Category Archives: Design

Web 2.0 as a Guide

Over the past, I’d say, year and a half the term Web 2.0 has been thrown around an awful lot, but with no true definition it’s hard to peg the meaning of the word. For some its definition is a style (subtle gradients, shines, and beta tags), while for others it’s a term used simply to describe the change in technologies used on the web today (AJAX, Ruby on Rails, etc.). I personally see Web 2.0 as a guide more than anything.

While I don’t live or swear by it, I think many do. As a guide the term Web 2.0 gives us a vision of something more intricate, more advanced, yet easier to understand. It produces thoughts of products like Flickr or YouTube. With all of their features and technical intricacies they still remain two of the simplest tools on the web. Web 2.0 is the thought that design and the tools we use to communicate can be advanced and visually pleasing, yet simple at the same time.

This, to me, is the true meaning of the term Web 2.0. I realize I’ve just blabbered on about the most over talked about subject of the year, but with so many different definitions around I just had to throw my own opinion in.

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Filed under Design, Miscellany, Technology, web 2.0, Web Design

The Universal Zero Rule

It’s old, it’s been used a million times before, but I guarantee it’ll fix 99.9% of the margin and padding errors you’ll come across. The Universal Zero Rule is a very simple snippet of CSS that you can add to the beginning of your CSS document.

Many times when coding a page using CSS you’ll find that even though you’ve specified certain padding and margin values they may be off by a few pixels, mainly because each browser has it’s own default value, which it will add to the element. The UZR resets these values to zero so that you can define your own measurements without having to worry about browser interference.

Simply add it to the beginning of your CSS document and it should fix most of the problems you’ll come across without the need for hacks or other workarounds. Copy and paste and you’ll be all set. If you want you can even define and overwrite default browser colors, backgrounds, etc by adding other properties to the selector.


*{
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;}

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Filed under Design, Miscellany, Web Design

Getting Back in the Game

I may have been in denial, but I definitely realize now that I’ve been out of the game for a while now. By the game I’m referring, of course, to the world of web design and internet culture. I’ve missed out on CSS breakthroughs, new software, possible design jobs, blogging, and a lot more, and quite frankly I have no idea what’s going on anymore. People are talking about things that seem to fly over my head like a plane and I don’t like it.

It seems like every time I get on a good roll I lose access to a solid internet connection, or I get grounded, or I lose inspiration. Some massive event prevents me from doing what I like to do. In essence, being available. I love being able to talk to who I want, when I want. I love being able to make contacts all over the world and actually not be limited by the boundaries of the city I live in.

It’s been a while, but I think I’m definitely ready to get back into the game. I’m reorganizing my life, making more contacts then ever, and I’m actually getting some serious blogging done. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s this has ever gone through this, so for all of you having the same troubles there’s a few things you can do to get back to where you were months online when you left.

You can start by reading all of your RSS Items and unread emails. After that visit all of the sites you hold a membership with and read all of your messages, comments, etc. After that’s taken care of let everyone know you’re okay. Write a nice blog post, or send out an email to all of your friends. Now that personal matters are taken care of start tackling your business functions. Check your online banking, look into old job offers and just reacquaint yourself with the business world.

That tiny plan seems to work for me every single time I go into meltdown mode, and if you stick to the same basic guidelines it’ll work for you too. I have no idea why I wrote this post, or even how I ended up thinking about this subject, but hey, it is a post and I am here to blog, so there you go.

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Filed under blog, Design, Media, Miscellany

MeeboMe and Cutting Back on Software (An Open Challenge)

Goodbye Trillian, hello Meebo. Other than losing the ability to chat via IRC I couldn’t care less about parting with Trillian. It does nothing but slow down my laptop, and even though it is a great program I really don’t need it. Meebo is all I need from now on.

Over the past few weeks I’ve made a serious effort to cut down on the number of resources I rely on. I’ve uninstalled Thunderbird, Firefox, Trillian, and a massive load of other programs that add to the frustration of online activity. I’ve imported all of my bookmarks and compatible plugins from Firefox to Flock, which now manages my bookmarks and my feeds, which I have reduced from about two hundred to maybe twenty essentials.

Thanks to the invention of multiple homepages I can now check my email via my Google Customized Homepage, sign into MySpace for communicating with my friends who are too ignorant to use email, take a quick glance at all my feeds, check up on Random Shapes, AND log in to my Meebo account, which allows all of you wonderful readers to talk to me at any time.

Anyway, the main reason I wanted to write this post is to let you all know that I’ve added the nifty MeeboMe widget to the sidebar of my blog so you can check my online status and get in contact with me whenever you want. Now to issue a challenge. I challenge each and every one of you reading this to cut down on the number of programs you use. Use plugins to combine apps, delete unnecessary files and programs, see exactly what you need and what you don’t.

To be honest the only programs I really use now are Flock (for email, RSS, IM, and general web browsing), iTunes (for musical pleasure), Photoshop (for designing cool shit), and my anti-virus and anti-spyware programs which do a great job and run virtually invisible. Like I said, cut back and see just what you need. Leave me a comment letting me know how it goes and what you now use.

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Filed under blog, Design, Flock, Meebo, Miscellany, Mozilla, Technology, web 2.0, web apps

Another Interuption

To keep it short, being a teen is difficult, and some things have come up that have prevented me from getting any online time at all over the past two weeks or so, so again I apologize, but will try to return to a normal blogging schedule as soon as possible.

