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3 Project Hubs: A Home Base for Design Projects SCENE: A design review meeting. Laptop screens. Coffee cups. Project manager: Hey, did you get my email with the assets we’ll be discussing? Client: I got an email from you, but it looks like there’s no attachment. PM: Whoops! OK. I’m resending the files with the attachments. Check again? Client: OK, I see them. It’s homepage_v3_brian-edits_FINAL_for-review.pdf, right? PM: Yeah, that’s the one. Client: OK, hang on, Bill’s going to print them out. (3-minute pause. Small talk ensues.) Client: Alright, Bill’s back. We’re good to start. Brian: Oh, actually those homepage edits we talked about last time are in the homepage_v4_brian_FINAL_v2.pdf document that I posted to Basecamp earlier today. Client: Oh, OK. What message thread was that in? Brian: Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s in “Homepage Edits and Holiday Schedule.” Client: Alright, I see them. Bill’s going back to the printer. Hang on a sec… This is only a slightly exaggerated version of my experience in design review meetings. The design project dance is a sloppy one. It involves a slew of email attachments, PDFs, PSDs, revisions, GitHub repos, staging environments, and more. And while tools like Basecamp can help manage all these moving parts, it can still be incredibly challenging to extract only the important bits, juggle deliverables, and see how your project is progressing. Enter project hubs. Project hubs A project hub consolidates all the key design and development materials onto a single webpage presented in reverse chronological order. The timeline lives online (either publicly available or password protected), so that everyone involved in the team has easy access to it. A project hub. I was introduced to project hubs after seeing Dan Mall’s open redesign of Reading Is Fundamental. Thankfully, I had a chance to work with Dan on two projects where I got to see firsthand how beneficial a project hub can be. Here’s what makes a project hub great: Serves as a centralized home base for the project Trains clients and teams to decide i… 2013 Brad Frost bradfrost 2013-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/project-hubs/ process
4 Credits and Recognition A few weeks ago, I saw a friendly little tweet from a business congratulating a web agency on being nominated for an award. The business was quite happy for them and proud to boot — they commented on how the same agency designed their website, too. What seemed like a nice little shout-out actually made me feel a little disappointed. Why? In reality, I knew that the web agency didn’t actually design the site — I did, when I worked at a different agency responsible for the overall branding and identity. I certainly wasn’t disappointed at the business — after all, saying that someone designed your site when they were responsible for development is an easy mistake to make. Chances are, the person behind the tweets and status updates might not even know the difference between words like design and development. What really disappointed me was the reminder of how many web workers out there never explain their roles in a project when displaying work in a portfolio. If you’re strictly a developer and market yourself as such, there might be less room for confusion, but things can feel a little deceptive if you offer a wide range of services yet never credit the other players when collaboration is part of the game. Unfortunately, this was the case in this situation. Whatever happened to credit where credit’s due? Advertising attribution Have you ever thumbed through an advertising annual or browsed through the winners of an advertising awards website, like the campaign below from Kopenhagen Chocolate on Advertising Age? If so, it’s likely that you’ve noticed some big differences in how the work is credited. Everyone involved in a creative advertising project is mentioned. Art directors, writers, creative directors, photographers, illustrators and, of course, the agency all get a fair shot at fifteen minutes of fame. Why can’t we take this same idea and introduce it to our own showcases? Crediting on client sites Ah, the good old days of web rings, guestbooks, and under construction GIFs, when slipping in a cheeky… 2013 Geri Coady gericoady 2013-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/credits-and-recognition/ process
5 Managing a Mind On 21 May 2013, I woke in a hospital bed feeling exhausted, disorientated and ashamed. The day before, I had tried to kill myself. It’s very hard to write about this and share it. It feels like I’m opening up the deepest recesses of my soul and laying everything bare, but I think it’s important we share this as a community. Since starting tentatively to write about my experience, I’ve had many conversations about this: sharing with others; others sharing with me. I’ve been surprised to discover how many people are suffering similarly, thinking that they’re alone. They’re not. Due to an insane schedule of teaching, writing, speaking, designing and just generally trying to keep up, I reached a point where my buffers completely overflowed. I was working so hard on so many things that I was struggling to maintain control. I was living life on fast-forward and my grasp on everything was slowly slipping. On that day, I reached a low point – the lowest point of my life – and in that moment I could see only one way out. I surrendered. I can’t really describe that moment. I’m still grappling with it. All I know is that I couldn’t take it any more and I gave up. I very nearly died. I’m very fortunate to have survived. I was admitted to hospital, taken there unconscious in an ambulance. On waking, I felt overwhelmed with shame and overcome with remorse, but I was resolved to grasp the situation and address it. The experience has forced me to confront a great deal of issues in my life; it has also encouraged me to seek a deeper understanding of my situation and, in particular, the mechanics of the mind. The relentless pace of change We work in a fast-paced industry: few others, if any, confront the daily challenges we face. The landscape we work within is characterised by constant flux. It’s changing and evolving at a rate we have never experienced before. Few industries reinvent themselves yearly, monthly, weekly… Ours is one of these industries. Technology accelerates at an alarming rate and keeping abreast of this … 2013 Christopher Murphy christophermurphy 2013-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/managing-a-mind/ process
10 Home Kanban for Domestic Bliss My wife is an architect. I’m a leader of big technical teams these days, but for many years after I was a dev I was a project/program manager. Our friends and family used to watch Grand Designs and think that we would make the ideal team — she could design, I could manage the project of building or converting whatever dream home we wanted. Then we bought a house. A Victorian terrace in the north-east of England that needed, well, a fair bit of work. The big decisions were actually pretty easy: yes, we should knock through a double doorway from the dining room to the lounge; yes, we should strip out everything from the utility room and redo it; yes, we should roll back the hideous carpet in the bedrooms upstairs and see if we could restore the original wood flooring. Those could be managed like a project. What couldn’t be was all the other stuff. Incremental improvements are harder to schedule, and in a house that’s over a hundred years old you never know what you’re going to find when you clear away some tiles, or pull up the carpets, or even just spring-clean the kitchen (“Erm, hon? The paint seems to be coming off. Actually, so does the plaster…”). A bit like going in to fix bugs in code or upgrade a machine — sometimes you end up quite far down the rabbit hole. And so, as we tried to fit in those improvements in our evenings and weekends, we found ourselves disagreeing. Arguing, even. We were both trying to do the right thing (make the house better) but since we were fitting it in where we could, we often didn’t get to talk and agree in detail what was needed (exactly how to make the house better). And it’s really frustrating when you stay up late doing something, just to find that your other half didn’t mean that they meant this instead, and so your effort was wasted. Then I saw this tweet from my friend and colleague Jamie Arnold, who was using the same kanban board approach at home as we had instituted at the UK Government Digital Service to manage our portfolio. Mrs Arnold embraces Kanban wall at ho… 2013 Meri Williams meriwilliams 2013-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/home-kanban-for-domestic-bliss/ process
25 The Introvert Owner’s Manual Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. Albert Camus “Whatever you plan, just make sure there are lots of people there,” said my husband in the run-up to his birthday last year. A few months later, before my own birthday, I uttered, “Whatever you plan, just make sure it is only me and you.” I am an introvert. It is very likely some of you are too, or that you live, work or fraternise with one. Despite there being quite a few of us out there – some say as many as one third of the population, others as little as ten per cent – I think our professional and social lives are biased towards a definition of normality that is more accepting of the extrovert. I hope that by reading this article you will gain some insight to what goes on inside the head of the introvert(s) that you know and understand how to relate to them in a way that respects their disposition. Before we go any further, I should define what exactly being an introvert means, and, equally important, what it does not. Only once this is established will you be able to handle your introvert correctly. What defines an introvert The simplest and most accurate way of describing an introvert is that she uses up energy in social situations and needs to be in solitude to recharge. To explain what I mean, let us take the example of the The Sims: when you create a Sim, you can choose (among other characteristics) whether it will be outgoing or not. If the Sim is outgoing, when you play the game you need to make sure it interacts as much as possible with other Sims or its mood indicator (the plumbob) will become red and that is a bad thing. Conversely, if your Sim is not outgoing, when you put it in too many social situations its plumbob will become red too. So your (real life) introvert might think you are great (you might even be her best friend, her spouse or her child), but if her plumbob is red, or nearly, she might just need a little time and space to recharge before she is ready to interact. This is not the same … 2014 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2014-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/the-introvert-owners-manual/ process
