The Wilson Project
Blog of Front-End Developer/UX Engineer Ivan Wilson

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  • The Secret Life of Forms

    CSS Dev Conference 2016 - San Antonio, Texas

    Slides – http://www.slideshare.net/IvanWilson3/the-secret-life-of-form-67435952
    Lecture – https://cssdevconf2016.sched.com/event/7Q0d/the-secret-life-of-forms-secretforms

    One of the highlights of the year was lecturing for the first time at a conference. In this case, CSS Dev Conference at San Antonio, TX. Basically, I decided to take some advice and take a chance. After sending my proposal, I was shocked and thrilled to be selected via anonymous vote in July.

    Of course, getting the talk ready was even harder than the waiting. It took months of writing and editing and practice. But I was able to get it together and delivered it a small audience at the conference on October 17, 2016. This talk was about UX, coding, and forms. However, it was peppered with things that I’ve done during the last ten years.

    I also want to thank the other speakers at the conference in helping me not only relax but also giving me advice for speaking not just for the first time but also their experiences in giving lectures as well.

    And finally, I want to thank Christopher Schmitt, Ari Stiles, and Elizabeth Moore in helping me make my first-time experience as a lecturer a wonderful and memorable one. It means so much when for years I was attendee, to be not only speaking but giving back to the community that I respect.

    Thank you all 🙂

    Lecture - The Secret Life of Forms, left - notebook, right - presenter pass

  • Innate’s spotlight on Olympic Fencing

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog, edited by Hilary Finkelstein)

    Ivan Wilson, who is one of Innate’s front end developers, has been a competitive fencer for over 17 years! Ivan, who began his career in college, currently belongs to Olde Town Fencing club in Alexandria, Virginia and DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring, Maryland. As a epee fencer, he has participated in numerous local, regional and national tournaments. He is currently active in numerous competitions on various levels/groups, including Vet-40. Ivan’s years of experience and expertise gives us some insight on what to expect from Team USA in this summers upcoming Olympics.

    Who to look out for in Rio Olympics in fencing for the US

    Fencing has been in the Olympics since the very first games in 1896. Americans have been making up for lost time, ever since Zagunis and Jacobson medaled in 2004 (gold and bronze in women’s sabre).. As a nation, we’ve won medals in fencing in the last three Olympiads, the most in 2008 Bejing with 6 medals.

    At Rio, there are a few favorites among the US team who not only could place well but also get medals. But fencing is known for being unpredictable, and surprises do occur. The familar saying,“The best fencer on the day“ can hold true, especially in an event such as the Olympics.

    Amidst all this, can we continue this brief medal streak? Let‘s take a look.

    Women’s Épée

    Individual – 8/6

    Team – 8/11

    Team – Kelly Hurley, Courtney Hurley, Katerine Holmes, Katarzyna Trzopek (alternate, team event only)

    In London 2012, the women’s team beat Russia to win the bronze medal. Half of that team, the multi-Olympian Hurley sisters, are back with two new fencers. One of them, Katerine Holmes, is a native of this area. The team is currently rated #7 in the world and are a dark horse for a bronze medal. They will have to deal with some strong teams such as Russia, China (world/defending Olympic champions and current world #1), Romania, Korea, and Estonia (who recently won the Europeans).

    Same for individual event, with anyone of the three being dark horse favorites.

    That said, épée (men‘s or women’s) is one of the more unpredictable events, where some one unexpected could make a run.

     

    Men’s Foil

    Individual – 8/7

    Team – 8/12

    Team – Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt, Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden (alternate, team event only)

    Besides the woman’s sabre team, this is considered one of the favorites to medal at these games. This quartet won a silver medal at the 2013 championships and are the world #2 team behind the Italians (the current world/Olympic champions). The team itself is a set of highly decorated individuals. Massialas is currently world #1 and silver medalist at last year’s world championship. He recently won his second event of the year, Shanghai Grand Prix in June and followed with a Pan-American title last month. Meinhardt won his second career world bronze medal behind Massialas last year and currently world #4 foilist. The #3 fencer on the US team, Chamely-Watson, was 2013 World Champion – the first American individual men’s title in the senior championships. The alternate, Imboden, was last year’s world #1 and won Paris World Cup (repeating from last year) and bronze in Havana Grand Prix this year.

    For the individual – Massialas is currently the hot fencer and one of the favorites to win or at least medal in these games. Meinhardt is consistently a top finisher and could get in for a medal as well. If Chamley-Watson is in the same form as he was in 2013, a medal is also possible.

    As for the team – everyone is waiting for the (no pun intended) spaghetti western showdown between the Italians (current World and Olympic champions) and the Americans (winners of two of four team events during the year at Tokyo and Paris). Either one could take the gold medal. Of course, there are other teams like Russia (European champions, world #3), France, China, and the upstart Brits that could be roadblocks.

