Google has rebuilt Google Maps from “the ground up,” with a focus on the design and interactions directly within the map.
From seeing clouds hovering over the world in real-time and how the Earth looks in the Milky Way as the sun sets, the new Google Maps essentially has Google Earth and Street View baked into it. With stunning Google imagery, as well as user-generated photos which can be uploaded and submitted to Google Maps, the platform has never looked better.
It also creates a tailored map for each search and click you make, and incorporates Zagat badges and restaurant reviews integrated into the platform. Offers are also now available through Maps. For example, a Starbucks listing can now offer half-off deals for customers. It also makes smart recommendations specifically for you, and the more you use it, the better it gauges your interests.
By clicking on any point on the Map, an information card will appear. This will allow you to get directions to that spot or access Street View for imagery.
SEE ALSO: 12 Mysterious Google Maps Sightings
Meanwhile, a carousel at the bottom includes a lot of pictures taken in that location, including user-generated photo tours and 3D imagery via Google Earth.
Google Maps also aims to be a GPS device killer. You can re-route directions based on traffic conditions seen on the Map and view side by side how long each route takes to select the quickest and shortest one.
The company said more than 1 million websites are using Google Maps.
You can sign up to give it a try via this preview link.
Story is developing…
With that in mind, Mashable got on the phone with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen to dispel at least some of the myth and rumor surrounding Adobe Creative Cloud.
Narayen said that there are more than a few financial changes that come as a result of the switch. Without boxed software, the relationship with channel partners changes (though Narayen didn’t say exactly how). In fact the whole financial model changes. Among the new performance metrics Wall Street will look for in Adobe is “number of subscribers” and “annualized recurring revenue.”
Narayen also admits that they won’t be paying for product packaging any more.
On the other hand, some costs are rising for Adobe: Narayen said cloud services require storage space. There is also the expectation, with cloud-connected services, that updates and innovation will arrive more quickly, “For engineers and the product team, it’s a canvas for delivering products and innovation at a more rapid pace.”
While this isn’t a move solely devoted to defeating software pirates, Narayen says the shift will improve the situation. “It allows us to provide different offerings in different emerging markets without worrying about gray markets.”
There’s an ongoing debate in Mashable’s comments about whether or not Adobe’s subscription model will cost Adobe customers more than buying Creative Suite 6 outright (with a perpetual license). Narayen insists that the cost for Adobe CC is now lower for “any customer.” Those costs are now more predictable, he added.
There’s also, Narayen contends, the chance that customers will save money because they don’t have to pay for additional services that now come with Adobe CC. These include cloud-based storage and even Behance, which allows Adobe CC users to “share portfolios and monetize skill sets,” said Narayen.
As for those who just purchased Creative Suite 6, Adobe is offering aggressive discounts.
Whether customers are looking to start out on Creative Suite or are current customers, Narayen sees great benefit in this new path. “To a lot of people, they’ve actually stated that the lower price of entry is in all honesty a better way for them to become a member of the creative cloud generation,” he said.
Adobe’s Creative Cloud is not exactly a cloud-based app. Narayen accurately describes it as a hybrid solution. You will still install local software. The subscription model ($19.99 a month for an app or $49 a month for the full Creative Suite) means you gain access to the latest software updates as soon as they become available in the cloud, as well as all the cloud-based services and integration available to CC members.
No Internet? No problem. Narayen told Mashable the apps will still work. “It’s the best of both worlds,” he added.
You can still by perpetual-license, boxed versions of Adobe’s hobbyist Elements software products. Lightroom remains available in a boxed version as well. Narayen said Adobe has no immediate subscription-based plans for those products, but the migration to digital copies is the wave of the future. Narayen’s advice to the rest of the software industry, “Companies that wish to thrive in this next tech era need to embrace or perish. We’re not only embracing, we’re leading.”
Even so, not everyone has broadband access and for those who find downloading Creative Suite-sized apps prohibitive, Narayen promises, “We’ll get them the software they need.”
In a word, yes. During the Adobe MAX Convention in Los Angeles, the software giant showed off two intriguing prototypes: One a digital ruler and the other a cloud-connected stylus or pen. The pen makes it possible to, Narayen explained, have “all your assets with you on any device.” Narayen cautioned, however, that neither one of these products is shipping.
Narayen, who has been with Adobe since 1998, is the first to admit that he could not have envisioned today’s digital landscape 15 years ago. “It’s amazing what has happened with technology and what Adobe has done … We are not just transforming how people make this content, we’re transforming how they manage it, how they measure it and how they monetize it.”
