Jeremy KeithMaking websites. Writing books. Hosting a podcast. Speaking at events. Living in Brighton. Working at Clearleft. Playing music. Taking photos. Answering email.
Journal 2876 Links 9508 Articles 81 Notes 6402
Thursday, May 26th, 2022
dConstruct 2022 is happening!
No, really, for real this time.
We had plans to do a one-off dConstruct anniversary event in 2020. It would’ve been five years since the event ran its ten year course from 2005 to 2015.
We all know what happened next. Not only was there no dConstruct in 2020, there were no live events at all. So we postponed the event. 2021 was slightly better than 2020 for live events, but still not safe enough for us.
Now, finally, the fifteenth anniversary edition of dConstruct is happening, um, on the seventeeth anniversary of dConstruct.
It’s all very confusing, I know. But this is the important bit:
dConstruct 2022 is happening on Friday, September 9th in the Duke of York’s picture house in Brighton.
Or, at least some tickets are available now. Quite a lot of eager folks bought tickets when the 2020 event was announced and those tickets are still good for this 2022 event …which is the 2020 event, but postponed by two years.
I’m currently putting the line-up together. I’m not revealing anything just yet, but trust me, you will want to be there.
If you haven’t been to a dConstruct event before, it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s not a practical hands-on conference where you learn design or development skills. It’s brain food. It’s about technology, culutre, design, society, the future …well, like I said, it’s kind of hard to describe. Have a poke around the dConstruct archive and listen to the audio from previous talks to get some idea of what might be in store.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2022
I made the website for this year’s UX London by hand.
So it’s minium viable static site generation rather than actual static files. It’s still very hands-on though and I enjoy that a lot; editing HTML and CSS directly without intermediary tools.
When I update the site, it’s usually to add a new speaker to the line-up (well, not any more now that the line up is complete). That involves marking up their bio and talk description. I also create a couple of different sized versions of their headshot to use with
srcset. And of course I write an
alt attribute to accompany that image.
By the way, Jake has an excellent article on writing
alt text that uses the specific example of a conference site. It raises some very thought-provoking questions.
I enjoy writing
alt text. I recently described how I updated my posting interface here on my own site to put a
alt text front and centre for my notes with photos. Since then I’ve been enjoying the creative challenge of writing useful—but also evocative—
Some recent examples:
- Time to go play some songs with @SalterCane.
A close-up of a microphone in a practice room. In the background, a guitar player tunes up and a bass player waits to start.
- Brighton in the sun.
People sitting around in the dappled sunshine on the green grass in a park with the distinctive Indian-inspired architecture of the Brighton Pavilion in the background, all under a clear blue sky.
- Duck leg on white beans with sage, garlic, rosemary and olives.
Looking down on the crispy browned duck leg contrasting with the white beans, all with pieces of green fried herbs scattered throughout.
But when I was writing the
alt text for the headshots on the UX London site, I started to feel a little disheartened. The more speakers were added to the line-up, the more I felt like I was repeating myself with the
alt text. After a while they all seemed to be some variation on “This person looking at the camera, smiling” with maybe some detail on their hair or clothing.
- Videha Sharma
The beaming bearded face of Videha standing in front of the beautiful landscape of a riverbank.
- Candi Williams
Candi working on her laptop, looking at the camera with a smile.
- Emma Parnell
Emma smiling against a yellow background. She’s wearing glasses and has long straight hair.
- John Bevan
A monochrome portrait of John with a wry smile on his face, wearing a black turtleneck in the clichéd design tradition.
- Laura Yarrow
Laura smiling, wearing a chartreuse coloured top.
- Adekunle Oduye
A profile shot of Adekunle wearing a jacket and baseball cap standing outside.
The more speakers were added to the line-up, the harder I found it not to repeat myself. I wondered if this was all going to sound very same-y to anyone hearing them read aloud.
But then I realised, “Wait …these are kind of same-y images.”
By the very nature of the images—headshots of speakers—there wasn’t ever going to be that much visual variation. The experience of a sighted person looking at a page full of speakers is that after a while the images kind of blend together. So if the
alt text also starts to sound a bit repetitive after a while, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. A screen reader user would be getting an equivalent experience.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to have the same
alt text for each image—they are all still different. But after I had that realisation I stopped being too hard on myself if I couldn’t come up with a completely new and original way to write the
And, I remind myself, writing
alt text is like any other kind of writing. The more you do it, the better you get.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2022
Pace layers and design principles
I think it was Jason who once told me that if you want to make someone’s life a misery, teach them about typography. After that they’ll be doomed to notice all the terrible type choices and kerning out there in the world. They won’t be able to unsee it. It’s like trying to unsee the arrow in the FedEx logo.
I think that Stewart Brand’s pace layers model is a similar kind of mind virus, albeit milder. Once you’ve been exposed to it, you start seeing in it in all kinds of systems.
