Archive for September, 2014

HTML5: Pointer Lock API Lets You Hide the Mouse Pointer From View

September 30th, 2014 No comments

Browsers are on the way to becoming full-fledged gaming platforms. Thanks to HTML5 and JavaScript developing complex applications is still loads of work, but possible. Quite a few game concepts don’t rely on visible mouse pointers, though. Especially while controlling an app keyboard-based, a visible mouse pointer can get annoying. Use the new Pointer Lock API to simply hide it as necessary.

Categories: Others Tags:

“There Are More Bugs In Mobile Than… Particles In The Universe!”

September 30th, 2014 No comments
Mobile Web Handbook, a new Smashing Book by Peter-Paul Koch

Mobile is a difficult, unpredictable beast. If you run into technical problems in mobile, then you’ll know how annoying fixing them can be. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Peter-Paul Koch to create The Mobile Web Handbook, our practical new guide to dealing with front-end challenges in mobile. The book is finally ready and is now shipping worldwide. It’s available in print and as an eBook.1



Print + eBook213Printed, gorgeous hardcover


eBook4PDF, ePUB, Amazon Kindle

About The Book

We have all been there. Whether you are developing a responsive website or an app or just dealing with WebViews, you always end up running into annoying technical problems that all of those quirky (and not so quirky) mobile browsers throw up so very often. Weird browser bugs, inconsistent CSS and JavaScript support, performance issues, mobile fragmentation and complicated nuances such as device pixels, viewports, zooming, touch event cascade, pointer and click events and the 300-millisecond delay. No, mobile isn’t actually dark matter, but it does require you to learn a few new things, some of which are quite confusing.

A look inside the book, with a draft by Stephen Hay (View large version6)

The Mobile Web Handbook will help you to make sense of it all. It’s a practical new guide, written by Peter-Paul Koch and published by yours truly, to help you tackle common front-end challenges in mobile effectively. Featuring data from recent research findings, the book shows the intricacies of mobile, with its common problems and workarounds, and it delivers what it promises: real-world, practical guidelines for mobile — unique and extremely useful.

Sample PDF7
Download a sample chapter (PDF)8, typeset in the beautiful Elena typeface.

The book will be useful to mobile strategists, developers, designers and anyone who wants to better understand the intricacies of mobile — on both the technical and market ends. Whether you want to get a better picture of mobile or dive deep into common browser bugs, this is the book to read. And if you pre-ordered it already, of course the book has shipped to you already.

232 pages. Written by Peter-Paul Koch. Reviewed by Stephanie and Bryan Rieger. Designed by Stephen Hay. Shipping now worldwide. Available in print and as an eBook.9

Download Free Sample Chapter (PDF)

We’ve prepared a sample chapter PDF10, to give you some insights into how the book looks like. The chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the browser market, worldwide market shares and ongoing developments—and a few browser stats. Happy reading!

New Smashing Book, “Mobile Web Handbook”, is now ready, and shipping. Large view.12

Why This Book Is For You

Developing websites for mobile is pretty much the same as it has always been, but it does require you to learn a few new things, some of which are quite confusing. In The Mobile Web Handbook, you’ll learn the following:

  1. Make sense of the mobile value chain of operators and of device and OS vendors.
  2. Distinguish between different mobile and proxy browsers, and learn about ongoing browser developments.
  3. See through the complicated browser situation on Android devices.
  4. Understand CSS pixels, physical pixels and device pixels.
  5. Make sense of the layout viewport, visual viewport and ideal viewport.
  6. Figure out how zooming works and why page zoom is different than pinch zoom.
  7. Learn the intricacies of the meta viewport and related CSS and JavaScript properties.
  8. Know how to deal with the technical issues of touch events in JavaScript.
  9. Understand the touch event cascade and its bugs.
  10. Handle the 300-millisecond delay, pointer events and the click event.
  11. Fix common bugs caused by position: fixed, overflow: auto and background-attachment.
  12. Set up a device testing lab and test on mobile.
  13. Reconsider outdated development practices.
  14. Adjust your expectations of mobile networks and latency.



eBook14PDF, ePUB, Amazon Kindle

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 The Mobile World

Summary The mobile world is a complicated, highly fragmented environment. The mobile value chain involves operators, device vendors and OS vendors—all having their own interests and goals that shape the device market and complicate things for us, web developers. If you read The Mobile Book15 already, this chapter is a revised and extended version of the chapter. It’s been updated with the latest figures and developments, though, and contains a few new sections.

Keywords operators networks mobile value chain device vendors hardware fragmented market phone’s production cycle global device market OS vendors and sales developer relations identity management payments.

Chapter 2 Browsers

Summary If you’re used to the simple five-browser ecosystem that exists on the desktop, you’re in for a rough surprise in the mobile market. There are 30 mobile browsers, ranging from lousy to great. Besides, there are also proxy browsers, default browsers, downloadable ones, confusing Android ones, and of course WebViews. What do you need to know about prevailing browsers and prevailing platforms? A comprehensive overview of the browser market, worldwide market shares and ongoing developments—and a few browser stats.

Keywords browser ecosystem rendering engines WebKits WebViews Android browsers platforms proxy browsers statistics.

Chapter 3 Android

Summary The most complex part of the mobile world is Android. With Android now spanning about three quarters of the smartphone market, it has a few problems and oddities that are uniquely its own. In this chapter we’ll look at Google’s wishes and actions, the reactions of the device vendors, and the complicated browser situation caused by the gradual replacement of Android WebKit by Chrome.

Keywords differentiation Android updates Android WebKit Chrome.

Chapter 4 Viewports

Summary Mobile devices have far smaller screens than desktop/laptop computers. As a result, browser vendors had to perform some sleight of hand in order to make sure desktop-optimized websites also display decently. They split the viewport, which on desktop means the browser window, into three. What are these viewports and why do we need them? By discussing pixels, viewports, resolutions, the meta viewport, media queries, and related JavaScript events and properties, you’ll gain some insight into how mobile browsers (and web developers) deal with the fundamental problem of the small screen.

Keywords device pixels CSS pixels layout viewport visual viewport ideal viewport zooming page zoom pinch zoom min/max-zoom resolution device-pixel-ratio meta viewport media queries CSS/JavaScript events.

Chapter 5 CSS

Summary There are a few CSS declarations that are harder to implement in mobile browsers than in desktop ones. Some, such as position: fixed, are dependent on the viewport, but which viewport? Others may have performance issues or special interface considerations, such as overflow: auto. It’s just about time to get to the bottom of this.

Keywords position: fixed overflow: auto overflow-scrolling background-attachment vw and vh units :active and :hover.

Chapter 6 Touch Events

Summary Mobile devices generally use touchscreens, and support a new set of touch events to monitor user actions. At first sight, touch events seem to be roughly the same as mouse events. What are the differences? How do they work? Do we need separate events for each interaction mode, or can we merge mouse and touch into one, as Microsoft wants? It is quite likely that future new web-enabled device classes such as TVs, cars, or even fridges, will bring new interaction modes and a new set of events. How do we prepare for them? That’s exactly what this chapter is all about.

Keywords touchcancel gesture events dropdown menu drag and drop scrolling layer event equivalencies merging touch and mouse detecting interaction modes touch event cascade the tap action anatomy of a click 300 ms delay touchLists pointer events.

