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7 Get Started With GitHub Pages (Plus Bonus Jekyll) After several failed attempts at getting set up with GitHub Pages, I vowed that if I ever figured out how to do it, I’d write it up. Fortunately, I did eventually figure it out, so here is my write-up. Why I think GitHub Pages is cool Normally when you host stuff on GitHub, you’re just storing your files there. If you push site files, what you’re storing is the code, and when you view a file, you’re viewing the code rather than the output. What GitHub Pages lets you do is store those files, and if they’re HTML files, you can view them like any other website, so there’s no need to host them separately yourself. GitHub Pages accepts static HTML but can’t execute languages like PHP, or use a database in the way you’re probably used to, so you’ll need to output static HTML files. This is where templating tools such as Jekyll come in, which I’ll talk about later. The main benefit of GitHub Pages is ease of collaboration. Changes you make in the repository are automatically synced, so if your site’s hosted on GitHub, it’s as up-to-date as your GitHub repository. This really appeals to me because when I just want to quickly get something set up, I don’t want to mess around with hosting; and when people submit a pull request, I want that change to be visible as soon as I merge it without having to set up web hooks. Before you get started If you’ve used GitHub before, already have an account and know the basics like how to set up a repository and clone it to your computer, you’re good to go. If not, I recommend getting familiar with that first. The GitHub site has extensive documentation on getting started, and if you’re not a fan of using the command line, the official GitHub apps for Mac and Windows are great. I also found this tutorial about GitHub Pages by Thinkful really useful, and it contains details on how to turn an existing repository into a GitHub Pages site. Although this involves a bit of using the command line, it’s minimal, and I’ll guide you through the basics. Setting up GitHub Pages For this de… 2013 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2013-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/get-started-with-github-pages/  
22 The Responsive Hover Paradigm CSS transitions and animations provide web designers with a whole slew of tools to spruce up our designs. Move over ActionScript tweens! The techniques we can now implement with CSS are reminiscent of Flash-based adventures from the pages of web history. Pairing CSS enhancements with our :hover pseudo-class allows us to add interesting events to our websites. We have a ton of power at our fingertips. However, with this power, we each have to ask ourselves: just because I can do something, should I? Why bother? We hear a lot of mantras in the web community. Some proclaim the importance of content; some encourage methods like mobile first to support content; and others warn of the overhead and speed impact of decorative flourishes and visual images. I agree, one hundred percent. At the same time, I believe that content can reign king and still provide a beautiful design with compelling interactions and acceptable performance impacts. Maybe, just maybe, we can even have a little bit of fun when crafting these systems! Yes, a site with pure HTML content and no CSS will load very fast on your mobile phone, but it leaves a lot to be desired. If you went to your local library and every book looked the same, how would you know which one to borrow? Imagine if every book was printed on the same paper stock with the same cover page in the same type size set at a legible point value… how would you know if you were going to purchase a cookbook about wild game or a young adult story about teens fighting to the death? For certain audiences, seeing a site with hip, lively hovers sure beats a stale website concept. I’ve worked on many higher education sites, and setting the interactive options is often a very important factor in engaging potential students, alumni, and donors. The same can go for e-commerce sites: enticing your audience with surprise and delight factors can be the difference between a successful and a lost sale. Knowing your content and audience can help you decide if an intriguing experience is appropria… 2013 Jenn Lukas jennlukas 2013-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-responsive-hover-paradigm/  
23 Animating Vectors with SVG It is almost 2014 and fifteen years ago the W3C started to develop a web-based scalable vector graphics (SVG) format. As web technologies go, this one is pretty old and well entrenched. See the Pen yJflC by Drew McLellan (@drewm) on CodePen Embed not working on your device? Try direct. Unlike rasterized images, SVG files will stay crisp and sharp at any resolution. With high-DPI phones, tablets and monitors, all those rasterized icons are starting to look a bit old and blocky. There are several options to get simpler, decorative pieces to render smoothly and respond to various device widths, shapes and sizes. Symbol fonts are one option; the other is SVG. I’m a big fan of SVG. SVG is an XML format, which means it is possible to write by hand or to script. The most common way to create an SVG file is through the use of various drawing applications like Illustrator, Inkscape or Sketch. All of them open and save the SVG format. But, if SVG is so great, why doesn’t it get more attention? The simple answer is that for a long time it wasn’t well supported, so no one touched the technology. SVG’s adoption has always been hampered by browser support, but that’s not the case any more. Every modern browser (at least three versions back) supports SVG. Even IE9. Although the browsers support SVG, it is implemented in many different ways. SVG in HTML Some browsers allow you to embed SVG right in the HTML: the <svg> element. Treating SVG as a first-class citizen works — sometimes. Another way to embed SVG is via the <img> element; using the src attribute, you can refer to an SVG file. Again, this only works sometimes and leaves you in a tight space if you need to have a fallback for older browsers. The most common solution is to use the <object> element, with the data attribute referencing the SVG file. When a browser does not support this, it falls back to the content inside the <object>. This could be a rasterized fallback <img>. This method gets you the best of both worlds: a nice vector image with an alternati… 2013 Brian Suda briansuda 2013-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/animating-vectors-with-svg/  
2 Levelling Up Hello, 24 ways. I’m Ashley and I sell property insurance. I’m interrupting your Christmas countdown with an article about rental property software and a guy, Pete, who selflessly encouraged me to build my first web app. It doesn’t sound at all festive, or — considering I’ve used both “insurance” and “rental property” — interesting, but do stick with me. There’s eggnog at the end. I run a property insurance business, Brokers Direct. It’s a small operation, but well established. We’ve been selling landlord insurance on the web for over thirteen years, for twelve of which we have provided our clients with third-party software for managing their rental property portfolios. Free. Of. Charge. It sounds like a sweet deal for our customers, but it isn’t. At least, not any more. The third-party software is victim to years of neglect by its vendor. Its questionable interface, garish visuals and, ahem, clip art icons have suffered from a lack of updates. While it was never a contender for software of the year, I’ve steadily grown too embarrassed to associate my business with it. The third-party rental property software we distributed I wanted to offer my customers a simple, clean and lightweight alternative. In an industry that’s dominated by dated and bloated software, it seemed only logical that I should build my own rental property tool. The long learning-to-code slog Learning a programming language is daunting, the source of my frustration stemming from a non-programming background. Generally, tutorials assume a degree of familiarity with programming, whether it be tools, conventions or basic skills. I had none and, at the time, there was nothing on the web really geared towards a novice. I reached the point where I genuinely thought I was just not cut out for coding. Surrendering to my feelings of self-doubt and frustration, I sourced a local Rails developer, Pete, to build it for me. Pete brought a pack of index cards to our meeting. Index cards that would represent each feature the rental property software wo… 2013 Ashley Baxter ashleybaxter 2013-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/levelling-up/ business
14 The Command Position Principle Living where I do, in a small village in rural North Wales, getting anywhere means driving along narrow country roads. Most of these are just about passable when two cars meet. If you’re driving too close to the centre of the road, when two drivers meet you stop, glare at each other and no one goes anywhere. Drive too close to your nearside and in summer you’ll probably scratch your paintwork on the hedgerows, or in winter you’ll sink your wheels into mud. Driving these lanes requires a balance between caring for your own vehicle and consideration for someone else’s, but all too often, I’ve seen drivers pushed towards the hedgerows and mud when someone who’s inconsiderate drives too wide because they don’t want to risk scratching their own paintwork or getting their wheels dirty. If you learn to ride a motorcycle, you’ll be taught about the command position: Approximate central position, or any position from which the rider can exert control over invitation space either side. The command position helps motorcyclists stay safe, because when they ride in the centre of their lane it prevents other people, usually car drivers, from driving alongside, either forcing them into the curb or potentially dangerously close to oncoming traffic. Taking the command position isn’t about motorcyclists being aggressive, it’s about them being confident. It’s them knowing their rightful place on the road and communicating that through how they ride. I’ve recently been trying to take that command position when driving my car on our lanes. When I see someone coming in the opposite direction, instead of instinctively moving closer to my nearside — and in so doing subconsciously invite them into my space on the road — I hold both my nerve and a central position in my lane. Since I done this I’ve noticed that other drivers more often than not stay in their lane or pull closer to their nearside so we occupy equal space on the road. Although we both still need to watch our wing mirrors, neither of us gets our paint scratched … 2013 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2013-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-command-position-principle/ business
29 What It Takes to Build a Website In 1994 we lost Kurt Cobain and got the world wide web as a weird consolation prize. In the years that followed, if you’d asked me if I knew how to build a website I’d have said yes, I know HTML, so I know how to build a website. If you’d then asked me what it takes to build a website, I’d have had to admit that HTML would hardly feature. Among the design nerdery and dev geekery it’s easy to think that the nuts and bolts of building a page just need to be multiplied up and Ta-da! There’s your website. That can certainly be true with weekend projects and hackery for fun. It works for throwing something together on GitHub or experimenting with ideas on your personal site. But what about working professionally on client projects? The web is important, so we need to build it right. It’s 2015 – your job involves people paying you money for building websites. What does it take to build a website and to do it right? What practices should we adopt to make really great, successful and professional web projects in 2015? I put that question to some friends and 24 ways authors to see what they thought. Getting the tech right Inevitably, it all starts with the technology. We work in a technical medium, after all. From Notepad and WinFTP through to continuous integration and deployment – how do you build sites? Create a stable development environment There’s little more likely to send a web developer into a wild panic and a client into a wild rage than making a new site live and things just not working. That’s why it’s important to have realistic development and staging environments that mimic the live server as closely as possible. Are you in the habit of developing new sites right on the client’s server? Or maybe in a subfolder on your local machine? It’s time to reconsider. Charlie Perrins writes: Don’t work on a live server – this feels like one of those gear-changing moments for a developer’s growth. Build something that works just as well locally on your own machine as it does on a live server, and capture th… 2014 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2014-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/what-it-takes-to-build-a-website/ business
35 SEO in 2015 (and Why You Should Care) If your business is healthy, you can always find plenty of reasons to leave SEO on your to-do list in perpetuity. After all, SEO is technical, complicated, time-consuming and potentially dangerous. The SEO industry is full of self-proclaimed gurus whose lack of knowledge can be deadly. There’s the terrifying fact that even if you dabble in SEO in the most gentle and innocent way, you might actually end up in a worse state than you were to begin with. To make matters worse, Google keeps changing the rules. There have been a bewildering number of major updates, which despite their cuddly names have had a horrific impact on website owners worldwide. Fear aside, there’s also the issue of time. It’s probably tricky enough to find the time to read this article. Setting up, planning and executing an SEO campaign might well seem like an insurmountable obstacle. So why should you care enough about SEO to do it anyway? The main reason is that you probably already see between 30% and 60% of your website traffic come from the search engines. That might make you think that you don’t need to bother, because you’re already doing so well. But you’re almost certainly wrong. If you have a look through the keyword data in your Google Webmaster Tools account, you’ll probably see that around 30–50% of the keywords used to find your website are brand names – the names of your products or companies. These are searches carried out by people who already know about you. But the people who don’t know who you are but are searching for what you sell aren’t finding you right now. This is your opportunity. If a person goes looking for a company or product by name, Google will steer them towards what they’re looking for. Their intelligence does have limits, however, and even though they know your name they won’t be completely clear about what you sell. That’s where SEO would come in. Still need more convincing? How about the fact that the seeming complexities of SEO mean that your competition are almost certainly neglecting it too. They … 2014 Dave Collins davecollins 2014-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/seo-in-2015-and-why-you-should-care/ business
40 Don’t Push Through the Pain In 2004, I lost my web career. In a single day, it was gone. I was in too much pain to use a keyboard, a Wacom tablet (I couldn’t even click the pen), or a trackball. Switching my mouse to use my left (non-dominant) hand only helped a bit; then that hand went, too. I tried all the easy-to-find equipment out there, except for expensive gizmos with foot pedals. I had tingling in my fingers—which, when I was away from the computer, would rhythmically move as if some other being controlled them. I worried about Parkinson’s because the movements were so dramatic. Pen on paper was painful. Finally, I discovered one day that I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. The only highlight was that I couldn’t dust, scrub, or vacuum. We were forced to hire someone to come in once a week for an hour to whip through the house. You can imagine my disappointment. My injuries had gradually slithered into my life without notice. I’d occasionally have sore elbows, or my wrist might ache for a day, or my shoulders feel tight. But nothing to keyboard home about. That’s the critical bit of news. One day, you’re pretty fine. The next day, you don’t have your job—or any job that requires the use of your hands and wrists. I had to walk away from the computer for over four months—and partially for several months more. That’s right: no income. If I hadn’t found a gifted massage therapist, the right book of stretches, the equipment I should have been using all along, and learned how to pay attention to my body—even just a little bit more—I quite possibly wouldn’t be writing this article today. I wouldn’t be writing anything, anywhere. Most of us have heard of (and even claimed to have read all of) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, who describes the state of flow—the place our minds go when we are fully engaged and in our element. This lovely state of highly focused activity is deeply satisfying, often creative, and quite familiar to many of us on the web who just can’t quit until the copy sings or t… 2014 Carolyn Wood carolynwood 2014-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/dont-push-through-the-pain/ business
