Category: Technology

Web design protocols

As web design continues to grow, we seem to be bombarded with an endless list of client requirements that we need to adhere to.Some are interested in accessibility, some think they are avid designers themselves, most won’t take no for an answer.There are a number of tools available to help alleviate some of the production time associated with our projects. Most of these tools are battling for our attention and they mainly deal with the initial planning of a project or website.I’ve recently been using Slickplan to create simple site maps.

Everyone can draw a sitemap if they really wanted to, but why should it take an hour when it could take 5 minutes. Slickplan is really easy to use and, although it’s not extensive, it will quickly produce a site map that your client can read.The hole in between a sitemap and a design is plugged with a wireframing application. In the past, I’ve been using PowerPoint to create wireframes. The presentation is largely dependent on the library of elements at your disposal but again the process can be slow and largely dissappointing. It can be quite difficult to line elements up and even if you manage that, it can still look quite poor.

IE6: The Demise

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted “just finishing another website, is it still too early to disregard IE6”.It seems that for once, I hadn’t spoken too soon.First Google, then YouTube announced the end of supporting arguably the worst browser of all time. Had I pre-empted this massive switch off?

Probably not, I’ve been moaning about IE6 for a number of years, as has the rest of the web development community.But now the time has truly come to rid the world of this old cumbersome beast. The only bad point is that with a full scale TV advertising campaign in full swing, it may only increase IE8’s market share. (Cue annoying fanfare – 7 second demos).

The iPad looms

The iPad is looming but will it succeed?Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it’s so obvious now that it was always going to be called the iPad. How awful does iSlate or iTablet sound, whoever circulated those names should be ashamed.There’s no doubt that the iPad is a welcome addition to Apple’s roster of products. We all knew that they had no intention of entering the netbook market.

The big question would be Mac OSX or iPhone OS? Again, in hindsight, that’s obvious too. Why would Apple bust a gut getting Snow Leopard working on a tablet when there is no direct competition for a tablet of this nature.Snow Leopard would have bumped up the price and reduced the battery life and after living with an iPhone for the past year, these are important points.Instead, by jumping on the iPhone OS, Apple have capitalised on one of the major successes of the past few years. Apps.

Blippy, why?

The launch of Blippy raised a few questions recently. 1 – is there room for another realtime social network? 2 – Is this an indication of how comfortable or näive society is with registering their financial details with a new social media start up? But the underlying factor is ‘what’s in it for me?’At present, it looks like most posts are apps from iTunes but you are able to link it to sites such as Amazon. Do I really want the world to know that I may have bought a 50″ TV from Amazon?If you have a facebook profile, and lets face it, who doesn’t Do you post up your holiday pics or your status updates to say that you are going away?Before you know it, those ‘friends’ you have on facebook will know where you live, when you are away from the said address and what you own! You will be ripe for the picking.Now this may seem like an extreme version of events but the BBC’s Virtual Revolution recently stated that out of your few hundred facebook friends, you actually interact with less than 10! Suddenly the scenario seems that much more feasible.The fact remains though, what’s in it for me? Will online checkouts soon have the option for a discount if you offer them exposure by broadcasting your purchases to Blippy? If so, the consumer will have to weigh up the discount vs the cost of broadcasting this information.Perhaps though, in an age where identity fraud is rife, people are being a bit too blasè with the importance of thei information.I’m not saying that Blippy will fail, if it offers integration to fellow networks like Twitter and Buzz, then it will succeed. I am just stressing the importance of what information we should share.If I broadcast that ‘i like Nutella on my toast’, I don’t care if no one listens. If I broadcast that I’ve bought a new iMac, there may be repurcussions beyond belief.

The Return

So, after a 3 month hiatus, I’m back in the world of WordPress – arguably the worlds favourite blogging engine?I fell in and out of love with wordpress quite quickly. Initially I was impressed with the ease of installation and backend interface. It almost seemed too easy to get blogging!But then, I encountered the limitations and grew frustrated. It quickly became apparent that although you can create a fully fledged website in WordPress, it becomes increasingly hard to manage. Off I went in search of a more powerful CMS to use in my own projects. I had been using MySource Matrix at work and the backend interface is very easy for administrators to manage the content. But the installation process was really confusing. Maybe MySource Mini is more up my street?Failing that, I looked at Drupal and Joomla! With no time to learn both through and through, I bought a few books and got down and dirty with Drupal. Nothing against Joomla, but I may try that one next year! For now, the power of drupal awaits!I’m looking to launch with a new commercial site soon and have plans to start some ecommerce sites as well! Hopefully this will prove to be the right choice!But, it has made me recognise the importance of WordPress. We must use the best tools for the job in any instance, I’ve returned to WordPress with this site for a number of reasons. I don’t care if I don’t receive any hits, this is as much an experiment to help improve my writing than attain a community of blog followers! The fact that I’m able to sit and write this blog on my iPhone whilst sitting on the long tube journey to Stockwell is testament to the fact that you use the best tool for the job. The versatility of wordpress will enable me to keep the blog going in a variety of situations, which is the fundamental flaw in most blogs.So.I’ve returned.It took less than 24 hours to get the entire blog up, customised and running. And that is owed in part to the huge community of developers that wordpress has. Hopefully, I’ll have a similar experience with Drupal.

MySource Matrix: 3 month review

This isn’t a full review of MySource Matrix, in the mode of a car review, opinions can change over time so this is an early review having worked on MySource Matrix for about 3 months.Coast have been granted the unenviable task of migrating the old Westminster University website (consisting of approx 13 mini sites) into a brand new structure consisting of 1 site.Early advantages of this asset based system were apparent because the migration was largely rushed and unprepared for. The ability to move and rename assets and add multiple URLs in the process allowed us to alter the structure of the site due to changes in the approach.The system is quite robust as well with the inclusion of workflows for content editors ensuring control throughout the site.

