Entries that may be of interest to our clients

Web Sites on All Devices with Responsive Design

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).

Backup Your Website on Bluehost

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.

Breaking News, at Least to Moi!

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.

Writing What You Know: Realia

Margaret Roach Inc. is also a print publisher. Hot off the presses is the memoir manual Writing What You Know: Realia by Marion Roach Smith–Margaret’s sister, but no relation to me. Described as “the essential, eccentric guidebook for anyone telling their own story—in print or on a blog. Stop treading water in writing exercises or hiding behind ‘writer’s block,’ and learn to write memoir with intent, starting today. Marion Roach Smith’s disarmingly frank but wildly fun and unforgettable tactics, gleaned from the sold-out class she has been teaching for 13 years, will teach you how.”

I designed the cover and the interior, thoroughly enjoying being back in the realm of paper and ink. Of course, it is all done on the computer, but the process and results seem so different than web design.

More details are here at

Buy Writing What You Know: Realia, just $12.95 plus shipping, from:

Ning Network, Open Source and Hegel

The Lumpen Institute of Fine Arts is a social network on for friends who share my interest in politics and art. It has also proved to be a good example for my clients who need a network site. Ning is similar to Facebook. For example, Steve Brodner uses it for his illustration class at SVA and my son-in-law uses it for organizing his companions on their trek up Mount Rainier. (No links to either of those as they are private.) I am blogging about it here because I have found many clients and associates to be unaware of And because I just made a post there.

Like Facebook, is free. That’s not quite the same as Open Source but it is all part of the the “the new economy.” That’s a loaded phrase, but yes, the internet is changing our culture, including how we do business. I am fascinated with this change. I am part of it and trust my posts here are informative to clients and visitors about how that affects our shared interests.

Most of my website design for the past two years has been done using WordPress software as a CMS–content management system. WordPress is Open Source. (This last link will take you to Wikipedia–also Open Source.) Its advantages and disadvantages effect my designs. Go to Is Open Source a New Economic Paradigm? if this interests you. I will make updates about economics and philosophy there and about how it affects my design and my clients here.

• The April Wired magazine cover story How the Tablet Will Change the World has a pant load of information about our changing computer culture. Steven Levy outlines the brewing battle between Apple’s proprietary OS and Google’s open source Continue reading

JavaScript Panoramas from Rio (what’s up with Apple and Flash?)

I have taken many panorama photos over the last ten years and used Flash scripting to put them on the web. (See Italia) But since 2008 I have limited using Flash for websites. Friend, colleague and mentor Uzi Halimun first alerted me, saying “Steve Jobs has it in for Flash.” (Do a search and you will see.) Once I saw that Flash did not run on my iPod Touch (or the iPhone), I knew Flash would not be in my future until that changed. Mobile computing is the future. This week I did stumble upon this post that addresses just that. Many of the features that make Flash so flashy can now be done with javascript and that is where I am going to develop my skillz.

I am very pleased with this example. I miss Rio de Janeiro and my family and friends there. But this being late January, I miss the sun, the beach and especially the Aterro where I would go almost every day to draw and play basketball. I love this panorama of the Aterro. Does it seem a little jerky? It is a big file.

I just looked. It does run on my iPod Touch. Maravilhosa!! I have set it to scroll automatically upon loading but there are controls that can be set to scroll left, right and pause. This went fairly fast. Good, because I have clients waiting.

UPDATES 2.10.10: Remy Sharp’s HTML vs Flash is another in depth post about the limitations of Flash and the future web standards.
2.19.10: It has been widely reported that Steve Jobs told the editors of the Wall Street Journal to forget Flash. Handsome Phil Elmer-DeWitt gives his expert opinion as to why Jobs is so obsessed with Flash. And Flash creator Jeremy Allaire explains that this is a battle for the future of web content.
4.29.10: Steve Jobs shares his thoughts onWhat Is Wrong With Flash
-Phil Elmer-DeWitt comments of the Fortune tech blog: Steve Jobs Says What Is Wrong With Flash
-As does the New York Times: Apple’s Chief Makes Case Against Flash
8.12.10: Evan Blackford sent this link… It has excellant insight and historical notes about Flash and Open Source.
10.29.10 Mashable reports here on a demonstration by Adobe of a Flash to HTML5 converter. This is exciting but Adobe points out that this is NOT in development but mearly a demonstration of possibilities. I will follow this closely.
1.2.11 I just read this very informative InfoQ post: HTML5 vs. Flash: Where does Adobe Stand? Wish I could find something that tells me what Apple is thinking. Good luck. I am thinking Apple may have to bend a bit. I got an iPad in December and most disappointing was the NY Times app. I am convinced they are not putting all they could into it because their Times Reader web app is far superior. It of course runs Flash.
1.17.11 Worth a look for coding a scrolling panorama.
2.21.11 I am shocked! MacWorld reviews Packager for iPhone from Adobe. This stand-alone tool “takes your ActionScript 3 code and cross-compiles it to run on an iOS 3.0 or later device. The output is native code, not interpreted Flash bytecode; for Apple, this packaging step pretty much guarantees you won’t be shipping new bytecode to the device over the Internet and circumventing the gatekeepers at the Apple App Store.”
4.22.11 This continues to obsess me, especially because no one really writes about it. I was talking with Flash wizard Gabriel Hill (note his animated favicon). I asked him his opinion. He believes it is an OSX core issue. “Flash has never played nice on Macs. They would have to rewrite OSX and that is not going to happen.” I did a search and found a post by Polygeek that goes into the same territory. Worth a look. And the comments.
9.19.11 Following the link Apple vs Adobe lead me to a great roundup of more discussion at
11.9.11 Just saw this link that says Adobe “will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook.” To me, that speaks volumes. Adobe does not expect Apple to “play nice” now that Steve Jobs is the final word. HTML5 is HUGE.