J's Blog

May 27, 2011

Started the day animating a butterfly, made me smile because it's pouring rain out there.

J's web fact of the day: "Killing your users experience with complication. A form or store shouldn't validate every tedious entry a user interacts with, yes validating email addresses and credit card details are a must. Users will abandon a website process if it repeatedly tells them that they did something wrong. The goal is to GET from the users and avoid abandonment. This may mean you have some additional work in the end if they didn't fully complete the ancillary data fields, but that's a small price to pay for a successful process."

May 19, 2011

Taught a 20 something girl Wordpress in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately I've been teaching a 40 something Wordpress for the last year. It's ridiculously apparent that the digital natives that have been born into easily accessible digital technology are much more adapt to interacting with todays and tomorrows technology. The digital immigrants that I am a part of are split between those that can and those that give up. Then there are the digital analogues that remember fondly a slide rule, dockets, and are terrified that there may be a reference to their existence in the results of a search engine. Ah, the joys of working with each of the three demographics. Where do you think you fit?

J's web fact of the day: "Always ask questions about the design of your website. But, for example: a plumber telling a professional web/graphic designer how to build a website is absurd. Let the professional do what they do best or you might end up with a toilet where you really didn't want it."

May 8, 2011

Got a free coffee at my coffee shop this morning, a good start to the day.

J's web fact of the day: "A good start to a web project is to work on selecting the core assests. Fonts, colours, layout style and web copy are the initial pieces to begin. So, spending some quality time and getting as much feedback as you can will support a successful build."

May 7, 2011

Reminiscing about web design 15 years ago and some of the applications (yes... desktop applications) that I built. One especially... It took properly constructed MS Word documents (we all know how to do it, but no one does it: using headers, proper bullet lists...) anyways, It took the word document and created an entire technical manual website, which was searchable too. I think the largest document I ran was 3000 pages and it compiled the site in minutes. Oh those were the days. Probably would still work today.

J's web fact of the day: "Be wary of the web design hype machine. Someone may say you need a website forum, a blog, a wiki... but if no one actually assesses the probability of use it can be more damaging to your web presence and you wouldn't even know it. Stale, empty, or even worse a welcome message is bad."

May 5, 2011

Back into doing After Effects work. Really liking the CS5 masters suite, I can literally do anything now.

J's web fact of the day: "When you pass along any digital artwork, be sure to change all text to curves/outlines. Not everyone has your font and you don't want them messing with the artwork."

April 2, 2011

Overheard a coffee shop meeting between a mom and pop shop and a young designer this morning while my daughter farmed some zombies on my iPhone. Over heard some good stuff from the designer but he proposed a Drupal solution for this mid-fifties couple that said 'We aren't that good with computers'.

J's web fact of the day: "Search engine optimization should not be the primary focus of your marketing approach. Yes, SEO is a valuable asset when done correctly, but not paying attention to the quality of the web copy and layout of a website will make all the work done on SEO redundant. You don't want visitors to quickly reach your site and then be turned away by the visible copy and design."

April 1, 2011

Have a client that decided to take on designing some graphics for himself. Even when he knows and understands branding rules, he broke every single one of them.

J's web fact of the day: "Consistently applying a branding rules model will ensure that you are relaying the same message. It is inherent in the general population that people like familiarity and come to cherish personal brands. If your branding continuously shifts and is irregular you risk loosing brand impression."

March 31, 2011

I've been following the brilliant tweets of DrunkHulk. Now he's what I would call pop-media icon, so if you want to chuckle at the world through the eyes of a drunk Hulk definately follow. Oh, and I am back on twitter (@Siteblocks) and looking for twits to follow my twats so happy following. Cheers

J's web fact of the day: "Being passionate about your web project is a great thing. Bringing in passionate designers will enhance your project. Listening and working with those passionate designers will bring your project to fruition."

March 30, 2011

It's been an interesting last 2 years, Siteblocks was on hiatus, SiteBlocks was completely re-tooled. I've had huge personal ups and downs. I have to give a huge thanks out to everyone at DIRTT.net, being involved in the marketing and communications group there is an awesome experience. What a great company.

So, with that said... I'm back! to make the web a better place and build some wicked websites!

J's web fact of the day: "A design studio cannot run on a nickel and dime clientelle. A good studio is made up of very talented professionals who are passionate about their work and should be remunerated for their services accordingly. Cutting corners on a project means there's a very good chance every aspect of your project will suffer. Knowing this up front will help in the decision process to select a design firm."

