Tags: process

Using consent over consensus for decision making

Mikey compares a few different decision-making processes (and in the process describes the fundamental difference between the W3C and the WHATWG).

90 Days

John is joining us at Clearleft for three months and he’s documenting every single day—in quite some detail!

If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall at Clearleft, well, this is pretty close.

Design machines | Louder Than Ten

When another company achieves success, there’s a lot of pressure to investigate what they did right and apply that to our own organizations.

But we still have a chance. As long as we run brave organizations made up of even braver souls who are willing to embrace expression, trust their intuition and experiences, and stand up when everyone else is sitting down, we will survive.

Interface Experience Maps, From the Notebook of Aaron Gustafson

This sounds like it could be a very useful tool to introduce early in projects to get a shared understanding of progressive enhancement.

A few quick links and thoughts on big web problems – Baldur Bjarnason

The system makes the website. Don’t blame the web developer, blame the organisation. A web developer embedded in a large system isn’t the one making the websites.

To make a progressively enhanced website that performs well and loads quickly even on slow connections, you need to first make an organisation that values those qualities over others.

They Write the Right Stuff

This article first appeared in Fast Company almost twenty years ago. It’s a fascinating look into the culture and process that created and maintained the software for the space shuttle. It’s the opposite of Silicon Valley’s “move fast and break things.”

To be this good, the on-board shuttle group has to be very different — the antithesis of the up-all-night, pizza-and-roller-hockey software coders who have captured the public imagination. To be this good, the on-board shuttle group has to be very ordinary — indistinguishable from any focused, disciplined, and methodically managed creative enterprise.

100 days reflections | Clear Thinking - The Clearleft Blog

Two-thirds of the way through our 100 days project, Batesy takes stock of his journey so far.

(I should probably mention that I love each and every one of the pieces of hand lettering that he’s done …talented bastard.)

Where visual design fits in a process – Occasional writing from @rivalee

I think the distinction between ‘how it works’ and ‘how it looks’ is blurrier than we think.

Talking design

Mariana Mota is writing a book on the collaborative design process. She’s sharing her research videos as she goes.

The first video features Gerry Leonidas.

The One-Minute Test — Medium

I really like this idea of Jared’s. Finish up a meeting by having everyone write down the answers to these three questions in 60 seconds:

  1. What was the big idea? (What was the most important thing you heard at the meeting?)
  2. What was your big surprise? (What was the thing you saw or heard that surprised you the most?)
  3. What’s your big question? (What’s the biggest unanswered question you have at this time?)

I can certainly relate to these findings:

We find that it’s not unusual to discover that different people in the room had just attended completely different meetings. People are surprised by things that other people take as a matter of course. People take away a different emphasis about what was discussed. People’s fears and concerns are reflected in their outstanding questions.

SmashingConf Oxford 2015: Richard Rutter on Don’t Give Them What They Want, Give Them What They Need

A great case study from Richard, walking through the process of redesigning the website for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

A JS framework on every table - Allen Pike

The Tower of JavaScript Babel.

The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero

Superb. Absolutely superb.

A magnificent tour-de-force by Frank on the web’s edgelessness.

Read. Absorb. Read again. This is the essence of responsive web design, distilled.

Are You Living in a Simulation?

Always worth bearing in mind when some perspective is needed.

If it is possible that our future species will go on to create simulations of our civilisation forerunners (us), then it is far more likely that we are currently in such a simulation than not.

Who Should Pay?, From the Notebook of Aaron Gustafson

When I look around, I see our community spending a lot of time coming up with new tools and techniques to make our jobs easier. To ship faster. And it’s not that I’m against efficiency, but I think we need to consider the implications of our decisions. And if one of those implications is making our users suffer—or potentially suffer—in order to make our lives easier, I think we need to consider their needs above our own.

The “Web Application” Myth — Medium

Sensible words from Christian.

Web applications don’t follow new rules.

And frameworks will not help:

A lot of them are not really fixing fundamental problems of the web. What they do is add developer convenience. … This would be totally OK, if we were honest about it.

DevMynd Blog: Pairing with Junior Developers

We hired Charlotte, our first junior developer at Clearleft recently, and my job has taken on more of a teaching role. I’m really enjoying it, but I have no idea what I’m doing, and I worry that I’m doing all the wrong things.

This article looks like it has some good, sensible advice …although I should probably check to see if Charlotte agrees.

Front end and back end - QuirksBlog


The difference between back-enders and front-enders is that the first work in only one environment, while the second have to work with myriad of environments that may hold unpleasant surprises.