44 Taglines and Truisms To bring her good luck, “white rabbits” was the first thing that my grandmother said out loud on the first day of every month. We all need a little luck, but we shouldn’t rely on it, especially when it comes to attracting new clients. The first thing we say to a prospective client when they visit our website for the first time helps them to understand not only what we do but why we do it. We can also help them understand why they should choose to work with us over one of our competitors. Take a minute or two to look at your competitors’ websites. What’s the first thing that they say about themselves? Do they say that they “design delightful digital experiences,” “craft beautiful experiences” or “create remarkable digital experiences?” It’s easy to find companies who introduce themselves with what they do, their proposition, but what a company does is only part of their story. Their beliefs and values, what they stand for why they do what they do are also important. When someone visits our websites for the first time, we have only a brief moment to help them understand us. To help us we can learn from the advertising industry, where the job of a tagline is to communicate a concept, deliver a message and sell a product, often using only a few words. When an advertising campaign is effective, its tagline stays with you, sometimes long after that campaign is over. For example, can you remember which company or brand these taglines help to sell? (Answers at the bottom of the article:) The Ultimate Driving Machine Just Do It Don’t Leave Home Without It A clever tagline isn’t just a play on words, although it can include one. A tagline does far more than help make your company memorable. Used well, it brings together notions of what makes your company and what you offer special. Then it expresses those notions in a few words or possibly a short sentence. I’m sure that everyone can find examples of company slogans written in the type of language that should stay within the walls of a marketing department. We … 2014 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2014-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/taglines-and-truisms/ business
51 Blow Your Own Trumpet Even if your own trumpet’s tiny and fell out of a Christmas cracker, blowing it isn’t something that everyone’s good at. Some people find selling themselves and what they do difficult. But, you know what? Boo hoo hoo. If you want people to buy something, the reality is you’d better get good at selling, especially if that something is you. For web professionals, the best place to tell potential business customers or possible employers about what you do is on your own website. You can write what you want and how you want, but that doesn’t make knowing what to write any easier. As a matter of fact, writing for yourself often proves harder than writing for someone else. I spent this autumn thinking about what I wanted to say about Stuff & Nonsense on the website we relaunched recently. While I did that, I spoke to other designers about how they struggled to write about their businesses. If you struggle to write well, don’t worry. You’re not on your own. Here are five ways to hit the right notes when writing about yourself and your work. Be genuine about who you are I’ve known plenty of talented people who run a successful business pretty much single-handed. Somehow they still feel awkward presenting themselves as individuals. They wonder whether describing themselves as a company will give them extra credibility. They especially agonise over using “we” rather than “I” when describing what they do. These choices get harder when you’re a one-man band trading as a limited company or LLC business entity. If you mainly work alone, don’t describe yourself as anything other than “I”. You might think that saying “we” makes you appear larger and will give you a better chance of landing bigger and better work, but the moment a prospective client asks, “How many people are you?” you’ll have some uncomfortable explaining to do. This will distract them from talking about your work and derail your sales process. There’s no need to be anything other than genuine about how you describe yourself. You should be proud to say “I” becau… 2015 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2015-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/blow-your-own-trumpet/ business
56 Helping VIPs Care About Performance Making a site feel super fast is the easy part of performance work. Getting people around you to care about site speed is a much bigger challenge. How do we keep the site fast beyond the initial performance work? Keeping very important people like your upper management or clients invested in performance work is critical to keeping a site fast and empowering other designers and developers to contribute. The work to get others to care is so meaty that I dedicated a whole chapter to the topic in my book Designing for Performance. When I speak at conferences, the majority of questions during Q&A are on this topic. When I speak to developers and designers who care about performance, getting other people at one’s organization or agency to care becomes the most pressing question. My primary response to folks who raise this issue is the question: “What metric(s) do your VIPs care about?” This is often met with blank stares and raised eyebrows. But it’s also our biggest clue to what we need to do to help empower others to care about performance and work on it. Every organization and executive is different. This means that three major things vary: the primary metrics VIPs care about; the language they use about measuring success; and how change is enacted. By clueing in to these nuances within your organization, you can get a huge leg up on crafting a successful pitch about performance work. Let’s start with the metric that we should measure. Sure, (most) everybody cares about money - but is that really the metric that your VIPs are looking at each day to measure the success or efficacy of your site? More likely, dollars are the end game, but the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) people focus on might be: rate of new accounts created/signups cost of acquiring or retaining a customer visitor return rate visitor bounce rate favoriting or another interaction rate These are just a few examples, but they illustrate how wide-ranging the options are that people care about. I find that developers and designers haven’t… 2015 Lara Hogan larahogan 2015-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/helping-vips-care-about-performance/ business
60 What’s Ahead for Your Data in 2016? Who owns your data? Who decides what can you do with it? Where can you store it? What guarantee do you have over your data’s privacy? Where can you publish your work? Can you adapt software to accommodate your disability? Is your tiny agency subject to corporate regulation? Does another country have rights over your intellectual property? If you aren’t the kind of person who is interested in international politics, I hate to break it to you: in 2016 the legal foundations which underpin our work on the web are being revisited in not one but three major international political agreements, and every single one of those questions is up for grabs. These agreements – the draft EU Data Protection Regulation (EUDPR), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – stand poised to have a major impact on your data, your workflows, and your digital rights. While some proposed changes could protect the open web for the future, other provisions would set the internet back several decades. In this article we will review the issues you need to be aware of as a digital professional. While each of these agreements covers dozens of topics ranging from climate change to food safety, we will focus solely on the aspects which pertain to the work we do on the web. The Trans-Pacific Partnership The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement between the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru – a bloc comprising 40% of the world’s economy. The agreement is expected to be signed by all parties, and thereby to come into effect, in 2016. This agreement is ostensibly about the bloc and its members working together for their common interests. However, the latest draft text of the TPP, which was formulated entirely in secret, has only been made publicly available on a Medium blog published by the U.S. Trade Representative which features a patriotic banner at the top proclaiming “TPP: Made in America.” The m… 2015 Heather Burns heatherburns 2015-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/whats-ahead-for-your-data-in-2016/ business
90 Monkey Business “Too expensive.” “Over-priced.” “A bit rich.” They all mean the same thing. When you say that something’s too expensive, you’re doing much more than commenting on a price. You’re questioning the explicit or implicit value of a product or a service. You’re asking, “Will I get out of it what you want me to pay for it?” You’re questioning the competency, judgement and possibly even integrity of the individual or company that gave you that price, even though you don’t realise it. You might not be saying it explicitly, but what you’re implying is, “Have you made a mistake?”, “Am I getting the best deal?”, “Are you being honest with me?”, “Could I get this cheaper?” Finally, you’re being dishonest, because deep down you know all too well that there’s no such thing as too expensive. Why? It doesn’t matter what you’re questioning the price of. It could be a product, a service or the cost of an hour, day or week of someone’s time. Whatever you’re buying, too expensive is always an excuse. Saying it shifts acceptability of a price back to the person who gave it. What you should say, but are too afraid to admit, is: “It’s more money than I wanted to pay.” “It’s more than I estimated it would cost.” “It’s more than I can afford.” Everyone who’s given a price for a product or service will have been told at some point that it’s too expensive. It’s never comfortable to hear that. Thoughts come thick and fast: “What do I do?” “How do I react?” “Do I really want the business?” “Am I prepared to negotiate?” “How much am I willing to compromise?” It’s easy to be defensive when someone questions a price, but before you react, stay calm and remember that if someone says what you’re offering is too expensive, they’re saying more about themselves and their situation than they are about your price. Learn to read that situation and how to follow up with the right questions. Imagine you’ve quoted someone for a week of your time. “That’s too expensive,” they respond. How should you handle that? Think about what they might o… 2012 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2012-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/monkey-business/ business
94 Using Questionnaires for Design Research How do you ask the right questions? In this article, I share a bunch of tips and practical advice on how to write and use your own surveys for design research. I’m an audience researcher – I’m not a designer or developer. I’ve spent much of the last thirteen years working with audience data both in creative agencies and on the client-side. I’m also a member of the Market Research Society. I run user surveys and undertake user research for our clients at the design studio I run with my husband – Mark Boulton Design. So let’s get started! Who are you designing for? Good web designers and developers appreciate the importance of understanding the audience they are designing or building a website or app for. I’m assuming that because you are reading a quality publication like 24 ways that you fall into this category, and so I won’t begin this article with a lecture. Suffice it to say, it’s a good idea to involve research of some sort during the life cycle of every project you undertake. I don’t just mean visual or competitor research, which of course is also very important. I mean looking at or finding your own audience or user data. Whether that be auditing existing data or research available from the client, carrying out user interviews, A/B testing, or conducting a simple questionnaire with users, any research is better than none. If you create personas as a design tool, they should always be based on research, so you will need to have plenty of data to hand for that. Where do I start? In the initial kick-off stages of a project, it’s a good idea to start by asking your client (when working in-house you still have a client – you might even be the client) what research or audience data they have available. Some will have loads – analytics, surveys, focus groups and insights – from talking to customers. Some won’t have much at all and you’ll be hard pressed to find out much about the audience. It’s best to review existing research first without rushing headlong into doing new research. Get a picture of what … 2012 Emma Boulton emmaboulton 2012-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/using-questionnaires-for-design-research/ business
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
208 All That Glisters Tradition has it that at this time of year, families gather together, sit, eat and share stories. It’s an opportunity for the wisdom of the elders to be passed down to the younger members of the tribe. Tradition also has it that we should chase cheese downhill and dunk the nice lady to prove she’s a witch, so maybe let’s not put too much stock in that. I’ve been building things on the web professionally for about twenty years, and although the web has changed immeasurably, it’s probably not changed as much as I have. While I can happily say I’m not the young (always right, always arrogant) developer that I once was, unfortunately I’m now an approaching-middle-age developer who thinks he’s always right and on top of it is extremely pompous. What can you do? Nature has devised this system with the distinct advantage of allowing us to always be right, and only ever wrong in the future or in the past. So let’s roll with it. Increasingly, there seems to be a sense of fatigue within our industry. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on whatever the latest tool or technology is, something new comes out to replace it. Suddenly you find that you’ve invested precious time learning something new and it’s already old hat. The pace of change is so rapid, that new developers don’t know where to start, and experienced developers don’t know where it ends. With that in mind, here’s some fireside thoughts from a pompous old developer, that I hope might bring some Christmas comfort. Reliable and boring beats shiny and new There are so many new tools, frameworks, techniques, styles and libraries to learn. You know what? You don’t have to use them. You’re not a bad developer if you use Grunt even though others have switched to Gulp or Brunch or Webpack or Banana Sandwich. It’s probably misguided to spend lots of project time messing around with build tool fashions when your so last year build tool is already doing what you need. Just a little reminder that it’s about 100 times more important what you build than how you build it.— … 2017 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2017-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/all-that-glisters/ business
224 Go Forth and Make Awesomeness We’ve all dreamed of being a superhero: maybe that’s why we’ve ended up on the web—a place where we can do good deeds and celebrate them on a daily basis. Wear your dreams At age four, I wore my Wonder Woman Underoos around my house, my grandparents’ house, our neighbor’s house, and even around the yard. I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I was crushed to learn that there is no school for superheroes—no place to earn a degree in how to save the world from looming evil. Instead, I—like everyone else—was destined to go to ordinary school to focus on ABCs and 123s. Even still, I want to save the world. Intend your goodness Random acts of kindness make a difference. Books, films, and advertising campaigns tout random acts of kindness and the positive influence they can have on the world. But why do acts of kindness have to be so random? Why can’t we intend to be kind? A true superhero wakes each morning intending to perform selfless acts for the community. Why can’t we do the same thing? As a child, my mother taught me to plan to do at least three good deeds each day. And even now, years later, I put on my invisible cape looking for ways to do good. Here are some examples: slowing down to allow another driver in before me from the highway on-ramp bringing a co-worker their favorite kind of coffee or tea sharing my umbrella on a rainy day holding a door open for someone with full hands listening intently when someone shares a story complimenting someone on a job well done thanking someone for a job well done leaving a constructive, or even supportive comment on someone’s blog As you can see, these acts are simple. Doing good and being kind is partially about being aware—aware of the words we speak and the actions we take. Like superheroes, we create our own code of conduct to live by. Hopefully, we choose to put the community before ourselves (within reason) and to do our best not to damage it as we move through our lives. Take a bite out of the Apple With some thought, we can weave this ty… 2010 Leslie Jensen-Inman lesliejenseninman 2010-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/go-forth-and-make-awesomeness/ business
