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Better CSS

Categories: Events, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Recently James and I went to Canvas Conf and listened to a number of great talks on web development. We particularly got a lot out of Harry Roberts’ (Senior UI Developer for BSkyB) talk 'Big CSS' which focussed on writing maintainable CSS for big projects. While we predominantly write CSS for relatively small projects we still came away with some very useful ideas and practices that will help us do what we do better.

With CSS we'd always tend to write a rough set of styles that broadly cover the whole project, setting up basic things like a reset, typography, header and footer etc. and then write the rest of the CSS as specific chunks of code that do one thing.

Instead of doing this however we’re realizing that we can break down a lot of that stuff so it's more re-usable, so more efficient. Take, for instance, a list of links that supplements an article; there are many abstractions to this one object that we can break out and re-use:

  • A vertical list without bullets.
  • It has links inside.
  • It might have icons on the left of each link.

We can then apply some or all of those abstractions to another object, like a list of downloads, which would have all of the above plus an additional rule for the filesize meta-data that forms part of each link.

Another aspect we took away from Harry's talk was how important it is to structure your CSS sensibly. Firstly, we have to get out of the pattern of writing our CSS in the same order as the markup ... that just doesn’t make the best use of the cascade!

So instead I think we’ll be following something along the lines of this:

  1. Table of contents
  2. Reset
  3. Typography
  4. Structural framework
  5. Generic objects
  6. Specific components
  7. Style trumps

All the while we can be picking and choosing from our growing library of abstractions.

The final part of all this is comments. We came away determined to use more comments in our CSS; the uses comments can have are endless but for us I think the following practices will be fairly revolutionary:

  • Linking markup to the CSS by adding in blocks of HTML as reference.
  • Explaining weird bits of code or specific techniques used.
  • Linking back to an abstraction when overriding something further down the cascade or in another file.

So over the next few months, we’ll be steadily building a little CSS framework that works for us, with lots of abstractions that we can re-use and a structure that makes sense.

Art smarts

Categories: Events, Learning things, Useful/interesting

Art > Marketing > Family > Funds cycle

The other week I went along to an AMA Network event.

It was good. Though I don't work directly in arts marketing, I thought Sarah Gee's talk on how marketing and development teams could and should work together, pooling resources and wisdom, was fascinating. (And worded/explained much more entertainingly than that.)

It was so interesting that I've been meaning to write it up – but have consistently failed to find the time to do so properly, so on the off-chance there are any nuggets of wisdom discernible from my notes (made after-the-fact, tut-tut) here they are:

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Arts orgs having to become more business-like in terms of 'customer retention'. No resting on laurels and becoming complacent because funding appears year after year; those days are over.

It's important to involve people from the organisation as a whole – and to be more open. And open to change.

Don't be shy about the fact the org is a charity. Nothing to be ashamed of! If people were more aware, they may be more inclined to give.

Don't concentrate on one route only. Crossover is vital e.g. capital appeals can help people understand an arts org. is a charity. [For example Hippo Stage Appeal which launched in the Prospectus we designed, aimed at key stakeholders and funders is now also a public-facing campaign.]

Being clear to audiences/donors about the organisation as a whole, not just individual projects. (A good point was made about the possibility of people becoming fatigued being frequently asked to fund individual 'projects' - that time/those resources should also be spent on long-term gains; building relationships with people who may eventually prove to be 'high value givers' or who bequeath a legacy.

Inform people about the organisation as a whole, as well as individual projects.

Interesting fact re. legacy-giving and inheritance tax – many people give away anything over the inheritance tax threshold as they don't appreciate being taxed for it again. Remember though – the 'baby boomers' may be the final legacy-givers as the rest of us may not have any money to bequeath! 

My favourite line: "Treat people as people". 

This is something the arts is very well-placed to do, particularly compared with corporates as so many people have and/or build emotional attachments with the arts; attachments which are much deeper and mean more to them than 'for profit' brands. Marketing plus development = the perfect range of skills to benefit organisations.

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By the way, the diagram heading up this post is based on a slide from Sarah's presentation but I can't for the life of me remember who this marketing/fundraising cycle should be credited to. If you know, please pop a note in the comments and I'll update the post accordingly. Ta.

UPDATE:
Thanks to Chris Unitt for reminding me that the marketing/fundraising cycle graphic concept is by Michael Kaiser. Chris has also handily pointed me towards a slideshare presentation about it: The Cycle.

On 15th July …

Categories: Extra-curricular, Useful/interesting

1573 English architect Inigo Jones was born.

1799 The Rosetta Stone was found in the Egyptian village of Rosetta by Captain Pierre-François Bouchard.

1823 A fire destroyed the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.

1919 Irish author and philosopher Iris Murdoch was born.

1955 Eighteen Nobel laureates signed the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons; later co-signed by thirty-four others.

1973 American actor Brian Austin Green was born.

2003 The Mozilla Foundation was established. (The same day AOL Time Warner disbanded Netscape Communications Corporation.)

2011 Likemind Birmingham celebrated four happy years of setting the alarm early for Friday morning coffee and conversation.

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Thanks to Wikipedia for the info. above. Apart from the Likemind bit which we knew already.

Commerce/Culture

Categories: Useful/interesting

"One route to success will be the ability to merge commerce with culture …"

A quote from the latest design trend report by David Carlson on the perennial topic of passive consumerism vs. meaningful experience. Interesting stuff. (And, I thought, vaguely related to Rui's post t'other day.)

Read the full report: Closed Wallets Closed Minds – Issue 14 / June 2011 (You can either read it online or download a pdf.)