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1 Why Bother with Accessibility? Web accessibility (known in other fields as inclusive design or universal design) is the degree to which a website is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility is most often used to describe how people with disabilities can access the web. How we approach accessibility In the web community, there’s a surprisingly inconsistent approach to accessibility. There are some who are endlessly dedicated to accessible web design, and there are some who believe it so intrinsic to the web that it shouldn’t be considered a separate topic. Still, of those who are familiar with accessibility, there’s an overwhelming number of designers, developers, clients and bosses who just aren’t that bothered. Over the last few months I’ve spoken to a lot of people about accessibility, and I’ve heard the same reasons to ignore it over and over again. Let’s take a look at the most common excuses. Excuse 1: “People with disabilities don’t really use the web” Accessibility will make your site available to more people — the inclusion case In the same way that the accessibility of a building isn’t just about access for wheelchair users, web accessibility isn’t just about blind users and screen readers. We can affect positively the lives of many people by making their access to the web easier. There are four main types of disability that affect use of the web: Visual Blindness, low vision and colour-blindness Auditory Profoundly deaf and hard of hearing Motor The inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control Cognitive Learning difficulties, distractibility, the inability to focus on large amounts of information None of these disabilities are completely black and white Examining deafness, it’s clear from the medical scale that there are many grey areas between full hearing and total deafness: mild moderate moderately severe severe profound totally deaf For eyesight, and brain conditions that affect what users see, there is a huge range of conditions and challenges: astigmatis… 2013 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2013-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility/ design
3 Project Hubs: A Home Base for Design Projects SCENE: A design review meeting. Laptop screens. Coffee cups. Project manager: Hey, did you get my email with the assets we’ll be discussing? Client: I got an email from you, but it looks like there’s no attachment. PM: Whoops! OK. I’m resending the files with the attachments. Check again? Client: OK, I see them. It’s homepage_v3_brian-edits_FINAL_for-review.pdf, right? PM: Yeah, that’s the one. Client: OK, hang on, Bill’s going to print them out. (3-minute pause. Small talk ensues.) Client: Alright, Bill’s back. We’re good to start. Brian: Oh, actually those homepage edits we talked about last time are in the homepage_v4_brian_FINAL_v2.pdf document that I posted to Basecamp earlier today. Client: Oh, OK. What message thread was that in? Brian: Uh, I’m pretty sure it’s in “Homepage Edits and Holiday Schedule.” Client: Alright, I see them. Bill’s going back to the printer. Hang on a sec… This is only a slightly exaggerated version of my experience in design review meetings. The design project dance is a sloppy one. It involves a slew of email attachments, PDFs, PSDs, revisions, GitHub repos, staging environments, and more. And while tools like Basecamp can help manage all these moving parts, it can still be incredibly challenging to extract only the important bits, juggle deliverables, and see how your project is progressing. Enter project hubs. Project hubs A project hub consolidates all the key design and development materials onto a single webpage presented in reverse chronological order. The timeline lives online (either publicly available or password protected), so that everyone involved in the team has easy access to it. A project hub. I was introduced to project hubs after seeing Dan Mall’s open redesign of Reading Is Fundamental. Thankfully, I had a chance to work with Dan on two projects where I got to see firsthand how beneficial a project hub can be. Here’s what makes a project hub great: Serves as a centralized home base for the project Trains clients and teams to decide i… 2013 Brad Frost bradfrost 2013-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/project-hubs/ process
8 Coding Towards Accessibility “Can we make it AAA-compliant?” – does this question strike fear into your heart? Maybe for no other reason than because you will soon have to wade through the impenetrable WCAG documentation once again, to find out exactly what AAA-compliant means? I’m not here to talk about that. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a comprehensive and peer-reviewed resource which we’re lucky to have at our fingertips. But they are also a pig to read, and they may have contributed to the sense of mystery and dread with which some developers associate the word accessibility. This Christmas, I want to share with you some thoughts and some practical tips for building accessible interfaces which you can start using today, without having to do a ton of reading or changing your tools and workflow. But first, let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions. Dreary, flat experiences I recently built a front-end framework for the Post Office. This was a great gig for a developer, but when I found out about my client’s stringent accessibility requirements I was concerned that I’d have to scale back what was quite a complex set of visual designs. Sites like Jakob Neilsen’s old workhorse useit.com and even the pioneering GOV.UK may have to shoulder some of the blame for this. They put a premium on usability and accessibility over visual flourish. (Although, in fairness to Mr Neilsen, his new site nngroup.com is really quite a snazzy affair, comparatively.) Of course, there are other reasons for these sites’ aesthetics — and it’s not because of the limitations of the form. You can make an accessible site look as glossy or as plain as you want it to look. It’s always our own ingenuity and attention to detail that are going to be the limiting factors. Synecdoche We must always guard against the tendency to assume that catering to screen readers means we have the whole accessibility ballgame covered. There’s so much more to accessibility than assistive technology, as you know. And within the field of assistive technology there ar… 2013 Charlie Perrins charlieperrins 2013-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/coding-towards-accessibility/ code
13 Data-driven Design with an Annual Survey Too often, we base designs on assumptions that don’t match customer perspectives. Why? Because the data we need to make informed decisions isn’t available. Imagine starting off the year with a treasure trove of user data that can be filtered, sliced, and diced to inform new UI designs, help you discover where users struggle the most, and expose emerging trends in your customers’ needs that could lead to new features. Why, that would be useful indeed. And it’s easy to obtain by conducting an annual survey. Annual surveys may seem as exciting as receiving socks and undies for Christmas, but they’re the gift that keeps on giving all year long (just like fresh socks and undies). I’m not ashamed to admit it: I love surveys! Each time my design research team runs a survey, we learn so much about customer motivations, interests, and behaviors. Surveys provide an aggregate snapshot of your users that can’t easily be obtained by other research methods, and they can be conducted quickly too. You can build a survey in a few hours, run a pilot test in a day, and have real results streaming in the following day. Speed is essential if design research is going to keep pace with a busy product release schedule. Surveys are also an invaluable springboard for customer interviews, which provide deep perspectives on user behavior. If you play your cards right as you construct your survey, you can capture a user ID and an email address for each respondent, making it easy to get in touch with customers whose feedback is particularly intriguing. No more recruiting customers for your research via Twitter or through a recruiting company charging a small fortune. You can filter survey responses and isolate the exact customers to talk with in moments, not months. I love this connected process of sending targeted surveys, filtering the results, and then — with surgical precision — selecting just the right customers to interview. Not only is it fast and cheap, but it lets design researchers do quantitative and qualitative research in … 2013 Aarron Walter aarronwalter 2013-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/data-driven-design-with-an-annual-survey/ design
16 URL Rewriting for the Fearful I think it was Marilyn Monroe who said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, please just fix these rewrite rules, I’m getting an internal server error.” Even the blonde bombshell hated configuring URL rewrites on her website, and I think most of us know where she was coming from. The majority of website projects I work on require some amount of URL rewriting, and I find it mildly enjoyable — I quite like a good rewrite rule. I suspect you may not share my glee, so in this article we’re going to go back to basics to try to make the whole rigmarole more understandable. When we think about URL rewriting, usually that means adding some rules to an .htaccess file for an Apache web server. As that’s the most common case, that’s what I’ll be sticking to here. If you work with a different server, there’s often documentation specifically for translating from Apache’s mod_rewrite rules. I even found an automatic converter for nginx. This isn’t going to be a comprehensive guide to every URL rewriting problem you might ever have. That would take us until Christmas. If you consider yourself a trial-and-error dabbler in the HTTP 500-infested waters of URL rewriting, then hopefully this will provide a little bit more of a basis to help you figure out what you’re doing. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the white screen of death after screwing up your .htaccess file, don’t worry. As Michael Jackson once insipidly whined, you are not alone. The basics Rewrite rules form part of the Apache web server’s configuration for a website, and can be placed in a number of different locations as part of your virtual host configuration. By far the simplest and most portable option is to use an .htaccess file in your website root. Provided your server has mod_rewrite available, all you need to do to kick things off in your .htaccess file is: RewriteEngine on The general formula for a rewrite rule is: RewriteRule URL/to/match URL/to/use/if/it/matches [options] When we talk about URL rewriting, we’re normally talking about one o… 2013 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2013-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/url-rewriting-for-the-fearful/ code
17 Bringing Design and Research Closer Together The ‘should designers be able to code’ debate has raged for some time, but I’m interested in another debate: should designers be able to research? Are you a designer who can do research? Good research and the insights you uncover inspire fresh ways of thinking and get your creative juices flowing. Good research brings clarity to a woolly brief. Audience insight helps sharpen your focus on what’s really important. Experimentation through research and design brings a sense of playfulness and curiosity to your work. Good research helps you do good design. Being a web designer today is pretty tough, particularly if you’re a freelancer and work on your own. There are so many new ideas, approaches to workflow and trends and tools to keep up with. How do you decide which things to do and which to ignore? A modern web designer needs to be able to consider the needs of the audience, design appropriate IAs and layouts, choose colour palettes, pick appropriate typefaces and type layouts, wrangle with content, style, code, dabble in SEO, and the list goes on and on. Not only that, but today’s web designer also has to keep up with the latest talking points in the industry: responsive design, Agile, accessibility, Sass, Git, lean UX, content first, mobile first, blah blah blah. Any good web designer doesn’t need to be persuaded about the merits of including research in their toolkit, but do you really have time to include research too? Who is responsible for research? Generally, research in the web industry forms part of other disciplines and isn’t so much a discipline in its own right. It’s very often thought of as part of UX, or activities that make up a process such as IA or content strategy. Research is often undertaken by UX designers, information architects or content strategists and isn’t something designers or developers get that involved in. Some people lump all of these activities together and label it design research and have design researchers to do it. Some companies, such as the one I run with my husband Ma… 2013 Emma Boulton emmaboulton 2013-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/bringing-design-and-research-closer-together/ ux
19 In Their Own Write: Web Books and their Authors The currency of written communication — words on the page, words on the screen — comprises many denominations. To further our ends in web design and development, we freely spend and receive several: tweets aphoristic and trenchant, banal and perfunctory; blog posts and articles that call us to action or reflection; anecdotes, asides, comments, essays, guides, how-tos, manuals, musings, notes, opinions, stories, thoughts, tips pro and not-so-pro. So many, many words. Our industry (so much more than this, but what on earth are we, collectively?), our community thrives on writing and sharing knowledge and experience. 24 ways is a case in point. Everyone can learn and contribute through reading and writing — it’s what we’ve always done. To web authors and readers seeking greater returns, though, broader culture has vouchsafed an enduring and singular artefact: the book. Last month I asked a small sample of web book authors if they would be prepared to answer a few questions; most of them kindly agreed. In spirit, the survey was informal: I had neither hypothesis nor unground axe. I work closely with writers — and yes, I’ve edited or copy-edited books by several of the authors I surveyed — and wanted to share their thoughts about what it was like to write a book (“…it was challenging to find a coherent narrative”), why they did it (“Who wouldn’t want to?”) and what they learned from the experience (“That I could!”). Reasons for writing a book In web development the connection between authors and readers is unusually close and immediate. Working in our medium precipitates a unity that’s rare elsewhere. Yet writing and publishing a book, even during the current books revolution, is something only a few of us attempt and it remains daunting and a little remote. What spurs an author to try it? For some, it’s a deeply held resistance to prevailing trends: I felt that designers and developers needed to be shaken out of what seemed to me had been years of stagnation. —Andrew Clarke Or even a desire to protect us from… 2013 Owen Gregory owengregory 2013-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/web-books/ content
20 Make Your Browser Dance It was a crisp winter’s evening when I pulled up alongside the pier. I stepped out of my car and the bitterly cold sea air hit my face. I walked around to the boot, opened it and heaved out a heavy flight case. I slammed the boot shut, locked the car and started walking towards the venue. This was it. My first gig. I thought about all those weeks of preparation: editing video clips, creating 3-D objects, making coloured patterns, then importing them all into software and configuring effects to change as the music did; targeting frequency, beat, velocity, modifying size, colour, starting point; creating playlists of these… and working out ways to mix them as the music played. This was it. This was me VJing. This was all a lifetime (well a decade!) ago. When I started web designing, VJing took a back seat. I was more interested in interactive layouts, semantic accessible HTML, learning all the IE bugs and mastering the quirks that CSS has to offer. More recently, I have been excited by background gradients, 3-D transforms, the @keyframe directive, as well as new APIs such as getUserMedia, indexedDB, the Web Audio API But wait, have I just come full circle? Could it be possible, with these wonderful new things in technologies I am already familiar with, that I could VJ again, right here, in a browser? Well, there’s only one thing to do: let’s try it! Let’s take to the dance floor Over the past couple of years working in The Lab I have learned to take a much more iterative approach to projects than before. One of my new favourite methods of working is to create a proof of concept to make sure my theory is feasible, before going on to create a full-blown product. So let’s take the same approach here. The main VJing functionality I want to recreate is manipulating visuals in relation to sound. So for my POC I need to create a visual, with parameters that can be changed, then get some sound and see if I can analyse that sound to detect some data, which I can then use to manipulate the visual parameters. Easy, … 2013 Ruth John ruthjohn 2013-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/make-your-browser-dance/ code
22 The Responsive Hover Paradigm CSS transitions and animations provide web designers with a whole slew of tools to spruce up our designs. Move over ActionScript tweens! The techniques we can now implement with CSS are reminiscent of Flash-based adventures from the pages of web history. Pairing CSS enhancements with our :hover pseudo-class allows us to add interesting events to our websites. We have a ton of power at our fingertips. However, with this power, we each have to ask ourselves: just because I can do something, should I? Why bother? We hear a lot of mantras in the web community. Some proclaim the importance of content; some encourage methods like mobile first to support content; and others warn of the overhead and speed impact of decorative flourishes and visual images. I agree, one hundred percent. At the same time, I believe that content can reign king and still provide a beautiful design with compelling interactions and acceptable performance impacts. Maybe, just maybe, we can even have a little bit of fun when crafting these systems! Yes, a site with pure HTML content and no CSS will load very fast on your mobile phone, but it leaves a lot to be desired. If you went to your local library and every book looked the same, how would you know which one to borrow? Imagine if every book was printed on the same paper stock with the same cover page in the same type size set at a legible point value… how would you know if you were going to purchase a cookbook about wild game or a young adult story about teens fighting to the death? For certain audiences, seeing a site with hip, lively hovers sure beats a stale website concept. I’ve worked on many higher education sites, and setting the interactive options is often a very important factor in engaging potential students, alumni, and donors. The same can go for e-commerce sites: enticing your audience with surprise and delight factors can be the difference between a successful and a lost sale. Knowing your content and audience can help you decide if an intriguing experience is appropria… 2013 Jenn Lukas jennlukas 2013-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/the-responsive-hover-paradigm/  
24 Kill It With Fire! What To Do With Those Dreaded FAQs In the mid-1640s, a man named Matthew Hopkins attempted to rid England of the devil’s influence, primarily by demanding payment for the service of tying women to chairs and tossing them into lakes. Unsurprisingly, his methods garnered criticism. Hopkins defended himself in The Discovery of Witches in 1647, subtitled “Certaine Queries answered, which have been and are likely to be objected against MATTHEW HOPKINS, in his way of finding out Witches.” Each “querie” was written in the voice of an imagined detractor, and answered in the voice of an imagined defender (always referring to himself as “the discoverer,” or “him”): Quer. 14. All that the witch-finder doth is to fleece the country of their money, and therefore rides and goes to townes to have imployment, and promiseth them faire promises, and it may be doth nothing for it, and possesseth many men that they have so many wizzards and so many witches in their towne, and so hartens them on to entertaine him. Ans. You doe him a great deale of wrong in every of these particulars. Hopkins’ self-defense was an early modern English FAQ. Digital beginnings Question and answer formatting certainly isn’t new, and stretches back much further than witch-hunt days. But its most modern, most notorious, most reviled incarnation is the internet’s frequently asked questions page. FAQs began showing up on pre-internet mailing lists as a way for list members to answer and pre-empt newcomers’ repetitive questions: The presumption was that new users would download archived past messages through ftp. In practice, this rarely happened and the users tended to post questions to the mailing list instead of searching its archives. Repeating the “right” answers becomes tedious… When all the users of a system can hear all the other users, FAQs make a lot of sense: the conversation needs to be managed and manageable. FAQs were a stopgap for the technological limitations of the time. But the internet moved past mailing lists. Online information can be stored, searched,… 2013 Lisa Maria Martin lisamariamartin 2013-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/what-to-do-with-faqs/ content
26 Integrating Contrast Checks in Your Web Workflow It’s nearly Christmas, which means you’ll be sure to find an overload of festive red and green decorating everything in sight—often in the ugliest ways possible. While I’m not here to battle holiday tackiness in today’s 24 ways, it might just be the perfect reminder to step back and consider how we can implement colour schemes in our websites and apps that are not only attractive, but also legible and accessible for folks with various types of visual disabilities. This simulated photo demonstrates how red and green Christmas baubles could appear to a person affected by protanopia-type colour blindness—not as festive as you might think. Source: Derek Bruff I’ve been fortunate to work with Simply Accessible to redesign not just their website, but their entire brand. Although the new site won’t be launching until the new year, we’re excited to let you peek under the tree and share a few treats as a case study into how we tackled colour accessibility in our project workflow. Don’t worry—we won’t tell Santa! Create a colour game plan A common misconception about accessibility is that meeting compliance requirements hinders creativity and beautiful design—but we beg to differ. Unfortunately, like many company websites and internal projects, Simply Accessible has spent so much time helping others that they had not spent enough time helping themselves to show the world who they really are. This was the perfect opportunity for them to practise what they preached. After plenty of research and brainstorming, we decided to evolve the existing Simply Accessible brand. Or, rather, salvage what we could. There was no established logo to carry into the new design (it was a stretch to even call it a wordmark), and the Helvetica typography across the site lacked any character. The only recognizable feature left to work with was colour. It was a challenge, for sure: the oranges looked murky and brown, and the blues looked way too corporate for a company like Simply Accessible. We knew we needed to inject a lot of personalit… 2014 Geri Coady gericoady 2014-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/integrating-contrast-checks-in-your-web-workflow/ design
27 Putting Design on the Map The web can leave us feeling quite detached from the real world. Every site we make is really just a set of abstract concepts manifested as tools for communication and expression. At any minute, websites can disappear, overwritten by a newfangled version or simply gone. I think this is why so many of us have desires to create a product, write a book, or play with the internet of things. We need to keep in touch with the physical world and to prove (if only to ourselves) that we do make real things. I could go on and on about preserving the web, the challenges of writing a book, or thoughts about how we can deal with the need to make real things. Instead, I’m going to explore something that gives us a direct relationship between a website and the physical world – maps. A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected. Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet The simplest form of map on a website tends to be used for showing where a place is and often directions on how to get to it. That’s an incredibly powerful tool. So why is it, then, that so many sites just plonk in a default Google Map and leave it as that? You wouldn’t just use dark grey Helvetica on every site, would you? Where’s the personality? Where’s the tailored experience? Where is the design? Jumping into design Let’s keep this simple – we all want to be better web folk, not cartographers. We don’t need to go into the history, mathematics or technology of map making (although all of those areas are really interesting to research). For the sake of our sanity, I’m going to gloss over some of the technical areas and focus on the practical concepts. Tiles If you’ve ever noticed a map loading in sections, it’s because it uses tiles that are downloaded individually instead of requiring the user to download everything that they might need. These tiles come in many styles and can be used for anything that covers large ar… 2014 Shane Hudson shanehudson 2014-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/putting-design-on-the-map/ design
28 Why You Should Design for Open Source Let’s be honest. Most designers don’t like working for nothing. We rally against spec work and make a stand for contracts and getting paid. That’s totally what you should do as a professional designer in the industry. It’s your job. It’s your hard-working skill. It’s your bread and butter. Get paid. However, I’m going to make a case for why you could also consider designing for open source. First, I should mention that not all open source work is free work. Some companies hire open source contributors to work on their projects full-time, usually because that project is used by said company. There are other companies that encourage open source contribution and even offer 20%-time for these projects (where you can spend one day a week contributing to open source). These are super rad situations to be in. However, whether you’re able to land a gig doing this type of work, or you’ve decided to volunteer your time and energy, designing for open source can be rewarding in many other ways. Portfolio building New designers often find themselves in a catch-22 situation: they don’t have enough work experience showcased in their portfolio, which leads to them not getting much work because their portfolio is bare. These new designers often turn to unsolicited redesigns to fill their portfolio. An unsolicited redesign is a proof of concept in which a designer attempts to redesign a popular website. You can see many of these concepts on sites like Dribbble and Behance and there are even websites dedicated to showcasing these designs, such as Uninvited Designs. There’s even a subreddit for them. There are quite a few negative opinions on unsolicited redesigns, though some people see things from both sides. If you feel like doing one or two of these to fill your portfolio, that’s of course up to you. But here’s a better suggestion. Why not contribute design for an open source project instead? You can easily find many projects in great need of design work, from branding to information design, documentation, and website or ap… 2014 Jina Anne jina 2014-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/why-you-should-design-for-open-source/ design