     

    Women’s Sabre

    Individual – 8/8

    Team – 8/13

    Team – Mariel Zagunis, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Dagmara Wozniak, Monica Aksamit (alternate, team event only)

    Headed by twice-gold medalist Zagunis, this team has been the most consistent – winning medals at the last four world championships, grabbing the title in 2014. Both Zagnuis and Wozniak are both returning Olympians (fourth for Zagunis, second for Wozniak) with the other two making their first appearances. Expected to get the bronze again but would like to have an upgrade. Currently world #4 team, they are competing against France, Ukraine (headed by world #2 and London bronze medalist Olag Kharlan), and Russia (headed by current world champion, world #1 and London silver medalist Sofia Velikaya).

    As for the individual, Zagunis is one of the favorites again – #3 in rankings and recently won a medal at Moscow Grand Prix (silver) and title at Athens World Cup. She was disappointed in London (4th place) but still a medal favorite along with Velikaya and Kharlan. Muhammad has had a good season as well – bronzes at Athens and Orleans World Cups and Pan-American title last month. If she fences well, she could be in the medals.

     

    Men’s Épée

    Individual – 8/9

    Team – 8/14 (no US Team)

    Team – Jason Pryor

    United States did not qualify a team, which meant individual qualification. Pryor worked his way up steadily in the year long qualification, with some top 32 finishes at grand prix events at the right moments (beating the World #1 Grumier at Doha) and medaling in satellite events. Prior to the Games, he recently won silver medal at the recent Pan-American champions.

    He will be the lone American in a tough, mostly European dominated field. Could finish in the top 16. Same statement about women’s épée goes here as well.

     

    Women’s Foil

    Individual – 8/10

    No team event

    Team – Lee Kiefer, Nzingha Prescod

    Both fencers are world medalists – Kiefer in 2011 (bronze) and Prescod in 2015 (bronze). Kiefer has taken the place as the top American foilist with her high #3 ranking and silver medals at the Shanghai and Havana Grand Prix events. She is looking like a medal favorite at this point.

    On both occasions, Kiefer was defeated by Italian Arianna Errigo, current #1 and London silver medalist. Apart from Errigo, the other top rated fencer is Irian Deriglazova from Russia, world #2 and current world champion. Also returning is the defending Olympic champion Italian Elisa Di Francisca.

     

    Men’s Saber

    Individual – 8/10

    No team event

    Team – Daryl Homer, Eli Dershwitz

    Homer won the silver medal at last year’s world champions, the first American sabre medalist at the senior worlds. Dershwitz is fencing is first full year at the senior level, after coming off the junior title. His highlight was winning the Seoul Grand Prix in March.

    Both have a decent shot at medals. They will have to go against a strong field which includes all three medalist from London – champion Szilágyi (Hungary), Occhiuzzi (Italy), Kovalvev (Russia) – as well as world champion/world #1 Yakimenko (Russia), and a duo of Koreans (Kim, Gu) in the top 5.

     

    That’s it for now. Hope all you enjoy the fencing events from Rio

  • Revisiting The Art of Responsive Design

    The Art of Responsive Design

    About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about responsive design. But instead of the usual techniques, I decided to describe it with three terms – Constraints, Content, and Context.

    A year later, these three terms are more relevant than ever, especially Context. I am thinking about re-editing the post for brevity but the main points will remain.

  • 4.26.06

    10 Year Anniversary at CDG/Innate (Business Cards)

    Update: OK, someone found out that I was two days off. Oh well. Still a long time! 🙂

  • The Art of Responsive Design

    (Originally published on CDG Interactive/Innate blog,
    edited by Emma Lehmann, republished December 9th, 2016)

    Header graphic for The Art of Responsive Design - "RWD " in multicolored tunnel

    Image created by Casey Hawes

    Over the past few years, many of you have heard of the term responsive design. Basically, it’s an approach where we build web apps and websites to be usable across a wide range of devices, from mobile phones to laptops.

    But instead of tricks, techniques, and more code (there are plenty of basic responsive design tutorial out there), I want to go in a different direction. Instead of asking ’how do we do this?’, I want to ask ’why do we do this?’.

    Here at Innate, we recently designed our Accessibility Services website with responsive principles. Instead of answering basic questions, we want to delve into the types of problems we encountered that influenced how the design developed, as these are common problems for all responsive sites. It doesn’t matter if it was one person or a company like Innate; when we all build a responsive site, we are solving these problems at every step of the way.

    So, let’s start solving some of these problems.

    Screenshot - Innate Accessibility Site

    The Three ’C’s

    Responsive design is like solving a puzzle. When someone asks me to describe it, I tell them the following three words: constraints, context, and content.

    For brevity, I like to call them the three ’C’s. If I were to give them descriptions:

    • Constraints –the conditions, restrictions, and parameters for the given problem
    • Context – the situations or circumstances in which you have to work on the problem
    • Content – the way in which information is displayed for the given problem

    These three ‘C’s are needed in varying amounts when building a responsive site – sometimes, some more than others. But together these are necessary to solve responsive problems. The better the mix of each piece, the better the product. Each part contributes to the whole product.

    So, how do we use the three ‘C’s?

