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Striking a Balance: Middle Ground in Front-End Development


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My presentation from 2008 Webmaster Jam Session, in Atlanta, GA.

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Striking a Balance: Middle Ground in Front-End Development

  1. Striking a Balance Finding middle ground in Front–End Development
  2. Hi. I’m Nathan Smith, a designer and front-end developer @
  3. Viewzi 101 – Intro Video (Learn more about Viewzi: or
  4. Who am I, really? – Expectant father! :) – Master of Divinity* – Published author – Started – Created – ENTJ Personality * A few classes left, finishing up online.
  5. Designers vs. Developers
  6. Stereotypical perceptions ?
  7. In reality, more collaborative
  8. But still quite competitive! Steve Brewer Travis Isaacs Developer Designer
  9. Front-End Developers are like midfielders, balancing in between offense and defense. We ensure that designers get the glory, and the server-side guys can stick to what they do best.
  10. “Inverse, Multi-Headed Hydra” In the world of web-development, there are many “dragons” sharing the same public facade: ASP.NET, ColdFusion, Java, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Python, etc. To render in a browser, all data has to pass through HTML. Front-end isn’t a bad place to be. :)
  11. (Best Viewed In) Life used to be so much simpler. But nowadays...
  12. New Challenger! Gotta catch ‘em all! o_O;
  13. In order to keep pace with change: We really need Interoperability
  14. Web Standards = 3 legged stool: • HTML • CSS • JavaScript Accessibility falls flat if any of these three are done incorrectly.
  15. Aaron Scheidies World Class Triathlete Aaron recently received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of Washington. He is a world record holder amongst Olympic distance triathletes.
  16. Aaron was born with a juvenile form of macular degeneration called Stargardt’s disease. His vision is 20/400 vision, while people with full sight see 20/20. Aaron is pictured here setting a world record with Ben Collins. They rode a tandem bicycle, ran and swam tethered. He finished in 01:58:08 at Dallas, TX on 10/14/07.
  17. Retro-Fitted Accessibility FAIL
  18. Jeremy Keith – JS Expert “Far from being something that is added to a site, accessibility is something we need to ensure isn’t removed. From that perspective, the phrase ‘making a site accessible’ isn’t accurate...” “Accessibility is not a plug-in. It’s not something that can be bolted onto a site after the fact. So here’s what I’m proposing: From now on, instead of talking about making a site accessible, I’m going to talk about keeping a site accessible. Join me.”
  22. We are Passionate About our Work Photoshop vs. Fireworks Mockups vs. Prototyping Ruby on Rails vs. Django Frameworks vs. Custom Flash vs. Web Standards Mac vs. PC - MS vs. Apple Release Date for HTML5? Jeff Croft vs. Everybody...
  23. As the CS3 product cycle was wrapping up, Adobe's user interface designers started showing their ideas for subsequent releases... I think my initial reaction can be boiled down to three letters: WTF? quot;Are you telling me,quot; I asked, quot;that we're going to put a huge, battleship-gray box into the background on the Mac, as it is on Windows? Why would we do that?quot;
  24. JavaScript is discussed intensely:
  25. JavaScript is discussed intensely: (I happen to agree)
  26. Yahoo! User jQuery Interface Library
  27. jQuery YUI
  28. Ninjas master a variety of tools (not just one) Use a framework as an extension of yourself, not just as a crutch.
  29. Macro vs. Micro Semantics – Correct tags – HTML / XHTML – Accessibility – ID, class names – Attribute usage – Microformats – Search Engines – Machine code
  30. Why Use a Version Control System? last code commit – Provides fall-back point – Prevents over-writing – Helps w. accountability – Track change history – Any operating system – Schedule server tasks – Project management
  31. Design by Commi ee aka Village Stew
  32. Several years ago in Yakima, Washington there was a church split over whether to use organ music in worship. Ironically, those who left to start a new church now have a far more extravagant organ than the original congregation ever did. They remain divided.
  33. Mark Boulton: Designing by Community? “Designing by community I feel is different. There are a lot of people in the Drupal community. Many hundreds with a strong Text voice. Providing very early releases—in fact, opening up the process completely— draws reaction. Within that reaction, if there is enough of it, we can identify trends. And I think trends in feedback is the key to Designing by Community.”
  34. Leadership & Team Dynamics
