Friday, September 04, 2009

Smart Web Design for College Students

college web design

At first glance, it would seem that the audience most interested in web design that features slick slow-loading animations and large flashy graphics would be college students. After all, they are among the heaviest users of this medium and the most technically literate. However, a surprising insight was discovered when interviewing students regarding the features of their university web design:

" . . . students are deterred by long load times for sites with multi-media. That was the conclusion of Wesleyan University. In anticipating its own site redesign, Wesleyan began soliciting student feedback on a blog in February 2009. According to that blog, “students made a plea to minimize the use of different technologies such as Flash and JavaScript to help make the pages load at a maximum speed.” -Rethinking How Colleges Present Themselves on the Web, NY Times, August 20, 2009

It may well be that for most web sites that deliver content (not entertainment) the infatuation with slow-loading online visual "eye candy" is over. Clean visual presentations that help the user to get needed information as quickly s possible is the proven strategy for content driven web design.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Shrink PNG Web Design File Size

As a web designer, I love the PNG format for its loosless color rendition. 24bit PNG files are the perfect format for graphics that contain both an image and text. JPEG format tends to muddy text somewhat, but PNG keeps it crisp. The downside is that PNG files can be huge, That's still a no-no in web design! If you save PNG 24bit files in Photoshop, it will not give the maximum compression for the smallest possible file size. There is an online tool that will do a very nice job of optimizing your PNG files while still maintaining visual quality: http://www.gracepointafterfive.com/punypng

This free online resource allows you to upload PNG files for automatic optimization.The files I optimized using this serve were generally made 18-24% smaller while still maintaining perfect visual quality. This is a must-have online resource for any web designer!

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Do You Have Good Sleep Hygiene?



When sleep is scarce, my web design skills always suffer! A well rested mind helps me to be at my best creatively. Therefore, I appreciated finding the following tips on good sleep hyggiene. Hope you find them useful as well!

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
For many centuries it has been known that a good night’s sleep does not happen by chance. Sleeping well depends on a series of factors beyond just controlling anxiety and stress. These are known collectively as sleep hygiene.

Effective sleep hygiene amounts to a way of life. It includes getting regular exercise at the right time of the day. Exercise during the morning or afternoon can help one to be drowsy at bedtime. But working out close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.

Exciting films or engrossing reading material can also have a stimulating effect. Before going to bed, it may be better to read something relaxing, listen to soothing music, or take a warm bath.

Experts say that you can teach your brain to associate bed with sleep by lying down only when you really mean to sleep. People who eat, study, work, watch TV, or play video games in bed may find it harder to fall asleep.

Preparing the body for restful sleep also involves watching your diet. While alcoholic drinks make a person feel drowsy, they can actually impair sleep quality. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and cola-based drinks should be avoided at night because they are stimulants. On the other hand, small quantities of mango, sweet potato, banana, persimmon, palm cabbage, rice, bean sprouts, or nuts stimulate the production of serotonin and can thus be sleep-inducing. A word of warning: Eating a heavy meal late at night can be as harmful to sleep as going to bed on an empty stomach.

Just as important as our presleep routine is the environment in which we sleep. A pleasant temperature, a dark and noise-free room, and a comfortable mattress and pillows are an invitation to a good night’s sleep. In fact, with so much comfort, it may be hard to get up the next morning. But remember, staying in bed longer than necessary, even on the weekend, can disturb your sleep pattern and make it harder for you to sleep the following night.

Surely, you would not purposely harm any of your vital organs. Sleep is just as vital, a part of life that should not be neglected or underestimated. After all, a third of our life is spent sleeping. Can you improve your sleeping habits? Why not start tonight!

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Web Design: Flowers on Film

flowers macros, close-up on film

This web design was created as a personal labor of love for photos of flower macros shot on film at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After spending the day designing web sites, I would spend the last hour of daylight in the Botanic Garden shooting flowers and other flora. What a relaxing time! Also, some of my best photos were captured on film during that period. You can see these photos (most are about five to six years old) at http://www.abqstyle.com/flowers/

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bing! Will Great Web Design Win Out?

In it's new search engine Bing.com, Microsoft has one of the best designed products it has ever produced. No other product in the Microsoft stable has as appealing an interface and ease of use. I found a recent focus group based study that tested Bing vs Google usability. Interestingly, the group overwhelmingly preferred the web design of Bing. In particular, they liked the welcoming design and organization of Bing, soundly beating Google in those two areas. Yet, none were moved to switch from Google to Bing.

