my 1960s Americans

before and afterSmart phones and tablets now account for an increasing percentage of all internet traffic. Oh, you knew that. Do we agree that your site should be optimized for all devices? In this post, I will discuss one design response to this web access evolution.

You probably have a smartphone. You may have a tablet. I bought an iPod Touch three years ago and an iPad in November 2010. When clients and friends question my fascination, I ask, “Do you know anybody who says they regret getting one?” I have written about my adoration here. Top of the list: I prefer to read from my iPad than from my desktop or laptop. (Writing is the reverse.) I expect that we have all adapted to surfing the internet on mobile devices. My client’s websites are all accessible (no Flash here), they are just reduced in size. There could be designs for each device but that would increase the design costs. For the past three years, I don’t think one client has asked about this. When I bring it up, adding a mobile design has been nixed for budgetary reasons.
Now there is a solution and that solution is referred to in the web development community as Responsive Web Design (RWD). Much has been written about it lately. An excellent overview, The Ultimate Responsive Web Design Roundup from Wed Designer Depot, should get you started. I will update this post with pro and con links as I find them.

While there seems to be a huge upside, experience has taught us that there are rarely any Silver Bullets. Will it really be low cost once integrated into my design approach? Does it dictate design or branding solutions? The only way for me to judge this is to dig in. I am starting my first two sites with this approach. I will add updates here as we progress.

Pro RWD Links: Experimenting With Responsive Web Design, Less RWD Framework, WebDesignShock Explains RWD, Responsive Print Styles, Responsive Images
Responsive Ads

Responsive Web Redefined

Responsive Web Graphics with SVG

Con RWD Links: Responsive Web Design is Boring

Note: I have not redesigned my own site because I have not had the time. I know I should (bad) and I have started a redesign but clients have keep me that busy (good).

Database diagramI have my prejudices. I like to use WordPress to build websites and I like to host those sites on Bluehost. WordPress uses a database to store most of the website information. I use a plugin to backup that database information once a week. This is a safety measure and it is important to backup the database whenever you upgrade WordPress. If something were to go wrong, like a digital hiccup, the database backup would be there to rebuild your pages and posts.

Now I should point out that in four years of building more than one hundred sites, this has never happened to me. (Thank you Deity of Your Choice! Mine is the Flying Spaghetti Monster.) But what if the hosting server were to malfunction in some horrible way? This has come up in discussions we have had at the New York WordPress MeetUp Group I belong to. Buried in the fine print (which I rarely read) of almost all the hosting plans for small sites, it says that they are not responsible. They, being most web hosts. Again, this has never happened to me, but when someone tells you about how it happened to them, it is very scary as you think of all the hours it would take to rebuild a site. It would be a nightmare on those sites where I have the design on my computer, the client has the photos on his/her computer and we have to use the database to retrieve the blog and page text.

Blue Host Site BackupFear not! This Spring Bluehost remedied that by offering a site backup service called Site Backup Pro. It sounded very promising so I first searched to see what opinions others had with Site Backup and found this excellent article by Don Campbell: Backup and Restore Your Website with Bluehost. It even includes a video tutorial by Don.

I was convinced. I signed up and am recommending it to all my clients. Hopefully we will never need to use it, but $13/year is a bargain for this insurance.

For the most part, this blog is directed to my clients, current and future, as well as other designers and developers who share my interests. I began building websites about ten years ago and for the past three years constructing them with WordPress. When not building them, I am reading/watching tutorials and monitoring the uber developers to improve my knowledge and skillz. That would include not just software knowledge f or me but what is available on the web that aids my client’s self promotion.   With that in mind, I want to share  a couple of “articles” I found this past week that stood out.

Google SearchFirst, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, is a New York Times article about how J. C. Penny “gamed” the Google search engines. The Google formula that parses its searches is a closely guarded secret. David Segal gives the most informative investigation I have seen about this process. SEO (search engine optimization) is always of interest to my clients and fellow geeks. Web Words That Lure the Readers is another New York Times article on the subject of SEO.
UPDATE 022711: Seeking to Weed Out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine

history of typeSecond, was a link from to a Tim Brown lecture, More Perfect Typography as Vimeo screencast and LogoTalks blogpost. Typography has been an obsession for the past thirty years and yet there were some new ideas here that, even if I don’t agree with them, they are certainly worth considering. I thank Tim for sharing his philosophy.

