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by Noura Yehia

JavaScipt libraries have made huge leaps and bounds in helping developers write code and develop products more quickly. jQuery is one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks, with powerful tools that improve the user’s interaction with Web applications. jQuery has an additional advantage in that it allows developers to select elements on a page using CSS-like syntax.

To help you take it up a notch, we share below some methods that can help you give visitors to your website an amazing user experience. Here are over 45 impressive jQuery plug-ins and techniques that have been recently created and that could make the development of your next website an easier and more interesting experience than the last.

You may want to take a look at the following related posts:

Dynamic Content

1. Build A Login Form With jQuery
In this tutorial, we’ll create a sliding panel, that slides in to reveal more content, using JQuery to animate the height of the panel. In this case, we will be creating a hypothetical login for the new tutsplus area that’s coming soon.

jQuery

2. Spoiler Revealer with jQuery
A simple technique that hides some content first and fades it in once a link is clicked.

jQuery

3. AJAX Upload
This AJAX file upload plug-in allows users to easily upload multiple files without having to refresh the page. In addition, you can use any element to trigger the file selection window. The plug-in creates a semi-transparent file input screen over the button you specify, so when a user clicks on the button, the normal file selection window is shown. After the user selects a file, the plug-in submits the form that contains the file input to an iFrame. So it isn’t true AJAX but provides the same user experience.

jQuery

4. FCBKcomplete
Give your users fancy Facebook-like dynamic inputs, with auto-complete and pre-added values.

jQuery

5. Create Accessible Charts Using Canvas and jQuery
This tool is proof that you can use the <canvas> element to illustrate HTML table data. The idea is a good one: putting the data in a table allows it to remain accessible, while the chart can be shown for visual enhancement.

jQuery

 

Form Manipulation

6. Radio Button and Check Box Replacement
This jQuery tool replaces radio buttons and check boxes with a more appealing display.

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7. Submit a Form without a Page Refresh

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8. jQuery AJAX Contact Form
Here is a quick and easy way to make a jQuery AJAX contact form with a “honeypot” to foil email bots, load success and error messages dynamically without leaving the page and provide descriptive error messages detailing why submitted values have failed validation.

jQuery

9. Simple jQuery Form Validation
This jQuery form shows live form-input validators both server-side and browser-side.

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Navigation Menus

10. jQuery Context Menu
A context menu plug-in for jQuery that features easy implementation, keyboard shortcuts, CSS styling and control methods.

jQuery

11. Kwicks for jQuery
Kwicks for jQuery started off as a port of the incredibly attractive MooTools framework, but has evolved into a highly customizable and versatile widget.

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12. jQuery iPod-style Drilldown Menu
“We created an iPod-style drilldown menu to help users traverse hierarchical data quickly and with control. It’s especially helpful when organizing large data structures that don’t translate well into traditional dropdown or fly-out menus.”

jQuery

13. jQuery File Tree
The jQuery File Tree is a configurable AJAX file-browser plug-in for jQuery. You can create a customized, fully-interactive file tree with as little as one line of JavaScript code.

jQuery

14. How to Create a MooTools Home Page-Inspired Navigation Effect
In this tutorial, you’ll recreate the same effect seen in MooTools’s menu, but in jQuery!

jQuery

15. CSS Sprites2
This tutorial demonstrates how to implement inline CSS Sprites2 using jQuery.

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Manipulating Content

16. jQuery books widget
With some custom JavaScript and jQuery magic you can create some interesting widgets. A good way to demonstrate this functionality is by building a browsable Amazon.com books widget.

jQuery

17. Text Size Slider
This tutorial explains how to use a slider to control the text size of an article on a page. This lets the user control exactly the size that suits them, and is also a pretty impressive feature to have on a site.

jQuery

18. Pagination
Create navigational elements: when you have a large number of items, you can group them into pages and present navigational elements that allow users to move from one page to another.

jQuery

19. Coda-Slider
As with the last tool, groups items together using navigational elements that allow users to move from one page to another.

jQuery

20. Creating a Slick Auto-Playing Featured-Content Slider
If you love the Coda-Slider plug-in for jQuery, then you will find this plug-in very useful for displaying lots of content in a small area. This nice plug-in adds some features not found in the original Coda-Slider, such as slowly cycling through panels, auto-playing different types of custom content. An arrow indicator serves as a visual indication of which panel you are currently viewing.

jQuery

  • Demo can be found here.
  • Download files here.

