Comments on web practices and design

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).

The NY Times Puts Up a Pay Fence

fenceYesterday The New York Times Business Section published an excellent article about the ever expanding internet: In a New Web World, No Application Is an Island. It may seem very geeky, but it is a  good overview and one that I recommend. Desktops, laptops, smart-phones and tablets are all evolving. Do you disagree that we are becoming digitally dependent? (insert video of 4 year old granddaughter working the iPad here)

Today, March 28th, The New York Times will start charging for on-line access. In The Newsonomics of The New York Times’ Pay Fence, Harvard’s Nieman Foundation outlines and evaluates this pay system. I have subscribed to the print version for some thirty years, so it will not affect my access as the print subscription includes it all…for now. Every morning I go to my apartment door thinking what a privilege it is to find the Times on my doorstep. Now with the iPad, sometimes I take an early peek if I wake up before the usual 6 AM arrival. Unfortunately, the New York Times iPad app is a frustrating mystery to me (see post.) I hope a major app update is coming with the new pay model.

It seems there are many ways to access the Times. http://www.nytimes.com is the most obvious. But there is also the NY Times Reader. And in the biz article published yesterday, I learned about the NY Times HTML5 reader called Skimmer.  Take a look. The Skimmer really has my interest. There is a lot to be sorted out in the new publishing world. Think frontier, where Steve Jobs is the cattle baron and we are the locals.

NYC Art Scene, Newsweek & TDB

TDB Art BeastSince early last year, I have subscribed to The Daily Beast (TDB) newsletter, but with the glut of emails and web reading waiting in my queues,  I have not paid close attention. Until today. Today I saw a TDB headline about the 2011 Armory Show: “A Sam’s Club for Art?” It did not have the review I was hoping for (that’s why I did not add a link) but in searching for that link I did find two that I want to share and am posting here. ART BEAST: The Best of Art, Photography and Design looks like a great place to go for reviews and to stay informed of the New York art scene. In my analog life,  I looked at print versions of The New Yorker, the Gallery Guide, and The New York Times.  This may well be my internet equivalent. #Bookmark

Blake Gopnik on artIt seems Blake Gopnik does much of their reporting. His website  Blake Gopnik on art looks just as promising and his Archive is a great stop to scan the images, looking for what might interest me. Looking is so much faster than reading.

What about apps? MoMA has one that I use. And Flavorpill too. If you have any recommendations, please leave a note in the comments.

Having worked at Time magazine for more than twenty years, I have observed with great interest the demise of Newsweek and its merger with The Daily Beast. This past week I become aware that some of my Time colleagues have “gone over.” Once I would have considered this disgraceful, but since the disastrous downturn in publishing these past five years, I am more forgiving. It’s a jungle out there. As a designer and lay cultural anthropologist, I am very interested in seeing what this marriage looks and reads like. I will be giving updates to this blogpost as the roll-out takes place.

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 Swiss-Miss.com 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.

iPad + NY Times = Meh

(Note: In March 2013, Search was finally added to the mobile apps. This was my primary objection. See other Updates at the end of this article.)

In November 2011, I bought an iPad. Yes, I am in love. BUT I have one very serious reservation. I am a dedicated NY Times reader/subscriber and I think their iPad app is lame. This makes me wonder about the iPad’s future. The NY Times was on the ground floor when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in April 2010, so why does it seem to me that they are not making an effort to have a great app? The iPhone/iPod Touch app is better. The Times Reader web app is excellent and their website viewed in a browser is the multi-media gold standard of journalism.

iPad and iPod Touch
Viewing the New York Times: 1. iPad app, 2. iPod app, 3. web site in Safari

In general, the iPad reading experience is terrific. Of course it is different than reading a paper book, magazine or newspaper but it is much more intimate and personal than reading on a computer. Designer Ben Hoff has a great post iPad: Redefining Media Consumption that expresses my experience:“The interfaces of many apps that are out right now for the iPad, make you never want to view the standard website. YouTube looks amazing. The Maps app is just wow! Instapaper makes for a great, easy on the eye read of saved web content. The reason that these look so great, opposed to their native web-based forms, is that they were designed to fit specifically on one screen and one device so they are customized to look and work exactly the same, all day, everyday. When viewing the native website, depending on what computer, browser, screen size, etc. everything will look different. On the iPad, not the case. The apps just look beautiful (with exception to a few I’d assume)! The Apps are what makes and will continue to make the iPad a major success.”
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Typography on the Web

Typography on the web


The large lettering above is not a graphic but done with HTML CSS styling. Notice that you can select and copy it. This is very cool. I saw this on the design blog idsn.org. Check it out for a good review of the history, future and politics of website type. (My take: Open Source VS Microsoft, more or less)

This may seem like a topic for designers only but it is not. Google can read and rank HTML type more accurately than text that is displayed as a jpeg, png or gif image. Very important for your SEO (search engine optimization). Also, the fonts used give your site identity making it memorable. (Are you going to make me say the word “branding”?) My Delicious bookmarks on Type can be found here.