Category Archives: antiblog

live updating

I know I shouldn’t really do this, but I am updating the site and fiddling with the css while it’s live. I find it faster and more logical. So if you see red borders, or dropping images, don’t worry, it’s just me with the hammer and mallet behind the scenes. I am adding in some new old work (hows that for sense?) and I am adding in more screenshots for most of the work that is currently up. I might even add in some new sections in the portfolio section, to cover more areas, such as logo design and branding, and presentations.

Thanks for your patience!

Bamboo is amazing

Well, I have finished the Emperor Hammocks (check that spelling!) website, and I am really pleased with the way the mambo shopping module has worked out. The site itself isn’t one that needs the dynamic engine of mambo behind it, but the mambo phpshop module that is available made it worthwhile.

I am liking Mambo more and more as I use it – it makes it much easier to get the look and feel of the site to be unique, and not a production line clone that matches every other mambo site. The software is well thought out, and the administration area quite intuitive once you’ve worked with it for a while. Althought that sounds like a tortology of sorts.

And in case you’re interested in Hammocks, these are pretty brilliant. Created from one single length of bamboo, it starts off solid, and is divided, woven, and then returned to the solid state. Don’t understand that? Check it out!
Oh, and they also have bowls and plant baskets at the moment, but look out for more interesting pieces, as they’ve just got back from a shopping spree overseas.

crap shot, anyone?

There is a growing trend on the internet for sites that share stock photography for free. This fits in with the ethos of the virtual community very well, and I have no complaints against it as it is.

The problem is, these poor quality images are free, so people start to view them as a cheap alternative for professional photography.

I saw one of these (it was istockphoto) advertised in Computer Arts the other day, and it truly outlined the problem with these sites. They are full of substandard photography. In our instant age, a few snaps seems to be enough for the majority of these photo sharers.

The ad in question showed a fairly interesting photography of a woman. She had a nice face, her hair was styled, and she had an intent look in her eyes. But over her shoulder, under her white halter neck top ran a bra strap. One side was almost hidden, the other separated itself from the shirt above. And this is the crux of the problem. Attention to detail. Care and quality. Strict admission.

Free stock sites are guarenteed to contain some absolute gems, some hobby photographers whose work is exceptional, and deserve to make money from it. But a vast majority of the accepted photos seem to be lacking in one of several points. Technical quality, visual attention to detail, inspiration.

On one site I found a photo of several dolls house toilets. It wasn’t even interesting. Why take it in the first place?

As a photographic enthusiast, my reject pile is 90% of my photographs. In the digital age I can afford to take the time to get the perfect shot. And if it isn’t perfect, I don’t just use it anyway, I try again. I may not be the most technically advanced, but I am picky. There wouldn’t be any bra straps showing on my photos.

This obviously comes from my background as an Art Director – standing with the photographer surveying the scene I was always moving and shifting things. Studying the polaroid and then adjusting the set again. But I don’t see why someone who is serious about their photography doesn’t take the time to do the same. To get the best shot you normally have to work at it.

My mother did always tell me – you get what you pay for.

Browsers, a love hate relationship

Well, the new site design is finally live (as you can see). And boy did it take a long time to get this working in different browsers! I think Internet Explorer should be put to death with extreme predjudice!
One of the main reasons that it’s been so tricky was that the actual layout is pretty complex. But I wanted it to work completely even when all css was stripped away.
Getting everything working and standards compliant in Firefox and Safari was pretty easy. And then all of a sudden, it died in Internet Explorer. A nasty little floating element bug afflictin IE6 nearly got teh better of me! The minute I got it working in IE, it suddenly threw a wobbly in Safari.
Actually, there are are still a couple of pages afflicted by that bug – this one being one of them I believe! But right now my G5 and the PC are under plastic wrap, as the kitchen is being redone, and I am working from the laptop. So if you see a box floating somewhere over on the right hand side that looks like it’s lost, then that’s the bug!
One of the main ideas behind the current layout was to then create a lot of alternate styles for it, some to be quite different in the layout. But since no-one is paying me to play with my own site, so that might take a while to happen!

