Archive for December, 2008

A – Z of Web Design

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

An alphabetical list of all the best resources, galleries, tools and other sites relating to web design.  It was quite a challenge to choose representatives for some of the letters.  Who do you think should have made the list?  Post your suggestions in the comments.

A is for

For people who make websites.  A List Apart Magazine explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.

The articles on A List Apart are a must read for any web designer whether they be beginner or expert.  A number of skilled writers contribute articles on all things web design and the web culture, with useful tutorials being published regularly.

B is for

A podcast for those who design, develop or run websites. Hosted by Paul Boag, the Boagworld podcast is a fantastic weekly resource for web designers and developers, commenting on the latest issues affecting the web world.  I had the pleasure of asking Paul about using Twitter a few days ago.

C is for

A variety of CSS tips are available at CSS-Tricks, where Chris Coyier shares his wisdom with a mountain of CSS and other web development posts to make our lives so much easier.  I also got to chat to Chris about his views on Twitter.

D is for

Down at the Design Shack you can find a whole host of tutorials, website galleries, jobs and design chat, a great resource for any budding designers.

E is for

Designer, writer, speaker and sometimes musician, Elliot Jay Stocks, has a range of inspirational work in his portfolio.  Well worth checking out to see where you should to be aiming.

F is for

I can honestly say there is not a more useful Firefox addon for web designers than Firebug.  This little tool allows you to edit CSS, Javascript and HTML in your browser in real time.  Such a time saver rather than continuously uploading your changes and hitting refresh again and again.

G is for

You can’t possibly expect to keep your site on tip top form if you just design your sites, upload them and leave it like that.  You need to be monitoring your stats constantly, seeing where your visitors are coming from, why you get spikes of traffic and watching your clickthrough rates.  Google Analytics is one of the best applications out there for monitoring your sites and is so easy to start using.

H is for

While I am not a strict enforcer of having a 100% correctly valid HTML site and I loath those little ticky buttons saying valid HTML, it’s still incredibly important to understand why your site is not valid if it fails this test.  There’s an interesting debate going on over at Lee Munroe’s blog about the topic of validation.

I is for

I Love Typography was born from a desire to bring the subject of Typography to the masses” and it works!  Typography is a subject I am really interested in, but I will be the first to admit I don’t spend enough time when choosing a font.  This site is a great resource to find out more about Typography, which should be a top priority for web designers.

J is for

If you are into your Javascript then you have most likely at least played with jQuery.

jQuery is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. jQuery is designed to change the way that you write JavaScript.

K is for

An amazing colour theme generator, where you can choose from thousands of colour schemes created by the Kuler community or use an image to generate an entirely original one.  Colour harmony is a major part of designing any website and needs to be thought about carefully.  Honestly there are so many advantages to this application you just need to check it out!

L is for

If you are looking for some identity inspiration then head on over to Logo Pond where thousands of beautiful logos are on display.  Remember copyright laws of course!  There’s a difference between getting inspired and blatant theft.

M is for

Want to know where the greatest web minds are cooking up the next exciting web projects?  Then head over to the Mozilla Labs.

A virtual lab where people come together to create, experiment, and play with new Web innovations and technologies.

N is for

There’s thousands of web design and development tutorial sites out there but few do it as well as NetTuts.

NETTUTS is a site aimed at web developers and designers offering tutorials and articles on technologies, skills and techniques to improve how you design and build websites. We cover HTML, CSS, Javascript, CMS’s, PHP and Ruby on Rails.

O is for

It’s very easy to get comfortable using one browser and stick with that for life.  I’m as guilty of that as anybody but it’s really important to check your site out in all other browsers available.  Opera offers a whole heap of hidden goodies including mouse gestures and is a major player in the mobile browser industry.

P is for

Sister site of NetTuts and is just as useful.  PSDTuts is a fantastic resource for beginners to experts in Photoshop with great tutorials being published regularly.

Q is for

While there wasn’t much competition in the Q department, Quirksmode is a clear winner with its list of CSS and Javascript tips and tricks, defeating many browser incompatibility issues.

R is for

Like Gardeners Question Time, but for geeks.

