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336 Practical Microformats with hCard You’ve probably heard about microformats over the last few months. You may have even read the easily digestible introduction at Digital Web Magazine, but perhaps you’ve not found time to actually implement much yet. That’s understandable, as it can sometimes be difficult to see exactly what you’re adding by applying a microformat to a page. Sure, you’re semantically enhancing the information you’re marking up, and the Semantic Web is a great idea and all, but what benefit is it right now, today? Well, the answer to that question is simple: you’re adding lots of information that can be and is being used on the web here and now. The big ongoing battle amongst the big web companies if one of territory over information. Everyone’s grasping for as much data as possible. Some of that information many of us are cautious to give away, but a lot of is happy to be freely available. Of the data you’re giving away, it makes sense to give it as much meaning as possible, thus enabling anyone from your friends and family to the giant search company down the road to make the most of it. Ok, enough of the waffle, let’s get working. Introducing hCard You may have come across hCard. It’s a microformat for describing contact information (or really address book information) from within your HTML. It’s based on the vCard format, which is the format the contacts/address book program on your computer uses. All the usual fields are available – name, address, town, website, email, you name it. If you’re running Firefox and Greasemonkey (or if you can, just to try this out), install this user script. What it does is look for instances of the hCard microformat in a page, and then add in a link to pass any hCards it finds to a web service which will convert it to a vCard. Take a look at the About the author box at the bottom of this article. It’s a hCard, so you should be able to click the icon the user script inserts and add me to your Outlook contacts or OS X Address Book with just a click. So microformats are useful after all. Free… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/practical-microformats-with-hcard/ code
335 Naughty or Nice? CSS Background Images Web Standards based development involves many things – using semantically sound HTML to provide structure to our documents or web applications, using CSS for presentation and layout, using JavaScript responsibly, and of course, ensuring that all that we do is accessible and interoperable to as many people and user agents as we can. This we understand to be good. And it is good. Except when we don’t clearly think through the full implications of using those techniques. Which often happens when time is short and we need to get things done. Here are some naughty examples of CSS background images with their nicer, more accessible counterparts. Transaction related messages I’m as guilty of this as others (or, perhaps, I’m the only one that has done this, in which case this can serve as my holiday season confessional) We use lovely little icons to show status messages for a transaction to indicate if the action was successful, or was there a warning or error? For example: “Your postal/zip code was not in the correct format.” Notice that we place a nice little icon there, and use background colours and borders to convey a specific message: there was a problem that needs to be fixed. Notice that all of this visual information is now contained in the CSS rules for that div: <div class="error"> <p>Your postal/zip code was not in the correct format.</p> </div> div.error { background: #ffcccc url(../images/error_small.png) no-repeat 5px 4px; color: #900; border-top: 1px solid #c00; border-bottom: 1px solid #c00; padding: 0.25em 0.5em 0.25em 2.5em; font-weight: bold; } Using this approach also makes it very easy to create a div.success and div.warning CSS rules meaning we have less to change in our HTML. Nice, right? No. Naughty. Visual design communicates The CSS is being used to convey very specific information. The choice of icon, the choice of background colour and borders tell us visually that there is something wrong. With the icon as a background image – there… 2005 Derek Featherstone derekfeatherstone 2005-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/naughty-or-nice-css-background-images/ code
334 Transitional vs. Strict Markup When promoting web standards, standardistas often talk about XHTML as being more strict than HTML. In a sense it is, since it requires that all elements are properly closed and that attribute values are quoted. But there are two flavours of XHTML 1.0 (three if you count the Frameset DOCTYPE, which is outside the scope of this article), defined by the Transitional and Strict DOCTYPEs. And HTML 4.01 also comes in those flavours. The names reveal what they are about: Transitional DOCTYPEs are meant for those making the transition from older markup to modern ways. Strict DOCTYPEs are actually the default – the way HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 were constructed to be used. A Transitional DOCTYPE may be used when you have a lot of legacy markup that cannot easily be converted to comply with a Strict DOCTYPE. But Strict is what you should be aiming for. It encourages, and in some cases enforces, the separation of structure and presentation, moving the presentational aspects from markup to CSS. From the HTML 4 Document Type Definition: This is HTML 4.01 Strict DTD, which excludes the presentation attributes and elements that W3C expects to phase out as support for style sheets matures. Authors should use the Strict DTD when possible, but may use the Transitional DTD when support for presentation attribute and elements is required. An additional benefit of using a Strict DOCTYPE is that doing so will ensure that browsers use their strictest, most standards compliant rendering modes. Tommy Olsson provides a good summary of the benefits of using Strict over Transitional in Ten questions for Tommy Olsson at Web Standards Group: In my opinion, using a Strict DTD, either HTML 4.01 Strict or XHTML 1.0 Strict, is far more important for the quality of the future web than whether or not there is an X in front of the name. The Strict DTD promotes a separation of structure and presentation, which makes a site so much easier to maintain. For those looking to start using web standards and valid, semantic markup, it is important… 2005 Roger Johansson rogerjohansson 2005-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/transitional-vs-strict-markup/ code
333 The Attribute Selector for Fun and (no ad) Profit If I had a favourite CSS selector, it would undoubtedly be the attribute selector (Ed: You really need to get out more). For those of you not familiar with the attribute selector, it allows you to style an element based on the existence, value or partial value of a specific attribute. At it’s very basic level you could use this selector to style an element with particular attribute, such as a title attribute. <abbr title="Cascading Style Sheets">CSS</abbr> In this example I’m going to make all <abbr> elements with a title attribute grey. I am also going to give them a dotted bottom border that changes to a solid border on hover. Finally, for that extra bit of feedback, I will change the cursor to a question mark on hover as well. abbr[title] { color: #666; border-bottom: 1px dotted #666; } abbr[title]:hover { border-bottom-style: solid; cursor: help; } This provides a nice way to show your site users that <abbr> elements with title tags are special, as they contain extra, hidden information. Most modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Opera support the attribute selector. Unfortunately Internet Explorer 6 and below does not support the attribute selector, but that shouldn’t stop you from adding nice usability embellishments to more modern browsers. Internet Explorer 7 looks set to implement this CSS2.1 selector, so expect to see it become more common over the next few years. Styling an element based on the existence of an attribute is all well and good, but it is still pretty limited. Where attribute selectors come into their own is their ability to target the value of an attribute. You can use this for a variety of interesting effects such as styling VoteLinks. VoteWhats? If you haven’t heard of VoteLinks, it is a microformat that allows people to show their approval or disapproval of a links destination by adding a pre-defined keyword to the rev attribute. For instance, if you had a particularly bad meal at a restaurant, you could signify your dissaproval by adding a rev… 2005 Andy Budd andybudd 2005-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/the-attribute-selector-for-fun-and-no-ad-profit/ code
332 CSS Layout Starting Points I build a lot of CSS layouts, some incredibly simple, others that cause sleepless nights and remind me of the torturous puzzle books that were given to me at Christmas by aunties concerned for my education. However, most of the time these layouts fit quite comfortably into one of a very few standard formats. For example: Liquid, multiple column with no footer Liquid, multiple column with footer Fixed width, centred Rather than starting out with blank CSS and (X)HTML documents every time you need to build a layout, you can fairly quickly create a bunch of layout starting points, that will give you a solid basis for creating the rest of the design and mean that you don’t have to remember how a three column layout with a footer is best achieved every time you come across one! These starting points can be really basic, in fact that’s exactly what you want as the final design, the fonts, the colours and so on will be different every time. It’s just the main sections we want to be able to quickly get into place. For example, here is a basic starting point CSS and XHTML document for a fixed width, centred layout with a footer. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>Fixed Width and Centred starting point document</title> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="fixed-width-centred.css" /> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> </head> <body> <div id="wrapper"> <div id="side"> <div class="inner"> <p>Sidebar content here</p> </div> </div> <div id="content"> <div class="inner"> <p>Your main content goes here.</p> </div> </div> <div id="footer"> <div class="inner"> <p>Ho Ho Ho!</p> </div> </div> </div> </body> </html> body { text-align: center; min-width: 740px; padding: 0; margi… 2005 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2005-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/css-layout-starting-points/ code
331 Splintered Striper Back in March 2004, David F. Miller demonstrated a little bit of DOM scripting magic in his A List Apart article Zebra Tables. His script programmatically adds two alternating CSS background colours to table rows, making them more readable and visually pleasing, while saving the document author the tedious task of manually assigning the styling to large static data tables. Although David’s original script performs its duty well, it is nonetheless very specific and limited in its application. It only: works on a single table, identified by its id, with at least a single tbody section assigns a background colour allows two colours for odd and even rows acts on data cells, rather than rows, and then only if they have no class or background colour already defined Taking it further In a recent project I found myself needing to apply a striped effect to a medium sized unordered list. Instead of simply modifying the Zebra Tables code for this particular case, I decided to completely recode the script to make it more generic. Being more general purpose, the function in my splintered striper experiment is necessarily more complex. Where the original script only expected a single parameter (the id of the target table), the new function is called as follows: striper('[parent element tag]','[parent element class or null]','[child element tag]','[comma separated list of classes]') This new, fairly self-explanatory function: targets any type of parent element (and, if specified, only those with a certain class) assigns two or more classes (rather than just two background colours) to the child elements inside the parent preserves any existing classes already assigned to the child elements See it in action View the demonstration page for three usage examples. For simplicity’s sake, we’re making the calls to the striper function from the body’s onload attribute. In a real deployment situation, we would look at attaching a behaviour to the onload programmatically — just remember that, as we need to pass varia… 2005 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2005-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/splintered-striper/ code
330 An Explanation of Ems Ems are so-called because they are thought to approximate the size of an uppercase letter M (and so are pronounced emm), although 1em is actually significantly larger than this. The typographer Robert Bringhurst describes the em thus: The em is a sliding measure. One em is a distance equal to the type size. In 6 point type, an em is 6 points; in 12 point type an em is 12 points and in 60 point type an em is 60 points. Thus a one em space is proportionately the same in any size. To illustrate this principle in terms of CSS, consider these styles: #box1 { font-size: 12px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border:1px solid black; } #box2 { font-size: 60px; width: 1em; height: 1em; border: 1px solid black; } These styles will render like: M and M Note that both boxes have a height and width of 1em but because they have different font sizes, one box is bigger than the other. Box 1 has a font-size of 12px so its width and height is also 12px; similarly the text of box 2 is set to 60px and so its width and height are also 60px. 2005 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2005-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/an-explanation-of-ems/ design
329 Broader Border Corners A note from the editors: Since this article was written the CSS border-radius property has become widely supported in browsers. It should be preferred to this image technique. A quick and easy recipe for turning those single-pixel borders that the kids love so much into into something a little less right-angled. Here’s the principle: We have a box with a one-pixel wide border around it. Inside that box is another box that has a little rounded-corner background image sitting snugly in one of its corners. The inner-box is then nudged out a bit so that it’s actually sitting on top of the outer box. If it’s all done properly, that little background image can mask the hard right angle of the default border of the outer-box, giving the impression that it actually has a rounded corner. Take An Image, Finely Chopped Add A Sprinkle of Markup <div id="content"> <p>Lorem ipsum etc. etc. etc.</p> </div> Throw In A Dollop of CSS #content { border: 1px solid #c03; } #content p { background: url(corner.gif) top left no-repeat; position: relative; left: -1px; top: -1px; padding: 1em; margin: 0; } Bubblin’ Hot The content div has a one-pixel wide red border around it. The paragraph is given a single instance of the background image, created to look like a one-pixel wide arc. The paragraph is shunted outside of the box – back one pixel and up one pixel – so that it is sitting over the div’s border. The white area of the image covers up that part of the border’s corner, and the arc meets up with the top and left border. Because, in this example, we’re applying a background image to a paragraph, its top margin needs to be zeroed so that it starts at the top of its container. Et voilà. Bon appétit. Extra Toppings If you want to apply a curve to each one of the corners and you run out of meaningful markup to hook the background images on to, throw some spans or divs in the mix (there’s nothing wrong … 2005 Patrick Griffiths patrickgriffiths 2005-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/broader-border-corners/ design
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
327 Improving Form Accessibility with DOM Scripting The form label element is an incredibly useful little element – it lets you link the form field unquestionably with the descriptive label text that sits alongside or above it. This is a very useful feature for people using screen readers, but there are some problems with this element. What happens if you have one piece of data that, for various reasons (validation, the way your data is collected/stored etc), needs to be collected using several form elements? The classic example is date of birth – ideally, you’ll ask for the date of birth once but you may have three inputs, one each for day, month and year, that you also need to provide hints about the format required. The problem is that to be truly accessible you need to label each field. So you end up needing something to say “this is a date of birth”, “this is the day field”, “this is the month field” and “this is the day field”. Seems like overkill, doesn’t it? And it can uglify a form no end. There are various ways that you can approach it (and I think I’ve seen them all). Some people omit the label and rely on the title attribute to help the user through; others put text in a label but make the text 1 pixel high and merging in to the background so that screen readers can still get that information. The most common method, though, is simply to set the label to not display at all using the CSS display:none property/value pairing (a technique which, for the time being, seems to work on most screen readers). But perhaps we can do more with this? The technique I am suggesting as another alternative is as follows (here comes the pseudo-code): Start with a totally valid and accessible form Ensure that each form input has a label that is linked to its related form control Apply a class to any label that you don’t want to be visible (for example superfluous) Then, through the magic of unobtrusive JavaScript/the DOM, manipulate the page as follows once the page has loaded: Find all the label elements that are marked as superfluous and hide them Find ou… 2005 Ian Lloyd ianlloyd 2005-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/improving-form-accessibility-with-dom-scripting/ code
326 Don't be eval() JavaScript is an interpreted language, and like so many of its peers it includes the all powerful eval() function. eval() takes a string and executes it as if it were regular JavaScript code. It’s incredibly powerful and incredibly easy to abuse in ways that make your code slower and harder to maintain. As a general rule, if you’re using eval() there’s probably something wrong with your design. Common mistakes Here’s the classic misuse of eval(). You have a JavaScript object, foo, and you want to access a property on it – but you don’t know the name of the property until runtime. Here’s how NOT to do it: var property = 'bar'; var value = eval('foo.' + property); Yes it will work, but every time that piece of code runs JavaScript will have to kick back in to interpreter mode, slowing down your app. It’s also dirt ugly. Here’s the right way of doing the above: var property = 'bar'; var value = foo[property]; In JavaScript, square brackets act as an alternative to lookups using a dot. The only difference is that square bracket syntax expects a string. Security issues In any programming language you should be extremely cautious of executing code from an untrusted source. The same is true for JavaScript – you should be extremely cautious of running eval() against any code that may have been tampered with – for example, strings taken from the page query string. Executing untrusted code can leave you vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks. What’s it good for? Some programmers say that eval() is B.A.D. – Broken As Designed – and should be removed from the language. However, there are some places in which it can dramatically simplify your code. A great example is for use with XMLHttpRequest, a component of the set of tools more popularly known as Ajax. XMLHttpRequest lets you make a call back to the server from JavaScript without refreshing the whole page. A simple way of using this is to have the server return JavaScript code which is then passed to eval(). Here is a simple function for doing exactly that … 2005 Simon Willison simonwillison 2005-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/dont-be-eval/ code
325 "Z's not dead baby, Z's not dead" While Mr. Moll and Mr. Budd have pipped me to the post with their predictions for 2006, I’m sure they won’t mind if I sneak in another. The use of positioning together with z-index will be one of next year’s hot techniques Both has been a little out of favour recently. For many, positioned layouts made way for the flexibility of floats. Developers I speak to often associate z-index with Dreamweaver’s layers feature. But in combination with alpha transparency support for PNG images in IE7 and full implementation of position property values, the stacking of elements with z-index is going to be big. I’m going to cover the basics of z-index and how it can be used to create designs which ‘break out of the box’. No positioning? No Z! Remember geometry? The x axis represents the horizontal, the y axis represents the vertical. The z axis, which is where we get the z-index, represents /depth/. Elements which are stacked using z-index are stacked from front to back and z-index is only applied to elements which have their position property set to relative or absolute. No positioning, no z-index. Z-index values can be either negative or positive and it is the element with the highest z-index value appears closest to the viewer, regardless of its order in the source. Furthermore, if more than one element are given the same z-index, the element which comes last in source order comes out top of the pile. Let’s take three <div>s. <div id="one"></div> <div id="two"></div> <div id="three"></div> #one { position: relative; z-index: 3; } #two { position: relative; z-index: 1; } #three { position: relative; z-index: 2; } As you can see, the <div> with the z-index of 3 will appear closest, even though it comes before its siblings in the source order. As these three <div>s have no defined positioning context in the form of a positioned parent such as a <div>, their stacking order is defined from the root element <html>. Simple stuff, but these building blocks are the basis on whic… 2005 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2005-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/zs-not-dead-baby-zs-not-dead/ design
324 Debugging CSS with the DOM Inspector An Inspector Calls The larger your site and your CSS becomes, the more likely that you will run into bizarre, inexplicable problems. Why does that heading have all that extra padding? Why is my text the wrong colour? Why does my navigation have a large moose dressed as Noel Coward on top of all the links? Perhaps you work in a collaborative environment, where developers and other designers are adding code? In which case, the likelihood of CSS strangeness is higher. You need to debug. You need Firefox’s wise-guy know-it-all, the DOM Inspector. The DOM Inspector knows where everything is in your layout, and more importantly, what causes it to look the way it does. So without further ado, load up any css based site in your copy of Firefox (or Flock for that matter), and launch the DOM Inspector from the Tools menu. The inspector uses two main panels – the left to show the DOM tree of the page, and the right to show you detail: The Inspector will look at whatever site is in the front-most window or tab, but you can also use it without another window. Type in a URL at the top (A), press ‘Inspect’ (B) and a third panel appears at the bottom, with the browser view. I find this layout handier than looking at a window behind the DOM Inspector. Step 1 – find your node! Each element on your page – be it a HTML tag or a piece of text, is called a ‘node’ of the DOM tree. These nodes are all listed in the left hand panel, with any ID or CLASS attribute values next to them. When you first look at a page, you won’t see all those yet. Nested HTML elements (such as a link inside a paragraph) have a reveal triangle next to their name, clicking this takes you one level further down. This can be fine for finding the node you want to look at, but there are easier ways. Say you have a complex rounded box technique that involves 6 nested DIVs? You’d soon get tired of clicking all those triangles to find the element you want to inspect. Click the top left icon © – “Find a node to inspect by clicking on it” and then select … 2005 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2005-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/debugging-css-with-the-dom-inspector/ process