I feel that the subconscious assumption that a complex JavaScript-driven web site or web app will run in only one monolithic environment is the root cause of many problems front-enders see in back-end-driven web-based projects.

Some thoughts on “designing in the browser” | The Haystack

An important clarification from Stephen:

You don’t actually design in the browser

When I speak of designing in the browser, I mean creating browser-based design mockups/comps (I use the terms interchangeably), as opposed to static comps (like the PSDs we’re all used to). So it’s not the design. It’s the visualization of the design—the one you present to stakeholders.


Personally, I think it’s as crazy to start in the browser as it is to start with Photoshop—both have worldviews and constraints that will affect your thinking. Start with paper.

Sass Guidelines

Advice for writing Sass. I don’t necessarily agree with everything, but on the whole, this is a solid approach.

It’s worth bearing Chris’s advice in mind.

CSS: Just Try and Do a Good Job

Good advice from Chris, particularly if you’re the one who has to live with the CSS you write.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said, “You must do what you feel is right, of course.”

Mobile Last?

This isn’t a scientific data sample, but Jonathan’s anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that most web designers and developers are still thinking with a desktop-first mentality. Which is crazy.

Google Embraces Progressive Enhancement, from the notebook of Aaron Gustafson

I don’t tend to be a “magic pill” kind of believer, but I can honestly say that embracing progressive enhancement can radically change your business for the better. And I’m glad to see Google agrees with me.

Code for America — Responsive Web Design on Huffduffer

This was a fun podcast—myself and Cyd from Code For America talk to Karen and Ethan about how we worked together. Good times.

The audio is available for your huffduffing pleasure.

Patty Toland — Design Consistency For The Responsive Web (Smashing Conference Freiburg 2014) on Vimeo

Patty’s excellent talk on responsive design and progressive enhancement. Stick around for question-and-answer session at the end, wherein I attempt to play hardball, but actually can’t conceal my admiration and the fact that I agree with every single word she said.

The boring front-end developer - Adam Silver, Front end developer, based in London

My name is Jeremy and I am a boring front-end developer.

What’s the design process at GDS? | Government Digital Service

A look behind the scenes of gov.uk. I like their attitude to Photoshop comps:

We don’t want a culture of designs being “thrown over a wall” to a dev team. We don’t make “high fidelity mock ups” or “high fidelity wireframes”. We’re making a Thing, not pictures of a Thing.

And UX:

We don’t have a UX Team. If the problem with your service is that the servers are slow and the UX Team can’t change that, then they aren’t in control of the user experience and they shouldn’t be called the user experience team.

The Making of Aprilzero

The first in a series of posts looking at the process behind builfing this “quantified self” site:

As with most decisions in my life, I asked myself: What would Tony Stark do?

It’s OK not to use tools by Jonas Downey of Basecamp

Today, a basic HTML/CSS site seems almost passé. But why? Is it because our new tools are so significantly better, or because we’ve gone overboard complicating simple things?

He’s right, y’know.

Using Photoshop in Responsive Workflows - Web Standards Sherpa

A nice summation by Dan of when it makes sense to use a graphic design tool like Photoshop and when it makes sense to use a web browser.

A Modern Designer’s Canvas | Smashing Magazine

The transcript of Malarkey’s recent talk. Good thoughtful stuff.

Making ubuntu.com responsive: intro | Ubuntu Design Blog

Yaili is documenting the process of retrofitting ubuntu.com to be responsive. I’ll be avidly reading each post in this series.

being a client (tecznotes)

Mike writes about what it was like being a client for a change. After working with him on the Code for America project, I can personally vouch for him as a dream client:

Clearleft’s pattern deliverables are the special-special that made the final work so strong. Jon Aizlewood’s introduction to the concept convinced me to contact Clearleft. Jeremy Keith’s interest in design systems kicked off the process, and Anna Debenham’s fucking rock star delivery brought it all home.

Robin Rendle › A Visual Lexicon

Some great thoughts in here about web development workflow and communication between designers and developers.

I believe that the solution is made up of a variety of tools that encourage conversation and improve our shared lexicon. Tools such as styleguides, pattern libraries, elemental and modular systems that encourage access not only by developers, but by designers, shareholders and editors as well.

Notes on a responsive Guardian redesign – Lozworld™

A great write-up of the design process behind The Guardian’s responsive site. It’s really gratifying to see UX designers talking about performance.

