I’ve been writing The Smashing Daily for almost two years—first on my own domain, and later, after a chat with the incredible Vitaly Friedman, right here on Smashing Magazine. I first started out just for myself, then for my colleagues, after that for the whole Dutch front-end and design community, and finally for this huge international audience. The audience has been steadily growing and I’ve definitely grown too, both professionally and grammatically (my English has especially improved… thanks for convincing me to write in English, Lea Verou!). But I’ve decided to quit. I always enjoyed writing these little comments a lot, but it just costs me too much time. Next week I’ll write a post about the art of staying up-to-date (so you won’t miss my posts).
Please take your time to read each and every one of the posts I link to today. They are all exceptional in one way or another and they all represent the things I value most about the Web: progressive enhancement, owning your own data, teaching, learning, using ems as a unit for font sizes (hehehe), making the right assumptions, unicode and fighting against the enemies of the Web (the font foundries). But the last click is maybe the most important of all: just keep making amazing stuff. Enjoy!
We create websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter by adding lots and lots of content to them. Not all of these websites seem to appreciate our data as much as they should. Contents Magazine wrote this special report in which they provided startups with good tips for working with our data. You should definitely read it, it’s all your data (and you should own it).
If you want to write articles or tutorials for the Web (you should!) you might want to take a look at this Developer Evangelist Handbook about writing them.
We don’t need to acquire as many devices as possible just because we need to test out websites on them, we also need to learn from them—from their interfaces, the way they work, the way they are designed, their form elements, etc. The teams that worked on these devices are probably just as talented as your own team, but they probably had much more time to create their product. Since buying devices can be expensive, a device lab might be helpful.
I truly believe that you should never use pixels as units for font sizes, and should use
ems instead. And no,
ems are not that hard. The clever people at The Filament Group wrote this excellent article about ems. You should read this if you still believe the Web is static.
“The Mobile Context”. Every now and then somebody believes it exists. Great articles have been written about the fact that it’s a myth, but I think this one by Sara Wachter-Boettcher is the final article on the matter. Whenever somebody tells you your mobile visitors want something other than you desktop visitors, please point them to this article. Yes, we do want to know the context someone is in, but unfortunately there is no way of knowing it. And yes, we can use trends and statistics to decide what the common context is (but trends and statistics change, that’s just what they do). An absolute must read!
One of the problems with online data is the fact that it can be gone tomorrow. Many websites in my archive return a 404 today. Since 1995, people have been working on archiving the Web. Here’s a nice Web archives timeline.
An incredible project: a visual graph of all influences from all ideas in history. The things we can do with data are amazing, and unique. Never before in history did we have so much data easily available to play with. Remember that and do great stuff with it!
On the one hand, I believe that if you set up your website the right way (by using a clever, progressively enhanced structure) you can make a website that works on IE 5.2.3 for the Mac and at the same time uses the incredible new Web techniques applicable for today’s modern browsers. But on the other hand, I also agree with Louis Lazaris: wide-spread use of old browsers is definitely a problem. So we should try hard to get rid of them, while we keep building clever future-friendly and past-proof websites.
I learned a lot of what I know from looking at the source code of websites. Today we have easier tools to check how things are made—like Firebug, Dragonfly of the Web Inspector, etc. But still, looking at the source of, for instance, a CSS file, can actually teach you a lot. Daniel Eden asks us to provide a maximized version of our CSS so others can learn from it. A nice idea.
Hopefully someday type foundries will get their shit together and stop with their incredible swindle. One client of mine has to pay 50,000 euros per year for one weight of a font. Another client asked me how much a Web licence for a custom variant of the Rockwell would cost… the answer: 600,000 euros a year! What the fuck are they thinking? The arrogance is unbelievable. But above all, it’s a real pity, because we just won’t use good Web fonts as long as the prices stay insane. But perhaps one day we will be able to use good type on the Web, and then this post by Gustavo Ferreira about OpenType features in current Web browsers will come in handy.
Need to find a special unicode character? Here’s an incredible tool that might help you with finding it.
Most of us make great websites every day—functional, useful stuff that makes the lives of our visitors easier (and the wallets of our clients fatter). At least, that’s what I do. Because all of those websites that we make are so useful, everything makes sense. But by only focusing on one thing, the purpose of things, we neglect one very important part of creation: the wonder of things. Just take a look at the incredible artworks that John von Bergen makes. Tiny sculptures and gigantic installations, all amazing and thought-provoking. I’m a real Web guy—I could care less and less about the physical world. Still, I can’t wait to see a real exhibition of John‘s work in person. And just because I now have more time on my hands doesn’t mean I’ll attempt to build sculptures like this (I unfortunately don’t have that kind of talent). But having said that, I’ll definitely try to focus on the unusual, the incredible, and the wonderful, and see if that can inspire me to create even more amazing stuff.
For previous Smashing Daily issues, check out the Smashing Daily Archive.
Vasilis van Gemert is the Principal Front-end Developer at Mirabeau in The Netherlands and a board member of Fronteers. His aim is to close the gap between design and (front-end) development. He believes the excess of knowledge he has can be better used by others, by more creative and smarter people. You can follow him on Twitter.
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