Archive for April, 2009

Web 2.0 and New Standards

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

How often do you pause in your reading of some article somewhere to notice an eye-catching link to the side? You’d most likely open the link in a new tab and continue your reading.
An article I was reading today, however, was on a very well-designed site in which these links would simply change some quick categories. It still took me a moment of thinking, though, before I realized that the link would activate some jQuery and AJAX, rather than navigate to some sort of page.
It struck me then that using regular links in that way isn’t how we should be doing things. I’ve never had this problem before, because I’d zoom around a well-developed site to look at the designs and features before I settled down to an article or two; and once someone settles down to read something, losing that page suddenly becomes a concern.
You’ll all know that links should have underlines and that buttons should press in when you click on them, and also that selectables should change their state when they’ve been selected. In the new web, we’ll have to add a good number of new conventions, now that we’ll actually be able to do some amazing things.

jQuery allows us to animate elements, change the classes (and thus the styles) of any elements, move the structure of the page around or completely change it, and even load information from another page. These asynchronous JavaScript and XML (or PHP) calls are special in a number of ways:

  • They don’t require a page refresh, so you don’t have to worry about scrolling back or waiting forever for your old page to reload
  • You don’t usually have to wait at all, because you can do something else while waiting. It’s even possible to create an empty ‘loading’ page that would quickly load everything except the content, then use AJAX to load the rest of the page, as seen here. It may not be a good idea, though, because if the user has javascript disabled there’s no fallback plan.
  • You can change random settings without having to go through menus and reloading pages
  • It gives a site that futuristic feel.

“Wait,” you say, “the page doesn’t change when you use AJAX?” No, just one little part of it does. And because of that, hyperlinks are misleading.

I suggest that we give AJAX links a different feel. They aren’t buttons, but they aren’t links, either. I’ve seen faded boxes around them, so that it seems like a push-button or tabs.

This whole post kind of escaped on me and wriggled around a couple different topics. I’ll leave you with a last little morsel, which was found on Viget:Soon the only users on IE6 will be designers & developers trying to troubleshoot the outdated browser. This will generate false positives on stats pages throughout the internet.

I can totally imagine it.

Facebook, then Cufón

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Wait, I’ve been on Facebook for two years? I was trying to remember where I first heard of it, and followed some random memories back to early 2007. Jeeze, what a year.
Oh, I remember sitting downstairs. Yeah, it would have been May, so a bit less (just a bit less) than two years. And then I invited my sister, and then she, being one of ‘those’ types, invited literally everyone in her hotmail contact list, including my mom. How awkward.
I remember that what really attracted me to it, though, was the idea that everyone would use their first and last names, and upload a real picture of themselves. I had never seen that before, anywhere. There was also a certain class to it, and people weren’t able to give themselves horrid colour schemes or load up auto-playing music or otherwise destroy their profiles. In essence, Facebook was no accident; they were a first, and introduced something so important I sometimes wonder why we never got it before. That would be like Google starting up two or three years ago. And us using nothing but ISP advertisement directories (whatever it is I heard they did back then) to find what we needed until we discovered the search engine.

Just because news needs to get out in every way possible:
How better to blog than to blog about a blog blogging about whatever it is you’re blogging about?
Cufón is a new technology developed in an attempt to allow web developers to finally have random favourite fonts on their pages, instead of the usual Arial and Times and whateverelse.
I’ve developed a Test Page on The Embroidery House.

CSS Naked Day

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Hey, guess what?
It’s naked day! I’ve disabled the CSS styles for both The Embroidery House and Icosidodecahedron for the rest of today.

When one designs a site, style and content should be kept separate. The text and information is one important part of the page, and the presentation is another. Javascript, and thus action, is the third important part, but I won’t get into that.
Ideally, a website should be navigable as plain text. No fancy images should be needed, and things shouldn’t break if viewed without styling, as some devices don’t support styles. After that’s all done, you can make it your own by adding a stylesheet or two, containing colours and positions and links to background images. For a great example, visit the CSS Zen Garden. By changing just one sheet, the entire experience is transformed.

CSS Naked Day is a testament toward good design. We show that our pages work without fancy styles, and that we’re W3C compliant.

Admittedly, I take it a bit far. There is a spot or two on my site where I really should use tables, but instead I toss in some mangle of CSS to sort it out. With that disabled, The Embroidery House’s sign-up sheet looks… messy.

More Ramblings

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Nearly every website you go to has some form of login. And yet, it can actually be a fairly intensive task to implement. Working at my fullest, I would take me at least a day to get it all up from scratch. More likely, it could take most of a month.

I’m still half-useless when it comes to graphics arts. I may be able to think of a good logo if genius strikes, but I’m otherwise left fishing in the dark. Hopefully that’ll improve as my design skills grow. I’ve been looking at the background images of my tabs, which I’ll admit I stole, and I wonder if I could do something similar. I’ll end up trying sometime soon.

