Posted In:Development Environments Archives - AppFerret

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Designing For Accessibility And Inclusion

2018-11-26 - By 

The more inclusive you are to the needs of your users, the more accessible your design is. Let’s take a closer look at the different lenses of accessibility through which you can refine your designs.

By Steven Lambert

“Accessibility is solved at the design stage.” This is a phrase that Daniel Na and his team heard over and over again while attending a conference. To design for accessibility means to be inclusive to the needs of your users. This includes your target users, users outside of your target demographic, users with disabilities, and even users from different cultures and countries. Understanding those needs is the key to crafting better and more accessible experiences for them.

One of the most common problems when designing for accessibility is knowing what needs you should design for. It’s not that we intentionally design to exclude users, it’s just that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” So, when it comes to accessibility, there’s a lot to know.

How do we go about understanding the myriad of users and their needs? How can we ensure that their needs are met in our design? To answer these questions, I have found that it is helpful to apply a critical analysis technique of viewing a design through different lenses.

“Good [accessible] design happens when you view your [design] from many different perspectives, or lenses.”

— The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

lens is “a narrowed filter through which a topic can be considered or examined.” Often used to examine works of art, literature, or film, lenses ask us to leave behind our worldview and instead view the world through a different context.

For example, viewing art through a lens of history asks us to understand the “social, political, economic, cultural, and/or intellectual climate of the time.” This allows us to better understand what world influences affected the artist and how that shaped the artwork and its message.

Accessibility lenses are a filter that we can use to understand how different aspects of the design affect the needs of the users. Each lens presents a set of questions to ask yourself throughout the design process. By using these lenses, you will become more inclusive to the needs of your users, allowing you to design a more accessible user experience for all.

The Lenses of Accessibility are:

  • Lens of Animation and Effects
  • Lens of Audio and Video
  • Lens of Color
  • Lens of Controls
  • Lens of Font
  • Lens of Images and Icons
  • Lens of Keyboard
  • Lens of Layout
  • Lens of Material Honesty
  • Lens of Readability
  • Lens of Structure
  • Lens of Time

You should know that not every lens will apply to every design. While some can apply to every design, others are more situational. What works best in one design may not work for another.

The questions provided by each lens are merely a tool to help you understand what problems may arise. As always, you should test your design with users to ensure it’s usable and accessible to them.

Lens Of Animation And Effects

Effective animations can help bring a page and brand to life, guide the users focus, and help orient a user. But animations are a double-edged sword. Not only can misusing animations cause confusion or be distracting, but they can also be potentially deadly for some users.

Fast flashing effects (defined as flashing more than three times a second) or high-intensity effects and patterns can cause seizures, known as ‘photosensitive epilepsy.’ Photosensitivity can also cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Users with photosensitive epilepsy have to be very careful when using the web as they never know when something might cause a seizure.

Other effects, such as parallax or motion effects, can cause some users to feel dizzy or experience vertigo due to vestibular sensitivity. The vestibular system controls a person’s balance and sense of motion. When this system doesn’t function as it should, it causes dizziness and nausea.

“Imagine a world where your internal gyroscope is not working properly. Very similar to being intoxicated, things seem to move of their own accord, your feet never quite seem to be stable underneath you, and your senses are moving faster or slower than your body.”

— A Primer To Vestibular Disorders

Constant animations or motion can also be distracting to users, especially to users who have difficulty concentrating. GIFs are notably problematic as our eyes are drawn towards movement, making it easy to be distracted by anything that updates or moves constantly.

This isn’t to say that animation is bad and you shouldn’t use it. Instead you should understand why you’re using the animation and how to design safer animations. Generally speaking, you should try to design animations that cover small distances, match direction and speed of other moving objects (including scroll), and are relatively small to the screen size.

You should also provide controls or options to cater the experience for the user. For example, Slack lets you hide animated images or emojis as both a global setting and on a per image basis.

