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18 Grunt for People Who Think Things Like Grunt are Weird and Hard Front-end developers are often told to do certain things: Work in as small chunks of CSS and JavaScript as makes sense to you, then concatenate them together for the production website. Compress your CSS and minify your JavaScript to make their file sizes as small as possible for your production website. Optimize your images to reduce their file size without affecting quality. Use Sass for CSS authoring because of all the useful abstraction it allows. That’s not a comprehensive list of course, but those are the kind of things we need to do. You might call them tasks. I bet you’ve heard of Grunt. Well, Grunt is a task runner. Grunt can do all of those things for you. Once you’ve got it set up, which isn’t particularly difficult, those things can happen automatically without you having to think about them again. But let’s face it: Grunt is one of those fancy newfangled things that all the cool kids seem to be using but at first glance feels strange and intimidating. I hear you. This article is for you. Let’s nip some misconceptions in the bud right away Perhaps you’ve heard of Grunt, but haven’t done anything with it. I’m sure that applies to many of you. Maybe one of the following hang-ups applies to you. I don’t need the things Grunt does You probably do, actually. Check out that list up top. Those things aren’t nice-to-haves. They are pretty vital parts of website development these days. If you already do all of them, that’s awesome. Perhaps you use a variety of different tools to accomplish them. Grunt can help bring them under one roof, so to speak. If you don’t already do all of them, you probably should and Grunt can help. Then, once you are doing those, you can keep using Grunt to do more for you, which will basically make you better at doing your job. Grunt runs on Node.js — I don’t know Node You don’t have to know Node. Just like you don’t have to know Ruby to use Sass. Or PHP to use WordPress. Or C++ to use Microsoft Word. I have other ways to do the things Grunt could do for me Are they all organized in one place, configured to run automatically when needed, and shared among every single person working on that project? Unlikely, I’d venture. Grunt is a command line tool — I’m just a designer I’m a designer too. I prefer native apps with graphical interfaces when I can get them. But I don’t think that’s going to happen with Grunt1. The extent to which you need to use the command line is: Navigate to your project’s directory. Type grunt and press Return. After set-up, that is, which again isn’t particularly difficult. OK. Let’s get Grunt installed Node is indeed a prerequisite for Grunt. If you don’t have Node installed, don’t worry, it’s very easy. You literally download an installer and run it. Click the big Install button on the Node website. You install Grunt on a per-project basis. Go to your project’s folder. It needs a file there named package.json at the root level. You can just create one and put it there. package.json at root The contents of that file should be this: { "name": "example-project", "version": "0.1.0", "devDependencies": { "grunt": "~0.4.1" } } Feel free to change the name of the project and the version, but the devDependencies thing needs to be in there just like that. This is how Node does dependencies. Node has a package manager called NPM (Node packaged modules) for managing Node dependencies (like a gem for Ruby if you’re familiar with that). You could even think of it a bit like a plug-in for WordPress. Once that package.json file is in place, go to the terminal and navigate to your folder. Terminal rubes like me do it like this: Terminal rube changing directories Then run the command: npm install After you’ve run that command, a new folder called node_modules will show up in your project. Example of node_modules folder The other files you see there, README.md and LICENSE are there because I’m going to put this project on GitHub and that’s just standard fare there. The last installation step is to install the Grunt CLI (command line interface). That’s what makes the grunt command in the terminal work. Without it, typing grunt will net you a “Command Not Found”-style error. It is a separate installation for efficiency reasons. Otherwise, if you had ten projects you’d have ten copies of Grunt CLI. This is a one-liner again. Just run this command in the terminal: npm install -g grunt-cli You should close and reopen the terminal as well. That’s a generic good practice to make sure things are working right. Kinda like restarting your computer after you install a new application was in the olden days. Let’s make Grunt concatenate some files Perhaps in our project there are three separate JavaScript files: jquery.js – The library we are using. carousel.js – A jQuery plug-in we are using. global.js – Our authored JavaScript file where we configure and call the plug-in. In production, we would concatenate all those files together for performance reasons (one request is better than three). We need to tell Grunt to do this for us. But wait. Grunt actually doesn’t do anything all by itself. Remember Grunt is a task runner. The tasks themselves we will need to add. We actually haven’t set up Grunt to do anything yet, so let’s do that. The official Grunt plug-in for concatenating files is grunt-contrib-concat. You can read about it on GitHub if you want, but all you have to do to use it on your project is to run this command from the terminal (it will henceforth go without saying that you need to run the given commands from your project’s root folder): npm install grunt-contrib-concat --save-dev A neat thing about doing it this way: your package.json file will automatically be updated to include this new dependency. Open it up and check it out. You’ll see a new line: "grunt-contrib-concat": "~0.3.0" Now we’re ready to use it. To use it we need to start configuring Grunt and telling it what to do. You tell Grunt what to do via a configuration file named Gruntfile.js2 Just like our package.json file, our Gruntfile.js has a very special format that must be just right. I wouldn’t worry about what every word of this means. Just check out the format: module.exports = function(grunt) { // 1. All configuration goes here grunt.initConfig({ pkg: grunt.file.readJSON('package.json'), concat: { // 2. Configuration for concatinating files goes here. } }); // 3. Where we tell Grunt we plan to use this plug-in. grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-contrib-concat'); // 4. Where we tell Grunt what to do when we type "grunt" into the terminal. grunt.registerTask('default', ['concat']); }; Now we need to create that configuration. The documentation can be overwhelming. Let’s focus just on the very simple usage example. Remember, we have three JavaScript files we’re trying to concatenate. We’ll list file paths to them under src in an array of file paths (as quoted strings) and then we’ll list a destination file as dest. The destination file doesn’t have to exist yet. It will be created when this task runs and squishes all the files together. Both our jquery.js and carousel.js files are libraries. We most likely won’t be touching them. So, for organization, we’ll keep them in a /js/libs/ folder. Our global.js file is where we write our own code, so that will be right in the /js/ folder. Now let’s tell Grunt to find all those files and squish them together into a single file named production.js, named that way to indicate it is for use on our real live website. concat: { dist: { src: [ 'js/libs/*.js', // All JS in the libs folder 'js/global.js' // This specific file ], dest: 'js/build/production.js', } } Note: throughout this article there will be little chunks of configuration code like above. The intention is to focus in on the important bits, but it can be confusing at first to see how a particular chunk fits into the larger file. If you ever get confused and need more context, refer to the complete file. With that concat configuration in place, head over to the terminal, run the command: grunt and watch it happen! production.js will be created and will be a perfect concatenation of our three files. This was a big aha! moment for me. Feel the power course through your veins. Let’s do more things! Let’s make Grunt minify that JavaScript We have so much prep work done now, adding new tasks for Grunt to run is relatively easy. We just need to: Find a Grunt plug-in to do what we want Learn the configuration style of that plug-in Write that configuration to work with our project The official plug-in for minifying code is grunt-contrib-uglify. Just like we did last time, we just run an NPM command to install it: npm install grunt-contrib-uglify --save-dev Then we alter our Gruntfile.js to load the plug-in: grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-contrib-uglify'); Then we configure it: uglify: { build: { src: 'js/build/production.js', dest: 'js/build/production.min.js' } } Let’s update that default task to also run minification: grunt.registerTask('default', ['concat', 'uglify']); Super-similar to the concatenation set-up, right? Run grunt at the terminal and you’ll get some deliciously minified JavaScript: Minified JavaScript That production.min.js file is what we would load up for use in our index.html file. Let’s make Grunt optimize our images We’ve got this down pat now. Let’s just go through the motions. The official image minification plug-in for Grunt is grunt-contrib-imagemin. Install it: npm install grunt-contrib-imagemin --save-dev Register it in the Gruntfile.js: grunt.loadNpmTasks('grunt-contrib-imagemin'); Configure it: imagemin: { dynamic: { files: [{ expand: true, cwd: 'images/', src: ['**/*.{png,jpg,gif}'], dest: 'images/build/' }] } } Make sure it runs: grunt.registerTask('default', ['concat', 'uglify', 'imagemin']); Run grunt and watch that gorgeous squishification happen: Squished images Gotta love performance increases for nearly zero effort. Let’s get a little bit smarter and automate What we’ve done so far is awesome and incredibly useful. But there are a couple of things we can get smarter on and make things easier on ourselves, as well as Grunt: Run these tasks automatically when they should Run only the tasks needed at the time For instance: Concatenate and minify JavaScript when JavaScript changes Optimize images when a new image is added or an existing one changes We can do this by watching files. We can tell Grunt to keep an eye out for changes to specific places and, when changes happen in those places, run specific tasks. Watching happens through the official grunt-contrib-watch plugin. I’ll let you install it. It is exactly the same process as the last few plug-ins we installed. We configure it by giving watch specific files (or folders, or both) to watch. By watch, I mean monitor for file changes, file deletions or file additions. Then we tell it what tasks we want to run when it detects a change. We want to run our concatenation and minification when anything in the /js/ folder changes. When it does, we should run the JavaScript-related tasks. And when things happen elsewhere, we should not run the JavaScript-related tasks, because that would be irrelevant. So: watch: { scripts: { files: ['js/*.js'], tasks: ['concat', 'uglify'], options: { spawn: false, }, } } Feels pretty comfortable at this point, hey? The only weird bit there is the spawn thing. And you know what? I don’t even really know what that does. From what I understand from the documentation it is the smart default. That’s real-world development. Just leave it alone if it’s working and if it’s not, learn more. Note: Isn’t it frustrating when something that looks so easy in a tutorial doesn’t seem to work for you? If you can’t get Grunt to run after making a change, it’s very likely to be a syntax error in your Gruntfile.js. That might look like this in the terminal: Errors running Grunt Usually Grunt is pretty good about letting you know what happened, so be sure to read the error message. In this case, a syntax error in the form of a missing comma foiled me. Adding the comma allowed it to run. Let’s make Grunt do our preprocessing The last thing on our list from the top of the article is using Sass — yet another task Grunt is well-suited to run for us. But wait? Isn’t Sass technically in Ruby? Indeed it is. There is a version of Sass that will run in Node and thus not add an additional dependency to our project, but it’s not quite up-to-snuff with the main Ruby project. So, we’ll use the official grunt-contrib-sass plug-in which just assumes you have Sass installed on your machine. If you don’t, follow the command line instructions. What’s neat about Sass is that it can do concatenation and minification all by itself. So for our little project we can just have it compile our main global.scss file: sass: { dist: { options: { style: 'compressed' }, files: { 'css/build/global.css': 'css/global.scss' } } } We wouldn’t want to manually run this task. We already have the watch plug-in installed, so let’s use it! Within the watch configuration, we’ll add another subtask: css: { files: ['css/*.scss'], tasks: ['sass'], options: { spawn: false, } } That’ll do it. Now, every time we change any of our Sass files, the CSS will automaticaly be updated. Let’s take this one step further (it’s absolutely worth it) and add LiveReload. With LiveReload, you won’t have to go back to your browser and refresh the page. Page refreshes happen automatically and in the case of CSS, new styles are injected without a page refresh (handy for heavily state-based websites). It’s very easy to set up, since the LiveReload ability is built into the watch plug-in. We just need to: Install the browser plug-in Add to the top of the watch configuration: . watch: { options: { livereload: true, }, scripts: { /* etc */ Restart the browser and click the LiveReload icon to activate it. Update some Sass and watch it change the page automatically. Live reloading browser Yum. Prefer a video? If you’re the type that likes to learn by watching, I’ve made a screencast to accompany this article that I’ve published over on CSS-Tricks: First Moments with Grunt Leveling up As you might imagine, there is a lot of leveling up you can do with your build process. It surely could be a full time job in some organizations. Some hardcore devops nerds might scoff at the simplistic setup we have going here. But I’d advise them to slow their roll. Even what we have done so far is tremendously valuable. And don’t forget this is all free and open source, which is amazing. You might level up by adding more useful tasks: Running your CSS through Autoprefixer (A+ Would recommend) instead of a preprocessor add-ons. Writing and running JavaScript unit tests (example: Jasmine). Build your image sprites and SVG icons automatically (example: Grunticon). Start a server, so you can link to assets with proper file paths and use services that require a real URL like TypeKit and such, as well as remove the need for other tools that do this, like MAMP. Check for code problems with HTML-Inspector, CSS Lint, or JS Hint. Have new CSS be automatically injected into the browser when it ever changes. Help you commit or push to a version control repository like GitHub. Add version numbers to your assets (cache busting). Help you deploy to a staging or production environment (example: DPLOY). You might level up by simply understanding more about Grunt itself: Read Grunt Boilerplate by Mark McDonnell. Read Grunt Tips and Tricks by Nicolas Bevacqua. Organize your Gruntfile.js by splitting it up into smaller files. Check out other people’s and projects’ Gruntfile.js. Learn more about Grunt by digging into its source and learning about its API. Let’s share I think some group sharing would be a nice way to wrap this up. If you are installing Grunt for the first time (or remember doing that), be especially mindful of little frustrating things you experience(d) but work(ed) through. Those are the things we should share in the comments here. That way we have this safe place and useful resource for working through those confusing moments without the embarrassment. We’re all in this thing together! 1 Maybe someday someone will make a beautiful Grunt app for your operating system of choice. But I’m not sure that day will come. The configuration of the plug-ins is the important part of using Grunt. Each plug-in is a bit different, depending on what it does. That means a uniquely considered UI for every single plug-in, which is a long shot. Perhaps a decent middleground is this Grunt DevTools Chrome add-on. 2 Gruntfile.js is often referred to as Gruntfile in documentation and examples. Don’t literally name it Gruntfile — it won’t work. 2013 Chris Coyier chriscoyier 2013-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/grunt-is-not-weird-and-hard/ code
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, right? So, let’s start at the beginning: creating a simple visual. For this I’m going to create a CSS animation. It’s just a funky i element with the opacity being changed to make it flash. See the Pen Creating a light by Rumyra (@Rumyra) on CodePen A note about prefixes: I’ve left them out of the code examples in this post to make them easier to read. Please be aware that you may need them. I find a great resource to find out if you do is caniuse.com. You can also check out all the code for the examples in this article Start the music Well, that’s pretty easy so far. Next up: loading in some sound. For this we’ll use the Web Audio API. The Web Audio API is based around the concept of nodes. You have a source node: the sound you are loading in; a destination node: usually the device’s speakers; and any number of processing nodes in between. All this processing that goes on with the audio is sandboxed within the AudioContext. So, let’s start by initialising our audio context. var contextClass = window.AudioContext; if (contextClass) { //web audio api available. var audioContext = new contextClass(); } else { //web audio api unavailable //warn user to upgrade/change browser } Now let’s load our sound file into the new context we created with an XMLHttpRequest. function loadSound() { //set audio file url var audioFileUrl = '/octave.ogg'; //create new request var request = new XMLHttpRequest(); request.open("GET", audioFileUrl, true); request.responseType = "arraybuffer"; request.onload = function() { //take from http request and decode into buffer context.decodeAudioData(request.response, function(buffer) { audioBuffer = buffer; }); } request.send(); } Phew! Now we’ve loaded in some sound! There are plenty of things we can do with the Web Audio API: increase volume; add filters; spatialisation. If you want to dig deeper, the O’Reilly Web Audio API book by Boris Smus is available to read online free. All we really want to do for this proof of concept, however, is analyse the sound data. To do this we really need to know what data we have. Learning the steps Let’s take a minute to step back and remember our school days and science class. I’m sure if I drew a picture of a sound wave, we would all start nodding our heads. The sound you hear is caused by pressure differences in the particles in the air. Sound pushes these particles together, causing vibrations. Amplitude is basically strength of pressure. A simple example of change of amplitude is when you increase the volume on your stereo and the output wave increases in size. This is great when everything is analogue, but the waveform varies continuously and it’s not suitable for digital processing: there’s an infinite set of values. For digital processing, we need discrete numbers. We have to sample the waveform at set time intervals, and record data such as amplitude and frequency. Luckily for us, just the fact we have a digital sound file means all this hard work is done for us. What we’re doing in the code above is piping that data in the audio context. All we need to do now is access it. We can do this with the Web Audio API’s analysing functionality. Just pop in an analysing node before we connect the source to its destination node. function createAnalyser(source) { //create analyser node analyser = audioContext.createAnalyser(); //connect to source source.connect(analyzer); //pipe to speakers analyser.connect(audioContext.destination); } The data I’m really interested in here is frequency. Later we could look into amplitude or time, but for now I’m going to stick with frequency. The analyser node gives us frequency data via the getFrequencyByteData method. Don’t forget to count! To collect the data from the getFrequencyByteData method, we need to pass in an empty array (a JavaScript typed array is ideal). But how do we know how many items the array will need when we create it? This is really up to us and how high the resolution of frequencies we want to analyse is. Remember we talked about sampling the waveform; this happens at a certain rate (sample rate) which you can find out via the audio context’s sampleRate attribute. This is good to bear in mind when you’re thinking about your resolution of frequencies. var sampleRate = audioContext.sampleRate; Let’s say your file sample rate is 48,000, making the maximum frequency in the file 24,000Hz (thanks to a wonderful theorem from Dr Harry Nyquist, the maximum frequency in the file is always half the sample rate). The analyser array we’re creating will contain frequencies up to this point. This is ideal as the human ear hears the range 0–20,000hz. So, if we create an array which has 2,400 items, each frequency recorded will be 10Hz apart. However, we are going to create an array which is half the size of the FFT (fast Fourier transform), which in this case is 2,048 which is the default. You can set it via the fftSize property. //set our FFT size analyzer.fftSize = 2048; //create an empty array with 1024 items var frequencyData = new Uint8Array(1024); So, with an array of 1,024 items, and a frequency range of 24,000Hz, we know each item is 24,000 ÷ 1,024 = 23.44Hz apart. The thing is, we also want that array to be updated constantly. We could use the setInterval or setTimeout methods for this; however, I prefer the new and shiny requestAnimationFrame. function update() { //constantly getting feedback from data requestAnimationFrame(update); analyzer.getByteFrequencyData(frequencyData); } Putting it all together Sweet sticks! Now we have an array of frequencies from the sound we loaded, updating as the sound plays. Now we want that data to trigger our animation from earlier. We can easily pause and run our CSS animation from JavaScript: element.style.webkitAnimationPlayState = "paused"; element.style.webkitAnimationPlayState = "running"; Unfortunately, this may not be ideal as our animation might be a whole heap longer than just a flashing light. We may want to target specific points within that animation to have it stop and start in a visually pleasing way and perhaps not smack bang in the middle. There is no really easy way to do this at the moment as Zach Saucier explains in this wonderful article. It takes some jiggery pokery with setInterval to try to ascertain how far through the CSS animation you are in percentage terms. This seems a bit much for our proof of concept, so let’s backtrack a little. We know by the animation we’ve created which CSS properties we want to change. This is pretty easy to do directly with JavaScript. element.style.opacity = "1"; element.style.opacity = "0.2"; So let’s start putting it all together. For this example I want to trigger each light as a different frequency plays. For this, I’ll loop through the HTML elements and change the opacity style if the frequency gain goes over a certain threshold. //get light elements var lights = document.getElementsByTagName('i'); var totalLights = lights.length; for (var i=0; i<totalLights; i++) { //get frequencyData key var freqDataKey = i*8; //if gain is over threshold for that frequency animate light if (frequencyData[freqDataKey] > 160){ //start animation on element lights[i].style.opacity = "1"; } else { lights[i].style.opacity = "0.2"; } } See all the code in action here. I suggest viewing in a modern browser :) Awesome! It is true — we can VJ in our browser! Let’s dance! So, let’s start to expand this simple example. First, I feel the need to make lots of lights, rather than just a few. Also, maybe we should try a sound file more suited to gigs or clubs. Check it out! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited — that’s just a bit of HTML, CSS and JavaScript! The other thing to think about, of course, is the sound that you would get at a venue. We don’t want to load sound from a file, but rather pick up on what is playing in real time. The easiest way to do this, I’ve found, is to capture what my laptop’s mic is picking up and piping that back into the audio context. We can do this by using getUserMedia. Let’s include this in this demo. If you make some noise while viewing the demo, the lights will start to flash. And relax :) There you have it. Sit back, play some music and enjoy the Winamp like experience in front of you. So, where do we go from here? I already have a wealth of ideas. We haven’t started with canvas, SVG or the 3-D features of CSS. There are other things we can detect from the audio as well. And yes, OK, it’s questionable whether the browser is the best environment for this. For one, I’m using a whole bunch of nonsensical HTML elements (maybe each animation could be held within a web component in the future). But hey, it’s fun, and it looks cool and sometimes I think it’s OK to just dance. 2013 Ruth John ruthjohn 2013-12-02T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/make-your-browser-dance/ code
