Fix scrolling performance with CSS will-change property

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Chris Ruppel fixes a real-world scrolling problem with will-change.

I thought we were supposed to apply/remove will-change via JavaScript only though? Or is scrolling different because there is always the potential to scroll and no native scrollEnd event?

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Fix scrolling performance with CSS will-change property is a post from CSS-Tricks

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Modern CSS Layout, power and responsibility

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Rachel Andrew reminds us that the power new CSS layout methods gives us could be used to form new anti-patterns:

With this power comes great responsibility. For just as it will be possible for a developer to start out with a beautifully semantic, well structured document and use Grid and Flexbox to meet the design requirements, it will be possible for them to stop caring about the document structure at all. Worse, I believe there will be a strong temptation, especially with Grid, to flatten out document structure in order that all elements become a child of the element with the Grid declared. Making layout simple, but at what cost?

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Modern CSS Layout, power and responsibility is a post from CSS-Tricks

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Thinking Ahead: CSS Scroll Snap Points

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Guil Hernandez introduces how easy sliders (with nice UX) will be with very simple HTML and CSS’ brand new scroll-snap-* properties. CSS is moving fairly fast these days, with features like this moving from “never heard of it” to:

… browser support for CSS scroll snap points is limited to IE10+ and Firefox 39+. But it looks like Safari 9 will include support, and you can enable scroll snap points in Chrome Canary.

before you know it. The Chrome support means it will trickle to Opera and Android, and the Safari support means it will trickle to iOS, so pretty solid support across the board soon.

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Thinking Ahead: CSS Scroll Snap Points is a post from CSS-Tricks

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Ask Our Project and Quality Assurance Manager Anything in Our First Ever AMA

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Jack Kitterhing has one of the most important jobs at WPMU DEV: Project and Quality Assurance Manager. Basically, it’s his job to make sure our plugins do what we say they’re going to do, and do it well.

What you probably don’t know is that Jack has been the first person to take on this role. As WPMU DEV has grown, ensuring our plugins are top notch is a priority and Jack has worked hard to oversee and guide the development of our recent releases.

We get a lot of requests in our forums for new plugin features, as well as questions about upcoming releases, all of which Jack takes on board and answers when he can.

So in our first AMA – Ask Me Anything – here’s your chance to ask Jack anything right here, whether you want to know about how certain plugins work and why, what to expect in upcoming versions of our products, or even what Jack had for breakfast!

If you're a WPMU DEV member, you've probably run into Jack Kitterhing in our support forums.
If you’re a WPMU DEV member, you’ve probably run into Jack Kitterhing in our support forums.

Meet Jack Kitterhing

Here’s a bit of background about Jack: He’s based in the UK and was a super helpful WPMU DEV member who helped out a ton in our forums before applying for a job on our support team.

After some time as a team leader, he stepped up to take on the Project and Quality Assurance Manager role last year to guide the development and improvement of our plugins.

Ask Me (Jack!) Anything: Getting Involved

Anyone is welcome to ask a question, whether you’re a member or not. This post will be open for comments for 24 hours, giving readers in all time zones the chance to get involved.

Jack will be answering questions throughout the day and will return to answer questions tomorrow (he needs to sleep, after all!).

We’re looking forward to some great discussion!

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Designing Flexible, Maintainable Pie Charts With CSS and SVG

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When it comes to CSS techniques, nobody is more stubborn and smart enough to find solutions to any problems than Lea Verou. Recently, Lea has written, designed and published CSS Secrets, a truly fantastic book on the little CSS tricks and techniques for solving everyday problems. If you thought that you know CSS fairly well, think again: you will be surprised. In this article, we publish a few nuggets from the book, which were also presented in Lea’s recent talk at SmashingConf New York — on designing simple pie charts, with CSS. Please notice that some demos might not work as expected due to limited support in browsers. —Ed.

Designing Simple Pie Charts With CSS

Pie charts, even in their simplest two-color form, have traditionally been anything but simple to create with web technologies, despite being incredibly common for information ranging from simple stats to progress indicators and timers. Implementations usually involved either using an external image editor to create multiple images for multiple values of the pie chart, or large JavaScript frameworks designed for much more complex charts.

The post Designing Flexible, Maintainable Pie Charts With CSS and SVG appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Sub-branding vs. brand fragmentation, which should you choose?

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Designers commonly offer numerous services and products, from straight design consultation, to side-projects, and apps. But are you one organization or many? How similar should your offerings look? What brand strategy will lead to the most success for you? 