Chapter 7 Becoming a Mobile Web developer

Summary This last chapter gives you practical details about how to become a mobile web developer, or to be more precise, how to set up a device library and conduct mobile tests. Which devices do you need? How do you run tests? What would an ideal device lab look like? And what should you keep in mind in terms of the improvements of the mobile networks in the future?

Keywords ideal device lab acquiring and sharing devices what and how to test device test batches managing updates browser detection JavaScript libraries mobile networks latency connection speed.

About the Author


Peter-Paul Koch17 has been around for quite some time. Known for his browser compatibility tables on QuirksMode, he is a mobile platform strategist, browser researcher, consultant and trainer in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He specializes in the mobile web, especially mobile browser research, whereby he advises mobile and desktop browser vendors on their implementations of web standards.

Technical Details

  • 232 pages, 16.5 × 24.0 cm (6.5 × 9.5 inches)
  • Quality hardcover with stitched binding and ribbon page marker
  • The eBook is included with the printed book for free (PDF, ePUB, Kindle).
  • Shipping now worldwide
  • Worldwide airmail delivery18 from Germany ($5 for international shipping).
  • Get the book (print or eBook).19



Print + eBook213Printed, gorgeous hardcover

“Like ‘The Mobile Book’, the Mobile Web Handbook is a volume that will be consulted over years.”
Dudley Storey22


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The post “There Are More Bugs In Mobile Than… Particles In The Universe!” appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Categories: Others Tags:

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: October 2014

September 30th, 2014 No comments
Dope Code

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. And as designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one—desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd. This creativity mission has been going on for six years now1, and we are very thankful to all designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month.

This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for October 2014. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine2 by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendars series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

Dope Code

“October is the month, when the weather in Poland starts to get colder, and it gets very rainy, too. You can’t always spend your free time outside, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get some hot coffee and work on your next cool web project!” — Designed by Robert Brodziak3 from Poland.


Summer, Don’t Go!

“It would be nice if we could bring summer back, wouldn’t it?” — Designed by Terezija Katona38 from Serbia.



“I love to create handlettering for its charm and warmth, and it’s real pleasure to share my own piece with other Smashing Readers. Hope you enjoy it and will come back for more soon!” — Designed by Beata Kurek81 from Poland.



“This wallpaper was inspired by the creepy crawlies of Halloween, animation concept art, and hand-drawn type.” — Designed by Todd Marcinkiewicz104 from the United States.


The Month Of Monsters

“To me October is a really fun month, since this is the time of the year where all kind of monsters can hang out together, without caring what universe they come from.” — Designed by Maria Keller129 from Mexico.

The month of monsters130

Harvest Carnival Fun

“My son likes to draw cute monsters and superheroes and we designed this project together.” — Designed by Ariseli Modica176 from Texas, USA.

Harvest Carnival Fun177

There’s An Owl In My Olive!

“This summer, I found an owl in our swimming pool. I rescued it and I carried it to the olive.” — Designed by Veronica Valenzuela205 from Spain.

There's an owl in my olive!206

Fall In Love With Autumn

“We love autumn colors because they show us the magic of nature, so we want you to fall in love with this lovely season and get the flow of a new time.” — Designed by Colorsfera226 from Spain.

FALL in love with AUTUMN227

Happy Halloween

“I was inspired to create this wallpaper for Halloween.” — Designed by JD271 from the United States.

Happy Halloween272

Halloween Is Coming

“Fall always reminds me of a cozy atmosphere during evenings spent with candles, covered under my fluffy blanket. Everything is shining in warm orange light. Halloween FTW!” — Designed by Izabela Grzegorczyk314 from Vienna, Austria.

Halloween is Coming315

My Spooky Love

“Halloween can be a season of love too. This undead bunny is a combination of different inspiration from sugar skulls, cute characters and patterns that I have been drawing in my “Year of Creative Habit” project.” — Designed by Morningmobi333 from Brunei.

My Spooky Love334

All The Things

“During our recent rebrand, everyone in our team got their very own icon, each one has been custom illustrated by a lovely man called Paul, who wears glasses. The icons have all been chosen to represent something personal to each individual as well as all the other usual suspects you’d expect from an iconset.” — Designed by Engage Interactive366 from the United Kingdom.

All the things367


“In my travels to Selinsgrove, PA this past month, I had another opportunity to appreciate the beauty that surrounded me: trees, mountains, streams, rivers and fauna. This exploration was the inspiration for this piece encouraging others to explore new places and cherish the experience of being outdoors.” — Designed by Gabrielle Gorney393 from the United States.


A Positive Fall

“October is the month when fall truly begins, and many people feel tired and depressed in this season. The jumping fox wants you to be happy! Also, foxes always have reminded me of fall because of their beautiful fur colors.” — Designed by Elena Sanchez434 from Spain.

A positive fall435

It’s Time To Run

Designed by Elise Vanoorbeek477 from Belgium.

It's time to run478

Colors Of Autumn

“I think there is something magical about the autumn colors and love the natural colors of the trees. That was my inspiration. Enjoy!” — Designed by Cliff520 from the United States.

Colors of Autumn521

Sweater Weather Is Better

“Deep colors of leaves in Fall and that moody, smoky feeling.” — Designed by Noel Lopez563 from East Bay, California.

Sweater Weather is Better564

Pumpkin Season

“Fall is my absolute favorite season. It has the best weather, the best holidays, and the best food… Pumpkin-flavored-everything!” — Designed by Dorothy Timmer586 from Central Florida.

Pumpkin Season587

Feeling Sorry For All The Pumpkins

Designed by Ricardo Gimenes635 from Brazil.

Feeling Sorry For All The Pumpkins636

Night Of The Black Cat

“Halloween is nearly upon us once again! I love black cats, so I decided to feature one surrounded by a moon-lit sky.” — Designed by Eddie Wong676 from Ireland.

Night of the Black Cat677

It’s The Most Terrifying Time Of The Year

“October, Fall, Halloween. The best time of the whole year. The weather get cooler and crisper, the leaves start to change, and all of the things that go bump in the night come out to play.” — Designed by Casey Booth717 from the United States.

It's The Most Terrifying Time Of The Year718

Halloween Theme

“Wallpaper on Halloween theme is a great idea for October month :)” — Designed by Shilpa Sharma742 from India.

Halloween Theme743

Festival Of Lights

“Diwali is an occasion to celebrate victory over defeat, light over darkness. So kill the evil inside you and feed the good.” — Designed by Surendra Vikram Singh759 from India.

festival of lights760

Living On A Sphere

“Just loving the idea of living on that tilted, spinning, travelling sphere, where at the same time it’s autumn or night for ones and spring or daylight for others.” — Designed by Barbara Litza800 from Germany.

Living on a sphere801

The Daffodil

“Plant the Daffodil in October to debut in Spring.” — Designed by Kristin Richey845 from the United States.

The Daffodil846

Autumn In The Forest

“Autumn is a wonderful time to go for walks in the forest!” — Designed by Hilda Rytteke860 from Sweden.

Autumn in the forest861

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month877!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comment section below.



