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193 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven't Read Them I’ve been a huge fan of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 since the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published them, nine years ago. I’ve found them practical and future-proof, and I’ve found that they can save a huge amount of time for designers and developers. You can apply them to anything that you can open in a browser. My favourite part is when I use the guidelines to make a website accessible, and then attend user-testing and see someone with a disability easily using that website. Today, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, seems like a good time to re-read Laura Kalbag’s explanation of why we should bother with accessibility. That should motivate you to devour this article. If you haven’t read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, you might find them a bit off-putting at first. The editors needed to create a single standard that countries around the world could refer to in legislation, and so some of the language in the guidelines reads like legalese. The editors also needed to future-proof the guidelines, and so some terminology—such as “time-based media” and “programmatically determined”—can sound ambiguous. The guidelines can seem lengthy, too: printing the guidelines, the Understanding WCAG 2.0 document, and the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document would take 1,200 printed pages. This festive season, let’s rip off that legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping paper, and see—in a single article—what gifts the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 editors have bestowed upon us. Can your users perceive the information on your website? The first guideline has criteria that help you prevent your users from asking “What the **** is this thing here supposed to be?” 1.1.1 Text is the most accessible format for information. Screen readers—such as the “VoiceOver” setting on your iPhone or the “TalkBack” app on your Android phone—understand text better than any other format. The same applies for other assistive technology, such as translation apps and Braill… 2017 Alan Dalton alandalton 2017-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-them/ code
194 Design Systems and Hybrids The other day on Twitter, I saw a thread started by Dorian Taylor about why design systems are so hot right now. In the thread, he made the case that they’ve been around for ages and some folks were just slow to catch up. It was an interesting thread, and not the first time I’ve seen folks discuss this. “Design systems are so hot right now” was even used recently in this very publication. And yes it’s true that they’ve been around for ages. Design artefact collectors’ obsession with reprints of old graphic standards manuals of the past are a reminder. Sometimes old things become new again, either through a rediscovery or awakening (wow, that sounds really deep). But I think that’s definitely what happened here. Some very opinionated answers that come to mind for me are: The need for them has increased with the needs of software development. With the increasing number of devices (phones, tablets, watches, etc.), scaling design has required the need to double down on systems thinking and processes. Investments with huge cost-saving returns. The time investment it takes to onboard new people as you staff up large teams (and the time it takes to fix bugs and inconsistencies) could be better spent building up a system that lets you ship at a faster pace. It also gives you more time to focus on the bigger picture instead of what color a button border is. If you do have to onboard new designers, the design system is a great educational resource to get up to speed quickly on your organization’s design principles, materials/tools, and methods. “Here’s the simple truth: you can’t innovate on products without first innovating the way you build them.” — Alex Schleifer, The Way We Build These are just some of the reasons. But there is another answer, and a personal conclusion that I’ve reached. It relates to the way I work and what I love working on, but I don’t see it talked about much. Hybrids Have a Home I’m a hybrid designer. I code in HTML & CSS (with a preference for Sass). But I don’t call myself a frontend develop… 2017 Jina Anne jina 2017-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/design-systems-and-hybrids/ process
195 Levelling Up for Junior Developers If you are a junior developer starting out in the web industry, things can often seem a little daunting. There are so many things to learn, and as soon as you’ve learnt one framework or tool, there seems to be something new out there. I am lucky enough to lead a team of developers building applications for the web. During a recent One to One meeting with one of our junior developers, he asked me about a learning path and the basic fundamentals that every developer should know. After a bit of digging around, I managed to come up with a (not so exhaustive) list of principles that was shared with him. In this article, I will share the list with you, and hopefully help you level up from junior developer and become a better developer all round. This list doesn’t focus on an particular programming language, but rather coding concepts as a whole. The idea behind this list is that whether you are a front-end developer, back-end developer, full stack developer or just a curious one, these principles apply to everyone that writes code. I have tried to be technology agnostic, so that you can use these tips to guide you, whatever your tech stack might be. Without any further ado and in no particular order, let’s get started. Refactoring code like a boss The Boy Scouts have a rule that goes “always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.” This rule can be applied to code too and ensures that you leave code cleaner than you found it. As a junior developer, it’s almost certain that you will either create or come across older code that could be improved. The resources below are a guide that will help point you in the right direction. My favourite book on this subject has to be Clean Code by Robert C. Martin. It’s a must read for anyone writing code as it helps you identify bad code and shows you techniques that you can use to improve existing code. If you find that in your day to day work you deal with a lot of legacy code, Improving Existing Technology through Refactoring is another useful read. Design Patterns are a… 2017 Dean Hume deanhume 2017-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/levelling-up-for-junior-developers/ code
