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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
266 Collaborative Development for a Responsively Designed Web In responsive web design we’ve found a technique that allows us to design for the web as a medium in its own right: one that presents a fluid, adaptable and ever changing canvas. Until this point, we gave little thought to the environment in which users will experience our work, caring more about the aggregate than the individual. The applications we use encourage rigid layouts, whilst linear processes focus on clients signing off paintings of websites that have little regard for behaviour and interactions. The handover of pristine, pixel-perfect creations to developers isn’t dissimilar to farting before exiting a crowded lift, leaving front-end developers scratching their heads as they fill in the inevitable gaps. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Drew’s checklist of things to consider before handing over a design. Somehow, this broken methodology has survived for the last fifteen years or so. Even the advent of web standards has had little impact. Now, as we face an onslaught of different devices, the true universality of the web can no longer be ignored. Responsive web design is just the thin end of the wedge. Largely concerned with layout, its underlying philosophy could ignite a trend towards interfaces that adapt to any number of different variables: input methods, bandwidth availability, user preference – you name it! With such adaptability, a collaborative and iterative process is required. Ethan Marcotte, who worked with the team behind the responsive redesign of the Boston Globe website, talked about such an approach in his book: The responsive projects I’ve worked on have had a lot of success combining design and development into one hybrid phase, bringing the two teams into one highly collaborative group. Whilst their process still involved the creation of desktop-centric mock-ups, these were presented to the entire team early on, where questions about how pages might adapt and behave at different sizes were asked. Mock-ups were quickly converted into HTML prototypes, meaning furthe… 2011 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2011-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/collaborative-development-for-a-responsively-designed-web/ business
267 Taming Complexity I’m going to step into my UX trousers for this one. I wouldn’t usually wear them in public, but it’s Christmas, so there’s nothing wrong with looking silly. Anyway, to business. Wherever I roam, I hear the familiar call for simplicity and the denouncement of complexity. I read often that the simpler something is, the more usable it will be. We understand that simple is hard to achieve, but we push for it nonetheless, convinced it will make what we build easier to use. Simple is better, right? Well, I’ll try to explore that. Much of what follows will not be revelatory to some but, like all good lessons, I think this serves as a welcome reminder that as we live in a complex world it’s OK to sometimes reflect that complexity in the products we build. Myths and legends Less is more, we’ve been told, ever since master of poetic verse Robert Browning used the phrase in 1855. Well, I’ve conducted some research, and it appears he knew nothing of web design. Neither did modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a later pedlar of this worthy yet contradictory notion. Broad is narrow. Tall is short. Eggs are chips. See: anyone can come up with this stuff. To paraphrase Einstein, simple doesn’t have to be simpler. In other words, simple doesn’t dictate that we remove the complexity. Complex doesn’t have to be confusing; it can be beautiful and elegant. On the web, complex can be necessary and powerful. A website that simplifies the lives of its users by offering them everything they need in one site or screen is powerful. For some, the greater the density of information, the more useful the site. In our decision-making process, principles such as Occam’s razor’s_razor (in a nutshell: simple is better than complex) are useful, but simple is for the user to determine through their initial impression and subsequent engagement. What appears simple to me or you might appear very complex to someone else, based on their own mental model or needs. We can aim to deliver simple, but they’ll be the judge. As a designer, deve… 2011 Simon Collison simoncollison 2011-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/taming-complexity/ ux
268 Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics Something a bit different for today’s 24 ways article. For starters, I’m not a designer or a developer. I’m an evil man who sells things to people on the internet. Second, this article will likely be a little more nebulous than you’re used to, since it covers quite a number of points in a relatively short space. This isn’t going to be the complete Google Analytics Conversion University IQ course compressed into a single article, obviously. What it will be, however, is a primer on setting up and using Google Analytics in real life, and a great deal of what I’ve learned using Google Analytics nearly every working day for the past six (crikey!) years. Also, to be clear, I’ll be referencing new Google Analytics here; old Google Analytics is for loooosers (and those who want reliable e-commerce conversion data per site search term, natch). You may have been running your Analytics account for several years now, dipping in and out, checking traffic levels, seeing what’s popular… and that’s about it. Google Analytics provides so much more than that, but the number of reports available can often intimidate users, and documentation and case studies on their use are minimal at best. Let’s start! Setting up your Analytics profile Before we plough on, I just want to run through a quick checklist that some basic settings have been enabled for your profile. If you haven’t clicked it, click the big cog on the top-right of Google Analytics and we’ll have a poke about. If you have an e-commerce site, e-commerce tracking has been enabled