What’s the difference between a Volkswagen, an Audi, and a Porsche? They are all made by the same company with shared engineers and parts, but the parent company (Volkswagen) has been very strategic in how they’ve fragmented their brand. 

Southern New Hampshire University’s traditional program and its online program, College for America, are in the same product space — they are both offering a way to get a college degree. But, they do it in very different ways and for very different audiences at very different stages of life.

What’s right for your brand?

Regardless of whether you’re designing for a car manufacturer or a school or university brand, one of your first orders of business is to answer three important questions about how each of your offerings fits into your overall strategy:

  1. What are the advantages of sub-brands with an association between different offerings?
  2. What are the advantages of brand fragmentation?
  3. What will give you the best brand value?

Once these questions are answered, you will be able to focus on how to achieve your overall goals.

Brand fragmentation vs. sub-branding

Some level of sub-branding is a very common approach used by many companies as well as many higher education institutions (particularly mid to large sized schools). With sub-branding, there are some unifying perceptual factors common to all the brands in terms of:

  • messaging
  • color palette
  • typography
  • photography
  • structure and style

But there is a spectrum of differentiation to allow each sub-brand to most effectively resonate with its marketing and audience goals.

Brand fragmentation on the other hand, maintains only the most tentative of links between different areas of a business. But note, the link is never broken entirely.

When Toyota launched the Lexus, they made sure people knew it was created by Toyota (to leverage their reputation for top quality). They also changed the name of the car to denote a separate price-point. Nowhere on the Lexus marketing materials did it mention Toyota, yet people knew. There was a wink and a nod to it. The impression created in the market was: Lexus is different; it’s better; it costs more; it’s worth more.

Would Lexus drivers pay just as much for a Toyota? Nope!

What are the pros of sub-branding?

Two of the most common reasons to closely associate products as sub-brands that are part of a larger brand, are, a) to look bigger, and b) to cross-pollinate success. Steve Jobs famously called this the “halo effect” (though he didn’t actually coin the term). Jobs knew that because iPods were selling like hotcakes, it would lead to increased traffic at Apple stores and increased sales of Macintosh computers. And he was right.

Branding is about telling stories…to real people in an effort to get them to feel something and do something

While Apple doesn’t dive into creating competing products within their own line, they reach more of the market through the associations among their products. You’ll be hard pressed to interact with one of their products or employees without seeing a range of Apple’s other products.

Use an iPhone to make a video? You should get an Apple TV to share that video with your family or a Mac to edit it. Have an iPod? Download music from iTunes. Have a Mac? Store your data with iCloud.

When someone is buying an iPhone, is there an advantage to mentioning other Mac products? Of course! Apple is a premium brand. While their “official” mission statement is a bunch of marketing fluff, a line that’s often repeated by their leaders is that Apple is focused on “making the best products.” Note they do not say the most products. They say the best.

Branding is about telling stories. You tell them with words and pictures, but you tell them to real people in an effort to get them to feel something and do something.

What are the pros of brand fragmentation?

When you consider the logistic, mindshare and design costs of managing multiple individual brands in the same product space, why would you ever want to do it?

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to just pick a color palette, choose a typeface, take some pictures and call it a day? Same PowerPoints. Same business cards. Same website design.

The answer is: personalization.

If you have the same exact audience for your products and services and strong brand recognition, you’ll reap great benefits from tying your brands closely together. Unfortunately, most organizations have very different audiences.

Selling a home computer to a senior citizen is very different than selling 1,000 computers to the US Army. The product is different. The pitch is different. The decision-makers are different. The pain-points are different. Everything is different. So how do you figure this out?

Always start with your customer: the person who will be deciding if it’s worth investing time and/or money in your offering. Can you tell the same story to each of them? Will they all respond the same way to the same imagery?

When you fragment your brand you have the ability to be personalized and exclusive

Volkswagen could certainly get rid of the Volkswagen brand, and call every car they make a Porsche. Initially, they might even sell more cars because of it. But Porsche brings in 22% of their revenue, despite accounting for less than 2% of the actual cars that Volkswagen sells. A big reason for that is exclusivity.

When you fragment your brand you have the ability to be personalized and exclusive. Saying, “We only accept the top 15 applicants every year,” will get you a higher tier of people than saying, “You’ll be one of 350 people going through this program this year.”

Big is good, but so is small.

Which approach to choose?

It’s a spectrum. Some level of association leads to cross pollination and the “halo” effect, however greater brand fragmentation offers to opportunity to create premium goods and services, while maintaining your bread and butter offerings.