196 Designing a Remote Project I came across an article recently, which I have to admit made my blood boil a little. Yes, I know it’s the season of goodwill and all that, and I’m going to risk sounding a little Scrooge-like, but I couldn’t help it. It was written by someone who’d tried out ‘telecommuting’ (big sigh) a.k.a. remote or distributed working. They’d tested it in their company and decided it didn’t work. Why did it enrage me so much? Well, this person sounded like they’d almost set it up to fail. To them, it was the latest buzzword, and they wanted to offer their employees a ‘perk’. But it was going to be risky, because, well, they just couldn’t trust their employees not to be lazy and sit around in their pyjamas at home, watching TV, occasionally flicking their mousepad to ‘appear online’. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Well, no. This attitude towards remote working is baked in the past, where working from one office and people all sitting around together in a cosy circle singing kum-by-yah* was a necessity not an option. We all know the reasons remote working and flexibility can happen more easily now: fast internet, numerous communication channels, and so on. But why are companies like Yahoo! and IBM backtracking on this? Why is there still such a negative perception of this way of working when it has so much real potential for the future? *this might not have ever really happened in an office. So what is remote working? It can come in various formats. It’s actually not just the typical office worker, working from home on a specific day. The nature of digital projects has been changing over a number of years. In this era where organisations are squeezing budgets and trying to find the best value wherever they can, it seems that the days of whole projects being tackled by one team, in the same place, is fast becoming the past. What I’ve noticed more recently is a much more fragmented way of putting together a project – a mixture of in-house and agency, or multiple agencies or organisations, or working with an offshore team. In th… 2017 Suzanna Haworth suzannahaworth 2017-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/designing-a-remote-project/ business
197 Designing for Mobile Performance Last year, some colleagues at Google ran a research study titled “The Need for Mobile Speed” to find out what the impact of performance and perception of speed had on the way people use the web on their mobile devices. That’s not a trivial distinction; when considering performance, how fast something feels is often more important than how fast it actually is. When dealing with sometimes underpowered mobile devices and slow mobile networks, designing experiences that feel fast is exceptionally important. One of the most startling numbers we found in the study was that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. We wanted to find out more, so following on from this study, we conducted research to define what the crucial elements of speed are. We took into consideration the user experience (UX), overall perception of speed, and how differing contexts the user finds themselves in can alter how fast a user thinks something loaded. To understand speed and load times first we must understand that user mobile web behaviour is broken down into three buckets; Intention Location State of mind Let’s look at each of those in turn. Intention Users browse sites on a mobile device for many different reasons. To be able to effectively design a performant user experience for them, it’s important to understand what those reasons might be. When asked to describe their reason for visiting a site, approximately 30% of people asked by the study claimed that they were simply browsing without a particular purpose in mind. Looking deeper, we found that this number increased slightly (34%) for retail sites. 30% said they were just there to find out some information for a future task or action, such as booking a flight. Interestingly, the research shows that users are actually window shopping using their mobile browser. Only 29% actually said they had a specific goal or intent in mind, and this number increases significantly for financial services like banking sites (57%). This goes against a trad… 2017 Mustafa Kurtuldu mustafakurtuldu 2017-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/designing-for-mobile-performance/ ux
198 Is Your Website Accidentally Sexist? Women make up 51% of the world’s population. More importantly, women make 85% of all purchasing decisions about consumer goods, 75% of the decisions about buying new homes, and 81% of decisions about groceries. The chances are, you want your website to be as attractive to women as it is to men. But we are all steeped in a male-dominated culture that subtly influences the design and content decisions we make, and some of those decisions can result in a website that isn’t as welcoming to women as it could be. Typography tells a story Studies show that we make consistent judgements about whether a typeface is masculine or feminine: Masculine typography has a square or geometric form with hard corners and edges, and is emphatically either blunt or spiky. Serif fonts are also considered masculine, as is bold type and capitals. Feminine typography favours slim lines, curling or flowing shapes with a lot of ornamentation and embellishment, and slanted letters. Sans-serif, cursive and script fonts are seen as feminine, as are lower case letters. The effect can be so subtle that even choosing between bold and regular styles within a single font family can be enough to indicate masculinity or femininity. If you want to appeal to both men and women, search for fonts that are gender neutral, or at least not too masculine. When you’re choosing groups of fonts that need to work harmoniously together, consider which fonts you are prioritising in your design. Is the biggest word on the page in a masculine or feminine font? What about the smallest words? Is there an imbalance between the prominence of masculine and feminine fonts, and what does this imply? Typography is a language in and of itself, so be careful what you say with it. Colour me unsurprised Colour also has an obvious gender bias. We associate pinks and purples, especially in combination, with girls and women, and a soft pink has become especially strongly related to breast cancer awareness campaigns. On the other hand, pale blue is strongly associated with boy… 2017 Suw Charman-Anderson suwcharmananderson 2017-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/is-your-website-accidentally-sexist/ content
