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1 Why Bother with Accessibility? Web accessibility (known in other fields as inclusive design or universal design) is the degree to which a website is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility is most often used to describe how people with disabilities can access the web. How we approach accessibility In the web community, there’s a surprisingly inconsistent approach to accessibility. There are some who are endlessly dedicated to accessible web design, and there are some who believe it so intrinsic to the web that it shouldn’t be considered a separate topic. Still, of those who are familiar with accessibility, there’s an overwhelming number of designers, developers, clients and bosses who just aren’t that bothered. Over the last few months I’ve spoken to a lot of people about accessibility, and I’ve heard the same reasons to ignore it over and over again. Let’s take a look at the most common excuses. Excuse 1: “People with disabilities don’t really use the web” Accessibility will make your site available to more people — the inclusion case In the same way that the accessibility of a building isn’t just about access for wheelchair users, web accessibility isn’t just about blind users and screen readers. We can affect positively the lives of many people by making their access to the web easier. There are four main types of disability that affect use of the web: Visual Blindness, low vision and colour-blindness Auditory Profoundly deaf and hard of hearing Motor The inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control Cognitive Learning difficulties, distractibility, the inability to focus on large amounts of information None of these disabilities are completely black and white Examining deafness, it’s clear from the medical scale that there are many grey areas between full hearing and total deafness: mild moderate moderately severe severe profound totally deaf For eyesight, and brain conditions that affect what users see, there is a huge range of conditions and challenges: astigmatis… 2013 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2013-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility/ design
2 Levelling Up Hello, 24 ways. I’m Ashley and I sell property insurance. I’m interrupting your Christmas countdown with an article about rental property software and a guy, Pete, who selflessly encouraged me to build my first web app. It doesn’t sound at all festive, or — considering I’ve used both “insurance” and “rental property” — interesting, but do stick with me. There’s eggnog at the end. I run a property insurance business, Brokers Direct. It’s a small operation, but well established. We’ve been selling landlord insurance on the web for over thirteen years, for twelve of which we have provided our clients with third-party software for managing their rental property portfolios. Free. Of. Charge. It sounds like a sweet deal for our customers, but it isn’t. At least, not any more. The third-party software is victim to years of neglect by its vendor. Its questionable interface, garish visuals and, ahem, clip art icons have suffered from a lack of updates. While it was never a contender for software of the year, I’ve steadily grown too embarrassed to associate my business with it. The third-party rental property software we distributed I wanted to offer my customers a simple, clean and lightweight alternative. In an industry that’s dominated by dated and bloated software, it seemed only logical that I should build my own rental property tool. The long learning-to-code slog Learning a programming language is daunting, the source of my frustration stemming from a non-programming background. Generally, tutorials assume a degree of familiarity with programming, whether it be tools, conventions or basic skills. I had none and, at the time, there was nothing on the web really geared towards a novice. I reached the point where I genuinely thought I was just not cut out for coding. Surrendering to my feelings of self-doubt and frustration, I sourced a local Rails developer, Pete, to build it for me. Pete brought a pack of index cards to our meeting. Index cards that would represent each feature the rental property software wo… 2013 Ashley Baxter ashleybaxter 2013-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/levelling-up/ business
3 Project Hubs: A Home Base for Design Projects SCENE: A design review meeting. Laptop screens. Coffee cups. Project manager: Hey, did you get my email with the assets we’ll be discussing? Client: I got an email from you, but it looks like there’s no attachment. PM: Whoops! OK. I’m resending the files with the attachments. Check again? Client: OK, I see them. It’s homepage_v3_brian-edits_FINAL_for-review.pdf, right? PM: Yeah, that’s the one. Client: OK, hang on, Bill’s going to print them out. (3-minute pause. Small talk ensues.) Client: Alright, Bill’s back. We’re good to start. Brian: Oh, actually those homepage edits we talked about last time are in the homepage_v4_brian_FINAL_v2.pdf document that I posted to Basecamp earlier today. Client: Oh, OK. What message thread was that in? Brian: Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s in “Homepage Edits and Holiday Schedule.” Client: Alright, I see them. Bill’s going back to the printer. Hang on a sec… This is only a slightly exaggerated version of my experience in design review meetings. The design project dance is a sloppy one. It involves a slew of email attachments, PDFs, PSDs, revisions, GitHub repos, staging environments, and more. And while tools like Basecamp can help manage all these moving parts, it can still be incredibly challenging to extract only the important bits, juggle deliverables, and see how your project is progressing. Enter project hubs. Project hubs A project hub consolidates all the key design and development materials onto a single webpage presented in reverse chronological order. The timeline lives online (either publicly available or password protected), so that everyone involved in the team has easy access to it. A project hub. I was introduced to project hubs after seeing Dan Mall’s open redesign of Reading Is Fundamental. Thankfully, I had a chance to work with Dan on two projects where I got to see firsthand how beneficial a project hub can be. Here’s what makes a project hub great: Serves as a centralized home base for the project Trains clients and teams to decide i… 2013 Brad Frost bradfrost 2013-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/project-hubs/ process