34 Collaborative Responsive Design Workflows Much has been written about workflow and designer-developer collaboration in web design, but many teams still struggle with this issue; either with how to adapt their internal workflow, or how to communicate the need for best practices like mobile first and progressive enhancement to their teams and clients. Christmas seems like a good time to have another look at what doesn’t work between us and how we can improve matters. Why is it so difficult? We’re still beginning to understand responsive design workflows, acknowledging the need to move away from static design tools and towards best practices in development. It’s not that we don’t want to change – so why is it so difficult? Changing the way we do something that has become routine is always problematic, even with small things, and the changes today’s web environment requires from web design and development teams are anything but small. Although developers also have a host of new skills to learn and things to consider, designers are probably the ones pushed furthest out of their comfort zones: as well as graphic design, a web designer today also needs an understanding of interaction design and ergonomics, because more and more websites are becoming tools rather than pages meant to be read like a book or magazine. In addition to that there are thousands of different devices and screen sizes on the market today that layout and interactions need to work on. These aspects make it impossible to design in a static design tool, so beyond having to learn about new aspects of design, the designer has to either learn how to code or learn to work with a responsive design tool. Why do it That alone is enough to leave anyone overwhelmed, as learning a new skill takes time and slows you down in a project – and on most projects time is in short supply. Yet we have to make time or fall behind in the industry as others pitch better, interactive designs. For an efficient workflow, both designers and developers must familiarise themselves with new tools and techniques. A… 2014 Sibylle Weber sibylleweber 2014-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/collaborative-responsive-design-workflows/ process
39 Meet for Learning “I’ve never worked in a place like this,” said one of my direct reports during our daily stand-up meeting. And with that statement, my mind raced to the most important thing about lawyering that I’ve learned from decades of watching lawyers lawyer on TV: don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to. But I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to learn more. The thought developed in my mind. The words formed in my mouth. And the vocalization occurred: “A place like this?” “I’ve never worked where people are so honest and transparent about things.” Designing a learning-centered culture Before we started Center Centre, Jared Spool and I discussed both the larger goals and the smaller details of this new UX design school. We talked about things like user experience, curriculum, and structure. We discussed the pattern we saw in our research. Hiring managers told us time and again that great designers have excellent technical and interpersonal skills. But, more importantly, the best designers are lifelong learners—they are willing and able to learn how to do new things. Learning this led us to ask a critical question: how would we intentionally design a learning-centered experience? To craft the experience we were aiming for, we knew we had to create a learning-centered culture for our students and our employees. We knew that our staff would need to model the behaviors our students needed to learn. We knew the best way to shape the culture was to work with our direct reports—our directs—to develop the behaviors we wanted them to exemplify. To craft the experience we were aiming for, we knew we had to create a learning-centered culture for our students and our employees. We knew that our staff would need to model the behaviors our students needed to learn. Building a learning team Our learning-centered culture starts with our staff. We believe in transparency. Transparency builds trust. Effective organizations have effective teams who trust each other as individuals. One huge way we build that trust and provide… 2014 Leslie Jensen-Inman lesliejenseninman 2014-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/meet-for-learning/ process
41 What Is Vagrant and Why Should I Care? If you run a web server, a database server and your scripting language(s) of choice on your main machine and you have not yet switched to using virtualisation in your workflow then this essay may be of some value to you. I know you exist because I bump into you daily: freelancers coming in to work on our projects; internet friends complaining about reinstalling a development environment because of an operating system upgrade; fellow agency owners who struggle to brief external help when getting a particular project up and running; or even hardcore back-end developers who “don’t do ops” and prefer to run their development stack of choice locally. There are many perfectly reasonable arguments as to why you may not have already made the switch, from being simply too busy, all the way through to a distrust of the new. I’ll admit that there are many new technologies or workflows that I hear of daily and instantly disregard because I have tool overload, that feeling I get when I hear about a new shiny thing and think “Well, what I do now works – I’ll leave it for others to play with.” If that’s you when it comes to Vagrant then I hope you’ll hear me out. The business case is compelling enough for you to make that switch; as a bonus it’s also really easy to get going. In this article we’ll start off by going through the high level, the tools available and how it all fits together. Then we’ll touch on the justification for making the switch, providing a few use cases that might resonate with you. Finally, I’ll provide a very simple example that you can follow to get yourself up and running. What? You already know what virtualisation is. You use the ability to run an operating system within another operating system every day. Whether that’s Parallels or VMware on your laptop or similar server-based tools that drive the ‘cloud’, squeezing lots of machines on to physical hardware and making it really easy to copy servers and even clusters of servers from one place to another. It’s an amazing technology which has change… 2014 Darren Beale darrenbeale 2014-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/what-is-vagrant-and-why-should-i-care/ process
45 Is Agile Harder for Agencies? I once sat in a pitch meeting and watched a new business exec tell a potential client that his agency followed an agile workflow process at all times. The potential client nodded wisely, and they both agreed that agile was indeed the way to go. The meeting progressed and they signed off on a contract for a massive project, to be delivered in a standard waterfall fashion, with all manner of phases and key deliverables. Of course both of them left the meeting perfectly happy, because neither of them knew nor cared what an agile workflow process might be. That was about five years ago. As 2015 heaves into view I think it’s fair to say that attitudes have changed. Perhaps the same number of people claim to do Agile™ now as in 2010, but I think more of them are telling the truth. As a developer in an agency that works primarily with larger organisations, this year I have started to see a shift from agencies pushing agile methodologies with their clients, to clients requesting and even demanding agile practices from their agencies. Only a couple of years ago this would have been unusual behaviour. So what’s the problem? We should be happy then, no? Those of us in agencies will get to spend more time delivering great products, and less time arguing over out-of-date functional specs or battling through an adversarial change management procedure because somebody had a good idea during development rather than planning. We get to be a little bit more like our brothers and sisters in vaunted teams like the Government Digital Service, which is using agile approaches to great effect on projects that have a real benefit to their users. Almost. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that adhering to an agile framework such as scrum is more difficult within an agency/client structure than it is for an in-house development team. This is no surprise. The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001 by a group of software developers for their own use. Many of the underlying principles of a framework like Scrum assume the existence of… 2014 Charlie Perrins charlieperrins 2014-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/is-agile-harder-for-agencies/ process
47 Developing Robust Deployment Procedures Once you have developed your site, how do you make it live on your web hosting? For many years the answer was to log on to your server and upload the files via FTP. Over time most hosts and FTP clients began to support SFTP, ensuring your files were transmitted over a secure connection. The process of deploying a site however remained the same. There are issues with deploying a site in this way. You are essentially transferring files one by one to the server without any real management of that transfer. If the transfer fails for some reason, you may end up with a site that is only half updated. It can then be really difficult to work out what hasn’t been replaced or added, especially where you are updating an existing site. If you are updating some third-party software your update may include files that should be removed, but that may not be obvious to you and you risk leaving outdated files littering your file system. Updating using (S)FTP is a fragile process that leaves you open to problems caused by both connectivity and human error. Is there a better way to do this? You’ll be glad to know that there is. A modern professional deployment workflow should have you moving away from fragile manual file transfers to deployments linked to code committed into source control. The benefits of good practice You may never have experienced any major issues while uploading files over FTP, and good FTP clients can help. However, there are other benefits to moving to modern deployment practices. No surprises when you launch If you are deploying in the way I suggest in this article you should have no surprises when you launch because the code you committed from your local environment should be the same code you deploy – and to staging if you have a staging server. A missing vital file won’t cause things to start throwing errors on updating the live site. Being able to work collaboratively Source control and good deployment practice makes working with your clients and other developers easy. Deploying first to a staging… 2014 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2014-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/developing-robust-deployment-procedures/ process
