Chew Your Cud

Last week, Mark and I were talking about our recent and upcoming vacations. Specifically, about how refreshing it is to unplug from responsibilities and technology. It reminded me of one day recently when my iPhone's battery died in the middle of the afternoon and I was forced to go without my typical distractions for a full four hours (gasp!). It was the most mentally productive four hours I've had in a while and here's why.

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The Mathematical Advantage of a 16px Base Font Size

TL:DR; Start using 16px as your base font and use ems to size everything based off of that, and you'll be a far happier person.

If you’re as meticulous a developer as I am, you’ll appreciate what I’m talking about today. If your development style is more along the lines of “Ehhh … that looks about right” you’re going to think that I’m out of my ever-loving mind.

The problem is simple. When cutting up a design, I check it to make sure that I’m getting all the font sizes correct. Since Photoshop has an annoying habit of setting font sizes to figures like 18.39px, I round to the nearest even number.

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Add A Custom WordPress Admin Contextual Help Menu To Your Plugin Or Theme

If you are familiar with the WordPress admin, you probably noticed the “Help” tab at the top right of nearly every screen. Clicking this little gem reveals a series of helpful topics related to the current page. For example, on the Dashboard, the tab offers an overview of what’s currently displayed, how to navigate the admin in general and what the different boxes on the screen do. This information is invaluable to a new user of WordPress and stays politely out of the way for the more experienced.

Wouldn’t it be neat if your plugin admin or custom post type screens implemented their own help tabs? Of course it would! And it’s rather simple too. Let’s jump in with a simple implementation! If you’re antsy and just want to skip ahead, check out the gist. Continue Reading

How to Report a Bug to a Web Developer

I'd like to run through some helpful recommendations about reporting website issues to developers. By following these suggestions you can speed up the time it takes for any problems to be resolved.

There is a common, though citation-less, expression that many developers are quite familiar with, and it goes something like this: 20 percent  of my time is spent writing the code, the other 80 percent is spent debugging it. Depending on where you look, I would argue that it varies widely, but the fact still stands: debugging is a major portion of the development process, and it doesn’t end when a site goes live, either.  

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Super Sleuth Your Message and Brand

Standing out from your competition is the goal. And to be as effective as possible, your message matters. You want to develop a relevant and targeted message, and that takes thought, introspection and research.

Unfortunately, the research component, which is arguably the most significant, is often omitted when developing a message.  And it’s understandable.  This portion of the process takes time, commitment at multiple levels, and sometimes dollars — difficult things to find for most of us.  But, turning the magnifying glass inward and taking a hard and realistic look at how your business is viewed by internal and external audiences, what elevates it above its rivals, and where there are opportunities for improvement is essential.

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The least gross illustration we could come up with.

Why Some Logos Make My Eyes Throw Up

I’m sorry (and I hope you’re not reading this before a meal). But it’s one of my "go-to" expressions whenever I see a logo design that nauseates my optic nerves. If only Pepto-Bismol made eye drops for:

The Pupil Barf

The type chosen for the name is inappropriate for the nature of the company, product or place. For example, choosing a fancy script for a steel manufacturer or a builder.
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Learn To Make an Effective Landing Page

Landing pages are an important part of most online marketing campaigns. They are pages designed to present users with information relevant to the ad that brought them to your site and then convert them into a lead/signup/sale.

If your company sells construction equipment, for example, and you are running ads about bulldozers, you don’t want to just send users to your home page. Ideally you’ll want to send them to a landing page that discusses bulldozers specifically. Perhaps include a video of a bulldozer bursting through a house (OK, may be that’s not a good idea, but it would totally work on me). When creating a landing page keep the following in mind:

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Why a drawbridge, you ask? Well, 1) images of margins are incredibly boring, and 2) it's better to go up than down.

Spacing The Top of Modules

Chris Coyier pointed out a problem that a lot of us in the web community experience but few of us probably notice: Spacing the Bottom of Modules or, rather, dealing with too much space at the bottom of a content module.

While Chris uses margin-bottom and :last-child to get rid of excess space at the bottom of a module, I think using margin-top and :first-child (if you need it) might be a better approach. Here’s a Fork of Chris’ original Codepen example.

Like commenter Allan said on the CSS-Tricks post, you generally know what’s going to be at the top of a module, and it’s a lot easier to plan for what comes first rather than what comes last.  And if you do need to make specific changes to the first item in a module, :first-child has support back to IE7, while last-child isn’t even supported in IE8.

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Pirates being pirates

Don't Be Afraid to Layout with (CSS) Tables

Tables are the black sheep of HTML. Overused and misused for years, they were finally corralled into orderly pens by the CSS lords in their blue beanies, with only numbers and charts to keep them company. While I'm not suggesting we let them run wild again, I do think their purpose can be broader, if you're willing to bend the definition a bit.

If your first reaction to that is, indignantly, “No! Use flexbox!” I’m gonna stop you right there. Unlike lots of bloggers and dreamers out there, we have to make our sites look great in IE 8 and sometimes IE 7 (don’t get me started) every day. So unfortunately, new technologies (that determine major layout) are relegated to playground status, and we are left using the least common denominator. Continue Reading

A shave in the royal Navy

Creativity is Subtraction

When you add another cluttered piece of creative to an already cluttered media environment, you’re making a pretty common communications mistake. It’s called blending in. Which, last time I checked, is not a metric most marketing folks would gleefully present at the quarterly board meeting.

Next time, subtract. Then subtract some more. Finally, when you think you’ve subtracted all you can, subtract even more.

Subtract words. Subtract design elements. Ask yourself: What’s necessary? What’s not? What elements can be combined? What information is redundant? What can you spill onto your landing page instead of trying to cram it into a quarter-page newspaper ad? Be brutal about editing your work and you’ll become a better communicator. Continue Reading