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227 A Contentmas Epiphany The twelve days of Christmas fall between 25 December, Christmas Day, and 6 January, the Epiphany of the Kings. Traditionally, these have been holidays and a lot of us still take a good proportion of these days off. Equally, a lot of us have a got a personal site kicking around somewhere that we sigh over and think, “One day I’ll sort you out!” Why not take this downtime to give it a big ol’ refresh? I know, good idea, huh? HEY WAIT! WOAH! NO-ONE’S TOUCHING PHOTOSHOP OR DOING ANY CSS FANCYWORK UNTIL I’M DONE WITH YOU! Be honest, did you immediately think of a sketch or mockup you have tucked away? Or some clever little piece of code you want to fiddle with? Now ask yourself, why would you start designing the container if you haven’t worked out what you need to put inside? Anyway, forget the content strategy lecture; I haven’t given you your gifts yet. I present The Twelve Days of Contentmas! This is a simple little plan to make sure that your personal site, blog or portfolio is not just looking good at the end of these twelve days, but is also a really useful repository of really useful content. WARNING KLAXON: There are twelve parts, one for each day of Christmas, so this is a lengthy article. I’m not expecting anyone to absorb this in one go. Add to Instapaper. There is no TL;DR for this because it’s a multipart process, m’kay? Even so, this plan of mine cuts corners on a proper applied strategy for content. You might find some aspects take longer than the arbitrary day I’ve assigned. And if you apply this to your company-wide intranet, I won’t be held responsible for the mess. That said, I encourage you to play along and sample some of the practical aspects of organising existing content and planning new content because it is, honestly, an inspiring and liberating process. For one thing, you get to review all the stuff you have put out for the world to look at and see what you could do next. This always leaves me full of ideas on how to plug the gaps I’ve found, so I hope you are similarly motivated come… 2010 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2010-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/a-contentmas-epiphany/ content
217 Beyond Web Mechanics – Creating Meaningful Web Design It was just over three years ago when I embarked on becoming a web designer, and the first opinion piece about the state of web design I came across was a conference talk by Elliot Jay Stocks called ‘Destroy the Web 2.0 Look’. Elliot’s presentation was a call to arms, a plea to web designers the world over to stop the endless reproductions of the so called ‘Web 2.0 look’. Three and a half years on from Elliot’s talk, what has changed? Well, from an aesthetic standpoint, not a whole lot. The Web 2.0 look has evolved, but it’s still with us and much of the web remains filled with cookie cutter websites that bear a striking resemblance to one another. This wouldn’t matter so much if these websites were selling comparable services or products, but they’re not. They look similar, they follow the same web design trends; their aesthetic style sends out a very similar message, yet they’re selling completely different services or products. How can you be communicating effectively with your users when your online book store is visually indistinguishable from an online cosmetic store? This just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to belittle the current version of the Web 2.0 look for the sake of it. I want to talk about the opportunity we have as web designers to create more meaningful experiences for the people using our websites. Using design wisely gives us the ability to communicate messages, ideas and attitudes that our users will understand and connect with. Being human As human beings we respond emotionally to everything around us – people, objects, posters, packaging or websites. We also respond in different ways to different kinds of aesthetic design and style. We care about style and aesthetics deeply, whether we realise it or not. Aesthetic design has the power to attract or repel. We often make decisions based purely on aesthetics and style – and don’t retailers the world over know it! We connect attitudes and strongly held beliefs to style. Individuals will proudly associate themselves with a certain style o… 2010 Mike Kus mikekus 2010-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/beyond-web-mechanics-creating-meaningful-web-design/ design
