Articles

Inversion of Code – HTTP Lambda functions

Normally when we create an HTTP REST endpoint, we add code to our server endpoint, and assume the client provides the arguments to our code. What if we could reverse this responsibility, such that the client provides the code the server executes?

Among other things, this implies we can have one endpoint doing "everything". We wouldn’t need to create dozens of endpoints to expose our API, and we could get away with creating a single endpoint, that clients invokes, regardless of what they want to do. If the client wants to create a record in our database, read records from our database, or count records in our database is irrelevant – He’d still use the same endpoint for all of these tasks. In addition, the client could become much more creative in regards to how he interacts with our API, and do things we couldn’t even imagine as we created our API. The latter of course sums up the problem, which is that clients could inject malicious code into our server.

Source de l’article sur DZONE

7 All-Too-Common Landing Page Errors You Must Avoid

And it does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year without ever asking for a pay raise.

But this is true only if your website landing page is designed well, maintained, and optimized to the gills. The art and science of a flawless landing page is beyond the scope of a single article, but we can start with helping you spot seven of the most common – and damaging – trouble spots.

1. Unclear Value Statement

Typically, new visitors to your page will only stay on it 3 to 15 seconds before they get distracted. In that span of time, you must offer a clear and visible reason to stick around and interact with the page.

That reason is your value statement. What value do your readers get in exchange for the time you ask them to spend? High-quality content is a must (and hopefully a given), but you also need to pull them in so they experience that content.

Does your landing page do that? If yes, great! If no, you should fix that. If you’re not sure, ask yourself:

  • Is there a compelling, visible headline that expresses the end benefits clearly and succinctly?
  • Is there a subheadline explaining your offering in more detail?
  • Are there supporting graphics that pull the eye toward your headline and subheadline?

If there aren’t, add them now.

2. Poor Signposting

Your landing page isn’t just there to be pretty. It’s meant to convince people to take action. If you don’t make it easy to find your call to action, most viewers won’t look for it.

deliver enough value to make it worth the hassle

You must make it clear — in as succinct and efficient terms as possible — why the action you want a reader to take will deliver enough value to make it worth the hassle. Tell them, in words that stand out from the rest of the page, what you want them to do next and what they’ll receive for doing so.

Improving your signposting stats by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a clear understanding of what the next step in a visitor’s customer journey should be?
  • Is it easy to find and take that step on your website?
  • Does your copy make a clear and compelling argument in favor of taking that step?

If you can answer yes to all three questions, your signposting is likely good (or at least good enough for now). If not, now you know what you have to do to improve it.

3. Slow Loading Time

Remember that 3 to 15-second maximum time limit we mentioned earlier? That span includes time spent waiting for your landing page to load, and every microsecond of that wait increases a reader’s likelihood of bailing on the whole thing. You must get your loading time to be as quick as possible.

Viewers who exit your landing page early – including while still waiting for it to load – increase your site’s bounce rate. Higher bounce rates reduce your rankings on Google and other search engines, meaning a page that loads too slowly not only impresses fewer viewers, but it also gets fewer viewers overall.

Improving your loading time is usually a job for your tech team or whoever in the office is responsible for overseeing your hosting service. That said, here are a few of the most important ways to optimize this important factor:

  • Optimize image size, file format, and compression;
  • Clean up your database by deleting saved drafts, old revisions, unused plugins, and similar virtual detritus;
  • Confirm that your WordPress theme (if applicable) is optimized for quick loading;
  • Use a content distribution network for file storage;
  • Analyze server response time with your hosting service, and work with them to reduce it;
  • Install tools that leverage browser caching;
  • Fix all your broken links;
  • Remove all render-blocking from JavaScript;
  • Reduce the number of redirects necessary to reach your page;
  • Optimize your code, especially in CSS, JavaScript, and HTML;
  • Enable file compression — except for on images;
  • Replace all PHP content with HTML wherever possible.

This is technical, detailed work, but it’s important. If you don’t have team members up to these tasks, it can be worth hiring an outside consulting company to do it for you.

4. Only One Landing Page

You have a good idea of your ideal customer’s hopes, fears, pain points, demographics, likes and dislikes, and other important information. If you have several different types of customers, you can’t use the same landing page for each of your customer groups. Each group has different characteristics that will prompt them to follow your call to action, so you don’t want to offer just one landing page.

