Here’s a clever tiny lesson from Dave and Brad: you can use
prefers-reduced-motion in the
media attribute of the
source element inside
Wednesday, May 29th, 2019
Here’s a clever tiny lesson from Dave and Brad: you can use
Saturday, February 16th, 2019
I linked to this a while back but now this great half hour documentary by Jessica Yu is ready and you can watch the whole thing online: Tim Berners-Lee, the birth of the web, and where the web has gone since.
In the scenes describing the early web, there’s footage of the recreated Line Mode Browser—how cool is that‽
Thursday, February 14th, 2019
On the 50th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think, Tim Berners-Lee delivered this address in 1995.
To a large part we have MEMEXes on our desks today. We have not yet seen the wide scale deployment of easy human interfaces for editing hypertext and making links. (I find this constantly frustrating, but always assume will be cured by cheap commercial products within the year.)
Friday, January 11th, 2019
I think Cathy might’ve buried the lede:
The knock on effect of this was removing media queries. As I moved towards some of the more modern features of CSS the need to target specific screen sizes with unique code was removed.
But on the topic of Sass, layout is now taken care of with CSS grid, variables are taken care of with CSS custom properties, and mixins for typography are taken care of with
Personally, I’ve always found the most useful feature of Sass to simply be that you can have lots of separate Sass files that get combined into one CSS file—very handy for component libraries.
Thursday, November 8th, 2018
‘Sfunny, this exact use-case (styling a profile component) came up on a project recently and I figured that CSS grid would be the right tool for the job.
Thursday, August 16th, 2018
A step-by-step guide to wrapping up a self-contained bit of functionality (a camera, in this case) into a web component.
Mind you, it would be nice if there were some thought given to fallbacks, like say:
<simple-camera> <input type="file" accept="image/*"> </simple-camera>
Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
Focusing on the median or average is the equivalent of walking around with a pair of blinders on. We’re limiting our perspective and, in the process, missing out on so much crucial detail. By definition, when we make improving the median or average our goal, we are focusing on optimizing for only about half of our sessions.
Tim does the numbers…
By honing in on the 90th—or 95th or similar—we ensure those weaknesses don’t get ignored. Our goal is to optimize the performance of our site for the majority of our users—not just a small subset of them.
Friday, July 13th, 2018
I tried very hard in that book, when it came to social media, to be platform agnostic, to emphasize that social media sites come and go, and to always invest first and foremost in your own media (website, blog, etc.) and mailing list.
I still stand by that advice, but if I re-wrote the book now, I would encourage artists to use much more caution when it comes to using social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Wednesday, July 11th, 2018
From smart dust and spimes, through to online journaling and social media, to machine learning, big data and digital preservation…
Is the archive where information goes to live forever, or where data goes to die?
Monday, May 21st, 2018
The slides and notes from a great presentation by Eric Bailey that takes a really thoughtful deep dive into media types, media queries, and inclusive design.
Tuesday, May 15th, 2018
Monday, April 2nd, 2018
Digital Marketing Strategies for the Busy “Web Master” by Sarah Parmenter
Recently Sarah was asked for her job title recently and she found it really stressful. She wasn’t comfortable with “Art Director”. And, even though it would probably be accurate, “Social Media Expert” feels icky. A more fitting title would be “Social Media Designer” but that’s not a thing. Ironically the term “Web Master” probably fits us better than it did back in the ’90s.
We have a bit of a defeatist attitude towards social media at the moment. It feels like that space has been claimed and so there’s no point in even starting. But we’re still in the first 10,000 days in the web. There is no social media, Gary Vee says. It’s a slang term for a collection of apps and websites that now dominate attention in our society.
Sarah likes the term “consensual hallucination” (that I borrowed from William Gibson to describe how we did web design for years). It applies to social media.
Once upon a time we had to sell the benefits of just being online to our clients. Our businesses now need to get into the mindset of “How can I help you?” and “What can I do for you?” We’re moving away from being sales-y and getting down to being more honest. We’re no longer saying “Look at what I’ve got.”