228 The Great Unveiling The moment of unveiling our designs should be among our proudest, but it never seems to work out that way. Instead of a chance to show how we can bring our clients’ visions to life, critique can be a tense, worrying ordeal. And yes, the stakes are high: a superb design is only superb if it goes live. Mismanage the feedback process and your research, creativity and hard work can be wasted, and your client may wonder whether you’ve been worth the investment. The great unveiling is a pivotal part of the design process, but it needn’t be a negative one. Just as usability testing teaches us whether our designs meet user needs, presenting our work to clients tells us whether we’ve met important business goals. So how can we turn the tide to make presenting designs a constructive experience, and to give good designs a chance to shine through? Timing is everything First, consider when you should seek others’ opinions. Your personal style will influence whether you show early sketches or wait to demonstrate something more complete. Some designers thrive at low fidelity, sketching out ideas that, despite their rudimentary nature, easily spark debate. Other designers take time to create more fully-realised versions. Some even argue that the great unveiling should be eliminated altogether by working directly alongside the client throughout, collaborating on the design to reach its full potential. Whatever your individual preference, you’ll rarely have the chance to do it entirely your own way. Contracts, clients, and deadlines will affect how early and often you share your work. However, try to avoid the trap of presenting too late and at too high fidelity. My experience has taught me that skilled designers tend to present their work earlier and allow longer for iteration than novices do. More aware of the potential flaws in their solutions, these designers cling less tightly to their initial efforts. Working roughly and seeking early feedback gives you the flexibility to respond more fully to nuances you may have misse… 2010 Cennydd Bowles cennyddbowles 2010-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-great-unveiling/ business
229 Sketching to Communicate As a web designer I’ve always felt that I’d somehow cheated the system, having been absent on the day God handed out the ability to draw. I didn’t study fine art, I don’t have a natural talent to effortlessly knock out a realistic bowl of fruit beside a water jug, and yet somehow I’ve still managed to blag my way this far. I’m sure many of you may feel the same. I had no intention of becoming an artist, but to have enough skill to convey an idea in a drawing would be useful. Instead, my inadequate instrument would doodle drunkenly across the page leaving a web of unintelligible paths instead of the refined illustration I’d seen in my mind’s eye. This – and the natural scrawl of my handwriting – is fine (if somewhat frustrating) when it’s for my eyes only but, when sketching to communicate a concept to a client, such amateur art would be offered with a sense of embarrassment. So when I had the opportunity to take part in some sketching classes whilst at Clearleft I jumped at the chance. Why sketch? In UX workshops early on in a project’s life, sketching is a useful and efficient way to convey and record ideas. It’s disposable and inexpensive, but needn’t look amateur. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a well executed sketch of how you’ll combine funny YouTube videos with elephants to make Lolephants.com could be worth millions in venture capital. Actually, that’s not bad… ;-) Although (as you will see) the basics of sketching are easy to master, the kudos you will receive from clients for being a ‘proper designer’ makes it worthwhile! Where to begin? Start by not buying yourself a sketch pad. If you were the type of child who ripped the first page out of a school exercise book and started again if you made even a tiny mistake (you’re not alone!), Wreck This Journal may offer a helping hand. Practicing on plain A4 paper instead of any ‘special’ notepad will make the process a whole lot easier, no matter how deliciously edible those Moleskines look. Do buy yourself a black fine-liner pen and a set … 2010 Paul Annett paulannett 2010-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/sketching-to-communicate/ business
250 Build up Your Leadership Toolbox Leadership. It can mean different things to different people and vary widely between companies. Leadership is more than just a job title. You won’t wake up one day and magically be imbued with all you need to do a good job at leading. If we don’t have a shared understanding of what a Good Leader looks like, how can we work on ourselves towards becoming one? How do you know if you even could be a leader? Can you be a leader without the title? What even is it? I got very frustrated way back in my days as a senior developer when I was given “advice” about my leadership style; at the time I didn’t have the words to describe the styles and ways in which I was leading to be able to push back. I heard these phrases a lot: you need to step up you need to take charge you need to grab the bull by its horns you need to have thicker skin you need to just be more confident in your leading you need to just make it happen I appreciate some people’s intent was to help me, but honestly it did my head in. WAT?! What did any of this even mean. How exactly do you “step up” and how are you evaluating what step I’m on? I am confident, what does being even more confident help achieve with leading? Does that not lead you down the path of becoming an arrogant door knob? >___< While there is no One True Way to Lead, there is an overwhelming pattern of people in positions of leadership within tech industry being held by men. It felt a lot like what people were fundamentally telling me to do was to be more like an extroverted man. I was being asked to demonstrate more masculine associated qualities (#notallmen). I’ll leave the gendered nature of leadership qualities as an exercise in googling for the reader. I’ve never had a good manager and at the time had no one else to ask for help, so I turned to my trusted best friends. Books. I <3 books I refused to buy into that style of leadership as being the only accepted way to be. There had to be room for different kinds of people to be leaders and have different leadership styles. There are t… 2018 Mazz Mosley mazzmosley 2018-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/build-up-your-leadership-toolbox/ business
254 What I Learned in Six Years at GDS When I joined the Government Digital Service in April 2012, GOV.UK was just going into public beta. GDS was a completely new organisation, part of the Cabinet Office, with a mission to stop wasting government money on over-complicated and underperforming big IT projects and instead deliver simple, useful services for the public. Lots of people who were experts in their fields were drawn in by this inspiring mission, and I learned loads from working with some true leaders. Here are three of the main things I learned. 1. What is the user need? 
The main discipline I learned from my time at GDS was to always ask ‘what is the user need?’ It’s very easy to build something that seems like a good idea, but until you’ve identified what problem you are solving for the user, you can’t be sure that you are building something that is going to help solve an actual problem. A really good example of this is GOV.UK Notify. This service was originally conceived of as a status tracker; a “where’s my stuff” for government services. For example, if you apply for a passport online, it can take up to six weeks to arrive. After a few weeks, you might feel anxious and phone the Home Office to ask what’s happening. The idea of the status tracker was to allow you to get this information online, saving your time and saving government money on call centres. The project started, as all GDS projects do, with a discovery. The main purpose of a discovery is to identify the users’ needs. At the end of this discovery, the team realised that a status tracker wasn’t the way to address the problem. As they wrote in this blog post: Status tracking tools are often just ‘channel shift’ for anxiety. They solve the symptom and not the problem. They do make it more convenient for people to reduce their anxiety, but they still require them to get anxious enough to request an update in the first place. What would actually address the user need would be to give you the information before you get anxious about where your passport is. For example, when your… 2018 Anna Shipman annashipman 2018-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/what-i-learned-in-six-years-at-gds/ business
266 Collaborative Development for a Responsively Designed Web In responsive web design we’ve found a technique that allows us to design for the web as a medium in its own right: one that presents a fluid, adaptable and ever changing canvas. Until this point, we gave little thought to the environment in which users will experience our work, caring more about the aggregate than the individual. The applications we use encourage rigid layouts, whilst linear processes focus on clients signing off paintings of websites that have little regard for behaviour and interactions. The handover of pristine, pixel-perfect creations to developers isn’t dissimilar to farting before exiting a crowded lift, leaving front-end developers scratching their heads as they fill in the inevitable gaps. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Drew’s checklist of things to consider before handing over a design. Somehow, this broken methodology has survived for the last fifteen years or so. Even the advent of web standards has had little impact. Now, as we face an onslaught of different devices, the true universality of the web can no longer be ignored. Responsive web design is just the thin end of the wedge. Largely concerned with layout, its underlying philosophy could ignite a trend towards interfaces that adapt to any number of different variables: input methods, bandwidth availability, user preference – you name it! With such adaptability, a collaborative and iterative process is required. Ethan Marcotte, who worked with the team behind the responsive redesign of the Boston Globe website, talked about such an approach in his book: The responsive projects I’ve worked on have had a lot of success combining design and development into one hybrid phase, bringing the two teams into one highly collaborative group. Whilst their process still involved the creation of desktop-centric mock-ups, these were presented to the entire team early on, where questions about how pages might adapt and behave at different sizes were asked. Mock-ups were quickly converted into HTML prototypes, meaning furthe… 2011 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2011-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/collaborative-development-for-a-responsively-designed-web/ business
268 Getting the Most Out of Google Analytics Something a bit different for today’s 24 ways article. For starters, I’m not a designer or a developer. I’m an evil man who sells things to people on the internet. Second, this article will likely be a little more nebulous than you’re used to, since it covers quite a number of points in a relatively short space. This isn’t going to be the complete Google Analytics Conversion University IQ course compressed into a single article, obviously. What it will be, however, is a primer on setting up and using Google Analytics in real life, and a great deal of what I’ve learned using Google Analytics nearly every working day for the past six (crikey!) years. Also, to be clear, I’ll be referencing new Google Analytics here; old Google Analytics is for loooosers (and those who want reliable e-commerce conversion data per site search term, natch). You may have been running your Analytics account for several years now, dipping in and out, checking traffic levels, seeing what’s popular… and that’s about it. Google Analytics provides so much more than that, but the number of reports available can often intimidate users, and documentation and case studies on their use are minimal at best. Let’s start! Setting up your Analytics profile Before we plough on, I just want to run through a quick checklist that some basic settings have been enabled for your profile. If you haven’t clicked it, click the big cog on the top-right of Google Analytics and we’ll have a poke about. If you have an e-commerce site, e-commerce tracking has been enabled
 If your site has a search function, site search tracking has been enabled. Query string parameters that you do not want tracked as separate pages have been excluded (for example, any parameters needed for your platform to function, otherwise you’ll get multiple entries for the same page appearing in your reports) Filters have been enabled on your main profile to exclude your office IP address and any IPs of people who frequently access the site for work purposes. In decent numbers the… 2011 Matt Curry mattcurry 2011-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/getting-the-most-out-of-google-analytics/ business
270 From Side Project to Not So Side Project In the last article I wrote for 24 ways, back in 2009, I enthused about the benefits of having a pet project, suggesting that we should all have at least one so that we could collaborate with our friends, escape our day jobs, fulfil our own needs, help others out, raise our profiles, make money, and — most importantly — have fun. I don’t think I need to offer any further persuasions: it seems that designers and developers are launching their own pet projects left, right and centre. This makes me very happy. However, there still seems to be something of a disconnect between having a side project and turning it into something that is moderately successful; in particular, the challenge of making enough money to sustain the project and perhaps even elevating it from the sidelines so that it becomes something not so on the side at all. Before we even begin this, let’s spend a moment talking about money, also known as… Evil, nasty, filthy money Over the last couple of years, I’ve started referring to myself as an accidental businessman. I say accidental because my view of the typical businessman is someone who is driven by money, and I usually can’t stand such people. Those who are motivated by profit, obsessed with growth, and take an active interest in the world’s financial systems don’t tend to be folks with whom I share a beer, unless it’s to pour it over them. Especially if they’re wearing pinstriped suits. That said, we all want to make money, don’t we? And most of us want to make a relatively decent amount, too. I don’t think there’s any harm in admitting that, is there? Hello, I’m Elliot and I’m a capitalist. The key is making money from doing what we love. For most people I know in our community, we’ve already achieved that — I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who isn’t extremely passionate about working in our industry and I think it’s one of the most positive, unifying benefits we enjoy as a group of like-minded people — but side projects usually arise from another kind of passion: a passion for somet… 2011 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2011-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/from-side-project-to-not-so-side-project/ business
281 Nine Things I've Learned I’ve been a professional graphic designer for fourteen years and for just under four of those a professional web designer. Like most designers I’ve learned a lot in my time, both from a design point of view and in business as freelance designer. A few of the things I’ve learned stick out in my mind, so I thought I’d share them with you. They’re pretty random and in no particular order. 1. Becoming the designer you want to be When I started out as a young graphic designer, I wanted to design posters and record sleeves, pretty much like every other young graphic designer. The problem is that the reality of the world means that when you get your first job you’re designing the back of a paracetamol packet or something equally weird. I recently saw a tweet that went something like this: “You’ll never become the designer you always dreamt of being by doing the work you never wanted to do”. This is so true; to become the designer you want to be, you need to be designing the things you’re passionate about designing. This probably this means working in the evenings and weekends for little or no money, but it’s time well spent. Doing this will build up your portfolio with the work that really shows what you can do! Soon, someone will ask you to design something based on having seen this work. From this point, you’re carving your own path in the direction of becoming the designer you always wanted to be. 2. Compete on your own terms As well as all being friends, we are also competitors. In order to win new work we need a selling point, preferably a unique selling point. Web design is a combination of design disciplines – user experience design, user interface Design, visual design, development, and so on. Some companies will sell themselves as UX specialists, which is fine, but everyone who designs a website from scratch does some sort of UX, so it’s not really a unique selling point. Of course, some people do it better than others. One area of web design that clients have a strong opinion on, and will judge you by, is… 2011 Mike Kus mikekus 2011-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/nine-things-ive-learned/ business