Similarly, you also probably have more than one product or set of content and offerings to generate sales. Having only one landing page can lose leads because the page is only optimized for one of those products or content sets.

Ideally, you should have a unique landing page with a tailored offer for each of your customer models that would send those individuals to each of the products and content sets. An ad for professionals in their 30s making over $50,000 a year would lead to a landing page built for them, while an ad for heads of households working from home would lead to a landing page built for them.

Yes, that means a company with three profiles and four content sets would need 12 landing pages. And yes, it’s worth that kind of effort.

5. Insufficient Visuals

“A picture is worth 1,000 words” is ancient wisdom, but it’s far from true in the internet world – it’s actually worth more. A quick look at social media and blog performance will tell you many people will look at, enjoy, and share a photo or video, but not many will read an entire 1,000-word post on the same topic.

How well your landing page performs depends on the images you use and how you present them. Does your page’s layout conform to the best practices of visual web design:

  • Including images that emotionally reinforce the value expressions of your product’s core benefits;
  • Containing sufficient white space to not be intimidating;
  • Providing data images to indicate the worth of what you do;
  • Using visual design cues to lead the eye toward your conversion points;
  • Applying color gradients to highlight offers and your call to action;
  • Using infographics to replace the dreaded “wall of text”.

If you can say yes for half of these things, carry on. If not, this point may be among the better places to start with a landing page redesign.

6. Asking For Too Much, Too Soon

Craft a custom calls to action that meet all levels of interest, need, and desire

Not every landing page visitor is created equal. Some are hardcore fans and experts in what you do, ready for a 10,000-word white paper that dives deeply into the research supporting your use case. Others might have heard about your industry on an Instagram page and want to know the basics of what you do.

There’s nothing worse than going to a website and being asked for all of your personal information right away. If your call to action requires too much knowledge, too deep a commitment, or even too much personal information, consider scaling back. Otherwise, you risk turning away potential customers.

Better yet, go back to No. 5 above and build a new landing page for beginners and early-stage leads. Craft a custom calls to action that meet all levels of interest, need, and desire.

7. No Trust Elements

Offering some type of authentic customer referral or testimonial is important. It all boils down to the same thing: telling those who read your landing page that other people already like what you do and how you do it.

Examples of effective modern trust elements include:

  • Quotes from positive reviews next to a photo of the reviewer;
  • Screenshots of social media posts praising your company or product;
  • Short video interviews of happy clients;
  • Blurbs for industry thought leaders approving of you;
  • Images portraying business credentials and certifications;
  • Links to positive press coverage;
  • Logos of known business customers who buy and trust your brand.

Final Thought: What’s Next?

There isn’t one guaranteed way to turn a landing page from something full of holes into something perfect. But first, run an audit of your landing page using this list as a guide. Note which errors are there. Next, sort them in order of what takes the least time to fix to what takes the most time to fix.

Then, fix them in that order. We find that getting the quick fixes done builds excitement and momentum, whereas starting with a harder fix can mire down the whole process.

If none of these errors exist on your landing page, congratulations. There’s still lots of work to do on your website and content marketing, but it’s not among these rookie mistakes.

 

Featured image via Pexels.

Source


Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Improving ui-select Control

The ui-select directive to a select and multi-select control with a search feature, I have to say is a control very useful. You can use it with a static list or dynamically getting data from a server.

In this post, I want to show you how to configure and to use ui-select directive to add a paging behavior (NOTA: by default the ui-select directive have no paging functionality).

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Connecting Sequelize To a PostgreSQL Cluster


Prologue

In a previous post, I showed how to automate a PostgreSQL fault-tolerant cluster with Vagrant and Ansible.

This kind of setup makes our database cluster resilient to server failure and keeps the data available with no need for human interaction. But what about the apps using this database? Are they fault-tolerant too?

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Exciting New Tools for Designers, September 2020

It’s fun to see new website design tools that reflect current times and the state of the world. That’s very true this month with new databases devoted to diversity and women in technology, as well and resources to make your design life easier.