 If your site has a search function, site search tracking has been enabled. Query string parameters that you do not want tracked as separate pages have been excluded (for example, any parameters needed for your platform to function, otherwise you’ll get multiple entries for the same page appearing in your reports) Filters have been enabled on your main profile to exclude your office IP address and any IPs of people who frequently access the site for work purposes. In decent numbers the… 2011 Matt Curry mattcurry 2011-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/getting-the-most-out-of-google-analytics/ business
269 Adaptive Images for Responsive Designs… Again When I was asked to write an article for 24 ways I jumped at the chance, as I’d been wanting to write about some fun hacks for responsive images and related parsing behaviours. My heart sank a little when Matt Wilcox beat me to the subject, but it floated back up when I realized I disagreed with his method and still had something to write about. So, Matt Wilcox, if that is your real name (and I’m pretty sure it is), I disagree. I see your dirty server-based hack and raise you an even dirtier client-side hack. Evil laugh, etc., etc. You guys can stomach yet another article about responsive design, right? Right? Half the room gets up to leave Whoa, whoa… OK, I’ll cut to the chase… TL;DR In a previous episode, we were introduced to Debbie and her responsive cat poetry page. Well, now she’s added some reviews of cat videos and some images of cats. Check out her new page and have a play around with the browser window. At smaller widths, the images change and the design responds. The benefits of this method are: it’s entirely client-side images are still shown to users without JavaScript your media queries stay in your CSS file no repetition of image URLs no extra downloads per image it’s fast enough to work on resize it’s pure filth What’s wrong with the server-side solution? Responsive design is a client-side issue; involving the server creates a boatload of problems. It sets a cookie at the top of the page which is read in subsequent requests. However, the cookie is not guaranteed to be set in time for requests on the same page, so the server may see an old value or no value at all. Serving images via server scripts is much slower than plain old static hosting. The URL can only cache with vary: cookie, so the cache breaks when the cookie changes, even if the change is unrelated. Also, far-future caching is out for devices that can change width. It depends on detecting screen width, which is rather messy on mobile devices. Responding to things other than screen width (such as DPI) means packi… 2011 Jake Archibald jakearchibald 2011-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/adaptive-images-for-responsive-designs-again/ ux
270 From Side Project to Not So Side Project In the last article I wrote for 24 ways, back in 2009, I enthused about the benefits of having a pet project, suggesting that we should all have at least one so that we could collaborate with our friends, escape our day jobs, fulfil our own needs, help others out, raise our profiles, make money, and — most importantly — have fun. I don’t think I need to offer any further persuasions: it seems that designers and developers are launching their own pet projects left, right and centre. This makes me very happy. However, there still seems to be something of a disconnect between having a side project and turning it into something that is moderately successful; in particular, the challenge of making enough money to sustain the project and perhaps even elevating it from the sidelines so that it becomes something not so on the side at all. Before we even begin this, let’s spend a moment talking about money, also known as… Evil, nasty, filthy money Over the last couple of years, I’ve started referring to myself as an accidental businessman. I say accidental because my view of the typical businessman is someone who is driven by money, and I usually can’t stand such people. Those who are motivated by profit, obsessed with growth, and take an active interest in the world’s financial systems don’t tend to be folks with whom I share a beer, unless it’s to pour it over them. Especially if they’re wearing pinstriped suits. That said, we all want to make money, don’t we? And most of us want to make a relatively decent amount, too. I don’t think there’s any harm in admitting that, is there? Hello, I’m Elliot and I’m a capitalist. The key is making money from doing what we love. For most people I know in our community, we’ve already achieved that — I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who isn’t extremely passionate about working in our industry and I think it’s one of the most positive, unifying benefits we enjoy as a group of like-minded people — but side projects usually arise from another kind of passion: a passion for somet… 2011 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2011-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/from-side-project-to-not-so-side-project/ business
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
