Consolidating My Online Presence: This blog is currently on hiatus

There comes a time when you decide to re-brand yourself online and extend your online presence. That’s exactly what I’m doing and working pretty hard to get there. It takes time, but always worth the efforts.

This blog will be on hiatus till i find a use for it. I’m sure I will :)

A new site describing my years in the industry and what I’ll be working on in the near future:

ahadborg

A inner page of my new jekyll blog. I love WordPress, but wanted something new. I love mardown:

lslab

My Jekyll blogs home page:

lslaa

Quite the Contrary: Non Responsive Websites Usually Work

The wikipedia describes responsive design as:

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).

You’ve all heard the big buzzwords, media queries, flat design and modular websites, our industry is thriving on these terms and everyone is chatting about them. A quick primer and touching base on some issues of repsonsive web design which we have all heard time and time again.

  1. Web Browser Performance
    1. Graphics
    2. Speed
    3. SEO
    4. Compatibility
  1. Complexity / UI & Other Limitations
    1. Building more than one site
    2. Time
    3. Money
    4. Mouse vs. Touch

I have another take on websites that aren’t responsive and I’ve based my facts on real word situations.

Medium - A responsive website
Today while at work I was speaking with my colleagues who were complaining that one of our standalone websites wasn’t being rendered well on an iPhone device. After showing me the responsive site, they proceeded to show me an example of a non-responsive site that they claimed responded very well on their device.

I listened intently, as I’m obsessed with what the user feels is a good experience from them. As a side note, many people out there try and confuse you for no apparent reason, and it’s up to us devs to make some sense out of. After all technology can be challenging to some, the fact still remains that people want to understand they just dont know how or cannot explain themselves thoroughly.

Responsiveness is great for image based websites, but for text it really doesn’t make any difference. Don’t get me wrong, I like using responsive techniques in my web designs and applications. To make a long story short modern mobile devices are developed to display non-responsive website designs effectively, and they actually do an excellent job. There will of course be exceptions that prove the rule, but those sites will look horrendous on a PC too.

So more often than not, a well designed desktop website will be perfectly readable on a mobile device, without you have to lift a finger to accommodate it. There are countless debates on responsiveness and if it’s just a fad or a UI pattern that will be over-ridden by another robotic like pattern, used, re-used and abused.

As a matter of fact some folks even think that media queries are a hack, while others are finding different ways to make websites respond.

Thoughts On Simple Interfaces

Ny Times - Simple

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

I spend my time obsessing over simplicity in web design and everything else for that matter, it surround us everywhere if we choose to observe – it interest me to create interfaces that can truly be innovative, immerse the user into an experience, especially one that draws consumers back to the business they love and admire. I often wonder what it is about simplicity that attracts me. Is it the precise pixel coding and rendering in the browser, the stark typeface staring at me inticing me to read, the intuitive navigation system, or the white space that surrounds and snugs the elements ever so perfectly that catches our eyes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that building simple interfaces isn’t all that easy, though it looks quite the opposite. Why should it be, that would take all the fun and learning out of it.

Simple Interfaces Come With Practice, Patience and Research

The only way to learn how to create these interfaces is to build something. When I say build, I don’t mean just a blog, or a normal website. Build a product (this is the best way to learn), plan the design thoroughly, read about how neuroscience can radically change the way we look at UX, understand what attracts user to a digital page, try and retain your users with unique content that draws them back – time and time and time again.

As with almost everything else in the world there is a science behind it and you have to perfect that. There is no limit to innovation, especially in modern front end web development.  How many different ways are there to create a responsive website? I can already name you 3 off the top of my head. Why not create your own?? Dive into the theory of things and master the tools you need to get the job done.

The most important rule is to understand the minds of users, it’s the user that is the sum and end all of everything.

Fail & Fail Often, Yet Remain Consistent

Most people give up after they see a failure looming. Fail and fail often is my mantra; that will eventually teach you to learn from your mistakes and succeed the last time you try-the most vital of them all. If you see something you like, try and take inspiration from it and re-create it.

Sounds like alot of work? It is, however when you get into the groove there are no limits to what you can achieve. Just think, no more cookie cutter designs! There are a plethora of tools out there to help you out: Twitter Bootstrap, Grids, Boiler Plate, Pure IO, Modernizr, and more that can help you in your visualization process. Seek clarity in your thoughts and designs, the more confusion you have in your mind the more confusion you will create in pixels.