Here’s what’s new for designers and developers this month:

Ztext.js

Ztext.js is an easy to implement, three-dimensional typography tool for the web that works with any font you want to use. With the popularity of 3D effects and animation, this tool has a lot of practical applications. Everything you need, including documentation, is available from developer Bennett Feely on his website and GitHub. (It’s free but you can show appreciation with a donation if you like it.)

Gradient Magic

Gradient Magic is a free gallery of fun and interesting CSS gradients. You can sort through a random selection or by category of color to find just the right gradient for your project. Some of them would make really neat backgrounds or image overlays.

Impossible Checkbox

Impossible Checkbox is a fun little divot that you’ll want to play with and emulate. Click or tap the slider to activate and a nifty little friend pops up. Now here’s the fun part: You can’t leave it checked, and take note of the changing expression of the checkbox character.

Diversify Tech

Diversify Tech isn’t your average job board; it is a collection of resources – and opportunities – for underrepresented people in technology. It includes a weekly roundup and everything from scholarships, to events, to jobs, to speaking opportunities.

Women in Tech

Women in Tech is a list of apps made by women. The apps are ranked and chosen based on upvotes and is a good resource if you want to help support women-owned projects. Search or submit an app for inclusion.

Devello Studio

Devello Studio is a tool that allows you to write code in the cloud. You don’t have to install anything and no matter where you are, just can open a project in-browser, and continue development where you had left off last time. Plus, it works with GitHub support built right in.

Hustl

Hustl is a premium Mac app that allows you to create time-lapse videos of your screen. Use it to show off work or projects or create a cool video for your portfolio. Plus you can use it to capture just one active app so you don’t have to do a lot of editing later.

FeedBaxley

FeedBaxley is a user feedback tool that helps you (and users) figure out what’s frustrating before it becomes a real issue. You can customize everything to match your brand and set it up with copy and paste tools. Feedback integrates with Slack, making it easy for you to analyze information with a team.

BestTime

BestTime launched a major update with a new tool that makes it possible to analyze visitor peaks of public business (cafe, gym, etc) for whole areas. Using the heatmap API you can find businesses at popular times, locations, or by business type.

Pixeltrue

Pixeltrue is a new collection of free SVG illustrations and Lottie animations in a trendy style. They are available for commercial and personal use and add a bit of whimsical delight to website projects. (The error illustrations are particularly fun.)

Previewed

Previewed has tons of cool and realistic mockups that you can use to create the perfect setting for digital projects. You can find mockups for a variety of devices and cool panoramas that work perfectly for elements such as app store previews.

Alt Text Overlay Bookmarklet

The Alt Text Overlay Bookmarklet solves a common problem: It shows what images use alt text and what that text is. The tool was created by Christian Heilmann and he’s put it on GitHub for you to play with and test.

MergeURL

MergeURL allows you to merge and shorten up to five links. Enter the links and mergeurl.com/o/xxxxx, for example, will open all the URLs associated with that link. The tool is free to use and you don’t have to register to use the service.

Infinity Search

Infinity Search is a new search engine that lets you look for things privately and efficiently. Search the web, images, or videos. Here’s a little about how it works: “While we retrieve results from other search engines like Bing and Wikipedia, we also have our own indexes of links that are displayed in our search results. We are actively working on improving these indexes and they will only get better.”

Blade UI Kit

Blade UI Kit is a set of renderless components to use in Laravel Blade Views. It’s built for the tall stack and is completely open source. It includes 26 components and you can contribute as well.

Trusted News

Trusted News is a Google Chrome extension that uses AI to assist in evaluating the quality of the online content. In its first release, it scores the objectivity for a selected article, testing whether it is written from a neutral perspective as opposed to a subjective one.

BaseDash

BaseDash allows you to edit production data without coding. You can make changes to the database with the ease of a spreadsheet. This tool makes it easy to find and edit information in a hurry. It works with all major databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Amazon Redshirt, Microsoft SQL Server, and more.

Email2Go

Email2Go is a service that helps you create email templates and test them on dozens of physical devices and applications. It’s free right now while it is in early release.

Iconscout Converter

The Iconscout Converter allows you to convert icons and images from one file format to another for free. Convert SVG, PNG, JPG, and PDF with a single click.

