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49 Universal React One of the libraries to receive a huge amount of focus in 2015 has been ReactJS, a library created by Facebook for building user interfaces and web applications. More generally we’ve seen an even greater rise in the number of applications built primarily on the client side with most of the logic implemented in JavaScript. One of the main issues with building an app in this way is that you immediately forgo any customers who might browse with JavaScript turned off, and you can also miss out on any robots that might visit your site to crawl it (such as Google’s search bots). Additionally, we gain a performance improvement by being able to render from the server rather than having to wait for all the JavaScript to be loaded and executed. The good news is that this problem has been recognised and it is possible to build a fully featured client-side application that can be rendered on the server. The way in which these apps work is as follows: The user visits www.yoursite.com and the server executes your JavaScript to generate the HTML it needs to render the page. In the background, the client-side JavaScript is executed and takes over the duty of rendering the page. The next time a user clicks, rather than being sent to the server, the client-side app is in control. If the user doesn’t have JavaScript enabled, each click on a link goes to the server and they get the server-rendered content again. This means you can still provide a very quick and snappy experience for JavaScript users without having to abandon your non-JS users. We achieve this by writing JavaScript that can be executed on the server or on the client (you might have heard this referred to as isomorphic) and using a JavaScript framework that’s clever enough handle server- or client-side execution. Currently, ReactJS is leading the way here, although Ember and Angular are both working on solutions to this problem. It’s worth noting that this tutorial assumes some familiarity with React in general, its syntax and concepts. If you’d like a refresher, th… 2015 Jack Franklin jackfranklin 2015-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/universal-react/ code
50 Make a Comic For something slightly different over Christmas, why not step away from your computer and make a comic? Definitely not the author working on a comic in the studio, with the desk displaying some of the things you need to make a comic on paper. Why make a comic? First of all, it’s truly fun and it’s not that difficult. If you’re a designer, you can use skills you already have, so why not take some time to indulge your aesthetic whims and make something for yourself, rather than for a client or your company. And you can use a computer – or not. If you’re an interaction designer, it’s likely you’ve already made a storyboard or flow, or designed some characters for personas. This is a wee jump away from that, to the realm of storytelling and navigating human emotions through characters who may or may not be human. Similar medium and skills, different content. It’s not a client deliverable but something that stands by itself, and you’ve nobody’s criteria to meet except those that exist in your imagination! Thanks to your brain and the alchemy of comics, you can put nearly anything in a sequence and your brain will find a way to make sense of it. Scott McCloud wrote about the non sequitur in comics: “There is a kind of alchemy at work in the space between panels which can help us find meaning or resonance in even the most jarring of combinations.” Here’s an example of a non sequitur from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics – the images bear no relation to one another, but since they’re in a sequence our brains do their best to understand it: Once you know this it takes the pressure off somewhat. It’s a fun thing to keep in mind and experiment with in your comics! Materials needed A4 copy/printing paper HB pencil for light drawing Dip pen and waterproof Indian ink Bristol board (or any good quality card with a smooth, durable surface) Step 1: Get ideas You’d be surprised where you can take a small grain of an idea and develop it into an interesting comic. Think about a funny conversation you had, or any i… 2015 Rebecca Cottrell rebeccacottrell 2015-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/make-a-comic/ design
51 Blow Your Own Trumpet Even if your own trumpet’s tiny and fell out of a Christmas cracker, blowing it isn’t something that everyone’s good at. Some people find selling themselves and what they do difficult. But, you know what? Boo hoo hoo. If you want people to buy something, the reality is you’d better get good at selling, especially if that something is you. For web professionals, the best place to tell potential business customers or possible employers about what you do is on your own website. You can write what you want and how you want, but that doesn’t make knowing what to write any easier. As a matter of fact, writing for yourself often proves harder than writing for someone else. I spent this autumn thinking about what I wanted to say about Stuff & Nonsense on the website we relaunched recently. While I did that, I spoke to other designers about how they struggled to write about their businesses. If you struggle to write well, don’t worry. You’re not on your own. Here are five ways to hit the right notes when writing about yourself and your work. Be genuine about who you are I’ve known plenty of talented people who run a successful business pretty much single-handed. Somehow they still feel awkward presenting themselves as individuals. They wonder whether describing themselves as a company will give them extra credibility. They especially agonise over using “we” rather than “I” when describing what they do. These choices get harder when you’re a one-man band trading as a limited company or LLC business entity. If you mainly work alone, don’t describe yourself as anything other than “I”. You might think that saying “we” makes you appear larger and will give you a better chance of landing bigger and better work, but the moment a prospective client asks, “How many people are you?” you’ll have some uncomfortable explaining to do. This will distract them from talking about your work and derail your sales process. There’s no need to be anything other than genuine about how you describe yourself. You should be proud to say “I” becau… 2015 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2015-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/blow-your-own-trumpet/ business
