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311 Designing Imaginative Style Guides (Living) style guides and (atomic) patterns libraries are “all the rage,” as my dear old Nana would’ve said. If articles and conference talks are to be believed, making and using them has become incredibly popular. I think there are plenty of ways we can improve how style guides look and make them better at communicating design information to creatives without it getting in the way of information that technical people need. Guides to libraries of patterns Most of my consulting work and a good deal of my creative projects now involve designing style guides. I’ve amassed a huge collection of brand guidelines and identity manuals as well as, more recently, guides to libraries of patterns intended to help designers and developers make digital products and websites. Two pages from one of my Purposeful style guide packs. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. “Style guide” is an umbrella term for several types of design documentation. Sometimes we’re referring to static style or visual identity guides, other times voice and tone. We might mean front-end code guidelines or component/pattern libraries. These all offer something different but more often than not they have something in common. They look ugly enough to have been designed by someone who enjoys configuring a router. OK, that was mean, not everyone’s going to think an unimaginative style guide design is a problem. After all, as long as a style guide contains information people need, how it looks shouldn’t matter, should it? Inspiring not encyclopaedic Well here’s the thing. Not everyone needs to take the same information away from a style guide. If you’re looking for markup and styles to code a ‘media’ component, you’re probably going to be the technical type, whereas if you need to understand the balance of sizes across a typographic hierarchy, you’re more likely to be a creative. What you need from a style guide is different. Sure, some people1 need rules: “Do this (responsive pattern)” or “don’t do that (auto-playing video.)” Those people probably also want facts: … 2016 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2016-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/designing-imaginative-style-guides/ design
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
46 Responsive Enhancement 24 ways has been going strong for ten years. That’s an aeon in internet timescales. Just think of all the changes we’ve seen in that time: the rise of Ajax, the explosion of mobile devices, the unrecognisably changed landscape of front-end tooling. Tools and technologies come and go, but one thing has remained constant for me over the past decade: progressive enhancement. Progressive enhancement isn’t a technology. It’s more like a way of thinking. Instead of thinking about the specifics of how a finished website might look, progressive enhancement encourages you to think about the fundamental meaning of what the website is providing. So instead of thinking of a website in terms of its ideal state in a modern browser on a nice widescreen device, progressive enhancement allows you to think about the core functionality in a more abstract way. Once you’ve figured out what the core functionality is – adding an item to a shopping cart, posting a message, sharing a photo – then you can enable that functionality in the simplest possible way. That usually means starting with good old-fashioned HTML. Links and forms are often all you need. Then, once you have the core functionality working in a basic way, you can start to enhance to make a progressively better experience for more modern browsers. The advantage of working this way isn’t just that your site will work in older browsers (albeit in a rudimentary way). It also ensures that if anything goes wrong in a modern browser, it won’t be catastrophic. There’s a common misconception that progressive enhancement means that you’ll spend your time dealing with older browsers, but in fact the opposite is true. Putting the basic functionality into place doesn’t take very long at all. And once you’ve done that, you’re free to spend all your time experimenting with the latest and greatest browser technologies, secure in the knowledge that even if they aren’t universally supported yet, that’s OK: you’ve already got your fallback in place. The key to thinking about web devel… 2014 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2014-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/responsive-enhancement/ 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
142 Revealing Relationships Can Be Good Form A few days ago, a colleague of mine – someone I have known for several years, who has been doing web design for several years and harks back from the early days of ZDNet – was running through a prototype I had put together for some user testing. As with a lot of prototypes, there was an element of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to make things look like they were working. One part of the form included a yes/no radio button, and selecting the Yes option would, in the real and final version of the form, reveal some extra content. Rather than put too much JavaScript in the prototype, I took a preverbial shortcut and created a link which I wrapped around the text next to the radio button – clicking on that link would cause the form to mimic a change event on the radio button. But it wasn’t working for him. Why was that? Because whereas I created the form using a <label> tag for each <input> and naturally went to click on the text rather than the form control itself, he was going straight for the control (and missing the sneaky little <a href> I’d placed around the text). Bah! There goes my time-saver. So, what did I learn? That a web professional who has used the Internet for years had neither heard of the <label> tag, nor had he ever tried clicking on the text. It just goes to show that despite its obvious uses, the label element is not as well known as it rightfully deserves to be. So, what’s a web-standards-loving guy to do? Make a bit more bleedin’ obvious, that’s what! The Mouse Pointer Trick OK, this is the kind of thing that causes some people outrage. A dead simple way of indicating that the label does something is to use a snippet of CSS to change the default mouse cursor to a hand. It’s derided because the hand icon is usually used for links, and some would argue that using this technique is misleading: label { cursor: pointer; } This is not a new idea, though, and you didn’t come here for this. The point is that with something very simple, you’ve made the label element discoverable. But there are other ways… 2006 Ian Lloyd ianlloyd 2006-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/revealing-relationships-can-be-good-form/ ux
4 Credits and Recognition A few weeks ago, I saw a friendly little tweet from a business congratulating a web agency on being nominated for an award. The business was quite happy for them and proud to boot — they commented on how the same agency designed their website, too. What seemed like a nice little shout-out actually made me feel a little disappointed. Why? In reality, I knew that the web agency didn’t actually design the site — I did, when I worked at a different agency responsible for the overall branding and identity. I certainly wasn’t disappointed at the business — after all, saying that someone designed your site when they were responsible for development is an easy mistake to make. Chances are, the person behind the tweets and status updates might not even know the difference between words like design and development. What really disappointed me was the reminder of how many web workers out there never explain their roles in a project when displaying work in a portfolio. If you’re strictly a developer and market yourself as such, there might be less room for confusion, but things can feel a little deceptive if you offer a wide range of services yet never credit the other players when collaboration is part of the game. Unfortunately, this was the case in this situation. Whatever happened to credit where credit’s due? Advertising attribution Have you ever thumbed through an advertising annual or browsed through the winners of an advertising awards website, like the campaign below from Kopenhagen Chocolate on Advertising Age? If so, it’s likely that you’ve noticed some big differences in how the work is credited. Everyone involved in a creative advertising project is mentioned. Art directors, writers, creative directors, photographers, illustrators and, of course, the agency all get a fair shot at fifteen minutes of fame. Why can’t we take this same idea and introduce it to our own showcases? Crediting on client sites Ah, the good old days of web rings, guestbooks, and under construction GIFs, when slipping in a cheeky… 2013 Geri Coady gericoady 2013-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/credits-and-recognition/ process
48 A Holiday Wish A friend and I were talking the other day about why clients spend more on toilet cleaning than design, and how the industry has changed since the mid-1990s, when we got our starts. Early in his career, my friend wrote a fine CSS book, but for years he has called himself a UX designer. And our conversation got me thinking about how I reacted to that title back when I first started hearing it. “Just what this business needs,” I said to myself, “another phony expert.” Okay, so I was wrong about UX, but my touchiness was not altogether unfounded. In the beginning, our industry was divided between freelance jack-of-all-trade punks, who designed and built and coded and hosted and Photoshopped and even wrote the copy when the client couldn’t come up with any, and snot-slick dot-com mega-agencies that blew up like Alice and handed out titles like impoverished nobles in the years between the world wars. I was the former kind of designer, a guy who, having failed or just coasted along at a cluster of other careers, had suddenly, out of nowhere, blossomed into a web designer—an immensely curious designer slash coder slash writer with a near-insatiable lust to shave just one more byte from every image. We had modems back then, and I dreamed in sixteen colors. My source code was as pretty as my layouts (arguably prettier) and I hoovered up facts and opinions from newsgroups and bulletin boards as fast as any loudmouth geek could throw them. It was a beautiful life. But soon, too soon, the professional digital agencies arose, buying loft buildings downtown, jacking in at T1 speeds, charging a hundred times what I did, and communicating with their clients in person, in large artfully bedecked rooms, wearing hand-tailored Barney’s suits and bringing back the big city bullshit I thought I’d left behind when I quit advertising to become a web designer. Just like the big bad ad agencies of my early career, the new digital agencies stocked every meeting with a totem pole worth of ranks and titles. If the client brought five u… 2014 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2014-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/a-holiday-wish/ ux
100 Moo'y Christmas A note from the editors: Moo has changed their API since this article was written. As the web matures, it is less and less just about the virtual world. It is becoming entangled with our world and it is harder to tell what is virtual and what is real. There are several companies who are blurring this line and make the virtual just an extension of the physical. Moo is one such company. Moo offers simple print on demand services. You can print business cards, moo mini cards, stickers, postcards and more. They give you the ability to upload your images, customize them, then have them sent to your door. Many companies allow this sort of digital to physical interaction, but Moo has taken it one step further and has built an API. Printable stocking stuffers The Moo API consists of a simple XML file that is sent to their servers. It describes all the information needed to dynamically assemble and print your object. This is very helpful, not just for when you want to print your own stickers, but when you want to offer them to your customers, friends, organization or community with no hassle. Moo handles the check-out and shipping, all you need to do is what you do best, create! Now using an API sounds complicated, but it is actually very easy. I am going to walk you through the options so you can easily be printing in no time. Before you can begin sending data to the Moo API, you need to register and get an API key. This is important, because it allows Moo to track usage and to credit you. To register, visit http://www.moo.com/api/ and click “Request an API key”. In the following examples, I will use {YOUR API KEY HERE} as a place holder, replace that with your API key and everything will work fine. First thing you need to do is to create an XML file to describe the check-out basket. Open any text-editor and start with some XML basics. Don’t worry, this is pretty simple and Moo gives you a few tools to check your XML for errors before… 2008 Brian Suda briansuda 2008-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/mooy-christmas/ code
160 Tracking Christmas Cheer with Google Charts A note from the editors: Since this article was written Google has retired the Charts API. Let’s get something out in the open: I love statistics. As an informatician I can’t get enough graphs, charts, and numbers. So you can imagine when Google released their Charts API I thought Christmas had come early. I immediately began to draw up graphs for the holiday season using the new API; and using my new found chart-making skills I’ll show you what you can and can’t do with Google Charts. Mummy, it’s my first chart The Google Charts API allows you to send data to Google; in return they give you back a nicely-rendered graph. All the hard work is done on Google’s servers — you need only reference an image in your HTML. You pass along the data — the numbers for the charts, axis labels, and so on — in the query string of the image’s URL. If you want to add charts to your blog or web site, there’s probably no quicker way to get started. Here’s a simple example: if we add the following line to an HTML page: <img src="http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht=lc&chs=200x125&chd=s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008" /> Then we’ll see the line graph in Figure 1 appear in our page. That graph is hosted on Google’s own server1: http://chart.apis.google.com/. Figure 1: A simple example of a line graph created with Google Charts. If you look at the URL used in the example you’ll notice we’re passing some parameters along in the query string (the bit after the question mark). The query string looks like this: cht=lc&chs=200x125&chd=s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008 It’s contains everything Google Charts needs to draw the graph. There are three parameters in the query string: cht; this specifies the type of chart Google Charts will generate (in this case, lc is a line chart). chs, the value of which is 200x125; this defines the chart’s size (200 pixels wide by 125 pixels high). chd, the value of which is s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008; this is the actual chart data, which we’ll discus… 2007 Brian Suda briansuda 2007-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/tracking-christmas-cheer-with-google-charts/ ux
109 Geotag Everywhere with Fire Eagle A note from the editors: Since this article was written Yahoo! has retired the Fire Eagle service. Location, they say, is everywhere. Everyone has one, all of the time. But on the web, it’s taken until this year to see the emergence of location in the applications we use and build. The possibilities are broad. Increasingly, mobile phones provide SDKs to approximate your location wherever you are, browser extensions such as Loki and Mozilla’s Geode provide browser-level APIs to establish your location from the proximity of wireless networks to your laptop. Yahoo’s Brickhouse group launched Fire Eagle, an ambitious location broker enabling people to take their location from any of these devices or sources, and provide it to a plethora of web services. It enables you to take the location information that only your iPhone knows about and use it anywhere on the web. That said, this is still a time of location as an emerging technology. Fire Eagle stores your location on the web (protected by application-specific access controls), but to try and give an idea of how useful and powerful your location can be — regardless of the services you use now — today’s 24ways is going to build a bookmarklet to call up your location on demand, in any web application. Location Support on the Web Over the past year, the number of applications implementing location features has increased dramatically. Plazes and Brightkite are both full featured social networks based around where you are, whilst Pownce rolled in Fire Eagle support to allow geotagging of all the content you post to their microblogging service. Dipity’s beautiful timeline shows for you moving from place to place and Six Apart’s activity stream for Movable Type started exposing your movements. The number of services that hook into Fire Eagle will increase as location awareness spreads through the developer community, but you can use your location on other sites indirectly too. Consider Flickr. … 2008 Ben Ward benward 2008-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/geotag-everywhere-with-fire-eagle/ code
329 Broader Border Corners A note from the editors: Since this article was written the CSS border-radius property has become widely supported in browsers. It should be preferred to this image technique. A quick and easy recipe for turning those single-pixel borders that the kids love so much into into something a little less right-angled. Here’s the principle: We have a box with a one-pixel wide border around it. Inside that box is another box that has a little rounded-corner background image sitting snugly in one of its corners. The inner-box is then nudged out a bit so that it’s actually sitting on top of the outer box. If it’s all done properly, that little background image can mask the hard right angle of the default border of the outer-box, giving the impression that it actually has a rounded corner. Take An Image, Finely Chopped Add A Sprinkle of Markup <div id="content"> <p>Lorem ipsum etc. etc. etc.</p> </div> Throw In A Dollop of CSS #content { border: 1px solid #c03; } #content p { background: url(corner.gif) top left no-repeat; position: relative; left: -1px; top: -1px; padding: 1em; margin: 0; } Bubblin’ Hot The content div has a one-pixel wide red border around it. The paragraph is given a single instance of the background image, created to look like a one-pixel wide arc. The paragraph is shunted outside of the box – back one pixel and up one pixel – so that it is sitting over the div’s border. The white area of the image covers up that part of the border’s corner, and the arc meets up with the top and left border. Because, in this example, we’re applying a background image to a paragraph, its top margin needs to be zeroed so that it starts at the top of its container. Et voilà. Bon appétit. Extra Toppings If you want to apply a curve to each one of the corners and you run out of meaningful markup to hook the background images on to, throw some spans or divs in the mix (there’s nothing wrong … 2005 Patrick Griffiths patrickgriffiths 2005-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/broader-border-corners/ design
144 The Mobile Web, Simplified A note from the editors: although eye-opening in 2006, this article is no longer relevant to today’s mobile web. Considering a foray into mobile web development? Following are four things you need to know before making the leap. 1. 4 billion mobile subscribers expected by 2010 Fancy that. Coupled with the UN prediction of 6.8 billion humans by 2010, 4 billion mobile subscribers (source) is an astounding 59% of the planet. Just how many of those subscribers will have data plans and web-enabled phones is still in question, but inevitably this all means one thing for you and me: A ton of potential eyes to view our web content on a mobile device. 2. Context is king Your content is of little value to users if it ignores the context in which it is viewed. Consider how you access data on your mobile device. You might be holding a bottle of water or gripping a handle on the subway/tube. You’re probably seeking specific data such as directions or show times, rather than the plethora of data at your disposal via a desktop PC. The mobile web, a phrase often used to indicate “accessing the web on a mobile device”, is very much a context-, content-, and component-specific environment. Expressed in terms of your potential target audience, access to web content on a mobile device is largely influenced by surrounding circumstances and conditions, information relevant to being mobile, and the feature set of the device being used. Ask yourself, What is relevant to my users and the tasks, problems, and needs they may encounter while being mobile? Answer that question and you’ll be off to a great start. 3. WAP 2.0 is an XHTML environment In a nutshell, here are a few fundamental tenets of mobile internet technology: Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is the protocol for enabling mobile access to internet content. Wireless Markup Language (WML) was the language of choice for WAP 1.0. Nearly all devices sold today are WAP 2.0 devices. With the in… 2006 Cameron Moll cameronmoll 2006-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/the-mobile-web-simplified/ ux
164 My Other Christmas Present Is a Definition List A note from the editors: readers should note that the HTML5 redefinition of definition lists has come to pass and is now à la mode. Last year, I looked at how the markup for tag clouds was generally terrible. I thought this year I would look not at a method of marking up a common module, but instead just at a simple part of HTML and how it generally gets abused. No, not tables. Definition lists. Ah, definition lists. Often used but rarely understood. Examining the definition of definitions To start with, let’s see what the HTML spec has to say about them. Definition lists vary only slightly from other types of lists in that list items consist of two parts: a term and a description. The canonical example of a definition list is a dictionary. Words can have multiple descriptions (even the word definition has at least five). Also, many terms can share a single definition (for example, the word colour can also be spelt color, but they have the same definition). Excellent, we can all grasp that. But it very quickly starts to fall apart. Even in the HTML specification the definition list is mis-used. Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words. Wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. This is the biggest flaw in the HTML spec, along with dropping support for the start attribute on ordered lists. “Why?”, you may ask. Let me give you an example from Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2. <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>Romeo!</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>My niesse?</dd> <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>At what o'clock tomorrow shall I send to thee?</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>At the hour of nine.</dd> Now, the problem here is that a given definition can have multiple descriptions (the DD). Really the dialog “descriptions” should be rolled up under the terms, like so: <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>Romeo!</dd> <dd>At what o'clock tomorrow shall I send to thee?</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>… 2007 Mark Norman Francis marknormanfrancis 2007-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/my-other-christmas-present-is-a-definition-list/ code
