As the page turns on another year, just enough time to close the book on a few personal projects and responsibilities. In doing so, I hope to free up some time (and mind space) for new projects to be unveiled in the new year.
The Christmas break provides the time to tie up loose ends and make much needed progress on personal projects. At least, that was the plan. Once again I find myself distracted by the task of making this website just that little bit faster.
If anything, this whole episode is a demonstration of the slippery charms of tone of voice. The terms and conditions were an example of clear language being used to convey information as simply as possible – it just happened to be controversial information.
The ‘clarification’ is an example of tone of voice being used to obscure and mollify. Almost like a filter applied to a photo, giving it nice fuzzy edges and an air of authenticity.
Earlier today, 24 Ways published an article in which I outlined five reasons why I believe two current proposed markup patterns for responsive images are largely redundant. Here I provide some follow-up, and hopefully clarification around the points I raised.
Justin Avery, who curates the Responsive Design Weekly newsletter, asked me four questions as part of his December Interview Series. Here are my answers.
After attending Build in Belfast last month, Chris Armstrong gave Ethan Marcotte, Chris Shifflet and myself a tour of the Causeway Coast which, as the name suggests, is home to the famed Giant’s Causeway.
Slides from my presentation at Multipack Presents
Fifty years after the release of Dr. No, James Bond returns in Skyfall, the twenty-third instalment of the longest continually-running film series in history.
Peter Saville talks about the genesis of his cover for Unknown Pleasures and its enduring appeal.
Jason Santa Maria:
Ratios and baselines grids can be too rigid for the inherently flexible nature of the web. Just because something works at one size doesn’t mean the same ratio will be appropriate at larger or smaller sizes.
I often design websites to a vertical rhythm, even though maintaining it can be difficult during development. Jason’s arguments made me realise that this practice goes against the grain of the medium; something I discourage in The Web Aesthetic. I need to let go of my baseline grids.
Website optimisation can be a cruel game; everything has a number that begs to be reduced, but doing so requires a lot of experimentation, research and testing. And when you’re playing with the last hundred or so kilobytes, there’s little reward for your effort.
At the beginning of this year I was struck by a realisation, prompted in part by the discussions around responsive images but also the artistic ingenuity of the image optimisation techniques being used by Jeremy. How might the visual aesthetic of the web change if we were to acknowledge its nature and embrace its constraints?
A page on my website, dedicated to a cat.
Bruce Lawson followed up on my brief thoughts with his own, having attended Adobe’s ‘Create The Web’ event in London. As I suspected, some of the code produced by Edge Animate isn’t pretty, and there’s some weird messaging around browsers not based on WebKit. Yet he agrees that overall, this is the right strategy for Adobe.
One of my favourite photos from a day exploring London early last month.
Adobe recently announced a new suite a products and services for web developers, called Adobe Edge. .net Magazine asked me to provide some thoughts.
They say change is as good as a rest. With early morning commutes, a ‘distinctive’ uniform and interaction with the general public, volunteering at the London 2012 Paralympic Games couldn’t have been further removed from the desk-bound job I’d become weary of.
Rian van der Merwe for A List Apart:
A “shiny citadel” from far away, as The Guardian once wrote, up close Brasília has “degraded into a violent, crime-ridden sprawl of cacophonous traffic jams. The real Brazil has spilled into its utopian vision.”
This problem echoes across today’s web landscape as well, where the needs of ordinary users spill constantly into designers’ utopian vision. All around us we see beautiful, empty monuments erected not for their users, but for the people who built them – and the VCs who are scouting them.
‘Digital Brasílias’ is a great term for all the beautiful – yet ultimately useless – products emerging from the Valley. Product discovery can help us not only design things better, but design better things.
Earlier this month, Team Clearleft headed up to London for a day of design related exhibitions: Bauhaus: Art as Life at the Barbican and (after a ride across the city on a ‘Boris Bike’) British Design 1948-2012 and Heatherwick Studio: Designing the Extraordinary at the V&A.
The last two weeks have been amazing. I tried my best to sample as much ofthe Olympic fever as I could, but with so much going on, the spectacle was overwhelming. So much to see, so little time to see it.