272 Crafting the Front-end Much has been spoken and written recently about the virtues of craftsmanship in the context of web design and development. It seems that we as fabricators of the web are finally tiring of seeking out parallels between ourselves and architects, and are turning instead to the fabled specialist artisans. Identifying oneself as a craftsman or craftswoman (let’s just say craftsperson from here onward) will likely be a trend of early 2012. In this pre-emptive strike, I’d like to expound on this movement as I feel it pertains to front-end development, and encourage care and understanding of the true qualities of craftsmanship (craftspersonship). The core values I’ll begin by defining craftspersonship. What distinguishes a craftsperson from a technician? Dictionaries tend to define a craftsperson as one who possesses great skill in a chosen field. The badge of a craftsperson for me, though, is a very special label that should be revered and used sparingly, only where it is truly deserved. A genuine craftsperson encompasses a few other key traits, far beyond raw skill, each of which must be learned and mastered. A craftsperson has: An appreciation of good work, in both the work of others and their own. And not just good as in ‘hey, that’s pretty neat’, I mean a goodness like a shining purity – the kind of good that feels right when you see it. A belief in quality at every level: every facet of the craftsperson’s product is as crucial as any other, without exception, even those normally hidden from view. Vision: an ability to visualize their path ahead, pre-empting the obstacles that may be encountered to plan a route around them. A preference for simplicity: an almost Bauhausesque devotion to undecorated functionality, with no unjustifiable parts included. Sincerity: producing work that speaks directly to its purpose with flawless clarity. Only when you become a custodian of such values in your work can you consider calling yourself a craftsperson. Now let’s take a look at some steps we front-end developers … 2011 Ben Bodien benbodien 2011-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/crafting-the-front-end/ process
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
274 Adaptive Images for Responsive Designs So you’ve been building some responsive designs and you’ve been working through your checklist of things to do: You started with the content and designed around it, with mobile in mind first. You’ve gone liquid and there’s nary a px value in sight; % is your weapon of choice now. You’ve baked in a few media queries to adapt your layout and tweak your design at different window widths. You’ve made your images scale to the container width using the fluid Image technique. You’ve even done the same for your videos using a nifty bit of JavaScript. You’ve done a good job so pat yourself on the back. But there’s still a problem and it’s as tricky as it is important: image resolutions. HTML has an <img> problem CSS is great at adapting a website design to different window sizes – it allows you not only to tweak layout but also to send rescaled versions of the design’s images. And you want to do that because, after all, a smartphone does not need a 1,900-pixel background image1. HTML is less great. In the same way that you don’t want CSS background images to be larger than required, you don’t want that happening with <img>s either. A smartphone only needs a small image but desktop users need a large one. Unfortunately <img>s can’t adapt like CSS, so what do we do? Well, you could just use a high resolution image and the fluid image technique would scale it down to fit the viewport; but that’s sending an image five or six times the file size that’s really needed, which makes it slow to download and unpleasant to use. Smartphones are pretty impressive devices – my ancient iPhone 3G is more powerful in every way than my first proper computer – but they’re still terribly slow in comparison to today’s desktop machines. Sending a massive image means it has to be manipulated in memory and redrawn as you scroll. You’ll find phones rapidly run out of RAM and slow to a crawl. Well, OK. You went mobile first with everything else so why not put in mobile resolution <img>s too? Because even though mobile devices are rapi… 2011 Matt Wilcox mattwilcox 2011-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/adaptive-images-for-responsive-designs/ ux
275 Context First: Web Strategy in Four Handy Ws Many, many years ago, before web design became my proper job, I trained and worked as a journalist. I studied publishing in London and spent three fun years learning how to take a few little nuggets of information and turn them into a story. I learned a bunch of stuff that has all been a huge help to my design career. Flatplanning, layout, typographic theory. All of these disciplines have since translated really well to web design, but without doubt the most useful thing I learned was how to ask difficult questions. Pretty much from day one of journalism school they hammer into you the importance of the Five Ws. Five disarmingly simple lines of enquiry that eloquently manage to provide the meat of any decent story. And with alliteration thrown in too. For a young journo, it’s almost too good to be true. Who? What? Where? When? Why? It seems so obvious to almost be trite but, fundamentally, any story that manages to answer those questions for the reader is doing a pretty good job. You’ll probably have noticed feeling underwhelmed by certain news pieces in the past – disappointed, like something was missing. Some irritating oversight that really lets the story down. No doubt it was one of the Ws – those innocuous little suckers are generally only noticeable by their absence, but they sure get missed when they’re not there. Question everything I’ve always been curious. An inveterate tinkerer with things and asker of dopey questions, often to the point of abject annoyance for anyone unfortunate enough to have ended up in my line of fire. So, naturally, the Five Ws started drifting into other areas of my life. I’d scrutinize everything, trying to justify or explain my rationale using these Ws, but I’d also find myself ripping apart the stuff that clearly couldn’t justify itself against the same criteria. So when I started working as a designer I applied the same logic and, sure enough, the Ws pretty much mapped to the exact same needs we had for gathering requirements at the start of a project. It seemed so obvi… 2011 Alex Morris alexmorris 2011-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/context-first/ content
