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241 Jank-Free Image Loads There are a few fundamental problems with embedding images in pages of hypertext; perhaps chief among them is this: text is very light and loads rather fast; images are much heavier and arrive much later. Consequently, millions (billions?) of times a day, a hapless Web surfer will start reading some text on a page, and then — Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. — oops! — an image pops in above it, pushing said text down the page, and our poor reader loses their place. By default, partially-loaded pages have the user experience of a slippery fish, or spilled jar of jumping beans. For the rest of this article, I shall call that jarring, no-good jumpiness by its name: jank. And I’ll chart a path into a jank-free future – one in which it’s easy and natural to author <img> elements that load like this: Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. Jank is a very old problem, and there is a very old solution to it: the width and height attributes on <img>. The idea is: if we stick an image’s dimensions right into the HTML, browsers can know those dimensions before the image loads, and reserve some space on the layout for it so that nothing gets bumped down the page when the image finally arrives. width Specifies the intended width of the image in pixels. When given together with the height, this allows user agents to reserve screen space for the image before the image data has arrived over the network. —The HTML 3.2 Specification, published on January 14 1997 Unfortunately for us, when width and height were first spec’d and implemented, layouts were largely fixed and images were usually only intended to render at their fixed, actual dimensions. When image sizing gets fluid, width and height get weird: See the Pen fluid width + fixed height = distortion by Eric Portis (@eeeps) on CodePen. width and height are too rigid for the responsive world. What we need, and have needed for a very long time, is a way to specify fixed aspect ra… 2018 Eric Portis ericportis 2018-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/jank-free-image-loads/ code
242 Creating My First Chrome Extension Writing a Chrome Extension isn’t as scary at it seems! Not too long ago, I used a Chrome extension called 20 Cubed. I’m far-sighted, and being a software engineer makes it difficult to maintain distance vision. So I used 20 Cubed to remind myself to look away from my screen and rest my eyes. I loved its simple interface and design. I loved it so much, I often forgot to turn it off in the middle of presentations, where it would take over my entire screen. Oops. Unfortunately, the developer stopped updating the extension and removed it from Chrome’s extension library. I was so sad. None of the other eye rest extensions out there matched my design aesthetic, so I decided to create my own! Want to do the same? Fortunately, Google has some respectable documentation on how to create an extension. And remember, Chrome extensions are just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can add libraries and frameworks, or you can just code the “old-fashioned” way. Sky’s the limit! Setup But first, some things you’ll need to know about before getting started: Callbacks Timeouts Chrome Dev Tools Developing with Chrome extension methods requires a lot of callbacks. If you’ve never experienced the joy of callback hell, creating a Chrome extension will introduce you to this concept. However, things can get confusing pretty quickly. I’d highly recommend brushing up on that subject before getting started. Hyperbole and a Half Timeouts and Intervals are another thing you might want to brush up on. While creating this extension, I didn’t consider the fact that I’d be juggling three timers. And I probably would’ve saved time organizing those and reading up on the Chrome extension Alarms documentation beforehand. But more on that in a bit. On the note of organization, abstraction is important! You might have any combination of the following: The Chrome extension options page The popup from the Chrome Menu The windows or tabs you create The background scripts And that can get unwieldy. You might also edit the existing tabs or windows in the brow… 2018 Jennifer Wong jenniferwong 2018-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/my-first-chrome-extension/ code
243 Researching a Property in the CSS Specifications I frequently joke that I’m “reading the specs so you don’t have to”, as I unpack some detail of a CSS spec in a post on my blog, some documentation for MDN, or an article on Smashing Magazine. However waiting for someone like me to write an article about something is a pretty slow way to get the information you need. Sometimes people like me get things wrong, or specifications change after we write a tutorial. What if you could just look it up yourself? That’s what you get when you learn to read the CSS specifications, and in this article my aim is to give you the basic details you need to grab quick information about any CSS property detailed in the CSS specs. Where are the CSS Specifications? The easiest way to see all of the CSS specs is to take a look at the Current Work page in the CSS section of the W3C Website. Here you can see all of the specifications listed, the level they are at and their status. There is also a link to the specification from this page. I explained CSS Levels in my article Why there is no CSS 4. Who are the specifications for? CSS specifications are for everyone who uses CSS. You might be a browser engineer - referred to as an implementor - needing to know how to implement a feature, or a web developer - referred to as an author - wanting to know how to use the feature. The fact that both parties are looking at the same document hopefully means that what the browser displays is what the web developer expected. Which version of a spec should I look at? There are a couple of places you might want to look. Each published spec will have the latest published version, which will have TR in the URL and can be accessed without a date (which is always the newest version) or at a date, which will be the date of that publication. If I’m referring to a particular Working Draft in an article I’ll typically link to the dated version. That way if the information changes it is possible for someone to see where I got the information from at the time of writing. If you want the very latest additions an… 2018 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2018-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/researching-a-property-in-the-css-specifications/ code