23 Animating Vectors with SVG It is almost 2014 and fifteen years ago the W3C started to develop a web-based scalable vector graphics (SVG) format. As web technologies go, this one is pretty old and well entrenched. See the Pen yJflC by Drew McLellan (@drewm) on CodePen Embed not working on your device? Try direct. Unlike rasterized images, SVG files will stay crisp and sharp at any resolution. With high-DPI phones, tablets and monitors, all those rasterized icons are starting to look a bit old and blocky. There are several options to get simpler, decorative pieces to render smoothly and respond to various device widths, shapes and sizes. Symbol fonts are one option; the other is SVG. I’m a big fan of SVG. SVG is an XML format, which means it is possible to write by hand or to script. The most common way to create an SVG file is through the use of various drawing applications like Illustrator, Inkscape or Sketch. All of them open and save the SVG format. But, if SVG is so great, why doesn’t it get more attention? The simple answer is that for a long time it wasn’t well supported, so no one touched the technology. SVG’s adoption has always been hampered by browser support, but that’s not the case any more. Every modern browser (at least three versions back) supports SVG. Even IE9. Although the browsers support SVG, it is implemented in many different ways. SVG in HTML Some browsers allow you to embed SVG right in the HTML: the <svg> element. Treating SVG as a first-class citizen works — sometimes. Another way to embed SVG is via the <img> element; using the src attribute, you can refer to an SVG file. Again, this only works sometimes and leaves you in a tight space if you need to have a fallback for older browsers. The most common solution is to use the <object> element, with the data attribute referencing the SVG file. When a browser does not support this, it falls back to the content inside the <object>. This could be a rasterized fallback <img>. This method gets you the best of both worlds: a nice vector image with an alternative rasterized image for browsers that don’t support SVG. The downside is that you need to manage both formats, and some browsers will download both the SVG and the rasterized version, becoming a performance problem. Alexey Ten came up with a brilliant little trick that uses inline SVG combined with an SVG <image> element. This has an SVG href pointing to the vector SVG representation and a src attribute to the rasterized version. Older browsers will rewrite the <image> element as <img> and use the rasterized src attribute, but modern browsers will show the vector SVG. <svg width="96" height="96"> <image xlink:href="svg.svg" src="svg.png" width="96" height="96"/> </svg> It is a great workaround for most situations. You will have to determine the browsers you want or need to support and consider performance issues to decide which method is best for you. So it can be used in HTML. Why? There are two compelling reasons why vector graphics in the form of icons and symbols are going to be important on the web. With higher resolution screens, going from 72dpi to 200, 300, even over 400dpi, your rasterized icons are looking a little too blocky. As we zoom and print, we expect the visuals on the site to also stay smooth and crisp. The other main reason vector graphics are useful is scaling. As responsive websites become the norm, we need a way to dynamically readjust the heights, widths and styles of various elements. SVG handles this perfectly, since vectors remain smooth when changing size. SVG files are text-based, so they’re small and can be gzipped nicely. There are also techniques for creating SVG sprites to further squeeze out performance gains. But SVG really shines when you begin to couple it with JavaScript. Since SVG elements are part of the DOM, they can be interacted with just like any other element you are used to. The folks at Vox Media had an ingenious little trick with their SVG for a Playstation and Xbox One reviews. I’ve used the same technique for the 24 ways example. Vox Media spent a lot of time creating SVG line art of the two consoles, but once in place the artwork scaled and resized beautifully. They still had another trick up their sleeves. In their example, they knew each console was line art, so they used SVG’s line dash property to simulate the lines being drawn by animating the growth of the line by small percentage increments until the lines were complete. This is a great example of a situation where the alternatives wouldn’t be as straightforward to implement. Using an animated GIF would create a heavy file since it would need to contain all the frames of the animation at a large size to permit scaling; even then, smooth aliasing would be lost. canvas and plenty of JavaScript would be another alternative, but this is a rasterized format. It would need be redrawn at each scale, which is certainly possible, but smoothness would be lost when zooming or printing. The HTML, SVG and JavaScript for this example is less than 4KB! Let’s have a quick look at the code: <script> var current_frame = 0; var total_frames = 60; var path = new Array(); var length = new Array(); for(var i=0; i<4;i++){ path[i] = document.getElementById('i'+i); l = path[i].getTotalLength(); length[i] = l; path[i].style.strokeDasharray = l + ' ' + l; path[i].style.strokeDashoffset = l; } var handle = 0; var draw = function() { var progress = current_frame/total_frames; if (progress > 1) { window.cancelAnimationFrame(handle); } else { current_frame++; for(var j=0; j<path.length;j++){ path[j].style.strokeDashoffset = Math.floor(length[j] * (1 - progress)); } handle = window.requestAnimationFrame(draw); } }; draw(); </script> First, we need to initialize a few variables to set the current frame, the number of frames, how fast the animation will run, and we get each of the paths based on their IDs. With those paths, we set the dash and dash offset. path[i].style.strokeDasharray = l + ' ' + l; path[i].style.strokeDashoffset = l; We start the line as a dash, which effectively makes it blank or invisible. Next, we move to the draw() function. This is where the magic happens. We want to increment the frame to move us forward in the animation and check it’s not finished. If it continues, we then take a percentage of the distance based on the frame and then set the dash offset to this new percentage. This gives the illusion that the line is being drawn. Then we have an animation callback, which starts the draw process over again. That’s it! It will work with any SVG <path> element that you can draw. Libraries to get you started If you aren’t sure where to start with SVG, there are several libraries out there to help. They also abstract all browser compatibility issues to make your life easier. Raphaël Snap.svg svg.js You can also get most vector applications to export SVG. This means that you can continue your normal workflows, but instead of flattening the image as a PNG or bringing it over to Photoshop to rasterize, you can keep all your hard work as vectors and reap the benefits of SVG. 2013 Brian Suda briansuda 2013-12-07T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2013/animating-vectors-with-svg/  
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 areas, such as base maps and data. You’ve seen examples of alternative base maps when you use Google Maps as Google provides both satellite imagery and road maps, both of which are forms of base maps. They are used to provide context for the real world, or any other world for that matter. A marker on a blank page is useless. The tiles are representations of the physical; they do not have to be photographic imagery to provide context. This means you can design the map itself. The easiest way to conceive this is by comparing Google’s road maps with Ordnance Survey road maps. Everything about the two maps is different: the colours, the label fonts and the symbols used. Yet they still provide the exact same context (other maps may provide different context such as terrain contours). Comparison of Google Maps (top) and the Ordnance Survey (bottom). Carefully designing the base map tiles is as important as any other part of the website. The most obvious, yet often overlooked, aspect are aesthetics and branding. Maps could fit in with the rest of the site; for example, by matching the colours and line weights, they can enhance the full design rather than inhibiting it. You’re also able to define the exact purpose of the map, so instead of showing everything you could specify which symbols or labels to show and hide. I’ve not done any real research on the accessibility of base maps but, having looked at some of the available options, I think a focus on the typography of labels and the colour of the various elements is crucial. While you can choose to hide labels, quite often they provide the data required to make sense of the map. Therefore, make sure each zoom level is not too cluttered and shows enough to give context. Also be as careful when choosing the typeface as you are in any other design work. As for colour, you need to pay closer attention to issues like colour-blindness when using colour to convey information. Quite often a spectrum of colour will be used to show data, or to show the topography, so you need to be aware that some people struggle to see colour differences within a spectrum. A nice example of a customised base map can be found on Michael K Owens’ check-in pages: One of Michael K Owens’ check-in pages. As I’ve already mentioned, tiles are not just for base maps: they are also for data. In the screenshot below you can see how Plymouth Marine Laboratory uses tiles to show data with a spectrum of colour. A map from the Marine Operational Ecology data portal, showing data of adult cod in the North Sea. Technical You’re probably wondering how to design the base layers. I will briefly explain the concepts here and give you tools to use at the end of the article. If you’re worried about the time it takes to design the maps, don’t be – you can automate most of it. You don’t need to manually draw each tile for the entire world! We’ve learned the importance of web standards the hard way, so you’ll be glad (and I won’t have to explain the advantages) of the standard for web mapping from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) called the Web Map Service (WMS). You can use conventional file formats for the imagery but you need a way to query for the particular tiles to show for the area and zoom level, that is what WMS does. Features Tiles are great for covering large areas but sometimes you need specific smaller areas. We call these features and they usually consist of polygons, lines or points. Examples include postcode boundaries and routes between places, or even something more dynamic such as borders of nations changing over time. Showing features on a map presents interesting design challenges. If the colour or shape conveys some kind of data beyond geographical boundaries then it needs to be made obvious. This is actually really hard, without building complicated user interfaces. For example, in the image below, is it obvious that there is a relationship between the colours? Does it need a way of showing what the colours represent? Choropleth map showing ranked postcode areas, using ViziCities. Features are represented by means of lines or colors; and the effective use of lines or colors requires more than knowledge of the subject – it requires artistic judgement. Erwin Josephus Raisz, cartographer (1893–1968) Where lots of boundaries are small and close together (such as a high street or shopping centre) will it be obvious where the boundaries are and what they represent? When designing maps, the hardest challenge is dealing with how the data is represented and how it is understood by the user. Technical As you probably gathered, we use WMS for tiles and another standard called the web feature service (WFS) for specific features. I need to stress that the difference between the two is that WMS is for tiling, whereas WFS is for specific features. Both can use similar file formats but should be used for their particular use cases. You may be wondering why you can’t just use a vector format such as KML, GeoJSON (or even SVG) – and you can – but the issue is the same as for WMS: you need a way to query the data to get the correct area and zoom level. User interface There is of course never a correct way to design an interface as there are so many different factors to take into consideration for each individual project. Maps can be used in a variety of ways, to provide simple information about directions or for complex visualisations to explain large amounts of data. I would like to just touch on matters that need to be taken into account when working with maps. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are so many Google Maps on the web that people seem to think that its UI is the only way you can use a map. To some degree we don’t want to change that, as people know how to use them; but does every map require a zoom slider or base map toggle? In fact, does the user need to zoom at all? The answer to that one is generally yes, zooming does provide more context to where the map is zoomed in on. In some cases you will need to let users choose what goes on the map (such as data layers or directions), so how do they show and hide the data? Does a simple drop-down box work, or do you need search? Google’s base map toggle is quite nice since it doesn’t offer many options yet provides very different contexts and styling. It isn’t until we get to this point that we realise just plonking a quick Google map is really quite ridiculous, especially when compared to the amount of effort we make in other areas such as colour, typography or how the CSS is written. Each of these is important but we need to make sure the whole site is designed, and that includes the maps as much as any other content. Putting it into practice I could ramble on for ages about what we can do to customise maps to fit a site’s personality and correctly represent the data. I wanted to focus on concepts and standards because tools constantly change and it is never good to just rely on a tool to do the work. That said, there are a large variety of tools that will help you turn these concepts into reality. This is not a comparison; I just want to show you a few of the many options you have for maps on the web. Google OK, I’ve been quite critical so far about Google Maps but that is only because there is such a large amount of the default maps across the web. You can style them almost as much as anything else. They may not allow you to use custom WMS layers but Google Maps does have its own version, called styled maps. Using an array of map features (in the sense of roads and lakes and landmarks rather than the kind WFS is used for), you can style the base map with JavaScript. It even lets you toggle visibility, which helps to avoid the issue of too much clutter on the map. As well as lacking WMS, it doesn’t support WFS, but it does support GeoJSON and KML so you can still show the features on the map. You should also check out Google Maps Engine (the new version of My Maps), which provides an interface for creating more advanced maps with a selection of different base maps. A premium version is available, essentially for creating map-based visualisations, and it provides a step up from the main Google Maps offering. A useful feature in some cases is that it gives you access to many datasets. Leaflet You have probably seen Leaflet before. It isn’t quite as popular as Google Maps but it is definitely used often and for good reason. Leaflet is a lightweight open source JavaScript library. It is not a service so you don’t have to worry about API throttling and longevity. It gives you two options for tiling, the ability to use WMS, or to directly get the file using variables in the filename such as /{z}/{x}/{y}.png. I would recommend using WMS over dynamic file names because it is a standard, but the ability to use variables in a file name could be useful in some situations. Leaflet has a strong community and a well-documented API. Mapbox As a freemium service, Mapbox may not be perfect for every use case but it’s definitely worth looking into. The service offers incredible customisation tools as well as lots of data sources and hosting for the maps. It also provides plenty of libraries for the various platforms, so you don’t have to only use the maps on the web. Mapbox is a service, though its map design tool is open source. Mapbox Studio is a vector-only version of their previous tool called Tilemill. Earlier I wrote about how typography and colour are as important to maps as they are to the rest of a website; if you thought, “Yes, but how on earth can I design those parts of a map?” then this is the tool for you. It is incredibly easy to use. Essentially each map has a stylesheet. If you do not want to open a paid-for Mapbox account, then you can export the tiles (as PNG, SVG etc.) to use with other map tools. OpenLayers After a long wait, OpenLayers 3 has been released. It is similar to Leaflet in that it is a library not a service, but it has a much broader scope. During the last year I worked on the GIS portal at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (which I used to show the data tiles earlier), it essentially used OpenLayers 2 to create a web-based geographic information system, taking a large amount of data and permitting analysis (such as graphs) without downloading entire datasets and complicated software. OpenLayers 3 has improved greatly on the previous version in both performance and accessibility. It is the ideal tool for complex map-based web apps, though it can be used for the simple use cases too. OpenStreetMap I couldn’t write an article about maps on the web without at least mentioning OpenStreetMap. It is the place to go for crowd-sourced data about any location, with complete road maps and a strong API. ViziCities The newest project on this list is ViziCities by Robin Hawkes and Peter Smart. It is a open source 3-D visualisation tool, currently in the very early stages of development. The basic example shows 3-D buildings around the world using OpenStreetMap data. Robin has used it to create some incredible demos such as real-time London underground trains, and planes landing at an airport. Edward Greer and I are currently working on using ViziCities to show ideal housing areas based on particular personas. We chose it because the 3-D aspect gives us interesting possibilities for the data we are able to visualise (such as bar charts on the actual map instead of in the UI). Despite not being a completely stable, fully featured system, ViziCities is worth taking a look at for some use cases and is definitely going to go from strength to strength. So there you have it – a whistle-stop tour of how maps can be customised. Now please stop plonking in maps without thinking about it and design them as you design the rest of your content. 2014 Shane Hudson shanehudson 2014-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/putting-design-on-the-map/ design
42 An Overview of SVG Sprite Creation Techniques SVG can be used as an icon system to replace icon fonts. The reasons why SVG makes for a superior icon system are numerous, but we won’t be going over them in this article. If you don’t use SVG icons and are interested in knowing why you may want to use them, I recommend you check out “Inline SVG vs Icon Fonts” by Chris Coyier – it covers the most important aspects of both systems and compares them with each other to help you make a better decision about which system to choose. Once you’ve made the decision to use SVG instead of icon fonts, you’ll need to think of the best way to optimise the delivery of your icons, and ways to make the creation and use of icons faster. Just like bitmaps, we can create image sprites with SVG – they don’t look or work exactly alike, but the basic concept is pretty much the same. There are several ways to create SVG sprites, and this article will give you an overview of three of them. While we’re at it, we’re going to take a look at some of the available tools used to automate sprite creation and fallback for us. Prerequisites The content of this article assumes you are familiar with SVG. If you’ve never worked with SVG before, you may want to look at some of the introductory tutorials covering SVG syntax, structure and embedding techniques. I recommend the following: SVG basics: Using SVG. Structure: Structuring, Grouping, and Referencing in SVG — The <g>, <use>, <defs> and <symbol> Elements. We’ll mention <use> and <symbol> quite a bit in this article. Embedding techniques: Styling and Animating SVGs with CSS. The article covers several topics, but the section linked focuses on embedding techniques. A compendium of SVG resources compiled by Chris Coyier — contains resources to almost every aspect of SVG you might be interested in. And if you’re completely new to the concept of spriting, Chris Coyier’s CSS Sprites explains all about them. Another important SVG feature is the viewBox attribute. For some of the techniques, knowing your way around this attribute is not required, but it’s definitely more useful if you understand – even if just vaguely – how it works. The last technique mentioned in the article requires that you do know the attribute’s syntax and how to use it. To learn all about viewBox, you can refer to my blog post about SVG coordinate systems. With the prerequisites in place, let’s move on to spriting SVGs! Before you sprite… In order to create an SVG sprite with your icons, you’ll of course need to have these icons ready for use. Some spriting tools require that you place your icons in a folder to which a certain spriting process is to be applied. As such, for all of the upcoming sections we’ll work on the assumption that our SVG icons are placed in a folder named SVG. Each icon is an individual .svg file. You’ll need to make sure each icon is well-prepared and optimised for use – make sure you’ve cleaned up the code by running it through one of the optimisation tools or processes available (or doing it manually if it’s not tedious). After prepping the icon files and placing them in a folder, we’re ready to create our SVG sprite. HTML inline SVG sprites Since SVG is XML code, it can be embedded inline in an HTML document as a code island using the <svg> element. Chris Coyier wrote about this technique first on CSS-Tricks. The embedded SVG will serve as a container for our icons and is going to be the actual sprite we’re going to use. So we’ll start by including the SVG in our document. <!DOCTYPE html> <!-- HTML document stuff --> <svg style="display:none;"> <!-- icons here --> </svg> <!-- other document stuff --> </html> Next, we’re going to place the icons inside the <svg>. Each icon will be wrapped in a <symbol> element we can then reference and use elsewhere in the page using the SVG <use> element. The <symbol> element has many benefits, and we’re using it because it allows us to define a symbol (which is a convenient markup for an icon) without rendering that symbol on the screen. The elements defined inside <symbol> will only be rendered when they are referenced – or called – by the <use> element. Moreover, <symbol> can have its own viewBox attribute, which makes it possible to control the positioning of its content inside its container at any time. Before we move on, I’d like to shed some light on the style="display:none;" part of the snippet above. Without setting the display of the SVG to none, and even though its contents are not rendered on the page, the SVG will still take up space in the page, resulting in a big empty area. In order to avoid that, we’re hiding the SVG entirely with CSS. Now, suppose we have a Twitter icon in the icons folder. twitter.svg might look something like this: <!-- twitter.svg --> <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> <!DOCTYPE svg PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD SVG 1.1//EN" "http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/1.1/DTD/svg11.dtd"> <svg version="1.1" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" width="32" height="32" viewBox="0 0 32 32"> <path d="M32 6.076c-1.177 0.522-2.443 0.875-3.771 1.034 1.355-0.813 2.396-2.099 2.887-3.632-1.269 0.752-2.674 1.299-4.169 1.593-1.198-1.276-2.904-2.073-4.792-2.073-3.626 0-6.565 2.939-6.565 6.565 0 0.515 0.058 1.016 0.17 1.496-5.456-0.274-10.294-2.888-13.532-6.86-0.565 0.97-0.889 2.097-0.889 3.301 0 2.278 1.159 4.287 2.921 5.465-1.076-0.034-2.088-0.329-2.974-0.821-0.001 0.027-0.001 0.055-0.001 0.083 0 3.181 2.263 5.834 5.266 6.437-0.551 0.15-1.131 0.23-1.73 0.23-0.423 0-0.834-0.041-1.235-0.118 0.835 2.608 3.26 4.506 6.133 4.559-2.247 1.761-5.078 2.81-8.154 2.81-0.53 0-1.052-0.031-1.566-0.092 2.905 1.863 6.356 2.95 10.064 2.95 12.076 0 18.679-10.004 18.679-18.68 0-0.285-0.006-0.568-0.019-0.849 1.283-0.926 2.396-2.082 3.276-3.398z" fill="#000000"></path> </svg> We don’t need the root svg element, so we’ll strip the code and only keep the parts that make up the Twitter icon’s shape, which in this example is just the <path> element.Let’s drop that into the sprite container like so: <svg style="display:none;"> <symbol id="twitter-icon" viewBox="0 0 32 32"> <path d="M32 6.076c-1.177 …" fill="#000000"></path> </symbol> <!-- remaining icons here --> <symbol id="instagram-icon" viewBox="0 0 32 32"> <!-- icon contents --> </symbol> <!-- etc. --> </svg> Repeat for the other icons. The value of the <symbol> element’s viewBox attribute depends on the size of the SVG. You don’t need to know how the viewBox works to use it in this case. Its value is made up of four parts: the first two will almost always be “0 0”; the second two will be equal to the size of the icon. For example, our Twitter icon is 32px by 32px (see twitter.svg above), so the viewBox value is “0 0 32 32”. That said, it is certainly useful to understand how the viewBox works – it can help you troubleshoot SVG sometimes and gives you better control over it, allowing you to scale, position and even crop SVGs manually without having to resort to an editor. My blog post explains all about the viewBox attribute and its related attributes. Once you have your SVG sprite ready, you can display the icons anywhere on the page by referencing them using the SVG <use> element: <svg class="twitter-icon"> <use xlink:href="#twitter-icon"></use> <svg> And that’s all there is to it! HTML-inline SVG sprites are simple to create and use, but when you have a lot of icons (and the more icon sets you create) it can easily become daunting if you have to manually transfer the icons into the <svg>. Fortunately, you don’t have to do that. Fabrice Weinberg created a Grunt plugin called grunt-svgstore which takes the icons in your SVG folder and generates the SVG sprites for you; all you have to do is just drop the sprites into your page and use the icons like we did earlier. This technique works in all browsers supporting SVG. There seems to be a bug in Safari on iOS which causes the icons not to show up when the SVG sprite is defined at the bottom of the document after the <use> references to the icons, so it’s safest to include the sprite before you use the icons until this bug is fixed. This technique has one disadvantage: the SVG sprite cannot be cached. We’re saving an extra HTTP request here but the browser cannot cache the image, so we aren’t speeding up any subsequent page loads by inlining the SVG. There must be a better way – and there is. Styling the icons is possible, but getting deep into the styles becomes a bit harder owing to the nature of the contents of the <use> element – these contents are cloned into a shadow DOM, and hence selecting elements in CSS the traditional way is not possible. However, some techniques to work around that do exist, and give us slightly more styling flexibility. Animations work as expected. Referencing an external SVG sprite in HTML Instead of including the SVG inline in the document, you can reference the sprite and the icons inside it externally, taking advantage of fragment identifiers to select individual icons in the sprite. For example, the above reference to the Twitter icon would look something like this instead: <svg class="twitter-icon"> <use xlink:href="path/to/icons.svg#twitter-icon"></use> <svg> icons.svg is the name of the SVG file that contains all of our icons as symbols, and the fragment identifier #twitter-icon is the reference to the <symbol> wrapping the Twitter icon’s contents. Very convenient, isn’t it? The browser will request the sprite and then cache it, speeding up subsequent page loads. Win! This technique also works in all browsers supporting SVG except Internet Explorer – not even IE9+ with SVG support permits this technique. No version of IE supports referencing an external SVG in <use>. Fortunately (again), Jonathan Neil has created a plugin called svg4everybody which fills this gap in IE; you can reference an external sprite in <use> and also provide fallback for browsers that do not support SVG. However, it requires you to have the fallback images (PNG or JPEG, for example) available to do so. For details, refer to the plugin’s Github repository’s readme file. CSS inline SVG sprites Another way to create an SVG sprite is by inlining the SVG icons in a style sheet using data URIs, and providing fallback for non-supporting browsers – also within the CSS. Using this approach, we’re turning the style sheet into the sprite that includes our icons. The style sheet is normally cached by the browser, so we have that concern out of the way. This technique is put into practice in Filament Group’s icon system approach, which uses their Grunticon plugin – or its sister Grumpicon web app – for generating the necessary CSS for the sprite. As such, we’re going to cover this technique by following a workflow that uses one of these tools. Again, we start with our icon SVG files. To focus on the actual spriting method and not on the tooling, I’ll go over the process of sprite creation using the Grumpicon web app, instead of the Grunticon plugin. Both tools generate the same resources that we’re going to use for the icon system. Whether you choose the web app or the Grunt set-up, after processing your SVG folder you’re going to end up with the same set of resources that we’ll be using throughout this section. The first step is to drop your icons into the Grumpicon web app. Grumpicon homepage screenshot. The application will then show you a preview of your icons, and a download button will allow you to download the generated files. These files will contain everything you need for your icon system – all that’s left is for you to drop the generated files and code into your project as recommended and you’ll have your sprite and icons ready to use anywhere you want in your page. Grumpicon generates five files and one folder in the downloaded package: a png folder containing PNG versions of your icons; three style sheets (that we’ll go over briefly); a loader script file; and preview.html which is a live example showing you the other files in action. The script in the loader goes into the <head> of your page. This script handles browser and feature detection, and requests the necessary style sheet depending on browser support for SVG and base64 data URIs. If you view the source code of the preview page, you can see exactly how the script is added. icons.data.svg.css is the style sheet that contains your icons – the sprite. The icons are embedded inline inside the style sheet using data URIs, and applied to elements of your choice as background images, using class names. For example: .twitter-icon{ background-image: url('data:image/svg+xml;…'); /* the ellipsis is where the icon’s data would go */ background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 50% 50%; height: 2em; width: 2em; /* etc. */ } Then, you only have to apply the twitter-icon class name to an element in your HTML to apply the icon as a background to it: <span class="twitter-icon"></span> And that’s all you need to do to get an icon on the page. icons.data.svg.css, along with the other two style sheets and the png folder should be added to your CSS folder. icons.data.png.css is the style sheet the script will load in browsers that don’t support SVG, such as IE8. Fallback for the inline SVG is provided as a base64-encoded PNG. For instance, the fallback for the Twitter icon from our example would look like so: .twitter-icon{ background-image: url('data:image/png;base64;…’); /* etc. */ } icons.fallback.css is the style sheet required for browsers that don’t support base64-encoded PNGs – the PNG images are loaded as usual using the image’s URL. The script will load this style sheet for IE6 and IE7, for example. .twitter-icon{ background-image: url(png/twitter-icon.png); /* etc. */ } This technique is very different from the previous one. The sprite in this case is literally the style sheet, not an SVG container, and the icon usage is very similar to that of a CSS sprite – the icons are provided as background images. This technique has advantages and disadvantages. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into further details, but the main limitations worth mentioning are that SVGs embedded as background images cannot be styled with CSS; and animations are restricted to those defined inside the <svg> for each icon. CSS interactions (such as hover effects) don’t work either. Thus, to apply an effect for an icon that changes its color on hover, for example, you’ll need to export a set of SVGs for each colour in order for Grumpicon to create matching fallback PNG images that can then be used for the animation. For more details about the Grumpicon workflow, I recommend you check out “A Designer’s Guide to Grumpicon” on Filament Group’s website. Using SVG fragment identifiers and views This spriting technique is, again, different from the previous ones, and it is my personal favourite. SVG comes with a standard way of cropping to a specific area in a particular SVG image. If you’ve ever worked with CSS sprites before then this definitely sounds familiar: it’s almost exactly what we do with CSS sprites – the image containing all of the icons is cropped, so to speak, to show only the one icon that we want in the background positioning area of the element, using background size and positioning properties. Instead of using background properties, we’ll be using SVG’s viewBox attribute to crop our SVG to the specific icon we want. What I like about this technique is that it is more visual than the previous ones. Using this technique, the SVG sprite is treated like an actual image containing other images (the icons), instead of treating it as a piece of code containing other code. Again, our SVG icons are placed inside a main SVG container that is going to be our SVG sprite. If you’re working in a graphics editor, position or arrange your icons inside the canvas any way you want them to be, and then export the graphic as is. Of course, the less empty space there is in your SVG, the better. In our example, the sprite contains three icons as shown in the following image. The sprite is open in Sketch. Notice how the SVG is just big enough to fit the icons inside it. It doesn’t have to be like this, but it’s cleaner this way. Screenshot showing the SVG sprite containing our icons. Now, suppose you want to display only the Instagram icon. Using the SVG viewBox attribute, we can crop the SVG to the icon. The Instagram icon is positioned at 64px along the positive x-axis, and zero pixels along the y-axis. It is also 32px by 32px in size. Screenshot showing the position (offset) of the Instagram icon inside the SVG sprite, and its size. Using this information, we can specify the value of the viewBox as: 64 0 32 32. This area of the view box contains only the Instagram icon. 64 0 specifies the top-left corner of the view box area, and 32 32 specify its dimensions. Now, if we were to change the viewBox value on the SVG sprite to this value, only the Instagram icon will be visible inside the SVG viewport. Great. But how do we use this information to display the icon in our page using our sprite? SVG comes with a native way to link to portions or areas of an image using fragment identifiers. Fragment identifiers are used to link into a particular view area of an SVG document. Thus, using a fragment identifier and the boundaries of the area that we want (from the viewBox), we can link to that area and display it. For example, if you want to display the icon from the sprite using an <img> tag, you can reference the icon in the sprite like so: <img src='uiIcons.svg#svgView(viewBox(64, 0, 32, 32))' alt="Settings icon"/> The fragment identifier in the snippet above (#svgView(viewBox(64, 0, 32, 32))) is the important part. This will result in only the Instagram icon’s area of the sprite being displayed. There is also another way to do this, using the SVG <view> element. The <view> element can be used to define a view area and then reference that area somewhere else. For example, to define the view box containing the Instagram icon, we can do the following: <view id='instagram-icon' viewBox='64 0 32 32' /> Then, we can reference this view in our <img> element like this: <img src='sprite.svg#instagram-icon' alt="Instagram icon" /> The best part about this technique – besides the ability to reference an external SVG and hence make use of browser caching – is that it allows us to use practically any SVG embedding technique and does not restrict us to specific tags. It goes without saying that this feature can be used for more than just icon systems, owing to viewBox’s power in controlling an SVG’s viewable area. SVG fragment identifiers have decent browser support, but the technique is buggy in Safari: there is a bug that causes problems when loading a server SVG file and then using fragment identifiers with it. Bear Travis has documented the issue and a workaround. Where to go from here Pick the technique that works best for your project. Each technique has its own pros and cons, relating to convenience and maintainability, performance, and styling and scripting. Each technique also requires its own fallback mechanism. The spriting techniques mentioned here are not the only techniques available. Other methods exist, such as SVG stacks, and others may surface in future, but these are the three main ones today. The third technique using SVG’s built-in viewBox features is my favourite, and with better browser support and fewer (ideally, no) bugs, I believe it is more likely to become the standard way to create and use SVG sprites. Fallback techniques can be created, of course, in one of many possible ways. Do you use SVG for your icon system? If so, which is your favourite technique? Do you know or have worked with other ways for creating SVG sprites? 2014 Sara Soueidan sarasoueidan 2014-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2014/an-overview-of-svg-sprite-creation-techniques/ code
61 Animation in Responsive Design Animation and responsive design can sometimes feel like they’re at odds with each other. Animation often needs space to do its thing, but RWD tells us that the amount of space we’ll have available is going to change a lot. Balancing that can lead to some tricky animation situations. Embracing the squishiness of responsive design doesn’t have to mean giving up on your creative animation ideas. There are three general techniques that can help you balance your web animation creativity with your responsive design needs. One or all of these approaches might help you sneak in something just a little extra into your next project. Focused art direction Smaller viewports mean a smaller stage for your motion to play out on, and this tends to amplify any motion in your animation. Suddenly 100 pixels is really far and multiple moving parts can start looking like they’re battling for space. An effect that looked great on big viewports can become muddled and confusing when it’s reframed in a smaller space. Making animated movements smaller will do the trick for simple motion like a basic move across the screen. But for more complex animation on smaller viewports, you’ll need to simplify and reduce the number of moving parts. The key to this is determining what the vital parts of the animation are, to zone in on the parts that are most important to its message. Then remove the less necessary bits to distill the motion’s message down to the essentials. For example, Rally Interactive’s navigation folds down into place with two triangle shapes unfolding each corner on larger viewports. If this exact motion was just scaled down for narrower spaces the two corners would overlap as they unfolded. It would look unnatural and wouldn’t make much sense. Open video The main purpose of this animation is to show an unfolding action. To simplify the animation, Rally unfolds only one side for narrower viewports, with a slightly different animation. The action is still easily interpreted as unfolding and it’s done in a way that is a better fit for the available space. The message the motion was meant to convey has been preserved while the amount of motion was simplified. Open video Si Digital does something similar. The main concept of the design is to portray the studio as a creative lab. On large viewports, this is accomplished primarily through an animated illustration that runs the full length of the site and triggers its animations based on your scroll position. The illustration is there to support the laboratory concept visually, but it doesn’t contain critical content. Open video At first, it looks like Si Digital just turned off the animation of the illustration for smaller viewports. But they’ve actually been a little cleverer than that. They’ve also reduced the complexity of the illustration itself. Both the amount of motion (reduced down to no motion) and the illustration were simplified to create a result that is much easier to glean the concept from. Open video The most interesting thing about these two examples is that they’re solved more with thoughtful art direction than complex code. Keeping the main concept of the animations at the forefront allowed each to adapt creative design solutions to viewports of varying size without losing the integrity of their design. Responsive choreography Static content gets moved around all the time in responsive design. A three-column layout might line up from left to right on wide viewports, then stack top to bottom on narrower viewports. The same approach can be used to arrange animated content for narrower views, but the animation’s choreography also needs to be adjusted for the new layout. Even with static content, just scaling it down or zooming out to fit it into the available space is rarely an ideal solution. Rearranging your animations’ choreography to change which animation starts when, or even which animations play at all, keeps your animated content readable on smaller viewports. In a recent project I had three small animations that played one after the other, left to right, on wider viewports but needed to be stacked on narrower viewports to be large enough to see. On wide viewports, all three animations could play one right after the other in sequence because all three were in the viewable area at the same time. But once these were stacked for the narrower viewport layouts, that sequence had to change. Open video What was essentially one animation on wider viewports became three separate animations when stacked on narrower viewports. The layout change meant the choreography had to change as well. Each animation starts independently when it comes into view in the stacked layout instead of playing automatically in sequence. (I’ve put the animated parts in this demo if you want to peek under the hood.) Open video I choose to use the GreenSock library, with the choreography defined in two different timelines for this particular project. But the same goals could be accomplished with other JavaScript options or even CSS keyframe animations and media queries. Even more complex responsive choreography can be pulled off with SVG. Media queries can be used to change CSS animations applied to SVG elements at specific breakpoints for starters. For even more responsive power, SVG’s viewBox property, and the positioning of the objects within it, can be adjusted at JavaScript-defined breakpoints. This lets you set rules to crop the viewable area and arrange your animating elements to fit any space. Sarah Drasner has some great examples of how to use this technique with style in this responsive infographic and this responsive interactive illustration. On the other hand, if smart scalability is what you’re after, it’s also possible to make all of an SVG’s shapes and motion scale with the SVG canvas itself. Sarah covers both these clever responsive SVG techniques in detail. Creative and complex animation can easily become responsive thanks to the power of SVG! Open video Bake performance into your design decisions It’s hard to get very far into a responsive design discussion before performance comes up. Performance goes hand in hand with responsive design and your animation decisions can have a big impact on the overall performance of your site. The translate3D “hack”, backface-visibility:hidden, and the will-change property are the heavy hitters of animation performance. But decisions made earlier in your animation design process can have a big impact on rendering performance and your performance budget too. Pick a technology that matches your needs One of the biggest advantages of the current web animation landscape is the range of tools we have available to us. We can use CSS animations and transitions to add just a dash of interface animation to our work, go all out with webGL to create a 3D experience, or anywhere in between. All within our browsers! Having this huge range of options is amazing and wonderful but it also means you need to be cognizant of what you’re using to get the job done. Loading in the full weight of a robust JavaScript animation library is going to be overkill if you’re only animating a few small elements here and there. That extra overhead will have an impact on performance. Performance budgets will not be pleased. Always match the complexity of the technology you choose to the complexity of your animation needs to avoid unnecessary performance strain. For small amounts of animation, stick to CSS solutions since it’s the most lightweight option. As your animations grow in complexity, or start to require more robust logic, move to a JavaScript solution that can accomplish what you need. Animate the most performant properties Whether you’re animating in CSS or JavaScript, you’re affecting specific properties of the animated element. Browsers can animate some properties more efficiently than others based on how many steps need to happen behind the scenes to visually update those properties. Browsers are particularly efficient at animating opacity, scale, rotation, and position (when the latter three are done with transforms). This article from Paul Irish and Paul Lewis gives the full scoop on why. Conveniently, those are also the most common properties used in motion design. There aren’t many animated effects that can’t be pulled off with this list. Stick to these properties to set your animations up for the best performance results from the start. If you find yourself needing to animate a property outside of this list, check CSS Triggers… to find out how much of an additional impact it might have. Offset animation start times Offsets (the concept of having a series of similar movements execute one slightly after the other, creating a wave-like pattern) are a long-held motion graphics trick for creating more interesting and organic looking motion. Employing this trick of the trade can also be smart for performance. Animating a large number of objects all at the same time can put a strain on the browser’s rendering abilities even in the best cases. Adding short delays to offset these animations in time, so they don’t all start at once, can improve rendering performance. Go explore the responsive animation possibilities for yourself! With smart art direction, responsive choreography, and an eye on performance you can create just about any creative web animation you can think up while still being responsive. Keep these in mind for your next project and you’ll pull off your animations with style at any viewport size! 2015 Val Head valhead 2015-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/animation-in-responsive-design/ design
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 input using the for attribute. The hover area is shown with a yellow background and a black dotted border: Open video The label is clickable and the checkbox has an accessible description. Job done, right? Not really. Take a look at the space between the label and the checkbox: Open video The gutter is created using a right margin which pushes the label to the right. Users would certainly expect this space to be clickable as well. The simple solution is to wrap the label around the checkbox and the text: Open video You can also set the label to display:block; to further increase the clickable area: Open video And while we’re at it, users might expect the whole box to be clickable anyway. Let’s apply the CSS that was on a wrapping div element to the label directly: Open video The result enhances the usability of your form element tremendously for people with lower dexterity, using a voice mouse, or using touch interfaces. And we only used basic HTML and CSS techniques; no JavaScript was added and not one extra line of CSS. <form action="#"> <label for="uniquecheckboxid"> <input type="checkbox" name="checkbox" id="uniquecheckboxid" /> Checkbox 4 </label> </form> Button Example The button below looks like a typical edit button: a pencil icon on a real button element. But if you are using a screen reader or a braille keyboard, the button is just read as “button” without any indication of what this button is for. Open video A screen reader announcing a button. Contains audio. The code snippet shows why the button is not properly announced: <button> <span class="icon icon-pencil"></span> </button> An icon font is used to display the icon and no text alternative is given. A possible solution to this problem is to use the title or aria-label attributes, which solves the alternative text use case for screen reader users: Open video A screen reader announcing a button with a title. However, screen readers are not the only way people with and without disabilities interact with websites. For example, users can reset or change font families and sizes at will. This helps many users make websites easier to read, including people with dyslexia. Your icon font might be replaced by a font that doesn’t include the glyphs that are icons. Additionally, the icon font may not load for users on slow connections, like on mobile phones inside trains, or because users decided to block external fonts altogether. The following screenshots show the mobile GitHub view with and without external fonts: The mobile GitHub view with and without external fonts. Even if the title/aria-label approach was used, the lack of visual labels is a barrier for most people under those circumstances. One way to tackle this is using the old-fashioned img element with an appropriate alt attribute, but surprisingly not every browser displays the alternative text visually when the image doesn’t load. <button> <img src="icon-pencil.svg" alt="Edit"> </button> Providing always visible text is an alternative that can work well if you have the space. It also helps users understand the meaning of the icons. <button> <span class="icon icon-pencil"></span> Edit </button> This also reads just fine in screen readers: Open video A screen reader announcing the revised button. Clever usability enhancements don’t stop at a technical implementation level. Take the BBC iPlayer pages as an example: when a user navigates the “captioned videos” or “audio description” categories and clicks on one of the videos, captions or audio descriptions are automatically switched on. Small things like this enhance the usability and don’t need a lot of engineering resources. It is more about connecting the usability dots for people with disabilities. Read more about the BBC iPlayer accessibility case study. More information W3C has created several documents that make it easier to get the gist of what web accessibility is and how it can benefit everyone. You can find out “How People with Disabilities Use the Web”, there are “Tips for Getting Started” for developers, designers and content writers. And for the more seasoned developer there is a set of tutorials on web accessibility, including information on crafting accessible forms and how to use images in an accessible way. Conclusion You can only produce a web project with long-lasting accessibility if accessibility is not an afterthought. Your organization, your division, your team need to think about accessibility as something that is the foundation of your website or project. It needs to be at the same level as performance, code quality and design, and it needs the same attention. Users often don’t notice when those fundamental aspects of good website design and development are done right. But they’ll always know when they are implemented poorly. If you take all this into consideration, you can create accessibility solutions based on the available data and bring accessibility to people who didn’t know they’d need it: Open video In this video from the latest Apple keynote, the Apple TV is operated by voice input through a remote. When the user asks “What did she say?” the video jumps back fifteen seconds and captions are switched on for a brief time. All three, the remote, voice input and captions have their roots in assisting people with disabilities. Now they benefit everyone. 2015 Eric Eggert ericeggert 2015-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/the-accessibility-mindset/ code
70 Bringing Your Code to the Streets — or How to Be a Street VJ Our amazing world of web code is escaping out of the browser at an alarming rate and appearing in every aspect of the environment around us. Over the past few years we’ve already seen JavaScript used server-side, hardware coded with JavaScript, a rise of native style and desktop apps created with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and even virtual reality (VR) is getting its fair share of front-end goodness. You can go ahead and play with JavaScript-powered hardware such as the Tessel or the Espruino to name a couple. Just check out the Tessel project page to see JavaScript in the world of coffee roasting or sleep tracking your pet. With the rise of the internet of things, JavaScript can be seen collecting information on flooding among other things. And if that’s not enough ‘outside the browser’ implementations, Node.js servers can even be found in aircraft! I previously mentioned VR and with three.js’s extra StereoEffect.js module it’s relatively simple to get browser 3D goodness to be Google Cardboard-ready, and thus set the stage for all things JavaScript and VR. It’s been pretty popular in the art world too, with interactive works such as Seb Lee-Delisle’s Lunar Trails installation, featuring the old arcade game Lunar Lander, which you can now play in your browser while others watch (it is the web after all). The Science Museum in London held Chrome Web Lab, an interactive exhibition featuring five experiments, showcasing the magic of the web. And it’s not even the connectivity of the web that’s being showcased; we can even take things offline and use web code for amazing things, such as fighting Ebola. One thing is for sure, JavaScript is awesome. Hell, if you believe those telly programs (as we all do), JavaScript can even take down the stock market, purely through the witchcraft of canvas! Go JavaScript! Now it’s our turn So I wanted to create a little project influenced by this theme, and as it’s Christmas, take it to the streets for a little bit of party fun! Something that could take code anywhere. Here’s how I made a portable visual projection pack, a piece of video mixing software and created some web-coded street art. Step one: The equipment You will need: One laptop: with HDMI output and a modern browser installed, such as Google Chrome. One battery-powered mini projector: I’ve used a Texas Instruments DLP; for its 120 lumens it was the best cost-to-lumens ratio I could find. One MIDI controller (optional): mine is an ICON iDJ as it suits mixing visuals. However, there is more affordable hardware on the market such as an Akai LPD8 or a Korg nanoPAD2. As you’ll see in the article, this is optional as it can be emulated within the software. A case to carry it all around in. Step two: The software The projected visuals, I imagined, could be anything you can create within a browser, whether that be simple HTML and CSS, images, videos, SVG or canvas. The only requirement I have is that they move or change with sound and that I can mix any one visual into another. You may remember a couple of years ago I created a demo on this very site, allowing audio-triggered visuals from the ambient sounds your device mic was picking up. That was a great starting point – I used that exact method to pick up the audio and thus the first requirement was complete. If you want to see some more examples of visuals I’ve put together for this, there’s a showcase on CodePen. The second requirement took a little more thought. I needed two screens, which could at any point show any of the visuals I had coded, but could be mixed from one into the other and back again. So let’s start with two divs, both absolutely positioned so they’re on top of each other, but at the start the second screen’s opacity is set to zero. Now all we need is a slider, which when moved from one side to the other slowly sets the second screen’s opacity to 1, thereby fading it in. See the Pen Mixing Screens (Software Version) by Rumyra (@Rumyra) on CodePen. Mixing Screens (CodePen) As you saw above, I have a MIDI controller and although the software method works great, I’d quite like to make use of this nifty piece of kit. That’s easily done with the Web MIDI API. All I need to do is call it, and when I move one of the sliders on the controller (I’ve allocated the big cross fader in the middle for this), pick up on the change of value and use that to control the opacity instead. var midi, data; // start talking to MIDI controller if (navigator.requestMIDIAccess) { navigator.requestMIDIAccess({ sysex: false }).then(onMIDISuccess, onMIDIFailure); } else { alert(“No MIDI support in your browser.”); } // on success function onMIDISuccess(midiData) { // this is all our MIDI data midi = midiData; var allInputs = midi.allInputs.values(); // loop over all available inputs and listen for any MIDI input for (var input = allInputs.next(); input && !input.done; input = allInputs.next()) { // when a MIDI value is received call the onMIDIMessage function input.value.onmidimessage = onMIDIMessage; } } function onMIDIMessage(message) { // data comes in the form [command/channel, note, velocity] data = message.data; // Opacity change for screen. The cross fader values are [176, 8, {0-127}] if ( (data[0] === 176) && (data[1] === 8) ) { // this value will change as the fader is moved var opacity = data[2]/127; screenTwo.style.opacity = opacity; } } The final code was slightly more complicated than this, as I decided to switch the two screens based on the frequencies of the sound that was playing, and use the cross fader to depict the frequency threshold value. This meant they flickered in and out of each other, rather than just faded. There’s a very rough-and-ready first version of the software on GitHub. Phew, Great! Now we need to get all this to the streets! Step three: Portable kit Did you notice how I mentioned a case to carry it all around in? I wanted the case to be morphable, so I could use the equipment from it too, a sort of bag-to-usherette-tray-type affair. Well, I had an unused laptop bag… I strengthened it with some MDF, so when I opened the bag it would hold like a tray where the laptop and MIDI controller would sit. The projector was Velcroed to the external pocket of the bag, so when it was a tray it would project from underneath. I added two durable straps, one for my shoulders and one round my waist, both attached to the bag itself. There was a lot of cutting and trimming. As it was a laptop bag it was pretty thick to start and sewing was tricky. However, I only broke one sewing machine needle; I’ve been known to break more working with leather, so I figured I was doing well. By the way, you can actually buy usherette trays, but I just couldn’t resist hacking my own :) Step four: Take to the streets First, make sure everything is charged – everything – a lot! The laptop has to power both the MIDI controller and the projector, and although I have a mobile phone battery booster pack, that’ll only charge the projector should it run out. I estimated I could get a good hour of visual artistry before I needed to worry, though. I had a couple of ideas about time of day and location. Here in the UK at this time of year, it gets dark around half past four, so I could easily head out in a city around 5pm and it would be dark enough for the projections to be seen pretty well. I chose Bristol, around the waterfront, as there were some interesting locations to try it out in. The best was Millennium Square: busy but not crowded and plenty of surfaces to try projecting on to. My first time out with the portable audio/visual pack (PAVP as it will now be named) was brilliant. I played music and projected visuals, like a one-woman band of A/V! You might be thinking what the point of this was, besides, of course, it being a bit of fun. Well, this project got me to look at canvas and SVG more closely. The Web MIDI API was really interesting; MIDI as a data format has some great practical uses. I think without our side projects we may not have all these wonderful uses for our everyday code. Not only do they remind us coding can, and should, be fun, they also help us learn and grow as makers. My favourite part? When I was projecting into a water feature in Millennium Square. For those who are familiar, you’ll know it’s like a wall of water so it produced a superb effect. I drew quite a crowd and a kid came to stand next to me and all I could hear him say with enthusiasm was, ‘Oh wow! That’s so cool!’ Yes… yes, kid, it was cool. Making things with code is cool. Massive thanks to the lovely Drew McLellan for his incredibly well-directed photography, and also Simon Johnson who took a great hand in perfecting the kit while it was attached. 2015 Ruth John ruthjohn 2015-12-06T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2015/bringing-your-code-to-the-streets/ code
