In the work that we do on the Web (as well as in our daily lives), we’re often confronted, informed, or judged based on averages. I never really stopped to think about it, beyond being bugged by the fact that averages aren’t truly representative of reality. Then I listened to 99% Invisible’s episode “On Average”. It was incredibly enlightening and the stories shared in that episode provide sage wisdom that is very relevant to the work that we do.
Browse by Tag: Web Design
Late last week, Josh Korr, a project manager at Viget, posted at length about what he sees as a fundamental flaw with the argument for progressive enhancement. In reading the post, it became clear to me that Josh really doesn’t have a good grasp on progressive enhancement or the reasons its proponents think it’s a good philosophy to follow. Despite claiming to be “an expert at spotting fuzzy rhetoric and teasing out what’s really being said”, Josh makes a lot of false assumptions and inferences. My response would not have fit in a comment, so here it is…
The Web Bloat Score Calculator has been making the rounds on Twitter and I wanted to share my immediate thoughts on it.
Full disclosure: We both work at Microsoft, but on different teams. ↩
Sixteen years ago, Stewart Butterfield conceived of a contest that would test the mettle of any web designer: The 5k. The idea was that entrants would build an entire site in 5kB of code or less. Its aim was to force us to get creative by putting a bounding box on what we could do:
Between servers and bandwidth, clients and users, HTML and the DOM, browsers and platforms, our conscience and our ego, we’re left in a very small space to find highly optimal solutions. Since the space we have to explore is so small, we have to look harder, get more creative; and that’s what makes it all interesting.
Back in 2014, I had the great pleasure of listening to Ola Gasidlo of Hood.ie discuss the importance of offline at Beyond Tellerrand in Düsseldorf, Germany. Her excellent talk was my introduction to the “Offline First” movement and, while I can get behind the idea, I’ve had some serious issues with the name. And with the rise of Service Workers as a simple, usable means of making our content available offline, I thought it worth revisiting the idea of “offline first”, if only to address its core fallacy.
Unfortunately, I was unable to spend Tuesday in Nashville for An Event Apart (for reasons that will be revealed in about a month), but I did catch Monday and it was amazing.
“Checkbox” form controls have long been a part of software. They enable users to provide a simple binary response—yes or no. On the Web, we often see them in two scenarios: confirmations and multiple choice.
User experience encompasses more than just the interface. Download speed, render performance, and the cost of accessing a site are often overlooked areas when it comes to the practice of UX, but they all affect how users experience what we build on the Web.
Forms exist on pretty much every site on the web in one form or another. They are the primary mechanism by which we gather information from our users.1 Of course, before anyone can fill out a form, they need to know what it’s asking for. Labeling is key.
On Friday, Kelly and I were having a conversation over lunch about the ubiquity of Bootstrap. It’s a topic we’ve been kvetching about for the the last few years—we’ve grown tired of seeing the same site everywhere we look.
I’ve talked about this before: As web designers, we can’t trust the network. Sure, we have to contend with mobile data “dead zones” and dropped connections as our users move about throughout the day, but there’s a lot more to the network that’s beyond our control.
The fine folks at 18F just posted a beautiful write-up of the talk on progressive enhancement that I delivered as part of the 18F Design Speaker Series. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the folks that came. They presented some interesting challenges and asked pressing questions—exactly the kind of engagement I love.
I see this one all the time: something that looks like a button, but only a portion of it is tappable.
Last week Peter-Paul Koch (PPK) posted a lengthy treatise on why browsers should stop “pushing the web forward”. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and agree with him on a number of points. I also agreed with the well-articulated responses from Jake Archibald (of Google) and Bruce Lawson (of Opera). I guess I’m saying I see both sides. Like Chris Coyier, I live in a world filled with varying shades of grey rather than stark black & white.
Insurance company Unum has just released the “UX Toolkits” (a.k.a. patten libraries) they use for both Unum and Colonial Life. They are pretty bare-bones right now, but I am hopeful they will flesh them out over time.
I love it when companies share stuff like this.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has published Statements of Interest in two cases brought by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) against Harvard (PDF) and MIT (PDF), respectively. The NAD is suing the two universities for violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because the video and audio materials they are making available as part of their online learning offerings are not captioned.
One of the greatest challenges of progressive enhancement lies not with the coding, but with the planning. It can be incredibly challenging to articulate how a single interface might adapt to a wide variety of situations. Interface Experience Maps (Ix Maps) can help.