The average time spent on social media per day is 1 hour and 48 minutes. The average time spent on the kind of sites we make is 15 seconds.
Quarterly design reviews are a good idea—strategically designing your social media campaigns, reviewing successes and failures.
The first thing to mention is vanity metrics. You might need to sit down and have “the talk” with your boss or client about this. It’s no different to having hit counters on our sites back in the ’90s. While we’re chasing these vanity metrics, we’re not asking what people really want.
Google brought a roadshow to Sarah’s hometown of Leigh-on-Sea a while back. There was a really irritating know-it-all chap in the audience who put his hand up when other people were asking about how to get followers on social media. “You need to post three times a day to all social media channels”, he said. “And you need to use the follow-unfollow method with a bot.” Sarah’s eyes were rolling at this point. Don’t beg for likes and follows—you’re skewing your metrics.
“What about this Snapchat thing?” people asked. Irritating guy said, “Don’t worry about—young people use it to send rude pictures to each other.” Sarah was face-palming at this point.
But this event was a good wake-up call for Sarah. We need to check our personal bias. She had to check her own personal bias against LinkedIn.
What we can do is look for emerging social networks. Find social networks that aren’t yet clogged. People still fixate on displayed numbers instead of the actual connection with people.
We all have a tendency to think of the more successful social networks as something that is coming. Like Snapchat. But if you’re in this space, there’s no time to waste. Sarah has been interviewing for social media people and it’s fascinating to see how misunderstood Snapchat is. One big misconception is that it’s only for youngsters. The numbers might be lower than Facebook, but there’s a lot of video on there. Snapchat’s weakness is “the olds”—the non-intuitive interface makes it cool with young people who have time to invest in learning it; the learning curve keeps the parents out. Because the moment that mums and grandmums appear on a social network, the younger folks get out. And actually, when it comes to putting ads on Snapchat, the interface is very good.
What can we do in 2018?
- By 2019, video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic. If you’re not planning for this, you’re missing out.
- Move to HTTPS.
- Make your website mobile ready.
Let’s ban the pop-up. Overlays. Permission dialogs. They’re all terrible. Google has started to penalise websites “where content is not easily accessible.”
Pop-ups are a lazy fix for a complex engagement problem (similar to carousels). It’s a terrible user experience. Do we thing this is adding value? Is this the best way to get someone’s email address? They’re like the chuggers of the web.
Here’s an interesting issue: there are discount codes available on the web. We inform people of this through pop-ups. Then it when it comes to check-out, they know that a discount is possible and so they Google for discount codes. You might as well have a page on your own website to list your own discount codes instead of people going elsewhere for them.
There’s a long tail of conversions, particularly with more expensive products and services. Virgin Holidays has a great example. For an expensive holiday, they ask for just a small deposit up front.
Let’s talk about some specific social networks.
Facebook Pixel should be on your website, says Sarah. It collects data about your customers. (Needless to say, I disagree with this suggestion. Stand up for your customers’ dignity.)
Facebook is a very cheap way to publish video. Organic Facebook engagement is highest on posts with videos. (I think I threw up in my mouth a little just typing the words “organic”, “Facebook”, and “engagement” all in a row.) Facebook Live videos have six times the engagement of regular videos.
Sarah just said the word synergy. Twice. Unironically.
Facebook changed its algorithm last year. You’re going to see less posts from business and more posts from people.
Facebook advertising does work, but if it doesn’t work for you, the problem is probably down to your creative. (We’re using the word “creative” as a noun rather than an adjective, apparently.)
With Ad Words, measure success by conversions rather than impressions. You might get thousands of eyeballs looking at a form, but only a handful filling it out. You need to know that second number to understand how much you’re really paying per customer.
trends.google.com is useful for finding keywords that aren’t yet saturated.
Google My Business is under-used, especially if you have a bricks’n’mortar store. It can make a massive difference to small businesses. It’s worth keeping it up to date and keeping it updated.
