Summertime is here – at least in the northern hemisphere. And while our thoughts often turn to vacations and outdoor activities, this time of year is also a perfect opportunity to learn something new.
Web design and development is ever-changing, with new techniques and technologies coming out all the time. This places us in a constant struggle to figure out where to train our focus. Nevertheless, it’s critical that we continue to educate ourselves in order to level up our skills. After all, the future waits for no one.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 5 design and development skills worth your time this summer. While you may already be familiar with them, there’s likely at least some aspects of each that you’ll want to explore more deeply.
1. CSS Grid
For some of us, there’s always a little trepidation when working with new CSS goodies. We want to use the latest features, but there’s also the fear of leaving out users on older tech. But there also comes a point when we simply need to take advantage of something that’s better than what we’ve been using.
The time has come for CSS Grid to be widely adopted. It’s no longer an edge-case, as the last several versions of all major browsers have supported this powerful new layout feature. And the advantages of using it are just too great to ignore.
CSS Grid makes even the most complex layouts possible without the need for overly-complicated code. The syntax takes some getting used to, but really is quite simple once you get the hang of it (a major improvement over the useful-but-finnicky Flexbox). This one is here to stay and will be an important part of a designer’s repertoire for years to come.
That does make it a bit more difficult to decide where to focus your energy, though. Some applications are tied to specific frameworks such as React or Vue. So, where you spend your time should really be specific to what you want to accomplish. If your desired skill requires knowledge of a framework, that should point you in the right direction. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with learning the fundamentals of plain old vanilla JS.
Among the finer details of design are micro-interactions – those little visual cues that go along with various user actions. It might be the effect you see when clicking a button, providing visual confirmation of what you just did. It could also be a progress bar that fills up as you move through a multi-step form.
These items are small in stature but can perform wonders for the user experience. They give users confidence in what they’re doing, which in turn makes them more likely to interact with your site again and again.
4. Design Systems
If you’re looking for absolute consistency in the look of your website or app, a design system can get you there. Sometimes referred to as a “pattern library” or “styleguide”, it’s a visual language that helps you to document UI elements so that they can be reused. This ensures that fonts, colors, shapes, icons, etc. are consistent across all platforms. This is especially important when working as part of a team on large-scale projects.
For example, when everyone on your team knows what a call-to-action button should look like, it makes the job of implementing such an element much easier. Designers don’t have to approximate or conjure up their own solution because the standard is right there in the documentation.
We often design things in a bit of a haphazard way – coming up with various elements as we need them. That may work well enough for some projects, but just about everyone can benefit from a design system – even if you’re the only one on the “team”. The more well-organized you are, the better your work will be.
Many of us self-taught designers never formally learned best practices when it comes to typography. We use what looks good to us – but there’s more we could be doing. Responsive text, for instance, is something we all need to be aware of.
Taking some time to review the fundamentals, along with the latest techniques, is a worthwhile endeavor for all designers – formally trained or not.
Fresh Skills for the Summer
As the Fresh Prince once opined, “Summer, summer, summertime / Time to sit back and unwind”. That may be fine for some, but web designers need to keep their hustle on all year round. Sure, take some time and enjoy warm weather and the great outdoors. But don’t miss the opportunity to improve those mad skills.