Perhaps Narayen is so sanguine about the changes because he’s been through this before. When Adobe announced in 2003 it was introducing product “collections and suites,” customers and industry watchers wondered about Adobe’s motivations. Was it all about money? Ultimately Adobe’s Creative Suite of products became the standard.
Narayen anticipates a similar kind of embrace for Adobe CC. “A few years from now, people will say, ‘How could I even imagine a Photoshop that was not connected to the cloud?’”
What do you think of Narayen’s explanations? Are you ready for subscription-based creativity software? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A. Pawlowski , NBC News contributor
Matt Nighswander / NBC News
One World Trade Center rises above the rest of the Manhattan skyline, as seen from Brooklyn. Once completed, the skyscraper is expected to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Surrounded by sacred ground, destined to become a Big Apple icon and watched with hope by an entire nation, the dazzling new skyscraper that will reshape New York’s skyline is one step closer to completion.
When crews raise the final sections of spire to the top of One World Trade Center, the structure will help the skyscraper soar 1,776 feet into the sky, a patriotic reference to the year the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress. The building currently tops out at 1,368 feet above the lobby level – the height of the original World Trade Center’s North Tower.
The raising was originally scheduled for Monday, but the Port Authority postponed it due to wind. No new date has been set.
Once everything is in place, the needle will make One World Trade Center, the gleaming office building in downtown Manhattan constructed to replace the two towers destroyed on 9/11, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey noted in a statement.
Such a designation can be both a tourist draw and a mark of prestige for a destination, said Daniel Safarik, a spokesman for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
“A tall building is a serious iconic symbol of the aspirations of whoever is constructing it, and that can extend to the developer, the architect, the city in which it’s placed and even the whole country,” Safarik said.
But One World Trade Center’s aspiration to be “the tallest” won’t be official until the council weighs in. The non-profit group has three different methods of measuring skyscrapers, looking either at the height to a building’s architectural top, the highest occupied floor or the height to the tip.
The first method is the most widely used yardstick and the one the council employs to put together its “World’s Tallest Buildings” list. A spire usually counts as an architectural top – it’s considered a permanent part of the building, unlike an antenna – but the council has not yet issued an opinion on One World Trade Center because it hasn’t received the final construction drawings, Safarik said.
Once the papers are sent, a “height committee” will make the final determination, he added.
But looking out of his Rector street office window at the World Trade Center construction site, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Chairman Timothy Johnson told NBC News that, at present, it “looks like the structural mast of an antenna.”
If it accepts the spire as an “architectural top,” One World Trade Center will indeed be considered the highest building in the Western Hemisphere. If not, the new skyscraper would rank third, behind the Willis Tower (formerly called Sears Tower) and the Trump International Hotel & Tower, both in Chicago.
However, “tallest building” designations don’t carry the same weight they once did. The pace of tall building construction has increased significantly in the past decade, Safarik noted. There were 4,640 tall buildings in 2003, he said. Ten years later, that number stands at 7,889, a 70 percent increase.
The U.S. used to have a prominent presence on the list. When Sears Tower was completed in 1973, it measured 1,451 feet high and surpassed New York City’s World Trade Center towers and became the world’s tallest building – a distinction it held for more than two decades.
These days, most skyscrapers are popping up in Asia, Safarik said. Moscow and Istanbul are also hot-beds of tall building construction.
“These are places where, at least for some of the population, there is increasing wealth and there is a desire to demonstrate that these locations have significance on the world stage,” Safarik said.
“You’re still going to see some exciting tall buildings go up in the U.S. but we’re going to have to work pretty hard to keep up with Asia.”
Here are the five tallest completed buildings in the world, according to the Global Tall Building Database of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat:
Mohammed Salem / Reuters
The Burj Khalifa, Dubai.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai:2,717 feet
You could run out of superlatives to describe this hard-to-miss skyscraper completed in 2010. At more than 160 stories, it has the highest outdoor observation deck in the world and the tallest service elevator in the world. The building is home to private residences, corporate suites, a hotel and an observation deck on level 124. The builders call it “tangible proof of Dubai’s growing role in a changing world.”
Fayez Nureldine / AFP/Getty Images
Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, Saudi Arabia.
Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, Mecca, Saudi Arabia:1,972 feet
Opened in 2010, this hotel with a tower that soars 120 floors above ground features a giant clock that’s more than five times larger than Big Ben and visible from 10 miles away. The tower also houses a lunar observatory center and a museum. About 6,000 miles of fiber optic cable were needed to wire the hotel for Internet access.
