CSS only truly exists in a browser. As soon as we start writing CSS outside of the browser, we rely on guesses and memorization and an intimate understanding of the rules. A text editor will never be able to provide as much information as a browser can.
Sunday, March 15th, 2020
Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
CSS is frustrating because you have to actually think of a website like a website and not an app. That mental model is what everyone finds so viscerally upsetting. And so engineers do what feels best to them; they try to make websites work like apps, like desktop software designed in the early naughts. Something that can be controlled.
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
I can see this coming in very handy at Codebar—pop any CSS selector in here and get a plain English explanation of what it’s doing.
Friday, February 28th, 2020
The headline begs the question, but Robin makes this very insightful observation in the article itself:
Tuesday, February 25th, 2020
I love, love, love this encounter that Stephanie had with high school students when she showed them her own website (“Your website? You have a website?”).
I opened the DevTools on my site and there was an audible gasp from the class and excited murmuring.
“That’s your code?” A student asked. “Yes, that’s all my code!” “You wrote all of that?!” “Yes, it’s my website.”
And the class kind of exploded and starting talking amongst themselves. I was floored and my perspective readjusted.
When I code, it’s usually in HTML and CSS, and I suppose there’s a part of me that feels like that isn’t special because some tech bros decide to be vocal and loud about HTML and CSS not being special nearly everyday (it is special and tech bros can shut up.)
And the response from that class of high school students delighted me and grounded me in a way I haven’t experienced before. What I view as a simple code was absolute magic to them. And for all of us who code, I think we forget it is magic. Computational magic but still magic. HTML and CSS are magic.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
I am the programming equivalent of a home cook.
The exhortation “learn to code!” has its foundations in market value. “Learn to code” is suggested as a way up, a way out. “Learn to code” offers economic leverage, a squirt of power. “Learn to code” goes on your resume.
But let’s substitute a different phrase: “learn to cook.” People don’t only learn to cook so they can become chefs. Some do! But far more people learn to cook so they can eat better, or more affordably, or in a specific way.
Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
You know that this online course from Scott is going to be excellent—get in there!
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
This is a wonderful interactive explanation of the way CSS hierarchy works—beautiful!
Monday, December 16th, 2019
I am not a believer in the AI singularity — the rapture of the nerds — that is, in the possibility of building a brain-in-a-box that will self-improve its own capabilities until it outstrips our ability to keep up. What CS professor and fellow SF author Vernor Vinge described as “the last invention humans will ever need to make”. But I do think we’re going to keep building more and more complicated, systems that are opaque rather than transparent, and that launder our unspoken prejudices and encode them in our social environment. As our widely-deployed neural processors get more powerful, the decisions they take will become harder and harder to question or oppose. And that’s the real threat of AI — not killer robots, but “computer says no” without recourse to appeal.
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
After reading this account of a wonderfully surreal text adventure game, you’ll probably want to play AI Dungeon 2:
A PhD student named Nathan trained the neural net on classic dungeon crawling games, and playing it is strangely surreal, repetitive, and mesmerizing, like dreaming about playing one of the games it was trained on.
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
I feel my trajectory as a musician maps to the trajectory of the web industry. The web is still young. We’re all still figuring stuff out and we’re all eager to get better. In our eagerness to get better, we’re reaching for more complexity. More complex abstractions, build processes, and tools. Because who wants to be bored playing in 4/4 when you can be playing in 7/16?
I hope we in the web field will arrive at the same realization that I did as a musician: complexity is not synonymous with quality.
Can I get an “Amen!”?
Monday, December 2nd, 2019
This site is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather a useful guide—our FAQ for design understanding. We hope it will inspire discussion, some questioning, a little soul searching, and ideally, a bit of intellectual support for your everyday endeavors.
The Design Questions Library goes nicely with the Library of Ambiguity.
Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
This is such a great way to explain a technology! Chris talks through his thought process when using flexbox for layout.
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
Frank is redesigning in the open. Watch this space:
By writing about it, it may help both of us. I can further develop my methods by navigating the friction of explaining them. I’ve been looking for a way to clarify and share my thoughts about typography and layout on screens, and this seems like a good chance to do so. And you? Well, perhaps the site can offer a clearly explained way of working that’s worth considering. That seems to be a rare thing on the web these days.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
Thursday, November 7th, 2019
Thursday, October 24th, 2019
Look. Observe. See.
Friday, September 27th, 2019
Decomputerization doesn’t mean no computers. It means that not all spheres of life should be rendered into data and computed upon. Ubiquitous “smartness” largely serves to enrich and empower the few at the expense of the many, while inflicting ecological harm that will threaten the survival and flourishing of billions of people.
Saturday, September 7th, 2019
Six UX lessons from game design:
- Story vs Narrative (Think in terms of story arcs)
- Games are fractal (Break up the journey from big to small to tiny)
- Learning loop (figure out your core mechanic)
- Affordances (Prompt for known loops)
- Hintiness (Move to new loops)
- Pacing (Be sure to start here)
Friday, September 6th, 2019
I got an email recently from a young person looking to get into web development. They wanted to know what languages they should start with, whether they should a Mac or a Windows PC, and what some places to learn from.
I wrote back, saying this about languages:
And this is what I said about hardware and software:
It doesn’t matter whether you use a Mac or a Windows PC, as long as you’ve got an internet connection, some web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, for example) and a text editor. There are some very good free text editors available for Mac and PC:
For resources, I had a trawl through links I’ve tagged with “learning” and “html” and sent along some links to free online tutorials:
- Codebar tutorials
- HTML+CSS tutorial
- Marksheet, a free HTML and CSS tutorial
- Learn to code HTML and CSS
- Just starting out with CSS and HTML
- Interneting is hard (but it doesn’t have to be)
- Web design in four minutes
- The front-end developer handbook
After sending that email, I figured that this list might be useful to anyone else looking to start out in web development. If you know of anyone in that situation, I hope this list might help.