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
277 Raising the Bar on Mobile One of the primary challenges of designing for mobile devices is that screen real estate is often in limited supply. Through the advocacy of Luke W and others, we’ve drawn comfort from the idea that this constraint ends up benefiting users and designers alike, from obvious advantages like portability and reach, to influencing our content strategy decisions through focus and restraint. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of every last pixel of that screen we can snag! As anyone who has designed a website for use on a smartphone can attest, there’s an awful lot of space on mobile screens dedicated to browser functions that would be better off toggled out of view. Unfortunately, the visibility of some of these elements is beyond our control, such as the buttons fixed to the bottom of the viewport in iOS’s Safari and the WebOS browser. However, in many devices, the address bar at the top can be manually hidden, and its absence frees up enough pixel room for a large, impactful heading, a critical piece of navigation, or even just a little more white space to air things out. So, as my humble contribution to this most festive of web publications, today I’ll dig into the approach I used to hide the address bar in a browser-agnostic fashion for sites like BostonGlobe.com, and the jQuery Mobile framework. Surveying the land First, let’s assess the chromes of some popular, current mobile browsers. For example purposes, the following screen-captures feature the homepage of the Boston Globe site, without any address-bar-hiding logic in place. Note: these captures are just mockups – actual experience on these platforms may vary. On the left is iOS5’s Safari (running on iPhone), and on the right is Windows Phone 7 (pre-Mango). BlackBerry 7 (left), and Android 2.3 (right). WebOS (left), Opera Mini (middle), and Opera Mobile (right). Some browsers, such the default browsers on WebOS and BlackBerry 5, hide the bar automatically without any developer intervention, but many of them don’t. Of these, we can o… 2011 Scott Jehl scottjehl 2011-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/raising-the-bar-on-mobile/ design
278 Going Both Ways It’s that time of the year again: Santa is getting ready to travel the world. Up until now, girls and boys from all over have sent in letters asking for what they want. I hope that Santa and his elves have—unlike me—learned more than just English. On the Internet, those girls and boys want to participate in sharing their stories and videos of opening presents and of being with friends and family. Ah, yes, the wonders of user generated content. But more than that, people also want to be able to use sites in the language they know. While you and I might expect the text to read from left to right, not all languages do. Some go from right to left, such as Arabic and Hebrew. (Some also go from top to bottom, but for now, let’s just worry about those first two directions!) If we were building a site for girls and boys to send their letters to Santa, we need to consider having the interface in the language and direction that they prefer. On the elves’ side, they may be viewing the site in one direction but reading the user generated content in the other direction. We need to build a site that supports bidirectional (or bidi) text. Let’s take a look at some things to be aware of when it comes to building bidi interfaces. Setting the direction of the interface Right off the bat, we need to tell the browser what direction the text should be going in. To do this, we add the dir attribute to an HTML element and set it to either LTR (for left to right) or RTL (for right to left). <body dir="rtl"> You can add the dir attribute to any element and it will set or change the direction for the content within that element. <body dir="ltr"> Here is English Content. <div dir="rtl">الموضوع</div> </body> You can also set the direction via CSS. .rtl { direction: rtl; } It’s generally recommended that you don’t use CSS to set the direction of the text. Text direction is an important part of the content that should be retained even in environments where the CSS may not be available or fails to load. How things c… 2011 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2011-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/going-both-ways/ ux
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
