Here’s a short clear introduction to DOM scripting.
Sunday, May 10th, 2020
Friday, May 1st, 2020
A collection of articles and talks about HTML, CSS, and JS, grouped by elements, attributes, properties, selectors, methods, and expressions.
Thursday, April 30th, 2020
Here, Brian proposes a kind of minimum viable web component that handles logic like keyboard control and accessibility, but leaves the styling practically untouched. Check out his panel-set demo of a tabbed interface.
I really, really like the way that it wraps existing content. If the web component fails for any reason, the content is still available. So the web component is a progressive enhancement:
An experimental custom element that wraps plain-old HTML (view the source) and decorates function, keyboard handling, accessibility information.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
Great typography on the web should be designed in layers. The web is an imperfect medium, consumed by countless different devices over untold numbers of network connections—each with their own capabilities, limitations, and peculiarities. To think that you can create one solution that will look and work the same everywhere is a fantasy. To make this more than just one nice book website, the whole project and process needs to embrace this reality.
Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
I never thought of combining the
datalist element with
input type="color"—it’s pretty cool that it just works!
Monday, April 20th, 2020
Here’s one simple, practical way to make apps perform better on mobile devices: always configure HTML input fields with the correct
autocompleteattributes. While these three attributes are often discussed in isolation, they make the most sense in the context of mobile user experience when you think of them as a team.
This is an excellent deep dive with great advice:
You may think that you are familiar with the basic
autocompleteoptions, such as those that help the user fill in credit card numbers or address form fields, but I’d urge you to review them to make sure that you are aware of all of the options. The spec lists over 50 values!
Friday, April 17th, 2020
This is a terrific explanation of the concept of accessible names in HTML, written with verve and style!
Contrary to what you may think, naming an element involves neither a birth certificate nor the HTML
nameattribute is never directly exposed to the user, and is used only when submitting forms. Birth certificates have thus far been ignored by spec authors as a potential method for naming controls, but perhaps when web UI becomes sentient and self-propagating, we’ll need to revisit that.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
Consider what React and other SPA frameworks are good for: stateful, extensible component-driven applications. Now consider what a résumé’s goals are.
Monday, April 6th, 2020
Chromium browsers—Chrome, Edge, et al.—are getting a much-needed update to some interface elements like the
progess element, the
meter element, and the
color input types.
Friday, April 3rd, 2020
A nice succint explanation of using the
sizes attributes on the
img element—remember, you probably don’t need
source elements if your use case is swapping out different sized versions of the same image.
One caveat thought: you do need to know the dimensions of the images. If you’re dealing with unknown or user-generated photos, that can be an issue.
Monday, March 23rd, 2020
Amber runs through some HTML elements that help you provide semantic information—and accessibility—for your website: headings, paragraphs, lists, and more:
You may be aware that ARIA roles are often used with HTML elements. I haven’t written about them here, as it’s good to see how HTML written without ARIA can still be accessible.
This is a great walkthough of making a common form pattern accessible. No complex code here: some HTML is all that’s needed.
Friday, March 20th, 2020
I have to admit, I don’t think I even knew of the existence of the
playsinline attribute on the
video element. Here, Chris runs through all the attributes you can put in there.
Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
I use Firefox. You should too. It’s fast, secure, and more privacy-focused than the leading browser from the big G.
Yesterday, I got the Calibre newsletter, which always has handy performance-related links from Karolina. She pointed to a Lighthouse extension for Firefox. “Excellent!”, I thought, and I immediately installed it. But I had some qualms about installing a plug-in from Google into a browser from Mozilla, particularly as the plug-in page says:
This is not a Recommended Extension. Make sure you trust it before installing
Well, I gave it a go. It turns out that all it actually does is redirect to the online version of Lighthouse. “Hang on”, I thought. “This could just be a bookmarklet!”
So I immediately uninstalled the browser extension and made this bookmarklet:
Drag that up to your desktop browser’s bookmarks toolbar. Press it whenever you’re on a site that you want to test.
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
Abolish Silicon Valley by Wendy Liu
I got an email a little while back from Michael at Repeater Books asking me if I wanted an advance copy of Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology From Capitalism by Wendy Liu. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I said “Sure!”
I’m happy to say that the book is most excellent …or at least mostly excellent.
Contrary to what the book title—or its blurb—might tell you, this is a memoir first and foremost. It’s a terrific memoir. It’s utterly absorbing.
Just as the most personal songs can have the most universal appeal, this story feels deeply personal while being entirely accessible. You don’t have to be a computer nerd to sympathise with the struggles of a twenty-something in a start-up trying to make sense of the world. This well-crafted narrative will resonate with any human. It calls to mind Ellen Ullman’s excellent memoir, Close to the Machine—not a comparison I make lightly.
