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Smashing Newsletter: Issue #80

This newsletter issue was sent out to 136,487 newsletter subscribers on Tuesday, March 19th 2013. If you are not subscribed yet, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter1 anytime.


If you’ve been a Smashing Newsletter subscriber for a while now, you most probably already know that we’ve started introducing a series of thoroughly selected high-quality eBooks in the Smashing Library2. Paul Boag’s “Client Centric Web Design” eBook will be available in the first week of April in PDF, EPUB and Kindle (DRM-free) formats.


Further updates concerning eBooks written by well-respected designers and developers in the industry will be announced in our newsletters, mailings and on Twitter4. Also, we’ve been busy organizing a variety of full-day workshops5 for you. Be sure to stay tuned — we’re sure you won’t be disappointed!

Yours sincerely,
The Smashing Team

Table of Contents

  1. Your Own CSS Creatures6
  2. Type It Right: Quotes and Accents7
  3. The Secret UX Ingredient8
  4. Double, Triple (Or More) Your Conversion Rates9
  5. Free Printable Paper Templates For Sketching10
  6. StyleDocco: A Tool For Creating Stylesheets The Easy Way11
  7. Isometrify: A Free Custom Panel For Photoshop12
  8. Shapes Of Cities13
  9. What Would Responsive TV Look Like?14
  10. Old Handcraft Meets Rock15

1. Your Own CSS Creatures

Can you imagine a colorful set of animated confetti, in which each one has a color, a personality and other striking attributes? What if you could create your own little round buddy to be part of this fiesta?

Your Own CSS Creatures16

In fact, you can: Bennet Feely’s project CSS Creatures17 allows you to simply send out a tweet with your chosen characteristics, and, in less than 20 seconds, your new friend will appear among his siblings. Apparently, the creatures are generated from 100% all-natural HTML5 and fresh-squeezed CSS3, so if you really love the characters, you can take them home with you and add them to your personal site! (tts)

2. Type It Right: Quotes and Accents

Here’s a treat for all Mac-using copy-cats out there. Jessica Hische18 really has the best tidbits for all those who crave a solid quick reference on typography but just haven’t realized it yet.

Type It Right: Quotes and Accents19

Quotes & Accents20 is a wonderful guide on all the useful Mac keyboard shortcuts that crown your letters with accents and frame them with the right quotation marks. Now you won’t have to go on a long, exhaustive search if you want write “El Niño” the right way — that is, if you have any wish to so. And, by the way, you can type em-dashes and smart quotes by pressing on a “hyphen” and a “quote”-character on your iOS devices, too! (jc)

3. The Secret UX Ingredient

What do the creators of Clear, Mailbox and Sunrise have in common? They’ve discovered a simple formula that works for their apps and keeps users interested, despite their simplicity. How did they manage that?

The Secret UX Ingredient

Matthew Moore wrote a fascinating short article on “branded interactions”. He describes how some simple interactions become almost synonymous with the app they were most successfully used in. As Matthew writes, “when the interaction is unique, your users can begin to associate that interaction with your product.” If you can own an interaction, that’s a very strong level of branding in today’s interface-filled world. It wouldn’t hurt to take a look at his other articles, either. They are well-written, witty and thought-provoking. (jc)

4. Double, Triple (Or More) Your Conversion Rates

If you design websites for a living, it’s very likely that at some point you’ve dealt with (and maybe struggled with) building a well-performing landing page. You may have racked your brain to find the best strategy to increase conversion rates. Would you like to see how others have tackled this? In Step-by-step landing page copywriting21, Nathan Barry takes you through the process of writing and designing the landing page of ConvertKit22.

Double, Triple (Or More) Your Conversion Rates23

There’s a lot of value to take away from Nathan’s post: you get detailed insights into a real-life landing page design — a learning process with lots of advice and feedback on conversion rate optimization and copywriting. Plus, you can follow up by reading dozens of comments which are just as interesting. Many relevant and important points and questions are raised here, such as the advantages of A/B testing, what psychology says about appealing pricing schemes and whether or not you can actually build trust if you ask for your visitors’ email addresses prematurely. (ea)

5. Free Printable Paper Templates For Sketching

Thinking of graph paper (also known as grid paper or millimeter paper), most of us will probably remember math class. Graph paper is printed with fine lines arranged in a regular grid and works well for drawing, sketching or plotting functions. It’s commonly used in engineering but can come handy for many other purposes as well. It’s a great way to align your art project sketches or wireframes, for example.