280 Conditional Loading for Responsive Designs On the eighteenth day of last year’s 24 ways, Paul Hammond wrote a great article called Speed Up Your Site with Delayed Content. He outlined a technique for loading some content — like profile avatars — after the initial page load. This gives you a nice performance boost. There’s another situation where this kind of delayed loading could be really handy: mobile-first responsive design. Responsive design combines three techniques: a fluid grid flexible images media queries At first, responsive design was applied to existing desktop-centric websites to allow the layout to adapt to smaller screen sizes. But more recently it has been combined with another innovative approach called mobile first. Rather then starting with the big, bloated desktop site and then scaling down for smaller devices, it makes more sense to start with the constraints of the small screen and then scale up for larger viewports. Using this approach, your layout grid, your large images and your media queries are applied on top of the pre-existing small-screen design. It’s taking progressive enhancement to the next level. One of the great advantages of the mobile-first approach is that it forces you to really focus on the core content of your page. It might be more accurate to think of this as a content-first approach. You don’t have the luxury of sidebars or multiple columns to fill up with content that’s just nice to have rather than essential. But what happens when you apply your media queries for larger viewports and you do have sidebars and multiple columns? Well, you can load in that nice-to-have content using the same kind of Ajax functionality that Paul described in his article last year. The difference is that you first run a quick test to see if the viewport is wide enough to accommodate the subsidiary content. This is conditional delayed loading. Consider this situation: I’ve published an article about cats and I’d like to include relevant cat-related news items in the sidebar …but only if there’s enough room on the scree… 2011 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2011-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/conditional-loading-for-responsive-designs/ ux
281 Nine Things I've Learned I’ve been a professional graphic designer for fourteen years and for just under four of those a professional web designer. Like most designers I’ve learned a lot in my time, both from a design point of view and in business as freelance designer. A few of the things I’ve learned stick out in my mind, so I thought I’d share them with you. They’re pretty random and in no particular order. 1. Becoming the designer you want to be When I started out as a young graphic designer, I wanted to design posters and record sleeves, pretty much like every other young graphic designer. The problem is that the reality of the world means that when you get your first job you’re designing the back of a paracetamol packet or something equally weird. I recently saw a tweet that went something like this: “You’ll never become the designer you always dreamt of being by doing the work you never wanted to do”. This is so true; to become the designer you want to be, you need to be designing the things you’re passionate about designing. This probably this means working in the evenings and weekends for little or no money, but it’s time well spent. Doing this will build up your portfolio with the work that really shows what you can do! Soon, someone will ask you to design something based on having seen this work. From this point, you’re carving your own path in the direction of becoming the designer you always wanted to be. 2. Compete on your own terms As well as all being friends, we are also competitors. In order to win new work we need a selling point, preferably a unique selling point. Web design is a combination of design disciplines – user experience design, user interface Design, visual design, development, and so on. Some companies will sell themselves as UX specialists, which is fine, but everyone who designs a website from scratch does some sort of UX, so it’s not really a unique selling point. Of course, some people do it better than others. One area of web design that clients have a strong opinion on, and will judge you by, is… 2011 Mike Kus mikekus 2011-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/nine-things-ive-learned/ business
282 Front-end Style Guides We all know that feeling: some time after we launch a site, new designers and developers come in and make adjustments. They add styles that don’t fit with the content, use typefaces that make us cringe, or chuck in bloated code. But if we didn’t leave behind any documentation, we can’t really blame them for messing up our hard work. To counter this problem, graphic designers are often commissioned to produce style guides as part of a rebranding project. A style guide provides details such as how much white space should surround a logo, which typefaces and colours a brand uses, along with when and where it is appropriate to use them. Design guidelines Some design guidelines focus on visual branding and identity. The UK National Health Service (NHS) refer to theirs as “brand guidelines”. They help any designer create something such as a trustworthy leaflet for an NHS doctor’s surgery. Similarly, Transport for London’s “design standards” ensure the correct logos and typefaces are used in communications, and that they comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. Some guidelines go further, encompassing a whole experience, from the visual branding to the messaging, and the icon sets used. The BBC calls its guidelines a “Global Experience Language” or GEL. It’s essential for maintaining coherence across multiple sites under the same BBC brand. The BBC’s Global Experience Language. Design guidelines may be brief and loose to promote creativity, like Mozilla’s “brand toolkit”, or be precise and run to many pages to encourage greater conformity, such as Apple’s “Human Interface Guidelines”. Whatever name or form they’re given, documenting reusable styles is invaluable when maintaining a brand identity over time, particularly when more than one person (who may not be a designer) is producing material. Code standards documents We can make a similar argument for code. For example, in open source projects, where hundreds of developers are submitting code, it makes sense to set some standards. Drupal and Wordpress … 2011 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2011-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/front-end-style-guides/ process