199 Knowing the Future - Tips for a Happy Launch Day You’ve chosen your frameworks and libraries. You’ve learned how to write code which satisfies the buzzword and performance gods. Now you need to serve it to a global audience, and make things easy to preview, to test, to sign-off, and to evolve. But infrastructure design is difficult and boring for most of us. We just want to get our work out into the wild. If only we had tools which would let us go, “Oh yeah! It all deploys perfectly every time” and shout, “You need another release? BAM! What’s next?” A truth that can be hard to admit is that very often, the production environment and its associated deployment processes are poorly defined until late into a project. This can be a problem. It makes my palms sweaty just thinking about it. If like me, you have spent time building things for clients, you’ll probably have found yourself working with a variety of technical partners and customers who bring different constraints and opportunities to your projects. Knowing and proving the environments and the deployment processes is often very difficult, but can be a factor which profoundly impacts our ability to deliver what we promised. To say nothing of our ability to sleep at night or leave our fingernails un-chewed. Let’s look at this a little, and see if we can’t set you up for a good night’s sleep, with dry palms and tidy fingernails. A familiar problem You’ve been here too, right? The project development was tough, but you’re pleased with what you are running in your local development environments. Now you need to get the client to see and approve your build, and hopefully indicate with a cheery thumbs up that it can “go live”. Chances are that we have a staging environment where the client can see the build. But be honest, is this exactly the same as the production environment? It should be, but often it’s not. Often the staging environment is nothing more than a visible server with none of the optimisations, security, load balancing, caching, and other vital bits of machinery that we’ll need (and need to test) … 2017 Phil Hawksworth philhawksworth 2017-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/knowing-the-future/ process
200 Care and Feeding of Burnout You’ve been doing too much for too long. And it’s broken you. You’re burned out. You’re done. Illustration by Kate Holden Occupational burnout is a long-documented effect of stretching yourself further than the limits of your mental and physical health can carry you. And when it finally catches up with you, it can feel like the end of the world. But things can get better. With focused self care, reworking your priorities and lots of time, you can slog through burnout. What is burnout? The Tl;dr linkdump tour In this article, we’ll be looking at what you can do when you’re burned out. We’ll be skipping past a lot of information on what burnout is, what causes it and how it impacts the tech industry. We’re able to skip past this because many technologists have already created valuable content targeted to our industry. The videos and writing below may be helpful for readers who are less familiar with burnout. A Wikipedia article may be a great starting point for learning about occupational burnout. Understanding burnout: Brandon West This conference talk by Brandon West covers a lot of burnout 101, from the perspective of a developer relations/community professional. April Wensel writes about the need for the tech industry to move from the Valley’s burnout culture to a more sustainable model. Catching Burnout [as] early [as possible] One of the most challenging things about burnout is that it develops slowly and gradually. Many impacted don’t notice the water warming around them until it’s been brought to a boil, causing a crisis that can’t be overlooked. Catching burnout and taking steps to deal with it as early as possible can help limit the length and severity of your burnout. Getting in the habit of checking in with yourself regularly about your stress and energy levels can be an effective habit for assessing burnout and for general wellness. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine if you might be suffering from burnout. Have you become cynical or critical at work? D… 2017 Jessica Rose jessicarose 2017-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/care-and-feeding-of-burnout/ process
201 Lint the Web Forward With Sonarwhal Years ago, when I was in a senior in college, much of my web development courses focused on two things: the basics like HTML and CSS (and boy, do I mean basic), and Adobe Flash. I spent many nights writing ActionScript 3.0 to build interactions for the websites that I would add to my portfolio. A few months after graduating, I built one website in Flash for a client, then never again. Flash was dying, and it became obsolete in my résumé and portfolio. That was my first lesson in the speed at which things change in technology, and what a daunting realization that was as a new graduate looking to enter the professional world. Now, seven years later, I work on the Microsoft Edge team where I help design and build a tool that would have lessened my early career anxieties: sonarwhal. Sonarwhal is a linting tool, built by and for the web community. The code is open source and lives under the JS Foundation. It helps web developers and designers like me keep up with the constant change in technology while simultaneously teaching how to code better websites. Introducing sonarwhal’s mascot Nellie Good web development is hard. It is more than HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: developers are expected to have a grasp of accessibility, performance, security, emerging standards, and more, all while refreshing this knowledge every few months as the web evolves. It’s a lot to keep track of.   Web development is hard Staying up-to-date on all this knowledge is one of the driving forces for developing this scanning tool. Whether you are just starting out, are a student, or you have over a decade of experience, the sonarwhal team wants to help you build better websites for all browsers. Currently sonarwhal checks for best practices in five categories: Accessibility, Interoperability, Performance, PWAs, and Security. Each check is called a “rule”. You can configure them and even create your own rules if you need to follow some specific guidelines for your project (e.g. validate analytics attributes, title format of pages, etc.). You c… 2017 Stephanie Drescher stephaniedrescher 2017-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/lint-the-web-forward-with-sonarwhal/ code
