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Articles Tips

On password masking and usability

I just read Jakob Nielsen’s recent post in which he urged web designers/developers to stop password masking due to it’s inherent usability issues. I found it an interesting read. Hey, at last, someone dared to talk about the elephant in the room!

In most cases password masking is indeed useless, but still, there are several cases where you need that kind of protection. He also points that out, suggesting a checkbox to enable the user to mask their entered password if they wish to do so. He also suggests that checkbox being enabled by default on sites that require high security.

I think the checkbox idea is really good, as long as it works in the opposite way: Password masking should always be the default and you should check the checkbox to show the characters you typed. This is in line with what Windows (Vista or newer) users are already accustomed to anyway

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Articles Tips

Tip: Multi-step form handling

First of all, sorry for my long absence! I haven’t abandoned this blog, I was just really, really busy. I’m still busy, and this probably won’t change soon. However, I will still blog when I get too fed up with work or studying (this is one of these moments…). Now, let’s get to the meat.

The situation

In most web applications, even the simplest ones, the need for form handling will arise. There will be forms that need to be submitted, checked, processed or returned to the user informing them about any errors. A good empirical rule I try to follow is “Try not to produce URLs that don’t have a meaning if accessed directly”. It sounds simple and common-sense, doesn’t it? However, as Francois Voltaire said, “common sense is not so common”. I’ve seen variations of the following scenario several times, in several websites or even commercial web application software:

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Articles

Creating the perfect slider

I’ve previously discussed many times the color picker I have to create, and blogged about my findings on the way. An essential component of most color pickers is a slider control.

I won’t go through much techincal details or JavaScript code in this article (after all the usability guidelines presented don’t only apply to JavaScript applications, and this is why I used Adobe Kuler as a good or bad example for some of them), it’s been done numerous times before and I prefer being a bit original than duplicating web content. You can google it and various implementations will come up if you need a starting point.

Some might argue that I suffer from NIH syndrome, but I prefer to code things my way when I think I can do something even a bit better. After all, if nobody ever tries to reinvent the wheel, the wheel stands no chances of improvement. In this case, I wanted to build the most usable slider ever (at least for color picking uses), or -from an arguably more conservative point of view- something significantly more usable than the rest (if you think about it, the two statements are equivalent, the first one just sounds more arrogant 😛 ).

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Articles Original

Better usability in 5 minutes

In this post I’m going to share some tips to increase a site’s usability that are very quick to implement. Not all of them are cross-browser, but they are the icing on the cake anyway, nobody would mind without them.

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Articles News

On native, single-input, multiple file uploads

If you are following the current news on web development, you probably heard that the new Safari 4 has a great feature: It natively allows the user to select multiple files via a single input control, if you specify a value for the attribute multiple:

<input type="file" multiple>

or, in XHTML:

<input type="file" multiple="multiple" />

You might not know that Opera supported multiple file uploads for a while now, based on the earlier Web Forms 2.0 standard in a slightly different (and more flexible) format:

<input type="file" min="1" max="9999″ />
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Articles Benchmarks

“Appearances can be deceiving Mr. Anderson” – a.k.a. short code is not always fast code

I used to take pride in my short, bulletproof and elegant String and Number type checks:

// Check whether obj is a Number
obj + 0 === obj

// Check whether obj is a String
obj + '' === obj

I always thought that apart from being short and elegant, they should be faster.

However, some quick tests gave me a cold slap in the face and proved my assertion to be entirely false.

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20 things you should know when not using a JS library

You might just dislike JavaScript libraries and the trend around them, or the project you’re currently working on might be too small for a JavaScript library. In both cases, I understand, and after all, who am I to judge you? I don’t use a library myself either (at least not one that you could’ve heard about  😉 ), even though I admire the ingenuity and code quality of some.

However, when you take such a brave decision, it’s up to you to take care of those problems that JavaScript libraries carefully hide from your way. A JavaScript library’s purpose isn’t only to provide shortcuts to tedious tasks and allow you to easily add cool animations and Ajax functionality as many people (even library users) seem to think. Of course these are things that they are bound to offer if they want to succeed, but not the only ones. JavaScript libraries also have to workaround browser differences and bugs and this is the toughest part, since they have to constantly keep up with browser releases and their respective bugs and judge which ones are common enough to deserve workaround and which ones are so rare that would bloat the library without being worth it. Sometimes I think that nowadays, how good of a JavaScript developer you are doesn’t really depend on how well you know the language, but rather on how many browser bugs you’ve heard/read/know/found out. 😛

The purpose of this post is to let you know about the browser bugs and incompatibilities that you are most likely to face when deciding againist the use of a JavaScript library. Knowledge is power, and only if you know about them beforehand you can workaround them without spending countless debugging hours wondering “WHAT THE…”. And even if you do use a JavaScript library, you will learn to appreciate the hard work that has been put in it even more.

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Apps & scripts Articles Original

Bulletproof, cross-browser RGBA backgrounds, today

UPDATE: New version

First of all, happy Valentine’s day for yersterday. 🙂 This is the second part of my “Using CSS3 today” series. This article discusses current RGBA browser support and ways to use RGBA backgrounds in non-supporting browsers. Bonus gift: A PHP script of mine that creates fallback 1-pixel images on the fly that allow you to easily utilize RGBA backgrounds in any browser that can support png transparency. In addition, the images created are forced to be cached by the client and they are saved on the server’s hard drive for higher performance.

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Articles

CSS3 border-radius, today

This is the first one from a series of articles I’m going to write about using CSS3 properties or values today. I’ll cover everything I have found out while using them, including various browser quirks and bugs I know of or have personally filed regarding them. In this part I’ll discuss ways to create rounded corners without images and if possible without JavaScript in the most cross-browser fashion.