Run by John Oxton and Jon Hicks, The Rissington Podcast is a really funny podcast for, eh, geeks of course!  A must for all web designers or spies trying to worm their way seamlessly into the web geek community. To be honest, I’m listening to it right now as I write this. :)

S is for

What isn’t there on Smashing Magazine? It’s got design articles, tutorials, freebies, everything!  Has to be in your bookmarks if you’re looking for the latest web design goodies.  I got to chat to SM in my series of Twitter interviews also.

T is for

Think Vitamin is an online magazine for web designers, where you can view a variety of articles and video interviews to help you on your merry way to becoming an inspired professional in the web industry.

U is for

A CSS gallery which offers a cash prize for the most uniquely CSS designed site every month.  Seven finalists are selected to be featured on the homepage and the winner gets $25 and a month‘s worth of bragging rights.

V is for

A fantastc blog from a talented graphic and web designer, where Veerle takes us through a variety of XHTML/CSS and graphic design tips among other things.  Definitely the only representative for the letter V!

W is for

If you are designing a blog and aren’t using WordPress, you must have a good reason.  Unless it’s for a huge company who can afford their own CMS, you should be considering using this open source godsend.  There is an unending list of plugins to make your blog all shiny and lovely and it’s so easy to create your own theme in no time.

X is for

Come on, you need to be using XHTML people. :)

Y is for

The Yahoo! Developer Network offers Web Services and APIs that make it easy for developers to build applications and mashups.  Definitely worth checking out if you are experimenting with web apps in any way.

Z is for

Last but not least, CSS Zen Garden should be one of your top resources for CSS inspiration.  If you want to see the full power of Cascading Style Sheets then head on down to the Zen Garden to see the same HTML creatively styled in thousands of different ways.

Of course it would not be fair to limit this list to letters and leave out the numbers, so here is the representative for all the number sites.

24 Ways

What better way to celebrate the Festive season than with a daily blog on some web goodness?

24 ways is the advent calendar for web geeks. Each day throughout December we publish a daily dose of web design and development goodness to bring you all a little Christmas cheer.

Fin

Well that’s it for the A to Z of Web Design!  What resources do you think should have made the list and become the representative of a certain letter?

The Ultimate Mac vs PC

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

There’s a lot of ‘Mac vs PC’ videos floating about these days, however this one has to be the best out there for sure.

How do you Twitter: Smashing Magazine?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Every day for the next week or so I will be interviewing a variety of marketers, advertisers, bloggers, SEO consultants, businesses, artists and Internet gurus on the latest micro blogging sensation to hit the interwebs, Twitter.

Popular website Smashing Magazine holds various treasures for all web designers including tutorials, design articles and loads of freebies. Vitaly Friedman, the man with his finger on the button at SM, was good enough to answer a few questions about how the huge website uses Twitter.


When did you first set foot into the Twitter world?


I think it was the beginning of August or something. We were aware of various lifestreaming applications for a couple of months and we just decided to try it out and see how it works. To be honest, I was quite sceptical in the very beginning, because I missed the real-time chatting feature of Twitter – something I’ve got used to in Google Talk etc. But I got used to it. And we use Twitter almost every day now.


Do you think every business should consider using Twitter for self promotion and interaction with customers?


Well, I am not a person who believes that it is the technology that delivers success to a company. I think that business can perfectly exist and flourish without Twitter if they come up with some sound system for feedback management and support management. Twitter can help, of course, but it’s up to the business – the way they organize communication and the philosophy of the company.


You have gathered quite a large following on Twitter.  What advice would you give to other’s wishing to do the same?


First of all, our following is not that large. We use Twitter to keep the connection with our readers, to be able to just quickly ask their opinions, listen to their suggestions, spread some useful links and maybe help out.  Our readers are very important to us and we do the best we can to make sure that they feel comfortable with Smashing Magazine and that we meet their expectations.

So the advice is just: listen. Listen to what your audience has to say, and pay attention to their needs. If you don’t have an audience yet, just start discussions with people, build connections and relationships, share your knowledge and feel free to ask for help. The design community is great these days and I am sure that’s not a problem to build solid connections within months.


Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?


Maybe, but definitely not the way we do it now. The ubiquitous Web is coming, with mobile devices transmitting information about us every second. For instance, if you go to a concert, you won’t have to explicitly twitter about it – mobile devices will perfectly take care of it.


You follow a tiny number of people compared to your large following.  How do you decide who makes the cut?