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 defined with fixed pixel values, bitmap images look increasingly unsuitable. While simple images and iconography can use scalable vector formats like SVG, for detailed photographic imagery, raster formats like GIF, PNG and JPEG remain the only suitable option. There is scope within current formats to account for varying bandwidth but this requires cooperation from browser vendors. Newer formats like JPEG2000 and WebP generate higher quality images with smaller file sizes, but aren’t widely supported. While it’s tempting to try to solve this issue by inventing new markup, the crux of it remains at the file level. Daan Jobsis’s experimentation with image compression strengthens this argument. He discovered that by increasing the dimensions of a JPEG image while simultaneously reducing its quality, a smaller files could be produced, with the resulting image looking just as good on both standard and high-resolution displays. This may be a hack in lieu of a more permanent solution, but it’s applied in the right place. Easy to accomplish with existing tools and without compatibility issues, it has few downsides. Further experimentation in this area should be encouraged, with standardisation efforts more helpful if focused on developing new image formats or, preferably, extending existing ones. 2. Art direction doesn’t belong in markup A desired benefit of the <picture> markup pattern is to allow for greater art direction. For example, rather than scaling down images on smaller displays to the point that their content is hard to discern, we could present closer crops instead: This can be achieved with CSS of course, although with a download penalty for those parts of an image not shown. This point may be negligible, however, since in the context of adaptable layouts, these hidden areas may end up being revealed anyway. Art direction concerns design, not content. If we wish to maintain a separation of concerns, including presentation within our markup seems misguided. 3. The size of a display has little relation to the size of an image By using media queries, the <picture> element allows authors to choose which characteristics of the screen or viewport to query for different images to be displayed. In developing sites at Clearleft, we have noticed that the viewport is essentially arbitrary, with the size of an image’s containing element more important. For example, look at how this grid of images may adapt at different viewport widths: As we build more modular systems, components need to be adaptable in and of themselves. There is a case to be made for developing more contextual methods of querying, rather than those based on attributes of the display. 4. We haven’t lived with the problem long enough A key strength of the web is that the underlying platform can be continually iterated. This can also be problematic if snap judgements are made about what constitutes an improvement. The early history of the web is littered with such examples, be it the perceived need for blinking text or inline typographic styling. To build a platform for the future, additions to it should be carefully considered. And if we want more consistent support across browsers, burdening vendors with an ever increasing list of features seems counterproductive. Only once the need for a new feature is sufficiently proven, should we look to standardise it. Before we could declare hover effects, rounded corners and typographic styling in CSS, we used JavaScript as a polyfill. Sure, doing so was painful, but use cases were fully explored, and the CSS specification better reflected the needs of authors. 5. Images and the web aesthetic The srcset proposal has emerged from a company that markets its phones as being able to browse the real – yet squashed down, tapped and zoomable – web. Perhaps Apple should make its own website responsive before suggesting how the rest of us should do so. Converserly, while the <picture> proposal has the backing of a few respected developers and designers, it was born out of the work Mat Marquis and Filament Group did for the Boston Globe. As the first large-scale responsive design, this was a landmark project that ignited the responsive web design movement and proved its worth. But it was the first. Its design shares a vernacular to that of contemporary newspaper websites, with a columnar, image-laden and densely packed layout. Compared to more recent examples – Quartz, The Next Web and the New York Times Skimmer – it feels out of step with the future direction of news sites. In seeking out a truer aesthetic for the web in which software interfaces have greater influence, we might discover that the need for responsive images isn’t as great as originally thought. Building for the future With responsive design, we’ve accepted the idea that a fully fluid layout, rather than a set of fixed layouts, is best suited to the web’s unpredictable nature. Current responsive image proposals are antithetical to this approach. We need solutions that lack complexity, are device-agnostic and work within existing workflows. Any proposal that requires different versions of the same image to be created, is likely to have to acquiesce under the pressure of reality. While it’s easy to get distracted about the size and quality of an image, and how we might choose to serve it, often the simplest solution is not to include it at all. After years of gluttonous design practice, in which fast connections and expansive display sizes were an accepted norm, we have got use to filling pages with needless images and countless items of page furniture. To design more adaptable experiences, the presence of every element needs to be questioned, for its existence requires additional data to be downloaded or futher complexity within a design system. Conditional loading techniques mean that the inclusion of images is no longer a binary choice, but can instead appear in a progressively enhanced manner. So here is my proposal. Instead of spending the next year worrying about responsive images, let’s embrace the constraints of the medium, and seek out new solutions that can work within them. 2012 Paul Lloyd paulrobertlloyd 2012-12-11T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/responsive-images-what-we-thought-we-needed/ 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). Xbox 3602005120/50032%A browser for the Xbox (IE9) was only recently released in October 2012. The Kinect provides voice and gesture support. There’s also SmartGlass, a second-screen app for platforms including Android and iOS. The Wii U browser is Nintendo’s fifth attempt at a console browser. Based on these tests, it’s already looking promising. Why console browsers used to suck It takes a lot of system memory to run a good browser, and the problem of older consoles is that they don’t have much memory available. The original Nintendo DS needs a memory expansion pack just to run the browser, because the 4MB it has on board isn’t enough. I noticed that even on newer devices, some sites fail to load because the system runs out of memory. The Wii came out six years ago with an Opera browser. Still being used today and with such low resources available, the latest browser features can’t reasonably be supported. There’s also pressure to add features such as tabs, and enable gamers to use the browser while a game is paused. Nintendo’s browser team have the advantage of higher specs to play with on their new console (1GB of memory dedicated to games, 1GB for the system), which makes it easier to support the latest standards. But it’s still a challenge to fit everything in. …even though we have more memory, the amount of memory we can use for the browser is limited compared to a PC, so we’ve worked in ways that efficiently allocates the available memory per tab. To work on this, the experience working on the browser for the Nintendo 3DS system under a limited memory constraint helped us greatly. Sasaki – Iwata Asks on Nintendo.com In the box The Wii U consists of a console unit which plugs into a TV (the first to support HD), and a wireless controller known as a gamepad. The gamepad is a lot bigger than typical TV console controllers, and it has a touchscreen on the front. The touchscreen is resistive, responding to pressure rather than electrical current. It’s intended to be used with a stylus (provided) but fingers can be used. It might look a bit like one, but the gamepad isn’t a portable console designed to be taken out like the PS Vita. The gamepad can be used as a standalone screen with the TV switched off, as long as it’s within range of the console unit – it basically piggybacks off it. It’s surprisingly lightweight for its size. It has a wealth of detectors including 9-axis control. Sensors wake the device from sleep when it’s picked up. There’s also a camera on the front, and a headphone port and speakers, with audio coming through both the TV and the gamepad giving a surround sound feel. Up to six tabs can be opened at once, and the browser can be used while games are paused. There’s a really nice little feature here – the current game’s name is saved as a search option, so it’s really quick to look up contextual content such as walk-throughs. Controls Only one gamepad can be used to control the browser, but if there are Wiimotes connected, they can be used as pointers. This doesn’t let the user do anything except point (they each get a little hand icon with a number on it displayed on the screen), but it’s interesting that multiple people can be interacting with a site at once. See a bigger version The gamepad can also be used as a simple TV remote control, with basic functions such as bringing up the programme guide, adjusting volume and changing channel. I found the simplified interface much more usable than a full-featured remote control. I’m used to scrolling being sluggish on consoles, but the Wii U feels almost as snappy as a desktop browser. Sites load considerably faster compared with others I’ve tested. Tilt-scroll Holding down ZL and ZR while tilting the screen activates an Instapaper-style tilt to scroll for going up and down the page quickly, useful for navigating very long pages. Second screen The TV mirrors most of what’s on the gamepad, although the TV screen just displays the contents of the browser window, while the gamepad displays the site along with the browser toolbar. When the user with the gamepad is typing, the keyboard is hidden from the TV screen – there’s just a bit of text at the top indicating what’s happening on the gamepad. Pressing X draws an on-screen curtain over the TV, hiding the content that’s on the gamepad from the TV. Pressing X again opens the curtains, revealing what’s on the gamepad. Holding the button down plays a drumroll before it’s released and the curtains are opened. I can imagine this being used in meetings as a fun presentation tool. In a sense, browsing is a personal activity, but you get the idea that people will be coming and going through the room. When I first saw the curtain function, it made a huge impression on me. I walked around with it all over the company saying, “They’ve really come up with something amazing!” Iwata – Iwata Asks on Nintendo.com Text Writing text Unlike the capacitive screens on smartphones, the Wii U’s resistive screen needs to be pressed harder than you’re probably used to for registering a touch event. The gamepad screen is big, which makes it much easier to type on this device than other handheld consoles, even without the stylus. It’s still more fiddly than a full-sized keyboard though. When you’re designing forms, consider the extra difficulty console users experience. Although TV screens are physically big, they are typically viewed from further away than desktop screens. This makes readability an issue, so Nintendo have provided not one, but four ways to zoom in and out: Double-tapping on the screen. Tapping the on-screen zoom icons in the browser toolbar. Pressing the + and - buttons on the device. Moving the right analogue stick up and down. As well as making it easy to zoom in and out, Nintendo have done a few other things to improve the reading experience on the TV. System font One thing you’ll notice pretty quickly is that the browser lacks all the fonts we’re used to falling back to. Serif fonts are replaced with the system’s sans-serif font. I couldn’t get Typekit’s font loading method to work but Fontdeck, which works slightly differently, does display custom fonts. The system font has been optimised for reading at a distance and is easy to distinguish because the lowercase e has a quirky little tilt. Don’t lose :focus Using the D-pad to navigate is similar to using a keyboard. Individual links are focused on, with a blue outline drawn around them. The recently redesigned An Event Apart site is an example that improves the experience for keyboard and D-pad users. They’ve added a yellow background colour to links on focus. It feels nicer than the default blue outline on its own. Media This year, television overtook PCs as the primary way to watch online video content. TV is the natural environment for video, and 42% of online TVs in the US are connected to the internet via a console. Unfortunately, the <video> tag isn’t supported in most console browsers, and those that have Flash installed often have such an old version that the video won’t play. I suspect this has been a big driver in getting console browsers to support web standards. The Wii U is designed with video content in mind. It doesn’t support Flash but it does support the HTML5 <video> tag. Some video formats can’t be played, but those that are supported bring up an optimised interface with a custom scrub bar. This is where the device switches from mirroring the TV to being a second screen. The full-screen video is displayed on the TV, and the interface on the gamepad. The really clever bit is that while a video is playing, the gamepad user can keep the video playing on the TV screen while searching for another video or browsing the web. This is the same for images too. On the left, the video is being shown full-screen on the TV and gamepad. Only the gamepad gets the scrub bar. Clicking the slide up/down button (circled) lets the gamepad user browse the web while the video on the TV continues to play full-screen, as shown in the image on the right. There’s support for SVG images, and they look great on a high-definition TV screen. However, there’s currently no way to save or download files. Preparing for console users I wasn’t expecting to be quite as impressed as I am by this browser. It’s encouraging to see console makers investing time into improving the experience as well as the standards support. In the same way there was an explosion in mobile browser use as the experience got better, I’m sure we’ll see the same with console browsers as the experience improves. The value of detection Consoles offer a range of inputs including gesture, voice and controller buttons. That means we have to think about more diverse methods of input than just touch and click. This is where I could tell you to add some detection methods such as user agent string sniffing to target a different experience for console users. But the majority of the time, that really isn’t necessary. TV console browsers are getting a lot better at compensating for the living room environment, and they’re designed to work with websites that haven’t been optimised for this context. Rather than tighten our grip on optimising experiences for every device out there, we’ve got to be pragmatic. There are so many new devices coming out every week, our designs need to be future-proof rather than fixed to a particular device in time. Even fuzzy device detection isn’t reliable – the PS Vita declares itself to be mobile, a mobile device and a Kindle Fire tablet, while the two DS devices state they’re neither mobile nor mobile phones nor tablets, but computers. They’re weird outliers, but they’re still important devices to consider. Thinking broadly about how our designs will be interacted with and viewed on a TV screen can help improve that experience for everyone. This is about accessibility. Considering how someone uses a site with a D-pad, we can improve the experience for keyboard users. When we think about colour contrast and text legibility on TV screens, we can apply that for anyone who reads content on the web. So why just offer this to the TV users? Playing with the browser …we want to prove to them through this Wii U Internet Browser that browsing itself can be an entertainment. Iwata – Iwata Asks on Nintendo.com Although I’m cautious about designing experiences for specific devices, it’s fun to experiment with the technology available. Nintendo have promised web developers access to the Wii U’s buttons and sensors. There’s already some JavaScript documentation, and a demo for you to try. If you’re interested in making your own games, thanks to web standards, a lot of HTML5 games work already on the device. Matt Hackett wrote up his experience of testing the game he built, and he talks about some of features the browser lacks. There’s certainly an incentive there for console manufacturers to improve their HTML5 support so more games can be played in their browser. What excites me about consoles is that it’s like looking at what might be available to us in future browsers. As well as thinking about how our sites work on small screens, we should also consider big screens. We’re already figuring out how images should work at different screen widths and connection speeds, but we’ve also got some interesting challenges ahead of us catering for second screen experiences and 3D-enabled devices. So, this Christmas, if you’re huddled round the game console or a smart TV, give the browser in it a try. 2012 Anna Debenham annadebenham 2012-12-22T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2012/unwrapping-the-wii-u-browser/ ux
110 Shiny Happy Buttons Since Mac OS X burst onto our screens, glossy, glassy, shiny buttons have been almost de rigeur, and have essentially, along with reflections and rounded corners, become a cliché of Web 2.0 “design”. But if you can’t beat ‘em you’d better join ‘em. So, in this little contribution to our advent calendar, we’re going to take a plain old boring HTML button, and 2.0 it up the wazoo. But, here’s the catch. We’ll use no images, either in our HTML or our CSS. No sliding doors, no image replacement techniques. Just straight up, CSS, CSS3 and a bit of experimental CSS. And, it will be compatible with pretty much any browser (though with some progressive enhancement for those who keep up with the latest browsers). The HTML We’ll start with our HTML. <button type="submit">This is a shiny button</button> OK, so it’s not shiny yet – but boy will it ever be. Before styling, that’s going to look like this. Ironically, depending on the operating system and browser you are using, it may well be a shiny button already, but that’s not the point. We want to make it shiny 2.0. Our mission is to make it look something like this If you want to follow along at home keep in mind that depending on which browser you are using you may see fewer of the CSS effects we’ve added to create the button. As of writing, only in Safari are all the effects we’ll apply supported. Taking a look at our finished product, here’s what we’ve done to it: We’ve given the button some padding and a width. We’ve changed the text color, and given the text a drop shadow. We’ve given the button a border. We’ve given the button some rounded corners. We’ve given the button a drop shadow. We’ve given the button a gradient background. and remember, all without using any images. Styling the button So, let’s get to work. First, we’ll add given the element some padding and a width: button { padding: .5em; width: 15em; } Next, we’ll add the text color, and the drop shadow: color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 1px 1px 1px #000; A note on text-shadow If you’ve not seen text-shadows before well, here’s the quick back-story. Text shadow was introduced in CSS2, but only supported in Safari (version 1!) some years later. It was removed from CSS2.1, but returned in CSS3 (in the text module). It’s now supported in Safari, Opera and Firefox (3.1). Internet Explorer has a shadow filter, but the syntax is completely different. So, how do text-shadows work? The three length values specify respectively a horizontal offset, a vertical offset and a blur (the greater the number the more blurred the shadow will be), and finally a color value for the shadow. Rounding the corners Now we’ll add a border, and round the corners of the element: border: solid thin #882d13; -webkit-border-radius: .7em; -moz-border-radius: .7em; border-radius: .7em; Here, we’ve used the same property in three slightly different forms. We add the browser specific prefix for Webkit and Mozilla browsers, because right now, both of these browsers only support border radius as an experimental property. We also add the standard property name, for browsers that do support the property fully in the future. The benefit of the browser specific prefix is that if a browser only partly supports a given property, we can easily avoid using the property with that browser simply by not adding the browser specific prefix. At present, as you might guess, border-radius is supported in Safari and Firefox, but in each the relevant prefix is required. border-radius takes a length value, such as pixels. (It can also take two length values, but that’s for another Christmas.) In this case, as with padding, I’ve used ems, which means that as the user scales the size of text up and down, the radius will scale as well. You can test the difference by making the radius have a value of say 5px, and then zooming up and down the text size. We’re well and truly on the way now. All we need to do is add a shadow to the button, and then a gradient background. In CSS3 there’s the box-shadow property, currently only supported in Safari 3. It’s very similar to text-shadow – you specify a horizontal and vertical offset, a blur value and a color. -webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px #999; box-shadow: 2px 2px 2px #bbb; Once more, we require the “experimental” -webkit- prefix, as Safari’s support for this property is still considered by its developers to be less than perfect. Gradient Background So, all we have left now is to add our shiny gradient effect. Now of course, people have been doing this kind of thing with images for a long time. But if we can avoid them all the better. Smaller pages, faster downloads, and more scalable designs that adapt better to the user’s font size preference. But how can we add a gradient background without an image? Here we’ll look at the only property that is not as yet part of the CSS standard – Apple’s gradient function for use anywhere you can use images with CSS (in this case backgrounds). In essence, this takes SVG gradients, and makes them available via CSS syntax. Here’s what the property and its value looks like: background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#e9ede8), to(#ce401c),color-stop(0.4, #8c1b0b)); Zooming in on the gradient function, it has this basic form: -webkit-gradient(type, point, point, from(color), to(color),color-stop(where, color)); Which might look complicated, but is less so than at first glance. The name of the function is gradient (and in this case, because it is an experimental property, we use the -webkit- prefix). You might not have seen CSS functions before, but there are others, including the attr() function, used with generated content. A function returns a value that can be used as a property value – here we are using it as a background image. Next we specify the type of the gradient. Here we have a linear gradient, and there are also radial gradients. After that, we specify the start and end points of the gradient – in our case the top and bottom of the element, in a vertical line. We then specify the start and end colors – and finally one stop color, located at 40% of the way down the element. Together, this creates a gradient that smoothly transitions from the start color in the top, vertically to the stop color, then smoothly transitions to the end color. There’s one last thing. What color will the background of our button be if the browser doesn’t support gradients? It will be white (or possibly some default color for buttons). Which may make the text difficult or impossible to read. So, we’ll add a background color as well (see why the validator is always warning you when a color but not a background color is specified for an element?). If we put it all together, here’s what we have: button { width: 15em; padding: .5em; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 1px 1px 1px #000; border: solid thin #882d13; -webkit-border-radius: .7em; -moz-border-radius: .7em; border-radius: .7em; -webkit-box-shadow: 2px 2px 3px #999; box-shadow: 2px 2px 2px #bbb; background-color: #ce401c; background-image: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#e9ede8), to(#ce401c),color-stop(0.4, #8c1b0b)); } Which looks like this in various browsers: In Safari (3) In Firefox 3.1 (3.0 supports border-radius but not text-shadow) In Opera 10 and of course in Internet Explorer (version 8 shown here) But it looks different in different browsers Yes, it does look different in different browsers, but we all know the answer to the question “do web sites need to look the same in every browser?“. Even if you really think sites should look the same in every browser, hopefully this little tutorial has whet your appetite for what CSS3 and experimental CSS that’s already supported in widely used browsers (and we haven’t even touched on animations and similar effects!). I hope you’ve enjoyed out little CSSMas present, and look forward to seeing your shiny buttons everywhere on the web. Oh, and there’s just a bit of homework – your job is to use the :hover selector, and make a gradient in the hover state. 2008 John Allsopp johnallsopp 2008-12-18T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2008/shiny-happy-buttons/ 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 excanvas. It’s downloadable from http://code.google.com/p/explorercanvas/ and it’s simple to include it via a conditional comment in the head for IE: <!