52 Git Rebasing: An Elfin Workshop Workflow This year Santa’s helpers have been tasked with making a garland. It’s a pretty simple task: string beads onto yarn in a specific order. When the garland reaches a specific length, add it to the main workshop garland. Each elf has a specific sequence they’re supposed to chain, which is given to them via a work order. (This is starting to sound like one of those horrible calculus problems. I promise it isn’t. It’s worse; it’s about Git.) For the most part, the system works really well. The elves are able to quickly build up a shared chain because each elf specialises on their own bit of garland, and then links the garland together. Because of this they’re able to work independently, but towards the common goal of making a beautiful garland. At first the elves are really careful with each bead they put onto the garland. They check with one another before merging their work, and review each new link carefully. As time crunches on, the elves pour a little more cheer into the eggnog cooler, and the quality of work starts to degrade. Tensions rise as mistakes are made and unkind words are said. The elves quickly realise they’re going to need a system to change the beads out when mistakes are made in the chain. The first common mistake is not looking to see what the latest chain is that’s been added to the main garland. The garland is huge, and it sits on a roll in one of the corners of the workshop. It’s a big workshop, so it is incredibly impractical to walk all the way to the roll to check what the last link is on the chain. The elves, being magical, have set up a monitoring system that allows them to keep a local copy of the main garland at their workstation. It’s an imperfect system though, so the elves have to request a manual refresh to see the latest copy. They can request a new copy by running the command git pull --rebase=preserve (They found that if they ran git pull on its own, they ended up with weird loops of extra beads off the main garland, so they’ve opted to use this method.) This keeps the shared garl… 2015 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2015-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/git-rebasing/ code
53 Get Expressive with Your Typography In 1955 Beatrice Warde, an American communicator on typography, published a series of essays entitled The Crystal Goblet in which she wrote, “People who love ideas must have a love of words. They will take a vivid interest in the clothes that words wear.” And with that proposition Warde introduced the idea that just as we judge someone based on the clothes they are wearing, so we make judgements about text based on the typefaces in which it is set. Beatrice Warde. ©1970 Monotype Imaging Inc. Choosing the same typeface as everyone else, especially if you’re trying to make a statement, is like turning up to a party in the same dress; to a meeting in the same suit, shirt and tie; or to a craft ale dispensary in the same plaid shirt and turned-up skinny jeans. But there’s more to your choice of typeface than simply making an impression. In 2012 Jon Tan wrote on 24 ways about a scientific study called “The Aesthetics of Reading” which concluded that “good quality typography is responsible for greater engagement during reading and thus induces a good mood.” Furthermore, at this year’s Ampersand conference Sarah Hyndman, an expert in multisensory typography, discussed how typefaces can communicate with our subconscious. Sarah showed that different fonts could have an effect on how food tasted. A rounded font placed near a bowl of jellybeans would make them taste sweeter, and a jagged angular font would make them taste more sour. The quality of your typography can therefore affect the mood of your reader, and your font choice directly affect the senses. This means you can manipulate the way people feel. You can change their emotional state through type alone. Now that’s a real superpower! The effects of your body text design choices are measurable but subtle. If you really want to have an impact you need to think big. Literally. Display text and headings are your attention grabbers. They are your chance to interrupt, introduce and seduce. Display text and headings set the scene and draw people in. Text set large creates… 2015 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2015-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/get-expressive-with-your-typography/ design
54 Putting My Patterns through Their Paces Over the last few years, the conversation around responsive design has shifted subtly, focusing not on designing pages, but on patterns: understanding the small, reusable elements that comprise a larger design system. And given that many of those patterns are themselves responsive, learning to manage these small layout systems has become a big part of my work. The thing is, the more pattern-driven work I do, the more I realize my design process has changed in a number of subtle, important ways. I suppose you might even say that pattern-driven design has, in a few ways, redesigned me. Meet the Teaser Here’s a recent example. A few months ago, some friends and I redesigned The Toast. (It was a really, really fun project, and we learned a lot.) Each page of the site is, as you might guess, stitched together from a host of tiny, reusable patterns. Some of them, like the search form and footer, are fairly unique, and used once per page; others are used more liberally, and built for reuse. The most prevalent example of these more generic patterns is the teaser, which is classed as, uh, .teaser. (Look, I never said I was especially clever.) In its simplest form, a teaser contains a headline, which links to an article: Fairly straightforward, sure. But it’s just the foundation: from there, teasers can have a byline, a description, a thumbnail, and a comment count. In other words, we have a basic building block (.teaser) that contains a few discrete content types – some required, some not. In fact, very few of those pieces need to be present; to qualify as a teaser, all we really need is a link and a headline. But by adding more elements, we can build slight variations of our teaser, and make it much, much more versatile. Nearly every element visible on this page is built out of our generic “teaser” pattern. But the teaser variation I’d like to call out is the one that appears on The Toast’s homepage, on search results or on section fronts. In the main content area, each teaser in the list features larger i… 2015 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2015-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/putting-my-patterns-through-their-paces/ code
