Building to Learn

Whether you’re just getting started on the web, or trying to pick up a new framework, Susan Robertson has a radical idea: build something that interests you. Sure, there are courses and tutorials out there to walk you through it, but a project you’re actually excited about will help you solidify those skills and make them easier to recall when you need them most.

Creating Process to Free up Time for Creativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.