29 What It Takes to Build a Website In 1994 we lost Kurt Cobain and got the world wide web as a weird consolation prize. In the years that followed, if you’d asked me if I knew how to build a website I’d have said yes, I know HTML, so I know how to build a website. If you’d then asked me what it takes to build a website, I’d have had to admit that HTML would hardly feature. Among the design nerdery and dev geekery it’s easy to think that the nuts and bolts of building a page just need to be multiplied up and Ta-da! There’s your website. That can certainly be true with weekend projects and hackery for fun. It works for throwing something together on GitHub or experimenting with ideas on your personal site. But what about working professionally on client projects? The web is important, so we need to build it right. It’s 2015 – your job involves people paying you money for building websites. What does it take to build a website and to do it right? What practices should we adopt to make really great, successful and professional web projects in 2015? I put that question to some friends and 24 ways authors to see what they thought. Getting the tech right Inevitably, it all starts with the technology. We work in a technical medium, after all. From Notepad and WinFTP through to continuous integration and deployment – how do you build sites? Create a stable development environment There’s little more likely to send a web developer into a wild panic and a client into a wild rage than making a new site live and things just not working. That’s why it’s important to have realistic development and staging environments that mimic the live server as closely as possible. Are you in the habit of developing new sites right on the client’s server? Or maybe in a subfolder on your local machine? It’s time to reconsider. Charlie Perrins writes: Don’t work on a live server – this feels like one of those gear-changing moments for a developer’s growth. Build something that works just as well locally on your own machine as it does on a live server, and capture th… 2014 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2014-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/what-it-takes-to-build-a-website/ business
30 Making Sites More Responsive, Responsibly With digital projects we’re used to shifting our thinking to align with our target audience. We may undertake research, create personas, identify key tasks, or observe usage patterns, with our findings helping to refine our ongoing creations. A product’s overall experience can make or break its success, and when it comes to defining these experiences our development choices play a huge role alongside more traditional user-focused activities. The popularisation of responsive web design is a great example of how we are able to shape the web’s direction through using technology to provide better experiences. If we think back to the move from table-based layouts to CSS, initially our clients often didn’t know or care about the difference in these approaches, but we did. Responsive design was similar in this respect – momentum grew through the web industry choosing to use an approach that we felt would give a better experience, and which was more future-friendly.  We tend to think of responsive design as a means of displaying content appropriately across a range of devices, but the technology and our implementation of it can facilitate much more. A responsive layout not only helps your content work when the newest smartphone comes out, but it also ensures your layout suitably adapts if a visually impaired user drastically changes the size of the text. The 24 ways site at 400% on a Retina MacBook Pro displays a layout more typically used for small screens. When we think more broadly, we realise that our technical choices and approaches to implementation can have knock-on effects for the greater good, and beyond our initial target audiences. We can make our experiences more responsive to people’s needs, enhancing their usability and accessibility along the way. Being responsibly responsive Of course, when we think about being more responsive, there’s a fine line between creating useful functionality and becoming intrusive and overly complex. In the excellent Responsible Responsive Design, Scott Jehl states that: … 2014 Sally Jenkinson sallyjenkinson 2014-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/making-sites-more-responsive-responsibly/ code
31 Dealing with Emergencies in Git The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that version control soon would be there. This summer I moved to the UK with my partner, and the onslaught of the Christmas holiday season began around the end of October (October!). It does mean that I’ve had more than a fair amount of time to come up with horrible Git analogies for this article. Analogies, metaphors, and comparisons help the learner hook into existing mental models about how a system works. They only help, however, if the learner has enough familiarity with the topic at hand to make the connection between the old and new information. Let’s start by painting an updated version of Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas living room. Empty stockings are hung up next to the fireplace, waiting for Saint Nicholas to come down the chimney and fill them with small treats. Holiday treats are scattered about. A bowl of mixed nuts, the holiday nutcracker, and a few clementines. A string of coloured lights winds its way up an evergreen. Perhaps a few of these images are familiar, or maybe they’re just settings you’ve seen in a movie. It doesn’t really matter what the living room looks like though. The important thing is to ground yourself in your own experiences before tackling a new subject. Instead of trying to brute-force your way into new information, as an adult learner constantly ask yourself: ‘What is this like? What does this remind me of? What do I already know that I can use to map out this new territory?’ It’s okay if the map isn’t perfect. As you refine your understanding of a new topic, you’ll outgrow the initial metaphors, analogies, and comparisons. With apologies to Mr. Moore, let’s give it a try. Getting Interrupted in Git When on the roof there arose such a clatter! You’re happily working on your software project when all of a sudden there are freaking reindeer on the roof! Whatever you’ve been working on is going to need to wait while you investigate the commotion. If you’ve got even a little bit of experience working with Git, … 2014 Emma Jane Westby emmajanewestby 2014-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/dealing-with-emergencies-in-git/ code
32 Cohesive UX With Yosemite, Apple users can answer iPhone calls on their MacBooks. This is weird. And yet it’s representative of a greater trend toward cohesion. Shortly after upgrading to Yosemite, a call came in on my iPhone and my MacBook “rang” in parallel. And I was all, like, “Wut?” This was a new feature in Yosemite, and honestly it was a little bizarre at first. Apple promotional image showing a phone call ringing simultaneously on multiple devices. However, I had just spoken at a conference on the very topic you’re reading about now, and therefore I appreciated the underlying concept: the cohesion of user experience, the cohesion of screens. This is just one of many examples I’ve encountered since beginning to speak about this topic months ago. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back at the past few years, specifically the role of responsive web design. RWD != cohesive experience I needn’t expound on the virtues of responsive web design (RWD). You’ve likely already encountered more than a career’s worth on the topic. This is a good thing. Count me in as one of its biggest fans. However, if we are to sing the praises of RWD, we must also acknowledge its shortcomings. One of these is that RWD ends where the browser ends. For all its goodness, RWD really has no bearing on native apps or any other experiences that take place outside the browser. This makes it challenging, therefore, to create cohesion for multi-screen users if RWD is the only response to “let’s make it work everywhere.” We need something that incorporates the spirit of RWD while unifying all touchpoints for the entire user experience—single device or several devices, in browser or sans browser, native app or otherwise. I call this cohesive UX, and I believe it’s the next era of successful user experiences. Toward a unified whole Simply put, the goal of cohesive UX is to deliver a consistent, unified user experience regardless of where the experience begins, continues, and ends. Two facets are vital to cohesive UX: Function a… 2014 Cameron Moll cameronmoll 2014-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/cohesive-ux/ ux
34 Collaborative Responsive Design Workflows Much has been written about workflow and designer-developer collaboration in web design, but many teams still struggle with this issue; either with how to adapt their internal workflow, or how to communicate the need for best practices like mobile first and progressive enhancement to their teams and clients. Christmas seems like a good time to have another look at what doesn’t work between us and how we can improve matters. Why is it so difficult? We’re still beginning to understand responsive design workflows, acknowledging the need to move away from static design tools and towards best practices in development. It’s not that we don’t want to change – so why is it so difficult? Changing the way we do something that has become routine is always problematic, even with small things, and the changes today’s web environment requires from web design and development teams are anything but small. Although developers also have a host of new skills to learn and things to consider, designers are probably the ones pushed furthest out of their comfort zones: as well as graphic design, a web designer today also needs an understanding of interaction design and ergonomics, because more and more websites are becoming tools rather than pages meant to be read like a book or magazine. In addition to that there are thousands of different devices and screen sizes on the market today that layout and interactions need to work on. These aspects make it impossible to design in a static design tool, so beyond having to learn about new aspects of design, the designer has to either learn how to code or learn to work with a responsive design tool. Why do it That alone is enough to leave anyone overwhelmed, as learning a new skill takes time and slows you down in a project – and on most projects time is in short supply. Yet we have to make time or fall behind in the industry as others pitch better, interactive designs. For an efficient workflow, both designers and developers must familiarise themselves with new tools and techniques. A… 2014 Sibylle Weber sibylleweber 2014-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/collaborative-responsive-design-workflows/ process
37 JavaScript Modules the ES6 Way JavaScript admittedly has plenty of flaws, but one of the largest and most prominent is the lack of a module system: a way to split up your application into a series of smaller files that can depend on each other to function correctly. This is something nearly all other languages come with out of the box, whether it be Ruby’s require, Python’s import, or any other language you’re familiar with. Even CSS has @import! JavaScript has nothing of that sort, and this has caused problems for application developers as they go from working with small websites to full client-side applications. Let’s be clear: it doesn’t mean the new module system in the upcoming version of JavaScript won’t be useful to you if you’re building smaller websites rather than the next Instagram. Thankfully, the lack of a module system will soon be a problem of the past. The next version of JavaScript, ECMAScript 6, will bring with it a full-featured module and dependency management solution for JavaScript. The bad news is that it won’t be landing in browsers for a while yet – but the good news is that the specification for the module system and how it will look has been finalised. The even better news is that there are tools available to get it all working in browsers today without too much hassle. In this post I’d like to give you the gift of JS modules and show you the syntax, and how to use them in browsers today. It’s much simpler than you might think. What is ES6? ECMAScript is a scripting language that is standardised by a company called Ecma International. JavaScript is an implementation of ECMAScript. ECMAScript 6 is simply the next version of the ECMAScript standard and, hence, the next version of JavaScript. The spec aims to be fully comfirmed and complete by the end of 2014, with a target initial release date of June 2015. It’s impossible to know when we will have full feature support across the most popular browsers, but already some ES6 features are landing in the latest builds of Chrome and Firefox. You shouldn’t expect to be… 2014 Jack Franklin jackfranklin 2014-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/javascript-modules-the-es6-way/ code
40 Don’t Push Through the Pain In 2004, I lost my web career. In a single day, it was gone. I was in too much pain to use a keyboard, a Wacom tablet (I couldn’t even click the pen), or a trackball. Switching my mouse to use my left (non-dominant) hand only helped a bit; then that hand went, too. I tried all the easy-to-find equipment out there, except for expensive gizmos with foot pedals. I had tingling in my fingers—which, when I was away from the computer, would rhythmically move as if some other being controlled them. I worried about Parkinson’s because the movements were so dramatic. Pen on paper was painful. Finally, I discovered one day that I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. The only highlight was that I couldn’t dust, scrub, or vacuum. We were forced to hire someone to come in once a week for an hour to whip through the house. You can imagine my disappointment. My injuries had gradually slithered into my life without notice. I’d occasionally have sore elbows, or my wrist might ache for a day, or my shoulders feel tight. But nothing to keyboard home about. That’s the critical bit of news. One day, you’re pretty fine. The next day, you don’t have your job—or any job that requires the use of your hands and wrists. I had to walk away from the computer for over four months—and partially for several months more. That’s right: no income. If I hadn’t found a gifted massage therapist, the right book of stretches, the equipment I should have been using all along, and learned how to pay attention to my body—even just a little bit more—I quite possibly wouldn’t be writing this article today. I wouldn’t be writing anything, anywhere. Most of us have heard of (and even claimed to have read all of) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, who describes the state of flow—the place our minds go when we are fully engaged and in our element. This lovely state of highly focused activity is deeply satisfying, often creative, and quite familiar to many of us on the web who just can’t quit until the copy sings or t… 2014 Carolyn Wood carolynwood 2014-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/dont-push-through-the-pain/ business
41 What Is Vagrant and Why Should I Care? If you run a web server, a database server and your scripting language(s) of choice on your main machine and you have not yet switched to using virtualisation in your workflow then this essay may be of some value to you. I know you exist because I bump into you daily: freelancers coming in to work on our projects; internet friends complaining about reinstalling a development environment because of an operating system upgrade; fellow agency owners who struggle to brief external help when getting a particular project up and running; or even hardcore back-end developers who “don’t do ops” and prefer to run their development stack of choice locally. There are many perfectly reasonable arguments as to why you may not have already made the switch, from being simply too busy, all the way through to a distrust of the new. I’ll admit that there are many new technologies or workflows that I hear of daily and instantly disregard because I have tool overload, that feeling I get when I hear about a new shiny thing and think “Well, what I do now works – I’ll leave it for others to play with.” If that’s you when it comes to Vagrant then I hope you’ll hear me out. The business case is compelling enough for you to make that switch; as a bonus it’s also really easy to get going. In this article we’ll start off by going through the high level, the tools available and how it all fits together. Then we’ll touch on the justification for making the switch, providing a few use cases that might resonate with you. Finally, I’ll provide a very simple example that you can follow to get yourself up and running. What? You already know what virtualisation is. You use the ability to run an operating system within another operating system every day. Whether that’s Parallels or VMware on your laptop or similar server-based tools that drive the ‘cloud’, squeezing lots of machines on to physical hardware and making it really easy to copy servers and even clusters of servers from one place to another. It’s an amazing technology which has change… 2014 Darren Beale darrenbeale 2014-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/what-is-vagrant-and-why-should-i-care/ process
47 Developing Robust Deployment Procedures Once you have developed your site, how do you make it live on your web hosting? For many years the answer was to log on to your server and upload the files via FTP. Over time most hosts and FTP clients began to support SFTP, ensuring your files were transmitted over a secure connection. The process of deploying a site however remained the same. There are issues with deploying a site in this way. You are essentially transferring files one by one to the server without any real management of that transfer. If the transfer fails for some reason, you may end up with a site that is only half updated. It can then be really difficult to work out what hasn’t been replaced or added, especially where you are updating an existing site. If you are updating some third-party software your update may include files that should be removed, but that may not be obvious to you and you risk leaving outdated files littering your file system. Updating using (S)FTP is a fragile process that leaves you open to problems caused by both connectivity and human error. Is there a better way to do this? You’ll be glad to know that there is. A modern professional deployment workflow should have you moving away from fragile manual file transfers to deployments linked to code committed into source control. The benefits of good practice You may never have experienced any major issues while uploading files over FTP, and good FTP clients can help. However, there are other benefits to moving to modern deployment practices. No surprises when you launch If you are deploying in the way I suggest in this article you should have no surprises when you launch because the code you committed from your local environment should be the same code you deploy – and to staging if you have a staging server. A missing vital file won’t cause things to start throwing errors on updating the live site. Being able to work collaboratively Source control and good deployment practice makes working with your clients and other developers easy. Deploying first to a staging… 2014 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2014-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/developing-robust-deployment-procedures/ process
48 A Holiday Wish A friend and I were talking the other day about why clients spend more on toilet cleaning than design, and how the industry has changed since the mid-1990s, when we got our starts. Early in his career, my friend wrote a fine CSS book, but for years he has called himself a UX designer. And our conversation got me thinking about how I reacted to that title back when I first started hearing it. “Just what this business needs,” I said to myself, “another phony expert.” Okay, so I was wrong about UX, but my touchiness was not altogether unfounded. In the beginning, our industry was divided between freelance jack-of-all-trade punks, who designed and built and coded and hosted and Photoshopped and even wrote the copy when the client couldn’t come up with any, and snot-slick dot-com mega-agencies that blew up like Alice and handed out titles like impoverished nobles in the years between the world wars. I was the former kind of designer, a guy who, having failed or just coasted along at a cluster of other careers, had suddenly, out of nowhere, blossomed into a web designer—an immensely curious designer slash coder slash writer with a near-insatiable lust to shave just one more byte from every image. We had modems back then, and I dreamed in sixteen colors. My source code was as pretty as my layouts (arguably prettier) and I hoovered up facts and opinions from newsgroups and bulletin boards as fast as any loudmouth geek could throw them. It was a beautiful life. But soon, too soon, the professional digital agencies arose, buying loft buildings downtown, jacking in at T1 speeds, charging a hundred times what I did, and communicating with their clients in person, in large artfully bedecked rooms, wearing hand-tailored Barney’s suits and bringing back the big city bullshit I thought I’d left behind when I quit advertising to become a web designer. Just like the big bad ad agencies of my early career, the new digital agencies stocked every meeting with a totem pole worth of ranks and titles. If the client brought five u… 2014 Jeffrey Zeldman jeffreyzeldman 2014-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/a-holiday-wish/ ux
49 Universal React One of the libraries to receive a huge amount of focus in 2015 has been ReactJS, a library created by Facebook for building user interfaces and web applications. More generally we’ve seen an even greater rise in the number of applications built primarily on the client side with most of the logic implemented in JavaScript. One of the main issues with building an app in this way is that you immediately forgo any customers who might browse with JavaScript turned off, and you can also miss out on any robots that might visit your site to crawl it (such as Google’s search bots). Additionally, we gain a performance improvement by being able to render from the server rather than having to wait for all the JavaScript to be loaded and executed. The good news is that this problem has been recognised and it is possible to build a fully featured client-side application that can be rendered on the server. The way in which these apps work is as follows: The user visits www.yoursite.com and the server executes your JavaScript to generate the HTML it needs to render the page. In the background, the client-side JavaScript is executed and takes over the duty of rendering the page. The next time a user clicks, rather than being sent to the server, the client-side app is in control. If the user doesn’t have JavaScript enabled, each click on a link goes to the server and they get the server-rendered content again. This means you can still provide a very quick and snappy experience for JavaScript users without having to abandon your non-JS users. We achieve this by writing JavaScript that can be executed on the server or on the client (you might have heard this referred to as isomorphic) and using a JavaScript framework that’s clever enough handle server- or client-side execution. Currently, ReactJS is leading the way here, although Ember and Angular are both working on solutions to this problem. It’s worth noting that this tutorial assumes some familiarity with React in general, its syntax and concepts. If you’d like a refresher, th… 2015 Jack Franklin jackfranklin 2015-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/universal-react/ code
54 Putting My Patterns through Their Paces Over the last few years, the conversation around responsive design has shifted subtly, focusing not on designing pages, but on patterns: understanding the small, reusable elements that comprise a larger design system. And given that many of those patterns are themselves responsive, learning to manage these small layout systems has become a big part of my work. The thing is, the more pattern-driven work I do, the more I realize my design process has changed in a number of subtle, important ways. I suppose you might even say that pattern-driven design has, in a few ways, redesigned me. Meet the Teaser Here’s a recent example. A few months ago, some friends and I redesigned The Toast. (It was a really, really fun project, and we learned a lot.) Each page of the site is, as you might guess, stitched together from a host of tiny, reusable patterns. Some of them, like the search form and footer, are fairly unique, and used once per page; others are used more liberally, and built for reuse. The most prevalent example of these more generic patterns is the teaser, which is classed as, uh, .teaser. (Look, I never said I was especially clever.) In its simplest form, a teaser contains a headline, which links to an article: Fairly straightforward, sure. But it’s just the foundation: from there, teasers can have a byline, a description, a thumbnail, and a comment count. In other words, we have a basic building block (.teaser) that contains a few discrete content types – some required, some not. In fact, very few of those pieces need to be present; to qualify as a teaser, all we really need is a link and a headline. But by adding more elements, we can build slight variations of our teaser, and make it much, much more versatile. Nearly every element visible on this page is built out of our generic “teaser” pattern. But the teaser variation I’d like to call out is the one that appears on The Toast’s homepage, on search results or on section fronts. In the main content area, each teaser in the list features larger i… 2015 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2015-12-10T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/putting-my-patterns-through-their-paces/ code