news feeds

I have a new obsession – new feeds. This is a relatively new technology for me, although I’ve known they exist for a long time. What I didn’t realise, was how easy it is to put a lovely little OS X aggregator on the desktop and read the headlines.
My trial of NetNewsWire has now expired, so I am trying out NewsFire. It seems to be pulling in some iTunes top 10s – another little gem! I haven’t yet explored that realm, however. AHa doesn’t seem to be top of the list for some strange reason.
As a result, the rss for this site is now quite streamlined. Should you want to be updated when I add anything, just right click/ctrl click on the orange xml button on most pages. Or right click/ctrl click this link. It’s quite natty. For the portfolio and photography categories you even get the image in thumbnail size.

an interview with myself

This is an excerpt from an interview I wrote a few years back. I think it still pretty much represents my thoughts today.
How did you get into web design?
I started doing a bit of web design while I was working as an Art Director in 1999. I made some pretty hideous hobby sites at first. After I was made redundant, I decided to try freelancing again, and got on the books with a temp agency. The first company they sent me to made it clear that as soon as someone with real experience and a better portfolio came along, they’d take them instead and let me go. What actually happened was that they hired me a week later.
I started my own company when I was pregnant so that I could work from home, especially after the baby was born. It was a slow time at first, but I got some good clients, like Coca Cola, because I had a lot of contacts in advertising.
What do you use to code your sites?
Let’s not talk about coding straight away – I am a designer, so I start on paper. I see the site exactly how I want it to be, and I sketch that up quite loosely. Once I have a few ideas of various designs, I move to the computer. I almost always start building the look in Adobe illustrator, building up the layers of the site, and masking them with a browser window so that I can see the effect (The window size is 780×580 – you always need to remember that 800×600 is still a very popular size). You can select pixel preview in Illustrator so that you can see how it will look pixellate – even when you zoom in. That can ensure that you know your 1 pixel lines are sharp and clean. Once I have something that I want to start building with, I export to Adobe Photoshop/ImageReady the relevant layers. You can jump between Photoshop and ImageReady and it ports the new information from one to the other as you switch. I slice and dice and clean up the images there. I may continue creating in Photoshop if I need to.
With the Photoshop/ImageReady work done, I save the various image slices to gif or jpg format. I don’t save an html page from ImageReady, as they aren’t as neatly done as I’d do them myself.
I used to use Fireworks for final image output, as Photoshop couldn’t handle making a colour value transparent. However it can now, so I haven’t touched Fireworks in a long time.
I use Dreamweaver when I create the sites (and I work on the Macintosh for all of this). But I quite often edit them in the fly on the PC using HTMLpad 2000. I do have Dreamweaver on the PC as well, but it’s so much slower than the Mac that I can’t be bothered with it. The two computers are networked together so I can access the working files from both. I am a web designer, not a web developer – and I hate people who try and be jack-of-all-trades. They succeed in doing all elements of website creation to a basic level, and nothing very well. I stick to what I am good at – and want to be be good at. I don’t have any desire to learn how to script or program directly. I hire people to do that for projects if I need to.
How do you decide whether someone with similar skills could be a rival or a colleague?
I am normally quite generous with my help and advice, and I don’t think about things like that. Designers have their own styles, and if someone wanted my style – then they’ll approach me for work. I get work from people looking at my site and liking what they see. I also have some big name clients, which certainly helps. I wouldn’t normally need help from another designer, but I very often use programmers for dynamic content, database building, and installations of complex scripts. I could spend 3 days learning it myself, but I just don’t want to.