Remember, branding is about getting people to feel what you want them to feel and getting them to do what you want them to do. Everything else is a tool.

 

Featured image uses design process image via Shutterstock.

20 Inspirational Instrumental Music Tracks from LuckStock – only $14!

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The Difference Between Minification and Gzipping

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These are both things that you do to assets on your website (things like .css files and .js files). They are both things that reduce the size of the file, making it more efficient in crossing the network between servers and browsers. As in, good for performance. The network is the speed bottleneck of the web and reducing file size helps.

But these two things are distinctly different. If you didn’t already know that, it’s worth understanding.

Minification does things like removing whitespace, removing comments, removing non-required semicolons, reducing hex code lengths…

… and stuff like that. The file remains perfectly valid code. You wouldn’t want to try to read it or work with it, but it’s not breaking any rules. The browser can read it and use it just like it could the original file.

Minification creates a new file that you ultimately use. For instance, you’d create a `style.css` that you work with. Then you could minify it into `style.min.css`.

Gzipping finds all repetitive strings and replaces them with pointers to the first instance of that string.

Julia Evans created a wonderful way to understand this (see her post and video). See this first paragraph of a poem:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I {pon}dered weak an{d wea}{ry,}
Over many{ a }quaint{ and }curious volume of forgotten lore,
W{hile I }nodded, n{ear}ly napping, su{dde}n{ly }th{ere} ca{me }a t{apping,}
As{ of }so{me o}ne gent{ly }r{apping, }{rapping} at my chamb{er }door.
`’Tis{ some }visitor,’{ I }mu{tte}r{ed, }`t{apping at my chamber door}
O{nly th}is,{ and }no{thi}{ng }m{ore}.

The text within the curly brackets has been discovered by gzip to be repetitive. Thus will be replaced with a pointer that uses less space than the text itself does.

This can be incredibly effective at reducing file size, especially with code, since code be incredibly repetitive. Imagine how many instances of <div there are in an HTML file or { in a CSS file.

You can create gzipped version of files (i.e. style.css.zip) but you rarely ever do that and the browser won’t know what to do with it.

On the web, gzipping is done directly by your server. It’s a matter of configuring the server to do it. Once that’s done, gzipping automatically happens, there isn’t any ongoing work you have to do. The server compresses the file and sends it across the network like that. The browser receives the file and unzipped it before using it. I’ve never heard anyone mention anything about the overhead of zipping and unzipping, so I just assume it’s negligible and the benefits far outweigh the overhead.

Here’s how to enable it on Apache servers, where it uses the mod_deflate module. And H5BP offers server configurations for all the popular servers that include gzipping.

An Example

We’ll use the CSS file from Bootstrap since it’s such a common asset.

You’ll save about 17% minifying the CSS, 85% gzipping, or 86% if you do both.

Here’s the ideal situation when checking everything is working from DevTools:

Gzipping is far more effective. Doing both is ideal.

Gzipping reduces the file size about five times as much as minifying does. But, you get a little boost from minifying as well, and since it likely requires little additional effort in a build step, you might as well.

There is also some evidence that browsers can read and parse a minified file faster:

As expected, minification helps parse-n-load in addition to network transmission time. This is probably due to the absence of comments and extra whitespace.

Microsoft is also starting to optimize their parsers for it:

So in Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge, we’ve added new fast paths, improved inlining and optimized some heuristics in Chakra’s JIT compiler to ensure that minified code runs as fast, if not faster than the non-minified versions. With these changes, the performance of individual code patterns minified using UglifyJS that we tested, improved between 20-50%.


Caching assets is also related to this conversation, as nothing is faster than a browser that doesn’t have to request an asset at all! There is plenty of information on that around the web (or in books), but we may just do a post on it soon with some tricks.


The Difference Between Minification and Gzipping is a post from CSS-Tricks

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A Fun and Informative GIF Tour of What to Expect in WordPress 4.3

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A new version of WordPress is upon us and it’s shaping up to be a superb – if not controversial – release. Thanks to the addition of menus to the theme customizer, WordPress 4.3 has been one of the most hotly debated releases in recent years.

Theme customizer aside, there are plenty of other changes to look forward to. So in today’s post, I’m going to take you on a visual tour of the great features WordPress 4.3 has in store.

Menus in the Theme Customizer

There has been a lot of angst around making the theme customizer compulsory. I don’t intend to take sides in this article, but one thing is clear: core developers know that after a move like this, continuously improving the customizer will become a priority.