223 Calculating Color Contrast Some websites and services allow you to customize your profile by uploading pictures, changing the background color or other aspects of the design. As a customer, this personalization turns a web app into your little nest where you store your data. As a designer, letting your customers have free rein over the layout and design is a scary prospect. So what happens to all the stock text and images that are designed to work on nice white backgrounds? Even the Mac only lets you choose between two colors for the OS, blue or graphite! Opening up the ability to customize your site’s color scheme can be a recipe for disaster unless you are flexible and understand how to find maximum color contrasts. In this article I will walk you through two simple equations to determine if you should be using white or black text depending on the color of the background. The equations are both easy to implement and produce similar results. It isn’t a matter of which is better, but more the fact that you are using one at all! That way, even with the craziest of Geocities color schemes that your customers choose, at least your text will still be readable. Let’s have a look at a range of various possible colors. Maybe these are pre-made color schemes, corporate colors, or plucked from an image. Now that we have these potential background colors and their hex values, we need to find out whether the corresponding text should be in white or black, based on which has a higher contrast, therefore affording the best readability. This can be done at runtime with JavaScript or in the back-end before the HTML is served up. There are two functions I want to compare. The first, I call ’50%’. It takes the hex value and compares it to the value halfway between pure black and pure white. If the hex value is less than half, meaning it is on the darker side of the spectrum, it returns white as the text color. If the result is greater than half, it’s on the lighter side of the spectrum and returns black as the text value. In PHP: function getContra… 2010 Brian Suda briansuda 2010-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/calculating-color-contrast/ code
237 Circles of Confusion Long before I worked on the web, I specialised in training photographers how to use large format, 5×4″ and 10×8″ view cameras – film cameras with swing and tilt movements, bellows and upside down, back to front images viewed on dim, ground glass screens. It’s been fifteen years since I clicked a shutter on a view camera, but some things have stayed with me from those years. In photography, even the best lenses don’t focus light onto a point (infinitely small in size) but onto ‘spots’ or circles in the ‘film/image plane’. These circles of light have dimensions, despite being microscopically small. They’re known as ‘circles of confusion’. As circles of light become larger, the more unsharp parts of a photograph appear. On the flip side, when circles are smaller, an image looks sharper and more in focus. This is the basis for photographic depth of field and with that comes the knowledge that no photograph can be perfectly focused, never truly sharp. Instead, photographs can only be ‘acceptably unsharp’. Acceptable unsharpness is now a concept that’s relevant to the work we make for the web, because often – unless we compromise – websites cannot look or be experienced exactly the same across browsers, devices or platforms. Accepting that fact, and learning to look upon these natural differences as creative opportunities instead of imperfections, can be tough. Deciding which aspects of a design must remain consistent and, therefore, possibly require more time, effort or compromises can be tougher. Circles of confusion can help us, our bosses and our customers make better, more informed decisions. Acceptable unsharpness Many clients still demand that every aspect of a design should be ‘sharp’ – that every user must see rounded boxes, gradients and shadows – without regard for the implications. I believe that this stems largely from the fact that they have previously been shown designs – and asked for sign-off – using static images. It’s also true that in the past, organisations have invested heavily in style gu… 2010 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2010-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/circles-of-confusion/ 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
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
236 Extreme Design Recently, I set out with twelve other designers and developers for a 19th century fortress on the Channel Island of Alderney. We were going to /dev/fort, a sort of band camp for geeks. Our cohort’s mission: to think up, build and finish something – without readily available internet access. Alderney runway, photo by Chris Govias Wait, no internet? Well, pretty much. As the creators of /dev/fort James Aylett and Mark Norman Francis put it: “Imagine a place with no distractions – no IM, no Twitter”. But also no way to quickly look up a design pattern, code sample or source material. Like packing for camping, /dev/fort means bringing everything you’ll need on your back or your hard drive: from long johns to your favourite icon set. We got to work the first night discussing ideas for what we wanted to build. By the time breakfast was cleared up the next morning, we’d settled on Russ’s idea to make the Apollo 13 (PDF) transcript accessible. Days two and three were spent collaboratively planning (KJ style) what features we wanted to build, and unravelling the larger UX challenges of the project. The next five days were spent building it. Within 36 hours of touchdown at Southampton Airport, we launched our creation: spacelog.org The weather was