312 Preparing to Be Badass Next Year Once we’ve eaten our way through the holiday season, people will start to think about new year’s resolutions. We tend to focus on things that we want to change… and often things that we don’t like about ourselves to “fix”. We set rules for ourselves, or try to start new habits or stop bad ones. We focus in on things we will or won’t do. For many of us the list of things we “ought” to be spending time on is just plain overwhelming – family, charity/community, career, money, health, relationships, personal development. It’s kinda scary even just listing it out, isn’t it? I want to encourage you to think differently about next year. The ever-brilliant Kathy Sierra articulates a better approach really well when talking about the attitude we should have to building great products. She tells us to think not about what the user will do with our product, but about what they are trying to achieve in the real world and how our product helps them to be badass1. When we help the user be badass, then we are really making a difference. I suppose this is one way of saying: focus not on what you will do, focus on what it will help you achieve. How will it help you be awesome? In what ways do you want to be more badass next year? A professional lens Though of course you might want to focus in on health or family or charity or community or another area next year, many people will want to become more badass in their chosen career. So let’s talk about a scaffold to help you figure out your professional / career development next year. First up, an assumption: everyone wants to be awesome. Nobody gets up in the morning aiming to be crap at their job. Nobody thinks to themselves “Today I am aiming for just south of mediocre, and if I can mess up everybody else’s ability to do good work then that will be just perfect2”. Ergo, you want to be awesome. So what does awesome look like? Danger! The big trap that people fall into when think about their professional development is to immediately focus on the things that they aren’t good … 2016 Meri Williams meriwilliams 2016-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/preparing-to-be-badass-next-year/ business
328 Swooshy Curly Quotes Without Images The problem Take a quote and render it within blockquote tags, applying big, funky and stylish curly quotes both at the beginning and the end without using any images – at all. The traditional way Feint background images under the text, or an image in the markup housed in a little float. Often designers only use the opening curly quote as it’s just too difficult to float a closing one. Why is the traditional way bad? Well, for a start there are no actual curly quotes in the text (unless you’re doing some nifty image replacement). Thus with CSS disabled you’ll only have default blockquote styling to fall back on. Secondly, images don’t resize, so scaling text will have no affect on your graphic curlies. The solution Use really big text. Then it can be resized by the browser, resized using CSS, and even be restyled with a new font style if you fancy it. It’ll also make sense when CSS is unavailable. The problem Creating “Drop Caps” with CSS has been around for a while (Big Dan Cederholm discusses a neat solution in that first book of his), but drop caps are normal characters – the A to Z or 1 to 10 – and these can all be pulled into a set space and do not serve up a ton of whitespace, unlike punctuation characters. Curly quotes aren’t like traditional characters. Like full stops, commas and hashes they float within the character space and leave lots of dead white space, making it bloody difficult to manipulate them with CSS. Styles generally fit around text, so cutting into that character is tricky indeed. Also, all that extra white space is going to push into the quote text and make it look pretty uneven. This grab highlights the actual character space: See how this is emphasized when we add a normal alphabetical character within the span. This is what we’re dealing with here: Then, there’s size. Call in a curly quote at less than 300% font-size and it ain’t gonna look very big. The white space it creates will be big enough, but the curlies will be way too small. We need more like 700% (as in this … 2005 Simon Collison simoncollison 2005-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/swooshy-curly-quotes-without-images/ business
8 Coding Towards Accessibility “Can we make it AAA-compliant?” – does this question strike fear into your heart? Maybe for no other reason than because you will soon have to wade through the impenetrable WCAG documentation once again, to find out exactly what AAA-compliant means? I’m not here to talk about that. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a comprehensive and peer-reviewed resource which we’re lucky to have at our fingertips. But they are also a pig to read, and they may have contributed to the sense of mystery and dread with which some developers associate the word accessibility. This Christmas, I want to share with you some thoughts and some practical tips for building accessible interfaces which you can start using today, without having to do a ton of reading or changing your tools and workflow. But first, let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions. Dreary, flat experiences I recently built a front-end framework for the Post Office. This was a great gig for a developer, but when I found out about my client’s stringent accessibility requirements I was concerned that I’d have to scale back what was quite a complex set of visual designs. Sites like Jakob Neilsen’s old workhorse useit.com and even the pioneering GOV.UK may have to shoulder some of the blame for this. They put a premium on usability and accessibility over visual flourish. (Although, in fairness to Mr Neilsen, his new site nngroup.com is really quite a snazzy affair, comparatively.) Of course, there are other reasons for these sites’ aesthetics — and it’s not because of the limitations of the form. You can make an accessible site look as glossy or as plain as you want it to look. It’s always our own ingenuity and attention to detail that are going to be the limiting factors. Synecdoche We must always guard against the tendency to assume that catering to screen readers means we have the whole accessibility ballgame covered. There’s so much more to accessibility than assistive technology, as you know. And within the field of assistive technology there ar… 2013 Charlie Perrins charlieperrins 2013-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/coding-towards-accessibility/ code
11 JavaScript: Taking Off the Training Wheels JavaScript is the third pillar of front-end web development. Of those pillars, it is both the most powerful and the most complex, so it’s understandable that when 24 ways asked, “What one thing do you wish you had more time to learn about?”, a number of you answered “JavaScript!” This article aims to help you feel happy writing JavaScript, and maybe even without libraries like jQuery. I can’t comprehensively explain JavaScript itself without writing a book, but I hope this serves as a springboard from which you can jump to other great resources. Why learn JavaScript? So what’s in it for you? Why take the next step and learn the fundamentals? Confidence with jQuery If nothing else, learning JavaScript will improve your jQuery code; you’ll be comfortable writing jQuery from scratch and feel happy bending others’ code to your own purposes. Writing efficient, fast and bug-free jQuery is also made much easier when you have a good appreciation of JavaScript, because you can look at what jQuery is really doing. Understanding how JavaScript works lets you write better jQuery because you know what it’s doing behind the scenes. When you need to leave the beaten track, you can do so with confidence. In fact, you could say that jQuery’s ultimate goal is not to exist: it was invented at a time when web APIs were very inconsistent and hard to work with. That’s slowly changing as new APIs are introduced, and hopefully there will come a time when jQuery isn’t needed. An example of one such change is the introduction of the very useful document.querySelectorAll. Like jQuery, it converts a CSS selector into a list of matching elements. Here’s a comparison of some jQuery code and the equivalent without. $('.counter').each(function (index) { $(this).text(index + 1); }); var counters = document.querySelectorAll('.counter'); [].slice.call(counters).forEach(function (elem, index) { elem.textContent = index + 1; }); Solving problems no one else has! When you have to go to the internet to solve a problem, you’re forever st… 2013 Tom Ashworth tomashworth 2013-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/javascript-taking-off-the-training-wheels/ code
15 Git for Grown-ups You are a clever and talented person. You create beautiful designs, or perhaps you have architected a system that even my cat could use. Your peers adore you. Your clients love you. But, until now, you haven’t *&^#^! been able to make Git work. It makes you angry inside that you have to ask your co-worker, again, for that *&^#^! command to upload your work. It’s not you. It’s Git. Promise. Yes, this is an article about the popular version control system, Git. But unlike just about every other article written about Git, I’m not going to give you the top five commands that you need to memorize; and I’m not going to tell you all your problems would be solved if only you were using this GUI wrapper or that particular workflow. You see, I’ve come to a grand realization: when we teach Git, we’re doing it wrong. Let me back up for a second and tell you a little bit about the field of adult education. (Bear with me, it gets good and will leave you feeling both empowered and righteous.) Andragogy, unlike pedagogy, is a learner-driven educational experience. There are six main tenets to adult education: Adults prefer to know why they are learning something. The foundation of the learning activities should include experience. Adults prefer to be able to plan and evaluate their own instruction. Adults are more interested in learning things which directly impact their daily activities. Adults prefer learning to be oriented not towards content, but towards problems. Adults relate more to their own motivators than to external ones. Nowhere in this list does it include “memorize the five most popular Git commands”. And yet this is how we teach version control: init, add, commit, branch, push. You’re an expert! Sound familiar? In the hierarchy of learning, memorizing commands is the lowest, or most basic, form of learning. At the peak of learning you are able to not just analyze and evaluate a problem space, but create your own understanding in relation to your existing body of knowledge. “Fine,” I can hear you say… 2013 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2013-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/git-for-grownups/ code
16 URL Rewriting for the Fearful I think it was Marilyn Monroe who said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, please just fix these rewrite rules, I’m getting an internal server error.” Even the blonde bombshell hated configuring URL rewrites on her website, and I think most of us know where she was coming from. The majority of website projects I work on require some amount of URL rewriting, and I find it mildly enjoyable — I quite like a good rewrite rule. I suspect you may not share my glee, so in this article we’re going to go back to basics to try to make the whole rigmarole more understandable. When we think about URL rewriting, usually that means adding some rules to an .htaccess file for an Apache web server. As that’s the most common case, that’s what I’ll be sticking to here. If you work with a different server, there’s often documentation specifically for translating from Apache’s mod_rewrite rules. I even found an automatic converter for nginx. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive guide to every URL rewriting problem you might ever have. That would take us until Christmas. If you consider yourself a trial-and-error dabbler in the HTTP 500-infested waters of URL rewriting, then hopefully this will provide a little bit more of a basis to help you figure out what you’re doing. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the white screen of death after screwing up your .htaccess file, don’t worry. As Michael Jackson once insipidly whined, you are not alone. The basics Rewrite rules form part of the Apache web server’s configuration for a website, and can be placed in a number of different locations as part of your virtual host configuration. By far the simplest and most portable option is to use an .htaccess file in your website root. Provided your server has mod_rewrite available, all you need to do to kick things off in your .htaccess file is: RewriteEngine on The general formula for a rewrite rule is: RewriteRule URL/to/match URL/to/use/if/it/matches [options] When we talk about URL rewriting, we’re normally talking about one o… 2013 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2013-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/url-rewriting-for-the-fearful/ code
18 Grunt for People Who Think Things Like Grunt are Weird and Hard Front-end developers are often told to do certain things: Work in as small chunks of CSS and JavaScript as makes sense to you, then concatenate them together for the production website. Compress your CSS and minify your JavaScript to make their file sizes as small as possible for your production website. Optimize your images to reduce their file size without affecting quality. Use Sass for CSS authoring because of all the useful abstraction it allows. That’s not a comprehensive list of course, but those are the kind of things we need to do. You might call them tasks. I bet you’ve heard of Grunt. Well, Grunt is a task runner. Grunt can do all of those things for you. Once you’ve got it set up, which isn’t particularly difficult, those things can happen automatically without you having to think about them again. But let’s face it: Grunt is one of those fancy newfangled things that all the cool kids seem to be using but at first glance feels strange and intimidating. I hear you. This article is for you. Let’s nip some misconceptions in the bud right away Perhaps you’ve heard of Grunt, but haven’t done anything with it. I’m sure that applies to many of you. Maybe one of the following hang-ups applies to you. I don’t need the things Grunt does You probably do, actually. Check out that list up top. Those things aren’t nice-to-haves. They are pretty vital parts of website development these days. If you already do all of them, that’s awesome. Perhaps you use a variety of different tools to accomplish them. Grunt can help bring them under one roof, so to speak. If you don’t already do all of them, you probably should and Grunt can help. Then, once you are doing those, you can keep using Grunt to do more for you, which will basically make you better at doing your job. Grunt runs on Node.js — I don’t know Node You don’t have to know Node. Just like you don’t have to know Ruby to use Sass. Or PHP to use WordPress. Or C++ to use Microsoft Word. I have other ways to do the things Grunt could do for me Are the… 2013 Chris Coyier chriscoyier 2013-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/grunt-is-not-weird-and-hard/ code