159 How Media Studies Can Massage Your Message A young web designer once told his teacher ‘just get to the meat already.’ He was frustrated with what he called the ‘history lessons and name-dropping’ aspects of his formal college course. He just wanted to learn how to build Web sites, not examine the reasons why. Technique and theory are both integrated and necessary portions of a strong education. The student’s perspective has direct value, but also holds a distinct sorrow: Knowing the how without the why creates a serious problem. Without these surrounding insights we cannot tap into the influence of the history and evolved knowledge that came before. We cannot properly analyze, criticize, evaluate and innovate beyond the scope of technique. History holds the key to transcending former mistakes. Philosophy encourages us to look at different points of view. Studying media and social history empowers us as Web workers by bringing together myriad aspects of humanity in direct relation to the environment of society and technology. Having an understanding of media, communities, communication arts as well as logic, language and computer savvy are all core skills of the best of web designers in today’s medium. Controlling the Message ‘The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.’ – Frank Zappa Media is meant to express an idea. The great media theorist Marshall McLuhan suggests that not only is media interesting because it’s about the expression of ideas, but that the media itself actually shapes the way a given idea is perceived. This is what McLuhan meant when he uttered those famous words: ‘The medium is the message.’ If instead of actually serving a steak to a vegetarian friend, what might a painting of the steak mean instead? Or a sculpture of a cow? Depending upon the form of media in question, the message is altered. Figure 1 Must we know the history of cows to appreciate the steak on our plate? Perhaps not, but if we begin to examine how that meat came to be … 2007 Molly Holzschlag mollyholzschlag 2007-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/how-media-studies-can-massage-your-message/ ux
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
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
7 Get Started With GitHub Pages (Plus Bonus Jekyll) After several failed attempts at getting set up with GitHub Pages, I vowed that if I ever figured out how to do it, I’d write it up. Fortunately, I did eventually figure it out, so here is my write-up. Why I think GitHub Pages is cool Normally when you host stuff on GitHub, you’re just storing your files there. If you push site files, what you’re storing is the code, and when you view a file, you’re viewing the code rather than the output. What GitHub Pages lets you do is store those files, and if they’re HTML files, you can view them like any other website, so there’s no need to host them separately yourself. GitHub Pages accepts static HTML but can’t execute languages like PHP, or use a database in the way you’re probably used to, so you’ll need to output static HTML files. This is where templating tools such as Jekyll come in, which I’ll talk about later. The main benefit of GitHub Pages is ease of collaboration. Changes you make in the repository are automatically synced, so if your site’s hosted on GitHub, it’s as up-to-date as your GitHub repository. This really appeals to me because when I just want to quickly get something set up, I don’t want to mess around with hosting; and when people submit a pull request, I want that change to be visible as soon as I merge it without having to set up web hooks. Before you get started If you’ve used GitHub before, already have an account and know the basics like how to set up a repository and clone it to your computer, you’re good to go. If not, I recommend getting familiar with that first. The GitHub site has extensive documentation on getting started, and if you’re not a fan of using the command line, the official GitHub apps for Mac and Windows are great. I also found this tutorial about GitHub Pages by Thinkful really useful, and it contains details on how to turn an existing repository into a GitHub Pages site. Although this involves a bit of using the command line, it’s minimal, and I’ll guide you through the basics. Setting up GitHub Pages For this de… 2013 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2013-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/get-started-with-github-pages/  
125 Accessible Dynamic Links Although hyperlinks are the soul of the World Wide Web, it’s worth using them in moderation. Too many links becomes a barrier for visitors navigating their way through a page. This difficulty is multiplied when the visitor is using assistive technology, or is using a keyboard; being able to skip over a block of links doesn’t make the task of finding a specific link any easier. In an effort to make sites easier to use, various user interfaces based on the hiding and showing of links have been crafted. From drop-down menus to expose the deeper structure of a website, to a decluttering of skip links so as not to impact design considerations. Both are well intentioned with the aim of preserving a good usability experience for the majority of a website’s audience; hiding the real complexity of a page until the visitor interacts with the element. When JavaScript is not available The modern dynamic link techniques rely on JavaScript and CSS, but regardless of whether scripting and styles are enabled or not, we should consider the accessibility implications, particularly for screen-reader users, and people who rely on keyboard access. In typical web standards-based drop-down navigation implementations, the rough consensus is that the navigation should be structured as nested lists so when JavaScript is not available the entire navigation map is available to the visitor. This creates a situation where a visitor is faced with potentially well over 50 links on every page of the website. Keyboard access to such structures is frustrating, there’s far too many options, and the method of serially tabbing through each link looking for a specific one is tedious. Instead of offering the visitor an indigestible chunk of links when JavaScript is not available, consider instead having the minimum number of links on a page, and when JavaScript is available bringing in the extra links dynamically. Santa Chris Heilmann offers an excellent proof of concept in making Ajax navigation optional. When JavaScript is enabled, we need to d… 2006 Mike Davies mikedavies 2006-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/accessible-dynamic-links/ ux
231 Designing for iOS: Life Beyond Media Queries Although not a new phenomenon, media queries seem to be getting a lot attention online recently and for the right reasons too – it’s great to be able to adapt a design with just a few lines of CSS – but many people are relying only on them to create an iPhone-specific version of their website. I was pleased to hear at FOWD NYC a few weeks ago that both myself and Aral Balkan share the same views on why media queries aren’t always going to be the best solution for mobile. Both of us specialise in iPhone design ourselves and we opt for a different approach to media queries. The trouble is, regardless of what you have carefully selected to be display:none; in your CSS, the iPhone still loads everything in the background; all that large imagery for your full scale website also takes up valuable mobile bandwidth and time. You can greatly increase the speed of your website by creating a specific site tailored to mobile users with just a few handy pointers – media queries, in some instances, might be perfectly suitable but, in others, here’s what you can do. Redirect your iPhone/iPod Touch users To detect whether someone is viewing your site on an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can either use JavaScript or PHP. The JavaScript if((navigator.userAgent.match(/iPhone/i)) || (navigator.userAgent.match(/iPod/i))) { if (document.cookie.indexOf("iphone_redirect=false") == -1) window.location = "http://mobile.yoursitehere.com"; } The PHP if(strstr($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'],'iPhone') || strstr($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'],'iPod')) { header('Location: http://mobile.yoursitehere.com'); exit(); } Both of these methods redirect the user to a site that you have made specifically for the iPhone. At this point, be sure to provide a link to the full version of the website, in case the user wishes to view this and not be thrown into an experience they didn’t want, with no way back. Tailoring your site So, now you’ve got 320 × 480 pixels of screen to play with – and to create a style sheet for, just as you would fo… 2010 Sarah Parmenter sarahparmenter 2010-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/life-beyond-media-queries/ code
324 Debugging CSS with the DOM Inspector An Inspector Calls The larger your site and your CSS becomes, the more likely that you will run into bizarre, inexplicable problems. Why does that heading have all that extra padding? Why is my text the wrong colour? Why does my navigation have a large moose dressed as Noel Coward on top of all the links? Perhaps you work in a collaborative environment, where developers and other designers are adding code? In which case, the likelihood of CSS strangeness is higher. You need to debug. You need Firefox’s wise-guy know-it-all, the DOM Inspector. The DOM Inspector knows where everything is in your layout, and more importantly, what causes it to look the way it does. So without further ado, load up any css based site in your copy of Firefox (or Flock for that matter), and launch the DOM Inspector from the Tools menu. The inspector uses two main panels – the left to show the DOM tree of the page, and the right to show you detail: The Inspector will look at whatever site is in the front-most window or tab, but you can also use it without another window. Type in a URL at the top (A), press ‘Inspect’ (B) and a third panel appears at the bottom, with the browser view. I find this layout handier than looking at a window behind the DOM Inspector. Step 1 – find your node! Each element on your page – be it a HTML tag or a piece of text, is called a ‘node’ of the DOM tree. These nodes are all listed in the left hand panel, with any ID or CLASS attribute values next to them. When you first look at a page, you won’t see all those yet. Nested HTML elements (such as a link inside a paragraph) have a reveal triangle next to their name, clicking this takes you one level further down. This can be fine for finding the node you want to look at, but there are easier ways. Say you have a complex rounded box technique that involves 6 nested DIVs? You’d soon get tired of clicking all those triangles to find the element you want to inspect. Click the top left icon © – “Find a node to inspect by clicking on it” and then select … 2005 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2005-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/debugging-css-with-the-dom-inspector/ process
247 Managing Flow and Rhythm with CSS Custom Properties An important part of designing user interfaces is creating consistent vertical rhythm between elements. Creating consistent, predictable space doesn’t just make your web pages and views look better, but it can also improve the scan-ability. Browsers ship with default CSS and these styles often create consistent rhythm for flow elements out of the box. The problem is though that we often reset these styles with a reset. Elements such as <div> and <section> also have no default margin or padding associated with them. I’ve tried all sorts of weird and wonderful techniques to find a balance between using inherited CSS while also levelling the playing field for component driven front-ends with very little success. This experimentation is how I landed on the flow utility, though and I’m going to show you how it works. Let’s dive in! The Flow utility With the ever-growing number of folks working with component libraries and design systems, we could benefit from a utility that creates space for us, only when it’s appropriate to do so. The problem with my previous attempts at fixing this is that the spacing values were very rigid. That’s fine for 90% of contexts, but sometimes, it’s handy to be able to tweak the values based on the exact context of your component. This is where CSS Custom Properties come in handy. The code .flow { --flow-space: 1em; } .flow > * + * { margin-top: var(--flow-space); } What this code does is enable you to add a class of flow to an element which will then add margin-top to sibling elements within that element. We use the lobotomised owl selector to select these siblings. This approach enables an almost anonymous and automatic system which is ideal for component library based front-ends where components probably don’t have any idea what surrounds them. The other important part of this utility is the usage of the --flow-space custom property. We define it in the .flow component and each element within it will be spaced by --flow-space, by default. The beauty about setting this as a … 2018 Andy Bell andybell 2018-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/managing-flow-and-rhythm-with-css-custom-properties/ code
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
86 Flashless Animation Animation in a Flashless world When I splashed down in web design four years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was animate a cartoon in the browser. I’d been drawing comics for years, and I’ve wanted to see them come to life for nearly as long. Flash animation was still riding high, but I didn’t want to learn Flash. I wanted to learn JavaScript! Sadly, animating with JavaScript was limiting and resource-intensive. My initial foray into an infinitely looping background did more to burn a hole in my CPU than amaze my friends (although it still looks pretty cool). And there was still no simple way to incorporate audio. The browser technology just wasn’t there. Things are different now. CSS3 transitions and animations can do most of the heavy lifting and HTML5 audio can serve up the music and audio clips. You can do a lot without leaning on JavaScript at all, and when you lean on JavaScript, you can do so much more! In this project, I’m going to show you how to animate a simple walk cycle with looping audio. I hope this will inspire you to do something really cool and impress your friends. I’d love to see what you come up with, so please send your creations my way at rachelnabors.com! Note: Because every browser wants to use its own prefixes with CSS3 animations, and I have neither the time nor the space to write all of them out, I will use the W3C standard syntaxes; that is, going prefix-less. You can implement them out of the box with something like Prefixfree, or you can add prefixes on your own. If you take the latter route, I recommend using Sass and Compass so you can focus on your animations, not copying and pasting. The walk cycle Walk cycles are the “Hello world” of animation. One of the first projects of animation students is to spend hours drawing dozens of frames to complete a simple loopable animation of a character walking. Most animators don’t have to draw every frame themselves, though. They draw a few key frames and send those on to production animators to work on the between frames (or twe… 2012 Rachel Nabors rachelnabors 2012-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/flashless-animation/ code
271 Creating Custom Font Stacks with Unicode-Range Any web designer or front-end developer worth their salt will be familiar with the CSS @font-face rule used for embedding fonts in a web page. We’ve all used it — either directly in our code ourselves, or via one of the web font services like Fontdeck, Typekit or Google Fonts. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be used to just copying and pasting in a specific incantation of lines designed to get different formats of fonts working in different browsers, and may not have really explored all the capabilities of @font-face properties as defined by the spec. One such property — the unicode-range descriptor — sounds pretty dull and is easily overlooked. It does, however, have some fairly interesting possibilities when put to use in creative ways. Unicode-range The unicode-range descriptor is designed to help when using fonts that don’t have full coverage of the characters used in a page. By adding a unicode-range property to a @font-face rule it is possible to specify the range of characters the font covers. @font-face { font-family: BBCBengali; src: url(fonts/BBCBengali.ttf) format("opentype"); unicode-range: U+00-FF; } In this example, the font is to be used for characters in the range of U+00 to U+FF which runs from the unexciting control characters at the start of the Unicode table (symbols like the exclamation mark start at U+21) right through to ÿ at U+FF – the extent of the Basic Latin character range. By adding multiple @font-face rules for the same family but with different ranges, you can build up complete coverage of the characters your page uses by using different fonts. When I say that it’s possible to specify the range of characters the font covers, that’s true, but what you’re really doing with the unicode-range property is declaring which characters the font should be used for. This becomes interesting, because instead of merely working with the technical constraints of available characters in a given font, we can start picking and choosing characters to use and selectively mix fon… 2011 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2011-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/creating-custom-font-stacks-with-unicode-range/ code
130 Faster Development with CSS Constants Anyone even slightly familiar with a programming language will have come across the concept of constants – a fixed value that can be used through your code. For example, in a PHP script I might have a constant which is the email address that all emails generated by my application get sent to. $adminEmail = 'info@example.com'; I could then use $adminEmail in my script whenever I wanted an email to go to that address. The benefit of this is that when the client decides they want the email to go to a different address, I only need change it in one place – the place where I initially set the constant. I could also quite easily make this value user defined and enable the administrator to update the email address. Unfortunately CSS doesn’t support constants. It would be really useful to be able to define certain values initially and then use them throughout a CSS file, so in this article I’m going to take a look at some of the methods we do have available and provide pointers to more in depth commentary on each. If you have a different method, or tip to share please add it to the comments. So what options do we have? One way to get round the lack of constants is to create some definitions at the top of your CSS file in comments, to define ‘constants’. A common use for this is to create a ‘color glossary’. This means that you have a quick reference to the colors used in the site to avoid using alternates by mistake and, if you need to change the colors, you have a quick list to go down and do a search and replace. In the below example, if I decide I want to change the mid grey to #999999, all I need to do is search and replace #666666 with #999999 – assuming I’ve remember to always use that value for things which are mid grey. /* Dark grey (text): #333333 Dark Blue (headings, links) #000066 Mid Blue (header) #333399 Light blue (top navigation) #CCCCFF Mid grey: #666666 */ This is a fairly low-tech method, but if used throughout the development of the CSS files can make changes far simpler and help to ensure co… 2006 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2006-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/faster-development-with-css-constants/ process
229 Sketching to Communicate As a web designer I’ve always felt that I’d somehow cheated the system, having been absent on the day God handed out the ability to draw. I didn’t study fine art, I don’t have a natural talent to effortlessly knock out a realistic bowl of fruit beside a water jug, and yet somehow I’ve still managed to blag my way this far. I’m sure many of you may feel the same. I had no intention of becoming an artist, but to have enough skill to convey an idea in a drawing would be useful. Instead, my inadequate instrument would doodle drunkenly across the page leaving a web of unintelligible paths instead of the refined illustration I’d seen in my mind’s eye. This – and the natural scrawl of my handwriting – is fine (if somewhat frustrating) when it’s for my eyes only but, when sketching to communicate a concept to a client, such amateur art would be offered with a sense of embarrassment. So when I had the opportunity to take part in some sketching classes whilst at Clearleft I jumped at the chance. Why sketch? In UX workshops early on in a project’s life, sketching is a useful and efficient way to convey and record ideas. It’s disposable and inexpensive, but needn’t look amateur. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a well executed sketch of how you’ll combine funny YouTube videos with elephants to make Lolephants.com could be worth millions in venture capital. Actually, that’s not bad… ;-) Although (as you will see) the basics of sketching are easy to master, the kudos you will receive from clients for being a ‘proper designer’ makes it worthwhile! Where to begin? Start by not buying yourself a sketch pad. If you were the type of child who ripped the first page out of a school exercise book and started again if you made even a tiny mistake (you’re not alone!), Wreck This Journal may offer a helping hand. Practicing on plain A4 paper instead of any ‘special’ notepad will make the process a whole lot easier, no matter how deliciously edible those Moleskines look. Do buy yourself a black fine-liner pen and a set … 2010 Paul Annett paulannett 2010-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/sketching-to-communicate/ business