202 Design Systems and CSS Grid Recently, my client has been looking at creating a few new marketing pages for their website. They currently have a design system in place but they’re looking to push this forward into 2018 with some small and possibly some larger changes. To start with we are creating a couple of new marketing pages. As well as making use of existing components within the design systems component library there are a couple of new components. Looking at the first couple of sketch files I felt this would be a great opportunity to use CSS Grid, to me the newer components need to be laid out on that page and grid would help with this perfectly. As well as this layout of the new components and the text within it, imagery would be used that breaks out of the grid and pushes itself into the spaces where the text is aligned. The existing grid system When the site was rebuilt in 2015 the team decided to make use of Sass and Susy, a “lightweight grid-layout engine using Sass”. It was built separating the grid system from the components that would be laid out on the page with a container, a row, an optional column, and a block. To make use of the grid system on a page for a component that would take the full width of the row you would have to write something like this: <div class="grid-container"> <div class="grid-row"> <div class="grid-column-4"> <div class="grid-block"> <!-- component code here --> </div> </div> </div> </div> Using a grid system similar to this can easily create quite the tag soup. It could fill the HTML full of divs that may become complex to understand and difficult to edit. Although there is this reliance on several <div>s to lay out the components on a page it does allow a tidy way to place the component code within that page. It abstracts the layout of the page to its own code, its own system, so the components can ‘fit’ where needed. The requirements of the new grid system Moving forward I set myself some goals for what I’d like to have achieved in this new grid system: It needs to… 2017 Stuart Robson stuartrobson 2017-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/design-systems-and-css-grid/ code
203 Jobs-to-Be-Done in Your UX Toolbox Part 1: What is JTBD? The concept of a “job” in “Jobs-To-Be-Done” is neatly encapsulated by a oft-quoted line from Theodore Levitt: “People want a quarter-inch hole, not a quarter inch drill”. Even so, Don Norman pointed out that perhaps Levitt “stopped too soon” at what the real customer goal might be. In the “The Design of Everyday Things”, he wrote: “Levitt’s example of the drill implying that the goal is really a hole is only partially correct, however. When people go to a store to buy a drill, that is not their real goal. But why would anyone want a quarter-inch hole? Clearly that is an intermediate goal. Perhaps they wanted to hang shelves on the wall. Levitt stopped too soon. Once you realize that they don’t really want the drill, you realize that perhaps they don’t really want the hole, either: they want to install their bookshelves. Why not develop methods that don’t require holes? Or perhaps books that don’t require bookshelves.” In other words, a “job” in JTBD lingo is a way to express a user need or provide a customer-centric problem frame that’s independent of a solution. As Tony Ulwick says: “A job is stable, it doesn’t change over time.” An example of a job is “tiding you over from breakfast to lunch.” You could hire a donut, a flapjack or a banana for that mid-morning snack—whatever does the job. If you can arrive at a clearly identified primary job (and likely some secondary ones too), you can be more creative in how you come up with an effective solution while keeping the customer problem in focus. The team at Intercom wrote a book on their application of JTBD. In it, Des Traynor cleverly characterised how JTBD provides a different way to think about solutions that compete for the same job: “Economy travel and business travel are both capable candidates applying for [the job: Get me face-to-face with my colleague in San Francisco], though they’re looking for significantly different salaries. Video conferencing isn’t as capable, but is willing to work for a … 2017 Steph Troeth stephtroeth 2017-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/jobs-to-be-done-in-your-ux-toolbox/ ux
204 Cascading Web Design with Feature Queries Feature queries, also known as the @supports rule, were introduced as an extension to the CSS2 as part of the CSS Conditional Rules Module Level 3, which was first published as a working draft in 2011. It is a conditional group rule that tests if the browser’s user agent supports CSS property:value pairs, and arbitrary conjunctions (and), disjunctions (or), and negations (not) of them. The motivation behind this feature was to allow authors to write styles using new features when they were supported but degrade gracefully in browsers where they are not. Even though the nature of CSS already allows for graceful degradation, for example, by ignoring unsupported properties or values without disrupting other styles in the stylesheet, sometimes we need a bit more than that. CSS is ultimately a holistic technology, in that, even though you can use properties in isolation, the full power of CSS shines through when used in combination. This is especially evident when it comes to building web layouts. Having native feature detection in CSS makes it much more convenient to build with cutting-edge CSS for the latest browsers while supporting older browsers at the same time. Browser support Opera first implemented feature queries in November 2012, both Chrome and Firefox had it since May 2013. There have been several articles about feature queries written over the years, however, it seems that awareness of its broad support isn’t that well-known. Much of the earlier coverage on feature queries was not written in English, and perhaps that was a limiting factor. @supports ― CSSのFeature Queries by Masataka Yakura, August 8 2012 Native CSS Feature Detection via the @supports Rule by Chris Mills, December 21 2012 CSS @supports by David Walsh, April 3 2013 Responsive typography with CSS Feature Queries by Aral Balkan, April 9 2013 How to use the @supports rule in your CSS by Lea Verou, January 31 2014 CSS Feature Queries by Amit Tal, June 2 2014 Coming Soon: CSS Feature Queries by Adobe Web Platform Team, August 21 2014 CSS featu… 2017 Chen Hui Jing chenhuijing 2017-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/cascading-web-design/ code