244 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like XSSmas I dread the office Secret Santa. I have a knack for choosing well-meaning but inappropriate presents, like a bottle of port for a teetotaller, a cheese-tasting experience for a vegan, or heaven forbid, Spurs socks for an Arsenal supporter. Ok, the last one was intentional. It’s the same with gifting code. Once, I made a pattern library for A List Apart which I open sourced, and a few weeks later, a glaring security vulnerability was found in it. My gift was so generous that it enabled unrestricted access to any file on any public-facing server that hosted it. With platforms like GitHub and npm, giving the gift of code is so easy it’s practically a no-brainer. This giant, open source yankee swap helps us do our jobs without starting from scratch with every project. But like any gift-giving, it’s also risky. Vulnerabilities and Open Source Open source code is not inherently more or less vulnerable than closed-source code. What makes it higher risk is that the same piece of code gets reused in lots of places, meaning a hacker can use the same exploit mechanism on the same vulnerable code in different apps. Graph showing the number of open source vulnerabilities published per year, from the State of Open Source Security 2017 In the first 24 ways article this year, Katie referenced a few different types of vulnerability: Cross-site Request Forgery (also known as CSRF) SQL Injection Cross-site Scripting (also known as XSS) There are many more types of vulnerability, and those that live under the same category share similarities. For example, my favourite – is it weird to have a favourite vulnerability? – is Cross Site Scripting (XSS), which allows for the injection of scripts into web pages. This is a really common vulnerability often unwittingly added by developers. OWASP (the Open Web Application Security Project) wrote a great article about how to prevent opening the door to XSS attacks – share it generously with your colleagues. Most vulnerabilities like this are not added intentionally – they’re doors left ajar… 2018 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2018-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-xssmas/ code
245 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1—for People Who Haven’t Read the Update Happy United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018! The United Nations chose “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” as this year’s theme. We’ve seen great examples of that in 2018; for example, Paul Robert Lloyd has detailed how he improved the accessibility of this very website. On social media, US Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started using the Clipomatic app to add live captions to her Instagram live stories, conforming to success criterion 1.2.4, “Captions (Live)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 1) …and British Vogue Contributing Editor Sinéad Burke has used the split-screen feature of Instagram live stories to invite an interpreter to provide live Sign Language interpretation, going above and beyond success criterion 1.2.6, “Sign Language (Prerecorded)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 2). Figure 1: Screenshot of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram story with live captionsFigure 2: Screenshot of Sinéad Burke’s Instagram story with Sign Language Interpretation That theme chimes with this year’s publication of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. In last year’s “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven’t Read Them”, I mentioned the scale of the project to produce this update during 2018: “the editors have to update the guidelines to cover all the new ways that people interact with new technologies, while keeping the guidelines backwards-compatible”. The WCAG working group have added 17 success criteria to the 61 that they released way back in 2008—for context, that was 1½ years before Apple released their first iPad! These new criteria make it easier than ever for us web geeks to produce work that is more accessible to people using mobile devices and touchscreens, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Once again, let’s rip off all the legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping pap… 2018 Alan Dalton alandalton 2018-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-the-update/ ux
246 Designing Your Site Like It’s 1998 It’s 20 years to the day since my wife and I started Stuff & Nonsense, our little studio and my outlet for creative ideas on the web. To celebrate this anniversary—and my fourteenth contribution to 24 ways— I’d like to explain how I would’ve developed a design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles, one of my favourite Christmas films. My design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles is fixed at 800px wide. Developing a <frameset> framework I’ll start by using frames to set up the framework for this new website. Frames are individual pages—one for navigation, the other for my content—pulled together to form a frameset. Space is limited on lower-resolution screens, so by using frames I can ensure my navigation always remains visible. I can include any number of frames inside a <frameset> element. I add two rows to my <frameset>; the first is for my navigation and is 50px tall, the second is for my content and will resize to fill any available space. As I don’t want frame borders or any space between my frames, I set frameborder and framespacing attributes to 0: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> […] </frameset> Next I add the source of my two frame documents. I don’t want people to be able to resize or scroll my navigation, so I add the noresize attribute to that frame: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame src="content.html"> </frameset> I do want links from my navigation to open in the content frame, so I give each <frame> a name so I can specify where I want links to open: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation" noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame name="content" src="content.html"> </frameset> The framework for this website is simple as it contains only two horizontal rows. Should I need a more complex layout, I can nest as many framesets—and as many individual documents—as I need: <frameset rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation"> <frameset cols="25%,*"> <frame name="sideba… 2018 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2018-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-site-like-its-1998/ code