21. haccordion
A simple horizontal accordion plug-in for jQuery.

jQuery

 

Tabular Data and Grids

22. Table Row Checkbox Toggle
This tool generically adds a toggle function to any table row you specify based on a CSS class name. It will, by default, toggle on any check boxes within that table row.

jQuery

23. Tablesorter
Tablesorter is a jQuery plug-in that turns a standard HTML table with <th> and <td> tags into a sortable table without the need for page refreshes. Tablesorter can successfully parse and sort many types of data, including linked data, in a cell.

jQuery

24. TableEditor
TableEditor provides flexible in-place editing of HTML tables. User-defined handler functions can easily be dropped in to update, for example, a data source via an AJAX request.

jQuery

25. Scrollable HTML Table
This JavaScript code can be used to convert ordinary HTML tables into scrollable ones.

jQuery

 

Lightbox Techniques

26. Revealing Photo Slider
Learn how to create a thumbnail photo gallery, where clicking a button reveals the entire photo and more information about that photo.

jQuery

27. FancyBox
FancyBox was born to automatically scale large images to fit in windows, adding a nice drop-shadow under the zoomed item. It can be used to group related items and add navigation between them (using a pre-loading function). FancyBox is totally customizable through settings and CSS.

jQuery

28. Facebox Image and Content Viewer
Facebox is a lightweight Facebook-style Lightbox that can display images, divs, and even entirely remote pages (via AJAX) inline on a page and on demand. It uses the compact jQuery library as its engine, unlike Lightbox v2.0, which uses Prototype.

jQuery

29. jQuery.popeye
jQuery.popeye is a plug-in that transforms an unordered list of images into a simple image gallery. When an image is clicked, it enlarges Lightbox-style. The images are displayed in a box with “Previous” and “Next” controls, and information about the images can be included.

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Image Galleries and Viewers

30. Simple Controls Gallery
Simple Controls Gallery rotates and displays each image by fading it into view over the previous one, with navigation controls that pop up when the mouse hovers over the gallery. The controls allow the user to play, pause or jump to a specific image in the gallery.

jQuery

31. Agile Carousel
This jQuery plug-in allows you to easily create a custom carousel. Use the jQuery UI to enable many different types of transition. The plug-in uses PHP to call images from the folder you specify. Configure many different options including controls, slide timer length, easing type, transition type and more!

jQuery

 

Browser Tweaks

32. Setting Equal Heights with jQuery
A script to equalize the heights of boxes within the same container and create a tidy grid.

jQuery

33. jQuery IE6 PNG Transparency Fix
Another IE6 PNG fix that uses jQuery selectors to automatically fix all PNG images on a page.

34. BGI frame
This tool helps ease the pain of dealing with IE z-index issues. You can find a demo here.

35. Fix Overflow
IE puts scroll bars inside overflowing elements, and if an element is only one line, the scroll bar will cover it. This plug-in fixes that issue.

jQuery

36. Lazy Load
Lazy Load delays the loading of images below the fold on long pages. As the user scrolls down, the images are loaded as needed. Check out the demo here.

37. Maxlength
It’s a fairly common design practice to limit the number of characters a user can input in a field while giving feedback on how many spaces are left. This plug-in automates that task.

jQuery

 

Animation Effects

38. Scrollable
Scrollable is a flexible and lightweight (3.9 KB) jQuery plug-in for creating scrollable content. Scrollable items can contain any HTML, such as text, images, forms, video or any combination of them. You can make items scroll horizontally or vertically and decide how many items are visible at once.

jQuery

39. jQuery Fading Menu - Replacing Content
“Instead of thinking about CSS as page layout and a way to style your page when it loads, you can use in animation and change it on-the-fly to react to events that happen on your page. Take for example a menu. You can take the “click” event that happens when clicking on a menu to do lots of stuff.”

jQuery

40. Build an Animated Cartoon Robot with jQuery
This effect simulates a faux 3-D animated background reminiscent of old-school side-scrolling video games (and not unlike the parallax effect). This effect is created by layering several empty divs over each other, with transparent PNGs as background images. The backgrounds are animated at different speeds using jQuery.

jQuery

41. Flip
Flip is a plug-in for jQuery that “flips” page elements in four directions. Compatible with Firefox 2+, Internet Explorer 6+, Safari 3.1 (for Windows) and Google Chrome.

jQuery

  • Download files here.

