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.
I think the distinction between ‘how it works’ and ‘how it looks’ is blurrier than we think.
I love this talk.
Alex takes a long-zoom look at the web and our technology stacks, from ’60s counterculture to start-up culture, touching on open source and the indie web along the way.
A long-zoom look at life, work, and success.
I’m not usually a fan of portmanteau neologisms, but I really like Tash’s coining of the word longtrepreneur.
A walkthrough on using the iOS app Workflow to huffduff audio files from just about any app.
This year’s map from TeleGeography is looking lovely.
Alternative histories of communication.
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.
Tim Maughan reports on the same container ship trip that Dan W. is sending his postcards from.
I like the idea of there being an Apollo-sized project all around us, if you just know where to look.
First, towering above and over the ship, are the loading cranes. Vast structures mounted on huge, four-legged frames, they resemble the naked scaffolding of unbuilt skyscrapers, and trigger nostalgic reminders of Saturn V rocket launch towers from the 1960s.
Once in port at night I saw one suddenly fire into life next to the ship in a stroboscopic explosion of lights, before it tracked slowly above my high vantage point, bathing me in the orange glow of a dozen small halogen suns.
I’ve said it before: if your client-side MVC framework does not support server-side rendering, that is a bug. It cripples performance.
I have doubts about Angular 1.x’s suitability for modern web development. If one is uncharitably inclined, one could describe it as a front-end framework by non-front-enders for non-front-enders.
I have to admit, my initial reaction to the idea of providing free access to some websites for people in developing countries was “well, it’s better than no access at all, right?” …but the more I think about it, the more I realise how short-sighted that is. The power of the internet stems from being a stupid network and anything that compromises that—even with the best of intentions—is an attack on its fundamental principles.
On the surface, it sounds great for carriers to exempt popular apps from data charges. But it’s anti-competitive, patronizing, and counter-productive.
I’m not a new developer, but I can definitely relate to this. In fact, when I’ve spoken to any developer about this, it turns out that everyone feels overwhelmed by how much we’re expected to know. That’s not good. We should open up and talk about this more (like Charlotte is doing here).
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.
Like an Enid Blyton adventure for the 21st century, James goes out into the country and explores the networks of microwave transmitters enabling high-frequency trading.
If you think that London’s skyscraper boom is impressive – the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin – go to Slough. It is not height that matters, but bandwidth.
Seb will be running this workshop again at the start of February—details here. I can’t recommend it highly enough—it’s so, so good!
I had the great honour of being invited to speak on the 200th edition of the Working Draft podcast (there are a few sentences in German at the start, and then it switches into English).
I had a lot of fun talking about indie web building blocks (rel=me, indieauth, webmention, h-entry, etc.). Best of all, while I was describing these building blocks, one of the hosts started implementing them!
Here’s a fun little interview I did recently, mostly about work stuff. It’s available for your huffduffing pleasure.
One thing that really bothers me is the way I repeatedly said “guys” to refer to my colleagues at Clearleft. I must stop doing that.
Continuous partial City And The City, courtesy of James.
Those of us who reside on the “right” side of fixed, physical borders seem to cross the electromagnetic border every day, whether overtly, by entering the right passwords and credit card numbers, or covertly, as when using VPNs to watch TV programs viewable only in other territories. Those on the “wrong” side are subjected to a different but analogous battery of tests, intensifying at the physical border but often carried out far from it, in networked enclaves or foreign transit zones or aboard floating teleconference platforms in international waters.
Angry, but true.
Don’t lock yourself into a comprehensive technology that may just die within the next few months and leave you stranded. With progressive enhancement you’ll never go wrong. Progressive enhancement means your code will always work, because you’ll always focus on providing a minimal experience first, and then adding features, functionality, and behavior on top of the content.
It’s very early days for ServiceWorker, but Jake is on hand with documentation and instructions on its use. To be honest, most of this is over my head and I suspect it won’t really “click” until I try using it for myself.
Where it gets really interesting is in the comments. Stuart asks “What about progressive enhancement?” And Jake points out that because a ServiceWorker won’t be installed on a first visit, you pretty much have to treat it as an enhancement. In fact, you’d have to go out of your way to make it a requirement:
You could, of course, throw up a splash screen and wait for the ServiceWorker to install, creating a ServiceWorker-dependant experience. I will hunt those people down.
But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.
There’s nothing innovative or new about this business model. Uber is just capitalism, in its most naked form.
How computers work:
One day, a man name Alan Turing found a magic lamp, and rubbed it. Out popped a genie, and Turing wished for infinite wishes. Then we killed him for being gay, but we still have the wishes.
Then we networked computers together:
The network is ultimately not doing a favor for those in power, even if they think they’ve mastered it for now. It increases their power a bit, it increases the power of individuals immeasurably. We just have to learn to live in the age of networks.
We are all nodes in many networks. This is a beautiful description of how one of those networks operates.
