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Topic: Workflow & Tools

Better collaboration through good planning. Responsive comping: obtain signoff without mockups. Design contracts for the 21st century. Get started with Git. Test websites in game console browsers. Use Style Tiles to align client and designer expectations, expedite project timelines, involve stakeholders in the brainstorming process, and serve an essential role in responsive design.

  • Finessing `feColorMatrix`

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    CSS filters lack the ability to do per-channel manipulation—a huge drawback. They may be convenient, but CSS filters are merely shortcuts derived from SVG; as such, they provide no control over RGBA channels. SVG (particularly the feColorMatrix map) gives us much more power and lets us take CSS filters to the next level. Una Kravats guides us through feColorMatrix and shows us how we can harness its power to create detailed filters.

  • The Art of the Commit

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    The information you put into a commit message needs to be useful to the people who will read it. Instead of going into too much detail, or worrying about abstract questions like whether a given commit is the release version of a thing, focus on a much simpler story: I just did a thing, and this is the thing I just did. In this excerpt from Git for Humans, David Demaree outlines some best practices for crafting effective commits.

  • Blending Modes Demystified

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    In an ideal world, we’d be able to modify a design or graphic for the web while keeping the original intact, all without opening an image editor. We’d save tons of time by not having to manually reprocess graphics whenever we changed stuff. Graphics could be neatly specified, maintained, and manipulated with just a few licks of CSS. Oh. Wait. We can do that! Justin McDowell gives us the lowdown on blending modes.

  • Mixing Color for the Web with Sass

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    We use color to influence mood, create an environment, and tell a story. 125 years ago, impressionist painter Claude Monet changed the way we think about color by describing light’s role in it. His observations have largely been lost on design for the web—but a preprocessor like Sass offers us unprecedented power to mix tints and shades that will imbue our palettes with more nuance.

  • 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.

  • Offering Feedback

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    If you only interact with users when they need support or have a feature request, you’re only interacting with the minority of your customers. The ones who don’t reach out to you may be creating their own workarounds to a problem you’d love to hear about, or they may have a use case that would lead to a brilliant feature. Are you guilty of the same developer shyness? Do you build things to enhance a tool or service for your own use, and assume the developer is too busy to want to hear about it? Don’t wait until there’s a need for support: ask your happy customers what they do with your product, and tell developers how you’re using their product.

  • Choosing a CMS Your Organization Will Love

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    That never-ending search for the perfect CMS—maybe we’re using the wrong criteria. Too frequently, we approach CMS selection with cost or functionality as our bottom line, leading to solutions that look good, but struggle to adapt to the internal workflow. But finding a tool that matches organizational requirements means shifting focus. Artas Bartas presents three ways of approaching the CMS selection process with your team’s needs and processes top of mind.

  • The Nearly-Headless CMS

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    Decoupling your CMS can broaden your options for the presentation layer, let team members narrow their focus to what each does best, or provide data for iOS and Android applications along with a responsive site. Maybe the greatest benefit is that having to consider the relationship between the CMS and rendering layer helps break up assumptions about delivery formats, making you more future-friendly along the way. Mark Llobrera shares a couple of tales where headless was the right solution.

  • Managing Your Content Management System

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    Because every site has unique needs, no two content management systems should ever be alike. When implementing and customizing a new CMS, writes Rory Douglas, give your users only as much freedom as they need—but not enough to mess things up. They’ll love you for it.

  • Thinking Responsively: A Framework for Future Learning

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    Responsive web design changed everything about how we think and work on the web—and five years on, we’re still exploring the best ways to approach our practice. If we want a web that is truly universal, we must consider our users, our medium, and our teams in new, adaptable ways. Looking at where we’ve come from and where we’re going, Paul Robert Lloyd proposes a philosophical framework for our work on the responsive web.

  • Creating Process to Free up Time for Creativity

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    There’s merit to keeping your small business nimble by keeping process to a minimum. But even in the tiniest one- or two-person operation, it’s plain that not all business tasks are improved by being hand-crafted. Rachel Andrew powers through business routines with checklists that free her mind for more compelling things. Remove friction from the rote tasks, so you can be at your best for the creative work that can only be done you.

  • 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.

  • 2015 Summer Reading Issue

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    The dog days are upon us—but instead of giving up in the summer swelter, take heart! We’ve got an extra-special reading list of bright, insightful brainfood. ALA’s third annual summer reader explores what's been on the web industry’s mind lately, from accessibility to performance, from CSS techniques to web type, from mentorship to more collaborative approaches. It’s a list as cool and fancy as a watermelon-basil popsicle. Yeah, that does sound good, doesn’t it? Kick back, chill out, and get to reading.

  • Memory Management

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    No matter what your dev job description is, you need a robust and reliable system for note-taking, bookmarking and—this part is essential—finding the information you’ve captured. Even before you’ve built up your skills, a mature process for managing the information involved in your work will help throughout your career. Mark Llobrera likes to keep his memory management method simple, searchable, and software-independent.

  • Performance: Showing Versus Telling

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    The technical aspects of performance optimization are indisputably important. But the social work—convincing peers, managers, and clients that performance optimization merits their attention—often gets short shrift. Lara Hogan shows us how we can go beyond charts, graphs, and numbers to show performance rather than merely tell it—and effect a genuine culture shift in the process.

  • Create a Content Compass

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    Content projects need a sense of direction: something to help you and your team provide the right content to the right people at the right time. Enter the content compass—centered on your strategy and supported by your messaging—to keep your content efforts on track. In this excerpt from Chapter 11 of The Content Strategy Toolkit, Meghan Casey explains her methodology for developing a core strategy statement and messaging framework.

  • 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.

  • Readable Wearables

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    Displays that are more tiny than our lowest-size breakpoints require a more condensed range of type sizes. If you don't already have in place a typographic system that can absorb the demands of this new context (watches, wearables, digital sticky notes, whatever), now might be the time to consider it. Matt Griffin was ready for anything because his site was simple and built to be future friendly.

  • 80/20 Practitioners Make Better Communicators

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    Approaches that are either too general or too specific can easily overwhelm practitioners—and derail budgets. Fresh from recent experiences with two large-scale redesigns, Katie Kovalcin suggests that flexibility and open communication can transform all team members into what she calls “80/20 practitioners,” creating a more effective balance of time and resources.

  • Stopping the Infighting About Digital Standards

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    Organizations that struggle with their digital presence often do so because they haven’t established proper governance. But good governance is worth pursuing: clear policies and processes can answer questions, empower teams, and enable web strategies to shine. In this excerpt from Chapter 5 of Managing Chaos, Lisa Welchman explains the importance of digital standards—what they are, why they matter for governance, and how to start documenting them for your stakeholders.