101 Easing The Path from Design to Development As a web developer, I have the pleasure of working with a lot of different designers. There has been a lot of industry discussion of late about designers and developers, focusing on how different we sometimes are and how the interface between our respective phases of a project (that is to say moving from a design phase into production) can sometimes become a battleground. I don’t believe it has to be a battleground. It’s actually more like being a dance partner – our steps are different, but as long as we know our own part and have a little knowledge of our partner’s steps, it all goes together to form a cohesive dance. Albeit with less spandex and fewer sequins (although that may depend on the project in question). As the process usually flows from design towards development, it’s most important that designers have a little knowledge of how the site is going to be built. At the specialist web development agency I’m part of, we find that designs that have been well considered from a technical perspective help to keep the project on track and on budget. Based on that experience, I’ve put together my checklist of things that designers should consider before handing their work over to a developer to build. Layout One rookie mistake made by traditionally trained designers transferring to the web is to forget a web browser is not a fixed medium. Unlike designing a magazine layout or a piece of packaging, there are lots of available options to consider. Should the layout be fluid and resize with the window, or should it be set to a fixed width? If it’s fluid, which parts expand and which not? If it’s fixed, should it sit in the middle of the window or to one side? If any part of the layout is going to be flexible (get wider and narrower as required), consider how any graphics are affected. Images don’t usually look good if displayed at anything other that their original size, so should they behave? If a column is going to get wider than it’s shown in the Photoshop comp, it may be necessary to provide separate wid… 2008 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2008-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/easing-the-path-from-design-to-development/ process
222 Golden Spirals As building blocks go, the rectangle is not one to overwhelm the designer with decisions. On the face of it, you have two options: you can set the width, and the height. But despite this apparent simplicity, there are combinations of width and height that can look unbalanced. If a rectangle is too tall and slim, it might appear precarious. If it is not tall enough, it may simply look flat. But like a guitar string that’s out of tune, you can tweak the proportions little by little until a rectangle feels, as Goldilocks said, just right. A golden rectangle has its height and width in the golden ratio, which is approximately 1:1.618. These proportions have long been recognised as being aesthetically harmonious. Whether through instruction or by intuition, artists have understood how to exploit these proportions over the centuries. Examples can be found in classical architecture, medieval book construction, and even in the recent #newtwitter redesign. A mathematical curiosity The golden rectangle is unique, in that if you remove a square section from it, what is left behind is itself a golden rectangle. The removal of a square can be repeated on the rectangle that is left behind, and then repeated again, as many times as you like. This means that the golden rectangle can be treated as a building block for recursive patterns. In this article, we will exploit this property to build a golden spiral, using only HTML and CSS. The markup The HTML we’ll use for this study is simply a series of nested <div>s. <body> <div id="container"> <div class="cycle"> <div> <div> <div> <div class="cycle"> <div> <div> <div> <div class="cycle"> <div> <div> <div> <div class="cycle"></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </body> The first of these has the class cycle, and so do… 2010 Drew Neil drewneil 2010-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/golden-spirals/ design
161 Keeping JavaScript Dependencies At Bay As we are writing more and more complex JavaScript applications we run into issues that have hitherto (god I love that word) not been an issue. The first decision we have to make is what to do when planning our app: one big massive JS file or a lot of smaller, specialised files separated by task. Personally, I tend to favour the latter, mainly because it allows you to work on components in parallel with other developers without lots of clashes in your version control. It also means that your application will be more lightweight as you only include components on demand. Starting with a global object This is why it is a good plan to start your app with one single object that also becomes the namespace for the whole application, say for example myAwesomeApp: var myAwesomeApp = {}; You can nest any necessary components into this one and also make sure that you check for dependencies like DOM support right up front. Adding the components The other thing to add to this main object is a components object, which defines all the components that are there and their file names. var myAwesomeApp = { components :{ formcheck:{ url:'formcheck.js', loaded:false }, dynamicnav:{ url:'dynamicnav.js', loaded:false }, gallery:{ url:'gallery.js', loaded:false }, lightbox:{ url:'lightbox.js', loaded:false } } }; Technically you can also omit the loaded properties, but it is cleaner this way. The next thing to add is an addComponent function that can load your components on demand by adding new SCRIPT elements to the head of the documents when they are needed. var myAwesomeApp = { components :{ formcheck:{ url:'formcheck.js', loaded:false }, dynamicnav:{ url:'dynamicnav.js', loaded:false }, gallery:{ url:'gallery.js', loaded:false }, lightbox:{ url:'lightbox.js', loaded:false } }, addComponent:function(component){ var c = this.components[component]; if(c && c.loaded === false){ var s = document.createElement('script'); s.setAttribut… 2007 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2007-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/keeping-javascript-dependencies-at-bay/ code
287 Extracting the Content As we throw away our canvas in approaches and yearn for a content-out process, there remains a pain point: the Content. It is spoken of in the hushed tones usually reserved for Lord Voldemort. The-thing-that-someone-else-is-responsible-for-that-must-not-be-named. Designers and developers have been burned before by not knowing what the Content is, how long it is, what style it is and when the hell it’s actually going to be delivered, in internet eons past. Warily, they ask clients for it. But clients don’t know what to make, or what is good, because no one taught them this in business school. Designers struggle to describe what they need and when, so the conversation gets put off until it’s almost too late, and then everyone is relieved that they can take the cop-out of putting up a blog and maybe some product descriptions from the brochure. The Content in content out. I’m guessing, as a smart, sophisticated, and, may I say, nicely-scented reader of the honourable and venerable tradition of 24 ways, that you sense something better is out there. Bunches of boxes to fill in just don’t cut it any more in a responsive web design world. The first question is, how are you going to design something to ensure users have the easiest access to the best Content, if you haven’t defined at the beginning what that Content is? Of course, it’s more than possible that your clients have done lots of user research before approaching you to start this project, and have a plethora of finely tuned Content for you to design with. Have you finished laughing yet? Alright then. Let’s just assume that, for whatever reason of gross oversight, this hasn’t happened. What next? Bringing up Content for the first time with a client is like discussing contraception when you’re in a new relationship. It might be awkward and either party would probably rather be doing something else, but it needs to be broached before any action happens (that, and it’s disastrous to assume the other party has the matter in hand). If we can’t talk about it, how … 2011 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2011-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/extracting-the-content/ content
171 Rock Solid HTML Emails At some stage in your career, it’s likely you’ll be asked by a client to design a HTML email. Before you rush to explain that all the cool kids are using social media, keep in mind that when done correctly, email is still one of the best ways to promote you and your clients online. In fact, a recent survey showed that every dollar spent on email marketing this year generated more than $40 in return. That’s more than any other marketing channel, including the cool ones. There are a whole host of ingredients that contribute to a good email marketing campaign. Permission, relevance, timeliness and engaging content are all important. Even so, the biggest challenge for designers still remains building an email that renders well across all the popular email clients. Same same, but different Before getting into the details, there are some uncomfortable facts that those new to HTML email should be aware of. Building an email is not like building for the web. While web browsers continue their onward march towards standards, many email clients have stubbornly stayed put. Some have even gone backwards. In 2007, Microsoft switched the Outlook rendering engine from Internet Explorer to Word. Yes, as in the word processor. Add to this the quirks of the major web-based email clients like Gmail and Hotmail, sprinkle in a little Lotus Notes and you’ll soon realize how different the email game is. While it’s not without its challenges, rest assured it can be done. In my experience the key is to focus on three things. First, you should keep it simple. The more complex your email design, the more likely is it to choke on one of the popular clients with poor standards support. Second, you need to take your coding skills back a good decade. That often means nesting tables, bringing CSS inline and following the coding guidelines I’ll outline below. Finally, you need to test your designs regularly. Just because a template looks nice in Hotmail now, doesn’t mean it will next week. Setting your lowest common denominator To maintain … 2009 David Greiner davidgreiner 2009-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/rock-solid-html-emails/ code
331 Splintered Striper Back in March 2004, David F. Miller demonstrated a little bit of DOM scripting magic in his A List Apart article Zebra Tables. His script programmatically adds two alternating CSS background colours to table rows, making them more readable and visually pleasing, while saving the document author the tedious task of manually assigning the styling to large static data tables. Although David’s original script performs its duty well, it is nonetheless very specific and limited in its application. It only: works on a single table, identified by its id, with at least a single tbody section assigns a background colour allows two colours for odd and even rows acts on data cells, rather than rows, and then only if they have no class or background colour already defined Taking it further In a recent project I found myself needing to apply a striped effect to a medium sized unordered list. Instead of simply modifying the Zebra Tables code for this particular case, I decided to completely recode the script to make it more generic. Being more general purpose, the function in my splintered striper experiment is necessarily more complex. Where the original script only expected a single parameter (the id of the target table), the new function is called as follows: striper('[parent element tag]','[parent element class or null]','[child element tag]','[comma separated list of classes]') This new, fairly self-explanatory function: targets any type of parent element (and, if specified, only those with a certain class) assigns two or more classes (rather than just two background colours) to the child elements inside the parent preserves any existing classes already assigned to the child elements See it in action View the demonstration page for three usage examples. For simplicity’s sake, we’re making the calls to the striper function from the body’s onload attribute. In a real deployment situation, we would look at attaching a behaviour to the onload programmatically — just remember that, as we need to pass varia… 2005 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2005-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/splintered-striper/ code
319 Avoiding CSS Hacks for Internet Explorer Back in October, IEBlog issued a call to action, asking developers to clean up their CSS hacks for IE7 testing. Needless to say, a lot of hubbub ensued… both on IEBlog and elsewhere. My contribution to all of the noise was to suggest that developers review their code and use good CSS hacks. But what makes a good hack? Tantek Çelik, the Godfather of CSS hacks, gave us the answer by explaining how CSS hacks should be designed. In short, they should (1) be valid, (2) target only old/frozen/abandoned user-agents/browsers, and (3) be ugly. Tantek also went on to explain that using a feature of CSS is not a hack. Now, I’m not a frequent user of CSS hacks, but Tantek’s post made sense to me. In particular, I felt it gave developers direction on how we should be coding to accommodate that sometimes troublesome browser, Internet Explorer. But what I’ve found, through my work with other developers, is that there is still much confusion over the use of CSS hacks and IE. Using examples from the code I’ve seen recently, allow me to demonstrate how to clean up some IE-specific CSS hacks. The two hacks that I’ve found most often in the code I’ve seen and worked with are the star html bug and the underscore hack. We know these are both IE-specific by checking Kevin Smith’s CSS Filters chart. Let’s look at each of these hacks and see how we can replace them with the same CSS feature-based solution. The star html bug This hack violates Tantek’s second rule as it targets current (and future) UAs. I’ve seen this both as a stand alone rule, as well as an override to some other rule in a style sheet. Here are some code samples: * html div#header {margin-top:-3px;} .promo h3 {min-height:21px;} * html .promo h3 {height:21px;} The underscore hack This hack violates Tantek’s first two rules: it’s invalid (according to the W3C CSS Validator) and it targets current UAs. Here’s an example: ol {padding:0; _padding-left:5px;} Using child selectors We can use the child selector to replace both the star html bug and underscore hack. H… 2005 Kimberly Blessing kimberlyblessing 2005-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/avoiding-css-hacks-for-internet-explorer/ code
166 Performance On A Shoe String Back in the summer, I happened to notice the official Wimbledon All England Tennis Club site had jumped to the top of Alexa’s Movers & Shakers list — a list that tracks sites that have had the biggest upturn or downturn in traffic. The lawn tennis championships were underway, and so traffic had leapt from almost nothing to crazy-busy in a no time at all. Many sites have similar peaks in traffic, especially when they’re based around scheduled events. No one cares about the site for most of the year, and then all of a sudden – wham! – things start getting warm in the data centre. Whilst the thought of chestnuts roasting on an open server has a certain appeal, it’s less attractive if you care about your site being available to visitors. Take a look at this Alexa traffic graph showing traffic patterns for superbowl.com at the beginning of each year, and wimbledon.org in the month of July. Traffic graph from Alexa.com Whilst not on the same scale or with such dramatic peaks, we have a similar pattern of traffic here at 24ways.org. Over the last three years we’ve seen a dramatic pick up in traffic over the month of December (as would be expected) and then a much lower, although steady load throughout the year. What we do have, however, is the luxury of knowing when the peaks will be. For a normal site, be that a blog, small scale web app, or even a small corporate site, you often just cannot predict when you might get slashdotted, end up on the front page of Digg or linked to from a similarly high-profile site. You just don’t know when the peaks will be. If you’re a big commercial enterprise like the Super Bowl, scaling up for that traffic is simply a cost of doing business. But for most of us, we can’t afford to have massive capacity sat there unused for 90% of the year. What you have to do instead is work out how to deal with as much traffic as possible with the modest resources you have. In this article I’m going to talk about some of the things we’ve learned about keeping 24 ways running throughout December,… 2007 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2007-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/performance-on-a-shoe-string/ ux
315 Edit-in-Place with Ajax Back on day one we looked at using the Prototype library to take all the hard work out of making a simple Ajax call. While that was fun and all, it didn’t go that far towards implementing something really practical. We dipped our toes in, but haven’t learned to swim yet. So here is swimming lesson number one. Anyone who’s used Flickr to publish their photos will be familiar with the edit-in-place system used for quickly amending titles and descriptions on photographs. Hovering over an item turns its background yellow to indicate it is editable. A simple click loads the text into an edit box, right there on the page. Prototype includes all sorts of useful methods to help reproduce something like this for our own projects. As well as the simple Ajax GETs we learned how to do last time, we can also do POSTs (which we’ll need here) and a whole bunch of manipulations to the user interface – all through simple library calls. Here’s what we’re building, so let’s do it. Getting Started There are two major components to this process; the user interface manipulation and the Ajax call itself. Our set-up is much the same as last time (you may wish to read the first article if you’ve not already done so). We have a basic HTML page which links in the prototype.js file and our own editinplace.js. Here’s what Santa dropped down my chimney: <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"/> <title>Edit-in-Place with Ajax</title> <link href="editinplace.css" rel="Stylesheet" type="text/css" /> <script src="prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script> <script src="editinplace.js" type="text/javascript"></script> </head> <body> <h1>Edit-in-place</h1> <p id="desc">Dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh.</p> </body> </html> So that’s our page. The editable item is … 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/edit-in-place-with-ajax/ code
273 There’s No Formula for Great Designs Before he combined them with fluid images and CSS3 media queries to coin responsive design, Ethan Marcotte described fluid grids — one of the most enjoyable parts of responsive design. Enjoyable that is, if you like working with math(s). But fluid grids aren’t perfect and, unless we’re careful when applying them, they can sometimes result in a design that feels disconnected. Recapping fluid grids If you haven’t read Ethan’s Fluid Grids, now would be a good time to do that. It centres around a simple formula for converting pixel widths to percentages: (target ÷ context) × 100 = result How does that work in practice? Well, take that Fireworks or Photoshop comp you’re working on (I call them static design visuals, or just visuals.) Of course, everything on that visual — column divisions, inline images, navigation elements, everything — is measured in pixels. Now: Pick something in the visual and measure its width. That’s our target. Take that target measurement and divide it by the width of its parent (context). Multiply what you’ve got by 100 (shift two decimal places). What you’re left with is a percentage width to drop into your style sheets. For example, divide this 300px wide sidebar division by its 948px parent and then multiply by 100: your original 300px is neatly converted to 31.646%. .content-sub { width : 31.646%; /* 300px ÷ 948px = .31646 */ } That formula makes it surprisingly simple for even die-hard fixed width aficionados to convert their visuals to percentage-based, fluid layouts. It’s a handy formula for those who still design using static visuals, and downright essential for those situations where one person in an organization designs in Fireworks or Photoshop and another develops with CSS. Why? Well, although I think that designing in a browser makes the best sense — particularly when designing for multiple devices — I’ll wager most designers still make visuals in Fireworks or Photoshop and use them for demonstrations and get feedback and sign-off. That’s OK. If you haven’t made t… 2011 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2011-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/theres-no-formula-for-great-designs/ ux
309 HTTP/2 Server Push and Service Workers: The Perfect Partnership Being a web developer today is exciting! The web has come a long way since its early days and there are so many great technologies that enable us to build faster, better experiences for our users. One of these technologies is HTTP/2 which has a killer feature known as HTTP/2 Server Push. During this year’s Chrome Developer Summit, I watched a really informative talk by Sam Saccone, a Software Engineer on the Google Chrome team. He gave a talk entitled Planning for Performance, and one of the topics that he covered immediately piqued my interest; the idea that HTTP/2 Server Push and Service Workers were the perfect web performance combination. If you’ve never heard of HTTP/2 Server Push before, fear not - it’s not as scary as it sounds. HTTP/2 Server Push simply allows the server to send data to the browser without having to wait for the browser to explicitly request it first. In this article, I am going to run through the basics of HTTP/2 Server Push and show you how, when combined with Service Workers, you can deliver the ultimate in web performance to your users. What is HTTP/2 Server Push? When a user navigates to a URL, a browser will make an HTTP request for the underlying web page. The browser will then scan the contents of the HTML document for any assets that it may need to retrieve such as CSS, JavaScript or images. Once it finds any assets that it needs, it will then make multiple HTTP requests for each resource that it needs and begin downloading one by one. While this approach works well, the problem is that each HTTP request means more round trips to the server before any data arrives at the browser. These extra round trips take time and can make your web pages load slower. Before we go any further, let’s see what this might look like when your browser makes a request for a web page. If you were to view this in the developer tools of your browser, it might look a little something like this: As you can see from the image above, once the HTML file has been downloaded and parsed, the browser then mak… 2016 Dean Hume deanhume 2016-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/http2-server-push-and-service-workers/ code
320 DOM Scripting Your Way to Better Blockquotes Block quotes are great. I don’t mean they’re great for indenting content – that would be an abuse of the browser’s default styling. I mean they’re great for semantically marking up a chunk of text that is being quoted verbatim. They’re especially useful in blog posts. <blockquote> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Notice that you can’t just put the quoted text directly between the <blockquote> tags. In order for your markup to be valid, block quotes may only contain block-level elements such as paragraphs. There is an optional cite attribute that you can place in the opening <blockquote> tag. This should contain a URL containing the original text you are quoting: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Great! Except… the default behavior in most browsers is to completely ignore the cite attribute. Even though it contains important and useful information, the URL in the cite attribute is hidden. You could simply duplicate the information with a hyperlink at the end of the quoted text: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> <p class="attribution"> <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement">source</a> </p> </blockquote> But somehow it feels wrong to have to write out the same URL twice every time you want to quote something. It could also get very tedious if you have a lot of… 2005 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2005-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/dom-scripting-your-way-to-better-blockquotes/ code
