Give readers a smoother journey across your JavaScript-enhanced sites

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

A short history of history

The back button is the web’s ‘undo’, practically its killer feature second only to the hyperlink. It’s the availability and simplicity of the back button that allows link-following to be a cheap, non-destructive action. The back button encourages readers to browse more.

In pre-JavaScript days, the role of the back button was straightforward: return to the previous page i.e. URL. This was taken literally, but advances in client-side technologies now have us questioning just what a page is and how well it corresponds with a URL.

As an example, consider a page that contains a tabbed interface, in which a set of links display different sections of content. Are these separate ‘pages’? How should browser history, including the back button, cater for navigation between them? …


A tale of carelessness and stupidity

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Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

I’ve been working with version control systems for most of two decades now, so I really should know better. Since starting out with CVS, it’s been drilled in to me:

check in your source, the stuff you can’t recover if you lost it

There’s never an exception to this rule, and if you think there is, think again. I mean it: literally take the time to think about your exception properly, then realise why you should still version control that file.

This is a short tale of careless autocomplete, a quirk of Unix, and a hastily assembled .gitignore file. …


A static-site approach to preference management

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Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Opening links in a new window — or a new tab for the best part of twenty years — has always been a hot button issue. Many writers feel like it’s the sensible thing to do in order to ‘keep a reader on your page/site’, whilst usability practitioners despair at what they see as annoying and counterintuitive behaviour that ignores the user’s wishes. In Linking to a new tab vs. same tab, Jesse Summers argues that:

If a user clicks on a link, they shouldn’t be surprised by what happens.

and I mostly agree. There are noted exceptions but, generally speaking, the web’s default has always been to replace a page with the target of the link, and that expectation should be maintained. …


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Tracing the DNA between a brand new game and a selection of classics

The survival sub-genre has emerged into the limelight in recent years; it combines parts of several other genres, depending on which game you play. Typically, there are dire circumstances, scarce resources, and the need for the player to craft what they need from those resources in various clever ways. Games as far-ranging as the classic Oregon Trail all the way to this year’s Ground Zero fall into this category in some way, but they share a common DNA. Let’s look at several of these titles to see what elements connect them.

The Survivalists (2020)

The Survivalists is, unsurprisingly, a survival game, but it’s one with a big difference. Whilst other games in the genre task the player with carrying out a lot of the work themselves, grinding away to gather resources with which to craft, The Survivalists provides some help, in the form of monkeys. …


Played on Nintendo Switch

Big Brother meets … Big Brother. In this pixellated tale of dystopian reality game show, you’re tasked with completing a series of platforming puzzles — by fair means or foul.

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It might seem nepotistic, but any game with a character named ‘Bobby’ is already off to a good start in my book.

Mining the Orwell playbook is hardly an original concept, but it feels churlish to complain about that when the details are handled as well as they are in Ministry of Broadcast. Many individual touches combine to create a chilling atmosphere — literally, with the constant snowfall and icy sections present — and the foreboding music backs this up to create a genuinely unsettling game.

The overall task is to reunite with your family by competing in a challenge-based TV show. In practice, this involves walking around — there’s quite a lot of walking, but thankfully, a run command makes it much less onerous — exploring warehouses, sewers, and various industrial buildings. Your path is frequently blocked by puzzles which require rearranging objects, turning valves on, and completing timed jumps or opening doors in the right order. …


Spiritfarer is a captivating game with exploration, crafting, and platforming elements, woven around the moving stories of its characters.

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Undoubtedly, it’s the visual style that initially attracted me to Spiritfarer. I’d been following this game’s development for some time, so I was delighted when it announced during Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase in August. The 2D hand-drawn, cartoon style is reminiscent — to my eye, at least — of Japanese animation studios such as Nippon Animation or Studio Ghibli.

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Much of my early time with the game was taken up simply sitting back, enjoying the spectacular visuals.

Set primarily on board a boat, your initial task is to populate this vessel with both the souls of main character Stella’s past acquaintances, and buildings that will support the voyage. Typical early-game structures include a kitchen, in which you can conjure up all manner of dishes, and a sawmill which converts logs into planks for further crafting. The overarching task is to care for those souls as you accompany them on their journey into the afterlife. …


Using JSON-LD for better SEO and other benefits

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Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) is a highly-structured yet flexible data format that can be used to describe web pages, people, and all sorts of types of data available online.

One high-profile usage is Google’s ‘review snippets’ — small pieces of additional information appearing alongside normal search results. For example, if you search for “interstellar”, you should see something similar to this:

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A Google ‘review snippet’

In addition to the standard title and description, this snippet includes details such as the director and the film’s aggregate rating, ultimately chosen from votes on IMDB’s website. If you delve into the source of the original IMDB page, you might be able to find a JSON structure that looks like the following (many details removed for this example; try searching for “@type” in the page…


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Tracing the connections between a new game and a selection of classics

Evergate is a precision puzzle platformer that I recently reviewed for Switch Player Magazine. I concluded that:

Evergate might not quite reach the giddy heights established by other recent releases, but it isn’t one to miss out on either. The graphics are familiar, but they are impeccably produced. The soundtrack is an absolute knockout. And, most important of all, intricate level design combined with playful mechanics and a vast array of challenges make Evergate an addictive, highly replayable delight.

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Evergate is a puzzle platformer with innovative mechanics, beautiful graphics, and a wonderful soundtrack.

It’s a game that, while superficially impressive, also has a lot more depth in gameplay than might first be evident. Where Evergate really succeeds is in its flexibility. On one hand, it’s a very linear experience: stages divided into levels, each of which is tackled before moving onto the next. And many of these levels are just barely bigger than a single screen, given that the default camera view is a very wide one. …


A quick roundup of indie stuff that happened today

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The Survivalists

Strategy survival game The Survivalists — follow-up to The Escapists —launched today on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and iOS (phew!). Early responses were mixed with criticisms of the combat and controls, although some heaped praise on the graphics and monkey-based mechanics.

#IGCvNES

Indie Gamer Chick continued her series of NES reviews, currently covering Homebrew games — many of which are released on actual physical NES carts, would you believe? Project Blue looks like it’s the standout game.

Star Shaman

VR combat game Star Shaman looks like a weird cross between Ring Fit Adventure and … I-don’t-know-what, Fruit Ninja with planets?! Anyway, this trailer just dropped and the game’s out later this month if you fancy doing whatever she’s doing, and you have a Windows PC setup that can handle it. …


A simple technique for static or dynamic sites

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Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

One of the easiest ways you can improve any data that you publish, is to utilise JavaScript to make it sortable. Whilst this can be done server-side using a dynamic architecture, it’s not necessarily the best choice there, let alone in a static environment where we have no other option.

Progressive enhancement

I’m going to present a technique with uses Unobtrusive JavaScript to enhance existing content, if possible. For any readers who do not have JavaScript available, they won’t miss out on the core content: whatever data it is that we’re presenting. …

About

Bobby Jack

Technologist & writer, Bobby is currently working on several projects including a management dashboard for static websites and an education portal. bobbyjack.me

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