filtered by Development category

The Wayback Machine

We have outsourced the cognitive load of our collective memories to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I am thankful that they exist. My memory is not what it used to be. Even then, my memory has been terrible.

Graphic design has been a way to preserve knowledge in a format that I can more easily retrieve later. If I had to rely only on my brain, my memory would have failed me long ago.

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Retooling for the Pandemic

Log 2020-04-15

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

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Don’t Design Websites. Design Systems.

This morning, I received an email that was forwarded from a colleague at Domain7, where I used to work as Senior Designer. I have been forwarding a reasonable amount of traffic to Domain7 from a project I had experimented with on my own time: 960 Fluid Grid System, based on Nathan Smith’s 960 Grid System.

The request went something like this:

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The Best Laid Plans

Ideas are not innovative unless they are realized (Johansson, The Medici Effect).

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

“To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785, a poem by Robert Burns.

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Rendering the Symphony admin with XSLT

@kanduvisla opened an issue about the possibility of rendering the Symphony admin pages with XSLT.

Symphony 3 had been developed to make this possible.

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Symphony Book

The Symphony book project was cancelled.

Project Cancelled

After nine months and ten chapters, Wrox decided to cancel this book project in June 2011. Symphony Start to Finish was to be the first comprehensive guide to building websites and web applications with Symphony. It was meant to cover the next major version of the platform, but after Symphony lost its only full-time developer, progress on that version was delayed significantly, and in the end Wrox was unable to accommodate the extended timeline.

What Now?

The considerable work put into the manuscript will be incorporated into Symphony’s free online documentation.

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A site about learning by doing

It started out as a live build of a Symphony site during An Event Apart, while listening to Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer, and many other fascinating people. Symphony Ensembles have been a fascination for me since the Symphony 2.0 beta releases, as they serve as blank slates and starting points for many of my experiments. Over time, I came to become involved in the role of helping to maintain the Export Ensemble extension, in the absence of the original developer of the extension, Alistair Kearney. The DesignProjectX ensemble was intended as a set of tutorials for newcomers to Symphony and XSLT.

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Preprocessors for HTML

Tools for Front End Design

CSS preprocessors are all the rage these days. Chris Coyier is musing about them. Stephen Hay uses them in his Responsive Design Workflow. The very popular front end design frameworks, Twitter’s Bootstrap and Zurb’s Foundation, use LESS and SASS, respectively.

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Updating the Piano Sonata Ensemble

I have been using the Piano Sonata ensemble for my personal blog. It needs updating: the site is still running on Symphony 2.0.6 and the content hasn’t been updated for quite a while.

Updating the Symphony Core

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OmniGraffle XML to HTML

There are times when people will use a tool with a graphical user interface (GUI) such as OmniGraffle that provides an easy way to create an illustration of a complex structure such as a site map for a website. The output can be a file such as a PDF. It turns out that this PDF file does not contain text that can be selected, copied and pasted. For anyone wanting to reuse this data, this might mean having to recreate the structure by retyping it.

Thankfully, OmniGraffle includes the ability to export an XML file. The structure that is described by the diagram is exactly what one would want to recreate it in HTML.

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jQuery Dropdown Panels

A couple of recent projects have needed a means of displaying dropdown panels that could serve as menus, forms and lists. To remind myself how to build the interface, I’m going to document the jQuery code that makes it all work.


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Responsive Screen Captures

Stephen Hay gave a presentation at Breaking Development Conference in Orlando on Responsive Design Workflow. Hay stated that he would refuse work if it involved delivering Photoshop comps. His process instead involves building sites in code and delivering screenshots of the site to the client for approval.

If you are designing in code, previewing in the browser and capturing screenshots to deliver to the client for approval, there are a few tools that help out a lot in the process.

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Transparency in Development

In these days of collaborative, open source development, it makes sense to be transparent in the process of building software, so that users can know whether to trust a product and invest time in learning about, using and sharing the product with others.

In the past, design agencies have been known as environments where open source software development was not a priority, where secrecy, bourne out of a desire to build proprietary products that could be sold to customers, was, more often than not, the goal of the effort.

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About the Advocacy Working Group

The Advocacy Working Group will be focused on advocating Symphony and its core approaches and technologies.


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Strategic Content Management

@nickdunn, the idea of Google Docs API integration in Symphony sounds very interesting. Our team members are transferring a lot of our processes to Google Apps, so that would be a good fit for us.

@newnomad, thanks for reminding me of @czheng’s reference to A List Apart’s article on Strategic Content Management. Kristina Halvorsen’s talks at An Event Apart have articulated a challenge that we often run into in getting sites to launch: content is often an after thought. The traditional process usually means that shoehorning content into a design, which doesn’t fit actual content requirements and forces a redesign after the fact. Obtaining or creating content early, so as to be able to design around the content, opens the door to endless iterations.