62 Being Customer Supportive Every day in customer support is an inbox, a Twitter feed, or a software forum full of new questions. Each is brimming with your customers looking for advice, reassurance, or fixes for their software problems. Each one is an opportunity to take a break from wrestling with your own troublesome tasks and assist someone else in solving theirs. Sometimes the questions are straightforward and can be answered in a few minutes with a short greeting, a link to a help page, or a prewritten bit of text you use regularly: how to print a receipt, reset a password, or even, sadly, close your account. More often, a support email requires you to spend some time unpacking the question, asking for more information, and writing a detailed personal response, tailored to help that particular user on this particular day. Here I offer a few of my own guidelines on how to make today’s email the best support experience for both me and my customer. And even if you don’t consider what you do to be customer support, you might still find the suggestions useful for the next time you need to communicate with a client, to solve a software problem with teammates, or even reach out and ask for help yourself. (All the examples appearing in this article are fictional. Any resemblance to quotes from real, software-using persons is entirely coincidental. Except for the bit about Star Wars. That happened.) Who’s TAHT girl I’ll be honest: I briefly tried making these recommendations into a clever mnemonic like FAST (facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties, time) or PAD (pressure, antiseptic, dressing). But instead, you get TAHT: tone, ask, help, thank. Ah, well. As I work through each message in my support queue, I listen to the tone of the email ask clarifying questions bring in extra help as needed and thank the customer when the problem is solved. Let’s open an email and get started! Leave your message at the sound of the tone With our enthusiasm for emoji, it can be very hard to infer someone’s tone from plain text. How much time have… 2015 Elizabeth Galle elizabethgalle 2015-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/being-customer-supportive/ process
66 Solve the Hard Problems So, here we find ourselves on the cusp of 2016. We’ve had a good year – the web is still alive, no one has switched it off yet. Clients still have websites, teenagers still have phone apps, and there continue to be plenty of online brands to meaningfully engage with each day. Good job team, high fives all round. As it’s the time to make resolutions, I wanted to share three small ideas to take into the new year. Get good at what you do “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the old joke goes. “Practise, practise, practise.” We work in an industry where there is an awful lot to learn. There’s a lot to learn to get started and then once you do, there’s a lot more to learn to keep your skills current. Just when you think you’ve mastered something, it changes. This is true of many industries, of course, but the sheer pace of change for us makes learning not an annual activity, but daily. Learning takes time, and while I’m not convinced that every skill takes the fabled ten thousand hours to master, there is certainly no escaping that to remain current we must reinvest time in keeping our skills up to date. Picking where to spend your time One of the hardest aspects of this thing of ours is just choosing what to learn. If you, like me, invested any time in learning the Less CSS preprocessor over the last few years, you’ll probably now be spending your time relearning Sass instead. If you spent time learning Grunt, chances are you’ll now be thinking about whether you should switch to Gulp. It’s not just that there are new types of tools, there are new tools and frameworks to do the things you’re already doing, but, well, differently. Deciding what to learn is hard and the costs of backing the wrong horse can seriously mount up; so much so that by the time you’ve learned and then relearned the tools everyone says you need for your job, there’s rarely enough time to spend really getting to know how best to use them.  Practise, practise, practise Do you know how you don’t get to Carnegie Hall? By learning a new instrument eac… 2015 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2015-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/solve-the-hard-problems/ process
82 Being Prepared To Contribute “You’ll figure it out.” The advice my dad gives has always been the same, whether addressing my grade school homework or paying bills after college. If I was looking for a shortcut, my dad wasn’t going to be the one to provide it. When I was a kid it infuriated the hell out of me, but what I then perceived to be a lack of understanding turned out to be a keystone in my upbringing. As an adult, I realize the value in not receiving outright solutions, but being forced to figure things out. Even today, when presented with a roadblock while building for the web, I am temped to get by with the help of the latest grid system, framework, polyfill, or plugin. In and of themselves these resources are harmless, but before I can drop them in, those damn words still echo in the back of my mind: “You’ll figure it out.” I know that if I blindly implement these tools as drag and drop solutions I fail to understand the intricacies behind how and why they were built; repeatedly using them as shortcuts handicaps my skill set. When I solely rely on the tools of others, my work is at their mercy, leaving me less creative and resourceful, and, thus, less able to contribute to the advancement of our industry and community. One of my favorite things about this community is how generous and collaborative it can be. I’ve loved seeing FitVids used all over the web and regularly improved upon at Github. I bet we can all think of a time where implementing a shared resource has benefitted our own work and sanity. Because these resources are so valuable, it’s important that we continue to be a part of the conversation in order to further develop solutions and ideas. It’s easy to assume there’s someone smarter or more up-to-date in any one area, but with a degree of understanding and perspective, we can all participate. This open form of collaboration is in our web DNA. After all, its primary purpose was to promote the exchange and development of new ideas. Tim Berners-Lee proposed a global hypertext project, to be known as the Worl… 2012 Trent Walton trentwalton 2012-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/being-prepared-to-contribute/ process
85 Starting Your Project on the Right Foot (and Keeping It There) I’m not sure if anything is as terrifying as beginning a new design project. I often spend hours trying to find the best initial footing in a design, so I’ve been working hard to improve my process, particularly for the earliest stages of a project. I want to smooth out the bumps that disrupt my creative momentum and focus on the emotional highs and lows I experience, and then try to minimize the lows and ride the highs as long as possible. Design is often a struggle broken up by blissful moments of creative clarity that provide valuable force to move your work forward. Momentum is a powerful tool in creative work, and it’s something we don’t always maximize when we’re working because of the hectic nature of our field. Obviously, every designer is going to have a different process, but I thought I’d share some of the methods I’ve begun to adopt. I hope this will spark a conversation among designers who are interested in looking at process in a new way. Jump-starting a project I cannot overstate the importance of immersing yourself in design and collecting ample amounts of inspiration when beginning a project. I make it a daily practice to visit a handful of sites (Dribbble, Graphic Exchange, Web Creme, siteInspire, Designspiration, and others) and save any examples of design that I like. I then sort them into general categories (publication design, illustration, typography, web design, and so on). Enjoying a bit of fresh design every day helps me absorb it and analyze why it’s effective instead of just imitating it.  Many designers are afraid to look at too much design for fear that they’ll be tempted to copy it, but I feel a steady influx of design inspiration reduces that possibility. You’re much more likely to take the easy way out and rip off a design if you’re scrambling for inspiration after getting stuck. If you are immersed in design from a variety of mediums, you’ll engage your creative brain on multiple levels and have an easier time creating something unique for your project. Looking at good desig… 2012 Bethany Heck bethanyheck 2012-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/starting-your-project-on-the-right-foot/ process
88 Think First, Code Later This is a story that’s best told from the end, and it’s probably one you’re all familiar with. You, or someone just like you, have been building a website, probably as part of a skilled and capable team. You’re a front-end developer, focusing on JavaScript – it’s either your sole responsibility or shared around. It’s quite a big job, been going on for months, and at last it feels like you’re reaching the end of it. But, in a brief moment of downtime, you step back and take a look at the code as a whole. You notice that the folder called “jQuery plugins” suddenly looks rather full, and maybe there’s evidence of several methods of doing the same thing; there are loads of little niggly fixes in the bug tracker; and every place you use Ajax the structure of the data is slightly different. You sigh, and your shoulders droop slightly, and you think “Yeah, we’ll do that more cleanly next time.” The thing is, you probably already know how to rewrite the start of this story to make the ending work better. This situation is not really anyone’s fault – it’s just an accumulation of all the things you decided along the way, all the things you agreed you’d fix later that have disappeared into the black hole of technical debt, and accomodating all the “can we just…?” requests from around the team and the client. So, the solution to this is easy, right? More interminable planning meetings, more tightly controlled and documented specifications, less freedom to innovate, to try out new ideas and enjoy what you’re doing. Wait, that sounds even less fun than the old way. Minimum viable planning Actually, planning and specifications are exactly what you need, but the way you go about them can make a real difference, both to the quality of your code, and the quality of your life as a developer. It can be as simple as being a little more thoughtful before starting on any new piece of functionality. Involve your whole team if possible, or at least those working on what you’re doing. Canvass opinions and work out what the solution… 2012 Stephen Fulljames stephenfulljames 2012-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/think-first-code-later/ process
