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A Week in Web Design: Email Clients and a Nasty Hack

My week has been defined by two events, both hitting at around Monday lunchtime. First, I found out that a website I manage had been hacked, which threw me into crisis mode for several days.

Then my email client, Airmail, released an update, and announced that access to the Pro version would now be subscription-based.

At almost the same time as I saw the announcement, I came across a Twitter thread looking for email client recommendations, due to the unfortunate shutdown of Newton Mail.

At the time, I tweeted:

Oh no! A thread about the best email clients. That means I have to instantly drop everything to spend the day comparing my options.

Me, on Twitter

At the end of the week I now have four separate email clients installed on my laptop, and another two on my phone. I know myself too well.

It feels silly to pay a monthly fee for an email client when there are so many perfectly good ones that are available for free. However, considering how much I use email every day, I think it's worth the spend if I can find one that makes my life easier.

It turns out I am a sucker for aesthetics in apps where I need to be productive. I want large chunky text that I don't have to squint to read, and as minimalist a UI as possible. It's why nothing helps me write as much as iA Writer with all of the interface hidden, and why I'm enjoying Notion—which I'm currently trying out—so much more than Evernote. All the email clients I've tried have the features I need - I just want one that's minimalist with it.

For the curious, at the moment I'm split between Postbox with the Blanc theme and Tempo.


I haven't found time to do a huge amount of reading this week. As I mentioned above, one of the sites I manage was hit with a particularly annoying hack—the excitingly named Japanese Keyword Hack—so I have spent most of the week fixing that.

However, just because I haven't been reading them, doesn't mean the citizens of the web have stopped writing articles. Far from it, in fact. Here's what I've got cued up to read this weekend.


On Design Tasks

Mark Boulton

Yesterday morning, whilst sitting blurry-eyed in a train from France to the UK I noticed the revival of a design topic on Twitter that I find interesting: Design Tasks. The exercise of giving design position interviewees a task as part of the interviewing process. They are a bad idea for a number of good reasons, but I'll outline some of my own here in more detail than Twitter discussions will allow.

This was quite a lively discussion on Twitter, as usual when this topic is raised. My favourite thing about Twitter is watching conversations like this unfold, and being able to see experienced designers exchanging views in a more fluid way than the back-and-forth of duelling blog posts. Still, Mark's right that Twitter doesn't exactly allow for nuance, so this more detailed post is appreciated.

Andy Budd's thoughts on the topic are definitely worth a read as well, found in this thread.


Actually, I take that back. This is my favourite thing about Twitter.

On Friday, Jessica Hische posted a screenshot of a typeface she was working on, saying she was having trouble with the 's', and both Erik Spiekermann and Hoefler&Co responded with detailed feedback.

As jen showalter [ greenwalt ] commented, "I learned about both type and directing others from this."


The Most Effective Way to Manage Your Inbox Is Also the Easiest

John Zeratsky

If you struggle with email like I do, the single best thing you can do is remove email from your phone. When I had access to my inbox on the phone, I still wouldn’t deal with any of my emails; I’d just look at them and make mental notes to handle them later.

And this habit — of checking email when you’re not in a position to do anything about it — creates attention residue, the inability to fully transition from one task to another, which in turn fragments our focus and causes anxiety.

Here's one I did read. I haven't quite managed to bring myself to delete my email client from my phone yet, but I'm sorely tempted.


60 Design Terms you should know

Laura Keung

It can be easy to forget that not everyone is familiar with design terms, even ones that seem basic to us. Clients who don't live in this world every day may not have a clue what certain words mean, and even front-end developers, who spend much of their time working to translate designs into code, may use very different terminology to describe the same concepts.

Laura takes us through 60 of the design terms she feels are most important to help build a shared understanding, from abstract terms such as composition and balance, through to more technical questions such as the difference between hue, tone, tint and shade.

Definitely one to share with any clients who might appreciate the additional clarity.


Archive, organise and document your work

Simon Collinson

My backup became a disorganised disaster that I never dared look at too closely. If I did look, what would I find? Would I have what I need to document a given project? Would screenshots be serviceable or little more than fuzzy postage stamps?

Simon discusses a fairly common problem for those working in the digital sphere - how to keep an archive of your work when the web can be so transitory. I don’t do a good enough job of this myself—especially now so much of my work is hidden behind NDAs—and I know there are projects of mine that have disappeared entirely.

Things change all the time on the web: sites are updated; companies go out of business or are taken over; many projects are always intended to be temporary affairs. If we don’t make the effort to document and archive the work we produce, we run the risk of it being lost forever.


Google Engineers, Uber Drivers, and the Voices of a New Tech Labor Revolution

OneZero

I found this one via Ethan Marcotte. It features interviews with organisers and activists working within a number of Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google, Uber, and Lyft. Looks like an interesting one.


This is so annoying.

Also sad how many terrible design patterns I recognise from real life forms I've had to fill in. I eventually managed to complete the form in 3:48, but in real life I would have stopped before I came close to the end.


Why 543 KB keep me up at night

Manuel Matuzović

The homepage had a page weight of 4.1 MB (6.7 MB uncompressed). I thought, “Aight, that’s not great, but there are a bunch of images, so I guess it’s okay”. Then I visited a page with a header, footer, sidebar navigation and a short paragraph (543 KB / 1.6 MB uncompressed) and I thought “Nice, noticeably below 1 MB, that’s pretty good.”.

And then it hit me.What the hell did just happen? 543 KB on a simple text-only page is OK? Fuck no, it’s not.

Manuel takes a detailed look at the problems with a constant focus on shipping over other (arguably more important) considerations such as performance, usability, accessibility, and user experience, and suggests that we should be more considerate about what we put online.


The ultimate guide to proper use of animation in UX

Taras Skytskyi

Nowadays it’s hard to impress or even surprise with an interface animation. It shows interactions between screens, explains how to use the application or simply directs a user’s attention. While exploring the articles about animation, I found out that almost all of them describe only specific use cases or general facts about animation, but I haven’t come across any article where all rules concerning animation of interfaces would be clearly and practically described. Well, in this article I won’t write anything new, I just want to collect all the main principles & rules in one place, so that other designers who want to start animating interfaces don’t have to search for additional information.

This article is huge. I've only scanned it quickly so far, but I think this is going to be one of those reference articles that I continually go back to whenever I'm animating something in a UI.

Not only is the article incredibly comprehensive, it's also filled with beautiful animated gifs to illustrate each point.


Top 10 Pro-tips for Working Remotely

Carie Fisher

One big issue with working from home is that you never really leave the office. So besides having a space for your office [...] it is imperative to create set hours when you are at work and when you are off the clock.

Oh. Er, perhaps that wasn't the ideal section to quote when I'm up writing this post at twenty to midnight on a Thursday. Clearly, Carie is bang on the money, and I should probably take her advice and go to bed.

The whole article is definitely worth a read. The other nine tips are also spot on, and if you work remotely, or you're thinking about starting, you'll find a lot of useful stuff in here.

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