Shape 2

Shape 2 is a massive collection of 5,000+ unique icons and illustrations with a full-blown web editor. Customize colors, stroke width, size and full variations that can export to SVG, PDF, PNG, GIF, and React. This is a premium tool and includes a discounted release price for now.

Aestetico

Aestetico is a beautiful sans serif that includes a massive family with 54 styles. This premium typeface is highly readable and has modern lines and curves that make it a great option for a variety of uses.

Arcades

Arcades is a modern display font with a retro, 1980s-style vibe. It includes regular and italic styles.

Brimington

Brimington is a handwriting style typeface with rough strokes and smooth curves. It includes a set of 227 characters and 219 glyphs in a readable design.

California Signature

California Signature is a typeface duo with a slab serif and handwriting style that are perfectly paired. The thick and thin options provide a yin and yang effect.

Eastblue

Eastblue is a script typeface with long swashes and interesting curves. It includes a solid character set and is free for personal use only.

Source


Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Logging As a Last Resort


Motivation

In software development one often finds themselves investigating issues. Depending on the type of the application, various sources of informations can be available: 

  • screenshots
  • verbal description of the problem
  • metrics
  • logs (application, framework, container, application server, OS, …)
  • thread and heap dumps

In an ideal world, the exact inputs that caused an issue and the code that failed would be immediately available. In a typical case though, it can take hours of digging through logs and code to understand what happened. Would it not be nice to avoid that?

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Editors’ Picks: Summer 2020


Agile 

AI

Big Data

Cloud

Database

DevOps

Integration

  • Mulesoft 4: Continuous Delivery/Deployment With Maven by Ashok S — This article is a great example of what we want every tutorial to look like on DZone. The main aim of this article is to provide a standard mechanism to release project artifacts and deploy to Anypoint Platform, from the local machine or configure in continuous delivery pipelines.
  • Integration With Social Media Platforms Series (Part 1) by Sravan Lingam — This article helps you to build a RESTful API through MuleSoft that integrates with LinkedIn and shares a post on behalf of one’s personal account. I like this article because, in the age of social media, it’s so important for businesses to be connected and integrated!

IoT

Java

Microservices

Open Source

Performance

  • What Is Big O Notation? by Huyen Pham — Aside from a silly name, this article is an example of an in-depth analysis on a little-spoken-about concept. In this article, take a look at a short guide to get to know Big O Notation and its usages.
  • Is Python the Future of Programming? by Shormisthsa Chatterjee — Where is programming going? This article attempts to answer this question in a well-rounded way. The author writes, "Python will be the language of the future. Testers will have to upgrade their skills and learn these languages to tame the AI and ML tools".

Security

Web Dev

  • A Better Way to Learn Python by Manas Dash: There’s so many resources available for learning Python — so many that it’s difficult to find a good and flexible place to start. Check out Manas’ curated list of courses, articles, projects, etc. to get your Python journey started today. 
  • Discovering Rust by Joaquin Caro: I’m a sucker for good Rust content, as there’s still so many gaps in what’s available. Joaquin does a great job of giving readers his perspective of the language’s features in a way that traditional docs just 

Source de l’article sur DZONE

The Service Mesh in the Microservices World

The software industry has come a long journey and throughout this journey, Software Architecture has evolved a lot. Starting with 1-tier (Single-node), 2-tier (Client/ Server), 3-tier, and Distributed are some of the Software Architectural patterns we saw in this journey.

The Problem

The majority of software companies are moving from Monolithic architecture to Microservices architecture, and Microservices architecture is taking over the software industry day-by-day. While monolithic architecture has many benefits, it also has so many shortcomings when catering to modern software development needs. With those shortcomings of monolithic architecture, it is very difficult to meet the demand of the modern-world software requirements and as a result, microservices architecture is taking control of the software development aggressively. The Microservices architecture enables us to deploy our applications more frequently, independently, and reliably meeting modern-day software application development requirements.

Source de l’article sur DZONE

Interview: Redesigning the Empire State Building’s Website

In 2019, to keep pace with an interior redesign of its visitor experience, the Empire State Building decided to redesign its website. Blue Fountain Media were engaged to deliver the project. With the new site launching, we spoke to Head of Design, Tatyana Khamdamova about designing for the world’s most famous building.