That is in line with my own feelings. As a web designer, I give Microsoft high marks for the interface design of Bing. The compelling photos and home page content really draw you in. In fact, I will usually visit Bing once a day just to see the newest home page photo and trivia links. However, I personally do not feel that it matches Google in search results. Also, Google is a proven performer that also offers a host of other products that I use. Bing cannot match that . . . at least for now.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.‎ Will Bing influence Google's interface design, or will Microsoft develop other complementary applications to bolster Bing's appeal? At the very least, the competition will be fun to watch!

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Photography Blog Web Design

Photography Blog Web Design


I have, only this evening, completed a series of tweaks and upgrades to my photography blog web design. This blog features my Arizona and New Mexico Photos (including a large section of Albuquerque Photos) that I have shot over the past five years. I have fiddled with this web design over the past year. Now, I finally have something I am reasonably happy with! I will discuss the design process in a bit more detail when I add this design to my web design portfolio. Until then, please visit http://abqstyle.com, and let me know what you think!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Online Resume Web Design

resume web design

I recently completed the web design for an online resume for an IT professional who specializes in government contracting. It was the first one I've done and I'm quite proud of it. The design uses a blog format to insure that all the key information on the candidate is easily seen. It also uses graphics to support the market sectors where the client has the greatest experience, and seeks further employment. I would love to get your thoughts on this design!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tables Vs. CSS based Web Design

I am often tickled by the misconceptions surrounding the use of tables in web design vs more current CSS based positioning of web page elements. Both approaches can produce elegant designs. However, some have expressed a concern that using a tables-based web design may cause the website to become obsolete at some point in the near future. This is not true. All web browsers must support every form of html no matter how ancient. Backwards compatibility is essential for serving the widest possible audience on the web. That will not change anytime soon.

I have never been a proponent of using the most current technology simply because it is the most current. I use what I know works best for the project at hand. I currently design websites that may use either CSS based positioning or tables. My main concern, frankly, is making sure the web design serves both the needs of the viewer and the requirements of search engines. How do the search engines view the tables vs css debate? Well, the source has spoken! The video below provides Google's answer (by way of Matt Cutts, Google spokesman) to the question: "Are CSS-based layouts better than tables for SEO?" If you are the current owner of a tables-based website you may find their response . . . well . . . comforting!



Don Peterson, Newark1 Web Design Portfolio & Guide

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Web Design: Content Management For The Masses

web design using wordpress as Content Management System
Web designers have never enjoyed more software bargains than now. This is particularly true when it comes to our tools of the trade. A scant four or five years ago, a bare-bones Content Management System (CMS) would have cost upwards of $5,000. Now, sophisticated blog platforms such as Wordpress can easily accomodate the needs of enterprise level online publishing.

Having this low-cost CMS is a great way to offer small businesses the same powerful tools used by larger businesses. In our web design studio, we can offer more powerful and flexible web design and development options to even small businesses on a tight budget. With the well supported plug-in modularity of Wordpress, we can quickly upgrade the application while bypassing the cost of custom programming.



Wordpress is now more user-friendly than ever with a beautifully redesigned administration interface in Wordpress 2.7 (see video above). This allows web developers to help new clients easily master the platform for managing their content. Combine this ease-of-use with solid support from third-party developers and the best price in the business (free) and you have what must now be considered the web developer's killer app!

Wordpress is the premiere solution for Content Management on a budget!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Old School" Web Design

archived web design

Do you remember the early days of web design? VGA monitors that only displayed 256 colors ... All Internet access was dialup ... AOL (America Online) ruled the online market and Netscape was the browser of choice ... Do you remember?

I stumbled across a web design I did over ten years ago for my second paying client. It was designed in Adobe Pagemill, (the pioneer web design program of that day) and all the graphics were scanned from the client's brochure and converted to .gif graphic files.

It is a rather advanced design for that day (if I may say so myself) and reflects our determination to get around all the limitations of crude basic html we were forced to contend with. For a trip back in time, visit the original web design by following this link.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

A Design With a Smile . . .

web design with a smile

I found an article in a recent issue of Scientific American MIND magazine that reminded me of an observation I have received from more than one new web design client. Many new clients say that one of the things that most appeal to them about my web design are the appealing smiles of the models used in many of the web sites. I found it curious that something as seemingly insignificant as a smile would be a significant factor in attracting new web design clients. Now there seems to be scientific evidence that a smile can be a powerful memory aid!

In the April/May 2008 issue of MIND magazine, researchers at Duke University have found that the mind is better at remembering a person's face and name (whether in person or in a photo) if that face has a smile! It seems that a smiling face activates an area of the brain involved in reward processing. One researcher commented on the implications of this research: "We want to remember people who were kind to us, in case we interact with them in the future."

