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More often than not, we all seem to keep on complaining about generic, predictable websites, but how do we break out of the box? Well, we should try something new. Something that goes against general best practices. Something playful and original. Experimental and unconventional. What could it be?
How about everything! On an eCommerce site, it could be a responsive configurator with AR integration. On a trip-planning website, it could be a little feature such as exporting to Google Calendar or Microsoft Word (see Zürich Trams, for example). You could also integrate video and audio to tell a story in a more profound way. The easiest way to be unique is to use custom illustrations, animations and experimental layouts. You could even go as far as providing an anaglyph experience!
Instead of selecting a predictable grid, try to pick up something unpredictable, e.g. a random placement of elements, a random animation, or even a random style for your illustrations. Find your style and use it consistently, for everything. More often than not, you’ll come up with something unique because it will shine with your personality rather than use a generic visual language used countless times throughout the web.
And while doing so, you may be using tools like Sketch. If so, we’ve just released The Sketch Handbook (Print + eBook) with pretty much everything you need to know about Sketch to master your skills. No theory — just practical examples that you can follow along, step by step. That should help to get the ball rolling!
Keep playing and experimenting, – Vitaly (@smashingmag)
Table of Contents
- HTTP/2 And Ordering Pizza
- Everything You Need To Know About Designing Icons
- Improving Surveys With Triple Testing
- Keeping FOUC Layout Shifts To A Minimum
- Take Your Layouts To The Next Level With CSS Grid
- Bookmark-Worthy Resources For Front-End Devs
- An Advent Calendar For UX Folks
- Upcoming Smashing Workshops
- New On Smashing Job Board
- Smashing Highlights (From Our Archives)
- Recent Articles On Smashing Magazine
(#)1. HTTP/2 And Ordering Pizza
Imagine you go to your neighborhood pizza place. You go in, order two slices of your favorite pizza and perhaps a soda, and you’re on your way in three minutes. The staff can handle your request easily because these kinds of orders are what their business model is made for. No big deal. However, when you decide to invite the little league baseball team to that pizza place, things get complicated. Everyone will order something different, things get disorganized quickly, and, thus, wait times go up. What does this have to do with web development? A lot, as Ben Tinsley shows.
He uses the pizza example to illustrate the differences between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2. The little league invitation is a good metaphor to show where the strengths of HTTP/2 lie: When asset requests happen at the same time, HTTP/2 allows the server to go and find the assets without any delay because they all happen at once. “Multiplexing” is the magic term here — one of the major promises of HTTP/2 that makes it possible to improve speed and efficiency. To help you get started with HTTP/2, Ben also shares his lessons learned and best practices. Handy!
(#)2. Everything You Need To Know About Designing Icons
Ever thought about creating your own icon set? Then you might want to check out the Free Icon Design Guide that Justas, the creative mind behind Icon Utopia, has put together. In the 56-pages-long, free eBook, he compiled valuable tips and tricks to give your icon design endeavour a head start.
To start off, the eBook sheds some light on the origins of iconography and why icons matter today. From there on, you’ll explore icon design fundamentals and the technical details you need to know before you get started with your own icons. You’ll learn about different types of icons, about the variety of styles that are possible, and you’ll find out about the usage of grids. Finally, Justas will guide you through the actual design process — from deciding on a theme and style, to sketching out your ideas and choosing the right grid size and picking colors. Good stuff. To download the eBook, you need to enter your email address. It will then be delivered right to your inbox. (cm)
(#)3. Improving Surveys With Triple Testing
Gathering data by sending a survey is easy. But not all data is good data and often you’ll inadvertently gather misleading and inaccurate data. Maybe because your questions aren’t clear, maybe because they don’t allow participants to give the answers they want to give. So before you hit “Send” next time, Leisa Reichelt recommends to triple test your survey.