It’s like a snake eating its own tail:
Wonder what’s going on? Well, Facebook’s mobile site (
m.facebook.com/ClydesOnMain) is tracking the URL (using the
refsrc GET parameter) I came from (
www.facebook.com/ClydesOnMain#!/ClydesOnMain)—a single page “web app”, hence the hash-bang:
#!—that was tracking the original referral page (
I hope they got all that.
In watching Atari: Game Over, I couldn’t help but see all of the parallels between the early video game industry and the web design industry. The boys’ club… Engineers as rockstars… It’s a tale of a meteoric commercial rise followed by a swift and dismal collapse.
I may work for Microsoft, but I don’t know everything that’s going on across the company. It’s big and I don’t have that kind of time.
Today is the day Google updates it algorithm to take into account mobile-friendliness. Here are a few tips that will help you embrace mobile without tearing your hair out.
A lot of folks have helped me on the way to becoming the web professional that I am. When Molly declared today “Unsung Leaders of the Web Day”, I had to join in.
Ever since reading Haydon Pickering’s piece on quantity queries, I’ve been musing over the possibilities for layout. I decided I to play around with them a bit on this site as it’s been a while since I’ve tweaked the design. Being that I wanted to experiment, I thought this would be a fun time to tuck into Flexbox a bit more as well.
It is with a heavy heart that I announce that we are closing Web Standards Sherpa. As of April 2, we will be archiving the site in order to keep the valuable insights and techniques shared by our authors available in perpetuity.
Two weeks ago, I argued that our users should never foot the bill for developer convenience and yesterday I stumbled on a post from EllisLab (the makers of ExpressionEngine) that echoes that sentiment, but from a different angle. The title might make you scratch your head: Save Thousands of Dollars by Paying More for Hosting.
At Tuesday night’s Code & Creativity, digital governance expert Lisa Welchman equated digital projects to an atom. Content, IA, project management, networking, graphic design, application development, performance, and other concerns are flying this way and that like electrons—a swirling mass of energy and velocity. What holds this chaos together and keeps the electrons from flying off in all directions is the magnetic pull of protons in the nucleus of the atom.
While listening to Radiolab’s “The Trust Engineers”, I’ll admit I got a little excited when they started talking about web form performance. And no, not “performance” in the time-to-download sense, but “performance” in terms of how well the forms performed in attempting to capture meaningful, actionable data.
In more than a handful of conversations lately, it’s become quite clear that we, the web development community, are prioritizing our own convenience and our own time over that of our users. With our industry’s focus on “user-centered design”, you might find that hard to believe, but it’s true.
Jason Garber has penned a series of posts on progressive enhancement. Here’s a quick rundown on what they cover and why you should read them.
Monday, February 2nd will be the start of a new chapter in my professional career: I will joining Microsoft as a standards evangelist.
The reasons for the move are manifold, but I will do my best to summarize by taking you on the journey I’ve been on and hopefully that will help you understand why I will be leaving agency life behind and joining a browser maker (and the makers of Internet Explorer at that).
Today is the birthday of an amazing woman, Molly Holzschlag, and she needs our help!
Watching the Windows 10 announcement today and the “unveiling” of its new browser, codenamed “Project Spartan”, I was amazed… not by what was said so much as what wasn’t.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on one aspect of equality I think is incredibly important: egalitarianism.
This week the W3C published a couple of really cool new Working Drafts I wanted to bring to your attention (just in case you missed them).
It seems every week we are seeing more and more low-cost devices being launched in an effort to connect the unconnected. For instance, this past week saw the announcement of two new entries in the Microsoft Lumia line, the 435 and the 532, and the announcement of Samsung’s first Tizen phone, the Z1.
Since re-starting my blog I’ve been continuing to tinker with Octopress and Jekyll in an effort to customize things a bit more to my liking.
I recently began posting links (with commentary) in a bit of a link blog, but I wasn’t really happy with having it mixed in with the rest of my Notebook posts. I finally took a few minutes to formally bust out the links into their own paginated section, so you can keep up with them independently. I also set up a three distinct Atom feeds to let you consume this site’s content how you want to: Latest 20 posts and links, latest 20 posts, and Latest 20 links.
I’m hopeful this organization will prove as helpful to you as it is for my compartmentalization anxiety.
You may not remember it, but Palm’s groundbreaking—yes, I said groundbreaking—operating system, webOS, has been resuscitated yet again. This time by LG.
