Here there be robots: A medieval map of Mars
Mappa Mundi Rubrum.
Mappa Mundi Rubrum.
The problem is that performance is a feature that is not on anyone’s product roadmap.
For whatever reason, the fact that it correlates directly to bounce rate, time on site, pages-per-visit etc. has not struck home with many product owners.
Most websites, certainly in the publishing industry where I have worked for a good part of my career, see those metrics as core KPIs. So you would think that anything that improved them would get prioritised. But no.
Ignacio asked me some questions. I was happy to answer them.
A pattern library of Walmart’s front-end code.
A wonderfully thoughtful piece on typography, Jan Tschichold and the web. This really resonated with me:
It’s only been over the past year or so in which I’ve recognised myself as a ‘Web designer’ with a capital W, as I now believe that something happens to information and technology, and even typography itself, when people pass through these interconnected networks and interact with hypertext.
It’s for these reasons that I don’t believe in “digital design” or “designing for screens” and it’s why I’m often attracted to one particular side of this spectrum.
Robin proposes three “principles, suggestions, outlines, or rather things-that-I-ought-to-be nervous-about when setting text on the web”:
- We must prioritise the text over the font, or semantics over style.
- We ought to use and/or make tools that reveal the consequences of typographic decisions.
- We should acknowledge that web typography is only as strong as its weakest point.
There’s an in-depth look at applying progressive enhancement to web type, and every single link in the resources section at the end is worth investigating.
Oh, and of course it’s beautifully typeset.
Myself and Batesy spent last week in Ipswich doing an intense design sprint with Suffolk Libraries. Leon has written up process from his perspective as the client—I’ll try to get a case study up on the Clearleft website soon.
This is really great write-up; it captures the sense of organised chaos:
I can’t recommend this kind of research sprint enough. We got a report, detailed technical validation of an idea, mock ups and a plan for how to proceed, while getting staff and stakeholders involved in the project — all in the space of 5 days.
Aaaaand, once again, the Acheulean hand ax makes an appearance, this time in Jon’s rant about marketing.
A decade or more ago, digital marketing was more of a blunt instrument. It was like the first stone axe - crude, but it got the job done.
That’s three links in one day that reference the same prehistoric technology. What coincidental synchronicity!
There’s that Acheulean hand ax again.
The first ever object to be designed by man 1.7 million years ago was a flint hand axe. Flint has the same molecular structure as a crystal and they both consist of silica. The project juxtaposes the flint hand axe with the latest crystal technology; Xero chaton the world’s smallest precision cut crystal measuring 0.6mm in diameter, smaller than a grain of sand.
Linting CSS seems like a very good idea, especially if you’re not the only one writing the CSS. This guide is going to come in very handy when I give it a try.
A comprehensive overview of
rel="preload" which looks very useful indeed …I just wish it wasn’t (like “nofollow”) a nonsensical value for the
rel attribute: a resource can’t have a relationship of “preload” to the linking document.
Well, this is nice…
Have you ever stumbled across a piece of audio online that you’d like to listen to later? Perhaps a friend messaged a podcast episode or news report to you, but you weren’t in a position to listen to it at the moment. You need Huffduffer.
This might be the most remote open device lab yet. Looks pretty great.
Even more intriguing than their vast distribution across three continents is their time depth. Acheulean hand axes have been found at sites spanning 1.5 million years of human existence, dating from roughly 1.6 million years ago to about 100,000 years ago. That makes the Acheulean ax the most sustainable technology that members of our genus (Homo) ever developed. Consider, in contrast, the amount of technological change that has occurred in just the last 150 years (since the first telephone call), one ten-thousandth the amount of time the Acheulean hand ax was made and used. Or consider the amount of technological change in just the last 10 years (since the first iPhone was introduced), one one-hundred-fifty-thousandth the amount of time that Acheulean hand axes were made and used. In the memorable words of my former professor Arthur J. Jelinek, hand axes represent “mind-numbing technological stability.”
A really good explanation of how a peer-to-peer model for the web would differ from the current location-centric approach.