A peak at a near-future mundane dystopia from Joanne McNeil that reminds me of Brian’s spime story
A nice profile of BERG’s Little Printer. That Matt Webb is a smart cookie. He is also a very thoughtful cookie.
I can relate to every single word that Bastian has written here.
The longer I look at boilerplates, build tools, frameworks and ways to make my life as a developer easier, the more I long for the basics.
An early look at the just-in-time interactions that Scott has been working on:
Nearby works like this. An enabled object broadcasts a short description of itself and a URL to devices nearby listening. Those URLs are grabbed and listed by the app, and tapping on one brings you to the object’s webpage, where you can interact with it—say, tell it to perform a task.
James talks about his latest project, The Right To Flight.
A look at the architectural history of the network hubs of New York: 32 Avenue of the Americas and 60 Hudson Street. Directed by Davina Pardo and written by her husband Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet.
These buildings were always used as network hubs. It’s just that the old networks were used to house the infrastructure of telephone networks (these were the long line buildings).
In a way, the big server hotel of New York—111 Eight Avenue—was also always used to route packets …it’s just that the packets used to be physical.
The transcript of Anab Jain’s talk from the FutureEverything Festival.
Jacqueline Currie is running Robotics/Bioengineering/Computing workshops for girls (ages 6-16) this Saturday at the University of Brighton.
I guess it goes without saying at this point, but this piece from Frank is beautiful and thought-provoking.
This part in particular touched on some things I’ve been thinking about lately:
Design’s golden calf is simplicity. Speaking as someone who sees, makes, and uses design each and every day, I am tired of simple things. Simple things are weak. They are limited. They are boring. What I truly want is clarity. Give me clear and evident things over simple things. Make me things that presume and honor my intelligence. Shun seamlessness. It is another false token. Make me things that are full of seams, because if you give me a seam and I pull the thread, I get to see how the whole world is stitched together. Give me some credit. Show me you trust me.
I like Matt’s observation here that the simple combination of a barebones data format like HTML delivered over HTTP is a good-enough low-level API for joining up all kinds of internet-connected things.
In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.
One implication is that successful products are not necessarily those with seamless, beautiful, tightly-controlled “experiences”, but rather the ones that are capable of talking to each other.
Small things, loosely joined.
The GPS system is a monumental network that provides a permanent “YouAreHere” sign hanging in the sky, its signal a constant, synchronised timecode.
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 lovely bit of data celebration from Ravelry on the occasion of their 4 millionth user.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want to see a successful example of a real social networking site, don’t look at Facebook; look at Ravelry.
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.
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.
Des is right, y’know.
Scope grows in minutes, not months. Look after the minutes, and the months take care of themselves.
A great analysis of how centralised hubs are the easiest attack vector for bad actors like the NSA and GCHQ:
How did we get such industry concentration? Why is a network famously based on distributed processing, routing, and peer connections characterized now by a few choke points that the NSA can skim at its leisure?
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.
The video of my closing talk at this year’s Full Frontal conference, right here in Brighton.
I had a lot of fun with this, although I was surprisingly nervous before I started: I think it was because I didn’t want to let Remy down.
John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.
I despair sometimes.
Here’s a ridiculous Heath-Robinsonesque convoluted way of getting the mighty all-powerful Googlebot to read the web thangs you’ve built using the new shiny client-side frameworks like Angular, Ember, Backbone…
Here’s another idea: output your HTML in HTML.
Brightonians, get yourselves along to the Corn Exchange on Monday evening for some fun with Seb’s digital fireworks.
This looks like something that Clearleft would use. A lot.
I don’t think they deliver to Brighton though.
I’m going to miss having Paul around at Clearleft …and it sounds like he’s going to miss us too.
In many respects, Clearleft can be regarded as a family. Andy and Rich are the parents while perhaps Jeremy is the fun uncle sending postcards from his adventures around the world.
By the way, we’re hiring (two roles, because that’s what it’ll take to fill Paul’s unicorn shoes).
This is a great explanatory piece from James Bridle in conjunction with Mozilla’s Webmaker. It’s intended for a younger audience, but its clear description of how web requests are resolved is pitch-perfect primer for anyone.
The web isn’t magic. It’s not some faraway place we just ‘connect’ to, but a vast and complex system of computers, connected by actual wires under the ground and the oceans. Every time you open a website, you’re visiting a place where that data is stored.
A timeline of technology.
Scott gives us an excellent State Of The Web address, looking at how the web can be central to the coming age of ubiquitous computing. He rightly skips through the imitation of native apps and gets down to the potential of just-in-time interactions.
I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.
I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.
Get out my head, Emil! This is pretty much exactly how I feel about my work, especially this bit:
In trying to be the best web developer I can, I feel a need to understand the web. That involves a lot of what some of my friends who are not in the web business think my job is about, i.e. “clicking on funny links all day”. I read copiously about new and old technologies. I bookmark them, I try to classify them, see them in the light of history as well as projected future. Follow up on them. Try them out. Even if they’re not specifically about what I do for a living, the nature of them might have a bearing on my understanding of how other people use the web.