95 Giving Content Priority with CSS3 Grid Layout Browser support for many of the modules that are part of CSS3 have enabled us to use CSS for many of the things we used to have to use images for. The rise of mobile browsers and the concept of responsive web design has given us a whole new way of looking at design for the web. However, when it comes to layout, we haven’t moved very far at all. We have talked for years about separating our content and source order from the presentation of that content, yet most of us have had to make decisions on source order in order to get a certain visual layout. Owing to some interesting specifications making their way through the W3C process at the moment, though, there is hope of change on the horizon. In this article I’m going to look at one CSS module, the CSS3 grid layout module, that enables us to define a grid and place elements on to it. This article comprises a practical demonstration of the basics of grid layout, and also a discussion of one way in which we can start thinking of content in a more adaptive way. Before we get started, it is important to note that, at the time of writing, these examples work only in Internet Explorer 10. CSS3 grid layout is a module created by Microsoft, and implemented using the -ms prefix in IE10. My examples will all use the -ms prefix, and not include other prefixes simply because this is such an early stage specification, and by the time there are implementations in other browsers there may be inconsistencies. The implementation I describe today may well change, but is also there for your feedback. If you don’t have access to IE10, then one way to view and test these examples is by signing up for an account with Browserstack – the free trial would give you time to have a look. I have also included screenshots of all relevant stages in creating the examples. What is CSS3 grid layout? CSS3 grid layout aims to let developers divide up a design into a grid and place content on to that grid. Rather than trying to fabricate a grid from floats, you can declare an actual grid on a c… 2012 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2012-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/css3-grid-layout/ code
167 Back To The Future of Print By now we have weathered the storm that was the early days of web development, a dangerous time when we used tables, inline CSS and separate pages for print only versions. We can reflect in a haggard old sea-dog manner (“yarrr… I remember back in the browser wars…”) on the bad practices of the time. We no longer need convincing that print stylesheets are the way to go1, though some of the documentation for them is a little outdated now. I am going to briefly cover 8 tips and 4 main gotchas when creating print stylesheets in our more enlightened era. Getting started As with regular stylesheets, print CSS can be included in a number of ways2, for our purposes we are going to be using the link element. <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print" href="print.css"> This is still my favourite way of linking to CSS files, its easy to see what files are being included and to what media they are being applied to. Without the media attribute specified the link element defaults to the media type ‘all’ which means that the styles within then apply to print and screen alike. The media type ‘screen’ only applies to the screen and wont be picked up by print, this is the best way of hiding styles from print. Make sure you include your print styles after all your other CSS, because you will need to override certain rules and this is a lot easier if you are flowing with the cascade than against it! Another thing you should be thinking is ‘does it need to be printed’. Consider the context3, if it is not a page that is likely to be printed, such as a landing page or a section index then the print styles should resemble the way the page looks on the screen. Context is really important for the design of your print stylesheet, all the tips and tricks that follow should be taken in the context of the page. If for example you are designing a print stylesheet for an item in a shopping cart, it is irrelevant for the user to know the exact url of the link that takes them to your checkout. Tips and tricks During these tip’… 2007 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2007-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/back-to-the-future-of-print/ design
118 Ghosts On The Internet By rights the internet should be full of poltergeists, poor rootless things looking for their real homes. Many events on the internet are not properly associated with their correct timeframe. I don’t mean a server set to the wrong time, though that happens too. Much of the content published on the internet is separated from any proper reference to its publication time. What does publication even mean? Let me tell you a story… “It is 2019 and this is Kathy Clees reporting on the story of the moment, the shock purchase of Microsoft by Apple Inc. A Internet Explorer security scare story from 2008 was responsible, yes from 11 years ago, accidently promoted by an analyst, who neglected to check the date of their sources.” If you think this is fanciful nonsense, then cast your mind back to September 2008, this story in Wired or The Times (UK) about a huge United Airlines stock tumble. A Florida newspaper had a automated popular story section. A random reader looking at a story about United’s 2002 Bankruptcy proceedings caused this story to get picked up by Google’s later visit to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s news home page. The story was undated, Google’s news engine apparently gave it a 2008 date, an analyst picked it up and pushed it to Bloomberg and within minutes the United stock was tumbling. Their stock price dropped from $12 to $3, then recovered to $11 over the day. An eight percent fall in share price over a mis-configured date Completing this out of order Christmas Carol, lets look at what is current practice and how dates are managed, we might even get to clank some chains. Publication date used to be inseparable from publication, the two things where stamped on the same piece of paper. How can we determine when things have been published, now? Determining publication dates Time as defined by http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-datetime extends ISO 8601, mandating the use of a year value. This is pretty well defined, we can even get very accurate timings down to milliseconds, Ruby and other languages can… 2008 Gavin Bell gavinbell 2008-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/ghosts-on-the-internet/ ux
253 Clip Paths Know No Bounds CSS Shapes are getting a lot of attention as browser support has increased for properties like shape-outside and clip-path. There are a few ways that we can use CSS Shapes, in particular with the clip-path property, that are not necessarily evident at first glance. The basics of a clip path Before we dig into specific techniques to expand on clip paths, we should first take a look at a basic shape and clip-path. Clip paths can apply a CSS Shape such as a circle(), ellipse(), inset(), or the flexible polygon() to any element. Everywhere in the element that is not within the bounds of our shape will be visually removed. Using the polygon shape function, for example, we can create triangles, stars, or other straight-edged shapes as on Bennett Feely’s Clippy. While fixed units like pixels can be used when defining vertices/points (where the sides meet), percentages will give more flexibility to adapt to the element’s dimensions. See the Pen Clip Path Box by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. So for an octagon, we can set eight x, y pairs of percentages to define those points. In this case we start 30% into the width of the box for the first x and at the top of the box for the y and go clockwise. The visible area becomes the interior of the shape made by connecting these points with straight lines. clip-path: polygon( 30% 0%, 70% 0%, 100% 30%, 100% 70%, 70% 100%, 30% 100%, 0% 70%, 0% 30% ); A shape with less vertices than the eye can see It’s reasonable to look at the polygon() function and assume that we need to have one pair of x, y coordinates for every point in our shape. However, we gain some flexibility by thinking outside the box — or more specifically when we think outside the range of 0% - 100%. Our element’s box model will be the ultimate boundary for a clip-path, but we can still define points that exist beyond that natural box for an element. See the Pen CSS Shapes Know No Bounds by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. By going beyond the 0% - 100% range we can turn a polygon with three p… 2018 Dan Wilson danwilson 2018-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/clip-paths-know-no-bounds/ code
76 Giving CSS Animations and Transitions Their Place CSS animations and transitions may not sit squarely in the realm of the behaviour layer, but they’re stepping up into this area that used to be pure JavaScript territory. Heck, CSS might even perform better than its JavaScript equivalents in some cases. That’s pretty serious! With CSS’s new tricks blurring the lines between presentation and behaviour, it can start to feel bloated and messy in our CSS files. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Here are a pair of methods I’ve found to be pretty helpful in keeping the potential bloat and wire-crossing under control when CSS has its hands in both presentation and behaviour. Same eggs, more baskets Structuring your CSS to have separate files for layout, typography, grids, and so on is a fairly common approach these days. But which one do you put your transitions and animations in? The initial answer, as always, is “it depends”. Small effects here and there will likely sit just fine with your other styles. When you move into more involved effects that require multiple animations and some logic support from JavaScript, it’s probably time to choose none of the above, and create a separate CSS file just for them. Putting all your animations in one file is a huge help for code organization. Even if you opt for a name less literal than animations.css, you’ll know exactly where to go for anything CSS animation related. That saves time and effort when it comes to editing and maintenance. Keeping track of which animations are still currently used is easier when they’re all grouped together as well. And as an added bonus, you won’t have to look at all those horribly unattractive and repetitive prefixed @-keyframe rules unless you actually need to. An animations.css file might look something like the snippet below. It defines each animation’s keyframes and defines a class for each variation of that animation you’ll be using. Depending on the situation, you may also want to include transitions here in a similar way. (I’ve found defining transitions as their own class, or mixin, … 2012 Val Head valhead 2012-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/giving-css-animations-and-transitions-their-place/ code
152 CSS for Accessibility CSS is magical stuff. In the right hands, it can transform the plainest of (well-structured) documents into a visual feast. But it’s not all fur coat and nae knickers (as my granny used to say). Here are some simple ways you can use CSS to improve the usability and accessibility of your site. Even better, no sexy visuals will be harmed by the use of these techniques. Promise. Nae knickers This is less of an accessibility tip, and more of a reminder to check that you’ve got your body background colour specified. If you’re sitting there wondering why I’m mentioning this, because it’s a really basic thing, then you might be as surprised as I was to discover that from a sample of over 200 sites checked last year, 35% of UK local authority websites were missing their body background colour. Forgetting to specify your body background colour can lead to embarrassing gaps in coverage, which are not only unsightly, but can prevent your users reading the text on your site if they use a different operating system colour scheme. All it needs is the following line to be added to your CSS file: body {background-color: #fff;} If you pair it with color: #000; … you’ll be assured of maintaining contrast for any areas you inadvertently forget to specify, no matter what colour scheme your user needs or prefers. Even better, if you’ve got standard reset CSS you use, make sure that default colours for background and text are specified in it, so you’ll never be caught with your pants down. At the very least, you’ll have a white background and black text that’ll prompt you to change them to your chosen colours. Elbow room Paying attention to your typography is important, but it’s not just about making it look nice. Careful use of the line-height property can make your text more readable, which helps everyone, but is particularly helpful for those with dyslexia, who use screen magnification or simply find it uncomfortable to read lots of text online. When lines of text are too close together, it can cause the eye to s… 2007 Ann McMeekin annmcmeekin 2007-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/css-for-accessibility/ design
98 Absolute Columns CSS layouts have come quite a long way since the dark ages of web publishing, with all sorts of creative applications of floats, negative margins, and even background images employed in order to give us that most basic building block, the column. As the title implies, we are indeed going to be discussing columns today—more to the point, a handy little application of absolute positioning that may be exactly what you’ve been looking for… Care for a nightcap? If you’ve been developing for the web for long enough, you may be familiar with this little children’s fable, passed down from wizened Shaolin monks sitting atop the great Mt. Geocities: “Once upon a time, multiple columns of the same height could be easily created using TABLES.” Now, though we’re all comfortably seated on the standards train (and let’s be honest: even if you like to think you’ve fallen off, if you’ve given up using tables for layout, rest assured your sleeper car is still reserved), this particular—and as page layout goes, quite basic—trick is still a thorn in our CSSides compared to the ease of achieving the same effect using said Tables of Evil™. See, the orange juice masks the flavor… Creative solutions such as Dan Cederholm’s Faux Columns do a good job of making it appear as though adjacent columns maintain equal height as content expands, using a background image to fill the space that the columns cannot. Now, the Holy Grail of CSS columns behaving exactly how they would as table cells—or more to the point, as columns—still eludes us (cough CSS3 Multi-column layout module cough), but sometimes you just need, for example, a secondary column (say, a sidebar) to match the height of a primary column, without involving the creation of images. This is where a little absolute positioning can save you time, while possibly giving your layout a little more flexibility. Shaken, not stirred You’re probably familiar by now with the concept of Making the Absolute, Relative as set forth long ago by Doug Bowman, but let’s quickly review just in c… 2008 Dan Rubin danrubin 2008-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/absolute-columns/ code
22 The Responsive Hover Paradigm CSS transitions and animations provide web designers with a whole slew of tools to spruce up our designs. Move over ActionScript tweens! The techniques we can now implement with CSS are reminiscent of Flash-based adventures from the pages of web history. Pairing CSS enhancements with our :hover pseudo-class allows us to add interesting events to our websites. We have a ton of power at our fingertips. However, with this power, we each have to ask ourselves: just because I can do something, should I? Why bother? We hear a lot of mantras in the web community. Some proclaim the importance of content; some encourage methods like mobile first to support content; and others warn of the overhead and speed impact of decorative flourishes and visual images. I agree, one hundred percent. At the same time, I believe that content can reign king and still provide a beautiful design with compelling interactions and acceptable performance impacts. Maybe, just maybe, we can even have a little bit of fun when crafting these systems! Yes, a site with pure HTML content and no CSS will load very fast on your mobile phone, but it leaves a lot to be desired. If you went to your local library and every book looked the same, how would you know which one to borrow? Imagine if every book was printed on the same paper stock with the same cover page in the same type size set at a legible point value… how would you know if you were going to purchase a cookbook about wild game or a young adult story about teens fighting to the death? For certain audiences, seeing a site with hip, lively hovers sure beats a stale website concept. I’ve worked on many higher education sites, and setting the interactive options is often a very important factor in engaging potential students, alumni, and donors. The same can go for e-commerce sites: enticing your audience with surprise and delight factors can be the difference between a successful and a lost sale. Knowing your content and audience can help you decide if an intriguing experience is appropria… 2013 Jenn Lukas jennlukas 2013-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-responsive-hover-paradigm/  
75 A Harder-Working Class Class is only becoming more important. Focusing on its original definition as an attribute for grouping (or classifying) as well as linking HTML to CSS, recent front-end development practices are emphasizing class as a vessel for structured, modularized style packages. These patterns reduce the need for repetitive declarations that can seriously bloat file sizes, and instil human-readable understanding of how the interface, layout, and aesthetics are constructed. In the next handful of paragraphs, we will look at how these emerging practices – such as object-oriented CSS and SMACSS – are pushing the relevance of class. We will also explore how HTML and CSS architecture can be further simplified, performance can be boosted, and CSS utility sharpened by combining class with the attribute selector. A primer on attribute selectors While attribute selectors were introduced in the CSS 2 spec, they are still considered rather exotic. These well-established and well-supported features give us vastly improved flexibility in targeting elements in CSS, and offer us opportunities for smarter markup. With an attribute selector, you can directly style an element based on any of its unique – or uniquely shared – attributes, without the need for an ID or extra classes. Unlike pseudo-classes, pseudo-elements, and other exciting features of CSS3, attribute selectors do not require any browser-specific syntax or prefix, and are even supported in Internet Explorer 7. For example, say we want to target all anchor tags on a page that link to our homepage. Where otherwise we might need to manually identify and add classes to the HTML for these specific links, we could simply write: [href=index.html] { } This selector reads: target every element that has an href attribute of “index.html”. Attribute selectors are more faceted, though, as they also give us some very simple regular expression-like logic that helps further narrow (or widen) a selector’s scope. In our previous example, what if we wanted to also give indicative styl… 2012 Nathan Ford nathanford 2012-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/a-harder-working-class/ code
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
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
317 Putting the World into "World Wide Web" Despite the fact that the Web has been international in scope from its inception, the predominant mass of Web sites are written in English or another left-to-right language. Sites are typically designed visually for Western culture, and rely on an enormous body of practices for usability, information architecture and interaction design that are by and large centric to the Western world. There are certainly many reasons this is true, but as more and more Web sites realize the benefits of bringing their products and services to diverse, global markets, the more demand there will be on Web designers and developers to understand how to put the World into World Wide Web. Internationalization According to the W3C, Internationalization is: “…the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.” Many Web designers and developers have at least heard, if not read, about Internationalization. We understand that the Web is in fact worldwide, but many of us never have the opportunity to work with Internationalization. Or, when we do, think of it in purely technical terms, such as “which character set do I use?” At first glance, it might seem to many that Internationalization is the act of making Web sites available to international audiences. And while that is in fact true, this isn’t done by broad-stroking techniques and technologies. Instead, it involves a far more narrow understanding of geographical, cultural and linguistic differences in specific areas of the world. This is referred to as localization and is the act of making a Web site make sense in the context of the region, culture and language(s) the people using the site are most familiar with. Internationalization itself includes the following technical tasks: Ensuring no barrier exists to the localization of sites. Of critical importance in the planning stages of a site for Internationalized audiences, the role of the developer is to ensu… 2005 Molly Holzschlag mollyholzschlag 2005-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/putting-the-world-into-world-wide-web/ ux
107 Using Google App Engine as Your Own Content Delivery Network Do you remember, years ago, when hosting was expensive, domain names were the province of the rich, and you hosted your web pages on Geocities? It seems odd to me now that there was a time when each and every geek didn’t have his own top-level domain and super hosting setup. But as the parts became more and more affordable a man could become an outcast if he didn’t have his own slightly surreal-sounding TLD. And so it will be in the future when people realise with surprise there was a time before affordable content delivery networks. A content delivery network, or CDN, is a system of servers spread around the world, serving files from the nearest physical location. Instead of waiting for a file to find its way from a server farm in Silicon Valley 8,000 kilometres away, I can receive it from London, Dublin, or Paris, cutting down the time I wait. The big names — Google, Yahoo, Amazon, et al — use CDNs for their sites, but they’ve always been far too expensive for us mere mortals. Until now. There’s a service out there ready for you to use as your very own CDN. You have the company’s blessing, you won’t need to write a line of code, and — best of all — it’s free. The name? Google App Engine. In this article you’ll find out how to set up a CDN on Google App Engine. You’ll get the development software running on your own computer, tell App Engine what files to serve, upload them to a web site, and give everyone round the world access to them. Creating your first Google App Engine project Before we do anything else, you’ll need to download the Google App Engine software development kit (SDK). You’ll need Python 2.5 too — you won’t be writing any Python code but the App Engine SDK will need it to run on your computer. If you don’t have Python, App Engine will install it for you (if you use Mac OS X 10.5 or a Linux-based OS you’ll have Python; if you use Windows you won’t). Done that? Excellent, because that’s the hardest step. The rest is plain sailing. You’ll need to choose a unique ‘application id’ — nothing … 2008 Matt Riggott mattriggott 2008-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/using-google-app-engine-as-your-own-cdn/ process
226 Documentation-Driven Design for APIs Documentation is like gift wrapping. It seems like superfluous fluff, but your family tends to be rather disappointed when their presents arrive in supermarket carrier bags, so you have to feign some sort of attempt at making your gift look enticing. Documentation doesn’t have to be all hard work and sellotaping yourself to a table – you can make it useful and relevant. Documentation gets a pretty rough deal. It tends to get left until the end of a project, when some poor developer is assigned the ‘document project’ ticket and wades through each feature of Whizzy New API 3.0 and needs to recall exactly what each method is meant to do. That’s assuming any time is left for documentation at all. The more common outcome resembles last minute homework scribbled on a post-it note, where just the bare bones of what’s available are put out for your users, and you hope that you’ll spot the inconsistencies and mistakes before they do. Wouldn’t it be nicer for everyone if you could make documentation not only outstanding for your users, but also a valuable tool for your development team – so much so that you couldn’t imagine writing a line of code before you’d documented it? Documentation needs to have three main features: It should have total coverage and document all the features of your project. Private methods should be documented for your developers, and public features need to be available to your users. It should be consistent – a user should know what to expect from your documentation, and terminology should be accurate to your language. It should be current – and that means staying accurate as new versions of your code base are released. But you can also get these bonuses: Act as a suggested specification – a guide that will aid a developer in making something consistent and usable. It can test your API quality. It can enhance the communication skills within your development team. So how do we get our documentation to be rich and full of features, instead of a little worn out like Boxing Day lef… 2010 Frances Berriman francesberriman 2010-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/documentation-driven-design-for-apis/ process
313 Centered Tabs with CSS Doug Bowman’s Sliding Doors is pretty much the de facto way to build tabbed navigation with CSS, and rightfully so – it is, as they say, rockin’ like Dokken. But since it relies heavily on floats for the positioning of its tabs, we’re constrained to either left- or right-hand navigation. But what if we need a bit more flexibility? What if we need to place our navigation in the center? Styling the li as a floated block does give us a great deal of control over margin, padding, and other presentational styles. However, we should learn to love the inline box – with it, we can create a flexible, centered alternative to floated navigation lists. Humble Beginnings Do an extra shot of ‘nog, because you know what’s coming next. That’s right, a simple unordered list: <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> If we were wedded to using floats to style our list, we could easily fix the width of our ul, and trick it out with some margin: 0 auto; love to center it accordingly. But this wouldn’t net us much flexibility: if we ever changed the number of navigation items, or if the user increased her browser’s font size, our design could easily break. Instead of worrying about floats, let’s take the most basic approach possible: let’s turn our list items into inline elements, and simply use text-align to center them within the ul: #navigation ul, #navigation ul li { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; } #navigation ul { text-align: center; } #navigation ul li { display: inline; margin-right: .75em; } #navigation ul li.last { margin-right: 0; } Our first step is sexy, no? Well, okay, not really – but it gives us a good starting point. We’ve tamed our list by removing its default style… 2005 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2005-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/centered-tabs-with-css/ code
112 User Styling During the recent US elections, Twitter decided to add an ‘election bar’ as part of their site design. You could close it if it annoyed you, but the action wasn’t persistent and the bar would always come back like a bad penny. The solution to common browsing problems like this is CSS. ‘User styling’ (or the creepy ‘skinning’) is the creation of CSS rules to customise and personalise a particular domain. Aside from hiding adverts and other annoyances, there are many reasons for taking the time and effort to do it: Improving personal readability by changing text size and colour Personalising the look of a web app like GMail to look less insipid Revealing microformats Sport! My dreams of site skinning tennis are not yet fully realised, but it’ll be all the rage by next Christmas, believe me. Hopefully you’re now asking “But how? HOW?!”. The process of creating a site skin is roughly as follows: See something you want to change Find out what it’s called, and if any rules already apply to it Write CSS rule(s) to override and/or enhance it. Apply the rules So let’s get stuck in… See something Let’s start small with Multimap.com. Look at that big header – it takes up an awful lot of screen space doesn’t it? No matter, we can fix it. Tools Now we need to find out where that big assed header is in the DOM, and make overriding CSS rules. The best tool I’ve found yet is the Mac OS X app, CSS Edit. It utilises a slick ‘override stylesheets’ function and DOM Inspector. Rather than give you all the usual DOM inspection tools, CSS Edit’s is solely concerned with style. Go into ‘X-Ray’ mode, click an element, and look at the inspector window to see every style rule governing it. Click the selector to be taken to where it lives in the CSS. It really is a user styling dream app. Having said all that, you can achieve all this with free, cross platform tools – namely Firefox with the Firebug and Stylish extensions. We’ll be using them for these examples, so make sure you have them installed if you wan… 2008 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2008-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/user-styling/ process
127 Showing Good Form Earlier this year, I forget exactly when (it’s been a good year), I was building a client site that needed widgets which look like this (designed, incidentally, by my erstwhile writing partner, Cameron Adams): Building this was a challenge not just in CSS, but in choosing the proper markup – how should such a widget be constructed? Mmm … markup It seemed to me there were two key issues to deal with: The function of the interface is to input information, so semantically this is a form, therefore we have to find a way of building it using form elements: fieldset, legend, label and input We can’t use a table for layout, even though that would clearly be the easiest solution! Abusing tables for layout is never good – physical layout is not what table semantics mean. But even if this data can be described as a table, we shouldn’t mix forms markup with non-forms markup, because of the behavioral impact this can have on a screen reader: To take a prominent example, the screen reader JAWS has a mode specifically for interacting with forms (cunningly known as “forms mode”). When running in this mode its output only includes relevant elements – legends, labels and form controls themselves. Any other kind of markup – like text in a previous table cell, a paragraph or list in between – is simply ignored. The user in this situation would have to switch continually in and out of forms mode to hear all the content. (For more about this issue and some test examples, there’s a thread at accessify forum which wanders in that direction.) One further issue for screen reader users is implied by the design: the input fields are associated together in rows and columns, and a sighted user can visually scan across and down to make those associations; but a blind user can’t do that. For such a user the row and column header data will need to be there at every axis; in other words, the layout should be more like this: And constructed with appropriate semantic markup to convey those relationships. By this point the selectio… 2006 James Edwards jamesedwards 2006-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/showing-good-form/ ux
330 An Explanation of Ems Ems are so-called because they are thought to approximate the size of an uppercase letter M (and so are pronounced emm), although 1em is actually significantly larger than this. The typographer Robert Bringhurst describes the em thus: The em is a sliding measure. One em is a distance equal to the type size. In 6 point type, an em is 6 points; in 12 point type an em is 12 points and in 60 point type an em is 60 points. Thus a one em space is proportionately the same in any size. To illustrate this principle in terms of CSS, consider these styles: #box1 { font-size: 12px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border:1px solid black; } #box2 { font-size: 60px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border: 1px solid black; } These styles will render like: M and M Note that both boxes have a height and width of 1em but because they have different font sizes, one box is bigger than the other. Box 1 has a font-size of 12px so its width and height is also 12px; similarly the text of box 2 is set to 60px and so its width and height are also 60px. 2005 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2005-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/an-explanation-of-ems/ 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
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
249 Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website Every website deserves a great search engine - but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive. I’m going to build a search engine for 24 ways that’s fast enough to support autocomplete (a.k.a. typeahead) search queries and can be hosted for free. I’ll be using wget, Python, SQLite, Jupyter, sqlite-utils and my open source Datasette tool to build the API backend, and a few dozen lines of modern vanilla JavaScript to build the interface. Try it out here, then read on to see how I built it. First step: crawling the data The first step in building a search engine is to grab a copy of the data that you plan to make searchable. There are plenty of potential ways to do this: you might be able to pull it directly from a database, or extract it using an API. If you don’t have access to the raw data, you can imitate Google and write a crawler to extract the data that you need. I’m going to do exactly that against 24 ways: I’ll build a simple crawler using wget, a command-line tool that features a powerful “recursive” mode that’s ideal for scraping websites. We’ll start at the https://24ways.org/archives/ page, which links to an archived index for every year that 24 ways has been running. Then we’ll tell wget to recursively crawl the website, using the --recursive flag. We don’t want to fetch every single page on the site - we’re only interested in the actual articles. Luckily, 24 ways has nicely designed URLs, so we can tell wget that we only care about pages that start with one of the years it has been running, using the -I argument like this: -I /2005,/2006,/2007,/2008,/2009,/2010,/2011,/2012,/2013,/2014,/2015,/2016,/2017 We want to be polite, so let’s wait for 2 seconds between each request rather than hammering the site as fast as we can: --wait 2 The first time I ran this, I accidentally downloaded the comments pages as well. We don’t want those, so let’s exclude them from the crawl using -X "/*/*/comments". Finally, it’s useful to be able to run the command multiple times… 2018 Simon Willison simonwillison 2018-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/fast-autocomplete-search-for-your-website/ code
123 Fast and Simple Usability Testing Everyone knows by now that they should test the usability of their applications, but still hardly anybody actually does it. In this article I’ll share some tips I’ve picked up for doing usability tests quickly and effectively. Relatively recent tools like Django and Ruby on Rails allow us to develop projects faster and to make significant changes later in the project timeline. Usability testing methods should now be adapted to fit this modern approach to development. When to test In an ideal world usability tests would be carried out frequently from an early stage of the project. Time and budget constraints lead this to be impractical; usability is often the first thing to get dropped from the project plan. If you can only test at one stage in the project, whatever the size, the most valuable time is before your first public beta — leaving long enough to fix issues and not so late that you can’t rethink your scope. There are three main categories of usability test: Testing design mockups Testing a new working application Testing established applications Each category requires a slightly different approach. For small modern web projects you are most likely to be testing a new working application. You will of course have already done functional tests so you won’t be worried about the user breaking things. The main differences between the categories apply in how you word The Script. Testing an established application is the most fun in my opinion. Humans are remarkably adaptable and rapidly develop coping strategies to work around usability issues in software they are forced to use. Uncovering these strategies may lead you to understand previously unspoken needs of your users. Often small changes to the application will have a dramatic affect on their everyday lives. Who to test When you have built a project to scratch your own itch, your intended audience will be people just like you. Test subjects in this case should be easy to find – friends, co-workers etc. This is not always the case; your users… 2006 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2006-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/fast-and-simple-usability-testing/ process
145 The Neverending (Background Image) Story Everyone likes candy for Christmas, and there’s none better than eye candy. Well, that, and just more of the stuff. Today we’re going to combine both of those good points and look at how to create a beautiful background image that goes on and on… forever! Of course, each background image is different, so instead of agonising over each and every pixel, I’m going to concentrate on five key steps that you can apply to any of your own repeating background images. In this example, we’ll look at the Miami Beach background image used on the new FOWA site, which I’m afraid is about as un-festive as you can get. 1. Choose your image wisely I find there are three main criteria when judging photos you’re considering for repetition manipulation (or ‘repetulation’, as I like to say)… simplicity (beware of complex patterns) angle and perspective (watch out for shadows and obvious vanishing points) consistent elements (for easy cloning) You might want to check out this annotated version of the image, where I’ve highlighted elements of the photo that led me to choose it as the right one. The original image purchased from iStockPhoto. The Photoshopped version used on the FOWA site. 2. The power of horizontal lines With the image chosen and your cursor poised for some Photoshop magic, the most useful thing you can do is drag out the edge pixels from one side of the image to create a kind of rough colour ‘template’ on which to work over. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, although you might find it beneficial to use the one with the simplest spread of colour and complex elements. Click and hold on the marquee tool in the toolbar and select the ‘single column marquee tool’, which will span the full height of your document but will only be one pixel wide. Make the selection right at the edge of your document, press ctrl-c / cmd-c to copy the selection you made, create a new layer, and hit ctrl-v / cmd-v to paste the selection onto your new layer. using free transform (ctrl-t / cmd-t), drag out your selection so t… 2007 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2007-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/the-neverending-background-image-story/ code
143 Marking Up a Tag Cloud Everyone’s doing it. The problem is, everyone’s doing it wrong. Harsh words, you might think. But the crimes against decent markup are legion in this area. You see, I’m something of a markup and semantics junkie. So I’m going to analyse some of the more well-known tag clouds on the internet, explain what’s wrong, and then show you one way to do it better. del.icio.us I think the first ever tag cloud I saw was on del.icio.us. Here’s how they mark it up. <div class="alphacloud"> <a href="/tag/.net" class="lb s2">.net</a> <a href="/tag/advertising" class=" s3">advertising</a> <a href="/tag/ajax" class=" s5">ajax</a> ... </div> Unfortunately, that is one of the worst examples of tag cloud markup I have ever seen. The page states that a tag cloud is a list of tags where size reflects popularity. However, despite describing it in this way to the human readers, the page’s author hasn’t described it that way in the markup. It isn’t a list of tags, just a bunch of anchors in a <div>. This is also inaccessible because a screenreader will not pause between adjacent links, and in some configurations will not announce the individual links, but rather all of the tags will be read as just one link containing a whole bunch of words. Markup crime number one. Flickr Ah, Flickr. The darling photo sharing site of the internet, and the biggest blind spot in every standardista’s vision. Forgive it for having atrocious markup and sometimes confusing UI because it’s just so much damn fun to use. Let’s see what they do. <p id="TagCloud">  <a href="/photos/tags/06/" style="font-size: 14px;">06</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/africa/" style="font-size: 12px;">africa</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/amsterdam/" style="font-size: 14px;">amsterdam</a>  ... </p> Again we have a simple collection of anchors like del.icio.us, only this time in a paragraph. But rather than using a class to represent the size of the tag they use an inline style. An inline style using a pixel-based font size. That’s so far away from the goal of sep… 2006 Mark Norman Francis marknormanfrancis 2006-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/marking-up-a-tag-cloud/ code
74 Should We Be Reactive? Evolution Looking at the evolution of the web and the devices we use should help remind us that the times we’re adjusting to are just another step on a journey. These times seem to be telling us that we need to embrace flexibility. Imagine an HTML file containing nothing but text. It’s viewable on any web-capable device and reasonably readable: the notion of the universality of the web was very much a founding principle. Right from the beginning, browser vendors understood that we’d want text to reflow (why wouldn’t we?), so I consider the first websites to have been fluid. As we attempted to exert more control through our designs in the early days of the web, debates about whether we should produce fixed or fluid sites raged. We could create fluid designs using tables, but what we didn’t have then was a wide range of web capable devices or the ability to control this fluidity. The biggest changes occurred when stats showed enough people using a different screen resolution we could cater for. To me, the techniques of responsive web design provide the control we were missing. Combining new approaches to layout and images with media queries empowered us to learn how to embrace the inherent flexibility of the web in ways to suit our work and the devices used by our audience. Perhaps another kind of flexibility might be found in how we use context to affect how we present our content; to consider how we might use the information we can access from people, browsers and devices to provide web experiences – effectively creating sites that react to initial or changing circumstances in the relationship between people and our content. Embracing flexibility So what is context? Put simply, you could think of it as a secondary piece of information that helps clarify the meaning of the first. It helps set a scene or describe circumstances. I think that Cennydd Bowles has summed it up really well through talks he’s given recently, in which he’s arrived at the acronym DETAILS (Device, Environment, Time, Activity, Individ… 2012 Dan Donald dandonald 2012-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/should-we-be-reactive/ design
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
183 Designing For The Switch For a long time on the web, we’ve been typographically spoilt. Yes, you heard me correctly. Think about it: our computers come with web fonts already installed; fonts that have been designed specifically to work well online and at small size; and fonts that we can be sure other people have too. Yes, we’ve been spoilt. We don’t need to think about using Verdana, Arial, Georgia or Cambria. Yet, for a long time now, designers have felt we needed more. We want to choose whatever typeface we feel necessary for our designs. We did bad things along the way in pursuit of this goal such as images for text. Smart people dreamt up tools to help us such as sIFR, or Cufón. Only fairly recently, @font-face is supported in most browsers. The floodgates are opening. It really is the dawn of a new typographic era on the web. And we must tread carefully. The New Typesetters Many years ago, before the advent of desktop publishing, if you wanted words set in a particular typeface, you had to go to a Typesetter. A Typesetter, or Compositor, as they were sometimes called, was a person whose job it was to take the written word (in the form of a document or manuscript) and ‘set’ the type in the desired typeface. The designer would chose what typeface they wanted – and all the ligatures, underlines, italics and whatnot – and then scribble all over the manuscript so the typesetter could set the correct type. Then along came Desktop Publishing and every Tom, Dick and Harry could choose type on their computer and an entire link in the typographic chain was removed within just a few years. Well, that’s progress I guess. That was until six months ago when Typesetting was reborn on the web in the guise of a font service: Typekit. Typekit – and services like Typekit such as Typotheque, Kernest and the upcoming Fontdeck – are typesetting services for the web. You supply them with your content, in the form of a webpage, and they provide you with some JavaScript to render that webpage in the typeface you’ve specified simply by adding … 2009 Mark Boulton markboulton 2009-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/designing-for-the-switch/ design