The Pastry Box Project: Finish your projects

Words of wisdom from Seb when it comes to personal projects: finish what you start.

Most people don’t finish their projects so simply by getting it done, you’re way ahead of the crowd.

Why is Progressive Enhancement so unpopular? — All in the head

Like Drew, I’ve noticed some real hostility to the idea of progressive enhancement recently. Like Drew, I don’t really understand where this attitude comes from. It’s not like progressive enhancement prevents you from doing anything you would do otherwise: it’s just another way of approaching the way you build for the web.

I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect that some developers are letting their tools dictate their principles—the tail wagging the dog (where the tail is Angular, Ember, etc.).

There are no small changes | Inside Intercom

Des is right, y’know.

Scope grows in minutes, not months. Look after the minutes, and the months take care of themselves.

Photography, hello — Software ate the camera, but freed the photograph by Craig Mod

Craig recently had a piece published in the New Yorker called Goodbye, Cameras. It’s good …but this follow-on piece on his own site is truly wonderful.

Read. Absorb. Ponder.

Being close to the network does not mean being on Facebook, thought it can mean that, too. It does not mean pushing low-res images to Instagram, although there’s nothing wrong with that. What the network represents, in my mind, is a sort of ledger of humanity. The great shared mind. An image’s distance to it is the difference between contributing or not contributing to that shared ledger.

Myth - CSS the way it was imagined.

This looks interesting: a CSS postprocessor that polyfills support for perfectly cromulent styles.

An Hour of Code spawns hours of coding

Here’s a heartwarming tale. It starts out as a description of processing.js project for Code Club (which is already a great story) and then morphs into a description of how anyone can contribute to make a codebase better …resulting in a lovely pull request on Github.

The (other) Web we lost

John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.

The Business of Responsive Design by Mark Boulton

The transcript of Mark’s talk from last week’s Handheld conference in Cardiff.

There are mountains.

Jeremy Keith – The Power Of Simplicity – border:none

This is the talk I gave at the border:none event in Nuremberg last month. I really enjoyed it. This was a chance to gather together some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while about how we approach front-end development today …and tomorrow.

Warning: it does get quite ranty towards the end.

Also: it is only now that the video is released that I see I spent the entire talk looking like a dork with a loop of wire sticking out of the back of my head.

Long Term Web Semantics on Infrequently Noted

Alex starts with a bit of a rant about the phrase “semantic HTML”, which should really just be “well-written HTML, but there then follows some excellent thoughts on the emergence of meaning and the process of standardising on vocabularies.

The Pastry Box Project | 8 August 2013, baked by Viviana Doctorovich

Empathy is for everyone:

No matter how many times I go through this journey, it never stops surprising me how easy it is to lose perspective in the heat of a project and forget that there is no difference between a user, a client and a designer. It shouldn’t be so hard to remember that no matter the title, we’re all just people trying to get things done.

A nice reminder from Viv.

Responsive design: we are not there yet

A call for developers to let standards bodies know what we want:

It is important that we as developers focus on the right things again. If you encounter a bug, you should not only fix it for your site; you should reach out to browser vendors and web standards people to fix this in a long-term solution. It might cost you a few minutes, but brings a lot of improvement to the whole developer community.

DRM and HTML5: it’s now or never for the Open Web

Dr Harry Halpin writing in the Guardian about the crucial crossroads that we have reached with the very real possibility of DRM mechanisms becoming encoded within HTML:

Most of us are simply happy to launch our browsers and surf the web without a second thought as to how the standards like HTML are created. These standards are in the hands of a fairly small set of standards bodies that have in general acted as responsible stewards for the last few years. The issue of DRM in HTML may be the turning point where all sorts of organisations and users are going to stop taking the open web for granted.

Leveraging Advanced Web Features in Responsive Design

A terrific case study in progressive enhancement: starting with a good ol’ form that works for everybody and then adding on features like Ajax, SVG, the History API …the sky’s the limit.

The Extensible Web Manifesto

An intriguing initiative to tighten up the loop between standards development and implementation.

On pattern portfolios | Clear Thinking - The Clearleft Blog

Jon gives some insight into how and why we use pattern portfolios as deliverables at Clearleft.

Reorganization by Trent Walton

Trent hammers home the point that the kind of compartmentalisation that’s traditionally been part and parcel of the web dev workflow just won’t cut it anymore.

Responsive Deliverables by Dave Rupert

Dave talks about the kind of deliverables that get handed over in a responsive project. Sounds a lot like what we do at Clearleft.