To use the Lens of Animation and Effects, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any effects that could cause a seizure?
  • Are there any animations or effects that could cause dizziness or vertigo through use of motion?
  • Are there any animations that could be distracting by constantly moving, blinking, or auto-updating?
  • Is it possible to provide controls or options to stop, pause, hide, or change the frequency of any animations or effects?

Lens Of Audio And Video

Autoplaying videos and audio can be pretty annoying. Not only do they break a users concentration, but they also force the user to hunt down the offending media and mute or stop it. As a general rule, don’t autoplay media.

“Use autoplay sparingly. Autoplay can be a powerful engagement tool, but it can also annoy users if undesired sound is played or they perceive unnecessary resource usage (e.g. data, battery) as the result of unwanted video playback.”

— Google Autoplay guidelines

You’re now probably asking, “But what if I autoplay the video in the background but keep it muted?” While using videos as backgrounds may be a growing trend in today’s web design, background videos suffer from the same problems as GIFs and constant moving animations: they can be distracting. As such, you should provide controls or options to pause or disable the video.

Along with controls, videos should have transcripts and/or subtitles so users can consume the content in a way that works best for them. Users who are visually impaired or who would rather read instead of watch the video need a transcript, while users who aren’t able to or don’t want to listen to the video need subtitles.

To use the Lens of Audio and Video, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there any audio or video that could be annoying by autoplaying?
  • Is it possible to provide controls to stop, pause, or hide any audio or videos that autoplay?
  • Do videos have transcripts and/or subtitles?

Lens Of Color

Color plays an important part in a design. Colors evoke emotions, feelings, and ideas. Colors can also help strengthen a brand’s message and perception. Yet the power of colors is lost when a user can’t see them or perceives them differently.

Color blindness affects roughly 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. Deuteranopia (red-green color blindness) is the most common form of color blindness, affecting about 6% of men. Users with red-green color blindness typically perceive reds, greens, and oranges as yellowish.

See Color Blindness Reference Chart above.

Color meaning is also problematic for international users. Colors mean different things in different countries and cultures. In Western cultures, red is typically used to represent negative trends and green positive trends, but the opposite is true in Eastern and Asian cultures.

Because colors and their meanings can be lost either through cultural differences or color blindness, you should always add a non-color identifier. Identifiers such as icons or text descriptions can help bridge cultural differences while patterns work well to distinguish between colors.

 

See remaining article here.


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Tools I Wish I Had Known About When I Started Coding

2018-03-15 - By 

In the tech world, there are thousands of tools that people will tell you to use. How are you supposed to know where to start?

As somebody who started coding relatively recently, this downpour of information was too much to sift through. I found myself installing extensions that did not really help me in my development cycle, and often even got in the way of it.

I am by no means an expert, but over time I have compiled a list of tools that have proven extremely useful to me. If you are just starting to learn how to program, this will hopefully offer you some guidance. If you are a seasoned developer, hopefully you will still learn something new.

I am going to break this article up into Chrome Extensions and VS Code extensions. I know there are other browsers and other text editors, but I am willing to bet most of the tools are also available for your platform of choice, so let’s not start a religious argument over our personal preferences.

Feel free to jump around.

Chrome Extensions

Now that I am a self-proclaimed web developer, I practically live in my Chrome console. Below are some tools that allow me to spend less time there:

