As far as online web design magazines go, A List Apart has been around for as long as I can remember. Their regular articles never cease to probe into new areas of design, or express existing techniques in a new and forward thinking way.
A new post today is celebrating A List Apart’s 10 year anniversary, looking back at how the project started out and evolved over a decade. It also gives an insight into how article submissions are processed and filtered, along with who edits and designs the site today.
If you’re a regular reader, or interested in contributing to A List Apart in the future, it is an article well worth a read.October 7th, 2008 Posted in Articles
Alex, from Blogsessive, has released a minimalist WordPress theme called Simple Balance 2. Full information about the theme and download information can be found over at the release post.
Simple Balance features a whole host of customizable options, and it’s great to see a free WordPress theme offering what usually would be paid for features:
GuiMags are a new concept, taking the idea of designing on paper down an innovative route. They comprise a set of magnets, created to stick to a whiteboard, made of material which allows you to write on them with dry-wipe markers.
I have been trying out a sample of these for a few days and am going to share the aspects I feel that work well, and the areas that still need improvement.
When designing a mockup, I work differently depending on who the site is for. If it is a personal project, working on paper and then Photoshop is perfect. If the design is for a client, commonly there is a need to express ideas in a collaborative environment. This could be done with a projector/laptop, whiteboard or a flip-chart. These all work well, but a common problem is that when using a whiteboard you find yourself drawing and re-drawing common components of a site (form fields, tabs, buttons etc).
GuiMags solves this problem, allowing you to focus on designing the structure without worrying about the small fiddly pieces. Designing forms, in particular, becomes a much more enjoyable process.
These are the various magnets available, comprising a selection of most common website components:
There are two main problems with GuiMags which could stop them being an overnight success. Firstly is the fact that you need a magnetic whiteboard to use them. From my experience, the majority of whiteboards I have used are non-magnetic and wouldn’t work with these gadgets. To be truly practical, they need to work at every client’s office – professionalism takes a hit when you have to start hunting round the whole building for an appropriate whiteboard.
The second issue is the design aesthetic of the magnets. Whilst the chunky look and feel is certainly appropriate, the choice of blue as a background limits the ability to use them in any mockups which illustrate colour. Future possibilities could be to offer a range of colours, or provide a black and white set to ensure they don’t over-power any other colours on the sketch.
Designing mockups and prototyping alongside a group of people has always posed a challenge. GuiMags goes some way to solving the problem, allowing you to create sample designs and forms with greater speed and ease. However, at $100, these magnets don’t come cheap and you may also find yourself requiring a new magnetic whiteboard (anything from $20 to $100 depending upon size). They are a great concept and a forward thinking idea, but some of the initial drawbacks need to be addressed before they are versatile enough to become a dominant tool in my design workflow.September 1st, 2008 Posted in Articles
Our partner site, 13 Styles have just launched a new addition to their range of free CSS menus. It comes pre-built in red, orange and grey, working in all major browsers. Best of all, it’s completely free for you to download and use!August 16th, 2008 Posted in Articles, Navigation
WordPress is undoubtedly one of the most popular blogging platforms, so it’s no surprise that there are a huge variety of different plugins to allow you to integrate Flickr with your blog posts. This article does include a sponsored review of iFlickr, but we’ll also be looking at other plugins available to mix these two online platforms together.
By way of a basic introduction, iFlickr is a WordPress plugin that allows you to easily find free images on Flickr and insert them into your blog post while automatically putting the attribution link underneath. It can save you quite a bit of time when looking for related images to your blog post, but doesn’t satisfy the requirement you may have for putting your own personal images on your blog (we’ll cover some methods for doing this later on).
Here are some of the various bits we liked and didn’t like so much about iFlickr:
If you’re looking to use an appropriate Flickr photo with your blog posts on a regular basis, iFlickr is definitely a good way to go. However, if you’d like to mix things up in a different way, trying one of the following might be a better option:
We’d be really interested to hear about any other plugins which you find useful for integrating Flickr with your blog – drop us a line below!July 22nd, 2008 Posted in Articles, Software
The well known international beer, Becks, have recently run a contest in the UK to find a set of new artistic designs for their beer bottles. We’ve got an exclusive preview of the winning bottle designs, which you can pass your eye over as a designer to let us know what you think.
The designs have been put together by students at the Royal College of Art and Design, in London. Whilst it’s a big step away from what we consider to be ‘contemporary design’ online, it does capture the essence of the UK and Britain to an extent – with an abstract twist.
Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of very abstract artwork, but I think these could prove to be an interesting talking point – and a great stepping stone for the new artists (such as Tom Price, below):
It showcases the vast differences between product design and website design. However, the idea of using contemporary thinking and new talent to re-design a corporate brand is a great one, and something that could move across equally well to online design.
