Recently in the web/design Category

New Beginnings

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It's been a long time since I've updated this blog. Many things have gone on in my life over the past few years; relationship breakdown, divorce, single parenting an angry teenager, adjusting to life on my own, beginning a new relationship, fledging the teenager, position changes at work, relocating my house - whew! It's been a busy time for me.  Add to this that my dog, my furry best friend, died in the midst of this, an injury sidelined me in my beloved sport of fencing, and then a health issue the next year put the kibosh on fencing altogether for the foreseeable future. Many changes in my life over a relatively short period of time.

I like to think these changes were placed in front of me as a series of challenges to overcome. Change is never easy, even more so when one is comfortable in the known (even if not completely satisfied). Change requires discomfort and who, really, readily seeks out discomfort? I suppose when you are discomforted enough in your current state you will make a change - you are forced to change. But that occurs of your own doing. When change is forced upon you it's very hard to take. A lot of what I learned over the past few years is that change happens and that no matter how uncomfortable it might be, how we accommodate it is our test. I lost a lot of things that were very important to me, but I also gained a lot of things that are important to me now for which I am thankful.

Life's journey takes many twists and turns, at least it has for me, and I've often had to recalibrate where I'm headed with what I want. Nowhere is this more apparent that in my position at work. People who know me would say I have an intense curiousity about things - a real hunger to learn. I'm also a problem-solver and have an appreciation for aesthetic. These attributes led me to the field of web design in 1997. Curiosity about the web coupled with the hunger to learn how to create web pages got me started. The ability to add the aesthetic qualities to these rudimentary sites was what secured me a position at my current place of employment where I was hired on as a web manager in 1999. Over the next decade and a bit, the organization changed (as organizations do), our department realigned and roles within were shifted. Strategic priorities were established or changed and positions were adjust to reflect this. Through twists and turns, through what I call the "dark times", our department emerged into a new beginning which seems much more focussed. My role now incorporates a heavy amount of problem solving as I'm now involved in the richer field of Usability, User Experience and UI design. The biggest change to my role has been that the aesthetic determination is now removed from my role and placed elsewhere. This was difficult for me because I really loved that part of my role. But while the aesthetic might be frontman of the webdesign rock band, without the structure of the show, and the quality of the music, the overall concert(ed) experience will be lacking. What I once did end-to-end has been broken down into specialties and reformulated as a team effort. Which, while there can be challenges to this way of working, is actually not a bad way to do things. And the learning, to my great delight, continues.

So that is where I am at this point in time. Emerging from a whole lotta change but feeling renewed and re-energized and hoping I can keep the momentum going.

Installing Firefox 3 alongside Firefox 2

firefox 3
Happy as I am to be using Firefox 3.0, as a web designer I felt it was necessary to hang onto Firefox 2.0 for testing purposes, at least for the short term. When installing FF3, it automatically updates your old installation, and there is no way to specify the directory it installs to. So, it was a relatively simple solution to go just switch the name of the FF2 folder to (what else?) Mozilla Firefox 2.0 which cleared the way for FF3 to install to Mozilla Firefox and voila - two versions can happily co-exist.

In windows (before you install FF3):
My Computer>Local Disk>Program Files>Mozilla Firefox <--- change this to Mozilla Firefox 2.0

On a mac, you can simply download the new FF3 application to your desktop, change the name to Firefox 3.0 and then copy it into your Applications folder.

Ok, what are you waiting for? Go and get Firefox 3.0:

And, while you're at it - try these handy add-ons:
Adblock plus - don't ever have to see ads again!
ColorZilla - advanced eyedropper tool - access and organize your bookmarks
Foxmarks - sync your FF bookmarks across many computers!
MeasureIt - on screen ruler to get pixel width & height of any element on a webpage
PDF Download - choose what you want to do with a PDF file
Web Designer's Toolbar - lots of handy tools in one easy place.

is design about control?

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After reading "A Tale of Two Architects" by David Armano (Logic + Emotion), I found myself thinking more and more about it in relation to web design. With two opposing ways of reacting to how people interact with your designs, I'd like to think I'm more "Jane" than "Dick" in that regard. With Dick, it's all about control, his design - his vision of how it should work, and his discomfort in people interpreting his work in ways it wasn't meant to be interpreted. Jane, on the other hand, is more tolerant to re-interpretation and sees it as a learning opportunity and notes it as something to incorporate into future designs (yay Jane!). Who do you think will be more instrumental in evolving design - Dick or Jane?

