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Issue № 363

  • The Infinite Grid

    by Chris Armstrong · · 28 Comments

    Grid systems are a key component of graphic design, but they’ve always been designed for canvases with fixed dimensions. Until now. Today you’re designing for a medium that has no fixed dimensions, a medium that can and will shape-shift to better suit its environment—a medium capable of displaying a single layout on a smartphone, a billboard in Times Square, and everything in between. You’re designing for an infinite canvas—and for that, you need an infinite grid system. Discover techniques and guidelines that can help bring structure to your content whatever the screen size.

  • Responsive Comping: Obtaining Signoff without Mockups

    by Matt Griffin · · 54 Comments

    If you’re making websites, chances are you’ve given some thought to what constitutes a responsive-friendly design process—and you’ve probably found that adding a mockup for every breakpoint isn’t a sustainable approach. Designing in code sounds like the answer, but you may be mystified at where to begin—or feel unmoored and disoriented at the prospect of giving up the approach you’ve long relied on. Enter responsive comping. This new, mockup-less web design process makes it easy to get that Photoshop monkey off your back, and have a fresh new beginning with your old friend the web browser.

Issue № 362

  • The Web Aesthetic

    by Paul Robert Lloyd · · 19 Comments

    Today, when every device begs to be connected, it has become easier—almost necessary—to accept the adaptable nature of the web. Responsive web design is an emerging best practice, and our layouts are becoming more flexible. But often, innovation is focused on technical implementations while the visual aesthetic remains ignored. To put it another way, we’re embracing “responsive” but neglecting the second part: “design.” Now is the time to seek out an aesthetic that is truer to the medium.

  • Mo’ Pixels Mo’ Problems

    by Dave Rupert · · 29 Comments

    Mobile devices are shipping with higher and higher PPI, and desktops and laptops are following the trend as well. There’s no avoiding it: High-pixel-density, or “Retina,” displays are now becoming mainstream—and, as you’d expect, our websites are beginning to look a little fuzzy in their backlit glory. But before we go off in the knee-jerk direction of supersizing all our sites, we must identify the problems ahead and figure out the most responsible way forward—keeping our users in mind first and foremost.

Issue № 361

  • Testing Websites in Game Console Browsers

    by Anna Debenham · · 22 Comments

    Today’s game consoles may offer subpar web experiences with little browser choice, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore them. More than one in eight internet users in the UK, US, and France—and nearly one in four American teens—uses a game console to get online. As more console makers offer internet-capable devices—and as smart TVs continue to enter the market—now is the time to plan how our sites will adapt to these new contexts. Learn how to test your web content on phone consoles; handheld consoles like Sony PSP and Nintendo DS; and TV consoles like Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3, and Microsoft Xbox 360.

  • What Ate the Periodical? A Primer for Web Geeks

    by David Sleight · · 14 Comments

    We’ve all heard about the painful transition newspapers and magazines are going through. Two decades after the arrival of the web, the search for durable, profitable business models that make sense in the digital age goes on. And it isn’t going well. Advertising, subscriptions, and data-as-service have failed. Now is the time for web developers, designers, and digital strategists of all stripes to lead experiments with making (and saving) money from the things technology and the web are good at.

Issue № 360

  • Findings from the Survey, 2011

    by ALA Staff · · 11 Comments

    At A List Apart, we are perpetually and ever more deeply curious about the lives and livings of people who make websites. It is a curiosity many of you share. Each year, when we post our Survey For People Who Make Websites, thousands of you take time to complete it. The resulting data presents a living picture of the businesses, backgrounds, and aspirations of professional web workers most everywhere. Presenting the findings of the 2011 survey. Dive in boldly, find out how your situation compares to others’, and keep building respect for this most elegant of professions.

Issue № 359

  • Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery

    by Rian Van Der Merwe · · 5 Comments

    Brasília is a remarkable, bizarre city. An architectural gem built to be Brazil’s “shiny citadel,” it’s now known as a violent, crime-ridden, and congested city—because the architects who designed it weren’t thinking about the millions of people who would live there. This myopia echoes across today’s web landscape as well, where we see monuments erected not for their users, but for the people who built them—and the VCs who are scouting them. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rian van der Merwe shows us how to discover before we build.

  • Being Real Builds Trust

    by Steph Hay · · 28 Comments

    Tons of products and services are the best, easiest, simplest, smartest things ever. They also all increase profits, decrease costs, and save you time. And as a result, they all sound the same. These kinds of qualifiers overrun our content because we’re constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, rather than being honest about who we are. But trust inspires confidence, and it’s confidence that compels decision-making. Steph Hay shows us how to win customers by being real with our content.

Issue № 358

  • Learning to Love the Boring Bits of CSS

    by Peter Gasston · · 27 Comments

    The future of CSS gives us much to be excited about: On the one hand, there’s a whole range of new methods that are going to revolutionize the way we lay out pages on the web; on the other, there’s a new set of graphical effects that will allow on-the-fly filters and shaders. People love this stuff. Magazines and blogs are full of articles about them. But if these tools are the show ponies of CSS, then it’s time to give some love to the carthorses of the language. Learn why “boring bits” like selectors, units, and functions will be revolutionary to the way we work—albeit in humble, unassuming ways.