Pichi Chuang / Reuters
Taipei 101, Taiwan:1,667 feet
This 101-story office center was the largest engineering project in the history of Taiwan construction. For an incredible view, take the world’s fastest elevator to the outdoor observatory near the top. The building even hosts a race in which participants must complete a total of 2,046 steps between the ground floor and the 91st floor.
Ho New / Reuters
Shanghai World Financial Center, China.
Shanghai World Financial Center, China:1,614 feet
Soaring 101 floors above the ground, this mixed-use building overlooks Shanghai Central Park, with the 100th floor observation deck providing a spectacular view of the city’s downtown and the Huang Pu River below.
Siu Chiu / Reuters
International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong.
International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong:1,614 feet
Located at the western entrance of Victoria Harbor, this shimmering 108-story tower completed in 2010 houses everything from condos and offices to retail space and two hotels. Overlapping panels on parts of the building are meant to evoke the scales of a dragon, adding to the drama of the design.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the spire’s sections would be transported to the top of One World Trade Center on Tuesday. In fact, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not set a new date.
With so many choices available, though, it can be difficult to choose a framework to build on.
It’s important to consider the following when making a decision: whether you require a grid, and if so, will it be fluid or fixed? What level of customization do you require? How much do you care about semantics? What level of support and documentation is available? What is the learning curve?
This post details 20 CSS boilerplates, frameworks and systems to help you make that decision.
Catering for four layouts (default, tablet, mobile and wide mobile), with three sets of typography presets, Less is a responsive CSS grid system for designing adaptive websites. It takes a graceful degradation approach to responsive design — it serves a default layout of 992 px, and CSS3 media queries serve several child layouts: 768, 480 and 320px. Old desktop and mobile browsers only use the default layout, which, while not ideal for accessibility, means you won’t have to IE-proof any of the child layouts, and can freely use modern CSS. Both desktop apps Less.app and CodeKit make it dead simple to use Less by automatically compiling .less files into standard CSS.
Of interest is Frameless, also built by Joni Korpi, which uses a fixed-width grid rather than a fluid grid. It is the “spiritual successor” to the Less Framework. It’s a much simpler, more flexible idea that can easily integrate into your workflow.
Skeleton is a small boilerplate for responsive, mobile-friendly development. It is built on a lightweight 960 grid, which elegantly scales down to downsized windows, tablets and mobile phones. It’s a tool for rapid development, built with CSS best practices, a well-structured grid, an organized file structure and much more. As a development kit, it stays style-agnostic and supplies only basic styles as a foundation, but is ready to adopt whatever design or style you choose. Its grid system is a variation of the familiar 960 grid, with simple syntax as an effective cross browser. The many media queries are almost exclusively targeted at max and min widths, rather than device sizes and orientations, meaning it’s future-friendly.
The typography of Skeleton is designed to create a strong hierarchy of basic styles — the primary font is Helvetica Neue. However, the font stack can be easily changed. Older browsers are served the standard 960 grid, so a polyfill like Respond.js would be required.
Foundation, from ZURB, is an advanced, lightweight, responsive, front-end framework. Based on a flexible, 12-column grid that can scale to an arbitrary size (defined by the max width of the row) that’s easily nested. This means you can build complicated layouts without creating a lot of custom elements.
Foundation uses “box-sizing: border-box,” so that borders and padding do not affect the overall width of the columns, making the math dead simple. With the mobile-first approach, the content is automatically stacked by default. There is also access to a separate small grid up to the 768px breakpoint.
The grid can be infinitely nested, with the offsets (up to 11) allowing for additional space between columns and rows. Foundation also includes dozens of elements and styles to speed up the prototyping and build phase, while ensuring the entire framework works on any and all devices.
While not strictly a framework, Responsive Grid System offers a quick, easy and flexible way to create a responsive website. You can specify the number of columns (up to 12), which are fluid, with no need to hack offsets or margin-less final columns. Mobile versions of the grid are already baked in, and it plugs straight into your existing HTML and CSS. There’s no need to do any complicated maths — Responsive Grid System uses percentages for the column widths and gutters.
It’s simple to set up: Just choose the number of columns you want and paste them into your master CSS or reference them in the document “head.” They include media queries to stack them on smaller screens.
Built with the power of Compass and SASS, Gumby is a responsive CSS framework. Its foundation is a hybrid grid that allows you to create layouts by defining what grid to use, wherever you want on the page. The built-in UI kit embraces the latest design trends and allows you to choose and mix flat design with more graduated design styles. Use the impressive, integrated Entypo Icons in any web project — they are resolution-independent.
