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Web Animations: the good, the bad and how to do them better

Animations are among the simplest and most effective ways to evoke an emotional response from a website. But whenever you introduce a flourish to web design, there’s always some risk.

Web animations create an element of surprise that can be incredibly attention-grabbing—when used in moderation. A designer should never introduce animations just for the sake of having them. They should be subtle and organic, and not detract from your content.

There are drawbacks: the options can be overwhelming and they can complicate an otherwise simple project. Like whose role is it to determine the animations? the strategist? designer? developer?

Animations can be hard to conceptualize and difficult to then communicate to a project team or client—there are so many different terms to describe the same thing and it’s hard to know if you’ll be on the same page. Also, they can just go horrifically wrong. The client might hate it which has potential to derail a project.

Let’s take a look at some bad animations, good ones and then I’ll offer some tips for doing it right.

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An Open Letter to Custom Development Clients

We see two kinds of projects when building the web: build-to-spec projects, where you bring the idea, we make it happen, and solve-a-problem projects, where we collaborate to find the best opportunity, together.

Our clients seem to happily bring us the second option when the project is a campaign or a fairly standard CMS build. But when clients needs a very tailored custom developed tool or application—the kinds that really involve in-depth problem solving—there is a strange tendency to bring build-to-spec projects to our team.

Here’s the plain fact: most of the time, build-to-spec projects leave big opportunities on the table. A set of specs laid out before you have a understanding of the strength of our design, UX, and technical architecture chops, mean you probably aren’t accessing the full breadth and skill of a custom dev team.

“But we already know what we need,” you might say. “We know what pieces of tech will solve our business problem, and we just need someone to build it.”

That’s why we need to talk. I believe it’s right there—the part where a problem is defined—where we find the most fertile ground for growing a...

Using Open Data Sets to Solve Real Human Problems

We keep hearing that data is this century’s greatest natural resource, but way more effort goes into talking about it than into figuring out how to mine it and what to actually DO with it.

Domain7 recently hosted the 2014 Open Data Day Hackathon at our Railtown office. Local developers gathered to discuss ways we can use open data sets, and to hack some new tools using some of the City of Vancouver’s data.

Data like this is at our disposal, and now our job is to figure out how to use it to better humanity. That day we heard about some great projects that are using open data for human-friendly results:

  • Bike lanes: Vancouver’s bike lanes have been directly influenced by a developer who used ICBC data to show where frequent collisions have historically taken place.
  • Vancouver budget: Though the City always releases their budget in PDF format, few residents will actually take the time to review it. That data has been turned into a handy tool—...

Building the Web Beyond the Screen

A couple weeks ago my colleague Ryan James asked a great question: How is the trajectory of ubiquitous computing going to affect the Web and browsers? Kevan Gilbert followed up with some of the ways ubiquitous computing will mesh with storytelling, including a mention of Wilson Miner's talk When We Build.

In Miner's talk—already 3 years old—he describes how so much of computers as we know them (screens, network cables, keyboards, etc) has disappeared.

With the loss of visible computers, is the Web in danger?

In short, no. It’s thriving in new ways as the Internet fundamentally transforms the way we work.

Here are some examples:

  • Networking: Whether it's your phone, watch, thermostat, oven, garage-door, TV, stereo, or car, anything with a decent chip in it can connect to the internet. And you can bet that if it's connecting to the Internet, it can talk with servers you can...

Terms to Know When Talking to Your Web Developer

A couple weeks ago I decoded some of them terms you’ll inevitably hear when working with a web designer. Once design moves into development, however, it’s a completely new dialect. Fortunately I’ve been rolling with those foreigners for three years now, and I’ve picked up a bit of developer patois.

In the lay-est of laymen’s terms, here’s what they mean.

Agile Development: 99% of the time, what clients and developers initially set out to build looks very little like the actual end product. A traditional planning approach—with a detailed and rigid set of launch requirements—can be counterproductive. It’s like installing a state of the art chef’s kitchen when all you ever eat is takeout; or conversely, like building a one-bedroom bungalow when your wife is pregnant with twins. It’s why many digital products take so long to launch, and often flop once they do. Instead, agile (or iterative) software development focuses on the very basic requirements for your application (see “MVP” below).

Whether it’s an event registration system,...

The Future of Her: Artificial Intelligence and the Specialness of Humans

What does tomorrow hold? Are ‘the machines’ taking over the world? Will human and artificial intelligence become one—achieving singularity? Are test-tube burgers coming to a McDonald's near you? Probably.

It feels like our future is being defined by technologists and venture capitalists. While their hearts are usually in the right place, there will be some shortcomings and ill-effects along the way. I sense a palpable restlessness among the complicit majority—the rest of us who blindly snap up iPhones and open Facebook accounts. Marshall McLuhan warned us way back in the Sixties: "innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions.” Can I get an ‘amen’!?

No wonder Spike Jonze's science-fiction drama, Her has many a technologist and futurist buzzing. His vision of the near-future depicts the human emotional experience enmeshed with ubiquitous computing, artificial intelligence and user-experience design. Crazy, right? Not really.

In the film, the shock of a man falling in love with his personalized operating-system is matched only by the plausibility and...

Ubiquitous Computing: the future of human-computer interaction

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop with around 20 other people. Every single one of us is looking at a screen.

Some (like myself) are punching away at keyboards connected to large screens, some are flicking their fingers across screens the size of a greeting card, and some are tapping away at screens that fit in their pockets.

Most of us are interfacing with the same massive, global network: the Internet. Some of us are interacting with it through the web in a browser, and some of us are interacting with it through native apps designed and optimized specifically for the devices we’re holding.

At any given time, I can safely assume that the majority of the people I know are looking at a screen at the same time I am. This is the ever-connected lifestyle we live in, and it’s a world that has only existed in its current pervasiveness for a handful of years.

So what does the future hold? Where are we headed?

All of the screens in my life—my phone, my notebook, my iPad— they all know me. They all have my information in them. The thing that’s going to change is how much my various devices know each other, and how they will know other devices...