700 million active users (double Twitter, and three times WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger). A lot of people are complaining about the changed algorithm. Social networks change their algorithms to deal with the “problems of success.” Instagram needs to help people with the discoverability of posts, says Sarah (again, I strongly disagree—it disempowers the user; I find Instagram’s we-know-best algorithm to be insultingly patronising).
Hashtags are the plumbing of the social media ecosystem. They’re not there for users to read. They’re for discoverability. Eleven hashtags are optimal.
Instagram Stories are a funny one. People are trying to use them to get around the algorithm, posting screenshots of photos to a story.
Archiving is a handy feature of Instagram. For time-sensitive content (like being closed during a snowstorm), it’s very useful to be able to archive those posts after the fact.
Planoly is a great website for managing your Instagram campaign. You can visually plan your feed. Only recently did Instagram start allowing scheduled posts (as long as they’re square, for some reason).
Influencer marketing is a thing. People trust peer recommendations more than advertising. You can buy micro-influencers quite cheaply.
(Side note: I think I’ve seen this episode of Black Mirror.)
How much do influencers cost? Not as much as you think. The average sponsored post rate is $180.
We need to have a “Design once. Use Everywhere.” mindset. Others we’ll go crazy. Away is doing this well. They sell a suitcase with built-in USB chargers.
The brands dominating social media are those with the most agile teams with exceptional storytelling skills. Away are very brave with their marketing. They’ve identified what their market has in common—travel—and they’re aiming at the level above that. They’re playing the long game, bringing the value back to the user. It’s all about “How can I help you?” rather than “Look at what I’ve gone.” Away’s creative is compelling, quirky, and fun. They work with influencers who are known to create beautiful imagery. Those influencers were given free suitcases. The cost of giving away those bags was much less than a traditional marketing campaign.
Their product is not front and centre in their campaigns. Travel is front and centre. They also collaborate with other brands. Their Google Ads are very striking. That also translates to physical advertising, like ads on airport security trays.
On Facebook, and on all of the social networks, everything is very polished and art-directed. They’re building a story. The content is about travel, but the through-line is about their suitcases.
When things go bad…
To finish, a semi-amusing story. Cath Kidston did a collaboration with Disney’s Peter Pan. Sarah had a hunch that it might go wrong. On paper, the social campaigns seemed fine. A slow build-up to the Peter Pan product launch. Lots of lovely teasers. They were seeding Instagram with beautiful imagery the day before launch. There was a real excitement building. Then the coveted email campaign with the coveted password.
On the site, people put in their password and then they had to wait. It was a deliberately gated experience. Twenty minutes of waiting. Then you finally get to the store …and there’s no “add to cart” button. Yup, they had left out the most important bit of the interface.
Sarah looked at what people were saying on Twitter. Lots of people assumed the problem was with their computer (after all, the web team wouldn’t be so silly as to leave off the “add to cart” button, right?). People blamed themselves. Cath Kidston scrambled to fix the problem …and threw people back into the 20 minute queue. Finally, the button appeared. So Sarah looked at a few bits ad pieces, and when she hit “add to cart” …she was thrown back to the 20 minute queue.
Sarah reached out to try to talk to someone on the web team. No one wanted to talk about it. If you ever find someone who was on that team, put them in touch.
Anyway, to wrap up…
Ensure the networks you are pursuing make sense for your brand.
Find your story for social media longevity.
Friday, March 30th, 2018
A run-down of digital preservation technologies for very, very long-term storage …in space.
Friday, February 16th, 2018
Another brilliant talk from Frank, this time on the (im)balance between the commercial and the cultural web.
Remember: the web is a marketplace and a commonwealth, so we have both commerce and culture; it’s just that the non-commercial bits of the web get more difficult to see in comparison to the outsized presence of the commercial web and all that caters to it.
This really resonates with me:
If commercial networks on the web measure success by reach and profit, cultural endeavors need to see their successes in terms of resonance and significance.
Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
The text of a fascinating talk given by Tim Berners-Lee back in 1995, at a gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s amazing article As We May Think. The event also drew together Ted Nelson, Alan Kay, Douglas Engelbart, and Bob Kahn!
Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
It’s a shame that this archiving project is coming to end. We don’t always know the future value of the present:
Researchers have come to realize that the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, transcriptions from London’s central criminal court, are the only record we have of the spoken words of many people who lived centuries ago but were not in the educated or elite classes. That we have them talking about the theft of a pig rather than the thought of Aristotle only gives us greater insight into the lived experience of their time.
Friday, December 22nd, 2017
The world-wide-web always scared the hell out of those who want to control what people consume and what their career is. The web was the equaliser.
A heartfelt missive by Christian on the eve of the US potentially losing net neutrality. I agree with every single word he’s written.
I hope that people still care that the web flows, no matter for whom or what the stream carries. The web did me a lot of good, and it can do so for many others. But it can’t do that if it turns into Cable TV. I’ve always seen the web as my media to control. To pick what I want to consume and question it by comparing it. A channel for me to publish and be scrutinised by others. A read-write medium. The only one we have. Let’s do more of the write part.
Thursday, December 21st, 2017
This homepage is media-querytastic. It’s so refreshing to see this kind of fun experimentation on a personal site—have fun resizing your browser window!
Monday, November 20th, 2017
An associative trail
Every now and then, I like to revisit Vannevar Bush’s classic article from the July 1945 edition of the Atlantic Monthly called As We May Think in which he describes a theoretical machine called the memex.
A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.
1945! Apart from its analogue rather than digital nature, it’s a remarkably prescient vision. In particular, there’s the idea of “associative trails”:
Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities.
Many decades later, Anne Washington ponders what a legal memex might look like:
My legal Memex builds a network of the people and laws available in the public records of politicians and organizations. The infrastructure for this vision relies on open data, free access to law, and instantaneously availability.
As John Sheridan from the UK’s National Archives points out, hypertext is the perfect medium for laws:
Despite the drafter’s best efforts to create a narrative structure that tells a story through the flow of provisions, legislation is intrinsically non-linear content. It positively lends itself to a hypertext based approach. The need for legislation to escape the confines of the printed form predates the all major innovators and innovations in hypertext, from Vannevar Bush’s vision in ” As We May Think“, to Ted Nelson’s coining of the term “hypertext”, through to and Berners-Lee’s breakthrough world wide web. I like to think that Nelson’s concept of transclusion was foreshadowed several decades earlier by the textual amendment (where one Act explicitly alters – inserts, omits or amends – the text of another Act, an approach introduced to UK legislation at the beginning of the 20th century).
That’s from a piece called Deeply Intertwingled Laws. The verb “to intertwingle” was another one of Ted Nelson’s neologisms.
There’s an associative trail from Vannevar Bush to Ted Nelson that takes some other interesting turns…
Picture a new American naval recruit in 1945, getting ready to ship out to the pacific to fight against the Japanese. Just as the ship as leaving the harbour, word comes through that the war is over. And so instead of fighting across the islands of the pacific, this young man finds himself in a hut on the Philippines, reading whatever is to hand. There’s a copy of The Atlantic Monthly, the one with an article called As We May Think. The sailor was Douglas Engelbart, and a few years later when he was deciding how he wanted to spend the rest of his life, that article led him to pursue the goal of augmenting human intellect. He gave the mother of all demos, featuring NLS, a working hypermedia system.
Later, thanks to Bill Atkinson, we’d get another system called Hypercard. It was advertised with the motto Freedom to Associate, in an advertising campaign that directly referenced Vannevar Bush.
And now I’m using the World Wide Web, a hypermedia system that takes in the whole planet, to create an associative trail. In this post, I’m linking (without asking anyone for permission) to six different sources, and in doing so, I’m creating a unique associative trail. And because this post has a URL (that won’t change), you are free to take it and make it part of your own associative trail on your digital memex.
Sunday, November 19th, 2017
A history of hypertext, from the memex to HyperCard.