History

A love letter to jQuery

It hurts me when I hear them say things like “you don’t need jQuery”. They don’t remember how dark it was before your light. We needed you then and we still need you now. I like the way you do things and although the years have passed, for certain tasks, you still do what you do better than anyone else could. I trust you. I know you and you know me. There will always be other ways we could do things, but I know I can rely on you and you’re always there when I need you to be.

The Story of CSS Grid, from Its Creators

On October 17th, Microsoft’s Edge browser shipped its implementation of CSS Grid. This is a milestone for a number of reasons. First, it means that all major browsers now support this incredible layout tool. Second, it means that all major browsers rolled out their implementations in a single year(!), a terrific example of standards success and cross-browser collaboration. But third, and perhaps most interestingly, it closes the loop on a process that has been more than 20 years in the making.

[…]

“I don’t recall a feature ever shipping like CSS Grid has shipped. Every major browser will have shipped it within a matter of a single year, and it will be interoperable because we’ve been… implementing [it] behind flags, testing it, making future changes behind flags, and then when it was deemed stable, all the browsers are now shipping it natively.”

“With everybody shipping at approximately the same time,” Atkins said, “[Grid] goes from an interesting idea you can play with to something that you just use as your only layout method without having to worry about fallbacks incredibly quickly. … [It’s been] faster than I expected any of this to work out.”

[…]

“It is the most powerful layout tool that we have invented yet for CSS,” [Tab] Atkins said. “It makes page layouts so ridiculously easy. … [P]eople have always been asking for better layouts. Just for author-ability reasons and because the hacks that we were employing weren’t as powerful as the old methods of just put[ting] it all in a big old table element—that was popular for a reason; it let you do powerful complex layouts. It was just the worst thing to maintain and the worst thing for semantics. And Grid gives you back that power and a lot more, which is kind of amazing.”

Vannevar Bush's Memex

Every now and then, I like to revisit Vannevar Bush’s classic article from the July 1945 edition of the Atlantic Monthly called As We May Think in which he describes a theoretical machine called the memex.

A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

1945! Apart from its analogue rather than digital nature, it’s a remarkably prescient vision. In particular, there’s the idea of “associative trails”:

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities.

[…]

And now I’m using the World Wide Web, a hypermedia system that takes in the whole planet, to create an associative trail. In this post, I’m linking (without asking anyone for permission) to six different sources, and in doing so, I’m creating a unique associative trail. And because this post has a URL (that won’t change), you are free to take it and make it part of your own associative trail on your digital memex.

Tags

Saying Goodbye to Firebug

Image

Firebug has been a phenomenal success. Over its 12-year lifespan, the open source tool developed a near cult following among web developers. When it came out in 2005, Firebug was the first tool to let programmers inspect, edit, and debug code right in the Firefox browser. It also let you monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page, which was a huge step forward.

Firebug caught people’s attention — and more than a million loyal fans still use it today.

So it’s sad that Firebug is now reaching end-of-life in the Firefox browser, with the release of Firefox Quantum (version 57) next month. The good news is that all the capabilities of Firebug are now present in current Firefox Developer Tools.

The story of Firefox and Firebug is synonymous with the rise of the web. We fought the good fight and changed how developers inspect HTML and debug JS in the browser. Firebug ushered in the Web 2.0 era. Today, the work pioneered by the Firebug community over the last 12 years lives on in Firefox Developer Tools.

A Love Letter to CSS

When I tell coworkers of my unabated love for CSS they look at me like I’ve made an unfortunate life decision.

[…]

Sometimes I feel that developers, some of the most opinionated human beings on the planet, can only agree on one thing: that CSS is totally the worst.

[…]

But today I’m going to blow your mind. Today I’m going to try to convince you that not only is CSS one of the best technologies you use on a day-to-day basis, not only is CSS incredibly well designed, but that you should be thankful—thankful!—each and every time you open a .css file.

My argument is relatively simple: creating a comprehensive styling mechanism for building complex user interfaces is startlingly hard, and every alternative to CSS is much worse. Like, it’s not even close.

Introducing Resilient Web Design

I wrote a thing. The thing is a book. But the book is not published on paper. This book is on the web. It’s a web book. Or “wook” if you prefer …please don’t prefer. Here it is:

Resilient Web Design.

It’s yours for free.

Much of the subject matter will be familiar if you’ve seen my conference talks from the past couple of years, particularly Enhance! and Resilience. But the book ended up taking some twists and turns that surprised me. It turned out to be a bit of a history book: the history of design, the history of the web.

Resilient Web Design is a short book. It’s between sixteen and seventeen megawords long. You could read the whole thing in a couple of hours. Or—because the book has seven chapters—you could take fifteen to twenty minutes out of a day to read one chapter and you’d have read the whole thing done in a week.

If you make websites in any capacity, I hope that this book will resonate with you. Even if you don’t make websites, I still hope there’s an interesting story in there for you.

You can read the whole book on the web, but if you’d rather have a single file to carry around, I’ve made some PDFs as well: one in portrait, one in landscape.

I’ve licensed the book quite liberally. It’s released under a Creative Commons attribution share-alike licence. That means you can re-use the material in any way you want (even commercial usage) as long as you provide some attribution and use the same licence. So if you’d like to release the book in some other format like ePub or anything, go for it.

I’m currently making an audio version of Resilient Web Design. I’ll be releasing it one chapter at a time as a podcast. Here’s the RSS feed if you want to subscribe to it. Or you can subscribe directly from iTunes.

I took my sweet time writing this book. I wrote the first chapter in March 2015. I wrote the last chapter in May 2016. Then I sat on it for a while, figuring out what to do with it. Eventually I decided to just put the whole thing up on the web—it seems fitting.

Whereas the writing took over a year of solid procrastination, making the website went surprisingly quickly. After one weekend of marking up and styling, I had most of it ready to go. Then I spent a while tweaking. The source files are on Github.

I’m pretty happy with the end result. I’ll write a bit more about some of the details over the next while—the typography, the offline functionality, print styles, and stuff like that. In the meantime, I hope you’ll peruse this little book at your leisure…

Resilient Web Design.

If you like it, please spread the word.