A byte saved is a follower earned: Web Performance Then And Now

A List Apart wreath

FIFTEEN years ago this month, a plucky ALA staffer wrote “Much Ado About 5K,” an article on a contest created by Stewart Butterfield that challenged web designers and developers to build a complete website using less than five kilobytes of images and code.

As one group of modern web makers embraces mobile-first design and performance budgets, while another (the majority) worships at the altar of bigger, fatter, and slower, the 5K contest reminds us that a byte saved is a follower earned.

More in 15 Years Ago in ALA: Much Ado About 5K.

A List Apart № 420: Add Friction to Interactions, Customize With Care

IN ISSUE № 420 of A List Apart:

Meta-Moments: Thoughtfulness by Design

by ANDREW GRIMES

Does the internet ever stop you in your tracks? Does it sometimes make you pause and think about what you’re doing? Andrew Grimes calls such moments meta-moments. He walks us through why meta-moments are occasionally necessary and how we might build them into the experiences we design.


Approaching Content Strategy for Personalized Websites

by COLIN EAGAN

Experience management systems are making it easier than ever to customize content for your visitors—but are you using your newfound personalizing powers for good (or for creepy)? Colin Eagan shows that personalization can be done, thoughtfully, using the same tools you would apply to any content strategy conundrum: by asking why, being deliberate, and putting users first.

A List Apart № 419: Narratives & Conversations

IN ISSUE № 419 of A List Apart:

Do Androids Dream in Free Verse

by JOSCELIN COOPER

From ATMs to Siri to the button text in an application user interface, we “talk” to our tech—and our tech talks back. Often this exchange is purely transactional, but newer technologies have renegotiated this relationship. Joscelin Cooper reflects on how we can design successful human-machine conversations that are neither cloying nor overly mechanical. 


Building Nonlinear Narratives for the Web

by SENONGO AKPEM

The web operates in ways that can conflict with our traditional view of what a “story” is. Content is chunked, mixed, and spread across channels, devices, and formats. How do we understand story lines, characters, interactions, and the role of the audience, given this information sprawl? Cue nonlinear narratives—Senongo Akpem guides us past basic “scrolly-telling” to immersive, sometimes surprising experiences.

A List Apart № 393: Inventing & Documenting Design Patterns

A LIST APART Issue №  393

A LIST APART Issue № 393 is about documenting design patterns with a style guide and creating new ones with the z-axis.

Creating Style Guides

by SUSAN ROBERTSON

A style guide, also referred to as a pattern library, is a living document that details the front-end code for all the elements and modules of a website or application. It also documents the site’s visual language, from header styles to color palettes. In short, a proper style guide is a one-stop guide that the entire team can reference when considering site changes and iterations. Susan Robertson shows us how to build and maintain a style guide that helps everyone from product owners and producers to designers and developers keep an ever-changing site on brand and on target.

The Z-Axis: Designing for the Future

by WREN LANIER

For years we’ve seen the web as a two-dimensional space filled with pages that sit side by side on a flat, infinite plane. But as the devices we design for take on an increasingly diverse array of shapes and sizes, we must embrace new ways of designing up and down. Designing on the z-axis means incorporating three-dimensional physics into our interface designs. Wren Lanier explains how, by using the z-axis to place interface elements above or below one another, we can create better design systems that are more flexible and intuitive to use—and create new patterns that point the way to future interactions.


Illustration by Kevin Cornell

ALA № 384: Unsuck Flat UI; Master Digital Project Momentum

A List Apart 384.

Flat UI and Forms

by JESSICA ENDERS

Though some decry flat user interfaces as pure fashion, or as the obvious response to skeuomorphic trends, many designers have embraced the flat approach because the reduction in visual styling (such as gradients, drop shadows, and borders) creates interfaces that feel simpler and cleaner. Trouble is, most flat UIs are built with a focus on the provision of content, with transactional components (i.e., forms) receiving very little attention. So what happens when flat UIs and forms collide? User experiences can, and often do, suffer. Keep your flat forms from failing by using controlled redundancy to communicate difference.