cold, the coal fire less than ideal, food and supplies a hike away, and the process lightning-fast. A week of designing under extreme circumstances called for an extreme process. Some of this was driven by James’s and Norm’s experience running these things, but a lot of it materialised while we were there – especially for our three-strong design team (myself, Gavin O’ Carroll and Chris Govias) who, though we knew each other, had never worked together as a group in this kind of scenario before. The outcome was a pretty spectacular process, with a some key takeaways useful for any small group trying to build something quickly. What it’s like inside the fort /dev/fort has the pressure and pace of a hack day without being a hack day – primarily, no workshops or interruptio… 2010 Hannah Donovan hannahdonovan 2010-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/extreme-design/ process
220 Finding Your Way with Static Maps Since the introduction of the Google Maps service in 2005, online maps have taken off in a way not really possible before the invention of slippy map interaction. Although quickly followed by a plethora of similar services from both commercial and non-commercial parties, Google’s first-mover advantage, and easy-to-use developer API saw Google Maps become pretty much the de facto mapping service. It’s now so easy to add a map to a web page, there’s no reason not to. Dropping an iframe map into your page is as simple as embedding a YouTube video. But there’s one crucial drawback to both the solution Google provides for you to drop into your page and the code developers typically implement themselves – they don’t work without JavaScript. A bit about JavaScript Back in October of this year, The Yahoo! Developer Network blog ran some tests to measure how many visitors to the Yahoo! home page didn’t have JavaScript available or enabled in their browser. It’s an interesting test when you consider that the audience for the Yahoo! home page (one of the most visited pages on the web) represents about as mainstream a sample as you’ll find. If there’s any such thing as an ‘average Web user’ then this is them. The results surprised me. It varied from region to region, but at most just two per cent of visitors didn’t have JavaScript running. To be honest, I was expecting it to be higher, but this quote from the article caught my attention: While the percentage of visitors with JavaScript disabled seems like a low number, keep in mind that small percentages of big numbers are also big numbers. That’s right, of course, and it got me thinking about what that two per cent means. For many sites, two per cent is the number of visitors using the Opera web browser, using IE6, or using Mobile Safari. So, although a small percentage of the total, users without JavaScript can’t just be forgotten about, and catering for them is at the very heart of how the web is supposed to work. Starting with content in HTML, we layer on … 2010 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2010-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/finding-your-way-with-static-maps/ code
224 Go Forth and Make Awesomeness We’ve all dreamed of being a superhero: maybe that’s why we’ve ended up on the web—a place where we can do good deeds and celebrate them on a daily basis. Wear your dreams At age four, I wore my Wonder Woman Underoos around my house, my grandparents’ house, our neighbor’s house, and even around the yard. I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I was crushed to learn that there is no school for superheroes—no place to earn a degree in how to save the world from looming evil. Instead, I—like everyone else—was destined to go to ordinary school to focus on ABCs and 123s. Even still, I want to save the world. Intend your goodness Random acts of kindness make a difference. Books, films, and advertising campaigns tout random acts of kindness and the positive influence they can have on the world. But why do acts of kindness have to be so random? Why can’t we intend to be kind? A true superhero wakes each morning intending to perform selfless acts for the community. Why can’t we do the same thing? As a child, my mother taught me to plan to do at least three good deeds each day. And even now, years later, I put on my invisible cape looking for ways to do good. Here are some examples: slowing down to allow another driver in before me from the highway on-ramp bringing a co-worker their favorite kind of coffee or tea sharing my umbrella on a rainy day holding a door open for someone with full hands listening intently when someone shares a story complimenting someone on a job well done thanking someone for a job well done leaving a constructive, or even supportive comment on someone’s blog As you can see, these acts are simple. Doing good and being kind is partially about being aware—aware of the words we speak and the actions we take. Like superheroes, we create our own code of conduct to live by. Hopefully, we choose to put the community before ourselves (within reason) and to do our best not to damage it as we move through our lives. Take a bite out of the Apple With some thought, we can weave this ty… 2010 Leslie Jensen-Inman lesliejenseninman 2010-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/go-forth-and-make-awesomeness/ business
