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Weeknotes 19:11

August 24, 2019

Flex Week

This was one of those weeks where I had a plan in mind only to have to adjust. On Monday, I found out about 2 separate projects that had tight deadlines that need to be added to my plate. This is a fairly normal thing to happen when doing client services, especially with clients on retainer. So instead of finishing up a project on Monday and Tuesday, I had turn my attention to a project with a quick turn around.

Our client, Aireon, has a special event coming up in November that they want to start promoting. They wanted to send out a promotional email and create a landing page on their site with more information. The second project was to create a one-page microsite. The site is targeted at university students so the client wanted to launch it close to the start of the Fall semester.

Coding Like It’s 1999

I rarely do HMTL emails so each time that I get tasked with one, I have to get back in the mindset of this sort of development. An HTML email is still a huge challenge because a lot of the email programs (looking at you Outlook) don’t support modern development, like CSS stylesheets. So when developing HTML emails, I have to recall coding methods from the past–inline styles and HTML styling attributes. I had to dust off those skills that seem like  I used a lifetime ago.

One challenge with this project was creating a simple button that linked to the landing page. Outlook was the email client giving me trouble. I tried about 5-6 different bulletproof methods which worked in early versions of Outlook but not the three most recent versions.

I finally solved the issue by creating a table element with an attribute of bgcolor and cellpadding and then putting a link inside the table. It gave me exactly the look I needed.

Another challenge of HTML emails is making them responsive. Several of the email clients do not support declarations in the style tag. The only way to add styling is through inline styles. But media queries are not supported in inline styles.

A solution that I found several years ago came from Smashing Magazine’s book, Real Life Responsive Web Design. Fabio Carneiro outlines an approach to of combining three techniques in order to create responsive emails that look good across different email programs:

  1. Spongy development for layout flexibility
  2. Pattern-based design for modular content structures
  3. Media queries for progressive enhancement

I used a template he created as the basis for my development of the HMTL email this week. Another valuable resource was Email on Acid. It is a testing service similar to Litmus but a bit more economical. They have a day pass option which is what I used. When you only develop emails periodically, this is a great way to go.

After cranking out the email, I moved on to putting together the landing page. It came together pretty quickly. Normally when building a page or site, I like to build from a mobile-first approach. But on a quick project like this one where I only had a mockup for desktop, I started with desktop styling and used media queries from a desktop-first approach to adjust layouts and type sizing to better fit smaller screens.

The Rest of the Week

The second project ended up being delayed as we waited to hear back from the client on design approval. So I ended up going back to the project that I had planned to work on Monday and Tuesday. I was able to finish it up on Wednesday and then added another piece of functionality to it on Thursday that I came up with on Wednesday night when I was thinking about it. I also worked on optimizing another project that is close to launching. And then on Friday, I started work on the one-page site and made good progress on it to finish it on Monday.

CSS Grid Experiments

Last weekend as I was going through my Twitter feed, I saw this tweet from Dan Davies.

I really was interested to see how he coded this so I replied.

I really enjoy seeing how other developer’s solutions, especially with layout and CSS Grid. I have done similar experiments to Dan that I have been meaning to post here on my site.

Last summer, I took a layout from Southern Living Magazine and coded it up with CSS Grid. I want to write a post to explain some of my thinking behind the solution. Recently I took a layout from Andy Clarke’s Smashing Magazine article and coded it out. Almost two years ago, I took a layout I found on Dribbble and gave it a try. I started working on it during a lull in freelance work and then never got back to it. I think I would like to jump back into it in the near future. Originally it has a Sketch file attached to it so I was able to get some assets.

Reading

I finished another book today that I have been reading for the past two months, How the Nations Rage. A lot of the clients my agency works with are involved in the political landscape. I really enjoyed this book and it has given me a lot to think about. I think the biggest takeaway is that everyone brings their “gods” into their politics.

“Our gods are the backstop or foundation for all our thinking, longing, and acting. Our gods are whatever we cannot imagine living without, whatever we most love, whatever we most trust, rely on, and believe in, and whatever is our final refuge. Our gods motivate our big and small decisions alike.”

“The story of politics is the story of how you and I arrange our days, arrange our relationships, and arrange our neighborhoods and nations to get what we most want—to get what we worship.”

It is very helpful to understand this perspective and to think about how to be politically engaged as a follower of Christ.

Watching

Denial

I finally got to watch the movie Denial with my oldest daughter. We had seen a review for it in World Magazine several years ago. The story is about an American Jewish professor who fights a libel suit by a Holocaust denier. But the case is brought in England where you are guilty until proven innocent. A bulk of the story is about the preparation and the trial of the case.

Until recently, you could only buy but not rent the movie on Amazon. I found the movie very interesting on a variety of levels. The main issue of the film about truth and how we establish truth claims. It really highlights how intellectual thought has changed as postmodernism challenges traditional understanding of truth and how we establish truth claims.

I also found it interesting because I actually heard David Irving (the Holocaust denier) speaking to a crowd in Budapest, Hungary ten years ago. There were several demonstrations during the time that I was there. His rally got my attention because he was speaking in English (where other rallies were in Hungarian) and being translated into Hungarian. And then I could not believe what I was hearing him say. I felt like I had entered a time warp back to the early ’40s.

And finally, I found it interesting because I have been to Auschwitz. It was a very sobering experience. It baffles me that there are those who would question whether this awful thing really did happen.

Avengers Endgame

On a lighter note, I finally got to watch Avengers Endgame with my son last night. I had bought it on Blu Ray a couple of weeks ago when it was released. It was just as fun to watch again. But nothing can beat the experience of seeing it on the big screen on opening night (like we did back in April).

Gaming

I ended up getting back into my MLB The Show 18 season on Thursday. I simulated a week of games to catch up to the current date. I really enjoyed playing and have reconsidered trying to go ahead and finish the season.

I also enjoyed playing FIFA19. I am in the middle of a season with the French team, Olympique Lyonnais. I had been frustrated because I felt like I made some bad decisions during the mid-season transfer window. I ended letting go of a LW and then a player I acquired did not seem to be working out there. I had lost several games including a Champion’s League game to FC Barcelona 2-0 at their stadium. It was a hard-fought game and I did not have much hope going into the second game with the 2-0 aggregate score. But I played much better in the second game and took a 1-0 lead into halftime. Then I scored a late goal in the second half. The game went into extra time and I scored in the second period of extra time to pull out the game and move on. From there, my team chemistry came together. So I enjoyed playing several games during the week.

Today I was introduced to Portal. My son recently purchased it on Steam. Last week, he got the last component to build his own PC. It was strange to get use to using the keyboard to move and the mouse to control the camera. I think I will play it again in the future.

I have also been enjoying a racing game called Horizon Chase Turbo. It reminds me of the arcade racing games that I played when I was younger, like Pole Position. It was a fun game to play a couple of races after playing FIFA or MLB The Show.

Life Events

Finally, two life events of note happened here at the end of the week. First, my youngest is now a teenager. It has been a joy to see her mature over this past year. I have enjoyed seeing her continue to grow into a graceful and beautiful ballet dancer. And I enjoyed seeing her take a more prominent role in a Shakespeare production this summer.

Second, my oldest returned to school for her sophomore year of college. I have really enjoyed having her home again this summer. It was fun to hang out and just have her around again. This year, I did not go up with her to help her move in. My wife and youngest helped her get settled. So it was a bit stranger to say goodbye. Going to miss her but so excited for her as she continues her college adventure.

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