97 Making Modular Layout Systems For all of the advantages the web has with distribution of content, I’ve always lamented the handiness of the WYSIWYG design tools from the print publishing world. When I set out to redesign my personal website, I wanted to have some of the same abilities that those tools have, laying out pages how I saw fit, and that meant a flexible system for dealing with imagery. Building on some of the CSS that Eric Meyer employed a few years back on the A List Apart design, I created a set of classes to use together to achieve the variety I was after. Employing multiple classes isn’t a new technique, but most examples aren’t coming at this from strictly editorial and visual perspectives; I wanted to have options to vary my layouts depending on content. If you want to skip ahead, you can view the example first. Laying the Foundation We need to be able to map out our page so that we have predictable canvas, and then create a system of image sizes that work with it. For the sake of this article, let’s use a simple uniform 7-column grid, consisting of seven 100px-wide columns and 10px of space between each column, though you can use any measurements you want as long as they remain constant. All of our images will have a width that references the grid column widths (in our example, 100px, 210px, 320px, 430px, 540px, 650px, or 760px), but the height can be as large as needed. Once we know our images will all have one of those widths, we can setup our CSS to deal with the variations in layout. In the most basic form, we’re going to be dealing with three classes: one each that represent an identifier, a size, and a placement for our elements. This is really a process of abstracting the important qualities of what you would do with a given image in a layout into separate classes, allowing you to quickly customize their appearance by combining the appropriate classes. Rather than trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all approach to styling, we give each class only one or two attributes and rely on the combination of classes … 2008 Jason Santa Maria jasonsantamaria 2008-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/making-modular-layout-systems/ process
101 Easing The Path from Design to Development As a web developer, I have the pleasure of working with a lot of different designers. There has been a lot of industry discussion of late about designers and developers, focusing on how different we sometimes are and how the interface between our respective phases of a project (that is to say moving from a design phase into production) can sometimes become a battleground. I don’t believe it has to be a battleground. It’s actually more like being a dance partner – our steps are different, but as long as we know our own part and have a little knowledge of our partner’s steps, it all goes together to form a cohesive dance. Albeit with less spandex and fewer sequins (although that may depend on the project in question). As the process usually flows from design towards development, it’s most important that designers have a little knowledge of how the site is going to be built. At the specialist web development agency I’m part of, we find that designs that have been well considered from a technical perspective help to keep the project on track and on budget. Based on that experience, I’ve put together my checklist of things that designers should consider before handing their work over to a developer to build. Layout One rookie mistake made by traditionally trained designers transferring to the web is to forget a web browser is not a fixed medium. Unlike designing a magazine layout or a piece of packaging, there are lots of available options to consider. Should the layout be fluid and resize with the window, or should it be set to a fixed width? If it’s fluid, which parts expand and which not? If it’s fixed, should it sit in the middle of the window or to one side? If any part of the layout is going to be flexible (get wider and narrower as required), consider how any graphics are affected. Images don’t usually look good if displayed at anything other that their original size, so should they behave? If a column is going to get wider than it’s shown in the Photoshop comp, it may be necessary to provide separate wid… 2008 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2008-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/easing-the-path-from-design-to-development/ process
107 Using Google App Engine as Your Own Content Delivery Network Do you remember, years ago, when hosting was expensive, domain names were the province of the rich, and you hosted your web pages on Geocities? It seems odd to me now that there was a time when each and every geek didn’t have his own top-level domain and super hosting setup. But as the parts became more and more affordable a man could become an outcast if he didn’t have his own slightly surreal-sounding TLD. And so it will be in the future when people realise with surprise there was a time before affordable content delivery networks. A content delivery network, or CDN, is a system of servers spread around the world, serving files from the nearest physical location. Instead of waiting for a file to find its way from a server farm in Silicon Valley 8,000 kilometres away, I can receive it from London, Dublin, or Paris, cutting down the time I wait. The big names — Google, Yahoo, Amazon, et al — use CDNs for their sites, but they’ve always been far too expensive for us mere mortals. Until now. There’s a service out there ready for you to use as your very own CDN. You have the company’s blessing, you won’t need to write a line of code, and — best of all — it’s free. The name? Google App Engine. In this article you’ll find out how to set up a CDN on Google App Engine. You’ll get the development software running on your own computer, tell App Engine what files to serve, upload them to a web site, and give everyone round the world access to them. Creating your first Google App Engine project Before we do anything else, you’ll need to download the Google App Engine software development kit (SDK). You’ll need Python 2.5 too — you won’t be writing any Python code but the App Engine SDK will need it to run on your computer. If you don’t have Python, App Engine will install it for you (if you use Mac OS X 10.5 or a Linux-based OS you’ll have Python; if you use Windows you won’t). Done that? Excellent, because that’s the hardest step. The rest is plain sailing. You’ll need to choose a unique ‘application id’ — nothing … 2008 Matt Riggott mattriggott 2008-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/using-google-app-engine-as-your-own-cdn/ process
112 User Styling During the recent US elections, Twitter decided to add an ‘election bar’ as part of their site design. You could close it if it annoyed you, but the action wasn’t persistent and the bar would always come back like a bad penny. The solution to common browsing problems like this is CSS. ‘User styling’ (or the creepy ‘skinning’) is the creation of CSS rules to customise and personalise a particular domain. Aside from hiding adverts and other annoyances, there are many reasons for taking the time and effort to do it: Improving personal readability by changing text size and colour Personalising the look of a web app like GMail to look less insipid Revealing microformats Sport! My dreams of site skinning tennis are not yet fully realised, but it’ll be all the rage by next Christmas, believe me. Hopefully you’re now asking “But how? HOW?!”. The process of creating a site skin is roughly as follows: See something you want to change Find out what it’s called, and if any rules already apply to it Write CSS rule(s) to override and/or enhance it. Apply the rules So let’s get stuck in… See something Let’s start small with Multimap.com. Look at that big header – it takes up an awful lot of screen space doesn’t it? No matter, we can fix it. Tools Now we need to find out where that big assed header is in the DOM, and make overriding CSS rules. The best tool I’ve found yet is the Mac OS X app, CSS Edit. It utilises a slick ‘override stylesheets’ function and DOM Inspector. Rather than give you all the usual DOM inspection tools, CSS Edit’s is solely concerned with style. Go into ‘X-Ray’ mode, click an element, and look at the inspector window to see every style rule governing it. Click the selector to be taken to where it lives in the CSS. It really is a user styling dream app. Having said all that, you can achieve all this with free, cross platform tools – namely Firefox with the Firebug and Stylish extensions. We’ll be using them for these examples, so make sure you have them installed if you wan… 2008 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2008-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/user-styling/ process
