Articles by
Robin Rendle

Technical writer, CEO of staring blankly at a screen full of CSS, pro-blogger

World wide wrist

After all the hubbub with WWDC over the past couple of days, Ethan Marcotte is excited about the news that the Apple Watch will be able to view web content.

He writes:

If I had to guess, I’d imagine some sort of “reader mode” is coming to the Watch: in other words, when you open a link on your Watch, this minified version of WebKit wouldn’t act like a full browser. Instead of rendering all your scripts, styles, and layout, mini-WebKit would present a stripped-down version of your web page. If that’s the case, then Jen Simmons’s suggestion is spot-on: it just got a lot more important to design from a sensible, small screen-friendly document structure built atop semantic HTML.

But who knows! I could be wrong! Maybe it’s a more capable browser than I’m assuming, and we’ll start talking about best practices for layout, typography, and design on watches.

I had this inkling for a long while that there wouldn’t ever be a browser in the Watch due to its constraints, but instead I hoped that there might be a surge of methods to read web content aloud via some sort of voice interface. "Siri, read me the latest post from James’ blog," is probably nightmare fuel for most people but I was sort of holding out for devices like this to access the web via audio.

Another interesting aside is that both Safari OSX and iOS have had a reader mode for a long time now, but have it as an option enabled by the user while viewing the content. Bypassing the user-enabled option would be the difference on watchOS and where our structured, semantic chops are put to task.

The web can be anything we want it to be

I really enjoyed this chat between Bruce Lawson and Mustafa Kurtuldu where they talked about browser support and the health of the web. Bruce expands upon a lot of the thoughts in a post he wrote last year called World Wide Web, Not Wealthy Western Web where he writes:

...across the world, regardless of disposable income, regardless of hardware or network speed, people want to consume the same kinds of goods and services. And if your websites are made for the whole world, not just the wealthy Western world, then the next 4 billion people might consume the stuff that your organization makes.

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Developing a design environment

Jules Forrest discusses some of the work that her team at Credit Karma has been up to when it comes to design systems. Jules writes:

...in most engineering organizations, you spend your whole first day setting up your development environment so you can actually ship code. It’s generally pretty tedious and no one likes doing it, but it’s this thing you do to contribute meaningful work to production. Which got me thinking, what would it look like to make it easier for designers to design for production?

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Dark theme in a day

Marcin Wichary has written a great piece that dives into how he used CSS Variables to create a night mode and high contrast theme in an app. There’s so many neat tricks about how to use CSS Variables (Chris has also looked at theming) as well as how to organize them (Andras Galante has an interesting take on this) in here. Plus, Marcin shares some tricks about using filters to invert the color of an image.

I also also love this part of the article where Marcin writes:

I was kind of amazed that all of this could happen via CSS and CSS alone: the colours, the transitions, the vectors, and even the images...

CSS is mighty powerful these days, and it’s posts like Marcin’s that remind me it wasn’t that long ago that theming an app like this would’ve been impossible.

The backdrop-filter CSS property

I had never heard of the backdrop-filter property until yesterday, but after a couple of hours messing around with it I’m positive that it’s nothing more than magic. This is because it adds filters (like changing the hue, contrast or blur) of the background of an element without changing the text or other elements inside.

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designsystems.com

The team at Figma has created a new resource for “learning, creating and evangelizing design systems” called Design Systems that already has a good collection of interviews and articles by some folks thinking about these things.

I particularly liked Jeroen Ransijn’s post on how to convince your company it’s ready for a design system, where he writes:

Building a design system is not about reaching a single point in time. It’s an ongoing process of learning, building, evangelizing and driving adoption in your organization.

Design systems are a popular topic. Ethan Marcotte recently looked at instances where patterns get weird, Lucan Lemonnier shared a process for creating a consistent design system in Sketch, and Brad Frost debunked the perception that design systems are rigid. Seems like Figma's new site will be a nice curated repository of this ongoing discussion.

Ship Map

Interactive maps can both be functional and, when combined with data, tell a good story. Kiln released this data-driven map (make sure to hit the play button) to show the routes of every cargo ship moving about on the high seas in 2012.

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Inspecting Animations in DevTools

I stumbled upon the Animation panel in Chrome’s DevTools the other day and almost jumped out of my seat with pure joy. Not only was I completely unaware that such a thing exists, but it was better than what I could’ve hoped: it lets you control and manipulate CSS animations and visualize how everything works under the hood.

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Managing Heading Levels In Design Systems

Heydon Pickering looks into how to give a React component a certain heading (like <h1></h1>, <h2></h2>, etc.) depending on its context and thereby ensure that the DOM is still perfectly accessible for screen readers. Why is using the right heading important though? Heydon writes in the intro:

One thing that keeps coming back to me, in research, testing, and everyday conversation with colleagues and friends, is just how important headings are. For screen reader users, headings describe the relationships between sections and subsections and — where used correctly — provide both an outline and a means of navigation. Headings are infrastructure.

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