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Filed under blog, Design, Family, Friends, holiday, Miscellany, Skateboarding, Skating, teen

A Little More Like iTunes – WMP 11 Beta

For some odd reason, the new Windows Media Player 11 Beta reminds me a lot of iTunes with a bit of Songbird flare thrown in. Not only is it just as big a memory hog, WMP11 Beta has inherited some of iTunes’ features that have made it successful.

The Interface

The WMP11 user interface is extremely trimmed down and not as confusing as it has been in previous versions. Sporting a default black glossy look, with some Microsoft Blue accents mixed in, it is both visually pleasing and easy to navigate. While the MTV URGE network sign in button may be a bit distracting, the interface is otherwise slimmed down and does nothing to distract from the listening experience. As always different accent colors can be chosen.

Media Sorting

WMP11 also sports some new, more advanced sorting features absent in previous versions. An enhanced library view allows you to not only see songs, albums, and artists, but the album art is also present to help you pick your way through music you may only be familiar with through sight.

One basic feature I miss is the tiny button that, when selected, opens a drop down menu listing all albums, artists, and play lists in the library. This allowed me to pick and choose what album or artist I wanted to hear without having to fully open the player or navigate to the library.

Mini Mode

Those of you using WMP on a laptop or desktop short of memory are undoubtedly familiar with the Windows Media Player toolbar, otherwise known as the Mini-Player mode. In this version the mini player sports the same black and blue color scheme. As in the full size player the quick select menu has also been ditched, requiring a full sized view of the player to change play lists or albums.

Enhancements

There is some bad news for all of you plug-in and enhancement lovers though. First off, Microsoft has ditched many of the default visualizations that you may have grown used to, but all custom visualizations seem to work just fine when upgrading. All plug-ins are automatically disabled, and most, if not all, do not seem to be compatible, meaning you’ll have to either wait for an update to the plug-in, or revert to an older version of WMP.

All custom skins are also incompatible. While they may load and intros may play, WMP11 seems incapable of displaying any media information, not moving past the final frame of the introductory movie or animation. This leaves you guessing where certain controls, like volume and seek, are.

The Final Verdict

While Windows Media Player 11 Beta may need a lot of work, and many are sure to find it lacking in the more important areas, it has some real potential. The slimmed down interface adds to the overall pleasing experience and I personally can’t wait for an update to the beta, or even an official release. But don’t get your hopes up, this looks like it’s been built for Vista, so an official release probably wont be coming anytime soon.

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Filed under Design, Media, Microsoft, Miscellany, Movies, Music, Technology

The 10-Step Design Process

Not every designer is the same; some begin designing a website by laying out the content, while others start in a fresh Photoshop document. Each has their own way of dealing with clients and each charges different rates. While it’s hard to say what you should charge, it’s rather easy to find a pattern and stick to it.

I personally begin in Photoshop, but there’s a lot that comes before that.

1. Initial Contact. Your initial meeting with your client is very important. It’s important that you pay close attention to the way the client speaks and presents his or herself. It’ll help you get a feel for what they’re trying to do with their website.

2. Planning. Before you begin any drafting you need to ask your client some essential questions concerning materials, payment, colors, logo, content, etc. Everything you need to know prior to doing any actual work should be gathered in this stage. It’s also a good idea to get a down payment to prevent the client from dropping out of the deal after you’ve done all your work. This money should also be used for materials like fonts, brushes, any outsourcing, etc. All contracts should be signed and even notarized in this stage.

3. Drafting. Based on the information you’ve gathered you should now begin drafting a sample website for the client. Start with a simple grid you’d like to follow and from there add colors, effects and any other specialties you’d like to add to give life to the design. Fill in any content areas with Lorem Ipsum text as well.

4. Variations and Client Approval. After you’ve created multiple variations of the same basic design present them to the client. To prevent ripping you may wish to watermark your images. At this point no coding should have been done. Once the design has been selected and approved you should discuss a final website launch and payment date, along with any other services you may offer. Now is a great time to tell your clients about copy writing if they haven’t already provided content, and telling them about Search Engine Optimization is very important. Make sure they know it is the key to the success of their website.

5. Coding. Now that you’ve gotten approval on the design it’s time to chop up the design and begin coding it in your favorite editor, preferably in CSS, but to each his own.

6. Presentation. Present the design once more to the client now that it’s been fully coded and see if they’d like any minor changes such as width, colors, etc. Make sure your launch date is finalized by this point.

7. Launch Preparation. Now that the website is complete make sure the server and all other components are ready, such as Content Management Systems, Flash Applications, JavaScript’s, etc. Also begin optimizing the website for search engines and get it listed on any design directories and news websites that will help with the promotion process.

8. Launch. Launch the website by removing the holder or teaser page on the date you agreed upon.

9. Payment. Shortly after the launch or on the same day you should receive final payment from the client. To get on their good side it may be a good idea to throw a tiny party for the website launch (if dealing with a large or medium sized company) or purchase a tiny gift like a cake (when dealing with small companies)

10. Gather References. As I’ve mentioned, it’s important that you gather any references or quotes now that the project is complete. Make sure you add all this to your portfolio.

Follow this simple set of steps from start to finish and you should be able to easily and effectively complete a website and deal with your clients too. Like I said, everyone has their own methods, but I find this way to be extremely easy to follow.

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Filed under business, Design, Graphic Design, Media, Web Design