Smashing Newsletter: Issue #16

This newsletter issue was sent out to 39,373 newsletter subscribers on August 31st 2010.

Every other week our editorial team works on short, entertaining and (of course) relevant articles for the upcoming issue. The newsletter is sent out on Tuesdays, and contains unique tips and tricks for designers and Web developers, written by us exclusively for our email subscribers. You can subscribe to the e-mail newsletter1, of course.

Table of Contents

01. 365psd: A Free PSD Every Day2
02. Cross-Browser Testing in Your Browser3
03. Unsuck It: Rebel Against Marketing Jargon4
04. Muro: Free HTML5-Powered Drawing App5
05. Exposing Deceptive Design Patterns6
06. Bookshelf Design Inspiration7

1. 365psd: A Free PSD Every Day

We all like free stuff. Free useful stuff is even better. Make that high-quality, free and useful, and you’ve achieved the trifecta of awesomeness. And when the freebies can be used for your work and personal projects, well, that’s just a big bonus.

Screenshot8

That’s exactly what the creators of 365psd9 have done. Every day, they offer a free PSD file for you to download. These files are almost all design elements that you can use in Web and application designs, including buttons, progress bars, navigation elements and more, and they are well designed. Currently, there are more than 150 days worth of freebies, all tagged, browsable and searchable. (cc)

2. Cross-Browser Testing in Your Browser

Cross-browser testing your website designs and applications can be a pain. Either the tool offers way too many combinations of screen resolutions, browsers and operating systems (do you really need to know what your website looks like in a browser with less than 0.3% market share?) or you have to install a bunch of stuff. These solutions are less than ideal, especially if you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to test a website in modern browsers. And testing an app is even more difficult unless you install a bunch of browsers (often on more than one machine).

Screenshot10

Spoon Browser Sandbox11 is different. You can test websites and apps in all of the most common browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera) and in all of the common versions (including both older and the newest versions), all without installing anything. Please note the one major caveat at the moment: Spoon doesn’t appear to work properly on the Mac. But you might want to keep an eye on this plug-in anyway, which is being actively developed and improved. (cc)

3. Unsuck It: Rebel Against Marketing Jargon

Have you ever read a company’s “About” page and were left wondering what exactly the company did? Or read a page that talked about all the features and benefits of a product and that tried to convince you that the product was the best thing since Wikipedia… but that didn’t really tell you a thing? Marketing and business jargon is confusing or meaningless at best, and completely unintelligible at worst.

Screenshot12

That’s where Unsuck It13 comes in. Enter any jargony word, and the online tool deciphers it and returns the true (unsucked) meaning. It’s useful for figuring out what a company is actually trying to say or for rewriting the horrible copy that a client has handed to you for its website. (cc)

4. Muro: Free HTML5-Powered Drawing App

Whether you’re travelling with a laptop or just need to fix a tiny problem with an image, sometimes you don’t want to launch powerful image-editing software. In such situations, online image-editing tools can be powerful time-savers.

Screenshot14

deviantART Muro15 is one such tool. It allows you to work with layers, and it provides 21 brushes, each uniquely programmed, and a variety of filters. You also have an “Undo” function to restore earlier edits. Muro is compatible with the Wacom tablet, but you’ll need a Wacom plug-in to use it. Also, because it’s based on HTML5, you can use Muro on your iPad. You can also draw with friends and in deviantART groups. The project is under development, so we can expect to see more features and functionality in the coming months. (vf)

5. Exposing Deceptive Design Patterns

Plenty of bad website designs out there are hard to use and serve only to frustrate users when one thing after another doesn’t work as expected. In many cases, these websites are designed by people who don’t follow common usability guidelines and best practices. Some websites out there, though, are purposely unfriendly. The designers who created them were perfectly aware of the effect their decisions would have. In fact, they designed the interfaces to deliberately guide users to do things they wouldn’t normally do.

Screenshot16

DarkPatterns.org17 aims to expose these black-hat designs whose sole aim is to misdirect and deceive visitors. Anti-usability design patterns that are currently identified on the website include the “Roach Motel,” “Bait and Switch,” “Privacy Zuckering” and “Forced Information Disclosure,” among others. Examples of each are included, and visitors can add their own in the comments on each page. It’s a great website to show clients when they ask you to implement a questionable “feature” on their website. (cc)

6. Bookshelf Design Inspiration

In the digital era, when digital publications are gaining popularity, books remind us of the good old times. Although most of our daily work can be done online, many of us still enjoy reading physical books, flipping through their pages, using the bookmarks at our bedside. The content of physical books gives us inspiration, and we cherish what the books represent. By extension, bookshelves are given extra special care by those who love reading. And there are, in fact, many ways to arrange your favorite books.

Screenshot18

Bookshelf Showcase19 is a collection of beautiful images that will delight the devoted reader. The website collects and presents photos of bookshelves that are worth admiring. The unusual arrangements are full of creativity and might well move you to rearrange your own bookshelves over the weekend. (jb)

The authors are: Vitaly Friedman (vf), Cameron Chapman (cc), Jessica Bordeau (jb).

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/the-smashing-newsletter/
  2. 2 #a1
  3. 3 #a2
  4. 4 #a3
  5. 5 #a4
  6. 6 #a5
  7. 7 #a6
  8. 8 http://365psd.com/
  9. 9 http://365psd.com/
  10. 10 http://spoon.net/browsers/
  11. 11 http://spoon.net/browsers/
  12. 12 http://unsuck-it.com/
  13. 13 http://unsuck-it.com/
  14. 14 http://news.deviantart.com/article/125373/
  15. 15 http://news.deviantart.com/article/125373/
  16. 16 http://darkpatterns.org/
  17. 17 http://darkpatterns.org/
  18. 18 http://bit.ly/a2tbKd
  19. 19 http://bit.ly/a2tbKd

The Smashing Newsletter Team prepares bi-weekly newsletter issues with lots of love and appreciation for the good ol' Web with the latest tips and tricks for designers and Web developers. Vitaly Friedman, Smashing Magazine's editor-in-chief, started this project back in early 2010. Today, we can't imagine a better way of informing and communicating with our fans and readers!

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