205 Why Design Systems Fail Design systems are so hot right now, and for good reason. They promote a modular approach to building a product, and ensure organizational unity and stability via reusable code snippets and utility styles. They make prototyping a breeze, and provide a common language for both designers and developers. A design system is a culmination of several individual components, which can include any or all of the following (and more): Style guide or visual pattern library Design tooling (e.g. Sketch Library) Component library (where the components live in code) Code usage guidelines and documentation Design usage documentation Voice and tone guideline Animation language guideline Design systems are standalone (internal or external) products, and have proven to be very effective means of design-driven development. However, in order for a design system to succeed, everyone needs to get on board. I’d like to go over a few considerations to ensure design system success and what could hinder that success. Organizational Support Put simply, any product, including internal products, needs support. Something as cross-functional as a design system, which spans every vertical project team, needs support from the top and bottom levels of your organization. What I mean by that is that there needs to be top-level support from project managers up through VP’s to see the value of a design system, to provide resources for its implementation, and advocate for its use company-wide. This is especially important in companies where such systems are being put in place on top of existing, crufty codebases, because it may mean there needs to be some time and effort put in the calendar for refactoring work. Support from the bottom-up means that designers and engineers of all levels also need to support this system and feel responsibility for it. A design system is an organization’s product, and everyone should feel confident contributing to it. If your design system supports external clients as well (such as contractors), they too can become val… 2017 Una Kravets unakravets 2017-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/why-design-systems-fail/ process
206 Getting Hardboiled with CSS Custom Properties Custom Properties are a fabulous new feature of CSS and have widespread support in contemporary browsers. But how do we handle browsers without support for CSS Custom Properties? Do we wait until those browsers are lying dead in a ditch before we use them? Do we tool up and prop up our CSS using a post-processor? Or do we get tough? Do we get hardboiled? Previously only pre-processing tools like LESS and Sass enabled developers to use variables in their stylesheets, but now Custom Properties have brought variables natively to CSS. How do you write a custom property? It’s hardly a mystery. Simply add two dashes to the start of a style rule. Like this: --color-text-default : black; If you’re more the underscore type, try this: --color_text_default : black; Hyphens or underscores are allowed in property names, but don’t be a chump and try to use spaces. Custom property names are also case-sensitive, so --color-text-default and --Color_Text_Default are two distinct properties. To use a custom property in your style rules, var() tells a browser to retrieve the value of a property. In the next example, the browser retrieves the black colour from the color-text-default variable and applies it to the body element: body { color : var(--color-text-default); } Like variables in LESS or Sass, CSS Custom Properties mean you don’t have to be a dumb mug and repeat colour, font, or size values multiple times in your stylesheets. Unlike a preprocessor variable though, CSS Custom Properties use the cascade, can be modified by media queries and other state changes, and can also be manipulated by Javascript. (Serg Hospodarets wrote a fabulous primer on CSS Custom Properties where he dives deeper into the code and possible applications.) Browser support Now it’s about this time that people normally mention browser support. So what about support for CSS Custom Properties? Current versions of Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Safari are all good. Internet Explorer 11 and before? Opera Mini? Nasty. Sound familiar? Can I Use css… 2017 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2017-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/getting-hardboiled-with-css-custom-properties/ code
207 Want to Break Out of Comparison Syndrome? Do a Media Detox “Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt I grew up in an environment of perpetual creativity and inventiveness. My father Dennis built and flew experimental aircraft as a hobby. During my entire childhood, there was an airplane fuselage in the garage instead of a car. My mother Deloria was a self-taught master artisan who could quickly acquire any skills that it took to work with fabric and weaving. She could sew any garment she desired, and was able to weave intricate wall hangings just by looking at a black and white photos in magazines. My older sister Diane blossomed into a consummate fine artist who drew portraits with uncanny likeness, painted murals, and studied art and architecture. In addition, she loved good food and had a genius for cooking and baking, which converged in her creating remarkable art pieces out of cake that were incredibly delicious to boot. Yes. This was the household in which I grew up. While there were countless positives to being surrounded by people who were compelled to create, there was also a downside to it. I incessantly compared myself to my parents and older sister and always found myself lacking. It wasn’t a fair comparison, but tell that to a sensitive kid who wanted to fit in to her family by being creative as well. From my early years throughout my teens, I convinced myself that I would never understand how to build an airplane or at least be as proficient with tools as my father, the aeronautical engineer. Even though my sister was six years older than I was, I lamented that I would never be as good a visual artist as she was. And I marveled at my mother’s seemingly magical ability to make and tailor clothes and was certain that I would never attain her level of mastery. This habit of comparing myself to others grew over the years, continuing to subtly and effectively undermine my sense of self. I had almost reached an uneasy truce with my comparison habit when social media happened. As an early adopter of Twitter, I loved staying connected to people I met a… 2017 Denise Jacobs denisejacobs 2017-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/do-a-media-detox/ process
