Weekly Reader 33

Photo, BFGF

When I started this new blog at the beginning of 2015 I never really gave myself a strict set of rules, it just kind of happened that the most interesting articles I was reading at the time were largely concerned visual arts stuff. For this list I’m looking back over a lot of web development articles that I’ve been reading recently. These cover topics and issues that perhaps many cultural practitioners don’t get a look in, but which I think might be interesting or useful in some way.

The photo above is a product shot by David Sampson for clothing / fabrics designers BFGF, ‘inspired by the internet, snacks, and both tropical and desert landscapes’. If I had a house that needed a rug they’d be the first people I’d turn to.

  • “In the early years of the web, there was a lot of variation and experimentation with where to put content on a web page. Then, it seems we all settled into a handful of patterns and stayed there for over a decade. It wasn’t until the arrival of responsive design that new ideas for page layout started appearing”. Getting out of our ruts, by Jen Simmons
  • Print Magazine Layouts Converted to Web Layouts by Chris Coyier on CSS Tricks. This article takes the points from Jen Simmon’s talk and suggests copying print layouts to learn new practices and rethink what the web can do. It’s common to find web developers decrying the limitations of paper, but in many ways print is freer, it’s not constrained by the dreaded css box model, ink literally flows over pages.
  • If you’re going to play about with magazine layouts, it might be useful learning to model content with a static site generator such as Jekyll. The CMS is probably the bane of your existence, the miserable ‘What You See Is What You Get’ editor is an awful liar, and sadly it’s the basis of all modern web-publishing. After nearly 7 years wrestling with WordPress and Tumblr, and following a short foray into learning how to use node, I decided that abandoning the CMS might be useful. Alternatively, if you’re still into the CMS, then Cory Etzkom has reviewed a few in Choosing the best CMS.
  • “I’ve begun to think of design today as not so much defined by a binary option, but instead as a spectrum or a continuum—I’m fascinated in this space between the networked and un-networked texts”, New Web Typography by Robin Rendle. It’s interesting to see a designer approach the web (or, typography) in such an explicitly philosophical fashion. As far as typography goes, the two most inspiring publications I’ve seen recently are Krass Journal (via MagCulture) and Dima Shiryaev’s posters (via It’s Nice that).
  • Bloomberg’s ‘post-internet’ redesign is one of my favourite rebrandings ever. To take a company that ultimately underpins the current financial system and to give it a tumblr aesthetic introduces a number of questions about the aesthetic and the aims of the company. In my mind though, the execution is perfect, the microsite for their design conference is astounding, it breaks every basic rule of marketing and web design while also being well-coded and easy to use.
  • “In the end, we made a more versatile website which better reflects the product and the brand, whilst retaining the playfulness and discoverability that this collection is all about”, Penguin redesigns Little Black Classics website by Alexander Hawkins in It’s Nice That. Digital design meets one of the most successful print campaigns of recent years; I myself have nearly 20 of the Little Black Classics, I’ve found them ideal for train journeys (I read one in about 2 hours) or flicking through just before bed. However, I really cannot stand the project’s website, I found it utterly unusable for getting a sense of what the books are about. In the end, I resorted to going on amazon for synopses.
  • Remy Sharp shows how to take your website offline in a Copy & Paste guide to Service Workers. This article is a little more technical than the others in this roundup, but essentially it means that websites will (almost entirely) work offline. Offline websites are something that recently, along with print style sheets, I’ve become much more interested in as I’ve come to realise that lack of constant signal remains a great issue for many people.
  • Maybe we could tone down the Javascript. I suppose I’ve always been wary of Javascript, I wasn’t practicing web design in the few years that Javascript exploded, and as such I still don’t have much of an emotional attachment to it. As shown by the link above it’s a language that I rarely put thought into and only occasionally have to copy and paste. This measured approach has helped me, but now I’m starting to look at how it can be used effectively.
  • I’m putting this last link in as a prime example of how not to design products. At some point Instagram will be changing the timeline to a algorithmic listing. I think I’ve only come across one person who says they find algorithmic timelines useful. I’ve tried to get along with non-chronological feeds but always found them lacking. Then again, this change is a lesson to people that there should be no expectation that companies listen to their users, only to their income. If companies’ analysis finds that algorithms are better than people, then to hell with the people.