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101 Easing The Path from Design to Development As a web developer, I have the pleasure of working with a lot of different designers. There has been a lot of industry discussion of late about designers and developers, focusing on how different we sometimes are and how the interface between our respective phases of a project (that is to say moving from a design phase into production) can sometimes become a battleground. I don’t believe it has to be a battleground. It’s actually more like being a dance partner – our steps are different, but as long as we know our own part and have a little knowledge of our partner’s steps, it all goes together to form a cohesive dance. Albeit with less spandex and fewer sequins (although that may depend on the project in question). As the process usually flows from design towards development, it’s most important that designers have a little knowledge of how the site is going to be built. At the specialist web development agency I’m part of, we find that designs that have been well considered from a technical perspective help to keep the project on track and on budget. Based on that experience, I’ve put together my checklist of things that designers should consider before handing their work over to a developer to build. Layout One rookie mistake made by traditionally trained designers transferring to the web is to forget a web browser is not a fixed medium. Unlike designing a magazine layout or a piece of packaging, there are lots of available options to consider. Should the layout be fluid and resize with the window, or should it be set to a fixed width? If it’s fluid, which parts expand and which not? If it’s fixed, should it sit in the middle of the window or to one side? If any part of the layout is going to be flexible (get wider and narrower as required), consider how any graphics are affected. Images don’t usually look good if displayed at anything other that their original size, so should they behave? If a column is going to get wider than it’s shown in the Photoshop comp, it may be necessary to provide separate wid… 2008 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2008-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/easing-the-path-from-design-to-development/ process
102 Art Directing with Looking Room Using photographic composition techniques to start to art direct on the template-driven web. Think back to last night. There you are, settled down in front of the TV, watching your favourite soap opera, with nice hot cup of tea in hand. Did you notice – whilst engrossed in the latest love-triangle – that the cameraman has worked very hard to support your eye’s natural movement on-screen? He’s carefully framed individual shots to create balance. Think back to last week. There you were, sat with your mates watching the big match. Did you notice that the cameraman frames the shot to go with the direction of play? A player moving right will always be framed so that he is on the far left, with plenty of ‘room’ to run into. Both of these cameramen use a technique called Looking Room, sometimes called Lead Room. Looking Room is the space between the subject (be it a football, or a face), and the edge of the screen. Specifically, Looking Room is the negative space on the side the subject is looking or moving. The great thing is, it’s not just limited to photography, film or television; we can use it in web design too. Basic Framing Before we get into Looking Room, and how it applies to web, we need to have a look at some basics of photographic composition. Many web sites use imagery, or photographs, to enhance the content. But even with professionally shot photographs, without a basic understanding of framing or composition, you can damage how the image is perceived. A simple, easy way to make photographs more interesting is to fill the frame. Take this rather mundane photograph of a horse: A typical point and click affair. But, we can work with this. By closely cropping, and filling the frame, we can instantly change the mood of the shot. I’ve also added Looking Room on the right of the horse. This is space that the horse would be walking into. It gives the photograph movement. Subject, Space, and Movement Generally speaking, a portrait photograph will have a subject and space around them. Visual inte… 2008 Mark Boulton markboulton 2008-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/art-directing-with-looking-room/ design
103 Recession Tips For Web Designers For web designers, there are four keys to surviving bad economic times: do good work, charge a fair price, lower your overhead, and be sure you are communicating with your client. As a reader of 24 ways, you already do good work, so let’s focus on the rest. I know something about surviving bad times, having started my agency, Happy Cog, at the dawn of the dot-com bust. Of course, the recession we’re in now may end up making the dot-com bust look like the years of bling and gravy. But the bust was rough enough at the time. Bad times are hard on overweight companies and over-leveraged start-ups, but can be kind to freelancers and small agencies. Clients who once had money to burn and big agencies to help them burn it suddenly consider the quality of work more important than the marquee value of the business card. Fancy offices and ten people at every meeting are out. A close relationship with an individual or small team that listens is in. Thin is in If you were good in client meetings when you were an employee, print business cards and pick a name for your new agency. Once some cash rolls in, see an accountant. If the one-person entrepreneur model isn’t you, it’s no problem. Form a virtual agency with colleagues who complement your creative, technical, and business skills. Athletics is a Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary “art and design collective.” Talk about low overhead: they don’t have a president, a payroll, or a pension plan. But that hasn’t stopped clients like adidas, Nike, MTV, HBO, Disney, DKNY, and Sundance Channel from knocking on their (virtual) doors. Running a traditional business is like securing a political position in Chicago: it costs a fortune. That’s why bad times crush so many companies. But you are a creature of the internets. You don’t need an office to do great work. I ran Happy Cog out of my apartment for far longer than anyone realized. My clients, when they learned my secret, didn’t care. Keep it lean: if you can budget your incoming freelance money, you don’t have to pay your… 2008 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2008-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/recession-tips-for-web-designers/ business
104 Sitewide Search On A Shoe String One of the questions I got a lot when I was building web sites for smaller businesses was if I could create a search engine for their site. Visitors should be able to search only this site and find things without the maintainer having to put “related articles” or “featured content” links on every page by hand. Back when this was all fields this wasn’t easy as you either had to write your own scraping tool, use ht://dig or a paid service from providers like Yahoo, Altavista or later on Google. In the former case you had to swallow the bitter pill of computing and indexing all your content and storing it in a database for quick access and in the latter it hurt your wallet. Times have moved on and nowadays you can have the same functionality for free using Yahoo’s “Build your own search service” – BOSS. The cool thing about BOSS is that it allows for a massive amount of hits a day and you can mash up the returned data in any format you want. Another good feature of it is that it comes with JSON-P as an output format which makes it possible to use it without any server-side component! Starting with a working HTML form In order to add a search to your site, you start with a simple HTML form which you can use without JavaScript. Most search engines will allow you to filter results by domain. In this case we will search “bbc.co.uk”. If you use Yahoo as your standard search, this could be: <form id="customsearch" action="http://search.yahoo.com/search"> <div> <label for="p">Search this site:</label> <input type="text" name="p" id="term"> <input type="hidden" name="vs" id="site" value="bbc.co.uk"> <input type="submit" value="go"> </div> </form> The Google equivalent is: <form id="customsearch" action="http://www.google.co.uk/search"> <div> <label for="p">Search this site:</label> <input type="text" name="as_q" id="term"> <input type="hidden" name="as_sitesearch" id="site" value="bbc.co.uk"> <input type="submit" value="go"> </div> </form> In any case make sure to use the ID term for the searc… 2008 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2008-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/sitewide-search-on-a-shoestring/ code
105 Contract Killer When times get tough, it can often feel like there are no good people left in the world, only people who haven’t yet turned bad. These bad people will go back on their word, welch on a deal, put themselves first. You owe it to yourself to stay on top. You owe it to yourself to ensure that no matter how bad things get, you’ll come away clean. You owe it yourself and your business not to be the guy lying bleeding in an alley with a slug in your gut. But you’re a professional, right? Nothing bad is going to happen to you. You’re a good guy. You do good work for good people. Think again chump. Maybe you’re a gun for hire, a one man army with your back to the wall and nothing standing between you and the line at a soup kitchen but your wits. Maybe you work for the agency, or like me you run one of your own. Either way, when times get tough and people get nasty, you’ll need more than a killer smile to save you. You’ll need a killer contract too. It was exactly ten years ago today that I first opened my doors for business. In that time I’ve thumbed through enough contracts to fill a filing cabinet. I’ve signed more contracts than I can remember, many so complicated that I should have hired a lawyer (or detective) to make sense of their complicated jargon and solve their cross-reference puzzles. These documents had not been written to be understood on first reading but to spin me around enough times so as to give the other player the upper-hand. If signing a contract I didn’t fully understand made me a stupid son-of-a-bitch, not asking my customers to sign one just makes me plain dumb. I’ve not always been so careful about asking my customers to sign contracts with me as I am now. Somehow in the past I felt that insisting on a contract went against the friendly, trusting relationship that I like to build with my customers. Most of the time the game went my way. On rare the occasions when a fight broke out, I ended up bruised and bloodied. I learned that asking my customers to sign a contract matters to both sides,… 2008 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2008-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/contract-killer/ business
106 Checking Out: Progress Meters It’s the holiday season, so you know what that means: online shopping! When I started developing Web sites back in the 90s, many of my first clients were small local shops wanting to sell their goods online, so I developed many a checkout system. And because of slow dial-up speeds back then, informing the user about where they were in the checkout process was pretty important. Even though we’re (mostly) beyond the dial-up days, informing users about where they are in a flow is still important. In usability tests at the companies I’ve worked at, I’ve seen time and time again how not adequately informing the user about their state can cause real frustration. This is especially true for two sets of users: mobile users and users of assistive devices, in particular, screen readers. The progress meter is a very common design solution used to indicate to the user’s state within a flow. On the design side, much effort may go in to crafting a solution that is as visually informative as possible. On the development side, however, solutions range widely. I’ve checked out the checkouts at a number of sites and here’s what I’ve found when it comes to progress meters: they’re sometimes inaccessible and often confusing or unhelpful — all because of the way in which they’re coded. For those who use assistive devices or text-only browsers, there must be a better way to code the progress meter — and there is. (Note: All code samples are from live sites but have been tweaked to hide the culprits’ identities.) How not to make progress A number of sites assemble their progress meters using non- or semi-semantic markup and images with no alternate text. On text-only browsers (like my mobile phone) and to screen readers, this looks and reads like chunks of content with no context given. <div id="progress"> <img src="icon_progress_1a.gif" alt=""> <em>Shipping information</em> <img src="icon_progress_arrow.gif" alt=""> <img src="icon_progress_2a.gif" alt=""> <em>Payment information</em> <img src="icon_progress_arrow.gif" alt=… 2008 Kimberly Blessing kimberlyblessing 2008-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/checking-out-progress-meters/ ux
107 Using Google App Engine as Your Own Content Delivery Network Do you remember, years ago, when hosting was expensive, domain names were the province of the rich, and you hosted your web pages on Geocities? It seems odd to me now that there was a time when each and every geek didn’t have his own top-level domain and super hosting setup. But as the parts became more and more affordable a man could become an outcast if he didn’t have his own slightly surreal-sounding TLD. And so it will be in the future when people realise with surprise there was a time before affordable content delivery networks. A content delivery network, or CDN, is a system of servers spread around the world, serving files from the nearest physical location. Instead of waiting for a file to find its way from a server farm in Silicon Valley 8,000 kilometres away, I can receive it from London, Dublin, or Paris, cutting down the time I wait. The big names — Google, Yahoo, Amazon, et al — use CDNs for their sites, but they’ve always been far too expensive for us mere mortals. Until now. There’s a service out there ready for you to use as your very own CDN. You have the company’s blessing, you won’t need to write a line of code, and — best of all — it’s free. The name? Google App Engine. In this article you’ll find out how to set up a CDN on Google App Engine. You’ll get the development software running on your own computer, tell App Engine what files to serve, upload them to a web site, and give everyone round the world access to them. Creating your first Google App Engine project Before we do anything else, you’ll need to download the Google App Engine software development kit (SDK). You’ll need Python 2.5 too — you won’t be writing any Python code but the App Engine SDK will need it to run on your computer. If you don’t have Python, App Engine will install it for you (if you use Mac OS X 10.5 or a Linux-based OS you’ll have Python; if you use Windows you won’t). Done that? Excellent, because that’s the hardest step. The rest is plain sailing. You’ll need to choose a unique ‘application id’ — nothing … 2008 Matt Riggott mattriggott 2008-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/using-google-app-engine-as-your-own-cdn/ process
108 A Festive Type Folly ‘Tis the season to be jolly, so the carol singers tell us. At 24 ways, we’re keeping alive another British tradition that includes the odd faux-Greco-Roman building dotted around the British countryside, Tower Bridge built in 1894, and your Dad’s Christmas jumper with the dancing reindeer motif. ‘Tis the season of the folly! 24 Ways to impress your friends The example is not an image, just text. You may wish to see a screenshot in Safari to compare with your own operating system and browser rendering. Like all follies this is an embellishment — a bit of web typography fun. It’s similar to the masthead text at my place, but it’s also a hyperlink. Unlike the architectural follies of the past, no child labour was used to fund or build it, just some HTML flavoured with CSS, and a heavy dose of Times New Roman. Why Times New Roman, you ask? Well, after a few wasted hours experimenting with heaps of typefaces, seeking an elusive consistency of positioning and rendering across platforms, it proved to be the most consistent. Who’d‘a thought? To make things more interesting, I wanted to use a traditional scale and make the whole thing elastic by using relative lengths that would react to a person’s font size. So, to the meat of this festive frippery: There are three things we rely on to create this indulgence: Descendant selectors Absolute positioning Inheritance HTML & Descendant Selectors The markup for the folly might seem complex at first glance. To semantics pedants and purists it may seem outrageous. If that’s you, read on at your peril! Here it is with lots of whitespace: <div id="type"> <h1>   <a href="/">     <em>2       <span>4         <span>w           <span>a             <span>y               <span>s</span>             </span>           </span>         </span>       </span>     </em>     <strong>to       <span>i         <span>m           <span>pre             <span>s               <span>s                 <span>your                   <span>friends</span>                 </span>         … 2008 Jon Tan jontan 2008-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/a-festive-type-folly/ design
109 Geotag Everywhere with Fire Eagle A note from the editors: Since this article was written Yahoo! has retired the Fire Eagle service. Location, they say, is everywhere. Everyone has one, all of the time. But on the web, it’s taken until this year to see the emergence of location in the applications we use and build. The possibilities are broad. Increasingly, mobile phones provide SDKs to approximate your location wherever you are, browser extensions such as Loki and Mozilla’s Geode provide browser-level APIs to establish your location from the proximity of wireless networks to your laptop. Yahoo’s Brickhouse group launched Fire Eagle, an ambitious location broker enabling people to take their location from any of these devices or sources, and provide it to a plethora of web services. It enables you to take the location information that only your iPhone knows about and use it anywhere on the web. That said, this is still a time of location as an emerging technology. Fire Eagle stores your location on the web (protected by application-specific access controls), but to try and give an idea of how useful and powerful your location can be — regardless of the services you use now — today’s 24ways is going to build a bookmarklet to call up your location on demand, in any web application. Location Support on the Web Over the past year, the number of applications implementing location features has increased dramatically. Plazes and Brightkite are both full featured social networks based around where you are, whilst Pownce rolled in Fire Eagle support to allow geotagging of all the content you post to their microblogging service. Dipity’s beautiful timeline shows for you moving from place to place and Six Apart’s activity stream for Movable Type started exposing your movements. The number of services that hook into Fire Eagle will increase as location awareness spreads through the developer community, but you can use your location on other sites indirectly too. Consider Flickr. … 2008 Ben Ward benward 2008-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/geotag-everywhere-with-fire-eagle/ code
110 Shiny Happy Buttons Since Mac OS X burst onto our screens, glossy, glassy, shiny buttons have been almost de rigeur, and have essentially, along with reflections and rounded corners, become a cliché of Web 2.0 “design”. But if you can’t beat ‘em you’d better join ‘em. So, in this little contribution to our advent calendar, we’re going to take a plain old boring HTML button, and 2.0 it up the wazoo. But, here’s the catch. We’ll use no images, either in our HTML or our CSS. No sliding doors, no image replacement techniques. Just straight up, CSS, CSS3 and a bit of experimental CSS. And, it will be compatible with pretty much any browser (though with some progressive enhancement for those who keep up with the latest browsers). The HTML We’ll start with our HTML. <button type="submit">This is a shiny button</button> OK, so it’s not shiny yet – but boy will it ever be. Before styling, that’s going to look like this. Ironically, depending on the operating system and browser you are using, it may well be a shiny button already, but that’s not the point. We want to make it shiny 2.0. Our mission is to make it look something like this If you want to follow along at home keep in mind that depending on which browser you are using you may see fewer of the CSS effects we’ve added to create the button. As of writing, only in Safari are all the effects we’ll apply supported. Taking a look at our finished product, here’s what we’ve done to it: We’ve given the button some padding and a width. We’ve changed the text color, and given the text a drop shadow. We’ve given the button a border. We’ve given the button some rounded corners. We’ve given the button a drop shadow. We’ve given the button a gradient background. and remember, all without using any images. Styling the button So, let’s get to work. First, we’ll add given the element some padding and a width: button { padding: .5em; width: 15em; } Next, we’ll add the text color, and the drop shadow: color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 1px 1px 1px #000; A note on text-shadow I… 2008 John Allsopp johnallsopp 2008-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/shiny-happy-buttons/ code
111 Geometric Background Patterns When the design is finished and you’re about to start the coding process, you have to prepare your graphics. If you’re working with a pattern background you need to export only the repeating fragment. It can be a bit tricky to isolate a fragment to achieve a seamless pattern background. For geometric patterns there is a method I always follow and that I want to share with you. Take for example a perfect 45° diagonal line pattern. How do you define this pattern fragment so it will be rendered seamlessly? Here is the method I usually follow to avoid a mismatch. First, zoom in so you see enough detail and you can distinguish the pixels. Select the Rectangular Marquee Selection tool and start your selection at the intersection of 2 different colors of a diagonal line. Hold down the Shift key while dragging so you drag a perfect square. Release the mouse when you reach the exact same intesection (as your starting) point at the top right. Copy this fragment (using Copy Merged: Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C) and paste the fragment in a new layer. Give this layer the name ‘pattern’. Now hold down the Command Key (Control Key on Windows) and click on the ‘pattern’ layer in the Layers Palette to select the fragment. Now go to Edit > Define Pattern, enter a name for your pattern and click OK. Test your pattern in a new document. Create a new document of 600 px by 400px, hit Cmd/Ctrl + A and go to Edit > Fill… and choose your pattern. If the result is OK, you have created a perfect pattern fragment. Below you see this pattern enlarged. The guides show the boundaries of the pattern fragment and the red pixels are the reference points. The red pixels at the top right, bottom right and bottom left should match the red pixel at the top left. This technique should work for every geometric pattern. Some patterns are easier than others, but this, and the Photoshop pattern fill test, has always been my guideline. Other geometric pattern examples Example 1 Not all geometric pattern fragments are squares. Some patterns … 2008 Veerle Pieters veerlepieters 2008-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/geometric-background-patterns/ design
112 User Styling During the recent US elections, Twitter decided to add an ‘election bar’ as part of their site design. You could close it if it annoyed you, but the action wasn’t persistent and the bar would always come back like a bad penny. The solution to common browsing problems like this is CSS. ‘User styling’ (or the creepy ‘skinning’) is the creation of CSS rules to customise and personalise a particular domain. Aside from hiding adverts and other annoyances, there are many reasons for taking the time and effort to do it: Improving personal readability by changing text size and colour Personalising the look of a web app like GMail to look less insipid Revealing microformats Sport! My dreams of site skinning tennis are not yet fully realised, but it’ll be all the rage by next Christmas, believe me. Hopefully you’re now asking “But how? HOW?!”. The process of creating a site skin is roughly as follows: See something you want to change Find out what it’s called, and if any rules already apply to it Write CSS rule(s) to override and/or enhance it. Apply the rules So let’s get stuck in… See something Let’s start small with Multimap.com. Look at that big header – it takes up an awful lot of screen space doesn’t it? No matter, we can fix it. Tools Now we need to find out where that big assed header is in the DOM, and make overriding CSS rules. The best tool I’ve found yet is the Mac OS X app, CSS Edit. It utilises a slick ‘override stylesheets’ function and DOM Inspector. Rather than give you all the usual DOM inspection tools, CSS Edit’s is solely concerned with style. Go into ‘X-Ray’ mode, click an element, and look at the inspector window to see every style rule governing it. Click the selector to be taken to where it lives in the CSS. It really is a user styling dream app. Having said all that, you can achieve all this with free, cross platform tools – namely Firefox with the Firebug and Stylish extensions. We’ll be using them for these examples, so make sure you have them installed if you wan… 2008 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2008-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/user-styling/ process