55 How Tabs Should Work Tabs in browsers (not browser tabs) are one of the oldest custom UI elements in a browser that I can think of. They’ve been done to death. But, sadly, most of the time I come across them, the tabs have been badly, or rather partially, implemented. So this post is my definition of how a tabbing system should work, and one approach of implementing that. But… tabs are easy, right? I’ve been writing code for tabbing systems in JavaScript for coming up on a decade, and at one point I was pretty proud of how small I could make the JavaScript for the tabbing system: var tabs = $('.tab').click(function () { tabs.hide().filter(this.hash).show(); }).map(function () { return $(this.hash)[0]; }); $('.tab:first').click(); Simple, right? Nearly fits in a tweet (ignoring the whole jQuery library…). Still, it’s riddled with problems that make it a far from perfect solution. Requirements: what makes the perfect tab? All content is navigable and available without JavaScript (crawler-compatible and low JS-compatible). ARIA roles. The tabs are anchor links that: are clickable have block layout have their href pointing to the id of the panel element use the correct cursor (i.e. cursor: pointer). Since tabs are clickable, the user can open in a new tab/window and the page correctly loads with the correct tab open. Right-clicking (and Shift-clicking) doesn’t cause the tab to be selected. Native browser Back/Forward button correctly changes the state of the selected tab (think about it working exactly as if there were no JavaScript in place). The first three points are all to do with the semantics of the markup and how the markup has been styled. I think it’s easy to do a good job by thinking of tabs as links, and not as some part of an application. Links are navigable, and they should work the same way other links on the page work. The last three points are JavaScript problems. Let’s investigate that. The shitmus test Like a litmus test, here’s a couple of quick ways you can tell if a tabbing system is poorly implemented: Cha… 2015 Remy Sharp remysharp 2015-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/how-tabs-should-work/ code
56 Helping VIPs Care About Performance Making a site feel super fast is the easy part of performance work. Getting people around you to care about site speed is a much bigger challenge. How do we keep the site fast beyond the initial performance work? Keeping very important people like your upper management or clients invested in performance work is critical to keeping a site fast and empowering other designers and developers to contribute. The work to get others to care is so meaty that I dedicated a whole chapter to the topic in my book Designing for Performance. When I speak at conferences, the majority of questions during Q&A are on this topic. When I speak to developers and designers who care about performance, getting other people at one’s organization or agency to care becomes the most pressing question. My primary response to folks who raise this issue is the question: “What metric(s) do your VIPs care about?” This is often met with blank stares and raised eyebrows. But it’s also our biggest clue to what we need to do to help empower others to care about performance and work on it. Every organization and executive is different. This means that three major things vary: the primary metrics VIPs care about; the language they use about measuring success; and how change is enacted. By clueing in to these nuances within your organization, you can get a huge leg up on crafting a successful pitch about performance work. Let’s start with the metric that we should measure. Sure, (most) everybody cares about money - but is that really the metric that your VIPs are looking at each day to measure the success or efficacy of your site? More likely, dollars are the end game, but the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) people focus on might be: rate of new accounts created/signups cost of acquiring or retaining a customer visitor return rate visitor bounce rate favoriting or another interaction rate These are just a few examples, but they illustrate how wide-ranging the options are that people care about. I find that developers and designers haven’t… 2015 Lara Hogan larahogan 2015-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/helping-vips-care-about-performance/ business
57 Cooking Up Effective Technical Writing Merry Christmas! May your preparations for this festive season of gluttony be shaping up beautifully. By the time you read this I hope you will have ordered your turkey, eaten twice your weight in Roses/Quality Street (let’s not get into that argument), and your Christmas cake has been baked and is now quietly absorbing regular doses of alcohol. Some of you may be reading this and scoffing Of course! I’ve also made three batches of mince pies, a seasonal chutney and enough gingerbread men to feed the whole street! while others may be laughing Bake? Oh no, I can’t cook to save my life. For beginners, recipes are the step-by-step instructions that hand-hold us through the cooking process, but even as a seasoned expert you’re likely to refer to a recipe at some point. Recipes tell us what we need, what to do with it, in what order, and what the outcome will be. It’s the documentation behind our ideas, and allows us to take the blueprint for a tasty morsel and to share it with others so they can recreate it. In fact, this is a little like the open source documentation and tutorials that we put out there, similarly aiming to guide other developers through our creations. The ‘just’ification of documentation Lately it feels like we’re starting to consider the importance of our words, and the impact they can have on others. Brad Frost warned us of the dangers of “Just” when it comes to offering up solutions to queries: “Just use this software/platform/toolkit/methodology…” “Just” makes me feel like an idiot. “Just” presumes I come from a specific background, studied certain courses in university, am fluent in certain technologies, and have read all the right books, articles, and resources. “Just” is a dangerous word. “Just” by Brad Frost I can really empathise with these sentiments. My relationship with code started out as many good web tales do, with good old HTML, CSS and JavaScript. University years involved some time with Perl, PHP, Java and C. In my first job I worked primarily with ColdFusion, a bit of ActionScri… 2015 Sally Jenkinson sallyjenkinson 2015-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/cooking-up-effective-technical-writing/ content
