Photo of Brian Biddle

For the past 15 years, Brian has served as lead designer and art director for LexBlog. He works directly with the product team to provide design and UX/UI guidance for the tools that power the world's largest legal network.

Where should the article image go? This question feels like it has a simple answer. Simple, that is, until you consider all the factors in play.

Graceful degrading is a strategy of handling web page design for a variety of different browsers, both old and new. I’ve seen humorous examples even deployed where the entire site would load in black and white for users who were on an outdated browser.

Over the last month, The LexBlog design and dev team have been working on a redesign for article pages. I find the best way to start a redesign is to ignore the home page or other landing pages (which will be updated soon). And focus on a text-heavy article page that receives the bulk of page views.

In 2004 I was at a significant crossroads in my career. The company where I had spent the past eight years was slowly dying due to economic changes and the dot com bubble bursting in 2000. During this eight-year tenure, I was able to develop my skills as a designer learning to write clean semantic code that separated structure from presentation (Eric Meyer’s book on CSS was transformative in my growth at this time). The positives that arose from this reality of needing to find a way to take care of my family (My wife and I just had our second baby) forced me to begin my career as a freelance web designer.

LexBlog design strives to provide leadership and guidance on best practices that ensure our products are of the highest quality. Over the years we have been asked to use or create custom graphics as the title for a blog. While this approach was widely accepted as the norm many years ago, it no longer works with today’s mobile web. I decided to jot down a few reasons why this approach is a bad idea.

There’s the adage that says, Many hands make light work. This truth can also run amuck if the many hands involved are inept and unwilling to work together as a team. The same goes for gathering feedback and criticism on a design project. You need to show others and test on potential users. However, the eyes looking need to be engaged in the process or know the goals so that you avoid drive-by feedback that is without the understanding of what they are observing. Context is key.

A good culture is important. Thus we see companies striving to establish a culture that is energetic, fresh, and full of promise to the talent they are striving to find or keep. Hence, the cool workplaces, bean bags, coffee bars and cubbies for napping etched into the walls.

It’s not uncommon to want the thing you’ve invested time, energy, and effort into to look amazing when you are finished. To desire a process from start to finish that is organized, efficient, and devoid of any significant hiccups. Unfortunately, most creative processes are quite the opposite. They are grueling and messy; they are full of mistakes and redos. I love how Ed Catmull puts it:

My father-in-law is a great classical trumpet player. He served as Principal Trumpet for the Cincinnati Symphony for 31 years. It would be impossible to count the hours he spent in practice warming up, running through the scales, and playing études in preparation for an upcoming performance. He was focused and remarkably consistent in his daily routine of training. You would often hear him say “Small Sessions” with regards to his practicing habits as well as to other tasks around the house (small sessions to move a wood pile, small sessions to clean the basement, etc.). I used to laugh when I heard this phrase as my personality and approach is more “all or nothing.” I’ve been known to work myself into a frenzy of cleaning for hours until exhaustion. The casualties this approach has taken on me, and my family is a thing of legend in the Biddle household.

The summer before my senior year in high school I took a job working as a courier and odd-jobs man at a local electrical company. It sounded like a cush job and much better than forty hour weeks on an assembly line at the same manufacturing company I had worked for the previous five summers ( I can assemble and disassemble a gas nozzle like no one’s business).