Tags: photoshop

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sparkline

Tools of a different trade

I was in Boston last week for An Event Apart, the second of five instances of the travelling web roadshow touching down in the US this year. As with Seattle, all the talks were of a ludicrously high standard. Tickets are still available for the Minneapolis leg; grab ‘em while you can.

What’s fascinating about seeing all the talks together is finding the unspoken connections between them. Without any prior co-ordination, myself and Aarron had moments of crossover with our talks, Emotional Interface Design and Paranormal Interactivity.

Blenderbox have written a round-up of the themes from An Event Apart. This is the one that really stood out for me:

Your designs should embrace the diversity of browsing experiences offered by different devices.

There was plenty of talk about technologies like and devices like the and . All of it was galvanised together in Ethan’s superb A List Apart article, Responsive Web Design:

Fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries are the three technical ingredients for responsive web design, but it also requires a different way of thinking. Rather than quarantining our content into disparate, device-specific experiences, we can use media queries to progressively enhance our work within different viewing contexts.

Here’s my quick three-step guide to ensuring your websites work in just about any device:

  1. Mark up your content with a logical source order.
  2. Style your markup into a flexible—i.e. liquid—layout.
  3. Use media queries to re-arrange the layout for varying viewport widths.

If you want some examples—and feel free to resize your browser window—peruse Huffduffer and Science Hack Day from myself, dConstruct 2010 from Andy and Talking Animal Blug from Patrick (actually, that last one uses JavaScript to get the same result but the principle is the same).

It seems that step two continues to be the sticking point for most web designers. We’ve had over ten years to get this right, yet everything that David Emery wrote in 2006 is truer than ever today:

There are very few legitimate reasons for using a fixed width site, the main one being concerns over the line length on a fluid width site; obviously as the site gets wider, the line length gets longer which is bad for readability. This is can easily be countered by using max-width, larger font sizes and so on but is really quite faulty thinking – if the solution is a fixed width site that’s sized for 1024×768 then if you’re window is any smaller then that then the line isn’t readable at all, which is obviously much worse.

I also think he was spot-on with his explanation for the prevalence of fixed-width layouts:

When you make a web site design (probably in something like Photoshop) it obviously starts off as static — you have no way of testing how it’ll stretch in a browser. You’ve got to picture how that’s going to work, and design accordingly.

Photoshop and Fireworks are great tools …for tweaking photos and creating icons, gradients and textures. When it comes to laying out web pages however, they are worse than substandard. They are actively harmful. They reinforce the incorrect idea that there is a way of representing the browsing experience in anything other than a browser.

What’s ironic is that designers who continue to shackle themselves to Photoshop and Fireworks do so because they claim that designing with HTML and CSS in the browser limits the design possibilities. And yet they are perfectly content to limit themselves to an environment where designs cannot be resized, cannot respond to varying text sizes and typefaces, and cannot convey even the most basic of interactions.

Meagan Fisher has some good advice on making your mockup in markup. And of course, Malarkey has plenty to say on this subject.

Photoshop Battle

It’s time for one of the more, um… “interesting” slots at The Future of Web Design conference. It’s a live battle of the sexes with Photoshop as the weapon of choice. Whatever you do, don’t call it layer tennis.

Andy Clarke is the compére. He gets the show on the road by introducing the contestants one by one:

With the introductions out of the way, the game kicks off. The boys win the toss and elect to let the ladies go first.

While Jina makes strange amalgamations of Malarkey and robots, Andy sits down for a chat with Elliot and Jon. Jon is sharing insights into life at Rissington. Apparently John has taught him to swear properly.

A Twitter from the audience: Mr. Hicks, you’re rocking the pipe and beer but where are the slippers and flat cap? Did I neglect to mention that they’re all drinking some very nice Belgian beer.

30 seconds for the first round. Meanwhile Elliot explains the challenges in going freelance like getting dressed in the morning. With that, the first five minutes are up.

Second round. The boys get Photoshopping and the girls sit down for a chat. While Hannah explains the revenue model for Last.fm, the lads pull up embarrassing pictures of Andy like the one where’s he drinking out of pineapple when we visited the Tonga Room.

Andy quizzes Jina on the differences between agency work and working for a large unnamed company.

Next round. Hannah has control of the decks. Andy says he’s trying to ignore what’s been constructed on screen. Inevitably, he quizes Jon on the Firefox logo. Jon tells the tale of receiving an enquiry from Burning Monkey Software, could we get a monkey on fire wrapped around a planet? Since doing the Silverback icon, he gets asked to do more primates.

30 seconds left on the clock for this round.

Time’s up. The ladies have created a lovely montage. Now it’s time for the last volley. The boys really need to pull out all the stops.

The conversation between Jina and Andy resumes. They’re talking about creativity and other such designery things.

At this point, the alarm on Jina’s iPhone (which has been deposited somewhere near me) starts to go off. I must spend five minutes trying desperately to find it and switch it off. Just as I manage that, the Photoshop battle ends. Who won?

The man in blue sees red

I flew back from Australia at the start of the week… and boy, are my arms tired — ba-doom!

The day of traveling went surprisingly smoothly. That was probably due to the fact that Jessica and I were flying with Virgin Atlantic’s “upper class” serviceJohn and Maxine sure know how to take care of their speakers. The best part was getting a complimentary ride home from Heathrow airport right to our front door in Brighton.

Actually, the best part was probably on the outward journey, getting to hang out in the Clubhouse at Heathrow. It was like the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Virgin lounge, Heathrow

Now that Web Directions South is well and truly wrapped up, I’m gripped by the usual tug of post-conference emotions. On the one hand, I’m feeling very inspired by the excellent presentations (and even more excellent people) to start hacking and coding some new stuff. On the other hand, the time I spent in Australia means I’ve let a lot of stuff slide. Now that I’m back, I need to catch up with a whole slew of commitments. That leaves me with no time to put any grand schemes into action.

Cameron sums up the dilemma of maintaining the post-conference buzz nicely. He even illustrates the point with diagrams.

Speaking of Cameron…

I feel I should explain some of the more, um… “unusual” pictures that began showing up on Flickr during Web Directions South.

While I was preparing my first presentation, Explaining Ajax, I needed a screen shot of a typical page on Flickr. What better page to use than this photo entitled “Topless Cameron Diaz”? Don’t worry: it’s safe for work. It’s a picture of Cameron Adams and Dustin Diaz with their shirts off, see?

Topless Cameron Diaz

Now, I felt perfectly justified in using this photo. Cam is infamous for using his presentations as platforms for ridiculing others. I thought it would be fun to put him at the receiving end for a change.

“You’re a dead man!”, he shouted from the audience when the photograph blazed across the screen.

Topless Cameron Diaz

He was not a happy camper.

Cam :)

The next day, Cameron was presenting together with Kevin Yank. I think it would be fair to say that everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Right in the middle of a superb talk on APIs, this slide appeared.

Payback Is A Bitch

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must point out that that is not my body. It’s a Photoshop job!

I had the opportunity to get in the last word. My second presentation came after Cam and Kevin’s. I could have used this as a platform to get in one last dig, but I decided to be a bigger man than that. I called a truce. Besides, I was in mortal terror of what revenge Cam would wreak… perhaps not today, perhaps not here, but at some future date, in a dark alley, years from now, when the whole incident has long faded from my memory.

I did, however, point out that only cheats use Photoshop. So there.

All’s well that ends well. We kissed…

tongue too

…and made up.

Clare Hotel