  35. Stephen P. Anderson Why I’m Not a Manager “When you have the right people on your team, what qualifies as management is really about creating a platform from which everyone can track themselves. That, and f i g u r i n g o u t h ow to challenge folks so that they are delivering their best. This assumes a lot of trust and faith in their abilities, and not in your ability to hand-hold.”
  36. “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” — John C. Maxwell 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
  37. John Maynard Keynes Father of Modern Economics
  38. Myers-Briggs Personalities – Extraverted / Introverted – Sensing / iNtuitive – Thinking / Feeling – Perceiving / Judging
  40. ENTJ - “I’m really sorry you have to die.” ENTJs have a natural tendency to marshall and direct. This may be expressed with the charm and finesse of a world leader or with the insensitivity of a cult leader. The ENTJ requires little encouragement to make a plan. One ENTJ put it this way... quot;I make these little plans that really don't have any importance to anyone else, and then feel compelled to carry them out.quot; While quot;compelledquot; may not describe ENTJs as a group, nevertheless the bent to plan creatively and to make those plans reality is a common theme for NJ types.
  41. I think of the ideal web team as operating much like the Ninja Turtles. Each one is dangerous in his own right, but together under the right leadership become more than the sum of their parts. “At least half of the team members should be senior- level in their area of expertise. The functions of a web team can be categorized into five specialist groups: Design, Client-Side, Server- Side, Content, and Support.” — Cody Lindley
  42. We All Want to Use Elegant Techniques (because we love the praise from peers) – CSS Drop Shadows – PNGs + Alpha Channels – Ems instead of Px fonts – sIFR Text Replacement – JavaScript Animations – Drawing on <canvas> – Elastic page layouts
  43. Can’t Be Afraid to Slide Tackle
  44. VIEWZI._launchUrl = function(urlStr, plugin) { if (plugin === 'flash' && new_window === true) { if ( { return; } else if ( || {; } else { var new_a = document.createElement('a'); new_a.href = urlStr; = 'absolute'; = 'hidden'; = 'hidden'; = 'block'; = '0'; = '0'; = '0'; = '_blank'; new_a.innerHTML = ''; document.body.appendChild(new_a); var fake_click = document.createEvent('MouseEvents'); fake_click.initMouseEvent('click', true, true, window, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, false, false, false, false, 0, null); new_a.dispatchEvent(fake_click); new_a.parentNode.removeChild(new_a); } return true; } };
  45. Paradigm Shift: Agile Workflow
  46. Automate processes, but in moderation
  47. A moment before firing, two members of the gun crew ceased all activity and came to attention for a three- second interval extending throughout the discharge of the gun. He summoned up an o l d co l o n e l o f a r t i l l e r y, showed him the pictures, and pointed out the strange behavior… “Ah,” he said when the performance was over, “I have it. They are holding the horses.” p. 124 of Social Change by Robert Nisbet
  48. Apple’s
  50. “Embrace Constraints” css – Mark Kraemer All modern monitors support at least 1024×768 pixel resolution. 960 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 24, 30, 32, 40, 48, 60, 64, 80, 96, 120, 160, 192, 240, 320 and 480.
  51. The 960 Grid System is an effort to streamline web development by providing commonly used dimensions, based on a width of 960 pixels. There are two variants: 12 and 16 columns, which can be used separately or in tandem.
  52. The basis of the grid is ideally suited to rapid prototyping, but it would work equally well for workflow in a production environment. There are printable sketch sheets, Photoshop and Fireworks templates, and a CSS framework that contain identical column measurements.
  53. Inspiration: Khoi Vinh
  54. Inspiration: Cameron Moll
  55. Inspiration: Olav Bjørkøy
  56. Inspiration: Brandon Schauer
  57. The 12 column grid is divided into portions that are 60 pixels wide, whereas the 16 column grid consists 40 pixel increments. Each column has 10 pixels of margin to either side, which stack to create gutters that are 20 pixels wide between each of the columns.
  58. <div class=quot;container_12quot;> <div class=quot;grid_7 prefix_1quot;> <div class=quot;grid_2 alphaquot;> ... </div> <div class=quot;grid_3quot;> ... </div> <div class=quot;grid_2 omegaquot;> ... </div> </div> <div class=quot;grid_3 suffix_1quot;> ... </div> </div>
  59. 12 column grid measurements
  60. 16 column grid measurements
  61. Look Ma! WJS uses :)
  62. Summation of Presentation •Strive to write elegant code. •Slide-tackle when necessary. •Choose the right framework. •Know thy personality type. •Train an “inverted-T” skill-set. •Be passionate + pragmatic.
  63. That’s a wrap. Keep in touch!