Spelunking into the World of Web Design

Good Web design, as subjective as it might be, is still just that, good. For this post, let’s forgo the intricate discussion about how Flash changed the world of web sites, or how Dreamweaver and GoLive made everyone with a pulse and a Mac an over-night web designer. Yeah, I said it, you know who you are. What does need to be addressed is what makes a web site not so much stand out from other sites, but what makes it stand out to you, the user.

Over the past 14 years as a designer I’ve joined (and survived) three start-ups, moved five times, and, hold on to your mouse, held over 35 different jobs. Most of those were in fact freelance or contract jobs. I spent the first six years of my career as a print designer, then in early 2000, I moved blissfully — spelunking’ly’  — into the world of web design. I can safely say that that seemingly eon ago metamorphosis changed my idea and opinion of what design was and can be.

Don’t worry my dear readers, this is not meant to be an online therapy session, far from it. I am not here to discuss what I ate for breakfast this morning, but more importantly, what font I used as a header this afternoon, or maybe what color I chose for a rollover at 2 AM.

Dive, but ask questions
Arguably, one of the most disruptive aspects of bad site design is clutter. This pertains to the not only the navigation, but also the body copy, header and any graphical elements on the page. First and foremost, the designer needs to firmly grasp the idea of hierarchy, then and only then will their site become whole, and with any luck, persuade Google to shine their heavenly beacon in your direction. Of course, most of us are bound to the real “end-user”, the client. The one who signs the checks, pays for rent, and allows us to purchase that shiny new 3G iPhone next week. If he or she wants blinking pink ants dancing around each of their navigation buttons, and wants to see every imaginable area of white space plastered with a Yahoo or Google ad, well sir, thy wish shall be done.

However, designers, don’t be fooled by your vast talents and knowledge of all things design. Never dismiss what should be your most loyal friend, the User Interface developer. The UI design for your site can make or break every aspect of your intensely toiled over design. You may have created the single most beautiful combination of color and font choice, but without a proper UI, you risk the user, with her credit card in hand, to dismiss your site, flicking her proverbial cyber-middle finger at you — closing your window.

To that end, those designers who think they can move the world without the most rudimentary knowledge of code and how it works — not to mention how it will impact your design — pack your up your laptops. Being a well-rounded designer does not consist solely of you mastering photo selection and grids, being able to discuss your design with a coder and how they both interact is paramount. Whether you are working with HTML, PHP, XML or a MySQL database, being able to talk intelligently with a front or back end developer about limitations and potential roadblocks, will not only save you time in the long run, but help you produce that much more robust and error free site. OK, no site is completely error free, but am man can dream.

The best sites, I humbly contest, are those that indeed, keep it simple. That idea was true in design school back in the early 90′s, and it still rings true today. From minimalistic sites like [ Craiglist ] and [ Apple ] to the robust [ CNN ] and [ Adobe ], they all have one thing in common: clean, simple, and best of all, legible content and a user-friendly layout. From soccer moms and CEO to teens and ex white house press secretaries, beyond all other needs and wants a site has to offer, they want to be able to find what they are looking for and get on with their double-clicking afternoons.

As reference, please visit: [ webdesignfromscratch ] It offers a wealth of knowledge about, albeit, mostly Web 2.0 remarks, it gives an informed direction of site design, both what can go right, and what can go very wrong.

Happy Spelunking!

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OS 10.6 is going to be called Snow Leopard.

It appears that the next version of Mac OS X is code-named “Snow Leopard,” and will indeed be Intel-only.
Following the rumors from TUAW’s original scoop about Mac OS X 10.6 being readied for shipment as soon as Macworld 2009 and being Intel-only.

Ars Technica is saying that it has been confirmed to them that TUAW’s details are true. Snow Leopard is currently on track to come out during next January’s MacWorld, and it will not contain major OS changes.

The release is heavily focused on performance and nailing down speed and stability. With Apple’s current (and future) focus on smaller, thinner, and more mobile devices, this move makes perfect sense.

Things like the MacBook Air, iPhone, iPod touch, and other mysterious devices that have yet to be announced need better performance for better battery life, and that’s definitely something Apple wants to excel at in the years to come.

Something else that may happen is that Apple may eventually wrap everything in Cocoa, meaning that things that are currently only Carbon accessible will not be usable.