113 What Your Turkey Can Teach You About Project Management The problem with project management is that everyone thinks it’s boring. Well, that’s not really the problem. The problem is that everyone thinks it’s boring but it’s still really important. Project management is what lets you deliver your art – whether that be design or development. In the same way, a Christmas dinner cooked by a brilliant chef with no organizational skills is disastrous – courses arrive in the wrong order, some things are cold whilst others are raw and generally it’s a trip to the ER waiting to happen. Continuing the Christmas dinner theme, here are my top tips for successful projects, wrapped up in a nice little festive analogy. Enjoy! Tip 1: Know What You’re Aiming For (Turkey? Ham? Both??) The underlying cause for the failure of so many projects is mismatched expectations. Christmas dinner cannot be a success if you serve glazed ham and your guests view turkey as the essential Christmas dinner ingredient. It doesn’t matter how delicious and well executed your glazed ham is, it’s still fundamentally just not turkey. You might win one or two adventurous souls over, but the rest will go home disappointed. Add to the mix the fact that most web design projects are nowhere near as emotive as Christmas dinner (trust me, a ham vs turkey debate will rage much longer than a fixed vs fluid debate in normal human circles) and the problem is compounded. In particular, as technologists, we forget that our ability to precisely imagine the outcome of a project, be it a website, a piece of software, or similar, is much more keenly developed than the average customer of such projects. So what’s the solution? Get very clear, from the very beginning, on exactly what the project is about. What are you trying to achieve? How will you measure success? Is the presence of turkey a critical success factor? Summarize all this information in some form of document (in PM-speak, it’s called a Project Initiation Document typically). Ideally, get the people who are the real decision makers to sign their agreement … 2008 Meri Williams meriwilliams 2008-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/what-your-turkey-can-teach-you-about-project-management/ business
114 How To Create Rockband'ism There are mysteries happening in the world of business these days. We want something else by now. The business of business has to become more than business. We want to be able to identify ourselves with the brands we purchase and we want them to do good things. We want to feel cool because we buy stuff, and we don’t just want a shopping experience – we want an engagement with a company we can relate to. Let me get back to “feeling cool” – if we want to feel cool, we might get the companies we buy from to support that. That’s why I am on a mission to make companies into rockbands. Now when I say rockbands – I don’t mean the puke-y, drunky, nasty stuff that some people would highlight is also a part of rockbands. Therefore I have created my own word “rockband’ism”. This word is the definition of a childhood dream version of being in a rockband – the feeling of being more respected and loved and cool, than a cockroach or a suit on the floor of a company. Rockband’ism Rockband’ism is what we aspire to, to feel cool and happy. So basically what I am arguing is that companies should look upon themselves as rockbands. Because the world has changed, so business needs to change as well. I have listed a couple of things you could do today to become a rockband, as a person or as a company. 1 – Give your support to companies that make a difference to their surroundings – if you are buying electronics look up what the electronic producers are doing of good in the world (check out the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics). 2 – Implement good karma in your everyday life (and do well by doing good). What you give out you get back at some point in some shape – this can also be implemented for business. 3 – WWRD? – “what would a rockband do”? or if you are into Kenny Rogers – what would he do in any given situation? This will also show yourself where your business or personal integrity lies because you actually act as a person or a rockband you admire. 4 – Start leading instead of managing – If we can measure stuff wh… 2008 Henriette Weber henrietteweber 2008-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/how-to-create-rockbandism/ business
115 Charm Clients, Win Pitches Over the years I have picked up a number of sales techniques that have lead to us doing pretty well in the pitches we go for. Of course, up until now, these top secret practices have remained firmly locked in the company vault but now I am going to share them with you. They are cunningly hidden within the following paragraphs so I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the whole thing. Ok, so where to start? I guess a good place would be getting invited to pitch for work in the first place. Shameless self promotion What not to do You’re as keen as mustard to ‘sell’ what you do, but you have no idea as to the right approach. From personal experience (sometimes bitter!), the following methods are as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot: Cold calling Advertising Bidding websites Sales people Networking events Ok, I’m exaggerating; sometimes these things work. For example, cold calling can work if you have a story – a reason to call and introduce yourself other than “we do web design and you have a website”. “We do web design and we’ve just moved in next door to you” would be fine. Advertising can work if your offering is highly specialist. However, paying oodles of dollars a day to Google Ads to appear under the search term ‘web design’ is probably not the best use of your budget. Specialising is, in fact, probably a good way to go. Though it can feel counter intuitive in that you are not spreading yourself as widely as you might, you will eventually become an expert and therefore gain a reputation in your field. Specialism doesn’t necessarily have to be in a particular skillset or technology, it could just as easily be in a particular supply chain or across a market. Target audience ‘Who to target?’ is the next question. If you’re starting out then do tap-up your family and friends. Anything that comes your way from them will almost certainly come with a strong recommendation. Also, there’s nothing wrong with calling clients you had dealings with in previous employment (though beware of any c… 2008 Marcus Lillington marcuslillington 2008-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/charm-clients-win-pitches/ business
116 The IE6 Equation It is the destiny of one browser to serve as the nemesis of web developers everywhere. At the birth of the Web Standards movement, that role was played by Netscape Navigator 4; an outdated browser that refused to die. Its tenacious existence hampered the adoption of modern standards. Today that role is played by Internet Explorer 6. There’s a sensation that I’m sure you’re familiar with. It’s a horrible mixture of dread and nervousness. It’s the feeling you get when—after working on a design for a while in a standards-compliant browser like Firefox, Safari or Opera—you decide that you can no longer put off the inevitable moment when you must check the site in IE6. Fingers are crossed, prayers are muttered, but alas, to no avail. The nemesis browser invariably screws something up. What do you do next? If the differences in IE6 are minor, you could just leave it be. After all, websites don’t need to look exactly the same in all browsers. But if there are major layout issues and a significant portion of your audience is still using IE6, you’ll probably need to roll up your sleeves and start fixing the problems. A common approach is to quarantine IE6-specific CSS in a separate stylesheet. This stylesheet can then be referenced from the HTML document using conditional comments like this: <!--[if lt IE 7]> <link rel="stylesheet" href="ie6.css" type="text/css" media="screen" /> <![endif]--> That stylesheet will only be served up to Internet Explorer where the version number is less than 7. You can put anything inside a conditional comment. You could put a script element in there. So as well as serving up browser-specific CSS, it’s possible to serve up browser-specific JavaScript. A few years back, before Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7, JavaScript genius Dean Edwards wrote a script called IE7. This amazing piece of code uses JavaScript to make Internet Explorer 5 and 6 behave like a standards-compliant browser. Dean used JavaScript to bootstrap IE’s CSS support. Because the script is specifically targeted… 2008 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2008-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/the-ie6-equation/ code
117 The First Tool You Reach For Microsoft recently announced that Internet Explorer 8 will be released in the first half of 2009. Compared to the standards support of other major browsers, IE8 will not be especially great, but it will finally catch up with the state of the art in one specific area: support for CSS tables. This milestone has the potential to trigger an important change in the way you approach web design. To show you just how big a difference CSS tables can make, think about how you might code a fluid, three-column layout from scratch. Just to make your life more difficult, give it one fixed-width column, with a background colour that differs from the rest of the page. Ready? Go! Okay, since you’re the sort of discerning web designer who reads 24ways, I’m going to assume you at least considered doing this without using HTML tables for the layout. If you’re especially hardcore, I imagine you began thinking of CSS floats, negative margins, and faux columns. If you did, colour me impressed! Now admit it: you probably also gave an inward sigh about the time it would take to figure out the math on the negative margin overlaps, check for dropped floats in Internet Explorer and generally wrestle each of the major browsers into giving you what you want. If after all that you simply gave up and used HTML tables, I can’t say I blame you. There are plenty of professional web designers out there who still choose to use HTML tables as their main layout tool. Sure, they may know that users with screen readers get confused by inappropriate use of tables, but they have a job to do, and they want tools that will make that job easy, not difficult. Now let me show you how to do it with CSS tables. First, we have a div element for each of our columns, and we wrap them all in another two divs: <div class="container"> <div> <div id="menu"> ⋮ </div> <div id="content"> ⋮ </div> <div id="sidebar"> ⋮ </div> </div> </div> Don’t sweat the “div clutter” in this code. Unlike tables, divs have no semantic meaning, and can therefore b… 2008 Kevin Yank kevinyank 2008-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/the-first-tool-you-reach-for/ code
118 Ghosts On The Internet By rights the internet should be full of poltergeists, poor rootless things looking for their real homes. Many events on the internet are not properly associated with their correct timeframe. I don’t mean a server set to the wrong time, though that happens too. Much of the content published on the internet is separated from any proper reference to its publication time. What does publication even mean? Let me tell you a story… “It is 2019 and this is Kathy Clees reporting on the story of the moment, the shock purchase of Microsoft by Apple Inc. A Internet Explorer security scare story from 2008 was responsible, yes from 11 years ago, accidently promoted by an analyst, who neglected to check the date of their sources.” If you think this is fanciful nonsense, then cast your mind back to September 2008, this story in Wired or The Times (UK) about a huge United Airlines stock tumble. A Florida newspaper had a automated popular story section. A random reader looking at a story about United’s 2002 Bankruptcy proceedings caused this story to get picked up by Google’s later visit to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s news home page. The story was undated, Google’s news engine apparently gave it a 2008 date, an analyst picked it up and pushed it to Bloomberg and within minutes the United stock was tumbling. Their stock price dropped from $12 to $3, then recovered to $11 over the day. An eight percent fall in share price over a mis-configured date Completing this out of order Christmas Carol, lets look at what is current practice and how dates are managed, we might even get to clank some chains. Publication date used to be inseparable from publication, the two things where stamped on the same piece of paper. How can we determine when things have been published, now? Determining publication dates Time as defined by http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-datetime extends ISO 8601, mandating the use of a year value. This is pretty well defined, we can even get very accurate timings down to milliseconds, Ruby and other languages can… 2008 Gavin Bell gavinbell 2008-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/ghosts-on-the-internet/ ux
119 Rocking Restrictions I love my job. I live my job. For every project I do, I try to make it look special. I’ll be honest: I have a fetish for comments like “I never saw anything like that!” or, “I wish I thought of that!”. I know, I have an ego-problem. (Eleven I’s already) But sometimes, you run out of inspiration. Happens to everybody, and everybody hates it. “I’m the worst designer in the world.” “Everything I designed before this was just pure luck!” No it wasn’t. Countless articles about finding inspiration have already been written. Great, but they’re not the magic potion you’d expect them to be when you need it. Here’s a list of small tips that can have immediate effect when applying them/using them. Main theme: Liberate yourself from the designers’ block by restricting yourself. Do’s Grids If you aren’t already using grids, you’re doing something wrong. Not only are they a great help for aligning your design, they also restrict you to certain widths and heights. (For more information about grids, I suggest you read Mark Boulton’s series on designing grid systems. Oh, he’s also publishing a book I think.) So what’s the link between grids and restrictions? Instead of having the option to style a piece of layout with a width of 1 to 960 pixels, you have to choose from values like 60 pixels, 140, 220, 300, … Start small Having a hard time finding a style for the layout, why don’t you start with one small object? No, not that small object, I meant a piece of a form, or a link, or try styling your headers (h1 – h6). Let’s take a submit button of a form: it’s small, but needs much attention. People will click it. People will hover it. Maybe sometimes it’s disabled? Also: a button needs to look like a button, so typically it requires more styling then a regular link. Once you’ve got the button, move on, following the button’s style. Color palettes There are lots of resources on the web for finding inspiration for color palettes. Some of the most famous are COLOURlovers, wear palettes and Adobe’s Kuler. Browse through them … 2008 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2008-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/rocking-restrictions/ process
120 Easier Page States for Wireframes When designing wireframes for web sites and web apps, it is often overlooked that the same ‘page’ can look wildly different depending on its context. A logged-in page will look different from a logged-out page; an administrator’s view may have different buttons than a regular user’s view; a power user’s profile will be more extensive than a new user’s. These different page states need designing at some point, especially if the wireframes are to form a useful communication medium between designer and developer. Documenting the different permutations can be a time consuming exercise involving either multiple pages in one’s preferred box-and-arrow software, or a fully fledged drawing containing all the possible combinations annotated accordingly. Enter interactive wireframes and Polypage Interactive wireframes built in HTML are a great design and communication tool. They provide a clickable prototype, running in the browser as would the final site. As such they give a great feel for how the site will be to use. Once you add in the possibilities of JavaScript and a library such as jQuery, they become even more flexible and powerful. Polypage is a jQuery plugin which makes it really easy to design multiple page states in HTML wireframes. There’s no JavaScript knowledge required (other than cutting and pasting in a few lines). The page views are created by simply writing all the alternatives into your HTML page and adding special class names to apply state and conditional view logic to the various options. When the page is loaded Polypage automatically detects the page states defined by the class names and creates a control bar enabling the user to toggle page states with the click of a mouse or the clack of a keyboard. Using cookies by way of the jQuery cookie plugin, Polypage retains the view state throughout your prototype. This means you could navigate through your wireframes as if you were logged out; as if you were logged in as an administrator; with notes on or off; or with any other view or state you m… 2008 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2008-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/easier-page-states-for-wireframes/ process
121 Hide And Seek in The Head If you want your JavaScript-enhanced pages to remain accessible and understandable to scripted and noscript users alike, you have to think before you code. Which functionalities are required (ie. should work without JavaScript)? Which ones are merely nice-to-have (ie. can be scripted)? You should only start creating the site when you’ve taken these decisions. Special HTML elements Once you have a clear idea of what will work with and without JavaScript, you’ll likely find that you need a few HTML elements for the noscript version only. Take this example: A form has a nifty bit of Ajax that automatically and silently sends a request once the user enters something in a form field. However, in order to preserve accessibility, the user should also be able to submit the form normally. So the form should have a submit button in noscript browsers, but not when the browser supports sufficient JavaScript. Since the button is meant for noscript browsers, it must be hard-coded in the HTML: <input type="submit" value="Submit form" id="noScriptButton" /> When JavaScript is supported, it should be removed: var checkJS = [check JavaScript support]; window.onload = function () { if (!checkJS) return; document.getElementById('noScriptButton').style.display = 'none'; } Problem: the load event Although this will likely work fine in your testing environment, it’s not completely correct. What if a user with a modern, JavaScript-capable browser visits your page, but has to wait for a huge graphic to load? The load event fires only after all assets, including images, have been loaded. So this user will first see a submit button, but then all of a sudden it’s removed. That’s potentially confusing. Fortunately there’s a simple solution: play a bit of hide and seek in the <head>: var checkJS = [check JavaScript support]; if (checkJS) { document.write('<style>#noScriptButton{display: none}</style>'); } First, check if the browser supports enough JavaScript. If it does, document.write an extra <style> element that hides the b… 2006 Peter-Paul Koch ppk 2006-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/hide-and-seek-in-the-head/ code
122 A Message To You, Rudy - CSS Production Notes When more than one designer or developer work together on coding an XHTML/CSS template, there are several ways to make collaboration effective. Some prefer to comment their code, leaving a trail of bread-crumbs for their co-workers to follow. Others use accompanying files that contain their working notes or communicate via Basecamp. For this year’s 24ways I wanted to share a technique that I has been effective at Stuff and Nonsense; one that unfortunately did not make it into the final draft of Transcending CSS. This technique, CSS production notes, places your page production notes in one convenient place within an XHTML document and uses nothing more than meaningful markup and CSS. Let’s start with the basics; a conversation between a group of people. In the absence of notes or conversation elements in XHTML you need to make an XHTML compound that will effectively add meaning to the conversation between designers and developers. As each person speaks, you have two elements right there to describe what has been said and who has spoken: <blockquote> and its cite attribute. <blockquote cite="andy"> <p>This project will use XHTML1.0 Strict, CSS2.1 and all that malarkey.</p> </blockquote> With more than one person speaking, you need to establish a temporal order for the conversation. Once again, the element to do just that is already there in XHTML; the humble ordered list. <ol id="notes"> <li> <blockquote cite="andy"> <p>This project will use XHTML1.0 Strict, CSS2.1 and all that malarkey.</p> </blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote cite="dan"> <p>Those bits are simple and bulletproof.</p> </blockquote> </li> </ol> Adding a new note is as simple as adding a new item to list, and if you prefer to add more information to each note, such as the date or time that the note was written, go right ahead. Place your note list at the bottom of the source order of your document, right before the closing <body> tag. One advantage of this approach over using conventional comments in your code is that … 2006 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2006-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/css-production-notes/ process
123 Fast and Simple Usability Testing Everyone knows by now that they should test the usability of their applications, but still hardly anybody actually does it. In this article I’ll share some tips I’ve picked up for doing usability tests quickly and effectively. Relatively recent tools like Django and Ruby on Rails allow us to develop projects faster and to make significant changes later in the project timeline. Usability testing methods should now be adapted to fit this modern approach to development. When to test In an ideal world usability tests would be carried out frequently from an early stage of the project. Time and budget constraints lead this to be impractical; usability is often the first thing to get dropped from the project plan. If you can only test at one stage in the project, whatever the size, the most valuable time is before your first public beta — leaving long enough to fix issues and not so late that you can’t rethink your scope. There are three main categories of usability test: Testing design mockups Testing a new working application Testing established applications Each category requires a slightly different approach. For small modern web projects you are most likely to be testing a new working application. You will of course have already done functional tests so you won’t be worried about the user breaking things. The main differences between the categories apply in how you word The Script. Testing an established application is the most fun in my opinion. Humans are remarkably adaptable and rapidly develop coping strategies to work around usability issues in software they are forced to use. Uncovering these strategies may lead you to understand previously unspoken needs of your users. Often small changes to the application will have a dramatic affect on their everyday lives. Who to test When you have built a project to scratch your own itch, your intended audience will be people just like you. Test subjects in this case should be easy to find – friends, co-workers etc. This is not always the case; your users… 2006 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2006-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/fast-and-simple-usability-testing/ process
124 Writing Responsible JavaScript Without a doubt, JavaScript has been making something of a comeback in the last year. If you’re involved in client-side development in any way at all, chances are that you’re finding yourself writing more JavaScript now than you have in a long time. If you learned most of your JavaScript back when DHTML was all the rage and before DOM Scripting was in vogue, there have been some big shifts in the way scripts are written. Most of these are in the way event handlers are assigned and functions declared. Both of these changes are driven by the desire to write scripts that are responsible page citizens, both in not tying behaviour to content and in taking care not to conflict with other scripts. I thought it may be useful to look at some of these more responsible approaches to learn how to best write scripts that are independent of the page content and are safely portable between different applications. Event Handling Back in the heady days of Web 1.0, if you wanted to have an object on the page react to something like a click, you would simply go ahead and attach an onclick attribute. This was easy and understandable, but much like the font tag or the style attribute, it has the downside of mixing behaviour or presentation in with our content. As we’re learned with CSS, there are big benefits in keeping those layers separate. Hey, if it works for CSS, it should work for JavaScript too. Just like with CSS, instead of adding an attribute to our element within the document, the more responsible way to do that is to look for the item from your script (like CSS does with a selector) and then assign the behaviour to it. To give an example, take this oldskool onclick use case: <a id="anim-link" href="#" onclick="playAnimation()">Play the animation</a> This could be rewritten by removing the onclick attribute, and instead doing the following from within your JavaScript. document.getElementById('anim-link').onclick = playAnimation; It’s all in the timing Of course, it’s never quite that easy. To be able to attach tha… 2006 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2006-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/writing-responsible-javascript/ code
125 Accessible Dynamic Links Although hyperlinks are the soul of the World Wide Web, it’s worth using them in moderation. Too many links becomes a barrier for visitors navigating their way through a page. This difficulty is multiplied when the visitor is using assistive technology, or is using a keyboard; being able to skip over a block of links doesn’t make the task of finding a specific link any easier. In an effort to make sites easier to use, various user interfaces based on the hiding and showing of links have been crafted. From drop-down menus to expose the deeper structure of a website, to a decluttering of skip links so as not to impact design considerations. Both are well intentioned with the aim of preserving a good usability experience for the majority of a website’s audience; hiding the real complexity of a page until the visitor interacts with the element. When JavaScript is not available The modern dynamic link techniques rely on JavaScript and CSS, but regardless of whether scripting and styles are enabled or not, we should consider the accessibility implications, particularly for screen-reader users, and people who rely on keyboard access. In typical web standards-based drop-down navigation implementations, the rough consensus is that the navigation should be structured as nested lists so when JavaScript is not available the entire navigation map is available to the visitor. This creates a situation where a visitor is faced with potentially well over 50 links on every page of the website. Keyboard access to such structures is frustrating, there’s far too many options, and the method of serially tabbing through each link looking for a specific one is tedious. Instead of offering the visitor an indigestible chunk of links when JavaScript is not available, consider instead having the minimum number of links on a page, and when JavaScript is available bringing in the extra links dynamically. Santa Chris Heilmann offers an excellent proof of concept in making Ajax navigation optional. When JavaScript is enabled, we need to d… 2006 Mike Davies mikedavies 2006-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/accessible-dynamic-links/ ux
