Category: Design

While I mostly stick to conceptual design these days, I do enjoy doing the occassional site. It reminds me of a simpler time when I worked for scraps and everybody else had shitty taste. Ah, the Web 2.0 years…

  • A Book on Honest Design

    My friends at Smashing Magazine – who actually wasn’t involved in the creation of the Smashing WordPress books that I wrote, but had a partnership with my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, thus the logo on the first editions – has a new book out. They’ve been publishing some great stuff the last couple of years, on their site as well as in book form, and this one looks to be no different. The new book is called the Ethical Design Handbook and is written by Trine Falbe, Martin Michael Frederikjsen, and Kim Andersen.

    The Ethical Design Handbook

    Read more in the announcement post, where you can also get a sample PDF, and buy the thing digitally or in print. I can’t wait to dig into this one.

  • Welcome to TDH Thirteen

    Welcome to TDH Thirteen

    This is, according to my limited mathematical skills, the thirteenth iteration of my site. That’s obviously not entirely true, I am a liar by trade after all, but it serves my purpose for this piece.

    The previous version of my site, by which I mean (I’ll get to that) was the twelfth. I never liked it. It looked all right but it didn’t fit my plans for my content. Wait, let me rephrase that: It didn’t fit my plans for my content that I could and would actually produce. You see, I designed and built that particular iteration with an idea in mind, a certain frequency to my updates and quote and commentary. Alas, reality intervened and thus all my ideas and schemes were for naught.

    Well, it really wasn’t that dramatic, but I did feel as if I took a wrong turn somewhere.

    Enter TDH the Thirteenth.

    Let’s tell a story

    I like to say that I write for a living. This is true, I do – fiction and columns mostly – but it’s not the whole truth. Running Odd Alice certainly takes its time, as do my duties at BlankPage, Tech Troopers, Cylinder Labs, Pale Publishing and Monograph Books, not to mention the soon to be released Damn Fine Novels. They’re all parts of my (professional) life.

    You don’t know much about those, do you? I’ve never really told you.

    Telling a story is what I do. I try to do it even when I write technical literature, something that I’ll get back to soon, now that I’ve reacquired the rights to the Smashing WordPress books (and Tackling Tumblr, I believe, but who cares?). Writing those books about WordPress were all about teaching the basics and inspiring the reader to build something. I see it as a sort of storytelling, albeit without dragons or lasers.

    Looking at the site I had, I wanted some of that, in an overarching manner. So the new front page is a brief introduction to who I am and what I do, with links digging deeper. Said links will take you to some of the major topics I tend to cover, like tech or writing, as well as the books I’ve written, the latest posts on this very site, or just more about yours truly. This, told in a conversational manner, felt more natural than a set of links, at least to me.

    I intend to take the same manner of speaking, or introducing, as it were, to other parts of the site. If you visit the tools category you’ll get an introduction as to why I write about these things. It needs work, they all do, because I’m new at this and have a lot of content to look over, but it’s a start. I want visitors popping over to know what they read, and why I wrote it.

    This was the design principle I worked from when building the new site. The words and sentences serving as an introduction to the visitor, that was the idea and concept, so to speak. Moving on from that was pretty easy.

    The design

    I’m sure you’ve all seen how much I love typography and abhor unnecessary imagery. Well, that’s what you got this time around as well. I wanted the site to read well on all screens, because the primary content is text, plain and simple. Imagery is important but only when I deem it necessary to use it, so while I did want the site to look nice, all types of graphics came in second. In no way could any images or embeds infer with the written content. That further underlined my need to keep things simple.

    One column, almost all across the board, was obviously the way to go. Text flow better if you don’t have a side column posing as a menu or – gasp! – drawer of widgety things. None of that here, just one column and the occasional area where content gets split in two. Settling on that style made it easy to design for mobile first, something I do even for more complicated projects, but here it was essential. My readership has been mostly mobile-based for years, which also counts tablets and the odd sizes in-between. I read a lot on my iPhone, and I want you to be able to do the same while reading this. Hell, I want you to prefer this to your instapaper’d or pocket’d version of this page. Not all of you will, but it’s a nice point to start from, as a designer and developer.