From buttons to responsive images to skip links and intrinsic ratio video embeds, it’s a fully featured, robust framework with a great toolset.
Base is a super simple responsive framework built to function on mobile devices, tablets, netbooks and desktop computers. It also works with screen readers in mind and has nice no-js fallbacks. It’s developed on LESS, a powerful CSS pre-processor that helps you write cleaner, more organized and easily maintained CSS. There are basic styles for headings, tables, blockquotes, forms and more. It works best in modern browsers and IE7 and up.
Built by Tyler Tate, who authored the 1KB CSS Grid (no longer available), the Semantic Grid System can either be fluid or fixed width. It allows you to choose the number of columns, column widths and gutter widths to modify directly in the style sheet. And it’s completely semantic and responsive, meaning the layout adapts to the size of the user’s screen or device, using media queries. The separation of markup and presentation, and the convenience of the CSS grid are two important benefits of the Semantic Grid System.
The Semantic Grid avoids presentational CSS classes in the HTML markup itself, instead using LESS (but SCSS and Stylus can also help) to control the layout in the stylesheet. All modern browsers are supported, as well as IE6 and up.
A simple CSS framework for fast, intuitive website development, the Responsive Grid System is built using the mobile first approach, and is less than 1KB compressed. It’s available with 12, 16 and 24 columns, with media queries for all standard devices. And it has an optional reset, a “clearfix” for clearing floats, and “box-sizing: border-box” for adding additional padding to elements.
The styles for the media queries, grid and reset are all smartly separated into individual CSS files, along with IE-specific styles. You only use what is needed, keeping stylesheet bloat to a minimum.
Compass is an open-source CSS Authoring Framework that uses Sass, an extension of CSS3, to adds rules, variables, mixins and more. It generates well formatted CSS and makes your stylesheets easier to organize and maintain, and it’s full of reusable patterns. It’s device-agnostic and provides common code that would otherwise be duplicated across other frameworks and extensions. The CSS3 module provides cross-browser mixins for CSS properties introduced in CSS3, while the typography module can aid in creating beautiful typographic rhythms. As Compass is packaged with so many common design patterns, it can really speed up development time.
Also of interest is Susy, which is a responsive grid framework for Compass. It lets you establish a grid system, including semantic-friendly breakpoints.
A responsive CSS grid system is 1140px wide; however, it’s fluid, so it responds to the width of most browsers. It’s a “remix” of both the cssgrid.net and 960.gs projects, with built-in debugging CSS to show the structure of any pages being built. It also features sub-columns for added layout options and vertical spacing for CSS classes.
Columnal comes packaged with a PDF of the grid system for sketching and planning, along with wireframe templates for quick development. The responsive layout is supported through the use of Media Queries and by most modern browsers, with IE 6 and 7 degrading to either a 12-column 984px grid or a 960px-wide version.
Images and video shrink to fit, with no need to define the width or height inline. A demo page shows the responsive 12-column grid in action.
The Fluid Baseline Grid System is an HTML5 and CSS3 development kit that provides a solid foundation for quickly designing websites. Built with typographic standards in mind, it combines a fluid column layout and a baseline grid, with a mobile first responsive design approach to deliver an independent, device agnostic framework. Defaulted to a minimal three-column folding grid, which is divided into equal portions, Fluid encourages you to use this as a starting point and change the columns as your project requires. CSS styles are scaled up from the minimum instead of scaled down from the maximum, through the use of Media Queries.
The typography has been well thought-out, designed to establish a hierarchy that improves readability and creates harmony within the text and overall layout. The code is simple, lightweight and unobtrusive, easily modified for each project.
Profound is a responsive grid system for fixed and fluid layouts. It is built in SASS, giving you complete flexibility and full control. You can make the grid fluid and add per-media layouts as needed, as well as change the column and gutter widths or add and remove columns as needed. The grid keeps your markup semantic and, unlike other grid systems, the fluid layouts will look exactly the same in every browser, with negative margins to calculate columns.
The variety of layouts that can be created using Profound is immense, from fixed width to nested grids, through to responsive fluid and multiple grids within the same page. Flexibility is a standout feature.
Built by the team at Design by Front (recently acquired by Monotype), the Goldilocks approach to responsive web design is a boilerplate, with the CSS and HTML based on current best practices. It aims to take the device out of the equation, allowing you to build layouts that work across all contexts, even ones that haven’t been invented yet. Starting with the most common form of content, the paragraph element, and build up to a full layout, using a combination of Ems, Max-Width, Media Queries and Pattern Translations. Consider just three states (multi-column, narrow column and single column) that allow your designs to be resolution-independent.