323 Introducing UDASSS! Okay. What’s that mean? Unobtrusive Degradable Ajax Style Sheet Switcher! Boy are you in for treat today ‘cause we’re gonna have a whole lotta Ajaxifida Unobtrucitosity CSS swappin’ Fun! Okay are you really kidding? Nope. I’ve even impressed myself on this one. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to tell you the ins and outs of what I actually did to get this to work. We’re talking JavaScript, CSS, PHP…Ajax. But don’t worry about that. I’ve always believed that a good A.P.I. is an invisible A.P.I… and this I felt I achieved. The only thing you need to know is how it works and what to do. A Quick Introduction Anyway… First of all, the idea is very simple. I wanted something just like what Paul Sowden put together in Alternative Style: Working With Alternate Style Sheets from Alistapart Magazine EXCEPT a few minor (not-so-minor actually) differences which I’ve listed briefly below: Allow users to switch styles without JavaScript enabled (degradable) Preventing the F.O.U.C. before the window ‘load’ when getting preferred styles Keep the JavaScript entirely off our markup (no onclick’s or onload’s) Make it very very easy to implement (ok, Paul did that too) What I did to achieve this was used server-side cookies instead of JavaScript cookies. Hence, PHP. However this isn’t a “PHP style switcher” – which is where Ajax comes in. For the extreme technical folks, no, there is no xml involved here, or even a callback response. I only say Ajax because everyone knows what ‘it’ means. With that said, it’s the Ajax that sets the cookies ‘on the fly’. Got it? Awesome! What you need Luckily, I’ve done the work for you. It’s all packaged up in a nice zip file (at the end…keep reading for now) – so from here on out, just follow these instructions As I’ve mentioned, one of the things we’ll be working with is PHP. So, first things first, open up a file called index and save it with a ‘.php’ extension. Next, place the following text at the top of your document (even above your DOCTYPE) <?php require_once('uti… 2005 Dustin Diaz dustindiaz 2005-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/introducing-udasss/ code
322 Introduction to Scriptaculous Effects Gather around kids, because this year, much like in that James Bond movie with Denise Richards, Christmas is coming early… in the shape of scrumptuous smooth javascript driven effects at your every whim. Now what I’m going to do, is take things down a notch. Which is to say, you don’t need to know much beyond how to open a text file and edit it to follow this article. Personally, I for instance can’t code to save my life. Well, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true. If my life was on the line, and the code needed was really simple and I wasn’t under any time constraints, then yeah maybe I could hack my way out of it But my point is this: I’m not a programmer in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, what I do best, is scrounge code off of other people, take it apart and then put it back together with duct tape, chewing gum and dumb blind luck. No, don’t run! That happens to be a good thing in this case. You see, we’re going to be implementing some really snazzy effects (which are considerably more relevant than most people are willing to admit) on your site, and we’re going to do it with the aid of Thomas Fuchs’ amazing Script.aculo.us library. And it will be like stealing candy from a child. What Are We Doing? I’m going to show you the very basics of implementing the Script.aculo.us javascript library’s Combination Effects. These allow you to fade elements on your site in or out, slide them up and down and so on. Why Use Effects at All? Before get started though, let me just take a moment to explain how I came to see smooth transitions as something more than smoke and mirror-like effects included for with little more motive than to dazzle and make parents go ‘uuh, snazzy’. Earlier this year, I had the good fortune of meeting the kind, gentle and quite knowledgable Matt Webb at a conference here in Copenhagen where we were both speaking (though I will be the first to admit my little talk on Open Source Design was vastly inferior to Matt’s talk). Matt held a talk called Fixing Broken Windows (b… 2005 Michael Heilemann michaelheilemann 2005-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/introduction-to-scriptaculous-effects/ code
321 Tables with Style It might not seem like it but styling tabular data can be a lot of fun. From a semantic point of view, there are plenty of elements to tie some style into. You have cells, rows, row groups and, of course, the table element itself. Adding CSS to a paragraph just isn’t as exciting. Where do I start? First, if you have some tabular data (you know, like a spreadsheet with rows and columns) that you’d like to spiffy up, pop it into a table — it’s rightful place! To add more semantics to your table — and coincidentally to add more hooks for CSS — break up your table into row groups. There are three types of row groups: the header (thead), the body (tbody) and the footer (tfoot). You can only have one header and one footer but you can have as many table bodies as is appropriate. Sample table example Inspiration Table Striping To improve scanning information within a table, a common technique is to style alternating rows. Also known as zebra tables. Whether you apply it using a class on every other row or turn to JavaScript to accomplish the task, a handy-dandy trick is to use a semi-transparent PNG as your background image. This is especially useful over patterned backgrounds. tbody tr.odd td { background:transparent url(background.png) repeat top left; } * html tbody tr.odd td { background:#C00; filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader( src='background.png', sizingMethod='scale'); } We turn off the default background and apply our PNG hack to have this work in Internet Explorer. Styling Columns Did you know you could style a column? That’s right. You can add special column (col) or column group (colgroup) elements. With that you can add border or background styles to the column. <table> <col id="ingredients"> <col id="serve12"> <col id="serve24"> ... Check out the example. Fun with Backgrounds Pop in a tiled background to give your table some character! Internet Explorer’s PNG hack unfortunately only works well when applied to a cell. To f… 2005 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2005-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/tables-with-style/ code
320 DOM Scripting Your Way to Better Blockquotes Block quotes are great. I don’t mean they’re great for indenting content – that would be an abuse of the browser’s default styling. I mean they’re great for semantically marking up a chunk of text that is being quoted verbatim. They’re especially useful in blog posts. <blockquote> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Notice that you can’t just put the quoted text directly between the <blockquote> tags. In order for your markup to be valid, block quotes may only contain block-level elements such as paragraphs. There is an optional cite attribute that you can place in the opening <blockquote> tag. This should contain a URL containing the original text you are quoting: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> </blockquote> Great! Except… the default behavior in most browsers is to completely ignore the cite attribute. Even though it contains important and useful information, the URL in the cite attribute is hidden. You could simply duplicate the information with a hyperlink at the end of the quoted text: <blockquote cite="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement"> <p>Progressive Enhancement, as a label for a strategy for Web design, was coined by Steven Champeon in a series of articles and presentations for Webmonkey and the SxSW Interactive conference.</p> <p class="attribution"> <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Enhancement">source</a> </p> </blockquote> But somehow it feels wrong to have to write out the same URL twice every time you want to quote something. It could also get very tedious if you have a lot of… 2005 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2005-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/dom-scripting-your-way-to-better-blockquotes/ code
319 Avoiding CSS Hacks for Internet Explorer Back in October, IEBlog issued a call to action, asking developers to clean up their CSS hacks for IE7 testing. Needless to say, a lot of hubbub ensued… both on IEBlog and elsewhere. My contribution to all of the noise was to suggest that developers review their code and use good CSS hacks. But what makes a good hack? Tantek Çelik, the Godfather of CSS hacks, gave us the answer by explaining how CSS hacks should be designed. In short, they should (1) be valid, (2) target only old/frozen/abandoned user-agents/browsers, and (3) be ugly. Tantek also went on to explain that using a feature of CSS is not a hack. Now, I’m not a frequent user of CSS hacks, but Tantek’s post made sense to me. In particular, I felt it gave developers direction on how we should be coding to accommodate that sometimes troublesome browser, Internet Explorer. But what I’ve found, through my work with other developers, is that there is still much confusion over the use of CSS hacks and IE. Using examples from the code I’ve seen recently, allow me to demonstrate how to clean up some IE-specific CSS hacks. The two hacks that I’ve found most often in the code I’ve seen and worked with are the star html bug and the underscore hack. We know these are both IE-specific by checking Kevin Smith’s CSS Filters chart. Let’s look at each of these hacks and see how we can replace them with the same CSS feature-based solution. The star html bug This hack violates Tantek’s second rule as it targets current (and future) UAs. I’ve seen this both as a stand alone rule, as well as an override to some other rule in a style sheet. Here are some code samples: * html div#header {margin-top:-3px;} .promo h3 {min-height:21px;} * html .promo h3 {height:21px;} The underscore hack This hack violates Tantek’s first two rules: it’s invalid (according to the W3C CSS Validator) and it targets current UAs. Here’s an example: ol {padding:0; _padding-left:5px;} Using child selectors We can use the child selector to replace both the star html bug and underscore hack. H… 2005 Kimberly Blessing kimberlyblessing 2005-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/avoiding-css-hacks-for-internet-explorer/ code
318 Auto-Selecting Navigation In the article Centered Tabs with CSS Ethan laid out a tabbed navigation system which can be centred on the page. A frequent requirement for any tab-based navigation is to be able to visually represent the currently selected tab in some way. If you’re using a server-side language such as PHP, it’s quite easy to write something like class="selected" into your markup, but it can be even simpler than that. Let’s take the navigation div from Ethan’s article as an example. <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> As you can see we have a standard unordered list which is then styled with CSS to look like tabs. By giving each tab a class which describes it’s logical section of the site, if we were to then apply a class to the body tag of each page showing the same, we could write a clever CSS selector to highlight the correct tab on any given page. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not a trivial concept, but actually applying it is dead simple. Modifying the markup First thing is to place a class name on each li in the list: <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li class="home"><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li class="about"><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li class="work"><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li class="products"><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last contact"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> Then, on each page of your site, apply the a matching class to the body tag to indicate which section of the site that page is in. For example, on your About page: <body class="about">...</body> Writing the CSS selector You can now write a single CSS rule to match the selected tab on any give… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/auto-selecting-navigation/ code
317 Putting the World into "World Wide Web" Despite the fact that the Web has been international in scope from its inception, the predominant mass of Web sites are written in English or another left-to-right language. Sites are typically designed visually for Western culture, and rely on an enormous body of practices for usability, information architecture and interaction design that are by and large centric to the Western world. There are certainly many reasons this is true, but as more and more Web sites realize the benefits of bringing their products and services to diverse, global markets, the more demand there will be on Web designers and developers to understand how to put the World into World Wide Web. Internationalization According to the W3C, Internationalization is: “…the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.” Many Web designers and developers have at least heard, if not read, about Internationalization. We understand that the Web is in fact worldwide, but many of us never have the opportunity to work with Internationalization. Or, when we do, think of it in purely technical terms, such as “which character set do I use?” At first glance, it might seem to many that Internationalization is the act of making Web sites available to international audiences. And while that is in fact true, this isn’t done by broad-stroking techniques and technologies. Instead, it involves a far more narrow understanding of geographical, cultural and linguistic differences in specific areas of the world. This is referred to as localization and is the act of making a Web site make sense in the context of the region, culture and language(s) the people using the site are most familiar with. Internationalization itself includes the following technical tasks: Ensuring no barrier exists to the localization of sites. Of critical importance in the planning stages of a site for Internationalized audiences, the role of the developer is to ensu… 2005 Molly Holzschlag mollyholzschlag 2005-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/putting-the-world-into-world-wide-web/ ux
316 Have Your DOM and Script It Too When working with the XMLHttpRequest object it appears you can only go one of three ways: You can stay true to the colorful moniker du jour and stick strictly to the responseXML property You can play with proprietary – yet widely supported – fire and inject the value of responseText property into the innerHTML of an element of your choosing Or you can be eval() and parse JSON or arbitrary JavaScript delivered via responseText But did you know that there’s a fourth option giving you the best of the latter two worlds? Mint uses this unmentioned approach to grab fresh HTML and run arbitrary JavaScript simultaneously. Without relying on eval(). “But wait-”, you might say, “when would I need to do this?” Besides the example below this technique is handy for things like tab groups that need initialization onload but miss the main onload event handler by a mile thanks to asynchronous scripting. Consider the problem Originally Mint used option 2 to refresh or load new tabs into individual Pepper panes without requiring a full roundtrip to the server. This was all well and good until I introduced the new Client Mode which when enabled allows anyone to view a Mint installation without being logged in. If voyeurs are afoot as Client Mode is disabled, the next time they refresh a pane the entire login page is inserted into the current document. That’s not very helpful so I needed a way to redirect the current document to the login page. Enter the solution Wouldn’t it be cool if browsers interpreted the contents of script tags crammed into innerHTML? Sure, but unfortunately, that just wasn’t meant to be. However like the body element, image elements have an onload event handler. When the image has fully loaded the handler runs the code applied to it. See where I’m going with this? By tacking a tiny image (think single pixel, transparent spacer gif – shudder) onto the end of the HTML returned by our Ajax call, we can smuggle our arbitrary JavaScript into the existing document. The image is added to the DOM, and … 2005 Shaun Inman shauninman 2005-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/have-your-dom-and-script-it-too/ code
315 Edit-in-Place with Ajax Back on day one we looked at using the Prototype library to take all the hard work out of making a simple Ajax call. While that was fun and all, it didn’t go that far towards implementing something really practical. We dipped our toes in, but haven’t learned to swim yet. So here is swimming lesson number one. Anyone who’s used Flickr to publish their photos will be familiar with the edit-in-place system used for quickly amending titles and descriptions on photographs. Hovering over an item turns its background yellow to indicate it is editable. A simple click loads the text into an edit box, right there on the page. Prototype includes all sorts of useful methods to help reproduce something like this for our own projects. As well as the simple Ajax GETs we learned how to do last time, we can also do POSTs (which we’ll need here) and a whole bunch of manipulations to the user interface – all through simple library calls. Here’s what we’re building, so let’s do it. Getting Started There are two major components to this process; the user interface manipulation and the Ajax call itself. Our set-up is much the same as last time (you may wish to read the first article if you’ve not already done so). We have a basic HTML page which links in the prototype.js file and our own editinplace.js. Here’s what Santa dropped down my chimney: <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"/> <title>Edit-in-Place with Ajax</title> <link href="editinplace.css" rel="Stylesheet" type="text/css" /> <script src="prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script> <script src="editinplace.js" type="text/javascript"></script> </head> <body> <h1>Edit-in-place</h1> <p id="desc">Dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh.</p> </body> </html> So that’s our page. The editable item is … 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/edit-in-place-with-ajax/ code
314 Easy Ajax with Prototype There’s little more impressive on the web today than a appropriate touch of Ajax. Used well, Ajax brings a web interface much closer to the experience of a desktop app, and can turn a bear of an task into a pleasurable activity. But it’s really hard, right? It involves all the nasty JavaScript that no one ever does often enough to get really good at, and the browser support is patchy, and urgh it’s just so much damn effort. Well, the good news is that – ta-da – it doesn’t have to be a headache. But man does it still look impressive. Here’s how to amaze your friends. Introducing prototype.js Prototype is a JavaScript framework by Sam Stephenson designed to help make developing dynamic web apps a whole lot easier. In basic terms, it’s a JavaScript file which you link into your page that then enables you to do cool stuff. There’s loads of capability built in, a portion of which covers our beloved Ajax. The whole thing is freely distributable under an MIT-style license, so it’s good to go. What a nice man that Mr Stephenson is – friends, let us raise a hearty cup of mulled wine to his good name. Cheers! sluurrrrp. First step is to download the latest Prototype and put it somewhere safe. I suggest underneath the Christmas tree. Cutting to the chase Before I go on and set up an example of how to use this, let’s just get to the crux. Here’s how Prototype enables you to make a simple Ajax call and dump the results back to the page: var url = 'myscript.php'; var pars = 'foo=bar'; var target = 'output-div'; var myAjax = new Ajax.Updater(target, url, {method: 'get', parameters: pars}); This snippet of JavaScript does a GET to myscript.php, with the parameter foo=bar, and when a result is returned, it places it inside the element with the ID output-div on your page. Knocking up a basic example So to get this show on the road, there are three files we need to set up in our site alongside prototype.js. Obviously we need a basic HTML page with prototype.js linked in. This is the page the user interacts with. Secondl… 2005 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2005-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/easy-ajax-with-prototype/ code
313 Centered Tabs with CSS Doug Bowman’s Sliding Doors is pretty much the de facto way to build tabbed navigation with CSS, and rightfully so – it is, as they say, rockin’ like Dokken. But since it relies heavily on floats for the positioning of its tabs, we’re constrained to either left- or right-hand navigation. But what if we need a bit more flexibility? What if we need to place our navigation in the center? Styling the li as a floated block does give us a great deal of control over margin, padding, and other presentational styles. However, we should learn to love the inline box – with it, we can create a flexible, centered alternative to floated navigation lists. Humble Beginnings Do an extra shot of ‘nog, because you know what’s coming next. That’s right, a simple unordered list: <div id="navigation"> <ul> <li><a href="#"><span>Home</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>About</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Our Work</span></a></li> <li><a href="#"><span>Products</span></a></li> <li class="last"><a href="#"><span>Contact Us</span></a></li> </ul> </div> If we were wedded to using floats to style our list, we could easily fix the width of our ul, and trick it out with some margin: 0 auto; love to center it accordingly. But this wouldn’t net us much flexibility: if we ever changed the number of navigation items, or if the user increased her browser’s font size, our design could easily break. Instead of worrying about floats, let’s take the most basic approach possible: let’s turn our list items into inline elements, and simply use text-align to center them within the ul: #navigation ul, #navigation ul li { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; } #navigation ul { text-align: center; } #navigation ul li { display: inline; margin-right: .75em; } #navigation ul li.last { margin-right: 0; } Our first step is sexy, no? Well, okay, not really – but it gives us a good starting point. We’ve tamed our list by removing its default style… 2005 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2005-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2005/centered-tabs-with-css/ code
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
311 Designing Imaginative Style Guides (Living) style guides and (atomic) patterns libraries are “all the rage,” as my dear old Nana would’ve said. If articles and conference talks are to be believed, making and using them has become incredibly popular. I think there are plenty of ways we can improve how style guides look and make them better at communicating design information to creatives without it getting in the way of information that technical people need. Guides to libraries of patterns Most of my consulting work and a good deal of my creative projects now involve designing style guides. I’ve amassed a huge collection of brand guidelines and identity manuals as well as, more recently, guides to libraries of patterns intended to help designers and developers make digital products and websites. Two pages from one of my Purposeful style guide packs. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. “Style guide” is an umbrella term for several types of design documentation. Sometimes we’re referring to static style or visual identity guides, other times voice and tone. We might mean front-end code guidelines or component/pattern libraries. These all offer something different but more often than not they have something in common. They look ugly enough to have been designed by someone who enjoys configuring a router. OK, that was mean, not everyone’s going to think an unimaginative style guide design is a problem. After all, as long as a style guide contains information people need, how it looks shouldn’t matter, should it? Inspiring not encyclopaedic Well here’s the thing. Not everyone needs to take the same information away from a style guide. If you’re looking for markup and styles to code a ‘media’ component, you’re probably going to be the technical type, whereas if you need to understand the balance of sizes across a typographic hierarchy, you’re more likely to be a creative. What you need from a style guide is different. Sure, some people1 need rules: “Do this (responsive pattern)” or “don’t do that (auto-playing video.)” Those people probably also want facts: … 2016 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2016-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/designing-imaginative-style-guides/ design