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
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
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
234 An Introduction to CSS 3-D Transforms Ladies and gentlemen, it is the second decade of the third millennium and we are still kicking around the same 2-D interface we got three decades ago. Sure, Apple debuted a few apps for OSX 10.7 that have a couple more 3-D flourishes, and Microsoft has had that Flip 3D for a while. But c’mon – 2011 is right around the corner. That’s Twenty Eleven, folks. Where is our 3-D virtual reality? By now, we should be zipping around the Metaverse on super-sonic motorbikes. Granted, the capability of rendering complex 3-D environments has been present for years. On the web, there are already several solutions: Flash; three.js in <canvas>; and, eventually, WebGL. Finally, we meagre front-end developers have our own three-dimensional jewel: CSS 3-D transforms! Rationale Like a beautiful jewel, 3-D transforms can be dazzling, a true spectacle to behold. But before we start tacking 3-D diamonds and rubies to our compositions like Liberace‘s tailor, we owe it to our users to ask how they can benefit from this awesome feature. An entire application should not take advantage of 3-D transforms. CSS was built to style documents, not generate explorable environments. I fail to find a benefit to completing a web form that can be accessed by swivelling my viewport to the Sign-Up Room (although there have been proposals to make the web just that). Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities to use 3-D transforms in between interactions with the interface, via transitions. Take, for instance, the Weather App on the iPhone. The application uses two views: a details view; and an options view. Switching between these two views is done with a 3-D flip transition. This informs the user that the interface has two – and only two – views, as they can exist only on either side of the same plane. Flipping from details view to options view via a 3-D transition Also, consider slide shows. When you’re looking at the last slide, what cues tip you off that advancing will restart the cycle at the first slide? A better paradigm might be achi… 2010 David DeSandro daviddesandro 2010-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/intro-to-css-3d-transforms/ code
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
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
232 Optimize Your Web Design Workflow I’m not sure about you, but I still favour using Photoshop to create my designs for the web. I agree that this application, even with its never-ending feature set, is not the perfect environment to design websites in. The ideal application doesn’t exist yet, however, so until it does it’s maybe not such a bad idea to investigate ways to optimize our workflow. Why use Photoshop? It will probably not come as a surprise if I say that Photoshop and Illustrator are the applications that I know best and feel most comfortable and creative in. Some people prefer Fireworks for web design. Even though I understand people’s motivations, I still prefer Photoshop personally. On the occasions that I gave Fireworks a try, I ended up just using the application to export my images as slices, or to prepare a dummy for the client. For some reason, I’ve never been able to find my way in that app. There were always certain things missing that could only be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator, which bothered me. Why not start in the browser? These days, with CSS3 styling emerging, there are people who find it more efficient to design in the browser. I agree that at a certain point, once the basic design is all set and defined, you can jump right into the code and go from there. But the actual creative part, at least for me, needs to be done in an application such as Photoshop. As a designer I need to be able to create and experiment with shapes on the fly, draw things, move them around, change colours, gradients, effects, and so on. I can’t see me doing this with code. I’m sure if I switch to markup too quickly, I might end up with a rather boxy and less interesting design. Once I start playing with markup, I leave my typical ‘design zone’. My brain starts thinking differently – more rational and practical, if you know what I mean; I start to structure and analyse how to mark up my design in the most efficient semantic way. When I design, I tend to let that go for a bit. I think more freely and not so much about the limitatio… 2010 Veerle Pieters veerlepieters 2010-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/optimize-your-web-design-workflow/ process