4 Credits and Recognition A few weeks ago, I saw a friendly little tweet from a business congratulating a web agency on being nominated for an award. The business was quite happy for them and proud to boot — they commented on how the same agency designed their website, too. What seemed like a nice little shout-out actually made me feel a little disappointed. Why? In reality, I knew that the web agency didn’t actually design the site — I did, when I worked at a different agency responsible for the overall branding and identity. I certainly wasn’t disappointed at the business — after all, saying that someone designed your site when they were responsible for development is an easy mistake to make. Chances are, the person behind the tweets and status updates might not even know the difference between words like design and development. What really disappointed me was the reminder of how many web workers out there never explain their roles in a project when displaying work in a portfolio. If you’re strictly a developer and market yourself as such, there might be less room for confusion, but things can feel a little deceptive if you offer a wide range of services yet never credit the other players when collaboration is part of the game. Unfortunately, this was the case in this situation. Whatever happened to credit where credit’s due? Advertising attribution Have you ever thumbed through an advertising annual or browsed through the winners of an advertising awards website, like the campaign below from Kopenhagen Chocolate on Advertising Age? If so, it’s likely that you’ve noticed some big differences in how the work is credited. Everyone involved in a creative advertising project is mentioned. Art directors, writers, creative directors, photographers, illustrators and, of course, the agency all get a fair shot at fifteen minutes of fame. Why can’t we take this same idea and introduce it to our own showcases? Crediting on client sites Ah, the good old days of web rings, guestbooks, and under construction GIFs, when slipping in a cheeky… 2013 Geri Coady gericoady 2013-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/credits-and-recognition/ process
5 Managing a Mind On 21 May 2013, I woke in a hospital bed feeling exhausted, disorientated and ashamed. The day before, I had tried to kill myself. It’s very hard to write about this and share it. It feels like I’m opening up the deepest recesses of my soul and laying everything bare, but I think it’s important we share this as a community. Since starting tentatively to write about my experience, I’ve had many conversations about this: sharing with others; others sharing with me. I’ve been surprised to discover how many people are suffering similarly, thinking that they’re alone. They’re not. Due to an insane schedule of teaching, writing, speaking, designing and just generally trying to keep up, I reached a point where my buffers completely overflowed. I was working so hard on so many things that I was struggling to maintain control. I was living life on fast-forward and my grasp on everything was slowly slipping. On that day, I reached a low point – the lowest point of my life – and in that moment I could see only one way out. I surrendered. I can’t really describe that moment. I’m still grappling with it. All I know is that I couldn’t take it any more and I gave up. I very nearly died. I’m very fortunate to have survived. I was admitted to hospital, taken there unconscious in an ambulance. On waking, I felt overwhelmed with shame and overcome with remorse, but I was resolved to grasp the situation and address it. The experience has forced me to confront a great deal of issues in my life; it has also encouraged me to seek a deeper understanding of my situation and, in particular, the mechanics of the mind. The relentless pace of change We work in a fast-paced industry: few others, if any, confront the daily challenges we face. The landscape we work within is characterised by constant flux. It’s changing and evolving at a rate we have never experienced before. Few industries reinvent themselves yearly, monthly, weekly… Ours is one of these industries. Technology accelerates at an alarming rate and keeping abreast of this … 2013 Christopher Murphy christophermurphy 2013-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/managing-a-mind/ process
6 Run Ragged You care about typography, right? Do you care about words and how they look, read, and are understood? If you pick up a book or magazine, you notice the moment something is out of place: an orphan, rivers within paragraphs of justified prose, or caps masquerading as small caps. So why, I ask you, is your stance any different on the web? We’re told time and time again that as a person who makes websites we have to get comfortable with our lack of control. On the web, this is a feature, not a bug. But that doesn’t mean we have to lower our standards, or not strive for the same amount of typographic craft of our print-based cousins. We shouldn’t leave good typesetting at the door because we can’t control the line length. When I typeset books, I’d spend hours manipulating the text to create a pleasurable flow from line to line. A key aspect of this is manicuring the right rag — the vertical line of words on ranged-left text. Maximising the space available, but ensuring there are no line breaks or orphaned words that disrupt the flow of reading. Setting a right rag relies on a bunch of guidelines — or as I was first taught to call them, violations! Violation 1. Never break a line immediately following a preposition Prepositions are important, frequently used words in English. They link nouns, pronouns and other words together in a sentence. And links should not be broken if you can help it. Ending a line on a preposition breaks the join from one word to another and forces the reader to work harder joining two words over two lines. For example: The container is for the butter The preposition here is for and shows the relationship between the butter and the container. If this were typeset on a line and the line break was after the word for, then the reader would have to carry that through to the next line. The sentence would not flow. There are lots of prepositions in English – about 150 – but only 70 or so in use. Violation 2. Never break a line immediately following a dash A dash — either an em-dash or … 2013 Mark Boulton markboulton 2013-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/run-ragged/ design