310 Fairytale of new Promise There are only four good Christmas songs. I know, yeah, JavaScript or whatever. We’ll get to that in a minute, I promise. First—and I cannot stress this enough— there are four good Christmas songs. You’re free to disagree with me here, of course, but please try to understand that you will be wrong. They don’t all have the most safe-for-work titles; I can’t list all of them here, but if you choose to let your fingers do the walkin’ to your nearest search engine, I will say that one was released by the band FEAR way back in 1982 and one was on Run the Jewels’ self-titled debut album. The lyrics are a hell of a lot worse than the titles, so maybe wait until you get home from work before you queue them up. Wear headphones, if you’ve got thin walls. For my money, though, the two I can reference by name are the top of that small heap: Tom Waits’ Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis, and The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York. The former once held the honor of being the only good Christmas song—about which which I was also unequivocally correct, right up until I changed my mind. It’s not the song up for discussion today, but feel free to familiarize yourself just the same—I’ll wait. Fairytale of New York—the top of the list—starts out by hinting at some pretty standard holiday fare; dreams and cheer and whatnot. Typical seasonal stuff, so long as you ignore that the story seems to be recounted as a drunken flashback in a jail cell. You can probably make a few guesses at the underlying spirit of the song based on that framing: following a lucky break, our bright-eyed protagonists move to New York in search of fame and fortune, only to quickly descend into bad decisions, name-calling, and vaguely festive chaos. This song speaks to me on a couple of levels, not the least of which is as a retelling of my day-to-day interactions with JavaScript. Each day’s melody might vary a little bit, granted, but the lyrics almost always follow a pretty clear arc toward “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT CONTENT.” You might have heard a simi… 2016 Mat Marquis matmarquis 2016-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/fairytale-of-new-promise/ code
309 HTTP/2 Server Push and Service Workers: The Perfect Partnership Being a web developer today is exciting! The web has come a long way since its early days and there are so many great technologies that enable us to build faster, better experiences for our users. One of these technologies is HTTP/2 which has a killer feature known as HTTP/2 Server Push. During this year’s Chrome Developer Summit, I watched a really informative talk by Sam Saccone, a Software Engineer on the Google Chrome team. He gave a talk entitled Planning for Performance, and one of the topics that he covered immediately piqued my interest; the idea that HTTP/2 Server Push and Service Workers were the perfect web performance combination. If you’ve never heard of HTTP/2 Server Push before, fear not - it’s not as scary as it sounds. HTTP/2 Server Push simply allows the server to send data to the browser without having to wait for the browser to explicitly request it first. In this article, I am going to run through the basics of HTTP/2 Server Push and show you how, when combined with Service Workers, you can deliver the ultimate in web performance to your users. What is HTTP/2 Server Push? When a user navigates to a URL, a browser will make an HTTP request for the underlying web page. The browser will then scan the contents of the HTML document for any assets that it may need to retrieve such as CSS, JavaScript or images. Once it finds any assets that it needs, it will then make multiple HTTP requests for each resource that it needs and begin downloading one by one. While this approach works well, the problem is that each HTTP request means more round trips to the server before any data arrives at the browser. These extra round trips take time and can make your web pages load slower. Before we go any further, let’s see what this might look like when your browser makes a request for a web page. If you were to view this in the developer tools of your browser, it might look a little something like this: As you can see from the image above, once the HTML file has been downloaded and parsed, the browser then mak… 2016 Dean Hume deanhume 2016-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/http2-server-push-and-service-workers/ code
308 How to Make a Chrome Extension to Delight (or Troll) Your Friends If you’re like me, you grew up drawing mustaches on celebrities. Every photograph was subject to your doodling wrath, and your brilliance was taken to a whole new level with computer programs like Microsoft Paint. The advent of digital cameras meant that no one was safe from your handiwork, especially not your friends. And when you finally got your hands on Photoshop, you spent hours maniacally giggling at your artistic genius. But today is different. You’re a serious adult with important things to do and a reputation to uphold. You keep up with modern web techniques and trends, and have little time for fun other than a random Giphy on Slack… right? Nope. If there’s one thing 2016 has taught me, it’s that we—the self-serious, world-changing tech movers and shakers of the universe—haven’t changed one bit from our younger, more delightable selves. How do I know? This year I created a Chrome extension called Tabby Cat and watched hundreds of thousands of people ditch productivity for randomly generated cats. Tabby Cat replaces your new tab page with an SVG cat featuring a silly name like “Stinky Dinosaur” or “Tiny Potato”. Over time, the cats collect goodies that vary in absurdity from fishbones to lawn flamingos to Raybans. Kids and adults alike use this extension, and analytics show the majority of use happens Monday through Friday from 9-5. The popularity of Tabby Cat has convinced me there’s still plenty of room in our big, grown-up hearts for fun. Today, we’re going to combine the formula behind Tabby Cat with your intrinsic desire to delight (or troll) your friends, and create a web app that generates your friends with random objects and environments of your choosing. You can publish it as a Chrome extension to replace your new tab, or simply host it as a website and point to it with the New Tab Redirect extension. Here’s a sneak peek at my final result featuring my partner, my cat, and I in cheerfully weird accessories. Your result will look however you want it to. Along the way, we’ll cover how to bui… 2016 Leslie Zacharkow lesliezacharkow 2016-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/how-to-make-a-chrome-extension/ code
307 Get the Balance Right: Responsive Display Text Last year in 24 ways I urged you to Get Expressive with Your Typography. I made the case for grabbing your readers’ attention by setting text at display sizes, that is to say big. You should consider very large text in the same way you might a hero image: a picture that creates an atmosphere and anchors your layout. When setting text to be read, it is best practice to choose body and subheading sizes from a pre-defined scale appropriate to the viewport dimensions. We set those sizes using rems, locking the text sizes together so they all scale according to the page default and your reader’s preferences. You can take the same approach with display text by choosing larger sizes from the same scale. However, display text, as defined by its purpose and relative size, is text to be seen first, and read second. In other words a picture of text. When it comes to pictures, you are likely to scale all scene-setting imagery - cover photos, hero images, and so on - relative to the viewport. Take the same approach with display text: lock the size and shape of the text to the screen or browser window. Introducing viewport units With CSS3 came a new set of units which are locked to the viewport. You can use these viewport units wherever you might otherwise use any other unit of length such as pixels, ems or percentage. There are four viewport units, and in each case a value of 1 is equal to 1% of either the viewport width or height as reported in reference1 pixels: vw - viewport width, vh - viewport height, vmin - viewport height or width, whichever is smaller vmax - viewport height or width, whichever is larger In one fell swoop you can set the size of a display heading to be proportional to the screen or browser width, rather than choosing from a scale in a series of media queries. The following makes the heading font size 13% of the viewport width: h1 { font-size: 13 vw; } So for a selection of widths, the rendered font size would be: Rendered font size (px) Viewport width 13 vw 320 42 768 100 1024 133 1280 166 1920 … 2016 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2016-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/responsive-display-text/ code
306 What next for CSS Grid Layout? In 2012 I wrote an article for 24 ways detailing a new CSS Specification that had caught my eye, at the time with an implementation only in Internet Explorer. What I didn’t realise at the time was that CSS Grid Layout was to become a theme on which I would base the next four years of research, experimentation, writing and speaking. As I write this article in December 2016, we are looking forward to CSS Grid Layout being shipped in Chrome and Firefox. What will ship early next year in those browsers is expanded and improved from the early implementation I explored in 2012. Over the last four years the spec has been developed as part of the CSS Working Group process, and has had input from browser engineers, specification writers and web developers. Use cases have been discussed, and features added. The CSS Grid Layout specification is now a Candidate Recommendation. This status means the spec is to all intents and purposes, finished. The discussions now happening are on fine implementation details, and not new feature ideas. It makes sense to draw a line under a specification in order that browser vendors can ship complete, interoperable implementations. That approach is good for all of us, it makes development far easier if we know that a browser supports all of the features of a specification, rather than working out which bits are supported. However it doesn’t mean that works stops here, and that new use cases and features can’t be proposed for future levels of Grid Layout. Therefore, in this article I’m going to take a look at some of the things I think grid layout could do in the future. I would love for these thoughts to prompt you to think about how Grid - or any CSS specification - could better suit the use cases you have. Subgrid - the missing feature of Level 1 The implementation of CSS Grid Layout in Chrome, Firefox and Webkit is comparable and very feature complete. There is however one standout feature that has not been implemented in any browser as yet - subgrid. Once you set the value of the displa… 2016 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2016-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/what-next-for-css-grid-layout/ code
305 CSS Writing Modes Since you may not have a lot of time, I’m going to start at the end, with the dessert. You can use a little-known, yet important and powerful CSS property to make text run vertically. Like this. Or instead of running text vertically, you can layout a set of icons or interface buttons in this way. Or, of course, with anything on your page. The CSS I’ve applied makes the browser rethink the orientation of the world, and flow the layout of this element at a 90° angle to “normal”. Check out the live demo, highlight the headline, and see how the cursor is now sideways. See the Pen Writing Mode Demo — Headline by Jen Simmons (@jensimmons) on CodePen. The code for accomplishing this is pretty simple. h1 { writing-mode: vertical-rl; } That’s all it takes to switch the writing mode from the web’s default horizontal top-to-bottom mode to a vertical right-to-left mode. If you apply such code to the html element, the entire page is switched, affecting the scroll direction, too. In my example above, I’m telling the browser that only the h1 will be in this vertical-rl mode, while the rest of my page stays in the default of horizontal-tb. So now the dessert course is over. Let me serve up this whole meal, and explain the the CSS Writing Mode Specification. Why learn about writing modes? There are three reasons I’m teaching writing modes to everyone—including western audiences—and explaining the whole system, instead of quickly showing you a simple trick. We live in a big, diverse world, and learning about other languages is fascinating. Many of you lay out pages in languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Or you might be inspired to in the future. Using writing-mode to turn bits sideways is cool. This CSS can be used in all kinds of creative ways, even if you are working only in English. Most importantly, I’ve found understanding Writing Modes incredibly helpful when understanding Flexbox and CSS Grid. Before I learned Writing Mode, I felt like there was still a big hole in my knowledge, something I just didn’… 2016 Jen Simmons jensimmons 2016-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/css-writing-modes/ code
304 Five Lessons From My First 18 Months as a Dev I recently moved from Sydney to London to start a dream job with Twitter as a software engineer. A software engineer! Who would have thought. Having started my career as a journalist, the title ‘engineer’ is very strange to me. The notion of writing in first person is also very strange. Journalists are taught to be objective, invisible, to keep yourself out of the story. And here I am writing about myself on a public platform. Cringe. Since I started learning to code I’ve often felt compelled to write about my experience. I want to share my excitement and struggles with the world! But as a junior I’ve been held back by thoughts like ‘whatever you have to say won’t be technical enough’, ‘any time spent writing a blog would be better spent writing code’, ‘blogging is narcissistic’, etc.  Well, I’ve been told that your thirties are the years where you stop caring so much about what other people think. And I’m almost 30. So here goes! These are five key lessons from my first year and a half in tech: Deployments should delight, not dread Lesson #1: Making your deployment process as simple as possible is worth the investment. In my first dev job, I dreaded deployments. We would deploy every Sunday night at 8pm. Preparation would begin the Friday before. A nominated deployment manager would spend half a day tagging master, generating scripts, writing documentation and raising JIRAs. The only fun part was choosing a train gif to post in HipChat: ‘All aboard! The deployment train leaves in 3, 2, 1…” When Sunday night came around, at least one person from every squad would need to be online to conduct smoke tests. Most times, the deployments would succeed. Other times they would fail. Regardless, deployments ate into people’s weekend time — and they were intense. Devs would rush to have their code approved before the Friday cutoff. Deployment managers who were new to the process would fear making a mistake.  The team knew deployments were a problem. They were constantly striving to improve them. And what I’ve learnt fr… 2016 Amy Simmons amysimmons 2016-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/my-first-18-months-as-a-dev/ process
303 We Need to Talk About Technical Debt In my work with clients, a lot of time is spent assessing old, legacy, sprawling systems and identifying good code, bad code, and technical debt. One thing that constantly strikes me is the frequency with which bad code and technical debt are conflated, so let me start by saying this: Not all technical debt is bad code, and not all bad code is technical debt. Sometimes your bad code is just that: bad code. Calling it technical debt often feels like a more forgiving and friendly way of referring to what may have just been a poor implementation or a substandard piece of work. It is an oft-misunderstood phrase, and when mistaken for meaning ‘anything legacy or old hacky or nasty or bad’, technical debt is swept under the carpet along with all of the other parts of the codebase we’d rather not talk about, and therein lies the problem. We need to talk about technical debt. What We Talk About When We Talk About Technical Debt The thing that separates technical debt from the rest of the hacky code in our project is the fact that technical debt, by definition, is something that we knowingly and strategically entered into. Debt doesn’t happen by accident: debt happens when we choose to gain something otherwise-unattainable immediately in return for paying it back (with interest) later on. An Example You’re a front-end developer working on a SaaS product, and your sales team is courting a large customer – a customer so large that you can’t really afford to lose them. The customer tells you that as long as you can allow them to theme your SaaS application according to their branding, they are willing to sign on the dotted line… the problem being that your CSS architecture was never designed to incorporate theming at all, and there isn’t currently a nice, clean way to incorporate a theme into the codebase. You and the business make the decision that you will hack a theme into the product in two days. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be ugly, but you can’t afford to lose a huge customer just because your CSS isn’t quite … 2016 Harry Roberts harryroberts 2016-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/we-need-to-talk-about-technical-debt/ code
302 Flexible Project Management in Inflexible Environments Handling unforeseen circumstances is an inevitable part of any project. It’s also often the most uncomfortable, and there is no amount of skill or planning that will fully eradicate the need to adapt to change. The ability to be flexible, responsive, and unafraid of facing not only problems, but also potentially positive scope changes and new ideas, isn’t an easy one to master. I am by no means saying that I have, but what I have learned is that there is often the temptation to shut out anything that might derail your plan, even sometimes at the cost of the quality you’re committed to. The reality is that as someone leading a project you know there will be challenges, but, in general, it’s a hassle to try keep the landscape open. Problems are bridges we should cross when we come to them, but intentional changes to the plan, and adapting for the sake of improving your first idea, is harder. There are tight schedules, resource is planned miles ahead, and you’re already juggling twenty other things. If you’re passionate about the quality of work you deliver and are working somewhere that considers itself expert within the field of digital, then having an attitude of flexibility is extremely important. It’s important when you’re overcoming a challenge or problem, but it’s also important for allowing ideas to evolve and be refined as much as they can be throughout the course of a project. Where theory falls short The premise of any Agile methodology, Scrum for example, is based around being able to work efficiently, react quickly and deliver relevant chunks of a product in manageable increments. It’s often hailed as king of flexible management and it can work really well, especially for in-house software products developed over a long or even an indefinite period of time. It holds off defining scope too far ahead and lets teams focus on smaller amounts of work, and allows them to regularly reprioritise. Unfortunately though, not all environments lend themselves as easily to a fully Agile setup. Even the ones that do m… 2016 Gillian Sibthorpe gilliansibthorpe 2016-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/flexible-project-management/ process
301 Stretching Time Time is valuable. It’s a precious commodity that, if we’re not too careful, can slip effortlessly through our fingers. When we think about the resources at our disposal we’re often guilty of forgetting the most valuable resource we have to hand: time. We are all given an allocation of time from the time bank. 86,400 seconds a day to be precise, not a second more, not a second less. It doesn’t matter if we’re rich or we’re poor, no one can buy more time (and no one can save it). We are all, in this regard, equals. We all have the same opportunity to spend our time and use it to maximum effect. As such, we need to use our time wisely. I believe we can ‘stretch’ time, ensuring we make the most of every second and maximising the opportunities that time affords us. Through a combination of ‘Structured Procrastination’ and ‘Focused Finishing’ we can open our eyes to all of the opportunities in the world around us, whilst ensuring that we deliver our best work precisely when it’s required. A win win, I’m sure you’ll agree. Structured Procrastination I’m a terrible procrastinator. I used to think that was a curse – “Why didn’t I just get started earlier?” – over time, however, I’ve started to see procrastination as a valuable tool if it is used in a structured manner. Don Norman refers to procrastination as ‘late binding’ (a term I’ve happily hijacked). As he argues, in Why Procrastination Is Good, late binding (delay, or procrastination) offers many benefits: Delaying decisions until the time for action is beneficial… it provides the maximum amount of time to think, plan, and determine alternatives. We live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving, as such the best time to execute is often ‘just in time’. By delaying decisions until the last possible moment we can arrive at solutions that address the current reality more effectively, resulting in better outcomes. Procrastination isn’t just useful from a project management perspective, however. It can also be useful for allowing your mind the space to wande… 2016 Christopher Murphy christophermurphy 2016-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/stretching-time/ process
300 Taking Device Orientation for a Spin When The Police sang “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” they weren’t talking about using a smartphone to view a panoramic image on Facebook, but they could have been. For years, technology has driven relentlessly towards devices we can carry around in our pockets, and now that we’re there, we’re expected to take the thing out of our pocket and wave it around in front of our faces like a psychotic donkey in search of its own dangly carrot. But if you can’t beat them, join them. A brave new world A couple of years back all sorts of specs for new HTML5 APIs sprang up much to our collective glee. Emboldened, we ran a few tests and found they basically didn’t work in anything and went off disheartened into the corner for a bit of a sob. Turns out, while we were all busy boohooing, those browser boffins have actually being doing some work, and lo and behold, some of these APIs are even half usable. Mostly literally half usable—we’re still talking about browsers, after all. Now, of course they’re all a bit JavaScripty and are going to involve complex methods and maths and science and probably about a thousand dependancies from Github that will fall out of fashion while we’re still trying to locate the documentation, right? Well, no! So what if we actually wanted to use one of these APIs, say to impress our friends with our ability to make them wave their phones in front of their faces (because no one enjoys looking hapless more than the easily-technologically-impressed), how could we do something like that? Let’s find out. The Device Orientation API The phone-wavy API is more formally known as the DeviceOrientation Event Specification. It does a bunch of stuff that basically doesn’t work, but also gives us three values that represent orientation of a device (a phone, a tablet, probably not a desktop computer) around its x, y and z axes. You might think of it as pitch, roll and yaw if you like to spend your weekends wearing goggles and a leather hat. The main way we access these values is through an event listener, which can … 2016 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2016-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/taking-device-orientation-for-a-spin/ code
