Ideas, insights and inspirations.

If you’re a web professional, Pittsburgh is a great place to call “home.” For one, the city is stuffed with outstanding practitioners from a broad array of webby disciplines. With tech stalwart Carnegie Melon churning out batch after batch of HCI brainiacs and scrappy Pittsburgh Technical Institute (yes, I’m totally serious) minting successive generations of well-educated, cross-disciplinary digital talent, Pittsburgh’s web community is as peer-rich as it is talented and capable. As fortune has shown its light on our town, Pittsburgh professionals have likewise made hay. Jason Head spun up and nurtured one of the country’s most vivacious Refresh communities (full disclosure: I was for several years a “co-organizer” of Refresh Pittsburgh with Jason, although I did more promoting than organizing). Averaging ~70 attendees per bimonthly meeting and boasting over 400 Facebook likes, Refresh has drawn Pittsburgh web professionals together and has become a fantastic forum for regular professional sharing and fellowship. A multitude of other groups thrive as well: … Continue reading

First of all, skeuomorphism (ala iOS 6) and “flat UI” (ala Android) are tied to the same fate. It’s not one over the other. Neither can survive. In fact, they’re both as good as dead already. Pour one out and get over it. Let’s stipulate that “Flat UI” – the hysterical term du jour for those who wish to discuss the recent trend away from skeuomorphism in interface design – is both fleeting and misleading insofar as it describes iOS 7’s new look and feel. Apple has always championed UI cues that borrow from the tactile world in order to evoke familiarity, and thereby put users at ease and convey meaning, and iOS 7 does not break from that decades-long tradition. To the contrary, iOS 7’s parallax layering and attachment of interface responses to the phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope deepen and extend this commitment in a big way. No longer is motion-control in iOS the sole domain of ingenious third-party app-designers … Continue reading

Posted in: , ,

In 2013, we started making our wireframes responsive, instead of drawing them in Omni Graffle as we had for the previous ten years. And it’s great, but one of the challenges we immediately ran into was figuring out how to convey page notes in the responsive context. To solve this problem, we created a tool we’re calling “Metaframe,” and today we’re releasing it under the Creative Commons Attributions Sharealike 3.0 Unported license for use, modification, and redistribution. Metaframe creates a responsive presentation layer for responsive wireframes (or mockups or design comps – any HTML page). It’s a very lightweight package, and it’s dead-simple to use. How simple? To install, you simply reference two files alongside your other Javascript and CSS. To add a note, you add the class “notation” to the HTML element you want to annotate, then write your note as the value of the custom attribute, “note”. (The Elliance GitHub page has precise directions and example code.) Metaframe … Continue reading

Posted in:

Like my wife and I and a lot of other people, our friends Lindsay and Ryan have a dog. Their dog is an ancient Japanese Chin named Mikoto. Mikoto weighs maybe five pounds, yet lumbers when he moves, is completely deaf, and lives a monk-silent life. Because Mikoto is for so many reasons portable, he gets to go places. A couple of weekends ago, Lindsay and Ryan went to a spa/hotel place tucked away somewhere deep in the recesses of Appalachia. The place was known to be pet-friendly and their website confirmed as much, so Lindsay and Ryan took Mikoto. Upon check in, the hotel staff informed Lindsay and Ryan that they were indeed pro-pet, but that guests were, under no circumstances, allowed to leave an animal companion in the room unattended, ever. It’s a reasonable policy for such an upscale destination, but springing it on guests at check in is somewhat problematic. “We came here for the spa, for … Continue reading

As Responsive Design has matured to a position of dominance in the web design and development world, so have our heads been filled with anecdotal evidence (i.e., non-evidence) about the ROI of Responsive Web Design. (Just for fun, I propose call this ROIRWD and, furthermore, that we agree henceforth to pronounce it “roy-ward”.) Now, of course the lack of empirical evidence for a thing’s existence doesn’t mean the thing doesn’t exist, and anecdotal data isn’t without its value. But it sure is helpful, when articulating the business case for a new and often more expensive approach, to have some proof that said approach is worth the cost. So I was delighted when, on Monday, developer luminary, respected author, and Polar co-founder Luke Wroblewski posted the tiny grenade below to his blog. It’s a tiny data set, but it contains some astonishing numbers. (Skinny Ties: 377.6% revenue growth on iPhone? Like a boss, as my kids say.) So I’m reposting the … Continue reading

Because we live in the future, I wasted very little time trading in my two-year-old iPhone 4 for a shiny new iPhone 5 when it was released in September. There was nothing wrong with my old phone, but as a designer of software and websites destined to be used on the new device, I have a reasonable excuse to perform a ritual upgrade every two years. As of today, I’ve been using the new phone for one month. In almost every way, it’s a beautiful device. It’s thin, light, fast, and handsome, yes. More importantly, the iPhone 5 preserves the vast majority of behaviors and elements of “feel” of its predecessors. As a thing like this evolves, it’s actually critical that it strike the right balance between retaining familiarity and introducing new patterns. Favor familiarity too heavily, the thing feels stale. Zoom too fast to the new, users get impatient with being required to relearn new ways of doing things … Continue reading

Posted in:

It’s not a typo. The last few years have been marked by repetitive, breathless cries from the web design community: “Should designers know how to develop?” Making a website is different than making a printed item. Designers – the myth goes – trace their collective lineage back to print design. But websites are coded, and if you’re going to produce code, well, that’s a developer’s job. There’s a gulf between the two aspects of website creation, if not between the aptitudes required to perform those aspects, and the greatest minds of our industry apparently grind away hour after hour arguing that web designers – definitionally – must know code. Now, I don’t have a problem with this assertion, and I’ve seen collaboration go more smoothly as a result of designers’ code-savviness. But I can’t stop thinking about how obtuse it seems for my profession not to be equally curious (or demanding, if you want to match tone) about whether developers should … Continue reading

A couple of weeks ago, a little-known company called publicly launched a grand experiment. Founder and CEO Dalton Caldwell announced a crowd-funding campaign to raise $500,000 in 30 days, for a new social networking platform that aims to compete with the likes of Twitter – except without the help of advertising. “We will never be ad-supported. Our product is the service that we sell; it is not our users.” -Dalton Caldwell If you think Dalton Caldwell sounds a little kooky, you’re not alone. The announcement alone sparked a firestorm of controversy over on that other popular social networking site, where reactions ranged from ecstatic to skeptical to downright scornful. “No one would pay to use another Twitter,” the objections essentially went. Additionally, a lot of people think is reinventing the wheel – and needlessly so, considering Twitter’s success to date. But in the two weeks since Mr. Caldwell launched his project, it has experienced unanticipated success as +15,000 … Continue reading

Here we go again. Today, a link was being shared around our office and in my Twitter stream. It was a link to an article .Net Magazine ran Wednesday, featuring expert opinions on the content of another opinion piece it had run back in May. The upshot of the first piece is that social buttons on websites are dumb and should be done away with forthwith. The upshot of Wednesday’s piece is that some people agree with the first piece, whereas some other people do not agree with the first piece. Here, I took a screen shot of the title and byline so I could share it with you: I especially like the positioning of the social media buttons directly beneath the title, although I’m not personally a fan of treating comments so differently than social media buttons, and I furthermore find myself wanting to know how many people have tweeted, liked, plus-oned, inlinked (come on, it should be a … Continue reading

Posted in:

Trickier than it sounds! Some pictures are worth far more than a thousand words.

Posted in: