Menu

Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Like? Subscribe.

Darice de Cuba, Real talk about inclusiveness

Darice de Cuba, who recently wrote about inclusiveness in design, has now been interviewed by my former workmate at 9rules Matthew Oliphant about inclusiveness in the real world.

She writes on her blog:

The interview is very casual, we talk about real life examples and how to get people and companies to be more inclusive. The only thing missing was snacks and drinks, I truly enjoyed chatting with Matthew about these subjects.

The video interview is embedded on Darice’s web site. Go there to watch it. You can tell this was a lot of work to put together so thanks to Matthew for doing that.

Darice continues to educate me on how important this topic is and I’m trying to change how I build things as a result.

The Mac is turning less Pro

skywhopper, on Hacker News, commenting on a thread relating to Mark Gurman’s scoop on Apple’s (supposed) plan to have apps running on iOS and macOS using the same (or, similar) code bases by 2020:

And then the Mac is losing what should be its primary audience through unwanted innovations and otherwise stagnant hardware, and a failure to recognize the importance of catering to the power users who might want an actual escape key, multiple types of ports, and a keyboard that doesn’t feel like it came off a rejected tablet accessory.

I can see an argument for fragmenting the laptop world into Pro/developer hardware and consumer hardware. But Apple seems to have got the needs of those groups mixed up. Do Apple’s own software engineers love the newest Macs I wonder?

I left the Mac (but may come back some day) for two primary reasons:

  1. Apple doesn’t cater to me (a professional computer user, programmer, video and photo editor, that owns a bunch of peripherals) any more. They used to. In fact the Mac was originally for exactly the type of person I am. The hardware choices they’ve made make it clear they care far more about consumers than professionals.
  2. The price gap between a Windows computer and a Mac computer is no longer commensurate with the build quality gap. It used to be that Macs were so much nicer than Windows computers. It was inarguable. These days it is arguable, if not nearly indistinguishable. Microsoft’s Surface line, Lenovo’s ThinkPads, and (dare I even mention) Huawei’s laptops are nearly on par with the latest Mac laptops. And the price difference is significant. My DELL XPS 9370 was about $1,400 less than if I had purchased a somewhat comparable Macbook.

You might ask: But what about the Operating System? macOS is still nicer than Windows in a variety of ways. It used to be far nicer and far more capable. But the niceness gap and the capability gap have also shrunk.

Windows 10’s WSL has been a boon for me personally to allow me to do the types of things I need to do on a computer. Combine that with Docker and I’m able to do every single thing I used to do on a Mac.

The biggest gripe I have with Windows 10 is its inability to strip away the legacy stuff you find in the corners of the OS. They are being eliminated one by one – like the plates in the shooting gallery at the county fair – with each release I download. But even this gripe isn’t much different from what I’m seeing on macOS. The Marizipan apps have been universally panned, the updates to macOS haven’t really been all that compelling (Dark Mode is your biggest selling feature?), and when will Mail.app ever get the update it so desperately needs?

To sum up: Mac hardware and software is still (albeit arguably) better than most Windows 10 hardware and software. But the gap is all but closed – leaving the consumer the ability to choose based on budget for hardware. And with PWAs, web apps, Electron apps, etc. taking over both platforms a huge portion of the software we use every day is nearly identical.

Apple is going less Pro. I don’t blame them. There are more buyers. Apple will continue to string along developers into believing they care deeply about the Mac because they need developers (and the Mac) to build apps for their consumers – especially on iOS. You need a Mac to build an iOS app (at least today). But I think it might be time to stop believing them and start opening up ourselves to the fact that there are other options for some of us that don’t only build Mac or iOS apps.

One less comment from me: I’m not anti-Apple at all. I still really like the company and what they stand for. I miss my Mac nearly every day. Windows 10 still has a ways to go. And the grass always seems greener elsewhere. But, I prefer to continue to have an open mind. To not be dogmatic and to choose the hardware and software I use based on principles I care about as well as on the reasonableness of their cost.

/HN comment thread via Michael Tsai.

Don’t get clever with login forms

Brad Frost:

As time goes on I find myself increasingly annoyed with login forms.

Excellent suggestions for designing simple, usable login forms. I’ve made a note to double-check anything I make with this list.

Darice de Cuba on Inclusive Design

Darice de Cuba, who is a front-end web developer that slowly lost her hearing starting at a young age:

But inclusive design is much more than structure, code and color only. Inclusive design is about the whole website as one — it’s about the complete experience of the user when they visit a website.

She related a challenge that has nothing to do with code:

I can easily make an online appointment on the municipality website for heavy trash pick up. But then I get a confirmation email from a no reply email address and the email only contains a phone number to call if something is amiss.

Then she relates how her experience is not represented even creatively on sites where it would make sense:

For example, a website that sells hearing aids. The stock images all portray older people. I was 12 years old when I got my first pair of hearing aids.

Her call-to-action:

When you are building a website, look further than structure, code, and colors. It can pass the Axe test, Lighthouse audit, Tenon.io and such with 100% marks, but still be frustrating to use for many visitors. The best test tools are people — a diverse group of people. Inclusive design is design. There doesn’t exist one single person who doesn’t profit from inclusive design.

