Droid’s and Roboto’s don’t like print

Ever since I became the lead web designer for the European Central Bank I had to deal with a lot of printing issues. Some of them quite special as you will see. In general I have to say that I have a strong negative opinion about printing websites, However for the ECB that is dealing with a huge amount of publications, statistics and press releases it is actually a vital feature.

So when we finally put our print styles to work on the the new redesigned website I was quite convinced and happy with them. After a while though we received a lot of messages from people inside as well as outside of the bank that had all different kinds of printing issues. In most cases we where able to reproduce them solved them right away.
Unfortunately there were also people that weren’t able to print at all or just print blank pages. That was somehing unheard of for us and it was tempting to ask them if they were running out of ink.

Back to work me and my clever colleague Tom tried a lot of changes to the CSS but after all we were still wandering in the dark. Also now it seemed that the hadware of the printer itself or at least the computer setup was involved. A nightmare.
And after all our printers were doing fine.

One day Tom had the idea that it might involve the SVG Logos that we use on the page. He was thinking that the printer itself wasn’t able to deal interpret them. After asking Google I found that SVGs can actually cause these kind of problems for older browsers. So, I replaced all the SVGs with a JPEG for print only of course. Not nice, but no problem. So case closed you might think?
It wasn’t!

It seems that replacing the SVGs resolved a couple of the problems but not all of them. After a while new emails were dropping in with people complaining about blank pages in print again. Luckily one of these emails was from a colleague inhouse. So now we were able to investigate right at the scource. There we found that basically the printer was hanging itself showing the Error “49.4C02 Error”.

49.4C02 Error

Hacking that into Google immediately solved the problem. It was a problem with Google webfonts and in our case specifically with Droid sans. So It seems that some old printers also do have issues printing these kind of web typefaces. Funny enough it was not happening on every page but just on pages that had a lot of text. It seems that printers try to rasterize each single letter and therefore break down if the text is too long.

So that is something you want to keep in mind next time you have to provide printstyles for a website. A font that is mainly for screen purposes especially Google fonts like Droid and Roboto might cause problems. Makes sense after all.

why überstyled call to action newsletters are NOT the way to go anymore

how many newsletters, opted in or not, are you receiving each day? I bet it’s a lot. how many of them do you honestly read with interest? in recent years typical newsletters underwent huge changes. as of today they are all well designed, optimized in every way to maximize clicks and often even optimized on your specific profile or interests.

so while they are all fancy and well made they all consist more or less of the same elements. elements every email-marketer tells you to do: a peppy headline/subject, a short (want to read more) intro text, some nice keyvisuals to get you hooked and of course there is at least one big fat call to action. that’s the link or button that is intended to get you to interact with the sender of the mail.
browse you inbox or spam and have a look. they are all the same.

thing is now that everyone is used to get those newsletters, noone really is impressed anymore. sure, some good offers will still get a click and therefor the newsletter works. but most of the time most of theses mails will just rot in your mailbox. they just don’t speak to you anymore. if you get tons of the same thing you will start ignoring it. if everything’s the same nothing sticks out.

sticking out: why we need a new way of newsletter comunication

what if we’d go back to the very basic a simple email with a personal message. an email that sticks out just because it’s design is simple and pure and doesn’t smell like a marketing trick after all.
I am very sure that people will be impressed about the downgraded honesty in such an email. they might even start to read it again. now imageinge this stripped down meessage combined with a personal face to face content. still people like well made design and good looking things. and still I think there is a lot of room for this….maybe just not as
obvious and clumsy as it is now.

I think there is a lot of room for improvement to stick out from the masses of newsletters out there.

Image replacement hack with an empty typeface

to be honest image replacement hacks are not really constructive. they should be avoided wherever possible. it’s neither a good for the user, for the search robots or for accessibility. however, I accept, these hacks are necessary at times.

I recently came across another fancy way to hide text that I don’t want to be visible.

– An invisible Font (http://blog.typekit.com/2013/03/28/introducing-adobe-blank/)

adobe just so happens to have something like this to start things with. a font with characters that have no width and no marks. it is as simple as it sounds. simply giving your invisible text the invisible webfont will hide it properly. you may say that it’s not even a hack.

Cloud Coding is King

having a cloud ide, a development space with web console and ftp is pretty sweet thing that i was looking forward to for a long time. since everythings is cloudbased nowadays I always thought it would be nice to have a full dev space online. lately I’ve been reading a lot about such services and it was time to try them out.

I can tell: it works!

that way I can finaly even build more sophisticated work processes on the go. Speaking of grunt and sass and automated copy tasks and so. I can now do that on my iPad. It might not be rocket science but it’s pretty close.

what I can suggest:

cloud9 (best service so far, but expansive)
codeanywhere (bit slow and buggy but cheap and reliable)

why Designers need to know CSS

lets face it already. long gone is the time where a designer was limited to photoshop and a fancy idea in the head. I know there is a lot of companies and professionals out there that are still doing it the wrong way. they have a designer doing a static graphic design and then having a developer doing the adaptation for the browser. hopefully all goes fine. but most of the time there’s a lot of flaws coming up.

this kind of workflow really isn’t the best and everyone knows it. but it’s stuck deep in everyone’s head. even on the customer side. so we go with it.

let’s break the cycle…
whatever fancy idea a designer comes up with – it has to be buildable. a designer needs to get the responsibility that at the end of the day the ideas are working out. so a little bit of comprehensive knowledge in both directions is a big plus.

at least designers and developers need to collaborate. there should be a middle ground where teams work together, still allowing their respective areas but deeply understanding and appreciating all sides of the process.

but…. the client saw the psd and we now have to put it one on one….

this simply is not true. I mean everyone knows the situation where the clients expectations are set.
however this has not to do with design or development. it is a problem of communication with the client.

often a developer wasn’t even involved in the process of developing the visuals and suddenly he is expected to build something he’s had no input in. I know this happens a lot. Again it can be avoided by communication.

so what I’m saying is not that designers should learn to be developers and developers should learn to be designers, but knowing the basics of both sides and having an appreciation for that is very valuable.

hello world

this is it. my first blogpost in my new plain blog…

I’ll be honest right from the start: I’m no good in being a constant writer or so. no high hopes.

i’ll be blogging about what comes to my mind in the wide world of web, dev and design. maybe some other topics now and then. I’ll always try to keep it short. just some ideas, thoughts and notes to self.

that’s it. thank you i guess.