Webdesigner Depot: The Empire State Building is probably the most iconic building in America, if not the world. Were there any points at which you thought, “Oh God, this is too much pressure”?

Tatyana Khamdamova: Yes, of course, it was a lot of pressure knowing that people all over the world will be looking at your work. But with the pressure, we also felt excitement and pride that we got to work on such an iconic project. Just thinking that we are doing the site for Empire State Building made us feel proud of all that other work we did during our whole life that gave us the opportunity to be a part of this project.

WD: Blue Fountain Media is a large agency. Did you utilize the whole company, or was there a smaller, dedicated team tasked with creating the site?

TK: On a project like this one, you need the expertise of the team members from all departments in the agency. You want people to work together from the beginning to ensure that their knowledge helps to shape the project and produce the best possible outcome. It’s important for designers and marketers, for example, to be a part of the strategy and UX phase to provide their input which minimizes tunnel vision and generates more ideas. You can only achieve the best results if every single detail from strategy to design to development is done right.

WD: That’s a lot of people to coordinate. Did any roles naturally come to the fore, or is design leadership a quality that varies from person to person?

TK: Some people are natural leaders in their fields. But, sometimes a certain project requires people to take responsibility and show their leadership skills within the team. So I would say that it’s a quality that varies from person to person and doesn’t depend on a role or a title at all.

WD: What were the central aims of the redesign?

TK: ESB’s previous website did not reflect the level of design to match their iconic brand, UX was not user friendly, the content was outdated, and they wanted to grow online individual and group ticket sales. In addition to competing with global and NYC based tourist attractions, ESB was also faced with growing competition in the NYC Observatory market with Top of The Rock, One World Observatory, and Edge at Hudson Yards.

While the building underwent a $165 million renovation, BFM was tasked with creating a best in class website that reclaimed their iconic brand identity while providing an intuitive, and enjoyable user experience for both domestic and international visitors looking to learn about the building, exhibits, and the many ticket experience packages that they offer to visitors.

WD: How do you approach researching a unique project like this?

TK: We went to the source! First, we spoke to visitors of the Empire State Building while they were in line. What was their experience, did they use the website, what made them choose to visit the observatory instead of or in addition to some of the other competing observatories in the city. We then looked at other key tourist towers worldwide to see how they are positioning themselves globally to draw inspiration. We did in-depth stakeholder interviews that included folks working at the building every day and the types of interaction and questions they field from visitors. We conducted surveys of international travelers to understand their motivations and concerns. Finally, we dug into the website itself by testing using various protocols and platforms to understand the visitor paths, what they were able to easily do, and what tasks they may have found challenging. Drawing from all of those insights, we planned and designed the site using an iterative process.

WD: ESB visitors come from all over the world; how did you tackle designing for an international audience?

TK: People across the globe speak different languages, have different cultures and needs. Our goal was to learn about the audience and give them a site that looks and feels like it was created for them. Luckily we were working for the iconic building that is well known internationally and capturing the design aesthetic of the building itself already made the site recognizable across the globe. When working on the project we also were making sure that all users can see the information in their local language when they land on the site and have easy access to the language selector in case they want to change it. When you translate from one language to another the number of words and characters is not always the same. It was important to make sure that the site is designed and developed with an understanding of how the content will be displayed in other languages. With the localization help of our parent company Pactera EDGE we successfully translated the site in several languages and tested it to ensure that it looks right for the local and international audience.

WD: The famous view of the ESB is the external view, but your design feels more in keeping with the experience of the building’s interior. Was that a conscious decision?

TK: It was a conscious decision to create a site that makes you feel like you are visiting the building. Our goal was to make the visitor excited to buy a ticket and see all that beauty with their own eyes. But, if someone doesn’t have an opportunity to come to NY we wanted to make that online experience as close to the real one as possible. We understand that nothing will replace the actual visit to the Empire State Building but we wanted the website to feel real and by using the great photography and amazing Art Deco design elements, we were able to do so.

WD: How did you interpolate such a complex style as Art Deco into a functional site?