Olympics happen once every four years. Most are unlikely to ever experience them in their own country. I get shivers whenever I see banners with the Olympic Rings on them. This is once in a lifetime event, and I intend to make the very most of it.
Knate Myers stitched together this wonderful time-lapse video, using photographs taken from the International Space Station. The music is Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor) by John Murphy.
Roger Ebert on the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado:
This would be an excellent time for our political parties to join together in calling for restrictions on the sale and possession of deadly weapons. That is unlikely, because the issue has become so closely linked to paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties that many politicians feel they cannot afford to advocate gun control.
We’re building a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers.
Our team has spent the last 9 years building social services, developer platforms, mobile applications and more.
We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.
Help us create the service we all wish existed.
Putting my money where my mouth’s been for the last few years, and backing this audacious project. I hope it succeeds.
Every community-based site in the history of the web has essentially been a stab at creating a social network. Most of them fail as businesses, with the rare exception of small, lucky communities that become self-sufficient but not exactly prosperous. What if that’s just the way it is?
CEO, Tony Fadell on Nest’s first advertising campaign:
We hope the video allows people to take a brief pause in the day and to see the world through fresh eyes. And we hope it brings a smile to their faces too.
I enjoyed Anna Debenham’s excellent response to Marco Arment’s ridiculous assertion that every web designer needs to buy a retina MacBook Pro:
If you’re a web designer, you really, really need to get a cheap Dell monitor so you can see how bad your site looks on it and fix it.
The games are so close, I can almost taste them.
A million people in Silicon Valley walk into a bar. No one buys anything. Bar is declared a rousing success.
I view the latest announcement from Twitter to independent developers with a suspicion bordering on contempt. Delivering a consistent Twitter experience is a comprehensive rejection of everything that Twitter has stood for and that has made Twitter great.
Twitter’s original decision to scale the business before working out how it would make money seems to be backfiring. It turns out all the things that make Twitter a great product, fly in the face of what’s needed to generate revenue. This is especially true given its pursuit of an ad-supported business model – a strange choice when many would happily pay to use it.
I’ve always felt the idea behind Twitter would have been more successful in the long term if it had been designed more like a protocol rather than a product. By taking the route it did, it’s destined to become another service on the web that will ultimately fade into obscurity.
Twitter could have been the new email. Instead it’s likely to become the next Myspace.
Everything new from Google is prima facie fantastic, and served with the best intentions. Google is a monolithic company, sure, but it’s filled with geniuses who want to make your life easier through technology. Nobody’s faulting their ambition, or questioning its motives. But we have to wonder: Are these new things meant for regular people, or the data-obsessed, grace-deficient Silicon Valley nerd vanguard?
Please keep all reactionary views to one side.
Several times a year, Apple rolls out hardware products that are, in terms of pure design smarts and innovation, leagues beyond what their competitors are capable of. Their machines are more beautiful, better built and, admittedly, longer-lasting than just about any other high tech hardware out there. But if the durability of, say, a Dell laptop is two or three years, and if Apple’s hardware improves on that two or even three times, it’s still not doing that much better than the mean. What would be really impressive is an iPod or iPhone that lasts for decades.
I felt an immediate and desperate yearning for the new MacBook Pro when it was unveiled, as I do after many of Apple’s product announcements. Yet I soon realised that I can wait a little longer before upgrading my current set-up. In fact, I’m finding myself looking at people using older Apple hardware with increasing admiration.
As such, I’m not sure I buy into Khoi’s argument. Apple product can last if treated with care, and those scratches perhaps highlight a problem with our own attitudes, not Apple’s.
Be sure to read the comments and Khoi’s follow up too.
Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease with the web-enabled products and services in our lives.
I like the sound of the Slow Web.
Andrew Mitchell, the International Development secretary, has unveiled a new logo that will appear on overseas aid provided by his department; be it grain packets, schools or water pumps.
With a worsening financial crisis and continued destruction of the world’s natural resources, there are undoubtedly more important things to worry about than Twitter’s slightly tweaked bird logo. Yet here we are.
