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Cognition

Development

We’ve written 14 blog posts about Development. View all topics »

  1. The Scoop on Our Benjerry.com Style Guide

    The web has been all about style guides lately. Everyone from the BBC to Code for America to Yelp released their guides to the public, and style-guide-automating tools like KSS and Hologram are becoming increasingly popular. At Happy Cog, we’ve been making our clients’ style guides more interactive. Our newer style guides go beyond documenting the design systems we’ve established; they take advantage of their living in the browser to dynamically show how a system’s pieces are built, how it responds at different viewport sizes, and how users can interact with those pieces.

    For the recently launched Ben & Jerry’s website redesign, we created one of these “interactive style guides.” It covers everything related to building out and maintaining the new website: design components, page layouts, and even content creation. I chatted with a few of the Cogs responsible for the Ben & Jerry’s style guide about how it came together.

  2. You Might Need jQuery

    2/27/14

    by Cat Farman

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    jQuery: Maybe you’ve heard of it. If not, may I welcome you to the internet and introduce you to some cool websites? jQuery is a hugely popular JavaScript library that gives you an API to manipulate DOM elements easily, handle events, AJAX your content, and create all the other cool features that make the web go ‘round. The scale of jQuery’s popularity is incredible; it’s used on over 80% of the most trafficked websites, and its CDN serves up over 500 million files a day.

  3. Switch Programming

    1/23/14

    by Mark Huot

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    There are countless sayings about fresh perspective: “A little distance will give you a whole new perspective,” “You need to step away for a while,” etc. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where that’s not always possible—or practical. I have a very hard time getting up and walking away from my computer when I’m in the middle of a problem. My mind wants to sit and work right through it, no matter how long it takes.

    Luckily, I work at a company that encourages collaborative problem solving. Someone always walks by my desk, hears my mutter, and asks me what’s up. Typically, explaining the issue is enough to help solve it (or at least put me on the correct track).

  4. Automating Your Deployments

    11/14/13

    by Mark Huot

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    Deploying a website to a web server is hard. Not “It’ll take some extra time” hard or “We’ll need some help” hard. It’s “Get a whiteboard and plan out the thing A Beautiful Mind-style” hard. It’s easy to look at your code, look at your server, and just drag/drop files to production. It’s a lot more difficult to set up an automated system that will do that for you.

    At Happy Cog, we work in a variety of technical situations, and our deployment strategies must be extensible enough to suit each and every need. We deploy to Windows servers and to *nix servers. In some situations, we deploy code as well as content. We deploy PHP websites on some servers and Ruby web workers on others.

  5. Fall Back to the Cascade

    10/24/13

    by Cat Farman

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    When we think of responsive design, we typically focus on newfangled mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. But, as front-end developers, we still need to account for older browsers that can’t handle the newest CSS3 techniques when rendering our sites. In the case of responsive design, that means our old friend Internet Explorer 8 (and below) needs some extra handholding when we build our sites with media queries. These browsers don’t support media queries, and since they are still in widespread enough use that we can’t ignore them (~10% of users are still using IE8), we have to come up with new techniques for gracefully degrading our sites.

  6. Dear CSS3

    When Dan Cederholm introduced us that spring afternoon at An Event Apart in 2010, I took one look at you and thought, “What a dreamboat.” I knew you were going to change my life. We took things pretty slow at first—I experimented with button and gradient generators while marveling at your features. “You mean, no more cutting gradient background images? And wait, I can just round those corners however I want?!” At the time, my exploration focused on replicating classic Photoshop effects. I had no idea that that was just a small part of what you could do. Since then, you’ve brought so much adventure into my life, creating effects that I could never dream up in Photoshop.

  7. The Web on the Web’s Terms

    After finishing journalism school, I worked for a series of terrific newspaper and radio companies. Barely two years into it, after flirting with the web, I quit.

    Compared to the web, print and radio had limited reach and were clumsy to use. In print, we plugged content into a fixed canvas and delivered the same experience to every reader. The closest we got to flexibility was an evening edition or special insert. The web attracted me because it couldn’t have been more different. It challenged me to design and build something that can reach anyone on any web-browsing device—a cause worthy of committing my career to.

  8. Release the Devs

    “At Happy Cog, process is not sacred.”

    I wrote that in my very first Cognition article way way back in 2011. Everything at Happy Cog is changing as we speak. Next week, our Philly location moves to a shiny new office. We’ve added lots of new hires, but our passion for process remains consistent. We’re constantly revisiting the best way to do things. Our business and the technologies that support it move at a lightning pace. To remain competitive and effective, our process evolves in tandem.

  9. Under Pressure

    Deep in the middle of the night, illuminated by the glow of five screens full of graphs, data, code, and live video, I sat on edge, as I monitored a small army of servers. The O Music Awards, a 24-hour, live-streamed music and awards festival in New York City, was in full swing.

    Sometime after 3am, I saw the first warning sign of a major issue—a slight uptick in an otherwise-flat graph. Over the next few seconds, it grew to a huge spike, and I alerted the team that we had a problem. Thanks to some well-configured caching, the homepage and live streams were unaffected, which meant a large majority of users didn’t even know we were having an issue. But, the failures were going to cause errors during voting, and a few other pages on the site were going to crash. The situation wasn’t great, but the mission-critical things were still working properly.

  10. Sweat the Small Stuff

    Time and time again, we’re told “don’t sweat the small stuff” and focus on the things that really matter. Typically, we hear this when we’re obsessing over a pixel here and a pixel there instead of concentrating on the direction and concept first. Most of the time, this makes sense and is sage advice—except for when it isn’t. At some point in every project, you have to focus on the minutia and work through the small stuff. For me, this typically comes in the implementation phase (and that’s okay).

  11. Beyond Binary Grids

    Grids are everywhere on the web, and there is no hiding from them. We need grid systems to help create grids that are usable and manageable, and with Responsive Web Design, this has been a tricky tightrope to walk. We need our layouts to react to different media query breakpoints, and the way we have built grids in the past needs to be extended to do that.

  12. Building the Happy Cog Test Lab

    When first planning our test lab, I surveyed my own collection of devices and then asked around our Austin office for people who had some older phones sitting at home in a closet or junk drawer. I was able to pull together a handful of devices, including two older iPhones we tested with during some iOS development work. I purchased the remaining devices.

  13. One Small Step

    On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. A few hours later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface—the first time humans set foot on another planetary body. The astronauts were explorers. Yet, if they did not share their experiences, their expedition would have provided no meaningful benefits to anyone but themselves. True exploration isn’t just going somewhere or doing something new; it is experiencing something new and communicating that back to those who care.

  14. The Tech Behind Site Week

    In February we gathered a group together in our Philadelphia office to redesign and rebuild our happycog.com website in one week. The goal of our Site Week was to redesign the website (Greg Hoy covers the thinking behind this in a Cognition post back in Janauary) and to push ourselves to do something different.