Often, it helps taking a break from things, retaining the information you have in your mind and then diving right back in. The passionate ones will never give up..

Read, Read and Read More

I’ve seen people using the same patterns to create the same clunky interfaces and mimicking modern front end development by faking techniques. You can easily spot a design which hasn’t been thought through or one that hasn’t been researched properly. Online reading from credibale sources will help you understand modern principles which you can practice to improve your UI techniques. Interested in understanding how a website loads asynchronously? Sure, we all are. You can start with some of these blogs: NN Nielson, Cooper, Usability Post.

We all embark on new journeys in our lives. I wish you well on your way to hand crafted designs, away from the cookie cutter look and to stuff that you can really be proud of for a lifetime – designs which feel authentic decades to come….

Github for Windows

Github for Windows

I’ve spoken to many developers here in Karachi that have no clue about Github, the awesome open source code collaboration platform for developers. Many of them have expressed their disinterest in fancy commands, push and pull request, clone repositories etc. etc. – learning them can be cumbersome yet fruitful at the end of the day.

There is however a simpler alternative for Windows users where they can clone, share, collaborate, branch and browse popular Github repos. You can develop on Windows and share on Github. A valuable tool indeed, well worth fiddling with and browsing repos in your spare time.

Be sure to find some popular repos, fork them and look through the code examples.

Critiquing Web Design & Front End Development Throughout Pakistan

I’m appalled at the state of web design in Pakistan1, for the people of Pakistan. It’s a valid concern for me and in hindsight, perhaps there is a cultural way of thinking that hinders the growth of mature web design here in Pakistan. Design, at it’s core is about communication and local designers haven’t taken the time to perfect their craft-more surprisingly when I speak with designers I’m stunned to see that they aren’t abreast of the latest trends happening on the web.

Points to consider:

  • There is no shortage of talent or human resource in our nation. Perhaps it’s sheer laziness or the lack of will to step out of their comfort zone.
  • Acceptance of design in the market and what appeals to people. I see this trend changing, people want to see quality design that communicates ideas clearly.
    • Web design in Pakistan is considered cheap labor. There is hardly any value attached to being an awesome web designer. Sooner or later Front End Development will catch on.
    • That said, there are jobs in the market for specialists that pay a decent salary.

Research and Universal Design Principles

As of today, here on my blog I’d like to start focusing on web design and what goes into it. Having said that, I’ve started a new category on my blog, Critiquing web design in Pakistan and my aim is to provoke thought and inspiration to others. I AM NOT critiquing the designers of these user interfaces but the design itself.

I urge everyone to read: Under The Loupe: Critiquing Web Design.

For me everything starts with research. Let’s be honest, not everyone will take the time to understand the multi-disciplinary web-it’s a difficult subject to grasp. Furthermore understanding Universal Design Principles and Heuristics for User Interface Design will give us a clearer picture of how we need to communicate our message clearly through the designs we build.

Evaluating a Good Web Design

Web design is relatively young field and comprises of people from different background, many of those who lack any formal design training. So what makes a good web design. Here’s how I will be dissecting a design:

  1. Gut Reactions
    Gut reactions are valuable, but we need to articulate our reactions. I would like to take time to become more comfortable with a design and look more closely to see what’s positive.
  2. Relevance, Context and Audience
    Critiquing a design and knowing the context which is going in. Taking the time to go deeper than just visual design will be one aspect in my critique.
  3. Technicalities
    One of the most important measures of a UI’s success is how well it meets a users expectations. Does it respond well on different devices and the technologies used to develop the site all play a vital role in critiquing a good web design.
  4. Designing For Expectations
    Understanding the medium that you design for and implementing patterns for users to gain traction on that medium. For example if you’re designing a website, you know that your users know how to navigate a website. Perhaps you can create the illusion of a one page app with the new History API in HTML52.  Also designing for emotion and interactivity play important roles which will be highlighted as my critique begins.

You don’t need to be an aeronautical engineer to understand all of the above, nor do you need to be a rocket scientist to understand the diverse world of web design and front end development.

I can’t wait to start my journey and within that I am sure I will gain a better understanding of design myself.
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  1. The Dawn website, http://dawn.com/, an example of a poorly designed website built on wordpress
  2. A great article on the History API, certainly beneficial to read it