Six Random Moments Of “Aha!” In Web Design

Aha In Web Design

We thought we’d share a few silly little tricks or ideas that solve a lot of problems in a small amount of time, or just look knock-out cool for very little effort…

#1. Using a “position:relative;” div tag on the outside of a “position:absolute;” See, normally, the ‘absolute’ attribute in CSS makes the element stay stuck to a spot on the web page as if it were nailed there. And that happens no matter how many nested floating divs you stick it in. Until you make the div just outside of that one say “position:relative;”, then your absolute element finally says “Ooooh, so THAT’S what they want me to do!”

#2. Git cures cancer. We’re talking about the distributed version control system software. It isn’t just for kernel developers; it’s great for any code project anywhere by anyone. It isn’t even just for teams; learning and using Git will help just one developer stay organized and focused. That’s because it has the ‘branch’ and ‘checkout’ features, so it acts like a nice code maid and handles the mundane tasks of patching your source code for you.

#3. CSS animations, shadows, and gradients. Used sparingly, they’re a little dash of panache in the otherwise dull sea of whitespace and text. Don’t let the fact that too many design majors overuse it stop you from appreciating when it’s tastefully used.

Continue Reading

7 Successful Business Blogging Tips for Boosting Brand Visibility

Blogging Tips

Blogging, especially business blogging, is the in thing these days; just about every business with an online presence is into it. It’s something that everybody is doing, and why not, after all a blog not only brings to a website an added sense of credibility, but also improves the brand awareness of your business and its products and services.

But, it must be remembered that blogging just for the heck of it, and because everybody is doing it, doesn’t work. It must be purposeful in order to succeed. To make you job a little easier, you need to keep a few business blogging tips in mind, to ensure that your blog is successful.

Let’s take a look at the various facets of a successful business blog.

1.    Identification of blog purpose

Blogging-vs-Threaded-Discussions-in-Online-CoursesYou will first need to zero in on the purpose of your blog. There are some blogs that offer ancillary information about the products and services being offered on the business’s website. Then there are others that are doing a bit of hard-selling where their sole purpose is to market the products and services sold by the business. And there are others still that act as problem solvers, where they target the problems experienced by the audience of a particular niche. So, if it’s a company offering web design services, the blog can be about the various problems experienced by web designers during the course of designing a website and offering solutions for the same.

2.    Figure out your Audience

Who is your blog’s audience? That is the essential question that needs to be answered. Who is going to read your blog – Is it your existing customers, your potential customers or both?  Which is the demographic that your audience belongs to, their age group, gender, profession? What are their interests and preferences? The answers to these questions will help you write blog posts that are in perfect sync with what your target audience expects from your blog.

Continue Reading

OldSchool Aesthetics That We Miss


Even though we’re very progressive about web design, sometimes we do look back and have to admit that we kind of miss some of those outdated bits of online culture. Here’s a little list for those of you who want to wallow in nostalgia with us:

GopherGopher was one of the old Internet protocols before the WWW. It imposed a much stricter hierarchy on content, which had to be placed in folders and indexed with a text menu. It only lasted from 1991 to 1993. here is a list of still-functioning Gopher servers – amongst others, Firefox has a Gopher protocol. And here is an Ars Technica writeup on what the Gopher-heads are up to now.

Continue Reading

Web Design – Amazing Things in SVG

Web Design

It’s good to keep your thumb on the pulse of some web design aspects, even if you don’t use it directly yet. The World Wide Web is far away from an SVG standard… but maybe some day it will come true. When it does, we’re thinking of the possibilities…First off, here’s an SVG editor at Right out of the blue, if you couldn’t edit SVG before, you can now, for free. Speaking of free, for desktop SVG editors you can’t beat Inkscape, one of the best SVG editors out there, for any price.Here’s a jigsaw puzzle done with SVG and JQuery. Check the code, it’s remarkably simple to implement. Ajaxian finds many more SVG demos in the SVG category.

An amazing charts demo, done without canvas! It’s live (try editing the code in options), has dozens of different features and modes, and we find it to be snappy-responsive, even on a battered old laptop.

A bit old, but if you haven’t seen it yet, SVG Tetris.

SVGWow has many SVG demos, including this colorful bokeh effect.

Finally, here’s a paper on SVG vs. Canvas on Trivial Drawing Application. Along the way, it sets up demos and links to them, going concept by concept, and explains the code to do so. A must-see for tutorial purposes.

Continue Reading

Why Aren’t There More YouTubes?


Web start-up guru Paul Graham recently talked about Why There Aren’t More Googles. The basic gist of it is that venture capitalists tend to be too conservative, investing in businesses that are based on already established revenue models. Nobody wants to bet on the new horse. But the most innovative start-ups are the ones that end up raking in a fortune!