  • WhatFont — The name says it all. This is an easy way of finding out the fonts that your favorite website is using, so that you can borrow them for your own projects.
  • Pesticide — Useful for seeing the outlines of your <div>s and modifying CSS. This was a lifesaver when I was trying to learn my way around the box-model.
  • Colorzilla — Useful for copying exact colors off of a website. This copies a color straight to your clipboard so you don’t spend forever trying to get the right RGBA combination.
  • CSS Peeper — Useful for looking at colors and assets used on a website. A good exercise, especially when starting out, is cloning out websites that you think look cool. This gives you a peek under the hood at their color scheme and allows you to see what other assets exist on their page.
  • Wappalyzer — Useful for seeing the technologies being used on a website. Ever wonder what kind of framework a website is using or what service it is hosted on? Look no further.
  • React Dev Tools — Useful for debugging your React applications. It bears mentioning that this is only useful if you are programming a React application.
  • Redux Dev Tools — Useful for debugging applications using Redux. It bears mentioning that this is only useful if you are implementing Redux in your application.
  • JSON Formatter — Useful for making JSON look cleaner in the browser. Have you ever stared an ugly JSON blob in the face, trying to figure out how deeply nested the information you want is? Well this makes it so that it only takes 2 hours instead of 3.
  • Vimeo Repeat and Speed — Useful for speeding up Vimeo videos. If you watch video tutorials like most web developers, you know how handy it is to consume them at 1.25 times the regular playback speed. There are also versions for YouTube.

VS Code Extensions

Visual Studio Code is my editor of choice.

People love their text editors, and I am no exception. However, I’m willing to bet most of these extensions work for whatever editor you are using as well. Check out my favorite extensions:

  • Auto Rename Tag — Auto rename paired HTML tags. You created a <p>tag. Now you want to change it, as well as its enclosing </p> tag to something else. Simply change one and the other will follow. Theoretically improves your productivity by a factor of 2.
  • HTML CSS Support — CSS support for HTML documents. This is useful for getting some neat syntax highlighting and code suggestions so that CSS only makes you want to quit coding a couple of times a day.
  • HTML Snippets — Useful code snippets. Another nice time saver. Pair this with Emmet and you barely ever have to type real HTML again.
  • Babel ES6/ES7 — Adds JavaScript Babel syntax coloring. If you are using Babel, this will make it much easier to differentiate what is going on in your code. This is neat if you like to play with modern features of JavaScript.
  • Bracket Pair Colorizer — Adds colors to brackets for easier block visualization. This is handy for those all-too-common bugs where you didn’t close your brackets or parentheses accurately.
  • ESLint — Integrates ESLint into Visual Studio Code. This is handy for getting hints about bugs as you are writing your code and, depending on your configuration, it can help enforce good coding style.
  • Guides — Adds extra guide lines to code. This is another visual cue to make sure that you are closing your brackets correctly. If you can’t tell, I’m a very visual person.
  • JavaScript Console Utils — Makes for easier console logging. If you are like most developers, you will find yourself logging to the console in your debugging flow (I know that we are supposed to use the debugger). This utility makes it easy to create useful console.log() statements.
  • Code Spell Checker — Spelling checker that accounts for camelCase. Another common source of bugs is fat-thumbing a variable or function name. This spell checker will look for uncommon words and is good about accounting for the way we write things in JavaScript.
  • Git Lens — Makes it easier to see when, and by whom, changes were made. This is nice for blaming the appropriate person when code gets broken, since it is absolutely never your fault.
  • Path Intellisense — File path autocompletion. This is super handy for importing things from other files. It makes navigating your file tree a breeze.
  • Prettier — Automatic code formatter. Forget about the days where you had to manually indent your code and make things human-legible. Prettier will do this for you much faster, and better, than you ever could on your own. I can’t recommend this one enough.
  • VSCode-Icons — Adds icons to the file tree. If looking at your file structure hurts your eyes, this might help. There is a helpful icon for just about any kind of file you are making which will make it easier to distinguish what you are looking at.

In Conclusion

You likely have your own set of tools that are indispensable to your development cycle. Hopefully some of the tools I mentioned above can make your workflow more efficient.

Do not fall into the trap, however, of installing every tool you run across before learning to use the ones you already have, as this can be a huge time-sink.

I encourage you to leave your favorite tools in the comments below here, so that we can all learn together.

If you liked this article please give it some claps and check out other articles I’ve written hereherehere, and here. Also, give me a follow on Twitter.

