Web Design & Front-end development

Embrace the web

Developers often ignore the fact that the UI design lifecycle (approximately 3 years) is usually nothing like the application lifecycle in that identity is organic and continuous and applications are not. Baking the web stack fully into the back-end is usually not a good idea. The overall design of a website will change before you’ve recouped the development costs for the application. So, be careful you don’t get screwed.

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Flipboard flips, and so does the web.

Flipboard has decided to join the Web, sort of. Their app adventure has had a good run but not much seems to have happened recently. Small iterations to improve an already pretty good formula or have they run out of steam? Moving to the web makes sense either way as lots of people still seem to be using it.

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HTML and the DOM

Peter Paul Koch (PPK) is on a roll with his recent postings and is taking some flack for it. Some of it justified as his recent articles seem to encourage discussion and it seems to be working. His follow up templating article brings home that Front-end is hard and we still don’t have all the tools in place to make it work for large scale and high performance websites.

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CSS abstraction

The web is ever changing and nowhere else is this felt more strongly than in the web stack. HTML seems pretty stable even though many web developers seem to be ignoring the enriched HTML5 spec. If it doesn’t have a specific visual rendering why use it? It’s effectively a div anyway, right? If you don’t care about the markup you’re probably not a front-ender.

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The transient web

When IE7 introduced alpha transparency for png’s I thought it might have a huge impact. Creating header text and or backgrounds with PNG alpha transparency would change the web forever. As it turns out the web merely evolves and doesn’t tend to revolt. Alpha transparency and images in general weren’t being used so much, the need just wasn’t there also IE6 took its time to get of the stage. We got over ourselves and sticking to HTML text proved much more practical. Techniques for gradients replaced many a background image. Images in many cases are just as much a crutch as tables are for layout. Like the web, we’ve moved on.

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Three times as hard

A front-ender as a specialist is not something you come across very often. By specialist I mean someone who writes custom CSS, HTML and JavaScript. These aces walk the line between design and development, however, I usually encounter someone like myself rooted in one of the adjacent disciplines. Maybe we should focus on the specialist and take a moment and consider where front-end is heading. I’m not convinced that the specialist is where the working groups are heading because it currently looks like the working groups are being driven by back-end developers. This is both a benefit and a pain because the front-end will be pushed out of reach for many designers, Stephen Hay does try to make the technology seem less alien in his fantastic book.

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Lowest common denominator: Bandwidth

The web can provide great things but maybe your device can’t. We’ve come along way with Internet access both in terms of bandwidth and availability. However, we still need to make choices on how best to serve our users.

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A day for CSS

Last week I went to a conference that was rather unique, it only covered CSS technologies. Eight speakers, eight modules for a one time only event. I think they could do another one, maybe not next year but certainly the year after that. There is more than enough topics/modules to fill a few conferences. In any case CSSDay was a fascinating conference and revealed some tension within the CSS working group. CSS is evolving at a brisk pace at the moment and I can imagine that some toes are likely to get trampled on.

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The Rise of REM

As web designers and web developers we live in a world of pixels, such is the state of display technology. We also like to make things easier to work with and in a world of small and large viewports the pixel had to go. When we consider that the primary mode of the web is text it makes sense to size the internets around font-size. Some love the clarity of ‘px’ and some like the relative sizing of the ‘em’. Others must have thought it a bright idea to give us both so we get the ‘rem’. Problem solved. (*sigh*)

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No more windmills

To many battles and too little gain. They garnered respect in the web development world and that’s about it. On mobile they made some head way but the tide is against them. The switch to Webkit is an admission of defeat. Not as a company but as an innovator on and of the web because they swapped competition for a comity. Their vocal stance on web standards can’t be understated and I sincerely hope they will remain vocal, however, will they need too? They’re are commercial company after all and competing with standards is a bit like fighting windmills.

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