What really interests me is the idea of having both models co-exist.
You just have to think about the ways in which our location-centrism is contributing to the problems we are hitting, from the rise of Facebook, to the lack of findability of OER, to the Wikipedia Edit Wars.
This looks like it could be quite a handy (and relatively lightweight) script for attaching events—like animations—to an item’s visibility, so the events only trigger when the item is scrolled into view.
Science fiction as a means of energising climatic and economic change:
Fiction, and science fiction in particular, can help us imagine many futures, and in particular can help us to direct our imaginations towards the futures we want. Imagining a particular kind of future isn’t just day dreaming: it’s an important and active framing that makes it possible for us to construct a future that approaches that imagined vision. In other words, imagining the future is one way of making that future happen.
But it’s important that these visions are preserved:
It’s very likely that our next Octavia Butler is today writing on WattPad or Tumblr or Facebook. When those servers cease to respond, what will we lose? More than the past is at stake—all our imagined futures are at risk, too.
Continuing the topic of public speaking, Jenn has a really good technique for figuring out how to arrange the pieces of your talk without getting bogged down in designing slides.
Lena’s in-depth run-down of how she puts together a conference talk. If you’re new to public speaking, this is well worth reading.
Cennydd speaks his brains on conversational interfaces—a refreshing counterpoint to Chris’s cheerleading.
Well, this pretty much sums up the front-end team at Clearleft:
I’ve often said that at Clearleft, development is always in the service of design. And like Brad, I often find myself defining that work by what it isn’t:
They understand UX principles and best practices, but may not spend their time conducting research, creating flows, and planning scenarios
They have a keen eye for aesthetics, but may not spend their time pouring over font pairings, comparing color palettes, or creating illustrations and icons.
They understand the importance of backend development, but may not spend their time writing backend logic, spinning up servers, load testing, etc.
360 terabytes of data stored for over 13 billion years:
Coined as the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.
A fascinating insight into some of Tumblr’s most popular accounts:
Some posts get more than a million notes—imagine a joke whispered in biology class getting a laugh from a city the size of San Francisco.
It’ll be a real shame when Tumblr disappears.
That’s “when”, not “if”. Remember:
In 2013, Yahoo bought Tumblr.
Related: this great chat between Jen Simmons and Stephanie Rieger.
Aaron interviews Simon who’s organising the upcoming EnhanceConf which is going to be ruddy good.
A delightful and informative booklet from 1928.
Jason is open-sourcing the code for his site’s Content Management System, filled with lots of Indie Web goodness.
Set aside some time: Craig is reviewing a camera again (and you remember how epic that was last time).
Monika’s end-of-year piece is rather excellent:
The map exposes the network of fibre optic internet cables that lie deep below the sea giving an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them.
I really, really like these principles. Time to add them to the list.
’Sfunny—I was just talking about how important it is to keep document ways of teaching the basics of CSS, then I come across this delightful series of explanations.
(I hope Kaylan posts this to her own site as well as Ev’s blog.)
Y’know, all too often we’re caught up in the latest techniques and technologies. It’s easy to forget that there are people out there trying to learn this whole web thing from scratch. That’s why I think blog posts like this are so, so important!
Based on her experience teaching CSS at Codebar, Charlotte describes how she explains margins. Sounds simple, right? But is that because we’ve internalised this kind of thing? When was the last time we really thought about the basic building blocks of making websites?
Anyway, this is by far the best explanation of margin shorthand properties that I’ve seen.
More of this kind of thing, please!
A note of optimism for digital preservation:
Where a lack of action may have been more of the case in the 01990s, it is certainly less so today. In the early days, there were just a handful of pioneers talking about and working on digital preservation, but today there are hundreds of tremendously intelligent and skilled people focused on preserving access to the yottabytes of digital cultural heritage and science data we have and will create.