The lesson that we as web designers can take from this is that if we want people to remember our websites, make sure it has a warm smile in the design!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A New Web Design Is Born!

organic blankets and textiles web design

We have just finished a new web design in record time! In less than three weeks from start to finish we developed an e-commerce website that I consider some of our finest work yet. It is a web design for premium quality organic textile products. This was a tough challenge. Fortunately, we came up with a great concept for the design from the first draft that was quickly approved by the client. Without such a fast approval it would be impossible to get this website completed within three weeks! Visit our latest web design and send us your comments!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Spring Web Design Contest


Aaaah, Spring . . . In the spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of . . . web design? If you enjoy web design and would do it even if no one paid you for it . . . Why not enter the Second Open Source Web Design Contest. The top prize is $1,000.00. That's a pretty measly sum by US standards. Yet, this contest is international. So, in many countries that will be considered a hefty prize. I will not participate but will check in to see what international web designers are up to when it is over.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Well Designed Water . . .

cool water for web designers

Living as I now do in the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern United States, means paying attention to my body's need for hydration. As a result, I am conscious of keeping water as a constant companion as I design web sites. I normally do not get excited about water. However, I found a new flavored water at my local green grocer that I consider exceptional. Metromint offers a selection of waters flavored with peppermint, spearmint and other mint extracts. There are no artificial flavors, sweeteners, sugar or other ingredients. Just water and mint. Refreshing! Look for it in your local grocer. Good stuff!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Masters of Design 2007

Nowadays, it is rare to see any manufacturer producing a bad product. The quality differences between the best and the worst in any market are slimmer than ever. What does distinguish a standout product is design. This is especially so in web design, where design plus content equals product. Fast Company, one of my favorite business magazines (click here to preview), provides an annual Masters of Design issue that explores the impact of design on business. The 2007 issue explores the best examples of interactive web design, and interviews current design masters.. A worthy read for any web designer and those who employ them!

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Value of Textual Links . . .

Web design and search engine optimization go hand in hand. Perhaps one of the easiest search engine optimization techniques is often the most overlooked: Textual links. What are textual links and how can they improve your search engine ranking? An excellent article on this basic SEO technique can be found here.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

From Auto Design to Boutique Hotels . . .

The Keating Hotel, San Diego

The designers of two of the most exotic automobiles in the world, Ferrari and Maserati, have now designed a hotel, The Keating in San Diego. You can clearly see the automobile design heritage of Pininifarina in The Keating. It is an interesting study of how expertise in one design discipline is applied to another. In this case, the transfer design skills results in a unique design statement and visual showcase.

In a similar way, when a graphic designer migrates to web design, you can see the print design heritage clearly in their approach. Sometimes the end result is good, sometimes not! The key is knowing what principles of print design are best left behind, and what should be kept. Also, a clear understanding of web technology helps a designer understand the creative limitations of working on the web.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Great Design? Let the Buyer Beware . . .

Skillfull design, whether it be web design, packaging design, or other design disciplines can be a persuasive power. Sometimes that power can be . . . well, let's say a bit deceptive! I love chocolate, good chocolate. I recently purchased a box of what I assumed were premium quality chocolate truffles at a local large retail chain. The box was beautifully designed and conveyed the impression that it contained dark chocolate truffles. As most chocolate lovers know, a genuine chocolate truffle generally is made of ganache (a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream), with other flavorings. Well, after purchasing this brand of "truffles," I discovered that its main ingredient is hydrogenated vegetable shortening! In essence, this "chocolate truffle" was really a form of margerine (saturated fat), shaped and flavored to taste like a chocolate truffle! Ugh! I felt deceived. This beautifully designed box (I decline to reveal the brand - we are a litigious culture) skillfully masked the true nature of its contents. Let the buyer beware!

From now on I stick to proven quality. Excellent quality hand-made chocolate truffles are sold by Sensual Chocolatiers. These hand-made truffles are the real thing! They're made delicious, fresh and shipped next-day delivery for guaranteed freshness.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Cutting Room Floor Web Design

Cutting Room Web Design Sample Photo

We've started a new section of our web design portfolio for our web designs that never made it to the Internet—"Cutting Room Floor Web Design." These are web design drafts that were part of a series shown to our clients. They preferred other designs we developed for them, leaving these to languish in obscurity like jilted suitors. However, these designs contain elements and layouts that may work well for future projects. Displaying them gives potential clients a wider range of creative ideas to choose from. Plus, we get to show off more of our stuff . . . We're so vain . . .

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