20 Make Your Browser Dance It was a crisp winter’s evening when I pulled up alongside the pier. I stepped out of my car and the bitterly cold sea air hit my face. I walked around to the boot, opened it and heaved out a heavy flight case. I slammed the boot shut, locked the car and started walking towards the venue. This was it. My first gig. I thought about all those weeks of preparation: editing video clips, creating 3-D objects, making coloured patterns, then importing them all into software and configuring effects to change as the music did; targeting frequency, beat, velocity, modifying size, colour, starting point; creating playlists of these… and working out ways to mix them as the music played. This was it. This was me VJing. This was all a lifetime (well a decade!) ago. When I started web designing, VJing took a back seat. I was more interested in interactive layouts, semantic accessible HTML, learning all the IE bugs and mastering the quirks that CSS has to offer. More recently, I have been excited by background gradients, 3-D transforms, the @keyframe directive, as well as new APIs such as getUserMedia, indexedDB, the Web Audio API But wait, have I just come full circle? Could it be possible, with these wonderful new things in technologies I am already familiar with, that I could VJ again, right here, in a browser? Well, there’s only one thing to do: let’s try it! Let’s take to the dance floor Over the past couple of years working in The Lab I have learned to take a much more iterative approach to projects than before. One of my new favourite methods of working is to create a proof of concept to make sure my theory is feasible, before going on to create a full-blown product. So let’s take the same approach here. The main VJing functionality I want to recreate is manipulating visuals in relation to sound. So for my POC I need to create a visual, with parameters that can be changed, then get some sound and see if I can analyse that sound to detect some data, which I can then use to manipulate the visual parameters. Easy, … 2013 Ruth John ruthjohn 2013-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/make-your-browser-dance/ code
21 Keeping Parts of Your Codebase Private on GitHub Open source is brilliant, there’s no denying that, and GitHub has been instrumental in open source’s recent success. I’m a keen open-sourcerer myself, and I have a number of projects on GitHub. However, as great as sharing code is, we often want to keep some projects to ourselves. To this end, GitHub created private repositories which act like any other Git repository, only, well, private! A slightly less common issue, and one I’ve come up against myself, is the desire to only keep certain parts of a codebase private. A great example would be my site, CSS Wizardry; I want the code to be open source so that people can poke through and learn from it, but I want to keep any draft blog posts private until they are ready to go live. Thankfully, there is a very simple solution to this particular problem: using multiple remotes. Before we begin, it’s worth noting that you can actually build a GitHub Pages site from a private repo. You can keep the entire source private, but still have GitHub build and display a full Pages/Jekyll site. I do this with csswizardry.net. This post will deal with the more specific problem of keeping only certain parts of the codebase (branches) private, and expose parts of it as either an open source project, or a built GitHub Pages site. N.B. This post requires some basic Git knowledge. Adding your public remote Let’s assume you’re starting from scratch and you currently have no repos set up for your project. (If you do already have your public repo set up, skip to the “Adding your private remote” section.) So, we have a clean slate: nothing has been set up yet, we’re doing all of that now. On GitHub, create two repositories. For the sake of this article we shall call them site.com and private.site.com. Make the site.com repo public, and the private.site.com repo private (you will need a paid GitHub account). On your machine, create the site.com directory, in which your project will live. Do your initial work in there, commit some stuff — whatever you need to do. Now we need to link… 2013 Harry Roberts harryroberts 2013-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/keeping-parts-of-your-codebase-private-on-github/ code
30 Making Sites More Responsive, Responsibly With digital projects we’re used to shifting our thinking to align with our target audience. We may undertake research, create personas, identify key tasks, or observe usage patterns, with our findings helping to refine our ongoing creations. A product’s overall experience can make or break its success, and when it comes to defining these experiences our development choices play a huge role alongside more traditional user-focused activities. The popularisation of responsive web design is a great example of how we are able to shape the web’s direction through using technology to provide better experiences. If we think back to the move from table-based layouts to CSS, initially our clients often didn’t know or care about the difference in these approaches, but we did. Responsive design was similar in this respect – momentum grew through the web industry choosing to use an approach that we felt would give a better experience, and which was more future-friendly.  We tend to think of responsive design as a means of displaying content appropriately across a range of devices, but the technology and our implementation of it can facilitate much more. A responsive layout not only helps your content work when the newest smartphone comes out, but it also ensures your layout suitably adapts if a visually impaired user drastically changes the size of the text. The 24 ways site at 400% on a Retina MacBook Pro displays a layout more typically used for small screens. When we think more broadly, we realise that our technical choices and approaches to implementation can have knock-on effects for the greater good, and beyond our initial target audiences. We can make our experiences more responsive to people’s needs, enhancing their usability and accessibility along the way. Being responsibly responsive Of course, when we think about being more responsive, there’s a fine line between creating useful functionality and becoming intrusive and overly complex. In the excellent Responsible Responsive Design, Scott Jehl states that: … 2014 Sally Jenkinson sallyjenkinson 2014-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/making-sites-more-responsive-responsibly/ code
31 Dealing with Emergencies in Git The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that version control soon would be there. This summer I moved to the UK with my partner, and the onslaught of the Christmas holiday season began around the end of October (October!). It does mean that I’ve had more than a fair amount of time to come up with horrible Git analogies for this article. Analogies, metaphors, and comparisons help the learner hook into existing mental models about how a system works. They only help, however, if the learner has enough familiarity with the topic at hand to make the connection between the old and new information. Let’s start by painting an updated version of Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas living room. Empty stockings are hung up next to the fireplace, waiting for Saint Nicholas to come down the chimney and fill them with small treats. Holiday treats are scattered about. A bowl of mixed nuts, the holiday nutcracker, and a few clementines. A string of coloured lights winds its way up an evergreen. Perhaps a few of these images are familiar, or maybe they’re just settings you’ve seen in a movie. It doesn’t really matter what the living room looks like though. The important thing is to ground yourself in your own experiences before tackling a new subject. Instead of trying to brute-force your way into new information, as an adult learner constantly ask yourself: ‘What is this like? What does this remind me of? What do I already know that I can use to map out this new territory?’ It’s okay if the map isn’t perfect. As you refine your understanding of a new topic, you’ll outgrow the initial metaphors, analogies, and comparisons. With apologies to Mr. Moore, let’s give it a try. Getting Interrupted in Git When on the roof there arose such a clatter! You’re happily working on your software project when all of a sudden there are freaking reindeer on the roof! Whatever you’ve been working on is going to need to wait while you investigate the commotion. If you’ve got even a little bit of experience working with Git, … 2014 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2014-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/dealing-with-emergencies-in-git/ code
36 Naming Things There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation and naming things. Phil Karlton Being a professional web developer means taking responsibility for the code you write and ensuring it is comprehensible to others. Having a documented code style is one means of achieving this, although the size and type of project you’re working on will dictate the conventions used and how rigorously they are enforced. Working in-house may mean working with multiple developers, perhaps in distributed teams, who are all committing changes – possibly to a significant codebase – at the same time. Left unchecked, this codebase can become unwieldy. Coding conventions ensure everyone can contribute, and help build a product that works as a coherent whole. Even on smaller projects, perhaps working within an agency or by yourself, at some point the resulting product will need to be handed over to a third party. It’s sensible, therefore, to ensure that your code can be understood by those who’ll eventually take ownership of it. Put simply, code is read more often than it is written or changed. A consistent and predictable naming scheme can make code easier for other developers to understand, improve and maintain, presumably leaving them free to worry about cache invalidation. Let’s talk about semantics Names not only allow us to identify objects, but they can also help us describe the objects being identified. Semantics (the meaning or interpretation of words) is the cornerstone of standards-based web development. Using appropriate HTML elements allows us to create documents and applications that have implicit structural meaning. Thanks to HTML5, the vocabulary we can choose from has grown even larger. HTML elements provide one level of meaning: a widely accepted description of a document’s underlying structure. It’s only with the mutual agreement of browser vendors and developers that <p> indicates a paragraph. Yet (with the exception of widely accepted microdata and microformat schemas) only HTML elements co… 2014 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2014-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/naming-things/ code
37 JavaScript Modules the ES6 Way JavaScript admittedly has plenty of flaws, but one of the largest and most prominent is the lack of a module system: a way to split up your application into a series of smaller files that can depend on each other to function correctly. This is something nearly all other languages come with out of the box, whether it be Ruby’s require, Python’s import, or any other language you’re familiar with. Even CSS has @import! JavaScript has nothing of that sort, and this has caused problems for application developers as they go from working with small websites to full client-side applications. Let’s be clear: it doesn’t mean the new module system in the upcoming version of JavaScript won’t be useful to you if you’re building smaller websites rather than the next Instagram. Thankfully, the lack of a module system will soon be a problem of the past. The next version of JavaScript, ECMAScript 6, will bring with it a full-featured module and dependency management solution for JavaScript. The bad news is that it won’t be landing in browsers for a while yet – but the good news is that the specification for the module system and how it will look has been finalised. The even better news is that there are tools available to get it all working in browsers today without too much hassle. In this post I’d like to give you the gift of JS modules and show you the syntax, and how to use them in browsers today. It’s much simpler than you might think. What is ES6? ECMAScript is a scripting language that is standardised by a company called Ecma International. JavaScript is an implementation of ECMAScript. ECMAScript 6 is simply the next version of the ECMAScript standard and, hence, the next version of JavaScript. The spec aims to be fully comfirmed and complete by the end of 2014, with a target initial release date of June 2015. It’s impossible to know when we will have full feature support across the most popular browsers, but already some ES6 features are landing in the latest builds of Chrome and Firefox. You shouldn’t expect to be… 2014 Jack Franklin jackfranklin 2014-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/javascript-modules-the-es6-way/ code
38 Websites of Christmas Past, Present and Future The websites of Christmas past The first website was created at CERN. It was launched on 20 December 1990 (just in time for Christmas!), and it still works today, after twenty-four years. Isn’t that incredible?! Why does this website still work after all this time? I can think of a few reasons. First, the authors of this document chose HTML. Of course they couldn’t have known back then the extent to which we would be creating documents in HTML, but HTML always had a lot going for it. It’s built on top of plain text, which means it can be opened in any text editor, and it’s pretty readable, even without any parsing. Despite the fact that HTML has changed quite a lot over the past twenty-four years, extensions to the specification have always been implemented in a backwards-compatible manner. Reading through the 1992 W3C document HTML Tags, you’ll see just how it has evolved. We still have h1 – h6 elements, but I’d not heard of the <plaintext> element before. Despite being deprecated since HTML2, it still works in several browsers. You can see it in action on my website. As well as being written in HTML, there is no run-time compilation of code; the first website simply consists of HTML files transmitted over the web. Due to its lack of complexity, it stood a good chance of surviving in the turbulent World Wide Web. That’s all well and good for a simple, static website. But websites created today are increasingly interactive. Many require a login and provide experiences that are tailored to the individual user. This type of dynamic website requires code to be executed somewhere. Traditionally, dynamic websites would execute such code on the server, and transmit a simple HTML file to the user. As far as the browser was concerned, this wasn’t much different from the first website, as the additional complexity all happened before the document was sent to the browser. Doing it all in the browser In 2003, the first single page interface was created at slashdotslash.com. A single page interface or single page ap… 2014 Josh Emerson joshemerson 2014-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/websites-of-christmas-past-present-and-future/ code
42 An Overview of SVG Sprite Creation Techniques SVG can be used as an icon system to replace icon fonts. The reasons why SVG makes for a superior icon system are numerous, but we won’t be going over them in this article. If you don’t use SVG icons and are interested in knowing why you may want to use them, I recommend you check out “Inline SVG vs Icon Fonts” by Chris Coyier – it covers the most important aspects of both systems and compares them with each other to help you make a better decision about which system to choose. Once you’ve made the decision to use SVG instead of icon fonts, you’ll need to think of the best way to optimise the delivery of your icons, and ways to make the creation and use of icons faster. Just like bitmaps, we can create image sprites with SVG – they don’t look or work exactly alike, but the basic concept is pretty much the same. There are several ways to create SVG sprites, and this article will give you an overview of three of them. While we’re at it, we’re going to take a look at some of the available tools used to automate sprite creation and fallback for us. Prerequisites The content of this article assumes you are familiar with SVG. If you’ve never worked with SVG before, you may want to look at some of the introductory tutorials covering SVG syntax, structure and embedding techniques. I recommend the following: SVG basics: Using SVG. Structure: Structuring, Grouping, and Referencing in SVG — The <g>, <use>, <defs> and <symbol> Elements. We’ll mention <use> and <symbol> quite a bit in this article. Embedding techniques: Styling and Animating SVGs with CSS. The article covers several topics, but the section linked focuses on embedding techniques. A compendium of SVG resources compiled by Chris Coyier — contains resources to almost every aspect of SVG you might be interested in. And if you’re completely new to the concept of spriting, Chris Coyier’s CSS Sprites explains all about them. Another important SVG feature is the viewBox attribute. For some of the techniques, knowing your way around this attribute is … 2014 Sara Soueidan sarasoueidan 2014-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/an-overview-of-svg-sprite-creation-techniques/ code
