This is an intriguing idea for a content management system: write words on paper and then take a picture of the page. Artisinal retro vintage blogging.
Wednesday, November 24th, 2021
Sunday, November 21st, 2021
This is the best description of what my own website feels like to me:
A search engine for my mind
Tuesday, November 16th, 2021
Well, this is just wonderful! Jim has written copious notes after listening to my favourite episode of season three of the Clearleft podcast, measuring design:
I’m going to have to try really, really hard to not just copy/paste the entire transcript of this podcast. It‘s that good. Don’t miss it.
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021
I love reading about how—and why—people tinker with their personal sites. This resonates a lot.
This website is essentially a repository of my memories, lessons I’ve learnt, insights I’ve discovered, a changelog of my previous selves. Most people build a map of things they have learnt, I am building a map of how I have come to be, in case I may get lost again. Maybe someone else interested in a similar lonely path will feel less alone with my documented footprints. Maybe that someone else would be me in the future.
Oh, and Winnie, I can testify that having an “on this day” page is well worth it!
Thursday, October 28th, 2021
Design engineering explained, with diagrams.
I have never worked anywhere where there wasn’t someone trying to close the gap. This role is often filled in accidentally, and companies are totally unaware of the need. Recruiters have never heard of it, and IT consultancies don’t have the capability in their roster. We now name the role “Design Engineer” because the gap is widening, and the role has become too complex to not exist.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2021
Sneaky social engineering in Slack.
A good post by Andy on “the language of business,” which is most cases turns out to be numbers, numbers, numbers.
While it seems reasonable and fair to expect a modicum of self-awareness of why you’re employed and what business value you drive in the the context of the work you do, sometimes the incessant self-flagellation required to justify and explain this to those who hired you may be a clue to a much deeper and more troubling question at the heart of the organisation you work for.
This pairs nicely with the Clearleft podcast episode on measuring design.
Tuesday, October 19th, 2021
Seb picks his top ten typefaces inspired by calligraphy.
Folks, this is not okay. Our industry is characterized by institutional recklessness and a callous lack of empathy for our users.
Sunday, October 10th, 2021
I like this advice: write for you, not for others. And if you can’t think of what to “write”, document something for yourself and call it writing.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the mystery of blogging, it’s that the stuff you think nobody will read ends up with way more reach than anything you write thinking it will be popular.
So write about what you want, not what you think others want, and the words will spill out.
I couldn’t agree more!
Thursday, October 7th, 2021
This is a terrific and nuanced talk that packs a lot into less than twenty minutes.
(The secret sauce in transitional web apps is progressive enhancement.)
Wednesday, October 6th, 2021
Measuring design on the Clearleft podcast
There was a bit of a theme running through UX Fest earlier this year. On the one hand, there was all the talk of designers learning to speak the language of business (to get that coveted seat at the table), which means talking in numbers. But on the other hand, isn’t there a real danger in reducing user experience to numbers in a spreadsheet?
For this episode I put the narrative together using lots of snippets from different talks, not just from UX Fest but from previous Clearleft events too. I also got some good hot takes from my colleagues Chris, Andy, and Maite. Oh, and it opens with former US Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. If you know, you know.
This episode comes in at 22 and a half minutes and I think it’s well worth your time. Have a listen.
This is the penultimate episode of season three. Just one more to go!
Thursday, September 30th, 2021
Twenty years of writing on my website
On this day twenty years ago I wrote the first entry in my online journal. In the intervening two decades I’ve written a further 2,817 entries.
I am now fifty years old, which means I’ve been blogging for two fifths of my lifetime.
My website has actually been around for longer than twenty years, but its early incarnations had no blog. That all changed when I relaunched the site on September 30th, 2001.
I’m not quite sure what I will be saying here over the coming days, weeks, months and years.
Honestly I still feel like that.
I think it’s safe to assume an “anything goes” attitude for what I post here. Being a web developer, there’s bound to be lots of geeky, techy stuff but I also want a place where I can rant and rave about life in general.
That’s been pretty true, although I feel that maybe there’s been too much geeky stuff and not enough about everything else in my life.
I’ll try and post fairly regularly but I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. Hopefully, I’ll be updating the journal on a daily basis.
I made no promises but I think I’ve done a pretty good job. Many’s the blogger who has let the weeds grow over their websites as they were lured by the siren song of centralised social networks. I’m glad that I’ve managed to avoid that fate. It feels good to look back on twenty years of updates posted on my own domain.
Anyway, let’s see what happens. I hope you’ll like it.
I hope you still like it.
Here are some of my handpicked highlights from the past twenty years of blogging:
- Hyperdrive, April 20th, 2007
Last night in San Francisco.
- Design doing, November 11, 2007
The opposite of design thinking.
- Iron Man and me, December 1st, 2008
The story of how one of my Flickr pictures came to be used in a Hollywood movie.
- Seams, May 12th, 2014
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
- Web! What is it good for?, May 28th, 2015
Not absolutely nothing, but not absolutely everything either.
