Puttin' the eek back in geek

Dev diary #003: Sprechen sie Wakamai Fondue?

August 3, 2020

I’m about to have some time off, so this week was about prepping everything for after the time off. On the tech side this was all relatively straightforward: more fine-tuning of existing Wakamai Fondue UI components. We’re now able to offer a demo font so you can try out Wakamai Fondue without having to hunt down a font on your own computer. Yay!

See what Wakamai Fondue does with the click of a button!

Abstraction layer

My Kabisa colleagues Jorg Nieberg and Pascal Widdershoven worked on the abstraction layer between the raw font data, and the human readable data we want to present in the website. The raw data provided by an engine like Fontkit or Font.js contains a lot of information that is directly usable, like which characters are in the font. But it also provides a list of OpenType features, which is presented as a simple list of four-letter tags. The abstraction layer enriches this list with a human readable name for the feature, if it’s required or optional features, etc.

When this is ready (enough) we’ll start using it on the site, and the Wakamai Fondue stack will be complete (enough) for some super early testing and extensive prototyping!

Languages schmanguages

When starting Wakamai Fondue I had a simple idea of how to find out which languages are supported by a font. Just take a list of characters that “belong” to a language, see if they’re in the font, and if so: that language is supported!

Turns out, language support is quite a rabbit hole, and it goes deep. Simply checking which characters (or Unicode codepoints) are in the font is not enough. Different glyphs might be used for different languages. For instance, you might want a capital I with a dot for Turkish, as explained in this Glyphs tutorial. If it’s missing, you could argue that the font doesn’t fully support Turkish.

“Full support” is another fuzzy concept in languages. Maybe it’s okay if the font doesn’t have a symbol that’s unlikely to be used. For instance, the currency symbols of pre-euro Europe. If I ran a Dutch website, it’d be totally fine with a font with the ƒ (“Dutch Florin Symbol”) missing. Unless of course the site would be something like DutchCheesePricesThroughoutHistory.com, in which case I’d either want the ƒ in the font, or don’t mind it being taken care of by the fallback font.

(I actually have no idea if the current font on my site supports this character. I’ll find out after posting this!) (EDIT: it doesn’t)

I’d love to hear what you would expect from Wakamai Fondue’s language detection system. Let me hear in this or this issue!

But first!

And with all that on my mind, COVID-19 stress too, planet Earth falling apart into a thousand burning pieces of radioactive llama shit, I think I’m off for a vacation break. I hope to see you on the other side, where we’re gonna hook up Wakamai Fondue to it’s engine and get to actually try it out!