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Unstable alignment

Sometimes my students would come up with a layout like this:

Unstable alignment

It may seem that things are aligned, but they are not. Can you see what’s wrong? I would ask, how is the heading positioned? They would say, it’s centered:

Unstable alignment

How is the text aligned then? They would say, it’s left-aligned:

Unstable alignment

And how was the left margin chosen? They would say, it’s aligned with the heading. But this means that the position of text depends on the length of the heading. What would you do with this if the text changes on another screen?

Unstable alignment

This doesn’t work as a system, because this structure is unstable. It reminds me of the fragile Windows Start menu:

You must be careful enough not to breathe, or the whole thing will fall apart.

So, generally, do not align a piece of text to an itself-unaligned part of another text:

Because when you translate this text into a different language, really weird things will happen:

May 20   design

iPhone passcode keyboard rendering bug

Years pass, but Apple just wouldn’t fix this bug in iOS. When the iPhone asks you for the passcode, it shows the keyboard where system keys’ borders aren’t semitransparent:

You may think that it is so by design, but no: if you touch the keyboard, all keys’ border re-render normally, with thin borders.

And sometimes the keyboard is rendered fine initially:

Does nobody in Apple use alphanumeric passcodes? The numeric ones you usually see others type from three-meters distance. Since there is Touch ID and the passcode is rarely asked for, there is no reason to use the numeric ones.

May 19   bugs   iPhone

Transport map design. Part 3

In part 1 I’ve covered the difference between the Beck’s London underground map, our Ekaterinburg metro map, and the Vignelli’s and Hertz’s maps of New York subway. In part 2, I’ve highlighted the more subtle details specific to the transit maps of Barcelona, Paris, Oslo, Moscow and London.

All these differences in maps were because of the differences in the cities or their transportation systems. But there is another reason for the maps to be different: aesthetics.

The transport map is not only a tool, but also is a notable object of graphic design in a big city. So even if you can make do with the Beck’s design language, you will get a London map, no matter what you depict. The transport system must have a face, and aesthetics is as important as logic.

The main feature of the Moscow metro map is the Circle line. It doesn’t fit the Beck’s language, but it’s very important to Moscow. This is not Moscow:

Transport map design. Not Moscow

This, on the other hand, is:

Transport map design. Moscow

London also has Circle line, but it has never been depicted as a circle. Today, it’s not even a closed loop:

London also has Circle line

These Circle lines are large elements and form the overall image of the map.

But little details also influence the perception of a map.

In London, the black rings of the transfer stations are noticeably thinner than the lines. The “corridors” are of the same width. The stations’ ticks are square, stick out at 2/3 of a line’s width. The names are typeset with blue New Johnston:

 Transport map design. London

In Moscow, the fat rings of the transfers are coloured with their line’s colour. The “corridors” are much thinner and have a gradient. Some transfers are circular. The station ticks stick out at full line’s width. The names are typeset with black Moscow Sans:

Transport map design. Moscow

Look at this tram map:

London Tramlink

It’s obvious that it’s a London tram map, not some other one. It follows the London transport graphic design standards — the rings, the ticks, the captions.

When we see the beige background, the particular palette of the lines, the filled station disks and the distinct designation of the transfers, we immediately recognise the Paris map:

Transport map design. Paris

Jug Cerović follows an unusual 18-degree angle grid in his Luxembourg map. If you saw it once, you recognise it every time:

Transport map design. Luxembourg

For the Chelyabinsk trams map we’ve come up with these 3D terminals:

Transport map design. Chelyabinsk

Why are they like this? The only reason is that we wanted this map to look special.

It is not enough for a good transport map to just answer the question “how to get there”. Since it is used everywhere, it is part of a city’s image. And if its design is powerful, it influences the city in other ways.

The Moscow’s Circle line in has inspired designers to create these beautiful wayfinding steles:

Transport map design

The round designations of the New York subway train routes are used in all the signage and have even made it to the dots above i in the pedestrian city maps (in the classic Helvetica these dots are rectangles):

Transport map design. WalkNYC

And in London, the Tube Map has given birth to the graphical language of all the transport-related signage:

Transport map design. TfL posters

This graphical language is so iconic that you can even buy all sorts of souvenirs with its elements: t-shirts, umbrellas, shower curtains. This design has spread not only beyond the Tube, but beyond London. There are all sorts of maps done in this style:

Transport map design

Strong graphic design of the transport systems makes them more attractive. This helps cities get rid of private cars. People spend more time outside, interact with each other. This gives small businesses a boost and makes cities more pleasant to live in.

May 18   design   maps   transportation

How to use Emerge to make your website load nicely

Most web pages don’t load pleasantly. Loading takes time, images and other elements appear in a random order. Content jumps when new elements load above it. Some things are unreadable before a font or a background is loaded. We are used to this.

Desktop apps are different: an app’s user interface would appear only after it’s loaded. The apps that are slow to load show splash screens.

The desktop approach looks more polished. But on the web, we can start reading and even using a page before it’s fully loaded.

How can we take the best of the two worlds? We can gradually show a page, but make sure it looks fine at every step of this progressive loading. And we’ll try to minimise the jumping. I call this “coordinated loading”.