- Split, April 10th, 2019
Materials and tools; client and server; declarative and imperative; inclusion and privilege.
Thursday, September 16th, 2021
Writing the Clearleft newsletter
I think it’s a really good newsletter, but then again, I’m the one who writes it. It just kind of worked out that way. In theory, anyone at Clearleft could write an edition of the newsletter.
To make that prospect less intimidating, I put together a document for my colleagues describing how I go about creating a new edition of the newsletter. Then I thought it might be interesting for other people outside of Clearleft to get a peek at how the sausage is made.
So here’s what I wrote…
The description of the newsletter is:
A round-up of handpicked hyperlinks from Clearleft, covering design, technology, and culture.
It usually has three links (maybe four, tops) on a single topic.
The topic can be anything that’s interesting, especially if it’s related to design or technology. Every now and then the topic can be something that incorporates an item that’s specifically Clearleft-related (a case study, an event, a job opening). In general it’s not very salesy at all so people will tolerate the occasional plug.
You can use the “iiiinteresting” Slack channel to find potential topics of interest. I’ve gotten in the habit of popping potential newsletter fodder in there, and then adding related links in a thread.
Imagine you’re telling a friend about something cool you’ve just discovered. You can sound excited. Don’t worry about this looking unprofessional—it’s better to come across as enthusiastic than too robotic. You can put real feelings on display: anger, disappointment, happiness.
That said, you can also just stick to the facts and describe each link in turn, letting the content speak for itself.
If you’re expressing a feeling or an opinion, use the personal pronoun “I”. Don’t use “we” unless you’re specifically referring to Clearleft.
But most of the time, you won’t be using any pronouns at all:
So-and-so has written an article in such-and-such magazine on this-particular-topic.
You might find it useful to have connecting phrases as you move from link to link:
Speaking of some-specific-thing, this-other-person has a different viewpoint.
On the subject of this-particular-topic, so-and-so wrote something about this a while back.
The format of the newsletter is:
- An introductory sentence or short paragraph.
- A sentence describing the first link, ending with the title of the item in bold.
- A link to the item on its own separate line.
- An excerpt from the link, usually a sentence or two, styled as a quote.
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 another two times.
Take a look through the archive of previous newsletters to get a feel for it.
Currently the newsletter is called dConstruct from Clearleft. The subject line of every edition is in the format:
dConstruct from Clearleft — Title of the edition
(Note that’s an em dash with a space on either side of it separating the name of the newsletter and the title of the edition)
I often try to come up with a pun-based title (often a punny portmanteau) but that’s not necessary. It should be nice and short though: just one or two words.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2021
Design engineering on the Clearleft podcast
I wrote about this role back in February. I think my fervour comes across in that post and you can probably hear it in the podcast episode too.
As ever, I end up asking the question, “So what exactly is insert topic of the podcast episode here?”
I’ve got some smart folks answering that question. There’s an excerpt from Tobias Ahlin’s talk at this year’s UX Fest. And when I interviewed Adekunle Oduye for a previous episode on prototyping, we also discussed design engineering so I pulled out the relevant bits. But the bulk of the episode features the voice of Trys Mudford.
As you can gather from the many posts on Trys’s blog, he has a lot to say on the topic of design engineering. Luckily for me, he says it all with a clear, articulate delivery—the perfect podcast guest!
This episode finishes with a call to action (oh, the synergy!). If, after listening to 23 minutes of discussion on design engineering, you find yourself thinking “Hey, I think I might be a design engineer!”, then you should definitely head along to this job opening at Clearleft:
We’re currently looking for a design-friendly front-end developer with demonstrable skills in pattern-based prototyping and production.
Have a listen to episode two of season three of the Clearleft podcast and if you like what you hear, come and join us!
Tuesday, September 14th, 2021
It sometimes feels like we end up testing the limitations of our tools rather than the content and design itself.
What Benjamin found—and I heartily agree—is that HTML prototypes give you the most bang for your buck:
Thursday, August 26th, 2021
Lara’s superb book on public speaking is now available in its entirity for free as a web book!
And a very beautiful web book it is too! All it needs is a service worker so it works offline.
Friday, August 20th, 2021
Your attentive kindness doesn’t get picked up by any analytical tool I’ve got other than my heart and my memory—however short lived.
Tuesday, August 17th, 2021
Letters to a Young Technologist is a collection of essays addressed to young technologists, written by a group of young technologists.
Monday, August 9th, 2021
I have no idea what the web will look like in another 30 years. But I am sure that we will look back at the first 30 years of the Web like we look back at the silent era in cinema today: as the formative years of a medium that was about to evolve to even higher heights.
The Web has always been about what each and every one of us contributes. And contributing is easier and more important than ever. So let’s not leave the future of the Web to big tech alone. Inclusiveness, accessibility, performance, security, usability, decentralization, openness – in almost all areas, the Web is far from done.