283 CSS3 Patterns, Explained Many of you have probably seen my CSS3 patterns gallery. It became very popular throughout the year and it showed many web developers how powerful CSS3 gradients really are. But how many really understand how these patterns are created? The biggest benefit of CSS-generated backgrounds is that they can be modified directly within the style sheet. This benefit is void if we are just copying and pasting CSS code we don’t understand. We may as well use a data URI instead. Important note In all the examples that follow, I’ll be using gradients without a vendor prefix, for readability and brevity. However, you should keep in mind that in reality you need to use all the vendor prefixes (-moz-, -ms-, -o-, -webkit-) as no browser currently implements them without a prefix. Alternatively, you could use -prefix-free and have the current vendor prefix prepended at runtime, only when needed. The syntax described here is the one that browsers currently implement. The specification has since changed, but no browser implements the changes yet. If you are interested in what is coming, I suggest you take a look at the dev version of the spec. If you are not yet familiar with CSS gradients, you can read these excellent tutorials by John Allsopp and return here later, as in the rest of the article I assume you already know the CSS gradient basics: CSS3 Linear Gradients CSS3 Radial Gradients The main idea I’m sure most of you can imagine the background this code generates: background: linear-gradient(left, white 20%, #8b0 80%); It’s a simple gradient from one color to another that looks like this: See this example live As you probably know, in this case the first 20% of the container’s width is solid white and the last 20% is solid green. The other 60% is a smooth gradient between these colors. Let’s try moving these color stops closer to each other: background: linear-gradient(left, white 30%, #8b0 70%); See this example live background: linear-gradient(left, white 40%, #8b0 60%); See this example live backgro… 2011 Lea Verou leaverou 2011-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/css3-patterns-explained/ code
284 Subliminal User Experience The term ‘user experience’ is often used vaguely to quantify common elements of the interaction design process: wireframing, sitemapping and so on. UX undoubtedly involves all of these principles to some degree, but there really is a lot more to it than that. Good UX is characterized by providing the user with constant feedback as they step through your interface. It means thinking about and providing fallbacks and error resolutions in even the rarest of scenarios. It’s about omitting clutter to make way for the necessary, and using the most fundamental of design tools to influence a user’s path. It means making no assumptions, designing right down to the most distinct details and going one step further every single time. In many cases, good UX is completely subliminal. There are simple tools and subtleties we can build into our products to enhance the overall experience but, in order to do so, we really have to step beyond where we usually draw the line on what to design. The purpose of this article is not to provide technical how-tos, as the functionality is, in most cases, quite simple and could be implemented in a myriad of ways. Rather, it will present a handful of ideas for enhancing the experience of an interface at a deeper level of design without relying on the container. We’ll cover three elements that should get you thinking in the right mindset: progress activity and post-active states pseudo-class preloading buttons and their (mis)behaviour Progress activity and the post-active state We’ve long established that we can’t control the devices our products are viewed on, which browser they’ll run in or what connection speed will be used to access them. We accept this all as factual, so why is it so often left to the browser to provide feedback to the user when an event is triggered or an error encountered? The browser isn’t part of the interface — it’s merely a container. A simple, visual recognition of your users’ activity may be all it takes to make or break the product. Let’s begin with a… 2011 Chris Sealey chrissealey 2011-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/subliminal-user-experience/ ux
285 Composing the New Canon: Music, Harmony, Proportion Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum —Friedrich NIETZSCHE, Götzen-Dämmerung, Sprüche und Pfeile 33, 1889 Somehow, music is hardcoded in human beings. It is something we understand and respond to without prior knowledge. Music exercises the emotions and our imaginative reflex, not just our hearing. It behaves so much like our emotions that music can seem to symbolize them, to bear them from one person to another. Not surprisingly, it conjures memories: the word music derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), art of the Muses, whose mythological mother was Mnemosyne, memory. But it can also summon up the blood, console the bereaved, inspire fanaticism, bolster governments and dissenters alike, help us learn, and make web designers dance. And what would Christmas be without music? Music moves us, often in ways we can’t explain. By some kind of