247 Managing Flow and Rhythm with CSS Custom Properties An important part of designing user interfaces is creating consistent vertical rhythm between elements. Creating consistent, predictable space doesn’t just make your web pages and views look better, but it can also improve the scan-ability. Browsers ship with default CSS and these styles often create consistent rhythm for flow elements out of the box. The problem is though that we often reset these styles with a reset. Elements such as <div> and <section> also have no default margin or padding associated with them. I’ve tried all sorts of weird and wonderful techniques to find a balance between using inherited CSS while also levelling the playing field for component driven front-ends with very little success. This experimentation is how I landed on the flow utility, though and I’m going to show you how it works. Let’s dive in! The Flow utility With the ever-growing number of folks working with component libraries and design systems, we could benefit from a utility that creates space for us, only when it’s appropriate to do so. The problem with my previous attempts at fixing this is that the spacing values were very rigid. That’s fine for 90% of contexts, but sometimes, it’s handy to be able to tweak the values based on the exact context of your component. This is where CSS Custom Properties come in handy. The code .flow { --flow-space: 1em; } .flow > * + * { margin-top: var(--flow-space); } What this code does is enable you to add a class of flow to an element which will then add margin-top to sibling elements within that element. We use the lobotomised owl selector to select these siblings. This approach enables an almost anonymous and automatic system which is ideal for component library based front-ends where components probably don’t have any idea what surrounds them. The other important part of this utility is the usage of the --flow-space custom property. We define it in the .flow component and each element within it will be spaced by --flow-space, by default. The beauty about setting this as a … 2018 Andy Bell andybell 2018-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/managing-flow-and-rhythm-with-css-custom-properties/ code
248 How to Use Audio on the Web I know what you’re thinking. I never never want to hear sound anywhere near a browser, ever ever, wow! 🙉 You’re having flashbacks, flashbacks to the days of yore, when we had a <bgsound> element and yup did everyone think that was the most rad thing since <blink>. I mean put those two together with a <marquee>, only use CSS colour names, make sure your borders were all set to ridge and you’ve got yourself the neatest website since 1998. The sound played when the website loaded and you could play a MIDI file as well! Everyone could hear that wicked digital track you chose. Oh, surfing was gnarly back then. Yes it is 2018, the end of in fact, soon to be 2019. We are certainly living in the future. Hoverboards self driving cars, holodecks VR headsets, rocket boots drone racing, sound on websites get real, Ruth. We can’t help but be jaded, even though the <bgsound> element is depreciated, and the autoplay policy appeared this year. Although still in it’s infancy, the policy “controls when video and audio is allowed to autoplay”, which should reduce the somewhat obtrusive playing of sound when a website or app loads in the future. But then of course comes the question, having lived in a muted present for so long, where and why would you use audio? ✨ Showcase Time ✨ There are some incredible uses of audio on websites today. This is my personal favourite futurelibrary.no, a site from Norway chronicling books that have been published from a forest of trees planted precisely for the books themselves. The sound effects are lovely, adding to the overall experience. futurelibrary.no Another site that executes this well is pottermore.com. The Hogwarts WebGL simulation uses both sound effects and ambient background music and gives a great experience. The button hovers are particularly good. pottermore.com Eighty-six and a half years is a beautiful narrative site, documenting the musings of an eighty-six and a half year old man. The background music playing on this site is not offensive, it adds to the experience. Eighty-six an… 2018 Ruth John ruthjohn 2018-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/how-to-use-audio-on-the-web/ design
249 Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website Every website deserves a great search engine - but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive. I’m going to build a search engine for 24 ways that’s fast enough to support autocomplete (a.k.a. typeahead) search queries and can be hosted for free. I’ll be using wget, Python, SQLite, Jupyter, sqlite-utils and my open source Datasette tool to build the API backend, and a few dozen lines of modern vanilla JavaScript to build the interface. Try it out here, then read on to see how I built it. First step: crawling the data The first step in building a search engine is to grab a copy of the data that you plan to make searchable. There are plenty of potential ways to do this: you might be able to pull it directly from a database, or extract it using an API. If you don’t have access to the raw data, you can imitate Google and write a crawler to extract the data that you need. I’m going to do exactly that against 24 ways: I’ll build a simple crawler using wget, a command-line tool that features a powerful “recursive” mode that’s ideal for scraping websites. We’ll start at the https://24ways.org/archives/ page, which links to an archived index for every year that 24 ways has been running. Then we’ll tell wget to recursively crawl the website, using the --recursive flag. We don’t want to fetch every single page on the site - we’re only interested in the actual articles. Luckily, 24 ways has nicely designed URLs, so we can tell wget that we only care about pages that start with one of the years it has been running, using the -I argument like this: -I /2005,/2006,/2007,/2008,/2009,/2010,/2011,/2012,/2013,/2014,/2015,/2016,/2017 We want to be polite, so let’s wait for 2 seconds between each request rather than hammering the site as fast as we can: --wait 2 The first time I ran this, I accidentally downloaded the comments pages as well. We don’t want those, so let’s exclude them from the crawl using -X "/*/*/comments". Finally, it’s useful to be able to run the command multiple times… 2018 Simon Willison simonwillison 2018-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/fast-autocomplete-search-for-your-website/ code
