Tag Archives: web design

Asynchronous Web Applications are the Future

Given the prevalence of Jquery and Ajax request capabilities in modern web design, I’m still surprised by the amount of websites that still rely on the request -> retrieve format of web design.

We all know that speed matters on the web, and delays in getting information, or while waiting for a page to load can have a huge effect on the users experience and can sometimes drive traffic away from a website.

But with the technology available to us, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s an exciting time to be a developer for the web, given what we can now do! So let’s start updating out sites to be “realtime” user experiences, where the page doesn’t visibly load.

A brilliant example of this would be GitHub and their project browser. Every time you click on a file or folder, it smoothly passes you to the next page, undetectably; the interface simply slides to show the next page. But the address bar updates, thus allowing you to bookmark specific places or files, but to the user it is clean and smooth. No pages loading.

For the most part our interfaces should be none blocking. We want the pages to update and refresh as we use them, showing the new information (though there are some key exceptions such as Credit Card Transactions where you want a confirmed response before processing any further).

After all users want to use web applications without interruptions or delays, and having blocking sections in there can negatively affect user experience and potentially drive clients away from your application. Users don’t generally need to see loading messages, or other feedback relating to the requests passing in the background, (though don’t misunderstand, not all feedback is bad, but it should be un-intrusive and non-blocking, like a small spinner for instance as a username is being checked and validated).

By using asynchronous requests, where the client side session updates immediately while the server updates in the background we can achieve cleaner and more user experience driven web applications. And we are starting to develop the tools to do so.

A fantastic example of this would be SpineJS that aims to let you completely decouple the server side mechanics from the user experience, which on the hole makes for neater web applications that are more pleasurable to use.

I’d love to see more of this type of development, and people should start making more use of it.

Dave, the asynchronous packet!

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What I do, is not What I do.

It’s an odd truism in the website world but it’s often the case. What I do, is not What I do.

How many of us introduce ourselves like this: “Hi, I’m Dave, and I design websites”? Seriously, I know I do, but that isn’t even half the story given the myriad of different skillsets that roll into those 2 words. “I design websites”. What the fuck does that even mean when you get down to it?

After all my skill sets boil to so much more than just those 2 words. But we all simplify for the client. After all saying “I’m a website designer” is easier than saying “I’m a website designer and developer with a specialization in PHP and using WordPress as a Content Management System as well as being versed in various aspects of SEO for businesses and building Social Media Presence”.

But we kind of have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot by saying Website Designer, as so many people (mostly the non tech-literate) start making assumptions about what you can do.

I recall one instance where I told someone I was a website designer and I was requested to build an all singing and dancing flash animation for their website. I had to decline, after all I’m not an Animator. But the thing that stuck with me was the parting words. “I thought you said you were a web designer”.

It’s a huge misconception among the average lay-person as to what web design actually is.

So to my “Web Designer” friends, have a read of this and if you have any funny stories to tell do so. But I would like to hear how you describe yourself to new clients.

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Responsive Design and Why it matters.

It still amazes me that in this modern world of smart phones and data tablets that there are still websites and web applications that don’t have mobile equivalents. And given these conditions it’s almost vital that they should.

With more and more users accessing the web via mobile devices on screens with smaller sizes than home monitors, websites break and this can prevent people from using the service. I find this is most commonly a problem on news sites that have a lot of data to display, but it could be worked around.

This is why I love responsive designs and fluid designs. Instantly scaling to fit the available screen space, and re-arranging content for devices with smaller widths.

Fluid designs in particular are not hard to implement when you are building using a grid, as all you have to do is change the stack order of elements when a display width is set.

As for responsive designs, that change dependent on the view port detected and the max width settings detected, it is as simple as using media queries to change the stylesheet that is used to present the data to the viewer.

After all as designers and technologists we are now having to cater to a whole new generation of devices that don’t always have access to all of the fancy elements we have gotten use to using.

After all, we have all been used to including non flash scripts for years (Though admittedly seen as HTML5 and CCS3 now have decent animation capabilities and Adobe has abandoned flash mobile that might become a dead medium soon).

But if we are willing to make exceptions for Elements on web pages, why aren’t we making exceptions for different viewing media.

Personally I recommend two brilliant CSS sets that can be used for creating fluid and responsive layouts are the incredible Bootstrap from Twitter and Foundation from Zurb.

I suggest if you do design work, you start using them.

Dave the creator of fluid sites

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Spec Work Kills Industries

As a designer, I hate Spec Work. It’s so frustrating and it irks me that there are so many people still thinking it’s a good way of getting jobs. It’s really not. Spec work kills good design and opens up so many problems. And now I’ll tell you why.

Spec work stands for Speculative Work (Sometimes called Crowd Sourcing), where by a client will ask you to produce a design or a piece of work and if they like it they will buy it.

This is not cool. If I spend hours working on a design, I expect to be paid for those hours, not for the promise that I ‘might’ be paid if they like the work. Plus in the Spec Work environment you are usually “Competing” against potentially hundreds of other designers at any one time for a job in hand. Which essentially wastes my time, if I’m not awarded the contract. I’d much rather do the work for a straight up paying client off the top.

But the thing that irritates me the most is the fact that people think that they can push it with web designers and developers. You wouldn’t walk into a tattoo parlor and ask the Tattooist to make you a design and if you like it you might get it tattoo’ed. I guarantee that if you walk into any tattoo parlor and try that then you will likely be chucked out faster than you can say “Wait I was joking”.

Where as, as a web designer, I will get approached with concept ideas that people want me to do, with the line “But if we don’t like it, at least it’ll look good in your portfolio”. Well much like any Tattoo shop, every item in my portfolio is a piece I have either produced for myself or for a paying customer. You can’t play that card with me.

About the only people whom I would ever recommend do Spec work, are students with little to no portfolio as yes, they can get some designs out in the wild and they might get noticed, but once you start getting real clients that approach you with a budget, drop the spec work. Those clients are the ones you want. Mostly because if you do a good job they will give you repeat business.

This is a pretty hot topic in the design world, and it always will be, but I make my stance, spec work is evil. Don’t do it.

Dave the kill of Spec Work.

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