218 Put Yourself in a Corner Some backstory, and a shameful confession For the first couple years of high school I was one of those jerks who made only the minimal required effort in school. Strangely enough, how badly I behaved in a class was always in direct proportion to how skilled I was in the subject matter. In the subjects where I was confident that I could pass without trying too hard, I would give myself added freedom to goof off in class. Because I was a closeted lit-nerd, I was most skilled in English class. I’d devour and annotate required reading over the weekend, I knew my biblical and mythological allusions up and down, and I could give you a postmodern interpretation of a text like nobody’s business. But in class, I’d sit in the back and gossip with my friends, nap, or scribble patterns in the margins of my textbooks. I was nonchalant during discussion, I pretended not to listen during lectures. I secretly knew my stuff, so I did well enough on tests, quizzes, and essays. But I acted like an ass, and wasn’t getting the most I could out of my education. The day of humiliation, but also epiphany One day in Ms. Kaney’s AP English Lit class, I was sitting in the back doodling. An earbud was dangling under my sweater hood, attached to the CD player (remember those?) sitting in my desk. Because of this auditory distraction, the first time Ms. Kaney called my name, I barely noticed. I definitely heard her the second time, when she didn’t call my name so much as roar it. I can still remember her five feet frame stomping across the room and grabbing an empty desk. It screamed across the worn tile as she slammed it next to hers. She said, “This is where you sit now.” My face gets hot just thinking about it. I gathered my things, including the CD player (which was now impossible to conceal), and made my way up to the newly appointed Seat of Shame. There I sat, with my back to the class, eye-to-eye with Ms. Kaney. From my new vantage point I couldn’t see my friends, or the clock, or the window. All I saw were Ms. Kaney’s eyes, peeri… 2010 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2010-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/put-yourself-in-a-corner/ process
235 Real Animation Using JavaScript, CSS3, and HTML5 Video When I was in school to be a 3-D animator, I read a book called Timing for Animation. Though only 152 pages long, it’s essentially the bible for anyone looking to be a great animator. In fact, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter used the first edition as a reference when he was an animator at Walt Disney Studios in the early 1980s. In the book, authors John Halas and Harold Whitaker advise: Timing is the part of animation which gives meaning to movement. Movement can easily be achieved by drawing the same thing in two different positions and inserting a number of other drawings between the two. The result on the screen will be movement; but it will not be animation. But that’s exactly what we’re doing with CSS3 and JavaScript: we’re moving elements, not animating them. We’re constantly specifying beginning and end states and allowing the technology to interpolate between the two. And yet, it’s the nuances within those middle frames that create the sense of life we’re looking for. As bandwidth increases and browser rendering grows more consistent, we can create interactions in different ways than we’ve been able to before. We’re encountering motion more and more on sites we’d generally label ‘static.’ However, this motion is mostly just movement, not animation. It’s the manipulation of an element’s properties, most commonly width, height, x- and y-coordinates, and opacity. So how do we create real animation? The metaphor In my experience, animation is most believable when it simulates, exaggerates, or defies the real world. A bowling ball falls differently than a racquetball. They each have different weights and sizes, which affect the way they land, bounce, and impact other objects. This is a major reason that JavaScript animation frequently feels mechanical; it doesn’t complete a metaphor. Expanding and collapsing a <div> feels very different than a opening a door or unfolding a piece of paper, but it often shouldn’t. The interaction itself should tie directly to the art direction of a page. P… 2010 Dan Mall danmall 2010-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/real-animation-using-javascript-css3-and-html5-video/ code
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
219 Speed Up Your Site with Delayed Content Speed remains one of the most important factors influencing the success of any website, and the first rule of performance (according to Yahoo!) is reducing the number of HTTP requests. Over the last few years we’ve seen techniques like sprites and combo CSS/JavaScript files used to reduce the number of HTTP requests. But there’s one area where large numbers of HTTP requests are still a fact of life: the small avatars attached to the comments on articles like this one. Avatars Many sites like 24 ways use a fantastic service called Gravatar to provide user images. As a user, you can sign up to Gravatar, give them your e-mail address, and upload an image to represent you. Sites can then include your image by generating a one way hash of your e-mail address and using that to build an image URL. For example, the markup for the comments on this page looks something like this: <div> <h4><a href="http://allinthehead.com/"> <img src="http://www.gravatar.com/avatar.php?gravatar_id=13734b0cb20708f79e730809c29c3c48&size=100" class="gravatar" alt="" height="100" width="100" /> Drew McLellan </a></h4> <p>This is a great article!