5 Blogs Beginning Web Designers Should Read

September 10, 2008 at 5:31 am (Websites) (, , , , , , , , )

Boagworld
Boagworld was one of the first blogs I started to follow when getting into web design. Paul Boag and Marcu Lillington host this podcast for all of those people who are working with websites on a daily basis. Most of the blogging content is directly related to the audio podcast they also offer. I personally listen to the podcast and then read any articles that I feel need some more attention. Always a fun time listening to them baner.
A list Apart
While A List Apart doesn’t have as frequent a posting schedule as some other blogs all of the information provided is invaluable. From more theoretical discussions on the effectivness of zebra striping for tables technical topics on CSS Sprites2 there is always something to be gained from reading an article on A List Apart.
CSS-Tricks
Run by Chris Coyier, CSS-Tricks is an awesome resource for all those starting to tackle CSS. I know that CSS can feel overwhelming at times so the tools found here are very helpful for those starting to tackle it. CSS-Tricks contains not only a blog but also forums and screencasts. The forums are a great place to get help with code and the screencasts can even remind veterans of some of the simple shortcuts they forgot. For a great intoduction to WordPress check out the screencasts on Designing for WordPress.
NETTUTS
Another one of the envato family of sites run by Sian and Collis Taed this site bring you great coding tutorials each day. Topics range all over the web language spectrum so while you may not be really interested in the new Ruby developments you can always take a look back through the content and find something to learn or relearn.
i love typography
To many web designers today ignore typography on the web. At the very least it is often an after thought. With some of the new browser developments waiting in the wings though the days of ignoring beautiful typograpy are coming to an end. I Love Typography is a blog entirely about fonts and beautiful typography. An absolute must for those designer who need to beef up their knowledge of typography in general. Without a good knowledge it is much harder to judge what is worth doing for the web.

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A.Viary Phoenix First Impressions

September 9, 2008 at 4:08 am (Reviews) (, , , , )

Jumping off themes in a recent post I was looking around for alternatives to the Adobe line of products. As I plan to switch to a Mac at home in the coming months I was also kinda looking for an alternative since I already have CS3 on my PC.

While was looking a friend of mine twittered asking me if I had tried out a.viary yet. He had sent me an invite to the private beta a few weeks ago and honestly I had totally forgotten about it. Well today was the day that I actually sat down and tried to use Pheonix which is supposed to be the image editing program akin to Photoshop.

To start with the interface is beautiful.

A.Viary Pheonix Interface

A.Viary Pheonix Interface

Right away I hit a bit of a snag. When taking the capture of the beautiful interface I found that Phoenix did not read the content of my clipboard. I wasn’t sure how to change the screenshot settings in XP to save a file to the desktop and after a quick search it didn’t appear that there was a way so I found a freeware screenshot app called MWSnap. With this little app installed I was really ready to use Phoenix.

I am currently in the process of moving this blog to a self hosted solution so I figured I could use Phoenix to build a few of the assest I would need to make that happen. I started with the header paper texture.

I found that Phoenix does not currently support native .PSD files so I couldn’t use the layered assest that I had ready from photoshop. I did have .jpg files as web ready templates so I decided to work with those and see what happened.

The canvas I had already created in Phoenix was to narrow so it prompted me with options. Did I want to resize the image I was importing or the canvas I was working on? I chose to resize the canvas and moved on with the work. Next I imported some torn paper edges that I could use to make the paper layer look torn. Finally I imported the paper texture that I would be using to make the header of the page. This final file was fairly large being a high rez paper texture and took quite a while to load into Phoenix. I assume that this is the fault of my web connection though not of the online software.  Now with all of the assets in place I can really get down to work.

The tools seemed basic enough, meaning my prior PS experience made it so that they just looked right to use. One of the big complaints I had early on was that the keyboard shortcuts I was used to for the most part just didn’t work. Some did like Ctrl + D did remove a selection but V did not bring up the move tool. Ctrl + did zoom in but Ctrl 0 did not fill the screen. This is just annoying either don’t have them or have them all. In between left me guessing if they would work or not. It was must more cumbersome to get around in the program without keyboard shortcuts. Anoter irritation is that I couldn’t figure out how to have more than one document open at a time. So I had to work on the header for the blog and then go back and work on the screenshots for this post.

There is an okay selection of preloaded brushes and I honestly don’t know if you can load your own brushes or not. I didn’t seem that way to me as I poked around the interface but I could have missed it.  Here is the header I cam up with from Phoenix. (It was actually lost since my internet connection went down).