It kind of reminds me of how you'll often come across an institutional campus where the building layout, green spaces and pathways were all planned by the designer. Invariably, you'll find dirt trails through the grass where people's preferred routes take them between buildings. I wonder what it would look like if the designer left the pathways unpaved for a year letting people carve their own trails through the green and then paved the strongest people trails.

Back to Dick and Jane, is it not important to continually seek out new, different, better? I think it is. The web as a medium is constantly evolving and I believe we need to be more "Jane" than "Dick" in this regard. Be open to new interpretations. Watch your users and learn from them. Don't be afraid to let them carve out some of their own trails.

Site Navigation

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There is a new entry in the Designers Encyclopedia that discusses how visitors navigate websites. In simple terms - in one case they are oriented by task, in another they are oriented by organizational structure. The article contains a chart exploring the different types of navigation choices visitors might make during a visit to a given website. Good reading.

Tertiary Site Navigation
Navigating Your Website

print ≠ web .... no, really!

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Ok, as web professionals we know this mantra, print ≠ web. It's probably been permanently branded to our collective consciousness. Yet, it can be hard to convince the client who is limited by the constraints of their frame of reference (plus we're the ones being paid to "think outside the box"). At any rate, hands-up those of you who have been required to replicate a paper-based process online using the same logic and flow as the paper process. "Make it look and work exactly like this paper form" (for example). Ouch. It's painful on many levels. For the user, and for the designer - trying to accommodate online for paper based logic can be a nightmare. Time to stop this insanity. It's way past time to strongly encourage convince the client to harness the power of interactive design and develop an online process that works in a non-linear format. The tools are readily available to create a real web experience that is intuitive on the front end and smart on the back end, delivering a positive user experience up front and the all important clean, accurate data on the back. This is a battle that needs to be won.

Creating Usable Forms
Efficient creation of sensible and usable forms

Beyond the Browser: The Next Generation of Rich Internet Applications
Designing Powerful Web Applications: An Interview with David (Heller) Malouf

the web 2.0 machine

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What's the big deal about making connections & collaborating? It's all the buzz and becoming more and more mainstream as media picks up on it. Web 2.0 as a term and a concept has been around for a while now but it seems like it's just starting to gain traction in the popular mindset. Even though the web is evolving at practically the speed of light, there are many decision-makers who are still see it as an extension of traditional print media and advertising. It isn't. It hasn't been since it's inception. The very idea of the "web" tears apart the notion of linear text and traditional media. The Web 2.0 concept of linkages tears apart the notion that we are all islands. For a brief overview see this excellent video on Web 2.0, social computing, and issues that are now in the forefront and need defining.


For more in-depth exploration of social computing and leveraging the power of social computing, I'd recommend the book Wikinomics. It's a very good discussion and thought-provoking read.

Contribute 4

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Hmmm, just noticed that Adobe has releasedContribute 4. We use Contribute as part of our Content Management Strategy here at UNB so I downloaded the (windows) upgrade it to see what's new. At first glance it doesn't seem to be any different that version 3 other than they've rebranded the welcome screen to Adobe, but wait, I see they've added the ability to configure blog setting in so that you can administer your blog with Contribute now. That's kind of neat. And I just noticed that it's integrated a toolbar into IE7 so that IE7 now has buttons to allow you to call Contribute to edit the page you're on or to select something on the page and call Contribute to blog it. Well, I'll have to play with it a bit more to see if I can get one of our system blogs configured. This could be quite handy I think.

IE7 testing update

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Well, I took the plunge and set up IE7 on my testing machine. As a precaution I made sure to run the usual system tools (Adaware, Spybot) and clean up the system a bit and then created a Restore Point before initializing the install. I've been using it for the past week or so and it seems to be a pretty decent browser (so far). Can I just say bravo regarding the print preview function and draggable margins! This is a beyond useful addition. Subscribing to feeds is super simple and I like that there's explanatory text for the new-to-feeds user. My big regret is that I'm not too thrilled about it's hysteria about phishing - stuff like this could create a whole new neuroses amongst the joe/jane users of the internet. But I guess it's not MS if it's not helpfully in your face all the time.

At any rate, testing on IE7 alone won't cut it as I expect there will be a long transition from IE6 over to IE7 so I came across this handy tool to install multiple standalone versions of IE as a bundle. Cool. (Not that anything pre IE6 has been a concern to us but it's kind of fun to see how broken things are for those users who haven't upgraded for the last 7 years or so...). By adding the quicklaunch icons to the taskbar you now get a whole suite of IE's to test from.



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