119 Rocking Restrictions I love my job. I live my job. For every project I do, I try to make it look special. I’ll be honest: I have a fetish for comments like “I never saw anything like that!” or, “I wish I thought of that!”. I know, I have an ego-problem. (Eleven I’s already) But sometimes, you run out of inspiration. Happens to everybody, and everybody hates it. “I’m the worst designer in the world.” “Everything I designed before this was just pure luck!” No it wasn’t. Countless articles about finding inspiration have already been written. Great, but they’re not the magic potion you’d expect them to be when you need it. Here’s a list of small tips that can have immediate effect when applying them/using them. Main theme: Liberate yourself from the designers’ block by restricting yourself. Do’s Grids If you aren’t already using grids, you’re doing something wrong. Not only are they a great help for aligning your design, they also restrict you to certain widths and heights. (For more information about grids, I suggest you read Mark Boulton’s series on designing grid systems. Oh, he’s also publishing a book I think.) So what’s the link between grids and restrictions? Instead of having the option to style a piece of layout with a width of 1 to 960 pixels, you have to choose from values like 60 pixels, 140, 220, 300, … Start small Having a hard time finding a style for the layout, why don’t you start with one small object? No, not that small object, I meant a piece of a form, or a link, or try styling your headers (h1 – h6). Let’s take a submit button of a form: it’s small, but needs much attention. People will click it. People will hover it. Maybe sometimes it’s disabled? Also: a button needs to look like a button, so typically it requires more styling then a regular link. Once you’ve got the button, move on, following the button’s style. Color palettes There are lots of resources on the web for finding inspiration for color palettes. Some of the most famous are COLOURlovers, wear palettes and Adobe’s Kuler. Browse through them … 2008 Tim Van Damme timvandamme 2008-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/rocking-restrictions/ process
120 Easier Page States for Wireframes When designing wireframes for web sites and web apps, it is often overlooked that the same ‘page’ can look wildly different depending on its context. A logged-in page will look different from a logged-out page; an administrator’s view may have different buttons than a regular user’s view; a power user’s profile will be more extensive than a new user’s. These different page states need designing at some point, especially if the wireframes are to form a useful communication medium between designer and developer. Documenting the different permutations can be a time consuming exercise involving either multiple pages in one’s preferred box-and-arrow software, or a fully fledged drawing containing all the possible combinations annotated accordingly. Enter interactive wireframes and Polypage Interactive wireframes built in HTML are a great design and communication tool. They provide a clickable prototype, running in the browser as would the final site. As such they give a great feel for how the site will be to use. Once you add in the possibilities of JavaScript and a library such as jQuery, they become even more flexible and powerful. Polypage is a jQuery plugin which makes it really easy to design multiple page states in HTML wireframes. There’s no JavaScript knowledge required (other than cutting and pasting in a few lines). The page views are created by simply writing all the alternatives into your HTML page and adding special class names to apply state and conditional view logic to the various options. When the page is loaded Polypage automatically detects the page states defined by the class names and creates a control bar enabling the user to toggle page states with the click of a mouse or the clack of a keyboard. Using cookies by way of the jQuery cookie plugin, Polypage retains the view state throughout your prototype. This means you could navigate through your wireframes as if you were logged out; as if you were logged in as an administrator; with notes on or off; or with any other view or state you m… 2008 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2008-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/easier-page-states-for-wireframes/ process
122 A Message To You, Rudy - CSS Production Notes When more than one designer or developer work together on coding an XHTML/CSS template, there are several ways to make collaboration effective. Some prefer to comment their code, leaving a trail of bread-crumbs for their co-workers to follow. Others use accompanying files that contain their working notes or communicate via Basecamp. For this year’s 24ways I wanted to share a technique that I has been effective at Stuff and Nonsense; one that unfortunately did not make it into the final draft of Transcending CSS. This technique, CSS production notes, places your page production notes in one convenient place within an XHTML document and uses nothing more than meaningful markup and CSS. Let’s start with the basics; a conversation between a group of people. In the absence of notes or conversation elements in XHTML you need to make an XHTML compound that will effectively add meaning to the conversation between designers and developers. As each person speaks, you have two elements right there to describe what has been said and who has spoken: <blockquote> and its cite attribute. <blockquote cite="andy"> <p>This project will use XHTML1.0 Strict, CSS2.1 and all that malarkey.</p> </blockquote> With more than one person speaking, you need to establish a temporal order for the conversation. Once again, the element to do just that is already there in XHTML; the humble ordered list. <ol id="notes"> <li> <blockquote cite="andy"> <p>This project will use XHTML1.0 Strict, CSS2.1 and all that malarkey.</p> </blockquote> </li> <li> <blockquote cite="dan"> <p>Those bits are simple and bulletproof.</p> </blockquote> </li> </ol> Adding a new note is as simple as adding a new item to list, and if you prefer to add more information to each note, such as the date or time that the note was written, go right ahead. Place your note list at the bottom of the source order of your document, right before the closing <body> tag. One advantage of this approach over using conventional comments in your code is that … 2006 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2006-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/css-production-notes/ process
123 Fast and Simple Usability Testing Everyone knows by now that they should test the usability of their applications, but still hardly anybody actually does it. In this article I’ll share some tips I’ve picked up for doing usability tests quickly and effectively. Relatively recent tools like Django and Ruby on Rails allow us to develop projects faster and to make significant changes later in the project timeline. Usability testing methods should now be adapted to fit this modern approach to development. When to test In an ideal world usability tests would be carried out frequently from an early stage of the project. Time and budget constraints lead this to be impractical; usability is often the first thing to get dropped from the project plan. If you can only test at one stage in the project, whatever the size, the most valuable time is before your first public beta — leaving long enough to fix issues and not so late that you can’t rethink your scope. There are three main categories of usability test: Testing design mockups Testing a new working application Testing established applications Each category requires a slightly different approach. For small modern web projects you are most likely to be testing a new working application. You will of course have already done functional tests so you won’t be worried about the user breaking things. The main differences between the categories apply in how you word The Script. Testing an established application is the most fun in my opinion. Humans are remarkably adaptable and rapidly develop coping strategies to work around usability issues in software they are forced to use. Uncovering these strategies may lead you to understand previously unspoken needs of your users. Often small changes to the application will have a dramatic affect on their everyday lives. Who to test When you have built a project to scratch your own itch, your intended audience will be people just like you. Test subjects in this case should be easy to find – friends, co-workers etc. This is not always the case; your users… 2006 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2006-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/fast-and-simple-usability-testing/ process
130 Faster Development with CSS Constants Anyone even slightly familiar with a programming language will have come across the concept of constants – a fixed value that can be used through your code. For example, in a PHP script I might have a constant which is the email address that all emails generated by my application get sent to. $adminEmail = 'info@example.com'; I could then use $adminEmail in my script whenever I wanted an email to go to that address. The benefit of this is that when the client decides they want the email to go to a different address, I only need change it in one place – the place where I initially set the constant. I could also quite easily make this value user defined and enable the administrator to update the email address. Unfortunately CSS doesn’t support constants. It would be really useful to be able to define certain values initially and then use them throughout a CSS file, so in this article I’m going to take a look at some of the methods we do have available and provide pointers to more in depth commentary on each. If you have a different method, or tip to share please add it to the comments. So what options do we have? One way to get round the lack of constants is to create some definitions at the top of your CSS file in comments, to define ‘constants’. A common use for this is to create a ‘color glossary’. This means that you have a quick reference to the colors used in the site to avoid using alternates by mistake and, if you need to change the colors, you have a quick list to go down and do a search and replace. In the below example, if I decide I want to change the mid grey to #999999, all I need to do is search and replace #666666 with #999999 – assuming I’ve remember to always use that value for things which are mid grey. /* Dark grey (text): #333333 Dark Blue (headings, links) #000066 Mid Blue (header) #333399 Light blue (top navigation) #CCCCFF Mid grey: #666666 */ This is a fairly low-tech method, but if used throughout the development of the CSS files can make changes far simpler and help to ensure co… 2006 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2006-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/faster-development-with-css-constants/ process