7 Get Started With GitHub Pages (Plus Bonus Jekyll) After several failed attempts at getting set up with GitHub Pages, I vowed that if I ever figured out how to do it, I’d write it up. Fortunately, I did eventually figure it out, so here is my write-up. Why I think GitHub Pages is cool Normally when you host stuff on GitHub, you’re just storing your files there. If you push site files, what you’re storing is the code, and when you view a file, you’re viewing the code rather than the output. What GitHub Pages lets you do is store those files, and if they’re HTML files, you can view them like any other website, so there’s no need to host them separately yourself. GitHub Pages accepts static HTML but can’t execute languages like PHP, or use a database in the way you’re probably used to, so you’ll need to output static HTML files. This is where templating tools such as Jekyll come in, which I’ll talk about later. The main benefit of GitHub Pages is ease of collaboration. Changes you make in the repository are automatically synced, so if your site’s hosted on GitHub, it’s as up-to-date as your GitHub repository. This really appeals to me because when I just want to quickly get something set up, I don’t want to mess around with hosting; and when people submit a pull request, I want that change to be visible as soon as I merge it without having to set up web hooks. Before you get started If you’ve used GitHub before, already have an account and know the basics like how to set up a repository and clone it to your computer, you’re good to go. If not, I recommend getting familiar with that first. The GitHub site has extensive documentation on getting started, and if you’re not a fan of using the command line, the official GitHub apps for Mac and Windows are great. I also found this tutorial about GitHub Pages by Thinkful really useful, and it contains details on how to turn an existing repository into a GitHub Pages site. Although this involves a bit of using the command line, it’s minimal, and I’ll guide you through the basics. Setting up GitHub Pages For this de… 2013 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2013-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/get-started-with-github-pages/  
8 Coding Towards Accessibility “Can we make it AAA-compliant?” – does this question strike fear into your heart? Maybe for no other reason than because you will soon have to wade through the impenetrable WCAG documentation once again, to find out exactly what AAA-compliant means? I’m not here to talk about that. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a comprehensive and peer-reviewed resource which we’re lucky to have at our fingertips. But they are also a pig to read, and they may have contributed to the sense of mystery and dread with which some developers associate the word accessibility. This Christmas, I want to share with you some thoughts and some practical tips for building accessible interfaces which you can start using today, without having to do a ton of reading or changing your tools and workflow. But first, let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions. Dreary, flat experiences I recently built a front-end framework for the Post Office. This was a great gig for a developer, but when I found out about my client’s stringent accessibility requirements I was concerned that I’d have to scale back what was quite a complex set of visual designs. Sites like Jakob Neilsen’s old workhorse useit.com and even the pioneering GOV.UK may have to shoulder some of the blame for this. They put a premium on usability and accessibility over visual flourish. (Although, in fairness to Mr Neilsen, his new site nngroup.com is really quite a snazzy affair, comparatively.) Of course, there are other reasons for these sites’ aesthetics — and it’s not because of the limitations of the form. You can make an accessible site look as glossy or as plain as you want it to look. It’s always our own ingenuity and attention to detail that are going to be the limiting factors. Synecdoche We must always guard against the tendency to assume that catering to screen readers means we have the whole accessibility ballgame covered. There’s so much more to accessibility than assistive technology, as you know. And within the field of assistive technology there ar… 2013 Charlie Perrins charlieperrins 2013-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/coding-towards-accessibility/ code
9 How to Write a Book Were you recently inspired to write a book after reading Owen Gregory’s compendium of author insights? Maybe so inspired to strike out on your own and self-publish? Based on personal experience, writing a book is hard. It requires a great deal of research, experience, and patience. To be able to consolidate your thoughts and what you’ve learned into a sensible and readable tome is an admirable feat. To decide to self-publish and take on yourself all of the design, printing, distribution, and so much more is tantamount to insanity. Again, based on personal experience. So, why might you want to self-publish? If you’ve spent many a late night doing cross-browser testing just to know that your site works flawlessly in twenty-four different browsers — including Mosaic, of course — then maybe you’ll understand the fun that comes from doing it all. Working with a publisher, you’re left to focus on one core thing: writing. That’s a good thing. A good publisher has the right resources to help you get your idea polished and the distribution network to get your book on store shelves around the world. It’s a very proud moment to be able to walk into a book store and see your book sitting there on the shelf. Self-publishing can also be a wonderful process as you get to own it from beginning to end. Every decision is yours and if you’re a control freak like me, this can be a very rewarding experience. While there are many aspects to self-publishing, I’m going to speak to just one of them: creating an ebook. Formats In creating an ebook, you first need to decide what formats you wish to support. There are three main formats, each with their own pros and cons: PDF EPUB MOBI PDFs are supported on almost every device (Windows, Mac, Kindle, iPad, Android, etc.) and can even be a stepping stone to creating a print version of your book. PDFs allow for full typographic and design control, but at the cost of needing to fit things into a predefined page layout. Is it US Letter or A4? Or is it a format that isn’t easily… 2013 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2013-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/how-to-write-a-book/ content
