Reducing an interface until only the absolutely necessary elements remain is one of the most satisfying tasks in design.
“It looks childish.”
The big buzzwords in CSS these days are “modular” and “responsive”—and for good reasons. But we’re still trying to achieve those goals with the wrong tool: Media Queries. What we actually need is a tool that doesn’t exist yet: Element Queries.
I was rummaging through my drafts folder and stumbled on this old post walking through the process of designing the “Goals” feature on our old product, before we switched to what Segment is now. I think it’s an interesting look into how a mockup progresses in Photoshop, so here it is:
Installing server-side analytics tracking is like The Odyssey: it should be a quick job, but you’re in for some real surprises along the way. You’ll come face to face with some of the nastiest APIs (and docs!) in analytics.
Object-oriented CSS is awesome. But littering your markup with non-semantic classes is not awesome. Those classes sprinkled all over your HTML are going to change, and that’s not gonna be fun. But if you combine OOCSS and Sass you get the best of both worlds: modular CSS without bloated, hard-to-maintain HTML.
After my article on rendering views in Backbone, Jeremy Ashkenas pointed out that my examples were doing extra, expensive work by re-rendering everything on every call to
render. He’s absolutely right, but they were just examples. In practice I rarely use single render methods for that exact reason.
One of the most important color tricks I’ve ever learned was to avoid using the color black in my work. Mrs. Zamula, my childhood art teacher, first warned me about black when I was in middle school. And I heard the same again multiple times at RISD. It sounds weird at first, but it’s good advice.
After my post about rendering subviews in Backbone.js, Tim Branyen asked me if I had taken a look at Layout Manager because it aims to solve a lot of the problems that crop up with managing complex application layouts. I’ll be honest, I had seen it referenced a bunch but hadn’t really delved into the source.
Backbone’s flexible design makes it really easy to structure apps any way you see fit. But it also means that you’ll always need to augment Backbone if you have a decent-sized project—which is fine because you can tweak almost everything very easily. But the one piece of Backbone you can’t easily augment is the configuration logic for a class, and that’s frustrating!
I was recently interviewed for RISD’s online newspaper, The All-Nighter, about how I got into designing for the web in the first place and what I’ve been doing since leaving RISD last May.
There’s no question that audience is an important consideration in design. Hell, it isn’t even design if there isn’t an audience. But the web has transformed that audience from a passive group into a powerful one. It has tilted the balance of power back in favor of the user. Be it through entertaining ad campaigns going viral, through companies depending on “super users” to moderate their content, through small startups taking on big companies and winning market share, through large groups of anonymous users taking down big corporations’ websites, or through twitter beating news outlets to release breaking news, the internet has showed us that users aren’t to be taken lightly.
When the iPad was released last April, several applications on the device were derided by designers for their “kitsch” use of real-world interface metaphors, a practice promoted in the company’s Human Interface Guidelines for developers. But, the backlash didn’t account for the goals associated with releasing a product with a novel interaction experience. By comparing applications on the iPad and the movies Noël Carroll describes in his essay “Toward a Theory of Point-of-View Editing: Communication, Emotion, and the Movies”, we can see that Apple was completely justified in suggesting that designers use interface metaphors in their iOS applications. Skeumorphism is simply a mass-design tool used to immediately familiarize the user with completely new experiences on the iPad and to make the user want to interact with the iPad in the first place.
The Gap redesign has sparked a lot of discussion in the design community about crowd-sourcing and spec work. In a recent article, Francisco Inchauste argued that designers’ reaction to Gap’s new logo was serving to lessen the importance of design in the public’s eye. Mike Monteiro also wrote a satirical post directed at Gap to illustrate his similar take on the redesigns that were popping up everywhere yesterday.
As designers we are constantly bothered by all of the poorly designed things around us. We can whine about the worst offenders to friends, but by now they’ve learned to filter our complaints. It’s a tough life.