I’m stupidly excited to be working with Phil, Jeremy and the rest of the Clearleft team on MATTER, a new home for independent long-form journalism focused on the big issues in science and technology. We had our first workshop this week, and the neutrons are already firing about some of the possible directions we can this.
Social media buttons are not a social media strategy, even though they’re often sold that way. Excellent content, serious networking and constant human engagement is the way to build your profile. Adding those sleazy buttons won’t achieve anything.
I approve of this message, which might seem ironic coming from a peddler of social media icons. Perhaps I should include this health warning in the accompanying ‘Read Me’ file.
The care and concern of one human being for another is a peculiar “commodity.” It can’t be stockpiled. It becomes degraded through trade. It isn’t delivered by machines. Its quality rests entirely on the attention paid by one person to another. Even to speak of reducing the time involved is to misunderstand its value.
A wonderful collection of filmed pastiches of classic artworks. If you don’t recognise them all, Hilário Pereira has a cut of the video that names each painting.
These vignettes draw comparisons between software and medicine – in their dual capacities to heal and to hurt. They explore the nature of addictive technologies in relation to business, the power that software designers are presently wielding over the masses, and a new way of imagining companies: as medicine men for the species.
This is essential reading for anyone designing software. Essential.
A short yet entertaining TEDx presentation by Joe Smith on how to dry your hands using only a single paper towel.
In this article, I’ll cover the techniques I use to make images load fast on a webpage.
A beautifully succinct yet informative article that begs to printed out and stuck on the wall next to every web developer.
David Heinemeier Hansson:
Sure, people are being employed, money is changing hands, but come Monday morning, the hangover is that we spent a bundle to build a lot of shit that’s not going anywhere. As a result, we missed out on doing other worthwhile things. All those smart and talented heads, and all those benjamins, didn’t progress the economic base in a way we’re going to care about tomorrow. And that’s a damn shame.
Put another way, “the best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads” – that’s the view of Jeff Hammerbacher, an early employee of Facebook.
Banks aren’t the most likeable organisations, but I’m developing a soft spot for Kiwibank, a New Zealand-based bank competing against larger Australian-based rivals. Their latest advertising campaign suggests they’re willing to stand up for something new “and even a bit crazy”, and in the world of banking, a responsive website is just that.
Slides from my presentation at LBi Denmark
Barebones is an initial directory setup, style guide and pattern primer intended as a starting point for my own web development projects. I’ve made it available on GitHub so that others can use it in their own projects too. Anna has written more about the release here.
The Olympic rings have been whored around so much they’ve become valueless: a status symbol for a few corporations to tote like a badge for several weeks, impressing almost no one except themselves.
Increasing commercialism of the games threatens to undermine the Olympic movement.
Rather than showcase British interactive design talent, the biggest cultural event of our generation has been represented online by an uninspired mess that flies the flag for the status quo.
Although I spent much of April writing a tutorial for .net Magazine, I did enjoy a brief respite while I ran the Brighton Marathon. Yep, it’s been quite the month.
Andreessen’s entire fortune has been built on the greater-fool theory: if you build something trendy enough, there’s probably going to be a huge lumbering company out there somewhere willing to overpay for it.
I know many who would agree with this assessment.
Since returning from San Francisco, much of my spare time has been spent writing a tutorial for .net magazine. Published as part of their ‘Responsive Week’, this is for developers who want to learn about responsive web design but don’t know where to start.
Ideas are very precious to me, and when I see ideas dying, it hurts. I see a tragedy. To me it feels like a moral wrong, it feels like an injustice. And if I think there is anything I can do about it, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. Not opportunity, but responsibility.
He also asks a good question; what’s the guiding principle behind everything you create?
(Via Tim Van Damme)
Best news I’ve heard all year.
We seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.
Scary yet unsurprising story about how organisations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are not only supporting, but writing wholesale legislation to benefit their corporate benefactors.
Of course, if it’s happening in the US, it’s happening here in Britain too. Indeed, I was reminded of this fascinating article by Adam Curtis, which charts the rise of the political ‘think tank’:
If you go back and look at how they rose up – at who invented them and why – you discover they are not quite what they seem. That in reality they may have nothing to do with genuinely developing new ideas, but have become a branch of the PR industry whose aim is to do the very opposite – to endlessly prop up and reinforce today’s accepted political wisdom.
