A List Apart

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Topic: Process

Winning! Tools and techniques for fighting entropy. Working with clients and colleagues. Managing projects, people, budgets, and deadlines. Planning, facilitating, and finding balance. Keeping your creative spark. Giving your inner critic the boot. Banishing burnout. Setting agreements, expectations, goals, and game plans.

  • Liminal Thinking

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    People act in ways that make sense to them; if it doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re missing something. Recognizing our belief bubbles is the first step to holding our assumptions loosely, getting out of our own way, and improving communication with others, as we see in this excerpt from Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray.

  • The Itinerant Geek

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    Conference season travel stress is the fun-killer, the health-killer, and the stealer of concentration. Veteran traveler Rachel Andrew has some tips to help you maintain equilibrium—and productivity—on the road.

  • Create an Evolutionary Web Strategy with a Digital MRO Plan

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    To keep complex machinery working for you, you don’t neglect it for five years and then buy in a new round. You put your assets on a schedule of maintenance, repair, and overhaul. A website—a machine for engagement—shouldn’t languish between redesigns, says David Hillis. Draft a digital MRO plan to keep a site running smoothly from year to year.

  • The Foundation of Technical Leadership

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    Technical leadership starts with technical expertise, but also requires a passion for training, an ability to plan out team success, a clear head and constant readiness to help. Brandon Gregory spells out some of the soft skills a tech lead needs in order to show true leadership.

  • Commit to Contribute

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    Even a very basic contribution to an open-source codebase will turn into more than a one-line change when all is said and done. New developers can be put off by seemingly arbitrary roadblocks when they’ve just worked up the courage to contribute. Remy Sharp has a rundown of some tools that can smooth the way and make novices feel more welcome.

  • From Pages to Patterns: An Exercise for Everyone

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    When people think in terms of pages, it might seem natural for component design and page design to occur in tandem. But this can undermine a team’s ability to name components and build a shared vocabulary. With colleagues at Clearleft, Charlotte Jackson developed an exercise to help everyone adopt pattern thinking. She takes us through the process step by step, encouraging us to get away from our screens and focus first on thinking, language, and approach.

  • The Language of Modular Design

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    Goodbye, pages; hello, systems! When we break things down into atomic units, design elements become more scalable and replaceable, easier to test, and quicker to assemble. Alla Kholmatova emphasizes that a shared vocabulary should be the jumping-off point for teams who want to adopt a modular design approach. Let’s start with language, not interfaces.

  • Understanding the Emotional Response

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    Validating emotions isn’t a glorified psychological process; part of our work is to hear our colleagues and clients out. Kelsey Lynn Lundberg shows us how we can identify the underlying needs—security, freedom, identity, worth—that drive emotional responses, and how to translate those needs into productive discussions to keep our teams moving forward.

  • There Is No Data vs. Intuition

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    Heads/Tails, Left/Right, Church/State, Engineering/Design, Logic/Emotion. Oh wait—the flipside of logic isn’t emotion. It’s fallacy. Another fallacy is feeling obliged to join either the faction of the sensibly-clad engineers or the faction of the crayon-toting creatives. Nishant Kothary has found that research is on the side of trusting your gut (then backing up your instinct with testing).

  • What Will Save Us from the Dark Side of CSS Pre-Processors?

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    To spare ourselves the complexity and tedium of writing CSS, we’ve embraced CSS pre-processors. But we must use them wisely or risk outputting CSS that is weirdly convoluted and just so wrong. Could post-processors save us from the pitfalls of pre-processors? Lyza D. Gardner is cautiously optimistic about their future, but also has a solution we can implement right now to save ourselves from both unchecked pre-processors and unseasoned post-processors.

  • A Vision for Our Sass

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    Sass is a powerful tool in helping us wrangle complex stylesheets. Yet it has its headaches—including troublesome nesting of CSS selectors, code duplication, and tight coupling—that result in messy outputted CSS. Universal standards aren’t a viable answer, as the Sass spec continues to quickly change and grow. Felicity Evans holds that the problem isn’t Sass itself, but the way we use it. In this article, she champions a set of tenets that offers guidelines on how to work with Sass and evaluate new features and techniques.

  • From Empathy to Advocacy

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    As designers, we’ve devoted considerable attention to the concept of empathy. But how do we ensure that empathy for our users translates into actionable steps that then guide our design decisions and behaviors? Lyle Mullican explores how we can go beyond listening to our users, and start advocating on their behalf.

  • The Implicit Contract

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    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.

  • The Politics of Feedback

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    We’re obsessive about collecting input from a wide range of potential users and stakeholders. But with such an onslaught of feedback, there’s always a risk of having your motivation and faith in humanity sucked right out of you. Sometimes, you just need calm critique from the few people who really get you. So which kind of feedback is best? The answer is both.

  • Breaking Stuff

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    Designers may do CSS, but not JavaScript. Some may do JavaScript, but draw the line at git. Some may be willing to use git with a graphical interface, but not with Terminal. When we get out of our comfort zone, it’s great to have a safety net so we can learn without breaking stuff too badly.

  • I Don’t Like It

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    The most dreaded of all design feedback is the peremptory, “I don’t like it.” Rather than slinking back to the drawing board, it’s important to get clarity on what the client is reacting to. Guiding this conversation can turn a show-stopper into a mutual win.

  • Lessons Learned by Being the Client

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    Great ongoing business relationships are good for both sides. But often developers aren’t in tune with their client’s day-to-day business needs and where their work fits in. And clients’ focus on immediate practicalities can make the developer’s work stressful and unsatisfying. Well, what better way to learn about the needs of the other than by becoming the other?

  • Me and My Big Fat Ego

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    In a design project, there are usually areas where the client sees room for improvement—and that’s hard to take if your self-esteem is bound up with your work. You need confidence to present your work, but be sure to dial back the ego if it stands in the way of a successful client relationship.

  • Making Time for Side Projects

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    What’s holding you back from finishing that side project? It’s valuable, but how will you ever find time for it? The secret is…drumroll…real goals and deadlines, and a realistic plan on how to fit it into the open spaces in your schedule. Time to get it on your to-do list and feel the motivation kick in.

  • Workflow Orchestration for the Wary

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    Workflow consolidation is the key to alleviating suck, ennui, and (some of) the dangers of human error. If only it weren’t so arcane and sysadmin-y. Don’t be put off by past trauma or bad first impressions—task runners and build tools are here to help you take control of your own destiny.