Original article here.

 

 

 

 


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What Does Serverless Computing Mean?

2017-08-24 - By 

For developers, worrying about infrastructure is a chore they can do without. Serverless computing relieves that burden.

It’s always unfortunate to start the definition of a phrase by calling it a misnomer, but that’s where you have to begin with serverless computing: Of course there will always be servers. Serverless computing merely adds another layer of abstraction atop cloud infrastructure, so developers no longer need to worry about servers, including virtual ones in the cloud.

To explore this idea, I spoke with one of serverless computing’s most vocal proponents: Chad Arimura, CEO of the startup Iron.io, which develops software for microservices workload management. Arimura says serverless computing is all about the modern developer’s evolving frame of reference:

What we’ve seen is that the atomic unit of scale has been changing from the virtual machine to the container, and if you take this one step further, we’re starting to see something called a function … a single-purpose block of code. It’s something you can conceptualize very easily: Process an image. Transform a piece of data. Encode a piece of video.

To me this sounded a lot like microservices architecture, where instead of a building a monolithic application, you assemble an application from single-purpose services. What then is the difference between a microservice and a function?

A service has a common API that people can access. You don’t know what’s going on under the hood. That service may be powered by functions. So functions are the building block code aspect of it; the service itself is like the interface developers can talk to.

Just as developers use microservices to assemble applications and call services from functions, they can grab functions from a library to build the services themselves — without having to consider server infrastructure as they create an application.

AWS Lambda is the best-known example of serverless computing. As an Amazon instructional video explains, “once you upload your code to Lambda, the service handles all the capacity, scaling, patching, and administration of the infrastructure to run your code.” Both AWS Lambda and Iron.io offer function libraries to further accelerate development. Provisioning and autoscaling are on demand.

Keep in mind all of this is above the level of service orchestration — of the type offered by Mesos, Kubernetes, or Docker Swarm. Although Iron.io offers its own orchestration layer, which predated those solutions being generally available, it also plugs into them, “but we really play at the developer/API later,” says Arimura.

In fact, it’s fair to view the core of Iron.io’s functionality roughly equivalent to that of AWS Lambda, only deployable on all major public and private cloud platforms. Arimura sees the ability to deploy on premises as a particular Iron.io advantage because the hybrid cloud is becoming more and more essential to the enterprise approach to cloud computing. Think of the consistency and application portability enabled by the same serverless computing environment across public and private clouds.

Arimura even goes as far as to use the controversial “no-ops,” coined by former Netflix cloud architect Adrain Cockcroft. Again, just as there will always be servers, there will always be ops to run them. Again, no-ops and serverless computing take the developer’s point of view: Someone else has to worry about that stuff, but not me while I create software.

Serverless computing, then, represents yet another leap in developer efficiency, where even virtual infrastructure concerns melt away and libraries of services and functions reduce once again the amount of code developers need to write from scratch.

Enterprise dev shops have been slow to adopt agile, CICD, devops, and the like. But as we move up the stack to serverless computing levels of abstraction, the palpable benefits of modern development practices become more and more enticing.

Original article here.


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JavaScript framework Mithril focuses on performance, size, and density

2017-02-06 - By 

Mithril, an open source JavaScript framework for single-page applications, is looking to best Facebook’s React, Google’s Angular, and Vue JavaScript tools in performance and ease of use. It reached the 1.0.0 release stage last week.

The framework is small and fast, and it provides routing and XHR (XMLHttpRequest) out of the box. Mithril also offers benefits in relative density, lead developer Leo Horie said. “It’s possible to develop entire applications without resorting to other libraries, and it’s not uncommon for Mithril apps to weigh a third of other apps of similar complexity.” Horie said that the framework feels closer to vanilla JavaScript.