--[if IE]> <script src="excanvas.js"></script> <![endif]--> Simply include this, and your canvas will be natively supported in the modern browsers (and the library won’t even be downloaded) whereas IE will suddenly render your canvas using its own VML engine. Be sure, however, to check it carefully, as the IE JavaScript engine isn’t so fast and you’ll need to be sure that performance isn’t too degraded to use. Forms Since the beginning of the Web, developers have been coding forms, and then writing JavaScript to check whether an input is a correctly formed email address, URL, credit card number or conforms to some other pattern. The cumulative labour of the world’s developers over the last 15 years makes whizzing round in a sleigh and delivering presents seem like popping to the corner shop in comparison. With HTML5, that’s all about to change. As Yaili began to explore on Day 3, a host of new attributes to the input element provide built-in validation for email address formats (input type=email), URLs (input type=url), any pattern that can be expressed with a JavaScript-syntax regex (pattern="[0-9][A-Z]{3}") and the like. New attributes such as required, autofocus, input type=number min=3 max=50 remove much of the tedious JavaScript from form validation. Other, really exciting input types are available (see all input types). The datalist is reminiscent of a select box, but allows the user to enter their own text if they don’t want to choose one of the pre-defined options. input type=range is rendered as a slider, while input type=date pops up a date picker, all natively in the browser with no JavaScript required at all. Currently, support is most complete in an experimental implementation in Opera and a number of the new attributes in Webkit-based browsers. But don’t let that stop you! The clever thing about the specification of the new Web Forms is that all the new input types are attributes (rather than elements). input defaults to input type=text, so if a browser doesn’t understand a new HTML5 type, it gracefully degrades to a plain text input. So where does that leave validation in those browsers that don’t support Web Forms? The answer is that you don’t retire your pre-existing JavaScript validation just yet, but you leave it as a fallback after doing some feature detection. To detect whether (say) input type=email is supported, you make a new input type=email with JavaScript but don’t add it to the page. Then, you interrogate your new element to find out what its type attribute is. If it’s reported back as “email”, then the browser supports the new feature, so let it do its work and don’t bring in any JavaScript validation. If it’s reported back as “text”, it’s fallen back to the default, indicating that it’s not supported, so your code should branch to your old validation routines. Alternatively, use the small (7K) Modernizr library which will do this work for you and give you JavaScript booleans like Modernizr.inputtypes[email] set to true or false. So what does this buy you? Well, first and foremost, you’re future-proofing your code for that time when all browsers support these hugely useful additions to forms. Secondly, you buy a usability and accessibility win. Although it’s tempting to style the stuffing out of your form fields (which can, incidentally, lead to madness), whatever your branding people say, it’s better to leave forms as close to the browser defaults as possible. A browser’s slider and date pickers will be the same across different sites, making it much more comprehensible to users. And, by using native controls rather than faking sliders and date pickers with JavaScript, your forms are much more likely to be accessible to users of assistive technology. HTML5 DOCTYPE You can use the new DOCTYPE !doctype html now and – hey presto – you’re writing HTML5, as it’s pretty much a superset of HTML4. There are some useful advantages to doing this. The first is that the HTML5 validator (I use http://html5.validator.nu) also validates ARIA information, whereas the HTML4 validator doesn’t, as ARIA is a new spec developed after HTML4. (Actually, it’s more accurate to say that it doesn’t validate your ARIA attributes, but it doesn’t automatically report them as an error.) Another advantage is that HTML5 allows tabindex as a global attribute (that is, on any element). Although originally designed as an accessibility bolt-on, I ordinarily advise you don’t use it; a well-structured page should provide a logical tab order through links and form fields already. However, tabindex="-1" is a legal value in HTML5 as it allows for the element to be programmatically focussable by JavaScript. It’s also very useful for correcting a bug in Internet Explorer when used with a keyboard; in-page links go nowhere if the destination doesn’t have a proprietary property called hasLayout set or a tabindex of -1. So, whether it is the tool of Satan or yule of Santa, HTML5 is just around the corner. Some you can use now, and by the end of 2010 I predict you’ll be able to use a whole lot more as new browser versions are released. 2009 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2009-12-05T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2009/html5-tool-of-satan-or-yule-of-santa/ 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 valuable teammates. A design system needs support and love to be nurtured and to grow. It also needs investment. Investment To have a successful design system, you need to make a continuous effort to invest resources into it. I like to compare this to working out. You can work out intensely for 3 months and see some gains, but once you stop working out, those will slowly fade away. If you continue to work out, even if its less often than the initial investment, you’ll see yourself maintaining your fitness level at a much higher rate than if you stopped completely. If you invest once in a design system (say, 3 months of overhauling it) but neglect to keep it up, you’ll face the same situation. You’ll see immediate impact, but that impact will fade as it gets out of sync with new designs and you’ll end up with strange, floating bits of code that nobody is using. Your engineers will stop using it as the patterns become outdated, and then you’ll find yourself in for another round of large investment (while dreading going through the process since its fallen so far out of shape). With design systems, small incremental investments over time lead to big gains overall. With this point, I also want to note that because of how they scale, design systems can really make a large impact across the platform, making it extremely important to really invest in things like accessibility and solid architecture from the start. You don’t want to scale a brittle system that’s not easy to use. Take care of your design systems, and keep working on them to ensure their effectiveness. One way to ensure this is to have a dedicated team working on this design system, managing tickets and styling updates that trickle out to the rest of your company. Responsibility With some kind of team to act as an owner of a design system, whether it be the design team, engineering team, or a new team made of both designers and engineers (the best option), your company is more likely to keep a relevant, up-to-date system that doesn’t break. This team is responsible for a few things: Helping others get set up on the system (support) Designing and building components (development) Advocating for overall UI consistency and adherence (evangelism) Creating a rollout plan and update system (product management) As you can see, these are a lot of roles, so it helps to have multiple people on this team, at least part of the time, if you can. One thing I’ve found to be effective in the past is to hold office hours for coworkers to book slots within to help them get set up and to answer any questions about using the system. Having an open Slack channel also helps for this sort of thing, as well as for bringing up bugs/issues/ideas and being an channel for announcements like new releases. Communication Once you have resources and a plan to invest in a design system, its really important that this person or team acts as a bridge between design and engineering. Continuous communication is really important here, and the way you communicate is even more important. Remember that nobody wants to be told what to do or prescribed a solution, especially developers, who are used to a lot of autonomy (usually they get to choose their own tools at work). Despite how much control the other engineers have on the process, they need to feel like they have input, and feel heard. This can be challenging, especially since ultimately, some party needs to be making a final decision on direction and execution. Because it’s a hard balance to strike, having open communication channels and being as transparent as possible as early as possible is a good start. Buy-in For all of the reasons we’ve just looked over, good communication is really important for getting buy-in from your users (the engineers and designers), as well as from product management. Building and maintaining a design system is surprisingly a lot of people-ops work. To get buy-in where you don’t have a previous concensus that this is the right direction to take, you need to make people want to use your design system. A really good way to get someone to want to use a product is to make it the path of least resistance, to show its value. Gather examples and usage wins, because showing is much more powerful than telling. If you can, have developers use your product in a low-stakes situation where it provides clear benefits. Hackathons are a great place to debut your design system. Having a hackathon internally at DigitalOcean was a perfect opportunity to: Evangelize for the design system See what people were using the component library for and what they were struggling with (excellent user testing there) Get user feedback afterward on how to improve it in future iterations Let people experience the benefits of using it themselves These kinds of moments, where people explore on their own are where you can really get people on your side and using the design system, because they can get their hands on it and draw their own conclusions (and if they don’t love it — listen to them on how to improve it so that they do). We don’t always get so lucky as to have this sort of instantaneous user feedback from our direct users. Architecture I briefly mentioned the scalable nature of design systems. This is exactly why it’s important to develop a solid architecture early on in the process. Build your design system with growth and scalability in mind. What happens if your company acquires a new product? What happens when it develops a new market segment? How can you make sure there’s room for customization and growth? A few things we’ve found helpful include: Namespacing Use namespacing to ensure that the system doesn’t collide with existing styles if applying it to an existing codebase. This means prefixing every element in the system to indicate that this class is a part of the design system. To ensure that you don’t break parts of the existing build (which may have styled base elements), you can namespace the entire system inside of a parent class. Sass makes this easy with its nested structure. This kind of namespacing wouldn’t be necessary per se on new projects, but it is definitely useful when integrating new and old styles. Semantic Versioning I’ve used Semantic Versioning on all of the design systems I’ve ever worked on. Semantic versioning uses a system of Major.Minor.Patch for any updates. You can then tag released on Github with versioned updates and ensure that someone’s app won’t break unintentionally when there is an update, if they are anchored to a specific version (which they should be). We also use this semantic versioning as a link with our design system assets at DigitalOcean (i.e. Sketch library) to keep them in sync, with the same version number corresponding to both Sketch and code. Our design system is served as a node module, but is also provided as a series of built assets using our CDN for quick prototyping and one-off projects. For these built assets, we run a deploy script that automatically creates folders for each release, as well as a latest folder if someone wanted the always-up-to-date version of the design system. So, semantic versioning for the system I’m currently building is what links our design system node module assets, sketch library assets, and statically built file assets. The reason we have so many ways of consuming our design system is to make adoption easier and to reduce friction. Friction A while ago, I posed the question of why design systems become outdated and unused, and a major conclusion I drew from the conversation was: “If it’s harder for people to use than their current system, people just won’t use it” You have to make your design system the path of least resistance, lowering cognitive overhead of development, not adding to it. This is vital. A design system is intended to make development much more efficient, enforce a consistent style across sites, and allow for the developer to not worry as much about small decisions like naming and HTML semantics. These are already sorted out for them, meaning they can focus on building product. But if your design system is complicated and over-engineered, they may find it frustrating to use and go back to what they know, even if its not the best solution. If you’re a Sass expert, and base your system on complex mixins and functions, you better hope your user (the developer) is also a Sass expert, or wants to learn. This is often not the case, however. You need to talk to your audience. With the DigitalOcean design system, we provide a few options: Option 1 Users can implement the component library into a development environment and use Sass, select just the components they want to include, and extend the system using a hook-based system. This is the most performant and extensible output. Only the components that are called upon are included, and they can be easily extended using mixins. But as noted earlier, not everyone wants to work this way (including Sass a dependency and potentially needing to set up a build system for it and learn a new syntax). There is also the user who just wants to throw a link onto their page and have it look nice, and thats where our versioned built assets come in. Option 2 With Option 2, users pull in links that are served via a CDN that contain JS, CSS, and our SVG icon library. The code is a bit bigger than the completely customized version, but often this isn’t the aim when people are using Option 2. Reducing friction for adoption should be a major goal of your design system rollout. Conclusion Having a design system is really beneficial to any product, especially as it grows. In order to have an effective system, it’s important to primarily always keep your user in mind and garner support from your entire company. Once you have support and acceptance, this system will flourish and grow. Make sure someone is responsible for it, and make sure its built with a solid foundation from the start which will be carefully maintained toward the future. Good luck, and happy holidays! 2017 Una Kravets unakravets 2017-12-14T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/why-design-systems-fail/ 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 AudioParam which has options to set values at precise intervals). const node = audioCtx.createGain() const input = document.querySelector('input') input.oninput = () => node.gain.value = parseFloat(input.value) input.connect(node) node.connect(audioCtx.destination) You can now see a range input, which can be dragged to update the state of our graph. This input could be any kind of element, so now you’ll be free to build the volume control of your dreams. There’s a number of nodes that let you modify/filter an audio stream in more interesting ways. Head over to the MDN Web Audio page for a list of them. Analysers Something else we can add to our graph is an AnalyserNode. This doesn’t modify the audio at all, but allows us to inspect the sounds that are flowing through it. We can put this into our graph between our AudioSourceNode and the GainNode. const analyser = audioCtx.createAnalyser() input.connect(analyser) analyser.connect(gain) gain.connect(audioCtx.destination) And now we have an analyser. We can access it from elsewhere to drive any kind of visuals. For instance, if we wanted to draw lines on a canvas we could totally do that: const waveform = new Uint8Array(analyser.fftSize) const frequencies = new Uint8Array(analyser.frequencyBinCount) const ctx = canvas.getContext('2d') const loop = () => { requestAnimationFrame(loop) analyser.getByteTimeDomainData(waveform) analyser.getByteFrequencyData(frequencies) ctx.beginPath() waveform.forEach((f, i) => ctx.lineTo(i, f)) ctx.lineTo(0,255) frequencies.forEach((f, i) => ctx.lineTo(i, 255-f)) ctx.stroke() } loop() You can see that we have two arrays of data available (I added colours for clarity): The waveform - the raw samples of the audio being played. The frequencies - a fourier transform of the audio passing through the node. What’s cool about this is that you’re not tied to any specific functionality of the Web Audio API. If it’s possible for you to update something with an array of numbers, then you can just apply it to the output of the analyser node. For instance, if we wanted to, we could definitely animate a list of emoji in time with our music. spans.forEach( (s, i) => s.style.transform = `scale(${1 + (frequencies[i]/100)})` ) 🔈🎤🎤🎤🎺🎷📯🎶🔊🎸🎺🎤🎸🎼🎷🎺🎻🎸🎻🎺🎸🎶🥁🎶🎵🎵🎷📯🎸🎹🎤🎷🎻🎷🔈🔊📯🎼🎤🎵🎼📯🥁🎻🎻🎤🔉🎵🎹🎸🎷🔉🔈🔉🎷🎶🔈🎸🎸🎻🎤🥁🎼📯🎸🎸🎼🎸🥁🎼🎶🎶🥁🎤🔊🎷🔊🔈🎺🔊🎻🎵🎻🎸🎵🎺🎤🎷🎸🎶🎼📯🔈🎺🎤🎵🎸🎸🔊🎶🎤🥁🎵🎹🎸🔈🎻🔉🥁🔉🎺🔊🎹🥁🎷📯🎷🎷🎤🎸🔉🎹🎷🎸🎺🎼🎤🎼🎶🎷🎤🎷📯📯🎻🎤🎷📯🎹🔈🎵🎹🎼🔊🔉🔉🔈🎶🎸🥁🎺🔈🎷🎵🔉🥁🎷🎹🎷🔊🎤🎤🔊🎤🎤🎹🎸🎹🔉🎷 Generating Audio So far, we’ve been using the <audio> element as a source of sound. There’s a few other sources of audio that we can use. We’ll look at the AudioBufferNode - which allows you to manually generate a sound sample, and then connect it to our graph. First we have to create an AudioBuffer, which holds our raw data, then we pass that to an AudioBufferNode which we can then treat just like our AudioSource node. This can get a bit boring, so we’ll use a helper method that makes it simpler to generate sounds. const generator = (audioCtx, target) => (seconds, fn) => { const { sampleRate } = audioCtx const buffer = audioCtx.createBuffer( 1, sampleRate * seconds, sampleRate ) const data = buffer.getChannelData(0) for (var i = 0; i < data.length; i++) { data[i] = fn(i / sampleRate, seconds) } return () => { const source = audioCtx.createBufferSource() source.buffer = audioBuffer source.connect(target || audioCtx.destination) source.start() } } const sound = generator(audioCtx, gain) Our wrapper will let us provide a function that maps time (in seconds) to a sample (between 1 and -1). This generates a waveform, like we saw before with the analyser node. For example, the following will generate 0.75 seconds of white noise at 20% volume. const noise = sound(0.75, t => Math.random() * 0.2) button.onclick = noise Noise Now we’ve got a noisy button! Handy. Rather than having a static set of audio nodes, each time we click the button, we add a new node to our graph. Although this feels inefficient, it’s not actually too bad - the browser can do a good job of cleaning up old nodes once they’ve played. An interesting property of defining sounds as functions is that we can combine multiple function to generate new sounds. So if we wanted to fade our noise in and out, we could write a higher order function that does that. const ease = fn => (t, s) => fn(t) * Math.sin((t / s) * Math.PI) const noise = sound(0.75, ease(t => Math.random() * 0.2)) ease(noise) And we can do more than just white noise - if we use Math.sin, we can generate some nice pure tones. // Math.sin with period of 0..1 const wave = v => Math.sin(Math.PI * 2 * v) const hz = f => t => wave(t * f) const _440hz = sound(0.75, ease(hz(440))) const _880hz = sound(0.75, ease(hz(880))) 440Hz 880Hz We can also make our functions more complex. Below we’re combining several frequencies to make a richer sounding tone. const harmony = f => [4, 3, 2, 1].reduce( (v, h, i) => (sin(f * h) * (i+1) ) + v ) const a440 = sound(0.75, ease(harmony(440))) 440Hz 880Hz Cool. We’re still not using any audio-specific functionality, so we can repurpose anything that does an operation on data. For example, we can use d3.js - usually used for interactive data visualisations - to generate a triangular waveform. const triangle = d3.scaleLinear() .domain([0, .5, 1]) .range([-1, 1, -1]) const wave = t => triangle(t % 1) const a440 = sound(0.75, ease(harmony(440))) 440Hz 880Hz It’s pretty interesting to play around with different functions. I’ve plonked everything in jsbin if you want to have a play yourself. A departure from best practice We’ve been generating our audio from scratch, but most of what we’ve looked at can be implemented by a series of native Web Audio nodes. This would be way performant (because it’s not happening on the main thread), and more flexible in some ways (because you can set timings dynamically whilst the note is playing). But we’re going to stay with this approach because it’s fun, and sometimes the fun thing to do might not technically be the best thing to do. Making a keyboard Having a button that makes a sound is totally great, but how about lots of buttons that make lots of sounds? Yup, totally greater-er. The first thing we need to know is the frequency of each note. I thought this would be awkward because pianos were invented more than 250 years before the Hz unit was defined, so surely there wouldn’t be a simple mapping between the two? const freq = note => 27.5 * Math.pow(2, (note - 21) / 12) This equation blows my mind; I’d never really figured how tightly music and maths fit together. When you see a chord or melody, you can directly map it back to a mathematical pattern. Our keyboard is actually an SVG picture of a keyboard, so we can traverse the elements of it and map each element to a sound generated by one of the functions that we came up with before. Array.from(svg.querySelector('rect')) .sort((a, b) => + a.x - b.x) .forEach((key, i) => key.addEventListener('touchstart', sound(0.75, ease(harmony(freq(i + 48)))) ) ) rect {stroke: #ddd;} rect:hover {opacity: 0.8; stroke: #000} Et voilà. We have a keyboard. What I like about this is that it’s completely pure - there’s no lookup tables or hardcoded attributes; we’ve just defined a mapping from SVG elements to the sound they should probably make. Doing better in the future As I mentioned before, this could be implemented more performantly with Web Audio nodes, or even better - use something like Tone.js to be performant for you. Web Audio has been around for a while, though we’re getting new challenges with immersive WebXR experiences, where spatial audio becomes really important. There’s also always support and API improvements (if you like AudioBufferNode, you’re going to love AudioWorklet) Conclusion And that’s about it. Web Audio isn’t some black box, you can easily link it with whatever framework, or UI that you’ve built (whether you should is an entirely different question). If anyone ever asks you “could you turn this SVG into a musical instrument?” you don’t have to stare blankly at them any more. (function(a,c){var b=a.createElement("script");if(!("noModule"in b)&&"on"+c in b){var d=!1;a.addEventListener(c,function(a){if(a.target===b)d=!0;else if(!a.target.hasAttribute("nomodule")||!d)return;a.preventDefault()},!0);b.type="module";b.src=".";a.head.appendChild(b);b.remove()}})(document,"beforeload"); 2017 Ben Foxall benfoxall 2017-12-17T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/feeding-the-audio-graph/ code
216 Styling Components - Typed CSS With Stylable There’s been a lot of debate recently about how best to style components for web apps so that styles don’t accidentally ‘leak’ out of the component they’re meant for, or clash with other styles on the page. Elaborate CSS conventions have sprung up, such as OOCSS, SMACSS, BEM, ITCSS, and ECSS. These work well, but they are methodologies, and require everyone in the team to know them and follow them, which can be a difficult undertaking across large or distributed teams. Others just give up on CSS and put all their styles in JavaScript. Now, I’m not bashing JS, especially so close to its 22nd birthday, but CSS-in-JS has problems of its own. Browsers have 20 years experience in optimising their CSS engines, so JavaScript won’t be as fast as using real CSS, and in any case, this requires waiting for JS to download, parse, execute then render the styles. There’s another problem with CSS-in-JS, too. Since Responsive Web Design hit the streets, most designers no longer make comps in Photoshop or its equivalents; instead, they write CSS. Why hire an expensive design professional and require them to learn a new way of doing their job? A recent thread on Twitter asked “What’s your biggest gripe with CSS-in-JS?”, and the replies were illuminating: “Always having to remember to camelCase properties then spending 10min pulling hair out when you do forget”, “the cryptic domain-specific languages that each of the frameworks do just ever so slightly differently”, “When I test look and feel in browser, then I copy paste from inspector, only to have to re-write it as a JSON object”, “Lack of linting, autocomplete, and css plug-ins for colors/ incrementing/ etc”. If you’re a developer, and you’re still unconvinced, I challenge you to let designers change the font in your IDE to Zapf Chancery and choose a new colour scheme, simply because they like it better. Does that sound like fun? Will that boost your productivity? Thought not. Some chums at Wix Engineering and I wanted to see if we could square this circle. Wix-hosted sites have always used CSS-in-JS (the concept isn’t new; it was in Netscape 4!) but that was causing performance problems. Could we somehow devise a method of extending CSS (like SASS and LESS do) that gives us styles that are guaranteed not to leak or clash, that is compatible with code editors’ autocompletion, and which could be pre-processed at build time to valid, cross-browser, static CSS? After a few months and a few proofs of concept later (drumroll), yes – we could! We call it Stylable. Introducing Stylable Stylable is a CSS pre-processor, like SASS or LESS. It uses CSS syntax so all your development tools will work. At build time, the Stylable CSS extensions are transpiled to flat, valid, cross-browser vanilla CSS for maximum performance. There’s quite a bit to it, and this is a short article, so let’s look at the basic concepts. Components all the way down Stylable is designed for component-based systems. Imagine you have a Gallery component. Within that, there is a Navigation component (for example, containing a ‘next’, ‘previous’, ‘show all thumbnails’, and ‘show all albums’ controls), and within that there are NavButton components. Each component is discrete, used elsewhere in the system in different contexts, perhaps maintained by different team members or even different organisations — you can use Stylable to add a typed interface to non-Stylable component libraries, as well as using it to build an app from scratch. Firstly, Stylable will automatically namespace styles so they only apply inside that component, by rewriting them at build time with a unique (but human-readable) prefix. So, for example, <div className="jingle bells" /> might be re-written as <div class="header183--jingle header183--bells"></div>. So far, so BEM-like (albeit without the headache of remembering a convention). But what else can it do? Custom pseudo-elements An important feature of Stylable is the ability to reach into a component and style it from the outside, without having to know about its internal structure. Let’s see the guts of a simple JSX button component in the file button.jsx: render () { return ( <button> <span className="icon" /> <span className="label">Submit</span> </button> ); } (Note:className is the JSX way of setting a class on an element; this example uses React, but Stylable itself is framework-agnostic.) I style it using a Stylable stylesheet (the .st.css suffix tells the preprocessor to process this file): /* button.st.css */ /* note that the root class is automatically placed on the root HTML element by Stylable React integration */ .root { background: #b0e0e6; } .icon { display: block; height: 2em; background-image: url('./assets/btnIcon.svg'); } .label { font-size: 1.2em; color: rgba(81, 12, 68, 1.0); } Note that Stylable allows all the CSS that you know and love to be included. As Drew Powers wrote in his review: with Stylable, you get CSS, and every part of CSS. This seems like a “duh” observation, but this is significant if you’ve ever battled with a CSS-in-JS framework over a lost or “hacky” implementation of a basic CSS feature. I can import my Button component into another component - this time, panel.jsx: /* panel.jsx */ import * as React from 'react'; import {properties, stylable} from 'wix-react-tools'; import {Button} from '../button'; import style from './panel.st.css'; export const Panel = stylable(style)(() => ( <div> <Button className="cancelBtn" /> </div> )); In panel.st.css: /* panel.st.css */ :import { -st-from: './button.st.css'; -st-default: Button; } /* cancelBtn is of type Button */ .cancelBtn { -st-extends: Button; background: cornflowerblue; } /* targets the label of <Button className="cancelBtn" /> */ .cancelBtn::label { color: honeydew; font-weight: bold; } Here, we’re reaching into the Button component from the Panel component. Buttons that are not inside a Panel won’t