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Smashing Newsletter: Issue #99

This newsletter issue was sent out to 170,891 newsletter subscribers on Tuesday, December 17th 2013. If you are not subscribed yet, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter1 anytime.


As the year comes to an end, you can’t help but look back, review where you’ve been, explore where you are, and determine where you are going next. For us, 2013 has been quite a year, with intense challenges, creative sparks, calm and busy moments, ambitious goals and plenty of animated GIFs2, among other things. Yet, when you look back, probably the most important memories are the ones that you can be proud of.

Happy New Year, everyone!3

In our case, it’s 169 authors who published 269 articles this year, 34 newsletter issues, the SmashingConf 2013, the growth of our lovely Smashing Library and — most importantly — the monolithic Smashing Book 44. They matter. A lot. Because they are the reason why we keep going, and why we keep loving our craft so much.

So what are the projects that you are proud of this year? What are the things you wish you’d done differently? What are the things that you’d love to focus on next year? Why don’t you write them down? Print them out. Hang them on the wall. Make them your rules. And stick to them no matter what happens.

But it’s not all about work, of course. We wish each of you, dear readers, happy holidays, and calm and happy moments with your family and friends. Let the email application sit aside for a while, and make sure to savor these moments, to make sure that they’ll put a smile on your face even years after they have passed. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014, everyone. Let it be the best year in your life.

— Vitaly (@smashingmag)

Table of Contents

  1. Part Time Jobs For Superheroes5
  2. Spinning Loading Bars with CSS and SVG6
  3. Grab A Christmas Cookie And Do Some Reading7
  4. Turn Off Autocorrect!8
  5. Icons On Four Wheels9
  6. Reinventing Footnotes On The Web10
  7. Web Font Specimen: Study Font Rendering Issues11
  8. Convert CSV/Excel Into HTML/JSON12
  9. To See Or Not To See With Ifvisible.js13
  10. The Four Icon Challenge14
  11. Finding Something Special — Finding The Noramoji15
  12. Why A Coffee Shop Can Boost Your Creativity16
  13. Photoshop Scripts and Tricks17
  14. Let’s Fix It: In-House Smashing Workshops18

1. Part Time Jobs For Superheroes

Ever wondered what superheroes get up to on their downtime? I mean, they’ve got to pay the bills somehow, right? Chow Hon Lam shares his take on it with his superhero illustrations on Flickr depicting our favorite heroes in their day-to-day lives19.

Part Time Jobs For Superheroes20

Seriously, Spiderman’s web shooting ability can totally be used to string tennis rackets, and Iceman definitely has the power to help everyone out on a hot summer’s day by producing ice cubes. And at some point, the Flash has to rush in for a pizza! I think it’s quite plausible. What do you think? Do you also have some superpowers worth sharing in an illustration? (sh)

2. Spinning Loading Bars with CSS and SVG

Nobody likes waiting while they are actually waiting, so there is a good reason why we indicate that something is happening in the background when our users are in the middle of a process. In fact, when it comes to time-intensive tasks in our Web apps, loading spinners are a common element that provide visual feedback.

Spinning Loading Bars with CSS and SVG21

However, we don’t really need bitmap graphics to indicate progress in our Web apps. We could use a Data URI-encoded SVG spinner22 (with a PNG fallback) or, if you feel comfortable with empty divs, you could also use CSS Spinners23. Voilà! A scalable, lightweight solution. And if you want more options, check The State of Spinners 201324 to see the pros and cons of various solutions. (vf)

3. Grab A Christmas Cookie And Do Some Reading

Only one more week until Christmas. To take some of the rush out of the season, and bring back a bit of the thrill of anticipation we used to feel when we were kids, what about a couple of advent calendars for the holidays? They offer some valuable insights and are definitely free of any seasonal kitsch. Instead, each calendar features an interesting article each day to make the wait until Christmas more pleasant.

Grab A Christmas Cookie And Do Some Reading25

With new ideas, techniques, code snippets, and much more 24 ways26 has set its sights on providing you with your daily dose of Web design and development during the holiday season. If you consider yourself a performance geek, you’ll probably love the Performance Calendar27, and for the UX people among you UXmas28 reveals a delightful little treat each day. Even the Mozilla Developer Network has its own holiday calendar29 filled with resources and demos.