Overall I would say that this shows some real promise. One only has to look at the featured images to see the power that A.Vairy has.  The site says that you can download this as an Adobe Air app but with some more searching on the forums I couldn’t actually find where or how to do this. Having a local copy running on .air would probably solve some of the speed issues as it would take out your intenet connection (mine actually failed part way through this tutorial). When this is actually available it will mean a big jump forward for the app.

I am really hoping that in the future this will start to work. I would love to get away from the expense of the Creative Suite and would even be happy to pay a monthly fee for an app that ws as powerful as photoshop so I could get all of the updates. I do need a copy to run on a desktop as I don’t always have an internet connection that is fast. So what will I do? Keep on checking back with A.viary to see if it really starts to catch up to Photoshop.

Many thanks to 3frain for the beta inviet to A.Viary. Check out his sites below:

www.futurevis.com

http://www.efrainm.com/Home/index.php

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Freelancers Make yourself Accessible

September 6, 2008 at 8:25 pm (Freelance, Misc) (, , , )

A number of my readers are freelancers. We are always trying to find ways to get more work in the door with the least amount of effort. Often for freelancers that means using email.

I would often much rather talk to a client via email than over the phone. It’s quick and I can fit it into my schedule when I have the time. Emails don’t have to interrupt you when you are in the middle of some ‘flow’ for a design.

Is email always the best for your clients though? I don’t really think so. I am sure we have all had a long email conversation over a few days that still really didn’t resolve a problem. Did just keeping the conversation to email really save you any time. Better yet did it make your customer happy?

Could that same conversation have been had in 10 or 15 minutes and then been done. Yes it make have taken you more time but would you have been able to finish the project faster therefore get money into your pocket faster. If the answer was yes then why didn’t you just pick up the phone?

I think that freelancers today rely too much on email and online forms of communication that are ineffective for our clients. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good ways to use online communication more effectively.

Right now, really as I write this post, I am using google chat in ‘guest’ mode with another freelancer for some development work. I don’t have this set up he does. I didn’t even know you could do this but is it effective? Hell yes. I am able to send links and respond in near real time to his questions while I do other things. This is way more effective for us than emailing back and forth a number of times. Think there is usually a dely in replying to emails (or we’d never get any work done) but if you blocked out time each day and told clients that you are online for chat if they need anything then you may server your clients better.

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Upgrade to CS4?

September 5, 2008 at 5:11 am (News) (, , , , , , , , )

So many of us have heard that Adobe has announced Sept. 23rd as the product launch date for CS4. I personally have been using DW CS4 since the private beta came out a few months ago and while I love it I still wonder if it is worth the expense of the upgrade to CS4.

Do we really need to spend the cash each time the Creative Suite is updated by Adobe? I’m not totally convinced that we do. Some releases of the software have been amazing (I think CS2 – CS3 was a huge jump) but some are not that great.

Now the suite we buy at work is used by both myself (web guy) and our print designer so the improvements are gauged by the two of us. The reality for me is that there are some cool improvements in DW CS4 but I think that I could be completely happy with Coda 1.5 as a coding tool.  Coda is only $99 USD so it’s a whole lot cheaper than CS4.

Ultimately I think that we have to be intelligent with our funds both for our workplace and as freelancers. I will evaluate all of the Creative Suite and see if the improvements are worth the upgrade cost. What are you going to do?

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Moving a WordPress Blog Part 2

September 4, 2008 at 5:04 am (News) (, )

So tonight was the time to really start the design of the blog. I logged back into the back end of wordpress only to notice that the build I was currently working on was not the current build. Sucks for me but ultimately better to find out now before I have any visual styling done (or any posts hosted over there).

With this new information I embarked on a quest to download WordPress 2.6.1. With that done I started to check out the documentation. To start I used FireFTP to download a local backup of all of the files on the WP blog I am working on.

The upgrade documentation also suggested a backup of the databases be done but since I have no posts on the site I figured I can skip this part.

With the download done all I really had to do was to follow the file handling instructions provided by wordpress and upload all of the files that need to be changed.

When I went back to the blog to log-in it did say that I need to upgrade my database and that it may take a while. Since I don’t currently have any posts over there it only took a few seconds.

That’s it for tonight. I have a wordpress blog upgraded to 2.6.1 and everything looks fine.

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