TK: Fortunately for us, our office is located a couple blocks away from the building and we had the opportunity to go there and see some of the details. We also had access to the great photos of the renovated hallways, exhibits, and observatory decks, which gave us the idea of how the Art Deco elements were used in the interior design of the building. We all know that interior design and web design have different needs and goals so it was an interesting challenge to design a site that makes you feel like you are inside the building without overwhelming users and that content is easy to read and the ticket purchasing process is simple and clean. We re-created a lot of design elements used on the ceiling, walls, and floor of the building simplified those elements and made them part of the website design. A lot of those elements were used in the background, call to actions, icons, and maps, and combined with the brand colors used in both interior and web designs we were able to give the site the Art Deco look.

WD: There’s been speculation in the design community recently that Art Deco may re-emerge as a trend in the 2020s. Having worked with the style, do you think it could benefit the wider web?

TK: This was a very specific design approach for a very specific project that takes us back to the 1920’s and emphasizes that era through modern twists in web design. I do not see how it can be applied on the web in general unless the client specifically asks for it, for example, architecture website, real estate, or furniture site. Every project is unique and has its own goals and style and there is no one solution that will fit all. As of today, The ESB is Art Deco in a sense and it truly owns that style.

WD: Can you share some details on the technology stack you employed?

TK: The site was built on the Drupal CMS, integrates with Empire’s partner Gateway Ticketing System, and is hosted on Acquia.

WD: Why Drupal? Does it have qualities that suit a project of this scale, or is it simply the case that BFM had the pre-existing expertise of Drupal to facilitate the build?

TK: BFM is a dev-agnostic production team and we always ensure we’re making the best recommendation to our clients. In this case, the previous website was built on Drupal, so in order to decrease the effect of a new platform rollout that would be unfamiliar to the internal ESB teams, we decided to keep the site on the Drupal platform. Luckily, Drupal is an extremely flexible CMS and the needs of the site perfectly align with what Drupal provides.

WD: With visitors from around the world, the range of browsers and devices you had to consider was vastly larger than most projects. Did you draw a line for support? If so, where was it?

TK: BFM constantly updates our list of supported browsers and devices to stay in line with changing technology trends and device usage around the world. We’re extremely lucky that our larger organization, Pactera EDGE, has deep roots in globalization and localization, so we leveraged their team to help us with all aspects of website visitors from the many regions around the world, including translation services and testing. Since this was a complete overhaul, we ensured the baseline standard for all devices was met and will continue to enhance as the future technology needs become apparent.

WD: The Empire State Building gets millions of visits each year, what sort of server resources do you need to throw at it to guarantee uptime?

TK: BFM is a partner of Acquia, and Empire State Building is hosting their new site with them. Acquia is a wonderful ecosystem built specifically for high performing drupal websites and provide many tools for their hosted sites to be able to handle fluctuations in visitors, traffic surges, and with the 24/7 support offered, they can easily manage the changing needs of worldwide visitors.

WD: Now it’s live, how does the new ESB site relate to its real world presence?

TK: The Empire State Building defines the New York City skyline. The world’s most magnificent Art Deco skyscraper, it’s a living piece of New York history and an instantly recognizable symbol of city culture today. The old site did not reflect the amazing interior and exterior design of the building and we had a chance to showcase the redesigned interior and bring more attention to the beautiful Art Deco design elements. We wanted to create the site to make you feel like you are visiting the building. By showcasing the exhibits, renovated halls, and observatories through compelling photography and architectural details, our goal is to make the visitor excited to buy a ticket and see all that beauty with their own eyes.

We’d like to thank Tatyana for taking the time out of her day to talk to us.

Source


Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

17 Tools I Can’t Design Without

I think of a creative practice as a combination of an approach (a design philosophy) and a series of techniques (craft skills); a good tool facilitates a technique, which in turn supports an approach.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write a list of tools I can’t design without, that I realized just how many tools I rely on as an integral part of my creative process. The danger of tools is that they promote certain techniques, and that bias can alter your approach.

First and foremost a good tool does no harm, it does not dictate, or obstruct your approach. Secondly, a good tool offers flexibility in the techniques you choose. Thirdly a good tool is invisible, it leaves no marks on the end product.

If I’d written this post a year ago the list would have been different, and I hope that in a year it will be different again. These are the tools that I currently find enabling, that have contributed to my craft, and supported my approach.