It also includes good typographic defaults as a base, including print contexts. Overall, the Goldilocks approach is a boilerplate worth consideration.
Gridless is a HTML5 and CSS3 boilerplate for creating responsive, mobile first, cross-browser websites with ease. It comes packed with CSS normalization, beautiful typography, a well-organized folder structure, IE bug fixes and much more. It encourages progressive enhancement and is meant as a starting point, which should be edited, tweaked and overwritten to suit each project’s design requirements. Gridless adapts itself to a device’s width, meaning it’ll work anywhere: old feature phones, newer smartphones, tablets, notebooks and bigger desktops. As IE6/7/8 don’t support media queries, it uses Respond.js as a polyfill.
It’s an extremely simple and straightforward boilerplate, which features optimal caching and safe CSS hacks, instead of conditional classnames, and will work in most modern browsers.
InuitCSS is an object-oriented, powerful, scalable framework. It’s SASS-based and is full of objects and abstractions. It provides little to no design, which means no undoing things, no deleting CSS and no adhering to other people’s design decisions. It is built on a BEM-stylenaming convention, and is ideally suited to designers who want to focus on the creative and not code, and developers who understand the need for abstraction and an OO approach. InuitCSS gives you design patterns, not design decisions, and features nestable, fluid grids, a double-stranded heading hierarchy, sprites, buttons and a lot more.
InuitCSS is a a modern framework for modern browsers and takes advantage of normalize.css. It is intended for IE8 and above only.
Blueprint is a CSS framework which provides a solid foundation on which to build your project, with an easy-to-use grid, sensible typography, useful plugins and even a stylesheet for printing. A CSS reset eliminates any discrepancies across browsers, and the solid grid can support even the most complex layouts. Blueprint is set on a typographic baseline with powerful scripts for customization, and also includes form and print styles, buttons, tabs, sprites and templates for every step in your workflow.
Blueprint is no longer actively developed; however, with some carefully considered Media Queries, Blueprint layouts could adapt to mobile and tablet devices.
Released in 2005 and continuously developed since then, YAML (Yet Another Multicolumn Layout) is a responsive, modular CSS Framework for creating flexible, accessible websites. It’s built on a flexible grid system, with optimized typography for all standard elements, to allow for rapid prototyping. It’s well prepared for both HTML5 and CSS3 and has a small footprint of only 4.6KB. YAML allows for independent control of grid-column widths and gutters, and the flexibility to use responsive, fixed-width and nested grids, with advanced grid features and configurations. The provision of a complete set of matched building blocks to create complex websites is extensive, from navigation to forms, typography and other add-ons, which all work seamlessly together.
YAML is a stable, versatile layout framework that is regularly updated, with integrationresources, tutorials and templates available for various content management systems.
Gridlock is a responsive CSS grid system that utilizes screen size-specific class names and column counts, giving designers and developers the foundation for crafting an experience that better matches the target device. Three distinct grid sizes that correspond to specific screen sizes are used: desktop, tablet and mobile. The desktop features a full 12-column grid; the tablet grid snaps down to six columns; and mobile contains only three columns. The syntax is simple and easy to read, and can be adjusted to fit the target device’s screen size by applying the appropriate class names. Gridlock also includes some faction helper classes.
Particularly useful is the Gridlock bookmarklet, which adds a simple overlay to help debug alignment issues. You can also trigger the bookmarklet to load automatically on each page of a site.
View the demo for a review of Gridlock’s functionality.
Released in 2008, the 960.gs quickly became a popular choice, as it’s ideally suited to rapid prototyping. All of your site’s elements are within a 960px-wide container, which can be divided into 12, 16 or 24 equally sized columns. A 10px margin is placed at the right and left of the main content column, with all the numbers based on the golden ratio, meaning no funky spacing issues or decimal points to contend with. Rearrange elements independent of the order in which they appear in the markup by using “push” and “pull” CSS classes. This allows you to keep more pertinent info higher in the HTML.
Included in the download are printable sketch sheets, design layouts and templates for several major applications, such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP and QuarkXPress.