As you probably know, back in 2011 Easy Readers published my first solo book: Adaptive Web Design. It was an immediate hit and the response to continues to be tremendous even though it will turn four this coming May (which has to be like 80 in technology book years… many are outdated before they are even released).
For a while now I’ve been beating the “empathy” drum (notes), trying to get folks in our industry to understand the importance of creating connections with the people for whom we build software, websites, etc. After all, we design and build tools to solve the needs of actual people, not some generic “user”.
A while back GogOm reported on how Facebook’s decision to autoplay videos led to a 60% increase in mobile data usage. It was a business decision with the intent of increasing engagement, but it was a bad decision from a user experience. It’s a tax on users and they weren’t to happy about it.
You may be wondering Why is this a bad thing for users? They want to see videos, so we’re just giving them what they want. Well, let me share a little story.
It’s pretty amazing what you can do with CSS3 transforms these days, but I often struggle with explaining the importance of function order when I am training people on how to use them. Transformation functions are a visual thing, so they require a visual tool to fully understand them and the implications of your function order decisions.
If you know me, you know I am a pretty indecisive guy. It is not uncommon for Kelly and I to spend 15 minutes or more just trying to figure out where we want to grab a meal.
One of the biggest headaches of responsive design has been dealing with images. Thankfully our work on the Responsive
Images Community Group has resulted in a rock-solid set of elements and attributes to address all of your adaptive image needs. My company, Easy Designs, recently redesigned Nichols College’s website and that project just happened to coincide adaptive images landing in Blink (the rendering engine that powers Chrome and Opera). Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to use them.
My good friend Jeremy is incredibly excited about the Indie Web movement and I am right there with him. I love the idea of owning your content and then syndicating it out to social networks, photo sites, and the like. It makes complete sense… Web-based services have a habit of disappearing, so we shouldn’t rely on them. The only Web that is permanent is the one we control.
I gave this speech as the closing keynote at A11yQC, a conference on Web accessibility, on 14 October 2014 in Québec City, Canada. I have published my script here as the slides can’t really convey its message on their own.
We, as an industry, tend to have a pretty myopic view of experience. Those of us who work day-to-day in accessibility probably have a broader perspective than most, but I would argue that even we all fall short now and again when it comes to seeing the Web as others do.
Last night, while we were enjoying a cool evening and a few drinks outside after day 1 of BDConf, Jeremy asked me for some clarification on the ARIA attributes I had demoed as part of my forms presentation earlier in the afternoon. In particular, he was confused by how
I’ll level with you: I used to think I wanted variables in CSS.
As a programmer, I love the idea of being able to abstract reusable bits like colors, border widths, font sizes, and the like to obviously named variables. It’s a far more DRY approach and makes maintenance far easier.
In case you missed it, yesterday Pierre Far updated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In his post, Pierre lays out their case for progressive enhancement:
Just like modern browsers, our rendering engine might not support all of the technologies a page uses. Make sure your web design adheres to the principles of progressive enhancement as this helps our systems (and a wider range of browsers) see usable content and basic functionality when certain web design features are not yet supported.
I’m incredibly excited to see that Jason Pamental’s fantastic Responsive Typography is finally available. I had the great pleasure of reviewing an early galley and I can honestly say that it’s a book well worth reading. Jason’s natural and friendly style makes for an easy read and it’s chock-full of actionable recommendations and tips you’ll want to start using right away.
Earlier today, Stuart Langridge—who I worked with on WaSP’s DOM Scripting Task Force and have the utmost respect for—published a blog response to my last post. In it, he made some good points I wanted to highlight, but he also misunderstood one thing I said and managed to avoid addressing the core of my argument. As comments aren’t enabled on his site, I thought I’d respond here.
Ars Technica revealed today that Comcast is injecting self-promotional advertising into web pages delivered via it’s Wi-Fi hotspots:
A Comcast spokesman told Ars the program began months ago. One facet of it is designed to alert consumers that they are connected to Comcast's Xfinity service. Other ads remind Web surfers to download Xfinity apps, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told Ars in telephone interviews.
In his astute post “‘Native experience’ vs styling select boxes”, Bruce Lawson correctly identified a common tension in the web world:
But why this urge to re-style page elements that end-users are familiar with? … Or is it that we love native look and feel, except when we don’t?
select element alternative, but who also made it the focus of a case study (image) in AdvancED DOM Scripting, I am fully aware of the desire to have it both ways. I have not often seen the desire for both in a single individual, but it does happen in one particular instance occasionally.
So, a mere three years after my old “life blog” stopped working, I decided to scrap it and start fresh.