We celebrated a very specific anniversary this week:
A lot of the team has been traveling (or having a baby!!!) over the past couple of weeks but almost everyone is back now. We’ve been pushing like crazy on “El Grande Burrito” and we’re now THREE WEEKS out from finishing the project.
We welcomed our newest team member, Paulette, this week. She’s going to be project managing, kicking ass, and keeping everyone on track.
Eric was a writing machine this week. He wrote a great article on the differences between a product and project manager. He spoke at Refresh Austin on the same topic, and submitted a panel idea for SXSW 2015. (There are only two weeks left to submit ideas!) And in between all of that, he’s been transitioning our clients over to the newest version of Packagr.
AngularJS wowed the team again this week with its form validation tools. Like many other things that Angular just does for us, its form validation tools are built-in and active by default, and provide most of the functionality we need. So by using Angular, we get sensible, useful form validation that not only works but provides a clear path to future functionality that’ll be coming to browsers in the near future.
If you didn’t see Eric’s post earlier this week on the team building a pixel derby taco truck, you should see the pictures!
For Packagr enthusiasts, check out this article on using the Craft CMS Matrix to design custom fields for longform content.
Dave and Travis had me on their show to talk about Aware.js, Breakpoints.js, reader aware design, your back catalog of content, and Packagr. Learn the secrets of my career, hear me rant about blog archives, and as a special bonus, find out how our BBQ pit keeps their meat secure overnight.
The core idea of reader aware design is that interactive experiences can and should respond to the specific characteristics of a user and their context. Previously, we discussed using details of a user’s relationship with a site — are they a first time visitor, or an every day regular? Now, we move beyond the site, breaking away from a user’s digital context to their analog, real life context: is this person at home? At work? In bed? At lunch? How can your site best serve readers in these different environments?
Aware.js will now add CSS classes like “morning,” “earlyevening” and “latenight” to a site, empowering designers and developers to create variations in the design and content that relate to the natural cycle of the day. Tapping into these hints about the reader’s context outside of the computer screen will help to improve the visitor’s experience, and offers new opportunities to publishers who want to experiment with packaging and presenting their content for different use cases.
With this new functionality, Aware.js enables features like:
2012 was an enormously productive and successful year for XOXCO. Though we can’t discuss the details of the majority of our projects, here are some of the highlights:
In January 2012, the brand new, responsive design that we built for The Grammy Awards launched. We worked with our friends at Lullabot on this project - they handled all the backend development, while we built a completely custom responsive Drupal theme from the ground up. See Grammys.com.
Also in January, a new responsive design for Safari Books Online hit the web. We worked with Lullabot on this project too! See SafariBooksOnline.com.
In March, April, May, June and July, the XOXCO team worked with REDACTED to create a Drupal-powered API server, and an HTML5 Chrome application client which used the Ember.js framework. You can read a bit about our experience with Ember here.
In August and September, we worked again with Lullabot to create an HTML5 framework that powers 30 high profile mobile websites for REDACTED. Boy, do we wish we could talk about this one! We built a framework that allows each of these 30 sites to pull in their own set of data from a variety of structured data APIs, several of them providing real-time data, and to present all of this information in an app-like mobile website that can have its look and feel customized via a Drupal interface. Fancy!
In October and November, we built an HTML5 magazine for REDACTED. The magazine is powered by a Drupal API on the backend, and a completely custom HTML5 client on the front end. The work we did on this magazine continued our exploration of using Drupal as an API server only, keeping all of the layout and content presentation in the HTML5 app.
Finally, in November we launched a redesigned and rebuilt Pando Daily, and introduced the world to the idea of reader aware design - the idea that websites can and should look back at their readers. We followed this up with the release of Aware.js, a tool that lets any site become reader aware.
Some broad lessons we learned in 2012:
We are looking forward to new adventures in 2013. XOXCO will continue to work on new reader aware design tools and techniques, and we’ll be engaging directly with publishers to help them go beyond the limitations of their content management systems and traditional web publishing platforms to create exciting new digital experiences. Keep an eye on our blog for more!
Last week, I wrote about the concept of reader aware design - the idea that our content websites can now look back at us and alter their layout to best suite our needs as readers without requiring us to login or create accounts.
Today, I’m excited to announce the release of the first version of Aware.js, a jQuery plugin that implements many of these features, and enables developers to apply techniques first used in responsive design to these new reader contexts.
What does Aware.js do?
We’re releasing Aware.js now to continue the conversation about reader aware design, and to collect feedback and suggestions from the community. What other information might Aware.js provide about a reader? How will you use these tools and techniques on your site? We’d love to hear from you - Send us a tweet to @XOXCO!
As with any framework, there are tradeoffs, and we expected some complications to come along with the magical benefits Ember offers. Coding Ember applications is easier than building everything from scratch using jQuery, but performance and low-level optimization suffers. Overall, we’re going to be extremely cautious for now, and we’ll continue to explore alternatives like Backbone.js, which may offer a lot of the same benefits with less overhead and mystery.
The whole team has been working together on our current big client project. Half the time is spent building a Drupal-powered content management and community moderation tool that exposes a RESTful JSON API to the outside world. The other half of our time is spent building an HTML5 client application that ingests information from the API and creates a dynamically generated interface to the features and content. We’re really excited about using Drupal in this way, as it provides the best and most flexible content management tools we’ve seen. And exposing all of the Drupal data via a JSON API means we do not have to spend time building a custom Drupal theme — all of the customer facing screens are built in the HTML5 client. This allows us to separately develop and scale these two components separately, and means that it will be substantially easier to build new clients that talk to the same server APIs. And most importantly, it means that nobody at XOXCO will ever have to spend time mucking about with PHP template files!
This project runs through mid-July, and then we’ll be spending some time as a team to finish up Damien’s creation, code named “Sharky.” We’ve also got an exciting R&D project ongoing that we hope to debut in coming weeks. More on that soon.
In the meantime, I’ve been interviewing candidates for our design position, as well as for our summer internship. I’m very pleased with every single person I’ve interviewed, and I’m sure this will prove to be a very difficult choice to make. Through this process, I’ve honed my description of how we work at XOXCO and what we hope to achieve as a company, and it is very gratifying to hear from candidates that it sounds like a fun, creative place to work. I am still interviewing candidates, so if you are a designer in Austin looking for a crazy new place to spend your days, get in touch!
That’s it for week #203 of XOXCO, Inc.