The Year Ahead 2013

Designing For Mobile & Responsive Design

This has been round for ages and it certainly isn't new for 2012/2013 where I think things are turning is that mobile is now everywhere and clients are becoming very aware that they need to have a site which not just works on a mobile device but provides a lovely user experience. I have continued to read and listen to some fantastic posts in 2012 with talks from the industry looking at how best to keep innovating and building on what we have learnt about designing for mobile. Our quest should be to provide a user experience which covers all ranges of device sizes, contexts and bandwidths.

Whether you are looking at retro fitting an existing site or starting from scratch with a mobile first approach you simply can not ignore the mobile landscape (and that includes tablets). My focus will definitely be on designing more in the browser, making working prototypes which can be demoed and tested easily with clients. 2012 delivered some fantastic tools to help with this:

When it comes to reading and learning resources on responsive and mobile design there certainly isn't any shortage of books, posts and even whole conferences dedicated to the subject. Here is a list of useful links which are well worth looking at:

There is a mass of information out there on responsive and mobile design/development techniques, which can get overwhelming, try and focus on a few of the links above to steer you in the right direction.

Using Preprocessors

Again if you haven't been living under a rock for the last twelve months then this is really not ground breaking and certainly not new for 2013 but if you haven't been working with a preprocessor then you should start right now. A preprocessor enables you to write CSS code using SASS or LESS both SASS and LESS then enable you to right "smart" code using variables for colours and CSS3 mixins with Compass and Bourbon which can save you a massive amount of time. The other nice feature is that you can break your files up into manageable partials which at the end are preprocessed into one file, compressed ready for serving, again making life easier for the developer and providing an optimised user experience.

There is so much more to preprocessors and once you start getting into them there are all sorts of clever use cases; from creating complete grid systems to developing complex colour schemes, to get started:

My personal view is that 2013 will be the year where using a preprocessor becomes the norm and you will have to be able to use one to work at an agency or with a team, or you will simply get left behind. Some of the features that we see in preprocessors may well start to move into the CSS spec this year such as variables, by learning how these work now you will be ahead of the game when the spec is released.

Get Good With Javascript

This is my personal challenge for 2013. Back in April 2012 Rebecca Murphey wrote about the "Baseline For Front End Developers", in this post Rebecca explains that just knowing a Javascript library is not enough and this is something which resonated with me. Through a lot of perseverance I feel that I am starting to get a good understanding of the basics, with even some fairly complex subjects starting to make some sense to. It seems that there are so many innovations happening on the web which in some way have Javscript helping to power them. Without a good understanding of the language, as a Front End Developer in 2013, you could get left behind. With so many new API's coming into production now is the time to start experimenting and learning some new skills. While I continue to learn the fundamentals I am also going to start experimenting with the WebGL API and canvas element. There is some pretty amazing stuff you can create once you've mastered the basics.

My Javascript reading for the first quarter of 2013:

I have been reading Object-Oriented Javascript which although an old book (2008) is one of the best I have read with easy to follow examples. Another book which I have been recommend and intend on finishing is Eloquent Javscript. On the WebGL side of things I will be getting stuck into the HTML5 Canvas Cookbook.

To try and help with my learning experience I will definitely be looking to push out some fun javascript stuff whether its using WebGl or some other part of the JS spec.

Content Is Key

Each year when I look back at the topics I have read about and the conferences I have visited this theme always stands out as the one that we all know is super important but somehow seems to be difficult to get right. "Content is King", we hear it time and time again and it is true on so many levels. Put simply good content provided at the earliest possible stage of the project enables you to scope out the infrastructure of a website, build a design around the content, and finally serve that content in the optimal way for the device and context that it is being used on. Oh and one other pretty important feature of good content: visitors and search engines will find you on the web if you are serving good content.

In 2013 I am going to be focusing on how we can get better at at collecting content and helping clients provide us with content up front before the start of a project rather than it being an after thought at the end. Two books which are super helpful and great for offering some ideas are:

To Wrap Up

2013 is going to be a super exciting year for me, as to be fair, every year is on the web. Whether you agree with what I have written about here is not really important, the main thing is that we keep learning and moving forward. There are so many different areas of the web and we can't be experts in them all, enjoy what you do, give back where you can, and I am sure great things will happen 2013.

Good luck and Happy New Year.