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The post Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: October 2014 appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Categories: Others Tags:

Practical Typography: The Only Book You’ll Need to Turn Pro

September 29th, 2014 No comments

Matthew Butterick is a writer, typographer and lawyer from Los Angeles. As a lawyer he is aqcuainted to reading professionally produced material, as a writer he wants to stick to the same standards, and as a typographer he creates the fonts needed to achieve that. Besides outstanding fonts Butterick also created the web-based book “Practical Typography” which I stumbled upon just recently. “Practical Typography” wants to equip the average designer, writer, anyone with typographical basic knowledge. Butterick promises to elevate your skills to reach a level that is higher than that of 99 percent of your fellow designers/writers.

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Size Matters: Balancing Line Length And Font Size In Responsive Web Design

September 29th, 2014 No comments

As we refine our methods of responsive web design, we’ve increasingly focused on measure (another word for “line length”) and its relationship to how people read.

?The popularization of the “ideal measure” has led to advice such as “Increase font size for large screens and reduce font size for small screens.” While a good measure does improve the reading experience, it’s only one rule for good typography. Another rule is to maintain a comfortable font size.

How People Read

People read online text to serve their own needs: to find the information they seek, to discover new ideas and to confirm their notions about life.

People Read in Three Ways

In 2006, the Nielsen Norman group released images of heat maps from eye-tracking studies. The areas where people looked at the most while reading are red, areas with fewer views are yellow, and the least-viewed areas are blue. As you can see below, the red and yellow areas form three variations of an F-shaped pattern. These variations aren’t surprising because people read in three different ways.

People read casually, skimming over text, reading words and sentences here and there to get a sense of the content. The heat map below shows the eye movements of someone casually reading about a product. The reader spent time looking at the image of the product, reading the first couple of sentences, then scanning through the bulleted list.

The Nielsen Norman Group explored the F-shaped pattern for casual reading in 2006. (View large version2)

People also scan with purpose, jumping from section to section, looking for a particular piece of information. They might only read a word or the first couple of characters of a word as they scan the screen. The heat map below shows the eye movements of someone scanning the results of a Google search with purpose. The person read the first two results more slowly. Then, their eyes jumped from section to section, looking for the search term. Therefore, we do not see a strong vertical stroke along the left edge of the text.

The Nielsen Norman Group explored the F-shaped pattern for purposeful scanning in 2006. (View large version4)

Finally, people read in an engaged manner. When they find an article or blog post they are interested in, they will slow down and read the whole text, perhaps even going into a trance-like state. The heat map below shows the eye movements of a person reading in an engaged manner. The tone is more continuous. There is more red (meaning more time spent reading) and less jumping around the page. When the intensity of reading dwindled because they lost interest (the corporate “About us” page might not have aligned with their interests), their eyes continued along the left edge of the text.

The Nielsen Norman Group explored the F-shaped pattern for reading in an engaged manner in 2006. (View large version6)

?Reading Is a Complex Process

We know that people read in three different ways, but let’s look more closely at how people read — how the F-shaped patterns are formed.

??We know that people. Don’t. Read. Each. Individual. Word. Instead, they use their foveal (or central) vision to focus on a word, while using their peripheral vision to find the next spot on which to focus.

?People don’t read each word individually.

People use their foveal (central) and peripheral vision to read.?

We also know that people don’t fixate on every word, but tend to skip words (their eyes take little leaps, called “saccades”) and fill in the rest. This is especially true of those who read casually or scan with purpose.

?People skip words and fill in the rest.

Finally, we know that readers anticipate the next line while moving their eyes horizontally along a line; so, their eyes are drawn down the left edge of the text. This constant struggle between horizontal and vertical motion contributes to the F-shaped reading patterns.

The constant struggle between horizontal and vertical eye movement results in the F-shaped patterns?.

Line Length (Measure) And Reading

Typographers have been writing about the relationship between horizontal and vertical eye motion for almost a century. In 1928, Jan Tschichold dismissed centered text and advocated for left-aligned text. He argued that this would assist readers by providing a consistent left (vertical) edge for the eye to return to after finishing each (horizontal) line.

The Ideal Measure: 45 to 75 Characters

We have multiple “rules” for facilitating a horizontal reading motion, one of which is to set text at a reasonable measure. As James Craig wrote in his book Designing With Type (originally published in 1971, now it its fifth edition):

Reading a long line of type causes fatigue: the reader must move his head at the end of each line and search for the beginning of the next line.… Too short a line breaks up words or phrases that are generally read as a unit.

If a casual reader gets tired of reading a long horizontal line, then they’re more likely to skim the left edge of the text. If an engaged reader gets tired of reading a long horizontal line, then they’re more likely to accidentally read the same line of text twice (a phenomenon known as “doubling”).

65 characters (2.5 times the Roman alphabet) is often referred to as the perfect measure. Derived from this number is the ideal range that all designers should strive for: 45 to 75 characters (including spaces and punctuation) per line for print. Many web designers (including me) apply that rule directly to the web. I’ve found, however, that we can reliably broaden the range to 45 to 85 characters (including spaces and punctuation) per line for web pages.

Measure and Web Type

Web designers have started to embrace a reasonable measure for text. Resources abound. Early writings include Mark Boulton’s more poetic approach to typography, which he refers to as “knowing your hanging punctuation from your em-dash” (“Five Simple Steps to Better Typography157”). Later writings include Harry Roberts’ more technical approach to typography (“Technical Web Typography: Guidelines and Techniques8”).

The most recent (and, dare I say, exciting) development in measure? Its role in responsive web design. More designers are using line length to help determine break points in a responsive structure! Chris Coyer recently developed his bookmarklet to test line length in order to help responsive web designers keep an eye on their measure (“Bookmarklet to Colorize Text Between 45 and 75 Characters9”).

But a good measure is only one rule for setting readable text.

Font Size And Reading

A good, comfortable font size is also necessary for setting readable text. This rule is old news. But given the number of responsive websites out there that make text too small or too big in order to achieve an ideal measure, the rule bears repeating.

Static Web Pages and Font Size

One benefit of a responsive web structure is readable text — text that people on hand-held devices don’t have to pinch and zoom to read. If a structure is static (like the two-column page shown below), then an ideal measure won’t do the trick. The text will simply be way too tiny to read on a small device such as a phone.


Left: The main column has a good measure (45 to 85 characters are highlighted in yellow). But without a responsive structure, the text is too small to read on a small device without pinching and zooming. Right: The font size (13-pixel Verdana for the left column, 18-pixel Georgia for the introduction and 16-pixel Georgia for the article) is comfortable to read on a laptop.

Small Devices and Font Size

When designing a responsive website, start with a comfortable font size and an ideal measure to help determine break points. But when the time comes (as it always does), let the ideal measure go.

Text already looks smaller on hand-held devices than on larger devices. This is fine because people tend to hold small devices closer when reading. Current popular wisdom is to preserve the measure by further reducing the font sizes for held-held devices. In practice, retaining a comfortable font size as much as possible better preserves readability. The result will be a less-than-ideal measure but a more comfortable reading experience.

A responsive structure won’t help if small text on a hand-held device encourages readers to pinch and zoom!

