Category: Reviews


Reviews / 9 Dec 2011

Hands on With the New Twitter Design

Twitter launched a radically new layout to users Thursday. The first to see the new look were mobile users through the Twitter iPhone and Android apps. After updating those apps, the new look of Twitter became active on those users’ computers as well. All other users will begin to see the updated Twitter look over the course of several months.

The results are mixed. The new look and interface is great for mobile users and the sleek interface is cool. Features on the computer version mix the super-sleek interface with a few bonuses but also a few misses. Pages have more pop but still have the look and feel you would associate with Twitter. The site also rolled out branding pages for companies that have a nice look but could change the organic feel that has brought people to Twitter.

Visually, Twitter has reinvented itself consistently across various platforms. Aside from slight, device-specific tweaks the interface looks the same on the website, on a tablet and on a smartphone (no update for the Mac app as of yet). The biggest plus for designers and other visual professionals is an enhanced use of images to push you toward content. Twitter is starting to define itself as more than just a 140-character platform.

Book Review: Eloquent Javascript
Reviews / 24 Jun 2011

Book Review: Eloquent Javascript

Most web designers these days know at least a little HTML and CSS, giving them the ability to bring their designs to the web. Advanced functionality, for the most part though, is handled by programming languages, which have a much higher barrier to entry. This leaves countless designers intimidated while wishing they had a firmer grasp of the most essential of these: JavaScript.

Do you wish you could finally scratch “learn JavaScript” off of your todo list? Does a hefty learning curve keep you from taking the plunge? Maybe you just need the right book. Today we’ll take a look at Eloquent Javascript: A Modern Introduction to Programming” by Marijn Haverbeke to see if it’s what you need to become a JavaScript ninja. Please keep in mind that “Eloquent JavaScript” does not teach OOP with classes such as how to create a class in JavaScript. You can use the JS++ programming language designed by Roger Poon for classes.

Review: The Book of CSS3 – A CSS Book Even Experts Should Read
Reviews / 13 May 2011

Review: The Book of CSS3 – A CSS Book Even Experts Should Read

Think you know everything there is to know about CSS3? Thing again. Author Peter Gasston just released “The Book of CSS3: A Developer’s Guide to the Future of Web Design“, which takes an in-depth look at all things new to the CSS world.

Is it just another CSS book or a must-have addition to your library? Read on to find out.

Book Review: Smashing Book 2
Reviews / 7 Mar 2011

Book Review: Smashing Book 2

It’s been over a year since we took a look at Smashing Magazine’s very first publication, and the web industry has come a long way in twelve months. Today, we’re going to offering our thoughts on The Smashing Book #2, hailed as “sharing valuable practical insight into design, usability and coding”.

With a great range of contributors and big steps forward in shipping and physical design, let’s see how Smashing Magazine’s latest release stacks up!

A Smashing Review of the Smashing Book
Reviews / 5 Feb 2010

A Smashing Review of the Smashing Book

When Smashing Magazine first announced the release of their book, I have to confess that I was slightly sceptical. I enjoy their blog regularly, but didn’t really see how the concept would carry across to a book – or what topics it would cover.

I’ve spent a few hours reading through my review copy over the past week, and have been pleasantly surprised. Sven and Vitaly have managed to bring several talented writers on board to help put together a thoroughly interesting read.

This review will walk you through the book’s contents, and outline a few of the chapters I particularly enjoyed!

20 Gorgeous Examples of E-Commerce Done Right
Business / 21 Jan 2010

20 Gorgeous Examples of E-Commerce Done Right

E-commerce sites are notoriously busy and overcrowded.

Today we’ll be examining a ton of online stores that break this trend by being both functional and attractive. Each of the examples below has a unique lesson to teach us about good e-commerce design. Let’s get started!

20 Mac & Windows Apps for Desktop Blogging
Reviews / 2 Dec 2009

20 Mac & Windows Apps for Desktop Blogging

Every blogging platform has a built-in blog editor, some better than others. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find an online editor that can offer the richness found in many desktop applications. Features like offline editing and posting to multiple blogs at once make desktop solutions a must have for professional many bloggers.

