Tags: ive

1972

sparkline

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Smoke screen | A Working Library

The story that “artificial intelligence” tells is a smoke screen. But smoke offers only temporary cover. It fades if it isn’t replenished.

Monday, March 20th, 2023

Pixel Pioneers Bristol 2023 Speaker Spotlight: Jeremy Keith

Oliver asked me some questions about my upcoming talk at Pixel Pioneers in Bristol in June. Here are my answers.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2023

When JavaScript Fails

So, if progressive enhancement is no more expensive to create, future-proof, provides us with technical credit, and ensures that our users always receive the best possible experience under any conditions, why has it fallen by the wayside?

Because before, when you clicked on a link, the browser would go white for a moment.

JavaScript frameworks broke the browser to avoid that momentary loss of control. They then had to recreate everything that the browser had provided for free: routing, history, the back button, accessibility features, the ability for search engines to read the page, et cetera iterum ad infinitum.

Monday, March 6th, 2023

The past is a foreign country

I tried watching a classic Western this weekend, How The West Was Won. I did not make it far. Let’s just say that in the first few minutes, the Spencer Tracy voiceover that accompanies the sweeping vistas sets out an attitude toward the indigenous population that would not fly today.

It’s one thing to be repulsed by a film from another era, but it’s even more uncomfortable to revisit the films from your own teenage years.

Tim Carmody has written about the real hero of Top Gun:

Iceman’s concern for Maverick and the safety of his fighter unit is totally understandable. He tries, however awkwardly, to discuss Goose’s death with Maverick. There’s no discussion of blame. And when they’re assigned to fly into combat together, Iceman briefly and discreetly raises the issue of Maverick’s fitness to fly with his superior officer and withdraws his concern once a decision is made.

I know someone who didn’t watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off until they were well into adulthood. Their sympathies lay squarely with Dean Rooney.

And I think we can all agree in hindsight that Walter Peck was completely correct in his assessment of the dangers in Ghostbusters.

Oh, and The Karate Kid was the real bully.

This week, George wrote I’ve fallen out of love with Indiana Jones. Indy’s attitude of “it belongs in a museum” is the same worldview that got the Parthenon Marbles into the British Museum (instead of, y’know, the Parthenon where they belong).

Adrian Hon invites us to imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned. He wrote a short piece of speculative fiction called The Taking of Stonehenge:

We selected these archaeological sites based on their importance to our collective understanding of human and galactic history, and their immediate risk of irreparable harm from pollution, climate change, neglect, and looting. We are sympathetic to claims that preserving these sites in their “original” context is important, but our duty of care outweighs such emotional considerations.

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

Jeremy Keith – Declarative Design – SOTR - YouTube

Here’s the video of the talk I gave at Monday’s meet-up here in Brighton—it’s a very condensed version of my longer conference talk on declarative design.

Jeremy Keith – Declarative Design – SOTR

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

On Container Queries, Responsive Images, and JPEG-XL – Cloud Four

Container queries can’t be used in the sizes attribute for responsive images. Here, Jason breaks down why that is (spoiler: it’s the lookahead pre-parser) and segues into a truly long term solution: a “magical” image format.

If you’ve ever thought it felt weird to put media conditions inside the HTML for responsive images, this will resonate.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

People do use Add to Home Screen – Firefox UX

Oh no! My claim has been refuted by a rigourous scientific study of …checks notes… ten people.

Be right back: just need to chat with eleven people.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2023

UX London 2023 scholarship programme

If you’re a western white guy like me, you’re playing life on its easiest setting. If you’re also a designer, then you should get a ticket to UX London. You can probably get work to pay for it. Share this list of reasons to attend with your boss if you have to.

If, on the other hand, you don’t benefit from the same level of privilege as me, you might still be able to attend UX London 2023. We’re running a scholarship programme.

“We” in this case is Clearleft. But as we also need to at least break even on this event, there are only a limited number of scholarship spots available.

Now, if your company were in a position to pony up some moolah to sponsor more diversity scholarship places, we would dearly love to hear from you—get in touch!