Mithril’s website features a comparison to Angular, React, and Vue. Mithril, for example, offers much quicker library load times and update performance than React, and it has a better learning curve and update performance than Angular. Compared to Vue, Mithril supposedly offers better library load times and update performance. Vue and Mithril both use virtual DOM and lifecycle methods, and both Angular and Mithril supporting componentization.

The framework hopes to make the learning curve for modern web development as low as possible with its API and tooling requirements. Plans for Mithril call for a continued focus on simplifying development workflow. “The v1.0.0 release is actually smaller in size than the previous releases, but I feel it’s still possible to simplify things more than the current status quo on the tooling side,” Horie said.

Original article here.


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104 Photo Editing Tools You Should Know About

2016-09-08 - By 

Hello, photographers. For the last two months, I’ve been doing market research for my projectPhotolemur and looking for different tools in the area of photo enhancement and photo editing. I spent a lot of time searching, and came up with a large organized list of 104 photo editing tools and apps that you should know about.

I believe all these services might be useful for some photographers, so I’ll share them here with you. And just to make it easier to find something specific, the list is numbered. Enjoy!

Table of contents

  • Photo enhancers (1-3)
  • Online editors (4-21)
  • Free desktop editors (22-26)
  • Paid desktop editors (27-40)
  • HDR photo editors (41-53)
  • Cross-platform image editors (54-57)
  • Photo filters (58-66)
  • Photo editing mobile apps (67-85)
  • RAW processors (86-96)
  • Photo viewers and managers (97-99)
  • Other (100-104)

Photo enhancers

1. Photolemur – The world’s first fully automated photo enhancement solution. It is powered by a special AI algorithm that fixes imperfections on images without human involvement (beta).

2. Softcolorsoftware – Automatic photo editor for batch photo enhancing, editing and color management.

3. Perfectly Clear – Photo editor with a set of automatic correction presets for Windows&Mac ($149)

Online editors

4. Pixlr – High-end photo editing and quick filtering – in your browser (free)

5. Fotor – Overall photo enhancement in an easy-to-use package (free)

6. Sumopaint – The most versatile photo editor and painting application that works in a browser (free)

7. Irfanview – An image-viewer with added batch editing and conversion. rename a huge number of files in seconds, as well as resize them. Freeware (for non-commercial use)

8. Lunapic – Just a simple free online editor

9. Photos – Photo viewing and editing app for OS X and comes free with the Yosemite operating system (free)

10. Fastone – Fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. provided as freeware for personal and educational use.

11. Pics.io – Very simple online photo editor (free)

12. Ribbet – Ribbet lets you edit all your photos online, and love every second of it (free)

13. PicMonkey – One of the most popular free online picture editors

14. Befunky – Online photo editor and collage maker (free)

15. pho.to – Simple online photo editor with pre-set photo effects for an instant photo fix (free)

16. pizap – Online photo editor and collage maker ($29.99/year)

17. Fotostars – Edit your photos using stylish photo effects (free)

18. Avatan – Free online photo editor & collage maker

19. FotoFlexer – Photo editor and advanced photo effects for free

20. Picture2life is an Ajax based photo editor. It’s focused on grabbing and editing images that are already online. The tool selection is average, and the user interface is poor.

21. Preloadr is a Flickr-specific tool that uses the Flickr API, even for account sign-in. The service includes basic cropping, sharpening, color correction and other tools to enhance images.


Free desktop editors

22. Photoscape – A simple, unusual editor that can handle more than just photos

23. Paint.net – Free image and photo editing software for PC

24. Krita – Digital painting and illustration application with CMYK support, HDR painting, G’MIC integration and more

25. Imagemagick – A software suite to create, edit, compose or convert images on the command line.

26. G’MIC – Full featured framework for image processing with different user interfaces, including a GIMP plugin to convert, manipulate, filter, and visualize image data. Available for Windows and OS

Paid desktop editors

27. Photoshop – Mother of all photo editors ($9.99/month)

28. Lightroom – A photo processor and image organizer developed by Adobe Systems for Windows and OS X ($9.99/month)

29. Capture One – Is a professional raw converter and image editing software designed for professional photographers who need to process large volumes of high quality images in a fast and efficient workflow (279 EUR)

30. Radlab – Combines intuitive browsing, gorgeous effects and a lightning-fast processing engine for image editing ($149)


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Develop Android Apps Using MIT App Inventor

2016-08-08 - By 

There is a secret inventor inside each of us. Get your creative juices flowing and go ahead and develop an Android app or two. It is as easy as you think it is. Follow the detailed instructions given in this article, and you will have an Android app up and running in next to no time.