Facebook pagesThird is Facebook. (I should probably do a post just on Facebook but until then….) Facebook has been getting more and more attention as destination that is driving the web. Could it be Web 3.0? I think it is too early to say, but it must be considered now and I am advising my clients to add it to their knowledge base if they want to promote themselves or some product. How Brands Can Make the Most of Facebook’s New Pages from Mashable is a great place to start.
UPDATE 021911: I got caught in my first Facebook spam today. A trusted friend posted a link where she got a free iPad for being an iPad tester. I clicked and started filling out my contact information. Soon it became suspicious as it went on and on. Later I saw a note from her apologizing to all her “friends.” Facebook’s reputation depends on excellent security. Negative publicity will tarnish it.

iphone320wpThis is pretty sweet. I am writing this post from my iPod touch. I was schmoozing with Brad Williams of WebDevStudios at WordCampNYC today about iPhone apps. I knew he had Bump and I would like to have tried it but I took it off my Touch. Being WordCamp, Brad asked if I had the WordPress app. What? I didn’t know. He told me to be sure and get WordPress 2. I just did and this is my Hello World. So let’s save this puppy and move on before the Colts/Pats game begins.

UPDATE: That worked well. I didn’t try adding photos yet, but will. What I can not do with the WordPress app on my iPod, is make a link. So now I will make a link to Brad and WebDev while editing/chained on/to my desktop ‘puter looking out onto Broadway. It’s a beautiful day. The Colts prevailed!!!

25-tulips450Recently I discovered two website features that could be of interest to my clients: Apture and Mobify.
First Apture. Apture gives a web page reader hyperlinks without having to leave the page. You can see it at work in the text on this page of drawings I recently did on my iPod Touch. (Or see it now by clicking on the iPod Touch link.) I think it is a great advantage to not leave the page to see maps, video or Wikipedia snippets, but you will be the judge of that. Another great feature of Apture is that it can be added by the client without special software. After I add some code to the selected  pages, he/she can edit the Apture links from within his/her browser (Firefox, Safari, IE). There are some quirks to it. Or maybe it is me, but the more I use it, the more I expect I will master it and the developers at Apture will improve their code. See the Apture website for more details. It is not as simple as drag and drop, but for certain sites, the payoff is well worth it.

Now Mofiby. I sent the Flower Series page to a friend to beta test and got back the reply, “Sorry, Flash is not iPhone friendly.” Damn! That’s right, I use Flash to show the time lapse drawings. I also know that Apture can demand a lot from the iPhone Safari browser. Though it is much improved on the OS 3 upgrade, it should still be thought of as Safar Lite.

I love my iPod Touch and believe that smartphones are definately the future of digital data. My web sites need to designed to account for this. If you are viewing this on a smartphone now, the Flower Series page is a good test for adapting rich media pages to the small screen. I had heard of Mobify from web guru Chris Coyier but had not had a chance to explore it. Mobify is also a bit glitchy. But like Apture, I am in the process of mastering it and believe it can be a good solution for this web development issue.

Last Thursday, May 15, I visited Jamie Malanowski‘s Marymount Manhattan class Writing for Magazines. Jamie was my editor in the Notebook section of Time magazine for two years and he asked me to share my ideas (and war stories) about the relationship between designer, editor and writer. I had never done this before, nor had I heard of any design peers talking to editorial journalism classes. It is a great topic and shows (once again) Jamie’s originality and insight.

I talked about the shared goals and  the dynamics of the art director/editor relationship. There was good discussion about using design, photography and illustration to make the page inviting, engage the reader and maximize the impact of the article.

thinking-with-type-ellen-lupton-paperback-cover-artOne reason I am posting now is to add some thoughts I had about this subject, post class discussion . One book I thought the class might want to look at is Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students, by Ellen Lupton (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004).

Another is The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. This might be of less practical interest to writers but as it is a typographic bible, written by a poet-turned-designer, I am mentioning here. I learned a lot from his thoughtful approach to reading words and how they should be used on a “page.” His basis is the spoken word. Now there is also The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.

I wish I had asked how many in the class have blogs? Besides the obvious educational benefits to them as magazine writers, I think this is a perfect opportunity for them to deal with their words and design.

I also believe they should all be photographers and even know how to shoot video. That would have been a lively discussion.

This is a good place for me to archive links to relevant topics about magazines and journalism. I will start with these:

Bill Moyers: Buying the War
Bill Moyers: Stopping the Presses; David Simon
NYTimes: Online Publisher

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  • Kenneth's bookshelf: read

    The Success and Failure of Picasso
    Berger wrote this while Picasso was still alive. Quite interesting to read why this Marxist critic thinks the communist artist failed.
    Pig Earth
    First in the trilogy and my favorite. He reminds me of Louise Ehrdrich. I wrote and told him so.
    Once in Europa
    The last book in the trilogy. Not my favorite but a worthy conclusion.