97 Making Modular Layout Systems For all of the advantages the web has with distribution of content, I’ve always lamented the handiness of the WYSIWYG design tools from the print publishing world. When I set out to redesign my personal website, I wanted to have some of the same abilities that those tools have, laying out pages how I saw fit, and that meant a flexible system for dealing with imagery. Building on some of the CSS that Eric Meyer employed a few years back on the A List Apart design, I created a set of classes to use together to achieve the variety I was after. Employing multiple classes isn’t a new technique, but most examples aren’t coming at this from strictly editorial and visual perspectives; I wanted to have options to vary my layouts depending on content. If you want to skip ahead, you can view the example first. Laying the Foundation We need to be able to map out our page so that we have predictable canvas, and then create a system of image sizes that work with it. For the sake of this article, let’s use a simple uniform 7-column grid, consisting of seven 100px-wide columns and 10px of space between each column, though you can use any measurements you want as long as they remain constant. All of our images will have a width that references the grid column widths (in our example, 100px, 210px, 320px, 430px, 540px, 650px, or 760px), but the height can be as large as needed. Once we know our images will all have one of those widths, we can setup our CSS to deal with the variations in layout. In the most basic form, we’re going to be dealing with three classes: one each that represent an identifier, a size, and a placement for our elements. This is really a process of abstracting the important qualities of what you would do with a given image in a layout into separate classes, allowing you to quickly customize their appearance by combining the appropriate classes. Rather than trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all approach to styling, we give each class only one or two attributes and rely on the combination of classes … 2008 Jason Santa Maria jasonsantamaria 2008-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/making-modular-layout-systems/ process
279 Design the Invisible to Tell Better Stories on the Web For design to be meaningful we need to tell stories. We need to design the invisible, the cues, the messages and the extra detail hidden beneath the aesthetics. It’s all about the story. From verbal exchanges around the campfire to books, the web and everything in between, storytelling allows us to share, organize and process information more efficiently. It helps us understand our surroundings and make emotional connections to people, places and experiences. Web design lends itself perfectly to the conventions of storytelling, a universal process. However, the stories vary because they’re defined by culture, society, politics and religion. All of which need considering if you are to design stories that are relevant to your target audience. The benefits of approaching design with storytelling in mind from the very start of the project is that we are creating considered design that allows users to quickly gather meaning from the website. They do this by reading between the lines and drawing on the wealth of knowledge they have acquired about the associations between colours, typyefaces and signs. With so much recognition and analysis happening subconsciously you have to consider how design communicates on this level. This invisible layer has a significant impact on what you say, how you say it and who you say it to. How can we design something that’s invisible? By researching and making conscious decisions about exactly what you are communicating, you can make the invisible visible. As is often quoted, good design is like air, you only notice it when it’s bad. So by designing the invisible the aim is to design stories that the audience receive subliminally, so that they go somewhat unnoticed, like good air. Storytelling strands To share these stories through design, you can break it down into several strands. Each strand tells a story on its own, but when combined they may start to tell a different story altogether. These strands are colour, typefaces, branding, tone of voice and symbols. All are literal… 2011 Robert Mills robertmills 2011-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/design-the-invisible/ design
188 Don't Lose Your :focus For many web designers, accessibility conjures up images of blind users with screenreaders, and the difficulties in making sites accessible to this particular audience. Of course, accessibility covers a wide range of situations that go beyond the extreme example of screenreader users. And while it’s true that making a complex site accessible can often be a daunting prospect, there are also many small things that don’t take anything more than a bit of judicious planning, are very easy to test (without having to buy expensive assistive technology), and can make all the difference to certain user groups. In this short article we’ll focus on keyboard accessibility and how careless use of CSS can potentially make your sites completely unusable. Keyboard Access Users who for whatever reason can’t use a mouse will employ a keyboard (or keyboard-like custom interface) to navigate around web pages. By default, they will use TAB and SHIFT + TAB to move from one focusable element (links, form controls and area) of a page to the next. Note: in OS X, you’ll first need to turn on full keyboard access under System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts. Safari under Windows needs to have the option Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage in Preferences > Advanced enabled. Opera is the odd one out, as it has a variety of keyboard navigation options – the most relevant here being spatial navigation via Shift+Down, Shift+Up, Shift+Left, and Shift+Right). But I Don’t Like Your Dotted Lines… To show users where they are within a page, browsers place an outline around the element that currently has focus. The “problem” with these default outlines is that some browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox) also display them when a user clicks on a focusable element with the mouse. Particularly on sites that make extensive use of image replacement on links with “off left” techniques this can create very unsightly outlines that stretch from the replaced element all the way to the left edge of the browser. Outline … 2009 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2009-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/dont-lose-your-focus/ 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
103 Recession Tips For Web Designers For web designers, there are four keys to surviving bad economic times: do good work, charge a fair price, lower your overhead, and be sure you are communicating with your client. As a reader of 24 ways, you already do good work, so let’s focus on the rest. I know something about surviving bad times, having started my agency, Happy Cog, at the dawn of the dot-com bust. Of course, the recession we’re in now may end up making the dot-com bust look like the years of bling and gravy. But the bust was rough enough at the time. Bad times are hard on overweight companies and over-leveraged start-ups, but can be kind to freelancers and small agencies. Clients who once had money to burn and big agencies to help them burn it suddenly consider the quality of work more important than the marquee value of the business card. Fancy offices and ten people at every meeting are out. A close relationship with an individual or small team that listens is in. Thin is in If you were good in client meetings when you were an employee, print business cards and pick a name for your new agency. Once some cash rolls in, see an accountant. If the one-person entrepreneur model isn’t you, it’s no problem. Form a virtual agency with colleagues who complement your creative, technical, and business skills. Athletics is a Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary “art and design collective.” Talk about low overhead: they don’t have a president, a payroll, or a pension plan. But that hasn’t stopped clients like adidas, Nike, MTV, HBO, Disney, DKNY, and Sundance Channel from knocking on their (virtual) doors. Running a traditional business is like securing a political position in Chicago: it costs a fortune. That’s why bad times crush so many companies. But you are a creature of the internets. You don’t need an office to do great work. I ran Happy Cog out of my apartment for far longer than anyone realized. My clients, when they learned my secret, didn’t care. Keep it lean: if you can budget your incoming freelance money, you don’t have to pay your… 2008 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2008-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/recession-tips-for-web-designers/ business
179 Have a Field Day with HTML5 Forms Forms are usually seen as that obnoxious thing we have to markup and style. I respectfully disagree: forms (on a par with tables) are the most exciting thing we have to work with. Here we’re going to take a look at how to style a beautiful HTML5 form using some advanced CSS and latest CSS3 techniques. I promise you will want to style your own forms after you’ve read this article. Here’s what we’ll be creating: The form. (Icons from Chalkwork Payments) Meaningful markup We’re going to style a simple payment form. There are three main sections on this form: The person’s details The address details The credit card details We are also going to use some of HTML5’s new input types and attributes to create more meaningful fields and use less unnecessary classes and ids: email, for the email field tel, for the telephone field number, for the credit card number and security code required, for required fields placeholder, for the hints within some of the fields autofocus, to put focus on the first input field when the page loads There are a million more new input types and form attributes on HTML5, and you should definitely take a look at what’s new on the W3C website. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of how much more fun form markup can be. A good foundation Each section of the form will be contained within its own fieldset. In the case of the radio buttons for choosing the card type, we will enclose those options in another nested fieldset. We will also be using an ordered list to group each label / input pair. This will provide us with a (kind of) semantic styling hook and it will also make the form easier to read when viewing with no CSS applied: The unstyled form So here’s the markup we are going to be working with: <form id=payment> <fieldset> <legend>Your details</legend> <ol> <li> <label for=name>Name</label> <input id=name name=name type=text placeholder="First and last name" required autofocus> </li> <li> <label for=email>Email</label> <input id=… 2009 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2009-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/have-a-field-day-with-html5-forms/ code
191 CSS Animations Friend: You should learn how to write CSS! Me: … Friend: CSS; Cascading Style Sheets. If you’re serious about web design, that’s the next thing you should learn. Me: What’s wrong with <font> tags? That was 8 years ago. Thanks to the hard work of Jeffrey, Andy, Andy, Cameron, Colly, Dan and many others, learning how to decently markup a website and write lightweight stylesheets was surprisingly easy. They made it so easy even a complete idiot (OH HAI) was able to quickly master it. And then… nothing. For a long time, it seemed like there wasn’t happening anything in the land of CSS, time stood still. Once you knew the basics, there wasn’t anything new to keep up with. It looked like a great band split, but people just kept re-releasing their music in various “Best Of!” or “Remastered!” albums. Fast forward a couple of years to late 2006. On the official WebKit blog Surfin’ Safari, there’s an article about something called CSS animations. Great new stuff to play with, but only supported by nightly builds (read: very, very beta) of WebKit. In the following months, they release other goodies, like CSS gradients, CSS reflections, CSS masks, and even more CSS animation sexiness. Whoa, looks like the band got back together, found their second youth, and went into overdrive! The problem was that if you wanted to listen to their new albums, you had to own some kind of new high-tech player no one on earth (besides some early adopters) owned. Back in the time machine. It is now late 2009, close to Christmas. Things have changed. Browsers supporting these new toys are widely available left and right. Even non-techies are using these advanced browsers to surf the web on a daily basis! Epic win? Almost, but at least this gives us enough reason to start learning how we could use all this new CSS voodoo. On Monday, Natalie Downe showed you a good tutorial on Going Nuts with CSS Transitions. Today, I’m taking it one step further… Howto: A basic spinner No matter how fast internet tubes or servers are, we’ll always need spi… 2009 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2009-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/css-animations/ code
18 Grunt for People Who Think Things Like Grunt are Weird and Hard Front-end developers are often told to do certain things: Work in as small chunks of CSS and JavaScript as makes sense to you, then concatenate them together for the production website. Compress your CSS and minify your JavaScript to make their file sizes as small as possible for your production website. Optimize your images to reduce their file size without affecting quality. Use Sass for CSS authoring because of all the useful abstraction it allows. That’s not a comprehensive list of course, but those are the kind of things we need to do. You might call them tasks. I bet you’ve heard of Grunt. Well, Grunt is a task runner. Grunt can do all of those things for you. Once you’ve got it set up, which isn’t particularly difficult, those things can happen automatically without you having to think about them again. But let’s face it: Grunt is one of those fancy newfangled things that all the cool kids seem to be using but at first glance feels strange and intimidating. I hear you. This article is for you. Let’s nip some misconceptions in the bud right away Perhaps you’ve heard of Grunt, but haven’t done anything with it. I’m sure that applies to many of you. Maybe one of the following hang-ups applies to you. I don’t need the things Grunt does You probably do, actually. Check out that list up top. Those things aren’t nice-to-haves. They are pretty vital parts of website development these days. If you already do all of them, that’s awesome. Perhaps you use a variety of different tools to accomplish them. Grunt can help bring them under one roof, so to speak. If you don’t already do all of them, you probably should and Grunt can help. Then, once you are doing those, you can keep using Grunt to do more for you, which will basically make you better at doing your job. Grunt runs on Node.js — I don’t know Node You don’t have to know Node. Just like you don’t have to know Ruby to use Sass. Or PHP to use WordPress. Or C++ to use Microsoft Word. I have other ways to do the things Grunt could do for me Are the… 2013 Chris Coyier chriscoyier 2013-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/grunt-is-not-weird-and-hard/ code
276 Your jQuery: Now With 67% Less Suck Fun fact: more websites are now using jQuery than Flash. jQuery is an amazing tool that’s made JavaScript accessible to developers and designers of all levels of experience. However, as Spiderman taught us, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The unfortunate downside to jQuery is that while it makes it easy to write JavaScript, it makes it easy to write really really f*&#ing bad JavaScript. Scripts that slow down page load, unresponsive user interfaces, and spaghetti code knotted so deep that it should come with a bottle of whiskey for the next sucker developer that has to work on it. This becomes more important for those of us who have yet to move into the magical fairy wonderland where none of our clients or users view our pages in Internet Explorer. The IE JavaScript engine moves at the speed of an advancing glacier compared to more modern browsers, so optimizing our code for performance takes on an even higher level of urgency. Thankfully, there are a few very simple things anyone can add into their jQuery workflow that can clear up a lot of basic problems. When undertaking code reviews, three of the areas where I consistently see the biggest problems are: inefficient selectors; poor event delegation; and clunky DOM manipulation. We’ll tackle all three of these and hopefully you’ll walk away with some new jQuery batarangs to toss around in your next project. Selector optimization Selector speed: fast or slow? Saying that the power behind jQuery comes from its ability to select DOM elements and act on them is like saying that Photoshop is a really good tool for selecting pixels on screen and making them change color – it’s a bit of a gross oversimplification, but the fact remains that jQuery gives us a ton of ways to choose which element or elements in a page we want to work with. However, a surprising number of web developers are unaware that all selectors are not created equal; in fact, it’s incredible just how drastic the performance difference can be between two selectors that, at first g… 2011 Scott Kosman scottkosman 2011-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/your-jquery-now-with-less-suck/ code
322 Introduction to Scriptaculous Effects Gather around kids, because this year, much like in that James Bond movie with Denise Richards, Christmas is coming early… in the shape of scrumptuous smooth javascript driven effects at your every whim. Now what I’m going to do, is take things down a notch. Which is to say, you don’t need to know much beyond how to open a text file and edit it to follow this article. Personally, I for instance can’t code to save my life. Well, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true. If my life was on the line, and the code needed was really simple and I wasn’t under any time constraints, then yeah maybe I could hack my way out of it But my point is this: I’m not a programmer in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, what I do best, is scrounge code off of other people, take it apart and then put it back together with duct tape, chewing gum and dumb blind luck. No, don’t run! That happens to be a good thing in this case. You see, we’re going to be implementing some really snazzy effects (which are considerably more relevant than most people are willing to admit) on your site, and we’re going to do it with the aid of Thomas Fuchs’ amazing Script.aculo.us library. And it will be like stealing candy from a child. What Are We Doing? I’m going to show you the very basics of implementing the Script.aculo.us javascript library’s Combination Effects. These allow you to fade elements on your site in or out, slide them up and down and so on. Why Use Effects at All? Before get started though, let me just take a moment to explain how I came to see smooth transitions as something more than smoke and mirror-like effects included for with little more motive than to dazzle and make parents go ‘uuh, snazzy’. Earlier this year, I had the good fortune of meeting the kind, gentle and quite knowledgable Matt Webb at a conference here in Copenhagen where we were both speaking (though I will be the first to admit my little talk on Open Source Design was vastly inferior to Matt’s talk). Matt held a talk called Fixing Broken Windows (b… 2005 Michael Heilemann michaelheilemann 2005-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/introduction-to-scriptaculous-effects/ code
169 Incite A Riot Given its relatively limited scope, HTML can be remarkably expressive. With a bit of lateral thinking, we can mark up content such as tag clouds and progress meters, even when we don’t have explicit HTML elements for those patterns. Suppose we want to mark up a short conversation: Alice: I think Eve is watching. Bob: This isn’t a cryptography tutorial …we’re in the wrong example! A note in the the HTML 4.01 spec says it’s okay to use a definition list: Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words. That would give us: <dl> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dl> This usage of a definition list is proof that writing W3C specifications and smoking crack are not mutually exclusive activities. “I think Eve is watching” is not a definition of “Alice.” If you (ab)use a definition list in this way, Norm will hunt you down. The conversation problem was revisited in HTML5. What if dt and dd didn’t always mean “definition title” and “definition description”? A new element was forged: dialog. Now the the “d” in dt and dd doesn’t stand for “definition”, it stands for “dialog” (or “dialogue” if you can spell): <dialog> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dialog> Problem solved …except that dialog is no longer in the HTML5 spec. Hixie further expanded the meaning of dt and dd so that they could be used inside details (which makes sense—it starts with a “d”) and figure (…um). At the same time as the content model of details and figure were being updated, the completely-unrelated dialog element was dropped. Back to the drawing board, or in this case, the HTML 4.01 specification. The spec defines the cite element thusly: Contains a citation or a reference to other sources. Perfect! There’s even an … 2009 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2009-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/incite-a-riot/ code
225 Good Ideas Grow on Paper Great designers have one thing in common: their design process is centred on ideas; ideas that are more often than not developed on paper. Though it’s often tempting to take the path of least resistance, turning to the computer in the headlong rush to complete a project (often in the face of formidable client pressure), resist the urge and – for a truly great idea – start first on paper. The path of least resistance is often characterised by cliché and overused techniques – one per cent noise, border-radius, text-shadow – the usual suspects – techniques that are ten-a-penny at the gallery sites. Whilst all are useful, and technique and craft are important, great design isn’t about technique alone – it’s about technique in the service of good ideas. But how do we generate those ideas? Inspiration can certainly come to you out of the blue. When working as a designer in a role which often consists of incubating good ideas, however, idly waiting for the time-honoured lightbulb to appear above your head just isn’t good enough. We need to establish an environment where we tip the odds of getting good ideas in our favour. So, when faced with the blank canvas, what do we do to unlock the proverbial tidal wave of creativity? Fear not. We’re about to share with you a couple of stalwart techniques that will stand you in good stead when you need that good idea, in the face of the pressure of yet another looming deadline. Get the process right Where do ideas come from? In many cases they come from anywhere but the screen. Hence, our first commandment is to close the lid of your computer and, for a change, work on paper. It might seem strange, it might also seem like a distraction, but – trust us – the time invested here will more than pay off. Idea generation should be a process of rapid iteration, sketching and thinking aloud, all processes best undertaken in more fast paced, analogue media. Our tool of choice is the Sharpie and Flip Chart Combo©, intentionally low resolution to encourage lo-fi idea generation. In sho… 2010 The Standardistas thestandardistas 2010-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/good-ideas-grow-on-paper/ process
