A List Apart


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.

  • Mixing Color for the Web with Sass

    by Justin McDowell · Issue 433 ·

    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

    by Charlotte Jackson · Issue 432 ·

    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

    by Rachel Andrew ·

    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

    by Artas Bartas · Issue 431 ·

    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

    by Mark Llobrera ·

    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

    by Rory Douglas · Issue 429 ·

    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

    by Paul Robert Lloyd · Issue 427 ·

    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

    by Rachel Andrew ·

    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

    by Alla Kholmatova · Issue 426 ·

    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

    by ALA Staff · Issue 425 ·

    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

    by Mark Llobrera ·

    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

    by Lara Hogan · Issue 424 ·

    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

    by Meghan Casey · Issue 423 ·

    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

    by Kelsey Lynn Lundberg · Issue 422 ·

    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

    by Matt Griffin ·

    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

    by Katie Kovalcin · Issue 416 ·

    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

    by Lisa Welchman · Issue 415 ·

    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.

  • Managing and Making: It Doesn’t Have to Be One or the Other

    by Rian van der Merwe ·

    We take it for granted that career progress means moving into a management role. Even people who thrive in the individual contributor role feel the pressure to join management. Shouldn’t both capacities be valued, so we can find where we genuinely fit in and do our best work? Rian van der Merwe has gone scouting up the career path and realized it’s okay to turn back and be the other, oft-overlooked but equally important half of the management/making dynamic.

  • The Specialist-Generalist Balance

    by Garin Evans · Issue 414 ·

    Specialists? Generalists? It’s not a question of which is better, but about finding the right mix for your team and your work. Specialists offer valuable expertise, but over-reliance on specialization isn’t always good for workflow—too many niches can lead to silos, bottlenecks, and poor communication. Garin Evans recommends that, instead, we build teams that play off the best traits of specialists and generalists, encouraging collaboration and innovation as we go.

  • A New Way to Listen

    by Indi Young · Issue 414 ·

    Empathy can have an enormous impact on how we work. By learning to better understand others—what they think, how they feel, what guides their decisions and behaviors—we add balance, clarity, and depth to our business practices. In this excerpt from Chapter 4 of Practical Empathy, Indi Young explains how listening intently can lay the groundwork for developing empathy.