Adobe Edge Animate – Rocky Nook’s elegant new software how-to guide – #webdesign #bookreview

adobe_edge_animate

Adobe Edge Animate

Using Web Standards to Create Interactive Websites

Simon Widjaja
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

Simon Widjaja’s new book is both elegant and practical. It is elegantly structured and illustrated, and it is practical in its approach to showing how to use Adobe Edge Animate.

That software package, Widjaja says, “is a multimedia authoring tool based on open web standards….Compositions created with Edge Animate can be used in browser applications and apps on mobile devices, but also in digital publications created with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite or Apple iBooks Author.”

Widjaja is an experienced Edge developer, as well as programmer, author, IT trainer, and Flash developer.

Not only does his book show how to design and create animations. He also demonstrates “solutions that go beyond the application’s standard functions,” including “integration into external systems and extensibility with additional frameworks and custom components.”

The Edge Animate runtime, he notes, “is largely based on the popular jQuery JavaScript framework.” So external HTML and JavaScript components can be placed into Edge Animate compositions, and Edge Animate users can create their own components.

The 220-page book (translated from German by Susan Spies) is divided into seven chapters, with numbered subheadings and sub-subheadings. The chapters are:

Chapter 1: Introduction — Contains “basic information on the current status quo in web standards” and how they apply to understanding and using Edge Animate.

Chapter 2: Getting to know the authoring tool – Provides an overview of Edge Animate’s interface and its wide range of functions.

Chapter 3: Design – Shows how to use the functions for creating graphic elements, how to work with assets such as images and fonts, and how to “create more complex layouts.”

Chapter 4: Animation – Introduces the Timeline and the Pin and explains “how to animate  your compositions using keyframes.”

Chapter 5: Interaction – Focuses on Edge Animate’s API and “how to implement various actions.”

Chapter 6: Publication –Explores the “the various publishing options available…in Edge Animate and explains the necessary preparations…for publishing your composition on the web or within a digital publication. Also looks at “how your creative work can be integrated into a content management system.”

Chapter 7: Advanced Tips – Covers “a range of extensions you will need to make your projects perform well on the web.”

Widjaja’s Adobe Edge Animate seems an excellent fit for Rocky Nook’s stated 2014 mission, which is “to publish books on cutting-edge developments in photography, imaging, and technology that really matter, and to focus on practical usage that will enhance capabilities. Our ultimate goal,” the company says, “is to foster image quality.”

With this book and Adobe Edge Animate, you definitely can learn how to boost the quality of images, using effective animated presentations on the web, in apps, and in other publications.

One e-book caution: This book “has complex layouts and has been optimized for reading on devices with larger screens.” In other words, do not try to read it on a phone or small tablet.

Si Dunn

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Killer UX Design – How to create compelling, user-centered interfaces – #bookreview

Killer UX Design
Jodie Moule
(SitePoint – paperback, Kindle)

The overused term “killer app” tends to kill my curiosity about books with “killer” in the title.

Still,  “killer” title aside, Killer UX Design deserves some attention, particularly if you are struggling to create a better user experience (UX) for products, websites, services, processes, or systems. The eight chapters in this 266-page book provide a well-written “introduction to user experience design.”

The focus, in UX design, is on “understanding the behavior of the eventual users of a product, service, or system. It then seeks to explore the optimal interaction of these elements, in order to design experiences that are memorable, enjoyable, and a little bit ‘wow’,” the author says.

She is a psychologist who co-founded and directs Symplicit, an “experience design consultancy” in Australia. “With the digital and physical worlds merging more than ever before,” she says, “it is vital to understand how technology can enhance the human experience, and not cause frustration or angst at every touchpoint.”

You won’t find JavaScript functions, HTML 5 code, or other programming examples in this book, even though software engineering increasingly is a key factor in UX design. Instead, the tools of choice during initial design phases are: Post-It Notes, index cards, sheets of paper, tape, glue, hand-drawn diagrams and sketches, plus clippings from newspapers, magazines and other materials.