The process is easy: After having created the survey, go and find someone who matches the target audience the survey aims at. Ask them to complete the survey and watch them while they do it. This gives you the opportunity to see if they understand it and to ask questions. Then adjust the form based on your observations. Leisa advises to repeat these steps with at least three different people. This helps to iron out pitfalls and improve the survey experience and, in effect, the quality of the data you’re about to gather. Clever! (cm)
(#)4. Keeping FOUT Shifts To A Minimum
Flash of unstyled text. If you’re using web fonts, you’re used to seeing that flickering between the initial render of your fallback font and the web font you’ve chosen. While this doesn’t look nice, there’s another issue that comes along with it: The layout might shift jarringly due to sizing discrepancies between the two fonts. To keep the unloved side effect to a minimum, Monica Dinculescu created Font Style Matcher.
The idea behind the tool is simple, yet genius: It helps you minimize the discrepancy between fallback font and web font so that the layout shift isn’t as harsh. Just use the sliders to adjust font size, line height, font weight, and letter spacing, to find the settings that best match the x-height and width of your fallback font and the intended web font. One for the bookmarks. (cm)
(#)5. Take Your Layouts To The Next Level With CSS Grid
Laying out web pages with CSS has always been hacky. In the early days, we used tables, then floats, positioning and
inline-block. While these led to more or less satisfying results, not everything could be accomplished with these hacks. Just think of vertical centering. Flexbox finally provides a way to fill the existing gaps, but when it comes to complex layouts, even Flexbox has its limits. That’s where CSS Grid comes in. CSS Grid is the first CSS module that was created particularly for solving these common layout problems — for good.
To help you take your layouts to the next level, Chris House wrote up a comprehensive guide on all things Grid. In it, he provides information on browser support, important terminology, and a glossary of Grid properties. The guide is based on the latest version of the specification and will be updated regularly.
A neat little helper to visualize the grid lines you’re building with in the browser is the Firefox add-on CSS Grid Inspector. But please be careful here: The tool is still experimental, so if you encounter any flaws, you can report the problem to the Mozilla Developer Relations team. Last but not least, make sure to also stop by Jen Simmons’ experimental layout lab where she shares her know-how about layouting and accomplishing real art direction on the web. (cm)
(#)6. Bookmark-Worthy Resources For Front-End Devs
As a developer, you never stop learning, and that’s why it’s always a good thing to have some valuable resources at hand. Have you seen the collection of resources that Bruce Lawson and Shwetank Dixit put together for Progressive Web Apps, for example? They compiled articles and videos to help you enter the world of PWAs and learn things in depth.
The list features resources for everything from making your app’s UI run smoothly and using push notifications to preparing it for offline use with service workers. Selected tools and libraries help you save precious time when building Progressive Web Apps, and showcases and case studies reveal a peek at what others are doing. Bookmark-worthy, especially, since new resources are being added from time to time.
Another one for the bookmarks is Stuart Robson’s collection of resources that’ll teach you to sprinkle a bit of BEM into your development process. And if you’re looking for something more diverse, Andrew Romanov’s repository of YouTube channels for front-end developers might be for you. Refreshing to see that her collection isn’t limited to videos in English only, but also offers a good variety of Russian channels, and a few French, Portuguese and Czech ones are featured, too. (cm)
(#)7. An Advent Calendar For UX Folks
December is just around the corner, and what better way to start the celebrations than with an advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas? A special goodie to sweeten the waiting comes from the folks at Thirst Studios and UX Mastery: UXmas.
In tradition of the advent calendars you may know from your childhood days, UXmas will bring you a delightful little treat each day through December. It could be an article, a video, a sketch, or something else — just like in a real advent calendar, you never know what you’re going to get. The lineup will feature some of the leading UX specialists, including Andy Budd, Indi Young, Susan Weinschenk, Eric Meyer, Elizabeth Churchill, Steve Portigal, Whitney Hess, and many others. But, pssst, more won’t be told just yet, so be sure to pass by the website as soon as the first door opens up this Thursday! (cm)
(#)8. Upcoming Smashing Workshops
With so many techniques, tools, style guides, design patterns, strategies, abstractions, frameworks and boilerplates available nowadays, what do you really need to know to keep your workflow fast, smart and efficient? That’s exactly what our classes are all about: practical front-end and RWD workshops that will help you become better front-end developers and designers, today.