182 Breaking Out The Edges of The Browser HTML5 contains more than just the new entities for a more meaningful document, it also contains an arsenal of JavaScript APIs. So many in fact, that some APIs have outgrown the HTML5 spec’s backyard and have been sent away to grow up all on their own and been given the prestigious honour of being specs in their own right. So when I refer to (bendy finger quote) “HTML5”, I mean the HTML5 specification and a handful of other specifications that help us authors build web applications. Examples of those specs I would include in the umbrella term would be: geolocation, web storage, web databases, web sockets and web workers, to name a few. For all you guys and gals, on this special 2009 series of 24 ways, I’m just going to focus on data storage and offline applications: boldly taking your browser where no browser has gone before! Web Storage The Web Storage API is basically cookies on steroids, a unhealthy dosage of steroids. Cookies are always a pain to work with. First of all you have the problem of setting, changing and deleting them. Typically solved by Googling and blindly relying on PPK’s solution. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the 4Kb limit that some of you have hit when you really don’t want to. The Web Storage API gets around all of the hoops you have to jump through with cookies. Storage supports around 5Mb of data per domain (the spec’s recommendation, but it’s open to the browsers to implement anything they like) and splits in to two types of storage objects: sessionStorage – available to all pages on that domain while the window remains open localStorage – available on the domain until manually removed Support Ignoring beta browsers for our support list, below is a list of the major browsers and their support for the Web Storage API: Latest: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (desktop & mobile/iPhone) Partial: Google Chrome (only supports localStorage) Not supported: Opera (as of 10.10) Usage Both sessionStorage and localStorage support the same interface for accessing their co… 2009 Remy Sharp remysharp 2009-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/breaking-out-the-edges-of-the-browser/ code
233 Wrapping Things Nicely with HTML5 Local Storage HTML5 is here to turn the web from a web of hacks into a web of applications – and we are well on the way to this goal. The coming year will be totally and utterly awesome if you are excited about web technologies. This year the HTML5 revolution started and there is no stopping it. For the first time all the browser vendors are rallying together to make a technology work. The new browser war is fought over implementation of the HTML5 standard and not over random additions. We live in exciting times. Starting with a bang As with every revolution there is a lot of noise with bangs and explosions, and that’s the stage we’re at right now. HTML5 showcases are often CSS3 showcases, web font playgrounds, or video and canvas examples. This is great, as it gets people excited and it gives the media something to show. There is much more to HTML5, though. Let’s take a look at one of the less sexy, but amazingly useful features of HTML5 (it was in the HTML5 specs, but grew at such an alarming rate that it warranted its own spec): storing information on the client-side. Why store data on the client-side? Storing information in people’s browsers affords us a few options that every application should have: You can retain the state of an application – when the user comes back after closing the browser, everything will be as she left it. That’s how ‘real’ applications work and this is how the web ones should, too. You can cache data – if something doesn’t change then there is no point in loading it over the Internet if local access is so much faster You can store user preferences – without needing to keep that data on your server at all. In the past, storing local data wasn’t much fun. The pain of hacky browser solutions In the past, all we had were cookies. I don’t mean the yummy things you get with your coffee, endorsed by the blue, furry junkie in Sesame Street, but the other, digital ones. Cookies suck – it isn’t fun to have an unencrypted HTTP overhead on every server request for storing four kilobytes of data… 2010 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2010-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/html5-local-storage/ code
302 Flexible Project Management in Inflexible Environments Handling unforeseen circumstances is an inevitable part of any project. It’s also often the most uncomfortable, and there is no amount of skill or planning that will fully eradicate the need to adapt to change. The ability to be flexible, responsive, and unafraid of facing not only problems, but also potentially positive scope changes and new ideas, isn’t an easy one to master. I am by no means saying that I have, but what I have learned is that there is often the temptation to shut out anything that might derail your plan, even sometimes at the cost of the quality you’re committed to. The reality is that as someone leading a project you know there will be challenges, but, in general, it’s a hassle to try keep the landscape open. Problems are bridges we should cross when we come to them, but intentional changes to the plan, and adapting for the sake of improving your first idea, is harder. There are tight schedules, resource is planned miles ahead, and you’re already juggling twenty other things. If you’re passionate about the quality of work you deliver and are working somewhere that considers itself expert within the field of digital, then having an attitude of flexibility is extremely important. It’s important when you’re overcoming a challenge or problem, but it’s also important for allowing ideas to evolve and be refined as much as they can be throughout the course of a project. Where theory falls short The premise of any Agile methodology, Scrum for example, is based around being able to work efficiently, react quickly and deliver relevant chunks of a product in manageable increments. It’s often hailed as king of flexible management and it can work really well, especially for in-house software products developed over a long or even an indefinite period of time. It holds off defining scope too far ahead and lets teams focus on smaller amounts of work, and allows them to regularly reprioritise. Unfortunately though, not all environments lend themselves as easily to a fully Agile setup. Even the ones that do m… 2016 Gillian Sibthorpe gilliansibthorpe 2016-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/flexible-project-management/ process
245 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1—for People Who Haven’t Read the Update Happy United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018! The United Nations chose “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” as this year’s theme. We’ve seen great examples of that in 2018; for example, Paul Robert Lloyd has detailed how he improved the accessibility of this very website. On social media, US Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started using the Clipomatic app to add live captions to her Instagram live stories, conforming to success criterion 1.2.4, “Captions (Live)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 1) …and British Vogue Contributing Editor Sinéad Burke has used the split-screen feature of Instagram live stories to invite an interpreter to provide live Sign Language interpretation, going above and beyond success criterion 1.2.6, “Sign Language (Prerecorded)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 2). Figure 1: Screenshot of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram story with live captionsFigure 2: Screenshot of Sinéad Burke’s Instagram story with Sign Language Interpretation That theme chimes with this year’s publication of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. In last year’s “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven’t Read Them”, I mentioned the scale of the project to produce this update during 2018: “the editors have to update the guidelines to cover all the new ways that people interact with new technologies, while keeping the guidelines backwards-compatible”. The WCAG working group have added 17 success criteria to the 61 that they released way back in 2008—for context, that was 1½ years before Apple released their first iPad! These new criteria make it easier than ever for us web geeks to produce work that is more accessible to people using mobile devices and touchscreens, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Once again, let’s rip off all the legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping pap… 2018 Alan Dalton alandalton 2018-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-the-update/ ux
137 Cheating Color Have you ever been strapped to use specific colors outlined in a branding guide? Felt restricted because those colors ended up being too light or dark for the way you want to use them? Here’s the solution: throw out your brand guide. gasp! OK, don’t throw it out. Just put it in a drawer for a few minutes. Branding Guides be Damned When dealing with color on screen, it’s easy to get caught up in literal values from hex colors, you can cheat colors ever so slightly to achieve the right optical value. This is especially prevalent when trying to bring a company’s identity colors to a screen design. Because the most important idea behind a brand guide is to help a company maintain the visual integrity of their business, consider hex numbers to be guidelines rather than law. Once you are familiar enough with the colors your company uses, you can start to flex them a bit, and take a few liberties. This is a quick method for cheating to get the color you really want. With a little sleight of design, we can swap a color that might be part of your identity guidelines, with one that works better optically, and no one will be the wiser! Color is a Wily Beast This might be hard: You might have to break out of the idea that a color can only be made using one method. Color is fluid. It interacts and changes based on its surroundings. Some colors can appear lighter or darker based on what color they appear on or next to. The RGB gamut is additive color, and as such, has a tendency to push contrast in the direction that objects may already be leaning—increasing the contrast of light colors on dark colors and decreasing the contrast of light on light. Obviously, because we are talking about monitors here, these aren’t hard and fast rules. Cheat and Feel Good About It On a light background, when you have a large element of a light color, a small element of the same color will appear lighter. Enter our fake company: Double Dagger. They manufacture footnotes. Take a look at Fig. 1 below. The logo (Double Dagger), rule, and… 2006 Jason Santa Maria jasonsantamaria 2006-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/cheating-color/ design
265 Designing for Perfection Hello, 24 ways readers. I hope you’re having a nice run up to Christmas. This holiday season I thought I’d share a few things with you that have been particularly meaningful in my work over the last year or so. They may not make you wet your santa pants with new-idea-excitement, but in the context of 24 ways I think they may serve as a nice lesson and a useful seasonal reminder going into the New Year. Enjoy! Story Despite being a largely scruffy individual for most of my life, I had some interesting experiences regarding kitchen tidiness during my third year at university. As a kid, my room had always been pretty tidy, and as a teenager I used to enjoy reordering my CDs regularly (by artist, label, colour of spine – you get the picture); but by the time I was twenty I’d left most of these traits behind me, mainly due to a fear that I was turning into my mother. The one remaining anally retentive part of me that remained however, lived in the kitchen. For some reason, I couldn’t let all the pots and crockery be strewn across the surfaces after cooking. I didn’t care if they were washed up or not, I just needed them tidied. The surfaces needed to be continually free of grated cheese, breadcrumbs and ketchup spills. Also, the sink always needed to be clear. Always. Even a lone teabag, discarded casually into the sink hours previously, would give me what I used to refer to as “kitchen rage”. Whilst this behaviour didn’t cause any direct conflicts, it did often create weirdness. We would be happily enjoying a few pre-night out beverages (Jack Daniels and Red Bull – nice) when I’d notice the state of the kitchen following our round of customized 49p Tesco pizzas. Kitchen rage would ensue, and I’d have to blitz the kitchen, which usually resulted in me having to catch everyone up at the bar afterwards. One evening as we were just about to go out, I was stood there, in front of the shithole that was our kitchen with the intention of cleaning it all up, when a realization popped into my head. In hindsight, it was a… 2011 Greg Wood gregwood 2011-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/designing-for-perfection/ process
2 Levelling Up Hello, 24 ways. I’m Ashley and I sell property insurance. I’m interrupting your Christmas countdown with an article about rental property software and a guy, Pete, who selflessly encouraged me to build my first web app. It doesn’t sound at all festive, or — considering I’ve used both “insurance” and “rental property” — interesting, but do stick with me. There’s eggnog at the end. I run a property insurance business, Brokers Direct. It’s a small operation, but well established. We’ve been selling landlord insurance on the web for over thirteen years, for twelve of which we have provided our clients with third-party software for managing their rental property portfolios. Free. Of. Charge. It sounds like a sweet deal for our customers, but it isn’t. At least, not any more. The third-party software is victim to years of neglect by its vendor. Its questionable interface, garish visuals and, ahem, clip art icons have suffered from a lack of updates. While it was never a contender for software of the year, I’ve steadily grown too embarrassed to associate my business with it. The third-party rental property software we distributed I wanted to offer my customers a simple, clean and lightweight alternative. In an industry that’s dominated by dated and bloated software, it seemed only logical that I should build my own rental property tool. The long learning-to-code slog Learning a programming language is daunting, the source of my frustration stemming from a non-programming background. Generally, tutorials assume a degree of familiarity with programming, whether it be tools, conventions or basic skills. I had none and, at the time, there was nothing on the web really geared towards a novice. I reached the point where I genuinely thought I was just not cut out for coding. Surrendering to my feelings of self-doubt and frustration, I sourced a local Rails developer, Pete, to build it for me. Pete brought a pack of index cards to our meeting. Index cards that would represent each feature the rental property software wo… 2013 Ashley Baxter ashleybaxter 2013-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/levelling-up/ business
238 Everything You Wanted To Know About Gradients (And a Few Things You Didn’t) Hello. I am here to discuss CSS3 gradients. Because, let’s face it, what the web really needed was more gradients. Still, despite their widespread use (or is it overuse?), the smartly applied gradient can be a valuable contributor to a designer’s vocabulary. There’s always been a tension between the inherently two-dimensional nature of our medium, and our desire for more intensity, more depth in our designs. And a gradient can evoke so much: the splay of light across your desk, the slow decrease in volume toward the end of your favorite song, the sunset after a long day. When properly applied, graded colors bring a much needed softness to our work. Of course, that whole ‘proper application’ thing is the tricky bit. But given their place in our toolkit and their prominence online, it really is heartening to see we can create gradients directly with CSS. They’re part of the draft images module, and implemented in two of the major rendering engines. Still, I’ve always found CSS gradients to be one of the more confusing aspects of CSS3. So if you’ll indulge me, let’s take a quick look at how to create CSS gradients—hopefully we can make them seem a bit more accessible, and bring a bit more art into the browser. Gradient theory 101 (I hope that’s not really a thing) Right. So before we dive into the code, let’s cover a few basics. Every gradient, no matter how complex, shares a few common characteristics. Here’s a straightforward one: I spent seconds hours designing this gradient. I hope you like it. At either end of our image, we have a final color value, or color stop: on the left, our stop is white; on the right, black. And more color-rich gradients are no different: (Don’t ever really do this. Please. I beg you.) It’s visually more intricate, sure. But at the heart of it, we have just seven color stops (red, orange, yellow, and so on), making for a fantastic gradient all the way. Now, color stops alone do not a gradient make. Between each is a transition point, the fail-over point between the two stop… 2010 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2010-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-gradients/ code
77 Colour Accessibility Here’s a quote from Josef Albers: In visual perception a colour is almost never seen as it really is[…] This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art.Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963 Albers was a German abstract painter and teacher, and published a very famous course on colour theory in 1963. Colour is very relative — not just in the way that it appears differently across different devices due to screen quality and colour management, but it can also be seen differently by different people — something we really need to be more mindful of when designing. What is colour blindness? Colour blindness very rarely means that you can’t see any colour at all, or that people see things in greyscale. It’s actually a decreased ability to see colour, or a decreased ability to tell colours apart from one another. How does it happen? Inside the typical human retina, there are two types of receptor cells — rods and cones. Rods are the cells that allow us to see dark and light, and shape and movement. Cones are the cells that allow us to perceive colour. There are three types of cones, each responsible for absorbing blue, red, and green wavelengths in the spectrum. Problems with colour vision occur when one or more of these types of cones are defective or absent entirely, and these problems can either be inherited through genetics, or acquired through trauma, exposure to ultraviolet light, degeneration with age, an effect of diabetes, or other factors. Colour blindness is a sex-linked trait and it’s much more common in men than in women. The most common type of colour blindness is called deuteranomaly which occurs in 7% of males, but only 0.5% of females. That’s a pretty significant portion of the population if you really stop and think about it — we can’t ignore this demographic. What does it look like? People with the most common types of colour blindness, like protanopia and deuteranopia, have difficulty discriminating between red and green hues. There are also forms of colour blindness like tritanop… 2012 Geri Coady gericoady 2012-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/colour-accessibility/ design
94 Using Questionnaires for Design Research How do you ask the right questions? In this article, I share a bunch of tips and practical advice on how to write and use your own surveys for design research. I’m an audience researcher – I’m not a designer or developer. I’ve spent much of the last thirteen years working with audience data both in creative agencies and on the client-side. I’m also a member of the Market Research Society. I run user surveys and undertake user research for our clients at the design studio I run with my husband – Mark Boulton Design. So let’s get started! Who are you designing for? Good web designers and developers appreciate the importance of understanding the audience they are designing or building a website or app for. I’m assuming that because you are reading a quality publication like 24 ways that you fall into this category, and so I won’t begin this article with a lecture. Suffice it to say, it’s a good idea to involve research of some sort during the life cycle of every project you undertake. I don’t just mean visual or competitor research, which of course is also very important. I mean looking at or finding your own audience or user data. Whether that be auditing existing data or research available from the client, carrying out user interviews, A/B testing, or conducting a simple questionnaire with users, any research is better than none. If you create personas as a design tool, they should always be based on research, so you will need to have plenty of data to hand for that. Where do I start? In the initial kick-off stages of a project, it’s a good idea to start by asking your client (when working in-house you still have a client – you might even be the client) what research or audience data they have available. Some will have loads – analytics, surveys, focus groups and insights – from talking to customers. Some won’t have much at all and you’ll be hard pressed to find out much about the audience. It’s best to review existing research first without rushing headlong into doing new research. Get a picture of what … 2012 Emma Boulton emmaboulton 2012-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/using-questionnaires-for-design-research/ business