154 Diagnostic Styling We’re all used to using CSS to make our designs live and breathe, but there’s another way to use CSS: to find out where our markup might be choking on missing accessibility features, targetless links, and just plain missing content. Note: the techniques discussed here mostly work in Firefox, Safari, and Opera, but not Internet Explorer. I’ll explain why that’s not really a problem near the end of the article — and no, the reason is not “everyone should just ignore IE anyway”. Basic Diagnostics To pick a simple example, suppose you want to call out all holdover font and center elements in a site. Simple: you just add the following to your styles. font, center {outline: 5px solid red;} You could take it further and add in a nice lime background or some such, but big thick red outlines should suffice. Now you’ll be able to see the offenders wherever as you move through the site. (Of course, if you do this on your public server, everyone else will see the outlines too. So this is probably best done on a development server or local copy of the site.) Not everyone may be familiar with outlines, which were introduced in CSS2, so a word on those before we move on. Outlines are much like borders, except outlines don’t affect layout. Eh? Here’s a comparison. On the left, you have a border. On the right, an outline. The border takes up layout space, pushing other content around and generally being a nuisance. The outline, on the other hand, just draws into quietly into place. In most current browsers, it will overdraw any content already onscreen, and will be overdrawn by any content placed later — which is why it overlaps the images above it, and is overlapped by those below it. Okay, so we can outline deprecated elements like font and center. Is that all? Oh no. Attribution Let’s suppose you also want to find any instances of inline style — that is, use of the style attribute on elements in the markup. This is generally discouraged (outside of HTML e-mails, which I’m not going to get anywhere … 2007 Eric Meyer ericmeyer 2007-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/diagnostic-styling/ process
155 Minification: A Christmas Diet The festive season is generally more about gorging ourselves than staying thin but we’re going to change all that with a quick introduction to minification. Performance has been a hot topic this last year. We’re building more complex sites and applications but at the same time trying to make then load faster and behave more responsively. What is a discerning web developer to do? Minification is the process of make something smaller, in the case of web site performance we’re talking about reducing the size of files we send to the browser. The primary front-end components of any website are HTML, CSS, Javascript and a sprinkling of images. Let’s find some tools to trim the fat and speed up our sites. For those that want to play along at home you can download the various utilities for Mac or Windows. You’ll want to be familiar with running apps on the command line too. HTMLTidy HTMLTidy optimises and strips white space from HTML documents. It also has a pretty good go at correcting any invalid markup while it’s at it. tidy -m page.html CSSTidy CSSTidy takes your CSS file, optimises individual rules (for instance transforming padding-top: 10px; padding-bottom: 10px; to padding: 10px 0;) and strips unneeded white space. csstidy style.css style-min.css JSMin JSMin takes your javascript and makes it more compact. With more and more websites using javascript to power (progressive) enhancements this can be a real bandwidth hog. Look out for pre-minified versions of libraries and frameworks too. jsmin <script.js >script-min.js Remember to run JSLint before you run JSMin to catch some common problems. OptiPNG Images can be a real bandwidth hog and making all of them smaller with OptiPNG should speed up your site. optipng image.png All of these tools have an often bewildering array of options and generally good documentation included as part of the package. A little experimentation will get you even more bang for your buck. For larger projects you likely won’t want to be manually minifying all your files. T… 2007 Gareth Rushgrove garethrushgrove 2007-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/minification-a-christmas-diet/ process
185 Make Your Mockup in Markup We aren’t designing copies of web pages, we’re designing web pages. Andy Clarke, via Quotes on Design The old way I used to think the best place to design a website was in an image editor. I’d create a pixel-perfect PSD filled with generic content, send it off to the client, go through several rounds of revisions, and eventually create the markup. Does this process sound familiar? You’re not alone. In a very scientific and official survey I conducted, close to 90% of respondents said they design in Photoshop before the browser. That process is whack, yo! Recently, thanks in large part to the influence of design hero Dan Cederholm, I’ve come to the conclusion that a website’s design should begin where it’s going to live: in the browser. Die Photoshop, die Some of you may be wondering, “what’s so bad about using Photoshop for the bulk of my design?” Well, any seasoned designer will tell you that working in Photoshop is akin to working in a minefield: you never know when it’s going to blow up in your face. The application Adobe Photoshop CS4 has unexpectedly ruined your day. Photoshop’s propensity to crash at crucial moments is a running joke in the industry, as is its barely usable interface. And don’t even get me started on the hot, steaming pile of crap that is text rendering. Text rendered in Photoshop (left) versus Safari (right). Crashing and text rendering issues suck, but we’ve learned to live with them. The real issue with using Photoshop for mockups is the expectations you’re setting for a client. When you send the client a static image of the design, you’re not giving them the whole picture — they can’t see how a fluid grid would function, how the design will look in a variety of browsers, basic interactions like :hover effects, or JavaScript behaviors. For more on the disadvantages to showing clients designs as images rather than websites, check out Andy Clarke’s Time to stop showing clients static design visuals. A necessary evil? In the past we’ve put up with Photoshop because it … 2009 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2009-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/make-your-mockup-in-markup/ process
190 Self-Testing Pages with JavaScript Working at an agency I am involved more and more on projects in which client side code is developed internally then sent out to a separate team for implementation. You provide static HTML, CSS and JavaScript which then get placed into the CMS and brought to life as an actual website. As you can imagine this can sometimes lead to frustrations. However many safeguards you include, handing over your code to someone else is always a difficult thing to do effectively. In this article I will show you how you can create a JavaScript implementation checker and that will give you more time for drink based activity as your web site and apps are launched quicker and with less unwanted drama! An all too frequent occurrence You’ve been working on a project for weeks, fixed all your bugs and send it to be implemented. You hear nothing and assume all is going well then a few days before it’s meant to launch you get an email from the implementation team informing you of bugs in your code that you need to urgently fix. The 24ways website with a misspelt ID for the years menu Being paranoid you trawl through the preview URL, check they have the latest files, check your code for errors then notice that a required HTML attribute has been omitted from the build and therefore CSS or JavaScript you’ve hooked onto that particular attribute isn’t being applied and that’s what is causing the “bug”. It takes you seconds drafting an email informing them of this, it takes then seconds putting the required attribute in and low and behold the bug is fixed, everyone is happy but you’ve lost a good few hours of your life – this time could have been better spent in the pub. I’m going to show you a way that these kind of errors can be alerted immediately during implementation of your code and ensure that when you are contacted you know that there actually is a bug to fix. You probably already know the things that could be omitted from a build and look like bugs so you’ll soon be creating tests to look for these and alert when they are not … 2009 Ross Bruniges rossbruniges 2009-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/self-testing-pages-with-javascript/ process
194 Design Systems and Hybrids The other day on Twitter, I saw a thread started by Dorian Taylor about why design systems are so hot right now. In the thread, he made the case that they’ve been around for ages and some folks were just slow to catch up. It was an interesting thread, and not the first time I’ve seen folks discuss this. “Design systems are so hot right now” was even used recently in this very publication. And yes it’s true that they’ve been around for ages. Design artefact collectors’ obsession with reprints of old graphic standards manuals of the past are a reminder. Sometimes old things become new again, either through a rediscovery or awakening (wow, that sounds really deep). But I think that’s definitely what happened here. Some very opinionated answers that come to mind for me are: The need for them has increased with the needs of software development. With the increasing number of devices (phones, tablets, watches, etc.), scaling design has required the need to double down on systems thinking and processes. Investments with huge cost-saving returns. The time investment it takes to onboard new people as you staff up large teams (and the time it takes to fix bugs and inconsistencies) could be better spent building up a system that lets you ship at a faster pace. It also gives you more time to focus on the bigger picture instead of what color a button border is. If you do have to onboard new designers, the design system is a great educational resource to get up to speed quickly on your organization’s design principles, materials/tools, and methods. “Here’s the simple truth: you can’t innovate on products without first innovating the way you build them.” — Alex Schleifer, The Way We Build These are just some of the reasons. But there is another answer, and a personal conclusion that I’ve reached. It relates to the way I work and what I love working on, but I don’t see it talked about much. Hybrids Have a Home I’m a hybrid designer. I code in HTML & CSS (with a preference for Sass). But I don’t call myself a frontend develop… 2017 Jina Anne jina 2017-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/design-systems-and-hybrids/ process