And, you likely will spend time talking with other members of your UX design team, plus potential users of your product, service, or system.

Some of the chapters also deal with prototyping, testing, re-testing and tweaking, and how to modify a design based on what you learn after a product, service, or system has been launched.

A key strength of Killer UX Design is how it  illustrates and explains the real-life — and seldom simple — processes and steps necessary to design an app that is both useful and easy to use.

Si Dunn

Specificity, Selectors, and the Cascade: Applying CSS3 to Documents – #bookreview

Selectors, Specificity, and the Cascade: Applying CSS3 to Documents
Eric A. Meyer
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

If you know some basic CSS but wonder how the “cascade” part of Cascading Style Sheets works, here is a useful guide.

Actually, this is a 73-page, two-chapter excerpt from the upcoming fourth edition of Eric A. Meyer’s CSS: The Definitive Guide. If you are learning CSS, dealing with CSS issues, or moving to CSS3, this small book can provide you with numerous how-to examples to apply to right now.

The first chapter focuses on “Selectors.” Selectors are not clearly defined at the beginning. But they generally are described elsewhere as “patterns” that can be used to select the element or elements you want to style in a document, such as headings of a certain font sizes or paragraphs with text in specific colors.

Fortunately, the first chapter’s code examples, descriptive paragraphs, and illustrations quickly clarify how to put selectors to work in a document. “[D]ocument structure and CSS selectors allow you to apply a wide variety of style to elements,” the author notes.

The second chapter’s topics are “Specificity and the Cascade.” And the initial technical definitions get a bit dense. For example: “When determining which values should apply to an element, a user agent must consider not only inheritance but also the specificity of the declaration, as well as the origin of the declarations themselves. The process of consideration is what’s known as the cascade.”

Uh, okay.

Once again, fortunately, the second chapter’s code samples, illustrations, and follow-up paragraphs quickly clarify what is going on. And they enable you to learn by doing, seeing the outcome, and applying what you’ve learned to documents of your own.

Si Dunn

Learning Web Design, 4th Edition – Beginner’s guide updated for HTML5, CSS3 & JavaScript – #bookreview

Learning Web Design, 4th Edition
Jennifer Niederst Robbins
(O’Reilly, paperback)

Eager to learn web design, but not sure where to start and what you will need? Need a steady, guiding hand as you try to figure out how build your first web pages?

This handsome new edition of Learning Web Design can be your how-to, go-to handbook for a long time, whether you are a newbie or already have web experience.

The expanded and updated guidebook now includes coverage of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. There is also some focus on ensuring web pages display well on mobile device, and on making graphics files smaller for faster loading.

Subtitled “Beginner’s Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics,” Jennifer Niederst Robbins’ book is a complete, well-illustrated course. It can help you get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of web page creation and web design.

The book’s 603 pages are organized into 22 chapters and five parts. The parts are:

  1. Getting Started
  2. HTML Markup for Structure
  3. CSS for Presentation
  4. JavaScript for Behaviors
  5. Creating Web Graphics

“There are many levels of involvement in web design, from building a small site for yourself  to making it a full-blown career,” the author notes. “You may enjoy being a full-service website developer or just specializing in one skill. There are a lot of ways you can go.”

In general terms, she divides “web design” into “four very broad categories: design, development, content strategy, and multimedia.” On a small website, you may be responsible for understanding and implementing them all. But if you work for a company with a very large website, you may be just one member of a big team that supports and updates or changes its pages. And your job may entail just one limited aspect of web design.

But the more you know and can show that you know, the better your job security and career options may be. Learning Web Design likewise can be an excellent reference handbook for students studying web design in college or high school. And, if you have a solo small business and are reasonably computer savvy, this book can help you put together, post and maintain a good website even if you have never touched HTML.

The author, a long-time veteran of web design, includes numerous tips and references to additional materials. She also ends each chapter with a “Test Yourself” quiz, so you can “see if you picked up the important bits of information.” And don’t worry. The answers to all of the questions are in Appendix A.