be affected. We do this by extending the CSS concept of pseudo-elements. As MDN says “A CSS pseudo-element is a keyword added to a selector that lets you style a specific part of the selected element(s)”. We don’t use a descendant selector because the label isn’t part of the Panel component, it’s part of the Button component. This syntax allows us three important features: Piercing the Shadow Boundary Because, like a Matroshka doll of code, you can have components inside components inside components, you can chain pseudo-elements. In Stylable, Gallery::NavigationPanel::Button::Icon is a legitimate selector. We were worried by this (even though all Stylable CSS is transpiled to flat, valid CSS) because it’s not allowed in CSS, albeit with the note “A future version of this specification may allow multiple pseudo-elements per selector”. So I asked the CSS Working Group and was told “we intend to only allow specific combinations”, so we feel this extension to CSS is in the spirit of the language. While we’re on the subject of those pesky Web Standards, note that the proposed ::part and ::theme pseudo-elements are meant to fulfil the same function. However, those are coming in two years (YouTube link) and, when they do, Stylable will support them. Structure-agnostic The second totez-groovy™ feature of Stylable’s pseudo-element syntax is that you don’t have to care about the internal structure of the component whose boundary you’re piercing. Any element with a class attribute is exposed as a pseudo-element to any component that imports it. It acts as an interface on any component, whether written in-house or by a third party. Code completion When we started writing Stylable, our objective was to do for CSS what TypeScript does for JavaScript. Wikipedia says Challenges with dealing with complex JavaScript code led to demand for custom tooling to ease developing of components in the language. TypeScript developers sought a solution that would not break compatibility with the standard and its cross-platform support … [with] static typing that enables static language analysis, which facilitates tooling and IDE support. Similarly, because Stylable knows about components, their stylable parts and states, and how they inter-relate, we can develop language services like code completion and validation. That means we can see our errors at build time or even while working in our IDE. Wave goodbye to silent run-time breakage misery, with the Stylable Intelligence VS Code extension ! An action replay of Visual Studio Code offering code completion etc, filmed in super StyloVision. Pseudo-classes for state Stylable makes it easy to apply styles to custom states (as well as the usual :active, :checked, :visited etc) by extending the CSS pseudo-class syntax. We do this by declaring the possible custom states on the component: /* Gallery.st.css */ .root { -st-states: toggled, loading; } .root:toggled { color: red; } .root:loading { color: green; } .root:loading:toggled { color: blue; } The -st-states “property” is actually a directive for the transpiler, so Stylable knows about possible pseudo-elements and can offer code completion etc. It looks like a vendor prefix by design, because it’s therefore valid CSS syntax and IDEs won’t flag it as an error, but is removed at build time. Remember, Stylable resolves to flat, valid, cross-browser CSS. As with plain CSS, it can’t set a state, but can only react to states set externally. In the case of custom pseudo-classes, your JavaScript logic is responsible for maintaining state — by default, by setting a data-* attribute. And there’s more! Hopefully, I’ve shown you how Stylable extends CSS to allow you to style components and sub-components without worrying about that styles will leak, or knowing too much about internal structure. There isn’t time to tell you about mixins (CSS macros in JavaScript), variables or our theming capabilities, because I have wine to wrap and presents to mull. We made Stylable because we ♥ CSS. But there’s a practical reason, too. As James Kyle, a core team member of Yarn, Babel and TC39 (the JavaScript Standards Technical Committee), said of Styable “pretty sure all the CSS-in-JS libraries just died for me”, explaining CSS could be perfectly static if given the right tools, that’s exactly what stylable does. It gives you the tools you need in CSS so that you don’t need to do a bunch of dynamic shit in JS. Making it static is a huge performance win. Wix is currently battle-testing Stylable in its back-office systems, before rolling it out to power Wix-hosted sites to make them more performant. There are 110 million Wix-hosted sites, so there will be a lot of Stylable on the web in a few months. And it’s open-sourced so you, dear Reader, can try it out and use it too. There’s a Stylable boilerplate based on create-react-app to get you started (more integrations are in the pipeline). Happy Hols ‘n’ Hugz from the Stylable team: Bruce, Arnon, Tom, Ido. Read more Stylable documentation centre Stylable on Twitter A nice picture of a hedgehog 2017 Bruce Lawson brucelawson 2017-12-09T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2017/styling-components-typed-css-with-stylable/ code
235 Real Animation Using JavaScript, CSS3, and HTML5 Video When I was in school to be a 3-D animator, I read a book called Timing for Animation. Though only 152 pages long, it’s essentially the bible for anyone looking to be a great animator. In fact, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter used the first edition as a reference when he was an animator at Walt Disney Studios in the early 1980s. In the book, authors John Halas and Harold Whitaker advise: Timing is the part of animation which gives meaning to movement. Movement can easily be achieved by drawing the same thing in two different positions and inserting a number of other drawings between the two. The result on the screen will be movement; but it will not be animation. But that’s exactly what we’re doing with CSS3 and JavaScript: we’re moving elements, not animating them. We’re constantly specifying beginning and end states and allowing the technology to interpolate between the two. And yet, it’s the nuances within those middle frames that create the sense of life we’re looking for. As bandwidth increases and browser rendering grows more consistent, we can create interactions in different ways than we’ve been able to before. We’re encountering motion more and more on sites we’d generally label ‘static.’ However, this motion is mostly just movement, not animation. It’s the manipulation of an element’s properties, most commonly width, height, x- and y-coordinates, and opacity. So how do we create real animation? The metaphor In my experience, animation is most believable when it simulates, exaggerates, or defies the real world. A bowling ball falls differently than a racquetball. They each have different weights and sizes, which affect the way they land, bounce, and impact other objects. This is a major reason that JavaScript animation frequently feels mechanical; it doesn’t complete a metaphor. Expanding and collapsing a <div> feels very different than a opening a door or unfolding a piece of paper, but it often shouldn’t. The interaction itself should tie directly to the art direction of a page. Physics Understanding the physics of a situation is key to creating convincing animation, even if your animation seeks to defy conventional physics. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion’s_laws_of_motion states, “Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force.” Once a force acts upon an object, the object’s shape can change accordingly, depending on the strength of the force and the mass of the object. Another nugget of wisdom from Halas and Whitaker: All objects in nature have their own weight, construction, and degree of flexibility, and therefore each behaves in its own individual way when a force acts upon it. This behavior, a combination of position and timing, is the basis of animation. The basic question which an animator is continually asking himself is this: “What will happen to this object when a force acts upon it?” And the success of his animation largely depends on how well he answers this question. In animating with CSS3 and JavaScript, keep physics in mind. How ‘heavy’ is the element you’re interacting with? What kind of force created the action? A gentle nudge? A forceful shove? These subtleties will add a sense of realism to your animations and make them much more believable to your users. Misdirection Magicians often use misdirection to get their audience to focus on one thing rather than another. They fool us into thinking something happened that actually didn’t. Animation is the same, especially on a screen. By changing the arrangement of pixels on screen at a fast enough rate, your eyes fool your mind into thinking an object is actually in motion. Another important component of misdirecting in animation is the use of multiple objects. Try to recall a cartoon where a character vanishes. More often, the character makes some sort of exaggerated motion (this is called anticipation) then disappears, and a puff a smoke follows. That smoke is an extra element, but it goes a long way into make you believe that character actually disappeared. Very rarely does a vanishing character’s opacity simply go from one hundred per cent to zero. That’s not believable. So why do we do it with <div>s? Armed with the ammunition of metaphors and misdirection, let’s code an example. Shake, rattle, and roll (These demos require at least a basic understanding of jQuery and CSS3. Run away if your’re afraid, or brush up on CSS animation and resources for learning jQuery. Also, these demos use WebKit-specific features and are best viewed in the latest version of Safari, so performance in other browsers may vary.) We often see the design pattern of clicking a link to reveal content. Our “first demo”:”/examples/2010/real-animation/demo1/ shows us exactly that. It uses jQuery’s “ slideDown()”:http://api.jquery.com/slideDown/ method, as many instances do. But what force acted on the <div> that caused it to open? Did pressing the button unlatch some imaginary hook? Did it activate an unlocking sequence with some gears? Take 2 Our second demo is more explicit about what happens: the button fell on the <div> and shook its content loose. Here’s how it’s done. function clickHandler(){ $('#button').addClass('animate'); return false; } Clicking the link adds a class of animate to our button. That class has the following CSS associated with it: <style> .animate { -webkit-animation-name: ANIMATE; -webkit-animation-duration: 0.25s; -webkit-animation-iteration-count: 1; -webkit-animation-timing-function: ease-in; } @-webkit-keyframes ANIMATE { from { top: 72px; } to { top: 112px; } } </style> In our keyframe definition, we’ve specified from and to states. This is great, because we can be explicit about how an object starts and finishes moving. What’s also extra handy is that these CSS keyframes broadcast events that you can react to with JavaScript. In this example, we’re listening to the webkitAnimationEnd event and opening the <div> only when the sequence is complete. Here’s that code. function attachAnimationEventHandlers(){ var wrap = document.getElementById('wrap'); wrap.addEventListener('webkitAnimationEnd', function($e) { switch($e.animationName){ case "ANIMATE" : openMain(); break; default: } }, false); } function openMain(){ $('#main .inner').slideDown('slow'); } (For more info on handling animation events, check out the documentation at the Safari Reference Library.) Take 3 The problem with the previous demo is that the subtleties of timing aren’t evident. It still feels a bit choppy. For our third demo, we’ll use percentages instead of keywords so that we can insert as many points as we need to communicate more realistic timing. The percentages allow us to add the keys to well-timed animation: anticipation, hold, release, and reaction. <style> @-webkit-keyframes ANIMATE { 0% { top: 72px; } 40% { /* anticipation */ top: 57px; } 70% { /* hold */ top: 56px; } 80% { /* release */ top: 112px; } 100% { /* return */ top: 72px; } } </style> Take 4 The button animation is starting to feel much better, but the reaction of the <div> opening seems a bit slow. This fourth demo uses jQuery’s delay() method to time the opening precisely when we want it. Since we know the button’s animation is one second long and its reaction starts at eighty per cent of that, that puts our delay at 800ms (eighty per cent of one second). However, here’s a little pro tip: let’s start the opening at 750ms instead. The extra fifty milliseconds makes it feel more like the opening is a reaction to the exact hit of the button. Instead of listening for the webkitAnimationEnd event, we can start the opening as soon as the button is clicked, and the movement plays on the specified delay. function clickHandler(){ $('#button').addClass('animate'); openMain(); return false; } function openMain(){ $('#main .inner').delay(750).slideDown('slow'); } Take 5 We can tweak the timing of that previous animation forever, but that’s probably as close as we’re going to get to realistic animation with CSS and JavaScript. However, for some extra sauce, we could relegate the whole animation in our final demo to a video sequence which includes more nuances and extra elements for misdirection. Here’s the basis of video replacement. Add a <video> element to the page and adjust its opacity to zero. Once the button is clicked, fade the button out and start playing the video. Once the video is finished playing, fade it out and bring the button back. function clickHandler(){ if($('#main .inner').is(':hidden')){ $('#button').fadeTo(100, 0); $('#clickVideo').fadeTo(100, 1, function(){ var clickVideo = document.getElementById('clickVideo'); clickVideo.play(); setTimeout(removeVideo, 2400); openMain(); }); } return false; } function removeVideo(){ $('#button').fadeTo(500, 1); $('#clickVideo').fadeOut('slow'); } function openMain(){ $('#main .inner').delay(1100).slideDown('slow'); } Wrapping up I’m no JavaScript expert by any stretch. I’m sure a lot of you scripting wizards out there could write much cleaner and more efficient code, but I hope this gives you an idea of the theory behind more realistic motion with the technology we’re using most. This is just one model of creating more convincing animation, but you can create countless variations of this, including… Exporting <video> animations in 3-D animation tools or 2-D animation tools like Flash or After Effects Using <canvas> or SVG instead of <video> Employing specific JavaScript animation frameworks Making use of all the powerful properties of CSS Transforms and CSS Animation Trying out emerging CSS3 animation tools like Sencha Animator If it wasn’t already apparent, these demos show an exaggerated example and probably aren’t practical in a lot of environments. However, there are a handful of great sites out there that honor animation techniques—metaphor, physics, and misdirection, among others—like Benjamin De Cock’s vCard, 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web by Fantasy Interactive, and the Nike Snowboarding site by Ian Coyle and HEGA. They’re wonderful testaments to what you can do to aid interaction for users. My goal was to show you the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’ Your charge is to discern the ‘where’ and the ‘when.’ Happy animating! 2010 Dan Mall danmall 2010-12-15T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2010/real-animation-using-javascript-css3-and-html5-video/ code
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="sidebar"> <frame name="content"> </frameset> </frameset> Letterbox framesets were common way to deal with multiple screen sizes. In a letterbox, the central frameset had a fixed height and width, while the frames on the top, right, bottom, and left expanded to fill any remaining space. Handling older browsers Sadly not every browser supports frames, so I should send a helpful message to people who use older browsers asking them to upgrade. Happily, I can do that using noframes content: <noframes> <body> <p>This page uses frames, but your browser doesn’t support them. Please upgrade your browser.</p> </body> </noframes> Forcing someone back into a frame Sometimes, someone may follow a link to a page from a portal or search engine, or they might attempt to open it in a new window or tab. If that page properly belongs inside a <frameset>, people could easily miss out on other parts of a design. This short script will prevent this happening and because it’s vanilla Javascript, it doesn’t require a library such as jQuery: <script type="text/javascript"> if (top == self) { location = 'frameset.html'; } </script> Laying out my page Before starting my layout, I add a few basic background and colour styles. I must include these attributes in every page on my website: <body background="img/container.jpg" bgcolor="#fef7fb" link="#245eab" alink="#245eab" vlink="#3c146e" text="#000000"> I want absolute control over how people experience my design and don’t want to allow it to stretch, so I first need a <table> which limits the width of my layout to 800px. The align attribute will keep this <table> in the centre of someone’s screen: <table width="800" align="center"> <tr> <td>[…]</td> </tr> </table> Although they were developed for displaying tabular information, the cells and rows which make up the <table> element make it ideal for the precise implementation of a design. I need several tables—often nested inside each other—to implement my design. These include tables for a banner and three rows of content: <table width="800" align="center"> <table>[…]</table> <table> <table> <table>[…]</table> </table> </table> <table>[…]</table> <table>[…]</table> </table> The width of the first table—used for my banner—is fixed to match the logo it contains. As I don’t need borders, padding, or spacing between these cells, I use attributes to remove them: <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="587" align="center"> <tr> <td><img src="logo.gif" border="0" width="587" alt="Logo"></td> </tr> </table> The next table—which contains the largest image, introduction, and a call-to-action—is one of the most complex parts of my design, so I need to ensure its layout is pixel perfect. To do that I add an extra row at the top of this table and fill each of its cells with tiny transparent images: <tr> <td><img src="spacer.gif" width="593" height="1"></td> <td><img src="spacer.gif" width="207" height="1"></td> </tr> The height and width of these “shims” or “spacers” is only 1px but they will stretch to any size without increasing their weight on the page. This makes them perfect for performant website development. For the hero of this design, I splice up the large image into three separate files and apply each slice as a background to the table cells. I also match the height of those cells to the background images: <tr> <td background="slice-1.jpg" height="473"> </td> <td background="slice-2.jpg" height="473">[…]</td> </tr> <tr> <td background="slice-3.jpg" height="388"> </td> </tr> I use tables and spacer images throughout the rest of this design to lay out the various types of content with perfect precision. For example, to add a single-pixel border around my two columns of content, I first apply a blue background to an outer table along with 1px of cellspacing, then simply nest an inner table—this time with a white background—inside it: <table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <td> <table bgcolor="#ffffff" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> […] </table> </td> </tr> </table> Adding details Tables are fabulous tools for laying out a page, but they’re also useful for implementing details on those pages. I can use a table to add a gradient background, rounded corners, and a shadow to the button which forms my “Buy the DVD” call-to-action. First, I splice my button graphic into three slices; two fixed-width rounded ends, plus a narrow gradient which stretches and makes this button responsive. Then, I add those images as backgrounds and use spacers to perfectly size my button: <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <td background="btn-1.jpg" border="0" height="48" width="30"><img src="spacer.gif" width="30" height="1"></td> <td background="btn-2.jpg" border="0" height="48"> <center> <a href="" target="_blank"><b>Buy the DVD</b></a> </center> </td> <td background="btn-3.jpg" border="0" height="48" width="30"><img src="spacer.gif" width="30" height="1"></td> </tr> </table> I use those same elements to add details to headlines and lists too. Adding a “bullet” to each item in a list needs only two additional table cells, a circular graphic, and a spacer: <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <td width="10"><img src="li.gif" border="0" width="8" height="8"> </td> <td><img src="spacer.gif" width="10" height="1"> </td> <td>Directed by John Hughes</td> </tr> </table> Implementing a typographic hierarchy So far I’ve explained how to use frames, tables, and spacers to develop a layout for my content, but what about styling that content? I use <font> elements to change the typeface from the browser’s default to any font installed on someone’s device: <font face="Arial">Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy film […]</font> To adjust the size of those fonts, I use the size attribute and a value between the smallest (1) and the largest (7) where 3 is the browser’s default. I use a size of 4 for this headline and 2 for the text which follows: <font face="Arial" size="4"><b>Steve Martin</b></font> <font face="Arial" size="2">An American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician.</font> When I need to change the typeface, perhaps from a sans-serif like Arial to a serif like Times New Roman, I must change the value of the face attribute on every element on all pages on my website. NB: I use as many <br> elements as needed to create space between headlines and paragraphs. View the final result (and especially the source.) My modern day design for Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I can imagine many people reading this and thinking “This is terrible advice because we don’t develop websites like this in 2018.” That’s true. We have the ability to embed any number of web fonts into our products and websites and have far more control over type features, leading, ligatures, and sizes: font-variant-caps: titling-caps; font-variant-ligatures: common-ligatures; font-variant-numeric: oldstyle-nums; Grid has simplified the implementation of even the most complex compound grid down to just a few lines of CSS: body { display: grid; grid-template-columns: 3fr 1fr 2fr 2fr 1fr 3fr; grid-template-rows: auto; grid-column-gap: 2vw; grid-row-gap: 1vh; } Flexbox has made it easy to develop flexible components such as navigation links: nav ul { display: flex; } nav li { flex: 1; } Just one line of CSS can create multiple columns of fluid type: main { column-width: 12em; } CSS Shapes enable text to flow around irregular shapes including polygons: [src*="main-img"] { float: left; shape-outside: polygon(…); } Today, we wouldn’t dream of using images and a table to add a gradient, rounded corners, and a shadow to a button or link, preferring instead: .btn { background: linear-gradient(#8B1212, #DD3A3C); border-radius: 1em; box-shadow: 0 2px 4px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.50), inset 0 -1px 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.50); } CSS Custom Properties, feature and media queries, filters, pseudo-elements, and SVG; the list of advances in HTML, CSS, and other technologies goes on. So does our understanding of how best to use them by separating content, structure, presentation, and behaviour. As 2018 draws to a close, we’re certain we know how to design and develop products and websites better than we did at the end of 1998. Strange as it might seem looking back, in 1998 we were also certain our techniques and technologies were the best for the job. That’s why it’s dangerous to believe with absolute certainty that the frameworks and tools we increasingly rely on today—tools like Bootstrap, Bower, and Brunch, Grunt, Gulp, Node, Require, React, and Sass—will be any more relevant in the future than <font> elements, frames, layout tables, and spacer images are today. I have no prediction for what the web will be like twenty years from now. However, I want to believe we’ll build on what we’ve learned during these past two decades about the importance of accessibility, flexibility, and usability, and that the mistakes we made while infatuated by technologies won’t be repeated. Head over to my website if you’d like to read about how I’d implement my design for ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ today. 2018 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2018-12-23T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/designing-your-site-like-its-1998/ code