What are your thoughts?July 17th, 2008 Posted in Articles
This is a short interview with one of the minds behind the new stock photography startup – Cutcaster. It’s a great insight into some of the thinking behind a site such as this, as both a business concept and a well designed web application.
Cutcaster offers unique royalty free images, stock photos, stock footage and stock photography for advertising, publishing or web design. We have combined a Flickr-type community with a Getty-type licensing model but turned the old licensing model on its head. In my old job trading stock on Wall st. I saw what electronic markets and cutting out the middleman did to our markets and I applied those efficient market elements to what I saw as an outdated licensing model.
We are the first licensing platform to let people set their prices for a high resolution file, use a patent pending algorithm to help them find the correct market price or let buyers buy ala carte, on demand or bid on content they want so they can name their price or licensing terms directly with a seller. That seller has the option to accept, reject or re-submit a new offer back to that interested buyer. We also offer buyers a way to request custom content from the community of Cutcaster members through our ProjectRequest area. Cutcaster is an open platform and anyone can join, learn and participate in the community and marketplace.
The site has been researched and developed over the last 3 years but we launched our Cutcaster beta site in April of this year. We are a very new service but have been growing extremely fast. I left my trading job on Wall st. in January of this year to focus on Cutcaster full-time as the demand and time commitment became too much to try to do with two jobs.
I am proud of how easy our site is to use but I am very proud of our negotiation platform called My Marketplace, which allows buyers and sellers to seamlessly negotiate on pricing and licensing terms much like a stock exchange. Sellers can now get hard data on how to price their content and where demand lies for their work. Buyers can directly buy or bid for content which allows them to name their price or buy extended rights like exclusivity over a certain time period or geographic region. The platform is simple to understand, easy to use and the negotiations happen very quickly between buyers and sellers.
I also really like the layout of our media details page which clearly lays out the details surrounding any media file uploaded to the site and is set up to allow users to easily interact with the different features of the site like immediately buying, bidding for content, adding content to lightboxes (we call them clipfolders at Cutcaster), reporting copyright infringements, downloading comps to show clients, requesting different file sizes and the ability to virally send your work to multiple networks to get more traffic and sales. Here is an example of one of the media detail pages, http://www.cutcaster.com/viewmedia/view/100027215/Photo.
Almost all websites contain some sort of copyright notice in their footer (e.g. Copyright © 2008 Apple Inc. All rights reserved.). But what’s the best way to do this? We’re going to take you through the requirements for your copyright notice, and a nifty JS (or PHP) trick for ensuring that your copyright year is always up to date.
The humble copyright notice is always useful to show in the footer, as a way of stating your claim over a site. Interestingly, however, it is not required for you to have copyright over the graphics, content and artwork of your site. This comes into place as soon as you’ve created the content and placed it in the public domain. Placing a copyright notice is still advisable to deter potential plagiarists and stake your claim. The generally accepted format is:
Copyright © 2008 Design Shack
There are a couple of points to make:
If you have specific requirements for how people can use certain content of your site, using a Creative Commons License would be advised. This allows you to select how content can be used in a more official and controlled manner.
When creating a website, it can be incredibly tempting to simply drop in the basic requirements, and not think too heavily about future proofing your site. One of the most telling signs that a site isn’t regularly updated is an out of date copyright year. This can be very easily made automatic, through the use of a simple piece of PHP or JS code:
Stick with one of these methods, and you’ll never be kicking yourself in February again for not updating the copyright year!July 8th, 2008 Posted in Articles, HTML
Thanks to all of you who entered the contest! We have randomly picked out the four lucky winners and contacted them today. They include:
Thanks again to UK2 for sponsoring the contest. Updates may be a little slow for the next week or two as we’re on holiday (but don’t worry, you will still be treated to a couple of great new CSS designs every day!). Everything will be back to normal soon with some great new articles scheduled.June 24th, 2008 Posted in Competitions
Since it’s first release in November 2004, Firefox has come a phenomenally long way. Market share has sky rocketed, and a huge community has built up offering extensions and add on software. The third incarnation of Firefox offers something for web developers as well as users, continuing along their previous path of adhering to web standards and supporting the latest technologies.
This article will outline how important it is that your site is suitable for Firefox users, and explain the new features which the browser makes available to designers.
The following chart shows the percentage of users visiting Design Shack from various browsers. It is plain to see the importance of the site displaying correctly in Firefox and offering a great browsing experience to users of that browser:
June 18th, 2008 Posted in Articles, Software