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Richard Clark

Richard Clark is a front-end designer based in Manchester, UK. He is well-known for running html5doctor and html5gallery, two projects promoting, and embracing, HTML5 mark-up. Richard is Head of Interactive at KMP Digitata and, his day being more than 24 hours long, also co-organizes the Speak the Web conferences.

Richard tweets @Rich_Clark.

Published Thoughts

As this is my final thought of the year, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Alex and Katy for providing me with the opportunity to write for The Pastry Box Project. From my experience with HTML5 Doctor and Gallery I’m fully aware of how difficult managing side projects is, particularly where others are involved and there are deadlines to hit.

Sitting down and formalising my thoughts, ideas and feelings by writing them isn’t something I do often so I’m grateful that being part of The Pastry Box has given me a platform to do just that.

Looking back over the year, I now see real value in penning these observations in a way that I didn’t before. It’s opened my eyes to the benefits of writing. I can’t say for sure that I’m going to start writing and publishing regularly about topics other than HTML & CSS tutorials, but you never know.

I wish Alex, Katy and The Pastry Box Project the fondest of farewells and all the best for the coming years along with the exciting things they have planned. I think they’ve hit on a really interesting format for publishing and involved some of the best minds in the industry. It’s been a pleasure to be part of it. I’ll be sure to follow their progress and so should you. Happy New Year.

I was reading a book recently and came across a passage in which a man was returning to the place where he grew up as a child. The author summed up the character’s feelings perfectly —

“he felt like a ghost haunting his own past”

It instantly struck a chord with me because it’s exactly how I feel when I look back at code I wrote last year, 6 months ago or even last week. We’re always learning, always improving and being our own worst critiques. In my opinion that’s the way it should be.

We had some family over to visit for the weekend recently. Over aglass or two of wine we were discussing kids, the news, health, work, the usual stuff. The couple both happen to be police officers. My wife’s cousin told us about a particular incident she’d attended in which a teenage boy had hanged himself. It was her and her fellow officers duty to inform the boy’s parents of this terrible, tragic news.

They arrived at the house to let the parents know what had happened and offer support. When the door opened the parents were clearly distraught and in floods of tears. They already knew what had happened to their darling boy.

Later it transpired that the parents had found out the news not only of their son’s death but also the circumstances via their neighbour, who had in-turn found out on Facebook.

Sometimes I think the Internet is the most wonderful of things. Other times I think it’s the most terrible of things.

Like a lot of people I know, my first job was delivering newspapers. I wonder what future generations will do as an equivalent when dead tree newspapers are no longer around?

You know that thing where you’ve carefully crafted your markup, the content is well written, etc. Then the day before go live you hear “I don’t like x, change it.” It’s from the chief exec of said large corporation that you have no access to to explain the user journeys or rationale and nor does your client. Yeah that.

I feel your pain.

My wife is a dietitian. We were talking about work one evening and she was explaining about how she felt ok upsetting the family of a patient over a course of action because it was for the good of the patient.

It got me thinking about the parallels that can be drawn with our line of work. Consider the family to be our clients and the users, our patients. We have to make decisions for the good of users that might upset the client. The slight difference in our case is that we have to balance business objectives with user needs. Perhaps next time you’re drawn into this kind of discussion with a client you can find similar examples that they can relate to (perhaps in their line of work) to help make your point.

A conversation I had with Dan recently left some thoughts in my head regarding the consumption of web content. Whilst we have the ability to offer our content in text, image, audio, video or other interactive mediums, are we doing our best to exploit that opportunity and why do we not offer users more choice?

Let me illustrate this for you taking a common four device approach. Imagine I want to ‘consume’ a news article. I might want to listen to that article on my phone, read it on my tablet or Kindle, read, watch, listen or interact on my desktop and finally, watch it on my TV.

It seems natural then that sites should learn and store my preferences for content consumption, according to my contexts (time, date, location, device, mood, activity, etc). That’s not to say I wouldn’t be able to consume it in any other way if I chose to, but I would be receiving personalised service that learned with me and my habits and served me content appropriate to the device that I wish to consume it on.

The most sage piece of advice I've ever received was from my father-in-law. I often find myself referring to it in all sorts of situations, at home, work or elsewhere. He said this:

"You can't change people, you can only change their attitude towards you."

I recently attended a graduate recruitment event to talk to students about coming to work with us at KMP. A lot of them offered to send me their CVs, some offered to send their pdf portfolios.

I told each of them that I wouldn't read them. I'm more interested in personality and your work - online. Sure, some background is important but generally I want to be sent URLs, Github accounts, your @ name etc; you get the picture.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but it seems to me that schools, colleges and universities need to wise up and move with the times both in terms of course content, gaining employment and more. Creating closer links between industry and education has to be the way to go. It's time to talk.

Time. It's a precious commodity. Some would argue that time is, perhaps, the most precious commodity. Family, friends, work, hobbies, chores, side projects, education & more all warrant & need our time yet it's the one thing we can't have more of. Sure we can work smarter and use tools to improve our productivity but ultimately we can't have more time. I often find myself thinking about dormant domains, looking through sketchbooks and notepads full of great ideas.

How many great ideas for side (or other) projects never come to fruition because of alack of time? We need a place to share those ideas with like minded people. Blogs, Twitter, Github, Kickstarter & others help facilitate this but all are lacking in some way. I'd like to see a place where Ican give ideas away, some throwaway, some more thought through. Aplace where someone will take on those ideas if they deem them worthy and because they have the time. Maybe somewhere exists that I don't know about, or maybe this is just another idea I don't have time for.

As designers & developers I'd say that we're pretty much always sold on concepts such as progressive enhancement, responsive web design, designing in the browser, etc. We want to actively incorporate these processes into our work as much as we can. Problems can arise though, for those of us who work in agencies. Want to build that next site responsively? Someone has to pay.

In my role, I'm lucky that I get to meet clients early on and explain these concepts to them and explain the benefits. Others I know that work in larger agencies or big organizations aren't so lucky. They're hampered by archaic processes or sales people who refuse to alter their stock script. If this sounds like you, become an educator, sit down and show them these new techniques and highlight the benefits. Generally people are responsive to new ideas and ultimately you're the expert. If they choose not to listen, do yourself a favor and go find some smart people to work for.

"Responsive Web Design". A phrase we're all familiar with thanks to the wonderful work of Ethan Marcotte.

But quite frankly though, I am bored of hearing it.

It's not like I don't like the phrase, in fact it's quite the opposite. It describes its function perfectly. There is also no doubt we need to continue exploring the shift towards responsive web design while continuing to refine our techniques and methodologies. However, this is just one of the many challenges we face many in the crazy faced paced world of the web.

So what's my point? Well, what I'd really like to see in the coming months and years is to hear about people following a similar path to the one trodden by Ethan. I want to hear about new discoveries and in turn, the definition of new phrases & terms that describe our methods, techniques and working practices. Rather than every blog article repeating and quoting each other, let's push ourselves to break new ground and define a new lexicon of language for the web in order for us grow into a mature, independent medium.

It's time to cast away our relationships with other industries such as print and shape our own future. Like a child learning to talk, web design has learned a few words - now it's time to expand her vocabulary.