10 Home Kanban for Domestic Bliss My wife is an architect. I’m a leader of big technical teams these days, but for many years after I was a dev I was a project/program manager. Our friends and family used to watch Grand Designs and think that we would make the ideal team — she could design, I could manage the project of building or converting whatever dream home we wanted. Then we bought a house. A Victorian terrace in the north-east of England that needed, well, a fair bit of work. The big decisions were actually pretty easy: yes, we should knock through a double doorway from the dining room to the lounge; yes, we should strip out everything from the utility room and redo it; yes, we should roll back the hideous carpet in the bedrooms upstairs and see if we could restore the original wood flooring. Those could be managed like a project. What couldn’t be was all the other stuff. Incremental improvements are harder to schedule, and in a house that’s over a hundred years old you never know what you’re going to find when you clear away some tiles, or pull up the carpets, or even just spring-clean the kitchen (“Erm, hon? The paint seems to be coming off. Actually, so does the plaster…”). A bit like going in to fix bugs in code or upgrade a machine — sometimes you end up quite far down the rabbit hole. And so, as we tried to fit in those improvements in our evenings and weekends, we found ourselves disagreeing. Arguing, even. We were both trying to do the right thing (make the house better) but since we were fitting it in where we could, we often didn’t get to talk and agree in detail what was needed (exactly how to make the house better). And it’s really frustrating when you stay up late doing something, just to find that your other half didn’t mean that they meant this instead, and so your effort was wasted. Then I saw this tweet from my friend and colleague Jamie Arnold, who was using the same kanban board approach at home as we had instituted at the UK Government Digital Service to manage our portfolio. Mrs Arnold embraces Kanban wall at ho… 2013 Meri Williams meriwilliams 2013-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/home-kanban-for-domestic-bliss/ process
11 JavaScript: Taking Off the Training Wheels JavaScript is the third pillar of front-end web development. Of those pillars, it is both the most powerful and the most complex, so it’s understandable that when 24 ways asked, “What one thing do you wish you had more time to learn about?”, a number of you answered “JavaScript!” This article aims to help you feel happy writing JavaScript, and maybe even without libraries like jQuery. I can’t comprehensively explain JavaScript itself without writing a book, but I hope this serves as a springboard from which you can jump to other great resources. Why learn JavaScript? So what’s in it for you? Why take the next step and learn the fundamentals? Confidence with jQuery If nothing else, learning JavaScript will improve your jQuery code; you’ll be comfortable writing jQuery from scratch and feel happy bending others’ code to your own purposes. Writing efficient, fast and bug-free jQuery is also made much easier when you have a good appreciation of JavaScript, because you can look at what jQuery is really doing. Understanding how JavaScript works lets you write better jQuery because you know what it’s doing behind the scenes. When you need to leave the beaten track, you can do so with confidence. In fact, you could say that jQuery’s ultimate goal is not to exist: it was invented at a time when web APIs were very inconsistent and hard to work with. That’s slowly changing as new APIs are introduced, and hopefully there will come a time when jQuery isn’t needed. An example of one such change is the introduction of the very useful document.querySelectorAll. Like jQuery, it converts a CSS selector into a list of matching elements. Here’s a comparison of some jQuery code and the equivalent without. $('.counter').each(function (index) { $(this).text(index + 1); }); var counters = document.querySelectorAll('.counter'); [].slice.call(counters).forEach(function (elem, index) { elem.textContent = index + 1; }); Solving problems no one else has! When you have to go to the internet to solve a problem, you’re forever st… 2013 Tom Ashworth tomashworth 2013-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/javascript-taking-off-the-training-wheels/ code
12 Untangling Web Typography When I was a carpenter, I noticed how homeowners often had this deer-in-the-headlights look when the contractor I worked for would ask them to make tons of decisions, seemingly all at once. Square or subway tile? Glass or ceramic? Traditional or modern trim details? Flat face or picture frame cabinets? Real wood or laminate flooring? Every day the decisions piled up and were usually made in the context of that room, or that part of that room. Rarely did the homeowner have the benefit of taking that particular decision in full view of the larger context of the project. And architectural plans? Sure, they lay out the broad strokes, but there is still so much to decide. Typography is similar. Designers try to make sites that are easy to use and understand visually. They labour over the details of line height, font size, line length, and font weights. They consider the relative merits of different typographical scales for applications versus content-driven sites. Frequently, designers consider all of this in the context of one page, feature, or view of an application. They are asked to make a million tiny decisions. Sometimes designers just bump up the font size until it looks right. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Instincts are important. Designing in context is easier. It’s OK to leave the big picture until later. Design a bunch of things, and then look for the patterns. You can’t always know everything up front. How does the current feature relate to all the other features on the site? For a large site, just like for a substantial remodel, the number of decisions you would need to internalize to make that knowable would be prohibitively large. When typography goes awry I should be honest. I know very little about typography. I struggle to understand vertical rhythm and the math in Tim Ahrens’s talks about the interaction between type design and rendering technology kind of melted my brain. I have an unusual perspective because I’m not the one making the design decisions, but I am the one implementing t… 2013 Nicole Sullivan nicolesullivan 2013-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/untangling-web-typography/ design