But when most people think of the fairy-tale dream start-up story, they think of YouTube. Founded in February of 2005, sold to Google in November of 2006 for $1.65 billion USD. Start your site, and twenty-one months later, you’re a millionaire. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The difference is, it takes an innovative, forward-thinking company to recognize and acquire an innovative start-up. Google itself was an overnight success story, pushed through to greatness mostly by the sheer stubbornness of its founders. Having run that gauntlet themselves, they know how to recognize a good idea headed by a tough entrepreneur. This is a skill that Old Guard companies like Microsoft fail to grasp – so much so that bloggers all over the web are asking whether Microsoft is doomed, and has prompted Paul Graham himself to pronounce Microsoft dead.

Microsoft… dead. Imagine what a huge gap that would leave. Like the huge multinational banks in the United States which are getting bailed out during their economic turmoil, Microsoft seems almost too big to fail. If they did, there would not be another Microsoft. Their niche instead would rapidly be filled with the New Guard: smart, innovative, small companies that think fast and take risks… and know how to cooperate with the competition!

Continue Reading

Will a Myst Revival Happen Online?


The original Myst was one controversial game. It broke ray-traced 3D graphics into the mainstream, became the reason for people to buy CD-ROMs when they first came out, and completely broke every expectation that people had about video games. To this day, the Myst series remains the ultimate accomplishment of creating an absorbing, immersive virtual world. But half the gamers out there today still say they hate it.

Now Cyan has announced their plans to open-source Myst-Online. This is becoming a cliche for projects that take too long to finish and lose momentum. Sometimes it’s the project’s salvation; getting the community involved and letting users take part in the process of shaping it takes care of those blind spots that the company missed, when they didn’t know what the users wanted. Sometimes it’s also the kiss of death; open source projects are harder to monetize and tend to die off after giving birth to their own successor.

3D gaming remains out of reach for the web. The best you can hope for is pre-rendered ray-traced scenes; a 3D first-person shooter even on the level of Half-Life just isn’t doable from a web browser. Even our best Flash, AJAX, and Java technology seems to be incapable of doing more than puzzle games and flat-map games. And before anybody says ‘Second Life‘ or ‘Spore’ – that’s running on your PC, with a web connection to a server, same as any MMORPG. And it doesn’t have near the polygons.

We have to wait for computers to get more powerful, but whoops, right at the peak time for the market, computers are slimming down, into notebooks and UMPCs. So when, if ever?

Continue Reading

Will We Even Invent a Spam-Proof Communications Technology?

Spam-Proof Communications

Just in case you needed a reminder that the good times never last, there’s a Twitter spammer tool out there now. Like so many of these cases, it’s one person making the software, then dozens of gullible fools buy the software and believe that they can make money by spamming the world.

People always ask, “How do these idiots make money?” There’s your answer: they don’t. They pay money. At the end of the chain, perhaps all of the spam that has ever been sent in the history of mankind has only made one, single person any profit: the guy who made the spamming tools and sold them to a few suckers.

Anyway, look for trouble on the Twitter front. Which means more interoperability for malware and worms, which should be all over this like ants on a sugar cube soon. Bots – even the ones who infect PCs – have traditionally used IRC to communicate in a network and collect orders, but now they might have Twitter available, too.

Continue Reading

Webcomics That Web Designers Will Appreciate


Thank Heavens for web comics! Before them, comics were doomed to die a horrible death in the newspapers, where 75-year-old franchise-zombies hold on forever, getting moldier every year.

The web saved comics, end-of-story. For the web designer and developer audience, here are the essential web comics:

  • comic-lifeXKCD – The webcomic that made webcomics famous. Also spawned 1000 stick-figure comic imitators. Which is silly, because the point of XKCD isn’t the drawing, but the brilliant scientist creator who thinks up those impossibly geeky jokes!
  • Dilbert – The only newspaper comic to survive its time in print to be reborn online as fresh as ever. It helps that creator Scott Adams is still alive and well, unlike the creators of the franchise-zombies.
  • Penny Arcade – Well, sometimes you have to take a break and not think about work! This comic is focused entirely on gaming and video game culture. It’s what web designers do in their off time anyway.
  • User-Friendly – Founded in 1997! It can be said to be the oldest surviving web comic, and from day one it was about tech, geeks, “hackers” (it meant something else in the old days!) and development.
  • Doomed to Obscurity – A new up-and-comer, but definitely worth watching. It’s been called both a modern successor to User-Friendly and “Dilbert without the dog,” but its humor is blaringly original, while having a focus sort of like the above four comics combined!