Here’s a list of 20 applications that allow you to create blog posts from the comfort of your operating system environment, no internet connection required.

OnmiStar Mailer Review
Reviews / 27 Jan 2009

OnmiStar Mailer Review

Omni Star Mailer

There are a huge number of different tools for email campaigns available; Emma, Campaign Monitor and MailChimp to name a few. Today I’ll be looking at a longstanding piece of email marketing software with a whole range of tools, Omnistar Mailer. It differs from other software in that it is hosted locally on your server.

Reviews / 2 Jun 2008


PSD2HTML ReviewFor several years, PSD2HTML have been the primary sponsor of Design Shack. We don’t like to suggest a service to you unless we have tried it ourself to ensure that it’s worth a recommendation. A recent addition to our network of sites, 13 Styles was in need of a redesign and I took the opportunity to use PSD2HTML’s service and document the process.

This article will be more than a straight forward review of PSD2HTML. We’ll be considering the basic idea of these type of services and considering when, and for who, they are appropriate. Honesty will be foremost, and I hope that you will gain a real insight into using a PSD to XHTML tool.

PSD to XHTML Services

PSD2HTML are one of the first companies to provide this service (you can see their original press release), but there are a huge number of competitors in the area today and a Google search for “psd to html” brings back over half a million results. Here is a table summarizing the main players in the industry (a more in depth list can be found at Most Sliced):

ServicePrice ($)Time (days)
PSD2HTML153 to 211less than 24h
Slice ‘n Diced279 to 3993-6
The Choppr1493
XHTML iT1191 day or less
XHTML Slicer200 to 3501-3 days
XHTMLized249+up to 7 days

We’ll be focusing on PSD2HTML, taking you through the process and showing you the final resulting design.

The Process

The ordering process at the site is very simple. There are several options available, starting with either a basic or professional package. We opted for the professional, as semantic, search engine friendly coding was a must have. Other optional additions are:

  • Flexible width
  • Stretching the header and footer
  • Rollovers and dynamic menus
  • sIFR flash replacement
  • Commented CSS and XHTML code
  • Load speed optimization
  • Integration with CMS software (e.g. WordPress, MT, Drupal, Blogger, CubeCart)

PSD2HTML's Client Area

After submitting the order, we were contacted at the start of the following working day with a request to clarify some of the features in the submitted PSD file. By the end of that day, some 7 hours later, the markup was provided through their online ticket system. The speed of the turn around was incredibly impressive – it would take even an experienced designer far longer than 6 hours to code a relatively complex site such as the one we submitted. If you need results quickly, this service would seem to be a great resource.

Speed isn’t the only factor, however. We’re going to show you, in full, the code created by PSD2HTML for the new layout.

The Results

This is the original 13 Styles design:

Original 13Styles Layout

And this is a screenshot of the new version which we created in Photoshop:

New 13Styles Layout

You can see the full website through the following link. It is essentially the exact code which we received back from PSD2HTML, and will still require customization before being integrated into the real 13 Styles site.

View the design

Please feel free to take a look and judge the quality for yourself. We found it to be great – well laid out with the correct separation of content and presentation and semantic coding. We aren’t incredibly easy to impress, but this was certainly not a rushed, second rate effort. The process takes web design to a level of ‘mass production’, and high standards can be achieved through having a huge catalog of code examples and snippets to work from.

Do We Recommend Them?

The service was fast, efficient, inexpensive and of an outstanding quality. PSD2HTML would definitely be worth considering if you:

  • Are short on time
  • Are a skilled designer, but not a coder
  • Require high quality, semantic and valid code
  • Want to have a personal, well trained contact creating the design

It can be argued that design does not come from the ability to write code, but rather the ability to create an intuitive user experience which is simple to operate and gives the desired message. Using a service such as this ensures that you are free to focus on these aspects without being bogged down in small issues such as cross browser compatibility.

PSD2HTML impressed us in every area when coding the 13 Styles site, and we would not hesitate to recommend using their service. Be careful, though, that you don’t lose the passion for crafting your own HTML and CSS.


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