134 Photographic Palettes How many times have you seen a colour combination that just worked, a match so perfect that it just seems obvious? Now, how many times do you come up with those in your own work? A perfect palette looks easy when it’s done right, but it’s often maddeningly difficult and time-consuming to accomplish. Choosing effective colour schemes will always be more art than science, but there are things you can do that will make coming up with that oh-so-smooth palette just a little a bit easier. A simple trick that can lead to incredibly gratifying results lies in finding a strong photograph and sampling out particularly harmonious colours. Photo Selection Not all photos are created equal. You certainly want to start with imagery that fits the eventual tone you’re attempting to create. A well-lit photo of flowers might lead to a poor colour scheme for a funeral parlour’s web site, for example. It’s worth thinking about what you’re trying to say in advance, and finding a photo that lends itself to your message. As a general rule of thumb, photos that have a lot of neutral or de-saturated tones with one or two strong colours make for the best palette; bright and multi-coloured photos are harder to derive pleasing results from. Let’s start with a relatively neutral image. Sampling In the above example, I’ve surrounded the photo with three different background colours directly sampled from the photo itself. Moving from left to right, you can see how each of the sampled colours is from an area of increasingly smaller coverage within the photo, and yet there’s still a strong harmony between the photo and the background image. I don’t really need to pick the big obvious colours from the photo to create that match, I can easily concentrate on more interesting colours that might work better for what I intend. Using a similar palette, let’s apply those colour choices to a more interesting layout: In this mini-layout, I’ve re-used the same tan colour from the previous middle image as a background, and sampled out a nicely… 2006 Dave Shea daveshea 2006-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/photographic-palettes/ design
332 CSS Layout Starting Points I build a lot of CSS layouts, some incredibly simple, others that cause sleepless nights and remind me of the torturous puzzle books that were given to me at Christmas by aunties concerned for my education. However, most of the time these layouts fit quite comfortably into one of a very few standard formats. For example: Liquid, multiple column with no footer Liquid, multiple column with footer Fixed width, centred Rather than starting out with blank CSS and (X)HTML documents every time you need to build a layout, you can fairly quickly create a bunch of layout starting points, that will give you a solid basis for creating the rest of the design and mean that you don’t have to remember how a three column layout with a footer is best achieved every time you come across one! These starting points can be really basic, in fact that’s exactly what you want as the final design, the fonts, the colours and so on will be different every time. It’s just the main sections we want to be able to quickly get into place. For example, here is a basic starting point CSS and XHTML document for a fixed width, centred layout with a footer. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>Fixed Width and Centred starting point document</title> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="fixed-width-centred.css" /> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> </head> <body> <div id="wrapper"> <div id="side"> <div class="inner"> <p>Sidebar content here</p> </div> </div> <div id="content"> <div class="inner"> <p>Your main content goes here.</p> </div> </div> <div id="footer"> <div class="inner"> <p>Ho Ho Ho!</p> </div> </div> </div> </body> </html> body { text-align: center; min-width: 740px; padding: 0; margi… 2005 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2005-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/css-layout-starting-points/ 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
244 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like XSSmas I dread the office Secret Santa. I have a knack for choosing well-meaning but inappropriate presents, like a bottle of port for a teetotaller, a cheese-tasting experience for a vegan, or heaven forbid, Spurs socks for an Arsenal supporter. Ok, the last one was intentional. It’s the same with gifting code. Once, I made a pattern library for A List Apart which I open sourced, and a few weeks later, a glaring security vulnerability was found in it. My gift was so generous that it enabled unrestricted access to any file on any public-facing server that hosted it. With platforms like GitHub and npm, giving the gift of code is so easy it’s practically a no-brainer. This giant, open source yankee swap helps us do our jobs without starting from scratch with every project. But like any gift-giving, it’s also risky. Vulnerabilities and Open Source Open source code is not inherently more or less vulnerable than closed-source code. What makes it higher risk is that the same piece of code gets reused in lots of places, meaning a hacker can use the same exploit mechanism on the same vulnerable code in different apps. Graph showing the number of open source vulnerabilities published per year, from the State of Open Source Security 2017 In the first 24 ways article this year, Katie referenced a few different types of vulnerability: Cross-site Request Forgery (also known as CSRF) SQL Injection Cross-site Scripting (also known as XSS) There are many more types of vulnerability, and those that live under the same category share similarities. For example, my favourite – is it weird to have a favourite vulnerability? – is Cross Site Scripting (XSS), which allows for the injection of scripts into web pages. This is a really common vulnerability often unwittingly added by developers. OWASP (the Open Web Application Security Project) wrote a great article about how to prevent opening the door to XSS attacks – share it generously with your colleagues. Most vulnerabilities like this are not added intentionally – they’re doors left ajar… 2018 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2018-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-xssmas/ code
243 Researching a Property in the CSS Specifications I frequently joke that I’m “reading the specs so you don’t have to”, as I unpack some detail of a CSS spec in a post on my blog, some documentation for MDN, or an article on Smashing Magazine. However waiting for someone like me to write an article about something is a pretty slow way to get the information you need. Sometimes people like me get things wrong, or specifications change after we write a tutorial. What if you could just look it up yourself? That’s what you get when you learn to read the CSS specifications, and in this article my aim is to give you the basic details you need to grab quick information about any CSS property detailed in the CSS specs. Where are the CSS Specifications? The easiest way to see all of the CSS specs is to take a look at the Current Work page in the CSS section of the W3C Website. Here you can see all of the specifications listed, the level they are at and their status. There is also a link to the specification from this page. I explained CSS Levels in my article Why there is no CSS 4. Who are the specifications for? CSS specifications are for everyone who uses CSS. You might be a browser engineer - referred to as an implementor - needing to know how to implement a feature, or a web developer - referred to as an author - wanting to know how to use the feature. The fact that both parties are looking at the same document hopefully means that what the browser displays is what the web developer expected. Which version of a spec should I look at? There are a couple of places you might want to look. Each published spec will have the latest published version, which will have TR in the URL and can be accessed without a date (which is always the newest version) or at a date, which will be the date of that publication. If I’m referring to a particular Working Draft in an article I’ll typically link to the dated version. That way if the information changes it is possible for someone to see where I got the information from at the time of writing. If you want the very latest additions an… 2018 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2018-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/researching-a-property-in-the-css-specifications/ code
131 Random Lines Made With Mesh I know that Adobe Illustrator can be a bit daunting for people who aren’t really advanced users of the program, but you would be amazed by how easy you can create cool effects or backgrounds. In this short tutorial I show you how to create a cool looking background only in 5 steps. Step 1 – Create Lines Create lines using random widths and harmonious suitable colors. If you get stuck on finding the right colors, check out Adobe’s Kuler and start experimenting. Step 2 – Convert Strokes to Fills Select all lines and convert them to fills. Go to the Object menu, select Path > Outline Stroke. Select the Rectangle tool and draw 1 big rectangle on top the lines. Give the rectangle a suitable color. With the rectangle still selected, go to the Object menu, select Arrange > Send to Back. Step 3 – Convert to Mesh Select all objects by pressing the command key (for Mac users), control key (for Windows users) + the “a” key. Go to the Object menu and select the Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh option. Enter 2 rows and 2 columns. Check the preview box to see what happens and click the OK button. Step 4 – Play Around with The Mesh Points Play around with the points of the mesh using the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow in the Toolbox). Click on the top right point of the mesh. Once you’re starting to drag hold down the shift key and move the point upwards. Now start dragging the bezier handles on the mesh to achieve the effect as shown in the above picture. Of course you can try out all kind of different effects here. The Final Result This is an example of how the final result can look. You can try out all kinds of different shapes dragging the handles of the mesh points. This is just one of the many results you can get. So next time you haven’t got inspiration for a background of a header, a banner or whatever, just experiment with a few basic shapes such as lines and try out the ‘Envelope Distort’ options in Illustrator or the ‘Make with Mesh’ option and experiment, you’ll be amazed by the u… 2006 Veerle Pieters veerlepieters 2006-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/random-lines-made-with-mesh/ design
248 How to Use Audio on the Web I know what you’re thinking. I never never want to hear sound anywhere near a browser, ever ever, wow! 🙉 You’re having flashbacks, flashbacks to the days of yore, when we had a <bgsound> element and yup did everyone think that was the most rad thing since <blink>. I mean put those two together with a <marquee>, only use CSS colour names, make sure your borders were all set to ridge and you’ve got yourself the neatest website since 1998. The sound played when the website loaded and you could play a MIDI file as well! Everyone could hear that wicked digital track you chose. Oh, surfing was gnarly back then. Yes it is 2018, the end of in fact, soon to be 2019. We are certainly living in the future. Hoverboards self driving cars, holodecks VR headsets, rocket boots drone racing, sound on websites get real, Ruth. We can’t help but be jaded, even though the <bgsound> element is depreciated, and the autoplay policy appeared this year. Although still in it’s infancy, the policy “controls when video and audio is allowed to autoplay”, which should reduce the somewhat obtrusive playing of sound when a website or app loads in the future. But then of course comes the question, having lived in a muted present for so long, where and why would you use audio? ✨ Showcase Time ✨ There are some incredible uses of audio on websites today. This is my personal favourite futurelibrary.no, a site from Norway chronicling books that have been published from a forest of trees planted precisely for the books themselves. The sound effects are lovely, adding to the overall experience. futurelibrary.no Another site that executes this well is pottermore.com. The Hogwarts WebGL simulation uses both sound effects and ambient background music and gives a great experience. The button hovers are particularly good. pottermore.com Eighty-six and a half years is a beautiful narrative site, documenting the musings of an eighty-six and a half year old man. The background music playing on this site is not offensive, it adds to the experience. Eighty-six an… 2018 Ruth John ruthjohn 2018-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/how-to-use-audio-on-the-web/ design
240 My CSS Wish List I love Christmas. I love walking around the streets of London, looking at the beautifully decorated windows, seeing the shiny lights that hang above Oxford Street and listening to Christmas songs. I’m not going to lie though. Not only do I like buying presents, I love receiving them too. I remember making long lists that I would send to Father Christmas with all of the Lego sets I wanted to get. I knew I could only get one a year, but I would spend days writing the perfect list. The years have gone by, but I still enjoy making wish lists. And I’ll tell you a little secret: my mum still asks me to send her my Christmas list every year. This time I’ve made my CSS wish list. As before, I’d be happy with just one present. Before I begin… … this list includes: things that don’t exist in the CSS specification (if they do, please let me know in the comments – I may have missed them); others that are in the spec, but it’s incomplete or lacks use cases and examples (which usually means that properties haven’t been implemented by even the most recent browsers). Like with any other wish list, the further down I go, the more unrealistic my expectations – but that doesn’t mean I can’t wish. Some of the things we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago have been implemented and our wishes fulfilled (think multiple backgrounds, gradients and transformations, for example). The list Cross-browser implementation of font-size-adjust When one of the fall-back fonts from your font stack is used, rather than the preferred (first) one, you can retain the aspect ratio by using this very useful property. It is incredibly helpful when the fall-back fonts are smaller or larger than the initial one, which can make layouts look less polished. What font-size-adjust does is divide the original font-size of the fall-back fonts by the font-size-adjust value. This preserves the x-height of the preferred font in the fall-back fonts. Here’s a simple example: p { font-family: Calibri, "Lucida Sans", Verdana, sans-serif; … 2010 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2010-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/my-css-wish-list/ code
119 Rocking Restrictions I love my job. I live my job. For every project I do, I try to make it look special. I’ll be honest: I have a fetish for comments like “I never saw anything like that!” or, “I wish I thought of that!”. I know, I have an ego-problem. (Eleven I’s already) But sometimes, you run out of inspiration. Happens to everybody, and everybody hates it. “I’m the worst designer in the world.” “Everything I designed before this was just pure luck!” No it wasn’t. Countless articles about finding inspiration have already been written. Great, but they’re not the magic potion you’d expect them to be when you need it. Here’s a list of small tips that can have immediate effect when applying them/using them. Main theme: Liberate yourself from the designers’ block by restricting yourself. Do’s Grids If you aren’t already using grids, you’re doing something wrong. Not only are they a great help for aligning your design, they also restrict you to certain widths and heights. (For more information about grids, I suggest you read Mark Boulton’s series on designing grid systems. Oh, he’s also publishing a book I think.) So what’s the link between grids and restrictions? Instead of having the option to style a piece of layout with a width of 1 to 960 pixels, you have to choose from values like 60 pixels, 140, 220, 300, … Start small Having a hard time finding a style for the layout, why don’t you start with one small object? No, not that small object, I meant a piece of a form, or a link, or try styling your headers (h1 – h6). Let’s take a submit button of a form: it’s small, but needs much attention. People will click it. People will hover it. Maybe sometimes it’s disabled? Also: a button needs to look like a button, so typically it requires more styling then a regular link. Once you’ve got the button, move on, following the button’s style. Color palettes There are lots of resources on the web for finding inspiration for color palettes. Some of the most famous are COLOURlovers, wear palettes and Adobe’s Kuler. Browse through them … 2008 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2008-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/rocking-restrictions/ process
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
45 Is Agile Harder for Agencies? I once sat in a pitch meeting and watched a new business exec tell a potential client that his agency followed an agile workflow process at all times. The potential client nodded wisely, and they both agreed that agile was indeed the way to go. The meeting progressed and they signed off on a contract for a massive project, to be delivered in a standard waterfall fashion, with all manner of phases and key deliverables. Of course both of them left the meeting perfectly happy, because neither of them knew nor cared what an agile workflow process might be. That was about five years ago. As 2015 heaves into view I think it’s fair to say that attitudes have changed. Perhaps the same number of people claim to do Agile™ now as in 2010, but I think more of them are telling the truth. As a developer in an agency that works primarily with larger organisations, this year I have started to see a shift from agencies pushing agile methodologies with their clients, to clients requesting and even demanding agile practices from their agencies. Only a couple of years ago this would have been unusual behaviour. So what’s the problem? We should be happy then, no? Those of us in agencies will get to spend more time delivering great products, and less time arguing over out-of-date functional specs or battling through an adversarial change management procedure because somebody had a good idea during development rather than planning. We get to be a little bit more like our brothers and sisters in vaunted teams like the Government Digital Service, which is using agile approaches to great effect on projects that have a real benefit to their users. Almost. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that adhering to an agile framework such as scrum is more difficult within an agency/client structure than it is for an in-house development team. This is no surprise. The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001 by a group of software developers for their own use. Many of the underlying principles of a framework like Scrum assume the existence of… 2014 Charlie Perrins charlieperrins 2014-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/is-agile-harder-for-agencies/ process
304 Five Lessons From My First 18 Months as a Dev I recently moved from Sydney to London to start a dream job with Twitter as a software engineer. A software engineer! Who would have thought. Having started my career as a journalist, the title ‘engineer’ is very strange to me. The notion of writing in first person is also very strange. Journalists are taught to be objective, invisible, to keep yourself out of the story. And here I am writing about myself on a public platform. Cringe. Since I started learning to code I’ve often felt compelled to write about my experience. I want to share my excitement and struggles with the world! But as a junior I’ve been held back by thoughts like ‘whatever you have to say won’t be technical enough’, ‘any time spent writing a blog would be better spent writing code’, ‘blogging is narcissistic’, etc.  Well, I’ve been told that your thirties are the years where you stop caring so much about what other people think. And I’m almost 30. So here goes! These are five key lessons from my first year and a half in tech: Deployments should delight, not dread Lesson #1: Making your deployment process as simple as possible is worth the investment. In my first dev job, I dreaded deployments. We would deploy every Sunday night at 8pm. Preparation would begin the Friday before. A nominated deployment manager would spend half a day tagging master, generating scripts, writing documentation and raising JIRAs. The only fun part was choosing a train gif to post in HipChat: ‘All aboard! The deployment train leaves in 3, 2, 1…” When Sunday night came around, at least one person from every squad would need to be online to conduct smoke tests. Most times, the deployments would succeed. Other times they would fail. Regardless, deployments ate into people’s weekend time — and they were intense. Devs would rush to have their code approved before the Friday cutoff. Deployment managers who were new to the process would fear making a mistake.  The team knew deployments were a problem. They were constantly striving to improve them. And what I’ve learnt fr… 2016 Amy Simmons amysimmons 2016-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/my-first-18-months-as-a-dev/ process
16 URL Rewriting for the Fearful I think it was Marilyn Monroe who said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, please just fix these rewrite rules, I’m getting an internal server error.” Even the blonde bombshell hated configuring URL rewrites on her website, and I think most of us know where she was coming from. The majority of website projects I work on require some amount of URL rewriting, and I find it mildly enjoyable — I quite like a good rewrite rule. I suspect you may not share my glee, so in this article we’re going to go back to basics to try to make the whole rigmarole more understandable. When we think about URL rewriting, usually that means adding some rules to an .htaccess file for an Apache web server. As that’s the most common case, that’s what I’ll be sticking to here. If you work with a different server, there’s often documentation specifically for translating from Apache’s mod_rewrite rules. I even found an automatic converter for nginx. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive guide to every URL rewriting problem you might ever have. That would take us until Christmas. If you consider yourself a trial-and-error dabbler in the HTTP 500-infested waters of URL rewriting, then hopefully this will provide a little bit more of a basis to help you figure out what you’re doing. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the white screen of death after screwing up your .htaccess file, don’t worry. As Michael Jackson once insipidly whined, you are not alone. The basics Rewrite rules form part of the Apache web server’s configuration for a website, and can be placed in a number of different locations as part of your virtual host configuration. By far the simplest and most portable option is to use an .htaccess file in your website root. Provided your server has mod_rewrite available, all you need to do to kick things off in your .htaccess file is: RewriteEngine on The general formula for a rewrite rule is: RewriteRule URL/to/match URL/to/use/if/it/matches [options] When we talk about URL rewriting, we’re normally talking about one o… 2013 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2013-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/url-rewriting-for-the-fearful/ code

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               [title] TEXT  ,
   [contents] TEXT  ,
   [year] TEXT  ,
   [author] TEXT  ,
   [author_slug] TEXT  ,
   [published] TEXT  ,
   [url] TEXT  ,
   [topic] TEXT  
        )
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