design

Your Brain on Front-End Development

Part of the job of being a front-end developer is applying different techniques and technologies to pull off the desired UI and UX. Perhaps you work with a design team and implement their designs. I know when I look at a design (heck, even if I know I'm not going to be building it), my front-end brain starts triggering all sorts of things I know will be related to the task.

Let's take a look at what I mean.

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Museum of Websites

The team at Kapwing has collected a lot of images from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and presented a history of how the homepage of popular websites like Google and the New York Times have changed over time. It’s super interesting.

I particularly love how Amazon has evolved from a super high information dense webpage that sort of looks like a blog to basically a giant carousel that takes over the whole screen.

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A DevTools for Designers

There has long been an unfortunate disconnect between visual design for the web and web design and development. We're over here designing pictures of websites, not websites - so the sentiment goes.

A.J. Kandy puts a point on all this. We're seeing a proliferation of design tools these days, all with their own leaps forward. Yet...

But, critically, the majority of them aren’t web-centric. None really integrate with a modern web development workflow, not without converters or plugins anyway; and their output is not websites, but clickable simulations of websites.

Still, these prototypes are, inevitably, one-way artifacts that have to be first analyzed by developers, then recreated in code.

That's just a part of what A.J. has to say, so I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.

Do y'all get Clearletter, the Clearleft newsletter? It's a good one. They made some connections here to nearly a decade of similar thinking:

I suspect the reason that nobody has knocked a solution out of the park is that it's a really hard problem to solve. There might not be a solution that is universally loved across lines. Like A.J., I hope it happens in the browser.

Designer-Oriented Styles

James Kyle:

Components are a designer’s bread and butter. Designers have been building design systems with some model of “component” for a really long time. As the web has matured, from Atomic Design to Sketch Symbols, “components” (in some form or another) have asserted themselves as a best practice for web designers ...

Designers don’t care about selectors or #TheCascade. They might make use of it since it’s available, but #TheCascade never comes up in the design thought process.

(Okay okay... most designers. You're special. But we both knew that already.)

I think James makes strong points here. I'm, predictably, in the camp in which I like CSS. I don't find it particularly hard or troublesome. Yet, I don't think in CSS when designing. Much easier to think (and work) in components, nesting them as needed. If the developer flow matched that, that's cool.

I also agree with Sarah Federman who chimed in on Twitter:

It seems a bit premature to look at the current landscape of component CSS tooling at say that it's designer-friendly.

The whole conversation is worth reading, ending with:

Tooling that treats component design as an interface with the code is where it's at/going to be. Hopefully, designers will be more empowered to create component styles when we can meet them closer to their comfort zone.

Five Design Fears to Vanquish With CSS Grid

CSS grid, along with a handful of other new CSS properties, are revolutionizing web design. Unfortunately, the industry hasn't embraced that revolution yet and a lot of it is centered around fear that we can trace back to problems with the current state of CSS grid tutorials.

The majority of them fall into one of two categories:

  1. Re-creating classic web design patterns. Grid is great at replicating classic web design patterns like card grids and "holy grail" pages.
  2. Playing around. Grid is also great for creating fun things like Monopoly boards or video game interfaces.

These types of tutorials are important for new technology. They're a starting point. Now is the time, as Jen Simmons says, to get out of our ruts. To do that, we must cast off our design fears.

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Design Tooling is Still Figuring Itself Out

It probably always will be, to be fair.

At the moment, there are all kinds of things that design software is struggling to address. The term "screen design" is common, referring to the fact that many of us are designing very specifically for screens, not print or any other application and screens have challenges unique to them. We have different workflows these days than in the past. We have different collaboration needs. We have different technological and economic needs.

Let's take a peak at all this weirdness.

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If Your Company Were a Couch…

Without even realizing it, our perceptions are cross-referenced with our memories. Our brains conjure up an emotional reaction when our eyes see familiar shapes, colors, and textures. This fun exercise uses various styles of couches to help you make decisions about the emotional response that best represents the personality of your company (or how you would like your company to be perceived).

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Creating Non-Rectangular Headers

Over at Medium, Jon Moore recently identified "non-rectangular headers" as a tiny trend. A la: it's not crazy popular yet, but just you wait, kiddo.

We're talking about headers (or, more generally, any container element) that have a non-rectangular shape. Such as trapezoids, complex geometric shapes, rounded/elliptical, or even butt-cheek shaped.

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