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Smashing Conf San Francisco

We use ad-blockers as well, you know. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. upcoming SmashingConf San Francisco, dedicated to smart front-end techniques and design patterns.

Author:

Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

Twitter: Follow Louis Lazaris on Twitter

Learning to Love HTML5

It seems that new resources and articles for teaching and promoting HTML5 are popping up almost daily. We've been given HTML5 templates in the form of the HTML5 boilerplate and HTML5 Reset (although they both go beyond just HTML5 stuff). We've got a plethora of books to choose from that cover HTML5 and its related technologies. We've got shivs, galleries, and a physician to help heal your HTML5 maladies. And don't forget the official spec.

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From my own vantage point — aside from a few disputes about what the term "HTML5" should and shouldn't mean — the web design and development community has for the most part embraced all the new technologies and semantics with a positive attitude.

While it's certainly true that HTML5 has the potential to change the web for the better, the reality is that these kinds of major changes can be difficult to grasp and embrace. I'm personally in the process of gaining a better understanding of the subtleties of HTML5's various new features, so I thought I would discuss some things associated with HTML5 that appear to be somewhat confusing.

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!important CSS Declarations: How and When to Use Them

When the CSS1 specification was drafted in the mid to late 90s, it introduced !important declarations that would help developers and users easily override normal specificity when making changes to their stylesheets. For the most part, !important declarations have remained the same, with only one change in CSS2.1 and nothing new added or altered in the CSS3 spec in connection with this unique declaration. [Links checked February/15/2017]

Adding !important in Developer Tools

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Let's take a look at what exactly these kinds of declarations are all about, and when, if ever, you should use them. But before we get into !important declarations and how exactly they work, let's give this discussion a bit of context. In the past, Smashing Magazine has covered CSS specificity in-depth, so please take a look at that article if you want a detailed discussion on the CSS cascade and how specificity ties in.

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A Design Is Only As Deep As It Is Usable

There are well-known proverbs that imply (or state outright) that beauty is superficial and limited in what it can accomplish. "It's what's inside that counts" and "Beauty is only skin deep" are a few simple examples. Because the Web design industry is now flooded with a lot of raw talent, and because virtually anyone can create a "beautiful" website, recognizing a truly beautiful website experience is becoming increasingly difficult. What appears beautiful to the eye might in fact be more of a hindrance.

10k Apart's Branding

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In this article, I hope to provide a clear demarcation between what is perceived by most to be beautiful in Web design and what is truly beautiful, along with some guiding principles to help designers today create websites whose beauty is not superficial, but rather improves and enhances the user experience.

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Why Web Designers Should Not Use Ad Blockers

I'll start this article with a positive statement: Most people frequenting the web design community (whether they are casual readers or regular design bloggers doing research) understand that nothing is truly free (not even content), and appreciate the fact that many blogs, design resources, and tech news sites rely on advertising to keep them afloat.

Ad Blockers: Evil?

But unfortunately, not everyone gets this, and not everyone understands that with some viral pushing of certain trends and ideas, we as a community could be inadvertently shooting ourselves in the foot while we try to make our own browsing experience less ad-intrusive, and more comfortable.

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The Principles Of Cross-Browser CSS Coding

It is arguable that there is no goal in web design more satisfying than getting a beautiful and intuitive design to look exactly the same in every currently-used browser. Unfortunately, that goal is generally agreed to be almost impossible to attain. Some have even gone on record as stating that perfect, cross-browser compatibility is not necessary. [Links checked & repaired March/06/2017]

Cross-Browser CSS

While I agree that creating a consistent experience for every user in every browser (putting aside mobile platforms for the moment) is never going to happen for every project, I believe a near-exact cross-browser experience is attainable in many cases. As developers, our goal should not just be to get it working in every browser; our goal should be to get it working in every browser with a minimal amount of code, allowing future website maintenance to run smoothly.

In this article, I'll be describing what I believe are some of the most important CSS principles and tips that can help both new and experienced front-end developers achieve as close to a consistent cross-browser experience as possible, with as little CSS code as possible.

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CSS3 Solutions for Internet Explorer

CSS3 is probably the hottest trend in web design right now, allowing developers the opportunity to implement a number of solutions into their projects with some very straightforward CSS while avoiding having to resort to nonsemantic markup, extra images, and complex JavaScript. Unfortunately, it's not a surprise that Internet Explorer, even in its most recent version, still does not support the majority of the properties and features introduced in CSS3.

IE

Experienced developers understand that CSS3 can be added to new projects with progressive enhancement in mind. This ensures that content is accessible while non-supportive browsers fall back to a less-enhanced experience for the user.

But developers could face a situation where a client insists that the enhancements work cross-browser, demanding support even for IE6. In that case, I've collected together a number of options that developers can consider for those circumstances where support for a CSS3 feature is required for all versions of Internet Explorer (IE6, IE7, & IE8 — all of which are still currently in significant use).

You may be interested in the following related posts:

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CSS Sprites: Useful Technique, or Potential Nuisance?

Ah, the ubiquitous CSS sprites — one of the few web design techniques that was able to bypass "trend" status almost instantly, planting itself firmly into the category of best practice CSS. Although it didn't really take off until well after A List Apart explained and endorsed it, it was discussed as a CSS solution as early as July, 2003 by Petr Stanícek.

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Most web developers today have a fairly strong grasp of this technique, and there have been countless tutorials and articles written on it. In almost every one of those tutorials, the claim is made that designers and developers should be implementing CSS sprites in order to minimize HTTP requests and save valuable kilobytes. This technique has been taken so far that many sites, including Amazon, now use mega sprites.

Is this much-discussed benefit really worthwhile? Are designers jumping on the CSS sprite bandwagon without a careful consideration of all the factors? In this article, I'm going to discuss some of the pros and cons of using CSS sprites, focusing particularly on the use of "mega" sprites, and why such use of sprites could in many cases be a waste of time.

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Print Magazines for Web Designers, Digital Artists, and Photographers

Although much valuable information for all sorts of web and print professionals can be found online, it is often difficult to weed through all the noise and find good quality content. I believe it's vital that professionals in different creative fields supplement their online learning and research through well-edited and high-quality print publications.

.net / Practical Web Design .Net / Practical Web Design

Print magazines, more often than not, are well-researched and are headed by top-notch editorial staff, usually containing information and resources on the cutting edge of their respective industries' trends and happenings. To that end, to help you fulfill part of your offline research needs, I've compiled a list of print magazines that are of interest to professionals in three different categories: Web Designers, Digital Artists, and Photographers. And be sure to comment so you can tell us your personal favourite print magazine, if you don't see it listed here.

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Don’t Touch That Dial — Lessons Web Designers Can Learn From Television Broadcasts

Each year, the battle for television ratings begins. Networks unveil their latest creations, jockeying for position in the ratings race, doing everything and anything within their means to gain and keep as many viewers as possible. Months, sometimes years of planning, preparation, marketing, shooting, and editing are laid bare on the "tube" for all to see. Some shows fail miserably and are cancelled after a few months. Others thrive, and become the next big thing. They all hope to become the next American Idol.

Google on an Television

Television broadcasts continue to have a major impact on society — both in positive and negative ways. Whether you have a long-standing love affair with your television set, or you just use it to kill the monotony when you're taking a break from the internet, I'm sure you'll agree that, due to the overwhelming impact TV has had on modern society (and on television producers' pocketbooks), techniques and principles unique to television broadcast production and marketing are worth examining.

Let's see if there are lessons to be learned from the television broadcasting medium that can be applied to web development, design, and related fields.

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