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Issue № 370

  • See What I Mean

    by Kevin Cheng · · 18 Comments

    We’re pleased to share an excerpt from Kevin Cheng’s new book, See What I Mean: How to Use Comics to Communicate Ideas, available now from Rosenfeld Media.

Issue № 369

  • Environmental Design with the Device API

    by Tim Wright · · 17 Comments

    Real-world factors like low batteries and weak signal strength can turn even the most expertly crafted digital experience into a frustrating clustercuss. These factors are beyond your control, and, until recently, there was nothing you could do about them. Now there just may be. Tim Wright explains how to begin improving your users’ experiences under constantly shifting (and sometimes quite dreadful) conditions, via environmental design thinking and the Device API.

  • Your Website has Two Faces

    by Lyle Mullican · · 11 Comments

    Your website must serve human and robot masters. An interface that reflects too much of a system’s internals will confuse human users; but if data doesn’t conform to a specific structure, it’s likely to confuse the machines that need to use it. How can your designs serve these very different masters? Jon Postel's Robustness Principle, although usually applied to low-level protocols like TCP, offers a clue to designing experiences that meet human and machine needs with equal grace. Lyle Mullican explains.

Issue № 368

  • A List Apart 5.0

    by Jeffrey Zeldman · · 157 Comments

    A design that departs from our past and a platform on which to build the future. Welcome to the relaunch of A List Apart, for people who make websites.

  • What We Learned in 2012

    by Our Gentle Readers · · 1 Comment

    A new A List Apart means a new design, new features, and renewed excitement about the future. But before plowing full-steam into tomorrow-land, we asked some of our friendly authors and readers to share lessons they learned last year, and how those lessons can help all of us work smarter in 2013.

Issue № 367

  • Vexing Viewports

    by Lyza Danger Gardner, Stephanie Rieger, Luke Wroblewski, Peter-Paul Koch · · 44 Comments

    Each week, new devices appear with varying screen sizes, pixel densities, input types, and more. As developers and designers, we agree to use standards to mark up, style, and program what we create. Browser makers in turn agree to support those standards and set defaults appropriately, so we can hold up our end of the deal. This agreement has never been more important. That’s why it hurts when a device or browser maker does something that goes against our agreement—especially when they’re a very visible and trusted friend of the web like Apple. Peter-Paul Koch, Lyza Danger Gardner, Luke Wroblewski, and Stephanie Rieger explain why Apple’s newest tablet, the iPad Mini, creates a vexing situation for people who are trying to do the right thing and build flexible, multi-device experiences.

Issue № 366

  • Designing Contracts for the XXI Century

    by Veronica Picciafuoco · · 9 Comments

    A design contract is like a business card—it comes from the same desk, and bears the same creative mark. But it’s also the business card you hate handing out: a folder of legal gibberish with terrible formatting that reminds the client of everything that could possibly go wrong before the work has even started. If we want to address the readability problems unique to our era—and improve communication with our clients—then it’s time we fix the language, layout, and typesetting of our contracts. And who better than designers to do it? Veronica Picciafuoco shows how modernizing your contract to match your carefully crafted brand can also help you reach an agreement faster, and even strengthen your position when negotiating.

  • Translation is UX

    by Antoine Lefeuvre · · 21 Comments

    We—the people who make websites—now study almost every aspect of our trade, from content and usability to art direction and typography. Our attention to detail has never been greater as we strive to provide the best possible experience. Yet many users still experience products that lack personality or are difficult to understand. They are users of a translated version. While good localization boosts conversion rates, bad or partial translation may ruin a user experience, giving people an uneasy feeling about the whole company. If we care equally about all our users, it’s time we start thinking of translation as something slightly more complex than a word-to-word job. Antoine Lefeuvre shares why translation matters, and what it takes to get it right.

Issue № 365

  • Becoming Better Communicators

    by Inayaili de Leon · · 20 Comments

    As designers, we already know how to communicate with users in a language they understand. Yet, we often don't do this when communicating with those whom our work requires us to talk to every day: our own colleagues. Inayaili de León shows us why—and how we can build the human relationships and shared vocabularies we need to get better at it.

  • Universal Design IRL

    by Sara Wachter-Boettcher · · 43 Comments

    We talk a lot about building a web that’s accessible to anyone—a web that serves more of us, more fully. But are our own events and conferences as inclusive as the web we’re all working toward? Sara Wachter-Boettcher explores how we can improve the design of our own community.

Issue № 364

  • Uncle Sam Wants You (to Optimize Your Content for Mobile)

    by Karen McGrane · · 8 Comments

    Thirty-one percent of Americans who access the internet from a mobile device say that’s the way they always or mostly go online. For this group, if your content doesn’t exist on mobile, it doesn’t exist at all. The U.S. government has responded with a broad initiative to make federal website content mobile-friendly. Karen McGrane explains why this matters—and what you can learn from it.

  • Your Content, Now Mobile

    by Karen McGrane · · 15 Comments

    Making your content mobile-ready isn’t easy, but if you take the time now to examine your content and structure it for maximum flexibility and reuse, you’ll have stripped away all the bad, irrelevant bits, and be better prepared the next time a new gadget rolls around. This excerpt from Karen McGrane’s new book, Content Strategy for Mobile, will help you get started.

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.

Recent Columns

Lyza Danger Gardner on Building the Web Everywhere

The Implicit Contract

Working with a team of like-minded folks not only makes for more copacetic daily interactions, it actually has a positive effect on the end product. Developers are valued for more than their technical skills. Another hallmark of a good developer is how well they mesh with a team.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev

The Ways We’ve Changed—and Stayed the Same

A perusal of the article titles in the seasonal magazine 24 ways shows how the things we’ve needed to learn and keep up with have changed since 2005. Amid all this change, one thing that remains evergreen is the generosity of web people in sharing their knowledge.

Recent Blog posts

Driving Phantom from Grunt

For this example, we're going to build a Grunt task that takes a screen shot of the pages we're building (similar to Wraith, but far less advanced). There are multiple parts to make this work, so let's break it down. First, we will write a PhantomJS script that renders each page. Second, we make a NodeJS function that calls this script. Finally, we make a GruntJS task that calls that Node function. Fun!

Overwhelmed by Code

There is a constant pressure to learn new things and keep up with all the latest ideas: new frameworks, new platforms, new ideas of how to write code, they just keep coming out. In addition, the ebb and flow of what is desired from a front-end developer keeps changing. It used to be that knowing CSS and HTML was enough, then jQuery came along, then responsive techniques, then Node.js and then Angular, Ember, etc., etc., etc. That list, right there, it tires me out.

Why Responsive Images Matter

Building enormous websites means us shifting the burden of our mistakes onto every single user that visits our site. It’s us saying that we’re willing to build something that isn’t for some users, because that’s most comfortable for us—no different from “best viewed in Internet Explorer 5.5” or “best viewed at 600x800,” but much more costly.