Continue Reading

Ideas For Money On The Side In Web Design

Money Side In Web Design

If you work for a web design firm, you might have to sign no-compete agreements (depending on the laws in your area) saying you won’t work for clients in your off-time. However, web design is a big field, and touches a lot of side enterprises. Here are some ways you can put your extra tech-savvy skill points to work doing a little moonlighting:

  • Blogging – So obvious we almost don’t have to say. Most every web designer has a blog or social media account of some kind. Toss in some ads, and you’ve got a little side money.
  • Facebook apps – Fun little side boxes you can make in Flash, AJAX, and Javascript. Can be useful or fun – most are trivial, and if it’s popular enough you can sell memberships and or licenses for revenue.
  • iPhone apps – No doubt you’re heard of some of the top-selling applications for the iPhone. Apple lets you set up a store and sell these at the iPhone apps store.
  • Twitter backgrounds – Twitter has given rise to a new cottage industry in making backgrounds for Twitter home pages. Many sites give away backgrounds, a few sell them or make them to order for a fee.


Continue Reading

Web Design Tips – The Five Web Page Ads That Users Can’t Stand

Web Page Ads
Of course, we all want to make money on the web. Our web design clients especially.
And most users – even the ones who never click anything – understand that. In the polls we’ve seen of the average website visitor, most say they don’t mind ads as long as they don’t interfere with the browsing experience. Oh, but those others! Here’s five advertising designs not to use:
  • advertisingPop-ups – Doable with a simple JavaScript ‘alert’ function, pop-ups are the oldest hated ad on the web. Almost obsolete since most browsers can be configured to not display them anyway.
  • Talking ads – Like the ‘smiley’ one you see that whistles and yells for attention. Users hate these, and they might also get fired for browsing the web at work when their web browser suddenly starts chattering and they forget they have the sound up.
  • Expanding banners – The corner kind are OK, since they are easy to recognize and don’t intrude onto the main parts of the page. But when you have the flat kind that drop down over the web page like a curtain, it’s irritating.
  • Floating boxes – These are the Javascript dealies that have replaced pop-ups. Browsers can’t block them without turning off Javascript completely. A Javascript box that coasts in after a minute and hovers in the center of the page with no visible way to turn it off just drives the user somewhere else.
  • Misleading linked text. – This could be not-so-annoying, if only the link went somewhere that had something to do with the article. An adlink going to a swimsuit site in the middle of an article about hamsters, however, is pushing it.



Continue Reading

An Easy Target For Ridicule

Target For Ridicule

One of the favorite sports of web designers, apparently, is to point out websites with poor designs and ridicule them.

One blogger recently posted a mockery of the corporate website for McDonald’s.

Ho ho ho! What a lame site!

Hold on, here. Why should a fast-food restaurant chain even care about its web image?

I mean, are you going to order a Big Mac online? Truly, many of the most famous brand names in the food industry have sub-par websites. In the case of McDonald’s, they’d sell just as many Happy Meals if the Internet never existed. They already have TV, radio, and print media saturated.

Here’s some other examples we found:

  • Burger King – No apparent marketing to customers at all. You get a very plain world map and when you navigate to a country, you get “franchise opportunities”, “careers”, and “management team”.
  • Dairy Queen – A pretty showy site, with Flash animations and lots of stuff to see and do. Still you almost have to wonder “why am I here?”
  • Domino’s Pizza – Now we’re talking! At least with a restaurant that delivers to your home, their web strategy makes sense. You should try ordering a pizza online some time; you feel just like you’re living in the 21st century.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – Not as bad as McDonald’s, but still pretty blah. You could have phoned this in with DreamWeaver and an out-sourced Flash team.
  • Starbuck’s – Only a sliver better than McDonald’s site; off-putting color scheme, fixed-width, and badly organized links with bits of text here and there. Even though they’re another fast-ffod type enterprise, you’d think they would try to be more appealing, since their demographic ties in so well with the laptop and smartphone crowd.



Continue Reading

Ways to Promote Your Website That You’ve Probably Never Thought Of

Promote Your Website

#1 – Have a Flash game. Adobe Flash is becoming increasingly easy to work with, and if you don’t want to shell out the big money for Adobe’s development suite, there’s even free open source Flash-building tools out there you can use – SWFTools, for instance. Flash games are easier than you’d think; you can just get a template for an established genre of game and customize it with your own graphics. Then submit it to Flash gaming sites, with a link back to your web business.

#2 – Make a Google gadget. Google has opened their gadget platform to the public, and even has a simple kit to get started. You can always compose a feed for your blog, a photo stream for your images, or a simple service like a calendar or a horoscope. Then your gadget can get published and be hosted on blogs, desktops, and user’s iGoogle pages.

Continue Reading