    Now, with typography in place, and focus on text-based content primarily, makes the rest of the design sort of fall in place on its own. In this case it was particularly easy, because the previous two iterations were fairly close to the same paradigms. Even if we go back three iterations we’ll find a text heavy site, albeit not necessarily with mobile screens as a priority, although it did obviously work for them too. I’ve been designing responsibly for years, with responsive, or often fluid, designs. You’ll have to go further back than that to find something that wouldn’t look good on an iPhone today.

    A few words about emojis might be in order. You’ll see emojis here and there on the site, the imagery made popular by smartphones all around. I mostly use pointing fingers and magnifying glasses, but there are more hidden away. Emojis have extended our way of communicating, indeed, they have extended our alphabets, so I see no reason to not use them in my very limited imagery.

    All in all, I’m pretty happy with the new design. There are things to do, features that I want to add, and not to mention tweaks that’ll no doubt be made after some weeks of live usage, but that’s always the case. I hope you’ll like this iteration, and that you’ll tweet me any bugs you might find.

    What about then?

    Recurring readers of – note the .me – will no doubt wonder why they ended up on Likewise, people used to reading are probably confused about the current turn of events.

    Let me explain. I used to roll my English language site on, and its Swedish equivalent (which was by no means a translated version) on Now everything is on and that’s the end of it.

    Dual domains, one for English and one for Swedish, worked well enough for a time. I started having issues with it a couple of years ago, when the updates to the Swedish site became far in-between. The ones I did post weren’t direct translations of posts from the English sites, no, they were rewrites or quote and comment pieces. While that might’ve served some purpose, it felt crummy and cheap compared to the 1,500 odd posts preceding these. I knew something was seriously wrong when all I did post on the Swedish site was promotional things – “this book is out now”, that sort of posts. Not wrong nor irrelevant, but not enough to warrant a site either.

    Meanwhile, the English site thrived. I worked with it, updated it, and so forth. The one thing I didn’t like about it was the domain name, the .me part. I’ve been trying to buy for years, to no avail. I know that’s silly nonsense, soon to be obsolete with how the internet is evolving, but it stuck to my mind.

    Also, I’m Swedish, I’m not from Montenegro. A .com domain is global, but while it may sound like something personal, .me is a national domain, much like .io and .nu, all popular and all made big business by domain registrars across the world. I obviously already owned the .se domain and when it became clear that I wasn’t going to run two parallel TDH sites, one in Swedish and one in English, that was the way to go.

    So what happened? Well, I set up a new WordPress install and imported all the content from Then I imported all the content from, added a 301 redirect to the .htaccess file on, pointing all URLs to their equivalent on this very domain, and that’s that. If you go to you’ll be redirected to instead, which goes for search engines as well.

    As for the Swedish content (which is in Swedish), you can still find it here, URLs unchanged. If you want to browse it, there’s a specific category for it now – ?? Svenska – and all new content carries the Swedish flag emoji so you shouldn’t miss it. Or miss to skip it, if that’s your thing.

    Oh, and is all https, which means that traffic is encrypted and you can feel more secure.

    From here on out

    I’m really happy to only have one TDH site to worry about. If you’ve read everything on the front page you probably understand why. Running two sites in tandem, the primary thing differentiating them being the language, was an unnecessary burden. There was, perhaps, technical solutions to the problem, such as multilingual variants that would let me roll one site but translate parts of it, but that never appealed to me. No, I wanted one home, one message to the world, and this is it.

    Speaking of which, I firmly believe that we need to take care of our online homes. You might spend a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter, and I do too, but they’re not your online homes. They’re places you visit, and they let you do so to turn a tidy profit. Your words posted on social media is money to these companies, because the more you write, the more they get to know about you, the more ads they may serve with your content, and the more they track you with targeted advertisements across the web. Not to mention all the people who come to said social media sites to read your words.

    I don’t like that.

    My home is free from tracking and spying on people. It’s as simple as I can make it without making it unnecessary hard to maintain. I use open source software when I can, and outside services need to play nice with whatever they might be doing. In my case, currently, that’s limited to Automattic’s Jetpack service, which is connected to, and it should be quite safe.