13 Data-driven Design with an Annual Survey Too often, we base designs on assumptions that don’t match customer perspectives. Why? Because the data we need to make informed decisions isn’t available. Imagine starting off the year with a treasure trove of user data that can be filtered, sliced, and diced to inform new UI designs, help you discover where users struggle the most, and expose emerging trends in your customers’ needs that could lead to new features. Why, that would be useful indeed. And it’s easy to obtain by conducting an annual survey. Annual surveys may seem as exciting as receiving socks and undies for Christmas, but they’re the gift that keeps on giving all year long (just like fresh socks and undies). I’m not ashamed to admit it: I love surveys! Each time my design research team runs a survey, we learn so much about customer motivations, interests, and behaviors. Surveys provide an aggregate snapshot of your users that can’t easily be obtained by other research methods, and they can be conducted quickly too. You can build a survey in a few hours, run a pilot test in a day, and have real results streaming in the following day. Speed is essential if design research is going to keep pace with a busy product release schedule. Surveys are also an invaluable springboard for customer interviews, which provide deep perspectives on user behavior. If you play your cards right as you construct your survey, you can capture a user ID and an email address for each respondent, making it easy to get in touch with customers whose feedback is particularly intriguing. No more recruiting customers for your research via Twitter or through a recruiting company charging a small fortune. You can filter survey responses and isolate the exact customers to talk with in moments, not months. I love this connected process of sending targeted surveys, filtering the results, and then — with surgical precision — selecting just the right customers to interview. Not only is it fast and cheap, but it lets design researchers do quantitative and qualitative research in … 2013 Aarron Walter aarronwalter 2013-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/data-driven-design-with-an-annual-survey/ design
14 The Command Position Principle Living where I do, in a small village in rural North Wales, getting anywhere means driving along narrow country roads. Most of these are just about passable when two cars meet. If you’re driving too close to the centre of the road, when two drivers meet you stop, glare at each other and no one goes anywhere. Drive too close to your nearside and in summer you’ll probably scratch your paintwork on the hedgerows, or in winter you’ll sink your wheels into mud. Driving these lanes requires a balance between caring for your own vehicle and consideration for someone else’s, but all too often, I’ve seen drivers pushed towards the hedgerows and mud when someone who’s inconsiderate drives too wide because they don’t want to risk scratching their own paintwork or getting their wheels dirty. If you learn to ride a motorcycle, you’ll be taught about the command position: Approximate central position, or any position from which the rider can exert control over invitation space either side. The command position helps motorcyclists stay safe, because when they ride in the centre of their lane it prevents other people, usually car drivers, from driving alongside, either forcing them into the curb or potentially dangerously close to oncoming traffic. Taking the command position isn’t about motorcyclists being aggressive, it’s about them being confident. It’s them knowing their rightful place on the road and communicating that through how they ride. I’ve recently been trying to take that command position when driving my car on our lanes. When I see someone coming in the opposite direction, instead of instinctively moving closer to my nearside — and in so doing subconsciously invite them into my space on the road — I hold both my nerve and a central position in my lane. Since I done this I’ve noticed that other drivers more often than not stay in their lane or pull closer to their nearside so we occupy equal space on the road. Although we both still need to watch our wing mirrors, neither of us gets our paint scratched … 2013 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2013-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-command-position-principle/ business
15 Git for Grown-ups You are a clever and talented person. You create beautiful designs, or perhaps you have architected a system that even my cat could use. Your peers adore you. Your clients love you. But, until now, you haven’t *&^#^! been able to make Git work. It makes you angry inside that you have to ask your co-worker, again, for that *&^#^! command to upload your work. It’s not you. It’s Git. Promise. Yes, this is an article about the popular version control system, Git. But unlike just about every other article written about Git, I’m not going to give you the top five commands that you need to memorize; and I’m not going to tell you all your problems would be solved if only you were using this GUI wrapper or that particular workflow. You see, I’ve come to a grand realization: when we teach Git, we’re doing it wrong. Let me back up for a second and tell you a little bit about the field of adult education. (Bear with me, it gets good and will leave you feeling both empowered and righteous.) Andragogy, unlike pedagogy, is a learner-driven educational experience. There are six main tenets to adult education: Adults prefer to know why they are learning something. The foundation of the learning activities should include experience. Adults prefer to be able to plan and evaluate their own instruction. Adults are more interested in learning things which directly impact their daily activities. Adults prefer learning to be oriented not towards content, but towards problems. Adults relate more to their own motivators than to external ones. Nowhere in this list does it include “memorize the five most popular Git commands”. And yet this is how we teach version control: init, add, commit, branch, push. You’re an expert! Sound familiar? In the hierarchy of learning, memorizing commands is the lowest, or most basic, form of learning. At the peak of learning you are able to not just analyze and evaluate a problem space, but create your own understanding in relation to your existing body of knowledge. “Fine,” I can hear you say… 2013 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2013-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/git-for-grownups/ code