In this version, we get to update (#32576) our menus from the theme customizer which is a blast! I think the experience is a lot more fluid and intuitive than the old menus page where you set something up and just hoped it would work.

What you get is essentially the same functionality compacted into a smaller space using a multi-tiered method. To get an idea of what it’s like, take a look below.

Menus in the theme customizer
Menus in the theme customizer

Site Icon Support

You know the little icon in the browser bar and app icons shown on smartphones? Many themes have added this in the past, all of them using different methods. There is now a unified UI for this built straight into the core.

By ticking off ticket #16434, the code developer team have added this feature under the general settings area. Note that any image you use should be at least 512px x 512px and smaller image sizes will be generated for you.

Setting the site icon in WordPress

Password Upgrades

A new password UI has been added (ticket #32589) to prompt people into using better passwords. Instead of typing your password, a stronger one is intially auto-generated for you. You can, of course, overwrite it with whatever you like.

If WordPress detects that you are using a weak password you’ll also have to tick a box to make sure you’re OK with this.

I think this is a great way to add a layer of security to one of the least secure aspects of the system: the user. At the time of writing this article, the new UI has not been added to the initial install page, but a patch has just been submitted so it should be all-pervasive once 4.3 ships.

New Password Handling in WordPress 4.3
New Password Handling in WordPress 4.3

Editing Improvements

Many people I speak to who love WordPress say the same thing: editing is not the greatest experience. Compared to Medium, for example, where I work with unhindered joy, WordPress can be bothersome sometimes.

The good news is that talented people are working on it! One such effort is #31441, which is all about automatically formatting certain patterns.

This boils down to the following improvements in version 4.3:

  • The * and – characters will be converted into unordered lists
  • Numbers followed by a period and a space are converted to ordered lists
  • Two to six hash characters (#) get converted to headings
  • The > character will be converted to blockquotes

This feature is so great that after using it once to record the demo below I automatically forgot it isn’t already a part of WordPress when I wrote this post! I guess I’ll have to wait for the official release to use it here.

Automatic pattern expansion in the editor
Automatic pattern expansion in the editor

New Mobile Post List View

New improvements have been made to the list views in the admin, making these pages a lot more usable on small screens. Instead of truncating the tables, data is now hidden behind a drop-down, which you can toggle on and off.

Ticket #32395 is a great step to increasing usability across a wide range of devices, hopefully we’ll see more like it in upcoming releases.

Old And New List Experience
Old and new list experience

Small Adjustments and Developer Stuff

As always, there are a number of mini improvements, changes and a barrage of bug fixes. Here are some of the more significant ones:

  • A new template file has been added: singular.php. This is great news for those of us who’ve wanted a fallback for singular types without having to resort to index.php. See the official announcement for more information.
  • One of the features I was most excited about is this: comments are turned off for pages by default. Finally! This feature is extended to all custom post types that do not explicitly define comment support on registration. The official announcement has more juicy details.
  • If you’re following the developments in the taxonomy roadmap, note that terms shared across multiple taxonomies will be split into separate terms on updating to 4.3 . I recommend reading Eliminating shared taxonomy terms in WordPress 4.3 to get up to speed on all this.
  • As of 4.3 PHP 4 style constructor methods will be deprecated. I believe very strongly that proper OOP should be bought to WordPress products, this is a step in the right direction.
  • Press This now has a HTML text editor, as discussed in ticket #32706.

Getting Involved

If I’ve got you interested in the upcoming version, the easiest way to test it out for yourself is to grab the WordPress Beta Tester plugin. You’ll need to go to Tools >Beta Testing, select nightly builds, then go to the updates section in the dashboard and update WordPress. I recommend doing this on a test site rather than a live site just to be sure.

Getting WordPress Nightlies
Getting WordPress Nightlies

If you find a bug or something feels off, report it! You can go to any of the tickets I mentioned for specific features, or if you are sure no one has reported it, create a new Trac ticket.

Overview

The final 4.3 package is a few weeks away – it’s due out in mid-August – but it seems like the core functionality is pretty solid already. If you’d like to follow developments until then (I’m sure there will be some minor changes), your best bet is following the Core Announcements.

I personally love this update already. This one is multi-faceted, touching on security (better passwords), responsiveness (mobile list view), better user experience (editor automation) and more, which makes it a well-rounded update that should please many.

Is there anything you like or don’t like about WordPress 4.3? Is there something you would change or have you been waiting for a feature in vain? Let us know in the comments below.

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