58 Beyond the Style Guide Much like baking a Christmas cake, designing for the web involves creating an experience in layers. Starting with a solid base that provides the core experience (the fruit cake), we can add further layers, each adding refinement (the marzipan) and delight (the icing). Don’t worry, this isn’t a misplaced cake recipe, but an evaluation of modular design and the role style guides can play in acknowledging these different concerns, be they presentational or programmatic. The auteur’s style guide Although trained as a graphic designer, it was only when I encountered the immediacy of the web that I felt truly empowered as a designer. Given a desire to control every aspect of the resulting experience, I slowly adopted the role of an auteur, exploring every part of the web stack: front-end to back-end, and everything in between. A few years ago, I dreaded using the command line. Today, the terminal is a permanent feature in my Dock. In straddling the realms of graphic design and programming, it’s the point at which they meet that I find most fascinating, with each dicipline valuing the creation of effective systems, be they for communication or code efficiency. Front-end style guides live at this intersection, demonstrating both the modularity of code and the application of visual design. Painting by numbers In our rush to build modular systems, design frameworks have grown in popularity. While enabling quick assembly, these come at the cost of originality and creative expression – perhaps one reason why we’re seeing the homogenisation of web design. In editorial design, layouts should accentuate content and present it in an engaging manner. Yet on the web we see a practice that seeks templated predictability. In ‘Design Machines’ Travis Gertz argued that (emphasis added): Design systems still feel like a novelty in screen-based design. We nerd out over grid systems and modular scales and obsess over style guides and pattern libraries. We’re pretty good at using them to build repeatable components and site-wide standard… 2015 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2015-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/beyond-the-style-guide/ design
59 Animating Your Brand Let’s talk about how we add animation to our designs, in a way that’s consistent with other aspects of our brand, such as fonts, colours, layouts and everything else. Animating is fun. Adding animation to our designs can bring them to life and make our designs stand out. Animations can show how the pieces of our designs fit together. They provide context and help people use our products. All too often animation is something we tack on at the end. We put a transition on a modal window or sliding menu and we often don’t think about whether that animation is consistent with our overall design. Style guides to the rescue A style guide is a document that establishes and enforces style to improve communication. It can cover anything from typography and writing style to ethics and other, broader goals. It might be a static visual document showing every kind of UI, like in the Codecademy.com redesign shown below. UI toolkit from “Reimagining Codecademy.com” by @mslima It might be a technical reference with code examples. CodePen’s new design patterns and style guide is a great example of this, showing all the components used throughout the website as live code. CodePen’s design patterns and style guide A style guide gives a wide view of your project, it maintains consistency when adding new content, and we can use our style guide to present animations. Living documents Style guides don’t need to be static. We can use them to show movement. We can share CSS keyframe animations or transitions that can then go into production. We can also explain why animation is there in the first place. Just as a style guide might explain why we chose a certain font or layout, we can use style guides to explain the intent behind animation. This means that if someone else wants to create a new component, they will know why animation applies. If you haven’t yet set up a style guide, you might want to take a look at Pattern Lab. It’s a great tool for setting up your own style guide and includes loads of design patterns to get started. There … 2015 Donovan Hutchinson donovanhutchinson 2015-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/animating-your-brand/ design
60 What’s Ahead for Your Data in 2016? Who owns your data? Who decides what can you do with it? Where can you store it? What guarantee do you have over your data’s privacy? Where can you publish your work? Can you adapt software to accommodate your disability? Is your tiny agency subject to corporate regulation? Does another country have rights over your intellectual property? If you aren’t the kind of person who is interested in international politics, I hate to break it to you: in 2016 the legal foundations which underpin our work on the web are being revisited in not one but three major international political agreements, and every single one of those questions is up for grabs. These agreements – the draft EU Data Protection Regulation (EUDPR), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – stand poised to have a major impact on your data, your workflows, and your digital rights. While some proposed changes could protect the open web for the future, other provisions would set the internet back several decades. In this article we will review the issues you need to be aware of as a digital professional. While each of these agreements covers dozens of topics ranging from climate change to food safety, we will focus solely on the aspects which pertain to the work we do on the web. The Trans-Pacific Partnership The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement between the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru – a bloc comprising 40% of the world’s economy. The agreement is expected to be signed by all parties, and thereby to come into effect, in 2016. This agreement is ostensibly about the bloc and its members working together for their common interests. However, the latest draft text of the TPP, which was formulated entirely in secret, has only been made publicly available on a Medium blog published by the U.S. Trade Representative which features a patriotic banner at the top proclaiming “TPP: Made in America.” The m… 2015 Heather Burns heatherburns 2015-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/whats-ahead-for-your-data-in-2016/ business