The migration faltered when we were inputting data from the old website that was hosted in immediacy, but that was largely due to the erroneous code from the old site. Matrix tried it’s best to strip out as much of this code as possible, but countless hours were used manually stripping out useless span tags, old HTML and styles that would prove to be quite harmful to a page. On one occasion, an empowered content editor was responsible for the ultimate faux pas of pasting in from Microsoft Word!

Snow Leopard prowls this friday

Snow leopard will drop on 28 August 2009! It is official!I will be in the queue on Friday ready to pay the tiny fee of £25 to upgrade. But should this figure concern us? Surely if it only costs £25, there can’t be much to differentiate it from leopard.I plan to get a new Mac soon anyway! So why upgrade? Well the main reason that I’m going to be upgrading (other than the price) is because I’m hoping it will give my aging MacBook a new lease of life. As my Mac struggles to run 9 programs at once and I feel the need for speed by purchasing a shiny new MacBook Pro. I’m hoping that this new operating system can restore my faith in the 3 year old mac that’s getting so hot nowadays it leaves scorch marks on my desk! (While I save up for the new one anyway)

MySource Matrix

Coast Studios are currently working on the migration of the brand new Westminster University website from their old CMS, Immediacy, to MySource Matrix.Coast was won over by this CMS system instantly due to it being open source but having spent a week training on it and having a play about, the functionality of it all is just overwhelming. Is it just open source projects in general that tend to include everything that you need. MySource Matrix is so extensive that after a week, we have only just touched the surface.There will be a lot more to write about this CMS in the coming weeks so watch this space.

Chrome, more than just a browser

We should have seen it coming, the rise of Google has resulted in Docs, Calendar, GMail, Picasa and Orkut amongst many others. Wave is on the way too. But then they announced Chrome OS. It just makes perfect sense for Google to take their portfolio of applications and turn it into an operating system, and perhaps only they can take on Microsoft.They even had the audacity to take a dig at Microsoft:

“We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

“It should just work,” said Google. from BBC News

They intend to work WITH other companies instead of against them. For example, Google will be working alongside Adobe in efforts to integrate Flash and Air as much as possible. Microsoft decide that they need to develop their own ‘Flash imitation’ called Silverlight. We need De Facto standards, not rivalries.

Microsoft are the biggest name in the industry but Google are snapping at their heels because they collaborate with so many other companies. Apple will survive because of it’s cult following. The rest of Silicon Valley had better help Google because it’s in their best interests.

It may take a good decade but finally there is a realistic threat to the monopoly that is Microsoft.

iPhone, therefore ical

I am trying to vary my blog posts but 3 days into owning the holy grail of current technology, I felt compelled to post about the iPhone again. But, this isn’t an ordinary post! For those that find it, it can serve as a tutorial on how to receive push calendar combining iCal and gCal. There is an added twist as well!I’ve used girlfriend for the duration of this explanation, please alter accordingly1 – The SituationI lead a pretty hectic life if you include work, freelance work, mates, girlfriend, family, girlfriends mates (in no particular order). I do not own a diary, the iPhone was going to be the answer to my prayers. A diary at the touch of a button, great!My problem is that when my girlfriend tells me she’s arranged a date for the diary, it goes in one ear and out the other. Although, I swear that sometimes she never tells me and just assumes that I know (but that’s neither here nor there).The solution, my girlfriend can update my calendar from her iPhone or the Internet and it will wirelessly update on my Mac, on the Internet and my iPhone, no wires attached! You may say it’s easy, but you may also have a MobileMe account, or you may have paid for BusySync or NuevaSync etc… If you are like me and you’ve already shelved out enough money on the phone itself, I’d rather do things as cheaply as possible – or free. Believe me, this is going to stop a lot of arguements and my grey hair growth may slow down as a result.Solution:

  1. Sign up for Google Calendar (I’m sure you already have).
  2. In iCal, add your gCal account in preferences using CalDav – View tutorial (you can now read and write from iCal – gCal, test by refreshing)
  3. Set up CalDav in your iPhone – View Tutorial – (you can now read/write from your iPhone – iCal & gCal, test by refreshing)
  4. Share your google calendar with your girlfriend. Give her read/write privileges (under settings)
  5. Download the Google Apps App for iPhone on your girlfriend’s phone
  6. Log in to Google Calendar (gCal) scroll down and click settings, you may need to deselect>save>exit, reselect>save>exit the shared calendar in order to make it visible in the browser window
  7. Test it, your girfriend should be able to edit something in the shared Google Calendar (on iPhone/Internet). This should update in your iCal (Mac), gCal (internet), iCal (iPhone).
  8. Ta  da! No more arguments, well, no more arguments about arranging your life.
  9. A nice touch from the lovely people at Google is that if your girlfriend edits something that you’ve already input, you’ll be sent an update email! How nice!

Issues:I haven’t gone to the trouble to find out how to totally share iCals from iPhone > Internet > iPhone because I don’t need to. My girlfriend still uses an old fashioned filofax but she can keep me updated wirelessly.I haven’t found out how to share and update multiple calendars so I’m just going to use one.I’ve trawled the web looking for a free answer to this so when it happened, I thought it was too good to be true, I’ll update you if there are any bugs because I can’t believe that I’ve solved this problem. Alternatively, let me know if this is easy and Ive just been looking in the wrong place! I look forward to your feedback (as long as it’s constructive).