29 March 21 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from March.

In 1965, Hal David and Jackie DeShannon released the pop classic ‘What the World needs now is love’. Today, nearly six decades on, the sentiment has never been truer, especially given the whirlwind of a year we’ve all endured.

This month, Kurt Smith offers an intriguing, inspiring and innovative selection. Here, you might find the secret of true kindness, how to potentially transform post-COVID-19 cityscapes into places of joy and culture, and how to successfully implement a performance budget.  So, take a break, kick back with some ‘60s tunes and settle in for this month’s edition of Super8.

1.Bulldoze the high street and build a giant park: is Stockton the future of Britain?

  • Read the full article here.
  • Article by: Oliver Wainwright. 
  • Contributed by: Claire Grainger.

Twelve months on and the impact of COVID-19 continues to resonate around the globe. With many cities still in lock-down, the question around once-bustling streets stands: what is to come of that real estate when there is no foot traffic?

Well, it seems the British town of Stockton-on-Tees may have an answer: demolish the traditional shopfront in favour of enjoyable communal spaces.

As someone who lives in a city once ravished by a major earthquake, I can see first-hand how retailers and governments have struggled to rebuild traditional brick-and-mortar stores after a crisis;  especially when intriguing temporary spaces like the Container Mall, thrive.

There are many things that will continue to come from COVID-19. Let’s hope that a shift towards creating enjoyable, communal spaces is one of them.

2.Why 2020 was the year of data viz.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Article by: Rubens Cantuni.
  • Contributed by: Bridget Noonan.

2020 was a big year, especially for data visualisation. Whether you were tracking the US presidential election or visiting the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard on the regular, visual aids proved vital in succinctly articulating the situation at hand.

Why? Well, despite the heavy amount of numerical data and statistics behind the glossy interface, data viz became more comprehensible, clear, and easy for users to interact with.

That’s not to say it’s always digestible; some data visualisations can be misleading. After all, crafting a powerful tool of communication comes with great responsibility and must be used wisely. If it’s wielded incorrectly, a dark pattern of doubt and anxiousness can ensue.

3. Murphy’s law of design: If anything can go wrong, it will.

On the surface, it may seem that the role of a designer or developer is easy. Yet there is a multitude of factors to consider when it comes to making something ‘just look good’.

In this article, Joe Bernstein reminds us that Murphy’s Law isn’t a twist of fate, but a design challenge, and ‘if something can be used incorrectly, eventually it will’.

If you want one sure-fire way to guarantee that your product will fail or be misused, it’s best to assume that your users will be average-sized, able-bodied, educated critical thinkers. And, of course, they’ll be using your product in a safe and comfortable environment.

Bernstein breaks apart this idea, and highlights the correct way to interpret Murphy’s law, so that it doesn’t strike through your next project.

4. How to piss off a developer.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Article by: Nicklas Millard.
  • Contributed by: Isabel Silvis.

The rumours are true… developers are grumpy humans who code (just kidding, we’re not really!).

As a developer, as with any discipline, there will always be things that grind our collective gears. Here, Nicklas Millard encapsulates a few of these typical triggers—from pull requests to code articles (we won’t talk about tabs vs. spaces.)—so that you can understand the issues and eliminate them.

5. An opinionated guide to performance budgets.

The concept of a performance budget has been around for a long time. However, they’re often deprioritised or left behind in favour of time spent on other, ‘more beneficial’ features.

The idea is simple: put in place a budget that ensures the best performance for the users of your website or app. For a performance budget to be implemented correctly, the entire team, and project owner, need to be aware of what a performance budget is and why it’s so important.

From starting small to tracking your journey, there’s a multitude of things that contribute to a performance budget—and a few reasons why they shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. Love is measured by the benefit of the doubt: the secret to true kindness.

When things get tough it can be easy to jump to conclusions or lose your temper, even with the smallest of inconveniences.

I often wonder how the six months we spent in lockdown this past year will affect my 4-year old’s mental state as she grows up.

Even now, six months after that time in lockdown, I sometimes catch myself mid-grumble when she’s made a mistake, and I must remind myself that she’s only four. She deserves the benefit of doubt and assumed positive intent.

I must also remind myself the same thing when it comes to the bigger children in life—like adults—because we too make mistakes, and it’s cool to be kind.

7. Re-creating the Porky Pig animation from Looney Tunes in CSS.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Article by: Kilian Valkhof. 
  • Contributed by: Elliott Grigg.

As a fan of the Corridor Crew YouTube channel, I find it fascinating to watch others describe how things are built; heck, I even subscribe to Scott Brown Carpentry…and I don’t even own a house!

When it comes to the web, it’s no different. Often tasks that seem simple turn out to be frustratingly tricky on the web.

For example, this Porky Pig Looney Tunes animation explores a scenario where you want one side of a rectangle to be visible outside of its surrounding rectangle. A near impossible feat, but one that Killian Valkhof accomplishes. All with the help of Porky Pig, of course.

8. Tips from neuroscience to keep you focused on hard tasks.

The challenge of difficult tasks is what keeps things interesting, especially in web development. The constant evolution of new languages and frameworks drive us to learn—and can be testing at times.

However, the reward comes once you begin to understand and implement your learnings. It’s what drives us to learn, evolve and conquer more.

No matter the capacity in which you work, you’ve undoubtedly been forced out of your dedicated ‘thinking space’ at some point and thrust into the kitchen, spare room, or dusty garage. With everyone working from home, we’ve had to develop a new way to overcome another kind of challenge, and in turn, conquer the difficult task assigned.

David Badre, a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences shares his perspective from the scientific community about staying focused when things get tough. But the tips shared are easily transferred to any industry grappling with the challenges of working in non-perfect environments.