Saturday, November 17, 2007

Comparing Photo-Sharing Sites

I've been researching today on what web site I want to use to share photos. I compared Flickr, Shutterfly, Snapfish and Picasa. Here's what I found:

Flickr - more community-driven
  • a Yahoo! company - can use yahoo id to sign up
  • can search for photos without logging in or becoming a member
  • comes in other languages
  • can invite family and friends to view photos
  • basic accounts are free
  • can organize photos by tagging them or using collections and sets
  • can make stuff like cards, photo books, dvds, etc.
  • map function - map where you took your photos
  • tons of ways to upload photos

Shutterfly - more product-driven

  • free unlimited photo storage
  • picture sharing
  • pick up prints at Target stores
  • lots of photo products
  • order prints
  • Shutterfly Collections - 2 web addresses used to share photos with friends, add comments, and add other photos
  • Shutterfly Studio - upload, organize, edit, share, order, and create

Snapfish - product-driven

  • owned by HP
  • 20 prints free with first upload
  • unlimited storage
  • photo sharing
  • lots of products
  • must register or log in to view other pages than homepage

Picasa - community-driven

  • owned by Google
  • photo sharing
  • over 1 GB of storage
  • friends can download photos at same resolution to print
  • download other friends' albums to keep a copy for yourself to view and add comments

So, I've decided to go with Picasa. It's simple to use. I'm a fan of Google. Plus I don't need to order prints. And if I do, I'll choose Shutterfly, because I've used them before. Flickr is overwhelming to me, there's just too much going on with the web site. I like that it's people-friendly and has a large community, but I don't want that. I really like the fact that with Picasa your friends can download a photo of yours at the same resolution to print or whatever. That won me over.

Billboard Design for Small Businesses

The other day I noticed a billboard off of one of the busiest interstates in Florida. It was for a small business. There was a graphic or icon of the company enlarged as it being the whole billboard itself. I didn't recognize the graphic and looked for the company name. At the very bottom of the billboard was the company's web address, in small print. It was so small that I couldn't read it completely as I drove by. This was badly designed.

I took another look at billboard designs from major or familiar companies of the general public. Such as, Budweiser, Coke, Heineken, IKEA, and etc. These all use some sort of icon or graphic, such as a logo, that's recongized as a household name. Just like in the Budweiser billboard, they're using the clouds as the crown logo. Recognized companies are free to do that, to use elements of theirs in different ways. Such as enlarging a logo or graphic or some sort of element that belongs to the company. Or even a certain color, as with some IKEA billboards I have seen - yellow. Another example I see everyday is the Yellow Tail wine. A few years ago they used the logo as being most of the billboard with an illustration of an animal or something with a yellow tail. Now they have it as the illustration enlarged, taking up most of the billboard space, with the yellow tail and their logo small off to the side or bottom.

Small start-up companies shouldn't do this yet. It's confusing for the new viewer. They need to first establish their brand and be known to the general public before they can go all out with enlarging random graphics. Instead they should enlarge their logo or name to let it be known. Having the name of the company or the web address written small and almost hidden on a new billboard is not helping the company out. Let the name get out there first. Plus add an icon or graphic that goes with the business. If the small company is into real estate, then have a house graphic or photo with a sale sign. If the small company is into pet care, then have a photo of a dog or cat or even an illustration of animals. But the make the name of the company stand out against the graphic elements, not vice versa.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Veerle's Blog

I can't say enough how much I love Veerle's blog. I've decided to dedicate my first blog post of the month to her.

Almost everyday I visit her blog to read up on what's new and take a look at the archives. Today I was reading a post about a billing software that she wrote about. As I was looking through it, I noticed she had a screenshot of the application. It was a listing for an invoice and she had her rate listed on it. Now I know how much catching up I have to do on my skills so I could make the same! Anyways, the point I want to make is how honest Veerle is. And even though I don't personally know her, her blogs are like mirrors of how I want my future to be. She's a true inspiration to me and to many others as well as I noticed in the dozens of comments she gets on her posts!

Her blog is really helpful for me. I've learned about so many new applications and techniques to use as a freelancer. And this is perfect for someone new in the freelance world. Her designs are very unique also. I don't see where she finds time to even write a post. I barely have time to even comment!