Here are a variety of other CSS systems and frameworks you may also be interested in:
2. 34 Grid
4. Less+ Framework
5. BluCSS Framework
7. Titan Framework
8. Golden Grid System
9. Zen Grids
10. Rock Hammer
11. Kube CSS Framework
12. HTML5 Mobile Boilerplate
13. Proportional Grids
14. Stack Layout
15. Simple Grid
17. Groundwork CSS
20. CSS Horus
22. Toast CSS Framework
Mashable composite, images via iStockphoto, kkrs and logo courtesy of DZNLAB
Although this was first spotted on the information page for Facebook Home — the social network’s new app launcher for Android — the new logo showed up in the company’s newsroom webpage on Friday, according to web developer Tom Waddington for the site Cut Out + Keep.
Other official pages have received logo refreshes in the past few weeks, from the security badge to the privacy icon. The redesigned logos feature Facebook’s signature blue color as a background to create a more streamlined, uniformed look.
Facebook has not yet responded to a request for comment.
What do you think of the new logo and icons? Will you miss the light blue line?
Images courtesy of Facebook and Tom Waddington
I was watching this series on the television, which focused on a team of workers who helped clean the oceans, especially when ships go down or get damaged. I reckon these good people can do with the Bio-Cleaner 2; an innovative system that combines the technique of Robot Snake and Shewanella oneidensis (a specialized bacteria which breaks down metals) to solve the problem of the water pollution from the heavy metals.
According to the designers, the bacteria will generate electricity and clean water by the process of breaking down or decomposing the heavy metals materials. The electricity will provide the power for the Robot Snake to keep operating and the clean water will drain back into the ocean. The Bio-Cleaner2 is suitable for use in a fishpond, ocean, lakes etc.
From content structure to scalable images, we’ll cover seven techniques to consider in your next responsive design.
If you are a designer or developer, what are some of your strategies for responsive web design? Please share your recommendations with readers in the comments below.
Starting with a mobile first approach and designing with progressive enhancement covers all bases, helps you focus and prioritize the constraints of mobile design, while you build new innovative experiences and capabilities.
It means the default presentation and base content is mobile, optimized for the simplest devices first. Devices with small screens and media query support is then served an advanced layout. Finally, the content and layout are then enhanced for the “desktop.” It’s an approach even Google has adopted, as the number of people perusing the web on mobile devices continues to grow at an incredible rate.
Designing for the mobile experience should now be our starting point, not the end. It forces us to focus on the essential content, to build optimized, fast-loading mobile experiences that are progressively enhanced, with the user at the forefront.
As ZURB, the team behind the popular responsive CSS framework, Foundation, noted, “A mobile first approach doesn’t just concentrate on developing for mobile phones; it is also used to develop better usability of sites, develop better use of web real estate and better reduce the amount of unnecessary elements from web pages.”
While the mobile first responsive design technique is still in its infancy, and presents a variety of technical challenges, embracing it means you are building on an adaptive, focused, lean, uncluttered future-friendly foundation.
The aim of responsive design is to present the best user experience possible in any context. Building a responsive website is the perfect time to rethink your content to make it more readable and accessible, regardless of what device it’s being viewed on. Whether you choose graceful degradation or progressive enhancement, adopting a “content out”methodology helps develop a content strategy that shifts the focus back to the user.
As UXMag states, “Putting the right content in front of your users according to the context of their interaction requires a content strategy to deliver the necessary content, at the appropriate points along a user’s journey.”
To develop an information architecture and content strategy means putting the content firstby creating a framework and structure based on research about your users and their needs. Using this knowledge and starting with the minimum amount of content needed to make the design useful is a solid foundation, to which you can thoughtfully add larger screens and resolutions. It’s equally important to answer key questions on how each content type fits into the sites goals and establishing what the content is intended to accomplish. If the content is properly structured early on in the project, we also ensure it’s portable to future platforms.
As Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere, eloquently notes, “If we start talking about content in a way that gives it a form and shape, we’ll have content that is more than ‘first.’ We’ll have content that endures.”
The various screen sizes, resolutions and device capabilities available today mean more layouts to plan for. By using sketching as a responsive tool, you can take your rough ideas, expose them to discussion and critique, refine and reformulate them, and ultimately lay the foundations on which to wireframe and prototype later in the project. It’s portable, approachable and gives you the flexibility to finesse and generate iterative, evolutionary layouts, without wasting billable hours producing endless mockups in Adobe Photoshop. Paper prototypes also have low visual and content fidelity, which means you can truly focus on user interaction and content flow, instead of how it will look — after all, the core idea behind sketching is to keep focused on the adaptability of the content, not the container.
There are plenty of sketching resources available; however, the Responsive Sketchsheetsfrom ZURB also incorporate a mobile first approach, so you can start with full-size mobile sheets, then move onto thumbnail sketches for desktop layouts. Or simply start with the desktop down approach if you wish. You may even prefer to sketch on an iPad. The tool is not of the greatest importance — just choose one that fits into your workflow and allows you to iterate quickly.