208 All That Glisters Tradition has it that at this time of year, families gather together, sit, eat and share stories. It’s an opportunity for the wisdom of the elders to be passed down to the younger members of the tribe. Tradition also has it that we should chase cheese downhill and dunk the nice lady to prove she’s a witch, so maybe let’s not put too much stock in that. I’ve been building things on the web professionally for about twenty years, and although the web has changed immeasurably, it’s probably not changed as much as I have. While I can happily say I’m not the young (always right, always arrogant) developer that I once was, unfortunately I’m now an approaching-middle-age developer who thinks he’s always right and on top of it is extremely pompous. What can you do? Nature has devised this system with the distinct advantage of allowing us to always be right, and only ever wrong in the future or in the past. So let’s roll with it. Increasingly, there seems to be a sense of fatigue within our industry. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on whatever the latest tool or technology is, something new comes out to replace it. Suddenly you find that you’ve invested precious time learning something new and it’s already old hat. The pace of change is so rapid, that new developers don’t know where to start, and experienced developers don’t know where it ends. With that in mind, here’s some fireside thoughts from a pompous old developer, that I hope might bring some Christmas comfort. Reliable and boring beats shiny and new There are so many new tools, frameworks, techniques, styles and libraries to learn. You know what? You don’t have to use them. You’re not a bad developer if you use Grunt even though others have switched to Gulp or Brunch or Webpack or Banana Sandwich. It’s probably misguided to spend lots of project time messing around with build tool fashions when your so last year build tool is already doing what you need. Just a little reminder that it’s about 100 times more important what you build than how you build it.— … 2017 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2017-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/all-that-glisters/ business
209 Feeding the Audio Graph In 2004, I was given an iPod. I count this as one of the most intuitive pieces of technology I’ve ever owned. It wasn’t because of the the snazzy (colour!) menus or circular touchpad. I loved how smoothly it fitted into my life. I could plug in my headphones and listen to music while I was walking around town. Then when I got home, I could plug it into an amplifier and carry on listening there. There was no faff. It didn’t matter if I could find my favourite mix tape, or if my WiFi was flakey - it was all just there. Nowadays, when I’m trying to pair my phone with some Bluetooth speakers, or can’t find my USB-to-headphone jack, or even access any music because I don’t have cellular reception; I really miss this simplicity. The Web Audio API I think the Web Audio API feels kind of like my iPod did. It’s different from most browser APIs - rather than throwing around data, or updating DOM elements - you plug together a graph of audio nodes, which the browser uses to generate, process, and play sounds. The thing I like about it is that you can totally plug it into whatever you want, and it’ll mostly just work. So, let’s get started. First of all we want an audio source. <audio src="night-owl.mp3" controls /> (Song - Night Owl by Broke For Free) This totally works. However, it’s not using the Web Audio API, so we can’t access or modify the sound it makes. To hook this up to our audio graph, we can use an AudioSourceNode. This captures the sound from the element, and lets us connect to other nodes in a graph. const audioCtx = new AudioContext() const audio = document.querySelector('audio') const input = audioCtx.createAudioSourceNode(audio) input.connect(audioCtx.destination) Great. We’ve made something that looks and sounds exactly the same as it did before. Go us. Gain Let’s plug in a GainNode - this allows you to alter the amplitude (volume) of an an audio stream. We can hook this node up to an <input> element by setting the gain property of the node. (The syntax for this is kind of weird because it’s an Au… 2017 Ben Foxall benfoxall 2017-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/feeding-the-audio-graph/ code
210 Stop Leaving Animation to the Last Minute Our design process relies heavily on static mockups as deliverables and this makes it harder than it needs to be to incorporate UI animation in our designs. Talking through animation ideas and dancing out the details of those ideas can be fun; but it’s not always enough to really evaluate or invest in animated design solutions. By including deliverables that encourage discussing animation throughout your design process, you can set yourself (and your team) up for creating meaningful UI animations that feel just as much a part of the design as your colour palette and typeface. You can get out of that “running out of time to add in the animation” trap by deliberately including animation in the early phases of your design process. This will give you both the space to treat animation as a design tool, and the room to iterate on UI animation ideas to come up with higher quality solutions. Two deliverables that can be especially useful for this are motion comps and animated interactive prototypes. Motion comps - an animation deliverable Motion comps (also called animatics or motion mock-ups) are usually video representation of UI animations. They are used to explore the details of how a particular animation might play out. And they’re most often made with timeline-based tools like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Animate, or Tumult Hype. The most useful things about motion comps is how they allow designers and developers to share the work of creating animations. (Instead of pushing all the responsibility of animation on one group or the other.) For example, imagine you’re working on a design that has a content panel that can either be open or closed. You might create a mockup like the one below including the two different views: the closed state and the open state. If you’re working with only static deliverables, these two artboards might be exactly what you handoff to developers along with the instruction to animate between the two. On the surface that seems pretty straight forward, but even with this relatively simple… 2017 Val Head valhead 2017-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/stop-leaving-animation-to-the-last-minute/ design