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Lynx’s don’t like PowerPC…

[ TUAW ] is reporting that they’ve gotten some insider information that Apple will unveil OS 10.6 next Monday at the WWDC keynote. There is no reason to believe that this will be the leap that leopard took, but it will leave PPC behind in a sad, but long time in coming farewell.

According to the report, Apple’s upcoming OS will focus solely on “stability and security”, and it will be the first Apple OS that is not PowerPC compatible. The new OS is supposedly slated for a Jan 2009 release, and some rumors are calling it “Lynx” based on trademarks going back as far as 2003, so while Apple may be dropping PPC, they seem to be sticking to the cat naming thing.

Apple has also trademarked “Cougar”, but given the recent popularity of calling older, sexually agressive women cougars, one would hope they would stay from that name…

Personally, I would go with [ Liger ], except it seems that Jobs wants to wait for 10.8 for that one…

Many will likely mourn the passing of Power PCs, but given that many smaller developers are ignoring the intel-based platform, this will likely be the kick in the pants needed to get them moving in the proper directions.

Will you miss the PowerPC, or have you already moved on?

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at&t continues to prep for 3G iPhone release…

Today at&t announced a 20 percent increase to the typical download speeds across its 3G wireless network and a 50 percent increase to typical upload speeds.

The mobile operator and exclusive provider for Apple’s iPhone in the US said the upgrades are results of recent network enhancements, including the deployment of High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) technology across all existing 3G markets that is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Customers on the network should now achieved download speeds between 700 Kbps (kilobits per second) and 1.7 Mbps (megabits per second), up from 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps. Meanwhile, upload speeds should jump to the 500 Kbps – 1.2 Mbps range, up from 500 to 800 Kbps.

The announcement comes just days before Apple is expected to take the wraps off its version 2 iPhone which will use this 3G network.

at&t says its 3G mobile network is available in more than 275 major U.S. metropolitan areas, adding that later this month it will become the first U.S. carrier to have fully deployed High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology across its entire 3G network.

By year-end, the company plans to offer 3G service in nearly 350 major metropolitan U.S. areas.

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.mac becomes “mobile me”.. huh?

In a move that makes very little sense to this particular mac fanboy, Apple will be re-branding their very cool .mac service and begin calling it “mobile me”.

This is, of course, all rumor and conjecture, but given a lot of the buzz going on in the interwebs it seems likely.

Apple has bought a slew of .me domains, the soon-to-be-launched domain suffix for Montenegro that’s scheduled to go live on July 17th. Macworld UK spoke to Predrag Lesic, in charge of the Montenegro’s .me registry, and he thinks the domain will be an international hit.

Speculation around the web says Apple may be planning to re-brand its web service, .Mac, as Mobile Me. Daring Fireball points out that there is a new string inside one of iCal’s resource files hinting that .Mac will indeed be getting a new name, although it remains unknown what it will be.

These two facts go nicely together and it points to a whole new service coming through the .Mac gateway, hopefully it will integrate into the iPhone as well.  I just wish they would leave the name alone, or at least pick something that is not so “windowish”.

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Old meets new to create Awesome…

How many of us out there miss the original NES system… You can put your hands down, it was a rhetorical question. For many of us the original game systems (NES, Atari, Intellivision) take us back to a more innocent time when the world seemed a less scary place.

Of course, new technology reminds us of where we can go, and the potential for innovation that we have.. Even, the most minor of devices, can be sleek and cool …

So what happens when old meets new? Awesomeness is created … for instance, when you combine an NES controller and an Apple remote, you get something like this video :

It is a unique, and cool way to bring a bit of retro to your styling MacBook.  Want to make one of your own?

Here are the directions.. [ Apple NES Remote ]

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Are you ready? 3G iPhone is getting ready to launch!

After months and months of rumor, speculation, and rampant guessing, we finally have a launch date for the 3g iPhone.

Gizmodo, and others, are reporting that a June 9th launch date has been confirmed.  The new device will be announced at the keynote address at WWDC 2008 in San Francisco.  It will also be made available worldwide immediately following the launch, rather then at the end of the year, as was previously assumed.

There is speculation now, that the 3G iPhone will no longer have a fixed price point, at least in some countries, and that there will be new policies surrounding the sale of the iPhone.  Some countries will get variable pricing on new iPhones based on enticements to switch carriers. There’s no word on which countries will be subject to this pricing structure.

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