46 Responsive Enhancement 24 ways has been going strong for ten years. That’s an aeon in internet timescales. Just think of all the changes we’ve seen in that time: the rise of Ajax, the explosion of mobile devices, the unrecognisably changed landscape of front-end tooling. Tools and technologies come and go, but one thing has remained constant for me over the past decade: progressive enhancement. Progressive enhancement isn’t a technology. It’s more like a way of thinking. Instead of thinking about the specifics of how a finished website might look, progressive enhancement encourages you to think about the fundamental meaning of what the website is providing. So instead of thinking of a website in terms of its ideal state in a modern browser on a nice widescreen device, progressive enhancement allows you to think about the core functionality in a more abstract way. Once you’ve figured out what the core functionality is – adding an item to a shopping cart, posting a message, sharing a photo – then you can enable that functionality in the simplest possible way. That usually means starting with good old-fashioned HTML. Links and forms are often all you need. Then, once you have the core functionality working in a basic way, you can start to enhance to make a progressively better experience for more modern browsers. The advantage of working this way isn’t just that your site will work in older browsers (albeit in a rudimentary way). It also ensures that if anything goes wrong in a modern browser, it won’t be catastrophic. There’s a common misconception that progressive enhancement means that you’ll spend your time dealing with older browsers, but in fact the opposite is true. Putting the basic functionality into place doesn’t take very long at all. And once you’ve done that, you’re free to spend all your time experimenting with the latest and greatest browser technologies, secure in the knowledge that even if they aren’t universally supported yet, that’s OK: you’ve already got your fallback in place. The key to thinking about web devel… 2014 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2014-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/responsive-enhancement/ code
49 Universal React One of the libraries to receive a huge amount of focus in 2015 has been ReactJS, a library created by Facebook for building user interfaces and web applications. More generally we’ve seen an even greater rise in the number of applications built primarily on the client side with most of the logic implemented in JavaScript. One of the main issues with building an app in this way is that you immediately forgo any customers who might browse with JavaScript turned off, and you can also miss out on any robots that might visit your site to crawl it (such as Google’s search bots). Additionally, we gain a performance improvement by being able to render from the server rather than having to wait for all the JavaScript to be loaded and executed. The good news is that this problem has been recognised and it is possible to build a fully featured client-side application that can be rendered on the server. The way in which these apps work is as follows: The user visits www.yoursite.com and the server executes your JavaScript to generate the HTML it needs to render the page. In the background, the client-side JavaScript is executed and takes over the duty of rendering the page. The next time a user clicks, rather than being sent to the server, the client-side app is in control. If the user doesn’t have JavaScript enabled, each click on a link goes to the server and they get the server-rendered content again. This means you can still provide a very quick and snappy experience for JavaScript users without having to abandon your non-JS users. We achieve this by writing JavaScript that can be executed on the server or on the client (you might have heard this referred to as isomorphic) and using a JavaScript framework that’s clever enough handle server- or client-side execution. Currently, ReactJS is leading the way here, although Ember and Angular are both working on solutions to this problem. It’s worth noting that this tutorial assumes some familiarity with React in general, its syntax and concepts. If you’d like a refresher, th… 2015 Jack Franklin jackfranklin 2015-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/universal-react/ code
52 Git Rebasing: An Elfin Workshop Workflow This year Santa’s helpers have been tasked with making a garland. It’s a pretty simple task: string beads onto yarn in a specific order. When the garland reaches a specific length, add it to the main workshop garland. Each elf has a specific sequence they’re supposed to chain, which is given to them via a work order. (This is starting to sound like one of those horrible calculus problems. I promise it isn’t. It’s worse; it’s about Git.) For the most part, the system works really well. The elves are able to quickly build up a shared chain because each elf specialises on their own bit of garland, and then links the garland together. Because of this they’re able to work independently, but towards the common goal of making a beautiful garland. At first the elves are really careful with each bead they put onto the garland. They check with one another before merging their work, and review each new link carefully. As time crunches on, the elves pour a little more cheer into the eggnog cooler, and the quality of work starts to degrade. Tensions rise as mistakes are made and unkind words are said. The elves quickly realise they’re going to need a system to change the beads out when mistakes are made in the chain. The first common mistake is not looking to see what the latest chain is that’s been added to the main garland. The garland is huge, and it sits on a roll in one of the corners of the workshop. It’s a big workshop, so it is incredibly impractical to walk all the way to the roll to check what the last link is on the chain. The elves, being magical, have set up a monitoring system that allows them to keep a local copy of the main garland at their workstation. It’s an imperfect system though, so the elves have to request a manual refresh to see the latest copy. They can request a new copy by running the command git pull --rebase=preserve (They found that if they ran git pull on its own, they ended up with weird loops of extra beads off the main garland, so they’ve opted to use this method.) This keeps the shared garl… 2015 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2015-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/git-rebasing/ code
54 Putting My Patterns through Their Paces Over the last few years, the conversation around responsive design has shifted subtly, focusing not on designing pages, but on patterns: understanding the small, reusable elements that comprise a larger design system. And given that many of those patterns are themselves responsive, learning to manage these small layout systems has become a big part of my work. The thing is, the more pattern-driven work I do, the more I realize my design process has changed in a number of subtle, important ways. I suppose you might even say that pattern-driven design has, in a few ways, redesigned me. Meet the Teaser Here’s a recent example. A few months ago, some friends and I redesigned The Toast. (It was a really, really fun project, and we learned a lot.) Each page of the site is, as you might guess, stitched together from a host of tiny, reusable patterns. Some of them, like the search form and footer, are fairly unique, and used once per page; others are used more liberally, and built for reuse. The most prevalent example of these more generic patterns is the teaser, which is classed as, uh, .teaser. (Look, I never said I was especially clever.) In its simplest form, a teaser contains a headline, which links to an article: Fairly straightforward, sure. But it’s just the foundation: from there, teasers can have a byline, a description, a thumbnail, and a comment count. In other words, we have a basic building block (.teaser) that contains a few discrete content types – some required, some not. In fact, very few of those pieces need to be present; to qualify as a teaser, all we really need is a link and a headline. But by adding more elements, we can build slight variations of our teaser, and make it much, much more versatile. Nearly every element visible on this page is built out of our generic “teaser” pattern. But the teaser variation I’d like to call out is the one that appears on The Toast’s homepage, on search results or on section fronts. In the main content area, each teaser in the list features larger i… 2015 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2015-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/putting-my-patterns-through-their-paces/ code
55 How Tabs Should Work Tabs in browsers (not browser tabs) are one of the oldest custom UI elements in a browser that I can think of. They’ve been done to death. But, sadly, most of the time I come across them, the tabs have been badly, or rather partially, implemented. So this post is my definition of how a tabbing system should work, and one approach of implementing that. But… tabs are easy, right? I’ve been writing code for tabbing systems in JavaScript for coming up on a decade, and at one point I was pretty proud of how small I could make the JavaScript for the tabbing system: var tabs = $('.tab').click(function () { tabs.hide().filter(this.hash).show(); }).map(function () { return $(this.hash)[0]; }); $('.tab:first').click(); Simple, right? Nearly fits in a tweet (ignoring the whole jQuery library…). Still, it’s riddled with problems that make it a far from perfect solution. Requirements: what makes the perfect tab? All content is navigable and available without JavaScript (crawler-compatible and low JS-compatible). ARIA roles. The tabs are anchor links that: are clickable have block layout have their href pointing to the id of the panel element use the correct cursor (i.e. cursor: pointer). Since tabs are clickable, the user can open in a new tab/window and the page correctly loads with the correct tab open. Right-clicking (and Shift-clicking) doesn’t cause the tab to be selected. Native browser Back/Forward button correctly changes the state of the selected tab (think about it working exactly as if there were no JavaScript in place). The first three points are all to do with the semantics of the markup and how the markup has been styled. I think it’s easy to do a good job by thinking of tabs as links, and not as some part of an application. Links are navigable, and they should work the same way other links on the page work. The last three points are JavaScript problems. Let’s investigate that. The shitmus test Like a litmus test, here’s a couple of quick ways you can tell if a tabbing system is poorly implemented: Cha… 2015 Remy Sharp remysharp 2015-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/how-tabs-should-work/ code
63 Be Fluid with Your Design Skills: Build Your Own Sites Just five years ago in 2010, when we were all busy trying to surprise and delight, learning CSS3 and trying to get whole websites onto one page, we had a poster on our studio wall. It was entitled ‘Designers Vs Developers’, an infographic that showed us the differences between the men(!) who created websites. Designers wore skinny jeans and used Macs and developers wore cargo pants and brought their own keyboards to work. We began to learn that designers and developers were not only doing completely different jobs but were completely different people in every way. This opinion was backed up by hundreds of memes, millions of tweets and pages of articles which used words like void and battle and versus. Thankfully, things move quickly in this industry; the wide world of web design has moved on in the last five years. There are new devices, technologies, tools – and even a few women. Designers have been helped along by great apps, software, open source projects, conferences, and a community of people who, to my unending pride, love to share their knowledge and their work. So the world has moved on, and if Miley Cyrus, Ruby Rose and Eliot Sumner are identifying as gender fluid (an identity which refers to a gender which varies over time or is a combination of identities), then I would like to come out as discipline fluid! OK, I will probably never identify as a developer, but I will identify as fluid! How can we be anything else in an industry that moves so quickly? That’s how we should think of our skills, our interests and even our job titles. After all, Steve Jobs told us that “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Sorry skinny-jean-wearing designers – this means we’re all designing something together. And it’s not just about knowing the right words to use: you have to know how it feels. How it feels when you make something work, when you fix that bug, when you make it work on IE. Like anything in life, things run smoothly when you make the effort to share experiences, em… 2015 Ros Horner roshorner 2015-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/be-fluid-with-your-design-skills-build-your-own-sites/ code
64 Being Responsive to the Small Things It’s that time of the year again to trim the tree with decorations. Or maybe a DOM tree? Any web page is made of HTML elements that lay themselves out in a tree structure. We start at the top and then have multiple branches with branches that branch out from there. To decorate our tree, we use CSS to specify which branches should receive the tinsel we wish to adorn upon it. It’s all so lovely. In years past, this was rather straightforward. But these days, our trees need to be versatile. They need to be responsive! Responsive web design is pretty wonderful, isn’t it? Based on our viewport, we can decide how elements on the page should change their appearance to accommodate various constraints using media queries. Clearleft have a delightfully clean and responsive site Alas, it’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. With complex layouts, we may have design chunks — let’s call them components — that appear in different contexts. Each context may end up providing its own constraints on the design, both in its default state and in its possibly various responsive states. Media queries, however, limit us to the context of the entire viewport, not individual containers on the page. For every container our component lives in, we need to specify how to rearrange things in that context. The more complex the system, the more contexts we need to write code for. @media (min-width: 800px) { .features > .component { } .sidebar > .component {} .grid > .component {} } Each new component and each new breakpoint just makes the entire system that much more difficult to maintain. @media (min-width: 600px) { .features > .component { } .grid > .component {} } @media (min-width: 800px) { .features > .component { } .sidebar > .component {} .grid > .component {} } @media (min-width: 1024px) { .features > .component { } } Enter container queries Container queries, also known as element queries, allow you to specify conditional CSS based on the width (or maybe height) of the container that an element lives in.… 2015 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2015-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/being-responsive-to-the-small-things/ code
65 The Accessibility Mindset Accessibility is often characterized as additional work, hard to learn and only affecting a small number of people. Those myths have no logical foundation and often stem from outdated information or misconceptions. Indeed, it is an additional skill set to acquire, quite like learning new JavaScript frameworks, CSS layout techniques or new HTML elements. But it isn’t particularly harder to learn than those other skills. A World Health Organization (WHO) report on disabilities states that, [i]ncluding children, over a billion people (or about 15% of the world’s population) were estimated to be living with disability. Being disabled is not as unusual as one might think. Due to chronic health conditions and older people having a higher risk of disability, we are also currently paving the cowpath to an internet that we can still use in the future. Accessibility has a very close relationship with usability, and advancements in accessibility often yield improvements in the usability of a website. Websites are also more adaptable to users’ needs when they are built in an accessible fashion. Beyond the bare minimum In the time of table layouts, web developers could create code that passed validation rules but didn’t adhere to the underlying semantic HTML model. We later developed best practices, like using lists for navigation, and with HTML5 we started to wrap those lists in nav elements. Working with accessibility standards is similar. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 can inform your decision to make websites accessible and can be used to test that you met the success criteria. What it can’t do is measure how well you met them. W3C developed a long list of techniques that can be used to make your website accessible, but you might find yourself in a situation where you need to adapt those techniques to be the most usable solution for your particular problem. The checkbox below is implemented in an accessible way: The input element has an id and the label associated with the checkbox refers to the in… 2015 Eric Eggert ericeggert 2015-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/the-accessibility-mindset/ code