16 URL Rewriting for the Fearful I think it was Marilyn Monroe who said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, please just fix these rewrite rules, I’m getting an internal server error.” Even the blonde bombshell hated configuring URL rewrites on her website, and I think most of us know where she was coming from. The majority of website projects I work on require some amount of URL rewriting, and I find it mildly enjoyable — I quite like a good rewrite rule. I suspect you may not share my glee, so in this article we’re going to go back to basics to try to make the whole rigmarole more understandable. When we think about URL rewriting, usually that means adding some rules to an .htaccess file for an Apache web server. As that’s the most common case, that’s what I’ll be sticking to here. If you work with a different server, there’s often documentation specifically for translating from Apache’s mod_rewrite rules. I even found an automatic converter for nginx. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive guide to every URL rewriting problem you might ever have. That would take us until Christmas. If you consider yourself a trial-and-error dabbler in the HTTP 500-infested waters of URL rewriting, then hopefully this will provide a little bit more of a basis to help you figure out what you’re doing. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the white screen of death after screwing up your .htaccess file, don’t worry. As Michael Jackson once insipidly whined, you are not alone. The basics Rewrite rules form part of the Apache web server’s configuration for a website, and can be placed in a number of different locations as part of your virtual host configuration. By far the simplest and most portable option is to use an .htaccess file in your website root. Provided your server has mod_rewrite available, all you need to do to kick things off in your .htaccess file is: RewriteEngine on The general formula for a rewrite rule is: RewriteRule URL/to/match URL/to/use/if/it/matches [options] When we talk about URL rewriting, we’re normally talking about one o… 2013 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2013-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/url-rewriting-for-the-fearful/ code
17 Bringing Design and Research Closer Together The ‘should designers be able to code’ debate has raged for some time, but I’m interested in another debate: should designers be able to research? Are you a designer who can do research? Good research and the insights you uncover inspire fresh ways of thinking and get your creative juices flowing. Good research brings clarity to a woolly brief. Audience insight helps sharpen your focus on what’s really important. Experimentation through research and design brings a sense of playfulness and curiosity to your work. Good research helps you do good design. Being a web designer today is pretty tough, particularly if you’re a freelancer and work on your own. There are so many new ideas, approaches to workflow and trends and tools to keep up with. How do you decide which things to do and which to ignore? A modern web designer needs to be able to consider the needs of the audience, design appropriate IAs and layouts, choose colour palettes, pick appropriate typefaces and type layouts, wrangle with content, style, code, dabble in SEO, and the list goes on and on. Not only that, but today’s web designer also has to keep up with the latest talking points in the industry: responsive design, Agile, accessibility, Sass, Git, lean UX, content first, mobile first, blah blah blah. Any good web designer doesn’t need to be persuaded about the merits of including research in their toolkit, but do you really have time to include research too? Who is responsible for research? Generally, research in the web industry forms part of other disciplines and isn’t so much a discipline in its own right. It’s very often thought of as part of UX, or activities that make up a process such as IA or content strategy. Research is often undertaken by UX designers, information architects or content strategists and isn’t something designers or developers get that involved in. Some people lump all of these activities together and label it design research and have design researchers to do it. Some companies, such as the one I run with my husband Ma… 2013 Emma Boulton emmaboulton 2013-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/bringing-design-and-research-closer-together/ ux
18 Grunt for People Who Think Things Like Grunt are Weird and Hard Front-end developers are often told to do certain things: Work in as small chunks of CSS and JavaScript as makes sense to you, then concatenate them together for the production website. Compress your CSS and minify your JavaScript to make their file sizes as small as possible for your production website. Optimize your images to reduce their file size without affecting quality. Use Sass for CSS authoring because of all the useful abstraction it allows. That’s not a comprehensive list of course, but those are the kind of things we need to do. You might call them tasks. I bet you’ve heard of Grunt. Well, Grunt is a task runner. Grunt can do all of those things for you. Once you’ve got it set up, which isn’t particularly difficult, those things can happen automatically without you having to think about them again. But let’s face it: Grunt is one of those fancy newfangled things that all the cool kids seem to be using but at first glance feels strange and intimidating. I hear you. This article is for you. Let’s nip some misconceptions in the bud right away Perhaps you’ve heard of Grunt, but haven’t done anything with it. I’m sure that applies to many of you. Maybe one of the following hang-ups applies to you. I don’t need the things Grunt does You probably do, actually. Check out that list up top. Those things aren’t nice-to-haves. They are pretty vital parts of website development these days. If you already do all of them, that’s awesome. Perhaps you use a variety of different tools to accomplish them. Grunt can help bring them under one roof, so to speak. If you don’t already do all of them, you probably should and Grunt can help. Then, once you are doing those, you can keep using Grunt to do more for you, which will basically make you better at doing your job. Grunt runs on Node.js — I don’t know Node You don’t have to know Node. Just like you don’t have to know Ruby to use Sass. Or PHP to use WordPress. Or C++ to use Microsoft Word. I have other ways to do the things Grunt could do for me Are the… 2013 Chris Coyier chriscoyier 2013-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/grunt-is-not-weird-and-hard/ code