299 What the Heck Is Inclusive Design? Naming things is hard. And I don’t just mean CSS class names and JSON properties. Finding the right term for what we do with the time we spend awake and out of bed turns out to be really hard too. I’ve variously gone by “front-end developer”, “user experience designer”, and “accessibility engineer”, all clumsy and incomplete terms for labeling what I do as an… erm… see, there’s the problem again. It’s tempting to give up entirely on trying to find the right words for things, but this risks summarily dispensing with thousands of years spent trying to qualify the world around us. So here we are again. Recently, I’ve been using the term “inclusive design” and calling myself an “inclusive designer” a lot. I’m not sure where I first heard it or who came up with it, but the terminology feels like a good fit for the kind of stuff I care to do when I’m not at a pub or asleep. This article is about what I think “inclusive design” means and why I think you might like it as an idea. Isn’t ‘inclusive design’ just ‘accessibility’ by another name? No, I don’t think so. But that’s not to say the two concepts aren’t related. Note the ‘design’ part in ‘inclusive design’ — that’s not just there by accident. Inclusive design describes a design activity; a way of designing things. This sets it apart from accessibility — or at least our expectations of what ‘accessibility’ entails. Despite every single accessibility expert I know (and I know a lot) recommending that accessibility should be integrated into design process, it is rarely ever done. Instead, it is relegated to an afterthought, limiting its effect. The term ‘accessibility’ therefore lacks the power to connote design process. It’s not that we haven’t tried to salvage the term, but it’s beginning to look like a lost cause. So maybe let’s use a new term, because new things take new names. People get that. The ‘access’ part of accessibility is also problematic. Before we get ahead of ourselves, I don’t mean access is a problem — access is good, and the more accessible somethin… 2016 Heydon Pickering heydonpickering 2016-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/what-the-heck-is-inclusive-design/ process
298 First Steps in VR The web is all around us. As web folk, it is our responsibility to consider the impact our work can have. Part of this includes thinking about the future; the web changes lives and if we are building the web then we are the ones making decisions that affect people in every corner of the world. I find myself often torn between wanting to make the right decisions, and just wanting to have fun. To fiddle and play. We all know how important it is to sometimes just try ideas, whether they will amount to much or not. I think of these two mindsets as production and prototyping, though of course there are lots of overlap and phases in between. I mention this because virtual reality is currently seen as a toy for rich people, and in some ways at the moment it is. But with WebVR we are able to create interesting experiences with a relatively low entry point. I want us to have open minds, play around with things, and then see how we can use the tools we have at our disposal to make things that will help people. Every year we see articles saying it will be the “year of virtual reality”, that was especially prevalent this year. 2016 has been a year of progress, VR isn’t quite mainstream but with efforts like Playstation VR and Google Cardboard, we are definitely seeing much more of it. This year also saw the consumer editions of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. So it does seem to be a good time for an overview of how to get involved with creating virtual reality on the web. WebVR is an API for connecting to devices and retrieving continuous data such as the position and orientation. Unlike the Web Audio API and some other APIs, WebVR does not feel like a framework. You use it however you want, taking the data and using it as you wish. To make it easier, there are plenty of resources such as Three.js, A-Frame and ReactVR that help to make the heavy lifting a bit easier. Getting Started with A-Frame I like taking the opportunity to learn new things whenever I can. So while planning this article I thought that instead of trying to… 2016 Shane Hudson shanehudson 2016-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/first-steps-in-vr/ code
297 Public Speaking with a Buddy My book Demystifying Public Speaking focuses on the variety of fears we each have about giving a talk. From presenting to a client, to leading a team standup, to standing on a conference stage, there are lots of things we can do to prepare ourselves for the spotlight and reduce those fears. Though it didn’t make it into the final draft, I wanted to highlight how helpful it can be to share that public speaking spotlight with another person, or a few more people. If you have fears about not knowing the answer to a question, fumbling your words, or making a mistake in the spotlight, then buddying up may be for you! To some, adding more people to a presentation sounds like a recipe for on-stage disaster. To others, having a friendly face nearby—a partner who can step in if you fumble—is incredibly reassuring. As design director Yesenia Perez-Cruz writes, “While public speaking is a deeply personal activity, you don’t have to go it alone. Nothing has helped my speaking career more than turning it into a group effort.” Co-presenting can level up a talk in two ways: an additional brain and presentation skill set can improve the content of the talk itself, and you may feel safer with the on-stage safety net of your buddy. For example, when I started giving lengthy workshops about building mobile device labs with my co-worker Destiny Montague, we brought different experience to the table. I was able to talk about the user experience of our lab, and the importance of testing across different screen sizes. Destiny spoke about the hardware aspects of the lab, like power consumption and networking. Our audience benefitted from the spectrum of insight we included in the talk. Moreover, Destiny and I kept each other energized and engaging while teaching our audience, having way more fun onstage. Partnering up alleviated the risk (and fear!) of fumbling; where one person makes a mistake, the other person is right there to help. Buddy presentations can be helpful if you fear saying “I don’t know” to a question, as there are oth… 2016 Lara Hogan larahogan 2016-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/public-speaking-with-a-buddy/ process
296 Animation in Design Systems Our modern front-end workflow has matured over time to include design systems and component libraries that help us stay organized, improve workflows, and simplify maintenance. These systems, when executed well, ensure proper documentation of the code available and enable our systems to scale with reduced communication conflicts. But while most of these systems take a critical stance on fonts, colors, and general building blocks, their treatment of animation remains disorganized and ad-hoc. Let’s leverage existing structures and workflows to reduce friction when it comes to animation and create cohesive and performant user experiences. Understand the importance of animation Part of the reason we treat animation like a second-class citizen is that we don’t really consider its power. When users are scanning a website (or any environment or photo), they are attempting to build a spatial map of their surroundings. During this process, nothing quite commands attention like something in motion. We are biologically trained to notice motion: evolutionarily speaking, our survival depends on it. For this reason, animation when done well can guide your users. It can aid and reinforce these maps, and give us a sense that we understand the UX more deeply. We retrieve information and put it back where it came from instead of something popping in and out of place. “Where did that menu go? Oh it’s in there.” For a deeper dive into how animation can connect disparate states, I wrote about the Importance of Context-Shifting in UX Patterns for CSS-Tricks. An animation flow on mobile. Animation also aids in perceived performance. Viget conducted a study where they measured user engagement with a standard loading GIF versus a custom animation. Customers were willing to wait almost twice as long for the custom loader, even though it wasn’t anything very fancy or crazy. Just by showing their users that they cared about them, they stuck around, and the bounce rates dropped. 14 second generic loading screen.22 second custom loadin… 2016 Sarah Drasner sarahdrasner 2016-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/animation-in-design-systems/ code
295 Internet of Stranger Things This year I’ve been running a workshop about using JavaScript and Node.js to work with all different kinds of electronics on the Raspberry Pi. So especially for 24 ways I’m going to show you how I made a very special Raspberry Pi based internet connected project! And nothing says Christmas quite like a set of fairy lights connected to another dimension1. What you’ll see You can rig up the fairy lights in your home, with the scrawly letters written under each one. The people from the other side (i.e. the internet) will be able to write messages to you from their browser in real time. In fact why not try it now; check this web page. When you click the lights in your browser, my lights (and yours) will turn on and off in real life! (There may be a queue if there are lots of people accessing it, hit the “Send a message” button and wait your turn.) It’s all done with JavaScript, using Node.js running on both the Raspberry Pi and on the server. I’m using WebSockets to communicate in real time between the browser, server and Raspberry Pi. What you’ll need Raspberry Pi any of the following models: Zero (will need straight male header pins soldered2 and Micro USB OTG adaptor), A+, B+, 2, or 3 Micro SD card at least 4Gb Class 10 speed3 Micro USB power supply at least 2A USB Wifi dongle (unless you have a Pi 3 - that has wifi built in). Addressable fairy lights Logic level shifter (with pins soldered unless you want to do it!) Breadboard Jumper wires (3x male to male and 4x female to male) Optional but recommended Base board to hold the Pi and Breadboard (often comes with a breadboard!) Find links for where to buy all of these items that goes along with this tutorial. The total price should be around $1004. Setting up the Raspberry Pi You’ll need to install the SD card for the Raspberry Pi. You’ll find a link to download a disk image on the support document, ready-made with the Raspbian version of Linux, along with Node.js and all the files you need. Download it and write it to the SD card using the fantastic free … 2016 Seb Lee-Delisle sebleedelisle 2016-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/internet-of-stranger-things/ code
294 New Tricks for an Old Dog Much of my year has been spent helping new team members find their way around the expansive and complex codebase that is the TweetDeck front-end, trying to build a happy and productive group of people around a substantial codebase with many layers of legacy. I’ve loved doing this. Everything from writing new documentation, drawing diagrams, and holding technical architecture sessions teaches you something you didn’t know or exposes an area of uncertainty that you can go work on. In this article, I hope to share some experiences and techniques that will prove useful in your own situation and that you can impress your friends in some new and exciting ways! How do you do, fellow kids? To start with I’d like to introduce you to our JavaScript framework, Flight. Right now it’s used by twitter.com and TweetDeck although, as a company, Twitter is largely moving to React. Over time, as we used Flight for more complex interfaces, we found it wasn’t scaling with us. Composing components into trees was fiddly and often only applied for a specific parent-child pairing. It seems like an obvious feature with hindsight, but it didn’t come built-in to Flight, and it made reusing components a real challenge. There was no standard way to manage the state of a component; they all did it slightly differently, and the technique often varied by who was writing the code. This cost us in maintainability as you just couldn’t predict how a component would be built until you opened it. Making matters worse, Flight relied on events to move data around the application. Unfortunately, events aren’t good for giving structure to complex logic. They jump around in a way that’s hard to understand and debug, and force you to search your code for a specific string — the event name‚ to figure out what’s going on. To find fixes for these problems, we looked around at other frameworks. We like React for it’s simple, predictable state management and reactive re-render flow, and Elm for bringing strict functional programming to everyone. But when you ha… 2016 Tom Ashworth tomashworth 2016-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/new-tricks-for-an-old-dog/ code
293 A Favor for Your Future Self We tend to think about the future when we build things. What might we want to be able to add later? How can we refactor this down the road? Will this be easy to maintain in six months, a year, two years? As best we can, we try to think about the what-ifs, and build our websites, systems, and applications with this lens. We comment our code to explain what we knew at the time and how that impacted how we built something. We add to-dos to the things we want to change. These are all great things! Whether or not we come back to those to-dos, refactor that one thing, or add new features, we put in a bit of effort up front just in case to give us a bit of safety later. I want to talk about a situation that Past Alicia and Team couldn’t even foresee or plan for. Recently, the startup I was a part of had to remove large sections of our website. Not just content, but entire pages and functionality. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, not only for the reason why we had to remove so much of what we had built, but also because it’s the ultimate “I really hope this doesn’t break something else” situation. It was a stressful and tedious effort of triple checking that the things we were removing weren’t dependencies elsewhere. To be honest, we wouldn’t have been able to do this with any amount of success or confidence without our test suite. Writing tests for code is one of those things that developers really, really don’t want to do. It’s one of the easiest things to cut in the development process, and there’s often a struggle to have developers start writing tests in the first place. One of the best lessons the web has taught us is that we can’t, in good faith, trust the happy path. We must make sure ourselves, and our users, aren’t in a tough spot later on because we only thought of the best case scenarios. JavaScript Regardless of your opinion on whether or not everything needs to be built primarily with JavaScript, if you’re choosing to build a JavaScript heavy app, you absolutely should be writing some combination of u… 2016 Alicia Sedlock aliciasedlock 2016-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/a-favor-for-your-future-self/ code
292 Watch Your Language! I’m bilingual. My first language is French. I learned English in my early 20s. Learning a new language later in life meant that I was able to observe my thought processes changing over time. It made me realize that some concepts can’t be expressed in some languages, while other languages express these concepts with ease. It also helped me understand the way we label languages. English: business. French: romance. Here’s an example of how words, or the absence thereof, can affect the way we think: In French we love everything. There’s no straightforward way to say we like something, so we just end up loving everything. I love my sisters, I love broccoli, I love programming, I love my partner, I love doing laundry (this is a lie), I love my mom (this is not a lie). I love, I love, I love. It’s no wonder French is considered romantic. When I first learned English I used the word love rather than like because I hadn’t grasped the difference. Needless to say, I’ve scared away plenty of first dates! Learning another language made me realize the limitations of my native language and revealed concepts I didn’t know existed. Without the nuances a given language provides, we fail to express what we really think. The absence of words in our vocabulary gets in the way of effectively communicating and considering ideas. When I lived in Montréal, most people in my circle spoke both French and English. I could switch between them when I could more easily express an idea in one language or the other. I liked (or should I say loved?) those conversations. They were meaningful. They were efficient. I’m quadrilingual. I code in Ruby, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Python. In the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to write code in these languages at a massive scale. In learning Ruby, much like learning English, I discovered the strengths and limitations of not only the languages I knew but the language I was learning. It taught me to choose the right tool for the job. When I started working at Shopify, making a change to a view inv… 2016 Annie-Claude Côté annieclaudecote 2016-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/watch-your-language/ code
291 Information Literacy Is a Design Problem Information literacy, wrote Dr. Carol Kulthau in her 1987 paper “Information Skills for an Information Society,” is “the ability to read and to use information essential for everyday life”—that is, to effectively navigate a world built on “complex masses of information generated by computers and mass media.” Nearly thirty years later, those “complex masses of information” have only grown wilder, thornier, and more constant. We call the internet a firehose, yet we’re loathe to turn it off (or even down). The amount of information we consume daily is staggering—and yet our ability to fully understand it all remains frustratingly insufficient. This should hit a very particular chord for those of us working on the web. We may be developers, designers, or strategists—we may not always be responsible for the words themselves—but we all know that communication is much more than just words. From fonts to form fields, every design decision that we make changes the way information is perceived—for better or for worse. What’s more, the design decisions that we make feed into larger patterns. They don’t just affect the perception of a single piece of information on a single site; they start to shape reader expectations of information anywhere. Users develop cumulative mental models of how websites should be: where to find a search bar, where to look at contact information, how to filter a product list. And yet: our models fail us. Fundamentally, we’re not good at parsing information, and that’s troubling. Our experience of an “information society” may have evolved, but the skills Dr. Kuhlthau spoke of are even more critical now: our lives depend on information literacy. Patterns from words Let’s start at the beginning: with the words. Our choice of words can drastically alter a message, from its emotional resonance to its context to its literal meaning. Sometimes we can use word choice for good, to reinvigorate old, forgotten, or unfairly besmirched ideas. One time at a wedding bbq we labeled the coleslaw BRASSICA MIXTA so… 2016 Lisa Maria Martin lisamariamartin 2016-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/information-literacy-is-a-design-problem/ content
290 Creating a Weekly Research Cadence Working on a product team, it’s easy to get hyper-focused on building features and lose sight of your users and their daily challenges. User research can be time-consuming to set up, so it often becomes ad-hoc and irregular, only performed in response to a particular question or concern. But without frequent touch points and opportunities for discovery, your product will stagnate and become less and less relevant. Setting up an efficient cadence of weekly research conversations will re-focus your team on user problems and provide a steady stream of insights for product development. As my team transitioned into a Lean process earlier this year, we needed a way to get more feedback from users in a short amount of time. Our users are internet marketers—always busy and often difficult to reach. Scheduling research took days of emailing back and forth to find mutually agreeable times, and juggling one-off conversations made it difficult to connect with more than one or two people per week. The slow pace of research was allowing additional risk to creep into our product development. I wanted to find a way for our team to test ideas and validate assumptions sooner and more often—but without increasing the administrative burden of scheduling. The solution: creating a regular cadence of research and testing that required a minimum of effort to coordinate. Setting up a weekly user research cadence accelerated our learning and built momentum behind strategic experiments. By dedicating time every week to talk to a few users, we made ongoing research a painless part of every weekly sprint. But increasing the frequency of our research had other benefits as well. With only five working days between sessions, a weekly cadence forced us to keep our work small and iterative. Committing to testing something every week meant showing work earlier and more often than we might have preferred—pushing us out of your comfort zone into a process of more rapid experimentation. Best of all, frequent conversations with users helped us become… 2016 Wren Lanier wrenlanier 2016-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/creating-a-weekly-research-cadence/ ux
289 Front-End Developers Are Information Architects Too The theme of this year’s World IA Day was “Information Everywhere, Architects Everywhere”. This article isn’t about what you may consider an information architect to be: someone in the user-experience field, who maybe studied library science, and who talks about taxonomies. This is about a realisation I had a couple of years ago when I started to run an increasing amount of usability-testing sessions with people who have disabilities: that the structure, labelling, and connections that can be made in front-end code is information architecture. People’s ability to be successful online is unequivocally connected to the quality of the code that is written. Places made of information In information architecture we talk about creating places made of information. These places are made of ones and zeros, but we talk about them as physical structures. We talk about going onto a social media platform, posting in blogs, getting locked out of an environment, and building applications. In 2002, Andrew Hinton stated: People live and work in these structures, just as they live and work in their homes, offices, factories and malls. These places are not virtual: they are as real as our own minds. 25 Theses We’re creating structures which people rely on for significant parts of their lives, so it’s critical that we carry out our work responsibly. This means we must use our construction materials correctly. Luckily, our most important material, HTML, has a well-documented specification which tells us how to build robust and accessible places. What is most important, I believe, is to understand the semantics of HTML. Semantics The word “semantic” has its origin in Greek words meaning “significant”, “signify”, and “sign”. In the physical world, a structure can have semantic qualities that tell us something about it. For example, the stunning Westminster Abbey inspires awe and signifies much about the intent and purpose of the structure. The building’s size; the quality of the stone work; the massive, detailed stained glass: these … 2016 Francis Storr francisstorr 2016-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/front-end-developers-are-information-architects-too/ code
288 Displaying Icons with Fonts and Data- Attributes Traditionally, bitmap formats such as PNG have been the standard way of delivering iconography on websites. They’re quick and easy, and it also ensures they’re as pixel crisp as possible. Bitmaps have two drawbacks, however: multiple HTTP requests, affecting the page’s loading performance; and a lack of scalability, noticeable when the page is zoomed or viewed on a screen with a high pixel density, such as the iPhone 4 and 4S. The requests problem is normally solved by using CSS sprites, combining the icon set into one (physically) large image file and showing the relevant portion via background-position. While this works well, it can get a bit fiddly to specify all the positions. In particular, scalability is still an issue. A vector-based format such as SVG sounds ideal to solve this, but browser support is still patchy. The rise and adoption of web fonts have given us another alternative. By their very nature, they’re not only scalable, but resolution-independent too. No need to specify higher resolution graphics for high resolution screens! That’s not all though: Browser support: Unlike a lot of new shiny techniques, they have been supported by Internet Explorer since version 4, and, of course, by all modern browsers. We do need several different formats, however! Design on the fly: The font contains the basic graphic, which can then be coloured easily with CSS – changing colours for themes or :hover and :focus styles is done with one line of CSS, rather than requiring a new graphic. You can also use CSS3 properties such as text-shadow to add further effects. Using -webkit-background-clip: text;, it’s possible to use gradient and inset shadow effects, although this creates a bitmap mask which spoils the scalability. Small file size: specially designed icon fonts, such as Drew Wilson’s Pictos font, can be as little as 12Kb for the .woff font. This is because they contain fewer characters than a fully fledged font. You can see Pictos being used in the wild on sites like Garrett Murray’s Maniacal Rage… 2011 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2011-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/displaying-icons-with-fonts-and-data-attributes/ code