If you think you might qualify for a diversity scholarship, fill in this form before May 19th. We’ll then notify you by May 26th, whether you application is successful or not. And if you’re worried about the additional costs of travel and accommodation, I’m sure we can figure something out.

Wondering if you should apply? It’s hard to define exactly who qualifies for a diversity scholarship, but basically, the more your life experience matches mine, the less qualified you are. If you are a fellow able-bodied middle-aged heterosexual white dude with a comfortable income, do me a favour and don’t apply. Everyone else, go for it.

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

A pretty sweet push notification solution for mobile Safari

An entire generation of apps-that-should-have-been web pages has sprung up, often shoehorned into supposedly cross-platform frameworks that create a subpar user experience sludge. Nowhere is this more true than for media — how many apps from newspapers or magazines have you installed, solely for a very specific purpose like receiving breaking news alerts? How many of those apps are just wrappers around web views? How many of those apps should have been web pages?

These were my jams

This Is My Jam was a lovely website. Created by Hannah and Matt in 2011, it ran until 2015, at which point they had to shut it down. But they made sure to shut it down with care and consideration.

In many ways, This Is My Jam was the antithesis of the prevailing Silicon Valley mindset. Instead of valuing growth and scale above all else, it was deliberately thoughtful. Rather than “maximising engagement”, it asked you to slow down and just share one thing: what piece of music are you really into right now? It was up to you to decide whether “right now” meant this year, this month, this week, or this day.

I used to post songs there sporadically. Here’s a round-up of the twelve songs I posted in 2013. There was always some reason for posting a particular piece of music.

I was reminded of This Is My Jam recently when I logged into Spotify (not something I do that often). As part of the site’s shutdown, you could export all your jams into a Spotify playlist. Here’s mine.

Listening back to these 50 songs all these years later gave me the warm fuzzies.

Web Push on iOS requires installing the web app - Webventures

Instead of doing what the competing browsers are doing (and learning from years of experience of handling Web Push), Apple decided to reinvent a wheel here. What they’ve turned up with looks a lot more like a square.

Friday, February 17th, 2023

Openly Licensed Images, Audio and More | Openverse

A search engine for images and audio that’s either under a Creative Commons license or is in the public domain.

Push

Push notifications are finally arriving on iOS—hallelujah! Like I said last year, this is my number one wish for the iPhone, though not because I personally ever plan to use the feature:

When I’m evangelising the benefits of building on the open web instead of making separate iOS and Android apps, I inevitably get asked about notifications. As long as mobile Safari doesn’t support them—even though desktop Safari does—I’m somewhat stumped. There’s no polyfill for this feature other than building an entire native app, which is a bit extreme as polyfills go.

With push notifications in mobile Safari, the arguments for making proprietary apps get weaker. That’s good.

The announcement post is a bit weird though. It never uses the phrase “progressive web apps”, even though clearly the entire article is all about progressive web apps. I don’t know if this down to Not-Invented-Here syndrome by the Apple/Webkit team, or because of genuine legal concerns around using the phrase.

Instead, there are repeated references to “Home Screen apps”. This distinction makes some sense though. In order to use web push on iOS, your website needs to be added to the home screen.

I think that would be fair enough, if it weren’t for the fact that adding a website to the home screen remains such a hidden feature that even power users would be forgiven for not knowing about it. I described the steps here:

  1. Tap the “share” icon. It’s not labelled “share.” It’s a square with an arrow coming out of the top of it.
  2. A drawer pops up. The option to “add to home screen” is nowhere to be seen. You have to pull the drawer up further to see the hidden options.
  3. Now you must find “add to home screen” in the list
  • Copy
  • Add to Reading List
  • Add Bookmark
  • Add to Favourites
  • Find on Page
  • Add to Home Screen
  • Markup
  • Print

As long as this remains the case, we can expect usage of web push on iOS to be vanishingly low. Hardly anyone is going to add a website to their home screen when their web browser makes it so hard.

If you’d like to people to install your progressive web app, you’ll almost certainly need to prompt people to do so. Here’s the page I made on thesession.org with instructions on how to add to home screen. I link to it from the home page of the site.