With a set of sketches you can move onto prototyping, which is a simple HTML layout (or a working wireframe), with the goal of determining if content structure, navigation, markup and breakpoints make sense and work within the specified context. They enable refined functionality and interaction and, as they are minimally styled, they focus attention on structure and content. You can get started quickly prototyping with a variety of frameworks and boilerplates, or you can choose to start from scratch.
At some point in the sketching and prototyping phase, you may want to create a pattern library, which is a dynamic, documented project library of baseline elements and patterns, used as the starting point for a project and then customized accordingly. It can allow for a more agile workflow and is especially useful for teams working together. There are severalresources available — Rock Hammer, from Stuff and Nonsense, is one of the most impressive. Use it as a design or style pattern primer or as the foundation for developing a responsive website.
As outlined by Matt Griffin, for A List Apart, sketching and prototyping can make us “rethink our whole approach to designing responsively for the web, and help stop us designing ‘websites’ and ‘mobile sites’ and instead concentrate on creating flexible content delivery systems with sets of rules that define how our content will be presented as its context shifts.”
While choosing a CSS framework is largely down to ideology and personal preference, incorporating one into your responsive workflow has a variety of benefits. It can speed up the development process, normalize common cross-browser compatibility issues and offer a structured, grid-based approach, all of which are invaluable features when creating a responsive website. Probably the biggest benefit is that less testing and debugging is required, as the framework eliminates browser-specific bugs and has already been tested across most modern browsers and mobile devices.
When choosing a framework it’s important to consider several points: How much of a learning curve is required to get up and running? What documentation and support are available? And what features are offered?
One framework that takes a mobile first approach is Foundation from the team at ZURB. Its latest release has been retooled from the ground up to build on Luke Wroblewski’s mobile first methodology, meaning the layout you write will, by default, be built for a small device. Its 12-column flexible grid can scale out to an arbitrary size, but it’s also easily nested so you can build complicated layouts, with the grid collapsed to stack all columns on top of one another for mobile devices. It adapts to different screen sizes through percentage-based widths, as well as through media queries. And now it provides greater device support and a much smarter multi-device workflow. It is both flexible and powerful, and uses the preprocessor Sass, so you can remove all the presentational classes and write the exact semantic markup you choose, with the added benefits of all the framework components. Foundation now also ships with Sass mixins and extensions for almost every component.
Using a responsive CSS framework won’t singlehandedly solve all your design and development problems,; however, the tools are worth exploring as foundations for your next responsive project.
A common idea is that breakpoints should be based on common screen sizes (mobile, tablet and desktop). However, by developing for specific device resolutions, we’re not fully embracing the potential of responsive design, which is centered around fluidity, flexibility and adaptability.
As content is the corner stone of the web, it makes sense to take a device agnostic approach and set breakpoints according to the content. Explore your design to find the points where it naturally breaks down and adjust. It’s impractical to try to cater for each new resolution with a specified breakpoint, especially as new devices are introduced constantly. The benefit to this approach is “if you adjust your design when it looks right, you won’t have to worry about retrofitting your media queries for new devices,” notes designer and authorElliot Jay Stocks.
So what does a “content out” approach to breakpoints mean? “It means defining your underpinning design structure from your content, and then focusing on what happens in between ‘layouts,’” says designer Mark Boulton. This approach then makes you more “aware of the micro-details of how the content behaves in a fluid context, because your focus shifts from controlling the design in the form of pages to one of guiding the design between pages.”
One way to approach breakpoints, as suggested by Tim Kadlec, author of Implementing Responsive Design, is to resize your browser and see where there is room for improvement, allowing the content to guide you. Start with a mobile view (around 300px) and size up the browser window until things start to look like they need adjustment. That’s your first breakpoint — set a media query for that and address the issues. Repeat this until you have accounted for an acceptable range. Setting your breakpoints in Ems and Rems rather than pixels also ensures a high degree of flexibility.
This method doesn’t have to be time consuming, either. In fact, Drew Thomas argues, “The amount of time to add a ‘special case’ media query is the same amount of time that it takes to find a solution that lets content work without an additional media query.”
We’re not advocating that breakpoints are dead, rather, that we let the content inform our media queries; the only way to create a design that will work on any device is to forget about the device altogether. You may even wish to explore beyond this approach and look atclassic readability theory, and define your breakpoints based on that.
