Heather explores why we no longer have “web designers”.
It's been belittled and othered away. It's why we've split that web design role into two; now you're either a UX designer and you can sit at that table over there or you're a front-end developer and you can sit at the table with the people that build websites.
Nathan on how complex components require comprehensive specifications rather than ill-advised assumptions, and how Figma can be used to guide engineers to reliably build such components.
I’m still amazed when designers schlep together a few pictures, publish a configurable Figma component, point their developer counterparts at the main component and say “Use Figma’s inspect tool.”
Things have changed. Components are more complicated. Designers are delivering to many different developers. Accessibility has risen to the fore. For design systems that scale, teams are finding it necessary to write down all the details again.
Matthias feels that the recent slew of additions to CSS have completely changed the game.
this time, something feels different… the changes coming to CSS are so fundamental on so many levels that it almost feels like a singularity. There is now the CSS before and the CSS after the early 2020s.
Want to emulate and confidently design a layout that leverages the potential of CSS Grid in any of the major design tools like Figma, Adobe XD, or Sketch? Not possible. Want to define a color in one of the wide gamut color spaces like OKLCH, which result in more vibrant and natural colors on modern screens, maybe by using a color picker? Not possible. You want to simulate fluid typography that dynamically scales font sizes based on the viewport or container size and also define minimum and maximum values like you can do it in CSS with clamp()? Not possible. Or how about defining a fallback font in case your web font doesn’t load? Good luck using any screen design tool on the market. Not only are all of those things – very clearly – important design decisions, but they are also easily possible with just a few lines of CSS. In this new era of CSS, the design tools are now the limiting factor.
Working as a web developer, you’ll meet colleagues who don’t realise that accessibility should be non-negotiable. So I’m bookmarking for ready access Tim Berners-Lee’s oft-quoted but still powerful statement of intent from 1997.
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
A spicy but somewhat relatable thought from Adam Silver:
UX observation: I think there might be more devs who care about good design than there are designers. By “good” I mean works for everyone (is accessible) rather than looks nice. What do you think?
Applying opacity to an existing colour value is a pretty common design requirement, and here Chris presents five ways to achieve it.
I’m a fan of web designers and developers collaborating closely rather than designers throwing mock-ups over the wall. Recently I read two newsletters relating to this topic, or perhaps more accurately about perceived divisions between design and development and some better, more modern ways of thinking.
Getting to profitability is no longer a distant, post-IPO nice-to-have, but a short-term necessity for survival. But how to do that without cutting off the legs of the product team? By using better tools and techniques, that's how.
DHH of 37 Signals and Basecamp offers three pieces of advice for productivity and profitability.
1: Unless market conditions demand otherwise, delay native app development for as long as possible.
2: Hire full-stack developers, and don't let them split the frontend and backend into separate jurisdictions.
3: Hire designers who work natively with the web.
My teammate Colin just shared this brilliant designers’ guide to documenting accessibility and user interactions. It’s really thorough and includes some pretty clever annotation techniques.
Here’s another tool from the Utopia creators to assist with breakpoint-free fluid responsive design.
Until now, the tooling for Utopia has been predominantly developer-focused, but we know that's only half the story. To start to address this, we've created a pair of Figma plugins to help designers set out Utopian project foundations.
This article is a couple of years old but just popped up on my radar again. UX Designer Alex Chen asserts that arguments which pit accessibility against aesthetics create a dangerous false equivalence… and I agree.
The article claims that if we are “too accessible” we will meet the needs of the minority but end up hurting those of the majority. This creates a false equivalence between having legitimate access needs and having a preference for a certain aesthetic.
I’ve written previously about the important differences between buttons and links. While reviewing some “component refresh” design mocks at work yesterday I noticed the designs were a bit unclear in this regard so I sent the designers a little decision-tree, which I’m noting here for future reference.