But as you might have gathered from the book’s title, Abolish Silicon Valley isn’t being marketed as a memoir:
Abolish Silicon Valley is both a heartfelt personal story about the wasteful inequality of Silicon Valley, and a rallying call to engage in the radical politics needed to upend the status quo.
It’s true that the book finishes with a political manifesto but that’s only in the final chapter or two. The majority of the book is the personal story, and just as well. Those last few chapters really don’t work in this setting. They feel tonally out of place.
Don’t get me wrong, the contents of those final chapters are right up my alley—they’re preaching to the converted here. But I think they would be better placed in their own publication. The heavily-researched academic style jars with the preceeding personal narrative.
Abolish Silicon Valley is 80% memoir and 20% manifesto. I worry that the marketing isn’t making that clear. It would be a shame if this great book didn’t find its audience.
The book will be released on April 14th. It’s available to pre-order now. I highly recommend doing just that. I think you’ll really enjoy it. But if you get mired down in the final few chapters, know that you can safely skip them.
Telling the story of performance
At Clearleft, we’ve worked with quite a few clients on site redesigns. It’s always a fascinating process, particularly in the discovery phase. There’s that excitement of figuring out what’s currently working, what’s not working, and what’s missing completely.
The bulk of this early research phase is spent diving into the current offering. But it’s also the perfect time to do some competitor analysis—especially if we want some answers to the “what’s missing?” question.
It’s not all about missing features though. Execution is equally important. Our clients want to know how their users’ experience shapes up compared to the competition. And when it comes to user experience, performance is a huge factor. As Andy says, performance is a UX problem.
There’s no shortage of great tools out there for measuring (and monitoring) performance metrics, but they’re mostly aimed at developers. Quite rightly. Developers are the ones who can solve most performance issues. But that does make the tools somewhat impenetrable if you don’t speak the language of “time to first byte” and “first contentful paint”.
When we’re trying to show our clients the performance of their site—or their competitors—we need to tell a story.
Web Page Test is a terrific tool for measuring performance. It can also be used as a story-telling tool.
You can go to webpagetest.org/easy if you don’t need to tweak settings much beyond the typical site visit (slow 3G on mobile). Pop in your client’s URL and, when the test is done, you get a valuable but impenetrable waterfall chart. It’s not exactly the kind of thing I’d want to present to a client.
Fortunately there’s an attention-grabbing output from each test: video. Download the video of your client’s site loading. Then repeat the test with the URL of a competitor. Download that video too. Repeat for as many competitor URLs as you think appropriate.
Now take those videos and play them side by side. Presentation software like Keynote is perfect for showing multiple videos like this.
This is so much more effective than showing a table of numbers! Clients get to really feel the performance difference between their site and their competitors.
Running all those tests can take time though. But there are some other tools out there that can give a quick dose of performance information.
SpeedCurve recently unveiled Page Speed Benchmarks. You can compare the performance of sites within a particualar sector like travel, retail, or finance. By default, you’ll get a filmstrip view of all the sites loading side by side. Click through on each one and you can get the video too. It might take a little while to gather all those videos, but it’s quicker than using Web Page Test directly. And it might be that the filmstrip view is impactful enough for telling your performance story.
If, during your discovery phase, you find that performance is being badly affected by third-party scripts, you’ll need some way to communicate that. Request Map Generator is fantastic for telling that story in a striking visual way. Pop the URL in there and then take a screenshot of the resulting visualisation.
The beginning of a redesign project is also the time to take stock of current performance metrics so that you can compare the numbers after your redesign launches. Crux.run is really great for tracking performance over time. You won’t get any videos but you will get some very appealing charts and graphs.
Web Page Test, Page Speed Benchmarks, and Request Map Generator are great for telling the story of what’s happening with performance right now—Crux.run balances that with the story of performance over time.
Measuring performance is important. Communicating the story of performance is equally important.
Well, this is a grim collection from Dave:
There are some cases where even using plain ol’ HTML causes accessibility problems. I get frustrated and want to quit web development whenever I read about these types of issues. Because if browsers can’t get this right, what hope is there for the rest of us.
It’s worth clicking through each link he lists—the situation is often much more nuanced than simply “Don’t use X.”
Friday, February 28th, 2020
Some solid research here. Turns out that using
input type=”text” inputmode=”numeric” pattern="[0-9]*" is probably a better bet than using
Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
Monday, February 24th, 2020
Jen kicked off a fascinating thread here:
It’s come up quite a few times recently that the world of people who make websites would greatly benefit from the CSS Working Group officially defining ”CSS 4”, and later “CSS 5“, etc.
The level is discourse is impressively smart and civil.
Personally, I don’t (yet) have an opinion on this either way, but I’ll be watching it unfold with keen interest.