    I may tweet and facebook and instagram, but this is where I live online. If anything or anyone says otherwise, at some other place, then either I royally fucked up and lost this very place (fucking squatters!), or they’re lying.

    Welcome to my online home.

  • Design specialization

    Designer Marc Newson, preaching it:

    One thing I find overrated is: specialization. Design is about solving problems; if you can’t apply that skill to a variety of things, then I don’t think you’re a good designer.

  • Permalinks are design too

    Matt Gemmell on permalinks:

    If you’re like most people, your permalinks (the permanent links to individual posts) probably look like this:

    We’re all familiar with those URLs. The date of the post is explicit, so you need never wonder when it was written, or how recent it is.

    Here’s the thing, though: they’re horrible.

    Agreed. To me, the permalink structure is as a part of the design. That said, there are sometimes reasons for dates, or at least numbering, in permalinks. They’re used by services such as Google News. That’s not an excuse though.

  • On the purpose of the recent redesign

    This very site runs on WordPress, as it has from day 1, and the eleventh major version of the TDH theme, known as TDH11 because I have no imagination whatsoever when it comes to these things. Most of these iterations have been long-lived, but not all.

    The reason for this particular redesign isn’t that I felt the previous version lacking. Actually, I found it quite pleasant, both to work with as a publisher, and for reading. Then again, if both those things were true there wouldn’t be a revamp in the first place. This brings us to the real reason for this redesign, which is my need to publish shorter and snappier posts. A lot of that commentary have ended up on Twitter, but it’s a format that’s lacking due to its brevity. Sharing short things, sure, and for some watercooler chatter, fine, but not for actual commentary, analysis, or in-depth thoughts.

    Hence this design, which works both with longer pieces and essays, as well as quote and comment shorts.


  • The Problem With Infinite Scroll

    Infinite scroll is becoming more and more common these days. You’ve no doubt seen it: When you think you’re about to reach the bottom of the page it automagically adds a new set of items thus prolonging the page without you ever seeing the end of it. As you keep scrolling downwards, the site does this over and over again, preventing the page to ever end.

    I hate that.

    OK, so I don’t actually hate that, but I do think it is an overused technique that breaks the design of most sites.


  • This is the new Basecamp UI

    I’m a big fan of Basecamp (and Campfire), in fact we’re using it almost exclusively for communication at Odd Alice. The new UI looks good, snappy and utilizes stacks in a pretty intuitive way. Here’s hoping it will perform just as well on an iPad. It is coming soon and personally I can’t wait.

  • This is how awesome the Spotify install graphic is

    I really like the Spotify install graphic on the Mac (no idea how the Windows or Linux versions look), pictured below.

    Spotify install graphic

    Don’t have Spotify yet? Grab an invite from here!

  • A thought on mobile websites

    There’s a lot of talk these days about responsive web design and creating fancy mobile versions of websites. I love some of the frameworks and solutions out there, and the fact that HTML 5 and CSS 3 opens so many doors for web designers.

    No doubt the myriad of screen sizes and resolutions changes everything. Smartphones are actually useful these days, and tablets have turned back resolutions to 1024 pixels width. As if the netbook resolutions weren’t bad enough.

    I digress. (more…)

  • Multiple pages are a thing of the past

    If there is something I truly loathe when browsing the web these days, it is multiple pages. I don’t care about pop-ups, because the web browser solves that problem. I don’t care much about Flash because I can just install an extension to disable it, or just not use it at all. I don’t even care about overlays anymore, because sites using it for commercial messages in an obtrusive way just shouldn’t be visited.

    Multiple pages are a whole different beast. There is no way to get around this monstrosity if you want to read a long article. Click the “next page” link and see the site reload, that’s all you can do about it. (more…)

  • I love the Tumblr is down graphic

    While it isn’t particularly fun to see things like this when you want to fiddle around with Tumblr, it is at least a nice little graphic you’re being served when the service is down, courtesy of The Oatmeal.

  • HTML 5 has an identity crisis

    I’m in the middle of two deadlines, but this is just too good to pass up.

    That’s the spanking new HTML 5 logo. Nice huh? But did you know that it could transform?


    Excellent 3D image credit.