Honestly speaking, we just can not afford following too many people.  We are overwhelmed with e-mails and it’s hard to focus on work if every second a new tweet appears. Still, we do follow some professionals just to know what’s going on in the industry, what are the needs of developers, what can be useful for our future posts.


How important are social media tools like Twitter to your business?


First of all, it’s an important tool to keep connected with our community. As I have written before, we use Twitter to find out how well we manage to meet our readers’ needs and what we can do to improve the quality of the magazine.


From your blog and Twitter posts, you clearly value your customers opinions and interact with them regularly.  Do you think this is a vital part to running a successful website like Smashing Magazine?


Absolutely! That was the reason we started twittering in the first place.


What was your first tweet? 10 points if it was ‘Checking out Twitter’ :) http://myfirsttweet.com


No :-P It was “New post on Smashing Magazine – Fervens: A Free WordPress Theme, http://tinyurl.com/5epr7c“, a release of one of our WordPress themes.


Are we losing our ‘real life’ social skills because of the increase in social media tools?


A tough one. No, not necessarily. It depends on the person who is using the technology. You see, we, humans, just love to blame technology for everything bad that happens to us – even if we are the cause of it. I am pretty sure that it’s up to every person to decide how important “real life” social skills are to him/to her.

Social media has made us more connected. I am pretty sure that without it we wouldn’t have this conversation, Paddy. It made it possible to communicate on a completely different level. And it made it possible for our friends and relatives to better capture our habits, our interests and – all in all – our regular life.

But one should not forget “real life” social skills, of course. For instance, sometimes I have social-free days when SM doesn’t twitter, doesn’t publish anything, when the computer remains turned off. That’s great times when you meet people, discussing important and unimportant things with them, enjoy the time passing by or gain knowledge by reading books and magazines. The one lesson I learned is that it’s really important to turn off sometimes. It helps a lot and it makes it possible to find new perspectives and gain new ideas – something you would probably never think of otherwise.


If you could only follow one person on Twitter, who would it be and why?


I don’t know, really. Let’s just hope that it will not come to that ;)

Thanks!

Thanks Vitaly! It was great to share a conversation with someone who runs such a successful website.  Make sure and follow @SmashingMag for the articles, freebies and design news.  Trust me, if you are a web designer, you need to be following these guys!

Tomorrow Tim ‘Emerging Technologies Master’ O’Reilly will be sharing his views on Twitter.

How do you Twitter: Andy Beal?

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Every day for the next week or so I will be interviewing a variety of marketers, advertisers, bloggers, SEO consultants, businesses, artists and Internet gurus on the latest micro blogging sensation to hit the interwebs, Twitter.

Today Internet marketing consultant, Andy Beal, gives us his opinions on Twitter and some pointers on how to use it to promote your brand.


Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?


I really do believe Twitter will be going strong in 5 years from now. Twitter has become a vital channel for quick, broadcasted messages. For me, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have access to Twitter.


What can a big name brand do to get the most out of Twitter?


If nothing else, a big brand can listen. Search.Twitter.com makes it easy for businesses to set up custom searches and then subscribe to an RSS feed. Why wouldn’t you want to know about an annoyed customer? Chances are, if they’re using Twitter, they also have a blog. Twitter gives you a chance to reach them and resolve the matter, before they hit “publish” on their blog.

That leads to the other important reason for brands to use Twitter–engaging their customers. Sure, you could have the official twitter.com/bigbrandhere account and reach out in an anonymous fashion–that’s a start. But, when you let your employees use Twitter to reach out on a personal basis, that’s when you start building a personal dialogue with your customers.


Can you fully trust a brand on Twitter?  You can never tell who is tweeting, it could be anyone from the CEO to an intern.


I agree, but it’s better than no contact at all. A corporate brand on Twitter only works if the account is used as a two-way dialogue with customers, employees, media, etc. Simply using Twitter as another channel to publish your press releases is not going to get things done.


Would you say it’s a requirement for any company to now be on Twitter or does it depend on their business?


It really does depend on your business. I would suggest setting up a corporate Twitter profile–I’ve been a victim of a brand-squatter and it was tough to get the account back. You may want to just “listen” to start with, but having that account means you can “break the glass in emergency.”  Of course, some businesses will likely never have a business reason to use Twitter. I don’t suspect sheep farmers will find many client conversations on Twitter. ;-)


Are we losing our ‘real life’ social skills because of the increase in social media tools?


