Craftmanship and Code

So I’ll be talking next week at my local Refresh group. I decided to do a talk on ethics and professionalism when it comes to being a web designer/developer.

I’ll also get into showing some code. Going from abstract stuff like ethics all the way to putting some CSS on the screen will be a bit of a challenge. At any rate, in addition to some thoughts about what makes some a professional, I came up with the following list of things that are common to design front end development:

  • Aesthetics
  • Functionality
  • Meaning
  • Simplicity
  • Elegance

These are all things that I try to keep in mind when I’m designing and also with my HTML and CSS.

Cool kids sit in the back

I normally don’t get to ride in the back of a minivan on long drives, since I’m usually the one driving to one of our shows.

In this case, I went with the unmatchedstyle crew to MailChimp in Atlanta to shoot some videos and and on the way back I got the perspective of looking out the back window at the sunset and the rain, which is something I haven’t really experienced in a long time.

I decided to take a few photos with the Best Camera app on my iPhone and after some tweaking I think it got some decently moody shots.

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“And if all else fails, use a <div>”

If you play music and have ever been in a band you may be familiar with the types of people who have tons of gear. They can tell you all about it. They can probably make fun of your crappy gear. They can talk about their “distinctive style”. But then they play and their fancy gear sounds awful. And it’s not their gear, it’s them. And their “distinctive style” is mostly due to a lack of the concept of tuning or timing.

This relates to HTML in that it’s something that people obsess over, but which can often have little to do with the quality of the end product. What’s the point of clean, semantic markup if the website is ugly and unusable? What got me thinking about this was a recent post on HTML5 Doctor about the lonely <div> and the fact that in this crazy mixed-up world of HTML5, the forgotten div still has feelings. Really it does.

In the first example, the H1 tag is used as a title for the site, which is somewhat ‘controversial’. Is the H1 used for the title of the site, or the page? Or maybe even for multiple sections of a page? The ramifications are mind-boggling… not really. It just made me picture some nerd somewhere going “Hey, you can’t do that! The H1 is NOT for the site title!”. And just stepping back a little, the idea that there would be an argument over this is a bit absurd. Not that it’s unimportant, just a little absurd. In the way that if you say ‘hubble’ 20 times in a row, it might start to sound odd.

So as someone who designs and develops, it really is very important to know about these things. But it’s also very important not to get lost in the weeds. Read articles and documentation, form opinions and move on. Use what works. Would you rather use a bunch of divs instead of a list? Use H1 on the page title. Go for it. Maybe a little more time could be spent on making your site that much better.

When Everything is Content

I have a tolerate/hate relationship with ‘Lorem Ipsum’.

On one hand it’s a necessary evil. On the other, the lack of real content prevents me, as a designer, from really knowing what the final product is going to look like. So I have to leave holes that may be too big or too small for whatever content may eventually go in there. Designing to content is ideal, but it is so rare.

But the point of this post is that I’ve been delving into the world of video and video editing. I am, admittedly, a novice and am currently spending more time consulting the internet on how to use Adobe Premiere than actually editing.

What strikes me a bit about editing is that it’s instead of a scenario where I need content to fill a predefined space, I’m faced with a plethora of content to fill an undefined space. There’s an empty container over here, and then a bunch of footage over here. And somehow it all has to be chopped up and made interesting. And as a designer, this is exactly the opposite of what I’m used to. But I can’t help but thinking is this way is going to help me out in some way…