42. Use jQuery for Background Image Animations
Animate your menu whenever a user hovers over an item with this effect.

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Image Manipulation

43. Jcrop
Jcrop is the quick and easy way to add image-cropping functionality to your Web application. It combines the ease of use of a typical jQuery plug-in with a powerful cross-platform DHTML cropping engine that is faithful to familiar desktop graphics applications.

jQuery

44. jQZoom
JQZoom is a JavaScript image magnifier that makes it really easy to magnify what you want. It is easy to customize and works on all modern browsers.

jQuery

 

Miscellaneous

45. Date Range Picker
A rich date-range widget that uses the jQuery UI’s date picker and some additional custom interaction.

jQuery

46. Sortable Lists
Unordered lists are commonly used to structure a website’s navigation. Having the ability to re-order such lists would be extremely useful. Here is a method to easily save and reload the list element order without getting lost as the page is refreshed.

jQuery

47. Amazing Music Player Using Mouse Gestures and Hotkeys
Learn how to create an amazing music player, coded in XHTML and jQuery, that makes use of mouse gestures and hotkeys. You can click and drag the mouse to interact with the music player’s interface or use directional keys and the space bar instead of the mouse.

jQuery

48. Script for Tracking Outbound Links in Google Analytics with jQuery
This code snippet uses Google Analytics and jQuery to automatically track outbound links. This interesting script enhances behavior by comparing the link’s domain to the current page’s domain and, if they are different, triggering the behavior. This is helpful when using a CMS or other tool that generates full URLs, including the “http://,” instead of relative ones.

<script type="text/javascript">
	$('#content a:not(.popupwindow)').filter(function() {
		var theHref = this;
		if (theHref.hostname && theHref.hostname !== location.hostname) {
			$(theHref).not(".noAutoIcon").addClass("offSite");
			$(theHref).not(".noAutoLink").attr('target','_blank').bind('click keypress', function(event) {
				var code=event.charCode || event.keyCode;
				if (!code || (code && code == 13)) {
					if(pageTracker){
						var fixedLink = this.href;
						fixedLink = fixedLink.replace(/https?:\/\/(.*)/,"$1");
						fixedLink = '/outgoing/'   fixedLink;
						pageTracker._trackPageview(fixedLink);
					};
				};
			});
		};
	});
</script>

49. jGrowl
jGrowl is a jQuery plug-in that delivers unobtrusive messages within the browser, similar to the way that OS X’s Growl Framework works.

jQuery

Related posts

You may want to take a look at the following related posts:

About the author

Noura Yehia is a Web designer and blogger who can be found at Noupe and Devsnippets. If you want to connect with the author, you can follow her on Twitter.

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By Steven Snell

The start of a new year is often a time of reflection on the past year, both personally and professionally, as well as a time to look forward to the year ahead. With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to do a New Year’s group interview with a number of top designers and developers. We put together a big list of questions and posed two in particular to each of the participants.

We think you’ll enjoy the insight this panel provides into 2008 and 2009. There’s a wide variety of topics covered, including favorite resources, trend predictions, business lessons learned, upcoming events for 2009 and more. Let’s take a look at a large group interview with top web designers that takes a look back on 2008 and presents some predictions for the year 2009.

You may want to take a look at the other interview posts we’ve published earlier in our magazine:

  • 35 Designers × 5 Questions
    35 designers. 5 questions. 5 precise answers. Result: 175 professional suggestions, tips and ideas from some of the best web-developers all around the world.
  • 50 Designers × 6 Questions
    Even more insights from the best designers and web-developers across the globe.

Jonathan Snook

Jonathan Snook

Do you have any upcoming projects planned for 2009 that you’re particularly looking forward to?
I always look forward to conferences. It’s such a great way to hang out with talented, friendly people. SXSW is at the top of my list, even if I’m not speaking. With the folks from Sidebar Creative, we’ve got plans for more workshops, especially after the success of our first event, and we’re looking to roll out some new things next year. 2009 is shaping up to be a good year.

Do you have any thoughts or predictions about design trends that may become more popular or significant in 2009?
There’s been a maturation of design, with great usage of illustration and playing with the illusion of light. However, it’s been mostly decorative backgrounds and headers. There hasn’t been much push outside the generic two- or three-column layouts. Thankfully, we’ve seen a smattering of great art direction in 2008, and I look forward to seeing more of that in 2009. Jason Santa Maria’s, for example, is a site that I visit outside of my RSS reader every time because it’s unique. It captures my attention, and the content is well written and fantastically integrated.

Simon Collison of Erskine Design

Simon Collison

Are there any design trends or popular styles from 2008 that you like more than others?
I’m not a big believer in “trends” in Web design as such. For me, in Web design the patterns are rarely widespread enough to be what we could call “trends.” For example, it is easy to see pockets of ideas and copyists and approaches gaining momentum, but look somewhere else and the tide is flowing in another direction. Sure, crap stuff like Web 2.0-esque shiny buttons and reflections, or the great drop-shadow plague, or something good like “Wicked Worn,” they were real trends. What did 2008 give us that equals those?