Affinity Designer

I’ve always used Adobe products. Photoshop and Illustrator were the de facto graphic tools for half my life. I’ve never had an issue with the subscription licensing of Creative Cloud, which I think is proportionate for a professional set of tools. Then, around 18 months ago I got very frustrated with how sluggish Illustrator had become.

I’d written an early review of Affinity Designer, I’d been impressed at the time, so I decided to give it another try expecting the sojourn to last an hour or two before I gravitated back to Illustrator. Running the latest version of Affinity Designer was a revelation, I’ve simply never wanted to switch back.

Why not Sketch? Well, I do occasionally jump into Sketch, especially for pure vector wireframing. I was an early adopter of Sketch, but the reliability issues (long since resolved) poisoned my relationship with it. Why not Figma? Well, Figma’s real strength is in collaboration, something that I get with Sketch, and personally I find some of Figma’s features unintuitive.

Affinity Designer isn‘t perfect. I dislike the color tools, especially the gradient tool, which I find clunky. But it’s the first design app I’ve used in years that syncs closely with my creative process.

Affinity Photo

I don’t do a lot of photo manipulation, so when I switched away from Creative Cloud for design work, I was relaxed about switching from Photoshop to Affinity Photo.

In my experience, Affinity Photo is stronger than Photoshop in some areas, and weaker in others. Affinity Photo’s bitmap scaling is much better than Photoshop’s, largely due to Lanczos 3 sampling.

Affinity Photo also solves a lot of little irritations that Adobe has chosen not to address for legacy or philosophical reasons, such as the toggleable ratio setting when resizing the canvas — I’ve lost track of the hours I’ve spent in Photoshop manually calculating vertical whitespace so that it’s proportionate to the horizontal.

TinyPng

Both Affinity Photo and Photoshop are poor at web format optimizations. Photoshop perhaps has the edge, but its output certainly isn’t acceptable for production.

I run bitmaps through TinyPng, which on average halves the size of the file without any appreciable loss of quality. (It stripped 66% off the images for this post.)

Fontstand

When I started to drift away from Creative Cloud, the one service that delayed me was Adobe Fonts (née Typekit). Not so much for the webfonts — which are faster and more reliable self-hosted — but for the ability to sync desktop fonts into my design apps.

I tried Fontstand when it was first released, and I loved the concept, but was worried about the small library. When I took a second look and discovered the library is now substantial for both workhorses and experimental typefaces, it was an easy decision to switch.

Fontstand is a desktop font rental service. Once you’ve found a typeface you’re interested in, you can activate an hour-long trial, then choose to rent the font for a small fee. You can auto-renew the rental if you need to, and if you rent the font for 12 months it’s yours forever.

If there’s one tool on this list I genuinely could not design without it’s this one. Fontstand makes working with fonts from independent foundries affordable for freelancers, and it’s enriched the typographic palette available to me.

Khroma

Every designer has strengths and weaknesses. Since day one of art school, my weakness has been color. It just doesn’t come naturally to me, and I have to work quite hard at it.

An incredibly helpful tool that I’ve been using for a few months is Khroma. It helps my eyes warm up before approaching color, and helps me find a starting point that I can then refine. Comparing my design work before, and after Khroma, the latter color choices are cleaner, more vibrant, and more interesting.

Atom

A good code editor is essential, and I’ve never found one that I’m completely happy with. For years I’ve flitted back and forth between Brackets, Sublime Text, and BBEdit. I think that probably reflects the changes in the type of coding I’m doing.

For now, I’ve settled on Atom. It’s fast, reliable, and it’s not biased to front or back-end code.

CodeKit

I held out on compilers longer than I should have, using apps like Minify to minify CSS and JavaScript, and the command line to process Sass (see below). Then I found CodeKit and it’s been essential to my workflow ever since.

What I like best about CodeKit is that it’s a GUI. Which means I can change settings while coding, like toggling off the JavaScript linting, without switching mental gears into another language.

MAMP

MAMP is a tool that allows you to run a local server environment, meaning I can run PHP and MySQL without the tedious process of FTPing to a server to test a change. Mac comes with Apache, so this isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s simple to use and works well with both CodeKit and Craft (see below).

There’s a pro version of MAMP, which allows you to switch seamlessly between projects, but it’s heavily geared towards WordPress. I’m still trying to find the time to evaluate Laravel Valet.

