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Zhen

汉英词典 Chinese-English Dictionary

What?

Zhen is a Chinese-English translating dictionary. It's (going to be) a progressive web app that's as simple as possible, using no front-end frameworks. I'm writing Zhen so that:

  • I can use it.
  • I will learn some basic SQL skills.
  • I will learn how to write a web app without frameworks.

I was originally going to enter Zhen into the "10k Apart" competition (where the core experience needs a page size less than 10KB) but it was taking too long to figure out how to deploy onto Microsoft's Azure platform, as required by the contest. And you'll notice that "learn MS Azure" is not on my list of reasons to write Zhen. So I decided not to bother.

Setup for Development

  1. Run the "bootstrap.sh" script from the repository root directory. (That is, the same directory as this README.md file).
  2. Make a virtualenv and activate it.
  3. Update pip and setuptools (pip install -U pip setuptools).
  4. Install Zhen to the virtualenv (pip install -e . in this directory).

And run it with python -m zhen.

Deployment

Unfortunately, Zhen no longer works on OpenShift, and is not deployed anywhere.

Attribution

This dictionary web app uses the contents of the MDBG dictionary, available under a Creative Commons license from http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php?page=cc-cedict .

Design Decisions

Why load a webfont? Some users or devices may not have a font that can display Chinese characters, so I thought it would be important to include one. Obviously it would be too big to load by default, so it's "lazy loaded" only if the user has JavaScript enabled.

I split the CSS into two "zones." The CSS required to make the site bearable is all included in a <style> element on every page. The "extra.css" file includes more styling to make the site... well... even more bearable.

The results table on mobile screens is, uh, different. On screens wider than 500px, it's a regular table. On smaller screens, the regular table is still usable but when the "extra.css" is loaded, each column is vertically aligned, with each row separated by a visible divider. Therefore the same semantically correct <table> HTML structure is used in both cases.

I didn't want to re-style the radio buttons from scratch. I tried pretty hard to avoid it. In the end, I don't mind the radio button appearance, but all my browsers gave a :focus indicator that ranged from poor to awful... so the default styling was not very accessible! Thankfully, one of the world's great web design heroes suffered on our behalf: https://www.sitepoint.com/replacing-radio-buttons-without-replacing-radio-buttons/ As it goes for this 10k contest, this is a pretty heavy solution. And I don't think I've really produced something visually appealing. Damn.

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