126 Intricate Fluid Layouts in Three Easy Steps The Year of the Script may have drawn attention away from CSS but building fluid, multi-column, cross-browser CSS layouts can still be as unpleasant as a lump of coal. Read on for a worry-free approach in three quick steps. The layout system I developed, YUI Grids CSS, has three components. They can be used together as we’ll see, or independently. The Three Easy Steps Choose fluid or fixed layout, and choose the width (in percents or pixels) of the page. Choose the size, orientation, and source-order of the main and secondary blocks of content. Choose the number of columns and how they distribute (for example 50%-50% or 25%-75%), using stackable and nestable grid structures. The Setup There are two prerequisites: We need to normalize the size of an em and opt into the browser rendering engine’s Strict Mode. Ems are a superior unit of measure for our case because they represent the current font size and grow as the user increases their font size setting. This flexibility—the container growing with the user’s wishes—means larger text doesn’t get crammed into an unresponsive container. We’ll use YUI Fonts CSS to set the base size because it provides consistent-yet-adaptive font-sizes while preserving user control. The second prerequisite is to opt into Strict Mode (more info on rendering modes) by declaring a Doctype complete with URI. You can choose XHTML or HTML, and Transitional or Strict. I prefer HTML 4.01 Strict, which looks like this: <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd"> Including the CSS A single small CSS file powers a nearly-infinite number of layouts thanks to a recursive system and the interplay between the three distinct components. You could prune to a particular layout’s specific needs, but why bother when the complete file weighs scarcely 1.8kb uncompressed? Compressed, YUI Fonts and YUI Grids combine for a miniscule 0.9kb over the wire. You could save an HTTP request by concatenating the two CSS files, or by adding their contents … 2006 Nate Koechley natekoechley 2006-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/intricate-fluid-layouts/ code
127 Showing Good Form Earlier this year, I forget exactly when (it’s been a good year), I was building a client site that needed widgets which look like this (designed, incidentally, by my erstwhile writing partner, Cameron Adams): Building this was a challenge not just in CSS, but in choosing the proper markup – how should such a widget be constructed? Mmm … markup It seemed to me there were two key issues to deal with: The function of the interface is to input information, so semantically this is a form, therefore we have to find a way of building it using form elements: fieldset, legend, label and input We can’t use a table for layout, even though that would clearly be the easiest solution! Abusing tables for layout is never good – physical layout is not what table semantics mean. But even if this data can be described as a table, we shouldn’t mix forms markup with non-forms markup, because of the behavioral impact this can have on a screen reader: To take a prominent example, the screen reader JAWS has a mode specifically for interacting with forms (cunningly known as “forms mode”). When running in this mode its output only includes relevant elements – legends, labels and form controls themselves. Any other kind of markup – like text in a previous table cell, a paragraph or list in between – is simply ignored. The user in this situation would have to switch continually in and out of forms mode to hear all the content. (For more about this issue and some test examples, there’s a thread at accessify forum which wanders in that direction.) One further issue for screen reader users is implied by the design: the input fields are associated together in rows and columns, and a sighted user can visually scan across and down to make those associations; but a blind user can’t do that. For such a user the row and column header data will need to be there at every axis; in other words, the layout should be more like this: And constructed with appropriate semantic markup to convey those relationships. By this point the selectio… 2006 James Edwards jamesedwards 2006-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/showing-good-form/ ux
128 Boost Your Hyperlink Power There are HTML elements and attributes that we use every day. Headings, paragraphs, lists and images are the mainstay of every Web developer’s toolbox. Perhaps the most common tool of all is the anchor. The humble a element is what joins documents together to create the gloriously chaotic collection we call the World Wide Web. Anatomy of an Anchor The power of the anchor element lies in the href attribute, short for hypertext reference. This creates a one-way link to another resource, usually another page on the Web: <a href="http://allinthehead.com/"> The href attribute sits in the opening a tag and some descriptive text sits between the opening and closing tags: <a href="http://allinthehead.com/">Drew McLellan</a> “Whoop-dee-freakin’-doo,” I hear you say, “this is pretty basic stuff” – and you’re quite right. But there’s more to the anchor element than just the href attribute. The Theory of relativity You might be familiar with the rel attribute from the link element. I bet you’ve got something like this in the head of your documents: <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen" href="styles.css" /> The rel attribute describes the relationship between the linked document and the current document. In this case, the value of rel is “stylesheet”. This means that the linked document is the stylesheet for the current document: that’s its relationship. Here’s another common use of rel: <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="my RSS feed" href="index.xml" /> This describes the relationship of the linked file – an RSS feed – as “alternate”: an alternate view of the current document. Both of those examples use the link element but you are free to use the rel attribute in regular hyperlinks. Suppose you’re linking to your RSS feed in the body of your page: Subscribe to <a href="index.xml">my RSS feed</a>. You can add extra information to this anchor using the rel attribute: Subscribe to <a href="index.xml" rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml">my RSS feed</a>. There’s no p… 2006 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2006-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/boost-your-hyperlink-power/ code
129 Knockout Type - Thin Is Always In OS X has gorgeous native anti-aliasing (although I will admit to missing 10px aliased Geneva — *sigh*). This is especially true for dark text on a light background. However, things can go awry when you start using light text on a dark background. Strokes thicken. Counters constrict. Letterforms fill out like seasonal snackers. So how do we combat the fat? In Safari and other Webkit-based browsers we can use the CSS ‘text-shadow’ property. While trying to add a touch more contrast to the navigation on haveamint.com I noticed an interesting side-effect on the weight of the type. The second line in the example image above has the following style applied to it: This creates an invisible drop-shadow. (Why is it invisible? The shadow is positioned directly behind the type (the first two zeros) and has no spread (the third zero). So the color, black, is completely eclipsed by the type it is supposed to be shadowing.) Why applying an invisible drop-shadow effectively lightens the weight of the type is unclear. What is clear is that our light-on-dark text is now of a comparable weight to its dark-on-light counterpart. You can see this trick in effect all over ShaunInman.com and in the navigation on haveamint.com and Subtraction.com. The HTML and CSS source code used to create the example images used in this article can be found here. 2006 Shaun Inman shauninman 2006-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/knockout-type/ code
130 Faster Development with CSS Constants Anyone even slightly familiar with a programming language will have come across the concept of constants – a fixed value that can be used through your code. For example, in a PHP script I might have a constant which is the email address that all emails generated by my application get sent to. $adminEmail = 'info@example.com'; I could then use $adminEmail in my script whenever I wanted an email to go to that address. The benefit of this is that when the client decides they want the email to go to a different address, I only need change it in one place – the place where I initially set the constant. I could also quite easily make this value user defined and enable the administrator to update the email address. Unfortunately CSS doesn’t support constants. It would be really useful to be able to define certain values initially and then use them throughout a CSS file, so in this article I’m going to take a look at some of the methods we do have available and provide pointers to more in depth commentary on each. If you have a different method, or tip to share please add it to the comments. So what options do we have? One way to get round the lack of constants is to create some definitions at the top of your CSS file in comments, to define ‘constants’. A common use for this is to create a ‘color glossary’. This means that you have a quick reference to the colors used in the site to avoid using alternates by mistake and, if you need to change the colors, you have a quick list to go down and do a search and replace. In the below example, if I decide I want to change the mid grey to #999999, all I need to do is search and replace #666666 with #999999 – assuming I’ve remember to always use that value for things which are mid grey. /* Dark grey (text): #333333 Dark Blue (headings, links) #000066 Mid Blue (header) #333399 Light blue (top navigation) #CCCCFF Mid grey: #666666 */ This is a fairly low-tech method, but if used throughout the development of the CSS files can make changes far simpler and help to ensure co… 2006 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2006-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/faster-development-with-css-constants/ process
131 Random Lines Made With Mesh I know that Adobe Illustrator can be a bit daunting for people who aren’t really advanced users of the program, but you would be amazed by how easy you can create cool effects or backgrounds. In this short tutorial I show you how to create a cool looking background only in 5 steps. Step 1 – Create Lines Create lines using random widths and harmonious suitable colors. If you get stuck on finding the right colors, check out Adobe’s Kuler and start experimenting. Step 2 – Convert Strokes to Fills Select all lines and convert them to fills. Go to the Object menu, select Path > Outline Stroke. Select the Rectangle tool and draw 1 big rectangle on top the lines. Give the rectangle a suitable color. With the rectangle still selected, go to the Object menu, select Arrange > Send to Back. Step 3 – Convert to Mesh Select all objects by pressing the command key (for Mac users), control key (for Windows users) + the “a” key. Go to the Object menu and select the Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh option. Enter 2 rows and 2 columns. Check the preview box to see what happens and click the OK button. Step 4 – Play Around with The Mesh Points Play around with the points of the mesh using the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow in the Toolbox). Click on the top right point of the mesh. Once you’re starting to drag hold down the shift key and move the point upwards. Now start dragging the bezier handles on the mesh to achieve the effect as shown in the above picture. Of course you can try out all kind of different effects here. The Final Result This is an example of how the final result can look. You can try out all kinds of different shapes dragging the handles of the mesh points. This is just one of the many results you can get. So next time you haven’t got inspiration for a background of a header, a banner or whatever, just experiment with a few basic shapes such as lines and try out the ‘Envelope Distort’ options in Illustrator or the ‘Make with Mesh’ option and experiment, you’ll be amazed by the u… 2006 Veerle Pieters veerlepieters 2006-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/random-lines-made-with-mesh/ design
132 Tasty Text Trimmer In most cases, when designing a user interface it’s best to make a decision about how data is best displayed and stick with it. Failing to make a decision ultimately leads to too many user options, which in turn can be taxing on the poor old user. Under some circumstances, however, it’s good to give the user freedom in customising their workspace. One good example of this is the ‘Article Length’ tool in Apple’s Safari RSS reader. Sliding a slider left of right dynamically changes the length of each article shown. It’s that kind of awesomey magic stuff that’s enough to keep you from sleeping. Let’s build one. The Setup Let’s take a page that has lots of long text items, a bit like a news page or like Safari’s RSS items view. If we were to attach a class name to each element we wanted to resize, that would give us something to hook onto from the JavaScript. Example 1: The basic page. As you can see, I’ve wrapped my items in a DIV and added a class name of chunk to them. It’s these chunks that we’ll be finding with the JavaScript. Speaking of which … Our Core Functions There are two main tasks that need performing in our script. The first is to find the chunks we’re going to be resizing and store their original contents away somewhere safe. We’ll need this so that if we trim the text down we’ll know what it was if the user decides they want it back again. We’ll call this loadChunks. var loadChunks = function(){ var everything = document.getElementsByTagName('*'); var i, l; chunks = []; for (i=0, l=everything.length; i<l; i++){ if (everything[i].className.indexOf(chunkClass) > -1){ chunks.push({ ref: everything[i], original: everything[i].innerHTML }); } } }; The variable chunks is stored outside of this function so that we can access it from our next core function, which is doTrim. var doTrim = function(interval) { if (!chunks) loadChunks(); var i, l; for (i=0, l=chunks.length; i<l; i++){ var a = chunks[i].original.split(' '); a = a.slice(0, interval); chunks[i].ref.inner… 2006 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2006-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/tasty-text-trimmer/ code
133 Gravity-Defying Page Corners While working on Stikkit, a “page curl” came to be. Not being as crafty as Veerle, you see. I fired up Photoshop to see what could be. “Another copy is running on the network“ … oopsie. With license issues sorted out and a concept in mind I set out to create something flexible and refined. One background image and code that is sure to be lean. A simple solution for lazy people like me. The curl I’ll be showing isn’t a curl at all. It’s simply a gradient that’s 18 pixels tall. With a fade to the left that’s diagonally aligned and a small fade on the right that keeps the illusion defined. Create a selection with the marquee tool (keeping in mind a reasonable minimum width) and drag a gradient (black to transparent) from top to bottom. Now drag a gradient (the background color of the page to transparent) from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. Finally, drag another gradient from the right edge towards the center, about 20 pixels or so. But the top is flat and can be positioned precisely just under the bottom right edge very nicely. And there it will sit, never ever to be busted by varying sizes of text when adjusted. <div id="page"> <div id="page-contents"> <h2>Gravity-Defying!</h2> <p>Lorem ipsum dolor ...</p> </div> </div> Let’s dive into code and in the markup you’ll see “is that an extra div?” … please don’t kill me? The #page div sets the width and bottom padding whose height is equal to the shadow we’re adding. The #page-contents div will set padding in ems to scale with the text size the user intends. The background color will be added here too but not overlapping the shadow where #page’s padding makes room. A simple technique that you may find amusing is to substitute a PNG for the GIF I was using. For that would be crafty and future-proof, too. The page curl could sit on any background hue. I hope you’ve enjoyed this easy little trick. It’s hardly earth-shattering, and arguably slick. But it could come in handy, you just never know. Happy Holidays! And pleasant dreams o… 2006 Dan Cederholm dancederholm 2006-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/gravity-defying-page-corners/ design
134 Photographic Palettes How many times have you seen a colour combination that just worked, a match so perfect that it just seems obvious? Now, how many times do you come up with those in your own work? A perfect palette looks easy when it’s done right, but it’s often maddeningly difficult and time-consuming to accomplish. Choosing effective colour schemes will always be more art than science, but there are things you can do that will make coming up with that oh-so-smooth palette just a little a bit easier. A simple trick that can lead to incredibly gratifying results lies in finding a strong photograph and sampling out particularly harmonious colours. Photo Selection Not all photos are created equal. You certainly want to start with imagery that fits the eventual tone you’re attempting to create. A well-lit photo of flowers might lead to a poor colour scheme for a funeral parlour’s web site, for example. It’s worth thinking about what you’re trying to say in advance, and finding a photo that lends itself to your message. As a general rule of thumb, photos that have a lot of neutral or de-saturated tones with one or two strong colours make for the best palette; bright and multi-coloured photos are harder to derive pleasing results from. Let’s start with a relatively neutral image. Sampling In the above example, I’ve surrounded the photo with three different background colours directly sampled from the photo itself. Moving from left to right, you can see how each of the sampled colours is from an area of increasingly smaller coverage within the photo, and yet there’s still a strong harmony between the photo and the background image. I don’t really need to pick the big obvious colours from the photo to create that match, I can easily concentrate on more interesting colours that might work better for what I intend. Using a similar palette, let’s apply those colour choices to a more interesting layout: In this mini-layout, I’ve re-used the same tan colour from the previous middle image as a background, and sampled out a nicely… 2006 Dave Shea daveshea 2006-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/photographic-palettes/ design
135 A Scripting Carol We all know the stories of the Ghost of Scripting Past – a time when the web was young and littered with nefarious scripting, designed to bestow ultimate control upon the developer, to pollute markup with event handler after event handler, and to entrench advertising in the minds of all that gazed upon her. And so it came to be that JavaScript became a dirty word, thrown out of solutions by many a Scrooge without regard to the enhancements that JavaScript could bring to any web page. JavaScript, as it was, was dead as a door-nail. With the arrival of our core philosophy that all standardistas hold to be true: “separate your concerns – content, presentation and behaviour,” we are in a new era of responsible development the Web Standards Way™. Or are we? Have we learned from the Ghosts of Scripting Past? Or are we now faced with new problems that come with new ways of implementing our solutions? The Ghost of Scripting Past If the Ghost of Scripting Past were with us it would probably say: You must remember your roots and where you came from, and realize the misguided nature of your early attempts for control. That person you see down there, is real and they are the reason you exist in the first place… without them, you are nothing. In many ways we’ve moved beyond the era of control and we do take into account the user, or at least much more so than we used to. Sadly – there is one advantage that old school inline event handlers had where we assigned and reassigned CSS style property values on the fly – we knew that if JavaScript wasn’t supported, the styles wouldn’t be added because we ended up doing them at the same time. If anything, we need to have learned from the past that just because it works for us doesn’t mean it is going to work for anyone else – we need to test more scenarios than ever to observe the multitude of browsing arrangements we’ll observe: CSS on with JavaScript off, CSS off/overridden with JavaScript on, both on, both off/not supported. It is a situation that is ripe for conflict. … 2006 Derek Featherstone derekfeatherstone 2006-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/a-scripting-carol/ code
136 Making XML Beautiful Again: Introducing Client-Side XSL Remember that first time you saw XML and got it? When you really understood what was possible and the deep meaning each element could carry? Now when you see XML, it looks ugly, especially when you navigate to a page of XML in a browser. Well, with every modern browser now supporting XSL 1.0, I’m going to show you how you can turn something as simple as an ATOM feed into a customised page using a browser, Notepad and some XSL. What on earth is this XSL? XSL is a family of recommendations for defining XML document transformation and presentation. It consists of three parts: XSLT 1.0 – Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation, a language for transforming XML XPath 1.0 – XML Path Language, an expression language used by XSLT to access or refer to parts of an XML document. (XPath is also used by the XML Linking specification) XSL-FO 1.0 – Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects, an XML vocabulary for specifying formatting semantics XSL transformations are usually a one-to-one transformation, but with newer versions (XSL 1.1 and XSL 2.0) its possible to create many-to-many transformations too. So now you have an overview of XSL, on with the show… So what do I need? So to get going you need a browser an supports client-side XSL transformations such as Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer. Second, you need a source XML file – for this we’re going to use an ATOM feed from Flickr.com. And lastly, you need an editor of some kind. I find Notepad++ quick for short XSLs, while I tend to use XMLSpy or Oxygen for complex XSL work. Because we’re doing a client-side transformation, we need to modify the XML file to tell it where to find our yet-to-be-written XSL file. Take a look at the source XML file, which originates from my Flickr photos tagged sky, in ATOM format. The top of the ATOM file now has an additional <?xml-stylesheet /> instruction, as can been seen on Line 2 below. This instructs the browser to use the XSL file to transform the document. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" sta… 2006 Ian Forrester ianforrester 2006-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/beautiful-xml-with-xsl/ code
137 Cheating Color Have you ever been strapped to use specific colors outlined in a branding guide? Felt restricted because those colors ended up being too light or dark for the way you want to use them? Here’s the solution: throw out your brand guide. gasp! OK, don’t throw it out. Just put it in a drawer for a few minutes. Branding Guides be Damned When dealing with color on screen, it’s easy to get caught up in literal values from hex colors, you can cheat colors ever so slightly to achieve the right optical value. This is especially prevalent when trying to bring a company’s identity colors to a screen design. Because the most important idea behind a brand guide is to help a company maintain the visual integrity of their business, consider hex numbers to be guidelines rather than law. Once you are familiar enough with the colors your company uses, you can start to flex them a bit, and take a few liberties. This is a quick method for cheating to get the color you really want. With a little sleight of design, we can swap a color that might be part of your identity guidelines, with one that works better optically, and no one will be the wiser! Color is a Wily Beast This might be hard: You might have to break out of the idea that a color can only be made using one method. Color is fluid. It interacts and changes based on its surroundings. Some colors can appear lighter or darker based on what color they appear on or next to. The RGB gamut is additive color, and as such, has a tendency to push contrast in the direction that objects may already be leaning—increasing the contrast of light colors on dark colors and decreasing the contrast of light on light. Obviously, because we are talking about monitors here, these aren’t hard and fast rules. Cheat and Feel Good About It On a light background, when you have a large element of a light color, a small element of the same color will appear lighter. Enter our fake company: Double Dagger. They manufacture footnotes. Take a look at Fig. 1 below. The logo (Double Dagger), rule, and… 2006 Jason Santa Maria jasonsantamaria 2006-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/cheating-color/ design
138 Rounded Corner Boxes the CSS3 Way If you’ve been doing CSS for a while you’ll know that there are approximately 3,762 ways to create a rounded corner box. The simplest techniques rely on the addition of extra mark-up directly to your page, while the more complicated ones add the mark-up though DOM manipulation. While these techniques are all very interesting, they do seem somewhat of a kludge. The goal of CSS is to separate structure from presentation, yet here we are adding superfluous mark-up to our code in order to create a visual effect. The reason we are doing this is simple. CSS2.1 only allows a single background image per element. Thankfully this looks set to change with the addition of multiple background images into the CSS3 specification. With CSS3 you’ll be able to add not one, not four, but eight background images to a single element. This means you’ll be able to create all kinds of interesting effects without the need of those additional elements. While the CSS working group still seem to be arguing over the exact syntax, Dave Hyatt went ahead and implemented the currently suggested mechanism into Safari. The technique is fiendishly simple, and I think we’ll all be a lot better off once the W3C stop arguing over the details and allow browser vendors to get on and provide the tools we need to build better websites. To create a CSS3 rounded corner box, simply start with your box element and apply your 4 corner images, separated by commas. .box { background-image: url(top-left.gif), url(top-right.gif), url(bottom-left.gif), url(bottom-right.gif); } We don’t want these background images to repeat, which is the normal behaviour, so lets set all their background-repeat properties to no-repeat. .box { background-image: url(top-left.gif), url(top-right.gif), url(bottom-left.gif), url(bottom-right.gif); background-repeat: no-repeat, no-repeat, no-repeat, no-repeat; } Lastly, we need to define the positioning of each corner image. .box { background-image: url(top-left.gif), url(top-right.gif), url(bottom-left.gif), url(bottom-right… 2006 Andy Budd andybudd 2006-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/rounded-corner-boxes-the-css3-way/ code