Emerge is a JavaScript library that I’ve created to help add coordinated loading to your website. Normally you would need to manually write a lot of code to do this. But with Emerge, you just specify the desired behaviour with HTML attributes. Let’s see how you can use it on your website.

Prepare: provide boxes for images and other external objects

Before we even start using Emerge, let’s fix one thing. Consider this code:

<img src="some.jpg" />
<p>Text</p>

Before the browser has loaded the image, it has no idea how much space to provide for it. So it first just shows the text as if there was no image. When it starts loading the image and figures out its size, the layout changes for the image to fit. So the text jumps down.

To avoid the jumping, specify all images sizes:

<img src="image.png" width="200" height="300" />
<p>Text</p>

Here’s how you can do this with PHP (5.4 or later):

<img src="image.png" <?= getimagesize ('image.png')['attribute'] ?> />
<p>Text</p>

But what if you want an image to be flexible, i.e. occupy 100% of the container width?

<img src="photo.jpg" width="100%" />

In this case, to avoid the jumping, you’ll need a container with fixed proportions. Let’s say you have a 3:2 photo. Here’s a way to do it:

<div style="position: relative; padding-bottom: 66.67%">
<img style="position: absolute" src="photo.jpg" width="100%" />
</div>

Paddings’ percentages are always percentages of width, even for vertical padding. So the div will have 3:2 proportions even before the photo is loaded. PHP code:

<?php $size = getimagesize ('photo.jpg'); ?>
<div style="position: relative; padding-bottom:
	<?=round (100*$size['height']/$size['weight'], 2) ?>%">
<img style="position: absolute" src="photo.jpg" width="100%" />
</div>

The same can be done with videos.

Figure out which elements of the page make no sense unless they are fully loaded

OK, appearing images will no longer cause jumping. That’s a win already.

But with the Emerge script added to your page, you can do more. Use class “emerge” in an image to make it fade in (“emerge”) when loaded:

<img … class="emerge" />

What if your image has a caption which makes no sense unless the image is loaded? Actually, you can wrap elements in divs with class “emerge”:

<div class="emerge">
  <!-- Text, images and what not -->
</div>

You can put multiple images and videos into such div. The div will emerge only after all images and videos inside it are loaded.

Add a loading spinner for large elements

Some of your emerge elements may be quite large and take considerable time to load. The user may be confused by a large empty space on a page. So you can ask Emerge to display a loading indicator while such elements load:

<div class="emerge" data-spin="true">
  <!-- Show spinner while this is loading -->
</div>

Emerge has a built-in spinner with variable size, color and spin direction. If you want a custom spinner, Emerge supports them too. The documentation explains spinners in detail.

Make sure things appear in order

It may happen that an element which is lower on a page loads and emerges before the one which is above it. This may look strange and you may want to make sure the element load in a particular order.

Here is the easiest way to make an emerge element wait for the previous one to load:

<div class="emerge">
  <!-- Some content -->
</div>
<div class="emerge" data-continue="true">
  <!-- This will wait for the previous element to emerge first -->
</div>

The attribute data-continue means that even when this element’s images and videos are ready, it would emerge only after the previous one. You can chain many elements this way. If document order is not what you want, there is also a way to make one element wait for a particular other element by its id.

Select effect that make your site look best

By default, elements emerge by just fading in. But this is also adjustable.

Here are some examples of what you can do. You can make an element slide horizontally or vertically while it emerges:

<div class="emerge" data-effect="slide" data-up="20px">
  <!-- Stuff that will slide up 20px while emerging -->
</div>

Use data-down, data-left or data-right to change this. You can combine a horisontal and vertical parameters for diagonal motion.

Or you can make an element zoom-in:

<div class="emerge" data-effect="zoom">
  <!-- This will zoom in while emerging -->
</div>

Tune the original size with data-scale=“0.8” (or another value).

You can control an animation duration with data-duration (in ms).

There are other effects, which you can read about in the documentation. You can also provide an exact CSS for initial and final animation states.

Experiment and have fun

Since Emerge does not require you to write JavaScript, it’s very easy to experiment with. Find the way for your website to load in the best possible way.

But make sure you use the effects to improve the way your site loads, not make it too flashy and distracting. Don’t wrap the whole page into an emerging div: the user won’t see anything before everything is loaded, and your website will feel very slow.

The idea is to find elements that make sense only as a group, and make such groups appear in a single fade-in animation when ready. And then coordinate the order and motion for these groups.

May 14   Emerge
May 9   music   my music

Live Mix: Design

On the 21st of April I played techno in Art. Lebedev Studio:

Live Mix: Design

There are two mistakes: at 31:20 and at 1:20:11.

