Posts Tagged ‘anna debenham’

Goggles Are In

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
CSSquirrel #105: Goggles Are In

October 16th is Ada Lovelace Day, where we get to celebrate and support the presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I’m reliably informed that web development falls in there somewhere, so today’s comic features three STEM ladies: Brighton developer and console browser expert Anna Debenham, Greek CSS superstar Lea Verou, and Bellingham web designer (from my very own Mindfly Studio) Janae Cram (in her chinchilla alter-ego, Naepalm. Because a CSSquirrel comic wouldn’t be right without a rodent somewhere).

The Countess of Lovelace is traditionally considered the world’s first computer programmer, having been credited with writing the first program for Charles Babbage’s incomplete Analytical Engine. Today, in her honor, people are encouraged to “create role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields by raising the profile of other women in STEM.”

As anyone who’s been to a web dev conference can tell you, our field has a habit of being a sausage-fest. As someone working in a studio with a very heavy ratio of women to men (3 women to 2 men in our “production” team), I can tell you that this is a low down dirty shame. Women like Anna, Janae and Lea have a great deal to offer to our industry. It bothers me to know that a sizable (although hopefully shrinking) percentage of the men in our field don’t see the industry’s gender discrepancy as a problem, or believe measures made to make women more welcome is somehow an attack on men.


I doubt any readers of this blog are so backwards. If you are, feel free to just stop reading me, because I’m not interested in catering to dickwads. Sure, I could use traffic, but not that badly.

To those who do care, I’m sure you’ve seen much of this, but let’s point out how these three contribute.

Anna’s becoming the go-to expert on the impact of console browsers on your designs. She’s written a well-received article in ALA on the topic.

Janae is an integral part of the Mindfly team, responsible for many of our designs and a surprising amount of our code (she’s far better than I am with databases despite my having a good five year head start on her with them). She’s also been involved in developing several web apps for our local gamer community.

Lea seems to have an annoying habit of producing awesome, useful tools for web designers that she’s constantly putting online for everyone to benefit from. Just a couple days back she put out this nifty contrast ratio tool.

That’s just three women. There’s tons more in the field contributing to our industry every day, and millions more yet to enter the field who need to be inspired to join. Our species isn’t going to be getting any less involved with technology as we progress forward, each gender should have a strong role in what our future looks like.

Know any women in the field that inspire you? Please share their story. Tell me about them via one of the methods below, or tell people on your own website. And don’t wait for October 16th every year to bother telling people.

Oh, and Tesla coils? They rock. Miss Naepalm and I saw one in action last weekend.

Tesla Coil

That sphere on the right? It’s a cage big enough for up to four people to stand in. Which gives you a clue how big that coil on the left was. It’s blasts weren’t quite as deafening as lightning… but it was pretty damn close.

Podcast Episode #2: Skags Alpha Beta, or The Stephanie Hobson Appreciation Society

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Last night Dylan Wilbanks and I recorded episode 2 of our weekly podcast for people that make websites.

In which we discussed video games.

I swear it connects.

We open up with a new feature where we give corrections for any incorrect statements in the first episode, then dig right in. Our first topic was Borderlands 2. Specifically we discussed the experience of digital downloads versus getting a disc in the mail, consoles versus PCs, and several of the user experience issues that come to light when playing (such as the overwhelming information from the game’s millions of guns that drowns the user in too much data to be useful at times).

Just so we’re clear, I love the game. I’m a big Axton fan. Dylan is all about Salvador. (Janae, my co-pilot in split-screen co-op at home, is enjoying Maya quite a bit but looking forward to the Mechromancer in October). But seriously, it’s hard to tell if a gun is good before you shoot it, and considering how often guns drop, that can get a bit aggravating.

We then transitioned into discussing Anna Debenham’s A List Apart article about testing websites in game consoles (which I previously discussed in a comic and post earlier), and the implications that has for website creators in how we design. It reinforces the issues of needing to test on multiple devices, but the danger of building for specific ones.

We keep it all under the 40 minute mark for Stephanie Hobson’s sake. Because between 20 and 40 is her limit.

Although we have less sound problems than before, there’s some issues with my sound levels jumping around on my microphone. So there’s going to be some spikiness there. I’m looking into getting a new mic and some better recording software (any suggestions out there for either? Please let me know!)