250 Build up Your Leadership Toolbox Leadership. It can mean different things to different people and vary widely between companies. Leadership is more than just a job title. You won’t wake up one day and magically be imbued with all you need to do a good job at leading. If we don’t have a shared understanding of what a Good Leader looks like, how can we work on ourselves towards becoming one? How do you know if you even could be a leader? Can you be a leader without the title? What even is it? I got very frustrated way back in my days as a senior developer when I was given “advice” about my leadership style; at the time I didn’t have the words to describe the styles and ways in which I was leading to be able to push back. I heard these phrases a lot: you need to step up you need to take charge you need to grab the bull by its horns you need to have thicker skin you need to just be more confident in your leading you need to just make it happen I appreciate some people’s intent was to help me, but honestly it did my head in. WAT?! What did any of this even mean. How exactly do you “step up” and how are you evaluating what step I’m on? I am confident, what does being even more confident help achieve with leading? Does that not lead you down the path of becoming an arrogant door knob? >___< While there is no One True Way to Lead, there is an overwhelming pattern of people in positions of leadership within tech industry being held by men. It felt a lot like what people were fundamentally telling me to do was to be more like an extroverted man. I was being asked to demonstrate more masculine associated qualities (#notallmen). I’ll leave the gendered nature of leadership qualities as an exercise in googling for the reader. I’ve never had a good manager and at the time had no one else to ask for help, so I turned to my trusted best friends. Books. I <3 books I refused to buy into that style of leadership as being the only accepted way to be. There had to be room for different kinds of people to be leaders and have different leadership styles. There are t… 2018 Mazz Mosley mazzmosley 2018-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/build-up-your-leadership-toolbox/ business
251 The System, the Search, and the Food Bank Imagine a warehouse, half the length of a football field, with a looped conveyer belt down the center. On the belt are plastic bins filled with assortments of shelf-stable food—one may have two bags of potato chips, seventeen pudding cups, and a box of tissues; the next, a dozen cans of beets. The conveyer belt is ringed with large, empty cardboard boxes, each labeled with categories like “Bottled Water” or “Cereal” or “Candy.” Such was the scene at my local food bank a few Saturdays ago, when some friends and I volunteered for a shift sorting donated food items. Our job was to fill the labeled cardboard boxes with the correct items nabbed from the swiftly moving, randomly stocked plastic bins. I could scarcely believe my good fortune of assignments. You want me to sort things? Into categories? For several hours? And you say there’s an element of time pressure? Listen, is there some sort of permanent position I could be conscripted into. Look, I can’t quite explain it: I just know that I love sorting, organizing, and classifying things—groceries at a food bank, but also my bookshelves, my kitchen cabinets, my craft supplies, my dishwasher arrangement, yes I am a delight to live with, why do you ask? The opportunity to create meaning from nothing is at the core of my excitement, which is why I’ve tried to build a career out of organizing digital content, and why I brought a frankly frightening level of enthusiasm to the food bank. “I can’t believe they’re letting me do this,” I whispered in awe to my conveyer belt neighbor as I snapped up a bag of popcorn for the Snacks box with the kind of ferocity usually associated with birds of prey. The jumble of donated items coming into the center need to be sorted in order for the food bank to be able to quantify, package, and distribute the food to those who need it (I sense a metaphor coming on). It’s not just a nice-to-have that we spent our morning separating cookies from carrots—it’s a crucial step in the process. Organization makes the difference between chaos and … 2018 Lisa Maria Martin lisamariamartin 2018-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/the-system-the-search-and-the-food-bank/ content
252 Turn Jekyll up to Eleventy Sometimes it pays not to over complicate things. While many of the sites we use on a daily basis require relational databases to manage their content and dynamic pages to respond to user input, for smaller, simpler sites, serving pre-rendered static HTML is usually a much cheaper — and more secure — option. The JAMstack (JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup) is a popular marketing term for this way of building websites, but in some ways it’s a return to how things were in the early days of the web, before developers started tinkering with CGI scripts or Personal HomePage. Indeed, my website has always served pre-rendered HTML; first with the aid of Movable Type and more recently using Jekyll, which Anna wrote about in 2013. By combining three approachable languages — Markdown for content, YAML for data and Liquid for templating — the ergonomics of Jekyll found broad appeal, influencing the design of the many static site generators that followed. But Jekyll is not without its faults. Aside from notoriously slow build times, it’s also built using Ruby. While this is an elegant programming language, it is yet another ecosystem to understand and manage, and often alongside one we already use: JavaScript. For all my time using Jekyll, I would think to myself “this, but in Node”. Thankfully, one of Santa’s elves (Zach Leatherman) granted my Atwoodian wish and placed such a static site generator under my tree. Introducing Eleventy Eleventy is a more flexible alternative Jekyll. Besides being written in Node, it’s less strict about how to organise files and, in addition to Liquid, supports other templating languages like EJS, Pug, Handlebars and Nunjucks. Best of all, its build times are significantly faster (with future optimisations promising further gains). As content is saved using the familiar combination of YAML front matter and Markdown, transitioning from Jekyll to Eleventy may seem like a reasonable idea. Yet as I’ve discovered, there are a few gotchas. If you’ve been considering making the switch, he… 2018 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2018-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/turn-jekyll-up-to-eleventy/ content
