A Review of Particletree's Treehouse

—Monday, October 10 2005

Treehouse

The folks over at Particletree recently released their new publication entitled Treehouse. Treehouse is PDF magazine dedicated to web development; The first issue is completely free–and who doesn’t love “try before you buy”.

Inside each issue (from the particletree website):

  • Tutorials, Essays and Interviews
  • Resources for Designers, Programmers and Entrepreneurs
  • Roundup of Links from the Best of the Web
  • News on the 9rules Network
  • Particletree Digest
  • Robot Tea Party
  • Book Reviews
  • +50 pages of Content

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Upon first opening Treehouse, I was amazed by the beautiful page layout and design aesthetics. It is by far the most elegantly composed PDF magazine I have read. I’ve always been a fan of the Trajan Pro typeface and it’s been executed perfectly here. The typography is a solid 10 of 10 in this publication.

Code

In code, Jeremy Keith gives us the inside scoop on the genesis of Javascript with “The History of Javascript”, complete with a timeline and examples of the early implementation of what’s now known as document.getElementById('ele'); He goes on to talk about DHTML and how cross-browser DOM compatibility snuck up on us while we all had our eyes focused on CSS and XHTML.

If you've been ignoring JavaScript and the Document Object Model for the past few years, perhaps it's time for a re-evaluation.

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The article I enjoyed the most was an interview with Shaun Inman. Shaun has done some amazing things with Mint and it was really inspiring to here him speak about his approach and the pitfalls along the way. Also, I’m a lot like Shaun in the sense that I too wear the hat of both designer and developer and I’m working on an application who’s implementation will be much like Mints. This wasn’t always the case, but this interview made me think twice.

Shaun is now averaging around 30 sales a day (thats $900.00 for those counting) and sold about 750 copies at the end of the second day. What a feat!

I remember trying to excuse myself from his criticism, saying that my day-job was holding me back. He looked at me like I was bullshitting him But I was really just bullshitting myself.

Design

In design John Zeratsky of Feedburner writes and excellent article entitled “Inheriting Expectations”. John gives us a little history about the GUI and puts forth the notion that we as designers should use real world examples to coincide with design on the web. I couldn’t agree more and this is a must read for anyone developing software.

Now that Ajax is on the forefront we have to use different techniques to show that something just happened. We no longer have the page refresh, so we should make the user aware that the link they clicked, or the form they just submitted is processing.

In the real world, every action has a reaction. When designing interfaces, make sure that clicking, dragging or editing something produces an obvious result.

This is only a small portion of what Treehouse has packed in between the tabs. It’s an excellent publication and an invaluable resource for those in web development. You can get your subscription on for much less than a 1/4 tank of gas.

What I’d like to see from Treehouse

  • Death and Taxes for freelancers. Most of us know how to mangle a color wheel and wrestle with xhtml and css, but what a lot of us don’t know about is the business side of things. Freelancers have to wear many hats and we can find all kinds of resources about the technicals, but we have questions such as:
  • Should I work under as a registered business or an individual?
  • What’ s this IRS you speak of and how and why should I pay them?
  • Me and Fred are forming a company, but Fred lives in the U.K. and I’m in the U.S. What are the business implications of this?

  • Breaking the language barrier between designers and developers in software development. Lets face it, Designers are not submitting patches to open source projects anywhere near the scale developers are. Why? My guess is that most designers aren’t up to snuff on version control and feel a little intimidated when developers start chunking all that jargon around about how I do everything in emacs and “Oh thats easy! Just check out the trunk, make your changes and diff against the HEAD in the root of your repo”. That sounds easy enough to a lot of us, but it’s not in the vocabulary of a lot of designers.

The problem with software development is that 9 times out of 10 the designer is working in the developers natural environment. Developers will rarely, if ever, have to open up Photoshop, but designers have to use tools such as subversion and the like to be effective in software development. (I’ve written the introduction right there guys!) ;-)

Well, I’ve pretty much said a mouth-full and I’m really looking forward to the coming issues of Treehouse. It’s refreshing to know the guys at Particletree have put this in motion.