Si Dunn

Drupal for Designers – Putting Drupal to work, with good planning and design up front – #bookreview

Drupal for Designers
Dani Nordin
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Drupal has (1) a lot of fans, (2) a lot of people who wonder what the heck it is, and (3) a lot of people who complain about it.

Sometimes, a Drupal user is each of these at the same time.

Officially, Drupal is “an open source content management platform powering millions of websites and applications.” Thousands of add-on modules and designs are available, and individuals, groups, organizations and companies use Drupal “to build everything from personal blogs to enterprise applications.” Indeed, some big and well-known sites use Drupal, including The Economist, Examiner.com and the White House, to name a few.

There is a learning curve, but Drupal specialist Dani Nordin’s new book can help you (1) get started with Drupal, (2) help you wrap your mind “around the way Drupal handles design challenges,” and (3) help you master important techniques and tools. You will also learn the importance of doing detailed site planning first and keeping up with version control, even if you are a solo designer.

The book focuses on Drupal 7, but much of the material can be used with Drupal 6. Some parts of the book are “version-agnostic.”

Dani Nordin also offers case studies involving two of her ongoing efforts, so readers can “see how these ideas work in the real world, with all the frustrations and moments of unexpected joy that happen in real projects.”

She adds: “Through these projects, I can show you a typical Drupal design process—from creating the project brief to ideation and sketches to prototyping and applying our look and feel to the site’s theme.”

Drupal for Designers is a compilation of three previous short guides, with new materials added. It is aimed, the author says, at “the solo site builder or small team that’s itching to do interesting things with Drupal but needs a bit of help understanding how to set up a successful Drupal project.”

To work with Drupal, you should have some familiarity with HTML and CSS, and you should be open to learning some PHP.

Drupal for Designers has 303 pages and 22 chapters that are grouped into seven parts:

  • Part 1: Discovery and User Experience
  • Part 2: Sketching, Visual Design, and Layout
  • Part 3: Setting Up a Local Development Environment
  • Part 4: Prototyping in Drupal
  • Part 5: Making It Easier to Start Projects
  • Part 6: Working with Clients
  • Part 7: Sample Documents (for designers, including a project brief, a work agreement, and a project proposal)

There is no one “right” way to use Drupal, the author notes. “Every Drupal designer and site builder has his or her own approach to creating projects….”

But careful planning and design work up front will be essential to your success, she emphasizes.

Si Dunn

The CSS3 Anthology: Take Your Sites to New Heights – #bookreview #in #webdesign

The CSS3 Anthology: Take Your Sites to New Heights, 4th Edition
Rachel Andrew
(SitePoint,
paperback, list price $39.95; Kindle edition, list price $29.95)

“The basic purpose of CSS [Cascading Style Sheets],” Rachel Andrew notes, “is to allow the [web] designer to define style declarations — formatting details such as fonts, element sizes, and colors — and then apply those styles to selected portions of HTML pages using selectors: references to an element or group of elements to which the style is applied.”

The fourth edition of this popular how-to book for Cascading Style Sheets is aimed at providing how-to examples, shortcuts and tips for busy web designers and web developers already working with CSS.

However, web-savvy beginners and those who build and maintain their own websites also can benefit from this well-written book. Along with a short introduction to CSS basics, it offers many short code examples and related screenshots. And virtually every chapter is structured around answering the question “How do I…?” as each new topic is introduced.

Indeed, the 420-page book is a compilation of answers to questions, specific how-tos and examples readily adaptable to real-world web pages.

The CSS3 Anthology is organized into nine chapters:

  • Making a Quick Start with CSS
  • Text Styling and Other Basics
  • Images and Other Design Elements
  • Navigation
  • Tabular Data
  • Forms and User Interfaces
  • Cross-browser Techniques
  • CSS Positioning Basics
  • CSS for Layout

If you need a tutorial or refresher in HTML and CSS basics before grabbing this book, the author recommends Build Your Own Website the Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 3rd Edition, available in paperback and ebook formats.

— Si Dunn

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