253 Clip Paths Know No Bounds CSS Shapes are getting a lot of attention as browser support has increased for properties like shape-outside and clip-path. There are a few ways that we can use CSS Shapes, in particular with the clip-path property, that are not necessarily evident at first glance. The basics of a clip path Before we dig into specific techniques to expand on clip paths, we should first take a look at a basic shape and clip-path. Clip paths can apply a CSS Shape such as a circle(), ellipse(), inset(), or the flexible polygon() to any element. Everywhere in the element that is not within the bounds of our shape will be visually removed. Using the polygon shape function, for example, we can create triangles, stars, or other straight-edged shapes as on Bennett Feely’s Clippy. While fixed units like pixels can be used when defining vertices/points (where the sides meet), percentages will give more flexibility to adapt to the element’s dimensions. See the Pen Clip Path Box by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. So for an octagon, we can set eight x, y pairs of percentages to define those points. In this case we start 30% into the width of the box for the first x and at the top of the box for the y and go clockwise. The visible area becomes the interior of the shape made by connecting these points with straight lines. clip-path: polygon( 30% 0%, 70% 0%, 100% 30%, 100% 70%, 70% 100%, 30% 100%, 0% 70%, 0% 30% ); A shape with less vertices than the eye can see It’s reasonable to look at the polygon() function and assume that we need to have one pair of x, y coordinates for every point in our shape. However, we gain some flexibility by thinking outside the box — or more specifically when we think outside the range of 0% - 100%. Our element’s box model will be the ultimate boundary for a clip-path, but we can still define points that exist beyond that natural box for an element. See the Pen CSS Shapes Know No Bounds by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. By going beyond the 0% - 100% range we can turn a polygon with three p… 2018 Dan Wilson danwilson 2018-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/clip-paths-know-no-bounds/ code
254 What I Learned in Six Years at GDS When I joined the Government Digital Service in April 2012, GOV.UK was just going into public beta. GDS was a completely new organisation, part of the Cabinet Office, with a mission to stop wasting government money on over-complicated and underperforming big IT projects and instead deliver simple, useful services for the public. Lots of people who were experts in their fields were drawn in by this inspiring mission, and I learned loads from working with some true leaders. Here are three of the main things I learned. 1. What is the user need? 
The main discipline I learned from my time at GDS was to always ask ‘what is the user need?’ It’s very easy to build something that seems like a good idea, but until you’ve identified what problem you are solving for the user, you can’t be sure that you are building something that is going to help solve an actual problem. A really good example of this is GOV.UK Notify. This service was originally conceived of as a status tracker; a “where’s my stuff” for government services. For example, if you apply for a passport online, it can take up to six weeks to arrive. After a few weeks, you might feel anxious and phone the Home Office to ask what’s happening. The idea of the status tracker was to allow you to get this information online, saving your time and saving government money on call centres. The project started, as all GDS projects do, with a discovery. The main purpose of a discovery is to identify the users’ needs. At the end of this discovery, the team realised that a status tracker wasn’t the way to address the problem. As they wrote in this blog post: Status tracking tools are often just ‘channel shift’ for anxiety. They solve the symptom and not the problem. They do make it more convenient for people to reduce their anxiety, but they still require them to get anxious enough to request an update in the first place. What would actually address the user need would be to give you the information before you get anxious about where your passport is. For example, when your… 2018 Anna Shipman annashipman 2018-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/what-i-learned-in-six-years-at-gds/ business
255 Inclusive Considerations When Restyling Form Controls I would like to begin by saying 2018 was the year that we, as developers, visual designers, browser implementers, and inclusive design and experience specialists rallied together and achieved a long-sought goal: We now have the ability to fully style form controls, across all modern browsers, while retaining their ease of declaration, native functionality and accessibility. I would like to begin by saying all these things. However, they’re not true. I think we spent the year debating about what file extension CSS should be written in, or something. Or was that last year? Maybe I’m thinking of next year. Returning to reality, styling form controls is more tricky and time consuming these days rather than flat out “hard”. In fact, depending on the length of the styling-leash a particular browser provides, there are controls you can style quite a bit. As for browsers with shorter leashes, there are other options to force their controls closer to the visual design you’re tasked to match. However, when striving for custom styled controls, one must be careful not to forget about the inherent functionality and accessibility that many provide. People expect and deserve the products and services they use and pay for to work for them. If these services are visually pleasing, but only function for those who fit the handful of personas they’ve been designed for, then we’ve potentially deprived many people the experiences they deserve. Quick level setting Getting down to brass tacks, when creating custom styled form controls that should retain their expected semantics and functionality, we have to consider the following: Many form elements can be styled directly through standard and browser specific selectors, as well as through some clever styling of markup patterns. We should leverage these native options before reinventing any wheels. It is important to preserve the underlying semantics of interactive controls. We must not unintentionally exclude people who use assistive technologies (ATs) that rely on these semantics. Ma… 2018 Scott O'Hara scottohara 2018-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/inclusive-considerations-when-restyling-form-controls/ code