Free Printable Paper Templates For Sketching24

Graph paper is available in stationery shops, but — as is the case with so many other things — you can also get it online. Paperkit25 is a set of free printable graph paper templates. Highly customizable, the set has its own toolbar which lets you adjust settings such as grid lines, margin size, stroke color and width, as well as paper size, to generate the exact type of graph paper that you need. Once you’ve chosen your settings, you can download your customized template and immediately print it, or save it for your next project. Paperkit is available as dotted or lined paper, too. (ea)

6. StyleDocco: A Tool For Creating Stylesheets The Easy Way

You probably came across style guides recently, yet have you thought about a simple and quick way to generate them right from your code, especially if you develop in the browser anyway? StyleDocco26 generates style guide documents from your stylesheets by parsing your stylesheet comments through Markdown.

StyleDocco: A Tool For Creating Stylesheets The Easy Way27

You can simply write example HTML snippets in your stylesheet comments, prefixed with 4 spaces or between code fences (“`). StyleDocco will then display a preview using the applied styles on your example HTML code. The previews are displayed in a resizable iframe, so that you can display your responsive design at different viewport sizes. StyleDocco is free open source software, and can be download from GitHub. It was inspired by original Docco28 by Jeremy Ashkenas and Knyle Style Sheet29. (ml)

7. Isometrify: A Free Custom Panel For Photoshop

Some people love to make others’ lives easier, and Kamil Khadeyev is certainly one of those people. On his blog, he shares a custom panel for Photoshop30 that helps to transform objects with isometry and generate a custom-sized grid for them. Right now it uses an angle of isometry of 26.565 degrees, which is common for most pixel art work, but Khadeyev is working on an option to let the user define the angle. The panel is intended to be used with shape layers only, which means that you can use raster graphics but the result will not be perfect. The pixel grid snapping also still has some minor issues, but moving them manually shouldn’t be a problem.

Isometrify: A Free Custom Panel For Photoshop31

So far, the panel has three buttons for transforming shapes either to the right, the left or the top. There is also a button for an isometric grid pattern. But that’s not all. Khadeyev has already planned for more options such as extruding and moving shapes. You’re welcome to suggest more ideas. (ml)

8. Shapes Of Cities

Every large city around the world has some architectural monuments which differentiates it from other cities. These monuments are so strongly associated with the cities that it’s possible to recognize them just with a simple silhouette.

Shapes Of Cities

In Yoni Alter’s project Shapes of Cities you can explore the overlapping outlines of many buildings. The artist used different colors to enable you to distinguish one from another, and the result is a flashy collection of city postcards. It might be a fun game to try to recognize a city from its shapes. Try it out! (tts)

9. What Would Responsive TV Look Like?

What if your TV responded to your viewing habits, adapted to the screen size and even detected your accessibility needs? For one, you might never get off your couch, but you might also leave your kids in front of the TV without being too worried about nightmares over bedtime.

What Would Responsive TV Look Like?32

In his article on Responsive Television33 Bryan Clark proposes a vision of what a TV version of responsive design could be. Adaptation to different screen sizes is the least of it — and most likely the easiest part to implement right now. Clark imagines a much wider range of customization options for the different elements on the screen — such as a bigger sports ticker — as well as smarter accessibility detection and HAL-like awareness. Kids won’t be able to watch the horror movie from behind their parents’ backs anymore because the TV detects what they are trying to watch and pauses (oh, the injustice!). An interesting read, whether you approve or not. (jc)

10. Old Handcraft Meets Rock

There is probably nothing more inspiring than watching other creative designers and craftsmen in their creative process. Designer and traditional sign-writer David A. Smith34 is one of these passionate artists whose enthusiasm is contagious. Filmmaker Danny Cooke35 has captured Smith’s love for the special but nearly forgotten turn-of-the-century craft of creating reverse glass signs and gilded mirrors in a stunning 20-minute film.

Old Handcraft Meets Rock36

The film37 accompanies Smith as he creates the cover artwork to John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” album. Sneak a peak into his creative routine from the first hand sketches to the application of fragile gold leaf on a finished glass panel. Watching this ephemera trading card-style work of art come to life is a magical and inspiring trip back in time. A definite must-see for every artist! (cm)

The authors in this newsletter are: Talita Telma-Stöckle (tts), Jan Constantin (jc), Esther Arends (ea), Melanie Lang (ml), Cosima Mielke (cm), Iris Lješnjanin (il), Vitaly Friedman (vf), Sven Lennartz (sl), Christiane Rosenberger (research), Elja Friedman (tools), Clarissa Peterson (proofreading).


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The Smashing Editorial 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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