249 Fast Autocomplete Search for Your Website Every website deserves a great search engine - but building a search engine can be a lot of work, and hosting it can quickly get expensive. I’m going to build a search engine for 24 ways that’s fast enough to support autocomplete (a.k.a. typeahead) search queries and can be hosted for free. I’ll be using wget, Python, SQLite, Jupyter, sqlite-utils and my open source Datasette tool to build the API backend, and a few dozen lines of modern vanilla JavaScript to build the interface. Try it out here, then read on to see how I built it. First step: crawling the data The first step in building a search engine is to grab a copy of the data that you plan to make searchable. There are plenty of potential ways to do this: you might be able to pull it directly from a database, or extract it using an API. If you don’t have access to the raw data, you can imitate Google and write a crawler to extract the data that you need. I’m going to do exactly that against 24 ways: I’ll build a simple crawler using wget, a command-line tool that features a powerful “recursive” mode that’s ideal for scraping websites. We’ll start at the https://24ways.org/archives/ page, which links to an archived index for every year that 24 ways has been running. Then we’ll tell wget to recursively crawl the website, using the --recursive flag. We don’t want to fetch every single page on the site - we’re only interested in the actual articles. Luckily, 24 ways has nicely designed URLs, so we can tell wget that we only care about pages that start with one of the years it has been running, using the -I argument like this: -I /2005,/2006,/2007,/2008,/2009,/2010,/2011,/2012,/2013,/2014,/2015,/2016,/2017 We want to be polite, so let’s wait for 2 seconds between each request rather than hammering the site as fast as we can: --wait 2 The first time I ran this, I accidentally downloaded the comments pages as well. We don’t want those, so let’s exclude them from the crawl using -X "/*/*/comments". Finally, it’s useful to be able to run the command multiple times without downloading pages that we have already fetched. We can use the --no-clobber option for this. Tie all of those options together and we get this command: wget --recursive --wait 2 --no-clobber -I /2005,/2006,/2007,/2008,/2009,/2010,/2011,/2012,/2013,/2014,/2015,/2016,/2017 -X "/*/*/comments" https://24ways.org/archives/ If you leave this running for a few minutes, you’ll end up with a folder structure something like this: $ find 24ways.org 24ways.org 24ways.org/2013 24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility 24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility/index.html 24ways.org/2013/levelling-up 24ways.org/2013/levelling-up/index.html 24ways.org/2013/project-hubs 24ways.org/2013/project-hubs/index.html 24ways.org/2013/credits-and-recognition 24ways.org/2013/credits-and-recognition/index.html ... As a quick sanity check, let’s count the number of HTML pages we have retrieved: $ find 24ways.org | grep index.html | wc -l 328 There’s one last step! We got everything up to 2017, but we need to fetch the articles for 2018 (so far) as well. They aren’t linked in the /archives/ yet so we need to point our crawler at the site’s front page instead: wget --recursive --wait 2 --no-clobber -I /2018 -X "/*/*/comments" https://24ways.org/ Thanks to --no-clobber, this is safe to run every day in December to pick up any new content. We now have a folder on our computer containing an HTML file for every article that has ever been published on the site! Let’s use them to build ourselves a search index. Building a search index using SQLite There are many tools out there that can be used to build a search engine. You can use an open-source search server like Elasticsearch or Solr, a hosted option like Algolia or Amazon CloudSearch or you can tap into the built-in search features of relational databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL. I’m going to use something that’s less commonly used for web applications but makes for a powerful and extremely inexpensive alternative: SQLite. SQLite is the world’s most widely deployed database, even though many people have never even heard of it. That’s because it’s designed to be used as an embedded database: it’s commonly used by native mobile applications and even runs as part of the default set of apps on the Apple Watch! SQLite has one major limitation: unlike databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL, it isn’t really designed to handle large numbers of concurrent writes. For this reason, most people avoid it for building web applications. This doesn’t matter nearly so much if you are building a search engine for infrequently updated content - say one for a site that only publishes new content on 24 days every year. It turns out SQLite has very powerful full-text search functionality built into the core database - the FTS5 extension. I’ve been doing a lot of work with SQLite recently, and as part of that, I’ve been building a Python utility library to make building new SQLite databases as easy as possible, called sqlite-utils. It’s designed to be used within a Jupyter notebook - an enormously productive way of interacting with Python code that’s similar to the Observable notebooks Natalie described on 24 ways yesterday. If you haven’t used Jupyter before, here’s the fastest way to get up and running with it - assuming you have Python 3 installed on your machine. We can use a Python virtual environment to ensure the software we are installing doesn’t clash with any other installed packages: $ python3 -m venv ./jupyter-venv $ ./jupyter-venv/bin/pip install jupyter # ... lots of installer output # Now lets install some extra packages we will need later $ ./jupyter-venv/bin/pip install beautifulsoup4 sqlite-utils html5lib # And start the notebook web application $ ./jupyter-venv/bin/jupyter-notebook # This will open your browser to Jupyter at http://localhost:8888/ You should now be in the Jupyter web application. Click New -> Python 3 to start a new notebook. A neat thing about Jupyter notebooks is that if you publish them to GitHub (either in a regular repository or as a Gist), it will render them as HTML. This makes them a very powerful way to share annotated code. I’ve published the notebook I used to build the search index on my GitHub account. ​ Here’s the Python code I used to scrape the relevant data from the downloaded HTML files. Check out the notebook for a line-by-line explanation of what’s going on. from pathlib import Path from bs4 import BeautifulSoup as Soup base = Path("/Users/simonw/Dropbox/Development/24ways-search") articles = list(base.glob("*/*/*/*.html")) # articles is now a list of paths that look like this: # PosixPath('...24ways-search/24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility/index.html') docs = [] for path in articles: year = str(path.relative_to(base)).split("/")[1] url = 'https://' + str(path.relative_to(base).parent) + '/' soup = Soup(path.open().read(), "html5lib") author = soup.select_one(".c-continue")["title"].split( "More information about" )[1].strip() author_slug = soup.select_one(".c-continue")["href"].split( "/authors/" )[1].split("/")[0] published = soup.select_one(".c-meta time")["datetime"] contents = soup.select_one(".e-content").text.strip() title = soup.find("title").text.split(" ◆")[0] try: topic = soup.select_one( '.c-meta a[href^="/topics/"]' )["href"].split("/topics/")[1].split("/")[0] except TypeError: topic = None docs.append({ "title": title, "contents": contents, "year": year, "author": author, "author_slug": author_slug, "published": published, "url": url, "topic": topic, }) After running this code, I have a list of Python dictionaries representing each of the documents that I want to add to the index. The list looks something like this: [ { "title": "Why Bother with Accessibility?", "contents": "Web accessibility (known in other fields as inclus...", "year": "2013", "author": "Laura Kalbag", "author_slug": "laurakalbag", "published": "2013-12-10T00:00:00+00:00", "url": "https://24ways.org/2013/why-bother-with-accessibility/", "topic": "design" }, { "title": "Levelling Up", "contents": "Hello, 24 ways. Iu2019m Ashley and I sell property ins...", "year": "2013", "author": "Ashley Baxter", "author_slug": "ashleybaxter", "published": "2013-12-06T00:00:00+00:00", "url": "https://24ways.org/2013/levelling-up/", "topic": "business" }, ... My sqlite-utils library has the ability to take a list of objects like this and automatically create a SQLite database table with the right schema to store the data. Here’s how to do that using this list of dictionaries. import sqlite_utils db = sqlite_utils.Database("/tmp/24ways.db") db["articles"].insert_all(docs) That’s all there is to it! The library will create a new database and add a table to it called articles with the necessary columns, then insert all of the documents into that table. (I put the database in /tmp/ for the moment - you can move it to a more sensible location later on.) You can inspect the table using the sqlite3 command-line utility (which comes with OS X) like this: $ sqlite3 /tmp/24ways.db sqlite> .headers on sqlite> .mode column sqlite> select title, author, year from articles; title author year ------------------------------ ------------ ---------- Why Bother with Accessibility? Laura Kalbag 2013 Levelling Up Ashley Baxte 2013 Project Hubs: A Home Base for Brad Frost 2013 Credits and Recognition Geri Coady 2013 Managing a Mind Christopher 2013 Run Ragged Mark Boulton 2013 Get Started With GitHub Pages Anna Debenha 2013 Coding Towards Accessibility Charlie Perr 2013 ... <Ctrl+D to quit> There’s one last step to take in our notebook. We know we want to use SQLite’s full-text search feature, and sqlite-utils has a simple convenience method for enabling it for a specified set of columns in a table. We want to be able to search by the title, author and contents fields, so we call the enable_fts() method like this: db["articles"].enable_fts(["title", "author", "contents"]) Introducing Datasette Datasette is the open-source tool I’ve been building that makes it easy to both explore SQLite databases and publish them to the internet. We’ve been exploring our new SQLite database using the sqlite3 command-line tool. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use a more human-friendly interface for that? If you don’t want to install Datasette right now, you can visit https://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/ to try it out against the 24 ways search index data. I’ll show you how to deploy Datasette to Heroku like this later in the article. If you want to install Datasette locally, you can reuse the virtual environment we created to play with Jupyter: ./jupyter-venv/bin/pip install datasette This will install Datasette in the ./jupyter-venv/bin/ folder. You can also install it system-wide using regular pip install datasette. Now you can run Datasette against the 24ways.db file we created earlier like so: ./jupyter-venv/bin/datasette /tmp/24ways.db This will start a local webserver running. Visit http://localhost:8001/ to start interacting with the Datasette web application. If you want to try out Datasette without creating your own 24ways.db file you can download the one I created directly from https://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-ae60295.db Publishing the database to the internet One of the goals of the Datasette project is to make deploying data-backed APIs to the internet as easy as possible. Datasette has a built-in command for this, datasette publish. If you have an account with Heroku or Zeit Now, you can deploy a database to the internet with a single command. Here’s how I deployed https://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/ (running on Heroku’s free tier) using datasette publish: $ ./jupyter-venv/bin/datasette publish heroku /tmp/24ways.db --name search-24ways -----> Python app detected -----> Installing requirements with pip -----> Running post-compile hook -----> Discovering process types Procfile declares types -> web -----> Compressing... Done: 47.1M -----> Launching... Released v8 https://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/ deployed to Heroku If you try this out, you’ll need to pick a different --name, since I’ve already taken search-24ways. You can run this command as many times as you like to deploy updated versions of the underlying database. Searching and faceting Datasette can detect tables with SQLite full-text search configured, and will add a search box directly to the page. Take a look at http://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-b607e21/articles to see this in action. ​ SQLite search supports wildcards, so if you want autocomplete-style search where you don’t need to enter full words to start getting results you can add a * to the end of your search term. Here’s a search for access* which returns articles on accessibility: http://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-ae60295/articles?_search=acces%2A A neat feature of Datasette is the ability to calculate facets against your data. Here’s a page showing search results for svg with facet counts calculated against both the year and the topic columns: http://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-ae60295/articles?_search=svg&_facet=year&_facet=topic Every page visible via Datasette has a corresponding JSON API, which can be accessed using the JSON link on the page - or by adding a .json extension to the URL: http://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-ae60295/articles.json?_search=acces%2A Better search using custom SQL The search results we get back from ../articles?_search=svg are OK, but the order they are returned in is not ideal - they’re actually being returned in the order they were inserted into the database! You can see why this is happening by clicking the View and edit SQL link on that search results page. This exposes the underlying SQL query, which looks like this: select rowid, * from articles where rowid in ( select rowid from articles_fts where articles_fts match :search ) order by rowid limit 101 We can do better than this by constructing a custom SQL query. Here’s the query we will use instead: select snippet(articles_fts, -1, 'b4de2a49c8', '8c94a2ed4b', '...', 100) as snippet, articles_fts.rank, articles.title, articles.url, articles.author, articles.year from articles join articles_fts on articles.rowid = articles_fts.rowid where articles_fts match :search || "*" order by rank limit 10; You can try this query out directly - since Datasette opens the underling SQLite database in read-only mode and enforces a one second time limit on queries, it’s safe to allow users to provide arbitrary SQL select queries for Datasette to execute. There’s a lot going on here! Let’s break the SQL down line-by-line: select snippet(articles_fts, -1, 'b4de2a49c8', '8c94a2ed4b', '...', 100) as snippet, We’re using snippet(), a built-in SQLite function, to generate a snippet highlighting the words that matched the query. We use two unique strings that I made up to mark the beginning and end of each match - you’ll see why in the JavaScript later on. articles_fts.rank, articles.title, articles.url, articles.author, articles.year These are the other fields we need back - most of them are from the articles table but we retrieve the rank (representing the strength of the search match) from the magical articles_fts table. from articles join articles_fts on articles.rowid = articles_fts.rowid articles is the table containing our data. articles_fts is a magic SQLite virtual table which implements full-text search - we need to join against it to be able to query it. where articles_fts match :search || "*" order by rank limit 10; :search || "*" takes the ?search= argument from the page querystring and adds a * to the end of it, giving us the wildcard search that we want for autocomplete. We then match that against the articles_fts table using the match operator. Finally, we order by rank so that the best matching results are returned at the top - and limit to the first 10 results. How do we turn this into an API? As before, the secret is to add the .json extension. Datasette actually supports multiple shapes of JSON - we’re going to use ?_shape=array to get back a plain array of objects: JSON API call to search for articles matching SVG The HTML version of that page shows the time taken to execute the SQL in the footer. Hitting refresh a few times, I get response times between 2 and 5ms - easily fast enough to power a responsive autocomplete feature. A simple JavaScript autocomplete search interface I considered building this using React or Svelte or another of the myriad of JavaScript framework options available today, but then I remembered that vanilla JavaScript in 2018 is a very productive environment all on its own. We need a few small utility functions: first, a classic debounce function adapted from this one by David Walsh: function debounce(func, wait, immediate) { let timeout; return function() { let context = this, args = arguments; let later = () => { timeout = null; if (!immediate) func.apply(context, args); }; let callNow = immediate && !timeout; clearTimeout(timeout); timeout = setTimeout(later, wait); if (callNow) func.apply(context, args); }; }; We’ll use this to only send fetch() requests a maximum of once every 100ms while the user is typing. Since we’re rendering data that might include HTML tags (24 ways is a site about web development after all), we need an HTML escaping function. I’m amazed that browsers still don’t bundle a default one of these: const htmlEscape = (s) => s.replace( />/g, '&gt;' ).replace( /</g, '&lt;' ).replace( /&/g, '&' ).replace( /"/g, '&quot;' ).replace( /'/g, '&#039;' ); We need some HTML for the search form, and a div in which to render the results: <h1>Autocomplete search</h1> <form> <p><input id="searchbox" type="search" placeholder="Search 24ways" style="width: 60%"></p> </form> <div id="results"></div> And now the autocomplete implementation itself, as a glorious, messy stream-of-consciousness of JavaScript: // Embed the SQL query in a multi-line backtick string: const sql = `select snippet(articles_fts, -1, 'b4de2a49c8', '8c94a2ed4b', '...', 100) as snippet, articles_fts.rank, articles.title, articles.url, articles.author, articles.year from articles join articles_fts on articles.rowid = articles_fts.rowid where articles_fts match :search || "*" order by rank limit 10`; // Grab a reference to the <input type="search"> const searchbox = document.getElementById("searchbox"); // Used to avoid race-conditions: let requestInFlight = null; searchbox.onkeyup = debounce(() => { const q = searchbox.value; // Construct the API URL, using encodeURIComponent() for the parameters const url = ( "https://search-24ways.herokuapp.com/24ways-866073b.json?sql=" + encodeURIComponent(sql) + `&search=${encodeURIComponent(q)}&_shape=array` ); // Unique object used just for race-condition comparison let currentRequest = {}; requestInFlight = currentRequest; fetch(url).then(r => r.json()).then(d => { if (requestInFlight !== currentRequest) { // Avoid race conditions where a slow request returns // after a faster one. return; } let results = d.map(r => ` <div class="result"> <h3><a href="${r.url}">${htmlEscape(r.title)}</a></h3> <p><small>${htmlEscape(r.author)} - ${r.year}</small></p> <p>${highlight(r.snippet)}</p> </div> `).join(""); document.getElementById("results").innerHTML = results; }); }, 100); // debounce every 100ms There’s just one more utility function, used to help construct the HTML results: const highlight = (s) => htmlEscape(s).replace( /b4de2a49c8/g, '<b>' ).replace( /8c94a2ed4b/g, '</b>' ); This is what those unique strings passed to the snippet() function were for. Avoiding race conditions in autocomplete One trick in this code that you may not have seen before is the way race-conditions are handled. Any time you build an autocomplete feature, you have to consider the following case: User types acces Browser sends request A - querying documents matching acces* User continues to type accessibility Browser sends request B - querying documents matching accessibility* Request B returns. It was fast, because there are fewer documents matching the full term The results interface updates with the documents from request B, matching accessibility* Request A returns results (this was the slower of the two requests) The results interface updates with the documents from request A - results matching access* This is a terrible user experience: the user saw their desired results for a brief second, and then had them snatched away and replaced with those results from earlier on. Thankfully there’s an easy way to avoid this. I set up a variable in the outer scope called requestInFlight, initially set to null. Any time I start a new fetch() request, I create a new currentRequest = {} object and assign it to the outer requestInFlight as well. When the fetch() completes, I use requestInFlight !== currentRequest to sanity check that the currentRequest object is strictly identical to the one that was in flight. If a new request has been triggered since we started the current request we can detect that and avoid updating the results. It’s not a lot of code, really And that’s the whole thing! The code is pretty ugly, but when the entire implementation clocks in at fewer than 70 lines of JavaScript, I honestly don’t think it matters. You’re welcome to refactor it as much you like. How good is this search implementation? I’ve been building search engines for a long time using a wide variety of technologies and I’m happy to report that using SQLite in this way is genuinely a really solid option. It scales happily up to hundreds of MBs (or even GBs) of data, and the fact that it’s based on SQL makes it easy and flexible to work with. A surprisingly large number of desktop and mobile applications you use every day implement their search feature on top of SQLite. More importantly though, I hope that this demonstrates that using Datasette for an API means you can build relatively sophisticated API-backed applications with very little backend programming effort. If you’re working with a small-to-medium amount of data that changes infrequently, you may not need a more expensive database. Datasette-powered applications easily fit within the free tier of both Heroku and Zeit Now. For more of my writing on Datasette, check out the datasette tag on my blog. And if you do build something fun with it, please let me know on Twitter. 2018 Simon Willison simonwillison 2018-12-19T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2018/fast-autocomplete-search-for-your-website/ code
283 CSS3 Patterns, Explained Many of you have probably seen my CSS3 patterns gallery. It became very popular throughout the year and it showed many web developers how powerful CSS3 gradients really are. But how many really understand how these patterns are created? The biggest benefit of CSS-generated backgrounds is that they can be modified directly within the style sheet. This benefit is void if we are just copying and pasting CSS code we don’t understand. We may as well use a data URI instead. Important note In all the examples that follow, I’ll be using gradients without a vendor prefix, for readability and brevity. However, you should keep in mind that in reality you need to use all the vendor prefixes (-moz-, -ms-, -o-, -webkit-) as no browser currently implements them without a prefix. Alternatively, you could use -prefix-free and have the current vendor prefix prepended at runtime, only when needed. The syntax described here is the one that browsers currently implement. The specification has since changed, but no browser implements the changes yet. If you are interested in what is coming, I suggest you take a look at the dev version of the spec. If you are not yet familiar with CSS gradients, you can read these excellent tutorials by John Allsopp and return here later, as in the rest of the article I assume you already know the CSS gradient basics: CSS3 Linear Gradients CSS3 Radial Gradients The main idea I’m sure most of you can imagine the background this code generates: background: linear-gradient(left, white 20%, #8b0 80%); It’s a simple gradient from one color to another that looks like this: See this example live As you probably know, in this case the first 20% of the container’s width is solid white and the last 20% is solid green. The other 60% is a smooth gradient between these colors. Let’s try moving these color stops closer to each other: background: linear-gradient(left, white 30%, #8b0 70%); See this example live background: linear-gradient(left, white 40%, #8b0 60%); See this example live background: linear-gradient(left, white 50%, #8b0 50%); See this example live Notice how the gradient keeps shrinking and the solid color areas expanding, until there is no gradient any more in the last example. We can even adjust the position of these two color stops to control where each color abruptly changes into another: background: linear-gradient(left, white 30%, #8b0 30%); See this example live background: linear-gradient(left, white 90%, #8b0 90%); See this example live What you need to take away from these examples is that when two color stops are at the same position, there is no gradient, only solid colors. Even without going any further, this trick is useful for a number of different use cases like faux columns or the effect I wanted to achieve in my homepage or the -prefix-free page where the background is only shown on one side and hidden on the other: Combining with background-size We can do wonders, however, if we combine this with the CSS3 background-size property: background: linear-gradient(left, white 50%, #8b0 50%); background-size: 100px 100px; See this example live And there it is. We just created the simplest of patterns: (vertical) stripes. We can remove the first parameter (left) or replace it with top and we’ll get horizontal stripes. However, let’s face it: Horizontal and vertical stripes are kinda boring. Most stripey backgrounds we see on the web are diagonal. So, let’s try doing that. Our first attempt would be to change the angle of the gradient to something like 45deg. However, this results in an ugly pattern like this: See this example live Before reading on, think for a second: why didn’t this produce the desired result? Can you figure it out? The reason is that the gradient angle rotates the gradient inside each tile, not the tiled background as a whole. However, didn’t we have the same problem the first time we tried to create diagonal stripes with an image? And then we learned that every stripe has to be included twice, like so: So, let’s try to create that effect with CSS gradients. It’s essentially what we tried before, but with more color stops: background: linear-gradient(45deg, white 25%, #8b0 25%, #8b0 50%, white 50%, white 75%, #8b0 75%); background-size:100px 100px; See this example live And there we have our stripes! An easy way to remember the order of the percentages and colors it is that you always have two of the same in succession, except the first and last color. Note: Firefox for Mac also needs an additional 100% color stop at the end of any pattern with more than two stops, like so: ..., white 75%, #8b0 75%, #8b0). The bug was reported in February 2011 and you can vote for it and track its progress at Bugzilla. Unfortunately, this is essentially a hack and we will realize that if we try to change the gradient angle to 60deg: See this example live Not that maintainable after all, eh? Luckily, CSS3 offers us another way of declaring such backgrounds, which not only helps this case but also results in much more concise code: background: repeating-linear-gradient(60deg, white, white 35px, #8b0 35px, #8b0 70px); See this example live In this case, however, the size has to be declared in the color stop positions and not through background-size, since the gradient is supposed to cover the entire container. You might notice that the declared size is different from the one specified the previous way. This is because the size of the stripes is measured differently: in the first example we specify the dimensions of the tile itself; in the second, the width of the stripes (35px), which is measured diagonally. Multiple backgrounds Using only one gradient you can create stripes and that’s about it. There are a few more patterns you can create with just one gradient (linear or radial) but they are more or less boring and ugly. Almost every pattern in my gallery contains a number of different backgrounds. For example, let’s create a polka dot pattern: background: radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, transparent 10%), radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, black 10%) 50px 50px; background-size:100px 100px; See this example live Notice that the two gradients are almost the same image, but positioned differently to create the polka dot effect. The only difference between them is that the first (topmost) gradient has transparent instead of black. If it didn’t have transparent regions, it would effectively be the same as having a single gradient, as the topmost gradient would obscure everything beneath it. There is an issue with this background. Can you spot it? This background will be fine for browsers that support CSS gradients but, for browsers that don’t, it will be transparent as the whole declaration is ignored. We have two ways to provide a fallback, each for different use cases. We have to either declare another background before the gradient, like so: background: black; background: radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, transparent 10%), radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, black 10%) 50px 50px; background-size:100px 100px; or declare each background property separately: background-color: black; background-image: radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, transparent 10%), radial-gradient(circle, white 10%, transparent 10%); background-size:100px 100px; background-position: 0 0, 50px 50px; The vigilant among you will have noticed another change we made to our code in the last example: we altered the second gradient to have transparent regions as well. This way background-color serves a dual purpose: it sets both the fallback color and the background color of the polka dot pattern, so that we can change it with just one edit. Always strive to make code that can be modified with the least number of edits. You might think that it will never be changed in that way but, almost always, given enough time, you’ll be proved wrong. We can apply the exact same technique with linear gradients, in order to create checkerboard patterns out of right triangles: background-color: white; background-image: linear-gradient(45deg, black 25%, transparent 25%, transparent 75%, black 75%), linear-gradient(45deg, black 25%, transparent 25%, transparent 75%, black 75%); background-size:100px 100px; background-position: 0 0, 50px 50px; See this example live Using the right units Don’t use pixels for the sizes without any thought. In some cases, ems make much more sense. For example, when you want to make a lined paper background, you want the lines to actually follow the text. If you use pixels, you have to change the size every time you change font-size. If you set the background-size in ems, it will naturally follow the text and you will only have to update it if you change line-height. Is it possible? The shapes that can be achieved with only one gradient are: stripes right triangles circles and ellipses semicircles and other shapes formed from slicing ellipses horizontally or vertically You can combine several of them to create squares and rectangles (two right triangles put together), rhombi and other parallelograms (four right triangles), curves formed from parts of ellipses, and other shapes. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should Technically, anything can be crafted with these techniques. However, not every pattern is suitable for it. The main advantages of this technique are: no extra HTTP requests short code human-readable code (unlike data URIs) that can be changed without even leaving the CSS file. Complex patterns that require a large number of gradients are probably better left to SVG or bitmap images, since they negate almost every advantage of this technique: they are not shorter they are not really comprehensible – changing them requires much more effort than using an image editor They still save an HTTP request, but so does a data URI. I have included some very complex patterns in my gallery, because even though I think they shouldn’t be used in production (except under very exceptional conditions), understanding how they work and coding them helps somebody understand the technology in much more depth. Another rule of thumb is that if your pattern needs shapes to obscure parts of other shapes, like in the star pattern or the yin yang pattern, then you probably shouldn’t use it. In these patterns, changing the background color requires you to also change the color of these shapes, making edits very tedious. If a certain pattern is not practicable with a reasonable amount of CSS, that doesn’t mean you should resort to bitmap images. SVG is a very good alternative and is supported by all modern browsers. Browser support CSS gradients are supported by Firefox 3.6+, Chrome 10+, Safari 5.1+ and Opera 11.60+ (linear gradients since Opera 11.10). Support is also coming in Internet Explorer when IE10 is released. You can get gradients in older WebKit versions (including most mobile browsers) by using the proprietary -webkit-gradient(), if you really need them. Epilogue I hope you find these techniques useful for your own designs. If you come up with a pattern that’s very different from the ones already included, especially if it demonstrates a cool new technique, feel free to send a pull request to the github repo of the patterns gallery. Also, I’m always fascinated to see my techniques put in practice, so if you made something cool and used CSS patterns, I’d love to know about it! Happy holidays! 2011 Lea Verou leaverou 2011-12-16T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/css3-patterns-explained/ code
