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Issue № 394

  • CSS Shapes 101

    by Sara Soueidan · · 53 Comments

    The new CSS Shapes specification has the potential to change the way you think about arranging content on a webpage. (Hint: think outside the rectangles!) Sara Soueidan walks us through the different ways to use this property, with results ranging from simple elegance to eye-popping.

  • DRY-ing Out Your Sass Mixins

    by Sam Richard · · 28 Comments

    You might already be familiar with the DRY principle of writing code: “Don’t Repeat Yourself.” Using Sass is a great way accomplish this, but Sam Richard challenges us to take it a step further than that. By the end of this article, you’ll be adapting your Sass mixins to use the absolute minimum amount of code, so your pages will be super-light and quick to load anywhere. Advanced Sass magic ahead; strap in!

Issue № 393

  • Creating Style Guides

    by Susan Robertson · · 36 Comments

    A style guide, also referred to as a pattern library, is a living document that details the front-end code for all the elements and modules of a website or application. It also documents the site’s visual language, from header styles to color palettes. In short, a proper style guide is a one-stop guide that the entire team can reference when considering site changes and iterations. Susan Robertson shows us how to build and maintain a style guide that helps everyone from product owners and producers to designers and developers keep an ever-changing site on brand and on target.

  • The Z-Axis: Designing for the Future

    by Wren Lanier · · 17 Comments

    For years we’ve seen the web as a two-dimensional space filled with pages that sit side by side on a flat, infinite plane. But as the devices we design for take on an increasingly diverse array of shapes and sizes, we must embrace new ways of designing up and down. Designing on the z-axis means incorporating three-dimensional physics into our interface designs. Wren Lanier explains how, by using the z-axis to place interface elements above or below one another, we can create better design systems that are more flexible and intuitive to use—and create new patterns that point the way to future interactions.

Issue № 392

  • Content-out Layout

    by Nathan Ford · · 23 Comments

    Grids serve well to divide up a predefined canvas and guide how content fits onto a page, but when designing for the web’s fluid nature, we need something more responsive. Enter ratios, which architects, sculptors, and book designers have all used in their work to help set the tone for their compositions, and to scale their material from sketch to final build. Designers can apply a similar process on the web by focusing on the tone and shape of our content first, then working outward to design fluid, ratio-based grid systems that invite harmony between content, layout, and screen. Nathan Ford takes the next step toward more sophisticated, content-focused layouts on the web.

  • People Skills for Web Workers

    by Jonathan Kahn · · 12 Comments

    The web touches everything an organization does—marketing to customer service, product development to branding, internal communications to recruitment. This is the era of cross-platform digital services, fast networks, and mobile devices. Sounds like the ideal time to be a person who makes websites. So why do we feel frustrated so often? Why do we experience burnout or depression? What makes it difficult to do work that has meaning, that satisfies us? Two words: people skills. Frequent ALA author Jonathan Kahn explains why they matter, and how improving our people skills will give us tools to facilitate collaboration, creating opportunities to improve our work, our organizations, and maybe even our world.

Issue № 391

  • The Battle for the Body Field

    by Jeff Eaton · · 30 Comments

    As we attempt to combine multi-device design requirements with complex, media-rich narratives, we’ve hit the wall. The chunky, fields-and-templates approach we’ve developed can’t save us from the mismatch between our content and HTML’s descriptive tools. The good news is we don’t have to convert all our projects to XML to learn from the XML community’s wisdom. By using custom elements and properties to represent content’s meaning, transforming it into HTML on output, and ensuring that editing tools share the same vocabulary, we can publish structured content that supports the needs of today’s editors and art directors while also making our content safe for future generations.

Issue № 390

  • UI Animation and UX: A Not-So-Secret Friendship

    by Val Head · · 14 Comments

    The words “web animation” make many of us search frantically for the “skip intro” button, but adding motion to our work can be meaningful and functional—when we find the right circumstances. Animation can provide cues, guide the eye, and soften the sometimes-hard edges of web interactions. Val Head shows you how CSS makes it possible.

  • Web Animation at Work

    by Rachel Nabors · · 10 Comments

    We use HTML to tell stories and communicate vast amounts of information—and animation helps us do both better. Just as hierarchy guides users through content, animation guides them through interactions by helping them understand relationships, structure, cause, and effect. Rachel Nabors explains her fascination with CSS3 animations, Canvas, SVG, the web audio API, webGL, and all the rest, and explains why we need web animation—and web animators.

Issue № 389

  • Designing for Easy Interaction

    by Sarah Horton, Whitney Quesenbery · · 16 Comments

    Whether you contribute to the user experience, development, or strategy of your website, you have a business, ethical, and (in many cases) legal responsibility to make your site accessible. And an equally compelling duty to your stakeholders, creativity, and career to achieve accessibility without sacrificing one whit of design or innovation. So what’s a site and application maker to do? For starters, read this book! We are thrilled to present an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 5 of A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery, available now from Rosenfeld Media—and with a 20 percent discount for ALA readers, even.

