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Heydon is a designer, writer and public speaker. He works with The Paciello Group as a UX and accessibility consultant. His book, Inclusive Design Patterns, is available in hardcover and as an ebook from Smashing Magazine.
Some people hate writing documentation, and others just hate writing. I happen to love writing; otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. It helps that I love writing because, as a design consultant offering professional guidance, writing is a big part of what I do. But I hate, hate, hate word processors.
I'm big on modular design. I've long been sold on dividing websites into components, not pages, and amalgamating those components dynamically into interfaces. Flexibility, efficiency and maintainability abound.
But I don't want my design to look like it's made out of unrelated things. I'm making an interface, not a surrealist photomontage. As luck would have it, there is already a technology, called CSS, which is designed specifically to solve this problem. Using CSS, I can propagate styles that cross the borders of my HTML components, ensuring a consistent design with minimal effort.
What is the difference between a web page and a web application? Though we tend to identify documents with reading and applications with interaction, most web-based applications are of the blended variety: Users can consume information and perform tasks in the same place. Regardless, the way we approach building web applications usually dispenses with some of the simple virtues of the readable web.
What if I told you there was an image format like GIF, but it worked with vectors? What if I said it was possible to reverse the direction of its animation? What if you could take one base image and animate different parts of it separately, at different speeds? Well, the image format, SVG, already exists. It just needs a little gentle encouragement.
In this article, I’ll be mixing old with new, taking a somewhat primitive art and breathing new life into it. With the help of Sass, I’ll be streamlining the necessary workflow and hopefully demonstrating that automation can, sometimes, be a friend to creativity.
It's one thing to create a web application and quite another to create an accessible web application. That's why Heydon Pickering, both author and editor at Smashing Magazine, wrote an eBook Apps For All: Coding Accessible Web Applications, outlining the roadmap for the accessible applications we should all be making.
Picture the scene: it’s a day like any other and you’re at your desk, enclosed in a semicircular bank of monitors that make up your extended desktop, intently cranking out enterprise-level CSS for MegaDigiSpaceHub Ltd. You are one of many talented front-end developers who share this floor in your plush London office.
You don’t know it, but a fire has broken out on the floor below you due to a “mobile strategist” spontaneously combusting. Since no expense was spared on furnishing the office with adorable postmodern ornaments, no budget remained for installing a fire alarm system. It is up to the floor manager in question to travel throughout the office, warning individual departments in person.
It's one thing to create a web application and quite another to keep it accessible — independent of the device that the user is using and its capabilities. That's why Heydon Pickering, now the accessibility editor on Smashing Magazine, wrote an eBook Apps For All: Coding Accessible Web Applications, outlining the roadmap for well-designed, accessible applications.
This article is an excerpt of a chapter in the eBook that introduces many of the ideas and techniques presented. Reviewed by Steve Faulkner, it's an eBook you definitely shouldn't miss if you're a developer who cares about well-structured content and inclusive interface design. – Ed.
Because the W3C’s mission from the outset has been to make the web accessible, accessibility features are built into its specifications. As responsible designers, we have the job of creating compelling web experiences without disrupting the inclusive features of a simpler design.
“Form ever follows function. This is the law.” So said the architect and “father of skyscrapers” Louis Sullivan. For architects not wishing to crush hundreds of innocent people under the weight of a colossal building, this rule of thumb is pretty good.
In design, you should always lead with function, and allow form to emerge as a result. If you were to lead with form, making your skyscraper look pretty would be easier, but at the cost of producing something pretty dangerous. So much for architects. What about front-end architects — or “not real architects,” as we are sometimes known?
Whatever you call them — blocks, boxes, areas, regions — we’ve been dividing our Web pages into visible sections for well over a decade. The problem is, we’ve never had the right tools to do so. While our interfaces look all the world like grids, the underlying structure has been cobbled together from numbered headings and unsemantic helper elements; an unbridled stream of content at odds with its own box-like appearance.
Because we can make our <div>s look but not behave like sections, the experience for assistive technology (AT) users and data-mining software is quite different from the experience enjoyed by those gifted with sight.
Classes, classes, classes everywhere. What if we don’t need CSS classes at all? What if we stopped worrying about how many classes we’re using and what we should be calling them and just finished with them once and for all? It would be no revelation to you to say that HTML elements can be styled without recourse to the class attribute, but have you considered the multitude of benefits that come from forgoing classes altogether.
In this article, we’ll demonstrate that the class is as antiquated and inappropriate for styling as the table is for layout, and that omitting them can discipline us to create more usable, reusable content. I appreciate that this is a contentious subject; I’ll meet you in the comments.
In this article, I’d like to reacquaint you with the humble workhorse of communication that is the paragraph. Paragraphs are everywhere. In fact, at the high risk of stating the obvious, you are reading one now. Despite their ubiquity, we frequently neglect their presentation. This is a mistake. Here, we’ll refer to some time-honored typesetting conventions, with an emphasis on readability, and offer guidance on adapting them effectively for devices and screens. We’ll see that the ability to embed fonts with @font-face is not by itself a solution to all of our typographic challenges.
In 1992, Tim Berners-Lee circulated a document titled “HTML Tags,” which outlined just 20 tags, many of which are now obsolete or have taken other forms. The first surviving tag to be defined in the document, after the crucial anchor tag, is the paragraph tag. It wasn’t until 1993 that a discussion emerged on the proposed image tag.