On the web buttons and links are fundamentally different materials. However some design and development practices have led to them becoming conceptually “bundled together” and misunderstood. Practitioners can fall into the trap of seeing the surface-level commonality that “you click the thing, then something happens” and mistakenly thinking the two elements are interchangeable. Some might even consider them as a single “button component” without considering the distinctions underneath. However this mentality causes our users problems and is harmful for effective web development. In this post I’ll address why buttons and links are different and exist separately, and when to use each.
Loved this short listen from Clearleft, on a subject close to my heart! New job titles can feel a bit “emperor’s new clothes” but with Design Engineering I think Clearleft, GitHub et al. might be onto something. It was fascinating hearing people from both design and engineering backgrounds give their perspectives, and how ultimately they’re addressing the same thing—the need to “finesse the overlaps/gaps” between design and the realisation of that design in engineering, especially in light of the complexities of the modern front-end.
line-height on the web is a tricky thing, but this tool offers a clever solution.
There are many colour contrast checking tools but I like this one from Erik Kennedy (of Learn UI Design) a lot. It features an intuitive UI using simple, human language that mirrors the task I’m there to achieve, and it’s great that if your target colour doesn’t have sufficient contrast to meet accessibility guidelines it will intelligently suggest alternatives that do.
Nathan (of EightShapes) discusses how to unify anatomy and props across code and design tools.
Definite “personal website goals” here in Robb’s beautiful online portfolio and blog.
From interaction design to scaleable design systems, single-page apps to something more experimental with WebGL. I help awesome people to build ambitious yet accessible web projects - the wilder, the better.
I’m available for limited logo design projects. Just the logo. Limited back-and-forth. Reasonable price. With a particular focus on elevating small businesses that can’t or don’t want to hire a full-blown agency. Let’s keep this simple.
The lovely new portfolio website of my colleague, Josh, featuring some lovely articles and design touches.
From Steve Schoger:
A collection of repeatable SVG background patterns for you to use on your web projects.
I’m Jack McDade and I’m tired of boring websites.
Here’s a beautiful, magazine style website design for digital publication Bustle. The typography, use of whitespace, responsive layout, menu pattern, colour palette and imagery are all on point!
I love Cassie Evans’s new website design! It’s so full of personality while loaded with technical goodies too. Amazing work!
You have a “card” component which includes a heading, some text, an image, and a link to the full article, and it’s working great. Then along comes a UX requirement that the full card (not just the button or link) should be clickable. This is where things get complicated.
This is a nice whistle-stop tour of the the Guardian’s current digital design system. Apart from looking great, some of the terminology is interesting (fronts, kickers and thrashers) and I like the way they have different Card types for different types of article, “each having its own flavour and tone”.
Some simple but inspiring work here from Seattle-based web developer Katherine Kato. I really like the use of space, the typography, the colour palette and the use of CSS grid for layout.
Here’s a list of useful (Mac-based) Sketch tips for my reference and yours.
Bram Stein, a software architect at Adobe, wrote the book on Webfonts, so it’s no surprise that his own website showcases some pretty beautiful typography.
In all my years of spinning up “HTML Typographic Elements” lists or pages as a reference for designers, I didn’t realise that the W3C provide the very thing I needed in their HTML Element Sampler. These pages provide comprehensive dummy content covering all the main typographic elements which is really handy when designing a website’s typographic styles and pattern library.
A handy tool for identifying colours – provided in numerous different CSS-ready formats – and creating a complimentary colour palette from an image you upload or provide as a URL.
I was introduced to this smile-inducing website by Val Head’s An Event Apart Talk “Building more expressive projects”.
John Allsopp’s classic article in which he looks at the medium of web design through the prism of the Tao Te Ching, and encourages us to embrace the web’s inherent flexibility and fluidity.
It’s time to throw out the rituals of the printed page, and to engage the medium of the web and its own nature.
It’s choc-full of quotable lines, but here are a few of my favourites:
We must “accept the ebb and flow of things.”
Everything I’ve said so far could be summarized as: make pages which are adaptable.
The web’s greatest strength, I believe, is often seen as a limitation, as a defect. It is the nature of the web to be flexible, and it should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages which, by being flexible, are accessible to all. The journey begins by letting go of control, and becoming flexible.
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