199 Knowing the Future - Tips for a Happy Launch Day You’ve chosen your frameworks and libraries. You’ve learned how to write code which satisfies the buzzword and performance gods. Now you need to serve it to a global audience, and make things easy to preview, to test, to sign-off, and to evolve. But infrastructure design is difficult and boring for most of us. We just want to get our work out into the wild. If only we had tools which would let us go, “Oh yeah! It all deploys perfectly every time” and shout, “You need another release? BAM! What’s next?” A truth that can be hard to admit is that very often, the production environment and its associated deployment processes are poorly defined until late into a project. This can be a problem. It makes my palms sweaty just thinking about it. If like me, you have spent time building things for clients, you’ll probably have found yourself working with a variety of technical partners and customers who bring different constraints and opportunities to your projects. Knowing and proving the environments and the deployment processes is often very difficult, but can be a factor which profoundly impacts our ability to deliver what we promised. To say nothing of our ability to sleep at night or leave our fingernails un-chewed. Let’s look at this a little, and see if we can’t set you up for a good night’s sleep, with dry palms and tidy fingernails. A familiar problem You’ve been here too, right? The project development was tough, but you’re pleased with what you are running in your local development environments. Now you need to get the client to see and approve your build, and hopefully indicate with a cheery thumbs up that it can “go live”. Chances are that we have a staging environment where the client can see the build. But be honest, is this exactly the same as the production environment? It should be, but often it’s not. Often the staging environment is nothing more than a visible server with none of the optimisations, security, load balancing, caching, and other vital bits of machinery that we’ll need (and need to test) … 2017 Phil Hawksworth philhawksworth 2017-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/knowing-the-future/ process
200 Care and Feeding of Burnout You’ve been doing too much for too long. And it’s broken you. You’re burned out. You’re done. Illustration by Kate Holden Occupational burnout is a long-documented effect of stretching yourself further than the limits of your mental and physical health can carry you. And when it finally catches up with you, it can feel like the end of the world. But things can get better. With focused self care, reworking your priorities and lots of time, you can slog through burnout. What is burnout? The Tl;dr linkdump tour In this article, we’ll be looking at what you can do when you’re burned out. We’ll be skipping past a lot of information on what burnout is, what causes it and how it impacts the tech industry. We’re able to skip past this because many technologists have already created valuable content targeted to our industry. The videos and writing below may be helpful for readers who are less familiar with burnout. A Wikipedia article may be a great starting point for learning about occupational burnout. Understanding burnout: Brandon West This conference talk by Brandon West covers a lot of burnout 101, from the perspective of a developer relations/community professional. April Wensel writes about the need for the tech industry to move from the Valley’s burnout culture to a more sustainable model. Catching Burnout [as] early [as possible] One of the most challenging things about burnout is that it develops slowly and gradually. Many impacted don’t notice the water warming around them until it’s been brought to a boil, causing a crisis that can’t be overlooked. Catching burnout and taking steps to deal with it as early as possible can help limit the length and severity of your burnout. Getting in the habit of checking in with yourself regularly about your stress and energy levels can be an effective habit for assessing burnout and for general wellness. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine if you might be suffering from burnout. Have you become cynical or critical at work? D… 2017 Jessica Rose jessicarose 2017-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/care-and-feeding-of-burnout/ process
205 Why Design Systems Fail Design systems are so hot right now, and for good reason. They promote a modular approach to building a product, and ensure organizational unity and stability via reusable code snippets and utility styles. They make prototyping a breeze, and provide a common language for both designers and developers. A design system is a culmination of several individual components, which can include any or all of the following (and more): Style guide or visual pattern library Design tooling (e.g. Sketch Library) Component library (where the components live in code) Code usage guidelines and documentation Design usage documentation Voice and tone guideline Animation language guideline Design systems are standalone (internal or external) products, and have proven to be very effective means of design-driven development. However, in order for a design system to succeed, everyone needs to get on board. I’d like to go over a few considerations to ensure design system success and what could hinder that success. Organizational Support Put simply, any product, including internal products, needs support. Something as cross-functional as a design system, which spans every vertical project team, needs support from the top and bottom levels of your organization. What I mean by that is that there needs to be top-level support from project managers up through VP’s to see the value of a design system, to provide resources for its implementation, and advocate for its use company-wide. This is especially important in companies where such systems are being put in place on top of existing, crufty codebases, because it may mean there needs to be some time and effort put in the calendar for refactoring work. Support from the bottom-up means that designers and engineers of all levels also need to support this system and feel responsibility for it. A design system is an organization’s product, and everyone should feel confident contributing to it. If your design system supports external clients as well (such as contractors), they too can become val… 2017 Una Kravets unakravets 2017-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/why-design-systems-fail/ process
207 Want to Break Out of Comparison Syndrome? Do a Media Detox “Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt I grew up in an environment of perpetual creativity and inventiveness. My father Dennis built and flew experimental aircraft as a hobby. During my entire childhood, there was an airplane fuselage in the garage instead of a car. My mother Deloria was a self-taught master artisan who could quickly acquire any skills that it took to work with fabric and weaving. She could sew any garment she desired, and was able to weave intricate wall hangings just by looking at a black and white photos in magazines. My older sister Diane blossomed into a consummate fine artist who drew portraits with uncanny likeness, painted murals, and studied art and architecture. In addition, she loved good food and had a genius for cooking and baking, which converged in her creating remarkable art pieces out of cake that were incredibly delicious to boot. Yes. This was the household in which I grew up. While there were countless positives to being surrounded by people who were compelled to create, there was also a downside to it. I incessantly compared myself to my parents and older sister and always found myself lacking. It wasn’t a fair comparison, but tell that to a sensitive kid who wanted to fit in to her family by being creative as well. From my early years throughout my teens, I convinced myself that I would never understand how to build an airplane or at least be as proficient with tools as my father, the aeronautical engineer. Even though my sister was six years older than I was, I lamented that I would never be as good a visual artist as she was. And I marveled at my mother’s seemingly magical ability to make and tailor clothes and was certain that I would never attain her level of mastery. This habit of comparing myself to others grew over the years, continuing to subtly and effectively undermine my sense of self. I had almost reached an uneasy truce with my comparison habit when social media happened. As an early adopter of Twitter, I loved staying connected to people I met a… 2017 Denise Jacobs denisejacobs 2017-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/do-a-media-detox/ process
218 Put Yourself in a Corner Some backstory, and a shameful confession For the first couple years of high school I was one of those jerks who made only the minimal required effort in school. Strangely enough, how badly I behaved in a class was always in direct proportion to how skilled I was in the subject matter. In the subjects where I was confident that I could pass without trying too hard, I would give myself added freedom to goof off in class. Because I was a closeted lit-nerd, I was most skilled in English class. I’d devour and annotate required reading over the weekend, I knew my biblical and mythological allusions up and down, and I could give you a postmodern interpretation of a text like nobody’s business. But in class, I’d sit in the back and gossip with my friends, nap, or scribble patterns in the margins of my textbooks. I was nonchalant during discussion, I pretended not to listen during lectures. I secretly knew my stuff, so I did well enough on tests, quizzes, and essays. But I acted like an ass, and wasn’t getting the most I could out of my education. The day of humiliation, but also epiphany One day in Ms. Kaney’s AP English Lit class, I was sitting in the back doodling. An earbud was dangling under my sweater hood, attached to the CD player (remember those?) sitting in my desk. Because of this auditory distraction, the first time Ms. Kaney called my name, I barely noticed. I definitely heard her the second time, when she didn’t call my name so much as roar it. I can still remember her five feet frame stomping across the room and grabbing an empty desk. It screamed across the worn tile as she slammed it next to hers. She said, “This is where you sit now.” My face gets hot just thinking about it. I gathered my things, including the CD player (which was now impossible to conceal), and made my way up to the newly appointed Seat of Shame. There I sat, with my back to the class, eye-to-eye with Ms. Kaney. From my new vantage point I couldn’t see my friends, or the clock, or the window. All I saw were Ms. Kaney’s eyes, peeri… 2010 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2010-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/put-yourself-in-a-corner/ process