I wish that pages like that weren’t necessary. It’s not the best user experience. But as long as mobile Safari continues to bury the home screen option, we don’t have much choice but to tackle this ourselves.

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

God Did the World a Favor by Destroying Twitter | WIRED

Our smarter, richer betters (in Babel times, the king’s name was Nimrod) often preach the idea of a town square, a marketplace of ideas, a centralized hub of discourse and entertainment—and we listen. But when I go back and read Genesis, I hear God saying: “My children, I designed your brains to scale to 150 stable relationships. Anything beyond that is overclocking. You should all try Mastodon.”

So many gems in this piece by Paul Ford:

The Fediverse apps are all built on a set of rules called the ActivityPub standard, which is a little like HTML had sex with a calendar invite. It’s a content polycule. The questions it evokes are the same as with any polycule: What are the rules? How big can this get? Who will create the chore chart?

Monday, February 13th, 2023

You can call me AI

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of initialisms and acronyms. They can be exclusionary.

It bothers me doubly when everyone is talking about AI.

First of all, the term is so vague as to be meaningless. Sometimes—though rarely—AI refers to general artificial intelligence. Sometimes AI refers to machine learning. Sometimes AI refers to large language models. Sometimes AI refers to a series of if/else statements. That’s quite a spectrum of meaning.

Secondly, there’s the assumption that everyone understands the abbreviation. I guess that’s generally a safe assumption, but sometimes AI could refer to something other than artificial intelligence.

In countries with plenty of pastoral agriculture, if someone works in AI, it usually means they’re going from farm to farm either extracting or injecting animal semen. AI stands for artificial insemination.

I think that abbreviation might work better for the kind of things currently described as using AI.

We were discussing this hot topic at work recently. Is AI coming for our jobs? The consensus was maybe, but only the parts of our jobs that we’re more than happy to have automated. Like summarising some some findings. Or perhaps as a kind of lorem ipsum generator. Or for just getting the ball rolling with a design direction. As Terence puts it:

Midjourney is great for a first draft. If, like me, you struggle to give shape to your ideas then it is nothing short of magic. It gets you through the first 90% of the hard work. It’s then up to you to refine things.

That’s pretty much the conclusion we came to in our discussion at Clearleft. There’s no way that we’d use this technology to generate outputs for clients, but we certainly might use it to generate inputs. It’s like how we’d do a quick round of sketching to get a bunch of different ideas out into the open. Terence is spot on when he says:

Midjourney lets me quickly be wrong in an interesting direction.

To put it another way, using a large language model could be a way of artificially injecting some seeds of ideas. Artificial insemination.

So now when I hear people talk about using AI to create images or articles, I don’t get frustrated. Instead I think, “Using artificial insemination to create images or articles? Yes, that sounds about right.”

Friday, February 10th, 2023

The Guide To Responsive Design In 2023 and Beyond - Ahmad Shadeed

Instead of thinking about responsive design in terms of media queries, I like to think of responsive design in these categories.

  • Responsive to the content
  • Responsive to the viewport
  • Responsive to the container
  • Responsive to the user preferences

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

WriteFreely

I hadn’t come across this before: a barebones blogging tool with built-in fediverse support—neat!

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Learn Images

Mat has written this free course for you all about images on the web. Covering image formats, responsive images, and workflows, this is one to keep on speed dial.

Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Container Queries and Typography

I feel like we need a name for this era, when CSS started getting real good.

I think this is what I’ve been calling declarative design.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

In between

I was chatting with my new colleague Alex yesterday about a link she had shared in Slack. It was the Nielsen Norman Group’s annual State of Mobile User Experience report.

There’s nothing too surprising in there, other than the mention of Apple’s app clips and Google’s instant apps.

Remember those?

Me neither.

Perhaps I lead a sheltered existence, but as an iPhone user, I don’t think I’ve come across a single app clip in the wild.

I remember when they were announced. I was quite worried about them.

See, the one thing that the web can (theoretically) offer that native can’t is instant access to a resource. Go to this URL—that’s it. Whereas for a native app, the flow is: go to this app store, find the app, download the app.

