that. Thoughts come thick and fast: “What do I do?” “How do I react?” “Do I really want the business?” “Am I prepared to negotiate?” “How much am I willing to compromise?” It’s easy to be defensive when someone questions a price, but before you react, stay calm and remember that if someone says what you’re offering is too expensive, they’re saying more about themselves and their situation than they are about your price. Learn to read that situation and how to follow up with the right questions. Imagine you’ve quoted someone for a week of your time. “That’s too expensive,” they respond. How should you handle that? Think about what they might o… 2012 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2012-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/monkey-business/ business
91 Infinite Canvas: Moving Beyond the Page Remember Web 2.0? I do. In fact, that phrase neatly bifurcates my life on the internet. Pre-2.0, I was occupied by chatting on AOL and eventually by learning HTML so I could build sites on Geocities. Around 2002, however, I saw a WYSIWYG demo in Dreamweaver. The instructor was dragging boxes and images around a canvas. With a few clicks he was able to build a dynamic, single-page interface. Coming from the world of tables and inline HTML styles, I was stunned. As I entered college the next year, the web was blossoming: broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile (proud PDA owner, right here), CSS, Ajax, Bloglines, Gmail and, soon, Google Maps. I was a technology fanatic and a hobbyist web developer. For me, the web had long been informational. It was now rapidly becoming something else, something more: sophisticated, presentational, actionable. In 2003 we watched as the internet changed. The predominant theme of those early Web 2.0 years was the withering of Internet Explorer 6 and the triumph of web standards. Upon cresting that mountain, we looked around and collectively breathed the rarefied air of pristine HMTL and CSS, uncontaminated by toxic hacks and forks – only to immediately begin hurtling down the other side at what is, frankly, terrifying speed. Ten years later, we are still riding that rocket. Our days (and nights) are spent cramming for exams on CSS3 and RWD and Sass and RESS. We are the proud, frazzled owners of tiny pocket computers that annihilate the best laptops we could have imagined, and the architects of websites that are no longer restricted to big screens nor even segregated by device. We dragoon our sites into working any time, anywhere. At this point, we can hardly ask the spec developers to slow down to allow us to catch our breath, nor should we. It is, without a doubt, a most wonderful time to be a web developer. But despite the newfound luxury of rounded corners, gradients, embeddable fonts, low-level graphics APIs, and, glory be, shadows, the canyon between HTML and native appears to be as wide as… 2012 Nathan Peretic nathanperetic 2012-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/infinite-canvas-moving-beyond-the-page/ code
92 Redesigning the Media Query Responsive web design is showing us that designing content is more important than designing containers. But if you’ve given RWD a serious try, you know that shifting your focus from the container is surprisingly hard to do. There are many factors and instincts working against you, and one culprit is a perpetrator you’d least suspect. The media query is the ringmaster of responsive design. It lets us establish the rules of the game and gives us what we need most: control. However, like some kind of evil double agent, the media query is actually working against you. Its very nature diverts your attention away from content and forces you to focus on the container. The very act of choosing a media query value means choosing a screen size. Look at the history of the media query—it’s always been about the container. Values like screen, print, handheld and tv don’t have anything to do with content. The modern media query lets us choose screen dimensions, which is great because it makes RWD possible. But it’s still the act of choosing something that is completely unpredictable. Content should dictate our breakpoints, not the container. In order to get our focus back to the only thing that matters, we need a reengineered media query—one that frees us from thinking about screen dimensions. A media query that works for your content, not the window. Fortunately, Sass 3.2 is ready and willing to take on this challenge. Thinking in Columns Fluid grids never clicked for me. I feel so disoriented and confused by their squishiness. Responsive design demands their use though, right? I was ready to surrender until I found a grid that turned my world upright again. The Frameless Grid by Joni Korpi demonstrates that column and gutter sizes can stay fixed. As the screen size changes, you simply add or remove columns to accommodate. This made sense to me and armed with this concept I was able to give Sass the first component it needs to rewrite the media query: fixed column and gutter size variables. $grid-column: 60px; $grid-… 2012 Les James lesjames 2012-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/redesigning-the-media-query/ code
93 Design Systems The most important part of responsive web design is that, no matter what the viewport width, the content is accessible in an optimum display. The best responsive designs are those that allow you to go from one optimised display to another, but with the feeling that these experiences are part of a greater product whole. Responsive design: where we’ve been going wrong Responsive web design was a shock to my web designer system. Those of us who had already been designing sites for mobile probably had the biggest leap to make. We might have been detecting user agents in order to deliver a mobile-specific site, or using the slightly more familiar Bushido technique to deliver sites optimised for device type and viewport size, but either way our focus was on devices. A site was optimised for either a mobile phone or a desktop. Responsive web design brought us back to pre-table layout fluid sites that expanded or contracted to fit the viewport. This was a big difference to get our heads around when we were so used to designing for fixed-width layouts. Suddenly, an element could be any width or, at least, we needed to consider its maximum and minimum widths. Pixel perfection, while pretty, became wholly unrealistic, and a whole load of designers who prided themselves in detailed and precise designs got a bit scared. Hanging on to our previous processes and typical deliverables led us to continue to optimise our sites for particular devices and provide pixel-perfect mockups for those device widths. With all this we were concentrating on devices, not content, deliverables and not process, and making assumptions about users and their devices based on nothing but the width of the viewport. I don’t think this is a crime, I think it was inevitable. We can be up to date with our principles and ideals, but it’s never as easy in practice. That’s why it’s more important than ever to share our successful techniques and processes. Let’s drag each other into modern web design. Design systems: the principles What are design sy… 2012 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2012-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/design-systems/ design
