Category: Reviews

CSS Day and Responsive Design Workflow

I’ve just returned from a few days in Ams­ter­dam, where I was for­tu­nate enough to be part of the first (and only?) CSS Day, an event organ­ised by the team behind Mobil­ism and Fron­teers, who are con­sum­mate­ly pro­fes­sion­al and deserve huge con­grat­u­la­tions and thanks for all their work. The con­fer­ence had the aim of div­ing deep into CSS through each of the eight speak­ers dis­cussing a mod­ule (or mod­ules) of the CSS spec. My cho­sen sub­ject was Ani­ma­tions and Tran­si­tions; my slides are online now, video should fol­low shortly.

The day before the con­fer­ence I gave a whole-day work­shop on Respon­sive Web Design, teach­ing design and devel­op­ment approach­es and — more impor­tant­ly — a new work­flow more adapt­ed to the demands of the new way of work­ing. I was helped huge­ly in this by the fact that I’d recent­ly fin­ished read­ing Stephen Hay’s new book, Respon­sive Design Work­flow.

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Samsung Chromebook Series 3 Review

I’ve been out doing some free­lance work late­ly and my wife need­ed a com­put­er, so we bought a new Sam­sung Series 3 Chrome­book. They’re inex­pen­sive (£229), and as all she needs it for is inter­net access and light office work, it seemed a good fit. We’ve had it for a cou­ple of weeks now, which seems like a fair amount of time for me to write a review.

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Browser review: Kobo Touch

Inspired by Anna Deben­ham’s report on the Nin­ten­do DSi brows­er, I thought I’d write a short review of the brows­er on my Kobo Touch eRead­er. The brows­er is hid­den away under Set­tings > Extras, below a big bold note that says it’s not offi­cial­ly sup­port­ed; but as it’s there, let’s review it.

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Review: Smashing Book #3: Redesign the Web

There are a lot of books on web devel­op­ment, and even more writ­ing avail­able for free online. You have to have some­thing spe­cial to stand out in this mar­ket, and the lat­est to try is Smash­ing Book #3: Redesign The Web. Smash­ing Mag­a­zine used to be known for their ‘Top 50 What­ev­er’ lists, but in the last few years, as clones and com­peti­tors sprung up around them, they’ve carved out their own space online with qual­i­ty prac­ti­cal writ­ing, so I was keen to see what was in their lat­est book of orig­i­nal content.

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On Adobe Muse

Today Adobe released a pre­view of their new WYSIWYG web­site cre­ator, Muse. Short­ly after, I had a good old moan about it on Twit­ter. Not, as you may think, because I feel threat­ened by web­site cre­ation being made easy — it’s been easy for ages, but ‘easy’ does­n’t always mean ‘good’ — but because it gets a few fun­da­men­tal things bad­ly wrong.

My code purist side reject­ed it because the markup it out­puts is hor­ren­dous; if you don’t believe me, take a look at the code for one of their exam­ple sites, ‘Lucid Syn­er­gy’. My edu­ca­tor side reject­ed it because it teach­es you noth­ing about how a web page is made; I learned to code by using Microsoft Front­Page many (many) years ago, and under­stood HTML by edit­ing the source of the doc­u­ment and tweak­ing it until I got it the way I want­ed — but Muse has no code view, so this is made very difficult.

But the real prob­lem with Adobe Muse is deep­er than that: it’s that all seman­tic sense is com­plete­ly removed from the page. There are no head­ings, no lists, all text is in p ele­ments, inline styles are applied with span rather than em/i/b, etc; this gives no struc­ture, no mean­ing, no about­ness to your page, which at the very least means penal­ties for SEO.

And worse still is that there’s no doc­u­ment flow; all the ele­ments you add to the page are posi­tioned rel­a­tive­ly to their par­ent and fol­low no par­tic­u­lar order, which is pret­ty bad for search engine spi­ders (and hence your SEO), but absolute­ly ter­ri­ble for vis­i­tors using assis­tive technology.

It’s the prod­uct of a com­pa­ny that cares only about appear­ance, and noth­ing for con­tent. As @paulrobertlloyd said on Twit­ter:

It’s not that the code Adobe Muse gen­er­ates is ugly, it’s that it’s meaningless.

The issue with the lack of seman­tic ele­ments is not insur­mount­able, it just needs some work by Adobe before the final release. The lack of doc­u­ment flow and con­tent order is more seri­ous, how­ev­er, and will need a com­plete rethink; I hope that this happens.

Choosing the right type for your website

As I get ready to kick off a cou­ple of per­son­al web projects, I’ve been read­ing Enric Jar­dí‘s book, Twen­ty two tips on typog­ra­phy*, a primer on what works and what does­n’t in typography.

Although Jar­dí main­ly works on type for print, most of the rules also apply to type for the web. In this arti­cle I’m going to high­light five of his tips which are use­ful in decid­ing upon the right type for a project.

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I’ve updat­ed my Speak­ing page to include more con­fer­ences, more videos, and a lit­tle on my speak­ing require­ments and pref­er­ences. I’m plan­ning to cut down on the num­ber of talks I give in 2014 (twelve is too many), but am always open to inter­est­ing offers and oppor­tu­ni­ties, so please get in touch if you’re organ­is­ing an event.

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