55 How Tabs Should Work Tabs in browsers (not browser tabs) are one of the oldest custom UI elements in a browser that I can think of. They’ve been done to death. But, sadly, most of the time I come across them, the tabs have been badly, or rather partially, implemented. So this post is my definition of how a tabbing system should work, and one approach of implementing that. But… tabs are easy, right? I’ve been writing code for tabbing systems in JavaScript for coming up on a decade, and at one point I was pretty proud of how small I could make the JavaScript for the tabbing system: var tabs = $('.tab').click(function () { tabs.hide().filter(this.hash).show(); }).map(function () { return $(this.hash)[0]; }); $('.tab:first').click(); Simple, right? Nearly fits in a tweet (ignoring the whole jQuery library…). Still, it’s riddled with problems that make it a far from perfect solution. Requirements: what makes the perfect tab? All content is navigable and available without JavaScript (crawler-compatible and low JS-compatible). ARIA roles. The tabs are anchor links that: are clickable have block layout have their href pointing to the id of the panel element use the correct cursor (i.e. cursor: pointer). Since tabs are clickable, the user can open in a new tab/window and the page correctly loads with the correct tab open. Right-clicking (and Shift-clicking) doesn’t cause the tab to be selected. Native browser Back/Forward button correctly changes the state of the selected tab (think about it working exactly as if there were no JavaScript in place). The first three points are all to do with the semantics of the markup and how the markup has been styled. I think it’s easy to do a good job by thinking of tabs as links, and not as some part of an application. Links are navigable, and they should work the same way other links on the page work. The last three points are JavaScript problems. Let’s investigate that. The shitmus test Like a litmus test, here’s a couple of quick ways you can tell if a tabbing system is poorly implemented: Cha… 2015 Remy Sharp remysharp 2015-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/how-tabs-should-work/ code
57 Cooking Up Effective Technical Writing Merry Christmas! May your preparations for this festive season of gluttony be shaping up beautifully. By the time you read this I hope you will have ordered your turkey, eaten twice your weight in Roses/Quality Street (let’s not get into that argument), and your Christmas cake has been baked and is now quietly absorbing regular doses of alcohol. Some of you may be reading this and scoffing Of course! I’ve also made three batches of mince pies, a seasonal chutney and enough gingerbread men to feed the whole street! while others may be laughing Bake? Oh no, I can’t cook to save my life. For beginners, recipes are the step-by-step instructions that hand-hold us through the cooking process, but even as a seasoned expert you’re likely to refer to a recipe at some point. Recipes tell us what we need, what to do with it, in what order, and what the outcome will be. It’s the documentation behind our ideas, and allows us to take the blueprint for a tasty morsel and to share it with others so they can recreate it. In fact, this is a little like the open source documentation and tutorials that we put out there, similarly aiming to guide other developers through our creations. The ‘just’ification of documentation Lately it feels like we’re starting to consider the importance of our words, and the impact they can have on others. Brad Frost warned us of the dangers of “Just” when it comes to offering up solutions to queries: “Just use this software/platform/toolkit/methodology…” “Just” makes me feel like an idiot. “Just” presumes I come from a specific background, studied certain courses in university, am fluent in certain technologies, and have read all the right books, articles, and resources. “Just” is a dangerous word. “Just” by Brad Frost I can really empathise with these sentiments. My relationship with code started out as many good web tales do, with good old HTML, CSS and JavaScript. University years involved some time with Perl, PHP, Java and C. In my first job I worked primarily with ColdFusion, a bit of ActionScri… 2015 Sally Jenkinson sallyjenkinson 2015-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/cooking-up-effective-technical-writing/ content
58 Beyond the Style Guide Much like baking a Christmas cake, designing for the web involves creating an experience in layers. Starting with a solid base that provides the core experience (the fruit cake), we can add further layers, each adding refinement (the marzipan) and delight (the icing). Don’t worry, this isn’t a misplaced cake recipe, but an evaluation of modular design and the role style guides can play in acknowledging these different concerns, be they presentational or programmatic. The auteur’s style guide Although trained as a graphic designer, it was only when I encountered the immediacy of the web that I felt truly empowered as a designer. Given a desire to control every aspect of the resulting experience, I slowly adopted the role of an auteur, exploring every part of the web stack: front-end to back-end, and everything in between. A few years ago, I dreaded using the command line. Today, the terminal is a permanent feature in my Dock. In straddling the realms of graphic design and programming, it’s the point at which they meet that I find most fascinating, with each dicipline valuing the creation of effective systems, be they for communication or code efficiency. Front-end style guides live at this intersection, demonstrating both the modularity of code and the application of visual design. Painting by numbers In our rush to build modular systems, design frameworks have grown in popularity. While enabling quick assembly, these come at the cost of originality and creative expression – perhaps one reason why we’re seeing the homogenisation of web design. In editorial design, layouts should accentuate content and present it in an engaging manner. Yet on the web we see a practice that seeks templated predictability. In ‘Design Machines’ Travis Gertz argued that (emphasis added): Design systems still feel like a novelty in screen-based design. We nerd out over grid systems and modular scales and obsess over style guides and pattern libraries. We’re pretty good at using them to build repeatable components and site-wide standard… 2015 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2015-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/beyond-the-style-guide/ design
60 What’s Ahead for Your Data in 2016? Who owns your data? Who decides what can you do with it? Where can you store it? What guarantee do you have over your data’s privacy? Where can you publish your work? Can you adapt software to accommodate your disability? Is your tiny agency subject to corporate regulation? Does another country have rights over your intellectual property? If you aren’t the kind of person who is interested in international politics, I hate to break it to you: in 2016 the legal foundations which underpin our work on the web are being revisited in not one but three major international political agreements, and every single one of those questions is up for grabs. These agreements – the draft EU Data Protection Regulation (EUDPR), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – stand poised to have a major impact on your data, your workflows, and your digital rights. While some proposed changes could protect the open web for the future, other provisions would set the internet back several decades. In this article we will review the issues you need to be aware of as a digital professional. While each of these agreements covers dozens of topics ranging from climate change to food safety, we will focus solely on the aspects which pertain to the work we do on the web. The Trans-Pacific Partnership The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement between the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru – a bloc comprising 40% of the world’s economy. The agreement is expected to be signed by all parties, and thereby to come into effect, in 2016. This agreement is ostensibly about the bloc and its members working together for their common interests. However, the latest draft text of the TPP, which was formulated entirely in secret, has only been made publicly available on a Medium blog published by the U.S. Trade Representative which features a patriotic banner at the top proclaiming “TPP: Made in America.” The m… 2015 Heather Burns heatherburns 2015-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/whats-ahead-for-your-data-in-2016/ business
65 The Accessibility Mindset Accessibility is often characterized as additional work, hard to learn and only affecting a small number of people. Those myths have no logical foundation and often stem from outdated information or misconceptions. Indeed, it is an additional skill set to acquire, quite like learning new JavaScript frameworks, CSS layout techniques or new HTML elements. But it isn’t particularly harder to learn than those other skills. A World Health Organization (WHO) report on disabilities states that, [i]ncluding children, over a billion people (or about 15% of the world’s population) were estimated to be living with disability. Being disabled is not as unusual as one might think. Due to chronic health conditions and older people having a higher risk of disability, we are also currently paving the cowpath to an internet that we can still use in the future. Accessibility has a very close relationship with usability, and advancements in accessibility often yield improvements in the usability of a website. Websites are also more adaptable to users’ needs when they are built in an accessible fashion. Beyond the bare minimum In the time of table layouts, web developers could create code that passed validation rules but didn’t adhere to the underlying semantic HTML model. We later developed best practices, like using lists for navigation, and with HTML5 we started to wrap those lists in nav elements. Working with accessibility standards is similar. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 can inform your decision to make websites accessible and can be used to test that you met the success criteria. What it can’t do is measure how well you met them. W3C developed a long list of techniques that can be used to make your website accessible, but you might find yourself in a situation where you need to adapt those techniques to be the most usable solution for your particular problem. The checkbox below is implemented in an accessible way: The input element has an id and the label associated with the checkbox refers to the in… 2015 Eric Eggert ericeggert 2015-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/the-accessibility-mindset/ code
67 What I Learned about Product Design This Year 2015 was a humbling year for me. In September of 2014, I joined a tiny but established startup called SproutVideo as their third employee and first designer. The role interests me because it affords the opportunity to see how design can grow a solid product with a loyal user-base into something even better. The work I do now could also have a real impact on the brand and user experience of our product for years to come, which is a thrilling prospect in an industry where much of what I do feels small and temporary. I got in on the ground floor of something special: a small, dedicated, useful company that cares deeply about making video hosting effortless and rewarding for our users. I had (and still have) grand ideas for what thoughtful design can do for a product, and the smaller-scale product design work I’ve done or helped manage over the past few years gave me enough eager confidence to dive in head first. Readers who have experience redesigning complex existing products probably have a knowing smirk on their face right now. As I said, it’s been humbling. A year of focused product design, especially on the scale we are trying to achieve with our small team at SproutVideo, has taught me more than any projects in recent memory. I’d like to share a few of those lessons. Product design is very different from marketing design The majority of my recent work leading up to SproutVideo has been in marketing design. These projects are so fun because their aim is to communicate the value of the product in a compelling and memorable way. In order to achieve this goal, I spent a lot of time thinking about content strategy, responsive design, and how to create striking visuals that tell a story. These are all pursuits I love. Product design is a different beast. When designing a homepage, I can employ powerful imagery, wild gradients, and somewhat-quirky fonts. When I began redesigning the SproutVideo product, I wanted to draw on all the beautiful assets I’ve created for our marketing materials, but big gradients, textures… 2015 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2015-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/what-i-learned-about-product-design-this-year/ design
68 Grid, Flexbox, Box Alignment: Our New System for Layout Three years ago for 24 ways 2012, I wrote an article about a new CSS layout method I was excited about. A specification had emerged, developed by people from the Internet Explorer team, bringing us a proper grid system for the web. In 2015, that Internet Explorer implementation is still the only public implementation of CSS grid layout. However, in 2016 we should be seeing it in a new improved form ready for our use in browsers. Grid layout has developed hidden behind a flag in Blink, and in nightly builds of WebKit and, latterly, Firefox. By being developed in this way, breaking changes could be safely made to the specification as no one was relying on the experimental implementations in production work. Another new layout method has emerged over the past few years in a more public and perhaps more painful way. Shipped prefixed in browsers, The flexible box layout module (flexbox) was far too tempting for developers not to use on production sites. Therefore, as changes were made to the specification, we found ourselves with three different flexboxes, and browser implementations that did not match one another in completeness or in the version of specified features they supported. Owing to the different ways these modules have come into being, when I present on grid layout it is often the very first time someone has heard of the specification. A question I keep being asked is whether CSS grid layout and flexbox are competing layout systems, as though it might be possible to back the loser in a CSS layout competition. The reality, however, is that these two methods will sit together as one system for doing layout on the web, each method playing to certain strengths and serving particular layout tasks. If there is to be a loser in the battle of the layouts, my hope is that it will be the layout frameworks that tie our design to our markup. They have been a necessary placeholder while we waited for a true web layout system, but I believe that in a few years time we’ll be easily able to date a website to circa 2015 … 2015 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2015-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/grid-flexbox-box-alignment-our-new-system-for-layout/ code
71 Upping Your Web Security Game When I started working in web security fifteen years ago, web development looked very different. The few non-static web applications were built using a waterfall process and shipped quarterly at best, making it possible to add security audits before every release; applications were deployed exclusively on in-house servers, allowing Info Sec to inspect their configuration and setup; and the few third-party components used came from a small set of well-known and trusted providers. And yet, even with these favourable conditions, security teams were quickly overwhelmed and called for developers to build security in. If the web security game was hard to win before, it’s doomed to fail now. In today’s web development, every other page is an application, accepting inputs and private data from users; software is built continuously, designed to eliminate manual gates, including security gates; infrastructure is code, with servers spawned with little effort and even less security scrutiny; and most of the code in a typical application is third-party code, pulled in through open source repositories with rarely a glance at who provided them. Security teams, when they exist at all, cannot solve this problem. They are vastly outnumbered by developers, and cannot keep up with the application’s pace of change. For us to have a shot at making the web secure, we must bring security into the core. We need to give it no less attention than that we give browser compatibility, mobile design or web page load times. More broadly, we should see security as an aspect of quality, expecting both ourselves and our peers to address it, and taking pride when we do it well. Where To Start? Embracing security isn’t something you do overnight. A good place to start is by reviewing things you’re already doing – and trying to make them more secure. Here are three concrete steps you can take to get going. HTTPS Threats begin when your system interacts with the outside world, which often means HTTP. As is, HTTP is painfully insecure, allowing attacke… 2015 Guy Podjarny guypodjarny 2015-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/upping-your-web-security-game/ code
72 Designing with Contrast When an appetite for aesthetics over usability becomes the bellwether of user interface design, it’s time to reconsider who we’re designing for. Over the last few years, we have questioned the signifiers that gave obvious meaning to the function of interface elements. Strong textures, deep shadows, gradients — imitations of physical objects — were discarded. And many, rightfully so. Our audiences are now more comfortable with an experience that feels native to the technology, so we should respond in kind. Yet not all of the changes have benefitted users. Our efforts to simplify brought with them a trend of ultra-minimalism where aesthetics have taken priority over legibility, accessibility and discoverability. The trend shows no sign of losing popularity — and it is harming our experience of digital content. A thin veneer We are in a race to create the most subdued, understated interface. Visual contrast is out. In its place: the thinnest weights of a typeface and white text on bright color backgrounds. Headlines, text, borders, backgrounds, icons, form controls and inputs: all grey. While we can look back over the last decade and see minimalist trends emerging on the web, I think we can place a fair share of the responsibility for the recent shift in priorities on Apple. The release of iOS 7 ushered in a radical change to its user interface. It paired mobile interaction design to the simplicity and eloquence of Apple’s marketing and product design. It was a catalyst. We took what we saw, copied and consumed the aesthetics like pick-and-mix. New technology compounds this trend. Computer monitors and mobile devices are available with screens of unprecedented resolutions. Ultra-light type and subtle hues, difficult to view on older screens, are more legible on these devices. It would be disingenuous to say that designers have always worked on machines representative of their audience’s circumstances, but the gap has never been as large as it is now. We are running the risk of designing VIP lounges where the cost o… 2015 Mark Mitchell markmitchell 2015-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/designing-with-contrast/ design
73 How to Make Your Site Look Half-Decent in Half an Hour Programmers like me are often intimidated by design – but a little effort can give a huge return on investment. Here are one coder’s tips for making any site quickly look more professional. I am a programmer. I am not a designer. I have a degree in computer science, and I don’t mind Comic Sans. (It looks cheerful. Move on.) But although I am a programmer, I want to make my sites look attractive. This is partly out of vanity, and partly realism. Vanity because I want people to think my work is good, and realism because the research shows that people won’t think a site is credible unless it also looks attractive. For a very long time after I became a programmer, I was scared of design. Design seemed to consist of complicated rules that weren’t written down anywhere, plus an unlearnable sense of taste, possessed only by a black-clad elite. But a little while ago, I decided to do my best to hack what it took to make my own projects look vaguely attractive. And although this doesn’t come close to the effect a professional designer could achieve, gathering these resources for improving a site’s look and feel has been really helpful. If I hadn’t figured out some basic design shortcuts, it’s unlikely that a weekend hack of mine would have ended up on page three of the Daily Mail. And too often now, I see excellent programming projects that don’t reach the audience they deserve, simply because their design doesn’t match their execution. So, if you are a developer, my Christmas present to you is this: my own collection of hacks that, used rightly, can make your personal programming projects look professional, quickly. None are hard to learn, most are free, and they let you focus on writing code. One thing to note about these tips, though. They are a personal, pragmatic compilation. They are suggestions, not a definitive guide. You will definitely get better results by working with a professional designer, and by studying design more deeply. If you are a designer, I would love to hear your suggestions for the b… 2012 Anna Powell-Smith annapowellsmith 2012-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/how-to-make-your-site-look-half-decent/ design
74 Should We Be Reactive? Evolution Looking at the evolution of the web and the devices we use should help remind us that the times we’re adjusting to are just another step on a journey. These times seem to be telling us that we need to embrace flexibility. Imagine an HTML file containing nothing but text. It’s viewable on any web-capable device and reasonably readable: the notion of the universality of the web was very much a founding principle. Right from the beginning, browser vendors understood that we’d want text to reflow (why wouldn’t we?), so I consider the first websites to have been fluid. As we attempted to exert more control through our designs in the early days of the web, debates about whether we should produce fixed or fluid sites raged. We could create fluid designs using tables, but what we didn’t have then was a wide range of web capable devices or the ability to control this fluidity. The biggest changes occurred when stats showed enough people using a different screen resolution we could cater for. To me, the techniques of responsive web design provide the control we were missing. Combining new approaches to layout and images with media queries empowered us to learn how to embrace the inherent flexibility of the web in ways to suit our work and the devices used by our audience. Perhaps another kind of flexibility might be found in how we use context to affect how we present our content; to consider how we might use the information we can access from people, browsers and devices to provide web experiences – effectively creating sites that react to initial or changing circumstances in the relationship between people and our content. Embracing flexibility So what is context? Put simply, you could think of it as a secondary piece of information that helps clarify the meaning of the first. It helps set a scene or describe circumstances. I think that Cennydd Bowles has summed it up really well through talks he’s given recently, in which he’s arrived at the acronym DETAILS (Device, Environment, Time, Activity, Individ… 2012 Dan Donald dandonald 2012-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/should-we-be-reactive/ design
77 Colour Accessibility Here’s a quote from Josef Albers: In visual perception a colour is almost never seen as it really is[…] This fact makes colour the most relative medium in art.Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963 Albers was a German abstract painter and teacher, and published a very famous course on colour theory in 1963. Colour is very relative — not just in the way that it appears differently across different devices due to screen quality and colour management, but it can also be seen differently by different people — something we really need to be more mindful of when designing. What is colour blindness? Colour blindness very rarely means that you can’t see any colour at all, or that people see things in greyscale. It’s actually a decreased ability to see colour, or a decreased ability to tell colours apart from one another. How does it happen? Inside the typical human retina, there are two types of receptor cells — rods and cones. Rods are the cells that allow us to see dark and light, and shape and movement. Cones are the cells that allow us to perceive colour. There are three types of cones, each responsible for absorbing blue, red, and green wavelengths in the spectrum. Problems with colour vision occur when one or more of these types of cones are defective or absent entirely, and these problems can either be inherited through genetics, or acquired through trauma, exposure to ultraviolet light, degeneration with age, an effect of diabetes, or other factors. Colour blindness is a sex-linked trait and it’s much more common in men than in women. The most common type of colour blindness is called deuteranomaly which occurs in 7% of males, but only 0.5% of females. That’s a pretty significant portion of the population if you really stop and think about it — we can’t ignore this demographic. What does it look like? People with the most common types of colour blindness, like protanopia and deuteranopia, have difficulty discriminating between red and green hues. There are also forms of colour blindness like tritanop… 2012 Geri Coady gericoady 2012-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/colour-accessibility/ design