Dash

When you first start coding you try and memorize the entire language. It’s very possible to become fluent in the core of a language, but there are always nuances, defaults, and gotchas that you miss. As you grow more experienced, you realize that all professional coders Google the answer at least once per day.

When I got tired of Googling I started using Dash which is a superb app that combines the docs of numerous different languages into a searchable window. I use it daily for everything from SVG to Twig.

LambdaTest

It doesn’t really matter what you’re building, even the indy-web needs to be tested. Ideally you’ll test on real devices, but if you can’t afford a device library — and who but the largest agencies can — you need a live testing solution.

There are a few upstarts, but your choice is basically between BrowserStack and LambdaTest. I went for LambdaTest because I prefer the style of the UI, but that’s entirely subjective. If you’re not sure, toss a coin, you’ll get the same results with both.

Sass

I can’t write CSS without Sass — and I mean that literally. If I try and write vanilla CSS I guarantee I’ll nest something with @at-root and it will throw an error.

Craft CMS

Stating any preference for a CMS online that is not WordPress inevitably invites impassioned protests from developers whose career is built on the WordPress platform. So let me say preface this by saying: if WordPress works for you, and more importantly for your clients, then more power to you; I think it’s a dog.

Shopping around for a CMS is challenging, and I’ve gone through the process several times. A good CMS needs to be in sync with your mindset, and it needs to be appropriate for your clients — all of them, because unless you’re in a large agency with multiple coders, you need to commit to a single solution in order to master it.

I have looked and looked, and finally settled on Craft CMS. Craft makes it easy to build and maintain complex, high-performance sites. It has a shallow learning curve that grows exponentially steeper, making it easy to get started with plenty of room to grow.

Vue.js

Way back when Flash went kaput I switched to jQuery, and that was a really easy route into JavaScript — ignore the people who tell you to master the core language first, do whatever it takes to start using a language, that’s how you learn. But jQuery is heavy, and I found I needed it less and less.

These days 90% of the JavaScript I write is progressive enhancements in vanilla JavaScript to keep the dependencies low. Occasionally I encounter a job that requires complex state management, and then I fall back on Vue.js. JavaScript developers are as partisan as CMS aficionados, so let’s just say I favor Vue.js because it’s not controlled by a mega-corp and leave it at that.

Ulysses

As editor at WDD, I cannot emphasize enough that the right way to write copy for the web is markdown.

Markdown is faster to write so you don’t lose the thread of your thought process, and it doesn’t impose formatting so you can easily migrate to a CMS. If you’ve ever spent 20 minutes stripping the class, id, and style tags out of a file created in Word, Pages, or (by far the worst offender) Google Docs, then you don’t need to be sold on this point.

There are a few markdown-based writing apps available, I tested half a dozen, and the one I settled on was Ulysses. I like its distraction-free mode, I love its clean exports. Everything I write, I write in Ulysses.

Screenshot Plus

Much like markdown editors, there’s no shortage of screenshot apps. My current favorite is Screenshot Plus.

Screenshot Plus has one feature that makes it standout for me, and that is its Workflows. It sounds like a small problem, but when you’re taking screenshots of a dozen sites, the extra clicks to save, switch to your editor, and open the file are laborious. I have several workflows setup in Screenshot Plus that allow me to take a screenshot, save it to a specified folder on my local machine, and then open it in Affinity Photo, all with a single click.

Spark

I get a lot of email, a lot. At one point the influx was so bad I was using multiple email apps to segment it. Yes, I use Slack daily, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for email.

I‘ve been using Spark for around six months and it’s radically sped up my workflow. I’m a big fan of the smart inbox that allows me to compartmentalize email like newsletters, and email that warrants a reply. I like that I can switch to a chronological list if I’m looking for something specific. I love the ability to pin, or snooze messages, which helps me triage my inbox.

Todoist

I’m one of those people who can’t make it through the day without being organized. I need lists and sublists, and I need something native that opens automatically when I boot my Mac, and something that sits on the home screen of my Android.

There are as many to-do apps as there are things to do. When I’m working in a team I’ll use whichever task-tracking system it prefers. But by choice I always use Todoist thanks to its balance of simplicity and power. At this point it’s something of a meta-tool, and the app I open first every morning.

Source


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