There is one positive trend I like. More and more people are designing for the subject and audience, regardless of what is perceived as “trendy” — minimal, if minimal is required, or vibrant, if vibrant is required, etc. Now that is a trend I’d like to see spreading far and wide: relevance! I hated that world we lived in where, for example, regardless of audience, a Web app would always have the same visual bells and whistles. Crap. Oh, and as someone who always looks to try to take risks with a design, I’m pleased to see plenty of others still doing the same. More risk-taking in 2009, people!

Have you followed the work of any particular designers during the past year?
I pay attention to every single thing Mark Boulton puts out because he is consistently inventive, accurate and well-researched. His transparent redesign for Drupal has been a real eye-opener into his process, too.

I have followed Garrett Dimon’s blog because he has publicly documented the design and build of Sifter. Everyone can learn plenty from Garrett.

Obvious one, but Jason Santa Maria killed it in 2008, especially with the art direction approach to his blog redesign, a technique we use a lot at Erskine and hope to see more of next year. Jason is quietly brilliant, a humble genius.

And (cheeky this) our own incredibly talented superstar Greg Wood. He teaches me new ideas every day and is more talented than he realizes. I advise others to study his code, his ideas, his art direction.

Jason Santa Maria of Happy Cog Studios

Jason Santa Maria

What are some of your favorite or most frequently used fonts from 2008?
Soho and Soho Gothic from Monotype are just gorgeous and versatile families. And even though it’s becoming too much of a go-to, I use Gotham often when in a pinch for a simple sans serif.

What have been a few of your favorite sources of design inspiration, online or off, throughout the past year?
I’ve really gotten into FFFFOUND! this year. I subscribe to their update feed and love seeing all the random photos and bits of design that come down the tubes. Beyond that, getting away from my computer and taking photos always serves as a good source of inspiration for me.

Veerle Pieters

Veerle Pieters

What have been some of your favorite sources of design inspiration, online or off, during the past year?
When I look online, I mostly browse Flickr or FFFFOUND! or del.icious. One of the best offline inspirations is a book called Geometric, by Kapitza, which I recently bought. It really is a beautiful source of inspiration if you are looking for geometric patterns.

Do you have any design competitions planned for 2009 (like the “What is Graphic Design?” competition from 2008)?
Yes, I am planning on doing another one but haven’t decided on a date yet because it takes much planning up front. This one will be the only one that I will be doing because I believe in quality over quantity.

Darren Hoyt of Category 4

Darren Hoyt

Are there any design-related products, software or accessories on your wish list for 2009?
I’m looking forward to the release of ExpressionEngine 2.0. According to the previews, the way it handles themes should make production easier for us front-end designers. There’s also a pretty major control panel overhaul, which should make it an easier sell to novice clients.

I’m also excited about the official release of FontCase. Over the years, I’ve used some pretty hacky methods of organizing and labeling key fonts, but FontCase beta has solved a lot of those problems already.

What have been your favorite sources of design inspiration, online or off, during the past year?
Mainly books. The first was Michael Beirut’s 79 Short Essays on Design, which looks at design in the broadest sense, rather than getting specific about techniques or trends. I liked the big-picture perspective on how design impacts our lives in ways we don’t realize. The writing itself is really entertaining.

The second is Book One, by Chip Kidd, a huge anthology of his famous book covers. He has a way of marrying strange imagery and playing with your expectations, something commercial Web design doesn’t always allow for. Studying his work is great when you’re stumped for ideas.

David Airey

David Airey

Can you tell us something that you’d like to improve on as a designer in 2009?
I want to be more humble and to concentrate on my own faults rather than judging others. When you’re overly concerned about your view of colleagues and acquaintances, you lose focus and productivity. I’m far from perfect, so it’s important to look closer to home.

Are there any designers in particular who you’ve enjoyed following in 2008?
Eric Karjaluoto, through his blog, ideasonideas. Eric doesn’t publish blog articles very often, but when he does, they’re a sincere, insightful, personal look at the bigger picture, and I believe he’s a great asset to the design community.

Jacob Gube of Six Revisions

Jacob Gube

What frameworks were your favorite to use in your development during 2008?
My favorite JavaScript framework is MooTools with jQuery being a close second. The choice depends on who I’m working for, who I’m working with and what the requirements are.