94 Using Questionnaires for Design Research How do you ask the right questions? In this article, I share a bunch of tips and practical advice on how to write and use your own surveys for design research. I’m an audience researcher – I’m not a designer or developer. I’ve spent much of the last thirteen years working with audience data both in creative agencies and on the client-side. I’m also a member of the Market Research Society. I run user surveys and undertake user research for our clients at the design studio I run with my husband – Mark Boulton Design. So let’s get started! Who are you designing for? Good web designers and developers appreciate the importance of understanding the audience they are designing or building a website or app for. I’m assuming that because you are reading a quality publication like 24 ways that you fall into this category, and so I won’t begin this article with a lecture. Suffice it to say, it’s a good idea to involve research of some sort during the life cycle of every project you undertake. I don’t just mean visual or competitor research, which of course is also very important. I mean looking at or finding your own audience or user data. Whether that be auditing existing data or research available from the client, carrying out user interviews, A/B testing, or conducting a simple questionnaire with users, any research is better than none. If you create personas as a design tool, they should always be based on research, so you will need to have plenty of data to hand for that. Where do I start? In the initial kick-off stages of a project, it’s a good idea to start by asking your client (when working in-house you still have a client – you might even be the client) what research or audience data they have available. Some will have loads – analytics, surveys, focus groups and insights – from talking to customers. Some won’t have much at all and you’ll be hard pressed to find out much about the audience. It’s best to review existing research first without rushing headlong into doing new research. Get a picture of what … 2012 Emma Boulton emmaboulton 2012-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/using-questionnaires-for-design-research/ business
95 Giving Content Priority with CSS3 Grid Layout Browser support for many of the modules that are part of CSS3 have enabled us to use CSS for many of the things we used to have to use images for. The rise of mobile browsers and the concept of responsive web design has given us a whole new way of looking at design for the web. However, when it comes to layout, we haven’t moved very far at all. We have talked for years about separating our content and source order from the presentation of that content, yet most of us have had to make decisions on source order in order to get a certain visual layout. Owing to some interesting specifications making their way through the W3C process at the moment, though, there is hope of change on the horizon. In this article I’m going to look at one CSS module, the CSS3 grid layout module, that enables us to define a grid and place elements on to it. This article comprises a practical demonstration of the basics of grid layout, and also a discussion of one way in which we can start thinking of content in a more adaptive way. Before we get started, it is important to note that, at the time of writing, these examples work only in Internet Explorer 10. CSS3 grid layout is a module created by Microsoft, and implemented using the -ms prefix in IE10. My examples will all use the -ms prefix, and not include other prefixes simply because this is such an early stage specification, and by the time there are implementations in other browsers there may be inconsistencies. The implementation I describe today may well change, but is also there for your feedback. If you don’t have access to IE10, then one way to view and test these examples is by signing up for an account with Browserstack – the free trial would give you time to have a look. I have also included screenshots of all relevant stages in creating the examples. What is CSS3 grid layout? CSS3 grid layout aims to let developers divide up a design into a grid and place content on to that grid. Rather than trying to fabricate a grid from floats, you can declare an actual grid on a c… 2012 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2012-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/css3-grid-layout/ code
96 Unwrapping the Wii U Browser The Wii U was released on 18 November 2012 in the US, and 30 November in the UK. It’s the first eighth generation home console, the first mainstream second-screen device, and it has some really impressive browser specs. Consoles are not just for games now: they’re marketed as complete entertainment solutions. Internet connectivity and browser functionality have gone from a nice-to-have feature in game consoles to a selling point. In Nintendo’s case, they see it as a challenge to design an experience that’s better than browsing on a desktop. Let’s make a browser that users can use on a daily basis, something that can really handle everything we’ve come to expect from a browser and do it more naturally. Sasaki – Iwata Asks on Nintendo.com With 11% of people using console browsers to visit websites, it’s important to consider these devices right from the start of projects. Browsing the web on a TV or handheld console is a very different experience to browsing on a desktop or a mobile phone, and has many usability implications. Console browser testing When I’m testing a console browser, one of the first things I do is run Niels Leenheer’s HTML5 test and Lea Verou’s CSS3 test. I use these benchmarks as a rough comparison of the standards each browser supports. In October, IE9 came out for the Xbox 360, scoring 120/500 in the HTML5 test and 32% in the CSS3 test. The PS Vita also had an update to its browser in recent weeks, jumping from 58/500 to 243/500 in the HTML5 test, and 32% to 55% in the CSS3 test. Manufacturers have been stepping up their game, trying to make their browsing experiences better. To give you an idea of how the Wii U currently compares to other devices, here are the test results of the other TV consoles I’ve tested. I’ve written more in-depth notes on TV and portable console browsers separately. Year of releaseHTML5 scoreCSS3 scoreNotes Wii U2012258/50048%Runs a Netfront browser (WebKit). Wii200689/500Wouldn’t runRuns an Opera browser. PS3200668/50038%Runs a Netfront browser (WebKit). X… 2012 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2012-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/unwrapping-the-wii-u-browser/ ux

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