79 Responsive Images: What We Thought We Needed If you were to read a web designer’s Christmas wish list, it would likely include a solution for displaying images responsively. For those concerned about users downloading unnecessary image data, or serving images that look blurry on high resolution displays, finding a solution has become a frustrating quest. Having experimented with complex and sometimes devilish hacks, consensus is forming around defining new standards that could solve this problem. Two approaches have emerged. The <picture> element markup pattern was proposed by Mat Marquis and is now being developed by the Responsive Images Community Group. By providing a means of declaring multiple sources, authors could use media queries to control which version of an image is displayed and under what conditions: <picture width="500" height="500"> <source media="(min-width: 45em)" src="large.jpg"> <source media="(min-width: 18em)" src="med.jpg"> <source src="small.jpg"> <img src="small.jpg" alt=""> <p>Accessible text</p> </picture> A second proposal put forward by Apple, the srcset attribute, uses a more concise syntax intended for use with the <img> element, although it could be compatible with the <picture> element too. This would allow authors to provide a set of images, but with the decision on which to use left to the browser: <img src="fallback.jpg" alt="" srcset="small.jpg 640w 1x, small-hd.jpg 640w 2x, med.jpg 1x, med-hd.jpg 2x "> Enter Scrooge Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. Ebenezer Scrooge Given the complexity of this issue, there’s a heated debate about which is the best option. Yet code belies a certain truth. That both feature verbose and opaque syntax, I’m not sure either should find its way into the browser – especially as alternative approaches have yet to be fully explored. So, as if to dampen the festive cheer, here are five reasons why I believe both proposals are largely redundant. 1. We need better formats, not more markup As we move away from designs defi… 2012 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2012-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-images-what-we-thought-we-needed/ code
80 HTML5 Video Bumpers Video is a bigger part of the web experience than ever before. With native browser support for HTML5 video elements freeing us from the tyranny of plugins, and the availability of faster internet connections to the workplace, home and mobile networks, it’s now pretty straightforward to publish video in a way that can be consumed in all sorts of ways on all sorts of different web devices. I recently worked on a project where the client had shot some dedicated video shorts to publish on their site. They also had some five-second motion graphics produced to top and tail the videos with context and branding. This pretty common requirement is a great idea on the web, where a user might land at your video having followed a link and be viewing a page without much context. Known as bumpers, these short introduction clips help brand a video and make it look a lot more professional. Adding bumpers to a video The simplest way to add bumpers to a video would be to edit them on to the start and end of the video file itself. Cooking the bumpers into the video file is easy, but should you ever want to update them it can become a real headache. If the branding needs updating, for example, you’d need to re-edit and re-encode all your videos. Not a fun task. What if the bumpers could be added dynamically? That would enable you to use the same bumper for multiple videos (decreasing download time for users who might watch more than one) and to update the bumpers whenever you wanted. You could change them seasonally, update them for special promotions, run different advertising slots, perform multivariate testing, or even target different bumpers to different users. The trade-off, of course, is that if you dynamically add your bumpers, there’s a chance that a user in a given circumstance might not see the bumper. For example, if the main video feature was uploaded to YouTube, you’d have no way to control the playback. As always, you need to weigh up the pros and cons and make your choice. HTML5 bumpers If you wanted to dyna… 2012 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2012-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/html5-video-bumpers/ code
84 Responsive Responsive Design Now more than ever, we’re designing work meant to be viewed along a gradient of different experiences. Responsive web design offers us a way forward, finally allowing us to “design for the ebb and flow of things.” With those two sentences, Ethan closed the article that introduced the web to responsive design. Since then, responsive design has taken the web by storm. Seemingly every day, some company is touting their new responsive redesign. Large brands such as Microsoft, Time and Disney are getting in on the action, blowing away the once common criticism that responsive design was a technique only fit for small blogs. Certainly, this is a good thing. As Ethan and John Allsopp before him, were right to point out, the inherent flexibility of the web is a feature, not a bug. The web’s unique ability to be consumed and interacted with on any number of devices, with any number of input methods is something to be embraced. But there’s one part of the web’s inherent flexibility that seems to be increasingly overlooked: the ability for the web to be interacted with on any number of networks, with a gradient of bandwidth constraints and latency costs, on devices with varying degrees of hardware power. A few months back, Stephanie Rieger tweeted “Shoot me now…responsive design has seemingly become confused with an opportunity to reduce performance rather than improve it.” I would love to disagree, but unfortunately the evidence is damning. Consider the size and number of requests for four highly touted responsive sites that were launched this year: 74 requests, 1,511kb 114 requests, 1,200kb 99 requests, 1,298kb 105 requests, 5,942kb And those numbers were for the small screen versions of each site! These sites were praised for their visual design and responsive nature, and rightfully so. They’re very easy on the eyes and a lot of thought went into their appearance. But the numbers above tell an inconvenient truth: for all the time spent ensuring the visual design was airtight, seemingly very little (if… 2012 Tim Kadlec timkadlec 2012-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-responsive-design/ design
89 Direction, Distance and Destinations With all these new smartphones in the hands of lost and confused owners, we need a better way to represent distances and directions to destinations. The immediate examples that jump to mind are augmented reality apps which let you see another world through your phone’s camera. While this is interesting, there is a simpler way: letting people know how far away they are and if they are getting warmer or colder. In the app world, you can easily tap into the phone’s array of sensors such as the GPS and compass, but what people rarely know is that you can do the same with HTML. The native versus web app debate will never subside, but at least we can show you how to replicate some of the functionality progressively in HTML and JavaScript. In this tutorial, we’ll walk through how to create a simple webpage listing distances and directions of a few popular locations around the world. We’ll use JavaScript to access the device’s geolocation API and also attempt to access the compass to get a heading. Both of these APIs are documented, to be included in the W3C geolocation API specification, and can be used on both desktop and mobile devices today. To get started, we need a list of a few locations around the world. I have chosen the highest mountain peak on each continent so you can see a diverse set of distances and directions. Mountain °Latitude °Longitude Kilimanjaro -3.075833 37.353333 Vinson Massif -78.525483 -85.617147 Puncak Jaya -4.078889 137.158333 Everest 27.988056 86.925278 Elbrus 43.355 42.439167 Mount McKinley 63.0695 -151.0074 Aconcagua -32.653431 -70.011083 Source: Wikipedia We can put those into an HTML list to be styled and accessed by JavaScript to create some distance and directions calculations. The next thing we need to do is check to see if the browser and operating system have geolocation support. To do this we test to see if the function is available or not using a si… 2012 Brian Suda briansuda 2012-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/direction-distance-and-destinations/ code
91 Infinite Canvas: Moving Beyond the Page Remember Web 2.0? I do. In fact, that phrase neatly bifurcates my life on the internet. Pre-2.0, I was occupied by chatting on AOL and eventually by learning HTML so I could build sites on Geocities. Around 2002, however, I saw a WYSIWYG demo in Dreamweaver. The instructor was dragging boxes and images around a canvas. With a few clicks he was able to build a dynamic, single-page interface. Coming from the world of tables and inline HTML styles, I was stunned. As I entered college the next year, the web was blossoming: broadband, Wi-Fi, mobile (proud PDA owner, right here), CSS, Ajax, Bloglines, Gmail and, soon, Google Maps. I was a technology fanatic and a hobbyist web developer. For me, the web had long been informational. It was now rapidly becoming something else, something more: sophisticated, presentational, actionable. In 2003 we watched as the internet changed. The predominant theme of those early Web 2.0 years was the withering of Internet Explorer 6 and the triumph of web standards. Upon cresting that mountain, we looked around and collectively breathed the rarefied air of pristine HMTL and CSS, uncontaminated by toxic hacks and forks – only to immediately begin hurtling down the other side at what is, frankly, terrifying speed. Ten years later, we are still riding that rocket. Our days (and nights) are spent cramming for exams on CSS3 and RWD and Sass and RESS. We are the proud, frazzled owners of tiny pocket computers that annihilate the best laptops we could have imagined, and the architects of websites that are no longer restricted to big screens nor even segregated by device. We dragoon our sites into working any time, anywhere. At this point, we can hardly ask the spec developers to slow down to allow us to catch our breath, nor should we. It is, without a doubt, a most wonderful time to be a web developer. But despite the newfound luxury of rounded corners, gradients, embeddable fonts, low-level graphics APIs, and, glory be, shadows, the canyon between HTML and native appears to be as wide as… 2012 Nathan Peretic nathanperetic 2012-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/infinite-canvas-moving-beyond-the-page/ code
93 Design Systems The most important part of responsive web design is that, no matter what the viewport width, the content is accessible in an optimum display. The best responsive designs are those that allow you to go from one optimised display to another, but with the feeling that these experiences are part of a greater product whole. Responsive design: where we’ve been going wrong Responsive web design was a shock to my web designer system. Those of us who had already been designing sites for mobile probably had the biggest leap to make. We might have been detecting user agents in order to deliver a mobile-specific site, or using the slightly more familiar Bushido technique to deliver sites optimised for device type and viewport size, but either way our focus was on devices. A site was optimised for either a mobile phone or a desktop. Responsive web design brought us back to pre-table layout fluid sites that expanded or contracted to fit the viewport. This was a big difference to get our heads around when we were so used to designing for fixed-width layouts. Suddenly, an element could be any width or, at least, we needed to consider its maximum and minimum widths. Pixel perfection, while pretty, became wholly unrealistic, and a whole load of designers who prided themselves in detailed and precise designs got a bit scared. Hanging on to our previous processes and typical deliverables led us to continue to optimise our sites for particular devices and provide pixel-perfect mockups for those device widths. With all this we were concentrating on devices, not content, deliverables and not process, and making assumptions about users and their devices based on nothing but the width of the viewport. I don’t think this is a crime, I think it was inevitable. We can be up to date with our principles and ideals, but it’s never as easy in practice. That’s why it’s more important than ever to share our successful techniques and processes. Let’s drag each other into modern web design. Design systems: the principles What are design sy… 2012 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2012-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/design-systems/ design
95 Giving Content Priority with CSS3 Grid Layout Browser support for many of the modules that are part of CSS3 have enabled us to use CSS for many of the things we used to have to use images for. The rise of mobile browsers and the concept of responsive web design has given us a whole new way of looking at design for the web. However, when it comes to layout, we haven’t moved very far at all. We have talked for years about separating our content and source order from the presentation of that content, yet most of us have had to make decisions on source order in order to get a certain visual layout. Owing to some interesting specifications making their way through the W3C process at the moment, though, there is hope of change on the horizon. In this article I’m going to look at one CSS module, the CSS3 grid layout module, that enables us to define a grid and place elements on to it. This article comprises a practical demonstration of the basics of grid layout, and also a discussion of one way in which we can start thinking of content in a more adaptive way. Before we get started, it is important to note that, at the time of writing, these examples work only in Internet Explorer 10. CSS3 grid layout is a module created by Microsoft, and implemented using the -ms prefix in IE10. My examples will all use the -ms prefix, and not include other prefixes simply because this is such an early stage specification, and by the time there are implementations in other browsers there may be inconsistencies. The implementation I describe today may well change, but is also there for your feedback. If you don’t have access to IE10, then one way to view and test these examples is by signing up for an account with Browserstack – the free trial would give you time to have a look. I have also included screenshots of all relevant stages in creating the examples. What is CSS3 grid layout? CSS3 grid layout aims to let developers divide up a design into a grid and place content on to that grid. Rather than trying to fabricate a grid from floats, you can declare an actual grid on a c… 2012 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2012-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/css3-grid-layout/ code
96 Unwrapping the Wii U Browser The Wii U was released on 18 November 2012 in the US, and 30 November in the UK. It’s the first eighth generation home console, the first mainstream second-screen device, and it has some really impressive browser specs. Consoles are not just for games now: they’re marketed as complete entertainment solutions. Internet connectivity and browser functionality have gone from a nice-to-have feature in game consoles to a selling point. In Nintendo’s case, they see it as a challenge to design an experience that’s better than browsing on a desktop. Let’s make a browser that users can use on a daily basis, something that can really handle everything we’ve come to expect from a browser and do it more naturally. Sasaki – Iwata Asks on Nintendo.com With 11% of people using console browsers to visit websites, it’s important to consider these devices right from the start of projects. Browsing the web on a TV or handheld console is a very different experience to browsing on a desktop or a mobile phone, and has many usability implications. Console browser testing When I’m testing a console browser, one of the first things I do is run Niels Leenheer’s HTML5 test and Lea Verou’s CSS3 test. I use these benchmarks as a rough comparison of the standards each browser supports. In October, IE9 came out for the Xbox 360, scoring 120/500 in the HTML5 test and 32% in the CSS3 test. The PS Vita also had an update to its browser in recent weeks, jumping from 58/500 to 243/500 in the HTML5 test, and 32% to 55% in the CSS3 test. Manufacturers have been stepping up their game, trying to make their browsing experiences better. To give you an idea of how the Wii U currently compares to other devices, here are the test results of the other TV consoles I’ve tested. I’ve written more in-depth notes on TV and portable console browsers separately. Year of releaseHTML5 scoreCSS3 scoreNotes Wii U2012258/50048%Runs a Netfront browser (WebKit). Wii200689/500Wouldn’t runRuns an Opera browser. PS3200668/50038%Runs a Netfront browser (WebKit). X… 2012 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2012-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/unwrapping-the-wii-u-browser/ ux
104 Sitewide Search On A Shoe String One of the questions I got a lot when I was building web sites for smaller businesses was if I could create a search engine for their site. Visitors should be able to search only this site and find things without the maintainer having to put “related articles” or “featured content” links on every page by hand. Back when this was all fields this wasn’t easy as you either had to write your own scraping tool, use ht://dig or a paid service from providers like Yahoo, Altavista or later on Google. In the former case you had to swallow the bitter pill of computing and indexing all your content and storing it in a database for quick access and in the latter it hurt your wallet. Times have moved on and nowadays you can have the same functionality for free using Yahoo’s “Build your own search service” – BOSS. The cool thing about BOSS is that it allows for a massive amount of hits a day and you can mash up the returned data in any format you want. Another good feature of it is that it comes with JSON-P as an output format which makes it possible to use it without any server-side component! Starting with a working HTML form In order to add a search to your site, you start with a simple HTML form which you can use without JavaScript. Most search engines will allow you to filter results by domain. In this case we will search “bbc.co.uk”. If you use Yahoo as your standard search, this could be: <form id="customsearch" action="http://search.yahoo.com/search"> <div> <label for="p">Search this site:</label> <input type="text" name="p" id="term"> <input type="hidden" name="vs" id="site" value="bbc.co.uk"> <input type="submit" value="go"> </div> </form> The Google equivalent is: <form id="customsearch" action="http://www.google.co.uk/search"> <div> <label for="p">Search this site:</label> <input type="text" name="as_q" id="term"> <input type="hidden" name="as_sitesearch" id="site" value="bbc.co.uk"> <input type="submit" value="go"> </div> </form> In any case make sure to use the ID term for the searc… 2008 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2008-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/sitewide-search-on-a-shoestring/ code
106 Checking Out: Progress Meters It’s the holiday season, so you know what that means: online shopping! When I started developing Web sites back in the 90s, many of my first clients were small local shops wanting to sell their goods online, so I developed many a checkout system. And because of slow dial-up speeds back then, informing the user about where they were in the checkout process was pretty important. Even though we’re (mostly) beyond the dial-up days, informing users about where they are in a flow is still important. In usability tests at the companies I’ve worked at, I’ve seen time and time again how not adequately informing the user about their state can cause real frustration. This is especially true for two sets of users: mobile users and users of assistive devices, in particular, screen readers. The progress meter is a very common design solution used to indicate to the user’s state within a flow. On the design side, much effort may go in to crafting a solution that is as visually informative as possible. On the development side, however, solutions range widely. I’ve checked out the checkouts at a number of sites and here’s what I’ve found when it comes to progress meters: they’re sometimes inaccessible and often confusing or unhelpful — all because of the way in which they’re coded. For those who use assistive devices or text-only browsers, there must be a better way to code the progress meter — and there is. (Note: All code samples are from live sites but have been tweaked to hide the culprits’ identities.) How not to make progress A number of sites assemble their progress meters using non- or semi-semantic markup and images with no alternate text. On text-only browsers (like my mobile phone) and to screen readers, this looks and reads like chunks of content with no context given. <div id="progress"> <img src="icon_progress_1a.gif" alt=""> <em>Shipping information</em> <img src="icon_progress_arrow.gif" alt=""> <img src="icon_progress_2a.gif" alt=""> <em>Payment information</em> <img src="icon_progress_arrow.gif" alt=… 2008 Kimberly Blessing kimberlyblessing 2008-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/checking-out-progress-meters/ ux
107 Using Google App Engine as Your Own Content Delivery Network Do you remember, years ago, when hosting was expensive, domain names were the province of the rich, and you hosted your web pages on Geocities? It seems odd to me now that there was a time when each and every geek didn’t have his own top-level domain and super hosting setup. But as the parts became more and more affordable a man could become an outcast if he didn’t have his own slightly surreal-sounding TLD. And so it will be in the future when people realise with surprise there was a time before affordable content delivery networks. A content delivery network, or CDN, is a system of servers spread around the world, serving files from the nearest physical location. Instead of waiting for a file to find its way from a server farm in Silicon Valley 8,000 kilometres away, I can receive it from London, Dublin, or Paris, cutting down the time I wait. The big names — Google, Yahoo, Amazon, et al — use CDNs for their sites, but they’ve always been far too expensive for us mere mortals. Until now. There’s a service out there ready for you to use as your very own CDN. You have the company’s blessing, you won’t need to write a line of code, and — best of all — it’s free. The name? Google App Engine. In this article you’ll find out how to set up a CDN on Google App Engine. You’ll get the development software running on your own computer, tell App Engine what files to serve, upload them to a web site, and give everyone round the world access to them. Creating your first Google App Engine project Before we do anything else, you’ll need to download the Google App Engine software development kit (SDK). You’ll need Python 2.5 too — you won’t be writing any Python code but the App Engine SDK will need it to run on your computer. If you don’t have Python, App Engine will install it for you (if you use Mac OS X 10.5 or a Linux-based OS you’ll have Python; if you use Windows you won’t). Done that? Excellent, because that’s the hardest step. The rest is plain sailing. You’ll need to choose a unique ‘application id’ — nothing … 2008 Matt Riggott mattriggott 2008-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/using-google-app-engine-as-your-own-cdn/ process
109 Geotag Everywhere with Fire Eagle A note from the editors: Since this article was written Yahoo! has retired the Fire Eagle service. Location, they say, is everywhere. Everyone has one, all of the time. But on the web, it’s taken until this year to see the emergence of location in the applications we use and build. The possibilities are broad. Increasingly, mobile phones provide SDKs to approximate your location wherever you are, browser extensions such as Loki and Mozilla’s Geode provide browser-level APIs to establish your location from the proximity of wireless networks to your laptop. Yahoo’s Brickhouse group launched Fire Eagle, an ambitious location broker enabling people to take their location from any of these devices or sources, and provide it to a plethora of web services. It enables you to take the location information that only your iPhone knows about and use it anywhere on the web. That said, this is still a time of location as an emerging technology. Fire Eagle stores your location on the web (protected by application-specific access controls), but to try and give an idea of how useful and powerful your location can be — regardless of the services you use now — today’s 24ways is going to build a bookmarklet to call up your location on demand, in any web application. Location Support on the Web Over the past year, the number of applications implementing location features has increased dramatically. Plazes and Brightkite are both full featured social networks based around where you are, whilst Pownce rolled in Fire Eagle support to allow geotagging of all the content you post to their microblogging service. Dipity’s beautiful timeline shows for you moving from place to place and Six Apart’s activity stream for Movable Type started exposing your movements. The number of services that hook into Fire Eagle will increase as location awareness spreads through the developer community, but you can use your location on other sites indirectly too. Consider Flickr. … 2008 Ben Ward benward 2008-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/geotag-everywhere-with-fire-eagle/ code
121 Hide And Seek in The Head If you want your JavaScript-enhanced pages to remain accessible and understandable to scripted and noscript users alike, you have to think before you code. Which functionalities are required (ie. should work without JavaScript)? Which ones are merely nice-to-have (ie. can be scripted)? You should only start creating the site when you’ve taken these decisions. Special HTML elements Once you have a clear idea of what will work with and without JavaScript, you’ll likely find that you need a few HTML elements for the noscript version only. Take this example: A form has a nifty bit of Ajax that automatically and silently sends a request once the user enters something in a form field. However, in order to preserve accessibility, the user should also be able to submit the form normally. So the form should have a submit button in noscript browsers, but not when the browser supports sufficient JavaScript. Since the button is meant for noscript browsers, it must be hard-coded in the HTML: <input type="submit" value="Submit form" id="noScriptButton" /> When JavaScript is supported, it should be removed: var checkJS = [check JavaScript support]; window.onload = function () { if (!checkJS) return; document.getElementById('noScriptButton').style.display = 'none'; } Problem: the load event Although this will likely work fine in your testing environment, it’s not completely correct. What if a user with a modern, JavaScript-capable browser visits your page, but has to wait for a huge graphic to load? The load event fires only after all assets, including images, have been loaded. So this user will first see a submit button, but then all of a sudden it’s removed. That’s potentially confusing. Fortunately there’s a simple solution: play a bit of hide and seek in the <head>: var checkJS = [check JavaScript support]; if (checkJS) { document.write('<style>#noScriptButton{display: none}</style>'); } First, check if the browser supports enough JavaScript. If it does, document.write an extra <style> element that hides the b… 2006 Peter-Paul Koch ppk 2006-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/hide-and-seek-in-the-head/ code