Server-side, I’m a PHP guy and Zend is my favorite, but I want to mention that you can’t go wrong picking other top PHP frameworks out there, such as CakePHP and CodeIgniter.

For CSS frameworks, I believe in rolling your own framework if you really need to, because I find that the overhead in size and the usual cost of lower semantics in using CSS frameworks don’t justify the benefit, seeing as CSS (with the CSS2 specs at least) is a very simple markup language that really isn’t as verbose or complicated as client- or server-side scripting.

Do you have a favorite design- or development-related book from 2008?
This year, I read a lot of development books mostly to get familiar with emerging technologies like Flex 3 and AIR, as well as to upgrade my outdated ActionScript 2 knowledge to ActionScript 3. Learning Flex 3 is a superb primer.

For design, there is a lot of great content from independent bloggers (such as on the Usability Post blog) who produce great design- and UX-related articles, and unfortunately I didn’t find any ground-breaking books to read like Designing Web Usability (from 1999) and Don’t Make Me Think (from 2005). One book that I’d rank close to the caliber of the two previous books I mentioned is Web Form Design, by Luke Wroblewski, from Rosenfeld Media. Rosenfeld Media has some nice UX books in store for us next year, and I’m excited to get my hands on those. Additionally, I still think that for beginning developers who are getting into more intermediate-level, standards-based Web design, I would suggest CSS Mastery by Andy Budd and Designing with Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman.

Nick La of N. Design Studio, Web Designer Wall and Best Web Gallery

Nick La

Do you have any favorite designers whose work you enjoyed following in 2008?
I particularly like the tnvacation.com series of websites (fall, spring, summer, and winter) designed by designsensory.com.

What has been your favorite design trend or style from 2008?
My favorite design style is the collage and scrapbooking effect (see 2008 Design Trends at Web Designer Wall).

Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks

Chris Coyier

What is your favorite CSS technique that you learned in 2008?
My favorite CSS technique from this past year isn’t a CSS technique alone, but rather learning how to control CSS through JavaScript, specifically jQuery. I already know CSS quite well, and since jQuery uses the same selectors as CSS, learning it wasn’t very difficult. Now I am able to integrate behaviors in websites in ways that were out of my grasp before. I can think “When I click this element, I want this other element’s CSS to change so that it is twice as big,” and I can make that happen quickly and easily. The power of that is incredible to me still.

Who are some of your favorite designers to follow on Twitter?
I love being able to follow all these incredible designers whose work I greatly admire: @jasonsantamaria, @mezzoblue, @collis, @vpieters, @snookca, @chrisspooner, @jessebc, @elliotjaystocks.

But even more, I like following my actual friends and people I enjoy conversing with. I am an equal opportunity follower. If you Tweet interesting things, I want to follow you!

Chris Spooner

Chris Spooner

Can you tell us a business lesson you learned from starting full-time freelancing in 2008?
One of the things that has surprised me the most is the obscure range of situations that project leads are generated from. When I look back at how my clients found me, I’m presented with a huge range of sources, which include the usual search engine phrases of “graphic designer + location,” but also some more generic and unusual terms that often bring up a related tutorial or article from my blog. Other sources of inquiry have been through seeing an example of my work on Web design galleries, discovering me through an online interview on another design blog and sometimes the subscribers of my blog themselves.

The lesson here is to consider every possibility of exposure and make the most of it. You never know what might come as a result of it.

Is there a particular product, software or accessory that is on your wish list for 2009?
I’d quite like to join the Apple fan club and swap all my computing kit for Mac products. An iMac, Macbook Pro and iPhone would look pretty nice sitting on my office desk! Unfortunately, I went and bought my Windows-specific Adobe software not so long ago, based on the idea that I already had a powerful computer setup. While Windows does the job without too many problems, I remember the overall niceness of OS X when I used to use an iMac at a previous job.

My girlfriend and I are looking to move home in the near future, so I think that would be the perfect opportunity to kit out a brand new office area with a shiny new kit, along with Adobe’s new CS4. I better get saving.

Alen Grakalic of CSS Globe and Templatica

Alen grakalic

What were a few of your favorite website designs from 2008?
There were many beautifully sites this year. Not actually sure if all were designed this year, but that’s when I first saw them. To name a few:

13 Creative

13 Creative

Ali Felski

Ali Felski

Viget Labs

Viget Labs

Clearspace

Clearspace

Carrot Creative

Carrot Creative

Alexandru Cohaniuc

Alex Cohaniuc

I loved this site Tomas Pojeta.

Tomas Pojeta

Another one of the sites I was absolutely amazed by was actually a Flash site: Level 2 Design.