225 Good Ideas Grow on Paper Great designers have one thing in common: their design process is centred on ideas; ideas that are more often than not developed on paper. Though it’s often tempting to take the path of least resistance, turning to the computer in the headlong rush to complete a project (often in the face of formidable client pressure), resist the urge and – for a truly great idea – start first on paper. The path of least resistance is often characterised by cliché and overused techniques – one per cent noise, border-radius, text-shadow – the usual suspects – techniques that are ten-a-penny at the gallery sites. Whilst all are useful, and technique and craft are important, great design isn’t about technique alone – it’s about technique in the service of good ideas. But how do we generate those ideas? Inspiration can certainly come to you out of the blue. When working as a designer in a role which often consists of incubating good ideas, however, idly waiting for the time-honoured lightbulb to appear above your head just isn’t good enough. We need to establish an environment where we tip the odds of getting good ideas in our favour. So, when faced with the blank canvas, what do we do to unlock the proverbial tidal wave of creativity? Fear not. We’re about to share with you a couple of stalwart techniques that will stand you in good stead when you need that good idea, in the face of the pressure of yet another looming deadline. Get the process right Where do ideas come from? In many cases they come from anywhere but the screen. Hence, our first commandment is to close the lid of your computer and, for a change, work on paper. It might seem strange, it might also seem like a distraction, but – trust us – the time invested here will more than pay off. Idea generation should be a process of rapid iteration, sketching and thinking aloud, all processes best undertaken in more fast paced, analogue media. Our tool of choice is the Sharpie and Flip Chart Combo©, intentionally low resolution to encourage lo-fi idea generation. In sho… 2010 The Standardistas thestandardistas 2010-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/good-ideas-grow-on-paper/ process
226 Documentation-Driven Design for APIs Documentation is like gift wrapping. It seems like superfluous fluff, but your family tends to be rather disappointed when their presents arrive in supermarket carrier bags, so you have to feign some sort of attempt at making your gift look enticing. Documentation doesn’t have to be all hard work and sellotaping yourself to a table – you can make it useful and relevant. Documentation gets a pretty rough deal. It tends to get left until the end of a project, when some poor developer is assigned the ‘document project’ ticket and wades through each feature of Whizzy New API 3.0 and needs to recall exactly what each method is meant to do. That’s assuming any time is left for documentation at all. The more common outcome resembles last minute homework scribbled on a post-it note, where just the bare bones of what’s available are put out for your users, and you hope that you’ll spot the inconsistencies and mistakes before they do. Wouldn’t it be nicer for everyone if you could make documentation not only outstanding for your users, but also a valuable tool for your development team – so much so that you couldn’t imagine writing a line of code before you’d documented it? Documentation needs to have three main features: It should have total coverage and document all the features of your project. Private methods should be documented for your developers, and public features need to be available to your users. It should be consistent – a user should know what to expect from your documentation, and terminology should be accurate to your language. It should be current – and that means staying accurate as new versions of your code base are released. But you can also get these bonuses: Act as a suggested specification – a guide that will aid a developer in making something consistent and usable. It can test your API quality. It can enhance the communication skills within your development team. So how do we get our documentation to be rich and full of features, instead of a little worn out like Boxing Day lef… 2010 Frances Berriman francesberriman 2010-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/documentation-driven-design-for-apis/ process
230 The Articulate Web Designer of Tomorrow You could say that we design to communicate, and that we seek emotive responses. It sounds straightforward, and it can be, but leaving it to chance isn’t wise. Many wander into web design without formal training, and whilst that certainly isn’t essential, we owe it to ourselves to draw on wider influences, learn from the past, and think smarter. What knowledge can we ourselves explore in order to become better designers? In addition, how can we take this knowledge, investigate it through our unique discipline, and in turn speak more eloquently about what we do on the web? Below, I outline a number of things that I personally believe all designers should be using and exploring collectively. Taking stock Where we’re at is good. Finding clarity through web standards, we’ve ended up quite modernist in our approach, pursuing function, elegance and reduction. However, we’re not great at articulating our own design processes and principles to outsiders. Equally, we rely heavily on our instincts when deciding if something is or isn’t good. That’s fine, but we can better understand why things are the way they are by looking a little deeper, thereby helping us articulate what goes on in our design brains to our peers, our clients and to normal humans. As designers we use ideas, concepts, text and images. We apply our ideas and experience, imposing order and structure to content, hoping to ease the communication of an idea to the largest possible audience or to a specific audience. We consciously manipulate most of what is available to us, but not all. There is something else we can use. I often think that brilliant work demands a keen understanding of the magical visual language that informs design. Embracing an established visual language This is a language whose alphabet is shapes, structures, colours, lines and rhythms. When effective, it is somewhat invisible, subliminally enforcing messages and evoking meaning, using methods solidly rooted in a grammar perceptible in virtually all extraordinary creative work. Th… 2010 Simon Collison simoncollison 2010-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-articulate-web-designer-of-tomorrow/ process
232 Optimize Your Web Design Workflow I’m not sure about you, but I still favour using Photoshop to create my designs for the web. I agree that this application, even with its never-ending feature set, is not the perfect environment to design websites in. The ideal application doesn’t exist yet, however, so until it does it’s maybe not such a bad idea to investigate ways to optimize our workflow. Why use Photoshop? It will probably not come as a surprise if I say that Photoshop and Illustrator are the applications that I know best and feel most comfortable and creative in. Some people prefer Fireworks for web design. Even though I understand people’s motivations, I still prefer Photoshop personally. On the occasions that I gave Fireworks a try, I ended up just using the application to export my images as slices, or to prepare a dummy for the client. For some reason, I’ve never been able to find my way in that app. There were always certain things missing that could only be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator, which bothered me. Why not start in the browser? These days, with CSS3 styling emerging, there are people who find it more efficient to design in the browser. I agree that at a certain point, once the basic design is all set and defined, you can jump right into the code and go from there. But the actual creative part, at least for me, needs to be done in an application such as Photoshop. As a designer I need to be able to create and experiment with shapes on the fly, draw things, move them around, change colours, gradients, effects, and so on. I can’t see me doing this with code. I’m sure if I switch to markup too quickly, I might end up with a rather boxy and less interesting design. Once I start playing with markup, I leave my typical ‘design zone’. My brain starts thinking differently – more rational and practical, if you know what I mean; I start to structure and analyse how to mark up my design in the most efficient semantic way. When I design, I tend to let that go for a bit. I think more freely and not so much about the limitatio… 2010 Veerle Pieters veerlepieters 2010-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/optimize-your-web-design-workflow/ process
236 Extreme Design Recently, I set out with twelve other designers and developers for a 19th century fortress on the Channel Island of Alderney. We were going to /dev/fort, a sort of band camp for geeks. Our cohort’s mission: to think up, build and finish something – without readily available internet access. Alderney runway, photo by Chris Govias Wait, no internet? Well, pretty much. As the creators of /dev/fort James Aylett and Mark Norman Francis put it: “Imagine a place with no distractions – no IM, no Twitter”. But also no way to quickly look up a design pattern, code sample or source material. Like packing for camping, /dev/fort means bringing everything you’ll need on your back or your hard drive: from long johns to your favourite icon set. We got to work the first night discussing ideas for what we wanted to build. By the time breakfast was cleared up the next morning, we’d settled on Russ’s idea to make the Apollo 13 (PDF) transcript accessible. Days two and three were spent collaboratively planning (KJ style) what features we wanted to build, and unravelling the larger UX challenges of the project. The next five days were spent building it. Within 36 hours of touchdown at Southampton Airport, we launched our creation: spacelog.org The weather was cold, the coal fire less than ideal, food and supplies a hike away, and the process lightning-fast. A week of designing under extreme circumstances called for an extreme process. Some of this was driven by James’s and Norm’s experience running these things, but a lot of it materialised while we were there – especially for our three-strong design team (myself, Gavin O’ Carroll and Chris Govias) who, though we knew each other, had never worked together as a group in this kind of scenario before. The outcome was a pretty spectacular process, with a some key takeaways useful for any small group trying to build something quickly. What it’s like inside the fort /dev/fort has the pressure and pace of a hack day without being a hack day – primarily, no workshops or interruptio… 2010 Hannah Donovan hannahdonovan 2010-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/extreme-design/ process
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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