287 Extracting the Content As we throw away our canvas in approaches and yearn for a content-out process, there remains a pain point: the Content. It is spoken of in the hushed tones usually reserved for Lord Voldemort. The-thing-that-someone-else-is-responsible-for-that-must-not-be-named. Designers and developers have been burned before by not knowing what the Content is, how long it is, what style it is and when the hell it’s actually going to be delivered, in internet eons past. Warily, they ask clients for it. But clients don’t know what to make, or what is good, because no one taught them this in business school. Designers struggle to describe what they need and when, so the conversation gets put off until it’s almost too late, and then everyone is relieved that they can take the cop-out of putting up a blog and maybe some product descriptions from the brochure. The Content in content out. I’m guessing, as a smart, sophisticated, and, may I say, nicely-scented reader of the honourable and venerable tradition of 24 ways, that you sense something better is out there. Bunches of boxes to fill in just don’t cut it any more in a responsive web design world. The first question is, how are you going to design something to ensure users have the easiest access to the best Content, if you haven’t defined at the beginning what that Content is? Of course, it’s more than possible that your clients have done lots of user research before approaching you to start this project, and have a plethora of finely tuned Content for you to design with. Have you finished laughing yet? Alright then. Let’s just assume that, for whatever reason of gross oversight, this hasn’t happened. What next? Bringing up Content for the first time with a client is like discussing contraception when you’re in a new relationship. It might be awkward and either party would probably rather be doing something else, but it needs to be broached before any action happens (that, and it’s disastrous to assume the other party has the matter in hand). If we can’t talk about it, how … 2011 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2011-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/extracting-the-content/ content
286 Defending the Perimeter Against Web Widgets On July 14, 1789, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, igniting a revolution that toppled the French monarchy. On July 14 of this year, there was a less dramatic (though more tweeted) takedown: The Deck network, which delivers advertising to some of the most popular web design and culture destinations, was down for about thirty minutes. During this period, most partner sites running ads from The Deck could not be viewed as result. A few partners were unaffected (aside from not having an ad to display). Fortunately, Dribbble, was one of them. In this article, I’ll discuss outages like this and how to defend against them. But first, a few qualifiers: The Deck has been rock solid – this is the only downtime we’ve witnessed since joining in June. More importantly, the issues in play are applicable to any web widget you might add to your site to display third-party content. Down and out Your defense is only as good as its weakest link. Web pages are filled with links, some of which threaten the ability of your page to load quickly and correctly. If you want your site to work when external resources fail, you need to identify the weak links on your site. In this article, we’ll talk about web widgets as a point of failure and defensive JavaScript techniques for handling them. Widgets 101 Imagine a widget that prints out a Pun of the Day on your site. A simple technique for both widget provider and consumer is for the provider to expose a URL: http://widgetjonesdiary.com/punoftheday.js which returns a JavaScript file like this: document.write("<h2>The Pun of the Day</h2><p>Where do frogs go for beers after work? Hoppy hour!</p>"); The call to document.write() injects the string passed into the document where it is called. So to display the widget on your page, simply add an external script tag where you want it to appear: <div class="punoftheday"> <script src="http://widgetjonesdiary.com/punoftheday.js"></script> <!-- Content appears here as output of script above --> </div> This approach is incredibly … 2011 Rich Thornett richthornett 2011-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/defending-the-perimeter-against-web-widgets/ process
285 Composing the New Canon: Music, Harmony, Proportion Ohne Musik wäre das Leben ein Irrtum —Friedrich NIETZSCHE, Götzen-Dämmerung, Sprüche und Pfeile 33, 1889 Somehow, music is hardcoded in human beings. It is something we understand and respond to without prior knowledge. Music exercises the emotions and our imaginative reflex, not just our hearing. It behaves so much like our emotions that music can seem to symbolize them, to bear them from one person to another. Not surprisingly, it conjures memories: the word music derives from Greek μουσική (mousike), art of the Muses, whose mythological mother was Mnemosyne, memory. But it can also summon up the blood, console the bereaved, inspire fanaticism, bolster governments and dissenters alike, help us learn, and make web designers dance. And what would Christmas be without music? Music moves us, often in ways we can’t explain. By some kind of alchemy, music frees us from the elaborate nuisance and inadequacy of words. Across the world and throughout recorded history – and no doubt well before that – people have listened and made (and made out to) music. [I]t appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm. —Charles DARWIN, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871 It’s so integral to humankind, we’ve sent it into space as a totem for who we are. (Who knows? It might be important.) Music is essential, a universal compulsion; as Nietzsche wrote, without music life would be a mistake. Music, design and web design There are some obvious and notable similarities between music and visual design. Both can convey mood and evoke emotion but, even under close scrutiny, how they do that remains to a great extent mysterious. Each has formal qualities or parts that can be abstracted, analysed and discussed, often using the same terminology: composition, harmony, rhythm, repetition, form, theme; even colour, texture and ton… 2011 Owen Gregory owengregory 2011-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/composing-the-new-canon/ design
284 Subliminal User Experience The term ‘user experience’ is often used vaguely to quantify common elements of the interaction design process: wireframing, sitemapping and so on. UX undoubtedly involves all of these principles to some degree, but there really is a lot more to it than that. Good UX is characterized by providing the user with constant feedback as they step through your interface. It means thinking about and providing fallbacks and error resolutions in even the rarest of scenarios. It’s about omitting clutter to make way for the necessary, and using the most fundamental of design tools to influence a user’s path. It means making no assumptions, designing right down to the most distinct details and going one step further every single time. In many cases, good UX is completely subliminal. There are simple tools and subtleties we can build into our products to enhance the overall experience but, in order to do so, we really have to step beyond where we usually draw the line on what to design. The purpose of this article is not to provide technical how-tos, as the functionality is, in most cases, quite simple and could be implemented in a myriad of ways. Rather, it will present a handful of ideas for enhancing the experience of an interface at a deeper level of design without relying on the container. We’ll cover three elements that should get you thinking in the right mindset: progress activity and post-active states pseudo-class preloading buttons and their (mis)behaviour Progress activity and the post-active state We’ve long established that we can’t control the devices our products are viewed on, which browser they’ll run in or what connection speed will be used to access them. We accept this all as factual, so why is it so often left to the browser to provide feedback to the user when an event is triggered or an error encountered? The browser isn’t part of the interface — it’s merely a container. A simple, visual recognition of your users’ activity may be all it takes to make or break the product. Let’s begin with a… 2011 Chris Sealey chrissealey 2011-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/subliminal-user-experience/ ux
283 CSS3 Patterns, Explained Many of you have probably seen my CSS3 patterns gallery. It became very popular throughout the year and it showed many web developers how powerful CSS3 gradients really are. But how many really understand how these patterns are created? The biggest benefit of CSS-generated backgrounds is that they can be modified directly within the style sheet. This benefit is void if we are just copying and pasting CSS code we don’t understand. We may as well use a data URI instead. Important note In all the examples that follow, I’ll be using gradients without a vendor prefix, for readability and brevity. However, you should keep in mind that in reality you need to use all the vendor prefixes (-moz-, -ms-, -o-, -webkit-) as no browser currently implements them without a prefix. Alternatively, you could use -prefix-free and have the current vendor prefix prepended at runtime, only when needed. The syntax described here is the one that browsers currently implement. The specification has since changed, but no browser implements the changes yet. If you are interested in what is coming, I suggest you take a look at the dev version of the spec. If you are not yet familiar with CSS gradients, you can read these excellent tutorials by John Allsopp and return here later, as in the rest of the article I assume you already know the CSS gradient basics: CSS3 Linear Gradients CSS3 Radial Gradients The main idea I’m sure most of you can imagine the background this code generates: background: linear-gradient(left, white 20%, #8b0 80%); It’s a simple gradient from one color to another that looks like this: See this example live As you probably know, in this case the first 20% of the container’s width is solid white and the last 20% is solid green. The other 60% is a smooth gradient between these colors. Let’s try moving these color stops closer to each other: background: linear-gradient(left, white 30%, #8b0 70%); See this example live background: linear-gradient(left, white 40%, #8b0 60%); See this example live backgro… 2011 Lea Verou leaverou 2011-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/css3-patterns-explained/ code
282 Front-end Style Guides We all know that feeling: some time after we launch a site, new designers and developers come in and make adjustments. They add styles that don’t fit with the content, use typefaces that make us cringe, or chuck in bloated code. But if we didn’t leave behind any documentation, we can’t really blame them for messing up our hard work. To counter this problem, graphic designers are often commissioned to produce style guides as part of a rebranding project. A style guide provides details such as how much white space should surround a logo, which typefaces and colours a brand uses, along with when and where it is appropriate to use them. Design guidelines Some design guidelines focus on visual branding and identity. The UK National Health Service (NHS) refer to theirs as “brand guidelines”. They help any designer create something such as a trustworthy leaflet for an NHS doctor’s surgery. Similarly, Transport for London’s “design standards” ensure the correct logos and typefaces are used in communications, and that they comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. Some guidelines go further, encompassing a whole experience, from the visual branding to the messaging, and the icon sets used. The BBC calls its guidelines a “Global Experience Language” or GEL. It’s essential for maintaining coherence across multiple sites under the same BBC brand. The BBC’s Global Experience Language. Design guidelines may be brief and loose to promote creativity, like Mozilla’s “brand toolkit”, or be precise and run to many pages to encourage greater conformity, such as Apple’s “Human Interface Guidelines”. Whatever name or form they’re given, documenting reusable styles is invaluable when maintaining a brand identity over time, particularly when more than one person (who may not be a designer) is producing material. Code standards documents We can make a similar argument for code. For example, in open source projects, where hundreds of developers are submitting code, it makes sense to set some standards. Drupal and Wordpress … 2011 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2011-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/front-end-style-guides/ process
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
280 Conditional Loading for Responsive Designs On the eighteenth day of last year’s 24 ways, Paul Hammond wrote a great article called Speed Up Your Site with Delayed Content. He outlined a technique for loading some content — like profile avatars — after the initial page load. This gives you a nice performance boost. There’s another situation where this kind of delayed loading could be really handy: mobile-first responsive design. Responsive design combines three techniques: a fluid grid flexible images media queries At first, responsive design was applied to existing desktop-centric websites to allow the layout to adapt to smaller screen sizes. But more recently it has been combined with another innovative approach called mobile first. Rather then starting with the big, bloated desktop site and then scaling down for smaller devices, it makes more sense to start with the constraints of the small screen and then scale up for larger viewports. Using this approach, your layout grid, your large images and your media queries are applied on top of the pre-existing small-screen design. It’s taking progressive enhancement to the next level. One of the great advantages of the mobile-first approach is that it forces you to really focus on the core content of your page. It might be more accurate to think of this as a content-first approach. You don’t have the luxury of sidebars or multiple columns to fill up with content that’s just nice to have rather than essential. But what happens when you apply your media queries for larger viewports and you do have sidebars and multiple columns? Well, you can load in that nice-to-have content using the same kind of Ajax functionality that Paul described in his article last year. The difference is that you first run a quick test to see if the viewport is wide enough to accommodate the subsidiary content. This is conditional delayed loading. Consider this situation: I’ve published an article about cats and I’d like to include relevant cat-related news items in the sidebar …but only if there’s enough room on the scree… 2011 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2011-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/conditional-loading-for-responsive-designs/ ux
279 Design the Invisible to Tell Better Stories on the Web For design to be meaningful we need to tell stories. We need to design the invisible, the cues, the messages and the extra detail hidden beneath the aesthetics. It’s all about the story. From verbal exchanges around the campfire to books, the web and everything in between, storytelling allows us to share, organize and process information more efficiently. It helps us understand our surroundings and make emotional connections to people, places and experiences. Web design lends itself perfectly to the conventions of storytelling, a universal process. However, the stories vary because they’re defined by culture, society, politics and religion. All of which need considering if you are to design stories that are relevant to your target audience. The benefits of approaching design with storytelling in mind from the very start of the project is that we are creating considered design that allows users to quickly gather meaning from the website. They do this by reading between the lines and drawing on the wealth of knowledge they have acquired about the associations between colours, typyefaces and signs. With so much recognition and analysis happening subconsciously you have to consider how design communicates on this level. This invisible layer has a significant impact on what you say, how you say it and who you say it to. How can we design something that’s invisible? By researching and making conscious decisions about exactly what you are communicating, you can make the invisible visible. As is often quoted, good design is like air, you only notice it when it’s bad. So by designing the invisible the aim is to design stories that the audience receive subliminally, so that they go somewhat unnoticed, like good air. Storytelling strands To share these stories through design, you can break it down into several strands. Each strand tells a story on its own, but when combined they may start to tell a different story altogether. These strands are colour, typefaces, branding, tone of voice and symbols. All are literal… 2011 Robert Mills robertmills 2011-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/design-the-invisible/ design
278 Going Both Ways It’s that time of the year again: Santa is getting ready to travel the world. Up until now, girls and boys from all over have sent in letters asking for what they want. I hope that Santa and his elves have—unlike me—learned more than just English. On the Internet, those girls and boys want to participate in sharing their stories and videos of opening presents and of being with friends and family. Ah, yes, the wonders of user generated content. But more than that, people also want to be able to use sites in the language they know. While you and I might expect the text to read from left to right, not all languages do. Some go from right to left, such as Arabic and Hebrew. (Some also go from top to bottom, but for now, let’s just worry about those first two directions!) If we were building a site for girls and boys to send their letters to Santa, we need to consider having the interface in the language and direction that they prefer. On the elves’ side, they may be viewing the site in one direction but reading the user generated content in the other direction. We need to build a site that supports bidirectional (or bidi) text. Let’s take a look at some things to be aware of when it comes to building bidi interfaces. Setting the direction of the interface Right off the bat, we need to tell the browser what direction the text should be going in. To do this, we add the dir attribute to an HTML element and set it to either LTR (for left to right) or RTL (for right to left). <body dir="rtl"> You can add the dir attribute to any element and it will set or change the direction for the content within that element. <body dir="ltr"> Here is English Content. <div dir="rtl">الموضوع</div> </body> You can also set the direction via CSS. .rtl { direction: rtl; } It’s generally recommended that you don’t use CSS to set the direction of the text. Text direction is an important part of the content that should be retained even in environments where the CSS may not be available or fails to load. How things c… 2011 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2011-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/going-both-ways/ ux
277 Raising the Bar on Mobile One of the primary challenges of designing for mobile devices is that screen real estate is often in limited supply. Through the advocacy of Luke W and others, we’ve drawn comfort from the idea that this constraint ends up benefiting users and designers alike, from obvious advantages like portability and reach, to influencing our content strategy decisions through focus and restraint. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take advantage of every last pixel of that screen we can snag! As anyone who has designed a website for use on a smartphone can attest, there’s an awful lot of space on mobile screens dedicated to browser functions that would be better off toggled out of view. Unfortunately, the visibility of some of these elements is beyond our control, such as the buttons fixed to the bottom of the viewport in iOS’s Safari and the WebOS browser. However, in many devices, the address bar at the top can be manually hidden, and its absence frees up enough pixel room for a large, impactful heading, a critical piece of navigation, or even just a little more white space to air things out. So, as my humble contribution to this most festive of web publications, today I’ll dig into the approach I used to hide the address bar in a browser-agnostic fashion for sites like BostonGlobe.com, and the jQuery Mobile framework. Surveying the land First, let’s assess the chromes of some popular, current mobile browsers. For example purposes, the following screen-captures feature the homepage of the Boston Globe site, without any address-bar-hiding logic in place. Note: these captures are just mockups – actual experience on these platforms may vary. On the left is iOS5’s Safari (running on iPhone), and on the right is Windows Phone 7 (pre-Mango). BlackBerry 7 (left), and Android 2.3 (right). WebOS (left), Opera Mini (middle), and Opera Mobile (right). Some browsers, such the default browsers on WebOS and BlackBerry 5, hide the bar automatically without any developer intervention, but many of them don’t. Of these, we can o… 2011 Scott Jehl scottjehl 2011-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/raising-the-bar-on-mobile/ design
276 Your jQuery: Now With 67% Less Suck Fun fact: more websites are now using jQuery than Flash. jQuery is an amazing tool that’s made JavaScript accessible to developers and designers of all levels of experience. However, as Spiderman taught us, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The unfortunate downside to jQuery is that while it makes it easy to write JavaScript, it makes it easy to write really really f*&#ing bad JavaScript. Scripts that slow down page load, unresponsive user interfaces, and spaghetti code knotted so deep that it should come with a bottle of whiskey for the next sucker developer that has to work on it. This becomes more important for those of us who have yet to move into the magical fairy wonderland where none of our clients or users view our pages in Internet Explorer. The IE JavaScript engine moves at the speed of an advancing glacier compared to more modern browsers, so optimizing our code for performance takes on an even higher level of urgency. Thankfully, there are a few very simple things anyone can add into their jQuery workflow that can clear up a lot of basic problems. When undertaking code reviews, three of the areas where I consistently see the biggest problems are: inefficient selectors; poor event delegation; and clunky DOM manipulation. We’ll tackle all three of these and hopefully you’ll walk away with some new jQuery batarangs to toss around in your next project. Selector optimization Selector speed: fast or slow? Saying that the power behind jQuery comes from its ability to select DOM elements and act on them is like saying that Photoshop is a really good tool for selecting pixels on screen and making them change color – it’s a bit of a gross oversimplification, but the fact remains that jQuery gives us a ton of ways to choose which element or elements in a page we want to work with. However, a surprising number of web developers are unaware that all selectors are not created equal; in fact, it’s incredible just how drastic the performance difference can be between two selectors that, at first g… 2011 Scott Kosman scottkosman 2011-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/your-jquery-now-with-less-suck/ code