Level 2 Design

Can you tell us something you learned during the past year that has helped you in running your business?
The one thing 2008 taught me was actually something I already knew but somehow keep forgetting: if you are a freelancer, never rely on a single source of income. No matter how cool the deal sounds, don’t work exclusively for anyone.

Randa Clay

Randa Clay

What were some of your favorite design trends or styles from the past year?
I love the vintage and retro look. The illustration style and color schemes are really appealing to me.

Do you have any new year’s resolutions for your business in 2009?
I’m not a big one on new year’s resolutions, but my continuing overriding goals are always to exceed client expectations, and to be one of the top developers of custom WordPress themes.

Jon Phillips of Spyre Studios, and founder of Freelance Folder

Jon Phillips

What are a few of your favorite tools or resources for freelancers that you used in 2008?
I used different tools in 2008 (and in previous years), but If I had to choose, I’d pick three: WordPress, because of its simplicity, ease of use, flexibility and great support from the community; Freshbooks Invoicing because they make it so damn easy to keep track of everything, and I also find the iPod Touch app to be very useful; and last but not least, I’d pick Adobe FireWorks, simply because most of what I do doesn’t always require that I open Photoshop. Of course, I used many more tools, but those are the ones I used almost every single day in 2008.

What has been your favorite music to listen to while designing during the past year?
Being a musician myself, I could say I’ve been listening to my band (and I have), but usually when I work on clients’ projects and designs I’ll listen to artists like Fiona Apple, John Mayer, Radiohead, Muse, Guthrie Govan, Tori Amos, and when I need something a bit “stronger,” I’ll listen to Slipknot, Tool, 36 Crazy Fists, Avenged Sevenfold, Meshuggah, Soilwork, etc. It really depends on my mood and what I’m currently working on. Let’s just say I like the sound of an acoustic guitar as much as distortion. :)

Jacob Cass of Just Creative Design

Jacob Cass

What was your favorite design course that you took in 2008?
I took eight design-related courses in 2008 while studying Visual Communication at Newcastle University, Australia. These were: Visual Communication Technology II, Animation and Multimedia, Advertising for Design, Graphic Design, Media Production, Visual Communication Imaging, Typography and New Media. My favorite and most hated course would have to be Typography. It was the most challenging and eye-opening course I have done on design, and since taking it I have realized that so much of design and communication is purely based on typography. I actually wish to do another course in advanced typography, however my uni does not offer it (yet).

What aspects of your work would you like to improve on in 2009?
Glad you asked me this. It may lead to some new year’s resolutions. I would like to learn more about complex illustration in Illustrator, and I also want to learn some new techniques in Photoshop. I am also trying to improve my typography and further my skills in logo design. But in saying all this, this does not mean I will not try to improve on any other aspect of design. As a designer, you have to continually improve and learn new things to keep up to date in the industry.

Brian Gardner of Revolution Two

Brian Gardner

Can you tell us something that you learned that helped you improve your business in 2008?
The one thing I learned this year is how powerful a community can be. In October, I decided to take Revolution and open-source it, and I was amazed at how many supportive users there were. More importantly, users have generously given their time on the support forum to help others. Building a product that people believe in can go a long way.

Are there any products, software apps or accessories on your wish list for 2009?
Truthfully, the only thing I want is a 3G iPhone, as my current one runs just fine, so need to go out and buy another one!

Elliot Jay Stocks

Elliott Jay Stocks

Can you share with us a business lesson you learned from going out on your own in 2008?
Great question! There are two main things: the first is that I massively underestimated the time it would take to do admin stuff when I first started out. I don’t have too much paperwork to do, but things like reshuffling the calendar to fit in projects, liaising with clients, keeping track of expenses, etc., all that stuff takes a lot of time, and I was totally unprepared for it to begin with.

The second thing is that you should only take on projects you care deeply about and that are going to keep you interested. I did a couple of projects in 2008 that I really didn’t enjoy by the time they came to a close, because I’d lost interest in them. And that only happened because, deep down, I was never really interested in them in the first place. Turning away work like that because of a personal point of view can be a financial risk, but it’s something I’ve started to do, because the only way I’m ever going to produce decent work is to have a passion for the projects I’m involved with.

Do you have any upcoming projects for 2009 that you’re especially looking forward to?
I have quite a few, actually! :) In January I’m going to take a break from client work and pick up recording of my new album (which I meant to do in December, before deadlines got shifted). So that’ll be great fun to do, and I’m really excited about releasing it. It’ll also be nice to have a complete break from designing and writing for a while so that I can come back refreshed.