288 Displaying Icons with Fonts and Data- Attributes Traditionally, bitmap formats such as PNG have been the standard way of delivering iconography on websites. They’re quick and easy, and it also ensures they’re as pixel crisp as possible. Bitmaps have two drawbacks, however: multiple HTTP requests, affecting the page’s loading performance; and a lack of scalability, noticeable when the page is zoomed or viewed on a screen with a high pixel density, such as the iPhone 4 and 4S. The requests problem is normally solved by using CSS sprites, combining the icon set into one (physically) large image file and showing the relevant portion via background-position. While this works well, it can get a bit fiddly to specify all the positions. In particular, scalability is still an issue. A vector-based format such as SVG sounds ideal to solve this, but browser support is still patchy. The rise and adoption of web fonts have given us another alternative. By their very nature, they’re not only scalable, but resolution-independent too. No need to specify higher resolution graphics for high resolution screens! That’s not all though: Browser support: Unlike a lot of new shiny techniques, they have been supported by Internet Explorer since version 4, and, of course, by all modern browsers. We do need several different formats, however! Design on the fly: The font contains the basic graphic, which can then be coloured easily with CSS – changing colours for themes or :hover and :focus styles is done with one line of CSS, rather than requiring a new graphic. You can also use CSS3 properties such as text-shadow to add further effects. Using -webkit-background-clip: text;, it’s possible to use gradient and inset shadow effects, although this creates a bitmap mask which spoils the scalability. Small file size: specially designed icon fonts, such as Drew Wilson’s Pictos font, can be as little as 12Kb for the .woff font. This is because they contain fewer characters than a fully fledged font. You can see Pictos being used in the wild on sites like Garrett Murray’s Maniacal Rage. As with all formats though, it’s not without its disadvantages: Icons can only be rendered in monochrome or with a gradient fill in browsers that are capable of rendering CSS3 gradients. Specific parts of the icon can’t be a different colour. It’s only appropriate when there is an accompanying text to provide meaning. This can be alleviated by wrapping the text label in a tag (I like to use <b> rather than <span>, due to the fact that it’s smaller and isn’ t being used elsewhere) and then hiding it from view with text-indent:-999em. Creating an icon font can be a complex and time-consuming process. While font editors can carry out hinting automatically, the best results are achieved manually. Unless you’re adept at creating your own fonts, you’re restricted to what is available in the font. However, fonts like Pictos will cover the most common needs, and icons are most effective when they’re using familiar conventions. The main complaint about using fonts for icons is that it can mean adding a meaningless character to our markup. The good news is that we can overcome this by using one of two methods – CSS generated content or the data-icon attribute – in combination with the :before and :after pseudo-selectors, to keep our markup minimal and meaningful. Our simple markup looks like this: <a href="/basket" class="icon basket">View Basket</a> Note the multiple class attributes. Next, we’ll import the Pictos font using the @font-face web fonts property in CSS: @font-face { font-family: 'Pictos'; src: url('pictos-web.eot'); src: local('☺'), url('pictos-web.woff') format('woff'), url('pictos-web.ttf') format('truetype'), url('pictos-web.svg#webfontIyfZbseF') format('svg'); } This rather complicated looking set of rules is (at the time of writing) the most bulletproof way of ensuring as many browsers as possible load the font we want. We’ll now use the content property applied to the :before pseudo-class selector to generate our icon. Once again, we’ll use those multiple class attribute values to set common icon styles, then specific styles for .basket. This helps us avoid repeating styles: .icon { font-family: 'Pictos'; font-size: 22px: } .basket:before { content: "$"; } What does the :before pseudo-class do? It generates the dollar character in a browser, even when it’s not present in the markup. Using the generated content approach means our markup stays simple, but we’ll need a new line of CSS, defining what letter to apply to each class attribute for every icon we add. data-icon is a new alternative approach that uses the HTML5 data- attribute in combination with CSS attribute selectors. This new attribute lets us add our own metadata to elements, as long as its prefixed by data- and doesn’t contain any uppercase letters. In this case, we want to use it to provide the letter value for the icon. Look closely at this markup and you’ll see the data-icon attribute. <a href="/basket" class="icon" data-icon="$">View Basket</a> We could add others, in fact as many as we like. <a href="/" class="icon" data-icon="k">Favourites</a> <a href="/" class="icon" data-icon="t">History</a> <a href="/" class="icon" data-icon="@">Location</a> Then, we need just one CSS attribute selector to style all our icons in one go: .icon:before { content: attr(data-icon); /* Insert your fancy colours here */ } By placing our custom attribute data-icon in the selector in this way, we can enable CSS to read the value of that attribute and display it before the element (in this case, the anchor tag). It saves writing a lot of CSS rules. I can imagine that some may not like the extra attribute, but it does keep it out of the actual content – generated or not. This could be used for all manner of tasks, including a media player and large simple illustrations. See the demo for live examples. Go ahead and zoom the page, and the icons will be crisp, with the exception of the examples that use -webkit-background-clip: text as mentioned earlier. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that with both generated content and the data-icon method, the letter will be announced to people using screen readers. For example, with the shopping basket icon above, the reader will say “dollar sign view basket”. As accessibility issues go, it’s not exactly the worst, but could be confusing. You would need to decide whether this method is appropriate for the audience. Despite the disadvantages, icon fonts have huge potential. 2011 Jon Hicks jonhicks 2011-12-12T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2011/displaying-icons-with-fonts-and-data-attributes/ code
308 How to Make a Chrome Extension to Delight (or Troll) Your Friends If you’re like me, you grew up drawing mustaches on celebrities. Every photograph was subject to your doodling wrath, and your brilliance was taken to a whole new level with computer programs like Microsoft Paint. The advent of digital cameras meant that no one was safe from your handiwork, especially not your friends. And when you finally got your hands on Photoshop, you spent hours maniacally giggling at your artistic genius. But today is different. You’re a serious adult with important things to do and a reputation to uphold. You keep up with modern web techniques and trends, and have little time for fun other than a random Giphy on Slack… right? Nope. If there’s one thing 2016 has taught me, it’s that we—the self-serious, world-changing tech movers and shakers of the universe—haven’t changed one bit from our younger, more delightable selves. How do I know? This year I created a Chrome extension called Tabby Cat and watched hundreds of thousands of people ditch productivity for randomly generated cats. Tabby Cat replaces your new tab page with an SVG cat featuring a silly name like “Stinky Dinosaur” or “Tiny Potato”. Over time, the cats collect goodies that vary in absurdity from fishbones to lawn flamingos to Raybans. Kids and adults alike use this extension, and analytics show the majority of use happens Monday through Friday from 9-5. The popularity of Tabby Cat has convinced me there’s still plenty of room in our big, grown-up hearts for fun. Today, we’re going to combine the formula behind Tabby Cat with your intrinsic desire to delight (or troll) your friends, and create a web app that generates your friends with random objects and environments of your choosing. You can publish it as a Chrome extension to replace your new tab, or simply host it as a website and point to it with the New Tab Redirect extension. Here’s a sneak peek at my final result featuring my partner, my cat, and I in cheerfully weird accessories. Your result will look however you want it to. Along the way, we’ll cover how to build a Chrome extension that replaces the new tab page, and explore ways to program randomness into your work to create something truly delightful. What you’ll need Adobe Illustrator (or a similar illustration program to export PNG) Some images of your friends A text editor Note: This can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Most of the application is pre-built so you can focus on kicking back and getting in touch with your creative side. If you want to dive in deeper, you’ll find ways to do it. Getting started Download a local copy of the boilerplate for today’s tutorial here, and open it in a text editor. Inside, you’ll find a simple web app that you can run in Chrome. Open index.html in Chrome. You should see a grey page that says “Noname”. Open template.pdf in Adobe Illustrator or a similar program that can export PNG. The file contains an artboard measuring 800px x 800px, with a dotted blue outline of a face. This is your template. Note: We’re using Google Chrome to build and preview this application because the end-result is a Chrome extension. This means that the application isn’t totally cross-browser compatible, but that’s okay. Step 1: Gather your friends The first thing to do is choose who your muses are. Since the holidays are upon us, I’d suggest finding inspiration in your family. Create your artwork For each person, find an image where their face is pointed as forward as possible. Place the image onto the Artwork layer of the Illustrator file, and line up their face with the template. Then, rename the artboard something descriptive like face_bob. Here’s my crew: As you can see, my use of the word “family” extends to cats. There’s no judgement here. Notice that some of my photos don’t completely fill the artboard–that’s fine. The images will be clipped into ovals when they’re rendered in the application. Now, export your images by following these steps: Turn the Template layer off and export the images as PNGs. In the Export dialog, tick the “Use Artboards” checkbox and enter the range with your faces. Export at 72ppi to keep things running fast. Save your images into the images/ folder in your project. Add your images to config.js Open scripts/config.js. This is where you configure your extension. Add key value pairs to the faces object. The key should be the person’s name, and the value should be the filepath to the image. faces: { leslie: 'images/face_leslie.png', kyle: 'images/face_kyle.png', beep: 'images/face_beep.png' } The application will choose one of these options at random each time you open a new tab. This pattern is used for everything in the config file. You give the application groups of choices, and it chooses one at random each time it loads. The only thing that’s special about the faces object is that person’s name will also be displayed when their face is chosen. Now, when you refresh the project in Chrome, you should see one of your friends along with their name, like this: Congrats, you’re off and running! Step 2: Add adjectives Now that you’ve loaded your friends into the application, it’s time to call them names. This step definitely yields the most laughs for the least amount of effort. Add a list of adjectives into the prefixes array in config.js. To get the words flowing, I took inspiration from ways I might describe some of my relatives during a holiday gathering… prefixes: [ 'Loving', 'Drunk', 'Chatty', 'Merry', 'Creepy', 'Introspective', 'Cheerful', 'Awkward', 'Unrelatable', 'Hungry', ... ] When you refresh Chrome, you should see one of these words prefixed before your friend’s name. Voila! Step 3: Choose your color palette Real talk: I’m bad at choosing color palettes, so I have a trick up my sleeve that I want to share with you. If you’ve been blessed with the gift of color aptitude, skip ahead. How to choose colors To create a color palette, I start by going to a Coolors.co, and I hit the spacebar until I find a palette that I like. We need a wide gamut of hues for our palette, so lock down colors you like and keep hitting the spacebar until you find a nice, full range. You can use as many or as few colors as you like. Copy these colors into your swatches in Adobe Illustrator. They’ll be the base for any illustrations you create later. Now you need a set of background colors. Here’s my trick to making these consistent with your illustration palette without completely blending in. Use the “Adjust Palette” tool in Coolors to dial up the brightness a few notches, and the saturation down just a tad to remove any neon effect. These will be your background colors. Add your background colors to config.js Copy your hex codes into the bgColors array in config.js. bgColors: [ '#FFDD77', '#FF8E72', '#ED5E84', '#4CE0B3', '#9893DA', ... ] Now when you go back to Chrome and refresh the page, you’ll see your new palette! Step 4: Accessorize This is the fun part. We’re going to illustrate objects, accessories, lizards—whatever you want—and layer them on top of your friends. Your objects will be categorized into groups, and one option from each group will be randomly chosen each time you load the page. Think of a group like “hats” or “glasses”. This will allow combinations of accessories to show at once, without showing two of the same type on the same person. Create a group of accessories To get started, open up Illustrator and create a new artboard out of the template. Think of a group of objects that you can riff on. I found hats to be a good place to start. If you don’t feel like illustrating, you can use cut-out images instead. Next, follow the same steps as you did when you exported the faces. Here they are again: Turn the Template layer off and export the images as PNGs. In the Export dialog, tick the “Use Artboards” checkbox and enter the range with your hats. Export at 72ppi to keep things running fast. Save your images into the images/ folder in your project. Add your accessories to config.js In config.js, add a new key to the customProps object that describes the group of accessories that you just created. Its value should be an array of the filepaths to your images. This is my hats array: customProps: { hats: [ 'images/hat_crown.png', 'images/hat_santa.png', 'images/hat_tophat.png', 'images/hat_antlers.png' ] } Refresh Chrome and behold, accessories! Create as many more accessories as you want Repeat the steps above to create as many groups of accessories as you want. I went on to make glasses and hairstyles, so my final illustrator file looks like this: The last step is adding your new groups to the config object. List your groups in the order that you want them to be stacked in the DOM. My final output will be hair, then hats, then glasses: customProps: { hair: [ 'images/hair_bowl.png', 'images/hair_bob.png' ], hats: [ 'images/hat_crown.png', 'images/hat_santa.png', 'images/hat_tophat.png', 'images/hat_antlers.png' ], glasses: [ 'images/glasses_aviators.png', 'images/glasses_monacle.png' ] } And, there you have it! Randomly generated friends with random accessories. Feel free to go much crazier than I did. I considered adding a whole group of animals in celebration of the new season of Planet Earth, or even adding Sir David Attenborough himself, or doing a bit of role reversal and featuring the animals with little safari hats! But I digress… Step 5: Publish it It’s time to put this in your new tabs! You have two options: Publish it as a Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store. Host it as a website and point to it with the New Tab Redirect extension. Today, we’re going to cover Option #1 because I want to show you how to make the simplest Chrome extension possible. However, I recommend Option #2 if you want to keep your project private. Every Chrome extension that you publish is made publicly available, so unless your friends want their faces published to an extension that anyone can use, I’d suggest sticking to Option #2. How to make a simple Chrome extension to replace the new tab page All you need to do to make your project into a Chrome extension is add a manifest.json file to the root of your project with the following contents. There are plenty of other properties that you can add to your manifest file, but these are the only ones that are required for a new tab replacement: { "manifest_version": 2, "name": "Your extension name", "version": "1.0", "chrome_url_overrides" : { "newtab": "index.html" } } To test your extension, you’ll need to run it in Developer Mode. Here’s how to do that: Go to the Extensions page in Chrome by navigating to chrome://extensions/. Tick the checkbox in the upper-right corner labelled “Developer Mode”. Click “Load unpacked extension…” and select this project. If everything is running smoothly, you should see your project when you open a new tab. If there are any errors, they should appear in a yellow box on the Extensions page. Voila! Like I said, this is a very light example of a Chrome extension, but Google has tons of great documentation on how to take things further. Check it out and see what inspires you. Share the love Now that you know how to make a new tab extension, go forth and create! But wield your power responsibly. New tabs are opened so often that they’ve become a part of everyday life–just consider how many tabs you opened today. Some people prefer to-do lists in their tabs, and others prefer cats. At the end of the day, let’s make something that makes us happy. Cheers! 2016 Leslie Zacharkow lesliezacharkow 2016-12-08T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/how-to-make-a-chrome-extension/ code
311 Designing Imaginative Style Guides (Living) style guides and (atomic) patterns libraries are “all the rage,” as my dear old Nana would’ve said. If articles and conference talks are to be believed, making and using them has become incredibly popular. I think there are plenty of ways we can improve how style guides look and make them better at communicating design information to creatives without it getting in the way of information that technical people need. Guides to libraries of patterns Most of my consulting work and a good deal of my creative projects now involve designing style guides. I’ve amassed a huge collection of brand guidelines and identity manuals as well as, more recently, guides to libraries of patterns intended to help designers and developers make digital products and websites. Two pages from one of my Purposeful style guide packs. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. “Style guide” is an umbrella term for several types of design documentation. Sometimes we’re referring to static style or visual identity guides, other times voice and tone. We might mean front-end code guidelines or component/pattern libraries. These all offer something different but more often than not they have something in common. They look ugly enough to have been designed by someone who enjoys configuring a router. OK, that was mean, not everyone’s going to think an unimaginative style guide design is a problem. After all, as long as a style guide contains information people need, how it looks shouldn’t matter, should it? Inspiring not encyclopaedic Well here’s the thing. Not everyone needs to take the same information away from a style guide. If you’re looking for markup and styles to code a ‘media’ component, you’re probably going to be the technical type, whereas if you need to understand the balance of sizes across a typographic hierarchy, you’re more likely to be a creative. What you need from a style guide is different. Sure, some people1 need rules: “Do this (responsive pattern)” or “don’t do that (auto-playing video.)” Those people probably also want facts: “Use this (hexadecimal value)” and not that inaccessible colour combination.” Style guides need to do more than list facts and rules. They should demonstrate a design, not just document its parts. The best style guides are inspiring not encyclopaedic. I’ll explain by showing how many style guides currently present information about colour. Colours communicate I’m sure you’ll agree that alongside typography, colour’s one of the most important ingredients in a design. Colour communicates personality, creates mood and is vital to an easily understandable interactive vocabulary. So you’d think that an average style guide would describe all this in any number of imaginative ways. Well, you’d be disappointed, because the most inspiring you’ll find looks like a collection of chips from a paint chart. Lonely Planet’s Rizzo does a great job of separating its Design Elements from UI Components, and while its ‘Click to copy’ colour values are a thoughtful touch, you’ll struggle to get a feeling for Lonely Planet’s design by looking at their colour chips. Lonely Planet’s Rizzo style guide. Lonely Planet approach is a common way to display colour information and it’s one that you’ll also find at Greenpeace, Sky, The Times and on countless more style guides. Greenpeace, Sky and The Times style guides. GOV.UK—not a website known for its creative flair—varies this approach by using circles, which I find strange as circles don’t feature anywhere else in its branding or design. On the plus side though, their designers have provided some context by categorising colours by usage such as text, links, backgrounds and more. GOV.UK style guide. Google’s Material Design offers an embarrassment of colours but most helpfully it also advises how to combine its primary and accent colours into usable palettes. Google’s Material Design. While the ability to copy colour values from a reference might be all a technical person needs, designers need to understand why particular colours were chosen as well as how to use them. Inspiration not documentation Few style guides offer any explanation and even less by way of inspiring examples. Most are extremely vague when they describe colour: “Use colour as a presentation element for either decorative purposes or to convey information.” The Government of Canada’s Web Experience Toolkit states, rather obviously. “Certain colors have inherent meaning for a large majority of users, although we recognize that cultural differences are plentiful.” Salesforce tell us, without actually mentioning any of those plentiful differences. I’m also unsure what makes the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards colours a “distinctly American palette” but it will have to work extremely hard to achieve its goal of communicating “warmth and trustworthiness” now. In Canada, “bold and vibrant” colours reflect Alberta’s “diverse landscape.” Adding more colours to their palette has made Adobe “rich, dynamic, and multi-dimensional” and at Skype, colours are “bold, colourful (obviously) and confident” although their style guide doesn’t actually provide information on how to use them. The University of Oxford, on the other hand, is much more helpful by explaining how and why to use their colours: “The (dark) Oxford blue is used primarily in general page furniture such as the backgrounds on the header and footer. This makes for a strong brand presence throughout the site. Because it features so strongly in these areas, it is not recommended to use it in large areas elsewhere. However it is used more sparingly in smaller elements such as in event date icons and search/filtering bars.” OpenTable style guide. The designers at OpenTable have cleverly considered how to explain the hierarchy of their brand colours by presenting them and their supporting colours in various size chips. It’s also obvious from OpenTable’s design which colours are primary, supporting, accent or neutral without them having to say so. Art directing style guides For the style guides I design for my clients, I go beyond simply documenting their colour palette and type styles and describe visually what these mean for them and their brand. I work to find distinctive ways to present colour to better represent the brand and also to inspire designers. For example, on a recent project for SunLife, I described their palette of colours and how to use them across a series of art directed pages that reflect the lively personality of the SunLife brand. Information about HEX and RGB values, Sass variables and when to use their colours for branding, interaction and messaging is all there, but in a format that can appeal to both creative and technical people. SunLife style guide. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. Purposeful style guides If you want to improve how you present colour information in your style guides, there’s plenty you can do. For a start, you needn’t confine colour information to the palette page in your style guide. Find imaginative ways to display colour across several pages to show it in context with other parts of your design. Here are two CSS gradient filled ‘cover’ pages from my Purposeful style sheets. Colour impacts other elements too, including typography, so make sure you include colour information on those pages, and vice-versa. Purposeful. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. A visual hierarchy can be easier to understand than labelling colours as ‘primary,’ ‘supporting,’ or ‘accent,’ so find creative ways to present that hierarchy. You might use panels of different sizes or arrange boxes on a modular grid to fill a page with colour. Don’t limit yourself to rectangular colour chips, use circles or other shapes created using only CSS. If irregular shapes are a part of your brand, fill SVG silhouettes with CSS and then wrap text around them using CSS shapes. Purposeful. Designs © Stuff & Nonsense. Summing up In many ways I’m as frustrated with style guide design as I am with the general state of design on the web. Style guides and pattern libraries needn’t be dull in order to be functional. In fact, they’re the perfect place for you to try out new ideas and technologies. There’s nowhere better to experiment with new properties like CSS Grid than on your style guide. The best style guide designs showcase new approaches and possibilities, and don’t simply document the old ones. Be as creative with your style guide designs as you are with any public-facing part of your website. Purposeful are HTML and CSS style guides templates designed to help you develop creative style guides and pattern libraries for your business or clients. Save time while impressing your clients by using easily customisable HTML and CSS files that have been designed and coded to the highest standards. Twenty pages covering all common style guide components including colour, typography, buttons, form elements, and tables, plus popular pattern library components. Purposeful style guides will be available to buy online in January. Boring people ↩ 2016 Andy Clarke andyclarke 2016-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 https://24ways.org/2016/designing-imaginative-style-guides/ design
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