275 Context First: Web Strategy in Four Handy Ws Many, many years ago, before web design became my proper job, I trained and worked as a journalist. I studied publishing in London and spent three fun years learning how to take a few little nuggets of information and turn them into a story. I learned a bunch of stuff that has all been a huge help to my design career. Flatplanning, layout, typographic theory. All of these disciplines have since translated really well to web design, but without doubt the most useful thing I learned was how to ask difficult questions. Pretty much from day one of journalism school they hammer into you the importance of the Five Ws. Five disarmingly simple lines of enquiry that eloquently manage to provide the meat of any decent story. And with alliteration thrown in too. For a young journo, it’s almost too good to be true. Who? What? Where? When? Why? It seems so obvious to almost be trite but, fundamentally, any story that manages to answer those questions for the reader is doing a pretty good job. You’ll probably have noticed feeling underwhelmed by certain news pieces in the past – disappointed, like something was missing. Some irritating oversight that really lets the story down. No doubt it was one of the Ws – those innocuous little suckers are generally only noticeable by their absence, but they sure get missed when they’re not there. Question everything I’ve always been curious. An inveterate tinkerer with things and asker of dopey questions, often to the point of abject annoyance for anyone unfortunate enough to have ended up in my line of fire. So, naturally, the Five Ws started drifting into other areas of my life. I’d scrutinize everything, trying to justify or explain my rationale using these Ws, but I’d also find myself ripping apart the stuff that clearly couldn’t justify itself against the same criteria. So when I started working as a designer I applied the same logic and, sure enough, the Ws pretty much mapped to the exact same needs we had for gathering requirements at the start of a project. It seemed so obvi… 2011 Alex Morris alexmorris 2011-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/context-first/ content
274 Adaptive Images for Responsive Designs So you’ve been building some responsive designs and you’ve been working through your checklist of things to do: You started with the content and designed around it, with mobile in mind first. You’ve gone liquid and there’s nary a px value in sight; % is your weapon of choice now. You’ve baked in a few media queries to adapt your layout and tweak your design at different window widths. You’ve made your images scale to the container width using the fluid Image technique. You’ve even done the same for your videos using a nifty bit of JavaScript. You’ve done a good job so pat yourself on the back. But there’s still a problem and it’s as tricky as it is important: image resolutions. HTML has an <img> problem CSS is great at adapting a website design to different window sizes – it allows you not only to tweak layout but also to send rescaled versions of the design’s images. And you want to do that because, after all, a smartphone does not need a 1,900-pixel background image1. HTML is less great. In the same way that you don’t want CSS background images to be larger than required, you don’t want that happening with <img>s either. A smartphone only needs a small image but desktop users need a large one. Unfortunately <img>s can’t adapt like CSS, so what do we do? Well, you could just use a high resolution image and the fluid image technique would scale it down to fit the viewport; but that’s sending an image five or six times the file size that’s really needed, which makes it slow to download and unpleasant to use. Smartphones are pretty impressive devices – my ancient iPhone 3G is more powerful in every way than my first proper computer – but they’re still terribly slow in comparison to today’s desktop machines. Sending a massive image means it has to be manipulated in memory and redrawn as you scroll. You’ll find phones rapidly run out of RAM and slow to a crawl. Well, OK. You went mobile first with everything else so why not put in mobile resolution <img>s too? Because even though mobile devices are rapi… 2011 Matt Wilcox mattwilcox 2011-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/adaptive-images-for-responsive-designs/ ux
273 There’s No Formula for Great Designs Before he combined them with fluid images and CSS3 media queries to coin responsive design, Ethan Marcotte described fluid grids — one of the most enjoyable parts of responsive design. Enjoyable that is, if you like working with math(s). But fluid grids aren’t perfect and, unless we’re careful when applying them, they can sometimes result in a design that feels disconnected. Recapping fluid grids If you haven’t read Ethan’s Fluid Grids, now would be a good time to do that. It centres around a simple formula for converting pixel widths to percentages: (target ÷ context) × 100 = result How does that work in practice? Well, take that Fireworks or Photoshop comp you’re working on (I call them static design visuals, or just visuals.) Of course, everything on that visual — column divisions, inline images, navigation elements, everything — is measured in pixels. Now: Pick something in the visual and measure its width. That’s our target. Take that target measurement and divide it by the width of its parent (context). Multiply what you’ve got by 100 (shift two decimal places). What you’re left with is a percentage width to drop into your style sheets. For example, divide this 300px wide sidebar division by its 948px parent and then multiply by 100: your original 300px is neatly converted to 31.646%. .content-sub { width : 31.646%; /* 300px ÷ 948px = .31646 */ } That formula makes it surprisingly simple for even die-hard fixed width aficionados to convert their visuals to percentage-based, fluid layouts. It’s a handy formula for those who still design using static visuals, and downright essential for those situations where one person in an organization designs in Fireworks or Photoshop and another develops with CSS. Why? Well, although I think that designing in a browser makes the best sense — particularly when designing for multiple devices — I’ll wager most designers still make visuals in Fireworks or Photoshop and use them for demonstrations and get feedback and sign-off. That’s OK. If you haven’t made t… 2011 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2011-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/theres-no-formula-for-great-designs/ ux
272 Crafting the Front-end Much has been spoken and written recently about the virtues of craftsmanship in the context of web design and development. It seems that we as fabricators of the web are finally tiring of seeking out parallels between ourselves and architects, and are turning instead to the fabled specialist artisans. Identifying oneself as a craftsman or craftswoman (let’s just say craftsperson from here onward) will likely be a trend of early 2012. In this pre-emptive strike, I’d like to expound on this movement as I feel it pertains to front-end development, and encourage care and understanding of the true qualities of craftsmanship (craftspersonship). The core values I’ll begin by defining craftspersonship. What distinguishes a craftsperson from a technician? Dictionaries tend to define a craftsperson as one who possesses great skill in a chosen field. The badge of a craftsperson for me, though, is a very special label that should be revered and used sparingly, only where it is truly deserved. A genuine craftsperson encompasses a few other key traits, far beyond raw skill, each of which must be learned and mastered. A craftsperson has: An appreciation of good work, in both the work of others and their own. And not just good as in ‘hey, that’s pretty neat’, I mean a goodness like a shining purity – the kind of good that feels right when you see it. A belief in quality at every level: every facet of the craftsperson’s product is as crucial as any other, without exception, even those normally hidden from view. Vision: an ability to visualize their path ahead, pre-empting the obstacles that may be encountered to plan a route around them. A preference for simplicity: an almost Bauhausesque devotion to undecorated functionality, with no unjustifiable parts included. Sincerity: producing work that speaks directly to its purpose with flawless clarity. Only when you become a custodian of such values in your work can you consider calling yourself a craftsperson. Now let’s take a look at some steps we front-end developers … 2011 Ben Bodien benbodien 2011-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/crafting-the-front-end/ process
271 Creating Custom Font Stacks with Unicode-Range Any web designer or front-end developer worth their salt will be familiar with the CSS @font-face rule used for embedding fonts in a web page. We’ve all used it — either directly in our code ourselves, or via one of the web font services like Fontdeck, Typekit or Google Fonts. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be used to just copying and pasting in a specific incantation of lines designed to get different formats of fonts working in different browsers, and may not have really explored all the capabilities of @font-face properties as defined by the spec. One such property — the unicode-range descriptor — sounds pretty dull and is easily overlooked. It does, however, have some fairly interesting possibilities when put to use in creative ways. Unicode-range The unicode-range descriptor is designed to help when using fonts that don’t have full coverage of the characters used in a page. By adding a unicode-range property to a @font-face rule it is possible to specify the range of characters the font covers. @font-face { font-family: BBCBengali; src: url(fonts/BBCBengali.ttf) format("opentype"); unicode-range: U+00-FF; } In this example, the font is to be used for characters in the range of U+00 to U+FF which runs from the unexciting control characters at the start of the Unicode table (symbols like the exclamation mark start at U+21) right through to ÿ at U+FF – the extent of the Basic Latin character range. By adding multiple @font-face rules for the same family but with different ranges, you can build up complete coverage of the characters your page uses by using different fonts. When I say that it’s possible to specify the range of characters the font covers, that’s true, but what you’re really doing with the unicode-range property is declaring which characters the font should be used for. This becomes interesting, because instead of merely working with the technical constraints of available characters in a given font, we can start picking and choosing characters to use and selectively mix fon… 2011 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2011-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/creating-custom-font-stacks-with-unicode-range/ code
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
269 Adaptive Images for Responsive Designs… Again When I was asked to write an article for 24 ways I jumped at the chance, as I’d been wanting to write about some fun hacks for responsive images and related parsing behaviours. My heart sank a little when Matt Wilcox beat me to the subject, but it floated back up when I realized I disagreed with his method and still had something to write about. So, Matt Wilcox, if that is your real name (and I’m pretty sure it is), I disagree. I see your dirty server-based hack and raise you an even dirtier client-side hack. Evil laugh, etc., etc. You guys can stomach yet another article about responsive design, right? Right? Half the room gets up to leave Whoa, whoa… OK, I’ll cut to the chase… TL;DR In a previous episode, we were introduced to Debbie and her responsive cat poetry page. Well, now she’s added some reviews of cat videos and some images of cats. Check out her new page and have a play around with the browser window. At smaller widths, the images change and the design responds. The benefits of this method are: it’s entirely client-side images are still shown to users without JavaScript your media queries stay in your CSS file no repetition of image URLs no extra downloads per image it’s fast enough to work on resize it’s pure filth What’s wrong with the server-side solution? Responsive design is a client-side issue; involving the server creates a boatload of problems. It sets a cookie at the top of the page which is read in subsequent requests. However, the cookie is not guaranteed to be set in time for requests on the same page, so the server may see an old value or no value at all. Serving images via server scripts is much slower than plain old static hosting. The URL can only cache with vary: cookie, so the cache breaks when the cookie changes, even if the change is unrelated. Also, far-future caching is out for devices that can change width. It depends on detecting screen width, which is rather messy on mobile devices. Responding to things other than screen width (such as DPI) means packi… 2011 Jake Archibald jakearchibald 2011-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/adaptive-images-for-responsive-designs-again/ ux
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
267 Taming Complexity I’m going to step into my UX trousers for this one. I wouldn’t usually wear them in public, but it’s Christmas, so there’s nothing wrong with looking silly. Anyway, to business. Wherever I roam, I hear the familiar call for simplicity and the denouncement of complexity. I read often that the simpler something is, the more usable it will be. We understand that simple is hard to achieve, but we push for it nonetheless, convinced it will make what we build easier to use. Simple is better, right? Well, I’ll try to explore that. Much of what follows will not be revelatory to some but, like all good lessons, I think this serves as a welcome reminder that as we live in a complex world it’s OK to sometimes reflect that complexity in the products we build. Myths and legends Less is more, we’ve been told, ever since master of poetic verse Robert Browning used the phrase in 1855. Well, I’ve conducted some research, and it appears he knew nothing of web design. Neither did modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a later pedlar of this worthy yet contradictory notion. Broad is narrow. Tall is short. Eggs are chips. See: anyone can come up with this stuff. To paraphrase Einstein, simple doesn’t have to be simpler. In other words, simple doesn’t dictate that we remove the complexity. Complex doesn’t have to be confusing; it can be beautiful and elegant. On the web, complex can be necessary and powerful. A website that simplifies the lives of its users by offering them everything they need in one site or screen is powerful. For some, the greater the density of information, the more useful the site. In our decision-making process, principles such as Occam’s razor’s_razor (in a nutshell: simple is better than complex) are useful, but simple is for the user to determine through their initial impression and subsequent engagement. What appears simple to me or you might appear very complex to someone else, based on their own mental model or needs. We can aim to deliver simple, but they’ll be the judge. As a designer, deve… 2011 Simon Collison simoncollison 2011-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/taming-complexity/ ux
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
265 Designing for Perfection Hello, 24 ways readers. I hope you’re having a nice run up to Christmas. This holiday season I thought I’d share a few things with you that have been particularly meaningful in my work over the last year or so. They may not make you wet your santa pants with new-idea-excitement, but in the context of 24 ways I think they may serve as a nice lesson and a useful seasonal reminder going into the New Year. Enjoy! Story Despite being a largely scruffy individual for most of my life, I had some interesting experiences regarding kitchen tidiness during my third year at university. As a kid, my room had always been pretty tidy, and as a teenager I used to enjoy reordering my CDs regularly (by artist, label, colour of spine – you get the picture); but by the time I was twenty I’d left most of these traits behind me, mainly due to a fear that I was turning into my mother. The one remaining anally retentive part of me that remained however, lived in the kitchen. For some reason, I couldn’t let all the pots and crockery be strewn across the surfaces after cooking. I didn’t care if they were washed up or not, I just needed them tidied. The surfaces needed to be continually free of grated cheese, breadcrumbs and ketchup spills. Also, the sink always needed to be clear. Always. Even a lone teabag, discarded casually into the sink hours previously, would give me what I used to refer to as “kitchen rage”. Whilst this behaviour didn’t cause any direct conflicts, it did often create weirdness. We would be happily enjoying a few pre-night out beverages (Jack Daniels and Red Bull – nice) when I’d notice the state of the kitchen following our round of customized 49p Tesco pizzas. Kitchen rage would ensue, and I’d have to blitz the kitchen, which usually resulted in me having to catch everyone up at the bar afterwards. One evening as we were just about to go out, I was stood there, in front of the shithole that was our kitchen with the intention of cleaning it all up, when a realization popped into my head. In hindsight, it was a… 2011 Greg Wood gregwood 2011-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/designing-for-perfection/ process
264 Dynamic Social Sharing Images Way back when social media was new, you could be pretty sure that whatever you posted would be read by those who follow you. If you’d written a blog post and you wanted to share it with those who follow you, you could post a link and your followers would see it in their streams. Oh heady days! With so many social channels and a proliferation of content and promotions flying past in everyone’s streams, it’s no longer enough to share content on social media, you have to actively sell it if you want it to be seen. You really need to make the most of every opportunity to catch a reader’s attention if you’re trying to get as many eyes as possible on that sweet, sweet social content. One of the best ways to grab attention with your posts or tweets is to include an image. There’s heaps of research that says that having images in your posts helps them stand out to followers. Reports I found showed figures from anything from 35% to 150% improvement from just having image in a post. Unfortunately, the details were surrounded with gross words like engagement and visual marketing assets and so I had to close the page before I started to hate myself too much. So without hard stats to quote, we’ll call it a rule of thumb. The rule of thumb is that posts with images will grab more attention than those without, so it makes sense that when adding pages to a website, you should make sure that they have social media sharing images associated with them. Adding sharing images The process for declaring an image to be used in places like Facebook and Twitter is very simple, and at this point is familiar to many of us. You add a meta tag to the head of the page to point to the location of the image to use. When a link to the page is added to a post, the social network will fetch the page, look for the meta tag and then use the image you specified. <meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/my_image.jpg"> There’s a good post on this over at CSS-Tricks if you need to bone up on the details of this and other similar meta tags … 2018 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2018-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/dynamic-social-sharing-images/ code
263 Securing Your Site like It’s 1999 Running a website in the early years of the web was a scary business. The web was an evolving medium, and people were finding new uses for it almost every day. From book stores to online auctions, the web was an expanding universe of new possibilities. As the web evolved, so too did the knowledge of its inherent security vulnerabilities. Clever tricks that were played on one site could be copied on literally hundreds of other sites. It was a normal sight to log in to a website to find nothing working because someone had breached its defences and deleted its database. Lessons in web security in those days were hard-earned. What follows are examples of critical mistakes that brought down several early websites, and how you can help protect yourself and your team from the same fate. Bad input validation: Trusting anything the user sends you Our story begins in the most unlikely place: Animal Crossing. Animal Crossing was a 2001 video game set in a quaint town, filled with happy-go-lucky inhabitants that co-exist peacefully. Like most video games, Animal Crossing was the subject of many fan communities on the early web. One such unofficial web forum was dedicated to players discussing their adventures in Animal Crossing. Players could trade secrets, ask for help, and share pictures of their virtual homes. This might sound like a model community to you, but you would be wrong. One day, a player discovered a hidden field in the forum’s user profile form. Normally, this page allows users to change their name, their password, or their profile photo. This person discovered that the hidden field contained their unique user ID, which identifies them when the forum’s backend saves profile changes to its database. They discovered that by modifying the form to change the user ID, they could make changes to any other player’s profile. Needless to say, this idyllic online community descended into chaos. Users changed each other’s passwords, deleted each other’s messages, and attacked each-other under the cover of complete anonym… 2018 Katie Fenn katiefenn 2018-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/securing-your-site-like-its-1999/ code
262 Be the Villain Inclusive Design is the practice of making products and services accessible to, and usable by as many people as reasonably possible without the need for specialized accommodations. The practice was popularized by author and User Experience Design Director Kat Holmes. If getting you to discover her work is the only thing this article succeeds in doing then I’ll consider it a success. As a framework for creating resilient solutions to problems, Inclusive Design is incredible. However, the aimless idealistic aspirations many of its newer practitioners default to can oftentimes run into trouble. Without outlining concrete, actionable outcomes that are then vetted by the people you intend to serve, there is the potential to do more harm than good. When designing, you take a user flow and make sure it can’t be broken. Ensuring that if something is removed, it can be restored. Or that something editable can also be updated at a later date—you know, that kind of thing. What we want to do is avoid surprises. Much like a water slide with a section of pipe missing, a broken flow forcibly ejects a user, to great surprise and frustration. Interactions within a user flow also have to be small enough to be self-contained, so as to avoid creating a none pizza with left beef scenario. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to expand on this practice. Watertight user flows make for a great immediate experience, but it’s all too easy to miss the forest for the trees when you’re a product designer focused on cranking out features. What I’m concerned about is while to trying to envision how a user flow could be broken, you also think about how it could be subverted. In addition to preventing the removal of a section of water slide, you also keep someone from mugging the user when they shoot out the end. If you pay attention, you’ll start to notice this subversion with increasing frequency: Domestic abusers using internet-controlled devices to spy on and control their partner. Zealots tanking a business’ rating on Google because its … 2018 Eric Bailey ericbailey 2018-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/be-the-villain/ ux