alchemy, music frees us from the elaborate nuisance and inadequacy of words. Across the world and throughout recorded history – and no doubt well before that – people have listened and made (and made out to) music. [I]t appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm. —Charles DARWIN, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871 It’s so integral to humankind, we’ve sent it into space as a totem for who we are. (Who knows? It might be important.) Music is essential, a universal compulsion; as Nietzsche wrote, without music life would be a mistake. Music, design and web design There are some obvious and notable similarities between music and visual design. Both can convey mood and evoke emotion but, even under close scrutiny, how they do that remains to a great extent mysterious. Each has formal qualities or parts that can be abstracted, analysed and discussed, often using the same terminology: composition, harmony, rhythm, repetition, form, theme; even colour, texture and ton… 2011 Owen Gregory owengregory 2011-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/composing-the-new-canon/ design
286 Defending the Perimeter Against Web Widgets On July 14, 1789, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, igniting a revolution that toppled the French monarchy. On July 14 of this year, there was a less dramatic (though more tweeted) takedown: The Deck network, which delivers advertising to some of the most popular web design and culture destinations, was down for about thirty minutes. During this period, most partner sites running ads from The Deck could not be viewed as result. A few partners were unaffected (aside from not having an ad to display). Fortunately, Dribbble, was one of them. In this article, I’ll discuss outages like this and how to defend against them. But first, a few qualifiers: The Deck has been rock solid – this is the only downtime we’ve witnessed since joining in June. More importantly, the issues in play are applicable to any web widget you might add to your site to display third-party content. Down and out Your defense is only as good as its weakest link. Web pages are filled with links, some of which threaten the ability of your page to load quickly and correctly. If you want your site to work when external resources fail, you need to identify the weak links on your site. In this article, we’ll talk about web widgets as a point of failure and defensive JavaScript techniques for handling them. Widgets 101 Imagine a widget that prints out a Pun of the Day on your site. A simple technique for both widget provider and consumer is for the provider to expose a URL: http://widgetjonesdiary.com/punoftheday.js which returns a JavaScript file like this: document.write("<h2>The Pun of the Day</h2><p>Where do frogs go for beers after work? Hoppy hour!</p>"); The call to document.write() injects the string passed into the document where it is called. So to display the widget on your page, simply add an external script tag where you want it to appear: <div class="punoftheday"> <script src="http://widgetjonesdiary.com/punoftheday.js"></script> <!-- Content appears here as output of script above --> </div> This approach is incredibly … 2011 Rich Thornett richthornett 2011-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/defending-the-perimeter-against-web-widgets/ process
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
288 Displaying Icons with Fonts and Data- Attributes Traditionally, bitmap formats such as PNG have been the standard way of delivering iconography on websites. They’re quick and easy, and it also ensures they’re as pixel crisp as possible. Bitmaps have two drawbacks, however: multiple HTTP requests, affecting the page’s loading performance; and a lack of scalability, noticeable when the page is zoomed or viewed on a screen with a high pixel density, such as the iPhone 4 and 4S. The requests problem is normally solved by using CSS sprites, combining the icon set into one (physically) large image file and showing the relevant portion via background-position. While this works well, it can get a bit fiddly to specify all the positions. In particular, scalability is still an issue. A vector-based format such as SVG sounds ideal to solve this, but browser support is still patchy. The rise and adoption of web fonts have given us another alternative. By their very nature, they’re not only scalable, but resolution-independent too. No need to specify higher resolution graphics for high resolution screens! That’s not all though: Browser support: Unlike a lot of new shiny techniques, they have been supported by Internet Explorer since version 4, and, of course, by all modern browsers. We do need several different formats, however! Design on the fly: The font contains the basic graphic, which can then be coloured easily with CSS – changing colours for themes or :hover and :focus styles is done with one line of CSS, rather than requiring a new graphic. You can also use CSS3 properties such as text-shadow to add further effects. Using -webkit-background-clip: text;, it’s possible to use gradient and inset shadow effects, although this creates a bitmap mask which spoils the scalability. Small file size: specially designed icon fonts, such as Drew Wilson’s Pictos font, can be as little as 12Kb for the .woff font. This is because they contain fewer characters than a fully fledged font. You can see Pictos being used in the wild on sites like Garrett Murray’s Maniacal Rage… 2011 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2011-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/displaying-icons-with-fonts-and-data-attributes/ code

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