256 Develop Your Naturalist Superpowers with Observable Notebooks and iNaturalist We’re going to level up your knowledge of what animals you might see in an area at a particular time of year - a skill every naturalist* strives for - using technology! Using iNaturalist and Observable Notebooks we’re going to prototype seasonality graphs for particular species in an area, and automatically create a guide to what animals you might see in each month. *(a Naturalist is someone who likes learning about nature, not someone who’s a fan of being naked, that’s a ‘Naturist’… different thing!) Looking for critters in rocky intertidal habitats One of my favourite things to do is going rockpooling, or as we call it over here in California, ‘tidepooling’. Amounting to the same thing, it’s going to a beach that has rocks where the tide covers then uncovers little pools of water at different times of the day. All sorts of fun creatures and life can be found in this ‘rocky intertidal habitat’ A particularly exciting creature that lives here is the Nudibranch, a type of super colourful ‘sea slug’. There are over 3000 species of Nudibranch worldwide. (The word “nudibranch” comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βρανχια / brankhia, gills.) ​ They are however quite tricky to find! Even though they are often brightly coloured and interestingly shaped, some of them are very small, and in our part of the world in the Bay Area in California their appearance in our rockpools is seasonal. We see them more often in Summer months, despite the not-as-low tides as in our Winter and Spring seasons. My favourite place to go tidepooling here is Pillar Point in Half Moon bay (at other times of the year more famously known for the surf competition ‘Mavericks’). The rockpools there are rich in species diversity, of varied types and water-coverage habitat zones as well as being relatively accessible. ​ I was rockpooling at Pillar Point recently with my parents and we talked to a lady who remarked that she hadn’t seen any Nudibranchs on her visit this time. I realised that having an idea of what species to find where, a… 2018 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2018-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/observable-notebooks-and-inaturalist/ code
257 The (Switch)-Case for State Machines in User Interfaces You’re tasked with creating a login form. Email, password, submit button, done. “This will be easy,” you think to yourself. Login form by Selecto You’ve made similar forms many times in the past; it’s essentially muscle memory at this point. You’re working closely with a designer, who gives you a beautiful, detailed mockup of a login form. Sure, you’ll have to translate the pixels to meaningful, responsive CSS values, but that’s the least of your problems. As you’re writing up the HTML structure and CSS layout and styles for this form, you realize that you don’t know what the successful “logged in” page looks like. You remind the designer, who readily gives it to you. But then you start thinking more and more about how the login form is supposed to work. What if login fails? Where do those errors show up? Should we show errors differently if the user forgot to enter their email, or password, or both? Or should the submit button be disabled? Should we validate the email field? When should we show validation errors – as they’re typing their email, or when they move to the password field, or when they click submit? (Note: many, many login forms are guilty of this.) When should the errors disappear? What do we show during the login process? Some loading spinner? What if loading takes too long, or a server error occurs? Many more questions come up, and you (and your designer) are understandably frustrated. The lack of upfront specification opens the door to scope creep, which readily finds itself at home in all the unexplored edge cases. Modeling Behavior Describing all the possible user flows and business logic of an application can become tricky. Ironically, user stories might not tell the whole story – they often leave out potential edge-cases or small yet important bits of information. However, one important (and very old) mathematical model of computation can be used for describing the behavior and all possible states of a user interface: the finite state machine. The general idea, as it applies to user interfa… 2018 David Khourshid davidkhourshid 2018-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/state-machines-in-user-interfaces/ code
258 Mistletoe Offline It’s that time of year, when we gather together as families to celebrate the life of the greatest person in history. This man walked the Earth long before us, but he left behind words of wisdom. Those words can guide us every single day, but they are at the forefront of our minds during this special season. I am, of course, talking about Murphy, and the golden rule he gave unto us: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So true! I mean, that’s why we make sure we’ve got nice 404 pages. It’s not that we want people to ever get served a File Not Found message, but we acknowledge that, despite our best efforts, it’s bound to happen sometime. Murphy’s Law, innit? But there are some Murphyesque situations where even your lovingly crafted 404 page won’t help. What if your web server is down? What if someone is trying to reach your site but they lose their internet connection? These are all things than can—and will—go wrong. I guess there’s nothing we can do about those particular situations, right? Wrong! A service worker is a Murphy-battling technology that you can inject into a visitor’s device from your website. Once it’s installed, it can intercept any requests made to your domain. If anything goes wrong with a request—as is inevitable—you can provide instructions for the browser. That’s your opportunity to turn those server outage frowns upside down. Take those network connection lemons and make network connection lemonade. If you’ve got a custom 404 page, why not make a custom offline page too? Get your server in order Step one is to make …actually, wait. There’s a step before that. Step zero. Get your site running on HTTPS, if it isn’t already. You won’t be able to use a service worker unless everything’s being served over HTTPS, which makes sense when you consider the awesome power that a service worker wields. If you’re developing locally, service workers will work fine for localhost, even without HTTPS. But for a live site, HTTPS is a must. Make an offline page Alright, assuming your site is being served… 2018 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2018-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/mistletoe-offline/ code