61 Animation in Responsive Design Animation and responsive design can sometimes feel like they’re at odds with each other. Animation often needs space to do its thing, but RWD tells us that the amount of space we’ll have available is going to change a lot. Balancing that can lead to some tricky animation situations. Embracing the squishiness of responsive design doesn’t have to mean giving up on your creative animation ideas. There are three general techniques that can help you balance your web animation creativity with your responsive design needs. One or all of these approaches might help you sneak in something just a little extra into your next project. Focused art direction Smaller viewports mean a smaller stage for your motion to play out on, and this tends to amplify any motion in your animation. Suddenly 100 pixels is really far and multiple moving parts can start looking like they’re battling for space. An effect that looked great on big viewports can become muddled and confusing when it’s reframed in a smaller space. Making animated movements smaller will do the trick for simple motion like a basic move across the screen. But for more complex animation on smaller viewports, you’ll need to simplify and reduce the number of moving parts. The key to this is determining what the vital parts of the animation are, to zone in on the parts that are most important to its message. Then remove the less necessary bits to distill the motion’s message down to the essentials. For example, Rally Interactive’s navigation folds down into place with two triangle shapes unfolding each corner on larger viewports. If this exact motion was just scaled down for narrower spaces the two corners would overlap as they unfolded. It would look unnatural and wouldn’t make much sense. Open video The main purpose of this animation is to show an unfolding action. To simplify the animation, Rally unfolds only one side for narrower viewports, with a slightly different animation. The action is still easily interpreted as unfolding and it’s done in a way that is a better… 2015 Val Head valhead 2015-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/animation-in-responsive-design/ design
62 Being Customer Supportive Every day in customer support is an inbox, a Twitter feed, or a software forum full of new questions. Each is brimming with your customers looking for advice, reassurance, or fixes for their software problems. Each one is an opportunity to take a break from wrestling with your own troublesome tasks and assist someone else in solving theirs. Sometimes the questions are straightforward and can be answered in a few minutes with a short greeting, a link to a help page, or a prewritten bit of text you use regularly: how to print a receipt, reset a password, or even, sadly, close your account. More often, a support email requires you to spend some time unpacking the question, asking for more information, and writing a detailed personal response, tailored to help that particular user on this particular day. Here I offer a few of my own guidelines on how to make today’s email the best support experience for both me and my customer. And even if you don’t consider what you do to be customer support, you might still find the suggestions useful for the next time you need to communicate with a client, to solve a software problem with teammates, or even reach out and ask for help yourself. (All the examples appearing in this article are fictional. Any resemblance to quotes from real, software-using persons is entirely coincidental. Except for the bit about Star Wars. That happened.) Who’s TAHT girl I’ll be honest: I briefly tried making these recommendations into a clever mnemonic like FAST (facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties, time) or PAD (pressure, antiseptic, dressing). But instead, you get TAHT: tone, ask, help, thank. Ah, well. As I work through each message in my support queue, I listen to the tone of the email ask clarifying questions bring in extra help as needed and thank the customer when the problem is solved. Let’s open an email and get started! Leave your message at the sound of the tone With our enthusiasm for emoji, it can be very hard to infer someone’s tone from plain text. How much time have… 2015 Elizabeth Galle elizabethgalle 2015-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/being-customer-supportive/ process
63 Be Fluid with Your Design Skills: Build Your Own Sites Just five years ago in 2010, when we were all busy trying to surprise and delight, learning CSS3 and trying to get whole websites onto one page, we had a poster on our studio wall. It was entitled ‘Designers Vs Developers’, an infographic that showed us the differences between the men(!) who created websites. Designers wore skinny jeans and used Macs and developers wore cargo pants and brought their own keyboards to work. We began to learn that designers and developers were not only doing completely different jobs but were completely different people in every way. This opinion was backed up by hundreds of memes, millions of tweets and pages of articles which used words like void and battle and versus. Thankfully, things move quickly in this industry; the wide world of web design has moved on in the last five years. There are new devices, technologies, tools – and even a few women. Designers have been helped along by great apps, software, open source projects, conferences, and a community of people who, to my unending pride, love to share their knowledge and their work. So the world has moved on, and if Miley Cyrus, Ruby Rose and Eliot Sumner are identifying as gender fluid (an identity which refers to a gender which varies over time or is a combination of identities), then I would like to come out as discipline fluid! OK, I will probably never identify as a developer, but I will identify as fluid! How can we be anything else in an industry that moves so quickly? That’s how we should think of our skills, our interests and even our job titles. After all, Steve Jobs told us that “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Sorry skinny-jean-wearing designers – this means we’re all designing something together. And it’s not just about knowing the right words to use: you have to know how it feels. How it feels when you make something work, when you fix that bug, when you make it work on IE. Like anything in life, things run smoothly when you make the effort to share experiences, em… 2015 Ros Horner roshorner 2015-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/be-fluid-with-your-design-skills-build-your-own-sites/ code