Left: To retain an ideal measure, the font size is reduced to 12-pixel Verdana and 14-pixel Georgia for hand-held devices. The text is harder to read. Right: The font size is 13-pixel Verdana and 17-pixel Georgia for hand-held devices. The measure is no longer ideal, but the text is easier to read.

?Large Devices and Font Size

When designing a responsive website, remember that measure and font size affect not only people using hand-held devices. The majority of people still use larger devices, such as laptops and desktop computers.

Some simple responsive structures keep text in a single column that expands and contracts with the size of the device. This can be an elegant, appropriate solution — except when the font size (instead of the column’s width) is used to preserve the ideal measure.

We’ve learned not to set text too small, but text that’s too big also poses a problem. When type gets too big, the reader’s eyes try to follow their usual pattern. But a font size that’s too large takes up more horizontal space, and it interferes with the horizontal flow that readers have established using their foveal vision and their pattern of skipping words.

We’re used to setting online text larger than printed text. This is fine because people tend to place large devices on their lap or on a desk while reading. But overly large text forces the reader to slow down and adjust how far they skip ahead as they read. Reading horizontally becomes cumbersome, and the reader will start to skip vertically down the left edge of the text.

When type gets too big, the reader tries to follow their usual horizontal rhythm. This forces them to read parts of words instead of entire words and to slow down and adjust their reading pattern.??

Current popular advice is to preserve the measure by increasing the font size for large devices. For example, the one-column structure below has an ideal measure. But to achieve this ideal measure on large devices, we’ve had to set the text to 19-pixel Verdana, 22-pixel Georgia for the article, and a whopping 26-pixel Georgia for the introduction!

In the layout above, details show the text at 100% size. The text on this web page is way too big for comfortable reading! Simple one-column responsive structures should use a narrower column on large devices, keeping the font size smaller and easier to read. (View large version11)

In practice, retaining a comfortable font size as much as possible and simply narrowing the column’s width instead are better. Look at what happens to A List Apart12 when it’s viewed on a hand-held device and on a laptop.

A List Apart is perfectly readable on a hand-held device. But on a laptop, the text gets too big to be comfortably read. A shorter measure and a smaller font size would help people follow their usual horizontal rhythm. (View large version14)

Bonus Section: Line Height And Reading

So far, our focus has been on the relationship between font size and measure in responsive web structures. But line height also affects how people read.

Line Height Affects Horizontal Motion

Because readers scan content both horizontally and vertically, lines of text should feel like horizontal lines, not like woven fabric.

A line height that is too tight could undermine horizontal eye movement and encourage scanning down the left edge. It could also force people to reread lines of text. On the other hand, a line height that is too loose could make lines of text visually “float away” from each other. The lines will no longer feel like a cohesive unit, and vertical scanning becomes more difficult.

While there is no perfect line height, a good rule of thumb is to set it at approximately 150% of the font size.

While there is no perfect line height, a good rule of thumb is to set it at approximately 150% of the font size.

Top: When the line height is too tight, it undermines the horizontal reading flow and increases doubling. Bottom: When the line height is too loose, lines of text visually float away from each other.

Line Height and Font Size

Setting line height is a complex balance of variables (font family, measure, font size, language). The most important variable when creating a responsive web structure is — surprise! — font size.

Smaller type tends to need more line height, not less. A generous line height helps the eye to recognize small word shapes more easily, and it encourages horizontal motion when the eye gets tired of reading small text.

Left: A line height set at 150% is a bit too tight on an iPhone. Right: The exact same text with a slightly looser line height promotes horizontal movement and helps the reader to recognize word shapes.

Look Closely, Break Rules

When we design a responsive structure, testing it on a large device is easy; we can change a desktop browser’s size quickly. But designing on a desktop or laptop browser means that we are spending most of our time at an arm’s length from the text, and we don’t spend much time seeing how the text renders on small devices.

If you’re using measure to find break points in your responsive website, then you probably care about type and reading. Keep using measure! It’s a great starting point. But to see whether your type truly works, spend some time looking at it closely, on a smaller device. Balance measure, line height and font size as needed.

Remember that all rules are meant to be broken. Heck, Jan Tschichold broke his own rule and used centered text for much of his career. When the time comes, sacrifice measure for a comfortable font size. A good font size (not too small) is readable. A good font size (not too big) promotes horizontal eye motion. A good font size with the proper line height will help your readers find what they’re looking for.

Further Resources

(il, al)


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The post Size Matters: Balancing Line Length And Font Size In Responsive Web Design appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Categories: Others Tags:

Sci-Fi, Frustrations, Flash And Forms: The Typeform Story

September 26th, 2014 No comments

Take any new interface design or display technology, and chances are that someone somewhere has already compared it to Minority Report. The 2002 dystopian film, with its see-through screens and gesture-driven interfaces, is remembered more for its futuristic tech than for the insidiousness of the technology — pre-crime prediction — that was its actual focus. It continues to be the standard by which we judge new interfaces.

But inspiration doesn’t only come in the form of flashy, futuristic interfaces. At Typeform, we were inspired to simplify online forms by a movie that’s decidedly a blast from the past: the 1983 film WarGames, which centers around a student who remotely logs into a research computer and, through its terminal interface, nearly sparks a nuclear war. Its computers are hardly state of the art, yet the computers’ question-driven interface inspired us to reinvent forms. Instead of a list of questions, how much better would it be if forms presented one easy-to-answer question at a time?

Stripping forms down to their basics and building them back up into something better took four years of work, but that core idea guided us all along: questions are better than lists. Here’s the story of our crazy idea to reimagine how forms could work, and how we turned that idea into a product that’s helped companies of all sizes get a 55% completion rate on their forms.

Dismembering A Form

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

– attributed to Albert Einstein

You’ve filled out plenty of online forms, from the standard surveys that you get in emails to checkout forms and more. Forms have been with us since the earliest days of the Internet, and they largely look the same today as they did in the ’90s. They’re filled with lists of questions and tiny bullet points that are hard enough to fill out on a PC and are an exercise in extreme frustration on mobile.

Forms have turned into one of the most annoying things about the Internet, right along with popup ads and auto-playing audio. They’re a necessary evil — no one would say that they love filling out forms, but we all have to fill them out anyway.

Traditional online forms can be overwhelming.

Crowded with information, forms feel like the on-screen equivalent of questions being screamed at you — something you’d walk away from in real life. If your form makes people feel like they’re completing a tax return in a crowded room, chances are they’ll click away, too.

Questions themselves don’t have to be unpleasant, though. They are the foundation of small talk and are an important and even fun part of life when used in moderation. If that’s all they are, then surely we can make a better form by emulating conversation, with just one question at a time.

That’s the genius of the console in WarGames2. It asks a question, waits for an answer, then follows up with another question. Without any more logic than your average form, it feels more lifelike simply because asking one question at a time feels like a conversation. It’s not overwhelming, and yet it gets the same result as a form would.

That, we knew, had to be the future of a more human form. One question at a time, presented in a way that would make people want to respond.

To Build a More Conversational Form

Simplifying forms, though, took more than just inspiration. It took us on a four-year journey, starting with a showroom Flash application for a client in 2010. That application was built to run full-screen on large monitors at an exhibition, complete with video, animations and a way to collect information from visitors to the booth in a modern (for the time), interactive experience. A typical Web form would have been impossible to use on such a large screen and would have looked terrible alongside the other elements. We quickly saw that it was time to reinvent the form.