There are so many things to check out that you’ll have plenty of reading material even over the holidays. But honestly, is there a better time to catch up on some extensive reading? (cm)

4. Turn Off Autocorrect!

Particularly if you find yourself switching between languages a lot, having Autocorrect hunt down your spelling errors can be quite annoying. In cases when the feature is counter-productive, it might be a good idea to deactivate it entirely. In general, turning Autocorrect off isn’t difficult, but it isn’t always straightforward either.

Turn Off Autocorrect!30
Image credit: Today’s iPhone31

In Skype, you’ll find the feature hidden under “Correct Spelling Automatically”32; in Chrome, under “Check Spelling While Typing; and it’s a bit more involved in Android phones33 and on iOS devices34. A quite simple way to avoid misunderstandings – if you are confident about your typing skills, that is. A headache saved. (vf)

5. Icons On Four Wheels

“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” You probably knew right from the beginning what we were getting at. Things like these stay in our heads, even after what seems like ages. Now, do you also remember what the Ghostbusters’ car looked like? No? Well, then let us jog your memory a bit.

Icons On Four Wheels

Designer and illustrator David Wildish created some really beautiful posters of iconic cars. The Ghostbusters car is one of them, just like Batman’s Batmobile, the artificially intelligent K.I.T.T., racing Herbie, and, how could we forget, Mr Bean’s little green Mini, of course. This small but sweet collection of twelve unforgotten cars is a wonderful memory lane for all movie afocionados, car lovers, and anyone who’s up for some eye candy. (cm)

6. Reinventing Footnotes On The Web

Footnotes are one of those forgotten and overlooked typographic treatments that are having a hard time on the Web. While sidenotes, pull quotes and endnotes are widely adopted, having footnotes is often considered to be redundant and useless. After all, you can link directly to an external page via a link, so why use footnotes at all? Well, long passages of text or secondary information about the link might work well as a footnote, for example.

Reinventing Footnotes On The Web35

But as it usually is with footnotes, you click on a tiny number, jump to the bottom of the page, find the footnote and click on a link to go back to where you were on the page. We can do better than this. BigFoot36 is a comprehensive jQuery plugin that turns footnotes into clickable buttons and displays a popover when readers click on it. The library is released under the MIT license. A better experience for footnotes, but only if you already need jQuery in your project. (vf)

7. Web Font Specimen: Study Font Rendering Issues

Choosing a typeface is, of course, not simply a question of style. Since rendering can differ significantly between systems, browsers and font formats, seeing a typeface in action in the browser is essential to decide whether to use it for a project or not. A handy, free tool to preview typefaces in the browser is Web Font Specimen.

Web Font Specimen: Study Font Rendering Issues 37

Created by Tim Brown, Web Font Specimen38 offers an easy way to prepare your own specimen in three steps: you download a default specimen as a ZIP file; add the typeface you want to test; and you will get a preview in your browser — complete with adjustable text samples, a showcase of glyphs, body size comparison, grayscale, and different font sizes. From there on you can proceed with some cross-browser testing. Of course the HTML specimen is easy to modify and it’s licensed under Creative Commons, so nothing is in your way to give it some editing love and implement it as a tool in your company’s workflow. (cm)

8. Convert CSV/Excel Into HTML/JSON

So, your client has delivered a complex multicolumn spreadsheet which should be displayed on their brand new website. Of course, coding a spreadsheet from scratch would be quite an undertaking, yet exporting the document into HTML usually won’t produce tidy and clean results. What about handy tools to automate this task for you?

Convert CSV/Excel Into HTML/JSON39

You can use Tableizer40 to paste your cells from Excel or any other spreadsheet and generate HTML, or CSV converters41 to convert CSV files, choose an items separator and generate an HTML table, XML, or perhaps even a JSON object. Ah, and in case you need to make those complex tables responsive: no worries, we’ve got your back — Responsive Data Tables Round-Up42 should provide you with more options than you probably need. (vf)

9. To See Or Not To See With Ifvisible.js

Imagine your users have to finish a task on your website. Perhaps they have to upload an uncompressed PDF file as the last step before completing the process. How likely are they to abandon the tab for a while? And how high is the chance of the website being forgotten? Well, what about reminding the users while they are gone?

To See Or Not To See With Ifvisible.js43

Ifvisible.js44 is a lightweight cross-browser script by Serkan Yerşen that checks whether users are actually interacting with the page or not by detecting if the mouse cursor is moving within the page or not. You can handle tab switch and window minimize states and also handle activity states (idle or active) and then react to it appropriately. Perhaps changing the favicon of the page45 on the fly?