Each layer is functionally different from the others and operates somewhat independently, but each layer influences and responds to the layers closest to it in a way that makes the whole system resilient.
Last month I sent out an edition of the Clearleft newsletter that was all about pace layers. I gathered together examples of people who have been infected with the pace-layer mindworm who were applying the same layered thinking to other areas:
- Rich applied pace layers to career paths,
- Mark applied pace layers to the design process, and
- Jorge Arango applied pace layers to reading.
Recently I had another flare-up of the pace-layer pattern-matching infection.
I was talking to some visiting Austrian students on the weekend about design principles. I explained my mild obsession with design principles stemming from the fact that they sit between “purpose” (or values) and “patterns” (the actual outputs):
Purpose » Principles » Patterns
Your purpose is “why?”
That then influences your principles, “how?”
Those principles inform your patterns, “what?”
Hey, wait a minute! If you put that list in reverse order it looks an awful lot like the pace-layers model with the slowest moving layer at the bottom and the fastest moving layer at the top. Perhaps there’s even room for an additional layer when patterns go into production:
Your purpose should rarely—if ever—change. Your principles can change, but not too frequently. Your patterns need to change quite often. And what you’re actually putting out into production should be constantly updated.
As you travel from the most abstract layer—“purpose”—to the most concrete layer—“production”—the pace of change increases.
I can’t tell if I’m onto something here or if I’m just being apopheniac. Again.
Mark Simonson goes into the details of his lovely new typeface Proxima Sera.
The complete line-up for UX London
The line-up for UX London is now complete!
Two thematically-linked talks have been added to day one. Emma Parnell will be talking about the work she did with NHS Digital on the booking service for Covid-19 vaccinations. Videha Sharma—an NHS surgeon!—will be talking about co-designing and prototyping in healthcare.
There’s a bunch of new additions to day three. Amir Ansari will be talking about design systems in an enterprise setting and there’ll be two different workshops on design systems from John Bevan and Julia Belling.
But don’t worry; if design systems aren’t your jam, you’ve got options. Also on day three, Alastair Somerville will be getting tactile in his workshop on sensory UX. And Trenton Moss will be sharing his mind-control tricks in his workshop, “How to sell in your work to anyone.”
And don’t forget, you get quite a discount when you buy five or more tickets at a time so bring the whole team. UX London should be your off-site.
Heard the sad news of Cathal Coughlan’s passing.
I’ll be spending the rest of the day revisiting a mispent youth moshing at Fatima Mansions gigs in Cork.
When the daily parade of the troubles you made gets you down, just consider the fate of the wide open space from town to town.
Monday, May 23rd, 2022
I’ve got the same hunch as Nolan:
There’s a feeling in the air. A zeitgeist. SPAs are no longer the cool kids they once were 10 years ago.
And I think he’s right to frame the appeal of single page apps in terms of control (even if that control comes at the expense of performance and first-load user experience).
Sunday, May 22nd, 2022
There was a week recently where I was out and about nearly every night.
One night, Jessica and I went to the cinema. There was a double bill of Alien and Aliens in the beautiful Duke of York’s picture house. We booked one of the comfy sofas on the balcony.
The next night we were out at the session in The Jolly Brewer, playing trad Irish tunes all evening. Bliss!
It really felt like The Before Times. Of course in reality it wasn’t quite like old times. There’s always an awareness of relative risk. How crowded is the cinema likely to be? Will they have the doors open at The Jolly Brewer to improve the airflow? Will people at the Low gig comply with the band’s request to wear masks?
Still, in each case, I weighed the risk and decided the evening was worth it. If I caught Covid because of that cinematic double bill, or that tune-filled gathering, or that excellent gig, that price would be acceptable.
Mind you, I say that without having experienced the horribleness of having a nasty bout of coronavirus. And the prospect of long Covid is genuinely scary.
But there’s no doubt that the vaccines have changed the equation. There’s still plenty of risk but it’s on a different scale. The Situation isn’t over, but it has ratcheted down a notch to something more manageable.
Now with the weather starting to get nice, there’ll be more opportunities for safer outdoor gatherings. I’m here for it.
Actually, I’m not going to literally be here for all of it. I’m making travel plans to go and speak at European events—another positive signal of the changing situation. Soon I’ll be boarding the Eurostar to head to Amsterdam, and not long after I’ll be on the Eurostar again for a trip to Lille. And then of course there’s UX London at the end of June. With each gathering, there’s an inevitable sense of calculated risk, but there’s also a welcome sense of normality seeping back in.
Trial, Triumph, and the Art of the Possible: The Remarkable Story Behind Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – The Marginalian
An ode to an ode. Both of them beautiful.
Wednesday, May 18th, 2022
BREAKING: Elon Musk to tell Twitter that in order to close this deal, they must first “Bring me a shrubbery!”