68 Grid, Flexbox, Box Alignment: Our New System for Layout Three years ago for 24 ways 2012, I wrote an article about a new CSS layout method I was excited about. A specification had emerged, developed by people from the Internet Explorer team, bringing us a proper grid system for the web. In 2015, that Internet Explorer implementation is still the only public implementation of CSS grid layout. However, in 2016 we should be seeing it in a new improved form ready for our use in browsers. Grid layout has developed hidden behind a flag in Blink, and in nightly builds of WebKit and, latterly, Firefox. By being developed in this way, breaking changes could be safely made to the specification as no one was relying on the experimental implementations in production work. Another new layout method has emerged over the past few years in a more public and perhaps more painful way. Shipped prefixed in browsers, The flexible box layout module (flexbox) was far too tempting for developers not to use on production sites. Therefore, as changes were made to the specification, we found ourselves with three different flexboxes, and browser implementations that did not match one another in completeness or in the version of specified features they supported. Owing to the different ways these modules have come into being, when I present on grid layout it is often the very first time someone has heard of the specification. A question I keep being asked is whether CSS grid layout and flexbox are competing layout systems, as though it might be possible to back the loser in a CSS layout competition. The reality, however, is that these two methods will sit together as one system for doing layout on the web, each method playing to certain strengths and serving particular layout tasks. If there is to be a loser in the battle of the layouts, my hope is that it will be the layout frameworks that tie our design to our markup. They have been a necessary placeholder while we waited for a true web layout system, but I believe that in a few years time we’ll be easily able to date a website to circa 2015 … 2015 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2015-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/grid-flexbox-box-alignment-our-new-system-for-layout/ code
70 Bringing Your Code to the Streets — or How to Be a Street VJ Our amazing world of web code is escaping out of the browser at an alarming rate and appearing in every aspect of the environment around us. Over the past few years we’ve already seen JavaScript used server-side, hardware coded with JavaScript, a rise of native style and desktop apps created with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and even virtual reality (VR) is getting its fair share of front-end goodness. You can go ahead and play with JavaScript-powered hardware such as the Tessel or the Espruino to name a couple. Just check out the Tessel project page to see JavaScript in the world of coffee roasting or sleep tracking your pet. With the rise of the internet of things, JavaScript can be seen collecting information on flooding among other things. And if that’s not enough ‘outside the browser’ implementations, Node.js servers can even be found in aircraft! I previously mentioned VR and with three.js’s extra StereoEffect.js module it’s relatively simple to get browser 3D goodness to be Google Cardboard-ready, and thus set the stage for all things JavaScript and VR. It’s been pretty popular in the art world too, with interactive works such as Seb Lee-Delisle’s Lunar Trails installation, featuring the old arcade game Lunar Lander, which you can now play in your browser while others watch (it is the web after all). The Science Museum in London held Chrome Web Lab, an interactive exhibition featuring five experiments, showcasing the magic of the web. And it’s not even the connectivity of the web that’s being showcased; we can even take things offline and use web code for amazing things, such as fighting Ebola. One thing is for sure, JavaScript is awesome. Hell, if you believe those telly programs (as we all do), JavaScript can even take down the stock market, purely through the witchcraft of canvas! Go JavaScript! Now it’s our turn So I wanted to create a little project influenced by this theme, and as it’s Christmas, take it to the streets for a little bit of party fun! Something that could take c… 2015 Ruth John ruthjohn 2015-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/bringing-your-code-to-the-streets/ code
71 Upping Your Web Security Game When I started working in web security fifteen years ago, web development looked very different. The few non-static web applications were built using a waterfall process and shipped quarterly at best, making it possible to add security audits before every release; applications were deployed exclusively on in-house servers, allowing Info Sec to inspect their configuration and setup; and the few third-party components used came from a small set of well-known and trusted providers. And yet, even with these favourable conditions, security teams were quickly overwhelmed and called for developers to build security in. If the web security game was hard to win before, it’s doomed to fail now. In today’s web development, every other page is an application, accepting inputs and private data from users; software is built continuously, designed to eliminate manual gates, including security gates; infrastructure is code, with servers spawned with little effort and even less security scrutiny; and most of the code in a typical application is third-party code, pulled in through open source repositories with rarely a glance at who provided them. Security teams, when they exist at all, cannot solve this problem. They are vastly outnumbered by developers, and cannot keep up with the application’s pace of change. For us to have a shot at making the web secure, we must bring security into the core. We need to give it no less attention than that we give browser compatibility, mobile design or web page load times. More broadly, we should see security as an aspect of quality, expecting both ourselves and our peers to address it, and taking pride when we do it well. Where To Start? Embracing security isn’t something you do overnight. A good place to start is by reviewing things you’re already doing – and trying to make them more secure. Here are three concrete steps you can take to get going. HTTPS Threats begin when your system interacts with the outside world, which often means HTTP. As is, HTTP is painfully insecure, allowing attacke… 2015 Guy Podjarny guypodjarny 2015-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/upping-your-web-security-game/ code
75 A Harder-Working Class Class is only becoming more important. Focusing on its original definition as an attribute for grouping (or classifying) as well as linking HTML to CSS, recent front-end development practices are emphasizing class as a vessel for structured, modularized style packages. These patterns reduce the need for repetitive declarations that can seriously bloat file sizes, and instil human-readable understanding of how the interface, layout, and aesthetics are constructed. In the next handful of paragraphs, we will look at how these emerging practices – such as object-oriented CSS and SMACSS – are pushing the relevance of class. We will also explore how HTML and CSS architecture can be further simplified, performance can be boosted, and CSS utility sharpened by combining class with the attribute selector. A primer on attribute selectors While attribute selectors were introduced in the CSS 2 spec, they are still considered rather exotic. These well-established and well-supported features give us vastly improved flexibility in targeting elements in CSS, and offer us opportunities for smarter markup. With an attribute selector, you can directly style an element based on any of its unique – or uniquely shared – attributes, without the need for an ID or extra classes. Unlike pseudo-classes, pseudo-elements, and other exciting features of CSS3, attribute selectors do not require any browser-specific syntax or prefix, and are even supported in Internet Explorer 7. For example, say we want to target all anchor tags on a page that link to our homepage. Where otherwise we might need to manually identify and add classes to the HTML for these specific links, we could simply write: [href=index.html] { } This selector reads: target every element that has an href attribute of “index.html”. Attribute selectors are more faceted, though, as they also give us some very simple regular expression-like logic that helps further narrow (or widen) a selector’s scope. In our previous example, what if we wanted to also give indicative styl… 2012 Nathan Ford nathanford 2012-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/a-harder-working-class/ code
76 Giving CSS Animations and Transitions Their Place CSS animations and transitions may not sit squarely in the realm of the behaviour layer, but they’re stepping up into this area that used to be pure JavaScript territory. Heck, CSS might even perform better than its JavaScript equivalents in some cases. That’s pretty serious! With CSS’s new tricks blurring the lines between presentation and behaviour, it can start to feel bloated and messy in our CSS files. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Here are a pair of methods I’ve found to be pretty helpful in keeping the potential bloat and wire-crossing under control when CSS has its hands in both presentation and behaviour. Same eggs, more baskets Structuring your CSS to have separate files for layout, typography, grids, and so on is a fairly common approach these days. But which one do you put your transitions and animations in? The initial answer, as always, is “it depends”. Small effects here and there will likely sit just fine with your other styles. When you move into more involved effects that require multiple animations and some logic support from JavaScript, it’s probably time to choose none of the above, and create a separate CSS file just for them. Putting all your animations in one file is a huge help for code organization. Even if you opt for a name less literal than animations.css, you’ll know exactly where to go for anything CSS animation related. That saves time and effort when it comes to editing and maintenance. Keeping track of which animations are still currently used is easier when they’re all grouped together as well. And as an added bonus, you won’t have to look at all those horribly unattractive and repetitive prefixed @-keyframe rules unless you actually need to. An animations.css file might look something like the snippet below. It defines each animation’s keyframes and defines a class for each variation of that animation you’ll be using. Depending on the situation, you may also want to include transitions here in a similar way. (I’ve found defining transitions as their own class, or mixin, … 2012 Val Head valhead 2012-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/giving-css-animations-and-transitions-their-place/ code
79 Responsive Images: What We Thought We Needed If you were to read a web designer’s Christmas wish list, it would likely include a solution for displaying images responsively. For those concerned about users downloading unnecessary image data, or serving images that look blurry on high resolution displays, finding a solution has become a frustrating quest. Having experimented with complex and sometimes devilish hacks, consensus is forming around defining new standards that could solve this problem. Two approaches have emerged. The <picture> element markup pattern was proposed by Mat Marquis and is now being developed by the Responsive Images Community Group. By providing a means of declaring multiple sources, authors could use media queries to control which version of an image is displayed and under what conditions: <picture width="500" height="500"> <source media="(min-width: 45em)" src="large.jpg"> <source media="(min-width: 18em)" src="med.jpg"> <source src="small.jpg"> <img src="small.jpg" alt=""> <p>Accessible text</p> </picture> A second proposal put forward by Apple, the srcset attribute, uses a more concise syntax intended for use with the <img> element, although it could be compatible with the <picture> element too. This would allow authors to provide a set of images, but with the decision on which to use left to the browser: <img src="fallback.jpg" alt="" srcset="small.jpg 640w 1x, small-hd.jpg 640w 2x, med.jpg 1x, med-hd.jpg 2x "> Enter Scrooge Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. Ebenezer Scrooge Given the complexity of this issue, there’s a heated debate about which is the best option. Yet code belies a certain truth. That both feature verbose and opaque syntax, I’m not sure either should find its way into the browser – especially as alternative approaches have yet to be fully explored. So, as if to dampen the festive cheer, here are five reasons why I believe both proposals are largely redundant. 1. We need better formats, not more markup As we move away from designs defi… 2012 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2012-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-images-what-we-thought-we-needed/ code
80 HTML5 Video Bumpers Video is a bigger part of the web experience than ever before. With native browser support for HTML5 video elements freeing us from the tyranny of plugins, and the availability of faster internet connections to the workplace, home and mobile networks, it’s now pretty straightforward to publish video in a way that can be consumed in all sorts of ways on all sorts of different web devices. I recently worked on a project where the client had shot some dedicated video shorts to publish on their site. They also had some five-second motion graphics produced to top and tail the videos with context and branding. This pretty common requirement is a great idea on the web, where a user might land at your video having followed a link and be viewing a page without much context. Known as bumpers, these short introduction clips help brand a video and make it look a lot more professional. Adding bumpers to a video The simplest way to add bumpers to a video would be to edit them on to the start and end of the video file itself. Cooking the bumpers into the video file is easy, but should you ever want to update them it can become a real headache. If the branding needs updating, for example, you’d need to re-edit and re-encode all your videos. Not a fun task. What if the bumpers could be added dynamically? That would enable you to use the same bumper for multiple videos (decreasing download time for users who might watch more than one) and to update the bumpers whenever you wanted. You could change them seasonally, update them for special promotions, run different advertising slots, perform multivariate testing, or even target different bumpers to different users. The trade-off, of course, is that if you dynamically add your bumpers, there’s a chance that a user in a given circumstance might not see the bumper. For example, if the main video feature was uploaded to YouTube, you’d have no way to control the playback. As always, you need to weigh up the pros and cons and make your choice. HTML5 bumpers If you wanted to dyna… 2012 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2012-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/html5-video-bumpers/ code
83 Cut Copy Paste Long before I got into this design thing, I was heavily into making my own music inspired by the likes of Coldcut and Steinski. I would scour local second-hand record shops in search of obscure beats, loops and bits of dialogue in the hope of finding that killer sample I could then splice together with other things to make a huge hit that everyone would love. While it did eventually lead to a record contract and getting to release a few 12″ singles, ultimately I knew I’d have to look for something else to pay the bills. I may not make my own records any more, but the approach I took back then – finding (even stealing) things, cutting and pasting them into interesting combinations – is still at the centre of how I work, only these days it’s pretty much bits of code rather than bits of vinyl. Over the years I’ve stored these little bits of code (some I’ve found, some I’ve created myself) in Evernote, ready to be dialled up whenever I need them. So when Drew got in touch and asked if I’d like to do something for this year’s 24 ways I thought it might be kind of cool to share with you a few of these snippets that I find really useful. Think of these as a kind of coding mix tape; but remember – don’t just copy as is: play around, combine and remix them into other wonderful things. Some of this stuff is dirty; some of it will make hardcore programmers feel ill. For those people, remember this – while you were complaining about the syntax, I made something. Create unique colours Let’s start right away with something I stole. Well, actually it was given away at the time by Matt Biddulph who was then at Dopplr before Nokia destroyed it. Imagine you have thousands of words and you want to assign each one a unique colour. Well, Matt came up with a crazily simple but effective way to do that using an MD5 hash. Just encode said word using an MD5 hash, then take the first six characters of the string you get back to create a hexadecimal colour representation. I can’t guarantee that it will be a harmonious colour palet… 2012 Brendan Dawes brendandawes 2012-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/cut-copy-paste/ code