A nice little tool that can help you react to the different user states on your page, and perhaps make sure that that last “Submit” button will be clicked after all. (sh)

10. The Four Icon Challenge

If somebody asks you to quickly summarize a movie or a book, how much time would it take you to get the message across? A couple of sentences? Or a couple of minutes after all? Smart ideas often emerge within difficult constraints, and the more challenging these constraints are, the more surprising are the results.

The Four Icon Challenge

So if you are a visual designer, what about trying to tell a story with four icons? That’s what Kyle Tezak has set out to do with The Four Icon Challenge. On his blog, Kyle tries to tell stories boiled down to just four visual elements. Only a few examples are provided, but what about trying to find your way around your own constraint? Can you draw the story of a song in one frame? Can you visualize a TV series plot with one animated GIF46? Perhaps the next time somebody asks you for a summary, you could have a link to send them to! (vf)

11. Finding Something Special — Finding The Noramoji

Writing for the Smashing Newsletter, I’ve come across all kinds of different projects. The one I’m sharing now is especially sweet and heart-rending. It’s the story of a font named Noramoji — a font you won’t find in books or online type foundries. Noramoji was not easy to find at all. Until a young man went looking for it — in the streets of his city in Japan.

Finding Something Special — Finding The Noramoji47

The man walked across his town; he was looking for a treasure. It didn’t have to be new and neat. Instead, he was looking for the used and familiar — an asset with a personal story, made by the locals. He found what his heart was searching for when he looked at the old, handmade signs on the storefronts in his town. Over time, he found, analyzed and reproduced a number of very unique typefaces, all with their own individual signature, the Noramoji, now available for free download. Also check a video about Noramoji Project48 and how it came to be. Moving, inspiring and useful. (ea)

12. Why A Coffee Shop Can Boost Your Creativity

The quieter, the better for concentration? Maybe not, unless you are doing your taxes. For more creative tasks, a little bit of noise might benefit you much more than dead silence. According to researchers49, a moderate level of noise enhances creativity. But why is that? What is the underlying mechanism? Looking closer, researchers came up with some interesting findings. Put simply, it doesn’t always help us if things run too smoothly.

Why A Coffee Shop Can Boost Your Creativity50
(Image credit: Michael Allen Smith)

In order to be creative, we need some kind of difficulty — we need a distraction. Background noise like chatter and the swooshing sounds of an espresso machine can act as such a distraction. Interestingly, this background noise induces a “processing difficulty” which puts us on a higher level of abstract thinking. We are less likely to fixate, and thus be more creative. If you need some background noise at your workplace, check out the background music of Coffitivity, Noisli51 or Rainy Cafe. (ea)

13. Photoshop Scripts and Tricks

Alright, the search is over! If you work with Photoshop a lot, Photoshoplr52 will be quite a goldmine for you. This growing resource contains free and commercial Photoshop plugins, scripts and extensions under one roof: from a paper texture panel to image masking plugins and iOS OCD app icon actions.

Photoshop Scripts and Tricks53

Not good enough? Be sure to check Photoshop Secrets54 as well, a growing repository of useful articles and techniques for visual designers. Great resources that will make a designer’s life so much easier as they are literally a one-stop-shop. Worth bookmarking! (sh)

14. Let’s Fix It: In-House Smashing Workshops

We love fixing existing problems. Is your company struggling with legacy systems or a suboptimal front-end workflow? Well, perhaps we can help. We’d be more than happy to organize in-house workshops in your company, tailored specifically to your needs.

Let's Fix It: In-House Smashing Workshops55
Sketchnotes from a Smashing Workshop, by Elisabeth Irgens56.

We are flexible about the topics and the format of the workshops, but what we really want is to actually help you solve your problems. What about responsive design, advanced front-end techniques, performance optimization, UX, conversion rate optimization, sketching and wireframing or debugging?

If you’d like to have an in-house workshop, just get in touch with Vitaly57 and briefly describe what problems you’d like to solve. We’ll run a workshop to effectively address your issues. Don’t worry about the cost either — we’ll find a fair price for sure. Yes, it’s that easy! (vf)

The authors in this newsletter are: Shavaughn Haack (sh), Cosima Mielke (cm), Esther Arends (ea), Iris Lješnjanin (il), Vitaly Friedman (vf), Christiane Rosenberger (research), Elja Friedman (tools).


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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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    Cheers to 99th newsletter, Merry XMAS in advance.
    Keep rocking SMAG!


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