125 Accessible Dynamic Links Although hyperlinks are the soul of the World Wide Web, it’s worth using them in moderation. Too many links becomes a barrier for visitors navigating their way through a page. This difficulty is multiplied when the visitor is using assistive technology, or is using a keyboard; being able to skip over a block of links doesn’t make the task of finding a specific link any easier. In an effort to make sites easier to use, various user interfaces based on the hiding and showing of links have been crafted. From drop-down menus to expose the deeper structure of a website, to a decluttering of skip links so as not to impact design considerations. Both are well intentioned with the aim of preserving a good usability experience for the majority of a website’s audience; hiding the real complexity of a page until the visitor interacts with the element. When JavaScript is not available The modern dynamic link techniques rely on JavaScript and CSS, but regardless of whether scripting and styles are enabled or not, we should consider the accessibility implications, particularly for screen-reader users, and people who rely on keyboard access. In typical web standards-based drop-down navigation implementations, the rough consensus is that the navigation should be structured as nested lists so when JavaScript is not available the entire navigation map is available to the visitor. This creates a situation where a visitor is faced with potentially well over 50 links on every page of the website. Keyboard access to such structures is frustrating, there’s far too many options, and the method of serially tabbing through each link looking for a specific one is tedious. Instead of offering the visitor an indigestible chunk of links when JavaScript is not available, consider instead having the minimum number of links on a page, and when JavaScript is available bringing in the extra links dynamically. Santa Chris Heilmann offers an excellent proof of concept in making Ajax navigation optional. When JavaScript is enabled, we need to d… 2006 Mike Davies mikedavies 2006-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/accessible-dynamic-links/ ux
126 Intricate Fluid Layouts in Three Easy Steps The Year of the Script may have drawn attention away from CSS but building fluid, multi-column, cross-browser CSS layouts can still be as unpleasant as a lump of coal. Read on for a worry-free approach in three quick steps. The layout system I developed, YUI Grids CSS, has three components. They can be used together as we’ll see, or independently. The Three Easy Steps Choose fluid or fixed layout, and choose the width (in percents or pixels) of the page. Choose the size, orientation, and source-order of the main and secondary blocks of content. Choose the number of columns and how they distribute (for example 50%-50% or 25%-75%), using stackable and nestable grid structures. The Setup There are two prerequisites: We need to normalize the size of an em and opt into the browser rendering engine’s Strict Mode. Ems are a superior unit of measure for our case because they represent the current font size and grow as the user increases their font size setting. This flexibility—the container growing with the user’s wishes—means larger text doesn’t get crammed into an unresponsive container. We’ll use YUI Fonts CSS to set the base size because it provides consistent-yet-adaptive font-sizes while preserving user control. The second prerequisite is to opt into Strict Mode (more info on rendering modes) by declaring a Doctype complete with URI. You can choose XHTML or HTML, and Transitional or Strict. I prefer HTML 4.01 Strict, which looks like this: <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/strict.dtd"> Including the CSS A single small CSS file powers a nearly-infinite number of layouts thanks to a recursive system and the interplay between the three distinct components. You could prune to a particular layout’s specific needs, but why bother when the complete file weighs scarcely 1.8kb uncompressed? Compressed, YUI Fonts and YUI Grids combine for a miniscule 0.9kb over the wire. You could save an HTTP request by concatenating the two CSS files, or by adding their contents … 2006 Nate Koechley natekoechley 2006-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/intricate-fluid-layouts/ code
127 Showing Good Form Earlier this year, I forget exactly when (it’s been a good year), I was building a client site that needed widgets which look like this (designed, incidentally, by my erstwhile writing partner, Cameron Adams): Building this was a challenge not just in CSS, but in choosing the proper markup – how should such a widget be constructed? Mmm … markup It seemed to me there were two key issues to deal with: The function of the interface is to input information, so semantically this is a form, therefore we have to find a way of building it using form elements: fieldset, legend, label and input We can’t use a table for layout, even though that would clearly be the easiest solution! Abusing tables for layout is never good – physical layout is not what table semantics mean. But even if this data can be described as a table, we shouldn’t mix forms markup with non-forms markup, because of the behavioral impact this can have on a screen reader: To take a prominent example, the screen reader JAWS has a mode specifically for interacting with forms (cunningly known as “forms mode”). When running in this mode its output only includes relevant elements – legends, labels and form controls themselves. Any other kind of markup – like text in a previous table cell, a paragraph or list in between – is simply ignored. The user in this situation would have to switch continually in and out of forms mode to hear all the content. (For more about this issue and some test examples, there’s a thread at accessify forum which wanders in that direction.) One further issue for screen reader users is implied by the design: the input fields are associated together in rows and columns, and a sighted user can visually scan across and down to make those associations; but a blind user can’t do that. For such a user the row and column header data will need to be there at every axis; in other words, the layout should be more like this: And constructed with appropriate semantic markup to convey those relationships. By this point the selectio… 2006 James Edwards jamesedwards 2006-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/showing-good-form/ ux
132 Tasty Text Trimmer In most cases, when designing a user interface it’s best to make a decision about how data is best displayed and stick with it. Failing to make a decision ultimately leads to too many user options, which in turn can be taxing on the poor old user. Under some circumstances, however, it’s good to give the user freedom in customising their workspace. One good example of this is the ‘Article Length’ tool in Apple’s Safari RSS reader. Sliding a slider left of right dynamically changes the length of each article shown. It’s that kind of awesomey magic stuff that’s enough to keep you from sleeping. Let’s build one. The Setup Let’s take a page that has lots of long text items, a bit like a news page or like Safari’s RSS items view. If we were to attach a class name to each element we wanted to resize, that would give us something to hook onto from the JavaScript. Example 1: The basic page. As you can see, I’ve wrapped my items in a DIV and added a class name of chunk to them. It’s these chunks that we’ll be finding with the JavaScript. Speaking of which … Our Core Functions There are two main tasks that need performing in our script. The first is to find the chunks we’re going to be resizing and store their original contents away somewhere safe. We’ll need this so that if we trim the text down we’ll know what it was if the user decides they want it back again. We’ll call this loadChunks. var loadChunks = function(){ var everything = document.getElementsByTagName('*'); var i, l; chunks = []; for (i=0, l=everything.length; i<l; i++){ if (everything[i].className.indexOf(chunkClass) > -1){ chunks.push({ ref: everything[i], original: everything[i].innerHTML }); } } }; The variable chunks is stored outside of this function so that we can access it from our next core function, which is doTrim. var doTrim = function(interval) { if (!chunks) loadChunks(); var i, l; for (i=0, l=chunks.length; i<l; i++){ var a = chunks[i].original.split(' '); a = a.slice(0, interval); chunks[i].ref.inner… 2006 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2006-12-01T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/tasty-text-trimmer/ code
136 Making XML Beautiful Again: Introducing Client-Side XSL Remember that first time you saw XML and got it? When you really understood what was possible and the deep meaning each element could carry? Now when you see XML, it looks ugly, especially when you navigate to a page of XML in a browser. Well, with every modern browser now supporting XSL 1.0, I’m going to show you how you can turn something as simple as an ATOM feed into a customised page using a browser, Notepad and some XSL. What on earth is this XSL? XSL is a family of recommendations for defining XML document transformation and presentation. It consists of three parts: XSLT 1.0 – Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation, a language for transforming XML XPath 1.0 – XML Path Language, an expression language used by XSLT to access or refer to parts of an XML document. (XPath is also used by the XML Linking specification) XSL-FO 1.0 – Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects, an XML vocabulary for specifying formatting semantics XSL transformations are usually a one-to-one transformation, but with newer versions (XSL 1.1 and XSL 2.0) its possible to create many-to-many transformations too. So now you have an overview of XSL, on with the show… So what do I need? So to get going you need a browser an supports client-side XSL transformations such as Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer. Second, you need a source XML file – for this we’re going to use an ATOM feed from Flickr.com. And lastly, you need an editor of some kind. I find Notepad++ quick for short XSLs, while I tend to use XMLSpy or Oxygen for complex XSL work. Because we’re doing a client-side transformation, we need to modify the XML file to tell it where to find our yet-to-be-written XSL file. Take a look at the source XML file, which originates from my Flickr photos tagged sky, in ATOM format. The top of the ATOM file now has an additional <?xml-stylesheet /> instruction, as can been seen on Line 2 below. This instructs the browser to use the XSL file to transform the document. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" sta… 2006 Ian Forrester ianforrester 2006-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/beautiful-xml-with-xsl/ code
141 Compose to a Vertical Rhythm “Space in typography is like time in music. It is infinitely divisible, but a few proportional intervals can be much more useful than a limitless choice of arbitrary quantities.” So says the typographer Robert Bringhurst, and just as regular use of time provides rhythm in music, so regular use of space provides rhythm in typography, and without rhythm the listener, or the reader, becomes disorientated and lost. On the Web, vertical rhythm – the spacing and arrangement of text as the reader descends the page – is contributed to by three factors: font size, line height and margin or padding. All of these factors must calculated with care in order that the rhythm is maintained. The basic unit of vertical space is line height. Establishing a suitable line height that can be applied to all text on the page, be it heading, body copy or sidenote, is the key to a solid dependable vertical rhythm, which will engage and guide the reader down the page. To see this in action, I’ve created an example with headings, footnotes and sidenotes. Establishing a suitable line height The easiest place to begin determining a basic line height unit is with the font size of the body copy. For the example I’ve chosen 12px. To ensure readability the body text will almost certainly need some leading, that is to say spacing between the lines. A line-height of 1.5em would give 6px spacing between the lines of body copy. This will create a total line height of 18px, which becomes our basic unit. Here’s the CSS to get us to this point: body { font-size: 75%; } html>body { font-size: 12px; } p { line-height 1.5em; } There are many ways to size text in CSS and the above approach provides and accessible method of achieving the pixel-precision solid typography requires. By way of explanation, the first font-size reduces the body text from the 16px default (common to most browsers and OS set-ups) down to the 12px we require. This rule is primarily there for Internet Explorer 6 and below on Windows: the percentage value means that the t… 2006 Richard Rutter richardrutter 2006-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/compose-to-a-vertical-rhythm/ design
143 Marking Up a Tag Cloud Everyone’s doing it. The problem is, everyone’s doing it wrong. Harsh words, you might think. But the crimes against decent markup are legion in this area. You see, I’m something of a markup and semantics junkie. So I’m going to analyse some of the more well-known tag clouds on the internet, explain what’s wrong, and then show you one way to do it better. del.icio.us I think the first ever tag cloud I saw was on del.icio.us. Here’s how they mark it up. <div class="alphacloud"> <a href="/tag/.net" class="lb s2">.net</a> <a href="/tag/advertising" class=" s3">advertising</a> <a href="/tag/ajax" class=" s5">ajax</a> ... </div> Unfortunately, that is one of the worst examples of tag cloud markup I have ever seen. The page states that a tag cloud is a list of tags where size reflects popularity. However, despite describing it in this way to the human readers, the page’s author hasn’t described it that way in the markup. It isn’t a list of tags, just a bunch of anchors in a <div>. This is also inaccessible because a screenreader will not pause between adjacent links, and in some configurations will not announce the individual links, but rather all of the tags will be read as just one link containing a whole bunch of words. Markup crime number one. Flickr Ah, Flickr. The darling photo sharing site of the internet, and the biggest blind spot in every standardista’s vision. Forgive it for having atrocious markup and sometimes confusing UI because it’s just so much damn fun to use. Let’s see what they do. <p id="TagCloud">  <a href="/photos/tags/06/" style="font-size: 14px;">06</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/africa/" style="font-size: 12px;">africa</a>   <a href="/photos/tags/amsterdam/" style="font-size: 14px;">amsterdam</a>  ... </p> Again we have a simple collection of anchors like del.icio.us, only this time in a paragraph. But rather than using a class to represent the size of the tag they use an inline style. An inline style using a pixel-based font size. That’s so far away from the goal of sep… 2006 Mark Norman Francis marknormanfrancis 2006-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/marking-up-a-tag-cloud/ code
144 The Mobile Web, Simplified A note from the editors: although eye-opening in 2006, this article is no longer relevant to today’s mobile web. Considering a foray into mobile web development? Following are four things you need to know before making the leap. 1. 4 billion mobile subscribers expected by 2010 Fancy that. Coupled with the UN prediction of 6.8 billion humans by 2010, 4 billion mobile subscribers (source) is an astounding 59% of the planet. Just how many of those subscribers will have data plans and web-enabled phones is still in question, but inevitably this all means one thing for you and me: A ton of potential eyes to view our web content on a mobile device. 2. Context is king Your content is of little value to users if it ignores the context in which it is viewed. Consider how you access data on your mobile device. You might be holding a bottle of water or gripping a handle on the subway/tube. You’re probably seeking specific data such as directions or show times, rather than the plethora of data at your disposal via a desktop PC. The mobile web, a phrase often used to indicate “accessing the web on a mobile device”, is very much a context-, content-, and component-specific environment. Expressed in terms of your potential target audience, access to web content on a mobile device is largely influenced by surrounding circumstances and conditions, information relevant to being mobile, and the feature set of the device being used. Ask yourself, What is relevant to my users and the tasks, problems, and needs they may encounter while being mobile? Answer that question and you’ll be off to a great start. 3. WAP 2.0 is an XHTML environment In a nutshell, here are a few fundamental tenets of mobile internet technology: Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is the protocol for enabling mobile access to internet content. Wireless Markup Language (WML) was the language of choice for WAP 1.0. Nearly all devices sold today are WAP 2.0 devices. With the in… 2006 Cameron Moll cameronmoll 2006-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2006/the-mobile-web-simplified/ ux
147 Christmas Is In The AIR That’s right, Christmas is coming up fast and there’s plenty of things to do. Get the tree and lights up, get the turkey, buy presents and who know what else. And what about Santa? He’s got a list. I’m pretty sure he’s checking it twice. Sure, we could use an existing list making web site or even a desktop widget. But we’re geeks! What’s the fun in that? Let’s build our own to-do list application and do it with Adobe AIR! What’s Adobe AIR? Adobe AIR, formerly codenamed Apollo, is a runtime environment that runs on both Windows and OSX (with Linux support to follow). This runtime environment lets you build desktop applications using Adobe technologies like Flash and Flex. Oh, and HTML. That’s right, you web standards lovin’ maniac. You can build desktop applications that can run cross-platform using the trio of technologies, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you’ve tried developing with AIR before, you’ll need to get re-familiarized with the latest beta release as many things have changed since the last one (such as the API and restrictions within the sandbox.) To get started To get started in building an AIR application, you’ll need two basic things: The AIR runtime. The runtime is needed to run any AIR-based application. The SDK. The software development kit gives you all the pieces to test your application. Unzip the SDK into any folder you wish. You’ll also want to get your hands on the JavaScript API documentation which you’ll no doubt find yourself getting into before too long. (You can download it, too.) Also of interest, some development environments have support for AIR built right in. Aptana doesn’t have support for beta 3 yet but I suspect it’ll be available shortly. Within the SDK, there are two main tools that we’ll use: one to test the application (ADL) and another to build a distributable package of our application (ADT). I’ll get into this some more when we get to that stage of development. Building our To-do list application The first step to building an application within AIR is to cre… 2007 Jonathan Snook jonathansnook 2007-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/christmas-is-in-the-air/ code
152 CSS for Accessibility CSS is magical stuff. In the right hands, it can transform the plainest of (well-structured) documents into a visual feast. But it’s not all fur coat and nae knickers (as my granny used to say). Here are some simple ways you can use CSS to improve the usability and accessibility of your site. Even better, no sexy visuals will be harmed by the use of these techniques. Promise. Nae knickers This is less of an accessibility tip, and more of a reminder to check that you’ve got your body background colour specified. If you’re sitting there wondering why I’m mentioning this, because it’s a really basic thing, then you might be as surprised as I was to discover that from a sample of over 200 sites checked last year, 35% of UK local authority websites were missing their body background colour. Forgetting to specify your body background colour can lead to embarrassing gaps in coverage, which are not only unsightly, but can prevent your users reading the text on your site if they use a different operating system colour scheme. All it needs is the following line to be added to your CSS file: body {background-color: #fff;} If you pair it with color: #000; … you’ll be assured of maintaining contrast for any areas you inadvertently forget to specify, no matter what colour scheme your user needs or prefers. Even better, if you’ve got standard reset CSS you use, make sure that default colours for background and text are specified in it, so you’ll never be caught with your pants down. At the very least, you’ll have a white background and black text that’ll prompt you to change them to your chosen colours. Elbow room Paying attention to your typography is important, but it’s not just about making it look nice. Careful use of the line-height property can make your text more readable, which helps everyone, but is particularly helpful for those with dyslexia, who use screen magnification or simply find it uncomfortable to read lots of text online. When lines of text are too close together, it can cause the eye to s… 2007 Ann McMeekin annmcmeekin 2007-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/css-for-accessibility/ design
153 JavaScript Internationalisation or: Why Rudolph Is More Than Just a Shiny Nose Dunder sat, glumly staring at the computer screen. “What’s up, Dunder?” asked Rudolph, entering the stable and shaking off the snow from his antlers. “Well,” Dunder replied, “I’ve just finished coding the new reindeer intranet Santa Claus asked me to do. You know how he likes to appear to be at the cutting edge, talking incessantly about Web 2.0, AJAX, rounded corners; he even spooked Comet recently by talking about him as if he were some pushy web server. “I’ve managed to keep him happy, whilst also keeping it usable, accessible, and gleaming — and I’m still on the back row of the sleigh! But anyway, given the elves will be the ones using the site, and they come from all over the world, the site is in multiple languages. Which is great, except when it comes to the preview JavaScript I’ve written for the reindeer order form. Here, have a look…” As he said that, he brought up the textileRef:8234272265470b85d91702:linkStartMarker:“order form in French”:/examples/javascript-internationalisation/initial.fr.html on the screen. (Same in English). “Looks good,” said Rudolph. “But if I add some items,” said Dunder, “the preview appears in English, as it’s hard-coded in the JavaScript. I don’t want separate code for each language, as that’s just silly — I thought about just having if statements, but that doesn’t scale at all…” “And there’s more, you aren’t displaying large numbers in French properly, either,” added Rudolph, who had been playing and looking at part of the source code: function update_text() { var hay = getValue('hay'); var carrots = getValue('carrots'); var bells = getValue('bells'); var total = 50 * bells + 30 * hay + 10 * carrots; var out = 'You are ordering ' + pretty_num(hay) + ' bushel' + pluralise(hay) + ' of hay, ' + pretty_num(carrots) + ' carrot' + pluralise(carrots) + ', and ' + pretty_num(bells) + ' shiny bell' + pluralise(bells) + ', at a total cost of <strong>' + pretty_num(total) + '</strong> gold pieces. Thank you.';… 2007 Matthew Somerville matthewsomerville 2007-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/javascript-internationalisation/ code
154 Diagnostic Styling We’re all used to using CSS to make our designs live and breathe, but there’s another way to use CSS: to find out where our markup might be choking on missing accessibility features, targetless links, and just plain missing content. Note: the techniques discussed here mostly work in Firefox, Safari, and Opera, but not Internet Explorer. I’ll explain why that’s not really a problem near the end of the article — and no, the reason is not “everyone should just ignore IE anyway”. Basic Diagnostics To pick a simple example, suppose you want to call out all holdover font and center elements in a site. Simple: you just add the following to your styles. font, center {outline: 5px solid red;} You could take it further and add in a nice lime background or some such, but big thick red outlines should suffice. Now you’ll be able to see the offenders wherever as you move through the site. (Of course, if you do this on your public server, everyone else will see the outlines too. So this is probably best done on a development server or local copy of the site.) Not everyone may be familiar with outlines, which were introduced in CSS2, so a word on those before we move on. Outlines are much like borders, except outlines don’t affect layout. Eh? Here’s a comparison. On the left, you have a border. On the right, an outline. The border takes up layout space, pushing other content around and generally being a nuisance. The outline, on the other hand, just draws into quietly into place. In most current browsers, it will overdraw any content already onscreen, and will be overdrawn by any content placed later — which is why it overlaps the images above it, and is overlapped by those below it. Okay, so we can outline deprecated elements like font and center. Is that all? Oh no. Attribution Let’s suppose you also want to find any instances of inline style — that is, use of the style attribute on elements in the markup. This is generally discouraged (outside of HTML e-mails, which I’m not going to get anywhere … 2007 Eric Meyer ericmeyer 2007-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/diagnostic-styling/ process
156 Mobile 2.0 Thinking 2.0 As web geeks, we have a thick skin towards jargon. We all know that “Web 2.0” has been done to death. At Blue Flavor we even have a jargon bucket to penalize those who utter such painfully overused jargon with a cash deposit. But Web 2.0 is a term that has lodged itself into the conscience of the masses. This is actually a good thing. The 2.0 suffix was able to succinctly summarize all that was wrong with the Web during the dot-com era as well as the next evolution of an evolving media. While the core technologies actually stayed basically the same, the principles, concepts, interactions and contexts were radically different. With that in mind, this Christmas I want to introduce to you the concept of Mobile 2.0. While not exactly a new concept in the mobile community, it is relatively unknown in the web community. And since the foundation of Mobile 2.0 is the web, I figured it was about time for you to get to know each other. It’s the Carriers’ world. We just live in it. Before getting into Mobile 2.0, I thought first I should introduce you to its older brother. You know the kind, the kid with emotional problems that likes to beat up on you and your friends for absolutely no reason. That is the mobile of today. The mobile ecosystem is a very complicated space often and incorrectly compared to the Web. If the Web was a freewheeling hippie — believing in freedom of information and the unity of man through communities — then Mobile is the cutthroat capitalist — out to pillage and plunder for the sake of the almighty dollar. Where the Web is relatively easy to publish to and ultimately make a buck, Mobile is wrought with layers of complexity, politics and obstacles. I can think of no better way to summarize these challenges than the testimony of Jason Devitt to the United States Congress in what is now being referred to as the “iPhone Hearing.” Jason is the co-founder and CEO of SkyDeck a new wireless startup and former CEO of Vindigo an early pioneer in mobile content. As Jason points out, th… 2007 Brian Fling brianfling 2007-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/mobile-2-0/ business