64 Being Responsive to the Small Things It’s that time of the year again to trim the tree with decorations. Or maybe a DOM tree? Any web page is made of HTML elements that lay themselves out in a tree structure. We start at the top and then have multiple branches with branches that branch out from there. To decorate our tree, we use CSS to specify which branches should receive the tinsel we wish to adorn upon it. It’s all so lovely. In years past, this was rather straightforward. But these days, our trees need to be versatile. They need to be responsive! Responsive web design is pretty wonderful, isn’t it? Based on our viewport, we can decide how elements on the page should change their appearance to accommodate various constraints using media queries. Clearleft have a delightfully clean and responsive site Alas, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. With complex layouts, we may have design chunks — let’s call them components — that appear in different contexts. Each context may end up providing its own constraints on the design, both in its default state and in its possibly various responsive states. Media queries, however, limit us to the context of the entire viewport, not individual containers on the page. For every container our component lives in, we need to specify how to rearrange things in that context. The more complex the system, the more contexts we need to write code for. @media (min-width: 800px) { .features > .component { } .sidebar > .component {} .grid > .component {} } Each new component and each new breakpoint just makes the entire system that much more difficult to maintain. @media (min-width: 600px) { .features > .component { } .grid > .component {} } @media (min-width: 800px) { .features > .component { } .sidebar > .component {} .grid > .component {} } @media (min-width: 1024px) { .features > .component { } } Enter container queries Container queries, also known as element queries, allow you to specify conditional CSS based on the width (or maybe height) of the container that an element lives in.… 2015 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2015-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/being-responsive-to-the-small-things/ code
65 The Accessibility Mindset Accessibility is often characterized as additional work, hard to learn and only affecting a small number of people. Those myths have no logical foundation and often stem from outdated information or misconceptions. Indeed, it is an additional skill set to acquire, quite like learning new JavaScript frameworks, CSS layout techniques or new HTML elements. But it isn’t particularly harder to learn than those other skills. A World Health Organization (WHO) report on disabilities states that, [i]ncluding children, over a billion people (or about 15% of the world’s population) were estimated to be living with disability. Being disabled is not as unusual as one might think. Due to chronic health conditions and older people having a higher risk of disability, we are also currently paving the cowpath to an internet that we can still use in the future. Accessibility has a very close relationship with usability, and advancements in accessibility often yield improvements in the usability of a website. Websites are also more adaptable to users’ needs when they are built in an accessible fashion. Beyond the bare minimum In the time of table layouts, web developers could create code that passed validation rules but didn’t adhere to the underlying semantic HTML model. We later developed best practices, like using lists for navigation, and with HTML5 we started to wrap those lists in nav elements. Working with accessibility standards is similar. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 can inform your decision to make websites accessible and can be used to test that you met the success criteria. What it can’t do is measure how well you met them. W3C developed a long list of techniques that can be used to make your website accessible, but you might find yourself in a situation where you need to adapt those techniques to be the most usable solution for your particular problem. The checkbox below is implemented in an accessible way: The input element has an id and the label associated with the checkbox refers to the in… 2015 Eric Eggert ericeggert 2015-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/the-accessibility-mindset/ code
66 Solve the Hard Problems So, here we find ourselves on the cusp of 2016. We’ve had a good year – the web is still alive, no one has switched it off yet. Clients still have websites, teenagers still have phone apps, and there continue to be plenty of online brands to meaningfully engage with each day. Good job team, high fives all round. As it’s the time to make resolutions, I wanted to share three small ideas to take into the new year. Get good at what you do “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the old joke goes. “Practise, practise, practise.” We work in an industry where there is an awful lot to learn. There’s a lot to learn to get started and then once you do, there’s a lot more to learn to keep your skills current. Just when you think you’ve mastered something, it changes. This is true of many industries, of course, but the sheer pace of change for us makes learning not an annual activity, but daily. Learning takes time, and while I’m not convinced that every skill takes the fabled ten thousand hours to master, there is certainly no escaping that to remain current we must reinvest time in keeping our skills up to date. Picking where to spend your time One of the hardest aspects of this thing of ours is just choosing what to learn. If you, like me, invested any time in learning the Less CSS preprocessor over the last few years, you’ll probably now be spending your time relearning Sass instead. If you spent time learning Grunt, chances are you’ll now be thinking about whether you should switch to Gulp. It’s not just that there are new types of tools, there are new tools and frameworks to do the things you’re already doing, but, well, differently. Deciding what to learn is hard and the costs of backing the wrong horse can seriously mount up; so much so that by the time you’ve learned and then relearned the tools everyone says you need for your job, there’s rarely enough time to spend really getting to know how best to use them.  Practise, practise, practise Do you know how you don’t get to Carnegie Hall? By learning a new instrument eac… 2015 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2015-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/solve-the-hard-problems/ process