211 Automating Your Accessibility Tests Accessibility is one of those things we all wish we were better at. It can lead to a bunch of questions like: how do we make our site better? How do we test what we have done? Should we spend time each day going through our site to check everything by hand? Or just hope that everyone on our team has remembered to check their changes are accessible? This is where automated accessibility tests can come in. We can set up automated tests and have them run whenever someone makes a pull request, and even alongside end-to-end tests, too. Automated tests can’t cover everything however; only 20 to 50% of accessibility issues can be detected automatically. For example, we can’t yet automate the comparison of an alt attribute with an image’s content, and there are some screen reader tests that need to be carried out by hand too. To ensure our site is as accessible as possible, we will still need to carry out manual tests, and I will cover these later. First, I’m going to explain how I implemented automated accessibility tests on Elsevier’s ecommerce pages, and share some of the lessons I learnt along the way. Picking the right tool One of the hardest, but most important parts of creating our automated accessibility tests was choosing the right tool. We began by investigating aXe CLI, but soon realised it wouldn’t fit our requirements. It couldn’t check pages that required a visitor to log in, so while we could test our product pages, we couldn’t test any customer account pages. Instead we moved over to Pa11y. Its beforeScript step meant we could log into the site and test pages such as the order history. The example below shows the how the beforeScript step completes a login form and then waits for the login to complete before testing the page: beforeScript: function(page, options, next) { // An example function that can be used to make sure changes have been confirmed before continuing to run Pa11y function waitUntil(condition, retries, waitOver) { page.evaluate(condition, function(err, result) { if (result … 2017 Seren Davies serendavies 2017-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/automating-your-accessibility-tests/ code
212 Refactoring Your Way to a Design System I love refactoring code. Absolutely love it. There’s something about taking a piece of UI or a bit of code and reworking it in a way that is simpler, modular, and reusable that makes me incredibly happy. I also love design systems work. It gives hybrids like me a home. It seems like everyone is talking about design systems right now. Design systems teams are perfect for those who enjoy doing architectural work and who straddle the line between designer and developer. Una Kravets recently identified some of the reasons that design systems fail, and chief among them are lack of buy-in, underlying architecture, and communication. While it’s definitely easier to establish these before project work begins, that doesn’t mean it is the only path to success. It’s a privilege to work on a greenfield project, and one that is not afforded to many. Companies with complex and/or legacy codebases may not be able to support a full rewrite of their product. In addition, many people feel overwhelmed at the thought of creating a complete system and are at a loss of how or where to even begin the process. This is where refactoring comes into play. According to Martin Fowler, “refactoring is the process of changing a software system in such a way that it does not alter the external behavior of the code yet improves its internal structure.” It’s largely invisible work, and if you do it right, the end user will never know the difference. What it will do is provide a decent foundation to begin more systematic work. Build a solid foundation When I was first asked to create Pantsuit, the design system for Hillary for America, I was tasked with changing our codebase to be more modular and scalable, without changing the behavior or visual design of the UI. We needed a system in place that would allow for the rapid creation of new projects while maintaining a consistent visual language. In essence, I was asked to refactor our code into a design system. During that refactor, I focused the majority of my efforts on creating a scalable arch… 2017 Mina Markham minamarkham 2017-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/refactoring-your-way-to-a-design-system/ code
213 Accessibility Through Semantic HTML Working on Better, a tracker blocker, I spend an awful lot of my time with my nose in other people’s page sources. I’m mostly there looking for harmful tracking scripts, but often notice the HTML on some of the world’s most popular sites is in a sad state of neglect. What does neglected HTML look like? Here’s an example of the markup I found on a news site just yesterday. There’s a bit of text, a few links, and a few images. But mostly it’s div elements. <div class="block_wrapper"> <div class="block_content"> <div class="box"> <div id="block1242235"> <div class="column"> <div class="column_content"> <a class="close" href="#"><i class="fa"></i></a> </div> <div class="btn account_login"></div> Some text <span>more text</span> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> divs and spans, why do we use them so much? While I find tracking scripts completely inexcusable, I do understand why people write HTML like the above. As developers, we like to use divs and spans as they’re generic elements. They come with no associated default browser styles or behaviour except that div displays as a block, and span displays inline. If we make our page up out of divs and spans, we know we’ll have absolute control over styles and behaviour cross-browser, and we won’t need a CSS reset. Absolute control may seem like an advantage, but there’s a greater benefit to less generic, more semantic elements. Browsers render semantic elements with their own distinct styles and behaviours. For example, button looks and behaves differently from a. And ul is different from ol. These defaults are shortcuts to a more usable and accessible web. They provide consistent and well-tested components for common interactions. Semantic elements aid usability A good example of how browser defaults can benefit the usability of an element is in the <select> option menu. In Safari on the desktop, the browser renders <select> as a popover-style menu. On a touchscreen, Safari overl… 2017 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2017-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/accessibility-through-semantic-html/ code
