Design patterns

Container-Adapting Tabs With "More" Button

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This looks like an excellent, accessible starting point for the priority navigation pattern:

Or the priority navigation pattern, or progressively collapsing navigation menu. We can name it in at least three ways.

There are multiple UX solutions for tabs and menus and each of them have their own advantages over another, you just need to pick the best for the case you are trying to solve. At design and development agency Kollegorna we were debating on the most appropriate UX technique for tabs for our client’s website…

We agreed it should be a one-liner because the amount of tab items is unknown and narrowed our options down to two: horizontal scroll and adaptive with “more” button. Firstly, the problem with the former one is that horizontal scroll as a feature is not always visually obvious for users (especially for narrow elements like tabs) whereas what else can be more obvious than a button (“more”), right? Secondly, scrolling horizontally using a mouse-controlled device isn’t a very comfortable thing to do, so we might need to make our UI more complex with additional arrow buttons. All considered, we ended up choosing the later option[.]

Amazon's menu prediction cone

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A screenshot of the Amazon menu, with a triangle/cone overlaid demonstrating the region wherein the menu will remain locked to the current item if the pointer doesn't stray outside of it.
A visualization of the mathematical cone that Amazon uses to predict the menu item you're heading for. Cone is not actually visible.

Standard drop-down menus that contain sub-menus very often have no concept of user intent, and this can lead to a repeating frustration that most of us have likely run into: straying off course by even a single pixel can cause the sub-menu to close instantly. Ways around this include adding a delay to try and account for user error, but that doesn’t feel as snappy. Amazon has a really clever solution that accounts for user error yet responds instantly:

At every position of the [pointer] you can picture a triangle between the current mouse position and the upper and lower right corners of the dropdown menu. If the next mouse position is within that triangle, the user is probably moving their [pointer] into the currently displayed submenu. Amazon uses this for a nice effect. As long as the [pointer] stays within that blue triangle the current submenu will stay open. It doesn’t matter if the [pointer] hovers over “Appstore for Android” momentarily – the user is probably heading toward “Learn more about Cloud Drive.”

And if the [pointer] goes outside of the blue triangle, they instantly switch the submenu, giving it a really responsive feel.

So if you’re as geeky as me and think something this trivial is cool, I made a jQuery plugin that fires events when detecting this sort of directional menu aiming: jQuery-menu-aim.

See the source link for more.

Breaking Out with CSS Grid Layout

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If you’ve ever needed to have a content column with a maximum width, but have specific elements span the full width of the viewport, thus breaking out of the column, CSS Grid can do this really simply. First the grid on the container:

Code language: CSS

.content {
  display: grid;
  grid-template-columns: 
    [full-start] minmax(1em, 1fr) 
    [main-start] minmax(0, 40em) [main-end]
    minmax(1em, 1fr) [full-end];
}

This defines the columns, including the max width of the content, and a gutter. For normal content:

Code language: CSS

.content > * {
  grid-column: main;
}

Then for items to span the full viewport:

Code language: CSS

.content__full {
  grid-column: full;
}

See the source link for more details.

A/B testing can't tell you why a change is better

I think this is a good example of the is-ought problem in philosophy, transplanted into the world of software development:

A/B testing is a great way of finding out what happens when you introduce a change. But it can’t tell you why.

The problem is that, in a data-driven environment, decisions ultimately come down to whether something works or not. But just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

If I were trying to convince you to buy a product, or use a service, one way I could accomplish that would be to literally put a gun to your head. It would work. Except it’s not exactly a good solution, is it? But if we were to judge by the numbers (100% of people threatened with a gun did what we wanted), it would appear to be the right solution.

But sometimes links look like buttons (and buttons look like links)

In Resilient Web Design Jeremy Keith discusses the idea of material honesty. He says that “one material should not be used as a substitute for another, otherwise the end result is deceptive”.

Making a link look like a button is materially dishonest. It tells users that links and buttons are the same when they’re not.

In Buttons In Design Systems Nathan Curtis says that we should distinguish links from buttons because “button behaviours bring a whole host of distinct considerations from your simple anchor tag”.

For example, we can open a link in a new tab, copy the address or bookmark it for later. All of which we can’t do with buttons.

The Media Object

What is the internet made of? At least the UI layer is mainly composed of media blocks. I talked about the Facebook stream story before, and all the tiny objects of which it is composed. For the most part, the stream story is made up of the media object repeated over and over.

The media object is an image to the left, with descriptive content to the right, like this Facebook story:

The media object: an image to the left, descriptive content to the right.
The media object

The content area on the right can contain any other objects. In this case, it contains text, but we could put lists, grids, or even other media objects inside. As we’ve seen before, there are actually many different versions of the media block on the Facebook website (and on most websites). These five are just a few examples of the way this object might be used:

Several media objects: an initial one as in the previous image, with two more: the first is a profile image on the left, and a comment field on the right, while the second is another profile picture on the left, with comment content on the right.
Variations on the media object