139 Flickr Photos On Demand with getFlickr In case you don’t know it yet, Flickr is great. It is a lot of fun to upload, tag and caption photos and it is really handy to get a vast network of contacts through it. Using Flickr photos outside of it is a bit of a problem though. There is a Flickr API, and you can get almost every page as an RSS feed, but in general it is a bit tricky to use Flickr photos inside your blog posts or web sites. You might not want to get into the whole API game or use a server side proxy script as you cannot retrieve RSS with Ajax because of the cross-domain security settings. However, Flickr also provides an undocumented JSON output, that can be used to hack your own solutions in JavaScript without having to use a server side script. If you enter the URL http://flickr.com/photos/tags/panda you get to the flickr page with photos tagged “panda”. If you enter the URL http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=panda&format=rss_200 you get the same page as an RSS feed. If you enter the URL http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?tags=panda&format=json you get a JavaScript function called jsonFlickrFeed with a parameter that contains the same data in JSON format You can use this to easily hack together your own output by just providing a function with the same name. I wanted to make it easier for you, which is why I created the helper getFlickr for you to download and use. getFlickr for Non-Scripters Simply include the javascript file getflickr.js and the style getflickr.css in the head of your document: <script type="text/javascript" src="getflickr.js"></script> <link rel="stylesheet" href="getflickr.css" type="text/css"> Once this is done you can add links to Flickr pages anywhere in your document, and when you give them the CSS class getflickrphotos they get turned into gallery links. When a visitor clicks these links they turn into loading messages and show a “popup” gallery with the connected photos once they were loaded. As the JSON returned is very small it won’t take long. You can… 2006 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2006-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/flickr-photos-on-demand/ code
140 Styling hCards with CSS There are plenty of places online where you can learn about using the hCard microformat to mark up contact details at your site (there are some resources at the end of the article). But there’s not yet been a lot of focus on using microformats with CSS. So in this installment of 24 ways, we’re going to look at just that – how microformats help make CSS based styling simpler and more logical. Being rich, quite complex structures, hCards provide designers with a sophisticated scaffolding for styling them. A recent example of styling hCards I saw, playing on the business card metaphor, was by Andy Hume, at http://thedredge.org/2005/06/using-hcards-in-your-blog/. While his approach uses fixed width cards, let’s take a look at how we might style a variable width business card style for our hCards. Let’s take a common hCard, which includes address, telephone and email details <div class="vcard"> <p class="fn org">Web Directions North <a href="http://suda.co.uk/projects/X2V/get-vcard.php?uri=http://north.webdirections.org/contact/"> <img src="images/vcard-add.png" alt="download vcard icon"></a> </p> 1485 Laperrière Avenue Ottawa ON K1Z 7S8 Canada Phone/Fax: Work: 61 2 9365 5007 Email: info@webdirections.org We’ll be using a variation on the now well established “sliding doors” technique (if you create a CSS technique, remember it’s very important to give it a memorable name or acronym, and bonus points if you get your name in there!) by Douglas Bowman, enhanced by Scott Schiller (see http://www.schillmania.com/projects/dialog/,) which will give us a design which looks like this The technique, in a nutshell, uses background images on four elements, two at the top, and two at the bottom, to add each rounded corner. We are going to make this design “fluid” in the sense that it grows and shrinks in proportion with the size of the font that the text of the element is displayed with. This is sometimes referred to as an “em driven design” (we’ll see why in a moment). To see how this w… 2006 John Allsopp johnallsopp 2006-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/styling-hcards-with-css/ design
141 Compose to a Vertical Rhythm “Space in typography is like time in music. It is infinitely divisible, but a few proportional intervals can be much more useful than a limitless choice of arbitrary quantities.” So says the typographer Robert Bringhurst, and just as regular use of time provides rhythm in music, so regular use of space provides rhythm in typography, and without rhythm the listener, or the reader, becomes disorientated and lost. On the Web, vertical rhythm – the spacing and arrangement of text as the reader descends the page – is contributed to by three factors: font size, line height and margin or padding. All of these factors must calculated with care in order that the rhythm is maintained. The basic unit of vertical space is line height. Establishing a suitable line height that can be applied to all text on the page, be it heading, body copy or sidenote, is the key to a solid dependable vertical rhythm, which will engage and guide the reader down the page. To see this in action, I’ve created an example with headings, footnotes and sidenotes. Establishing a suitable line height The easiest place to begin determining a basic line height unit is with the font size of the body copy. For the example I’ve chosen 12px. To ensure readability the body text will almost certainly need some leading, that is to say spacing between the lines. A line-height of 1.5em would give 6px spacing between the lines of body copy. This will create a total line height of 18px, which becomes our basic unit. Here’s the CSS to get us to this point: body { font-size: 75%; } html>body { font-size: 12px; } p { line-height 1.5em; } There are many ways to size text in CSS and the above approach provides and accessible method of achieving the pixel-precision solid typography requires. By way of explanation, the first font-size reduces the body text from the 16px default (common to most browsers and OS set-ups) down to the 12px we require. This rule is primarily there for Internet Explorer 6 and below on Windows: the percentage value means that the t… 2006 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2006-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/compose-to-a-vertical-rhythm/ design
142 Revealing Relationships Can Be Good Form A few days ago, a colleague of mine – someone I have known for several years, who has been doing web design for several years and harks back from the early days of ZDNet – was running through a prototype I had put together for some user testing. As with a lot of prototypes, there was an element of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to make things look like they were working. One part of the form included a yes/no radio button, and selecting the Yes option would, in the real and final version of the form, reveal some extra content. Rather than put too much JavaScript in the prototype, I took a preverbial shortcut and created a link which I wrapped around the text next to the radio button – clicking on that link would cause the form to mimic a change event on the radio button. But it wasn’t working for him. Why was that? Because whereas I created the form using a <label> tag for each <input> and naturally went to click on the text rather than the form control itself, he was going straight for the control (and missing the sneaky little <a href> I’d placed around the text). Bah! There goes my time-saver. So, what did I learn? That a web professional who has used the Internet for years had neither heard of the <label> tag, nor had he ever tried clicking on the text. It just goes to show that despite its obvious uses, the label element is not as well known as it rightfully deserves to be. So, what’s a web-standards-loving guy to do? Make a bit more bleedin’ obvious, that’s what! The Mouse Pointer Trick OK, this is the kind of thing that causes some people outrage. A dead simple way of indicating that the label does something is to use a snippet of CSS to change the default mouse cursor to a hand. It’s derided because the hand icon is usually used for links, and some would argue that using this technique is misleading: label { cursor: pointer; } This is not a new idea, though, and you didn’t come here for this. The point is that with something very simple, you’ve made the label element discoverable. But there are other ways… 2006 Ian Lloyd ianlloyd 2006-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/revealing-relationships-can-be-good-form/ ux
143 Marking Up a Tag Cloud Everyone’s doing it. The problem is, everyone’s doing it wrong. Harsh words, you might think. But the crimes against decent markup are legion in this area. You see, I’m something of a markup and semantics junkie. So I’m going to analyse some of the more well-known tag clouds on the internet, explain what’s wrong, and then show you one way to do it better. del.icio.us I think the first ever tag cloud I saw was on del.icio.us. Here’s how they mark it up. <div class="alphacloud"> <a href="/tag/.net" class="lb s2">.net</a> <a href="/tag/advertising" class=" s3">advertising</a> <a href="/tag/ajax" class=" s5">ajax</a> ... </div> Unfortunately, that is one of the worst examples of tag cloud markup I have ever seen. The page states that a tag cloud is a list of tags where size reflects popularity. However, despite describing it in this way to the human readers, the page’s author hasn’t described it that way in the markup. It isn’t a list of tags, just a bunch of anchors in a <div>. This is also inaccessible because a screenreader will not pause between adjacent links, and in some configurations will not announce the individual links, but rather all of the tags will be read as just one link containing a whole bunch of words. Markup crime number one. Flickr Ah, Flickr. The darling photo sharing site of the internet, and the biggest blind spot in every standardista’s vision. Forgive it for having atrocious markup and sometimes confusing UI because it’s just so much damn fun to use. Let’s see what they do. <p id="TagCloud">  <a href="/photos/tags/06/" style="font-size: 14px;">06</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/africa/" style="font-size: 12px;">africa</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/amsterdam/" style="font-size: 14px;">amsterdam</a>  ... </p> Again we have a simple collection of anchors like del.icio.us, only this time in a paragraph. But rather than using a class to represent the size of the tag they use an inline style. An inline style using a pixel-based font size. That’s so far away from the goal of sep… 2006 Mark Norman Francis marknormanfrancis 2006-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/marking-up-a-tag-cloud/ code
144 The Mobile Web, Simplified A note from the editors: although eye-opening in 2006, this article is no longer relevant to today’s mobile web. Considering a foray into mobile web development? Following are four things you need to know before making the leap. 1. 4 billion mobile subscribers expected by 2010 Fancy that. Coupled with the UN prediction of 6.8 billion humans by 2010, 4 billion mobile subscribers (source) is an astounding 59% of the planet. Just how many of those subscribers will have data plans and web-enabled phones is still in question, but inevitably this all means one thing for you and me: A ton of potential eyes to view our web content on a mobile device. 2. Context is king Your content is of little value to users if it ignores the context in which it is viewed. Consider how you access data on your mobile device. You might be holding a bottle of water or gripping a handle on the subway/tube. You’re probably seeking specific data such as directions or show times, rather than the plethora of data at your disposal via a desktop PC. The mobile web, a phrase often used to indicate “accessing the web on a mobile device”, is very much a context-, content-, and component-specific environment. Expressed in terms of your potential target audience, access to web content on a mobile device is largely influenced by surrounding circumstances and conditions, information relevant to being mobile, and the feature set of the device being used. Ask yourself, What is relevant to my users and the tasks, problems, and needs they may encounter while being mobile? Answer that question and you’ll be off to a great start. 3. WAP 2.0 is an XHTML environment In a nutshell, here are a few fundamental tenets of mobile internet technology: Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is the protocol for enabling mobile access to internet content. Wireless Markup Language (WML) was the language of choice for WAP 1.0. Nearly all devices sold today are WAP 2.0 devices. With the in… 2006 Cameron Moll cameronmoll 2006-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/the-mobile-web-simplified/ ux
145 The Neverending (Background Image) Story Everyone likes candy for Christmas, and there’s none better than eye candy. Well, that, and just more of the stuff. Today we’re going to combine both of those good points and look at how to create a beautiful background image that goes on and on… forever! Of course, each background image is different, so instead of agonising over each and every pixel, I’m going to concentrate on five key steps that you can apply to any of your own repeating background images. In this example, we’ll look at the Miami Beach background image used on the new FOWA site, which I’m afraid is about as un-festive as you can get. 1. Choose your image wisely I find there are three main criteria when judging photos you’re considering for repetition manipulation (or ‘repetulation’, as I like to say)… simplicity (beware of complex patterns) angle and perspective (watch out for shadows and obvious vanishing points) consistent elements (for easy cloning) You might want to check out this annotated version of the image, where I’ve highlighted elements of the photo that led me to choose it as the right one. The original image purchased from iStockPhoto. The Photoshopped version used on the FOWA site. 2. The power of horizontal lines With the image chosen and your cursor poised for some Photoshop magic, the most useful thing you can do is drag out the edge pixels from one side of the image to create a kind of rough colour ‘template’ on which to work over. It doesn’t matter which side you choose, although you might find it beneficial to use the one with the simplest spread of colour and complex elements. Click and hold on the marquee tool in the toolbar and select the ‘single column marquee tool’, which will span the full height of your document but will only be one pixel wide. Make the selection right at the edge of your document, press ctrl-c / cmd-c to copy the selection you made, create a new layer, and hit ctrl-v / cmd-v to paste the selection onto your new layer. using free transform (ctrl-t / cmd-t), drag out your selection so t… 2007 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2007-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/the-neverending-background-image-story/ code
146 Increase Your Font Stacks With Font Matrix Web pages built in plain old HTML and CSS are displayed using only the fonts installed on users’ computers (@font-face implementations excepted). To enable this, CSS provides the font-family property for specifying fonts in order of preference (often known as a font stack). For example: h1 {font-family: 'Egyptienne F', Cambria, Georgia, serif} So in the above rule, headings will be displayed in Egyptienne F. If Egyptienne F is not available then Cambria will be used, failing that Georgia or the final fallback default serif font. This everyday bit of CSS will be common knowledge among all 24 ways readers. It is also a commonly held belief that the only fonts we can rely on being installed on users’ computers are the core web fonts of Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Georgia and friends. But is that really true? If you look in the fonts folder of your computer, or even your Mum’s computer, then you are likely to find a whole load of fonts besides the core ones. This is because many software packages automatically install extra typefaces. For example, Office 2003 installs over 100 additional fonts. Admittedly not all of these fonts are particularly refined, and not all are suitable for the Web. However they still do increase your options. The Matrix I have put together a matrix of (western) fonts showing which are installed with Mac and Windows operating systems, which are installed with various versions of Microsoft Office, and which are installed with Adobe Creative Suite. The matrix is available for download as an Excel file and as a CSV. There are no readily available statistics regarding the penetration of Office or Creative Suite, but you can probably take an educated guess based on your knowledge of your readers. The idea of the matrix is that use can use it to help construct your font stack. First of all pick the font you’d really like for your text – this doesn’t have to be in the matrix. Then pick the generic family (serif, sans-serif, cursive, fantasy or monospace) and a font from each of the … 2007 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2007-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/increase-your-font-stacks-with-font-matrix/ design
147 Christmas Is In The AIR That’s right, Christmas is coming up fast and there’s plenty of things to do. Get the tree and lights up, get the turkey, buy presents and who know what else. And what about Santa? He’s got a list. I’m pretty sure he’s checking it twice. Sure, we could use an existing list making web site or even a desktop widget. But we’re geeks! What’s the fun in that? Let’s build our own to-do list application and do it with Adobe AIR! What’s Adobe AIR? Adobe AIR, formerly codenamed Apollo, is a runtime environment that runs on both Windows and OSX (with Linux support to follow). This runtime environment lets you build desktop applications using Adobe technologies like Flash and Flex. Oh, and HTML. That’s right, you web standards lovin’ maniac. You can build desktop applications that can run cross-platform using the trio of technologies, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you’ve tried developing with AIR before, you’ll need to get re-familiarized with the latest beta release as many things have changed since the last one (such as the API and restrictions within the sandbox.) To get started To get started in building an AIR application, you’ll need two basic things: The AIR runtime. The runtime is needed to run any AIR-based application. The SDK. The software development kit gives you all the pieces to test your application. Unzip the SDK into any folder you wish. You’ll also want to get your hands on the JavaScript API documentation which you’ll no doubt find yourself getting into before too long. (You can download it, too.) Also of interest, some development environments have support for AIR built right in. Aptana doesn’t have support for beta 3 yet but I suspect it’ll be available shortly. Within the SDK, there are two main tools that we’ll use: one to test the application (ADL) and another to build a distributable package of our application (ADT). I’ll get into this some more when we get to that stage of development. Building our To-do list application The first step to building an application within AIR is to cre… 2007 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2007-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/christmas-is-in-the-air/ code
148 Typesetting Tables Tables have suffered in recent years on the web. They were used for laying out web pages. Then, following the Web Standards movement, they’ve been renamed by the populous as `data tables’ to ensure that we all know what they’re for. There have been some great tutorials for the designing tables using CSS for presentation and focussing on the semantics in the displaying of data in the correct way. However, typesetting tables is a subtle craft that has hardly had a mention. Table design can often end up being a technical exercise. What data do we need to display? Where is the data coming from and what form will it take? When was the last time your heard someone talk about lining numerals? Or designing to the reading direction? Tables are not read like sentences When a reader looks at, and tries to understand, tabular data, they’re doing a bunch of things at the same time. Generally, they’re task based; they’re looking for something. They are reading horizontally AND vertically Reading a table is not like reading a paragraph in a novel, and therefore shouldn’t be typeset in the same way. Designing tables is information design, it’s functional typography—it’s not a time for eye candy. Typesetting tables Typesetting great looking tables is largely an exercise in restraint. Minimal interference with the legibility of the table should be in the forefront of any designers mind. When I’m designing tables I apply some simple rules: Plenty of negative space Use the right typeface Go easy on the background tones, unless you’re giving reading direction visual emphasis Design to the reading direction By way of explanation, here are those rules as applied to the following badly typeset table. Your default table This table is a mess. There is no consideration for the person trying to read it. Everything is too tight. The typeface is wrong. It’s flat. A grim table indeed. Let’s see what we can do about that. Plenty of negative space The badly typeset table has been set with default padding. There has bee… 2007 Mark Boulton markboulton 2007-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/typesetting-tables/ design
149 Underpants Over My Trousers With Christmas approaching faster than a speeding bullet, this is the perfect time for you to think about that last minute present to buy for the web geek in your life. If you’re stuck for ideas for that special someone, forget about that svelte iPhone case carved from solid mahogany and head instead to your nearest comic-book shop and pick up a selection of comics or graphic novels. (I’ll be using some of my personal favourite comic books as examples throughout). Trust me, whether your nearest and dearest has been reading comics for a while or has never peered inside this four-colour world, they’ll thank-you for it. Aside from indulging their superhero fantasies, comic books can provide web designers with a rich vein of inspiring ideas and material to help them create shirt button popping, trouser bursting work for the web. I know from my own personal experience, that looking at aspects of comic book design, layout and conventions and thinking about the ways that they can inform web design has taken my design work in often-unexpected directions. There are far too many fascinating facets of comic book design that provide web designers with inspiration to cover in the time that it takes to pull your underpants over your trousers. So I’m going to concentrate on one muscle bound aspect of comic design, one that will make you think differently about how you lay out the content of your pages in panels. A suitcase full of Kryptonite Now, to the uninitiated onlooker, the panels of a comic book may appear to perform a similar function to still frames from a movie. But inside the pages of a comic, panels must work harder to help the reader understand the timing of a story. It is this method for conveying narrative timing to a reader that I believe can be highly useful to designers who work on the web as timing, drama and suspense are as important in the web world as they are in worlds occupied by costumed crime fighters and superheroes. I’d like you to start by closing your eyes and thinking about your own proces… 2007 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2007-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/underpants-over-my-trousers/ design
150 A Gift Idea For Your Users: Respect, Yo If, indeed, it is the thought that counts, maybe we should pledge to make more thoughtful design decisions. In addition to wowing people who use the Web sites we build with novel features, nuanced aesthetics and the new new thing, maybe we should also thread some subtle things throughout our work that let folks know: hey, I’m feeling ya. We’re simpatico. I hear you loud and clear. It’s not just holiday spirit that moves me to talk this way. As good as people are, we need more than the horizon of karma to overcome that invisible demon, inertia. Makers of the Web, respectful design practices aren’t just the right thing, they are good for business. Even if your site is the one and only place to get experience x, y or zed, you don’t rub someone’s face in it. You keep it free flowing, you honor the possible back and forth of a healthy transaction, you are Johnny Appleseed with the humane design cues. You make it clear that you are in it for the long haul. A peek back: Think back to what search (and strategy) was like before Google launched a super clean page with “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Aggregation was the order of the day (just go back and review all the ‘strategic alliances’ that were announced daily.) Yet the GOOG comes along with this zen layout (nope, we’re not going to try to make you look at one of our media properties) and a bold, brash, teleport-me-straight-to-the-first-search-result button. It could have been titled “We’re Feeling Cocky”. These were radical design decisions that reset how people thought about search services. Oh, you mean I can just find what I want and get on with it? It’s maybe even more impressive today, after the GOOG has figured out how to monetize attention better than anyone. “I’m Feeling Lucky” is still there. No doubt, it costs the company millions. But by leaving a little money on the table, they keep the basic bargain they started to strike in 1997. We’re going to get you where you want to go as quickly as possible. Where are the places we might make … 2007 Brian Oberkirch brianoberkirch 2007-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/a-gift-idea-for-your-users-respect-yo/ ux