She was nice enough to translate this post into English from Dutch for those of us, unlike her, are not multilingual. Thanks Darice.

To return the favor, I’m creating a ticket at work that will add an option to have the person contacted via text where ever possible/necessary throughout our platform experience.

Corporate typefaces are all the rage

This isn’t a recent phenomena. Corporations have been creating their own typefaces since the beginning of type. But, lately, I’ve noticed more and more that they are using it in their marketing efforts or because the scale of these corporations make it cost prohibitive not to make their own typeface.

Let me pull these two things apart.

Corporations will often choose a typeface, or set of typefaces, to use in everything they do. Jujama, as an example, uses a variation of DIN in most of our work so far. This way materials made by them will all be unified and recognizable. However, in this age of enormous scale some typeface licenses make it nearly impossible to use one off-the-shelf.

For example, Netflix recently created their own font called Netflix Sans, saving them millions of dollars in licensing fees. Even if their design team spent 18 months making this typeface (which they likely did, or more) the savings would far outweigh the investment.

But then there is the less pragmatic reasons for creating your own typeface – such as Arby’s Saucy AF (which is an acronym I will not dissect here). It fits their brand, is fun, and likely doesn’t not impact the bottom line much.

Other recent examples I’ve seen include Airbnb’s Cereal (which, if you know the company history, is a fitting name), IBM’s Plex, and eBay’s Market Sans.

I seem to see at least one corporation per week updating their identities with all-new, custom-made, typefaces. I think it is great. And what fun to work on! I do not have the skills, yet, to make my own typeface but I can imagine a time where I give that a try.

A new brand identity for The Watercolor Gallery

I’m excited to start a brand-new series here on my site — The Grand Brand Design Challenge. I’m equally excited to be starting this series with a personal project I’ve been working on since 2010, The Watercolor Gallery.

Read more about The Grand Brand Design Challenge on its own page.

I’ve only taken the time to design two logos for The Watercolor Gallery over the years. Some attempts I posted on Dribbble and a few never made the light of day. Recently, however, I’ve begun posting new content and interviews and the Twitter account is just about to pass 4,000 followers. So I thought it might be a good time to revisit the logo and refresh it.

Here is how this new logo compares to the previous one.

When embarking on a rebrand I typically like to pull some inspiration or an element from the previous logo into the new one. In this case, the ocean wave that I had prior has been pulled forward. However, a much stronger inspiration came from The Great Wave off Kanagawa. I wanted to somehow capture the motion of that great, classic painting and pull it forward into The Watercolor Gallery’s brand identity.

It took me a while to get these lines to work properly. And I’m sure a more critical eye would say they still aren’t quite there. But they are there enough for me for a small personal project. I’m very happy with the mark. Using the path tool in illustrator proved to be more challenging on this piece. Thanks to Kyle Ruane for his helpful tips in cleaning up a few things.

Above: A bunch of scribbles in my notebook of some rough ideas.

Above: An illustrator artboard with variations and attempts at the shapes along with the two main inspirations for the mark.

Above: A few variations of the logo mark for black and white and inverted options.

I’m looking forward to implementing this new logo design over the next year on the web site and social accounts for this project.

If you would like a logo for your project (company, app, etc) please feel free to reach out to me. I’ll do it on the cheap.

 

You should attend events, meetups, and conferences

I published the following article on LinkedIn in March. However, their publishing tool removed all of the photos from the post when I published it and I was so frustrated that I did not bother to go in and fix it. I’m republishing the post here with photos.


For over a decade now I’ve put in a lot of effort to present at and attend as many technology and business events as I can. I’ve attended events in Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Orlando, Jacksonville, New York City, Philadelphia, Greenville and a half-dozen other US cities. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to attend events. I also attend several regional events per year that gets me back at home before bedtime.

In 2014 I wrote a blog post titled You should go to meetups and in it I wrote about one of the advantages of attending meetups or conferences:

Because there is a lot of energy at meetups. The presenters are generally at the beginning of their product cycles and they have a lot of positive energy to make something happen. Those in the crowd all have their stories, their ideas, their goals. And, in addition to those building startups you’ll generally find lawyers, venture capitalists, programmers, marketers, etc. who are willing to offer their help for your project. It is a very, very good way to meet people that you’ll likely work with.

This past year has been no different. Each event I made the effort to attend has yielded some professional and personal fruit. If you haven’t yet gotten to many events in your area, or elsewhere, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. And not just once.

Here are a few highlights from the events I’ve attended or presented at in the last 18-months alone.

NEPA BlogCon 2016

I’m going to start a few months prior to 2017 because I attended a few amazing events near the end of the year in 2016. First up is NEPA BlogCon 2016.

At NEPA BlogCon, an event specifically catering to those just getting started in blogging, social media, and marketing, it was evident the amount of care that went into organizing the event. Each year NEPA BlogCon has been refined to be more engaging, valuable, and fun. One thing this event always reminds me of, now matter how mature an industry or technology appears to be there are always new faces seeking to learn.