86 Flashless Animation Animation in a Flashless world When I splashed down in web design four years ago, the first thing I wanted to do was animate a cartoon in the browser. I’d been drawing comics for years, and I’ve wanted to see them come to life for nearly as long. Flash animation was still riding high, but I didn’t want to learn Flash. I wanted to learn JavaScript! Sadly, animating with JavaScript was limiting and resource-intensive. My initial foray into an infinitely looping background did more to burn a hole in my CPU than amaze my friends (although it still looks pretty cool). And there was still no simple way to incorporate audio. The browser technology just wasn’t there. Things are different now. CSS3 transitions and animations can do most of the heavy lifting and HTML5 audio can serve up the music and audio clips. You can do a lot without leaning on JavaScript at all, and when you lean on JavaScript, you can do so much more! In this project, I’m going to show you how to animate a simple walk cycle with looping audio. I hope this will inspire you to do something really cool and impress your friends. I’d love to see what you come up with, so please send your creations my way at rachelnabors.com! Note: Because every browser wants to use its own prefixes with CSS3 animations, and I have neither the time nor the space to write all of them out, I will use the W3C standard syntaxes; that is, going prefix-less. You can implement them out of the box with something like Prefixfree, or you can add prefixes on your own. If you take the latter route, I recommend using Sass and Compass so you can focus on your animations, not copying and pasting. The walk cycle Walk cycles are the “Hello world” of animation. One of the first projects of animation students is to spend hours drawing dozens of frames to complete a simple loopable animation of a character walking. Most animators don’t have to draw every frame themselves, though. They draw a few key frames and send those on to production animators to work on the between frames (or twe… 2012 Rachel Nabors rachelnabors 2012-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/flashless-animation/ code
89 Direction, Distance and Destinations With all these new smartphones in the hands of lost and confused owners, we need a better way to represent distances and directions to destinations. The immediate examples that jump to mind are augmented reality apps which let you see another world through your phone’s camera. While this is interesting, there is a simpler way: letting people know how far away they are and if they are getting warmer or colder. In the app world, you can easily tap into the phone’s array of sensors such as the GPS and compass, but what people rarely know is that you can do the same with HTML. The native versus web app debate will never subside, but at least we can show you how to replicate some of the functionality progressively in HTML and JavaScript. In this tutorial, we’ll walk through how to create a simple webpage listing distances and directions of a few popular locations around the world. We’ll use JavaScript to access the device’s geolocation API and also attempt to access the compass to get a heading. Both of these APIs are documented, to be included in the W3C geolocation API specification, and can be used on both desktop and mobile devices today. To get started, we need a list of a few locations around the world. I have chosen the highest mountain peak on each continent so you can see a diverse set of distances and directions. Mountain °Latitude °Longitude Kilimanjaro -3.075833 37.353333 Vinson Massif -78.525483 -85.617147 Puncak Jaya -4.078889 137.158333 Everest 27.988056 86.925278 Elbrus 43.355 42.439167 Mount McKinley 63.0695 -151.0074 Aconcagua -32.653431 -70.011083 Source: Wikipedia We can put those into an HTML list to be styled and accessed by JavaScript to create some distance and directions calculations. The next thing we need to do is check to see if the browser and operating system have geolocation support. To do this we test to see if the function is available or not using a si… 2012 Brian Suda briansuda 2012-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/direction-distance-and-destinations/ code
91 Infinite Canvas: Moving Beyond the Page Remember Web 2.0? I do. In fact, that phrase neatly bifurcates my life on the internet. Pre-2.0, I was occupied by chatting on AOL and eventually by learning HTML so I could build sites on Geocities. Around 2002, however, I saw a WYSIWYG demo in Dreamweaver. The instructor was dragging boxes and images around a canvas. With a few clicks he was able to build a dynamic, single-page interface. Coming from the world of tables and inline HTML styles, I was stunned. As I entered college the next year, the web was blossoming: broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile (proud PDA owner, right here), CSS, Ajax, Bloglines, Gmail and, soon, Google Maps. I was a technology fanatic and a hobbyist web developer. For me, the web had long been informational. It was now rapidly becoming something else, something more: sophisticated, presentational, actionable. In 2003 we watched as the internet changed. The predominant theme of those early Web 2.0 years was the withering of Internet Explorer 6 and the triumph of web standards. Upon cresting that mountain, we looked around and collectively breathed the rarefied air of pristine HMTL and CSS, uncontaminated by toxic hacks and forks – only to immediately begin hurtling down the other side at what is, frankly, terrifying speed. Ten years later, we are still riding that rocket. Our days (and nights) are spent cramming for exams on CSS3 and RWD and Sass and RESS. We are the proud, frazzled owners of tiny pocket computers that annihilate the best laptops we could have imagined, and the architects of websites that are no longer restricted to big screens nor even segregated by device. We dragoon our sites into working any time, anywhere. At this point, we can hardly ask the spec developers to slow down to allow us to catch our breath, nor should we. It is, without a doubt, a most wonderful time to be a web developer. But despite the newfound luxury of rounded corners, gradients, embeddable fonts, low-level graphics APIs, and, glory be, shadows, the canyon between HTML and native appears to be as wide as… 2012 Nathan Peretic nathanperetic 2012-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/infinite-canvas-moving-beyond-the-page/ code
92 Redesigning the Media Query Responsive web design is showing us that designing content is more important than designing containers. But if you’ve given RWD a serious try, you know that shifting your focus from the container is surprisingly hard to do. There are many factors and instincts working against you, and one culprit is a perpetrator you’d least suspect. The media query is the ringmaster of responsive design. It lets us establish the rules of the game and gives us what we need most: control. However, like some kind of evil double agent, the media query is actually working against you. Its very nature diverts your attention away from content and forces you to focus on the container. The very act of choosing a media query value means choosing a screen size. Look at the history of the media query—it’s always been about the container. Values like screen, print, handheld and tv don’t have anything to do with content. The modern media query lets us choose screen dimensions, which is great because it makes RWD possible. But it’s still the act of choosing something that is completely unpredictable. Content should dictate our breakpoints, not the container. In order to get our focus back to the only thing that matters, we need a reengineered media query—one that frees us from thinking about screen dimensions. A media query that works for your content, not the window. Fortunately, Sass 3.2 is ready and willing to take on this challenge. Thinking in Columns Fluid grids never clicked for me. I feel so disoriented and confused by their squishiness. Responsive design demands their use though, right? I was ready to surrender until I found a grid that turned my world upright again. The Frameless Grid by Joni Korpi demonstrates that column and gutter sizes can stay fixed. As the screen size changes, you simply add or remove columns to accommodate. This made sense to me and armed with this concept I was able to give Sass the first component it needs to rewrite the media query: fixed column and gutter size variables. $grid-column: 60px; $grid-… 2012 Les James lesjames 2012-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/redesigning-the-media-query/ code
95 Giving Content Priority with CSS3 Grid Layout Browser support for many of the modules that are part of CSS3 have enabled us to use CSS for many of the things we used to have to use images for. The rise of mobile browsers and the concept of responsive web design has given us a whole new way of looking at design for the web. However, when it comes to layout, we haven’t moved very far at all. We have talked for years about separating our content and source order from the presentation of that content, yet most of us have had to make decisions on source order in order to get a certain visual layout. Owing to some interesting specifications making their way through the W3C process at the moment, though, there is hope of change on the horizon. In this article I’m going to look at one CSS module, the CSS3 grid layout module, that enables us to define a grid and place elements on to it. This article comprises a practical demonstration of the basics of grid layout, and also a discussion of one way in which we can start thinking of content in a more adaptive way. Before we get started, it is important to note that, at the time of writing, these examples work only in Internet Explorer 10. CSS3 grid layout is a module created by Microsoft, and implemented using the -ms prefix in IE10. My examples will all use the -ms prefix, and not include other prefixes simply because this is such an early stage specification, and by the time there are implementations in other browsers there may be inconsistencies. The implementation I describe today may well change, but is also there for your feedback. If you don’t have access to IE10, then one way to view and test these examples is by signing up for an account with Browserstack – the free trial would give you time to have a look. I have also included screenshots of all relevant stages in creating the examples. What is CSS3 grid layout? CSS3 grid layout aims to let developers divide up a design into a grid and place content on to that grid. Rather than trying to fabricate a grid from floats, you can declare an actual grid on a c… 2012 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2012-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/css3-grid-layout/ code
98 Absolute Columns CSS layouts have come quite a long way since the dark ages of web publishing, with all sorts of creative applications of floats, negative margins, and even background images employed in order to give us that most basic building block, the column. As the title implies, we are indeed going to be discussing columns today—more to the point, a handy little application of absolute positioning that may be exactly what you’ve been looking for… Care for a nightcap? If you’ve been developing for the web for long enough, you may be familiar with this little children’s fable, passed down from wizened Shaolin monks sitting atop the great Mt. Geocities: “Once upon a time, multiple columns of the same height could be easily created using TABLES.” Now, though we’re all comfortably seated on the standards train (and let’s be honest: even if you like to think you’ve fallen off, if you’ve given up using tables for layout, rest assured your sleeper car is still reserved), this particular—and as page layout goes, quite basic—trick is still a thorn in our CSSides compared to the ease of achieving the same effect using said Tables of Evil™. See, the orange juice masks the flavor… Creative solutions such as Dan Cederholm’s Faux Columns do a good job of making it appear as though adjacent columns maintain equal height as content expands, using a background image to fill the space that the columns cannot. Now, the Holy Grail of CSS columns behaving exactly how they would as table cells—or more to the point, as columns—still eludes us (cough CSS3 Multi-column layout module cough), but sometimes you just need, for example, a secondary column (say, a sidebar) to match the height of a primary column, without involving the creation of images. This is where a little absolute positioning can save you time, while possibly giving your layout a little more flexibility. Shaken, not stirred You’re probably familiar by now with the concept of Making the Absolute, Relative as set forth long ago by Doug Bowman, but let’s quickly review just in c… 2008 Dan Rubin danrubin 2008-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/absolute-columns/ code
99 A Christmas hCard From Me To You So apparently Christmas is coming. And what is Christmas all about? Well, cleaning out your address book, of course! What better time to go through your contacts, making sure everyone’s details are up date and that you’ve deleted all those nasty clients who never paid on time? It’s also a good time to make sure your current clients and colleagues have your most up-to-date details, so instead of filling up their inboxes with e-cards, why not send them something useful? Something like a… vCard! (See what I did there?) Just in case you’ve been working in a magical toy factory in the upper reaches of Scandinavia for the last few years, I’m going to tell you that now would also be the perfect time to get into microformats. Using the hCard format, we’ll build a very simple web page and markup our contact details in such a way that they’ll be understood by microformats plugins, like Operator or Tails for Firefox, or the cross-browser Microformats Bookmarklet. Oh, and because Christmas is all about dressing up and being silly, we’ll make the whole thing look nice and have a bit of fun with some CSS3 progressive enhancement. If you can’t wait to see what we end up with, you can preview it here. Step 1: Contact Details First, let’s decide what details we want to put on the page. I’d put my full name, my email address, my phone number, and my postal address, but I’d rather not get surprise visits from strangers when I’m fannying about with my baubles, so I’m going to use Father Christmas instead (that’s Santa to you Yanks). Father Christmas fatherchristmas@elliotjaystocks.com 25 Laughingallthe Way Snow Falls Lapland Finland 010 60 58 000 Step 2: hCard Creator Now I’m not sure about you, but I rather like getting the magical robot pixies to do the work for me, so head on over to the hCard Creator and put those pixies to work! Pop in your details and they’ll give you some nice microformatted HTML in turn. <div id="hcard-Father-Christmas" class="vcard"> <a class="url fn" href="http://elliotjaystocks.com/fatherc… 2008 Elliot Jay Stocks elliotjaystocks 2008-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/a-christmas-hcard-from-me-to-you/ code
100 Moo'y Christmas A note from the editors: Moo has changed their API since this article was written. As the web matures, it is less and less just about the virtual world. It is becoming entangled with our world and it is harder to tell what is virtual and what is real. There are several companies who are blurring this line and make the virtual just an extension of the physical. Moo is one such company. Moo offers simple print on demand services. You can print business cards, moo mini cards, stickers, postcards and more. They give you the ability to upload your images, customize them, then have them sent to your door. Many companies allow this sort of digital to physical interaction, but Moo has taken it one step further and has built an API. Printable stocking stuffers The Moo API consists of a simple XML file that is sent to their servers. It describes all the information needed to dynamically assemble and print your object. This is very helpful, not just for when you want to print your own stickers, but when you want to offer them to your customers, friends, organization or community with no hassle. Moo handles the check-out and shipping, all you need to do is what you do best, create! Now using an API sounds complicated, but it is actually very easy. I am going to walk you through the options so you can easily be printing in no time. Before you can begin sending data to the Moo API, you need to register and get an API key. This is important, because it allows Moo to track usage and to credit you. To register, visit http://www.moo.com/api/ and click “Request an API key”. In the following examples, I will use {YOUR API KEY HERE} as a place holder, replace that with your API key and everything will work fine. First thing you need to do is to create an XML file to describe the check-out basket. Open any text-editor and start with some XML basics. Don’t worry, this is pretty simple and Moo gives you a few tools to check your XML for errors before… 2008 Brian Suda briansuda 2008-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/mooy-christmas/ code
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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