Our political leaders are no longer interested in the concerns of the electorate and increasingly led by lobbyists – regardless of what destruction (societal, economic, environmental…) may result from their policy suggestions.
It surely can’t carry on like this, can it?
A new pair of jeans, the reignited love for a city and an inevitable answer to a surprisingly surprising question. Just some of the artefacts collected during two weeks in America.
Once again, I’m in Austin for SXSW Interactive; the forth time I’ve attended an event I find easy to disparage. Yet this is the first stop on a trip that will take in several hundred miles of Interstate highway between here and San Francisco; two points of familiarity on an itinerary that promises to be anything but predictable.
Not a week passes without there being a controversy involving Google. If they’re not pilfering a Kenyan business directory, then they’re jumping into bed with opponents of net neutrality or subverting default cookie settings. Even if you ignore these concerns, it’s hard to deny that their search engine is starting to suffer too. Fortunately, there’s an alternative.
Heritage Lawn was an embarrassingly lavish name for a desperately average cul-de-sac. Yet, in and around a maze of opulently named cul-de-sacs, a few areas of wilderness remained.
Offscreen is a new magazine edited, produced and beautifully designed by Kai Brach, focusing on the personalities behind the pixels – in a good way.
Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.
Last week I was invited to Responsive Summit, a face-to-face discussion about Responsive Web Design. We talked about what we’ve learnt so far, the problems we’re continuing to face and things we’d like to change. And no, I didn’t get the Dr. Strangelove reference either.
Following on from last July’s extensive redesign of this site, the last few weeks have seen me revisit the design and implementation. In light of today’s Responsive Summit, and with a few people asking about the changes, I thought I should provide a little more detail.
Last weekend I visited the new Olympic velodrome for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup. Part of London Prepares, a programme of test events before the games take place this summer, it was thrilling to see athletes up close as they also prepare for London 2012. The building is absolutely stunning, although Ben Terrett notes a few design oversights that remain. You can see more photos from the event here.
They call this place Ocean Beach, perhaps because both take up most of the view. The sky is hard to truly make out, with only a faint line separating two sweeping blue canvases, each in many ways a reflection of the other.
I refuse to give in to a cynical view of Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto; that ethos was very real, a sincere and important guiding principle. And if a big company like Google can’t avoid being evil, then what world-changing enterprise can? But I think Google as an organization has moved on; they’re focussed now on market position, not making the world better. Which makes me sad.
Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves, I’d rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion.
I still have a Google account, although the only services I rely on are search and Reader. DuckDuckGo is looking like a promising replacement for search, but nearly every decent RSS reader still syncs with Google Reader (even if through unofficial and undocumented APIs). As soon as that changes, my Google account will be deleted.
Over the past few years, I’ve often meant to write about the location-based social network Gowalla. Recently acquired by Facebook and with closure imminent, now is my last opportunity to do so.
.net Magazine asked a group of experts what they find most delightful and most despicable about the social networking giant Facebook. This was my response.
After enough subtle hints, I was happy to unwrap a copy of the Steve Jobs biography at Christmas. I don’t read many books, and those I do, I rarely finish, but I couldn’t put this one down. When I intended to read half an hour before bed, I’d usually end up reading for two.
I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, but shorter races were beset by poor training. Since taken running more seriously, I’ve become lighter, leaner and possibly even a bit faster. If I’m ever to achieve my dream of running a marathon, then this is the year to do it. An Olympic year too.
Back in October, Ethan Marcotte asked me some questions about the design of my site. He was writing a round up of his twenty favourite responsive websites for .net Magazine and wanted quotes from each creator. In the spirit of blogging more I thought I’d share my answers here.
As 2012 gets into full swing, it’s time to enact the yearly tradition of setting some goals for the year ahead. By no means an exhaustive list, here are a few that have caught my imagination in the last few days.
For the final leg of my North American tour I transcended the West Coast on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. Getting to San Francisco wouldn’t be much fun, boarding a coach in Vancouver at a ridiculous hour in the morning and dealing with an offensive US border guard before arriving at a closed King Street station in Seattle sounding its fire alarm.