Responsive deliverables should look a lot like fully-functioning Twitter Bootstrap-style systems custom tailored for your clients’ needs.

Check you’re wearing trousers first by Robert Heaton

Some cautionary tales of over-engineering solutions before doing some quick user-testing to establish what the real problems are.

It’s a pleasant delusion to believe that all our problems require hard solutions.

Responsive Day Out by Laura Kalbag

A terrific, in-depth round-up and recollection of the Responsive Day Out by Laura that ties all of the strands together.

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Anna documents her tea-making process.

Responsive design – have we come full circle?

Everything old is new again. Ross noticed that many of the themes recurring at the Responsive Day Out hark back to best practices from over a decade ago: progressive enhancement, performance, good ol’ information architecture…

Program Your Own Mind 2: A responsive day out

Some thoughts and soul-searching prompted by talks at the Responsive Day Out.

Our thoughts about Responsive Day Out by Si digital

Some nice recollections from the Responsive Day Out.

A Responsive Day Out, Brighton by Hydrant

A nice write-up of the Responsive Day Out with all the right take-aways.

Responsive web design: the war has not yet been won

This was the crux of Elliot’s excellent talk at the Responsive Day Out. I heartily concur with this:

Once you overcome that initial struggle of adapting to a new process, designing and building responsive sites needn’t take any longer, or cost any more money. The real obstacle is designers and developers being set in their ways.

“The Post-PSD Era: A problem of expectations,” an article by Dan Mall

I really like Dan’s take on using Photoshop (or Fireworks) as part of today’s web design process. The problem is not with the tool; the problem is with the expectations set by showing comps to clients.

By default, presenting a full comp says to your client, “This is how everyone will see your site.” In our multi-device world, we’re quickly moving towards, “This is how some people will see your site,” but we’re not doing a great job of communicating that.

Metadesign at Hack Farm by James Box

James’s notes from the most recent Hack Farm show that, even without a finished product, there were a lot of benefits.

Flickr: ugordan’s Photostream

Gorgeous colour-processed images from NASA probes. I could stare at the fountains of Enceladus all day.

The Pastry Box Project | 7 December 2012, baked by Cennydd Bowles

Beauteous and true.

Real design is political.

All Systems Are Go!(ing to Come Apart) - Cognition: The blog of web design

I really like these thoughts on the importance of design systems for the web. It’s not about providing a few perfect deliverables that won’t survive once they go live; it’s about designing for the unexpected, the unpredictable:

Design for every state, not the best state.

Let’s Talk Solar | LOGO24

Here’s a really useful case study for anyone who wants to do “guerrilla” responsive design: when you’re handed a fixed-width mockup but you know that responsive is the way to go:

I started by styling up every element, without layout. The result was a fully elastic layout that effectively served as a mobile, or small screen, layout, which just needed some tweaking of horizontal spacing.

Bingo! And this approach had knock-on benefits as it “supported writing component-based, or modular, CSS”.

Skinny Ties and responsive eCommerce » Blog » Gravity Department

Another responsive design case study. This one’s got numbers too.

A Responsive Design Case Study – David Bushell – Web Design & Front-end Development

I love seeing the process behind responsive projects. This one is particularly nice.

Responsive IA: IA in the touchscreen era - Martin Belam at EuroIA

A really terrific piece about wireframing for responsive designs. Again, it’s all about the prototypes.

Adaptive Content Management | Journal | The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton

Mark gets to the heart of the issue with making responsive designs work with legacy Content Management Systems …or, more accurately, Web Publishing Tools. There’s a difference. A very important difference.

A List Apart: Articles: Responsive Comping: Obtaining Signoff with Mockups

A peak behind the scenes at the responsive design and development workflow at Bearded. It makes a lot of sense.

Programming, Motherfucker - Do you speak it?

Does Zed Shaw look like a bitch to you?

I said does Zed Shaw look like a bitch to you?

The Airfix Responsive Workflow by Jordan Moore — Web Designer

A nice look at some possible ways to approach workflow on a responsive project.

{ io: The Web Is Growing Up }

A lovely bit of hypertext.

Blame the implementation, not the technique | TimKadlec.com

It might seem like an obvious point, but what Tim is talking about here happens over and over again: a technique is dismissed based on bad implementation.

Laying Down our Burdens: Steps towards simplifying the mobile Web

Amen, Lyza, Amen. Instead of treating web development for the multitude of devices out there as an overwhelming nigh-on-impossible task, let’s accept the fact that there are certain things that are beyond our control. And that’s okay.