The second thing is the next version of my personal website. I’ve been working on the redesign on and off for a few months now, but it hasn’t really gone anywhere. I’m hoping that I can dedicate a couple of weeks of solid work in early 2009 to get that nailed.

I’m also really looking forward to a huge number of speaking events and the traveling that goes with them. I’ve got lots lined up for next year, including a few I’ve yet to announce. In January, I’m going to announce a very big one that I’m doing later in the year! :)

Jay Hilgert of Bittbox

Jay Hilgert

What are a few of your favorite or most frequently used fonts of 2008?
Stainless, Dispatch, Myndraine, Kontrapunkt, Dirty Ames, Turbo Ripped, Immoral, Myriad Pro.

Are there any new graphic design techniques that you learned or developed in 2008 that stand out to you as being especially useful?
I’ve by no means mastered it yet, but I enjoyed learning about the gradient mesh tool technique in Illustrator. It immediately struck me as being useful in many ways, like for creating photo-realistic icons in 100% vector format, for example.

Fabio Sasso of Abduzeedo

Fabio Sasso

What have been some of your favorite products, software and accessories you have used in your work in the past year?
My new MacBook Pro and my iPhone 3G are definitely my favorite products. But in terms of software, I think the new Pixelmator was a great surprise.

What are your favorite design trends or styles from 2008?
For me, one of the coolest design trends in 2008 was mixing modern lighting effects with an ’80s style.

Noura Yehia of Noupe and DevSnippets

Noura Yehia

What were some of your favorite design-related online resources that you came across in 2008?
I read and skim a lot of design and graphics blogs, but there’s only one blog I read on an almost daily basis and that’s Smashing Magazine, which I do because I think every single post is a piece of work. Besides that, I also often check in to Web Designer Wall, NETTUTS, Six Revisions and DesignM.ag.

What has been your favorite online design community during 2008?
There are so many great design communities out there to keep any designer in a creative mood to work. I would definitely start with DeviantArt, having such a huge collection of well-crafted artwork all in one place. I also quite like checking Behance Network, Computerlove, Design Float and the Popular Bookmarks on Delicious, which send me to more places

Steve Smith of Ordered List

Steve Smith

What have been some of your favorite sources of design inspiration, online or off, throughout the past year?
Online, I find a lot of my design inspiration these days from screenshots posted to Flickr by my friends. Patrick Haney posted a set on Design Inspiration that’s a great look-through if you need a couple ideas for layout or colors.

Offline, I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from architecture. Architects have to think in multiple dimensions, something we Web designers don’t have to worry about. But I think the metaphor is valid, in that we need to think not just of the design aesthetics, but of the dimensions of usability, and accessibility as well. The website needs to look good from every angle.

Are there any current design trends that you would like to go away in 2009?
I’d have to say that one of the things I think is becoming a little cliché is the hand-written note, or the post-it note, or the paper-clipped scrap-paper effect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this effect has its place. I think it just happens a lot more than it needs to these days. That said, a website should meet the needs of the project, not be designed to current fads in a vacuum.

Related articles

You may want to take a look at the other interview posts we’ve published earlier in our magazine:

  • 35 Designers × 5 Questions
    35 designers. 5 questions. 5 precise answers. Result: 175 professional suggestions, tips and ideas from some of the best web-developers all around the world.
  • 50 Designers × 6 Questions
    Even more insights from the best designers and web-developers across the globe.

About the author

Steven Snell is a Web designer and freelance blogger who can be found on his own blogs: Vandelay Website Design and DesignM.ag.

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AJAX Libraries API

I just got to announce the Google AJAX Libraries API which exists to make Ajax applications that use popular frameworks such as Prototype, Script.aculo.us, jQuery, Dojo, and MooTools faster and easier for developers.

Whenever I wrote an application that uses one of these frameworks, I would picture a user accessing my application, having 33 copies of prototype.js, and yet downloading yet another one from my site. It would make me squirm. What a waste!

At the same time, I was reading research from Steve Souders and others in the performance space that showed just how badly we are doing at providing these libraries. As developers we should setup the caching correctly so we only send that file down when absolutely necessary. We should also gzip the files to browsers that accept them. Oh, and we should probably use a minified version to get that little bit more out of the system. We should also follow the practice of versioning the files nicely. Instead, we find a lot of jquery.js files with no version, that often have little tweaks added to the end of the fils, and caching is not setup well at all so the file keeps getting sent down for no reason.