Imagine that you have come up with an idea for an app to address your own requirements, but due to lack of knowledge and information, don’t know where to begin. You could contact an Android developer, who would charge you for his services, and you would also risk having your idea being copied or stolen. You may also feel that you can’t develop the app yourself as you do not have the required programming and coding skills. But that’s not true. Let me tell you that you can develop Android apps on your own without any programming and coding. Here’s how:

An introduction to App Inventor
App Inventor is a tool that will convert your idea into a working application without the need for any prior coding or programming skills. App Inventor is the open source utility developed by Google in 2010 and, currently, it is being maintained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It allows absolute beginners in computer science to develop Android applications. It provides you with a graphical user interface with all the necessary components required to build Android apps. You just need to drag and drop the components in the block editor. Each block is an independent action, which you need to arrange in a logical sequence in order to result in some action.

App Inventor features
App Inventor is a feature-rich open source Android app development tool. Here are its features.

1. Open source: Being open source, the tool is free for everyone and you don’t need to purchase anything. Open source software also gives you the freedom to customise it as per your own requirements.

2. Browser based: App Inventor runs on your browser; hence, you don’t need to install anything onto your computer. You just need to log in to your account using your email and password credentials.

3. Stored on the cloud: All your app related projects are stored on Google Cloud; therefore, you need not keep anything on your laptop or computer. Being browser based, it allows you to log in to your account from any device and all your work is in sync with the cloud database.

4. Real-time testing: App Inventor provides a standalone emulator that enables you to view the behaviour of your apps on a virtual machine. Complete your project and see it running on the emulator in real-time.

5. No coding required: As mentioned earlier, it is a tool with a graphical user interface, with all the built-in component blocks and logical blocks. You need to assemble multiple blocks together to result in some behavioural action.

6. Huge developer community: You will meet like-minded developers from across the world. You can post your queries regarding certain topics and these will be answered quickly. The community is very supportive and knowledged.

System requirements
Given below are the system requirements to run App Inventor from your computer or laptop:
1. A valid Google account, as you need to log in using your credentials.
2. A working Internet connection, as you need to log in to the cloud-based browser that’s compatible with App Inventor; hence, a working Internet connection is a must.
3. App Inventor is compatible with Google Chrome 29+, Safari 5+ and Firefox 23+.
4. An Android phone to test the final, developed application.

Beginning with App Inventor
Hope you have everything to begin your journey of Android app development with App Inventor. Follow the steps below to make your first project.
1.   Open your Google Chrome/Safari/Firefox browser and open the Google home page.
2.   Using the search box, search for App Inventor.
3.   Choose the very first link. It will redirect you to the App Inventor project’s main page. This page contains all the resources and tutorials related to App Inventor. We will explore it later. For now, click on the Create button on the top right corner.
4.   The next page will ask for your Google account credentials. Enter your user name and password that you use for your Gmail application.
5.   Click on the Sign in button, and you will successfully reach the App Inventor app development page. If the page asks you to confirm your approval of certain usage or policy terms, agree with them all. It is all safe and is mandatory if you want to move ahead.
6.   If all is done correctly, you should see a page similar to what’s shown in Figure 5.
7.   Congratulations! You have successfully set up all the necessary things and can now develop your first application.

For step-by-step instructions to develop your first App Inventor application, and to see the full original article, go here.

 


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