There’s ways to make traditional forms better3, by including more whitespace, separating forms into sections, and more. There’s standards behind the way forms look and feel, which have kept them far more similar to a paper form than something imagined just for screens. We wanted to experiment and see what a form could be like if it was removed from those linear constraints, redesigned around questions.

It wouldn’t be a traditional form, and it would even break conventions—much in the same way the iPhone’s software keyboard broke the standard real-button keyboard conventions—but the WarGames form had given us the idea that perhaps there was another way to gather info than the traditional form, and perhaps it could be better. We wanted to start out with a clean slate, and reimagine what a form could be with an entirely new product.

The design has come a long way since those early days. But the principles remain the same.

Our original solution was Quickyform, a Flash-based contact form that ran on an iMac in the exhibition space. (You can still try it out today4 to get a feel of our first shot at re-imagining online forms.) It embodied the essence of the WarGames form even as a rough early prototype. Only one question was shown in focus at a time, and once a visitor filled it out and pressed “Enter,” the next question came into focus, ready for them to enter the next answer without having to click anywhere. This, we knew, was the first step in the right direction for the future of forms.

When we built Quickyform, Flash was still prevalent online, and there was lingering hope that Apple and others would adopt it for their mobile platforms. Flash has its uses, but it had quickly become obvious that it wasn’t the best tool for our needs. We quickly shifted to the modern languages of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and got to work designing a better UI that would work everywhere — ultimately, realizing our dream and even recreating the part of WarGames that had initially inspired us.

Click here to try the game6

Starting With The Basics

Our basic idea was to find the perfect way to display one question at a time, to reflect natural human conversation. To do that, we had to entirely declutter the UI, removing everything that might take the user’s attention away from the one question at hand. At the same time, we still wanted to retain a global view of the entire form to make it easy to navigate and see the remaining questions.

The solution wasn’t apparent at first. For example, an early version opened and closed each question as you went through them. That took care of showing only one question at a time, but the animations were too jarring and made it difficult to navigate the entire form. We took many such detours into the land of strange animations and interactions that just don’t feel natural in our quest to discover what would work best. The final simple solution of putting the active question in the center of the screen while showing the preceding and following questions faded out above and below seems obvious in retrospect but took a lot of experimenting to perfect.

Putting the active question in the center helped out other parts of our UI. It helped our large typography to make sense, which in turn freed us to make use of Web fonts. We use 24-pixel fonts on the desktop, and between 16- and 20-pixel fonts on mobile, depending on the device. Very few Web fonts work well at sizes below 16 pixels, so focusing on one question at a time enabled us to drastically improve the UI’s design.

In turn, the UI influences the UX. Large typography in our form designer forces you to shorten questions because there is less space per line. You have to make every word count in the questions you put in your form, and that precision makes the resulting questions far more likely to be answered by respondents.

Design Is How It Works

After deciding on the basics of our UI, we tackled interaction design as the next challenge. Our focus was a computer without a touchscreen, accelerometer, webcam or even a mouse. All that is needed to interact is a keyboard. After all, if you’re just answering questions, what more should you need?

Traditionally, a typical form forces you to move back and forth between the mouse and keyboard. You’ll click in a text box to type something in, and then reach for your mouse or squint to tap on your smartphone’s screen to fill in a multiple-choice question. If the form doesn’t already look bad enough, then the rows of tiny bullet points should be enough to get respondents screaming for the hills.

As dated as it might sound in the age of smartphones and tablets, we decided that keyboard navigation would be central to our redesigned forms. Users have to use a keyboard for questions that need a typed answer anyway, so we added keyboard shortcuts for all other types of questions. For “Yes” or “No” questions, you would tap “y” for yes and “n” for no. For multiple-choice questions, each answer is assigned a letter. For ratings, respondents would tap the number corresponding to their rating, from 1 to 0 (ten).

Click here to test8

Navigation between questions raised a new issue: the “Enter” key or the “Tab” key? How would these two buttons work in the context of Typeforms? At first, we allowed “Tab” and “Enter” to be used interchangeably to move to the next question, but assigning two buttons to do exactly the same thing seemed weird. So, we asked ourselves, what could we learn from what’s been done before?

In every other app or website, the “Tab” key is most commonly used to move between elements. You use it to jump between fields in a traditional form and to move between parts of a Web page. It is a non-committal way to move around. The “Enter” key, on the other hand, is most commonly used to commit to a decision. It’s the button we press to take an action or to submit a traditional form.

So, in learning from those who came before us, we decided to assign “Tab” for jumping between questions without setting off any validation checks. This way, you can move around the form without having to use the mouse. Pressing “Tab” brings the next question into view, ready to be filled out; “Shift” + “Tab,” in the same way, take you back to the previous question; and the arrow keys let you move up and down in the form as you’d expect.

Our next choice in keys was much harder to make: how to use the “Enter” key. It’s widely used in many apps to complete an action, but is also used to add a line break to text. In a form, we feel it’s far more common to need to quickly complete an action than it is to need to write multiple paragraphs of text, so we chose to use the “Enter” key to validate and submit responses. If an answer does not validate, then the user is asked to correct their answer; otherwise, they’ll move onto the next question. Then, we used the common “Shift” + “Enter” shortcut for line breaks when writing multiple paragraphs of text, the same shortcut commonly used in chat apps like Facebook Messenger.

Ideally, though, users shouldn’t have to use “Tab” or manually scroll to navigate forms at all, even though the forms show only one question at a time. That’s why we designed the forms to auto-scroll to the next question as soon as the current question is answered. Most forms require you to scroll through to see all of the questions, or even click to other pages to continue the survey. Our approach keeps respondents focused on the conversation and makes it far quicker to fill in the form.

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Even though Typeform’s UX and controls were in place, a lot of wiggle room was left in our UI. When we drafted the style guide for our UI, the world was shifting from skeuomorphic to flat design. We didn’t want to trap our design in a particular trend, so we embraced the best of both worlds.

Multiple-choice questions proved to be the hardest. Our original designs for them still felt like traditional forms, listing possible answers with radio buttons to their left. We wanted to keep the standard parts of forms intact, but that didn’t feel quite right — we hadn’t come this far to leave the most annoying part of forms alone.

So, we decided to turn multiple-choice answers into glass-like elements. Our first try put the standard round radio buttons on the left, albeit with translucency that made them better fit the form’s background. It looked nicer, but the original usability problem was still there because radio buttons are still relatively hard to select, especially on a touchscreen. To solve this, we expanded the size of the button, turning it into a glass panel that overlays the answer. This gives a far larger target to click or tap, perfect for mobile and desktop. We removed the radio buttons entirely because their presence automatically makes you think you’ll need to tap that smaller areas to select the option—we wanted people instead to feel free to tap anywhere on the button.

From fiddly radio buttons, to nice big touch targets.

This “glassification” brought with it another challenge: making sure that the buttons look great on a wide range of background colors. After extended experimentation, we finally landed on the solution of categorizing background colors into five levels of luminosity. We then add different CSS that adjusts the color of the button, shadows, border, highlights and a range of other factors based on the background. LESS10 turned out to be the perfect solution for getting the right balance of color every time.