  • Everything in its Right Pace

    by Hannah Donovan · · 15 Comments

    The real-time web started as something we did because we could. Technological advancements like more efficient ways to retrieve large amounts of data, the cloud, and the little computers we now carry around in our pockets made it just a really sexy problem to solve. Successful experiments turned into trends, and those trends are now becoming unquestioned convention. But does the always-on, pull-to-refresh design of Twitter and Facebook make sense your product? Hannah Donovan explores whether real time is the right choice—and how we can instead consider pace.

Issue № 357

  • Beyond Usability Testing

    by Devan Goldstein · · 2 Comments

    To be sure we're designing the right experience for the right audience, there's no substitute for research conducted with actual users. Like any research method, though, usability testing has its drawbacks. Most importantly, it isn't cheap. Fortunately, there are other usability research methods at our disposal. The standouts, expert review and heuristic evaluation, are easy to add to a design and development process almost regardless of budget or resource concerns. Explore these techniques, learn their advantages and disadvantages, and get the low-down on how to include them in your projects.

  • Product Management for the Web

    by Kristofer Layon · · 5 Comments

    Whether we prototype, write, design, develop, or test as part of building the web, we're creating something hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people will use. But how do we know that we're creating the right enhancements for the web, at the right time, and for the right customers? Because our client or boss asked us to? And how do they know? Enter product management for the web, bridging the gap between leadership and customers on one side, and the user experience, content strategy, design, and development team on the other. Learn to set priorities that gradually but steadily make your product (and the web) better.

Issue № 356

  • ALA Summer Reading Issue

    by ALA Staff · · 2 Comments

    Presenting the ALA Summer Reading Issue—our favorite articles from 355 issues of A List Apart. You can also read them all as an epub on your Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Readmill, or other e-book reader.

Issue № 355

  • Improvising in the Boardroom

    by Matt Griffin · · 5 Comments

    Stop over-preparing for client pitch meetings. Approach them the way musicians approach improvisation: open your ears and listen. Matt Griffin tells how to forget the slideshows, be genuine, the person that you are every day in your job, and win the clients you should win.

Issue № 354

  • Agreements = Expectations

    by Greg Hoy · · 18 Comments

    Every client/vendor relationship is based on a set of expectations, whether they're stated or not. A lot can go unsaid or unspecified for any project, large and small. Not being specific can lead to disagreements, quarrels, and high blood pressure. But, it doesn't have to be this way. Greg Hoy says that while due diligence is important, being vague is a must. Yes, you read that right.

  • Facilitating Great Design

    by Kevin M. Hoffman · · 6 Comments

    Imagine the most fulfilling, collaborative design meeting you've ever had. Hours seemed to fly by, and those hours were productive. Political and mental barriers melted away and in their place were innovative ideas, or realistic solutions for complex problems. For several shining moments the team worked as one; the conversation or the activity was equally fun and productive, and you left the room feeling smart and empowered. It's highly likely that someone in that meeting was a facilitator, either by design or by accident. Kevin M. Hoffman leads us through what it takes to facilitate great design.

Recent Columns

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Work Life Imbalance

Workspaces now include the comforts of home, and homes are filled with devices that connect us to work. It’s time to reconsider our enthusiasm for being available to deal with work any time, day or night. The balance we thought we’d find is tipped heavily toward productivity, to the detriment of exploration, inspiration, and regeneration.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

Getting to the Action

Was that conference worth it? There were smart tips and awesome people. Should you buy a ticket this year? For a freelancer or small business, it can be a significant expense. Wouldn’t it be great to know if the investment in time and money is likely to move the business forward?

Recent Blog posts

Getting Started With CSS Audits

This week I wrote about conducting CSS audits to organize your code, keeping it clean and performant—resulting in faster sites that are easier to maintain. Now that you understand the hows and whys of auditing, let’s take a look at some more resources that will help you maintain your CSS architecture. Here are some I’ve recently discovered and find helpful.

10 Years Ago in ALA: Pocket Sized Design

The web doesn’t do “age” especially well. Any blog post or design article more than a few years old gets a raised eyebrow—heck, most people I meet haven’t read John Allsopp’s “A Dao of Web Design” or Jeffrey Zeldman’s “To Hell With Bad Browsers,” both as relevant to the web today as when they were first written. Meanwhile, I’ve got books on my shelves older than I am; most of my favorite films came out before I was born; and my iTunes library is riddled with music that’s decades, if not centuries, old.

Valediction

When I first met Kevin Cornell in the early 2000s, he was employing his illustration talent mainly to draw caricatures of his fellow designers at a small Philadelphia design studio. Even in that rough, dashed-off state, his work floored me. It was as if Charles Addams and my favorite Mad Magazine illustrators from the 1960s had blended their DNA to spawn the perfect artist.

My Favorite Kevin Cornell

After 200 issues—yes, two hundred—Kevin Cornell is retiring from his post as A List Apart’s staff illustrator. Tomorrow’s issue will be the last one featuring new illustrations from him.