TecBridge Entrepreneurial Institute 2016

Marywood University is the host to an excellent annual entrepreneurship event that always proves valuable for its attendees. The 2016 event was very well attended and had an excellent panel discussion, workshops, presentations, and more.

At the time I wrote this about the event on my blog:

Rather than a panel simply answering questions broadly, the workshops helped the attendees to work through a problem and see the processes work step-by-step.

I think what I appreciate about this event each year is the focus on practical takeaways for attendees. If you are there to learn you will.

Cropped! A rebranding competition

Cropped! is a fun event held by AAF NEPA that pits a few creative talents against each other to rebrand a local nonprofit organization that could use the help.

Branding is my day job and so watching as these teams tried to solve the problems of organization’s current brand was fun.

Branding is about exposing an entity’s core purpose, principles, and offerings to the world. Rebranding is about fixing any problems the current brand has encountered.

I wrote the following on my blog after the event:

Branding is an exercise in getting a company’s culture, message, and purpose demonstrated and communicated through every single thing the company does. I know it has been said a million times but it worth reiterating that branding is not a logo. Branding permeates a company’s activities from the way they answer the phone to how easy it is to unsubscribe to their monthly email newsletters. I was happy to see that everyone at Cropped! knew exactly what branding was.

PhillyBurbs WordPress Meetup

You will not find a more inclusive meetup within 100 miles of my front door as the PhillyBurbs meetup. This one is always well worth the drive and some of their organizers have returned the favor to attend meetups in northeastern Pennsylvania.

One takeaway I had last year at this event was the impact a more inclusive culture will have on our industry. As more and more groups of people are represented in our industry the better it gets. For far too long the industry’s perspective has been dominated by white males. This is changing. For some it isn’t changing fast enough but I’m simply happy that it is.

Ask The Web Marketing Experts panel

Speaking of white males… 🙄

I, along with several other web marketers in our area, were invited to participate in a panel discussion and recording session at NEPA Alliance organized by the Scranton Small Business Development Center.

The questions from the SBDC and local businesses were great and I know all of the “experts” learned a lot from each other as well.

NEPA.js and NEPA Tech Events

I attended, and presented at, at least 7 monthly NEPA.js (which has now been rolled into NEPA Tech) events throughout 2017. In late 2016 Mark Keith decided to bring together a group of JavaScript enthusiasts each month to discuss JavaScript-things which bled into discussions on all sorts of technology, business, marketing and even cryptocurrency. The amount of value this one event has generated for our area is already incalculable.

I blogged about ever single event I went to so you can read all of my notes on my event tag on my blog at cdevroe.com.

Inventor’s Guild at TekRidge

I’ll often pop into some events with no real reason for me to be there other than to soak up whatever information I can. The Inventor’s Guild is just such an event. This event caters to people that want to invent things (or already have) and, hopefully, profit.

One thing I was reminded of at this event was how little the inventor typically profits off of their inventions when compared to the companies that license them and how important it is to understand patent and IP law if you’re an inventor of a physical product.

Wilkes-Barre Programmers meet up

I’m not a Python developer (which this Wilkes-Barre programmer event was geared to) but I was interested to see how this group was run. I found it very informative and challenging. One thing I realized by attending this event was how these events have a small gravitational pull. If you remove any mass from them by not attending they may just drift off into the ether. Never to coalesce again. It is important to support a small group with your presence even if it doesn’t align with your skillset or desired path. By helping to keep these groups together when they are small they can continue to grow and mature and eventually split off into the groups you want to see in your area.

In other words, don’t skip events just because their small. Small events beget larger ones.

SAIL by Second Wind

In March 2017 I flew to Orlando partly to get away from the winter and partly to learn as much as I could about running a digital advertising agency at Second Wind’s idea lab.

I learned a lot. There was hundreds of years of experience in the room and all were willing to share with one another. In fact, nearly a year later, this event still comes up in conversations with many agencies on a weekly basis.

I felt privileged to learn how other businesses throughout the country are solving problems of recruiting, employee compensation, retainer agreements, agency IP, and much more.

tecBRIDGE Entrepreneurial Institute 2017

I held a workshop at this years TEI event and it was a blast. The workshop format allowed me to bring practical value to those that attended it. The Q&A session was very good and I received emails from attendees for weeks afterward.

The entire event was very good and many business owners and students in our area, well over 200 of them, got a taste for what it means to be an entrepreneur and the inevitable challenges they face.

Other events

I attended a few other regional events including one for Unmanned Ariel Systems used in Surveying work at Penn State University, other WordPress meetups that I spoke at, a presentation about my as-yet-unreleased step counting mobile application Summit to the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, and also Ben Franklin’s VentureIdol and many others.

There has been no shortage of long-lasting benefit from each event I’ve attended over the years. I cannot overstate this enough, especially if you’re a remote worker or are operating from the hinterland — get out of your home office and shake some hands.

Are you an event organizer? Consider using Jujama to power your next event.