Buttons react to the background they’re on.

You can see the change most obviously with the border. On a black background (#000000), the borders are a light color to offset the button. As the background gets lighter, the borders change to a darker color to give more contrast and better offset the button. We spent a lot of time getting the formula just right, and it paid off with a UI design that looks great no matter how our users want their forms to look.

See full preview13

That left us with one final UX problem: the “Next” button after a multiple-choice question. We needed a way for people to select choices — again, using the keyboard or mouse — and then easily jump to the next question with our auto-scroll. If we auto-scrolled as soon as someone had made a selection, then they’d have no chance to change their mind, but we didn’t want multiple-choice questions to have the friction they do in normal forms.

Our solution was to add an “OK” button that’s activated by pressing “Enter.” We assigned standard alphabet keys to each multiple-choice item, and we check mark an item once the user has selected it. A bit of extra text is added to questions that list multiple options, to help people understand. Once the user has made their selection, they just have to tap “Enter” to proceed to the next question.

Leave the mouse at home. Just tap or use your keyboard!

Working Everywhere

We designed Typeform’s UX to work great with just a keyboard, but then tweaked its UI to be perfect on touch screens, too. Designing it as a responsive app from the start would seem obvious, then, using media queries and breakpoints to render the same code on any screen size.

This isn’t how Typeform works, though. We experimented with delivering the same UI to a mobile device and a PC. That would work, but it created two problems:

  1. The whole form has to be rendered at the same time. This impairs performance on devices with limited RAM, especially if the form includes much multimedia content.
  2. It’s a poor use of limited screen space, with valuable room taken up by unnecessary elements.

The goal of responsive design is to deliver the same content and experience everywhere, and we still wanted that, even if using the same code wouldn’t achieve that goal for us. Our solution was to move to page- and slide-based navigation. On mobile, each question is rendered on its own, giving the form a small resource footprint and using the smaller screen more efficiently.

To do this, Typeform delivers different code to the browser depending on what device is being used. You’ll notice this if you open the same form on a PC and a smartphone. On a PC, we use the larger display to faintly show the previous and next questions. On a smartphone, we show only the current question in order not to waste any space. Respondents can easily swipe up and down on their phone to navigate questions, just as PC users would press the up and down arrows, but no space is wasted with the previews of previous and next questions. That’s one of the many tweaks we had to make in order to make our forms work perfectly on both desktop and mobile.

We then have a even simpler fallback mode15 on every form, that’s even faster to load on any device. These options were the ways we balanced between a rich web app on desktops and laptops, an equally polished mobile experience, and a faster option for lower internet speeds.

Test Everything

Typeform is a direct result of our own testing and tweaking of the idea that blossomed from WarGames’ inspiration and our client project in 2010, but we had very little user feedback in the beginning. It was just a side project, worked on in spare moments here and there. Decisions were based on intuition and hunches, and we had no idea what the lean methodology even was.

What we did know is that we had stumbled upon an entirely new way of interacting with online forms, not just an evolution of the interfaces that we’re all used to. If we had asked people what they wanted, we would have designed a normal form builder. Like Henry Ford, we needed to show people what they want. We had to invent the future—to discover the story hidden on the blank page, or uncover Michelangelo’s David in a block of marble as Ed Catmull describes the creative process of inventing the new in “Creativity, Inc.”

So, rather than rapidly release features in the wild and iterate based on feedback from our users, as lean methodology would dictate, we worked with our own controlled test group to find what was and wasn’t working before releasing it. If we had launched a public beta earlier, perhaps we would have thrown out the closing and opening animation between questions earlier on. But then we would have missed the subsequent iterations that guided us to our current solution of fading out the preceding and following questions. By iterating and working on intuition and experience, we were able to greatly improve an experience that might have been thrown out if we had asked users.

This isn’t to say that the lean methodology is bad or that it wouldn’t work for us now, but it couldn’t have worked for testing our initial concepts and finding our ground. Only when we had almost finished building the app and opened our beta program did we start getting a lot of feedback from our user base. The app was finished enough that people understood our vision and were able to help us find the rough edges that needed fixing. Feedback is important, but make sure that your vision is defined and apparent in your app before inviting the opinions of others; otherwise, you might miss the stages in the development of an app when you learn the most.

Never Stand Still

We turned our vision of a new type of form into a product, but we’re not done working. Breaking down forms into their basics opens up a lot of opportunities, because you can do so much with a format that asks one question at a time. We’ve finally realized our dream of recreating WarGames’ terminal in a form that captures the simplicity of the original, and we have found a ton of uses16 for Typeforms that go far beyond the traditional form. What other format would let you make anything from a Stripe-powered purchase form to an interactive storybook17?

Typeform’s simplicity gives us a platform on which to build and do more with the basic elements of a form. Designers can focus on things that make each question better and perhaps more visual and interactive, while still ensuring that all of the questions work together as a form. It’s already ready for large high-resolution screens and can just as easily be scaled down to a watch screen or whatever new displays the future will bring us.

Our core technology platform isn’t standing still, either. Typeform’s current technology stack consists of Symfony 218 and PHP that loads data from Redis19 and MySQL databases on the back end, and CoffeeScript20 and Backbone.js21 on the front end, all running on Amazon’s AWS platform. If that’s not enough, we’re currently refactoring parts of the application, using Node.js22 and NoSQL databases to improve performance and make it easier to implement new features.

More Human Forms Work

What will stay the same are modern, question-driven forms. We’re not the only ones on this journey of exploring how a redesigned form could work. Stripe has redesigned its checkout forms23 to be as simple as possible, asking just for the user’s email address, credit-card number, expiration date and CSV number, in a sleek form that would hardly intimidate anyone. PageLanes24 uses a question-driven form to collect contact information, and CoDrops25 was inspired by that to make a basic CSS- and Javascript-powered question-driven toolkit that you can use to design your own forms.

A typeform in its native habitat, ready to be filled in.

Question-driven forms get results. Quartz’s team recently got 940 C-level executives to respond to its executive study26. Its careful wording got Quartz a 34% open rate, and over 55% of those who opened its interactive survey (powered by Typeform, incidentally) actually finished it. That number is consistent with the average response rate we see from all of the more than 9 million unique Typeform form visits we’ve seen so far. Those results and the new unique ways you can use forms with Typeform—along with the results those forms bring—have been enough to get industry leaders from Adobe, Uber, MailChimp and more to use our forms to get results. That’s an exciting confirmation of what we’ve believed all along: People will want to fill out forms if the forms are driven by questions and simple enough to answer.

We’ve destroyed the traditional form — literally, in a joke game27 that we made recently — but much more can be done with forms. That’s what keeps us working on Typeform and what makes us excited to see new developments from others. But forms aren’t the only part of the web that could use some new design ideas. All it takes is breaking things down to their basics, figuring out what’s really important, and then building back up around that. If that approach can change forms this much, imagine how much it could change the things you’re working on.

You may have to break some conventions, and your final product might be fully new instead of just an updated version of the old—the app version of the motor vehicle versus the old horse-and-carriage. It might not even work. But you’ll be sure to discover something new and exciting along the way, something that just might let you make a better product.