An examination of how sites like The Session are meshing with older ideas of traditional Irish music:
There is a very interesting tension at play here – one that speaks directly to the design of new technologies. On the one hand, Irish musicians appear to be enthusiastically adopting digital media to establish a common repertoire of tunes, while on the other the actual performance of these tunes in a live session is governed by a strong etiquette that emphasizes the importance of playing by ear.
There’s an accompanying paper called Supporting Traditional Music-Making: Designing for Situated Discretion (PDF).
I’ve seen the exact problem that Rachel describes here—flexbox only applied to direct children, meaning the markup would have to be adjusted.
display: contents looks like a nifty solution.
This rousing call-to-arms by Abby the IA makes a great companion piece to her interview on The Big Web Show.
Good news for net neutrality from India:
No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.
We tend to use a variant of BEM in our CSS at Clearleft. Glad to see that when we’ve hit these issues, we’ve taken the same approach.
Really interesting to see how Jason, Lyza, and co. are handling the process side of responsive design by using Agile sprints. This is how we’re doing it at Clearleft too.
There’s a really good point in here about starting with small-screen sketching:
For most of the sprint, we focus on small screens. We’re often asked how things will work on wider screens early in a sprint, but we try to resist thinking about that yet.
If you’ve managed to organize your life to fit inside a New York City apartment, you’re not going to have any trouble adjusting to a big house in the suburbs. The same is true of responsive designs.
If you nail the small screen design, the larger sizes will be easy by comparison.
My concern is that by encouraging the practice of doing UX design without touching the surface of a product, we get shitty designs. In a process where UX and UI are seen as separate things the risk is one comes before the other. The UX designer draws the wireframes, the UI designer gets to turn them into pretty pictures, with no back-and-forth between the two. An iterative process can mitigate some of the damage such an artificial division of labour produces, but I think we still start out on the wrong foot. I think a better practice might entail including visual considerations from the very beginning of the design process (as we are sketching).
This is a really good primer on all the pieces that make up the Houdini approach to CSS—giving authors access to low-level APIs for rendering.
As is often repeated here, it’s still early days and caution is advised, but it’s still a good idea to wrap your head around what’s coming down the standards pipe.
There’s even more specs in Houdini’s list of drafts, but the future of those is rather uncertain and they are not much more than a placeholder for an idea at this point. Examples include custom overflow behaviors, CSS syntax extension API, extension of native scroll behavior and similar ambitious things that allow you to screw up your web app even worse than ever before. Rejoice!
Bootstrap is a product of Twitter. If you want your team to work like Twitter’s team, then by all means use Bootstrap. Pick up their design language. Their tool chain. Their decisions. Don’t be surprised when it feels off every time you use it. It will.
The same goes for Material Design. Foundation. These are all products built by other teams to work for their process. Their structure.
Finding the right tool is not what I am advocating for. Making it is.
Last time I was in Austin I met up with Trent who got very animated when as he described a childhood strapping shinguards to his arms and recreating the montage fighting/dancing scenes from the finest of 80s movies.
That explains where this website is coming from.
This is useful if you’re making the switch to HTTPS: choose your web server software and version to generate a configuration file.
Microsoft are officially on board with implementing Service Workers in Edge:
Roadmap Priority: High — We intend to begin development soon.
Three very easy to implement additions to scrollable areas of your web pages:
role="region", and an
Ooh, I really like this idea! Pointing to your Service Worker the same way you point to your style sheet makes a lot of sense to me.
You can do anything with CSS these days.
Lyza has written an excellent deep dive into Service Workers, complete with code.
I’m really chuffed that she gave me a shout-out to my exhortation:
So if you decide to play around with Service Workers, please, please share your experience.
I love this little markup pattern: simple, accessible and elegant …with some quirky CSS gotchas around styling non-standard prefixed pseudo-elements. They came from the Shadow DOM …dun dun DUN!
Use the right element for the job.
- Does the Control Take Me to Another Page? Use an Anchor.
- Does the Control Change Something on the Current Page? Use a Button.
- Does the Control Submit Form Fields? Use a Submit.
A great description of a solid architectural approach to building on the web (and not just for accessibility either).