Playlist:

0:00:00 Artefakt Tidal
0:01:52 Conrad Van Orton & VSK Angular Momentum
0:05:35 Shlømo Obsession
0:09:01 Antonio De Angelis Polar
0:11:58 Roman Flügel Pattern 13
0:17:16 Planetary Assault Systems Whistle Viper (Live Edit)
0:20:55 Sleeparchive Window 092 (Oscar Mulero Remix)
0:24:14 Tensal Achievement 3
0:26:50 Axkan Fear (Israel Toledo Remix)
0:29:01 Sleeparchive 1
0:30:26 P.E.A.R.L. Desolation (I/Y Reduction)
0:33:12 Ilya Birman Glass
0:35:21 Israel Toledo Standing
0:37:49 Developer Hooked In
0:40:46 Planetary Assault Systems Bell Blocker
0:44:13 Shifted Clairvoyance Part II
0:49:00 Truss Beacon (Original Mix)
0:50:59 Rumah & Progression SC3
0:54:18 Dense & Pika Lack Of Light
0:58:22 Robert Hood Shaker
1:02:38 NoizyKnobs Really Deep
1:05:36 Woo York Siberian Night
1:10:20 Sector Y Hit Control
1:14:25 Exium Monopoles
1:18:04 Ilya Birman I Will Always
1:19:10 Orion Forerunner (Original Mix)
1:23:43 Conrad Van Orton & VSK DP
1:26:56 Sleeparchive 7
1:27:36 Birth Of Frequency Gate (Oscar Mulero Remix)
1:30:15? Jen Series Shadow Dancer
1:33:08 Tørmented Sins Of Prophets (Original mix)
1:35:36 Ilya Birman Octomore
1:41:04 Alderaan Disturbed
1:44:13 Planetary Assault Systems Bawoo Bawoo
1:49:04 Birth Of Frequency Design
1:53:52 Sleeparchive Roses
1:54:28 Oscar Mulero Inclination
May 9   mixes   music

Aegea 2.6 released

Aegea 2.6 has been released. Aegea is a great blogging engine.

What’s new:

  • Continuous autosaving of form data in post editors. Data is being saved locally in the browser. If the browser or the OS crashes, when you open the editor again, your latest changes will be there. If you edit the post from another device and save the changes to server, the most recent server version will open.
  • The new search finds more relevant posts, works faster and formats the results in a better way. It will not show the full posts, but just the fragments with the search query. If the found post contains images, it will show their thumbnails for quicker identification. For example, try searching street in this blog.
  • It’s now easier to set a post’s cover image for social networks. Just drag an image into the editor’s page. If you drop in onto the Text field, if will be inserted in text, but if you drop it outside the Text field, it will just get added to the post. Social networks will see it as part of the post, but it will not get displayed in its text.
  • Improved database migration from older versions.
  • Multiple other small improvements.

An engine is a program that runs on the blogger’s website. It provides the writing tools to the author, shows the posts to the readers and lets them write comments. Medium.com (or similar) is simpler, but they can shut down and take all your posts offline. With an engine, the blog runs on your own website and you have access to the files and the database (you don’t have to deal with the files or the database, but you own all the data).

I want most people to have access to personal blogging in this way. That’s why it uses the most easily available platform: PHP with MySQL.

Aegea powers this and many other blogs. Among my favourites:

With Aegea, you can use the built-in neutral theme or customise it however you like (this blog is an example). Be flexible with comments: allow and disallow them globally or per post. Refine posts using Drafts. Add images, videos, audio or code to illustrate your point. Organise your writing with tags.

Designers, writers, musicians and software developers use Aegea to show their work, communicate and spread knowledge. They love it because it’s simple and fast yet does everything they need. Aegea is free for personal use and paid for business use.

Learn more and get Aegea at blogengine.me.

May 5   Aegea   my products   projects   release

Berlin street name plates

The main design:

1

Below the main plate there is a place for a nano-plate with addresses range:

2

This one with a red spot can be used as a nice logo:

3

If a street is named after someone, there is an additional plate about them on top:

4

These are two different ligatures:

5
6

Nice name:

7
8

Alternative design:

9
10

Rare beauty:

11

More Berlin:

See also Kiev street name plates.

May 4   Berlin   world

Securige operator user interface

I’ve designed the UI for the panel protection program Securige. It’s a program where operators see if someone’s broken into your apartment and send the rapid response team if they have. That’s what it looks like:

My favourite moment of the project was when I was sitting at the operator’s post quietly (it was the condition to let me in), and the operators are like “if you have questions, just ask!”. And so I started asking. That’s where I’ve learned why the keyboard is almost never used. Otherwise I wouldn’t have come up with the Fitts-law-optimised search bar on the left.

Also, when I asked what irritated the most in the existing program, everyone said: “it’s fine”. But when I gave examples of possible improvements, they said: “wow, can this be done?”.

Very interesting project. A whole book on user interface can be written just on the examples from this one. Read a more detailed description.

May 2   projects   user interface   work

Jouele 2.3

Jouele 2.3

Jouele is a simple and beautiful audio player for the web. Eugene Lazarev has been developing it lately.

Version 2.3 has been released. Jouele now uses Howler (bundled) instead of jPlayer. This change helps use less bandwidth, display the preloader better and get rid of several bugs. The data-repeat feature is now supported on single tracks. When a file is unavailable, Jouele shows this with an icon, instead of just “hanging”. The markup works better in different browsers.

Song example:

See documentation on Github.

Apr 30   Jouele   projects   web
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