(al, il)


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The post Sci-Fi, Frustrations, Flash And Forms: The Typeform Story appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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WTF? Quirky and Unusual Packaging and Advertorial Designs

September 26th, 2014 No comments

For both packaging and advertisements, one of the most important elements is that the design stands out from its surroundings, whether this is on a shelf or in a magazine. The catch is that it shouldn’t just stand out, however. A good marketing design is one that will also capture attention long enough to leave a lasting impression on the consumer. And also just as important is that the lasting impression is one that accurately portrays the brand along with the product’s unique features and, more importantly, benefits.

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Deal of the Week: Convert Photos to Painted Art With These Impressive Photoshop Actions

September 25th, 2014 No comments

Flat design is all the rage these days. But imagine a flat design website equipped with full-fledged real-life photos. This might or might not look too good. Have you ever thought of taking the complexity out of the imagery as well? How about converting photos into more of cartoon-style drawings, bringing them closer to the flat style of your over-all site design? With the amazing Photoshop actions our Deal of the Week is offering you, you can do that all and with ease!

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The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A WordPress Host

September 25th, 2014 No comments

These days you have an awful lot of options for hosting your website, so many that it’s easy to get lost. How much should you pay? Is support important to you, or are you a tinkerer who likes to do your own thing?

Put in different terms, are you a master chef who can cook a delicious meal with the right assortment of ingredients, or would you rather go to a nice restaurant and just sit back and enjoy the experience?

Let’s dive in.

An Overview Of Hosting Categories

A couple of years ago, choosing a hosting company was a lot simpler. Shared hosting providers had relatively low prices (between $5 and $15 a month), while other companies rented out dedicated servers from $500 a month up to as much as tens of thousands of dollars a month. If you knew your budget, then the decision was easy. Today, not so much.

At the entry level, we still have shared hosting providers and managed hosting services, which are still technically “shared” but which add a lot of value and specialization. We have virtual private servers (VPS), nowadays usually called “cloud servers”. They differentiate themselves based on the virtualization technology that they use and how much computational power and memory are included in their packages.

Finally, we have the option to rent a dedicated server — also known as co-location, whereby you place your own box in a data center. This hasn’t really changed that much, except that data centers have become a lot more sophisticated and computers have become smarter than they were three to five years ago.

(See large version2)

Page Speed Matters. A Lot.

Before your head spins with hosting jargon, let’s talk a bit about page speed. Back in 2010, Google stated that the loading time of your website would factor into your ranking. So, if you care about search engine optimization and free traffic from Google, then you should care about your website’s performance.

Forrester Consulting found3 that about 47% of Internet users expect a website to load in under 2 seconds. Aberdeen Group has data4 that shows that a 1-second delay in page-loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversions. All of these studies were conducted a couple of years ago, and since then the web has only sped up! Or has it?

Look at your website’s loading speed with a tool such as Pingdom5 or WebPagetest6. If it’s above 2 seconds, then you could get a massive increase in revenue just by switching to a better performing hosting package or maybe even switching hosting companies altogether.

How big of an increase? Tagman has the answer7: “Let’s say a website’s average ticket size is $75 and conversion rate is 5%. So if it takes their pages an additional second to load then for every 400,000 unique visits each month, there would be a loss of $1.3m in revenue per year.” As you can see, performance affects the bottom line in a huge way.

Don’t forget, though, that a good hosting service will help your website only so much. If your WordPress installation has dozens of plugins activated or if your theme is bloated or poorly written, then you could have serious performance issues no matter where you’re hosted.

Let’s dissect the different types of hosting solutions, then.

1. Shared Hosting

If you’ve ever had a website, then you’ve come across shared hosting providers, which offer packages from as low as $1.99. They are considered the “public transportation” of the hosting world: extremely low fees, yet little flexibility and a lot of overcrowding. As soon as your website grows, you can expect a lot of problems, such as bandwidth limiting and slow response times. Slow response times happen because the only way that hosting companies can offer packages for such a low price is by putting a lot of websites on the same server.

For example, if a hosting provider puts you on a computer that costs them $400 to run every month, then they would need 200 clients on that machine just to break even. And to get the maximum profit out of each server, they would need to add hundreds upon hundreds of clients to it, overloading the otherwise good configuration.

Think of the difference between a dedicated server that an online business doesn’t share with anyone, thus ensuring the highest possible performance, and a machine that has a couple hundred websites on it.

Shared hosting providers are often overloaded with support questions as well. Hours, if not days, can pass before you receive an answer to your question, and most of the time the answer won’t be of any help because the provider does not employ WordPress specialists. Most hosts provide only basic support, at the level of the operating system. On top of that, you are literally just one out of thousands of customers — per server!

However, there are advantages — the rock-bottom price obviously being one of them. If you’re starting a business, this is a very cost-effective solution. In addition, you can run all kinds of scripts on these accounts; you’re not limited to WordPress. You can use the space to test different projects. And if your website gets low traffic (a couple of hundred visitors per month), then you can host it very affordably and not have to worry about system administration or anything else.

Who Is This For?

If your revenue doesn’t depend much on your website or if you have a hobby blog, then an affordable shared hosting package is a good choice.

Several well-known examples are GoDaddy8, Media Temple’s Shared Hosting9, Bluehost10, DreamHost11 and NameCheap12, among many others.

2. Managed Hosting

In the past, managed hosting meant one thing: hardware and operating system management for separate boxes (either virtual or “bare metal”). You would hire an expert or team of experts to look after your server, and they would install an operating system on it, install security patches, change the hard drives when they break and perform other tasks. We’ll discuss this in detail later.

Relative newcomers to the hosting scene are application-level managed hosts. Companies that specialize in hosting one or another application are popping up almost every day. WordPress is one such application — and no wonder: WordPress has become the go-to content management system (and, lately, the go-to web application platform) for many people.

This hosting category is similar to shared hosting, but you could think of it as a new generation of shared hosting. It’s like a local grocery store that specializes in few but high-quality products, one that knows you by name and that is unlike those huge everything-for-cheap supermarkets.

Instead of allowing (and supporting) all kinds of scripts, these companies build their infrastructure around one — usually open-source — product. These companies know their product very well, they have fine-tuned their machines and operating systems for it, and they have a dedicated support team that knows the ins and outs of it.

Considering that roughly 23%13 of all websites online today run on WordPress, you can imagine that there is a lot of demand for hosting services custom-tailored to WordPress and only WordPress.

Managed WordPress hosts deal with all of the back-end tasks of running a WordPress blog so that you don’t have to. This frees you to focus on what truly matters: selling your product to customers. Beyond hosting your website, the providers also offer WordPress-specific experience that will help you optimize your web presence in many ways: speed, security, uptime, core and plugin updates, and theme and plugin compatibility.

Although this solution is more expensive than shared hosting — prices start at around $10 and go up to as much as $3,000 per domain — the benefits are usually worth it, even for relatively small websites. Many of the features — including customizable backup options, one-click staging areas, integrated CDN support and much more — cannot be found in packages anywhere else. Let’s look at some of the most common benefits of managed WordPress hosting.


Support is not limited to basic problems with your hosting account. These hosts provide advice on WordPress plugins, themes, settings, updates and so on. Many of their employees are active contributors to WordPress’ core or have published plugins and themes for WordPress. They know the ins and outs!