67 What I Learned about Product Design This Year 2015 was a humbling year for me. In September of 2014, I joined a tiny but established startup called SproutVideo as their third employee and first designer. The role interests me because it affords the opportunity to see how design can grow a solid product with a loyal user-base into something even better. The work I do now could also have a real impact on the brand and user experience of our product for years to come, which is a thrilling prospect in an industry where much of what I do feels small and temporary. I got in on the ground floor of something special: a small, dedicated, useful company that cares deeply about making video hosting effortless and rewarding for our users. I had (and still have) grand ideas for what thoughtful design can do for a product, and the smaller-scale product design work I’ve done or helped manage over the past few years gave me enough eager confidence to dive in head first. Readers who have experience redesigning complex existing products probably have a knowing smirk on their face right now. As I said, it’s been humbling. A year of focused product design, especially on the scale we are trying to achieve with our small team at SproutVideo, has taught me more than any projects in recent memory. I’d like to share a few of those lessons. Product design is very different from marketing design The majority of my recent work leading up to SproutVideo has been in marketing design. These projects are so fun because their aim is to communicate the value of the product in a compelling and memorable way. In order to achieve this goal, I spent a lot of time thinking about content strategy, responsive design, and how to create striking visuals that tell a story. These are all pursuits I love. Product design is a different beast. When designing a homepage, I can employ powerful imagery, wild gradients, and somewhat-quirky fonts. When I began redesigning the SproutVideo product, I wanted to draw on all the beautiful assets I’ve created for our marketing materials, but big gradients, textures… 2015 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2015-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/what-i-learned-about-product-design-this-year/ design
68 Grid, Flexbox, Box Alignment: Our New System for Layout Three years ago for 24 ways 2012, I wrote an article about a new CSS layout method I was excited about. A specification had emerged, developed by people from the Internet Explorer team, bringing us a proper grid system for the web. In 2015, that Internet Explorer implementation is still the only public implementation of CSS grid layout. However, in 2016 we should be seeing it in a new improved form ready for our use in browsers. Grid layout has developed hidden behind a flag in Blink, and in nightly builds of WebKit and, latterly, Firefox. By being developed in this way, breaking changes could be safely made to the specification as no one was relying on the experimental implementations in production work. Another new layout method has emerged over the past few years in a more public and perhaps more painful way. Shipped prefixed in browsers, The flexible box layout module (flexbox) was far too tempting for developers not to use on production sites. Therefore, as changes were made to the specification, we found ourselves with three different flexboxes, and browser implementations that did not match one another in completeness or in the version of specified features they supported. Owing to the different ways these modules have come into being, when I present on grid layout it is often the very first time someone has heard of the specification. A question I keep being asked is whether CSS grid layout and flexbox are competing layout systems, as though it might be possible to back the loser in a CSS layout competition. The reality, however, is that these two methods will sit together as one system for doing layout on the web, each method playing to certain strengths and serving particular layout tasks. If there is to be a loser in the battle of the layouts, my hope is that it will be the layout frameworks that tie our design to our markup. They have been a necessary placeholder while we waited for a true web layout system, but I believe that in a few years time we’ll be easily able to date a website to circa 2015 … 2015 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2015-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/grid-flexbox-box-alignment-our-new-system-for-layout/ code
69 How to Do a UX Review A UX review is where an expert goes through a website looking for usability and experience problems and makes recommendations on how to fix them. I’ve completed a number of UX reviews over my twelve years working as a user experience consultant and I thought I’d share my approach. I’ll be talking about reviewing websites here; you can adapt the approach for web apps, or mobile or desktop apps. Why conduct a review Typically, a client asks for a review to be undertaken by a trusted and, ideally, detached third party who either works for an agency or is a freelancer. Often they may ask a new member of the UX team to complete one, or even set it as a task for a job interview. This indicates the client is looking for an objective view, seen from the outside as a user would see the website. I always suggest conducting some user research rather than a review. Users know their goals and watching them make (what you might think of as) mistakes on the website is invaluable. Conducting research with six users can give you six hours’ worth of review material from six viewpoints. In short, user research can identify more problems and show how common those problems might be. There are three reasons, though, why a review might better suit client needs than user research: Quick results: user research and analysis takes at least three weeks. Limited budget: the £6–10,000 cost to run user research is about twice the cost of a UX review. Users are hard to reach: in the business-to-business world, reaching users is difficult, especially if your users hold senior positions in their organisations. Working with consumers is much easier as there are often more of them. There is some debate about the benefits of user research over UX review. In my experience you learn far more from research, but opinions differ. Be objective The number one mistake many UX reviewers make is reporting back the issues they identify as their opinion. This can cause credibility problems because you have to keep justifying why your opinion is corr… 2015 Joe Leech joeleech 2015-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/how-to-do-a-ux-review/ ux