162 Conditional Love “Browser.” The four-letter word of web design. I mean, let’s face it: on the good days, when things just work in your target browsers, it’s marvelous. The air smells sweeter, birds’ songs sound more melodious, and both your design and your code are looking sharp. But on the less-than-good days (which is, frankly, most of them), you’re compelled to tie up all your browsers in a sack, heave them into the nearest river, and start designing all-imagemap websites. We all play favorites, after all: some will swear by Firefox, Opera fans are allegedly legion, and others still will frown upon anything less than the latest WebKit nightly. Thankfully, we do have an out for those little inconsistencies that crop up when dealing with cross-browser testing: CSS patches. Spare the Rod, Hack the Browser Before committing browsercide over some rendering bug, a designer will typically reach for a snippet of CSS fix the faulty browser. Historically referred to as “hacks,” I prefer Dan Cederholm’s more client-friendly alternative, “patches”. But whatever you call them, CSS patches all work along the same principle: supply the proper property value to the good browsers, while giving higher maintenance other browsers an incorrect value that their frustrating idiosyncratic rendering engine can understand. Traditionally, this has been done either by exploiting incomplete CSS support: #content { height: 1%; // Let's force hasLayout for old versions of IE. line-height: 1.6; padding: 1em; } html>body #content { height: auto; // Modern browsers get a proper height value. } or by exploiting bugs in their rendering engine to deliver alternate style rules: #content p { font-size: .8em; /* Hide from Mac IE5 \*/ font-size: .9em; /* End hiding from Mac IE5 */ } We’ve even used these exploits to serve up whole stylesheets altogether: @import url("core.css"); @media tty { i{content:"\";/*" "*/}} @import 'windows-ie5.css'; /*";} }/* */ The list goes on, and on, and on. For every browser, for every bug, there’s a patch availab… 2007 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2007-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/conditional-love/ code
166 Performance On A Shoe String Back in the summer, I happened to notice the official Wimbledon All England Tennis Club site had jumped to the top of Alexa’s Movers & Shakers list — a list that tracks sites that have had the biggest upturn or downturn in traffic. The lawn tennis championships were underway, and so traffic had leapt from almost nothing to crazy-busy in a no time at all. Many sites have similar peaks in traffic, especially when they’re based around scheduled events. No one cares about the site for most of the year, and then all of a sudden – wham! – things start getting warm in the data centre. Whilst the thought of chestnuts roasting on an open server has a certain appeal, it’s less attractive if you care about your site being available to visitors. Take a look at this Alexa traffic graph showing traffic patterns for superbowl.com at the beginning of each year, and wimbledon.org in the month of July. Traffic graph from Alexa.com Whilst not on the same scale or with such dramatic peaks, we have a similar pattern of traffic here at 24ways.org. Over the last three years we’ve seen a dramatic pick up in traffic over the month of December (as would be expected) and then a much lower, although steady load throughout the year. What we do have, however, is the luxury of knowing when the peaks will be. For a normal site, be that a blog, small scale web app, or even a small corporate site, you often just cannot predict when you might get slashdotted, end up on the front page of Digg or linked to from a similarly high-profile site. You just don’t know when the peaks will be. If you’re a big commercial enterprise like the Super Bowl, scaling up for that traffic is simply a cost of doing business. But for most of us, we can’t afford to have massive capacity sat there unused for 90% of the year. What you have to do instead is work out how to deal with as much traffic as possible with the modest resources you have. In this article I’m going to talk about some of the things we’ve learned about keeping 24 ways running throughout December,… 2007 Drew McLellan drewmclellan 2007-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/performance-on-a-shoe-string/ ux
167 Back To The Future of Print By now we have weathered the storm that was the early days of web development, a dangerous time when we used tables, inline CSS and separate pages for print only versions. We can reflect in a haggard old sea-dog manner (“yarrr… I remember back in the browser wars…”) on the bad practices of the time. We no longer need convincing that print stylesheets are the way to go1, though some of the documentation for them is a little outdated now. I am going to briefly cover 8 tips and 4 main gotchas when creating print stylesheets in our more enlightened era. Getting started As with regular stylesheets, print CSS can be included in a number of ways2, for our purposes we are going to be using the link element. <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print" href="print.css"> This is still my favourite way of linking to CSS files, its easy to see what files are being included and to what media they are being applied to. Without the media attribute specified the link element defaults to the media type ‘all’ which means that the styles within then apply to print and screen alike. The media type ‘screen’ only applies to the screen and wont be picked up by print, this is the best way of hiding styles from print. Make sure you include your print styles after all your other CSS, because you will need to override certain rules and this is a lot easier if you are flowing with the cascade than against it! Another thing you should be thinking is ‘does it need to be printed’. Consider the context3, if it is not a page that is likely to be printed, such as a landing page or a section index then the print styles should resemble the way the page looks on the screen. Context is really important for the design of your print stylesheet, all the tips and tricks that follow should be taken in the context of the page. If for example you are designing a print stylesheet for an item in a shopping cart, it is irrelevant for the user to know the exact url of the link that takes them to your checkout. Tips and tricks During these tip’… 2007 Natalie Downe nataliedowne 2007-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2007/back-to-the-future-of-print/ design
171 Rock Solid HTML Emails At some stage in your career, it’s likely you’ll be asked by a client to design a HTML email. Before you rush to explain that all the cool kids are using social media, keep in mind that when done correctly, email is still one of the best ways to promote you and your clients online. In fact, a recent survey showed that every dollar spent on email marketing this year generated more than $40 in return. That’s more than any other marketing channel, including the cool ones. There are a whole host of ingredients that contribute to a good email marketing campaign. Permission, relevance, timeliness and engaging content are all important. Even so, the biggest challenge for designers still remains building an email that renders well across all the popular email clients. Same same, but different Before getting into the details, there are some uncomfortable facts that those new to HTML email should be aware of. Building an email is not like building for the web. While web browsers continue their onward march towards standards, many email clients have stubbornly stayed put. Some have even gone backwards. In 2007, Microsoft switched the Outlook rendering engine from Internet Explorer to Word. Yes, as in the word processor. Add to this the quirks of the major web-based email clients like Gmail and Hotmail, sprinkle in a little Lotus Notes and you’ll soon realize how different the email game is. While it’s not without its challenges, rest assured it can be done. In my experience the key is to focus on three things. First, you should keep it simple. The more complex your email design, the more likely is it to choke on one of the popular clients with poor standards support. Second, you need to take your coding skills back a good decade. That often means nesting tables, bringing CSS inline and following the coding guidelines I’ll outline below. Finally, you need to test your designs regularly. Just because a template looks nice in Hotmail now, doesn’t mean it will next week. Setting your lowest common denominator To maintain … 2009 David Greiner davidgreiner 2009-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/rock-solid-html-emails/ code
177 HTML5: Tool of Satan, or Yule of Santa? It would lead to unseasonal arguments to discuss the title of this piece here, and the arguments are as indigestible as the fourth turkey curry of the season, so we’ll restrict our article to the practical rather than the philosophical: what HTML5 can you reasonably expect to be able to use reliably cross-browser in the early months of 2010? The answer is that you can use more than you might think, due to the seasonal tinsel of feature-detection and using the sparkly pixie-dust of IE-only VML (but used in a way that won’t damage your Elf). Canvas canvas is a 2D drawing API that defines a blank area of the screen of arbitrary size, and allows you to draw on it using JavaScript. The pictures can be animated, such as in this canvas mashup of Wolfenstein 3D and Flickr. (The difference between canvas and SVG is that SVG uses vector graphics, so is infinitely scalable. It also keeps a DOM, whereas canvas is just pixels so you have to do all your own book-keeping yourself in JavaScript if you want to know where aliens are on screen, or do collision detection.) Previously, you needed to do this using Adobe Flash or Java applets, requiring plugins and potentially compromising keyboard accessibility. Canvas drawing is supported now in Opera, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. The reindeer in the corner is, of course, Internet Explorer, which currently has zero support for canvas (or SVG, come to that). Now, don’t pull a face like all you’ve found in your Yuletide stocking is a mouldy satsuma and a couple of nuts—that’s not the end of the story. Canvas was originally an Apple proprietary technology, and Internet Explorer had a similar one called Vector Markup Language which was submitted to the W3C for standardisation in 1998 but which, unlike canvas, was not blessed with retrospective standardisation. What you need, then, is some way for Internet Explorer to translate canvas to VML on-the-fly, while leaving the other, more standards-compliant browsers to use the HTML5. And such a way exists—it’s a JavaScript library called … 2009 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2009-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/html5-tool-of-satan-or-yule-of-santa/ code
182 Breaking Out The Edges of The Browser HTML5 contains more than just the new entities for a more meaningful document, it also contains an arsenal of JavaScript APIs. So many in fact, that some APIs have outgrown the HTML5 spec’s backyard and have been sent away to grow up all on their own and been given the prestigious honour of being specs in their own right. So when I refer to (bendy finger quote) “HTML5”, I mean the HTML5 specification and a handful of other specifications that help us authors build web applications. Examples of those specs I would include in the umbrella term would be: geolocation, web storage, web databases, web sockets and web workers, to name a few. For all you guys and gals, on this special 2009 series of 24 ways, I’m just going to focus on data storage and offline applications: boldly taking your browser where no browser has gone before! Web Storage The Web Storage API is basically cookies on steroids, a unhealthy dosage of steroids. Cookies are always a pain to work with. First of all you have the problem of setting, changing and deleting them. Typically solved by Googling and blindly relying on PPK’s solution. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the 4Kb limit that some of you have hit when you really don’t want to. The Web Storage API gets around all of the hoops you have to jump through with cookies. Storage supports around 5Mb of data per domain (the spec’s recommendation, but it’s open to the browsers to implement anything they like) and splits in to two types of storage objects: sessionStorage – available to all pages on that domain while the window remains open localStorage – available on the domain until manually removed Support Ignoring beta browsers for our support list, below is a list of the major browsers and their support for the Web Storage API: Latest: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (desktop & mobile/iPhone) Partial: Google Chrome (only supports localStorage) Not supported: Opera (as of 10.10) Usage Both sessionStorage and localStorage support the same interface for accessing their co… 2009 Remy Sharp remysharp 2009-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/breaking-out-the-edges-of-the-browser/ code
185 Make Your Mockup in Markup We aren’t designing copies of web pages, we’re designing web pages. Andy Clarke, via Quotes on Design The old way I used to think the best place to design a website was in an image editor. I’d create a pixel-perfect PSD filled with generic content, send it off to the client, go through several rounds of revisions, and eventually create the markup. Does this process sound familiar? You’re not alone. In a very scientific and official survey I conducted, close to 90% of respondents said they design in Photoshop before the browser. That process is whack, yo! Recently, thanks in large part to the influence of design hero Dan Cederholm, I’ve come to the conclusion that a website’s design should begin where it’s going to live: in the browser. Die Photoshop, die Some of you may be wondering, “what’s so bad about using Photoshop for the bulk of my design?” Well, any seasoned designer will tell you that working in Photoshop is akin to working in a minefield: you never know when it’s going to blow up in your face. The application Adobe Photoshop CS4 has unexpectedly ruined your day. Photoshop’s propensity to crash at crucial moments is a running joke in the industry, as is its barely usable interface. And don’t even get me started on the hot, steaming pile of crap that is text rendering. Text rendered in Photoshop (left) versus Safari (right). Crashing and text rendering issues suck, but we’ve learned to live with them. The real issue with using Photoshop for mockups is the expectations you’re setting for a client. When you send the client a static image of the design, you’re not giving them the whole picture — they can’t see how a fluid grid would function, how the design will look in a variety of browsers, basic interactions like :hover effects, or JavaScript behaviors. For more on the disadvantages to showing clients designs as images rather than websites, check out Andy Clarke’s Time to stop showing clients static design visuals. A necessary evil? In the past we’ve put up with Photoshop because it … 2009 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2009-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/make-your-mockup-in-markup/ process
186 The Web Is Your CMS It is amazing what you can do these days with the services offered on the web. Flickr stores terabytes of photos for us and converts them automatically to all kind of sizes, finds people in them and even allows us to edit them online. YouTube does almost the same complete job with videos, LinkedIn allows us to maintain our CV, Delicious our bookmarks and so on. We don’t have to do these tasks ourselves any more, as all of these systems also come with ways to use the data in the form of Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs for short. APIs give us raw data when we send requests telling the system what we want to get back. The problem is that every API has a different idea of what is a simple way of accessing this data and in which format to give it back. Making it easier to access APIs What we need is a way to abstract the pains of different data formats and authentication formats away from the developer — and this is the purpose of the Yahoo Query Language, or YQL for short. Libraries like jQuery and YUI make it easy and reliable to use JavaScript in browsers (yes, even IE6) and YQL allows us to access web services and even the data embedded in web documents in a simple fashion – SQL style. Select * from the web and filter it the way I want YQL is a web service that takes a few inputs itself: A query that tells it what to get, update or access An output format – XML, JSON, JSON-P or JSON-P-X A callback function (if you defined JSON-P or JSON-P-X) You can try it out yourself – check out this link to get back Flickr photos for the search term ‘santa’*%20from%20flickr.photos.search%20where%20text%3D%22santa%22&format=xml in XML format. The YQL query for this is select * from flickr.photos.search where text="santa" The easiest way to take your first steps with YQL is to look at the console. There you get sample queries, access to all the data sources available to you and you can easily put together complex queries. In this article, however, let’s use PHP to put together a web page that pulls i… 2009 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2009-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/the-web-is-your-cms/ code
188 Don't Lose Your :focus For many web designers, accessibility conjures up images of blind users with screenreaders, and the difficulties in making sites accessible to this particular audience. Of course, accessibility covers a wide range of situations that go beyond the extreme example of screenreader users. And while it’s true that making a complex site accessible can often be a daunting prospect, there are also many small things that don’t take anything more than a bit of judicious planning, are very easy to test (without having to buy expensive assistive technology), and can make all the difference to certain user groups. In this short article we’ll focus on keyboard accessibility and how careless use of CSS can potentially make your sites completely unusable. Keyboard Access Users who for whatever reason can’t use a mouse will employ a keyboard (or keyboard-like custom interface) to navigate around web pages. By default, they will use TAB and SHIFT + TAB to move from one focusable element (links, form controls and area) of a page to the next. Note: in OS X, you’ll first need to turn on full keyboard access under System Preferences > Keyboard and Mouse > Keyboard Shortcuts. Safari under Windows needs to have the option Press Tab to highlight each item on a webpage in Preferences > Advanced enabled. Opera is the odd one out, as it has a variety of keyboard navigation options – the most relevant here being spatial navigation via Shift+Down, Shift+Up, Shift+Left, and Shift+Right). But I Don’t Like Your Dotted Lines… To show users where they are within a page, browsers place an outline around the element that currently has focus. The “problem” with these default outlines is that some browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox) also display them when a user clicks on a focusable element with the mouse. Particularly on sites that make extensive use of image replacement on links with “off left” techniques this can create very unsightly outlines that stretch from the replaced element all the way to the left edge of the browser. Outline … 2009 Patrick Lauke patricklauke 2009-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/dont-lose-your-focus/ code
192 Cleaner Code with CSS3 Selectors The parts of CSS3 that seem to grab the most column inches on blogs and in articles are the shiny bits. Rounded corners, text shadow and new ways to achieve CSS layouts are all exciting and bring with them all kinds of possibilities for web design. However what really gets me, as a developer, excited is a bit more mundane. In this article I’m going to take a look at some of the ways our front and back-end code will be simplified by CSS3, by looking at the ways we achieve certain visual effects now in comparison to how we will achieve them in a glorious, CSS3-supported future. I’m also going to demonstrate how we can use these selectors now with a little help from JavaScript – which can work out very useful if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t change markup that is being output by some server-side code. The wonder of nth-child So why does nth-child get me so excited? Here is a really common situation, the designer would like the tables in the application to look like this: Setting every other table row to a different colour is a common way to enhance readability of long rows. The tried and tested way to implement this is by adding a class to every other row. If you are writing the markup for your table by hand this is a bit of a nuisance, and if you stick a row in the middle you have to change the rows the class is applied to. If your markup is generated by your content management system then you need to get the server-side code to add that class – if you have access to that code. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> <head> <title>Striping every other row - using classes</title> <style type="text/css"> body { padding: 40px; margin: 0; font: 0.9em Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; } table { border-collapse: collapse; border: 1px solid #124412; width: 600px; } th { border: 1px solid #124412; background-color: #334f33; color: #fff; padding: 0.4em; text-… 2009 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2009-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/cleaner-code-with-css3-selectors/ code
193 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven't Read Them I’ve been a huge fan of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 since the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published them, nine years ago. I’ve found them practical and future-proof, and I’ve found that they can save a huge amount of time for designers and developers. You can apply them to anything that you can open in a browser. My favourite part is when I use the guidelines to make a website accessible, and then attend user-testing and see someone with a disability easily using that website. Today, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, seems like a good time to re-read Laura Kalbag’s explanation of why we should bother with accessibility. That should motivate you to devour this article. If you haven’t read the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, you might find them a bit off-putting at first. The editors needed to create a single standard that countries around the world could refer to in legislation, and so some of the language in the guidelines reads like legalese. The editors also needed to future-proof the guidelines, and so some terminology—such as “time-based media” and “programmatically determined”—can sound ambiguous. The guidelines can seem lengthy, too: printing the guidelines, the Understanding WCAG 2.0 document, and the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document would take 1,200 printed pages. This festive season, let’s rip off that legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping paper, and see—in a single article—what gifts the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 editors have bestowed upon us. Can your users perceive the information on your website? The first guideline has criteria that help you prevent your users from asking “What the **** is this thing here supposed to be?” 1.1.1 Text is the most accessible format for information. Screen readers—such as the “VoiceOver” setting on your iPhone or the “TalkBack” app on your Android phone—understand text better than any other format. The same applies for other assistive technology, such as translation apps and Braill… 2017 Alan Dalton alandalton 2017-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-them/ code
194 Design Systems and Hybrids The other day on Twitter, I saw a thread started by Dorian Taylor about why design systems are so hot right now. In the thread, he made the case that they’ve been around for ages and some folks were just slow to catch up. It was an interesting thread, and not the first time I’ve seen folks discuss this. “Design systems are so hot right now” was even used recently in this very publication. And yes it’s true that they’ve been around for ages. Design artefact collectors’ obsession with reprints of old graphic standards manuals of the past are a reminder. Sometimes old things become new again, either through a rediscovery or awakening (wow, that sounds really deep). But I think that’s definitely what happened here. Some very opinionated answers that come to mind for me are: The need for them has increased with the needs of software development. With the increasing number of devices (phones, tablets, watches, etc.), scaling design has required the need to double down on systems thinking and processes. Investments with huge cost-saving returns. The time investment it takes to onboard new people as you staff up large teams (and the time it takes to fix bugs and inconsistencies) could be better spent building up a system that lets you ship at a faster pace. It also gives you more time to focus on the bigger picture instead of what color a button border is. If you do have to onboard new designers, the design system is a great educational resource to get up to speed quickly on your organization’s design principles, materials/tools, and methods. “Here’s the simple truth: you can’t innovate on products without first innovating the way you build them.” — Alex Schleifer, The Way We Build These are just some of the reasons. But there is another answer, and a personal conclusion that I’ve reached. It relates to the way I work and what I love working on, but I don’t see it talked about much. Hybrids Have a Home I’m a hybrid designer. I code in HTML & CSS (with a preference for Sass). But I don’t call myself a frontend develop… 2017 Jina Anne jina 2017-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/design-systems-and-hybrids/ process