259 Designing Your Future I’ve had the pleasure of working for a variety of clients – both large and small – over the last 25 years. In addition to my work as a design consultant, I’ve worked as an educator, leading the Interaction Design team at Belfast School of Art, for the last 15 years. In July, 2018 – frustrated with formal education, not least the ever-present hand of ‘austerity’ that has ravaged universities in the UK for almost a decade – I formally reduced my teaching commitment, moving from a full-time role to a half-time role. Making the move from a (healthy!) monthly salary towards a position as a freelance consultant is not without its challenges: one month your salary’s arriving in your bank account (and promptly disappearing to pay all of your bills); the next month, that salary’s been drastically reduced. That can be a shock to the system. In this article, I’ll explore the challenges encountered when taking a life-changing leap of faith. To help you confront ‘the fear’ – the nervousness, the sleepless nights and the ever-present worry about paying the bills – I’ll provide a set of tools that will enable you to take a leap of faith and pursue what deep down drives you. In short: I’ll bare my soul and share everything I’m currently working on to – once and for all – make a final bid for freedom. This isn’t easy. I’m sharing my innermost hopes and aspirations, and I might open myself up to ridicule, but I believe that by doing so, I might help others, by providing them with tools to help them make their own leap of faith. The power of visualisation As designers we have skills that we use day in, day out to imagine future possibilities, which we then give form. In our day-to-day work, we use those abilities to design products and services, but I also believe we can use those skills to design something every bit as important: ourselves. In this article I’ll explore three tools that you can use to design your future: Product DNA Artefacts From the Future Tomorrow Clients Each of these tools is designed to help you visualise y… 2018 Christopher Murphy christophermurphy 2018-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-future/ process
260 The Art of Mathematics: A Mandala Maker Tutorial In front-end development, there’s often a great deal of focus on tools that aim to make our work more efficient. But what if you’re new to web development? When you’re just starting out, the amount of new material can be overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have a solid background in Computer Science. But the truth is, once you’ve learned a little bit of JavaScript, you can already make some pretty impressive things. A couple of years back, when I was learning to code, I started working on a side project. I wanted to make something colorful and fun to share with my friends. This is what my app looks like these days: Mandala Maker user interface The coolest part about it is the fact that it’s a tool: anyone can use it to create something original and brand new. In this tutorial, we’ll build a smaller version of this app – a symmetrical drawing tool in ES5, JavaScript and HTML5. The tutorial app will have eight reflections, a color picker and a Clear button. Once we’re done, you’re on your own and can tweak it as you please. Be creative! Preparations: a blank canvas The first thing you’ll need for this project is a designated drawing space. We’ll use the HTML5 canvas element and give it a width and a height of 600px (you can set the dimensions to anything else if you like). Files Create 3 files: index.html, styles.css, main.js. Don’t forget to include your JS and CSS files in your HTML. <!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <meta charset="utf-8"> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css"> <script src="main.js"></script> </head> <body onload="init()"> <canvas width="600" height="600"> <p>Your browser doesn't support canvas.</p> </canvas> </body> </html> I’ll ask you to update your HTML file at a later point, but the CSS file we’ll start with will stay the same throughout the project. This is the full CSS we are going to use: body { background-color: #ccc; text-align: center; } canvas { touch-action: none; background-color: #fff; } button { font-size: 110%;… 2018 Hagar Shilo hagarshilo 2018-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/the-art-of-mathematics/ code
261 Surviving—and Thriving—as a Remote Worker Remote work is hot right now. Many people even say that remote work is the future. Why should a company limit itself to hiring from a specific geographic location when there’s an entire world of talent out there? I’ve been working remotely, full-time, for five and a half years. I’ve reached the point where I can’t even fathom working in an office. The idea of having to wake up at a specific time and commute into an office, work for eight hours, and then commute home, feels weirdly anachronistic. I’ve grown attached to my current level of freedom and flexibility. However, it took me a lot of trial and error to reach success as a remote worker — and sometimes even now, I slip up. Working remotely requires a great amount of discipline, independence, and communication. It can feel isolating, especially if you lean towards the more extroverted side of the social spectrum. Remote working isn’t for everyone, but most people, with enough effort, can make it work — or even thrive. Here’s what I’ve learned in over five years of working remotely. Experiment with your environment As a remote worker, you have almost unprecedented control of your environment. You can often control the specific desk and chair you use, how you accessorize your home office space — whether that’s a dedicated office, a corner of your bedroom, or your kitchen table. (Ideally, not your couch… but I’ve been there.) Hate fluorescent lights? Change your lightbulbs. Cover your work area in potted plants. Put up blackout curtains and work in the dark like a vampire. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable and productive, and doesn’t completely destroy your eyesight. Working remotely doesn’t always mean working from home. If you don’t have a specific reason you need to work from home (like specialized equipment), try working from other environments (which is especially helpful it you have roommates, or children). Cafes are the quintessential remote worker hotspot, but don’t just limit yourself to your favorite local haunt. More cities worldwide are embrac… 2018 Mel Choyce melchoyce 2018-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/thriving-as-a-remote-worker/ process
