JavaScript is not your interface.

Published on September 10, 2016

It’s just one powerful layer that can do some incredible things on an already solid HTML foundation.

Cover of Adaptive Web Design

Adaptive Web Design is an excellent guide to creating rich digital experiences for the web. The author, Aaron Gustafson, is a seasoned web professional who really knows his stuff. More than a framework or methodology, Gustafson introduces Progressive Enhancement as a guiding “philosophy” to approaching websites and apps, treating each part of the design process as a series of layers upon a universally accessible, baseline experience.

Progressive enhancement, when done right, will provide a base level support for ancient technology, while supporting new devices that have not been invented yet, as well as screen readers and other assistive technology. In my own professional experience, I’ve found that going back to retrofit existing sites I designed to fix accessibility issues is a time and labor-consuming, but worthwhile process. Knowing what I know now, I will be employing a progressive enhancement approach on every new project I take on.

The book is organized into...

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This. Archive

Published on August 10, 2016

The awkwardly named, media-focused link sharing social network This. is defunct as of noon Pacific Time July 31. On that day, I exported my account as a CSV and gradually converted the spreadsheet into Markdown so I could archive the links to my blog. I also wrote down a few thoughts I had on social networks in general and This. specifically.

Skip this introduction and see my archived “shelf”

Along with defunct digital products like Readmill and Editorially, This. was ahead of its time, but its influence will surely be felt in the near future. Their Editorial Mission and Community Guidelines are worth studying, especially if you are builing some kind of editorial product or social network.

The service was launched as an invite only beta in November of 2014 and opened to the public about a year later.

URLs have always been a powerful feature of the web. Twitter and Facebook eventually recognized the utility of the URL, and gave you a “card” to display...

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Many Best Practices

Published on June 11, 2016

I recently stumbled across a website called Web Field Manual, a directory of resources “focused on documenting only the best knowledge for designing experiences and interfaces on the web.”

The directory features a ton of links to information sources on relevant front-end web design topics: design process, style guide documentation, grids and typography, accessibility, and specific web technologies. Many of the articles and projects linked here I was familiar with, but several are new to me as well.

No single link or author is the authoritative end-point for a particular subject. Combined, all these approaches make up a useful body of knowledge. Here are a few recent things I’ve discovered that are currently influencing or changing my web design approach:


Short for Inverted Triangle Cascading Stylesheets, an approach to CSS architecture coined by Harry Roberts that is more strategy than strict methodology. ITCSS is primarily concerned with avoiding a needless complexity throughout the cascade by keeping the broadest, most reusable rules at the beginning of the file and finishes with the most specific rules (style...

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2015: My Year in Hypertext

Published on January 24, 2016
The author with a tiny black 8 week old puppy
In 2015, I filled a tiny dog-shaped hole in my life.

2016 is here—in fact it is nearly February. So in keeping with my tradition of posting a year-end wrap up several weeks into the calendar year, here is my annual list of links. Per usual, this is a very unscientific list, and by no means authoritative (or authoritarian). Just things published in 2015 (with one exception) that I read, watched or otherwise consumed between January 1st and December 31st that caught my eye, gave me pause or tempted me to post “THIS.” in my Twitter feed.

There was more of a method to the madness this year compared to last year. After publishing my Best of 2014 list in early 2015, I started an Evernote page to post links to things I thought were compelling immediately after consuming them. I also started tracking my own consumption a little more, using apps and social networks I was already invested in using. Specifically my Keep Reading

Becoming an everyday developer

Published on September 7, 2015

A week ago I shared a few highlights and my impressions from a recent Web Ahead discussion about “everyday developers”. I made the point that web development is not a monolith: There are a lot of different kinds of websites, there are a ton of different tools and ways to deploy a site, and noone should be expected to know everything.

I wanted to write a follow-up entry with more details about the learning path toward becoming a web designer or developer, and I had a beginner in mind as I started drafting this post. It can be difficult to know where to start learning. It can be diffciult to figure out what to learn next. This isn’t a prescriptive or definitive career guide, just what I think the core compenties are, other skills that can come in handy, and the best order to learn them in. I will not recommend any specific frameworks, software, or tools, save for two books and a handful of reference websites.

The definition of “everyday developer” I am working with is someone...

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The browser wars are over. Please notify the enterprise.

Published on September 5, 2015
Important information about recommended browsers for annual enrollment memo
It gets worse.

I received my annual benefits and insurance guide in the mail this week, along with a pre-emptive note titled “Important information about recommended browsers for annual enrollment”. I found this interesting as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and implementing responsive web design solutions to make information accessible across devices, web browsers and assistive technologies. I also do the print design and layout for my organization’s biannual employee newsletter, which includes information about insurance plan changes each year.

My insurance provider covers an estimated 300,000 individuals, according to their website. This memo was sent to home addresses in reference to logging onto the employee self-service portal to review insurance and benefits information before making changes:

You probably will not be able to complete your benefits or enrollment selections if you use the following browser or devices:
  • Chrome
  • Any Mobile Devices
    • iPads
    • iPhones
    • Android Phones
    • Android Tablets
    • Windows Phones
    • Windows Tablets

Here are the two browsers they...