We’d love it if you go listen to us. The podcast is hosted exclusively through, who make it available via iTunes and RSS. If you’ve heard what we said and want to share your opinions, please feel free to tweet at @dylanw and @cssquirrel with the hashtag #squoose.

Game Break

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
CSSquirrel #100: Game Break

It’s true. I pre-ordered Borderlands 2, but thanks to the wonders of shipping delays the game is somewhere between the warehouse and my home. It will be days yet before it makes it into my hands. Part of me wonders at the purpose of pre-ordering something if it’s not shipped in time to be received on launch day, but somehow I’ll survive. Like the Squirrel, I might choose distract myself through the powers of make-believe. Whatever it takes, right?

Don’t let my current game-related obsession fool you, however. I’m not suddenly competing with Penny Arcade for the title of “best gamer comic ever”. Today’s comic actually touches on the field of web design while discussing games for a very specific reason. Today’s guest star is Anna Debenham, a freelance front end developer from Brighton, UK. Anna is one of those brilliant web people that continues to add to that city’s reputation of being stuffed full of an unfair amount of awesome talent.

If somehow you haven’t heard of her yet, you will have a hard time continuing that trend going forward. Among other things she has contributed to 24 ways, shared her wisdom at conferences (she will be speaking at the upcoming Full Frontal 2012), and has just had a very interesting article about testing websites in game console browsers published over at A List Apart.

The article is a good read, and I recommend you check it out because it probably contains wisdom you need but currently lack.

I know I did.

Yes, I already knew that people were browsing websites via consoles. Yes, I knew that in some cases those consoles’ browsers aren’t nearly as capable as a typical desktop experience. But in my head that wasn’t something I needed to worry about. After all, how often are people browsing the web via their PS3?

A lot, it turns out. According to Anna’s article, a full one in eight people overall (in the UK, US and France) and one in four teens use their game console to browse the web on a regular basis. That, my friends, is a lot of people.

It’s an amount we probably can’t afford to ignore.

Among other things, this means that I now need to start thinking about how client sites might look in console browsers. I wonder if I can use this data to get Mindfly to set up an Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii in the studio.

You know, for work purposes.

This also reminds me of the need for community device labs that Jeremy Keith (another Brighton design wizard) has been thumping for. There’s so many bloody web-connected devices these days that it’s outside of the budget of most studios or teams to build a thorough collection themselves. Which is why he advocates the need for designer communities to support each other in putting together an open lab for one another to contribute towards and make use of. In his posts Jeremy spoke mainly about having mobile and tablet devices, but after reading Anna’s article I think there’s good reason to include consoles and even browser-capable toasters in such collections.

Let’s be honest, if a toaster can’t connect to the Internet yet, one soon will.

Should we be designing for every device, including consoles, with our websites? No. That way lies madness. There’s simply too many to account for, and by targeting all the ones you know you’ll be explicitly excluding the ones you don’t.

Nor should we get caught up in the mentality of targeting sites to specific devices. Every time you build a site to render specifically on an iPhone you’re failing to take into account how many other smartphones are out there with different capabilities and screen dimensions. Despite how abundantly clear this is, I see the same mistake made over and over again.

Don’t make your sites for specific devices. Please.

Anna rightly points that out herself in her ALA piece:

We can’t tailor experiences for every possible use case on every device, but we can use what we know about console web browsing to build a better overall experience. Like we’ve done by designing with mobile in mind, considering how a site could be used on a console can have a knock-on effect of making it easier to use overall.

Jeremy Keith speaks to that same point in the article of his that I linked above:

In fact I’ve found that one of the greatest benefits of testing on as many different platforms as possible is that it stops me from straying down the path of device-specific development. When I come across a problem in my testing, my reaction isn’t to think “how can I fix this problem on this particular device?”, which would probably involve throwing more code at it. Instead I think “how can I avoid this problem?” The particular device may have highlighted the issue, but there’s almost always a more fundamental problem to be tackled …and it’s very rarely tackled by throwing more code at it.

So do yourself a favor. Go check out Anna’s article about consoles. If you haven’t already done so, start thinking about what it means to be a web designer in a world where virtually every device we can think of can visit your website, and what it takes to make a design robust enough to survive on them all. And the next time you start thinking about tailoring for specific devices, stop and remember that’s a trap you can’t afford to fall for in our modern device-happy world.