Not at all. Twitter is becoming “real life” so I think the lines between the web and the outside world are blurring. If anything, I would say that Twitter is enabling us all to become more “social.” I know many shy people that have used Twitter as a means to come out of their shell.  The only real downside is the tendency to say “LOL” when some makes a joke in real life–something I’ve almost found myself saying. :-)


When people ask you ‘Where were you when Obama was elected’, will your answer be ‘On Twitter’?


No! In fact, I cut down my Twitter usage leading up to the elections. Why? Because people that were normally polite and fun, became rabid political banshees during the elections. Thankfully, I have four years of normalcy before having to go through that again.


You clearly don’t just follow anyone.  How do you decide who makes the cut?


Great question. Some people ask why I don’t follow all those that follow me. Well, I simply don’t know all of the 5,000+ people that follow me. As I get to know people, as they engage me in interesting conversations, I start to follow them.  In the meantime, I have Twitter set up to alert me to all “@andybeal” messages, so even if I don’t follow you, you can still reach me.


If you could only follow one person, who would it be and why?


My wife @govisithawaii she’s the only person that consistently makes me smile, challenges me, and shares my interests.


Anything else to say about Twitter?


Yeah, the 140 character limit can suck sometimes. 99% of my Tweets fit the limit, but it would be nice to occasionally have the extra characters.

Thanks!

Thanks Andy, definitely some great advice for brands wishing to fully utilize the power of twitter.  I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.

Tomorrow Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine will be giving us an insight into SM’s experience with Twitter.

How do you Twitter: Daily Blonde?

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Every day for the next week or so I will be interviewing a variety of marketers, advertisers, bloggers, SEO consultants, businesses, artists and Internet gurus on the latest micro blogging sensation to hit the interwebs, Twitter.

Today we get to hear the thoughts of TheDailyBlonde, the Blogger, Writer, Commentator on Bullcrap, Funny Girl, Single Mom to 5 Awesome Kiddos, Left Handed Polish Blonde who’s NEVER Growing Up!


Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?


Hard to tell…I’ll be 50 then. Will I still have my eyesight? That’s to be determined! I hope to Tweet for a long time!


Do you prefer the instant feedback and speed of twitter over blogging


No. I think they are both quite different. I’m a blog-aholic, it’s the writing that I love. Twittering is my social candy.


Are you frustrated or encouraged by the 140 character limit?


No. It’s keeps me in line.


What’s your thoughts on people who protect their updates?


Boo. Hiss. Protection is for those who don’t want to catch a disease. If you don’t want to be social or participate in social media, then just do something else.


How do you decide who to follow?


I try to follow everyone who follows me. I do read their “bio” though…I determine if they are a spammer or a real person. Not too hard to tell! I also don’t follow people who follow thousands and have no updates. It’s just plain strange. Everyone I follow is someone I want to exchange tweets with.


When people ask you ‘Where were you when Obama was elected’, will your answer be ‘On Twitter’?


Absolutely. I was on Twitter and giving a play by play on election results.


Are we losing our social skills because of the increase in social media tools?


No. We’re learning to communicate better…or at least I hope.


Who would you recommend following?


Well, if you need a dose of reality, follow me. Just don’t follow too closely. Mr. Handsome is the only one I allow that close. Seriously….hmmm…@Paddydonnelly@carissarogers, @fashiongrail, @avegagray, @sweetnote….oh my. There are so many. I love all of my followers. Just look at my list…great people!!!!


Do you remember what blogging was like before twitter?


Of course…I got a heck of a lot more of it done!!


Anything else to say about Twitter?


Yes, here’s what I have to say about Twitter: The only thing you haven’t ruined is my love life. Twitter has made me order pizza for the kids on nights I was to make a huge dinner. Twitter has kept me up way past my bedtime. Twitter has slowed me down in the areas of blogging, reading blogs and doing freelance writing. Basically, I should get paid by Twitter to be a full time entertainer because it consumes me. No idea why. It’s like falling in love with the guy you thought was just your friend. Hey…that happened to me.

Thanks!

It was great talking to you Cheryl!  Updates from The Daily Blonde are always entertaining so I would recommend you follow her for ‘a dose of reality’ and have a look at her blog. TheDailyBlonde also organises Twitter projects such as #oneword.  Check her out!

Check back tomorrow when I will be talking to Internet marketing consultant Andy Beal.