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Everyday Developers

Published on August 31, 2015

I always enjoy The Web Ahead podcast, hosted by Jen Simmons. For the past 4 years and over 100 episodes, Jen has been researching very specific topics, booking the best possible guests, and then going deep into that subject matter for a good hour or so. I make it a point to catch up after each episode is published, as I’ve found it to be an indespensible resource to keep up with new technologies and conversations surrounding the world wide web, and the people who work on it.

A recent episode released on August 13, featured a conversation between Jen and her guest Rachel Andrew about “everyday developers”. Actually, the word “everyday” only came up once during the discussion, but they were describing a type of web generalist who builds sites for clients, perhaps as a freelancer or as part of a small team. I consider myself a part of this camp.

Five years ago, Elliot Jay Stocks’ “Web designers who can’t code” article launched a firestorm of tweets, blog posts, and debates about the...

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Tennessee’s new 248 byte state logo

Published on May 23, 2015

Updated 6.26.2015:

Since publishing this post, the redesigned Tennessee State Government site has launched. The new logo isn't rendered in pure CSS like below, but does use an SVG file that is about ~1KB when gzipped, which is still very performant and a fine way to go. If you are really interested in logos, performance and semantics, you may also enjoy this post by Harry Roberts

A new logo for the state of Tennessee made the local headlines this week. The red square with the state's postal code replaces many various marks for many different government offices, most of which used the iconic Tri-Star emblem from the state flag.

Unsurprisingly, the media coverage has focused around the $46,000 price tag, and the rudimentary simplicity of the new design. The definitive article on graphic design criticism as a spectator sport has already been written, but as a designer and a resident of Tennessee, I still feel compelled to respond.

I have been reading and researching a lot about web performance lately. When...

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Reading is Hazardous

Published on May 17, 2015

Cover of Madness, Rack, and Honey

I became aware of Mary Ruefle’s collection of “lectures” with an unusual title after reading the reflections by Mandy Brown and Frank Chimero on their personal blogs. When two or more sources I trust recommend the same thing, I usually start paying attention.

I keep “lectures” in quotations, as the author herself points out that each was carefully written before delivered orally, despite the fact she was told her graduate students would prefer informal, spontaneous talks. Ruefle maintains that writing is her “natural act”, and as individual essays, these lectures work wonderfully.

Ruefle’s prose is marked by an economic use of words fitting for a poet, and she prioritizes her allegiances to poetry and art over knowledge and intelligence. Two mini-collections within the volume are titled “Twenty-Two Short Lectures” and “Lectures I Will Never Give”, and contain several vignettes that could be delivered in under two minutes.

An example:
You know how to write poetry, it is...
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Collaborating on the new Tumbleweeds site

Published on March 7, 2015
Screenshots of The Tumbleweeds website
A simple, responsive website design for the Tumblweeds band. View it live in the browser.

I was contacted in the fall of 2014 by Byron Ripley about designing a website for his band, the Tumbleweeds. They play classic country and dance tunes in the Honky Tonk and Western Swing tradition. I’ve been friends with Byron for about ten years now, and remember the ealy days of the Tumbleweeds duo (Byron and Joe Carter) in Flagstaff/Williams, AZ.

The Tumbleweeds have had an online presence on facebook and bandcamp for a number of years, and felt it was time to create a proper website to match the look and feel of their music. Byron’s brother Whitney Ripley is a web developer and offered to build the new site. In 2011, I had the pleasure and opportunity to create a new logo and design a few promo items for the band, shortly after they relaunched in Albuquerque. After doing a CD package for them a couple years ago...

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Best of 2014

Published on January 24, 2015
Jonathan Stark on speaker stage in front of slide with the words Big Reveal crossed out
Jonathan Stark said "lose the big reveal" at the Breaking Development Conference in Nashville.

Happy 2015! Its January, and by now you're already sick of reading year-end retrospective posts.

2014 was a heart-wrenching year that I’m in no hurry to re-live, but for me it was also a year of incredible learning and content too good to ignore. I spent a little bit of time flicking through my Instapaper hearts and Twitter stars. What follows is a list of recommendations and endorsements—articles, videos, podcasts, and more that deserve a second reading, listen, or viewing.

My criteria for this best of list is pretty straightforward: (1) It has to be have a 2014 timestamp, and (2) it has to be spectacular.

Notable Writing

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Published on November 29, 2014

parachuter landing in sandbox

Hello, world.

What should a web designer’s personal website look like in 2014? That’s a good question, and one I’m still wrestling over. I had a big ‘coming soon’ splash page up here for several more months than I originally planned, and have had a lot of time to think about this. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but have been itching to write about some other stuff (more on that later). Here are some thoughts:

A place to try stuff out

A portfolio is really important if you’re trying to get hired. At the moment, I’m steadily employed, so I’m treating mine as sort of a “Greatest Hits” section.

I don’t fancy myself a professional writer, but I use it as a way to organize my thoughts and communicate ideas to others. Having some kind of blog is helpful for others to find you, and figure out what you’re about. I am not going to make any kind of promises about the frequency, length, or format of my posts,...

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