Wednesday, November 8th, 2017
An extract from Richard’s excellent book, this is a deep dive into styling tables for the web (featuring some CSS I had never even heard of).
Tables can be beautiful but they are not works of art. Instead of painting and decorating them, design tables for your reader.
(It also contains a splendid use of the term “crawl bar.”)
Thursday, September 7th, 2017
Then there’s the inflatable doorknob.
Friday, June 9th, 2017
Talking with the tall man about poetry
When I started making websites in the 1990s, I had plenty of help. The biggest help came from the ability to view source on any web page—the web was a teacher of itself. I also got plenty of help from people who generously shared their knowledge and experience. There was Jeffrey’s Ask Dr. Web, Steve Champeon’s WebDesign-L mailing list, and Jeff Veen’s articles on Webmonkey. Years later, I was able to meet those people. That was a real privilege.
I’ve known Jeff for over a decade now. He’s gone from Adaptive Path to Google to TypeKit to Adobe to True Ventures, and it’s always fascinating to catch up with him and get his perspective on life, the universe, and everything.
He started up a podcast called Presentable about a year ago. It’s worth having a dig through the archives to have a listen to his chats with people like Andy, Jason, Anna, and Jessica. I was honoured when Jeff asked me to be on the show.
We ended up having a really good chat. It’s out now as Episode 25: The Tenuous Resilience of the Open Web. I really enjoyed having a good ol’ natter, and I hope you might enjoy listening to it.
‘Sfunny, but I feel like a few unplanned themes came up a few times. We ended up talking about art, but also about the scientific aspects of design. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the title of Jeff’s classic book, The Art and Science of Web Design.
We also talked about my most recent book, Resilient Web Design, and that’s when I noticed another theme. When discussing the web-first nature of publishing the book, I described the web version as the canonical version and all the other formats as copies that were generated from that. That sounds a lot like how I describe the indie web—something else we discussed—where you have the canonical instance on your own site but share copies on social networks: Publish on Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere—POSSE.
We also talked about technologies, and it’s entirely possible that we sound like two old codgers on the front porch haranguing those damn kids on the lawn. You can be the judge of that. The audio is available for your huffduffing pleasure. If you enjoy listening to it half as much as I enjoyed doing it, then I enjoyed it twice as much as you.
Sunday, June 4th, 2017
One of the topics I enjoy discussing at Indie Web Camps is how we can use design to display activity over time on personal websites. That’s how I ended up with sparklines on my site—it was the a direct result of a discussion at Indie Web Camp Nuremberg a year ago:
During the discussion at Indie Web Camp, we started looking at how silos design their profile pages to see what we could learn from them. Looking at my Twitter profile, my Instagram profile, my Untappd profile, or just about any other profile, it’s a mixture of bio and stream, with the addition of stats showing activity on the site—signs of life.
Perhaps the most interesting visual example of my activity over time is on my Github profile. Halfway down the page there’s a calendar heatmap that uses colour to indicate the amount of activity. What I find interesting is that it’s using two axes of time over a year: days of the month across the X axis and days of the week down the Y axis.
I wanted to try something similar, but showing activity by time of day down the Y axis. A month of activity feels like the right range to display, so I set about adding a calendar heatmap to monthly archives. I already had the data I needed—timestamps of posts. That’s what I was already using to display sparklines. I wrote some code to loop over those timestamps and organise them by day and by hour. Then I spit out a table with days for the columns and clumps of hours for the rows.
I’m using colour (well, different shades of grey) to indicate the relative amounts of activity, but I decided to use size as well. So it’s also a bubble chart.
It doesn’t work very elegantly on small screens: the table is clipped horizontally and can be swiped left and right. Ideally the visualisation itself would change to accommodate smaller screens.
Still, I kind of like the end result. Here’s last month’s activity on my site. Here’s the same time period ten years ago. I’ve also added month heatmaps to the monthly archives for my journal, links, and notes. They’re kind of like an expanded view of the sparklines that are shown with each month.
From one year ago, here’s the daily distribution of
And then here’s the the daily distribution of everything in that month all together.
I realise that the data being displayed is probably only of interest to me, but then, that’s one of the perks of having your own website—you can do whatever you feel like.
Sunday, October 23rd, 2016
This uses generated content in CSS to make the
aria-label attributes visible on small screens—clever!
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
Yummy wallpapers for your desktop, tablet, and phone, from NASA and ESA.
Sunday, June 12th, 2016
Some interesting outcomes from testing gov.uk with blind users of touchscreen devices:
Rather than reading out the hierarchy of the page, some of the users navigated by moving their finger around to ‘discover’ content.
This was really interesting - traditionally good structure for screen readers is about order and hierarchy. But for these users, the physical placement on the screen was also really important (just as it is for sighted users).
