"css" entries

How to build up to good CSS

Avoid problems associated with a quick fix by creating a stable workflow.

ice_curtain

A long time ago (circa 1999) a creative director tried very hard to convince me how great working in print design was compared to web design. One afternoon before a big event for a Fortune 100 company, she showed me an invitation her team had been working on for the past 2 weeks. It had folds, panels, and colors that would wow anyone. It had just come back from the printing press and she was excited to show me how amazing it was. She began reading me the big invitation title first — to her horror she found that there was a spelling mistake on the cover. The entire set of 10,000 invites would have to be thrown in the trash and at the cost of $15,000 — that would be hard mistake to swallow. She was speechless.

My response to what had just happened was this…”That’s why I like designing for the web. I would have been able to change that spelling mistake in 5 minutes…”

At that point in the web’s history anyone with a web connection, an FTP program and a text editor could edit HTML code on the fly. It really was the wild wild west of web development — this was the web’s best and worst attribute. For many young developers and designers it gave us a chance to create, edit, and publish web pages as fast as we could code them.

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Power of the platforms

Uncertainty is a feature, not a bug.

Image: CC BY 2.0 NASA's Earth Observatory via Wikimedia Commons  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Southern_Lights.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Southern_Lights.jpg

After decades of work on programming, we finally got a development environment with massive reach and tremendous power. Somehow, though, the web isn’t centered on a comprehensive programming environment. The web succeeded with a (severely) lowest-common denominator, specification-driven approach that let it grow with time, technology, and multiple communities, across multiple platforms.

Almost two decades ago, I was all excited about Java. Write applets once, run anywhere, with libraries to make sure it all came out the same wherever anywhere might be. Java is still a powerhouse, but it all worked out differently than I expected. Even in Java’s early years, before the Java news was filled with security bulletins, applets felt like a strange mix with their surrounding web pages. Creating an applet demanded programmers to build every detail. Even with Java’s ever-improving libraries, creating a Java applet that did much was an intense experience focused on programming.

Java wasn’t the only comprehensive way to build web apps, of course. Flash demanded programming, but its values always incorporated design, action, and well, flash, in ways that meshed well with the way people built sites. Flash kept growing and growing before its ecosystem took a fatal hit from the iPhone as HTML5 offered replacements for some of its key strengths. I mostly notice Flash these days because it asks me to update it regularly and because pages tell me when it’s crashed.

Compared to either of those rich environments, web technology is a tangled mess. The early web was functional but unstyled, with no behavior beyond navigating among pages. That? That would dominate client-side computing? Read more…

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It’s time for a web page diet

Site speed is essential to business success, yet many pages are getting bigger and slower.

Illustration of scaleEarlier this year, I was researching online consumer preferences for a client and discovered, somewhat unsurprisingly, that people expect web sites to be fast and responsive, particularly when they’re shopping. What did surprised me, however, were findings in Radware’s “State of the Union Report Spring 2014” (registration required) that showed web sites, on average, were becoming bigger in bytes and slower in response time every year. In fact, the average Alexa 1000 web page has grown from around 780KB and 86 resources in 2011 to more than 1.4MB and 99 resources by the time of the early “2014 State of the Union Winter Report.”

As an experiment, I measured the resources loaded for Amazon.com on my own computer: 2.6MB loaded with 252 requests!

This seemed so odd. Faster is more profitable, yet companies were actually building fatter and slower web sites. What was behind all these bytes? Had web development become so sophisticated that all the technology would bust the seams of the browser window? Read more…

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What it really means when people say “Everything in JavaScript is an object”

A new mantra for your next (programming) meditation session.

When you begin programming with JavaScript you might run across books, tutorials, and people who say “Everything in JavaScript is an object.” While it’s not 100% true (not *everything* is an object), it is *mostly* true. And sometimes this can be a bit surprising.

For instance, to most people functions and objects look and act completely different. And in many languages, functions and objects *are* completely different. However, in JavaScript, a function is an object. This can take a bit of concentrated attention to get your head around, but it’s an important concept because it’s the secret behind another big topic in JavaScript: functions as first class values.

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It’s the end of the web as we knew it

You might feel fine.

For the past 15 years, Google has enforced the classic “HTML as foundation” architecture at the heart of the Web. Content creators and the developers who support them had to present content and link information as part of their pages’ HTML if they wanted Google’s spidering bots to see them. Google effectively punished developers who made links or content available only through JavaScript (or images, or CSS), giving them low or non-existent search results.