people who don't pay up

Every now and then it happens – someone stiffs you after you do a lot of work for them. For me, the person was Will Nickson, from the Logic Group (www.thelogicgroup.co.uk and www.thelogicgroup.net).
This was a huge shame, as the work I did for him was Footprint Travel books. After apparently not liking the first design, I did a second that they liked a lot. Then I neard nothing for a long long time. One day I had a look at the site, and lo and behold – my first design was now being used. Absolutely code for code, image for image. (For what I’d done, they’d obviously had to code all the pages from the templates that I provided, and thus add new page images!)
I was very pleased. But not a word from Will Nickson.
In the meantime, of course – I’d gone on to do more work for him. I’d done an online advent calendar for TSB Lloyds Bank, and I’d done some designs for his own website. I think that’s were the relationship fell through. He loved the first design I did, but wanted to change some details. After tweaking it into different versions, he no longer liked it. But instead of behaving professionally, and sitting down to discuss this, he began to complain that I wasn’t fulfilling his requirements, that my work was substandard, and that my prices had gone up.
He failed to understand that time spent on his changes, and interpreting his open (read that – missing) brief make this a more involved design job.
We came to a compromise – or I thought we did. I created some simple headers along the lines of something he’d mocked up for him to use.
He never replied to me again.
And neither did he pay for any of the three jobs. And yes, I chased him with emails. I left messages on his phone (it appears that the company phone number was just his own phone – one man band?)
Will Nickson, consider yourself named and shamed. I will happily remove this page on receipt of payment however!
[update]
I have recently been contacted by someone who was also cheated by Will Nickson, and to a much larger degree than I was. He described him to me as the most “lying, vicious, manipulative thief” that he had ever had the misfortune to meet.
[update]
I’ve now been contacted by three people who have done work for Will Nickson that they’ve not been paid for. It’s astounding that he’s actually still working for anyone! Neither of this websites have anything on them anymore.
So if you’re thinking of working with or for Will Nickson, or if you’re thinking of getting him to work for you, then I urge you to reconsider. You don’t want to get your fingers burnt and end up out of pocket.
[and yet another update]
I’ve now been contacted by a further 2 people who were thinking of working with Will Nickson. Both decided not to give him their business after talking to me.
[2009 update]
Will Nickson is now part of a new company called Binary Studios – binarystudios.co.uk – I’d avoid them, personally. Of course, it may not actually be a “them” – it could just be another one man band.

people who don’t pay up

Every now and then it happens – someone stiffs you after you do a lot of work for them. For me, the person was Will Nickson, from the Logic Group (www.thelogicgroup.co.uk and www.thelogicgroup.net).
This was a huge shame, as the work I did for him was Footprint Travel books. After apparently not liking the first design, I did a second that they liked a lot. Then I neard nothing for a long long time. One day I had a look at the site, and lo and behold – my first design was now being used. Absolutely code for code, image for image. (For what I’d done, they’d obviously had to code all the pages from the templates that I provided, and thus add new page images!)
I was very pleased. But not a word from Will Nickson.
In the meantime, of course – I’d gone on to do more work for him. I’d done an online advent calendar for TSB Lloyds Bank, and I’d done some designs for his own website. I think that’s were the relationship fell through. He loved the first design I did, but wanted to change some details. After tweaking it into different versions, he no longer liked it. But instead of behaving professionally, and sitting down to discuss this, he began to complain that I wasn’t fulfilling his requirements, that my work was substandard, and that my prices had gone up.
He failed to understand that time spent on his changes, and interpreting his open (read that – missing) brief make this a more involved design job.
We came to a compromise – or I thought we did. I created some simple headers along the lines of something he’d mocked up for him to use.
He never replied to me again.
And neither did he pay for any of the three jobs. And yes, I chased him with emails. I left messages on his phone (it appears that the company phone number was just his own phone – one man band?)
Will Nickson, consider yourself named and shamed. I will happily remove this page on receipt of payment however!
[update]
I have recently been contacted by someone who was also cheated by Will Nickson, and to a much larger degree than I was. He described him to me as the most “lying, vicious, manipulative thief” that he had ever had the misfortune to meet.
[update]
I’ve now been contacted by three people who have done work for Will Nickson that they’ve not been paid for. It’s astounding that he’s actually still working for anyone! Neither of this websites have anything on them anymore.
So if you’re thinking of working with or for Will Nickson, or if you’re thinking of getting him to work for you, then I urge you to reconsider. You don’t want to get your fingers burnt and end up out of pocket.
[and yet another update]
I’ve now been contacted by a further 2 people who were thinking of working with Will Nickson. Both decided not to give him their business after talking to me.
[2009 update]
Will Nickson is now part of a new company called Binary Studios – binarystudios.co.uk – I’d avoid them, personally. Of course, it may not actually be a “them” – it could just be another one man band.

This is not a weblog

I honestly don’t think that I have such realms of profound insight that people will be flocking here to read it. Nor am I that good at writing anyway. And neither do I think a few lines about what I ate or how I feel are of any interest to anyone.
Most weblogs are either introspective twaffle, or totally abandoned for moths, with the occasional “I’ve been busy, but I’m going to start updating this soon, I promise” posting.
So don’t expect this area to be filled with witty and eloquent dialogue, just the occasional self interested diatribe.