Let’s build on the commonality core to the web where we can. To do this, I think we need to let go of a few things, to lay down our burdens.

Related: do websites need to look the same in every browser? NO!

The Story of the New Microsoft.com — Rainypixels

Nishant gives a great overview of the responsive redesign of the Microsoft home page, ably abetted by the Paravel gang.

14islands: Smashing Conference take-aways

A nice round-up of some of the themes that emerged at Smashing Conference. As with An Event Apart, there was a definite focus on process.

» 4 August 2012, baked by Bruce Lawson @ The Pastry Box Project

Bruce writes about a worrying trend in standards work:

Tossing a specification that you’ve written in-house, in secret and already implemented onto a table at W3C, saying “here, standardise this” as you saunter past isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card for proprietary misdemeanours. And it isn’t standardisation.

A future friendly workflow | Opinion | .net magazine

Some more thoughts on how our workflow needs to adapt to the current ever-changing device landscape.

Making of: People Magazine’s Responsive Mobile Website (Global Moxie)

An in-depth look behind the scenes of the responsive relaunch of People Magazine’s mobile site that Josh, Karen, and Ethan were involved in. I love it when people share their process and build stories like this.

Matthew Butterick: Reversing the Tide of Declining Expectations

I don’t agree with everything in this presentation—there’s a nostalgic bias to the non-existent “good ol’ days”—but this is still very engaging and thought-provoking.

fberriman » Accidental designer

Everything Frances has written here resonates with me.

I don’t really want a label. I hate labels. I loathe the term “user experience designer”, because I still believe that “user experience” is just a fundamental to what you’re doing, and shouldn’t need stating. There is nothing but user experience design if you’re building products for people.

Web Native Design on Vimeo

A great talk on the nature of the web that Paul gave in Copenhagen recently.

Bringing a knife to a gunfight — my slide deck from An Event Apart, Austin 2012 | Stuff & Nonsense

Andy remarks on the same synchronicity I talked about at An Event Apart Austin:

Every An Event Apart conference feels special, but at this one the (unplanned) recurring themes were spooky.

Client/Agency Engagement is F*cked, Waterfall UX Design is a Symptom | disambiguity

Leisa nails it. The real stumbling block with trying to change the waterfall-esque nature of agency work (of which Clearleft has certainly been guilty) can be summed up in two words: sign off.

And from a client’s perspective, this emphasis on sign-off is completely understandable.

It takes a special kind of client to take the risk and develop the level of trust and integration required to work the way that Mr Popoff-Walker any many, many other inhabitants of agency world would like to work.

UX Design at Digital Agencies is F*cked | RossPW

This resonates a lot with me. It also hits very close to home: at Clearleft, we’ve definitely been guilty of taking the wrong approach as described here.

Sketching A New Mobile Web - Smashing Mobile | Smashing Mobile

A great article on the importance of sketching for mobile-first responsive designs, complete with practical ideas for workshopping.

IE-friendly mobile-first CSS with Sass 3.2

Jake demonstrates his technique for preprocessor-generated stylesheets for older versions of Internet Explorer (while other browsers get the same styles within media queries).

Issue #408: Generate a separate css with flattened media queries

This is an excellent idea from Jake: use a preprocessor to automatically spit out a stylesheet for older versions of IE that includes desktop styles (garnered from the declarations within media queries).

If you’re a dab hand with Ruby and you’d like to see this in SASS, you can help.

Responsive workflow

One developer shares how his workflow has changed thanks to responsive design. It’s insightful.

Kiwibank: Standing Up for Something New — Paul Robert Lloyd

Paul interviews the team behind Kiwibank’s responsive homepage. There are some great insights into their process here, like the way that copywriters worked side by side with developers.

Shallow Thoughts » srcset vs. picture

A well thought-out evaluation on responsive images from Bridget.

Mocking Up Is Hard To Do

This seems like an eminently sensible thing to do when building responsive sites: ditch mock-ups entirely. The reasons and the workflow outlined here make a lot of sense.

10 questions about web performance – Jeremy Keith at Clearleft

I had a chat with the guys from Pingdom about performance’n’stuff. If I sound incoherent, that’s because this is a direct transcription of a Skype call, where, like, apparently I don’t, y’know, talk in complete sentences and yeah.

GDS design principles

A great set of design principles for gov.uk — I’ve added them to http://principles.adactio.com/