Mastering Digital Project Momentum

by PERRY HEWITT

Digital projects begin in high spirits and tip quickly into miscommunication and crisis. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Extend your early kickoff meeting harmony throughout the life of your projects. By understanding your client’s organizational drivers and key players before the sticky note sessions even begin, you can establish the momentum needed to keep the extended team focused on goals. And by managing stakeholder communications throughout the job, you can avoid land mines, save time and effort in the long run, and deliver a project that satisfies stakeholders, agency, and users alike.

Research Engine Optimization

A List Apart No. 381

IN ISSUE No. 381 of A List Apart for people who make websites:

Connected UX

by AARRON WALTER

Your inbox overflows with customer emails suggesting features and improvements. Instead of benefiting, you feel overwhelmed by an unmanageable deluge. You conduct usability tests, user interviews, and competitive analyses, creating and sharing key insights. Yet within months, what you learned has been lost, forgotten, or ignored by someone in a different department. What if you could sift, store, and share all your customer learning in a way that breaks down silos, preserves and amplifies insights, and turns everyone in your organization into a researcher? MailChimp’s user experience director Aarron Walter tells how his team did it. You can, too.

Seeing the Elephant: Defragmenting User Research

by LOU ROSENFELD

Silos: good for grain, awful for understanding customer behavior. Just as we favor the research tools that we find familiar and comfortable, large organizations often use research methods that reflect their own internal selection biases. As a result, they miss out on detecting (and confirming) interesting patterns that emerge concurrently from different research silos. And they likely won’t learn something new and important. IA thought leader Lou Rosenfeld explains how balance, cadence, conversation, and perspective provide a framework enabling your research teams to think across silos and achieve powerful insights even senior leadership can understand.


Illustration by Kevin Cornell for ALA

ALA Summer Reading

A List Apart Summer Reading

AS PUBLISHER of A List Apart for people who make websites, I’m delighted to present our second annual ALA Summer Reading Issue—a deep pool of editor’s picks from the recent archives of A List Apart, sprinkled with some of our favorite outside links.

If you’re designing, developing, strategizing, or creating content for today’s multi-device web, these are the articles you need to read.

Same as last year, this issue is also available as a Readlist, suitable for beach reading on Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Readmill, or other ebook reader. So what are you waiting for? Dive in!


Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart

Think Outside The Silo

IN TODAY’S A List Apart for people who make websites, we are pleased to present…

Designing for Services Beyond the Screen

by ANDY POLAINE

You redesign the website for an airline, but who is designing the check-in machines, the CRM systems used by call center staff, the print materials, or the policies the cabin crew must adhere to? Like it or not, these channels are part of the overall user experience. Your website or mobile app might be great on its own, but customers experience services in totality, and base their judgments on how well everything works together. Learn to design beyond the screen. By creating visual and tangible artifacts that can be experienced and tested, you can build a bridge between business and design.

Don’t Poke the Bear: Creating Content for Sensitive Situations

by KATE KIEFER LEE

Delivering bad news is hard, but it’s part of life and business. We notify customers when we’re out of a product they want to buy, and we send warnings when people violate our companies’ terms of service. God forbid we have to send a system alert because our database was hacked, affecting every one of our users. But these things happen to the best of us. Can you be the bearer of bad news in a way that respects your customers? Learn how to create empathetic content for tricky situations, and shape your internal culture to foster human values of support, respect, and empathy.


Illustration: Kevin Cornell

ALA 373: Hack Your Maps, Grow Your Design Business

ala373

WE INTRODUCE new web design skills and share design business growth strategies in Issue No. 373 of A List Apart for people who make websites:

Hack Your Maps

by YOUNG HAHN

Ever taken apart a digital map? Worked with a map as a critical part of your design? Developed tricks, hacks, workarounds, or progressive enhancements for maps? Walk through a design process to implement a modern-day web map. Let’s make maps part of the collective conversation we have as designers.

Growing Your Design Business

by JASON BLUMER

If you want to grow in a sustainable, satisfying way, then you need to pay attention to how you’re growing, not just how much. After all, a bigger company isn’t necessarily a better one. Let’s look at four common pitfalls of growth in the design industry, and how to avoid them.


Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart.