Bring back the visited styles

While reading the old-but-gold 37signals manifesto their use of :visited styles caught my eye. I wonder why we came to use it so sparsely these days. Is it us designers and frontend developers being lazy? Is it because it “looks nicer” when all links look the same?

Whatever the reason is that :visited got abandoned I found it vastly useful to know whether I’ve already visited a certain URL. In fact, it encouraged me to read in a non-chronological fashion because it reduced the fear of not knowing where to continue and wasting time.

I can see no valid excuse to withheld this simple and effective means of navigation from users. Yet I’m pondering about conventions that are immediately understood. Most people have learned about the meaning of purple colored links on a Google search results page. Transporting the meaning of visited links by using the same color across the entire the web is not an option. Yet wouldn’t it be great if we had a consistent way so signal URLs we’ve already visited?

Copywriting for Interfaces – Takeaways

Here’s what I’ll try to remember from UX Planet’s great article on Copywriting for Interfaces.

  • Headlines should be catchy and short so that they could quickly draw users’ attention
  • The perfect length of the headline is 6 words (underlying research)
  • Captions should provide new information so it shouldn’t describe obvious statements which users already see in the photo.
  • Keep CTAs at a minimum, usually not more than 1–2 words
  • Applying imperative case in CTA microcopy gives strong and direct instructions of what to do next.
  • Notifications with less than 25 characters perform much better than long text.
  • Error messages should be polite and friendly. A bit of humor can relax annoyed users but must be used carefully.
  • Place an UI element that offers further action close to an error message.
  • Tooltips work best when having 150 characters or less

Prevent Object-fit polyfill from messing with broken image’s alternative text styling

That is a hell of a long title for a very short post.

If you’re using the Object Fit Images Polyfill you might have noticed that broken images’ alt texts render in Times New Roman. This happens because Object Fit Images  works by setting a faux font-family on the image, which is then used by JavaScript. The problem is that the browser tries to render a broken image’s alt text which, of course, doesn’t exist. So it falls back to whatever the browser uses as default. 

To prevent this we can simply add inherit to our font-stack of the image: 

// When using Object Fit Images Manually
img {
object-fit: cover;
font-family: "object-fit:cover", inherit;

So what if you’re using PostCSS Object Fit Images to automatically add that font family to any selector that employs object-fit? Luckily it respects any existing font declaration and adds it to the font stack. So we can simply add the inherit statement directly:

// When using PostCSS Object Fit Images 
img {
object-fit: cover;
font-family: inherit;

The result in both cases is: font-family: "object-fit:cover", inherit; and allows for the polyfill to do its thing while at the same time setting the font-family to the one used in the next proximate parent.

Stretch SVG Background Images

The next time I’m going mad when trying to stretch a SVG background image using background-size I’ll remember adding preserveAspectRatio="none" to the SVG itself. Otherwise it’s gonna stick to its original aspect ratio like its life depends on it.

MAMP MySQL repair fails with Access Denied

mysqlcheck: Got error: 1045: Access denied for user ‘root’@‘localhost’ (using password: YES) when trying to connect

I have no clue where the MAMP GUI tries to take the credentials from when running checks and repairs. It just never seems to work.

The solution that worked for me, however, is to simply run mysql_upgrade -uroot -p on the command line. Don’t forget to check that MAMP’s mysql binary is in your PATH, because it is not by default. To do so add to your shell’s config (that’s .zhsrc for me) and restart your terminal:
export PATH="/Applications/MAMP/Library/bin:$PATH"

Et voilà:

Upgrade process completed successfully.
Checking if update is needed.

Using CSS Blur to add full-width image background

Many designs require the implementation of full-width imagery while restricting the component’s height at the same time.

Blurred Hero Component

Today I came up with this simple idea that may help in some situations: Put a blurred version of the hero image in the background, reduce its opacity and make it span the entire width. Place the actual image above and restrict its width to a dimensions that makes it easier for content editors to find a fitting image.

Bonus points: when using a small resolution for the blurred image it could serve as a placeholder while loading the high res version.

Decoupled Drupal mit Gatsby

Heute kam ich endlich mal dazu, dieses Tutorial zu Decoupled Drupal mit GatsbyJS nachzubauen. In kürzester Zeit war Folgendes möglich:

  • CMS-Setup inklusive Einrichten der JSON-API
  • Anlegen einer von Drupal völlig unabhängigen statischen Site, die CMS-Content von der API konsumiert und rendert.

Oh, ich freu mich auf die Zukunft und auf reale Projekte mit Drupal als Headless CMS. Ungeahnte Möglichkeiten öffnen sich.

Re-use and override TailwindCSS Configuration

TailwindCSS is hands-down my most useful CSS tool of 2017. It’s a fantastic helper to create utility-first CSS. I’ve been working with it since its first public release and I’m still more than happy to have it.

Today I found out a way to make it even more useful. Say you’re having a Parent Theme that you use for a lot of projects, where each project implements a child theme that needs to adjust properties such colors, breakpoints or font stacks. That’s as simple as requiring your Parent Theme’s tailwind.js, override or add properties and export the adapted config.

const config = require('../parent_theme/tailwind');

config.colors['grey'] = '#eee'
config.screens['md'] = '32em'

module.exports = config;


Composer PHP Memory Limit on MAMP Pro

With every PHP update MAMP Pro adds an updated `php.ini file, so previous adaptations are lost after upgrading.

Interestingly, editing a specific PHP versions config file (via File > Edit Template > PHP -> [Version]) doesn’t have any effect on MAMP’s PHP used on the command line. To increase the PHP limit to be able to work with Composer I did the following:

  1. Find the current memory_limit value by running:
    php -r "echo ini_get('memory_limit').PHP_EOL;“
  2. Find out which php-ini is currently loaded on the command line by running:
    php -r 'phpinfo();' | grep 'php.ini'
  3. Update that config file

Rinse and repeat with every MAMP update.

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Set Front Page from settings[.local].php in Drupal 8

When working on Drupal projects I usually need to set a static front page by referencing a Node’s ID. When working with different environments chances are high that Node ID varies from environment to environment.

Luckily we can easily override any configuration value in the settings file and thus have different values in settings.php than in settings.local.php. It’s simple as that: $config['']['page']['front'] = '/node/1';

Drupal: Add Body Class when Tabs are displayed

I had the urge to style various elements differently in case tabs (the ones generated by menu_local_tasks) are present on the page. Out of the box $tabs array isn’t available in html.tpl.php so I had to implement ‘ hook_preprocess_html’ and add my desired class to my array of body classes. Yay!

function THEMENAME_preprocess_html(&$vars, $hook) {
  // Make tabs available on html tpl
  $vars['tabs'] = menu_local_tabs();
  // if we have primary tabs, add an accoring body class
  if (!empty($vars['tabs']['#primary'])) {
    $vars['classes_array'][] = 'has-tabs';

Unmaintainable Block Admin Page in Drupal

When you have more than 100 Blocks things get messy on Drupal’s Block Admin Interface. If you ever went crazy because of weird issues when dragging and dropping blocks to change their weight and/or region you probably have hit Drupal’s internal limit of handling weights from -50 to +50 or otherwise said, 100 items.

It can be fixed by setting the variable drupal_weight_select_max to a higher value. This can be done in various ways, here’s how its implemented in a deploy script.

function dgm_deploy_update_7011() {
  variable_set('drupal_weight_select_max', 250);