214 Christmas Gifts for Your Future Self: Testing the Web Platform In the last year I became a CSS specification editor, on a mission to revitalise CSS Multi-column layout. This has involved learning about many things, one of which has been the Web Platform Tests project. In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about testing the web platform. I’m also going to explain why I think you might want to get involved too. Why test? At one time or another it is likely that you have been frustrated by an issue where you wrote some valid CSS, and one browser did one thing with it and another something else entirely. Experiences like this make many web developers feel that browser vendors don’t work together, or they are actively doing things in a different way to one another to the detriment of those of us who use the platform. You’ll be glad to know that isn’t the case, and that the people who work on browsers want things to be consistent just as much as we do. It turns out however that interoperability, which is the official term for “works in all browsers”, is hard. Thanks to web-platform-tests, a test from another browser vendor just found genuine bug in our code before we shipped 😻— Brian Birtles (@brianskold) February 10, 2017 In order for W3C Specifications to move on to become W3C Recommendations we need to have interoperable implementations. 6.2.4 Implementation Experience Implementation experience is required to show that a specification is sufficiently clear, complete, and relevant to market needs, to ensure that independent interoperable implementations of each feature of the specification will be realized. While no exhaustive list of requirements is provided here, when assessing that there is adequate implementation experience the Director will consider (though not be limited to): is each feature of the current specification implemented, and how is this demonstrated? are there independent interoperable implementations of the current specification? are there implementations created by people other than the authors of the specification? are implementations publi… 2017 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2017-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/testing-the-web-platform/ code
215 Teach the CLI to Talk Back The CLI is a daunting tool. It’s quick, powerful, but it’s also incredibly easy to screw things up in – either with a mistyped command, or a correctly typed command used at the wrong moment. This puts a lot of people off using it, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’ve ever interacted with Slack’s Slackbot to set a reminder or ask a question, you’re basically using a command line interface, but it feels more like having a conversation. (My favourite Slack app is Lunch Train which helps with the thankless task of herding colleagues to a particular lunch venue on time.) Same goes with voice-operated assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home. There are even games, like Lifeline, where you interact with a stranded astronaut via pseudo SMS, and KOMRAD where you chat with a Soviet AI. I’m not aiming to build an AI here – my aspirations are a little more down to earth. What I’d like is to make the CLI a friendlier, more forgiving, and more intuitive tool for new or reluctant users. I want to teach it to talk back. Interactive command lines in the wild If you’ve used dev tools in the command line, you’ve probably already used an interactive prompt – something that asks you questions and responds based on your answers. Here are some examples: Yeoman If you have Yeoman globally installed, running yo will start a command prompt. The prompt asks you what you’d like to do, and gives you options with how to proceed. Seasoned users will run specific commands for these options rather than go through this prompt, but it’s a nice way to start someone off with using the tool. npm If you’re a Node.js developer, you’re probably familiar with typing npm init to initialise a project. This brings up prompts that will populate a package.json manifest file for that project. The alternative would be to expect the user to craft their own package.json, which is more error-prone since it’s in JSON format, so something as trivial as an extraneous comma can throw an error. Snyk Snyk is a dev tool that checks for known vulnerabilities… 2017 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2017-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/teach-the-cli-to-talk-back/ code
216 Styling Components - Typed CSS With Stylable There’s been a lot of debate recently about how best to style components for web apps so that styles don’t accidentally ‘leak’ out of the component they’re meant for, or clash with other styles on the page. Elaborate CSS conventions have sprung up, such as OOCSS, SMACSS, BEM, ITCSS, and ECSS. These work well, but they are methodologies, and require everyone in the team to know them and follow them, which can be a difficult undertaking across large or distributed teams. Others just give up on CSS and put all their styles in JavaScript. Now, I’m not bashing JS, especially so close to its 22nd birthday, but CSS-in-JS has problems of its own. Browsers have 20 years experience in optimising their CSS engines, so JavaScript won’t be as fast as using real CSS, and in any case, this requires waiting for JS to download, parse, execute then render the styles. There’s another problem with CSS-in-JS, too. Since Responsive Web Design hit the streets, most designers no longer make comps in Photoshop or its equivalents; instead, they write CSS. Why hire an expensive design professional and require them to learn a new way of doing their job? A recent thread on Twitter asked “What’s your biggest gripe with CSS-in-JS?”, and the replies were illuminating: “Always having to remember to camelCase properties then spending 10min pulling hair out when you do forget”, “the cryptic domain-specific languages that each of the frameworks do just ever so slightly differently”, “When I test look and feel in browser, then I copy paste from inspector, only to have to re-write it as a JSON object”, “Lack of linting, autocomplete, and css plug-ins for colors/ incrementing/ etc”. If you’re a developer, and you’re still unconvinced, I challenge you to let designers change the font in your IDE to Zapf Chancery and choose a new colour scheme, simply because they like it better. Does that sound like fun? Will that boost your productivity? Thought not. Some chums at Wix Engineering and I wanted to see if we could square this circle. Wix-hosted sites h… 2017 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2017-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/styling-components-typed-css-with-stylable/ code

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