197 Designing for Mobile Performance Last year, some colleagues at Google ran a research study titled “The Need for Mobile Speed” to find out what the impact of performance and perception of speed had on the way people use the web on their mobile devices. That’s not a trivial distinction; when considering performance, how fast something feels is often more important than how fast it actually is. When dealing with sometimes underpowered mobile devices and slow mobile networks, designing experiences that feel fast is exceptionally important. One of the most startling numbers we found in the study was that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. We wanted to find out more, so following on from this study, we conducted research to define what the crucial elements of speed are. We took into consideration the user experience (UX), overall perception of speed, and how differing contexts the user finds themselves in can alter how fast a user thinks something loaded. To understand speed and load times first we must understand that user mobile web behaviour is broken down into three buckets; Intention Location State of mind Let’s look at each of those in turn. Intention Users browse sites on a mobile device for many different reasons. To be able to effectively design a performant user experience for them, it’s important to understand what those reasons might be. When asked to describe their reason for visiting a site, approximately 30% of people asked by the study claimed that they were simply browsing without a particular purpose in mind. Looking deeper, we found that this number increased slightly (34%) for retail sites. 30% said they were just there to find out some information for a future task or action, such as booking a flight. Interestingly, the research shows that users are actually window shopping using their mobile browser. Only 29% actually said they had a specific goal or intent in mind, and this number increases significantly for financial services like banking sites (57%). This goes against a trad… 2017 Mustafa Kurtuldu mustafakurtuldu 2017-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/designing-for-mobile-performance/ ux
199 Knowing the Future - Tips for a Happy Launch Day You’ve chosen your frameworks and libraries. You’ve learned how to write code which satisfies the buzzword and performance gods. Now you need to serve it to a global audience, and make things easy to preview, to test, to sign-off, and to evolve. But infrastructure design is difficult and boring for most of us. We just want to get our work out into the wild. If only we had tools which would let us go, “Oh yeah! It all deploys perfectly every time” and shout, “You need another release? BAM! What’s next?” A truth that can be hard to admit is that very often, the production environment and its associated deployment processes are poorly defined until late into a project. This can be a problem. It makes my palms sweaty just thinking about it. If like me, you have spent time building things for clients, you’ll probably have found yourself working with a variety of technical partners and customers who bring different constraints and opportunities to your projects. Knowing and proving the environments and the deployment processes is often very difficult, but can be a factor which profoundly impacts our ability to deliver what we promised. To say nothing of our ability to sleep at night or leave our fingernails un-chewed. Let’s look at this a little, and see if we can’t set you up for a good night’s sleep, with dry palms and tidy fingernails. A familiar problem You’ve been here too, right? The project development was tough, but you’re pleased with what you are running in your local development environments. Now you need to get the client to see and approve your build, and hopefully indicate with a cheery thumbs up that it can “go live”. Chances are that we have a staging environment where the client can see the build. But be honest, is this exactly the same as the production environment? It should be, but often it’s not. Often the staging environment is nothing more than a visible server with none of the optimisations, security, load balancing, caching, and other vital bits of machinery that we’ll need (and need to test) … 2017 Phil Hawksworth philhawksworth 2017-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/knowing-the-future/ process
200 Care and Feeding of Burnout You’ve been doing too much for too long. And it’s broken you. You’re burned out. You’re done. Illustration by Kate Holden Occupational burnout is a long-documented effect of stretching yourself further than the limits of your mental and physical health can carry you. And when it finally catches up with you, it can feel like the end of the world. But things can get better. With focused self care, reworking your priorities and lots of time, you can slog through burnout. What is burnout? The Tl;dr linkdump tour In this article, we’ll be looking at what you can do when you’re burned out. We’ll be skipping past a lot of information on what burnout is, what causes it and how it impacts the tech industry. We’re able to skip past this because many technologists have already created valuable content targeted to our industry. The videos and writing below may be helpful for readers who are less familiar with burnout. A Wikipedia article may be a great starting point for learning about occupational burnout. Understanding burnout: Brandon West This conference talk by Brandon West covers a lot of burnout 101, from the perspective of a developer relations/community professional. April Wensel writes about the need for the tech industry to move from the Valley’s burnout culture to a more sustainable model. Catching Burnout [as] early [as possible] One of the most challenging things about burnout is that it develops slowly and gradually. Many impacted don’t notice the water warming around them until it’s been brought to a boil, causing a crisis that can’t be overlooked. Catching burnout and taking steps to deal with it as early as possible can help limit the length and severity of your burnout. Getting in the habit of checking in with yourself regularly about your stress and energy levels can be an effective habit for assessing burnout and for general wellness. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine if you might be suffering from burnout. Have you become cynical or critical at work? D… 2017 Jessica Rose jessicarose 2017-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/care-and-feeding-of-burnout/ process
201 Lint the Web Forward With Sonarwhal Years ago, when I was in a senior in college, much of my web development courses focused on two things: the basics like HTML and CSS (and boy, do I mean basic), and Adobe Flash. I spent many nights writing ActionScript 3.0 to build interactions for the websites that I would add to my portfolio. A few months after graduating, I built one website in Flash for a client, then never again. Flash was dying, and it became obsolete in my résumé and portfolio. That was my first lesson in the speed at which things change in technology, and what a daunting realization that was as a new graduate looking to enter the professional world. Now, seven years later, I work on the Microsoft Edge team where I help design and build a tool that would have lessened my early career anxieties: sonarwhal. Sonarwhal is a linting tool, built by and for the web community. The code is open source and lives under the JS Foundation. It helps web developers and designers like me keep up with the constant change in technology while simultaneously teaching how to code better websites. Introducing sonarwhal’s mascot Nellie Good web development is hard. It is more than HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: developers are expected to have a grasp of accessibility, performance, security, emerging standards, and more, all while refreshing this knowledge every few months as the web evolves. It’s a lot to keep track of.   Web development is hard Staying up-to-date on all this knowledge is one of the driving forces for developing this scanning tool. Whether you are just starting out, are a student, or you have over a decade of experience, the sonarwhal team wants to help you build better websites for all browsers. Currently sonarwhal checks for best practices in five categories: Accessibility, Interoperability, Performance, PWAs, and Security. Each check is called a “rule”. You can configure them and even create your own rules if you need to follow some specific guidelines for your project (e.g. validate analytics attributes, title format of pages, etc.). You c… 2017 Stephanie Drescher stephaniedrescher 2017-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/lint-the-web-forward-with-sonarwhal/ code
205 Why Design Systems Fail Design systems are so hot right now, and for good reason. They promote a modular approach to building a product, and ensure organizational unity and stability via reusable code snippets and utility styles. They make prototyping a breeze, and provide a common language for both designers and developers. A design system is a culmination of several individual components, which can include any or all of the following (and more): Style guide or visual pattern library Design tooling (e.g. Sketch Library) Component library (where the components live in code) Code usage guidelines and documentation Design usage documentation Voice and tone guideline Animation language guideline Design systems are standalone (internal or external) products, and have proven to be very effective means of design-driven development. However, in order for a design system to succeed, everyone needs to get on board. I’d like to go over a few considerations to ensure design system success and what could hinder that success. Organizational Support Put simply, any product, including internal products, needs support. Something as cross-functional as a design system, which spans every vertical project team, needs support from the top and bottom levels of your organization. What I mean by that is that there needs to be top-level support from project managers up through VP’s to see the value of a design system, to provide resources for its implementation, and advocate for its use company-wide. This is especially important in companies where such systems are being put in place on top of existing, crufty codebases, because it may mean there needs to be some time and effort put in the calendar for refactoring work. Support from the bottom-up means that designers and engineers of all levels also need to support this system and feel responsibility for it. A design system is an organization’s product, and everyone should feel confident contributing to it. If your design system supports external clients as well (such as contractors), they too can become val… 2017 Una Kravets unakravets 2017-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/why-design-systems-fail/ process
207 Want to Break Out of Comparison Syndrome? Do a Media Detox “Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt I grew up in an environment of perpetual creativity and inventiveness. My father Dennis built and flew experimental aircraft as a hobby. During my entire childhood, there was an airplane fuselage in the garage instead of a car. My mother Deloria was a self-taught master artisan who could quickly acquire any skills that it took to work with fabric and weaving. She could sew any garment she desired, and was able to weave intricate wall hangings just by looking at a black and white photos in magazines. My older sister Diane blossomed into a consummate fine artist who drew portraits with uncanny likeness, painted murals, and studied art and architecture. In addition, she loved good food and had a genius for cooking and baking, which converged in her creating remarkable art pieces out of cake that were incredibly delicious to boot. Yes. This was the household in which I grew up. While there were countless positives to being surrounded by people who were compelled to create, there was also a downside to it. I incessantly compared myself to my parents and older sister and always found myself lacking. It wasn’t a fair comparison, but tell that to a sensitive kid who wanted to fit in to her family by being creative as well. From my early years throughout my teens, I convinced myself that I would never understand how to build an airplane or at least be as proficient with tools as my father, the aeronautical engineer. Even though my sister was six years older than I was, I lamented that I would never be as good a visual artist as she was. And I marveled at my mother’s seemingly magical ability to make and tailor clothes and was certain that I would never attain her level of mastery. This habit of comparing myself to others grew over the years, continuing to subtly and effectively undermine my sense of self. I had almost reached an uneasy truce with my comparison habit when social media happened. As an early adopter of Twitter, I loved staying connected to people I met a… 2017 Denise Jacobs denisejacobs 2017-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/do-a-media-detox/ process
209 Feeding the Audio Graph In 2004, I was given an iPod. I count this as one of the most intuitive pieces of technology I’ve ever owned. It wasn’t because of the the snazzy (colour!) menus or circular touchpad. I loved how smoothly it fitted into my life. I could plug in my headphones and listen to music while I was walking around town. Then when I got home, I could plug it into an amplifier and carry on listening there. There was no faff. It didn’t matter if I could find my favourite mix tape, or if my WiFi was flakey - it was all just there. Nowadays, when I’m trying to pair my phone with some Bluetooth speakers, or can’t find my USB-to-headphone jack, or even access any music because I don’t have cellular reception; I really miss this simplicity. The Web Audio API I think the Web Audio API feels kind of like my iPod did. It’s different from most browser APIs - rather than throwing around data, or updating DOM elements - you plug together a graph of audio nodes, which the browser uses to generate, process, and play sounds. The thing I like about it is that you can totally plug it into whatever you want, and it’ll mostly just work. So, let’s get started. First of all we want an audio source. <audio src="night-owl.mp3" controls /> (Song - Night Owl by Broke For Free) This totally works. However, it’s not using the Web Audio API, so we can’t access or modify the sound it makes. To hook this up to our audio graph, we can use an AudioSourceNode. This captures the sound from the element, and lets us connect to other nodes in a graph. const audioCtx = new AudioContext() const audio = document.querySelector('audio') const input = audioCtx.createAudioSourceNode(audio) input.connect(audioCtx.destination) Great. We’ve made something that looks and sounds exactly the same as it did before. Go us. Gain Let’s plug in a GainNode - this allows you to alter the amplitude (volume) of an an audio stream. We can hook this node up to an <input> element by setting the gain property of the node. (The syntax for this is kind of weird because it’s an Au… 2017 Ben Foxall benfoxall 2017-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/feeding-the-audio-graph/ code
211 Automating Your Accessibility Tests Accessibility is one of those things we all wish we were better at. It can lead to a bunch of questions like: how do we make our site better? How do we test what we have done? Should we spend time each day going through our site to check everything by hand? Or just hope that everyone on our team has remembered to check their changes are accessible? This is where automated accessibility tests can come in. We can set up automated tests and have them run whenever someone makes a pull request, and even alongside end-to-end tests, too. Automated tests can’t cover everything however; only 20 to 50% of accessibility issues can be detected automatically. For example, we can’t yet automate the comparison of an alt attribute with an image’s content, and there are some screen reader tests that need to be carried out by hand too. To ensure our site is as accessible as possible, we will still need to carry out manual tests, and I will cover these later. First, I’m going to explain how I implemented automated accessibility tests on Elsevier’s ecommerce pages, and share some of the lessons I learnt along the way. Picking the right tool One of the hardest, but most important parts of creating our automated accessibility tests was choosing the right tool. We began by investigating aXe CLI, but soon realised it wouldn’t fit our requirements. It couldn’t check pages that required a visitor to log in, so while we could test our product pages, we couldn’t test any customer account pages. Instead we moved over to Pa11y. Its beforeScript step meant we could log into the site and test pages such as the order history. The example below shows the how the beforeScript step completes a login form and then waits for the login to complete before testing the page: beforeScript: function(page, options, next) { // An example function that can be used to make sure changes have been confirmed before continuing to run Pa11y function waitUntil(condition, retries, waitOver) { page.evaluate(condition, function(err, result) { if (result … 2017 Seren Davies serendavies 2017-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/automating-your-accessibility-tests/ code
213 Accessibility Through Semantic HTML Working on Better, a tracker blocker, I spend an awful lot of my time with my nose in other people’s page sources. I’m mostly there looking for harmful tracking scripts, but often notice the HTML on some of the world’s most popular sites is in a sad state of neglect. What does neglected HTML look like? Here’s an example of the markup I found on a news site just yesterday. There’s a bit of text, a few links, and a few images. But mostly it’s div elements. <div class="block_wrapper"> <div class="block_content"> <div class="box"> <div id="block1242235"> <div class="column"> <div class="column_content"> <a class="close" href="#"><i class="fa"></i></a> </div> <div class="btn account_login"></div> Some text <span>more text</span> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> divs and spans, why do we use them so much? While I find tracking scripts completely inexcusable, I do understand why people write HTML like the above. As developers, we like to use divs and spans as they’re generic elements. They come with no associated default browser styles or behaviour except that div displays as a block, and span displays inline. If we make our page up out of divs and spans, we know we’ll have absolute control over styles and behaviour cross-browser, and we won’t need a CSS reset. Absolute control may seem like an advantage, but there’s a greater benefit to less generic, more semantic elements. Browsers render semantic elements with their own distinct styles and behaviours. For example, button looks and behaves differently from a. And ul is different from ol. These defaults are shortcuts to a more usable and accessible web. They provide consistent and well-tested components for common interactions. Semantic elements aid usability A good example of how browser defaults can benefit the usability of an element is in the <select> option menu. In Safari on the desktop, the browser renders <select> as a popover-style menu. On a touchscreen, Safari overl… 2017 Laura Kalbag laurakalbag 2017-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/accessibility-through-semantic-html/ code
217 Beyond Web Mechanics – Creating Meaningful Web Design It was just over three years ago when I embarked on becoming a web designer, and the first opinion piece about the state of web design I came across was a conference talk by Elliot Jay Stocks called ‘Destroy the Web 2.0 Look’. Elliot’s presentation was a call to arms, a plea to web designers the world over to stop the endless reproductions of the so called ‘Web 2.0 look’. Three and a half years on from Elliot’s talk, what has changed? Well, from an aesthetic standpoint, not a whole lot. The Web 2.0 look has evolved, but it’s still with us and much of the web remains filled with cookie cutter websites that bear a striking resemblance to one another. This wouldn’t matter so much if these websites were selling comparable services or products, but they’re not. They look similar, they follow the same web design trends; their aesthetic style sends out a very similar message, yet they’re selling completely different services or products. How can you be communicating effectively with your users when your online book store is visually indistinguishable from an online cosmetic store? This just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to belittle the current version of the Web 2.0 look for the sake of it. I want to talk about the opportunity we have as web designers to create more meaningful experiences for the people using our websites. Using design wisely gives us the ability to communicate messages, ideas and attitudes that our users will understand and connect with. Being human As human beings we respond emotionally to everything around us – people, objects, posters, packaging or websites. We also respond in different ways to different kinds of aesthetic design and style. We care about style and aesthetics deeply, whether we realise it or not. Aesthetic design has the power to attract or repel. We often make decisions based purely on aesthetics and style – and don’t retailers the world over know it! We connect attitudes and strongly held beliefs to style. Individuals will proudly associate themselves with a certain style o… 2010 Mike Kus mikekus 2010-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/beyond-web-mechanics-creating-meaningful-web-design/ design
218 Put Yourself in a Corner Some backstory, and a shameful confession For the first couple years of high school I was one of those jerks who made only the minimal required effort in school. Strangely enough, how badly I behaved in a class was always in direct proportion to how skilled I was in the subject matter. In the subjects where I was confident that I could pass without trying too hard, I would give myself added freedom to goof off in class. Because I was a closeted lit-nerd, I was most skilled in English class. I’d devour and annotate required reading over the weekend, I knew my biblical and mythological allusions up and down, and I could give you a postmodern interpretation of a text like nobody’s business. But in class, I’d sit in the back and gossip with my friends, nap, or scribble patterns in the margins of my textbooks. I was nonchalant during discussion, I pretended not to listen during lectures. I secretly knew my stuff, so I did well enough on tests, quizzes, and essays. But I acted like an ass, and wasn’t getting the most I could out of my education. The day of humiliation, but also epiphany One day in Ms. Kaney’s AP English Lit class, I was sitting in the back doodling. An earbud was dangling under my sweater hood, attached to the CD player (remember those?) sitting in my desk. Because of this auditory distraction, the first time Ms. Kaney called my name, I barely noticed. I definitely heard her the second time, when she didn’t call my name so much as roar it. I can still remember her five feet frame stomping across the room and grabbing an empty desk. It screamed across the worn tile as she slammed it next to hers. She said, “This is where you sit now.” My face gets hot just thinking about it. I gathered my things, including the CD player (which was now impossible to conceal), and made my way up to the newly appointed Seat of Shame. There I sat, with my back to the class, eye-to-eye with Ms. Kaney. From my new vantage point I couldn’t see my friends, or the clock, or the window. All I saw were Ms. Kaney’s eyes, peeri… 2010 Meagan Fisher meaganfisher 2010-12-20T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/put-yourself-in-a-corner/ process
221 “Probably, Maybe, No”: The State of HTML5 Audio With the hype around HTML5 and CSS3 exceeding levels not seen since 2005’s Ajax era, it’s worth noting that the excitement comes with good reason: the two specifications render many years of feature hacks redundant by replacing them with native features. For fun, consider how many CSS2-based rounded corners hacks you’ve probably glossed over, looking for a magic solution. These days, with CSS3, the magic is border-radius (and perhaps some vendor prefixes) followed by a coffee break. CSS3’s border-radius, box-shadow, text-shadow and gradients, and HTML5’s <canvas>, <audio> and <video> are some of the most anticipated features we’ll see put to creative (ab)use as adoption of the ‘new shiny’ grows. Developers jumping on the cutting edge are using subsets of these features to little detriment, in most cases. The more popular CSS features are design flourishes that can degrade nicely, but the current audio and video implementations in particular suffer from a number of annoyances. The new shiny: how we got here Sound involves one of the five senses, a key part of daily life for most – and yet it has been strangely absent from HTML and much of the web by default. From a simplistic perspective, it seems odd that HTML did not include support for the full multimedia experience earlier, despite the CD-ROM-based craze of the early 1990s. In truth, standards like HTML can take much longer to bake, but eventually deliver the promise of a lowered barrier to entry, consistent implementations and shiny new features now possible ‘for free’ just about everywhere. <img> was introduced early and naturally to HTML, despite having some opponents at the time. Perhaps <audio> and <video> were avoided, given the added technical complexity of decoding various multi-frame formats, plus the hardware and bandwidth limitations of the era. Perhaps there were quarrels about choosing a standard format or – more simply – maybe these elements just weren’t considered to be applicable to the HTML-based web at the time. In any event, browser plug… 2010 Scott Schiller scottschiller 2010-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/the-state-of-html5-audio/ code
223 Calculating Color Contrast Some websites and services allow you to customize your profile by uploading pictures, changing the background color or other aspects of the design. As a customer, this personalization turns a web app into your little nest where you store your data. As a designer, letting your customers have free rein over the layout and design is a scary prospect. So what happens to all the stock text and images that are designed to work on nice white backgrounds? Even the Mac only lets you choose between two colors for the OS, blue or graphite! Opening up the ability to customize your site’s color scheme can be a recipe for disaster unless you are flexible and understand how to find maximum color contrasts. In this article I will walk you through two simple equations to determine if you should be using white or black text depending on the color of the background. The equations are both easy to implement and produce similar results. It isn’t a matter of which is better, but more the fact that you are using one at all! That way, even with the craziest of Geocities color schemes that your customers choose, at least your text will still be readable. Let’s have a look at a range of various possible colors. Maybe these are pre-made color schemes, corporate colors, or plucked from an image. Now that we have these potential background colors and their hex values, we need to find out whether the corresponding text should be in white or black, based on which has a higher contrast, therefore affording the best readability. This can be done at runtime with JavaScript or in the back-end before the HTML is served up. There are two functions I want to compare. The first, I call ’50%’. It takes the hex value and compares it to the value halfway between pure black and pure white. If the hex value is less than half, meaning it is on the darker side of the spectrum, it returns white as the text color. If the result is greater than half, it’s on the lighter side of the spectrum and returns black as the text value. In PHP: function getContra… 2010 Brian Suda briansuda 2010-12-24T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/calculating-color-contrast/ code