261 Surviving—and Thriving—as a Remote Worker Remote work is hot right now. Many people even say that remote work is the future. Why should a company limit itself to hiring from a specific geographic location when there’s an entire world of talent out there? I’ve been working remotely, full-time, for five and a half years. I’ve reached the point where I can’t even fathom working in an office. The idea of having to wake up at a specific time and commute into an office, work for eight hours, and then commute home, feels weirdly anachronistic. I’ve grown attached to my current level of freedom and flexibility. However, it took me a lot of trial and error to reach success as a remote worker — and sometimes even now, I slip up. Working remotely requires a great amount of discipline, independence, and communication. It can feel isolating, especially if you lean towards the more extroverted side of the social spectrum. Remote working isn’t for everyone, but most people, with enough effort, can make it work — or even thrive. Here’s what I’ve learned in over five years of working remotely. Experiment with your environment As a remote worker, you have almost unprecedented control of your environment. You can often control the specific desk and chair you use, how you accessorize your home office space — whether that’s a dedicated office, a corner of your bedroom, or your kitchen table. (Ideally, not your couch… but I’ve been there.) Hate fluorescent lights? Change your lightbulbs. Cover your work area in potted plants. Put up blackout curtains and work in the dark like a vampire. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable and productive, and doesn’t completely destroy your eyesight. Working remotely doesn’t always mean working from home. If you don’t have a specific reason you need to work from home (like specialized equipment), try working from other environments (which is especially helpful it you have roommates, or children). Cafes are the quintessential remote worker hotspot, but don’t just limit yourself to your favorite local haunt. More cities worldwide are embrac… 2018 Mel Choyce melchoyce 2018-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/thriving-as-a-remote-worker/ process
260 The Art of Mathematics: A Mandala Maker Tutorial In front-end development, there’s often a great deal of focus on tools that aim to make our work more efficient. But what if you’re new to web development? When you’re just starting out, the amount of new material can be overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have a solid background in Computer Science. But the truth is, once you’ve learned a little bit of JavaScript, you can already make some pretty impressive things. A couple of years back, when I was learning to code, I started working on a side project. I wanted to make something colorful and fun to share with my friends. This is what my app looks like these days: Mandala Maker user interface The coolest part about it is the fact that it’s a tool: anyone can use it to create something original and brand new. In this tutorial, we’ll build a smaller version of this app – a symmetrical drawing tool in ES5, JavaScript and HTML5. The tutorial app will have eight reflections, a color picker and a Clear button. Once we’re done, you’re on your own and can tweak it as you please. Be creative! Preparations: a blank canvas The first thing you’ll need for this project is a designated drawing space. We’ll use the HTML5 canvas element and give it a width and a height of 600px (you can set the dimensions to anything else if you like). Files Create 3 files: index.html, styles.css, main.js. Don’t forget to include your JS and CSS files in your HTML. <!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <meta charset="utf-8"> <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="style.css"> <script src="main.js"></script> </head> <body onload="init()"> <canvas width="600" height="600"> <p>Your browser doesn't support canvas.</p> </canvas> </body> </html> I’ll ask you to update your HTML file at a later point, but the CSS file we’ll start with will stay the same throughout the project. This is the full CSS we are going to use: body { background-color: #ccc; text-align: center; } canvas { touch-action: none; background-color: #fff; } button { font-size: 110%;… 2018 Hagar Shilo hagarshilo 2018-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/the-art-of-mathematics/ code
259 Designing Your Future I’ve had the pleasure of working for a variety of clients – both large and small – over the last 25 years. In addition to my work as a design consultant, I’ve worked as an educator, leading the Interaction Design team at Belfast School of Art, for the last 15 years. In July, 2018 – frustrated with formal education, not least the ever-present hand of ‘austerity’ that has ravaged universities in the UK for almost a decade – I formally reduced my teaching commitment, moving from a full-time role to a half-time role. Making the move from a (healthy!) monthly salary towards a position as a freelance consultant is not without its challenges: one month your salary’s arriving in your bank account (and promptly disappearing to pay all of your bills); the next month, that salary’s been drastically reduced. That can be a shock to the system. In this article, I’ll explore the challenges encountered when taking a life-changing leap of faith. To help you confront ‘the fear’ – the nervousness, the sleepless nights and the ever-present worry about paying the bills – I’ll provide a set of tools that will enable you to take a leap of faith and pursue what deep down drives you. In short: I’ll bare my soul and share everything I’m currently working on to – once and for all – make a final bid for freedom. This isn’t easy. I’m sharing my innermost hopes and aspirations, and I might open myself up to ridicule, but I believe that by doing so, I might help others, by providing them with tools to help them make their own leap of faith. The power of visualisation As designers we have skills that we use day in, day out to imagine future possibilities, which we then give form. In our day-to-day work, we use those abilities to design products and services, but I also believe we can use those skills to design something every bit as important: ourselves. In this article I’ll explore three tools that you can use to design your future: Product DNA Artefacts From the Future Tomorrow Clients Each of these tools is designed to help you visualise y… 2018 Christopher Murphy christophermurphy 2018-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-future/ process
258 Mistletoe Offline It’s that time of year, when we gather together as families to celebrate the life of the greatest person in history. This man walked the Earth long before us, but he left behind words of wisdom. Those words can guide us every single day, but they are at the forefront of our minds during this special season. I am, of course, talking about Murphy, and the golden rule he gave unto us: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So true! I mean, that’s why we make sure we’ve got nice 404 pages. It’s not that we want people to ever get served a File Not Found message, but we acknowledge that, despite our best efforts, it’s bound to happen sometime. Murphy’s Law, innit? But there are some Murphyesque situations where even your lovingly crafted 404 page won’t help. What if your web server is down? What if someone is trying to reach your site but they lose their internet connection? These are all things than can—and will—go wrong. I guess there’s nothing we can do about those particular situations, right? Wrong! A service worker is a Murphy-battling technology that you can inject into a visitor’s device from your website. Once it’s installed, it can intercept any requests made to your domain. If anything goes wrong with a request—as is inevitable—you can provide instructions for the browser. That’s your opportunity to turn those server outage frowns upside down. Take those network connection lemons and make network connection lemonade. If you’ve got a custom 404 page, why not make a custom offline page too? Get your server in order Step one is to make …actually, wait. There’s a step before that. Step zero. Get your site running on HTTPS, if it isn’t already. You won’t be able to use a service worker unless everything’s being served over HTTPS, which makes sense when you consider the awesome power that a service worker wields. If you’re developing locally, service workers will work fine for localhost, even without HTTPS. But for a live site, HTTPS is a must. Make an offline page Alright, assuming your site is being served… 2018 Jeremy Keith jeremykeith 2018-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/mistletoe-offline/ code
257 The (Switch)-Case for State Machines in User Interfaces You’re tasked with creating a login form. Email, password, submit button, done. “This will be easy,” you think to yourself. Login form by Selecto You’ve made similar forms many times in the past; it’s essentially muscle memory at this point. You’re working closely with a designer, who gives you a beautiful, detailed mockup of a login form. Sure, you’ll have to translate the pixels to meaningful, responsive CSS values, but that’s the least of your problems. As you’re writing up the HTML structure and CSS layout and styles for this form, you realize that you don’t know what the successful “logged in” page looks like. You remind the designer, who readily gives it to you. But then you start thinking more and more about how the login form is supposed to work. What if login fails? Where do those errors show up? Should we show errors differently if the user forgot to enter their email, or password, or both? Or should the submit button be disabled? Should we validate the email field? When should we show validation errors – as they’re typing their email, or when they move to the password field, or when they click submit? (Note: many, many login forms are guilty of this.) When should the errors disappear? What do we show during the login process? Some loading spinner? What if loading takes too long, or a server error occurs? Many more questions come up, and you (and your designer) are understandably frustrated. The lack of upfront specification opens the door to scope creep, which readily finds itself at home in all the unexplored edge cases. Modeling Behavior Describing all the possible user flows and business logic of an application can become tricky. Ironically, user stories might not tell the whole story – they often leave out potential edge-cases or small yet important bits of information. However, one important (and very old) mathematical model of computation can be used for describing the behavior and all possible states of a user interface: the finite state machine. The general idea, as it applies to user interfa… 2018 David Khourshid davidkhourshid 2018-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/state-machines-in-user-interfaces/ code
256 Develop Your Naturalist Superpowers with Observable Notebooks and iNaturalist We’re going to level up your knowledge of what animals you might see in an area at a particular time of year - a skill every naturalist* strives for - using technology! Using iNaturalist and Observable Notebooks we’re going to prototype seasonality graphs for particular species in an area, and automatically create a guide to what animals you might see in each month. *(a Naturalist is someone who likes learning about nature, not someone who’s a fan of being naked, that’s a ‘Naturist’… different thing!) Looking for critters in rocky intertidal habitats One of my favourite things to do is going rockpooling, or as we call it over here in California, ‘tidepooling’. Amounting to the same thing, it’s going to a beach that has rocks where the tide covers then uncovers little pools of water at different times of the day. All sorts of fun creatures and life can be found in this ‘rocky intertidal habitat’ A particularly exciting creature that lives here is the Nudibranch, a type of super colourful ‘sea slug’. There are over 3000 species of Nudibranch worldwide. (The word “nudibranch” comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βρανχια / brankhia, gills.) ​ They are however quite tricky to find! Even though they are often brightly coloured and interestingly shaped, some of them are very small, and in our part of the world in the Bay Area in California their appearance in our rockpools is seasonal. We see them more often in Summer months, despite the not-as-low tides as in our Winter and Spring seasons. My favourite place to go tidepooling here is Pillar Point in Half Moon bay (at other times of the year more famously known for the surf competition ‘Mavericks’). The rockpools there are rich in species diversity, of varied types and water-coverage habitat zones as well as being relatively accessible. ​ I was rockpooling at Pillar Point recently with my parents and we talked to a lady who remarked that she hadn’t seen any Nudibranchs on her visit this time. I realised that having an idea of what species to find where, a… 2018 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2018-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/observable-notebooks-and-inaturalist/ code
255 Inclusive Considerations When Restyling Form Controls I would like to begin by saying 2018 was the year that we, as developers, visual designers, browser implementers, and inclusive design and experience specialists rallied together and achieved a long-sought goal: We now have the ability to fully style form controls, across all modern browsers, while retaining their ease of declaration, native functionality and accessibility. I would like to begin by saying all these things. However, they’re not true. I think we spent the year debating about what file extension CSS should be written in, or something. Or was that last year? Maybe I’m thinking of next year. Returning to reality, styling form controls is more tricky and time consuming these days rather than flat out “hard”. In fact, depending on the length of the styling-leash a particular browser provides, there are controls you can style quite a bit. As for browsers with shorter leashes, there are other options to force their controls closer to the visual design you’re tasked to match. However, when striving for custom styled controls, one must be careful not to forget about the inherent functionality and accessibility that many provide. People expect and deserve the products and services they use and pay for to work for them. If these services are visually pleasing, but only function for those who fit the handful of personas they’ve been designed for, then we’ve potentially deprived many people the experiences they deserve. Quick level setting Getting down to brass tacks, when creating custom styled form controls that should retain their expected semantics and functionality, we have to consider the following: Many form elements can be styled directly through standard and browser specific selectors, as well as through some clever styling of markup patterns. We should leverage these native options before reinventing any wheels. It is important to preserve the underlying semantics of interactive controls. We must not unintentionally exclude people who use assistive technologies (ATs) that rely on these semantics. Ma… 2018 Scott O'Hara scottohara 2018-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/inclusive-considerations-when-restyling-form-controls/ code
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
253 Clip Paths Know No Bounds CSS Shapes are getting a lot of attention as browser support has increased for properties like shape-outside and clip-path. There are a few ways that we can use CSS Shapes, in particular with the clip-path property, that are not necessarily evident at first glance. The basics of a clip path Before we dig into specific techniques to expand on clip paths, we should first take a look at a basic shape and clip-path. Clip paths can apply a CSS Shape such as a circle(), ellipse(), inset(), or the flexible polygon() to any element. Everywhere in the element that is not within the bounds of our shape will be visually removed. Using the polygon shape function, for example, we can create triangles, stars, or other straight-edged shapes as on Bennett Feely’s Clippy. While fixed units like pixels can be used when defining vertices/points (where the sides meet), percentages will give more flexibility to adapt to the element’s dimensions. See the Pen Clip Path Box by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. So for an octagon, we can set eight x, y pairs of percentages to define those points. In this case we start 30% into the width of the box for the first x and at the top of the box for the y and go clockwise. The visible area becomes the interior of the shape made by connecting these points with straight lines. clip-path: polygon( 30% 0%, 70% 0%, 100% 30%, 100% 70%, 70% 100%, 30% 100%, 0% 70%, 0% 30% ); A shape with less vertices than the eye can see It’s reasonable to look at the polygon() function and assume that we need to have one pair of x, y coordinates for every point in our shape. However, we gain some flexibility by thinking outside the box — or more specifically when we think outside the range of 0% - 100%. Our element’s box model will be the ultimate boundary for a clip-path, but we can still define points that exist beyond that natural box for an element. See the Pen CSS Shapes Know No Bounds by Dan Wilson (@danwilson) on CodePen. By going beyond the 0% - 100% range we can turn a polygon with three p… 2018 Dan Wilson danwilson 2018-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/clip-paths-know-no-bounds/ code
252 Turn Jekyll up to Eleventy Sometimes it pays not to over complicate things. While many of the sites we use on a daily basis require relational databases to manage their content and dynamic pages to respond to user input, for smaller, simpler sites, serving pre-rendered static HTML is usually a much cheaper — and more secure — option. The JAMstack (JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup) is a popular marketing term for this way of building websites, but in some ways it’s a return to how things were in the early days of the web, before developers started tinkering with CGI scripts or Personal HomePage. Indeed, my website has always served pre-rendered HTML; first with the aid of Movable Type and more recently using Jekyll, which Anna wrote about in 2013. By combining three approachable languages — Markdown for content, YAML for data and Liquid for templating — the ergonomics of Jekyll found broad appeal, influencing the design of the many static site generators that followed. But Jekyll is not without its faults. Aside from notoriously slow build times, it’s also built using Ruby. While this is an elegant programming language, it is yet another ecosystem to understand and manage, and often alongside one we already use: JavaScript. For all my time using Jekyll, I would think to myself “this, but in Node”. Thankfully, one of Santa’s elves (Zach Leatherman) granted my Atwoodian wish and placed such a static site generator under my tree. Introducing Eleventy Eleventy is a more flexible alternative Jekyll. Besides being written in Node, it’s less strict about how to organise files and, in addition to Liquid, supports other templating languages like EJS, Pug, Handlebars and Nunjucks. Best of all, its build times are significantly faster (with future optimisations promising further gains). As content is saved using the familiar combination of YAML front matter and Markdown, transitioning from Jekyll to Eleventy may seem like a reasonable idea. Yet as I’ve discovered, there are a few gotchas. If you’ve been considering making the switch, he… 2018 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2018-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/turn-jekyll-up-to-eleventy/ content
251 The System, the Search, and the Food Bank Imagine a warehouse, half the length of a football field, with a looped conveyer belt down the center. On the belt are plastic bins filled with assortments of shelf-stable food—one may have two bags of potato chips, seventeen pudding cups, and a box of tissues; the next, a dozen cans of beets. The conveyer belt is ringed with large, empty cardboard boxes, each labeled with categories like “Bottled Water” or “Cereal” or “Candy.” Such was the scene at my local food bank a few Saturdays ago, when some friends and I volunteered for a shift sorting donated food items. Our job was to fill the labeled cardboard boxes with the correct items nabbed from the swiftly moving, randomly stocked plastic bins. I could scarcely believe my good fortune of assignments. You want me to sort things? Into categories? For several hours? And you say there’s an element of time pressure? Listen, is there some sort of permanent position I could be conscripted into. Look, I can’t quite explain it: I just know that I love sorting, organizing, and classifying things—groceries at a food bank, but also my bookshelves, my kitchen cabinets, my craft supplies, my dishwasher arrangement, yes I am a delight to live with, why do you ask? The opportunity to create meaning from nothing is at the core of my excitement, which is why I’ve tried to build a career out of organizing digital content, and why I brought a frankly frightening level of enthusiasm to the food bank. “I can’t believe they’re letting me do this,” I whispered in awe to my conveyer belt neighbor as I snapped up a bag of popcorn for the Snacks box with the kind of ferocity usually associated with birds of prey. The jumble of donated items coming into the center need to be sorted in order for the food bank to be able to quantify, package, and distribute the food to those who need it (I sense a metaphor coming on). It’s not just a nice-to-have that we spent our morning separating cookies from carrots—it’s a crucial step in the process. Organization makes the difference between chaos and … 2018 Lisa Maria Martin lisamariamartin 2018-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/the-system-the-search-and-the-food-bank/ content
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
249 Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website Every website deserves a great search engine - but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive. I’m going to build a search engine for 24 ways that’s fast enough to support autocomplete (a.k.a. typeahead) search queries and can be hosted for free. I’ll be using wget, Python, SQLite, Jupyter, sqlite-utils and my open source Datasette tool to build the API backend, and a few dozen lines of modern vanilla JavaScript to build the interface. Try it out here, then read on to see how I built it. First step: crawling the data The first step in building a search engine is to grab a copy of the data that you plan to make searchable. There are plenty of potential ways to do this: you might be able to pull it directly from a database, or extract it using an API. If you don’t have access to the raw data, you can imitate Google and write a crawler to extract the data that you need. I’m going to do exactly that against 24 ways: I’ll build a simple crawler using wget, a command-line tool that features a powerful “recursive” mode that’s ideal for scraping websites. We’ll start at the https://24ways.org/archives/ page, which links to an archived index for every year that 24 ways has been running. Then we’ll tell wget to recursively crawl the website, using the --recursive flag. We don’t want to fetch every single page on the site - we’re only interested in the actual articles. Luckily, 24 ways has nicely designed URLs, so we can tell wget that we only care about pages that start with one of the years it has been running, using the -I argument like this: -I /2005,/2006,/2007,/2008,/2009,/2010,/2011,/2012,/2013,/2014,/2015,/2016,/2017 We want to be polite, so let’s wait for 2 seconds between each request rather than hammering the site as fast as we can: --wait 2 The first time I ran this, I accidentally downloaded the comments pages as well. We don’t want those, so let’s exclude them from the crawl using -X "/*/*/comments". Finally, it’s useful to be able to run the command multiple times… 2018 Simon Willison simonwillison 2018-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/fast-autocomplete-search-for-your-website/ code
248 How to Use Audio on the Web I know what you’re thinking. I never never want to hear sound anywhere near a browser, ever ever, wow! 🙉 You’re having flashbacks, flashbacks to the days of yore, when we had a <bgsound> element and yup did everyone think that was the most rad thing since <blink>. I mean put those two together with a <marquee>, only use CSS colour names, make sure your borders were all set to ridge and you’ve got yourself the neatest website since 1998. The sound played when the website loaded and you could play a MIDI file as well! Everyone could hear that wicked digital track you chose. Oh, surfing was gnarly back then. Yes it is 2018, the end of in fact, soon to be 2019. We are certainly living in the future. Hoverboards self driving cars, holodecks VR headsets, rocket boots drone racing, sound on websites get real, Ruth. We can’t help but be jaded, even though the <bgsound> element is depreciated, and the autoplay policy appeared this year. Although still in it’s infancy, the policy “controls when video and audio is allowed to autoplay”, which should reduce the somewhat obtrusive playing of sound when a website or app loads in the future. But then of course comes the question, having lived in a muted present for so long, where and why would you use audio? ✨ Showcase Time ✨ There are some incredible uses of audio on websites today. This is my personal favourite futurelibrary.no, a site from Norway chronicling books that have been published from a forest of trees planted precisely for the books themselves. The sound effects are lovely, adding to the overall experience. futurelibrary.no Another site that executes this well is pottermore.com. The Hogwarts WebGL simulation uses both sound effects and ambient background music and gives a great experience. The button hovers are particularly good. pottermore.com Eighty-six and a half years is a beautiful narrative site, documenting the musings of an eighty-six and a half year old man. The background music playing on this site is not offensive, it adds to the experience. Eighty-six an… 2018 Ruth John ruthjohn 2018-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/how-to-use-audio-on-the-web/ design