19 In Their Own Write: Web Books and their Authors The currency of written communication — words on the page, words on the screen — comprises many denominations. To further our ends in web design and development, we freely spend and receive several: tweets aphoristic and trenchant, banal and perfunctory; blog posts and articles that call us to action or reflection; anecdotes, asides, comments, essays, guides, how-tos, manuals, musings, notes, opinions, stories, thoughts, tips pro and not-so-pro. So many, many words. Our industry (so much more than this, but what on earth are we, collectively?), our community thrives on writing and sharing knowledge and experience. 24 ways is a case in point. Everyone can learn and contribute through reading and writing — it’s what we’ve always done. To web authors and readers seeking greater returns, though, broader culture has vouchsafed an enduring and singular artefact: the book. Last month I asked a small sample of web book authors if they would be prepared to answer a few questions; most of them kindly agreed. In spirit, the survey was informal: I had neither hypothesis nor unground axe. I work closely with writers — and yes, I’ve edited or copy-edited books by several of the authors I surveyed — and wanted to share their thoughts about what it was like to write a book (“…it was challenging to find a coherent narrative”), why they did it (“Who wouldn’t want to?”) and what they learned from the experience (“That I could!”). Reasons for writing a book In web development the connection between authors and readers is unusually close and immediate. Working in our medium precipitates a unity that’s rare elsewhere. Yet writing and publishing a book, even during the current books revolution, is something only a few of us attempt and it remains daunting and a little remote. What spurs an author to try it? For some, it’s a deeply held resistance to prevailing trends: I felt that designers and developers needed to be shaken out of what seemed to me had been years of stagnation. —Andrew Clarke Or even a desire to protect us from… 2013 Owen Gregory owengregory 2013-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/web-books/ content
20 Make Your Browser Dance It was a crisp winter’s evening when I pulled up alongside the pier. I stepped out of my car and the bitterly cold sea air hit my face. I walked around to the boot, opened it and heaved out a heavy flight case. I slammed the boot shut, locked the car and started walking towards the venue. This was it. My first gig. I thought about all those weeks of preparation: editing video clips, creating 3-D objects, making coloured patterns, then importing them all into software and configuring effects to change as the music did; targeting frequency, beat, velocity, modifying size, colour, starting point; creating playlists of these… and working out ways to mix them as the music played. This was it. This was me VJing. This was all a lifetime (well a decade!) ago. When I started web designing, VJing took a back seat. I was more interested in interactive layouts, semantic accessible HTML, learning all the IE bugs and mastering the quirks that CSS has to offer. More recently, I have been excited by background gradients, 3-D transforms, the @keyframe directive, as well as new APIs such as getUserMedia, indexedDB, the Web Audio API But wait, have I just come full circle? Could it be possible, with these wonderful new things in technologies I am already familiar with, that I could VJ again, right here, in a browser? Well, there’s only one thing to do: let’s try it! Let’s take to the dance floor Over the past couple of years working in The Lab I have learned to take a much more iterative approach to projects than before. One of my new favourite methods of working is to create a proof of concept to make sure my theory is feasible, before going on to create a full-blown product. So let’s take the same approach here. The main VJing functionality I want to recreate is manipulating visuals in relation to sound. So for my POC I need to create a visual, with parameters that can be changed, then get some sound and see if I can analyse that sound to detect some data, which I can then use to manipulate the visual parameters. Easy, … 2013 Ruth John ruthjohn 2013-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/make-your-browser-dance/ code
21 Keeping Parts of Your Codebase Private on GitHub Open source is brilliant, there’s no denying that, and GitHub has been instrumental in open source’s recent success. I’m a keen open-sourcerer myself, and I have a number of projects on GitHub. However, as great as sharing code is, we often want to keep some projects to ourselves. To this end, GitHub created private repositories which act like any other Git repository, only, well, private! A slightly less common issue, and one I’ve come up against myself, is the desire to only keep certain parts of a codebase private. A great example would be my site, CSS Wizardry; I want the code to be open source so that people can poke through and learn from it, but I want to keep any draft blog posts private until they are ready to go live. Thankfully, there is a very simple solution to this particular problem: using multiple remotes. Before we begin, it’s worth noting that you can actually build a GitHub Pages site from a private repo. You can keep the entire source private, but still have GitHub build and display a full Pages/Jekyll site. I do this with csswizardry.net. This post will deal with the more specific problem of keeping only certain parts of the codebase (branches) private, and expose parts of it as either an open source project, or a built GitHub Pages site. N.B. This post requires some basic Git knowledge. Adding your public remote Let’s assume you’re starting from scratch and you currently have no repos set up for your project. (If you do already have your public repo set up, skip to the “Adding your private remote” section.) So, we have a clean slate: nothing has been set up yet, we’re doing all of that now. On GitHub, create two repositories. For the sake of this article we shall call them site.com and private.site.com. Make the site.com repo public, and the private.site.com repo private (you will need a paid GitHub account). On your machine, create the site.com directory, in which your project will live. Do your initial work in there, commit some stuff — whatever you need to do. Now we need to link… 2013 Harry Roberts harryroberts 2013-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/keeping-parts-of-your-codebase-private-on-github/ code