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Tools for Offline/Synchronized Content Creation

I’m curious to find out what process others are using to create content for their sites. The reason I ask is that I just came across a web application called Simplenote that synchronizes with the Simplenote iPad application and a desktop application called Notational Velocity. The API is not currently public, but you can sign up for access.

I’m interested to see how this could be adapted into a Symphony CMS publishing workflow, so I’ve applied for membership to the Simplenote API group on Google Groups.

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MySQL Connection Errors After Mac OS X Update

It appears that my local development environment was no longer able to establish a database connnection after a Mac OS X system update. All my Symphony CMS sites stopped working.

I would receive errors like this:

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Jeremy Keith: Be Careful What You Wish For

XML and XSLT a Remedy for Vendor-Specific APIs?

The Web Directions panel discussion came around to the topic of APIs and the problem of learning a new one for every web service or having to deal with the problems of integrating those APIs into the particular systems that need to support them. To me this raised the question of why we are using APIs rather than a standard way of sharing data. It seems that XML, XHTML and XSLT would be all that we would need if,

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Setting Up A Git Workflow

A lot of my work involves developing HTML/CSS prototypes for often complex site designs and custom web applications. The workflow involves working with clients and other team members to iteratively develop concepts through various stages of the site development process:

  • Site Maps
  • Wireframes
  • Layout Concepts
  • HTML/CSS Templates

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Piano Sonata Symphony Ensemble

As mentioned previously, I am building this site on the Piano Sonata Symphony Ensemble designed by Rodrigo Galindez and adapted for Symphony by Fazal Khan.

I also mentioned that there were some items that I felt were missing. Here’s what I have done so far to add some missing features.

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CSS Weekly Bar Charts

We were tasked with the challenge of building a site that could get people in the mind of improving their health. With the subject of wellness in mind, we would build a site that would enable participants to bring together teams of people who could encourage each other to focus on improving each other’s lives through specific challenges. One challenge would be a step challenge.

In the development of the application, I came up with a layout that incorporated views of an individual’s progress over a certain number of days and weeks. When I was dreaming up how the data should be visualized, I looked up examples of CSS bar charts, and Eric Meyer’s CSS Vertical Bar Charts showed up in the search results. Well, that gave me some confidence to mockup a solution that could rely primarily on some already documented methods to represent bar graphs with CSS.

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The reason for this site is my lack of organization as far my ability to remember all the projects that I have on the go. I am the Absent-Minded Designer.

So, in an effort to keep up to date on the latest developments and to evangelize the merits of Symphony and XSLT to my colleagues at Domain7 and the Web Standards / Open Source development community, I will be trying to keep an ongoing log of my work, experiments and discoveries. Let’s see how long this experiment lasts.

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Building My Laboratory

In an effort to try something new, but still be able to build quickly, I’ve simply installed the Piano Sonata Symphony Ensemble designed by Rodrigo Galindez and built by Fazal Khan.

However, I see that there are several missing features. I’d like to have a list of links that I can maintain on the site. Maybe that should be maintained within the content of each blog post. I’m just wondering what Fazal did to ensure that the images appear at the top of the post, but not at the bottom of the post. Perhaps the XSLT is looking for the first two paragraphs, then inserting the image after the second paragraph. Clever.

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Understanding XSLT

XSL Transformations (XSLT) is a markup language for transforming XML into other forms of output, such as XML documents, HTML and many other text-based formats. The World Wide Web Consortium maintains the XSLT standard.


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XSLT on WebPlatform

Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, and Opera have joined the W3C to launch a new website called WebPlatform with the goal of document the technology standards that form the foundation of the web. Patterned after Wikipedia, the new site is hoping to become a single, developer community-driven resource for documentation, specification and API references, tutorials and discussions about web technologies.

We are an open community of developers building resources for a better web, regardless of brand, browser or platform. Anyone can contribute and each person who does makes us stronger. Together we can continue to drive innovation on the Web to serve the greater good. It starts here, with you.

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XSLT Static Site Generator

For a project where our agency was contracted to design and deliver HTML, CSS and JavaScript to the client, I created a static site generator as a means of quickly prototyping web page layouts as static HTML files, while still being able to maintain all the features of the layout that we intended to deliver to the client, such as current classes on selected navigation items.

The best way to deliver quality code to the client was to rely on a W3C standard for templating: XSLT. Rather than have to manually edit pages across the entire set of layouts, I was able to run a series of commands on the command line to generate the pages for the site. Because these commands rely on xsltproc, which is already available out of the box in any UNIX-based system, including Mac and Linux, it was a great way to use HTML preprocessing in our front end development process.

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