</p> </div> The Gravatar URL contains two parts. 100 is the size in pixels of the image we want. 13734b0cb20708f79e730809c29c3c48 is an MD5 digest of Drew’s e-mail address. Using MD5 means we can request an image for a user without sharing their e-mail address with anyone who views the source of the page. So what’s wrong with avatars? The problem is that a popular article can easily get hundreds of comments, and every one of them means another image has to be individually requested from Gravatar’s servers. Each request is small and the Gravatar servers are fast but, when you add them up, it can easily add seconds to the rendering time of a page. Worse, they can delay the loading of more important assets like the CSS required to render the main content of the page. These images aren’t critical to the page, and don’t need to be loaded up front. Let’s see if we can delay loading them until… 2010 Paul Hammond paulhammond 2010-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/speed-up-your-site-with-delayed-content/ ux
230 The Articulate Web Designer of Tomorrow You could say that we design to communicate, and that we seek emotive responses. It sounds straightforward, and it can be, but leaving it to chance isn’t wise. Many wander into web design without formal training, and whilst that certainly isn’t essential, we owe it to ourselves to draw on wider influences, learn from the past, and think smarter. What knowledge can we ourselves explore in order to become better designers? In addition, how can we take this knowledge, investigate it through our unique discipline, and in turn speak more eloquently about what we do on the web? Below, I outline a number of things that I personally believe all designers should be using and exploring collectively. Taking stock Where we’re at is good. Finding clarity through web standards, we’ve ended up quite modernist in our approach, pursuing function, elegance and reduction. However, we’re not great at articulating our own design processes and principles to outsiders. Equally, we rely heavily on our instincts when deciding if something is or isn’t good. That’s fine, but we can better understand why things are the way they are by looking a little deeper, thereby helping us articulate what goes on in our design brains to our peers, our clients and to normal humans. As designers we use ideas, concepts, text and images. We apply our ideas and experience, imposing order and structure to content, hoping to ease the communication of an idea to the largest possible audience or to a specific audience. We consciously manipulate most of what is available to us, but not all. There is something else we can use. I often think that brilliant work demands a keen understanding of the magical visual language that informs design. Embracing an established visual language This is a language whose alphabet is shapes, structures, colours, lines and rhythms. When effective, it is somewhat invisible, subliminally enforcing messages and evoking meaning, using methods solidly rooted in a grammar perceptible in virtually all extraordinary creative work. Th… 2010 Simon Collison simoncollison 2010-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-articulate-web-designer-of-tomorrow/ process
228 The Great Unveiling The moment of unveiling our designs should be among our proudest, but it never seems to work out that way. Instead of a chance to show how we can bring our clients’ visions to life, critique can be a tense, worrying ordeal. And yes, the stakes are high: a superb design is only superb if it goes live. Mismanage the feedback process and your research, creativity and hard work can be wasted, and your client may wonder whether you’ve been worth the investment. The great unveiling is a pivotal part of the design process, but it needn’t be a negative one. Just as usability testing teaches us whether our designs meet user needs, presenting our work to clients tells us whether we’ve met important business goals. So how can we turn the tide to make presenting designs a constructive experience, and to give good designs a chance to shine through? Timing is everything First, consider when you should seek others’ opinions. Your personal style will influence whether you show early sketches or wait to demonstrate something more complete. Some designers thrive at low fidelity, sketching out ideas that, despite their rudimentary nature, easily spark debate. Other designers take time to create more fully-realised versions. Some even argue that the great unveiling should be eliminated altogether by working directly alongside the client throughout, collaborating on the design to reach its full potential. Whatever your individual preference, you’ll rarely have the chance to do it entirely your own way. Contracts, clients, and deadlines will affect how early and often you share your work. However, try to avoid the trap of presenting too late and at too high fidelity. My experience has taught me that skilled designers tend to present their work earlier and allow longer for iteration than novices do. More aware of the potential flaws in their solutions, these designers cling less tightly to their initial efforts. Working roughly and seeking early feedback gives you the flexibility to respond more fully to nuances you may have misse… 2010 Cennydd Bowles cennyddbowles 2010-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-great-unveiling/ business