(I say that the benefit is theoretical because the website found at the URL should download quickly—the reality is that the bloat of “modern” web development imperils that advantage.)

App clips—and instant apps—looked like a way to route around the convoluted install process of native apps. That’s why I was nervous when they were announced. They sounded like a threat to the web.

In reality, the potential was never fulfilled (if my own experience is anything to go by). I wonder why people didn’t jump on app clips and instant apps?

Perhaps it’s because what they promise isn’t desirable from a business perspective: “here’s a way for users to accomplish their tasks without downloading your app.” Even though app clips can in theory be a stepping stone to installing the full app, from a user’s perspective, their appeal is the exact opposite.

Or maybe they’re just too confusing to understand. I think there’s an another technology that suffers from the same problem: progressive web apps.

Hear me out. Progressive web apps are—if done well—absolutely amazing. You get all of the benefits of native apps in terms of UX—they even work offline!—but you retain the web’s frictionless access model: go to a URL; that’s it.

So what are they? Are they websites? Yes, sorta. Are they apps? Yes, sorta.

That’s confusing, right? I can see how app clips and instant apps sound equally confusing: “you can use them straight away, like going to a web page, but they’re not web pages; they’re little bits of apps.”

I’m mostly glad that app clips never took off. But I’m sad that progressive web apps haven’t taken off more. I suspect that their fates are intertwined. Neither suffer from technical limitations. The problem they both face is inertia:

The technologies are the easy bit. Getting people to re-evaluate their opinions about technologies? That’s the hard part.

True of progressive web apps. Equally true of app clips.

But when I was chatting to Alex, she made me look at app clips in a different way. She described a situation where somebody might need to interact with some kind of NFC beacon from their phone. Web NFC isn’t supported in many browsers yet, so you can’t rely on that. But you don’t want to make people download a native app just to have a quick interaction. In theory, an app clip—or instant app—could do the job.

In that situation, app clips aren’t a danger to the web—they’re polyfills for hardware APIs that the web doesn’t yet support!

I love having my perspective shifted like that.

The specific situations that Alex and I were discussing were in the context of museums. Musuems offer such interesting opportunities for the physical and the digital to intersect.

Remember the pen from Cooper Hewitt? Aaron spoke about it at dConstruct 2014—a terrific presentation that’s well worth revisiting and absorbing.

The other dConstruct talk that’s very relevant to this liminal space between the web and native apps is the 2012 talk from Scott Jenson. I always thought the physical web initiative had a lot of promise, but it may have been ahead of its time.

I loved the thinking behind the physical web beacons. They were deliberately dumb, much like the internet itself. All they did was broadcast a URL. That’s it. All the smarts were to be found at the URL itself. That meant a service could get smarter over time. It’s a lot easier to update a website than swap out a piece of hardware.

But any kind of technology that uses Bluetooth, NFC, or other wireless technology has to get over the discovery problem. They’re invisible technologies, so by default, people don’t know they’re even there. But if you make them too discoverable— intrusively announcing themselves like one of the commercials in Minority Report—then they’re indistinguishable from spam. There’s a sweet spot of discoverability right in the middle that’s hard to get right.

Over the past couple of years—accelerated by the physical distancing necessitated by The Situation—QR codes stepped up to the plate.

They still suffer from some discoverability issues. They’re not human-readable, so you can’t be entirely sure that the URL you’re going to go to isn’t going to be a Rick Astley video. But they are visible, which gives them an advantage over hidden wireless technologies.

They’re cheaper too. Printing a QR code sticker costs less than getting a plastic beacon shipped from China.

QR codes turned out to be just good enough to bridge the gap between the physical and digital for those one-off interactions like dining outdoors during a pandemic:

I can see why they chose the web over a native app. Online ordering is the only way to place your order at this place. Telling people “You have to go to this website” …that seems reasonable. But telling people “You have to download this app” …that’s too much friction.

Ironically, the nail in the coffin for app clips and instant apps might’ve been hammered in by Apple and Google when they built QR-code recognition into their camera software.