262 Be the Villain Inclusive Design is the practice of making products and services accessible to, and usable by as many people as reasonably possible without the need for specialized accommodations. The practice was popularized by author and User Experience Design Director Kat Holmes. If getting you to discover her work is the only thing this article succeeds in doing then I’ll consider it a success. As a framework for creating resilient solutions to problems, Inclusive Design is incredible. However, the aimless idealistic aspirations many of its newer practitioners default to can oftentimes run into trouble. Without outlining concrete, actionable outcomes that are then vetted by the people you intend to serve, there is the potential to do more harm than good. When designing, you take a user flow and make sure it can’t be broken. Ensuring that if something is removed, it can be restored. Or that something editable can also be updated at a later date—you know, that kind of thing. What we want to do is avoid surprises. Much like a water slide with a section of pipe missing, a broken flow forcibly ejects a user, to great surprise and frustration. Interactions within a user flow also have to be small enough to be self-contained, so as to avoid creating a none pizza with left beef scenario. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to expand on this practice. Watertight user flows make for a great immediate experience, but it’s all too easy to miss the forest for the trees when you’re a product designer focused on cranking out features. What I’m concerned about is while to trying to envision how a user flow could be broken, you also think about how it could be subverted. In addition to preventing the removal of a section of water slide, you also keep someone from mugging the user when they shoot out the end. If you pay attention, you’ll start to notice this subversion with increasing frequency: Domestic abusers using internet-controlled devices to spy on and control their partner. Zealots tanking a business’ rating on Google because its … 2018 Eric Bailey ericbailey 2018-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/be-the-villain/ ux
263 Securing Your Site like It’s 1999 Running a website in the early years of the web was a scary business. The web was an evolving medium, and people were finding new uses for it almost every day. From book stores to online auctions, the web was an expanding universe of new possibilities. As the web evolved, so too did the knowledge of its inherent security vulnerabilities. Clever tricks that were played on one site could be copied on literally hundreds of other sites. It was a normal sight to log in to a website to find nothing working because someone had breached its defences and deleted its database. Lessons in web security in those days were hard-earned. What follows are examples of critical mistakes that brought down several early websites, and how you can help protect yourself and your team from the same fate. Bad input validation: Trusting anything the user sends you Our story begins in the most unlikely place: Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing was a 2001 video game set in a quaint town, filled with happy-go-lucky inhabitants that co-exist peacefully. Like most video games, Animal Crossing was the subject of many fan communities on the early web. One such unofficial web forum was dedicated to players discussing their adventures in Animal Crossing. Players could trade secrets, ask for help, and share pictures of their virtual homes. This might sound like a model community to you, but you would be wrong. One day, a player discovered a hidden field in the forum’s user profile form. Normally, this page allows users to change their name, their password, or their profile photo. This person discovered that the hidden field contained their unique user ID, which identifies them when the forum’s backend saves profile changes to its database. They discovered that by modifying the form to change the user ID, they could make changes to any other player’s profile. Needless to say, this idyllic online community descended into chaos. Users changed each other’s passwords, deleted each other’s messages, and attacked each-other under the cover of complete anonym… 2018 Katie Fenn katiefenn 2018-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/securing-your-site-like-its-1999/ code
264 Dynamic Social Sharing Images Way back when social media was new, you could be pretty sure that whatever you posted would be read by those who follow you. If you’d written a blog post and you wanted to share it with those who follow you, you could post a link and your followers would see it in their streams. Oh heady days! With so many social channels and a proliferation of content and promotions flying past in everyone’s streams, it’s no longer enough to share content on social media, you have to actively sell it if you want it to be seen. You really need to make the most of every opportunity to catch a reader’s attention if you’re trying to get as many eyes as possible on that sweet, sweet social content. One of the best ways to grab attention with your posts or tweets is to include an image. There’s heaps of research that says that having images in your posts helps them stand out to followers. Reports I found showed figures from anything from 35% to 150% improvement from just having image in a post. Unfortunately, the details were surrounded with gross words like engagement and visual marketing assets and so I had to close the page before I started to hate myself too much. So without hard stats to quote, we’ll call it a rule of thumb. The rule of thumb is that posts with images will grab more attention than those without, so it makes sense that when adding pages to a website, you should make sure that they have social media sharing images associated with them. Adding sharing images The process for declaring an image to be used in places like Facebook and Twitter is very simple, and at this point is familiar to many of us. You add a meta tag to the head of the page to point to the location of the image to use. When a link to the page is added to a post, the social network will fetch the page, look for the meta tag and then use the image you specified. <meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/my_image.jpg"> There’s a good post on this over at CSS-Tricks if you need to bone up on the details of this and other similar meta tags … 2018 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2018-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/dynamic-social-sharing-images/ code

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