151 Get In Shape Pop quiz: what’s wrong with the following navigation? Maybe nothing. But then again, maybe there’s something bugging you about the way it comes together, something you can’t quite put your finger on. It seems well-designed, but it also seems a little… off. The design decisions that led to this eventual form were no doubt well-considered: Client: The top level needs to have a “current page” status indicator of some sort. Designer: How about a white tab? Client: Great! The second level needs to show up underneath the first level though… Designer: Okay, but that white tab I just added makes it hard to visually connect the bottom nav to the top. Client: Too late, we’ve seen the white tab and we love it. Try and make it work. Designer: Right. So I placed the second level in its own box. Client: Hmm. They seem too separated. I can’t tell that the yellow nav is the second level of the first. Designer: How about an indicator arrow? Client: Brilliant! The problem is that the end result feels awkward and forced. During the design process, little decisions were made that ultimately affect the overall shape of the navigation. What started out as a neatly contained rounded rectangle ended up as an ambiguous double shape that looks funny, though it’s often hard to pinpoint precisely why. The Shape of Things Well the why in this case is because seemingly unrelated elements in a design still end up visually interacting. Adding a new item to a page impacts everything surrounding it. In this navigation example, we’re looking at two individual objects that are close enough to each other that they form a relationship; if we reduce them to strictly their outlines, it’s a little easier to see that this particular combination registers oddly. The two shapes float with nothing really grounding them. If they were connected, perhaps it would be a different story. The white tab divides the top shape in half, leaving a gap in the middle of it. There’s very little balance in this pairing because the overall shape of the… 2007 Dave Shea daveshea 2007-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/get-in-shape/ design
152 CSS for Accessibility CSS is magical stuff. In the right hands, it can transform the plainest of (well-structured) documents into a visual feast. But it’s not all fur coat and nae knickers (as my granny used to say). Here are some simple ways you can use CSS to improve the usability and accessibility of your site. Even better, no sexy visuals will be harmed by the use of these techniques. Promise. Nae knickers This is less of an accessibility tip, and more of a reminder to check that you’ve got your body background colour specified. If you’re sitting there wondering why I’m mentioning this, because it’s a really basic thing, then you might be as surprised as I was to discover that from a sample of over 200 sites checked last year, 35% of UK local authority websites were missing their body background colour. Forgetting to specify your body background colour can lead to embarrassing gaps in coverage, which are not only unsightly, but can prevent your users reading the text on your site if they use a different operating system colour scheme. All it needs is the following line to be added to your CSS file: body {background-color: #fff;} If you pair it with color: #000; … you’ll be assured of maintaining contrast for any areas you inadvertently forget to specify, no matter what colour scheme your user needs or prefers. Even better, if you’ve got standard reset CSS you use, make sure that default colours for background and text are specified in it, so you’ll never be caught with your pants down. At the very least, you’ll have a white background and black text that’ll prompt you to change them to your chosen colours. Elbow room Paying attention to your typography is important, but it’s not just about making it look nice. Careful use of the line-height property can make your text more readable, which helps everyone, but is particularly helpful for those with dyslexia, who use screen magnification or simply find it uncomfortable to read lots of text online. When lines of text are too close together, it can cause the eye to s… 2007 Ann McMeekin annmcmeekin 2007-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/css-for-accessibility/ design
153 JavaScript Internationalisation or: Why Rudolph Is More Than Just a Shiny Nose Dunder sat, glumly staring at the computer screen. “What’s up, Dunder?” asked Rudolph, entering the stable and shaking off the snow from his antlers. “Well,” Dunder replied, “I’ve just finished coding the new reindeer intranet Santa Claus asked me to do. You know how he likes to appear to be at the cutting edge, talking incessantly about Web 2.0, AJAX, rounded corners; he even spooked Comet recently by talking about him as if he were some pushy web server. “I’ve managed to keep him happy, whilst also keeping it usable, accessible, and gleaming — and I’m still on the back row of the sleigh! But anyway, given the elves will be the ones using the site, and they come from all over the world, the site is in multiple languages. Which is great, except when it comes to the preview JavaScript I’ve written for the reindeer order form. Here, have a look…” As he said that, he brought up the textileRef:8234272265470b85d91702:linkStartMarker:“order form in French”:/examples/javascript-internationalisation/initial.fr.html on the screen. (Same in English). “Looks good,” said Rudolph. “But if I add some items,” said Dunder, “the preview appears in English, as it’s hard-coded in the JavaScript. I don’t want separate code for each language, as that’s just silly — I thought about just having if statements, but that doesn’t scale at all…” “And there’s more, you aren’t displaying large numbers in French properly, either,” added Rudolph, who had been playing and looking at part of the source code: function update_text() { var hay = getValue('hay'); var carrots = getValue('carrots'); var bells = getValue('bells'); var total = 50 * bells + 30 * hay + 10 * carrots; var out = 'You are ordering ' + pretty_num(hay) + ' bushel' + pluralise(hay) + ' of hay, ' + pretty_num(carrots) + ' carrot' + pluralise(carrots) + ', and ' + pretty_num(bells) + ' shiny bell' + pluralise(bells) + ', at a total cost of <strong>' + pretty_num(total) + '</strong> gold pieces. Thank you.';… 2007 Matthew Somerville matthewsomerville 2007-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/javascript-internationalisation/ code
154 Diagnostic Styling We’re all used to using CSS to make our designs live and breathe, but there’s another way to use CSS: to find out where our markup might be choking on missing accessibility features, targetless links, and just plain missing content. Note: the techniques discussed here mostly work in Firefox, Safari, and Opera, but not Internet Explorer. I’ll explain why that’s not really a problem near the end of the article — and no, the reason is not “everyone should just ignore IE anyway”. Basic Diagnostics To pick a simple example, suppose you want to call out all holdover font and center elements in a site. Simple: you just add the following to your styles. font, center {outline: 5px solid red;} You could take it further and add in a nice lime background or some such, but big thick red outlines should suffice. Now you’ll be able to see the offenders wherever as you move through the site. (Of course, if you do this on your public server, everyone else will see the outlines too. So this is probably best done on a development server or local copy of the site.) Not everyone may be familiar with outlines, which were introduced in CSS2, so a word on those before we move on. Outlines are much like borders, except outlines don’t affect layout. Eh? Here’s a comparison. On the left, you have a border. On the right, an outline. The border takes up layout space, pushing other content around and generally being a nuisance. The outline, on the other hand, just draws into quietly into place. In most current browsers, it will overdraw any content already onscreen, and will be overdrawn by any content placed later — which is why it overlaps the images above it, and is overlapped by those below it. Okay, so we can outline deprecated elements like font and center. Is that all? Oh no. Attribution Let’s suppose you also want to find any instances of inline style — that is, use of the style attribute on elements in the markup. This is generally discouraged (outside of HTML e-mails, which I’m not going to get anywhere … 2007 Eric Meyer ericmeyer 2007-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/diagnostic-styling/ process
155 Minification: A Christmas Diet The festive season is generally more about gorging ourselves than staying thin but we’re going to change all that with a quick introduction to minification. Performance has been a hot topic this last year. We’re building more complex sites and applications but at the same time trying to make then load faster and behave more responsively. What is a discerning web developer to do? Minification is the process of make something smaller, in the case of web site performance we’re talking about reducing the size of files we send to the browser. The primary front-end components of any website are HTML, CSS, Javascript and a sprinkling of images. Let’s find some tools to trim the fat and speed up our sites. For those that want to play along at home you can download the various utilities for Mac or Windows. You’ll want to be familiar with running apps on the command line too. HTMLTidy HTMLTidy optimises and strips white space from HTML documents. It also has a pretty good go at correcting any invalid markup while it’s at it. tidy -m page.html CSSTidy CSSTidy takes your CSS file, optimises individual rules (for instance transforming padding-top: 10px; padding-bottom: 10px; to padding: 10px 0;) and strips unneeded white space. csstidy style.css style-min.css JSMin JSMin takes your javascript and makes it more compact. With more and more websites using javascript to power (progressive) enhancements this can be a real bandwidth hog. Look out for pre-minified versions of libraries and frameworks too. jsmin <script.js >script-min.js Remember to run JSLint before you run JSMin to catch some common problems. OptiPNG Images can be a real bandwidth hog and making all of them smaller with OptiPNG should speed up your site. optipng image.png All of these tools have an often bewildering array of options and generally good documentation included as part of the package. A little experimentation will get you even more bang for your buck. For larger projects you likely won’t want to be manually minifying all your files. T… 2007 Gareth Rushgrove garethrushgrove 2007-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/minification-a-christmas-diet/ process
156 Mobile 2.0 Thinking 2.0 As web geeks, we have a thick skin towards jargon. We all know that “Web 2.0” has been done to death. At Blue Flavor we even have a jargon bucket to penalize those who utter such painfully overused jargon with a cash deposit. But Web 2.0 is a term that has lodged itself into the conscience of the masses. This is actually a good thing. The 2.0 suffix was able to succinctly summarize all that was wrong with the Web during the dot-com era as well as the next evolution of an evolving media. While the core technologies actually stayed basically the same, the principles, concepts, interactions and contexts were radically different. With that in mind, this Christmas I want to introduce to you the concept of Mobile 2.0. While not exactly a new concept in the mobile community, it is relatively unknown in the web community. And since the foundation of Mobile 2.0 is the web, I figured it was about time for you to get to know each other. It’s the Carriers’ world. We just live in it. Before getting into Mobile 2.0, I thought first I should introduce you to its older brother. You know the kind, the kid with emotional problems that likes to beat up on you and your friends for absolutely no reason. That is the mobile of today. The mobile ecosystem is a very complicated space often and incorrectly compared to the Web. If the Web was a freewheeling hippie — believing in freedom of information and the unity of man through communities — then Mobile is the cutthroat capitalist — out to pillage and plunder for the sake of the almighty dollar. Where the Web is relatively easy to publish to and ultimately make a buck, Mobile is wrought with layers of complexity, politics and obstacles. I can think of no better way to summarize these challenges than the testimony of Jason Devitt to the United States Congress in what is now being referred to as the “iPhone Hearing.” Jason is the co-founder and CEO of SkyDeck a new wireless startup and former CEO of Vindigo an early pioneer in mobile content. As Jason points out, th… 2007 Brian Fling brianfling 2007-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/mobile-2-0/ business
157 Capturing Caps Lock One of the more annoying aspects of having to remember passwords (along with having to remember loads of them) is that if you’ve got Caps Lock turned on accidentally when you type one in, it won’t work, and you won’t know why. Most desktop computers alert you in some way if you’re trying to enter your password to log on and you’ve enabled Caps Lock; there’s no reason why the web can’t do the same. What we want is a warning – maybe the user wants Caps Lock on, because maybe their password is in capitals – rather than something that interrupts what they’re doing. Something subtle. But that doesn’t answer the question of how to do it. Sadly, there’s no way of actually detecting whether Caps Lock is on directly. However, there’s a simple work-around; if the user presses a key, and it’s a capital letter, and they don’t have the Shift key depressed, why then they must have Caps Lock on! Simple. DOM scripting allows your code to be notified when a key is pressed in an element; when the key is pressed, you get the ASCII code for that key. Capital letters, A to Z, have ASCII codes 65 to 90. So, the code would look something like: on a key press if the ASCII code for the key is between 65 and 90 *and* if shift is pressed warn the user that they have Caps Lock on, but let them carry on end if end keypress The actual JavaScript for this is more complicated, because both event handling and keypress information differ across browsers. Your event handling functions are passed an event object, except in Internet Explorer where you use the global event object; the event object has a which parameter containing the ASCII code for the key pressed, except in Internet Explorer where the event object has a keyCode parameter; some browsers store whether the shift key is pressed in a shiftKey parameter and some in a modifiers parameter. All this boils down to code that looks something like this: keypress: function(e) { var ev = e ? e : window.event; if (!ev) { return; } var targ = ev.target ? ev.target : ev.srcElement; /… 2007 Stuart Langridge stuartlangridge 2007-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/capturing-caps-lock/ code
158 10 Ways To Get Design Approval One of the most challenging parts of the web design process is getting design sign off. It can prove time consuming, demoralizing and if you are not careful can lead to a dissatisfied client. What is more you can end up with a design that you are ashamed to include in your portfolio. How then can you ensure that the design you produce is the one that gets built? How can you get the client to sign off on your design? Below are 10 tips learnt from years of bitter experience. 1. Define the role of the client and designer Many of the clients you work with will not have been involved in a web project before. Even if they have they may have worked in a very different way to what you would expect. Take the time at the beginning of the project to explain their role in the design of the site. The best approach is to emphasis that their job is to focus on the needs of their users and business. They should concentrate on the broad issues, while you worry about the details of layout, typography and colour scheme. By clarifying what you expect from the client, you help them to provide the right kind of input throughout the process. 2. Understand the business Before you open up Photoshop or put pen to paper, take the time to make sure you properly understand not only the brief but the organization behind the site. By understanding their business objectives, organizational structure and marketing strategy your design decisions will be better informed. You cannot rely upon the brief to provide all of the information you need. It is important to dig deeper and get as good an understanding of their business as possible. This information will prove invaluable when justifying your design decisions. 3. Understand the users We all like to think of ourselves as user centric designers, but exactly how much effort do you put into knowing your users before beginning the design process? Take the time to really understand them the best you can. Try to meet with some real prospective users and get to know their needs. Failing that… 2007 Paul Boag paulboag 2007-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/10-ways-to-get-design-approval/ business
159 How Media Studies Can Massage Your Message A young web designer once told his teacher ‘just get to the meat already.’ He was frustrated with what he called the ‘history lessons and name-dropping’ aspects of his formal college course. He just wanted to learn how to build Web sites, not examine the reasons why. Technique and theory are both integrated and necessary portions of a strong education. The student’s perspective has direct value, but also holds a distinct sorrow: Knowing the how without the why creates a serious problem. Without these surrounding insights we cannot tap into the influence of the history and evolved knowledge that came before. We cannot properly analyze, criticize, evaluate and innovate beyond the scope of technique. History holds the key to transcending former mistakes. Philosophy encourages us to look at different points of view. Studying media and social history empowers us as Web workers by bringing together myriad aspects of humanity in direct relation to the environment of society and technology. Having an understanding of media, communities, communication arts as well as logic, language and computer savvy are all core skills of the best of web designers in today’s medium. Controlling the Message ‘The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.’ – Frank Zappa Media is meant to express an idea. The great media theorist Marshall McLuhan suggests that not only is media interesting because it’s about the expression of ideas, but that the media itself actually shapes the way a given idea is perceived. This is what McLuhan meant when he uttered those famous words: ‘The medium is the message.’ If instead of actually serving a steak to a vegetarian friend, what might a painting of the steak mean instead? Or a sculpture of a cow? Depending upon the form of media in question, the message is altered. Figure 1 Must we know the history of cows to appreciate the steak on our plate? Perhaps not, but if we begin to examine how that meat came to be … 2007 Molly Holzschlag mollyholzschlag 2007-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/how-media-studies-can-massage-your-message/ ux
160 Tracking Christmas Cheer with Google Charts A note from the editors: Since this article was written Google has retired the Charts API. Let’s get something out in the open: I love statistics. As an informatician I can’t get enough graphs, charts, and numbers. So you can imagine when Google released their Charts API I thought Christmas had come early. I immediately began to draw up graphs for the holiday season using the new API; and using my new found chart-making skills I’ll show you what you can and can’t do with Google Charts. Mummy, it’s my first chart The Google Charts API allows you to send data to Google; in return they give you back a nicely-rendered graph. All the hard work is done on Google’s servers — you need only reference an image in your HTML. You pass along the data — the numbers for the charts, axis labels, and so on — in the query string of the image’s URL. If you want to add charts to your blog or web site, there’s probably no quicker way to get started. Here’s a simple example: if we add the following line to an HTML page: <img src="http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht=lc&chs=200x125&chd=s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008" /> Then we’ll see the line graph in Figure 1 appear in our page. That graph is hosted on Google’s own server1: http://chart.apis.google.com/. Figure 1: A simple example of a line graph created with Google Charts. If you look at the URL used in the example you’ll notice we’re passing some parameters along in the query string (the bit after the question mark). The query string looks like this: cht=lc&chs=200x125&chd=s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008 It’s contains everything Google Charts needs to draw the graph. There are three parameters in the query string: cht; this specifies the type of chart Google Charts will generate (in this case, lc is a line chart). chs, the value of which is 200x125; this defines the chart’s size (200 pixels wide by 125 pixels high). chd, the value of which is s:ZreelPuevfgznf2008; this is the actual chart data, which we’ll discus… 2007 Brian Suda briansuda 2007-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/tracking-christmas-cheer-with-google-charts/ ux
161 Keeping JavaScript Dependencies At Bay As we are writing more and more complex JavaScript applications we run into issues that have hitherto (god I love that word) not been an issue. The first decision we have to make is what to do when planning our app: one big massive JS file or a lot of smaller, specialised files separated by task. Personally, I tend to favour the latter, mainly because it allows you to work on components in parallel with other developers without lots of clashes in your version control. It also means that your application will be more lightweight as you only include components on demand. Starting with a global object This is why it is a good plan to start your app with one single object that also becomes the namespace for the whole application, say for example myAwesomeApp: var myAwesomeApp = {}; You can nest any necessary components into this one and also make sure that you check for dependencies like DOM support right up front. Adding the components The other thing to add to this main object is a components object, which defines all the components that are there and their file names. var myAwesomeApp = { components :{ formcheck:{ url:'formcheck.js', loaded:false }, dynamicnav:{ url:'dynamicnav.js', loaded:false }, gallery:{ url:'gallery.js', loaded:false }, lightbox:{ url:'lightbox.js', loaded:false } } }; Technically you can also omit the loaded properties, but it is cleaner this way. The next thing to add is an addComponent function that can load your components on demand by adding new SCRIPT elements to the head of the documents when they are needed. var myAwesomeApp = { components :{ formcheck:{ url:'formcheck.js', loaded:false }, dynamicnav:{ url:'dynamicnav.js', loaded:false }, gallery:{ url:'gallery.js', loaded:false }, lightbox:{ url:'lightbox.js', loaded:false } }, addComponent:function(component){ var c = this.components[component]; if(c && c.loaded === false){ var s = document.createElement('script'); s.setAttribut… 2007 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2007-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/keeping-javascript-dependencies-at-bay/ code
162 Conditional Love “Browser.” The four-letter word of web design. I mean, let’s face it: on the good days, when things just work in your target browsers, it’s marvelous. The air smells sweeter, birds’ songs sound more melodious, and both your design and your code are looking sharp. But on the less-than-good days (which is, frankly, most of them), you’re compelled to tie up all your browsers in a sack, heave them into the nearest river, and start designing all-imagemap websites. We all play favorites, after all: some will swear by Firefox, Opera fans are allegedly legion, and others still will frown upon anything less than the latest WebKit nightly. Thankfully, we do have an out for those little inconsistencies that crop up when dealing with cross-browser testing: CSS patches. Spare the Rod, Hack the Browser Before committing browsercide over some rendering bug, a designer will typically reach for a snippet of CSS fix the faulty browser. Historically referred to as “hacks,” I prefer Dan Cederholm’s more client-friendly alternative, “patches”. But whatever you call them, CSS patches all work along the same principle: supply the proper property value to the good browsers, while giving higher maintenance other browsers an incorrect value that their frustrating idiosyncratic rendering engine can understand. Traditionally, this has been done either by exploiting incomplete CSS support: #content { height: 1%; // Let's force hasLayout for old versions of IE. line-height: 1.6; padding: 1em; } html>body #content { height: auto; // Modern browsers get a proper height value. } or by exploiting bugs in their rendering engine to deliver alternate style rules: #content p { font-size: .8em; /* Hide from Mac IE5 \*/ font-size: .9em; /* End hiding from Mac IE5 */ } We’ve even used these exploits to serve up whole stylesheets altogether: @import url("core.css"); @media tty { i{content:"\";/*" "*/}} @import 'windows-ie5.css'; /*";} }/* */ The list goes on, and on, and on. For every browser, for every bug, there’s a patch availab… 2007 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2007-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/conditional-love/ code
163 Get To Grips with Slippy Maps Online mapping has definitely hit mainstream. Google Maps made ‘slippy maps’ popular and made it easy for any developer to quickly add a dynamic map to his or her website. You can now find maps for store locations, friends nearby, upcoming events, and embedded in blogs. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to easily add a map to your site using the Mapstraction mapping library. There are many map providers available to choose from, each with slightly different functionality, design, and terms of service. Mapstraction makes deciding which provider to use easy by allowing you to write your mapping code once, and then easily switch providers. Assemble the pieces Utilizing any of the mapping library typically consists of similar overall steps: Create an HTML div to hold the map Include the Javascript libraries Create the Javascript Map element Set the initial map center and zoom level Add markers, lines, overlays and more Create the Map Div The HTML div is where the map will actually show up on your page. It needs to have a unique id, because we’ll refer to that later to actually put the map here. This also lets you have multiple maps on a page, by creating individual divs and Javascript map elements. The size of the div also sets the height and width of the map. You set the size using CSS, either inline with the element, or via a CSS reference to the element id or class. For this example, we’ll use inline styling. <div id="map" style="width: 400px; height: 400px;"></div> Include Javascript libraries A mapping library is like any Javascript library. You need to include the library in your page before you use the methods of that library. For our tutorial, we’ll need to include at least two libraries: Mapstraction, and the mapping API(s) we want to display. Our first example we’ll use the ubiquitous Google Maps library. However, you can just as easily include Yahoo, MapQuest, or any of the other supported libraries. Another important aspect of the mapping libraries is that many of them require an API k… 2007 Andrew Turner andrewturner 2007-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/get-to-grips-with-slippy-maps/ code
164 My Other Christmas Present Is a Definition List A note from the editors: readers should note that the HTML5 redefinition of definition lists has come to pass and is now à la mode. Last year, I looked at how the markup for tag clouds was generally terrible. I thought this year I would look not at a method of marking up a common module, but instead just at a simple part of HTML and how it generally gets abused. No, not tables. Definition lists. Ah, definition lists. Often used but rarely understood. Examining the definition of definitions To start with, let’s see what the HTML spec has to say about them. Definition lists vary only slightly from other types of lists in that list items consist of two parts: a term and a description. The canonical example of a definition list is a dictionary. Words can have multiple descriptions (even the word definition has at least five). Also, many terms can share a single definition (for example, the word colour can also be spelt color, but they have the same definition). Excellent, we can all grasp that. But it very quickly starts to fall apart. Even in the HTML specification the definition list is mis-used. Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words. Wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. This is the biggest flaw in the HTML spec, along with dropping support for the start attribute on ordered lists. “Why?”, you may ask. Let me give you an example from Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2. <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>Romeo!</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>My niesse?</dd> <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>At what o'clock tomorrow shall I send to thee?</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>At the hour of nine.</dd> Now, the problem here is that a given definition can have multiple descriptions (the DD). Really the dialog “descriptions” should be rolled up under the terms, like so: <dt>Juliet</dt> <dd>Romeo!</dd> <dd>At what o'clock tomorrow shall I send to thee?</dd> <dt>Romeo</dt> <dd>… 2007 Mark Norman Francis marknormanfrancis 2007-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/my-other-christmas-present-is-a-definition-list/ code
165 Transparent PNGs in Internet Explorer 6 Newer breeds of browser such as Firefox and Safari have offered support for PNG images with full alpha channel transparency for a few years. With the use of hacks, support has been available in Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6, but the hacks are non-ideal and have been tricky to use. With IE7 winning masses of users from earlier versions over the last year, full PNG alpha-channel transparency is becoming more of a reality for day-to-day use. However, there are still numbers of IE6 users out there who we can’t leave out in the cold this Christmas, so in this article I’m going to look what we can do to support IE6 users whilst taking full advantage of transparency for the majority of a site’s visitors. So what’s alpha channel transparency? Cast your minds back to the Ghost of Christmas Past, the humble GIF. Images in GIF format offer transparency, but that transparency is either on or off for any given pixel. Each pixel’s either fully transparent, or a solid colour. In GIF, transparency is effectively just a special colour you can chose for a pixel. The PNG format tackles the problem rather differently. As well as having any colour you chose, each pixel also carries a separate channel of information detailing how transparent it is. This alpha channel enables a pixel to be fully transparent, fully opaque, or critically, any step in between. This enables designers to produce images that can have, for example, soft edges without any of the ‘halo effect’ traditionally associated with GIF transparency. If you’ve ever worked on a site that has different colour schemes and therefore requires multiple versions of each graphic against a different colour, you’ll immediately see the benefit. What’s perhaps more interesting than that, however, is the extra creative freedom this gives designers in creating beautiful sites that can remain web-like in their ability to adjust, scale and reflow. The Internet Explorer problem Up until IE7, there has been no fully native support for PNG alpha channel transparency in Internet Expl… 2007 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2007-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/supersleight-transparent-png-in-ie6/ code
166 Performance On A Shoe String Back in the summer, I happened to notice the official Wimbledon All England Tennis Club site had jumped to the top of Alexa’s Movers & Shakers list — a list that tracks sites that have had the biggest upturn or downturn in traffic. The lawn tennis championships were underway, and so traffic had leapt from almost nothing to crazy-busy in a no time at all. Many sites have similar peaks in traffic, especially when they’re based around scheduled events. No one cares about the site for most of the year, and then all of a sudden – wham! – things start getting warm in the data centre. Whilst the thought of chestnuts roasting on an open server has a certain appeal, it’s less attractive if you care about your site being available to visitors. Take a look at this Alexa traffic graph showing traffic patterns for superbowl.com at the beginning of each year, and wimbledon.org in the month of July. Traffic graph from Alexa.com Whilst not on the same scale or with such dramatic peaks, we have a similar pattern of traffic here at 24ways.org. Over the last three years we’ve seen a dramatic pick up in traffic over the month of December (as would be expected) and then a much lower, although steady load throughout the year. What we do have, however, is the luxury of knowing when the peaks will be. For a normal site, be that a blog, small scale web app, or even a small corporate site, you often just cannot predict when you might get slashdotted, end up on the front page of Digg or linked to from a similarly high-profile site. You just don’t know when the peaks will be. If you’re a big commercial enterprise like the Super Bowl, scaling up for that traffic is simply a cost of doing business. But for most of us, we can’t afford to have massive capacity sat there unused for 90% of the year. What you have to do instead is work out how to deal with as much traffic as possible with the modest resources you have. In this article I’m going to talk about some of the things we’ve learned about keeping 24 ways running throughout December,… 2007 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2007-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/performance-on-a-shoe-string/ ux
167 Back To The Future of Print By now we have weathered the storm that was the early days of web development, a dangerous time when we used tables, inline CSS and separate pages for print only versions. We can reflect in a haggard old sea-dog manner (“yarrr… I remember back in the browser wars…”) on the bad practices of the time. We no longer need convincing that print stylesheets are the way to go1, though some of the documentation for them is a little outdated now. I am going to briefly cover 8 tips and 4 main gotchas when creating print stylesheets in our more enlightened era. Getting started As with regular stylesheets, print CSS can be included in a number of ways2, for our purposes we are going to be using the link element. <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print" href="print.css"> This is still my favourite way of linking to CSS files, its easy to see what files are being included and to what media they are being applied to. Without the media attribute specified the link element defaults to the media type ‘all’ which means that the styles within then apply to print and screen alike. The media type ‘screen’ only applies to the screen and wont be picked up by print, this is the best way of hiding styles from print. Make sure you include your print styles after all your other CSS, because you will need to override certain rules and this is a lot easier if you are flowing with the cascade than against it! Another thing you should be thinking is ‘does it need to be printed’. Consider the context3, if it is not a page that is likely to be printed, such as a landing page or a section index then the print styles should resemble the way the page looks on the screen. Context is really important for the design of your print stylesheet, all the tips and tricks that follow should be taken in the context of the page. If for example you are designing a print stylesheet for an item in a shopping cart, it is irrelevant for the user to know the exact url of the link that takes them to your checkout. Tips and tricks During these tip’… 2007 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2007-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/back-to-the-future-of-print/ design
168 Unobtrusively Mapping Microformats with jQuery Microformats are everywhere. You can’t shake an electronic stick these days without accidentally poking a microformat-enabled site, and many developers use microformats as a matter of course. And why not? After all, why invent your own class names when you can re-use pre-defined ones that give your site extra functionality for free? Nevertheless, while it’s good to know that users of tools such as Tails and Operator will derive added value from your shiny semantics, it’s nice to be able to reuse that effort in your own code. We’re going to build a map of some of my favourite restaurants in Brighton. Fitting with the principles of unobtrusive JavaScript, we’ll start with a semantically marked up list of restaurants, then use JavaScript to add the map, look up the restaurant locations and plot them as markers. We’ll be using a couple of powerful tools. The first is jQuery, a JavaScript library that is ideally suited for unobtrusive scripting. jQuery allows us to manipulate elements on the page based on their CSS selector, which makes it easy to extract information from microformats. The second is Mapstraction, introduced here by Andrew Turner a few days ago. We’ll be using Google Maps in the background, but Mapstraction makes it easy to change to a different provider if we want to later. Getting Started We’ll start off with a simple collection of microformatted restaurant details, representing my seven favourite restaurants in Brighton. The full, unstyled list can be seen in restaurants-plain.html. Each restaurant listing looks like this: <li class="vcard"> <h3><a class="fn org url" href="http://www.riddleandfinns.co.uk/">Riddle & Finns</a></h3> <div class="adr"> <p class="street-address">12b Meeting House Lane</p> <p><span class="locality">Brighton</span>, <abbr class="country-name" title="United Kingdom">UK</abbr></p> <p class="postal-code">BN1 1HB</p> </div> <p>Telephone: <span class="tel">+44 (0)1273 323 008</span></p> <p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:info@riddleandfinns.co.uk" class="email">info@ri… 2007 Simon Willison simonwillison 2007-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/unobtrusively-mapping-microformats-with-jquery/ code
169 Incite A Riot Given its relatively limited scope, HTML can be remarkably expressive. With a bit of lateral thinking, we can mark up content such as tag clouds and progress meters, even when we don’t have explicit HTML elements for those patterns. Suppose we want to mark up a short conversation: Alice: I think Eve is watching. Bob: This isn’t a cryptography tutorial …we’re in the wrong example! A note in the the HTML 4.01 spec says it’s okay to use a definition list: Another application of DL, for example, is for marking up dialogues, with each DT naming a speaker, and each DD containing his or her words. That would give us: <dl> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dl> This usage of a definition list is proof that writing W3C specifications and smoking crack are not mutually exclusive activities. “I think Eve is watching” is not a definition of “Alice.” If you (ab)use a definition list in this way, Norm will hunt you down. The conversation problem was revisited in HTML5. What if dt and dd didn’t always mean “definition title” and “definition description”? A new element was forged: dialog. Now the the “d” in dt and dd doesn’t stand for “definition”, it stands for “dialog” (or “dialogue” if you can spell): <dialog> <dt>Alice</dt>: <dd>I think Eve is watching.</dd> <dt>Bob</dt>: <dd>This isn't a cryptography tutorial ...we're in the wrong example!</dd> </dialog> Problem solved …except that dialog is no longer in the HTML5 spec. Hixie further expanded the meaning of dt and dd so that they could be used inside details (which makes sense—it starts with a “d”) and figure (…um). At the same time as the content model of details and figure were being updated, the completely-unrelated dialog element was dropped. Back to the drawing board, or in this case, the HTML 4.01 specification. The spec defines the cite element thusly: Contains a citation or a reference to other sources. Perfect! There’s even an … 2009 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2009-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/incite-a-riot/ code
170 A Pet Project is For Life, Not Just for Christmas I’m excited: as December rolls on, I’m winding down from client work and indulging in a big pet project I’ve been dreaming up for quite some time, with the aim of releasing it early next year. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for pet projects and currently have a few in the works: the big one, two collaborations with friends, and my continuing (and completely un-web-related) attempt at music. But when I think about the other designers and developers out there whose work I admire, one thing becomes obvious: they’ve all got pet projects! Look around the web and you’ll see that anyone worth their salt has some sort of side project on the go. If you don’t have yours yet, now’s the time! Have a pet project to collaborate with your friends It’s not uncommon to find me staring at my screen, looking at beautiful websites my friends have made, grinning inanely because I feel so honoured to know such talented individuals. But one thing really frustrates me: I hardly ever get to work with these people! Sure, there are times when it’s possible to do so, but due to various project situations, it’s a rarity. So, in order to work with my friends, I’ve found the best way is to instigate the collaboration outside of client work; in other words, have a pet project together! Free from the hard realities of budgets, time restraints, and client demands, you and your friends can come up with something purely for your own pleasures. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to work with other designers or developers whose work you love, the pet project is that excuse. They don’t necessarily have to be friends, either: if the respect is mutual, it can be a great way of breaking the ice and getting to know someone. Figure 1: A forthcoming secret love-child from myself and Tim Van Damme Have a pet project to escape from your day job We all like to moan about our clients and bosses, don’t we? But if leaving your job or firing your evil client just isn’t an option, why not escape from all that and pour your creative energies into somet… 2009 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2009-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/a-pet-project-is-for-life-not-just-for-christmas/ business
171 Rock Solid HTML Emails At some stage in your career, it’s likely you’ll be asked by a client to design a HTML email. Before you rush to explain that all the cool kids are using social media, keep in mind that when done correctly, email is still one of the best ways to promote you and your clients online. In fact, a recent survey showed that every dollar spent on email marketing this year generated more than $40 in return. That’s more than any other marketing channel, including the cool ones. There are a whole host of ingredients that contribute to a good email marketing campaign. Permission, relevance, timeliness and engaging content are all important. Even so, the biggest challenge for designers still remains building an email that renders well across all the popular email clients. Same same, but different Before getting into the details, there are some uncomfortable facts that those new to HTML email should be aware of. Building an email is not like building for the web. While web browsers continue their onward march towards standards, many email clients have stubbornly stayed put. Some have even gone backwards. In 2007, Microsoft switched the Outlook rendering engine from Internet Explorer to Word. Yes, as in the word processor. Add to this the quirks of the major web-based email clients like Gmail and Hotmail, sprinkle in a little Lotus Notes and you’ll soon realize how different the email game is. While it’s not without its challenges, rest assured it can be done. In my experience the key is to focus on three things. First, you should keep it simple. The more complex your email design, the more likely is it to choke on one of the popular clients with poor standards support. Second, you need to take your coding skills back a good decade. That often means nesting tables, bringing CSS inline and following the coding guidelines I’ll outline below. Finally, you need to test your designs regularly. Just because a template looks nice in Hotmail now, doesn’t mean it will next week. Setting your lowest common denominator To maintain … 2009 David Greiner davidgreiner 2009-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/rock-solid-html-emails/ code
172 The Construction of Instruction If the world were made to my specifications, all your clients would be happy to pay for a web writer to craft every sentence into something as elegant as it was functional, and the client would have planned the content so that you had it just when you asked, but we both know that won’t happen every time. Sometimes you just know they are going to write the About page, two company blog pages and a Facebook fan page before resigning their position as chief content writer and you are going to end up filling in all the details that will otherwise just be Lorem Ipsum. Welcome to the big world of microcopy: A man walks into a bar. The bartender nods a greeting and watches as the man scans the bottles behind the bar. “Er, you have a lot of gin here. Is there one you would recommend?” “Yes sir.” Long pause. “… Never mind, I’ll have the one in the green bottle.” “Certainly, sir. But you can’t buy it from this part of the bar. You need to go through the double doors there.” “But they look like they lead into the kitchen.” “Really, sir? Well, no, that’s where we allow customers to purchase gin.” The man walks through the doors. On the other side he is greeted by the same bartender. “Y-you!” he stammers but the reticent bartender is now all but silent. Unnerved, the man points to a green bottle, “Er, I’d like to buy a shot of that please. With ice and tonic water.” The bartender mixes the drink and puts it on the bar just out of the reach of the man and looks up. “Um, do you take cards?” the man asks, ready to present his credit card. The bartender goes to take the card to put it through the machine. “Wait! How much was it – with sales tax and everything? Do you take a gratuity?” The bartender simply shrugs. The man eyes him for a moment and decides to try his luck at the bar next door. In the Choose Your Own Adventure version of this story there are plenty of ways to stop the man giving up. You could let him buy the gin right where he was; you could make the price more obvious; you could signpost the pla… 2009 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2009-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/the-construction-of-instruction/ content
173 Real Fonts and Rendering: The New Elephant in the Room My friend, the content strategist Kristina Halvorson, likes to call content “the elephant in the room” of web design. She means it’s the huge problem that no one on the web development team or client side is willing to acknowledge, face squarely, and plan for. A typical web project will pass through many helpful phases of research, and numerous beneficial user experience design iterations, while the content—which in most cases is supposed to be the site’s primary focus—gets handled haphazardly at the end. Hence, elephant in the room, and hence also artist Kevin Cornell’s recent use of elephantine imagery to illustrate A List Apart articles on the subject. But I digress. Without discounting the primacy of the content problem, we web design folk have now birthed ourselves a second lumbering mammoth, thanks to our interest in “real fonts on the web“ (the unfortunate name we’ve chosen for the recent practice of serving web-licensed fonts via CSS’s decade-old @font-face declaration—as if Georgia, Verdana, and Times were somehow unreal). For the fact is, even bulletproof and mo’ bulletproofer @font-face CSS syntax aren’t really bulletproof if we care about looks and legibility across browsers and platforms. Hyenas in the Breakfast Nook The problem isn’t just that foundries have yet to agree on a standard font format that protects their intellectual property. And that, even when they do, it will be a while before all browsers support that standard—leaving aside the inevitable politics that impede all standardization efforts. Those are problems, but they’re not the elephant. Call them the coyotes in the room, and they’re slowly being tamed. Nor is the problem that workable, scalable business models (of which Typekit‘s is the most visible and, so far, the most successful) are still being shaken out and tested. The quality and ease of use of such services, their stability on heavily visited sites (via massively backed-up server clusters), and the fairness and sustainability of their pricing will determine how lice… 2009 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2009-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/real-fonts-and-rendering/ design
174 Type-Inspired Interfaces One of the things that terrifies me most about a new project is the starting point. How is the content laid out? What colors do I pick? Once things like that are decided, it becomes significantly easier to continue design, but it’s the blank page where I spend the most time. To that end, I often start by choosing type. I don’t need to worry about colors or layout or anything else… just the right typefaces that support the art direction. (This article won’t focus on how to choose a typeface, but there are some really great resources if you interested in that sort of thing.) And just like that, all your work is done. “Hold it just a second,” you might say. “All I’ve done is pick type. I still have to do the rest!” To which I would reply, “Silly rabbit. You already have!” You see, picking the right typeface gets you farther than you might think. Here are a few tips on taking cues from type to design interfaces and interface elements. Perfecting Web 2.0 If you’re going for that beloved rounded corner look, you might class it up a bit by choosing the wonderful Omnes Pro by Joshua Darden. As the typeface already has a rounded aesthetic, making buttons that fit the style should be pretty easy. I’ve found that using multiples helps to keep your interfaces looking balanced and proportional. Noticing that the top left edge of the letter “P” has about an 12px corner radius, let’s choose a 24px radius for our button (a multiple of 2), so that we get proper rounded corners. By taking mathematical measurements from the typeface, our button looks more thought out than just “place arbitrary text on arbitrarily-sized button.” Pretty easy, eh? What’s in a name(plate)? Rounded buttons are pretty popular buttons nowadays, so let’s try something a bit more stylized. Have a gander at Brothers, a sturdy face from Emigre. The chiseled edges give us a perfect cue for a stylized button. Using the same slope, you can make plated-looking buttons that fit a different kind of style. Headlining You might even take some cues from… 2009 Dan Mall danmall 2009-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/type-inspired-interfaces/ design
175 Front-End Code Reusability with CSS and JavaScript Most web standards-based developers are more than familiar with creating their sites with semantic HTML with lots and lots of CSS. With each new page in a design, the CSS tends to grow and grow and more elements and styles are added. But CSS can be used to better effect. The idea of object-oriented CSS isn’t new. Nicole Sullivan has written a presentation on the subject and outlines two main concepts: separate structure and visual design; and separate container and content. Jeff Croft talks about Applying OOP Concepts to CSS: I can make a class of .box that defines some basic layout structure, and another class of .rounded that provides rounded corners, and classes of .wide and .narrow that define some widths, and then easily create boxes of varying widths and styles by assigning multiple classes to an element, without having to duplicate code in my CSS. This concept helps reduce CSS file size, allows for great flexibility, rapid building of similar content areas and means greater consistency throughout the entire design. You can also take this concept one step further and apply it to site behaviour with JavaScript. Build a versatile slideshow I will show you how to build multiple slideshows using jQuery, allowing varying levels of functionality which you may find on one site design. The code will be flexible enough to allow you to add previous/next links, image pagination and the ability to change the animation type. More importantly, it will allow you to apply any combination of these features. Image galleries are simply a list of images, so the obvious choice of marking the content up is to use a <ul>. Many designs, however, do not cater to non-JavaScript versions of the website, and thus don’t take in to account large multiple images. You could also simply hide all the other images in the list, apart from the first image. This method can waste bandwidth because the other images might be downloaded when they are never going to be seen. Taking this second concept — only showing one image — the only co… 2009 Trevor Morris trevormorris 2009-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/front-end-code-reusability-with-css-and-javascript/ code