This is quite remarkable. Now that the Galaxy Zoo project from Zooniverse has successfully classified all its data (already a remarkable achievement), its volunteers are now collaborating on writing a scientific paper.
There’s something going on here. This isn’t just a “cool” or “cute” link—this is the first stirring of something entirely new that is made possible by network technology.
I, for one, welcome our new recycling bin panopticon overlords.
You might want to put your phone’s MAC address into this form.
H.P. Lovecraft meets James Bridle in this great little story commissioned by the Institute For The Future.
There’s something fundamental and robust about being able to request a URL and get back at least an HTML representation of the resource: human-readable, accessible, fault tolerant.
A well-written piece on the nature of work and value on the web, particularly in the start-up economy.
A new PHP-based content management system. It uses Twig for the templating, which I like.
Perhaps we are fetishising physical things because our digital creations are social media junk food:
It’s easy to fetishize Brutalist buildings when you don’t have to live in them. On the other hand, when the same Brutalist style is translated into the digital spaces we daily inhabit, it becomes a source of endless whinging. Facebook, for example, is Brutalist social media. It reproduces much the same relationship with its users as the Riis Houses and their ilk do with their residents: focusing on control and integration into the high-level planning scheme rather than individual life and the “ballet of a good blog comment thread”, to paraphrase Jane Jacobs.
Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.
The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.
If, like me, you’ve been using the “export to SVG” plugin for Fireworks and then opening up the resultant file to trim it down, Josh has got you covered: here’s a version of “export to SVG” that will result in much slimmer files.
A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.
What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?
A lovely description by Paul Ford of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
That simple handshake is the firmament upon which we have built trillion-dollar cathedrals and bazaars, the base upon which we construct other protocols and networks.
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.
Sorta sci-fi from Adam.
Consider this a shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors.
I find it hard to agree with any part of this. To me, it shows a deep misunderstanding of the web—treating the web as just another platform, without understanding what makes it so special.
I think I may have found my polar opposite.
The hilarious obsession with file size is the start of my frustrations with the web community.
I like these design principles for server-side and client-side frameworks. I would say that they’re common sense but looking at many popular frameworks, this sense isn’t as common as it should be.
The latest Clearleft product will be like having an intensive set of discovery, collaboration, and exploration workshops in a box. Perfect for startups and other small businesses short on time or budget.
It starts in Spring but you can register your interest now.
A nice write-up of the Responsive Day Out with all the right take-aways.
I remember a talk and discussion at SxSW a few years back about trying to improve the efficiency of trade networks by making them more web-like: there are ships full of empty cargo containers, simply because companies insist on using the container with their logo on it. I really, really like the idea of applying the principles of packet-switching to physical networks.
But here’s the hard part:
The technology is not a problem. We could do it all in 10 years. It’s the business models and the mental models in people’s minds.
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.
This year’s TeleGeography map of the undersea network looks beautiful—inspired by old maps. I love the way that latency between countries is shown as inset constellations.
Some handy tips for simulating slow network speeds on your machine.
I, for one, welcome our slime mould overlords.
The slime mould is being used to explore biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot controllers, much of which borders on the world of science fiction.
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”.
I love seeing the process behind responsive projects. This one is particularly nice.
It’s all about the signalling.
A peak behind the scenes at the responsive design and development workflow at Bearded. It makes a lot of sense.
This is quite an astounding piece of writing. Robert Lucky imagines the internet of things mashed up with online social networking …but this was published in 1999!
A nice look at some possible ways to approach workflow on a responsive project.
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!
Andy’s talk from the Smashing Conference in Freiburg.
Excellent! Scott has his own URL now. If you haven’t read everything he has written so far, start from the start and read every single post.
A beautiful sight: the digital and the physical interacting through glowsticks.
A short piece on the experiment that James conducted with Lighthouse in the foyer of the Cleareft office building, trying to show some kind of physical representation of coding.
Some more thoughts on how our workflow needs to adapt to the current ever-changing device landscape.
Those articles about the “Internet of Things” I linked to? Here they are in handy Readlist form.
A really fascinating analysis by Jason into the apparent disparity in web browsing between Android and iOS devices: it turns out that the kind of network connection could be a big factor.
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.
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.
I think Derek is on to something here. Maybe online communities and profit are simply incompatible?
The bigger you go, the harder the road. Meanwhile, small, focused, and yes, exclusionary community sites flourish.
You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
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.
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.
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.
Josh writes about the importance of using rules and systems as tools without being bound by them.
Now you can proudly sport a Pixelworkers T-shirt of England’s finest seaside geek town.
Vannevar Bush’s original 1945 motherlode of hypertext.
I thoroughly agree with Lea’s approach. It’s all about the craft.