When I joined Google I realised that we could help out here. What if we hosted these files? Everyone would see some instant benefits:

  • Caching can be done correctly, and once, by us... and developers have to do nothing
  • Gzip works
  • We can serve minified versions
  • The files are hosted by Google which has a distributed CDN at various points around the world, so the files are "close" to the user
  • The servers are fast
  • By using the same URLs, if a critical mass of applications use the Google infrastructure, when someone comes to your application the file may already be loaded!
  • A subtle performance (and security) issue revolves around the headers that you send up and down. Since you are using a special domain (NOTE: not google.com!), no cookies or other verbose headers will be sent up, saving precious bytes.

This is why we have released the AJAX Libraries API. We sat down with a few of the popular open source frameworks and they were all excited about the idea, so we got to work with them, and now you have access to their great work from our servers.

Details of what we are launching

You can access the libraries in two ways, and either way we take the pain out of hosting the libraries, correctly setting cache headers, staying up to date with the most recent bug fixes, etc.

The first way to access the scripts is simply be using a standard <script src=".."> tag that points to the correct place.

For example, to load Prototype version 1.6.0.2 you would place the following in your HTML:

PLAIN TEXT
HTML:

  1.  
  2. <script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/prototype/1.6.0.2/prototype.js"></script>
  3.  

The second way to access the scripts is via the Google AJAX API Loader's google.load() method.

Here is an example using that technique to load and use jQuery for a simple search mashup:

PLAIN TEXT
HTML:

  1.  
  2. <script src="http://www.google.com/jsapi"></script>
  3. <script>
  4.   // Load jQuery
  5.   google.load("jquery", "1");
  6.  
  7.   // on page load complete, fire off a jQuery json-p query
  8.   // against Google web search
  9.   google.setOnLoadCallback(function() {
  10.     $.getJSON("http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/services/search/web?q=google&;v=1.0&;callback=?",
  11.  
  12.       // on search completion, process the results
  13.       function (data) {
  14.         if (data.responseDate.results &&
  15.             data.responseDate.results.length>0) {
  16.           renderResults(data.responseDate.results);
  17.         }
  18.       });
  19.     });
  20. </script>
  21.  

You will notice that the version used was just "1". This is a smart versioning feature that allows your application to specify a desired version with as much precision as it needs. By dropping version fields, you end up wild carding a field. For instance, consider a set of versions: 1.9.1, 1.8.4, 1.8.2.

Specifying a version of "1.8.2" will select the obvious version. This is because a fully specified version was used. Specifying a version of "1.8" would select version 1.8.4 since this is the highest versioned release in the 1.8 branch. For much the same reason, a request for "1" will end up loading version 1.9.1.

Note, these versioning semantics work the same way when using google.load and when using direct script urls.

By default, the JavaScript that gets sent back by the loader will be minified, if there is a version supported. Thus, for the example above we would return the minified version of jQuery. If you specifically want the raw JavaScript itself, you can add the "uncompressed" parameter like so:

PLAIN TEXT
JAVASCRIPT:

  1.  
  2. google.load("jquery", "1.2", {uncompressed:true});
  3.  

Today we are starting with the current versions of the library, but moving forward we will be archiving all versions from now onwards so you can be sure they are available.

For a full listing of the currently supported libraries, see the documentation.

Here I am, talking about what we are doing in two short slides:

The Future

This is just the beginning. We obviously want to add more libraries as you find them useful. Also, if you squint a little you can see how this can extend even further.

If we see good usage, we can work with browser vendors to automatically ship these libraries. Then, if they see the URLs that we use, they could auto load the libraries, even special JIT'd ones, from their local system. Thus, no network hit at all! Also, the browser could have the IP addresses for this service available, so they don't have the hit of a DNS lookup. Longer lived special browser caches for JavaScript libraries could also use these URLs.

The bottom line, and what I am really excited about, is what this could all mean for Web developers if this happens. We could be removed of the constant burden of having to re-download our standard libraries all the time. What other platform makes you do this?! Imagine if you had to download the JRE everytime you ran a Java app! If we can remove this burden, we can spend more time flushing out functionality that we need, and less time worrying about the actual download bits. I am all for lean, but there is more to life.

Acknowledgements

I want to acknowledge the other work that has been done here. Some libraries such as jQuery and Dean Edwards Base were already kind of doing this by hot linking to their Google Code project hosting repository. We thought this was great, but we wanted to make it more official, and open it up to libraries that don't use our project hosting facilities.

Also, AOL does a great job of hosting Dojo already. We recommend using them for your Dojo needs, but are proud to also offer the library. Choice is good. Finally, Yahoo! placed the YUI files on their own CDN for all to use.

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