Independent Web Designer · davesmyth.com · websmyth.co · worknotes.co.uk

Privacy Tools

A new standard to help users opt-out of data collection and tracking.

A woman hides her face behind a screenprint.
Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

January 28th 2021 saw the announcement of a new standard that makes it easier to users to out opt of data collection and sharing. It’s called the Global Privacy Control and lets users signal they want to opt-out of tracking through their browser.

From The Verge:

The GPC standard sprang from a powerful but little-noticed provision in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which … gives Californians the right to opt out of having their personal information sold by the sites they visit.

Interestingly, the definition of ‘sold’ seems to be deliberately vague — in a good way:

Crucially, the…


Digital Minimalism

The benefits of turning off read receipts.

Someone texts on their phone.
Alex Ware on Unsplash

When I wrote about exploring Digital Minimalism, I overlooked the practice of turning off read receipts. This is something I was doing before I read Cal Newport’s book.

Turning off read receipts seems like a small thing: “who cares if they know when I read this?”

I started turning messaging read receipts off a couple of years ago: it’s had a positive impact on my experience of messaging apps.

On the occasions I’ve realised read receipts were on, perhaps in a new app, the relief I’ve felt in turning them off has been palpable.

Aside from this, there are the…


Reframing Tech

Reflecting on the first steps I’ve taken towards digital minimalism.

Wooden wall clock over a white desk and plant.
Samantha Gades on Unsplash

In early 2020 I read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. It completely changed my outlook on tech.

I wouldn’t have picked up the book if it wasn’t for Adam Pearson. He told me that in another of Newport’s books, Deep Work, he recommended:

  1. Quitting social media for 30 days
  2. Not telling anyone
  3. Seeing if anyone noticed

That was enough to make me want to explore it.

I’m writing this for a few reasons. It’s partly a reminder to myself of the benefits of what I’ve been trying. …


Privacy and advertising

If there’s little difference in the way contextual and targeted ads perform, why do we collect that data?

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Liam Shaw on Unsplash

Jeremy Keith’s piece on Clean Advertising is an excellent read. One of the key takeaways is that behavioural advertising may not be as effective as its contextual counterpart.

To recap:

  • Behavioural advertising centres around tracking users around the web to build profiles about their behaviour. Users will are shown ads specific to them, irrelevant of the context: e.g. a user visits a shoe shop, then sees an ad for those shoes on Facebook.
  • Contextual advertising doesn’t track users or build profiles of them. Users are shown ads based on the context: i.e. …

Selling Digital Products

What’s the difference between these two services?

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Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Gumroad is one of the most well-known platforms for selling digital products. I’ve used it to sell on both Work Notes and CSS For Designers.

After some recommendations and exploring the features, I switched both sites over to Payhip. About a month later, I switched CSS For Designers back.

The two platforms offer similar functionality. Integrating the services is similar but not the same and even the design of the dashboards is similar.

So, why the change and why the change back?

Pricing

One of the most obvious differences between the services is pricing. Gumroad offers:

  • A free tier where the…


Digital Minimalism

Improving the Twitter experience by going all-in on lists.

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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Twitter is pretty much the only social media platform I use. It’s a useful platform, but not without problems.

I try to balance the time I spend on there. I don’t have the app on my phone and recently switched to TweetDeck on desktop.

TweetDeck took a little getting used to, but the best feature I’ve found is the ability to browse using Twitter lists by default.

Still, it’s easy to get sucked into reading replies about fairly depressing stuff. Especially on mobile, where the default is the timeline, rather a list.

So, taking inspiration from Anil Dash’s article, I…


Privacy

Why do so many companies ignore cookie laws?

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Photo by Stephen Phillips on Unsplash

Cookies present issues for website owners and users alike, and they’re nothing new. While the GDPR and PECR legislation have encouraged companies to proactively consider user privacy, the basic cookie requirements are neglected on a large number of sites.

Cookies fall into two categories: essential and non-essential. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) describes essential cookies as:

…strictly necessary to provide an ‘information society service’ (eg a service over the internet) requested by the subscriber or user. …


Privacy & Small Business

What does it mean to run a small business that considers customer privacy?

Silhouettes of tree trunks in front of a green trees hanging over a white wall.
Photo by Nick Wright on Unsplash

What does it mean to run a privacy-focused business? What does that look like and involve? Is it just GDPR — cue eye-rolls — or is there more to it than that?

These are some of the questions I’ve been thinking about recently.

The introduction of GDPR in 2018 created mass panic as businesses raced to meet the deadline. To many, compliance was — and in some cases still is — seen as needless hassle.

I’d guess that’s in no small part due to the nature of the topic and its role as regulation. But it’s also a complex area…


Uncommon CSS Properties & Techniques

What is outline-offset and how is it a useful CSS property?

Photo of a person with a green glow outline.
Devin Avery on Unsplash

When we’re styling :focus states, we often use the outline property to override the browser's default styling.

This works well, but the outline can feel very close to the text that’s outlined. Right click or [tab] to the link in this Codepen to see:

To create more space, we could add padding on focused elements.

Alternatively, we could use outline-offset, a little-used property that creates some space between an element and its outline:

Is it supported though?

Browser support is very good except for IE and pre-2016 versions of Edge.

Found this useful?

CSS For Designers is a practical guide to CSS, helping people bring…


CSS Fundamentals

Understanding how and why CSS works is critical to writing better code.

A laptop in the dark.
Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

I learned how to build websites the old fashioned way: looking at website source code and trying to replicate the things I saw. I threw in the odd book for the stuff I couldn’t see (like PHP/MySQL), and I was on my way.

This was back in 1999, when we’d write things like <font size="4" color="#000000"> and DHTML was a thing.

When CSS came along my approach to learning didn’t differ. But I really wish I’d taken the time to learn CSS properly: there was so much fundamental stuff I missed.

Here are some things I didn’t know that I…

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