22 The Responsive Hover Paradigm CSS transitions and animations provide web designers with a whole slew of tools to spruce up our designs. Move over ActionScript tweens! The techniques we can now implement with CSS are reminiscent of Flash-based adventures from the pages of web history. Pairing CSS enhancements with our :hover pseudo-class allows us to add interesting events to our websites. We have a ton of power at our fingertips. However, with this power, we each have to ask ourselves: just because I can do something, should I? Why bother? We hear a lot of mantras in the web community. Some proclaim the importance of content; some encourage methods like mobile first to support content; and others warn of the overhead and speed impact of decorative flourishes and visual images. I agree, one hundred percent. At the same time, I believe that content can reign king and still provide a beautiful design with compelling interactions and acceptable performance impacts. Maybe, just maybe, we can even have a little bit of fun when crafting these systems! Yes, a site with pure HTML content and no CSS will load very fast on your mobile phone, but it leaves a lot to be desired. If you went to your local library and every book looked the same, how would you know which one to borrow? Imagine if every book was printed on the same paper stock with the same cover page in the same type size set at a legible point value… how would you know if you were going to purchase a cookbook about wild game or a young adult story about teens fighting to the death? For certain audiences, seeing a site with hip, lively hovers sure beats a stale website concept. I’ve worked on many higher education sites, and setting the interactive options is often a very important factor in engaging potential students, alumni, and donors. The same can go for e-commerce sites: enticing your audience with surprise and delight factors can be the difference between a successful and a lost sale. Knowing your content and audience can help you decide if an intriguing experience is appropria… 2013 Jenn Lukas jennlukas 2013-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-responsive-hover-paradigm/  
23 Animating Vectors with SVG It is almost 2014 and fifteen years ago the W3C started to develop a web-based scalable vector graphics (SVG) format. As web technologies go, this one is pretty old and well entrenched. See the Pen yJflC by Drew McLellan (@drewm) on CodePen Embed not working on your device? Try direct. Unlike rasterized images, SVG files will stay crisp and sharp at any resolution. With high-DPI phones, tablets and monitors, all those rasterized icons are starting to look a bit old and blocky. There are several options to get simpler, decorative pieces to render smoothly and respond to various device widths, shapes and sizes. Symbol fonts are one option; the other is SVG. I’m a big fan of SVG. SVG is an XML format, which means it is possible to write by hand or to script. The most common way to create an SVG file is through the use of various drawing applications like Illustrator, Inkscape or Sketch. All of them open and save the SVG format. But, if SVG is so great, why doesn’t it get more attention? The simple answer is that for a long time it wasn’t well supported, so no one touched the technology. SVG’s adoption has always been hampered by browser support, but that’s not the case any more. Every modern browser (at least three versions back) supports SVG. Even IE9. Although the browsers support SVG, it is implemented in many different ways. SVG in HTML Some browsers allow you to embed SVG right in the HTML: the <svg> element. Treating SVG as a first-class citizen works — sometimes. Another way to embed SVG is via the <img> element; using the src attribute, you can refer to an SVG file. Again, this only works sometimes and leaves you in a tight space if you need to have a fallback for older browsers. The most common solution is to use the <object> element, with the data attribute referencing the SVG file. When a browser does not support this, it falls back to the content inside the <object>. This could be a rasterized fallback <img>. This method gets you the best of both worlds: a nice vector image with an alternati… 2013 Brian Suda briansuda 2013-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/animating-vectors-with-svg/  
24 Kill It With Fire! What To Do With Those Dreaded FAQs In the mid-1640s, a man named Matthew Hopkins attempted to rid England of the devil’s influence, primarily by demanding payment for the service of tying women to chairs and tossing them into lakes. Unsurprisingly, his methods garnered criticism. Hopkins defended himself in The Discovery of Witches in 1647, subtitled “Certaine Queries answered, which have been and are likely to be objected against MATTHEW HOPKINS, in his way of finding out Witches.” Each “querie” was written in the voice of an imagined detractor, and answered in the voice of an imagined defender (always referring to himself as “the discoverer,” or “him”): Quer. 14. All that the witch-finder doth is to fleece the country of their money, and therefore rides and goes to townes to have imployment, and promiseth them faire promises, and it may be doth nothing for it, and possesseth many men that they have so many wizzards and so many witches in their towne, and so hartens them on to entertaine him. Ans. You doe him a great deale of wrong in every of these particulars. Hopkins’ self-defense was an early modern English FAQ. Digital beginnings Question and answer formatting certainly isn’t new, and stretches back much further than witch-hunt days. But its most modern, most notorious, most reviled incarnation is the internet’s frequently asked questions page. FAQs began showing up on pre-internet mailing lists as a way for list members to answer and pre-empt newcomers’ repetitive questions: The presumption was that new users would download archived past messages through ftp. In practice, this rarely happened and the users tended to post questions to the mailing list instead of searching its archives. Repeating the “right” answers becomes tedious… When all the users of a system can hear all the other users, FAQs make a lot of sense: the conversation needs to be managed and manageable. FAQs were a stopgap for the technological limitations of the time. But the internet moved past mailing lists. Online information can be stored, searched,… 2013 Lisa Maria Martin lisamariamartin 2013-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/what-to-do-with-faqs/ content

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