Thoughts on Frontend Design

I’ve often said to colleagues that at times I don’t feel like I’m a designer or developer. Most of the time, I feel like I’m right in the middle.

I personally think that people who are skilled at frontend design are in a great position to help bridge the divide between the design and development worlds. They are mortar that help hold the bricks in place.

Brad Frost recently shared thoughts on fronted design, and a front end developer’s role in the design process. It resonated with me in a lot of ways, Besides identifying with the being in the middle of design and development, he points out everyone falls somewhere different in the spectrum. That’s the great thing about being a front ender – there’s so much interesting stuff to do and many ways to find it.

Empathy and Acceptance in Design and Community

Morten Rand-Hendriksen gave an excellent talk at WordCamp Europe 2016 about the role of empathy in the web field. It’s called Empathy and Acceptance in Design and Community, and you should give it a listen. I didn’t catch it in person, but it’s one of the best talks I’ve heard in awhile. I believe practicing empathy in our work could have the same impact on the Web as responsive design. It could be transformative.

A Brief History of Web Design

Dave Shea, creator of CSS Zen Garden, gave a talk called A Brief History of Web Design that takes you through the time and space that is the first few decades of the web design.

When I watched this talk, it made me excited for the future, and wishful that I had found the Web sooner. Even thought I wasn’t one of the early bloggers, or even in web design in the early 2000s, I want that intense, personal exploration and sharing back.

My Life in Typefaces

Matthew Carter, the creator of the Georgia and Verdana fonts, talks about his life in typefaces. I love his thoughts on constraints versus compromises:

The question is, does a constraint force a compromise? By accepting a constraint, are you working to a lower standard? I don’t believe so, and I’ve always been encouraged by something that Charles Eames said. He said he was conscious of working within constraints, but not of making compromises. The distinction between a constraint and a compromise is obviously very subtle, but it’s very central to my attitude to work.

An Event Apart DC 2015: Day Two

Day two of An Event Apart DC 2015 kicked off with Brad Frost introducing us to a different way to create the pieces that make up the sites we build. As he went on, and speakers took the stage after him, I started to notice an overarching message forming from these separate presentations.

We need to challenge our assumptions. Whether it was Aaron Gustafson teaching us that we can love forms instead of hate them, Derek Featherstone taking us outside of the device “box” we have lived in or Eric Meyer reminding us that not all users are the ideal user… You get the idea.

We sometimes get caught up in the way we do things because of stale processes, tools we’ve used for too long or forgetting that the simplest approach to getting started works the best. Many of the presenters echoed ideas similar to this. I left the conference having that typical conference overload. So many new ideas floating around, I wasn’t sure where to start. But that’s my old assumption kicking in. It says I should master something before trying it in a project. But that’s not the right approach here. I just need to open the sketch pad or fire up a CodePen and start experimenting.

An Event Apart DC 2015: Day One

Today, I attended An Event Apart DC 2015, and loved how each talk touched on another, but yet little overlapped happened. I’m not one to write detailed posts about each talk because conferences help me expand my thinking, not show me exactly how to do something. They introduce me to topics, and point me in exciting directions. It’s still up to me to go in those directions though.

So what were they for day one? These are just a few of the points that stayed with me.

Jeffrey Zeldman encouraged us to get our ideas out there, newly formed or experimental. In code, sketch or blog post. Sarah Parmenter showed us data that the Web is more social than you think, but not like you think. Yesenia Perez-Cruz talked about how performance makes for good design. Jen Simmons brought us back to the world of funky magazine design layouts, and convinced us it much of it can be done with CSS — now. And Cassie McDaniel and Cameron Moll touched on the details of user experience and how they can serve as the connective tissue in your projects.

None of this is new, per se. But it is new when stacked next to where we’ve been as an industry and where we need to go. Each speaker provided that as a backdrop or touch point, so what is old is new and amplified. I’m excited to process it all a bit more and think about how I can bring it to my everyday work.

The Gruen Effect

Maybe this answers the age old question of “Why do all [responsive] sites look the same?” You know the formula:

  1. Full bleed hero with call to action
  2. List of three or so features
  3. Email newsletter signup form
  4. Social media links in footer

Maybe the Gruen Effect is secretly controlling Web Design.

Dave Rupert talks about The Gruen Effect, and how it might relate to web design. Victor Gruen invented the American shopping mall and discovered stores could lure customers with big, bright storefronts.