176 What makes a website successful? It might not be what you expect! What makes some sites succeed and others fail? Put another way, when you are asked to redesign an existing website, what problems are you looking out for and where do you concentrate your efforts? I would argue that as web designers we spend too much time looking at the wrong kind of problem. I recently ran a free open door consultancy clinic to celebrate the launch of my new book (yes I know, two shameless plugs in one sentence). This involved various website owners volunteering their sites for review. Both myself and the audience then provided feedback. What quickly became apparent is that the feedback being given by the audience was biased towards design and development. Although their comments were excellent it focused almost exclusively on the quality of code, site aesthetics and usability. To address these issues in isolation is similar to treating symptoms and ignoring the underlying illness. Cure the illness not the symptoms Poor design, bad usability and terribly written code are symptoms of bigger problems. Often when we endeavour to address these symptoms, we meet resistance from our clients and become frustrated. This is because our clients are still struggling with fundamental concepts we take for granted. Before we can address issues of aesthetics, usability and code, we need to tackle business objectives, calls to action and user tasks. Without dealing with these fundamental principles our clients’ website will fail. Let me address each in turn: Understand the business objectives Do you ask your clients why they have a website? It feels like an obvious question. However, it is surprising how many clients do not have an answer. Without having a clear idea of the siteʼs business objectives, the client has no way to know whether it is succeeding. This means they have no justification for further investment and that leads to quibbling over every penny. However most importantly, without clearly defined business aims they have no standard against which to base their decisions. Everything beco… 2009 Paul Boag paulboag 2009-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/what-makes-a-website-successful/ business
177 HTML5: Tool of Satan, or Yule of Santa? It would lead to unseasonal arguments to discuss the title of this piece here, and the arguments are as indigestible as the fourth turkey curry of the season, so we’ll restrict our article to the practical rather than the philosophical: what HTML5 can you reasonably expect to be able to use reliably cross-browser in the early months of 2010? The answer is that you can use more than you might think, due to the seasonal tinsel of feature-detection and using the sparkly pixie-dust of IE-only VML (but used in a way that won’t damage your Elf). Canvas canvas is a 2D drawing API that defines a blank area of the screen of arbitrary size, and allows you to draw on it using JavaScript. The pictures can be animated, such as in this canvas mashup of Wolfenstein 3D and Flickr. (The difference between canvas and SVG is that SVG uses vector graphics, so is infinitely scalable. It also keeps a DOM, whereas canvas is just pixels so you have to do all your own book-keeping yourself in JavaScript if you want to know where aliens are on screen, or do collision detection.) Previously, you needed to do this using Adobe Flash or Java applets, requiring plugins and potentially compromising keyboard accessibility. Canvas drawing is supported now in Opera, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. The reindeer in the corner is, of course, Internet Explorer, which currently has zero support for canvas (or SVG, come to that). Now, don’t pull a face like all you’ve found in your Yuletide stocking is a mouldy satsuma and a couple of nuts—that’s not the end of the story. Canvas was originally an Apple proprietary technology, and Internet Explorer had a similar one called Vector Markup Language which was submitted to the W3C for standardisation in 1998 but which, unlike canvas, was not blessed with retrospective standardisation. What you need, then, is some way for Internet Explorer to translate canvas to VML on-the-fly, while leaving the other, more standards-compliant browsers to use the HTML5. And such a way exists—it’s a JavaScript library called … 2009 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2009-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/html5-tool-of-satan-or-yule-of-santa/ code
178 Make Out Like a Bandit If you are anything like me, you are a professional juggler. No, we don’t juggle bowling pins or anything like that (or do you? Hey, that’s pretty rad!). I’m talking about the work that we juggle daily. In my case, I’m a full-time designer, a half-time graduate student, a sometimes author and conference speaker, and an all-the-time social networker. Only two of these “positions” have actually put any money in my pocket (and, well, the second one takes a lot of money out). Still, this is all part of the work that I do. Your work situation is probably similar. We are workaholics. So if we work so much in our daily lives, shouldn’t we be making out like bandits? Umm, honestly, I’m not hitting on you, silly. I’m talking about our success. We work and work and work. Shouldn’t we be filthy, stinking rich? Well… okay, that’s not quite what I mean either. I’m not necessarily talking about money (though that could potentially be a part of it). I’m talking about success — as in feeling a true sense of accomplishment and feeling happy about what we do and why we do it. It’s important to feel accomplished and a general happiness in our work. To make out like a bandit (or have an incredible amount of success), you can either get lucky or work hard for it. And if you’re going to work hard for it, you might as well make it all meaningful and worthwhile. This is what I strive for in my own work and my life, and the following points I’m sharing with you are the steps I am taking to work toward this. I know the price of success: dedication, hard work & an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen. — Frank Lloyd Wright Learn. Participate. Do. The best way to get good at something is to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing that you want to be good at. For example, a sushi-enthusiast might take a sushi-making class because she wants to learn to make sushi for herself. It totally makes sense while the teacher demonstrates all the procedures, materials, and methods needed to make good, beautiful sushi. Later, … 2009 Jina Anne jina 2009-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/make-out-like-a-bandit/ business
179 Have a Field Day with HTML5 Forms Forms are usually seen as that obnoxious thing we have to markup and style. I respectfully disagree: forms (on a par with tables) are the most exciting thing we have to work with. Here we’re going to take a look at how to style a beautiful HTML5 form using some advanced CSS and latest CSS3 techniques. I promise you will want to style your own forms after you’ve read this article. Here’s what we’ll be creating: The form. (Icons from Chalkwork Payments) Meaningful markup We’re going to style a simple payment form. There are three main sections on this form: The person’s details The address details The credit card details We are also going to use some of HTML5’s new input types and attributes to create more meaningful fields and use less unnecessary classes and ids: email, for the email field tel, for the telephone field number, for the credit card number and security code required, for required fields placeholder, for the hints within some of the fields autofocus, to put focus on the first input field when the page loads There are a million more new input types and form attributes on HTML5, and you should definitely take a look at what’s new on the W3C website. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of how much more fun form markup can be. A good foundation Each section of the form will be contained within its own fieldset. In the case of the radio buttons for choosing the card type, we will enclose those options in another nested fieldset. We will also be using an ordered list to group each label / input pair. This will provide us with a (kind of) semantic styling hook and it will also make the form easier to read when viewing with no CSS applied: The unstyled form So here’s the markup we are going to be working with: <form id=payment> <fieldset> <legend>Your details</legend> <ol> <li> <label for=name>Name</label> <input id=name name=name type=text placeholder="First and last name" required autofocus> </li> <li> <label for=email>Email</label> <input id=… 2009 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2009-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/have-a-field-day-with-html5-forms/ code
180 Going Nuts with CSS Transitions I’m going to show you how CSS 3 transforms and WebKit transitions can add zing to the way you present images on your site. Laying the foundations First we are going to make our images look like mini polaroids with captions. Here’s the markup: <div class="polaroid pull-right"> <img src="../img/seal.jpg" alt=""> <p class="caption">Found this little cutie on a walk in New Zealand!</p> </div> You’ll notice we’re using a somewhat presentational class of pull-right here. This means the logic is kept separate from the code that applies the polaroid effect. The polaroid class has no positioning, which allows it to be used generically anywhere that the effect is required. The pull classes set a float and add appropriate margins—they can be used for things like blockquotes as well. .polaroid { width: 150px; padding: 10px 10px 20px 10px; border: 1px solid #BFBFBF; background-color: white; -webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); -moz-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px rgba(135, 139, 144, 0.4); } The actual polaroid effect itself is simply applied using padding, a border and a background colour. We also apply a nice subtle box shadow, using a property that is supported by modern WebKit browsers and Firefox 3.5+. We include the box-shadow property last to ensure that future browsers that support the eventual CSS3 specified version natively will use that implementation over the legacy browser specific version. The box-shadow property takes four values: three lengths and a colour. The first is the horizontal offset of the shadow—positive values place the shadow on the right, while negative values place it to the left. The second is the vertical offset, positive meaning below. If both of these are set to 0, the shadow is positioned equally on all four sides. The last length value sets the blur radius—the larger the number, the blurrier the shadow (therefore the darker you need to make the colour to have an effect). The colour value can be given in any forma… 2009 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2009-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/going-nuts-with-css-transitions/ code
181 Working With RGBA Colour When Tim and I were discussing the redesign of this site last year, one of the clear goals was to have a graphical style without making the pages heavy with a lot of images. When we launched, a lot of people were surprised that the design wasn’t built with PNGs. Instead we’d used RGBA colour values, which is part of the CSS3 specification. What is RGBA Colour? We’re all familiar with specifying colours in CSS using by defining the mix of red, green and blue light required to achieve our tone. This is fine and dandy, but whatever values we specify have one thing in common — the colours are all solid, flat, and well, a bit boring. Flat RGB colours CSS3 introduces a couple of new ways to specify colours, and one of those is RGBA. The A stands for Alpha, which refers to the level of opacity of the colour, or to put it another way, the amount of transparency. This means that we can set not only the red, green and blue values, but also control how much of what’s behind the colour shows through. Like with layers in Photoshop. Don’t We Have Opacity Already? The ability to set the opacity on a colour differs subtly from setting the opacity on an element using the CSS opacity property. Let’s look at an example. Here we have an H1 with foreground and background colours set against a page with a patterned background. Heading with no transparency applied h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); } By setting the CSS opacity property, we can adjust the transparency of the entire element and its contents: Heading with 50% opacity on the element h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); opacity: 0.5; } RGBA colour gives us something different – the ability to control the opacity of the individual colours rather than the entire element. So we can set the opacity on just the background: 50% opacity on just the background colour h1 { color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.5); } Or leave the background solid and change the opacity on just th… 2009 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2009-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/working-with-rgba-colour/ code
182 Breaking Out The Edges of The Browser HTML5 contains more than just the new entities for a more meaningful document, it also contains an arsenal of JavaScript APIs. So many in fact, that some APIs have outgrown the HTML5 spec’s backyard and have been sent away to grow up all on their own and been given the prestigious honour of being specs in their own right. So when I refer to (bendy finger quote) “HTML5”, I mean the HTML5 specification and a handful of other specifications that help us authors build web applications. Examples of those specs I would include in the umbrella term would be: geolocation, web storage, web databases, web sockets and web workers, to name a few. For all you guys and gals, on this special 2009 series of 24 ways, I’m just going to focus on data storage and offline applications: boldly taking your browser where no browser has gone before! Web Storage The Web Storage API is basically cookies on steroids, a unhealthy dosage of steroids. Cookies are always a pain to work with. First of all you have the problem of setting, changing and deleting them. Typically solved by Googling and blindly relying on PPK’s solution. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the 4Kb limit that some of you have hit when you really don’t want to. The Web Storage API gets around all of the hoops you have to jump through with cookies. Storage supports around 5Mb of data per domain (the spec’s recommendation, but it’s open to the browsers to implement anything they like) and splits in to two types of storage objects: sessionStorage – available to all pages on that domain while the window remains open localStorage – available on the domain until manually removed Support Ignoring beta browsers for our support list, below is a list of the major browsers and their support for the Web Storage API: Latest: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (desktop & mobile/iPhone) Partial: Google Chrome (only supports localStorage) Not supported: Opera (as of 10.10) Usage Both sessionStorage and localStorage support the same interface for accessing their co… 2009 Remy Sharp remysharp 2009-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/breaking-out-the-edges-of-the-browser/ code
183 Designing For The Switch For a long time on the web, we’ve been typographically spoilt. Yes, you heard me correctly. Think about it: our computers come with web fonts already installed; fonts that have been designed specifically to work well online and at small size; and fonts that we can be sure other people have too. Yes, we’ve been spoilt. We don’t need to think about using Verdana, Arial, Georgia or Cambria. Yet, for a long time now, designers have felt we needed more. We want to choose whatever typeface we feel necessary for our designs. We did bad things along the way in pursuit of this goal such as images for text. Smart people dreamt up tools to help us such as sIFR, or Cufón. Only fairly recently, @font-face is supported in most browsers. The floodgates are opening. It really is the dawn of a new typographic era on the web. And we must tread carefully. The New Typesetters Many years ago, before the advent of desktop publishing, if you wanted words set in a particular typeface, you had to go to a Typesetter. A Typesetter, or Compositor, as they were sometimes called, was a person whose job it was to take the written word (in the form of a document or manuscript) and ‘set’ the type in the desired typeface. The designer would chose what typeface they wanted – and all the ligatures, underlines, italics and whatnot – and then scribble all over the manuscript so the typesetter could set the correct type. Then along came Desktop Publishing and every Tom, Dick and Harry could choose type on their computer and an entire link in the typographic chain was removed within just a few years. Well, that’s progress I guess. That was until six months ago when Typesetting was reborn on the web in the guise of a font service: Typekit. Typekit – and services like Typekit such as Typotheque, Kernest and the upcoming Fontdeck – are typesetting services for the web. You supply them with your content, in the form of a webpage, and they provide you with some JavaScript to render that webpage in the typeface you’ve specified simply by adding … 2009 Mark Boulton markboulton 2009-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/designing-for-the-switch/ design
184 Spruce It Up The landscape of web typography is changing quickly these days. We’ve gone from the wild west days of sIFR to Cufón to finally seeing font embedding seeing wide spread adoption by browser developers (and soon web designers) with @font-face. For those who’ve felt limited by the typographic possibilities before, this has been a good year. As Mark Boulton has so eloquently elucidated, @font-face embedding doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Font files can be quite large and FOUT—that nasty flash of unstyled text—can be a distraction for users. Data URIs We can battle FOUT by using Data URIs. A Data URI allows the font to be encoded right into the CSS file. When the font comes with the CSS, the flash of unstyled text is mitigated. No extra HTTP requests are required. Don’t be a grinch, though. Sending hundreds of kilobytes down the pipe still isn’t great. Sometimes, all we want to do is spruce up our site with a little typographic sugar. Be Selective Dan Cederholm’s SimpleBits is an attractive site. Take a look at the ampersand within the header of his site. It’s the lovely (and free) Goudy Bookletter 1911 available from The League of Movable Type. The Opentype format is a respectable 28KB. Nothing too crazy but hold on here. Mr. Cederholm is only using the ampersand! Ouch. That’s a lot of bandwidth just for one character. Can we optimize a font like we can an image? Yes. Image optimization essentially works by removing unnecessary image data such as colour data, hidden comments or using compression algorithms. How do you remove unnecessary information from a font? Subsetting. If you’re the adventurous type, grab a copy of FontForge, which is an open source font editing tool. You can open the font, view and edit any of the glyphs and then re-generate the font. The interface is a little clunky but you’ll be able to select any character you don’t want and then cut the glyphs. Re-generate your font and you’ve now got a smaller file. There are certainly more optimizations that can also be made such as … 2009 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2009-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/spruce-it-up/ code
185 Make Your Mockup in Markup We aren’t designing copies of web pages, we’re designing web pages. Andy Clarke, via Quotes on Design The old way I used to think the best place to design a website was in an image editor. I’d create a pixel-perfect PSD filled with generic content, send it off to the client, go through several rounds of revisions, and eventually create the markup. Does this process sound familiar? You’re not alone. In a very scientific and official survey I conducted, close to 90% of respondents said they design in Photoshop before the browser. That process is whack, yo! Recently, thanks in large part to the influence of design hero Dan Cederholm, I’ve come to the conclusion that a website’s design should begin where it’s going to live: in the browser. Die Photoshop, die Some of you may be wondering, “what’s so bad about using Photoshop for the bulk of my design?” Well, any seasoned designer will tell you that working in Photoshop is akin to working in a minefield: you never know when it’s going to blow up in your face. The application Adobe Photoshop CS4 has unexpectedly ruined your day. Photoshop’s propensity to crash at crucial moments is a running joke in the industry, as is its barely usable interface. And don’t even get me started on the hot, steaming pile of crap that is text rendering. Text rendered in Photoshop (left) versus Safari (right). Crashing and text rendering issues suck, but we’ve learned to live with them. The real issue with using Photoshop for mockups is the expectations you’re setting for a client. When you send the client a static image of the design, you’re not giving them the whole picture — they can’t see how a fluid grid would function, how the design will look in a variety of browsers, basic interactions like :hover effects, or JavaScript behaviors. For more on the disadvantages to showing clients designs as images rather than websites, check out Andy Clarke’s Time to stop showing clients static design visuals. A necessary evil? In the past we’ve put up with Photoshop because it … 2009 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2009-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/make-your-mockup-in-markup/ process
186 The Web Is Your CMS It is amazing what you can do these days with the services offered on the web. Flickr stores terabytes of photos for us and converts them automatically to all kind of sizes, finds people in them and even allows us to edit them online. YouTube does almost the same complete job with videos, LinkedIn allows us to maintain our CV, Delicious our bookmarks and so on. We don’t have to do these tasks ourselves any more, as all of these systems also come with ways to use the data in the form of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs for short. APIs give us raw data when we send requests telling the system what we want to get back. The problem is that every API has a different idea of what is a simple way of accessing this data and in which format to give it back. Making it easier to access APIs What we need is a way to abstract the pains of different data formats and authentication formats away from the developer — and this is the purpose of the Yahoo Query Language, or YQL for short. Libraries like jQuery and YUI make it easy and reliable to use JavaScript in browsers (yes, even IE6) and YQL allows us to access web services and even the data embedded in web documents in a simple fashion – SQL style. Select * from the web and filter it the way I want YQL is a web service that takes a few inputs itself: A query that tells it what to get, update or access An output format – XML, JSON, JSON-P or JSON-P-X A callback function (if you defined JSON-P or JSON-P-X) You can try it out yourself – check out this link to get back Flickr photos for the search term ‘santa’*%20from%20flickr.photos.search%20where%20text%3D%22santa%22&format=xml in XML format. The YQL query for this is select * from flickr.photos.search where text="santa" The easiest way to take your first steps with YQL is to look at the console. There you get sample queries, access to all the data sources available to you and you can easily put together complex queries. In this article, however, let’s use PHP to put together a web page that pulls i… 2009 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2009-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/the-web-is-your-cms/ code
187 A New Year's Resolution The end of 2009 is fast approaching. Yet another year has passed in a split second. Our Web Designing careers are one year older and it’s time to reflect on the highs and lows of 2009. What was your greatest achievement and what could you have done better? Perhaps, even more importantly, what are your goals for 2010? Something that I noticed in 2009 is that being a web designer 24/7; it’s easy to get consumed by the web. It’s easy to get caught up in the blog posts, CSS galleries, web trends and Twitter! Living in this bubble can lead to one’s work becoming stale, boring and basically like everyone else’s work on the web. No designer wants this. So, I say on 1st January 2010 let’s make it our New Year’s resolution to create something different, something special or even ground-breaking! Make it your goal to break the mold of current web design trends and light the way for your fellow web designer comrades! Of course I wouldn’t let you embark on the New Year empty handed. To help you on your way I’ve compiled a few thoughts and ideas to get your brains ticking! Don’t design for the web, just design A key factor in creating something original and fresh for the web is to stop thinking in terms of web design. The first thing we need to do is forget the notion of headers, footers, side bars etc. A website doesn’t necessarily need any of these, so even before we’ve started we’ve already limited our design possibilities by thinking in these very conventional and generally accepted web terms. The browser window is a 2D canvas like any other and we can do with it what we like. With this in mind we can approach web design from a fresh perspective. We can take inspiration for web design from editorial design, packaging design, comics, poster design, album artwork, motion design, street signage and anything else you can think of. Web design is way more than the just the web and by taking this more wide angled view of what web design is and can be you’ll find there are a thousand more exiting design possibilities. N… 2009 Mike Kus mikekus 2009-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/a-new-years-resolution/ business
188 Don't Lose Your :focus For many web designers, accessibility conjures up images of blind users with screenreaders, and the difficulties in making sites accessible to this particular audience. Of course, accessibility covers a wide range of situations that go beyond the extreme example of screenreader users. And while it’s true that making a complex site accessible can often be a daunting prospect, there are also many small things that don’t take anything more than a bit of judicious planning, are very easy to test (without having to buy expensive assistive technology), and can make all the difference to certain user groups. In this short article we’ll focus on keyboard accessibility and how careless use of CSS can potentially make your sites completely unusable. Keyboard Access Users who for whatever reason can’t use a mouse will employ a keyboard (or keyboard-like custom interface) to navigate around web pages. By default, they will use TAB and SHIFT + TAB to move from one focusable element (links, form controls and area) of a page to the next. Note: in OS X, you’ll first need to turn on full keyboard access under System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts. Safari under Windows needs to have the option Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage in Preferences > Advanced enabled. Opera is the odd one out, as it has a variety of keyboard navigation options – the most relevant here being spatial navigation via Shift+Down, Shift+Up, Shift+Left, and Shift+Right). But I Don’t Like Your Dotted Lines… To show users where they are within a page, browsers place an outline around the element that currently has focus. The “problem” with these default outlines is that some browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox) also display them when a user clicks on a focusable element with the mouse. Particularly on sites that make extensive use of image replacement on links with “off left” techniques this can create very unsightly outlines that stretch from the replaced element all the way to the left edge of the browser. Outline … 2009 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2009-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/dont-lose-your-focus/ code