224 Go Forth and Make Awesomeness We’ve all dreamed of being a superhero: maybe that’s why we’ve ended up on the web—a place where we can do good deeds and celebrate them on a daily basis. Wear your dreams At age four, I wore my Wonder Woman Underoos around my house, my grandparents’ house, our neighbor’s house, and even around the yard. I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I was crushed to learn that there is no school for superheroes—no place to earn a degree in how to save the world from looming evil. Instead, I—like everyone else—was destined to go to ordinary school to focus on ABCs and 123s. Even still, I want to save the world. Intend your goodness Random acts of kindness make a difference. Books, films, and advertising campaigns tout random acts of kindness and the positive influence they can have on the world. But why do acts of kindness have to be so random? Why can’t we intend to be kind? A true superhero wakes each morning intending to perform selfless acts for the community. Why can’t we do the same thing? As a child, my mother taught me to plan to do at least three good deeds each day. And even now, years later, I put on my invisible cape looking for ways to do good. Here are some examples: slowing down to allow another driver in before me from the highway on-ramp bringing a co-worker their favorite kind of coffee or tea sharing my umbrella on a rainy day holding a door open for someone with full hands listening intently when someone shares a story complimenting someone on a job well done thanking someone for a job well done leaving a constructive, or even supportive comment on someone’s blog As you can see, these acts are simple. Doing good and being kind is partially about being aware—aware of the words we speak and the actions we take. Like superheroes, we create our own code of conduct to live by. Hopefully, we choose to put the community before ourselves (within reason) and to do our best not to damage it as we move through our lives. Take a bite out of the Apple With some thought, we can weave this ty… 2010 Leslie Jensen-Inman lesliejenseninman 2010-12-04T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/go-forth-and-make-awesomeness/ business
227 A Contentmas Epiphany The twelve days of Christmas fall between 25 December, Christmas Day, and 6 January, the Epiphany of the Kings. Traditionally, these have been holidays and a lot of us still take a good proportion of these days off. Equally, a lot of us have a got a personal site kicking around somewhere that we sigh over and think, “One day I’ll sort you out!” Why not take this downtime to give it a big ol’ refresh? I know, good idea, huh? HEY WAIT! WOAH! NO-ONE’S TOUCHING PHOTOSHOP OR DOING ANY CSS FANCYWORK UNTIL I’M DONE WITH YOU! Be honest, did you immediately think of a sketch or mockup you have tucked away? Or some clever little piece of code you want to fiddle with? Now ask yourself, why would you start designing the container if you haven’t worked out what you need to put inside? Anyway, forget the content strategy lecture; I haven’t given you your gifts yet. I present The Twelve Days of Contentmas! This is a simple little plan to make sure that your personal site, blog or portfolio is not just looking good at the end of these twelve days, but is also a really useful repository of really useful content. WARNING KLAXON: There are twelve parts, one for each day of Christmas, so this is a lengthy article. I’m not expecting anyone to absorb this in one go. Add to Instapaper. There is no TL;DR for this because it’s a multipart process, m’kay? Even so, this plan of mine cuts corners on a proper applied strategy for content. You might find some aspects take longer than the arbitrary day I’ve assigned. And if you apply this to your company-wide intranet, I won’t be held responsible for the mess. That said, I encourage you to play along and sample some of the practical aspects of organising existing content and planning new content because it is, honestly, an inspiring and liberating process. For one thing, you get to review all the stuff you have put out for the world to look at and see what you could do next. This always leaves me full of ideas on how to plug the gaps I’ve found, so I hope you are similarly motivated come… 2010 Relly Annett-Baker rellyannettbaker 2010-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/a-contentmas-epiphany/ content
233 Wrapping Things Nicely with HTML5 Local Storage HTML5 is here to turn the web from a web of hacks into a web of applications – and we are well on the way to this goal. The coming year will be totally and utterly awesome if you are excited about web technologies. This year the HTML5 revolution started and there is no stopping it. For the first time all the browser vendors are rallying together to make a technology work. The new browser war is fought over implementation of the HTML5 standard and not over random additions. We live in exciting times. Starting with a bang As with every revolution there is a lot of noise with bangs and explosions, and that’s the stage we’re at right now. HTML5 showcases are often CSS3 showcases, web font playgrounds, or video and canvas examples. This is great, as it gets people excited and it gives the media something to show. There is much more to HTML5, though. Let’s take a look at one of the less sexy, but amazingly useful features of HTML5 (it was in the HTML5 specs, but grew at such an alarming rate that it warranted its own spec): storing information on the client-side. Why store data on the client-side? Storing information in people’s browsers affords us a few options that every application should have: You can retain the state of an application – when the user comes back after closing the browser, everything will be as she left it. That’s how ‘real’ applications work and this is how the web ones should, too. You can cache data – if something doesn’t change then there is no point in loading it over the Internet if local access is so much faster You can store user preferences – without needing to keep that data on your server at all. In the past, storing local data wasn’t much fun. The pain of hacky browser solutions In the past, all we had were cookies. I don’t mean the yummy things you get with your coffee, endorsed by the blue, furry junkie in Sesame Street, but the other, digital ones. Cookies suck – it isn’t fun to have an unencrypted HTTP overhead on every server request for storing four kilobytes of data… 2010 Christian Heilmann chrisheilmann 2010-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/html5-local-storage/ code
234 An Introduction to CSS 3-D Transforms Ladies and gentlemen, it is the second decade of the third millennium and we are still kicking around the same 2-D interface we got three decades ago. Sure, Apple debuted a few apps for OSX 10.7 that have a couple more 3-D flourishes, and Microsoft has had that Flip 3D for a while. But c’mon – 2011 is right around the corner. That’s Twenty Eleven, folks. Where is our 3-D virtual reality? By now, we should be zipping around the Metaverse on super-sonic motorbikes. Granted, the capability of rendering complex 3-D environments has been present for years. On the web, there are already several solutions: Flash; three.js in <canvas>; and, eventually, WebGL. Finally, we meagre front-end developers have our own three-dimensional jewel: CSS 3-D transforms! Rationale Like a beautiful jewel, 3-D transforms can be dazzling, a true spectacle to behold. But before we start tacking 3-D diamonds and rubies to our compositions like Liberace‘s tailor, we owe it to our users to ask how they can benefit from this awesome feature. An entire application should not take advantage of 3-D transforms. CSS was built to style documents, not generate explorable environments. I fail to find a benefit to completing a web form that can be accessed by swivelling my viewport to the Sign-Up Room (although there have been proposals to make the web just that). Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities to use 3-D transforms in between interactions with the interface, via transitions. Take, for instance, the Weather App on the iPhone. The application uses two views: a details view; and an options view. Switching between these two views is done with a 3-D flip transition. This informs the user that the interface has two – and only two – views, as they can exist only on either side of the same plane. Flipping from details view to options view via a 3-D transition Also, consider slide shows. When you’re looking at the last slide, what cues tip you off that advancing will restart the cycle at the first slide? A better paradigm might be achi… 2010 David DeSandro daviddesandro 2010-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/intro-to-css-3d-transforms/ code
236 Extreme Design Recently, I set out with twelve other designers and developers for a 19th century fortress on the Channel Island of Alderney. We were going to /dev/fort, a sort of band camp for geeks. Our cohort’s mission: to think up, build and finish something – without readily available internet access. Alderney runway, photo by Chris Govias Wait, no internet? Well, pretty much. As the creators of /dev/fort James Aylett and Mark Norman Francis put it: “Imagine a place with no distractions – no IM, no Twitter”. But also no way to quickly look up a design pattern, code sample or source material. Like packing for camping, /dev/fort means bringing everything you’ll need on your back or your hard drive: from long johns to your favourite icon set. We got to work the first night discussing ideas for what we wanted to build. By the time breakfast was cleared up the next morning, we’d settled on Russ’s idea to make the Apollo 13 (PDF) transcript accessible. Days two and three were spent collaboratively planning (KJ style) what features we wanted to build, and unravelling the larger UX challenges of the project. The next five days were spent building it. Within 36 hours of touchdown at Southampton Airport, we launched our creation: spacelog.org The weather was cold, the coal fire less than ideal, food and supplies a hike away, and the process lightning-fast. A week of designing under extreme circumstances called for an extreme process. Some of this was driven by James’s and Norm’s experience running these things, but a lot of it materialised while we were there – especially for our three-strong design team (myself, Gavin O’ Carroll and Chris Govias) who, though we knew each other, had never worked together as a group in this kind of scenario before. The outcome was a pretty spectacular process, with a some key takeaways useful for any small group trying to build something quickly. What it’s like inside the fort /dev/fort has the pressure and pace of a hack day without being a hack day – primarily, no workshops or interruptio… 2010 Hannah Donovan hannahdonovan 2010-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/extreme-design/ process
238 Everything You Wanted To Know About Gradients (And a Few Things You Didn’t) Hello. I am here to discuss CSS3 gradients. Because, let’s face it, what the web really needed was more gradients. Still, despite their widespread use (or is it overuse?), the smartly applied gradient can be a valuable contributor to a designer’s vocabulary. There’s always been a tension between the inherently two-dimensional nature of our medium, and our desire for more intensity, more depth in our designs. And a gradient can evoke so much: the splay of light across your desk, the slow decrease in volume toward the end of your favorite song, the sunset after a long day. When properly applied, graded colors bring a much needed softness to our work. Of course, that whole ‘proper application’ thing is the tricky bit. But given their place in our toolkit and their prominence online, it really is heartening to see we can create gradients directly with CSS. They’re part of the draft images module, and implemented in two of the major rendering engines. Still, I’ve always found CSS gradients to be one of the more confusing aspects of CSS3. So if you’ll indulge me, let’s take a quick look at how to create CSS gradients—hopefully we can make them seem a bit more accessible, and bring a bit more art into the browser. Gradient theory 101 (I hope that’s not really a thing) Right. So before we dive into the code, let’s cover a few basics. Every gradient, no matter how complex, shares a few common characteristics. Here’s a straightforward one: I spent seconds hours designing this gradient. I hope you like it. At either end of our image, we have a final color value, or color stop: on the left, our stop is white; on the right, black. And more color-rich gradients are no different: (Don’t ever really do this. Please. I beg you.) It’s visually more intricate, sure. But at the heart of it, we have just seven color stops (red, orange, yellow, and so on), making for a fantastic gradient all the way. Now, color stops alone do not a gradient make. Between each is a transition point, the fail-over point between the two stop… 2010 Ethan Marcotte ethanmarcotte 2010-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-gradients/ code
240 My CSS Wish List I love Christmas. I love walking around the streets of London, looking at the beautifully decorated windows, seeing the shiny lights that hang above Oxford Street and listening to Christmas songs. I’m not going to lie though. Not only do I like buying presents, I love receiving them too. I remember making long lists that I would send to Father Christmas with all of the Lego sets I wanted to get. I knew I could only get one a year, but I would spend days writing the perfect list. The years have gone by, but I still enjoy making wish lists. And I’ll tell you a little secret: my mum still asks me to send her my Christmas list every year. This time I’ve made my CSS wish list. As before, I’d be happy with just one present. Before I begin… … this list includes: things that don’t exist in the CSS specification (if they do, please let me know in the comments – I may have missed them); others that are in the spec, but it’s incomplete or lacks use cases and examples (which usually means that properties haven’t been implemented by even the most recent browsers). Like with any other wish list, the further down I go, the more unrealistic my expectations – but that doesn’t mean I can’t wish. Some of the things we wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago have been implemented and our wishes fulfilled (think multiple backgrounds, gradients and transformations, for example). The list Cross-browser implementation of font-size-adjust When one of the fall-back fonts from your font stack is used, rather than the preferred (first) one, you can retain the aspect ratio by using this very useful property. It is incredibly helpful when the fall-back fonts are smaller or larger than the initial one, which can make layouts look less polished. What font-size-adjust does is divide the original font-size of the fall-back fonts by the font-size-adjust value. This preserves the x-height of the preferred font in the fall-back fonts. Here’s a simple example: p { font-family: Calibri, "Lucida Sans", Verdana, sans-serif; … 2010 Inayaili de León Persson inayailideleon 2010-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/my-css-wish-list/ code
241 Jank-Free Image Loads There are a few fundamental problems with embedding images in pages of hypertext; perhaps chief among them is this: text is very light and loads rather fast; images are much heavier and arrive much later. Consequently, millions (billions?) of times a day, a hapless Web surfer will start reading some text on a page, and then — Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. — oops! — an image pops in above it, pushing said text down the page, and our poor reader loses their place. By default, partially-loaded pages have the user experience of a slippery fish, or spilled jar of jumping beans. For the rest of this article, I shall call that jarring, no-good jumpiness by its name: jank. And I’ll chart a path into a jank-free future – one in which it’s easy and natural to author <img> elements that load like this: Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 video. Here is a link to the video instead. Jank is a very old problem, and there is a very old solution to it: the width and height attributes on <img>. The idea is: if we stick an image’s dimensions right into the HTML, browsers can know those dimensions before the image loads, and reserve some space on the layout for it so that nothing gets bumped down the page when the image finally arrives. width Specifies the intended width of the image in pixels. When given together with the height, this allows user agents to reserve screen space for the image before the image data has arrived over the network. —The HTML 3.2 Specification, published on January 14 1997 Unfortunately for us, when width and height were first spec’d and implemented, layouts were largely fixed and images were usually only intended to render at their fixed, actual dimensions. When image sizing gets fluid, width and height get weird: See the Pen fluid width + fixed height = distortion by Eric Portis (@eeeps) on CodePen. width and height are too rigid for the responsive world. What we need, and have needed for a very long time, is a way to specify fixed aspect ra… 2018 Eric Portis ericportis 2018-12-21T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/jank-free-image-loads/ code
243 Researching a Property in the CSS Specifications I frequently joke that I’m “reading the specs so you don’t have to”, as I unpack some detail of a CSS spec in a post on my blog, some documentation for MDN, or an article on Smashing Magazine. However waiting for someone like me to write an article about something is a pretty slow way to get the information you need. Sometimes people like me get things wrong, or specifications change after we write a tutorial. What if you could just look it up yourself? That’s what you get when you learn to read the CSS specifications, and in this article my aim is to give you the basic details you need to grab quick information about any CSS property detailed in the CSS specs. Where are the CSS Specifications? The easiest way to see all of the CSS specs is to take a look at the Current Work page in the CSS section of the W3C Website. Here you can see all of the specifications listed, the level they are at and their status. There is also a link to the specification from this page. I explained CSS Levels in my article Why there is no CSS 4. Who are the specifications for? CSS specifications are for everyone who uses CSS. You might be a browser engineer - referred to as an implementor - needing to know how to implement a feature, or a web developer - referred to as an author - wanting to know how to use the feature. The fact that both parties are looking at the same document hopefully means that what the browser displays is what the web developer expected. Which version of a spec should I look at? There are a couple of places you might want to look. Each published spec will have the latest published version, which will have TR in the URL and can be accessed without a date (which is always the newest version) or at a date, which will be the date of that publication. If I’m referring to a particular Working Draft in an article I’ll typically link to the dated version. That way if the information changes it is possible for someone to see where I got the information from at the time of writing. If you want the very latest additions an… 2018 Rachel Andrew rachelandrew 2018-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/researching-a-property-in-the-css-specifications/ code
244 It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like XSSmas I dread the office Secret Santa. I have a knack for choosing well-meaning but inappropriate presents, like a bottle of port for a teetotaller, a cheese-tasting experience for a vegan, or heaven forbid, Spurs socks for an Arsenal supporter. Ok, the last one was intentional. It’s the same with gifting code. Once, I made a pattern library for A List Apart which I open sourced, and a few weeks later, a glaring security vulnerability was found in it. My gift was so generous that it enabled unrestricted access to any file on any public-facing server that hosted it. With platforms like GitHub and npm, giving the gift of code is so easy it’s practically a no-brainer. This giant, open source yankee swap helps us do our jobs without starting from scratch with every project. But like any gift-giving, it’s also risky. Vulnerabilities and Open Source Open source code is not inherently more or less vulnerable than closed-source code. What makes it higher risk is that the same piece of code gets reused in lots of places, meaning a hacker can use the same exploit mechanism on the same vulnerable code in different apps. Graph showing the number of open source vulnerabilities published per year, from the State of Open Source Security 2017 In the first 24 ways article this year, Katie referenced a few different types of vulnerability: Cross-site Request Forgery (also known as CSRF) SQL Injection Cross-site Scripting (also known as XSS) There are many more types of vulnerability, and those that live under the same category share similarities. For example, my favourite – is it weird to have a favourite vulnerability? – is Cross Site Scripting (XSS), which allows for the injection of scripts into web pages. This is a really common vulnerability often unwittingly added by developers. OWASP (the Open Web Application Security Project) wrote a great article about how to prevent opening the door to XSS attacks – share it generously with your colleagues. Most vulnerabilities like this are not added intentionally – they’re doors left ajar… 2018 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2018-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/its-beginning-to-look-a-lot-like-xssmas/ code
245 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1—for People Who Haven’t Read the Update Happy United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018! The United Nations chose “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” as this year’s theme. We’ve seen great examples of that in 2018; for example, Paul Robert Lloyd has detailed how he improved the accessibility of this very website. On social media, US Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started using the Clipomatic app to add live captions to her Instagram live stories, conforming to success criterion 1.2.4, “Captions (Live)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 1) …and British Vogue Contributing Editor Sinéad Burke has used the split-screen feature of Instagram live stories to invite an interpreter to provide live Sign Language interpretation, going above and beyond success criterion 1.2.6, “Sign Language (Prerecorded)” of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (figure 2). Figure 1: Screenshot of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram story with live captionsFigure 2: Screenshot of Sinéad Burke’s Instagram story with Sign Language Interpretation That theme chimes with this year’s publication of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. In last year’s “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines—for People Who Haven’t Read Them”, I mentioned the scale of the project to produce this update during 2018: “the editors have to update the guidelines to cover all the new ways that people interact with new technologies, while keeping the guidelines backwards-compatible”. The WCAG working group have added 17 success criteria to the 61 that they released way back in 2008—for context, that was 1½ years before Apple released their first iPad! These new criteria make it easier than ever for us web geeks to produce work that is more accessible to people using mobile devices and touchscreens, people with low vision, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Once again, let’s rip off all the legalese and ambiguous terminology like wrapping pap… 2018 Alan Dalton alandalton 2018-12-03T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/wcag-for-people-who-havent-read-the-update/ ux
246 Designing Your Site Like It’s 1998 It’s 20 years to the day since my wife and I started Stuff & Nonsense, our little studio and my outlet for creative ideas on the web. To celebrate this anniversary—and my fourteenth contribution to 24 ways— I’d like to explain how I would’ve developed a design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles, one of my favourite Christmas films. My design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles is fixed at 800px wide. Developing a <frameset> framework I’ll start by using frames to set up the framework for this new website. Frames are individual pages—one for navigation, the other for my content—pulled together to form a frameset. Space is limited on lower-resolution screens, so by using frames I can ensure my navigation always remains visible. I can include any number of frames inside a <frameset> element. I add two rows to my <frameset>; the first is for my navigation and is 50px tall, the second is for my content and will resize to fill any available space. As I don’t want frame borders or any space between my frames, I set frameborder and framespacing attributes to 0: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> […] </frameset> Next I add the source of my two frame documents. I don’t want people to be able to resize or scroll my navigation, so I add the noresize attribute to that frame: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame src="content.html"> </frameset> I do want links from my navigation to open in the content frame, so I give each <frame> a name so I can specify where I want links to open: <frameset frameborder="0" framespacing="0" rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation" noresize scrolling="no" src="nav.html"> <frame name="content" src="content.html"> </frameset> The framework for this website is simple as it contains only two horizontal rows. Should I need a more complex layout, I can nest as many framesets—and as many individual documents—as I need: <frameset rows="50,*"> <frame name="navigation"> <frameset cols="25%,*"> <frame name="sideba… 2018 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2018-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-site-like-its-1998/ code

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