One challenge that comes with responsive design is working with images. They need to befluid to scale to fit both the viewport and the text size. There is still no official specificationfrom the W3C, so the only choice is to seek out new solutions and work within them.
With the new generation of retina displays with high pixel densities now on the market, it’s also essential to ensure images are optimized to scale up properly. One way to serve responsive retina images is to use CSS Sprites . To cater for high-resolution displays you need two images, a normal resolution (@1x) and a high-resolution image (@2x); this means doubling the number of files and selectors and references in your CSS. However, if you use use a CSS Sprite, “you only need to override the link to the @1x sprite file for all the selectors that include high-resolution assets,” says Maykel Loomans. This technique reduces network requests and stylesheet file-size, and is a more efficient process for creating retina assets.
The CSS Sprite solution, though, is only for assets referenced in your CSS. For the images on your page, Imulus has developed Retina.js , a very useful plugin that checks your server to see if you have any image source with @2x at the end.
Properly scaled media also applies to video, which should be flexible and scale with the viewport. It’s a little more complex than images, but jQuery plugins such as Fitvid.js andFluidvid.js can help make development easier.
Slideshow feature: Zaha Hadid’s Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi is pictured in these new images by London photographers Hufton+Crow.
The 842-metre-long bridge connects Abu Dhabi Island with the mainland and comprises a sequence of concrete waves that curve up and down from the water to reach a height of 64 metres. A four-lane highway runs across and the two road decks are cantilevered from the sides of the structure.
A bedroom and bathroom are hidden inside a white box in this converted warehouse by Japanese architects Airhouse Design Office (+ slideshow).
Located in Yoro, a small town in Gifu Prefecture, the main space of the house is on the first floor of the converted warehouse, accessed via a staircase inside the ground-floor garage.
Airhouse Design Office inserted a large white box in the centre of the space, creating private rooms inside and a loft above.
Designed for a couple who are keen on cooking, the focal point of the house is the large kitchen.
The kitchen units were made from ash, while artificial marble was used on the worktops and table.
To minimise heat loss in the large space, a thick layer of urethane foam was added to the walls and ceiling before they were covered in plywood panels.
The loft is accessed by a wide white staircase and used as a children’s bedroom.
Inside the box is the main bedroom, painted a deep shade of purple, a lime green bathroom and a separate toilet.
Airhouse Design Office was founded by architect Keiichi Kiriyama in 2009 and is based in Ogaki, a city in Gifu Prefecture.
Other houses in Japan we’ve featured lately include a building based on the Fibonacci mathematical sequence and an extension featuring tree trunks that stretch from floor to ceiling– see all Japanese houses.
Photographs are by Toshiyuki Yano.
Here’s some more information from the architect:
House in Yoro
One of our client’s major requirements was for a living space where the presence of the family would always be felt. In response, we devised a single-room layout without columns that took advantage of the distinctive features of the existing warehouse.
A large kitchen was installed to cater to the needs of the food-loving husband-and-wife couple. We then conceived the entire living space by taking the kitchen as a focal point, with a mix of various other activities and functions unfolding around it.
Within this single-roomed space, we also created a box-like structure with a loft bedroom for the children on top of it, and private quarters including a bedroom and bathroom inside it.
In order to minimize heat loss within this massive space, a 100mm layer of urethane foam was added to the walls, floors and ceiling, while a combined heat and power device was installed in the living room to heat water and provide floor heating.
All openings were designed by making use of existing sash windows and doors, while glass panes were all given a double-glazing treatment to improve insulation.
The façade of the building was left intact in an effort to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as due to cost considerations.
Above: ground floor plan
The result was a comfortable, luxurious home that made effective use of existing features while also avoiding excessive expense.
Above: first floor plan
Location: Yoro, Gifu
Date of Completion: May 2012
Principal Use: Private House
Above: mezzanine plan
Structure: Steel Frame
Site area: 1027.34 sq m
Total Floor Area: 131.58 sq m
Cheekily named for the motorcycle group of rival German marque BMW, the Audi Motorrad is an unofficialmanifestation of Audi’s recent acquisition of Ducati. Dreamt up by French moto fanboy-designers Thibault & Marc Devauze and modeler Clement Couvreur, the Audi Motorrad is hewn from light allows & carbon fiber, and powered by Ducati’s 850cc, L-Twin cylinder engine and a double clutch gearbox.
Even though it’s not real, it’s a thing of beauty, with swooping, aggressive lines, a striking monocoque beast with a cantilever seat that recalls a post-modernist piece of architecture like those found on the buildings of Valencia’sCity of Arts & Sciences.
Check out the designers’ Behance for more great design.