I think it would be really great to meet Veerle someday maybe and get a chance to talk about design. (Maybe even work for her one day...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Current Design I'm Working On...

I just designed a new layout for the El Patio Motel website. This project is half for fun and the other half for my first freelance work.

The El Patio Motel is located in Key West, Florida and is decorated in art deco style with a lovely garden and roof sun deck.

Here's why their site looks like now:
Here's my design:

I got inspiration from Komodomedia's website. I'm still working out how I want the Rooms and Rates section box to display and I left off the "s" on Room in the design. Oops. I also still want to add a web badge for the Make a Reservation link and maybe some graphic "hanging" down from the top of the page to display a comment area for people to say what they think after staying at the motel.

The first step I took in this project was of course drawing the design out on copy paper with the golden ratio. (I have a template that I can print out to draw up site designs.) I already had the design in my head for about a week, but couldn't find the time to sit down and draw it out. It only took me two days, the weekend in this case, to draw my design out and then go into Photoshop and make the comp.

I still have the content page and a form page to go, then I'll start developing it using XHTML and CSS. This usually takes 3-4 days, about 2-3 hours per day.

Hopefully when the new site is completed, I can sell it to El Patio, if they like it. I would offer them a good deal, because they would be my first real client as a freelancer. If not, I think it makes a great portfolio piece!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Designing/Developing for the iPhone, the Next Big Thing?

I recently came across the August 28th article by Craig Hockenberry entitled "Put Your Content in My Pocket" from ALA. The main focus of the article is on Mobile Safari and how you can "clean" up your current site to render as expected for iPhone users.

Craig goes on explaining all kinds of things to consider when designing or developing a website for the iPhone. For example, the resolution of the iPhone screen is 320px by 480px, text should be at least 40px large (or use percentages or ems for compliant web standards), and using microformats for links to phone numbers. Also he gives you tips on how to style a separate CSS for the iPhone and using any AJAX or JavaScript.

I've only read part one so far; part two is more on design, which I can't wait to read. I think these articles should be read by every web designer and web developer out there. One reason comes from part one of the articles in that Craig states,

"Many of these ideas can be useful and effective with other mobile devices. The processing power of these devices will continue to increase, bringing an end to a "dumbed down" mobile web. The iPhone may be just the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the storied life of HTML."

I personally think this is extremely important for the age of cell phones with Internet service. I'm not going to jump on the buy-an-iPhone-now wagon, but if Apple plans to sell over 10 million device that use the Internet by 2008, I'm sure I'm going to read and study as much information about designing and developing for the iPhone and other cell phones as I can.


Monday, September 10, 2007

New Site I Checked Out - Create Network

For the past week now I've been on the Create Network web site, part of Create Magazine, and I still haven't seen everything this web site has to offer. I can't remember how I got to it, probably through some blogs I normally read. The Create Network is a site about networking designers; from graphic designers to photography. You can sign up for free and post some of your portfolio pieces. You can talk with other designers and check out the job board. They even have this image battle on which your uploaded images get rated in these random "battles" that other people vote in. I've also been listening to their podcasts to get some more info on who they are and how this got started. Here's where you can subscribe to their casts.

From what I know so far is that Create Magazine is located in Orlando, Florida and their site, Create Network, is loaded with useful stuff for all types of designers!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Organizational Management

Here we go, the main reason why sometimes work just sucks. Is it just me or does every company have organizational problems?

It starts in the morning and my main supervisor is at her desk looking over an email I sent the day before. She calls me to her desk and yells at me to not take copy from my other supervisor. My other supervisor gave me different copy the day before for a web page when she was not at her desk. I changed the copy, because it all looks the same to me and some copy was missing. I replied back questioning her why he would give me different copy for the same page.

So I get yelled at for taking instructions from one of my supervisors. This is insane, because this slows down the project we're working on. I talked with my main supervisor and she is supposed to straighten this out, and she told me to always bring her what my other supervisor wants changed. I do this by sending her emails of the changes and I always keep backups of the old web pages. I have like 8 versions of the home page right now.

But really, it nerves me that my supervisors can't get together when someone wants something changed. It probably won't take but 5 minutes for everyone to agree that this button needs to be blue or this text needs to be to the right. Honestly, I'm learning so much from this experience, about organizational management. I'm a very organized person by nature and my supervisors are what gives me the most stress, not the work!