I’ve learned a good deal about PHP and jQuery. I should try to make a web application of some sort, just to stretch my abilities.

Speaking of which (somewhat), the thought of money is also coming into the forefront of my mind, and so I’m going to be spending some time on marketing.
If anyone needs a webpage, toss me some money on PayPal and I’ll whip something up. This isn’t just piddly high-school stuff, either — I’m talking about databases and signing up and logging in and sending emails and integrating widgets to create a desktop-like experience, or making an application you launch from your desktop. The sky is the limit.
At the moment, because it’ll end up taking me two or three months and I’m still learning, my rates are a cheap $100/month. If you want just a simple site, and especially if you already have hosting, it’ll be done in half a month, for $50 or less.

On the topic of business, though:
So far, I’ve got icosidodecahedron, but that was never intended to be my main business site, and it’s hosted on what some might call the modern-day technological equivalent to a Mom & Pop business’ server.
The name doesn’t have to be anything particularly special and oh-so-neat-sounding, but it does have to be mine.
I also need to get a new look. At the moment, I seem to tend toward soft creamy layouts that look more like some quick half-assed attempt thrown together to advertise things on a parked domain. I’m sure you know the type. I’m still experimenting with colours, and it was less than a week ago that I was having a couple important breakthroughs with color blending. I’d always tried to offset two colors by a certain amount, to make a set that looks good. I would then use those two colors, in several steps of combination and in several different shades, around whatever I’m designing. Even throughout school I’ve known it was wrong, but I really had no clue what it was I should have been doing. As it turns out, I was forgetting that coloured objects would be different sizes. Two colors might look wrong together, for example, but if the overwhelming colour is on a smaller object, it can help to balance. In another example, I might have two colours. I’d usually be fearful of adding another, because I don’t want to make it too busy. Instead, I could add another colour that complements the other two, but use only small amounts of it as a highlight.
In other words, I need to realize the other dimensions besides simple hue, saturation, and luminosity. Coloured objects can have size, focus, and context.


Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I’ve been keeping a watch on CES, but I just learned of something called CeBIT in March, so I’m looking through that.
A new mobile device: About the same specs (some things a bit better) than current netbooks, but smaller and much more advanced.

Let me put it this way: At that price, I maybe should have waited until it came out, and then gotten that instead of my DS (it would have been twice the price, though).

There are a few new things coming out. Nothing groundbreaking, that I can see. Cheap SSDs are getting bigger.

3D Anaglyphic web-browsing?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

One of Google’s many April Fool’s jokes was a 3D version of Chrome.

So I thought about it a bit, and I think it COULD be done.
The image we see could be a sheet of paper. The z-index could be split into several sheets. Without any other parsing, there could be a toggle button for 3D stereoscopy.
If you wanted to go further, each layer could have an amount of space for intra-layer 3D. Borders, for example, could be inset or outset. Buttons would truly press in when you pressed them. Luminance of images could set depth, but that might be a bit iffy.

I would love to see it done.

Used Computers are Useless

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

I was looking at one of those hole-in-the-wall computer places, today. (Or rather, at their site).
I’ve always loved those build-your-own webpages, because you can see how much each component costs.
I rebuilt this desktop PC I bought two years ago, and it actually came out more expensive. Furthermore, I got it half that price, which means I would have to pay twice as much to get this piece of crap again.
Assuming I got an entry-level Vista computer (think 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, cheapest Dual-core), it would be $858. A similar laptop would be about $550, and would include built-in speakers, pointing device, keyboard, screen (which alone would be more than $100), and possibly webcam.
For $1300, I could get a computer package which, at a big-box retailer, would sell for about $500.

This is a place that doesn’t really DO the online thing, so I’m assuming most of it is just the fact that he hasn’t updated the database in forever. Still, though…
Actually, that’s the place I got that horrible 1GB USB stick. I can’t believe something could be that slow. It’s because of that that I spent the extra $32 on that 2GB stick I got in September. I had come to expect that large sticks were really slow, so I didn’t think the 8GB would be very usable (it’s the same speed as my 2GB, and faster than my old 512MB, which was pretty fast in its day).

At the moment, my machine is worth:
Pentium D (Dual-core) 2.66GHz CPU – $120
Hitachi 160GB HDD – $60
ASUS P5RD2-VM Motherboard – $80
1GB DDR2 RAM – $30
DVD multi – $40
Microsoft Keyboard + Laser mouse – $20 or more
Floppy drive – whatever

It’s about $350 today. It was supposed to be for $600, but I was buying some swapped-out parts from malfunctional systems, so I got it for $300. Actually, it only came with 512MB RAM.
Since then, I’ve added a CPU fan, ATI HD 2600 512MB graphics card, modem, and an extra 10GB HDD. Without including my monitor, that would be at least $200 more in total, and my Wacom tablet is $100. I’d be keeping my monitor and tablet, though, so that means my entire system is worth about $600 new. It’s two years old, so I’d say about $400.