221 “Probably, Maybe, No”: The State of HTML5 Audio With the hype around HTML5 and CSS3 exceeding levels not seen since 2005’s Ajax era, it’s worth noting that the excitement comes with good reason: the two specifications render many years of feature hacks redundant by replacing them with native features. For fun, consider how many CSS2-based rounded corners hacks you’ve probably glossed over, looking for a magic solution. These days, with CSS3, the magic is border-radius (and perhaps some vendor prefixes) followed by a coffee break. CSS3’s border-radius, box-shadow, text-shadow and gradients, and HTML5’s <canvas>, <audio> and <video> are some of the most anticipated features we’ll see put to creative (ab)use as adoption of the ‘new shiny’ grows. Developers jumping on the cutting edge are using subsets of these features to little detriment, in most cases. The more popular CSS features are design flourishes that can degrade nicely, but the current audio and video implementations in particular suffer from a number of annoyances. The new shiny: how we got here Sound involves one of the five senses, a key part of daily life for most – and yet it has been strangely absent from HTML and much of the web by default. From a simplistic perspective, it seems odd that HTML did not include support for the full multimedia experience earlier, despite the CD-ROM-based craze of the early 1990s. In truth, standards like HTML can take much longer to bake, but eventually deliver the promise of a lowered barrier to entry, consistent implementations and shiny new features now possible ‘for free’ just about everywhere. <img> was introduced early and naturally to HTML, despite having some opponents at the time. Perhaps <audio> and <video> were avoided, given the added technical complexity of decoding various multi-frame formats, plus the hardware and bandwidth limitations of the era. Perhaps there were quarrels about choosing a standard format or – more simply – maybe these elements just weren’t considered to be applicable to the HTML-based web at the time. In any event, browser plug… 2010 Scott Schiller scottschiller 2010-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-state-of-html5-audio/ code
239 Using the WebFont Loader to Make Browsers Behave the Same Web fonts give us designers a whole new typographic palette with which to work. However, browsers handle the loading of web fonts in different ways, and this can lead to inconsistent user experiences. Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer leave a blank space in place of the styled text while the web font is loading. Opera and Firefox show text with the default font which switches over when the web font has loaded, resulting in the so-called Flash of Unstyled Text (aka FOUT). Some people prefer Safari’s approach as it eliminates FOUT, others think the Firefox way is more appropriate as content can be read whilst fonts download. Whatever your preference, the WebFont Loader can make all browsers behave the same way. The WebFont Loader is a JavaScript library that gives you extra control over font loading. It was co-developed by Google and Typekit, and released as open source. The WebFont Loader works with most web font services as well as with self-hosted fonts. The WebFont Loader tells you when the following events happen as a browser downloads web fonts (or loads them from cache): when fonts start to download (‘loading’) when fonts finish loading (‘active’) if fonts fail to load (‘inactive’) If your web page requires more than one font, the WebFont Loader will trigger events for individual fonts, and for all the fonts as a whole. This means you can find out when any single font has loaded, and when all the fonts have loaded (or failed to do so). The WebFont Loader notifies you of these events in two ways: by applying special CSS classes when each event happens; and by firing JavaScript events. For our purposes, we’ll be using just the CSS classes. Implementing the WebFont Loader As stated above, the WebFont Loader works with most web font services as well as with self-hosted fonts. Self-hosted fonts To use the WebFont Loader when you are hosting the font files on your own server, paste the following code into your web page: <script type="text/javascript"> WebFontConfig = { custom: { families: ['Fon… 2010 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2010-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/using-the-webfont-loader-to-make-browsers-behave-the-same/ code

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