Fine-tuning your hosting environment (both software and hardware) will make your WordPress website or application as optimized as it can be, thus making it quick to load and to respond. Security is another important aspect, and that’s where the word “managed” comes in. Managed hosts keep your WordPress instances up to date for you. They also keep an eye out for malicious plugins and themes, and they work with you to prevent hacks of your website through known security holes.

If you have to optimize the environment of just one open-source package, then hardening the server and securing the system become a lot easier. At the level of the operating system, administrators don’t have to install a hundred different packages in order to enable customers to run Magento, Joomla, Dolphin, WordPress and many other platforms at the same time! Having fewer packages frees up a lot of resources for other important processes, and the system will naturally have many fewer entry points for malicious attacks.

Speaking of entry points, did you know that WordPress’ core is extremely safe? The biggest vulnerability occurs when someone is running a version of WordPress that is out of date by several years. Too many people simply do not update their core files, despite it truly being a one-click affair. Managed hosting providers make sure that core files are always up to date, and they’ll even update for you if needed!


Most of the time, managed WordPress hosts have their own caching system that is custom built for WordPress and that is a lot faster than any plugin-based ones! That’s why most don’t allow plugins such as W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. If you’ve had trouble setting up either of those in the past, then you’ll be thankful for this. Not having to worry about any of the technical mumbo jumbo is a blessing when you have a business to run!

Caching can be done in many different ways. First, there is object caching, which is accomplished by running Memcached or, lately, a Redis-based in-memory datastore service and a WordPress plugin counterpart. You would have to activate this for your website (or the host would do it for you). This will take a load off the database and the PHP interpreter, thus speeding up your website a lot.

In addition, modern configurations take advantage of the so-called reverse proxy wherever possible. This could be the immensely popular Varnish or something like the built-in FastCGI Cache of the Nginx web server. These essentially take a snapshot of your website, saving a full copy of the final WordPress-generated HTML pages. By default, these usually break dynamic parts of the page, such as the “Hey, Joe” part of the navigation bar once the user is logged in, the “Latest comments” section, and the shopping cart.

But with a good amount of tweaking, you can get the configuration right. And the speed is unbeatable. Instead of at least three software modules working on each request from each visitor (those modules being the PHP interpreter, the MySQL database server and the web server’s software itself), you can have only one: the reverse proxy. Less computation means much faster page-loading times!

These cannot be used on general shared hosting accounts because there’s no way that a hosting provider could write a configuration for all of the open-source PHP scripts out there! This is where dedicated hosts excel: creating configurations that work extremely well for WordPress and only WordPress.


Regularly backing up your website might not seem important, until your server’s hard drive gives up and your data is not recoverable! Or perhaps your website will get infected so badly that restoring it from a clean backup point would be easier than manually cleaning up everything.

Managed WordPress hosts back up your website regularly (usually daily). So, if the worst happens, you’re covered. Be sure to read the fine print, though. Some companies do not back up the wp-content or uploads folders, in which case you could lose all of your images, which would make the backup not worth much!

The disadvantages of managed hosts are the heftier prices and the lack of support for any other web applications. WPEngine, for example, lets you run other PHP scripts on its servers, but it doesn’t support them in any way. Other companies actively discourage customers from running anything else on their machines, meaning that customers would have to get an account with a general hosting provider to run something alongside their WordPress installation. These hosts dedicate their entire infrastructure to WordPress on the assumption that you can do almost anything with WordPress nowadays, including complete forum systems, complex CRM solutions, social networking websites, and crowdfunding marketplaces — the list is long.

Who Is This For?

Managed hosts are good for people who run their business on WordPress. These hosts deliver great performance, fine-tuned servers, a lot of exclusive services custom tailored to WordPress users, and affordable prices.

Given how important your online business is, a managed hosting account for $30 a month is probably a great deal, especially if you take into account the extra income that an optimized environment will bring in.

Some companies that offer WordPress-specific hosting are
Media Temple14, Kinsta15, WPEngine16, Synthesis17, Flywheel18 and Pagely19.

3. Virtual Private Servers

If you know your way around Unix-based operating systems, then you might want to look into building a custom stack on a VPS or a bare-metal dedicated server. Digital Ocean’s price for an entry-level virtual server, which can serve a couple of low-traffic websites, is only $5 a month. You can also get a free node with Amazon AWS, with specifications similar to those of Digital Ocean’s droplet. As cloud computing has become more and more popular, these virtualized servers have become popular, too. For a fraction of the cost of a dedicated server, you can get your own (virtual) machine, and tune it to your exact needs.

The downside is that you usually don’t get any support, and you will have to do several things yourself: keep an eye on system components, install web and database server software, keep everything updated and, of course, configure all of the applications in a (mostly) Linux-based environment. There is also the “bad neighbor” problem: Because hardware resources are shared between many virtual machine users, poor performance is possible if someone else is overusing the resources of the machine that your account is located on.

VPS’ have different tiers, based on the service level, from absolutely no support to fully managed. A fully managed VPS will usually install all of the required software, keep it (and the operating system) updated and proactively monitor the server to minimize downtime. Obviously, the monthly price goes up with your requirements.

Who Is This For?

All in all, VPS is a cheap way to get as much flexibility as you need, with the option to deploy popular software packages (including WordPress) in one click. Don’t forget, though, that you will need to be very familiar with installing Linux via the command line in order to run a VPS and resolve problems.

Notable VPS players are Linode20, Digital Ocean21, Amazon AWS22, Microsoft Azure23, Google Cloud24 and (mt)’s VPS hosting25.

4. Dedicated “Bare Metal” Servers

Having your own dedicated server is almost the same as a VPS, but instead of sharing a massive pool of hardware resources with others via virtualization, you get to use “all the metal” of the computer for your website only. Prices usually start at $100 a month, but the sky is the limit. Packages for thousands of dollars a month are not rare either, although those machines serve really large applications that draw millions of visitors each month or that require unusually high computational power.

The downside (other than the price tag) is that you have to deal with occasional hardware failures. This is different from the other categories we’ve looked at because if, for example, a hard drive fails and you don’t have another one mirrored, then you’ll face hours (perhaps even days) of downtime. If you don’t have any backups whatsoever, then you’re out of luck completely. A faulty CPU or RAM unit can cause serious headaches, too!

Who Is This For?

A dedicated server is definitely not for everyday website owners. This is getting into the enterprise end of hosting solutions. However, if you prefer to drive a Ferrari just because you can, then this is the one to get.


As promised in the introduction, you have quite a lot of options to choose from! Hopefully, having read this article, you now have a clearer picture of the different packages available, and you will be able to make a decision based on your website, requirements and budget!

Did I leave out something important? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(dp, al, il)


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The post The Ultimate Guide To Choosing A WordPress Host appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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I Hate Parallax Scrolling – Here’s Why You Should Too

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Parallax scrolling for websites is the new hotness! Then again, so were glitter unicorns and type for MySpace pages and websites galore. The web moves fast and there’s a difference between a fad and a trend. So, is parallax scrolling a good addition to your website? Here’s a look at the top parallax scrolling websites, their strengths—and weaknesses.

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