Workshops at SmashingConf San Francisco 2017
- Hands-On Checkout Optimization Workshop with Christian Holst (April 3rd)
- Scalable Design Systems with Nathan Curtis (April 3rd)
- Building Performant Websites with Tim Kadlec (April 3rd)
- Smart Responsive UX Design Patterns with Vitaly Friedman (April 3rd)
- Advanced SVG Animation with Sarah Drasner (April 6th)
- Advanced CSS Layouts With Flexbox And CSS Grids with Rachel Andrew (April 6th)
- Creative Data Visualization Techniques with Nadieh Bremer (April 6th)
- New Front-End Adventures In Responsive Design with Vitaly Friedman (April 6th)
Our Public Workshops
- Tel-Aviv, Israel — Smart Responsive Design Patterns UX Salon, Tel-Aviv, Israel, Dec. 5th
- Zurich, Switzerland — Smart Responsive Design Patterns Swiss Mobile Devs, Feb. 24th, 2017
Or, if you’d like to run an in-house workshop at your office, feel free to get in touch with Vitaly at firstname.lastname@example.org and briefly describe what problems you’re facing and would like to solve. Don’t worry about the costs — we’ll find a fair price for sure. Get in touch — it’s that easy!
(#)9. New On Smashing Job Board
Here are the recent job openings published on our Smashing Job Board:
- Creative UI/UX Web Designer at BFI (Big Fish Internet) (Manchester, UK) “Due to continued growth, we are looking for a fantastic creative web designer to join our team in Manchester or Milnthorpe.”
- Web Developer/Designer at Hooker & Company Advertising (Saint Paul, MN) “We are primarily seeking a person to assist with web duties, but additional responsibilities will also be part of your daily routine.”
(#)10. Smashing Highlights (From Our Archives)
- The State Of Airline Websites 2015: Lessons Learned Booking a flight tends to be so easy that you take it for granted. Joshua Johnson takes a look at airline websites from around the world and how they master the challenge of turning something as complex into a user-friendly, self-serve experience.
- How To Create Your Own Front-End Website Testing Plan So, your designers and developers have created a fantastic front-end design, which the client is delighted with, and your job now is to test it. Your heart begins to sink: Think of all the browsers, all the devices and all of these web pages you’ve got to test, not to mention the iterations and bug fixes. You need a front-end testing plan.
- How A Designer Can Find A Job They Will Truly Love There comes a time in nearly everyone’s career when changing jobs is the natural next step. As a designer, you might start looking for a new job when you feel you have hit a wall with your current employer or when greater opportunities are present at other companies. Susie Pollasky shares tips for finding a job that will make you thrive.
(#)11. Recent Articles On Smashing Magazine
- Brush Lettering: It Only Gets Better After Practice (Part 1)
- Does Conversation Hurt Or Help The Chatbot UX?
- The Wireframe Perfectionist’s Guide
Inspiration, Freebies, Misc.
- Not An Imposter: Fighting Front-End Fatigue
- Spotify Playlists To Fuel Your Coding And Design Sessions
- Freebie: Thanksgiving Icon Set (15 Icons, PNG, PSD, AI, SVG)
- Web Development Reading List #159: Code Splitting, A New Bundler, And Blake2x
- Web Development Reading List #160: Real Stories About HTTP/2, Cascading Style Sheets, And Code Of Shame
- SmashingConf San Francisco 2017: Somethin’ Is Cookin’ In The Kitchen!
- Getting The Sketch Workflow Right: Meet “The Sketch Handbook”