Google did this to keep their processing simple, not because of a deep fondness for HTML. Even as Google’s bots stuck to a simple diet of HTML, other parts of Google were developing JavaScript-centric approaches, like AngularJS: a “Superheroic JavaScript MVW Framework” that “is what HTML would have been, had it been designed for building web-apps.”

Angular is far from alone. As JavaScript grew, more and more programmers wanted to build their apps as programs, not as pages. Or, as Jen Simmons summarized it at Fluent, “Dang that stupid HTML, I’m just going to load an empty page… then I’ll run the real program, I’ll run the JavaScript.” Read more…

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Four short links: 28 May 2013

Four short links: 28 May 2013

Geeky Primer, Visible CSS, Remote Working, and Raspberry Pi Sentiment Server

  1. My Little Geek — children’s primer with a geeky bent. A is for Android, B is for Binary, C is for Caffeine …. They have a Kickstarter for two sequels: numbers and shapes.
  2. Visible CSS RulesEnter a url to see how the css rules interact with that page.
  3. How to Work Remotely — none of this is rocket science, it’s all true and things we had to learn the hard way.
  4. Raspberry Pi Twitter Sentiment Server — step-by-step guide, and github repo for the lazy. (via Jason Bell)
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Four short links: 5 February 2013

Four short links: 5 February 2013

Web Tooltips, Free Good Security Book, Netflix Economics, and Firewire Hackery

  1. toolbar — tooltips in jQuery, cf hint.css which is tooltips in CSS.
  2. Security Engineering — 2ed now available online for free. (via /r/netsec)
  3. Economics of Netflix’s $100M New Show (The Atlantic) — Up until now, Netflix’s strategy has involved paying content makers and distributors, like Disney and Epix, for streaming rights to their movies and TV shows. It turns out, however, the company is overpaying on a lot of those deals. […] [T]hese deals cost Netflix billions.
  4. Inceptiona FireWire physical memory manipulation and hacking tool exploiting IEEE 1394 SBP-2 DMA. The tool can unlock (any password accepted) and escalate privileges to Administrator/root on almost* any powered on machine you have physical access to. The tool can attack over FireWire, Thunderbolt, ExpressCard, PC Card and any other PCI/PCIe interfaces. (via BoingBoing)
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O'Reilly Radar Show 5/10/12: The surprising rise of JavaScript

Peter Cooper examines JavaScript’s ascendance and Steve Souders discusses web performance tools.

Fluent Conference co-chair Peter Cooper explains why and how JavaScript rose to prominence. Also, Steve Souders points the way to web performance tools and techniques.

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Permission to be horrible and other ways to generate creativity

Denise R. Jacobs advocates for new approaches to work and community.

Author and web design consultant Denise R. Jacobs reveals lessons she learned about creativity while writing her first book. She also discusses her efforts to give women and people of color more visibility in the tech world.

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Four short links: 2 February 2012

Four short links: 2 February 2012

Build a Button, CMU iPad Course, Materials Conference, and Facebook IPO

  1. Beautiful Buttons for Bootstrap — cute little button creator, with sliders for hue, saturation, and “puffiness”.
  2. CMU iPad Course — iTunes U has the video lectures for a CMU intro to iPad programming.
  3. Inspiring Matterthe conference aims to bring together designers, scientists, artists and humanities people working with materials research and innovation to talk about how they work cross- or trans-disciplinarily, the challenges and tools they’ve found for working collaboratively, and the ways they find inspiration in their work with materials. London, April 2-3.
  4. Facebook’s S-1 Filing (SEC) — the Internets are now full of insights into Facebook’s business, for example Lance Wiggs’s observation that Facebook’s daily user growth is slowing. While 6-10% growth per quarter feels like a lot when annualized, it is getting close to being a normal company. Facebook is running out of target market, and especially target market with pockets deep enough to be monetised. But I think that’s the last piece of Facebook IPO analysis that I’ll link to. Tech Giant IPOs are like Royal Weddings: the people act nice but you know it’s a seething roiling pit of hate, greed, money, and desperation that goes on a bit too long so by the end you just want to put an angry chili-covered porcupine in everyone’s anus and set them all on fire. But perhaps I’m jaded.
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