70 Bringing Your Code to the Streets — or How to Be a Street VJ Our amazing world of web code is escaping out of the browser at an alarming rate and appearing in every aspect of the environment around us. Over the past few years we’ve already seen JavaScript used server-side, hardware coded with JavaScript, a rise of native style and desktop apps created with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and even virtual reality (VR) is getting its fair share of front-end goodness. You can go ahead and play with JavaScript-powered hardware such as the Tessel or the Espruino to name a couple. Just check out the Tessel project page to see JavaScript in the world of coffee roasting or sleep tracking your pet. With the rise of the internet of things, JavaScript can be seen collecting information on flooding among other things. And if that’s not enough ‘outside the browser’ implementations, Node.js servers can even be found in aircraft! I previously mentioned VR and with three.js’s extra StereoEffect.js module it’s relatively simple to get browser 3D goodness to be Google Cardboard-ready, and thus set the stage for all things JavaScript and VR. It’s been pretty popular in the art world too, with interactive works such as Seb Lee-Delisle’s Lunar Trails installation, featuring the old arcade game Lunar Lander, which you can now play in your browser while others watch (it is the web after all). The Science Museum in London held Chrome Web Lab, an interactive exhibition featuring five experiments, showcasing the magic of the web. And it’s not even the connectivity of the web that’s being showcased; we can even take things offline and use web code for amazing things, such as fighting Ebola. One thing is for sure, JavaScript is awesome. Hell, if you believe those telly programs (as we all do), JavaScript can even take down the stock market, purely through the witchcraft of canvas! Go JavaScript! Now it’s our turn So I wanted to create a little project influenced by this theme, and as it’s Christmas, take it to the streets for a little bit of party fun! Something that could take c… 2015 Ruth John ruthjohn 2015-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/bringing-your-code-to-the-streets/ code
71 Upping Your Web Security Game When I started working in web security fifteen years ago, web development looked very different. The few non-static web applications were built using a waterfall process and shipped quarterly at best, making it possible to add security audits before every release; applications were deployed exclusively on in-house servers, allowing Info Sec to inspect their configuration and setup; and the few third-party components used came from a small set of well-known and trusted providers. And yet, even with these favourable conditions, security teams were quickly overwhelmed and called for developers to build security in. If the web security game was hard to win before, it’s doomed to fail now. In today’s web development, every other page is an application, accepting inputs and private data from users; software is built continuously, designed to eliminate manual gates, including security gates; infrastructure is code, with servers spawned with little effort and even less security scrutiny; and most of the code in a typical application is third-party code, pulled in through open source repositories with rarely a glance at who provided them. Security teams, when they exist at all, cannot solve this problem. They are vastly outnumbered by developers, and cannot keep up with the application’s pace of change. For us to have a shot at making the web secure, we must bring security into the core. We need to give it no less attention than that we give browser compatibility, mobile design or web page load times. More broadly, we should see security as an aspect of quality, expecting both ourselves and our peers to address it, and taking pride when we do it well. Where To Start? Embracing security isn’t something you do overnight. A good place to start is by reviewing things you’re already doing – and trying to make them more secure. Here are three concrete steps you can take to get going. HTTPS Threats begin when your system interacts with the outside world, which often means HTTP. As is, HTTP is painfully insecure, allowing attacke… 2015 Guy Podjarny guypodjarny 2015-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/upping-your-web-security-game/ code
72 Designing with Contrast When an appetite for aesthetics over usability becomes the bellwether of user interface design, it’s time to reconsider who we’re designing for. Over the last few years, we have questioned the signifiers that gave obvious meaning to the function of interface elements. Strong textures, deep shadows, gradients — imitations of physical objects — were discarded. And many, rightfully so. Our audiences are now more comfortable with an experience that feels native to the technology, so we should respond in kind. Yet not all of the changes have benefitted users. Our efforts to simplify brought with them a trend of ultra-minimalism where aesthetics have taken priority over legibility, accessibility and discoverability. The trend shows no sign of losing popularity — and it is harming our experience of digital content. A thin veneer We are in a race to create the most subdued, understated interface. Visual contrast is out. In its place: the thinnest weights of a typeface and white text on bright color backgrounds. Headlines, text, borders, backgrounds, icons, form controls and inputs: all grey. While we can look back over the last decade and see minimalist trends emerging on the web, I think we can place a fair share of the responsibility for the recent shift in priorities on Apple. The release of iOS 7 ushered in a radical change to its user interface. It paired mobile interaction design to the simplicity and eloquence of Apple’s marketing and product design. It was a catalyst. We took what we saw, copied and consumed the aesthetics like pick-and-mix. New technology compounds this trend. Computer monitors and mobile devices are available with screens of unprecedented resolutions. Ultra-light type and subtle hues, difficult to view on older screens, are more legible on these devices. It would be disingenuous to say that designers have always worked on machines representative of their audience’s circumstances, but the gap has never been as large as it is now. We are running the risk of designing VIP lounges where the cost o… 2015 Mark Mitchell markmitchell 2015-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/designing-with-contrast/ design

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