Lately, I’ve gotten spoiled from using an editor that does intelligent autocompletion for me, something that in the past only massive complex IDEs offered. Opening my editor of choice, I created an input element and added an autocomplete attribute, only to find that the code completion offered me the state of on or off. Disappointing.
Editor's note: This is an introductory article about a book idea to be published by Smashing Magazine with Chris Heilmann. Check out what we propose as an idea — explaining a way to reconsider how we build websites to ensure they are leaner and more future-proof. At the end of the article, we'd ask you to fill out a quick survey to show your interest.
The Web as it is now is suffering from an obesity problem. If you surf the Web on a flaky mobile connection or some hotel wireless, you'll find yourself a lot of times staring at a page or app that doesn't do anything and doesn't tell you what is going on either. The spinner in the tab or the URL bar seems to be the thing that gets the most mileage in browsers.
In this article I'd like to discuss the changes happening on the Web and argue that its future is not as problematic and endangered as a lot of people make it out to be. The article is based on the talk I've presented at the Smashing Conference a couple of days ago, and you can also see the slides and watch the screencast.
I have been developing websites professionally for the greater part of the last 15 years, and written quite a few books and a lot of articles. Yet when I look around right now, I do feel incredibly... stupid and wonder if I should hang up my coat and do something else. Almost daily we see new tools, new best practices and systems to use, and a lot of them are very far removed from the original Web development technologies that are defined by the standards bodies.
A few days ago, a tutorial on how to Create A Christmas Wish List With PHP was published on Smashing Magazine's Coding section that frustrated me. It frustrated me as it was incredibly easy to predict the comment reactions it caused. It also frustrated me as it was a classic example of a tutorial resulting in very happy readers who will go out and cause a lot of terrible things on the Web unless they understand that this was meant as a "beginner tutorial". A lot of the bad feedback was about security — something we shouldn't take lightly.
It frustrated me mostly because it all happened on Smashing Magazine, a well-respected online publication that is read by many beginners (especially in back-end technologies) and one that is dedicated to quality content with an advisory board (one of which is me) meaning that every article gets reviewed by experts before it is published. This one slipped by in the rush of the holidays, and it was updated a couple of hours after it was published, i.e. the editors added an editor's note and addressed some important missing points. I am happy that it was published in its original form as it inspired me to point out some things that I see happening in online magazines a lot lately.
In school, I hated math. It was a dire, dry and boring thing with stuffy old books and very theoretical problems. Even worse, a lot of the tasks were repetitive, with a simple logical change in every iteration (dividing numbers by hand, differentials, etc.). It was exactly the reason why we invented computers. Suffice it to say, a lot of my math homework was actually done by my trusty Commodore 64 and some lines of Basic, with me just copying the results later on.
These tools and the few geometry lessons I had gave me the time and inspiration to make math interesting for myself. I did this first and foremost by creating visual effects that followed mathematical rules in demos, intros and other seemingly pointless things. There is a lot of math in the visual things we do, even if we don’t realize it. If you want to make something look natural and move naturally, you need to add a bit of physics and rounding to it.
Native multimedia capability has a few benefits. For instance, end users have full control over the multimedia. The native controls of browsers allow users to save videos locally or email them to friends. Also, HTML5 video and audio are keyboard-enabled by default, which is a great accessibility benefit.
Delivering great presentations is an art, and preparing the slides for them very much so, too. But we’re not going to talk about that. We’re also not going to get into the debate about whether to use open or closed technologies to create slide decks — this is something you need to hash out yourself, and there are some interesting discussions going on.
What I will talk about is how I (and you, of course) can use the Web to find content for your talks, record them, share them with others and save them for future audiences. I’ll also explain how to share it all for free and how to convert closed formats into open ones by using the Web.
In 2010 I delivered a boatload of talks that people attended, downloaded, commented on and remixed for their own training sessions and presentations. I love to share my research and information, because when you set them free they can inspire and help others to get their own voices heard. Here’s how I did it.
Building a beautiful design is a great experience. Seeing the design break apart when people start putting in real content, though, is painful. That's why testing it as soon as possible with real information to see how it fares is so important. To this end, Web services provide us with a lot of information with which to fill our products. In recent years, this has been a specialist's job, but the sheer amount of information available and the number of systems to consume it makes it easier and easier to use Web services, even for people with not much development experience.
The problem with APIs is that access to them varies in simplicity, from just having to load data from a URL all the way up to having to authenticate with the server and give all kinds of information about the application you want to build before getting your first chunk of information.