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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