So, I've decided to make a list to share or reference for myself on organized workflow within a small team of 5 or so:
1. Know who all is working on the project and get their contact information
2. Make note of each person's responsibility in the project
3. Make a timeline and follow it
4. Create a request for change form with deadlines for reviews
5. Have weekly meetings to discuss what's been completed, what's being worked on, and what's coming up.
6. Have a meeting with everyone to discuss even the simpliest change on a web page
7. Assign a person to be in charge of the final decision

Justified Text

What is it about justified text on a web page? I recently designed a web page with lots of text and one of my supervisors asked if I could justify the text so that the ends of each line line up. The main reason I don't use justified text much is because you get rivers in the paragraphs. Rivers are the spaces needed to justify the text and when you have about the same amount of space in each line it looks sort of like a river going through your paragraph.

Oh well, I justified the text so everyone will be happy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Finding Myself...Again

With all web designers, graphic designers, and artists is it normal to always be looking for yourself? Your style, your trends, your signature? I remember reading something about this in either How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul or somewhere else about how designers can't find their style. This would be difficult since design trends will always change. Plus, if you're a freelancer, you're always having different designs and feels for each client. As a designer you will always have to adapt to what the client wants.

The only thing that could help you keep your style is your own web site. This provides what trends, colors, fonts, styles, etc. that you like. Because you won't be able to incorporate your nice two color contemporary, abstract design from your web site to a client's web site or print project. Unless they actually want that and lucky you!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

Now, I know I'm not the coding expert I would like to be, but it's not like I'm clueless on what I'm doing so far. I only have 3 solid years experience with CSS and XHTML, and most of that I taught myself!

My feathers got ruffled today at work. I was told not to code for the time being, which is understandable. One side of me takes this personally, as a web designer. The other side sees this as only business, in that the designs need to be completed by Tuesday. I'm trying not to take it personally. Really, I shouldn't, because most of the work is the coding.

But back to my experience... I know I'm just starting out in the real world. And right now, there's SO much I want to learn and do, and I have all these ideas running through my head for site designs. I just don't have the time right now to do anything of this. I mean, I read any books I buy practically the same day.

I will be a CSS and XHTML expert one day, maybe in 4 years. (I was thinking that having 7 years experience in the field is a good, rounded number.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Include Files

This wasn't the first time I've created a web site from scratch. It was my time first, however, transferring XHTML files to an ASP.NET developer for publishing the site.

The way I go about creating a web site, - let's say a web page in this instance - is designing the comp or mockup in Photoshop. Then when this is approved, I start developing the page in Dreamweaver using XHTML and CSS. When this is approved and tested, it goes live. I'm really big on web standards, such as using XHTML 1.0 Transitional, ALT attributes for images, semantic markup, etc. So I try to stay on top of these things to let everyone view the web page properly with few or no errors. This reminds me that I should redo my own web site...

Anyways, so I develop the page in XHTML and CSS and zip everything together, images also, and send the .zip file to the .NET developer. There's a problem. The developer wants the XHTML file to be broken up into .inc files. What's an .inc file? I ask my husband, whose also an ASP.NET developer with 3 Microsoft certifications in .NET development, what an .inc file is. His answer was, "I can't believe people are still using these! This is old technology! I used to use .inc files, but that was a long time ago." I was shocked.

So, back at work I create these .inc files of the web page, along with the CSS included.

For those of you who don't know what an .inc file is, include file - it's a file, just like .htm or .xml - and it was used to store content information for web pages. A master page is created to pull these inc.files when the information is requested. This makes sense and this is how a master page works, but the content pages should be .aspx files - not .inc files. With .inc files, private information can be exposed. With .aspx files, this information is safely stored. Read more from W3C.

Back at work again, I take the time and cut up my beautiful HTML pages into .inc files as this .NET developer had requested. I even asked about the .inc files and why they were being used. The reply was that the .NET developer wasn't using the .inc files. Then why am I creating them!?! What a waste of time for both of us!

I stopped creating them since the .NET developer wasn't using them. I just sent .zip files with the XHTML, CSS, and images of the web page.