Saturday, May 28th, 2016
Dave explains the thinking behind his responsive table pattern I linked to a while back. He’s at pains to point out that you should always make sure a pre-made pattern is right for you instead of just deploying it no-questions-asked:
Using prefabricated, road tested solutions from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, Google’s Material Design, Twitter’s Bootstrap, and Brad Frost’s Responsive Patterns is always a good place to start, but don’t settle there. My biggest advice would be to turn off the 27” display and use your sites and projects on your phone, there’s lots of low hanging fruit that could give way to new patterns, tailor-suited to your content.
Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
Here’s a nice little pattern from Dave—showing data tables one column at a time on smaller screens.
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
A fascinating insight into some of Tumblr’s most popular accounts:
Some posts get more than a million notes—imagine a joke whispered in biology class getting a laugh from a city the size of San Francisco.
It’ll be a real shame when Tumblr disappears.
That’s “when”, not “if”. Remember:
In 2013, Yahoo bought Tumblr.
Friday, January 15th, 2016
One day in London
I don’t get up to London all that often—maybe once every few weeks; just long enough for the city’s skyline to have changed again. Yesterday was one of those days out in the big smoke.
I started with a visit to the Royal College of Art to see the work in progress exhibition that’s running until Sunday. Specifically, I wanted to see the project by Monika, who was one third of the immensely talented internship collaboration at Clearleft that produced notice.city. Her current project is called Watching the Watchers, all about undersea cables, surveillance, and audio—right up my alley. I think Ingrid, James, Dan, and Georgina would like it.
After that, I entered a metal tube to be whisked across the city to the Hospital Club, where a room had been booked for a most enjoyable Clearleft event. Anna had organised a second of her roundtable gatherings. This time the theme was “going responsive.”
The idea is to gather people together for one afternoon to share experiences and challenges. Anna invited people from all sorts of organisations, from newspapers to e-commerce and everything in between. Some of them were people we already knew, but most of them had no connection to Clearleft at all.
Everything happened the Chatham House Rule so I can’t tell you the details of who said what, but I can tell you that it was very productive afternoon. Some of the companies represented were in the process of switching to responsive, some had already done it, and some were planning it, so it was a perfect mix.
We began with a variation on the lean coffee technique. Splitting into groups, everyone jotted down some topics that they wanted to discuss. We shared those, grouped them, and voted on which order we would discuss them. Each topic got 5 to 10 minutes of discussion. In my group, we discussed strategy, workflow, tools, and more. We could’ve easily talked for longer. Some outcomes (very badly summarised):
- The vision and strategy for a responsive redesign needs to be communicated (and sold) up the chain to stakeholders as well as to the designers and developers in the trenches.
- “Mobile-first” For The Win! Solve the harder problems first.
- Multi-disciplinary teams For The Win! Works well with Agile too.
- A pattern libraries is probably the best tool you can have. So pattern libraries For The Win too!
After a break, we switched over in to a sort of open space exercise. Anyone who has a burning question they want answered writes that question down on an oversize post-it and slaps it on the wall. Now we’ve got a room with questions written on different parts of the wall. If you want to take a stab at answering any of those questions, you write it down on a post it note and slap it next to the question. Everyone does this for a while, going from question to question and having lots of good discussion. Then, at the end, we go from question to question, with the person who originally posted the question taking ownership of summarising the answers.
Some of the questions were:
- How to help people to stop thinking “desktop first”?
- Should designers code? Should developers design? Or Both?
- How do you start to deploy a responsive version of an existing site?
- How do you do responsive ads?
- What is the best tool to use to create responsive designs?
- Would every project benefit from a design system? Is it always worth the investment?
You get the idea. The format worked really well; it was the first time any of us had tried it. We slightly over-ran the time we had allotted for the afternoon, but that’s mostly because there was so much meaty stuff to discuss.
With that productive afternoon done, I made my way to the Bricklayer’s Arms, where by lucky coincidence, a Pub Standards meet-up was happening. I went along for a pint and a chat while I waited for rush hour to ease off: I wanted to avoid the crush before I started making my way back to Brighton. See you next time, Londinium.
Monday, November 9th, 2015
There’s something about this that I really like: a message transmitted via a modern communications medium converted into the oldest form of writing.
Monday, October 19th, 2015
Combining the molecules of narrative tropes to create stories.
Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Friday, August 8th, 2014
Those lovely people at Filament Group share some of their techniques for making data tables work across a range of screen sizes.
Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Zoe uses one little case study to contrast two different CSS techniques: display-table and flexbox. Flexbox definitely comes out on top when it comes to true source-order independence.
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
An interesting pattern for handling complex data tables in responsive designs. It’s a desktop-down approach, but pretty smart.
Friday, February 14th, 2014
Monday, November 25th, 2013
I like this CSS solution to sideways-scrolling tables for small viewports. It’s not going to be right for every situation but it’s a handy trick to keep up your sleeve.