    Graphic representation of Content, Constraint, and Context

    Image created by Casey Hawes

    Referring to the above graphic, think of Content as water. Constraints as a container. Depending on the amount of content, you will choose the appropriate constraints to display this content. If you have a long article, the viewing on a phone will require more scrolling than that of a wide screen monitor.

    With Context, referring back to the water analogy, our problem can change depending on circumstances or environment. At room temperature, water is liquid. But change the temperature and we get either ice or steam. With design, that means adjusting our design to meet these changes.

    Constraints

    Like all problems, we need constraints to get the best solutions and designs. Finding constraints allow us to make good assumptions about how to solve a problem. Let’s start by making a few right now.

    The most obvious problem in responsive design is conforming to the screen sizes of numerous devices. How do we get a website or app to fit in the screen width of a phone, tablet, and laptop? When we consider the number of devices on the market, we see there is a large range of screen sizes. But by finding constraints, you narrow down the problem, making it manageable.

    What is our minimum screen size? Right now we’re not thinking about smart watches (at least not for the purpose of this demonstration), so let’s stop at mobile phones. Apple has pretty consistent design parameters and the classic iPhone has a minimum of 320 px, which is under the range of recent larger models. This is the stopping point on the small end of our constraints scale.

    On the large end, we are not considering TVs (at least not for the purpose of this demonstration), so we need an upper bounds for desktop monitors or laptops. Right now, 1400 px is a nice place to put an upper-limit constraint.

    Why these numbers? Global stats are a start but the best statistics are a combination of site logs and Google Analytics.

    In addition to the extremes, we have a few other number to consider, such as ones for laptops (1024 px) and iPads (786 px). These aren’t necessarily standard, but they are starting points. During the course of building, you will find out the other two parameters – context and content – will affect the constraints. For example, the footer may not look right somewhere between 320 px and 768 px; if this is the case, a new constraint will need to be added. You can really have as many constraints as you want, but the best motto (and the one with less headaches) is the fewer constraints, the better.

    Constraints are like conditions, though. They don’t need to be screen size; there are others as well, such as orientations (vertical or horizontal), resolution and pixel density, etc. Other constraints could come from areas beyond your own work (product requirements, project specifications, etc.).

    No matter which constraints you are dealing with, they can be influenced by context and content. Let’s look at how this works.

    Learn how to adapt to different screen sizes from this informative Intel tutorial:

    Context

    As you’ve seen, constraints can help define a problem and lead to a solution, but context informs these constraints. Oxford Dictionary defines ‘content’ as:

    The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

    For example, taking one device (a tablet), we can drill down in the Analytics data to discover Insights that drive content in learning lessons such as : 1) when users read tablets depends on the time of day at home or work, 2) tablet users are using their device in landscape instead of portrait mode or 3) whether the devices used for certain tasks are Android or Apple, and screen size/viewport.

    But more than just statistics, it comes down to research and observation. Taking a device (there are device labs you can check out) and learning about how it handles and comparing with other devices. The experience gained influences how we design/build responsive sites and apps.

    Why does this matter? By using context, we can refine our solution and design to better fit a solution to the problem we need to solve. As a consequence, context will define each of our constraints to accommodate user behavior.

    Yes, it feels time-consuming, but it’s worth it to create a great user experience. There is still a third element that must be considered, though: content.

    Content

    At its simplest, content it the stuff that’s on the page. However, with the ever-changing layouts from responsive design, content must become more sophisticated.

    In thinking about content, we have to remind ourselves that the core concept of the Web is information.

    With the advent of responsive design, we now have a process where we can create websites and apps that can carry the nearly same information without device constraints. However, constraints and context shapes how we view content. It’s not a matter of just hiding or showing words. It becomes a matter of determining what content has the highest priority.

    With changes in layout and the concept of the fold largely negated, we needed to rethink how we place content on a screen. Or I should say, we need to reconsider old ideas about placing content on a screen.

    NASPGHAN homepage with open navigation

    For example, the non-responsive NASPGHAN site has complex, deep navigation. Mentally, you would think that the code for this would come at the beginning of the page. However, because the navigation is so large, it would take a vast amount of space before the content the user wants to read. In this case, code for the navigation is written at the bottom with its position displayed via CSS at the top. If you were to use a screen reader/non-visual tool, you could get to the content readily but still get to the navigation via skip/anchor links.

    When creating content, keep a mobile-first mantra. Design for the mobile site first and let the constraints of a small environment help select the most important content. Then, as the user gains more real estate or features, give them the extra content. Essentially, just let your constraint and context will be a guide in your content selection.

    Prioritizing content creates a flow of information along the screen which aids in how layouts are structured. This, in turn, allows you to adjust content for better solutions to constraints. When creating content for responsive design, the best practices are:

    1. Prioritization – determining what content gets the highest importance
    2. Distribution – determining which content is important enough to cause readers to scroll down.

    A Collaborative Art

    The most important thing that I hope to stress is that responsive design is not a singular effort. As in the jigsaw puzzle at the beginning of this blog post, each project is a combination of the three ‘C’s. A little more content in this project, a little more context in the other. Responsive design is a process that involves many processes and, in some cases, many people to bring it together.