247 Managing Flow and Rhythm with CSS Custom Properties An important part of designing user interfaces is creating consistent vertical rhythm between elements. Creating consistent, predictable space doesn’t just make your web pages and views look better, but it can also improve the scan-ability. Browsers ship with default CSS and these styles often create consistent rhythm for flow elements out of the box. The problem is though that we often reset these styles with a reset. Elements such as <div> and <section> also have no default margin or padding associated with them. I’ve tried all sorts of weird and wonderful techniques to find a balance between using inherited CSS while also levelling the playing field for component driven front-ends with very little success. This experimentation is how I landed on the flow utility, though and I’m going to show you how it works. Let’s dive in! The Flow utility With the ever-growing number of folks working with component libraries and design systems, we could benefit from a utility that creates space for us, only when it’s appropriate to do so. The problem with my previous attempts at fixing this is that the spacing values were very rigid. That’s fine for 90% of contexts, but sometimes, it’s handy to be able to tweak the values based on the exact context of your component. This is where CSS Custom Properties come in handy. The code .flow { --flow-space: 1em; } .flow > * + * { margin-top: var(--flow-space); } What this code does is enable you to add a class of flow to an element which will then add margin-top to sibling elements within that element. We use the lobotomised owl selector to select these siblings. This approach enables an almost anonymous and automatic system which is ideal for component library based front-ends where components probably don’t have any idea what surrounds them. The other important part of this utility is the usage of the --flow-space custom property. We define it in the .flow component and each element within it will be spaced by --flow-space, by default. The beauty about setting this as a … 2018 Andy Bell andybell 2018-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/managing-flow-and-rhythm-with-css-custom-properties/ code
246 Designing Your Site Like It’s 1998 It’s 20 years to the day since my wife and I started Stuff & Nonsense, our little studio and my outlet for creative ideas on the web. To celebrate this anniversary—and my fourteenth contribution to 24 ways— I’d like to explain how I would’ve developed a design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles, one of my favourite Christmas films. My design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles is fixed at 800px wide. Developing a <frameset> framework I’ll start by using frames to set up the framework for this new website. Frames are individual pages—one for navigation, the other for my content—pulled together to form a frameset. Space is limited on lower-resolution screens, so by using frames I can ensure my navigation always remains visible. I can include any number of frames inside a <frameset> element. I add two rows to my <frameset>; the first is for my navigation and is 50px tall, the second is for my content and will resize to fill any available space. As I don’t want frame borders or any space between my frames, I set frameborder and framespacing attributes to 0: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> […] </frameset> Next I add the source of my two frame documents. I don’t want people to be able to resize or scroll my navigation, so I add the noresize attribute to that frame: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame src="content.html"> </frameset> I do want links from my navigation to open in the content frame, so I give each <frame> a name so I can specify where I want links to open: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation" noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame name="content" src="content.html"> </frameset> The framework for this website is simple as it contains only two horizontal rows. Should I need a more complex layout, I can nest as many framesets—and as many individual documents—as I need: <frameset rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation"> <frameset cols="25%,*"> <frame name="sideba… 2018 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2018-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-site-like-its-1998/ code
245 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1—for People Who Haven’t Read the Update Happy United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018! The United Nations chose “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” as this year’s theme. We’ve seen great examples of that in 2018; for example, Paul Robert Lloyd has detailed how he improved the accessibility of this very website. On social media, US Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started using the Clipomatic app to add live captions to her Instagram live stories, conforming to success criterion 1.2.4, “Captions (Live)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 1) …and British Vogue Contributing Editor Sinéad Burke has used the split-screen feature of Instagram live stories to invite an interpreter to provide live Sign Language interpretation, going above and beyond success criterion 1.2.6, “Sign Language (Prerecorded)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 2). Figure 1: Screenshot of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram story with live captionsFigure 2: Screenshot of Sinéad Burke’s Instagram story with Sign Language Interpretation That theme chimes with this year’s publication of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. In last year’s “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven’t Read Them”, I mentioned the scale of the project to produce this update during 2018: “the editors have to update the guidelines to cover all the new ways that people interact with new technologies, while keeping the guidelines backwards-compatible”. The WCAG working group have added 17 success criteria to the 61 that they released way back in 2008—for context, that was 1½ years before Apple released their first iPad! These new criteria make it easier than ever for us web geeks to produce work that is more accessible to people using mobile devices and touchscreens, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Once again, let’s rip off all the legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping pap… 2018 Alan Dalton alandalton 2018-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-the-update/ ux
244 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like XSSmas I dread the office Secret Santa. I have a knack for choosing well-meaning but inappropriate presents, like a bottle of port for a teetotaller, a cheese-tasting experience for a vegan, or heaven forbid, Spurs socks for an Arsenal supporter. Ok, the last one was intentional. It’s the same with gifting code. Once, I made a pattern library for A List Apart which I open sourced, and a few weeks later, a glaring security vulnerability was found in it. My gift was so generous that it enabled unrestricted access to any file on any public-facing server that hosted it. With platforms like GitHub and npm, giving the gift of code is so easy it’s practically a no-brainer. This giant, open source yankee swap helps us do our jobs without starting from scratch with every project. But like any gift-giving, it’s also risky. Vulnerabilities and Open Source Open source code is not inherently more or less vulnerable than closed-source code. What makes it higher risk is that the same piece of code gets reused in lots of places, meaning a hacker can use the same exploit mechanism on the same vulnerable code in different apps. Graph showing the number of open source vulnerabilities published per year, from the State of Open Source Security 2017 In the first 24 ways article this year, Katie referenced a few different types of vulnerability: Cross-site Request Forgery (also known as CSRF) SQL Injection Cross-site Scripting (also known as XSS) There are many more types of vulnerability, and those that live under the same category share similarities. For example, my favourite – is it weird to have a favourite vulnerability? – is Cross Site Scripting (XSS), which allows for the injection of scripts into web pages. This is a really common vulnerability often unwittingly added by developers. OWASP (the Open Web Application Security Project) wrote a great article about how to prevent opening the door to XSS attacks – share it generously with your colleagues. Most vulnerabilities like this are not added intentionally – they’re doors left ajar… 2018 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2018-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-xssmas/ code
243 Researching a Property in the CSS Specifications I frequently joke that I’m “reading the specs so you don’t have to”, as I unpack some detail of a CSS spec in a post on my blog, some documentation for MDN, or an article on Smashing Magazine. However waiting for someone like me to write an article about something is a pretty slow way to get the information you need. Sometimes people like me get things wrong, or specifications change after we write a tutorial. What if you could just look it up yourself? That’s what you get when you learn to read the CSS specifications, and in this article my aim is to give you the basic details you need to grab quick information about any CSS property detailed in the CSS specs. Where are the CSS Specifications? The easiest way to see all of the CSS specs is to take a look at the Current Work page in the CSS section of the W3C Website. Here you can see all of the specifications listed, the level they are at and their status. There is also a link to the specification from this page. I explained CSS Levels in my article Why there is no CSS 4. Who are the specifications for? CSS specifications are for everyone who uses CSS. You might be a browser engineer - referred to as an implementor - needing to know how to implement a feature, or a web developer - referred to as an author - wanting to know how to use the feature. The fact that both parties are looking at the same document hopefully means that what the browser displays is what the web developer expected. Which version of a spec should I look at? There are a couple of places you might want to look. Each published spec will have the latest published version, which will have TR in the URL and can be accessed without a date (which is always the newest version) or at a date, which will be the date of that publication. If I’m referring to a particular Working Draft in an article I’ll typically link to the dated version. That way if the information changes it is possible for someone to see where I got the information from at the time of writing. If you want the very latest additions an… 2018 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2018-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/researching-a-property-in-the-css-specifications/ code
242 Creating My First Chrome Extension Writing a Chrome Extension isn’t as scary at it seems! Not too long ago, I used a Chrome extension called 20 Cubed. I’m far-sighted, and being a software engineer makes it difficult to maintain distance vision. So I used 20 Cubed to remind myself to look away from my screen and rest my eyes. I loved its simple interface and design. I loved it so much, I often forgot to turn it off in the middle of presentations, where it would take over my entire screen. Oops. Unfortunately, the developer stopped updating the extension and removed it from Chrome’s extension library. I was so sad. None of the other eye rest extensions out there matched my design aesthetic, so I decided to create my own! Want to do the same? Fortunately, Google has some respectable documentation on how to create an extension. And remember, Chrome extensions are just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can add libraries and frameworks, or you can just code the “old-fashioned” way. Sky’s the limit! Setup But first, some things you’ll need to know about before getting started: Callbacks Timeouts Chrome Dev Tools Developing with Chrome extension methods requires a lot of callbacks. If you’ve never experienced the joy of callback hell, creating a Chrome extension will introduce you to this concept. However, things can get confusing pretty quickly. I’d highly recommend brushing up on that subject before getting started. Hyperbole and a Half Timeouts and Intervals are another thing you might want to brush up on. While creating this extension, I didn’t consider the fact that I’d be juggling three timers. And I probably would’ve saved time organizing those and reading up on the Chrome extension Alarms documentation beforehand. But more on that in a bit. On the note of organization, abstraction is important! You might have any combination of the following: The Chrome extension options page The popup from the Chrome Menu The windows or tabs you create The background scripts And that can get unwieldy. You might also edit the existing tabs or windows in the brow… 2018 Jennifer Wong jenniferwong 2018-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/my-first-chrome-extension/ code
241 Jank-Free Image Loads There are a few fundamental problems with embedding images in pages of hypertext; perhaps chief among them is this: text is very light and loads rather fast; images are much heavier and arrive much later. Consequently, millions (billions?) of times a day, a hapless Web surfer will start reading some text on a page, and then — Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. — oops! — an image pops in above it, pushing said text down the page, and our poor reader loses their place. By default, partially-loaded pages have the user experience of a slippery fish, or spilled jar of jumping beans. For the rest of this article, I shall call that jarring, no-good jumpiness by its name: jank. And I’ll chart a path into a jank-free future – one in which it’s easy and natural to author <img> elements that load like this: Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. Jank is a very old problem, and there is a very old solution to it: the width and height attributes on <img>. The idea is: if we stick an image’s dimensions right into the HTML, browsers can know those dimensions before the image loads, and reserve some space on the layout for it so that nothing gets bumped down the page when the image finally arrives. width Specifies the intended width of the image in pixels. When given together with the height, this allows user agents to reserve screen space for the image before the image data has arrived over the network. —The HTML 3.2 Specification, published on January 14 1997 Unfortunately for us, when width and height were first spec’d and implemented, layouts were largely fixed and images were usually only intended to render at their fixed, actual dimensions. When image sizing gets fluid, width and height get weird: See the Pen fluid width + fixed height = distortion by Eric Portis (@eeeps) on CodePen. width and height are too rigid for the responsive world. What we need, and have needed for a very long time, is a way to specify fixed aspect ra… 2018 Eric Portis ericportis 2018-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/jank-free-image-loads/ code
240 My CSS Wish List I love Christmas. I love walking around the streets of London, looking at the beautifully decorated windows, seeing the shiny lights that hang above Oxford Street and listening to Christmas songs. I’m not going to lie though. Not only do I like buying presents, I love receiving them too. I remember making long lists that I would send to Father Christmas with all of the Lego sets I wanted to get. I knew I could only get one a year, but I would spend days writing the perfect list. The years have gone by, but I still enjoy making wish lists. And I’ll tell you a little secret: my mum still asks me to send her my Christmas list every year. This time I’ve made my CSS wish list. As before, I’d be happy with just one present. Before I begin… … this list includes: things that don’t exist in the CSS specification (if they do, please let me know in the comments – I may have missed them); others that are in the spec, but it’s incomplete or lacks use cases and examples (which usually means that properties haven’t been implemented by even the most recent browsers). Like with any other wish list, the further down I go, the more unrealistic my expectations – but that doesn’t mean I can’t wish. Some of the things we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago have been implemented and our wishes fulfilled (think multiple backgrounds, gradients and transformations, for example). The list Cross-browser implementation of font-size-adjust When one of the fall-back fonts from your font stack is used, rather than the preferred (first) one, you can retain the aspect ratio by using this very useful property. It is incredibly helpful when the fall-back fonts are smaller or larger than the initial one, which can make layouts look less polished. What font-size-adjust does is divide the original font-size of the fall-back fonts by the font-size-adjust value. This preserves the x-height of the preferred font in the fall-back fonts. Here’s a simple example: p { font-family: Calibri, "Lucida Sans", Verdana, sans-serif; … 2010 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2010-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/my-css-wish-list/ code
239 Using the WebFont Loader to Make Browsers Behave the Same Web fonts give us designers a whole new typographic palette with which to work. However, browsers handle the loading of web fonts in different ways, and this can lead to inconsistent user experiences. Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer leave a blank space in place of the styled text while the web font is loading. Opera and Firefox show text with the default font which switches over when the web font has loaded, resulting in the so-called Flash of Unstyled Text (aka FOUT). Some people prefer Safari’s approach as it eliminates FOUT, others think the Firefox way is more appropriate as content can be read whilst fonts download. Whatever your preference, the WebFont Loader can make all browsers behave the same way. The WebFont Loader is a JavaScript library that gives you extra control over font loading. It was co-developed by Google and Typekit, and released as open source. The WebFont Loader works with most web font services as well as with self-hosted fonts. The WebFont Loader tells you when the following events happen as a browser downloads web fonts (or loads them from cache): when fonts start to download (‘loading’) when fonts finish loading (‘active’) if fonts fail to load (‘inactive’) If your web page requires more than one font, the WebFont Loader will trigger events for individual fonts, and for all the fonts as a whole. This means you can find out when any single font has loaded, and when all the fonts have loaded (or failed to do so). The WebFont Loader notifies you of these events in two ways: by applying special CSS classes when each event happens; and by firing JavaScript events. For our purposes, we’ll be using just the CSS classes. Implementing the WebFont Loader As stated above, the WebFont Loader works with most web font services as well as with self-hosted fonts. Self-hosted fonts To use the WebFont Loader when you are hosting the font files on your own server, paste the following code into your web page: <script type="text/javascript"> WebFontConfig = { custom: { families: ['Fon… 2010 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2010-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/using-the-webfont-loader-to-make-browsers-behave-the-same/ code
238 Everything You Wanted To Know About Gradients (And a Few Things You Didn’t) Hello. I am here to discuss CSS3 gradients. Because, let’s face it, what the web really needed was more gradients. Still, despite their widespread use (or is it overuse?), the smartly applied gradient can be a valuable contributor to a designer’s vocabulary. There’s always been a tension between the inherently two-dimensional nature of our medium, and our desire for more intensity, more depth in our designs. And a gradient can evoke so much: the splay of light across your desk, the slow decrease in volume toward the end of your favorite song, the sunset after a long day. When properly applied, graded colors bring a much needed softness to our work. Of course, that whole ‘proper application’ thing is the tricky bit. But given their place in our toolkit and their prominence online, it really is heartening to see we can create gradients directly with CSS. They’re part of the draft images module, and implemented in two of the major rendering engines. Still, I’ve always found CSS gradients to be one of the more confusing aspects of CSS3. So if you’ll indulge me, let’s take a quick look at how to create CSS gradients—hopefully we can make them seem a bit more accessible, and bring a bit more art into the browser. Gradient theory 101 (I hope that’s not really a thing) Right. So before we dive into the code, let’s cover a few basics. Every gradient, no matter how complex, shares a few common characteristics. Here’s a straightforward one: I spent seconds hours designing this gradient. I hope you like it. At either end of our image, we have a final color value, or color stop: on the left, our stop is white; on the right, black. And more color-rich gradients are no different: (Don’t ever really do this. Please. I beg you.) It’s visually more intricate, sure. But at the heart of it, we have just seven color stops (red, orange, yellow, and so on), making for a fantastic gradient all the way. Now, color stops alone do not a gradient make. Between each is a transition point, the fail-over point between the two stop… 2010 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2010-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-gradients/ code
237 Circles of Confusion Long before I worked on the web, I specialised in training photographers how to use large format, 5×4″ and 10×8″ view cameras – film cameras with swing and tilt movements, bellows and upside down, back to front images viewed on dim, ground glass screens. It’s been fifteen years since I clicked a shutter on a view camera, but some things have stayed with me from those years. In photography, even the best lenses don’t focus light onto a point (infinitely small in size) but onto ‘spots’ or circles in the ‘film/image plane’. These circles of light have dimensions, despite being microscopically small. They’re known as ‘circles of confusion’. As circles of light become larger, the more unsharp parts of a photograph appear. On the flip side, when circles are smaller, an image looks sharper and more in focus. This is the basis for photographic depth of field and with that comes the knowledge that no photograph can be perfectly focused, never truly sharp. Instead, photographs can only be ‘acceptably unsharp’. Acceptable unsharpness is now a concept that’s relevant to the work we make for the web, because often – unless we compromise – websites cannot look or be experienced exactly the same across browsers, devices or platforms. Accepting that fact, and learning to look upon these natural differences as creative opportunities instead of imperfections, can be tough. Deciding which aspects of a design must remain consistent and, therefore, possibly require more time, effort or compromises can be tougher. Circles of confusion can help us, our bosses and our customers make better, more informed decisions. Acceptable unsharpness Many clients still demand that every aspect of a design should be ‘sharp’ – that every user must see rounded boxes, gradients and shadows – without regard for the implications. I believe that this stems largely from the fact that they have previously been shown designs – and asked for sign-off – using static images. It’s also true that in the past, organisations have invested heavily in style gu… 2010 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2010-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/circles-of-confusion/ process

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