189 Ignorance Is Bliss This is a true story. Meet Mike Mike’s a smart guy. He knows a great browser when he sees one. He uses Firefox on his Windows PC at work and Safari on his Mac at home. Mike asked us to design a Web site for his business. So we did. We wanted to make the best Web site for Mike that we could, so we used all of the CSS tools that are available today. That meant using RGBa colour to layer elements, border-radius to add subtle rounded corners and (possibly most experimental of all new CSS), generated gradients. The home page Mike sees in Safari on his Mac Mike loves what he sees. Meet Sam Sam works with Mike. She uses Internet Explorer 7 because it came on the Windows laptop that the company bought her when she joined. The home page Sam sees in Internet Explorer 7 on her PC Sam loves the new Web site too. How could both of them be happy when they experienced the Web site differently? The new WYSIWYG When I first presented my designs to Mike and Sam, I showed them a Web page made with HTML and CSS in their respective browsers and not a picture of a Web page. By showing neither a static image of my design, I set none of the false expectations that, by definition, a static Photoshop or Fireworks visual would have established. Mike saw rounded corners and subtle shadows in Firefox and Safari. Sam saw something equally as nice, just a little different, in Internet Explorer. Both were very happy because they saw something that they liked. Neither knew, or needed to know, about the subtle differences between browsers. Their users don’t need to know either. That’s because in the real world, people using the Web don’t find a Web site that they like, then open up another browser to check that it looks they same. They simply buy what they came to buy, read what what they came to read, do what they came to do, then get on with their lives in blissful ignorance of what they might be seeing in another browser. Often when I talk or write about using progressive CSS, people ask me, “How do you convince clients to … 2009 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2009-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/ignorance-is-bliss/ business
190 Self-Testing Pages with JavaScript Working at an agency I am involved more and more on projects in which client side code is developed internally then sent out to a separate team for implementation. You provide static HTML, CSS and JavaScript which then get placed into the CMS and brought to life as an actual website. As you can imagine this can sometimes lead to frustrations. However many safeguards you include, handing over your code to someone else is always a difficult thing to do effectively. In this article I will show you how you can create a JavaScript implementation checker and that will give you more time for drink based activity as your web site and apps are launched quicker and with less unwanted drama! An all too frequent occurrence You’ve been working on a project for weeks, fixed all your bugs and send it to be implemented. You hear nothing and assume all is going well then a few days before it’s meant to launch you get an email from the implementation team informing you of bugs in your code that you need to urgently fix. The 24ways website with a misspelt ID for the years menu Being paranoid you trawl through the preview URL, check they have the latest files, check your code for errors then notice that a required HTML attribute has been omitted from the build and therefore CSS or JavaScript you’ve hooked onto that particular attribute isn’t being applied and that’s what is causing the “bug”. It takes you seconds drafting an email informing them of this, it takes then seconds putting the required attribute in and low and behold the bug is fixed, everyone is happy but you’ve lost a good few hours of your life – this time could have been better spent in the pub. I’m going to show you a way that these kind of errors can be alerted immediately during implementation of your code and ensure that when you are contacted you know that there actually is a bug to fix. You probably already know the things that could be omitted from a build and look like bugs so you’ll soon be creating tests to look for these and alert when they are not … 2009 Ross Bruniges rossbruniges 2009-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/self-testing-pages-with-javascript/ process
191 CSS Animations Friend: You should learn how to write CSS! Me: … Friend: CSS; Cascading Style Sheets. If you’re serious about web design, that’s the next thing you should learn. Me: What’s wrong with <font> tags? That was 8 years ago. Thanks to the hard work of Jeffrey, Andy, Andy, Cameron, Colly, Dan and many others, learning how to decently markup a website and write lightweight stylesheets was surprisingly easy. They made it so easy even a complete idiot (OH HAI) was able to quickly master it. And then… nothing. For a long time, it seemed like there wasn’t happening anything in the land of CSS, time stood still. Once you knew the basics, there wasn’t anything new to keep up with. It looked like a great band split, but people just kept re-releasing their music in various “Best Of!” or “Remastered!” albums. Fast forward a couple of years to late 2006. On the official WebKit blog Surfin’ Safari, there’s an article about something called CSS animations. Great new stuff to play with, but only supported by nightly builds (read: very, very beta) of WebKit. In the following months, they release other goodies, like CSS gradients, CSS reflections, CSS masks, and even more CSS animation sexiness. Whoa, looks like the band got back together, found their second youth, and went into overdrive! The problem was that if you wanted to listen to their new albums, you had to own some kind of new high-tech player no one on earth (besides some early adopters) owned. Back in the time machine. It is now late 2009, close to Christmas. Things have changed. Browsers supporting these new toys are widely available left and right. Even non-techies are using these advanced browsers to surf the web on a daily basis! Epic win? Almost, but at least this gives us enough reason to start learning how we could use all this new CSS voodoo. On Monday, Natalie Downe showed you a good tutorial on Going Nuts with CSS Transitions. Today, I’m taking it one step further… Howto: A basic spinner No matter how fast internet tubes or servers are, we’ll always need spi… 2009 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2009-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/css-animations/ code
192 Cleaner Code with CSS3 Selectors The parts of CSS3 that seem to grab the most column inches on blogs and in articles are the shiny bits. Rounded corners, text shadow and new ways to achieve CSS layouts are all exciting and bring with them all kinds of possibilities for web design. However what really gets me, as a developer, excited is a bit more mundane. In this article I’m going to take a look at some of the ways our front and back-end code will be simplified by CSS3, by looking at the ways we achieve certain visual effects now in comparison to how we will achieve them in a glorious, CSS3-supported future. I’m also going to demonstrate how we can use these selectors now with a little help from JavaScript – which can work out very useful if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t change markup that is being output by some server-side code. The wonder of nth-child So why does nth-child get me so excited? Here is a really common situation, the designer would like the tables in the application to look like this: Setting every other table row to a different colour is a common way to enhance readability of long rows. The tried and tested way to implement this is by adding a class to every other row. If you are writing the markup for your table by hand this is a bit of a nuisance, and if you stick a row in the middle you have to change the rows the class is applied to. If your markup is generated by your content management system then you need to get the server-side code to add that class – if you have access to that code. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>Striping every other row - using classes</title> <style type="text/css"> body { padding: 40px; margin: 0; font: 0.9em Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; } table { border-collapse: collapse; border: 1px solid #124412; width: 600px; } th { border: 1px solid #124412; background-color: #334f33; color: #fff; padding: 0.4em; text-… 2009 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2009-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/cleaner-code-with-css3-selectors/ code
193 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven't Read Them I’ve been a huge fan of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 since the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published them, nine years ago. I’ve found them practical and future-proof, and I’ve found that they can save a huge amount of time for designers and developers. You can apply them to anything that you can open in a browser. My favourite part is when I use the guidelines to make a website accessible, and then attend user-testing and see someone with a disability easily using that website. Today, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, seems like a good time to re-read Laura Kalbag’s explanation of why we should bother with accessibility. That should motivate you to devour this article. If you haven’t read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, you might find them a bit off-putting at first. The editors needed to create a single standard that countries around the world could refer to in legislation, and so some of the language in the guidelines reads like legalese. The editors also needed to future-proof the guidelines, and so some terminology—such as “time-based media” and “programmatically determined”—can sound ambiguous. The guidelines can seem lengthy, too: printing the guidelines, the Understanding WCAG 2.0 document, and the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document would take 1,200 printed pages. This festive season, let’s rip off that legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping paper, and see—in a single article—what gifts the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 editors have bestowed upon us. Can your users perceive the information on your website? The first guideline has criteria that help you prevent your users from asking “What the **** is this thing here supposed to be?” 1.1.1 Text is the most accessible format for information. Screen readers—such as the “VoiceOver” setting on your iPhone or the “TalkBack” app on your Android phone—understand text better than any other format. The same applies for other assistive technology, such as translation apps and Braill… 2017 Alan Dalton alandalton 2017-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-them/ code
194 Design Systems and Hybrids The other day on Twitter, I saw a thread started by Dorian Taylor about why design systems are so hot right now. In the thread, he made the case that they’ve been around for ages and some folks were just slow to catch up. It was an interesting thread, and not the first time I’ve seen folks discuss this. “Design systems are so hot right now” was even used recently in this very publication. And yes it’s true that they’ve been around for ages. Design artefact collectors’ obsession with reprints of old graphic standards manuals of the past are a reminder. Sometimes old things become new again, either through a rediscovery or awakening (wow, that sounds really deep). But I think that’s definitely what happened here. Some very opinionated answers that come to mind for me are: The need for them has increased with the needs of software development. With the increasing number of devices (phones, tablets, watches, etc.), scaling design has required the need to double down on systems thinking and processes. Investments with huge cost-saving returns. The time investment it takes to onboard new people as you staff up large teams (and the time it takes to fix bugs and inconsistencies) could be better spent building up a system that lets you ship at a faster pace. It also gives you more time to focus on the bigger picture instead of what color a button border is. If you do have to onboard new designers, the design system is a great educational resource to get up to speed quickly on your organization’s design principles, materials/tools, and methods. “Here’s the simple truth: you can’t innovate on products without first innovating the way you build them.” — Alex Schleifer, The Way We Build These are just some of the reasons. But there is another answer, and a personal conclusion that I’ve reached. It relates to the way I work and what I love working on, but I don’t see it talked about much. Hybrids Have a Home I’m a hybrid designer. I code in HTML & CSS (with a preference for Sass). But I don’t call myself a frontend develop… 2017 Jina Anne jina 2017-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/design-systems-and-hybrids/ process
195 Levelling Up for Junior Developers If you are a junior developer starting out in the web industry, things can often seem a little daunting. There are so many things to learn, and as soon as you’ve learnt one framework or tool, there seems to be something new out there. I am lucky enough to lead a team of developers building applications for the web. During a recent One to One meeting with one of our junior developers, he asked me about a learning path and the basic fundamentals that every developer should know. After a bit of digging around, I managed to come up with a (not so exhaustive) list of principles that was shared with him. In this article, I will share the list with you, and hopefully help you level up from junior developer and become a better developer all round. This list doesn’t focus on an particular programming language, but rather coding concepts as a whole. The idea behind this list is that whether you are a front-end developer, back-end developer, full stack developer or just a curious one, these principles apply to everyone that writes code. I have tried to be technology agnostic, so that you can use these tips to guide you, whatever your tech stack might be. Without any further ado and in no particular order, let’s get started. Refactoring code like a boss The Boy Scouts have a rule that goes “always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.” This rule can be applied to code too and ensures that you leave code cleaner than you found it. As a junior developer, it’s almost certain that you will either create or come across older code that could be improved. The resources below are a guide that will help point you in the right direction. My favourite book on this subject has to be Clean Code by Robert C. Martin. It’s a must read for anyone writing code as it helps you identify bad code and shows you techniques that you can use to improve existing code. If you find that in your day to day work you deal with a lot of legacy code, Improving Existing Technology through Refactoring is another useful read. Design Patterns are a… 2017 Dean Hume deanhume 2017-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/levelling-up-for-junior-developers/ code
196 Designing a Remote Project I came across an article recently, which I have to admit made my blood boil a little. Yes, I know it’s the season of goodwill and all that, and I’m going to risk sounding a little Scrooge-like, but I couldn’t help it. It was written by someone who’d tried out ‘telecommuting’ (big sigh) a.k.a. remote or distributed working. They’d tested it in their company and decided it didn’t work. Why did it enrage me so much? Well, this person sounded like they’d almost set it up to fail. To them, it was the latest buzzword, and they wanted to offer their employees a ‘perk’. But it was going to be risky, because, well, they just couldn’t trust their employees not to be lazy and sit around in their pyjamas at home, watching TV, occasionally flicking their mousepad to ‘appear online’. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Well, no. This attitude towards remote working is baked in the past, where working from one office and people all sitting around together in a cosy circle singing kum-by-yah* was a necessity not an option. We all know the reasons remote working and flexibility can happen more easily now: fast internet, numerous communication channels, and so on. But why are companies like Yahoo! and IBM backtracking on this? Why is there still such a negative perception of this way of working when it has so much real potential for the future? *this might not have ever really happened in an office. So what is remote working? It can come in various formats. It’s actually not just the typical office worker, working from home on a specific day. The nature of digital projects has been changing over a number of years. In this era where organisations are squeezing budgets and trying to find the best value wherever they can, it seems that the days of whole projects being tackled by one team, in the same place, is fast becoming the past. What I’ve noticed more recently is a much more fragmented way of putting together a project – a mixture of in-house and agency, or multiple agencies or organisations, or working with an offshore team. In th… 2017 Suzanna Haworth suzannahaworth 2017-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/designing-a-remote-project/ business
197 Designing for Mobile Performance Last year, some colleagues at Google ran a research study titled “The Need for Mobile Speed” to find out what the impact of performance and perception of speed had on the way people use the web on their mobile devices. That’s not a trivial distinction; when considering performance, how fast something feels is often more important than how fast it actually is. When dealing with sometimes underpowered mobile devices and slow mobile networks, designing experiences that feel fast is exceptionally important. One of the most startling numbers we found in the study was that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. We wanted to find out more, so following on from this study, we conducted research to define what the crucial elements of speed are. We took into consideration the user experience (UX), overall perception of speed, and how differing contexts the user finds themselves in can alter how fast a user thinks something loaded. To understand speed and load times first we must understand that user mobile web behaviour is broken down into three buckets; Intention Location State of mind Let’s look at each of those in turn. Intention Users browse sites on a mobile device for many different reasons. To be able to effectively design a performant user experience for them, it’s important to understand what those reasons might be. When asked to describe their reason for visiting a site, approximately 30% of people asked by the study claimed that they were simply browsing without a particular purpose in mind. Looking deeper, we found that this number increased slightly (34%) for retail sites. 30% said they were just there to find out some information for a future task or action, such as booking a flight. Interestingly, the research shows that users are actually window shopping using their mobile browser. Only 29% actually said they had a specific goal or intent in mind, and this number increases significantly for financial services like banking sites (57%). This goes against a trad… 2017 Mustafa Kurtuldu mustafakurtuldu 2017-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/designing-for-mobile-performance/ ux
198 Is Your Website Accidentally Sexist? Women make up 51% of the world’s population. More importantly, women make 85% of all purchasing decisions about consumer goods, 75% of the decisions about buying new homes, and 81% of decisions about groceries. The chances are, you want your website to be as attractive to women as it is to men. But we are all steeped in a male-dominated culture that subtly influences the design and content decisions we make, and some of those decisions can result in a website that isn’t as welcoming to women as it could be. Typography tells a story Studies show that we make consistent judgements about whether a typeface is masculine or feminine: Masculine typography has a square or geometric form with hard corners and edges, and is emphatically either blunt or spiky. Serif fonts are also considered masculine, as is bold type and capitals. Feminine typography favours slim lines, curling or flowing shapes with a lot of ornamentation and embellishment, and slanted letters. Sans-serif, cursive and script fonts are seen as feminine, as are lower case letters. The effect can be so subtle that even choosing between bold and regular styles within a single font family can be enough to indicate masculinity or femininity. If you want to appeal to both men and women, search for fonts that are gender neutral, or at least not too masculine. When you’re choosing groups of fonts that need to work harmoniously together, consider which fonts you are prioritising in your design. Is the biggest word on the page in a masculine or feminine font? What about the smallest words? Is there an imbalance between the prominence of masculine and feminine fonts, and what does this imply? Typography is a language in and of itself, so be careful what you say with it. Colour me unsurprised Colour also has an obvious gender bias. We associate pinks and purples, especially in combination, with girls and women, and a soft pink has become especially strongly related to breast cancer awareness campaigns. On the other hand, pale blue is strongly associated with boy… 2017 Suw Charman-Anderson suwcharmananderson 2017-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/is-your-website-accidentally-sexist/ content
199 Knowing the Future - Tips for a Happy Launch Day You’ve chosen your frameworks and libraries. You’ve learned how to write code which satisfies the buzzword and performance gods. Now you need to serve it to a global audience, and make things easy to preview, to test, to sign-off, and to evolve. But infrastructure design is difficult and boring for most of us. We just want to get our work out into the wild. If only we had tools which would let us go, “Oh yeah! It all deploys perfectly every time” and shout, “You need another release? BAM! What’s next?” A truth that can be hard to admit is that very often, the production environment and its associated deployment processes are poorly defined until late into a project. This can be a problem. It makes my palms sweaty just thinking about it. If like me, you have spent time building things for clients, you’ll probably have found yourself working with a variety of technical partners and customers who bring different constraints and opportunities to your projects. Knowing and proving the environments and the deployment processes is often very difficult, but can be a factor which profoundly impacts our ability to deliver what we promised. To say nothing of our ability to sleep at night or leave our fingernails un-chewed. Let’s look at this a little, and see if we can’t set you up for a good night’s sleep, with dry palms and tidy fingernails. A familiar problem You’ve been here too, right? The project development was tough, but you’re pleased with what you are running in your local development environments. Now you need to get the client to see and approve your build, and hopefully indicate with a cheery thumbs up that it can “go live”. Chances are that we have a staging environment where the client can see the build. But be honest, is this exactly the same as the production environment? It should be, but often it’s not. Often the staging environment is nothing more than a visible server with none of the optimisations, security, load balancing, caching, and other vital bits of machinery that we’ll need (and need to test) … 2017 Phil Hawksworth philhawksworth 2017-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/knowing-the-future/ process
200 Care and Feeding of Burnout You’ve been doing too much for too long. And it’s broken you. You’re burned out. You’re done. Illustration by Kate Holden Occupational burnout is a long-documented effect of stretching yourself further than the limits of your mental and physical health can carry you. And when it finally catches up with you, it can feel like the end of the world. But things can get better. With focused self care, reworking your priorities and lots of time, you can slog through burnout. What is burnout? The Tl;dr linkdump tour In this article, we’ll be looking at what you can do when you’re burned out. We’ll be skipping past a lot of information on what burnout is, what causes it and how it impacts the tech industry. We’re able to skip past this because many technologists have already created valuable content targeted to our industry. The videos and writing below may be helpful for readers who are less familiar with burnout. A Wikipedia article may be a great starting point for learning about occupational burnout. Understanding burnout: Brandon West This conference talk by Brandon West covers a lot of burnout 101, from the perspective of a developer relations/community professional. April Wensel writes about the need for the tech industry to move from the Valley’s burnout culture to a more sustainable model. Catching Burnout [as] early [as possible] One of the most challenging things about burnout is that it develops slowly and gradually. Many impacted don’t notice the water warming around them until it’s been brought to a boil, causing a crisis that can’t be overlooked. Catching burnout and taking steps to deal with it as early as possible can help limit the length and severity of your burnout. Getting in the habit of checking in with yourself regularly about your stress and energy levels can be an effective habit for assessing burnout and for general wellness. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine if you might be suffering from burnout. Have you become cynical or critical at work? D… 2017 Jessica Rose jessicarose 2017-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/care-and-feeding-of-burnout/ process

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