Issue № 388

  • A List Together

    by Mat Marquis · · 22 Comments

    A List Apart gets back to its roots: building community, giving a platform to new voices, and getting people excited about the web. We’re making changes to the way we work—starting with our decision to open-source the code that powers alistapart.com itself—and we want you to participate. Our Mat Marquis invites you to contribute code and concepts via GitHub, get to know our acquisition scouts, and use ALA and its editors to share your ideas and insights with the whole web design and development community.

  • Writing Is Thinking

    by Sally Kerrigan · · 27 Comments

    When you write about your work, it makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you. Done well, this kind of sharing means you’re contributing signal, instead of noise. But writers are made, not born. We often hear from people who say they’d love to write for A List Apart or start blogging, but don’t know where to start. They feel unfocused and overwhelmed by the task. If this is beginning to sound like you, read on, as Sally Kerrigan walks you through how writing works, and how you can get better at it.

Issue № 387

  • A Moment to Breathe

    by Nick Cox · · 29 Comments

    Burning both ends of the candle night after night, weekend after weekend, has long been part of web design and development culture. Especially in the startup subculture, we pride ourselves on working long hours with little sleep. It’s part of a new generation’s favorite myth—the one where we get in early in a company destined for an enormous IPO, work our little hearts out for a year or two, and end up rich and happy. The truth is rather less glamorous: the way we are working starves our prefrontal cortex, hurting not only our precious health, but also our productivity. Nick Cox shares the science behind the high cost of constant crisis mode, and explains how to strike a better balance.

Issue № 386

  • Surveying the Big Screen

    by Mike Pick · · 23 Comments

    We’ve been designing responsively for more than three years, now, and have the small-screen pattern libraries and portfolios to prove it. But what about larger screens? While we commonly use liquid design for smaller breakpoints, allowing our content to expand and contract as needed, few of us consider what happens beyond a maximum width of 960 pixels or so—which can leave a heap of unused pixels on a contemporary desktop display. Mike Pick explores how to use negative space, scale, density, and layout devices such as grids, modules, and columns to break through the 1024-pixel layout barrier.

  • Designing Offline-First Web Apps

    by Alex Feyerke ·

    We assume our users are like us—with the latest devices, the most recent software, and the fastest connections. And while we may maintain a veritable zoo of older devices and browsers for testing, we spend most of our time building from the comfort of our modern, always-online desktop devices. But what happens when our users descend into the subway, board a plane, go to live in the country, or just happen to find themselves in the wrong corner of the room? The truth is, offline is a fact of life—but there are ways to design for it. Alex Feyerke tells all.

Issue № 385

  • Why Sass?

    by Dan Cederholm · · 65 Comments

    “I was a reluctant believer in Sass. I write stylesheets by hand! I don’t need help! And I certainly don’t want to add extra complexity to my workflow. Go away!” So says designer, CSS wizard, and Dribbble co-founder Dan Cederholm at the beginning of his new book Sass For Web Designers, released today by A Book Apart. Yet the reluctant convert soon discovers that the popular CSS pre-processor can be a powerful ally to even the hand-craftiest front-end designer/developer. Dan has never learned a thing about CSS he wasn’t willing to share (and great at teaching). And in this exclusive excerpt from Chapter 1 of Sass For Web Designers, you’ll get a taste of how Dan learned to quit worrying and use Sass to take better control of his stylesheets and websites.

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Recent Blog posts

Prioritizing Structure in Web Content Projects

New content projects present a classic chicken-and-egg problem: should we start with the words, or focus on the structure they’ll take? There are benefits and challenges either way, but Eileen Webb has recently become a believer that starting with structure creates a better workflow for developers, designers and content creators alike.

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Ready for something new? We're excited to announce ALA: On Air, community-focused events where our readers can get to know our authors, staff, and others who are shaking up our industry. Mat Marquis shares all the details, and has specifics on our first event, Designing for Performance, coming up on February 26.

Style Guide Generator Roundup

Ready to use a style guide generator for your next project? Susan Robertson did the research and shares a number of options to try out, depending on your workflow. If you haven't created a style guide before, hopefully one of these tools will make generating your first one just a bit easier.

Thoughtful Modularity

What can we learn from the Mars rover about building the web? Anthony Colangelo describes NASA's new modular approach to mission planning, and suggests a similar strategy for our work on the web. The details of our work may change, but building with thoughtful modularity can help us reap the benefits of the future.

Pinpointing Expectations

In my work as a front-end developer, I’ve come to realize that expectations, and how you handle them, are one of the most integral parts of a project. Expectations are tricky things, especially because we don’t talk about them very much.

The Core Model: Links and Resources

My recent article on the core model was an attempt to sum up two things that I could go on about forever. The Norwegian Cancer Society (NCS) redesign project started in January 2012, and we’re still working together. The core model was created by Are Halland in 2006, and we’re still working on that too! In other words, there is a lot more to say both about that project and the model.