March 28, 2011

Oh Mr. Jobs when will your shenanigans end? Seriously, Apple is thinking to approve every web page for a fee or it won’t display all the content on future next gen. hardware starting with the letter i. Viva la revolution.

J's web fact of the day: "If you just recently registered your domain name, be aware that Google has a policy that is called 'The Google Delay'. The Google delay is where your new domain will not be indexed for 9-12 months. Indexing is where a search engine will go through your website for meta data/content, so that searches for your website content will return your website in the search engine results. If you search for your domain name in Google it should return your website in the results, but that only works for people that know your domain, probably very few. I tell people with new domain names not to get Google eyes, my term for people that don't remember that there are other search engines out there, without an indexing delay."

Nov. 16, 2010

It makes the project so enjoyable when the client is professional, listens and works with the web designer to achieve a quality piece of web work.

J's web fact of the day:"Do not mass market email using your email program and/or your domain address. 15-20 marketing emails a day would be ok. Any quantity higher and you should seek out a quality email marketing service. 9K+ a week is flirting with being black listed permenently, and that would be ridiculously complex to fix."

Oct. 28, 2010

Well it finally happened after about 15 years of web design horror Geocities has shut down. In all it's glorious clip art and animated gif web designs that many a web designer was born, I loathed that service, much like Angelfire and the more recent MySpace. In most jurisdictions there are laws around 'back yard mechanics' and with Geocities there should have been laws around 'back yard webdesign'. I know someone will set up an online petition to keep Geocities alive, please for all that is beautiful on the web, let it pass quietly and treat it like getting that trailer park out of your neighbourhood, feel sullen but happy.

J's web fact of the day:"When life is eating up your design time, don't fall into the 4 hours (or less) of sleep trap. Your designs and service will suffer."

Sept. 28, 2010

I'm in the process of re-designing the e-commerce module for SiteBlocks™. It's coming together nicely. Building e-commerce tools are the most intense builds, things like taxes (Quebec charges QST on the total including GST, in essence taxing tax), shipping, quantity/value discounts, coupons, inventory management... E-commerce websites cost immensely more, for a reason.

J's web fact of the day:"With e-commerce websites, the web designer will have to rely on third parties to complete the development. If those third parties offer subjective service, milestones in development will be delayed. It's a fact of the web design industry."

Sept. 21, 2010

It's interesting to watch the business that goes on in a coffee shop. From the two executives who are discussing recession recovery to the start-up small business that's getting business advice from what I refer to as grifters. I learn a lot while caffeinating myself.

J's web fact of the day:"If you're doing e-commerce and Halloween is coming up, unless you are selling Halloween products, using terms like Scary, Haunted, Evil... is an interesting risk to potential sales. Watch your wording!"

Sept. 19, 2010

I am enjoying only taking on one client at a time. It's makes life so much easier to be able to plan and deliver even when things go awry. It gives me the time to plan and develop with out the pressures of rescheduling impacts on other clients.

J's web fact of the day:"If you think that your the decision maker on your website project, yet there is another person in your organization that believes the same, a good website designer will call you both out and explain that there should be only one point of contact. Those infighting decisions should be handled internally and not aired in front of a third party."

August 14, 2010

I am so happy with my Dell laptop. It's a workhorse and hasn't let me down over the past year. Oh no, I probably just jinxed myself. What ever happened to the 'Dude, you bought a Dell?' guy.

J's web fact of the day:"E-commerce can be as simple as a contact email on a website or as complex as running a full e-commerce toolset. Think about inventory for products, size, colour, left/right hand... be aware the more options for products the more management time you'll have to spend."

August 9, 2010

Yeah, I've been so busy with life stuff that I've been neglecting my blog. I'm going to be more diligent and follow my own mantras on owning a website.

J's web fact of the day:"No monitors are equal. So you can pick a colour for your website and check it on two different monitors and you can be guaranteed that it will be off on one of them. Yes, you can calibrate your monitors with expensive equipment, but the average user of your website will not be calibrating their monitors. And take it easy on your web designer about why colours look different on different machines."

July 31, 2010

Ok, I've got only a couple more projects to schedule and I'm booked solid for the entire month of August. Seems like I might have to entertain the idea of bringing in some people to do some contract work for SiteBlocks™. I didn't intend to build up another staffed studio, but there seems to be enough demand for my work.

J's web fact of the day:"If you're supplying your own photography for your website, think about the photography and how it would look in your website. Also, take as many photos as possible. It's always frustrating when a client has only one photo of a job site, staff pic, event... and it's not the best quality. Spend some time with your photography for your website."

July 28, 2010

So, I'm so busy lately that I can only take one new client a month that needs more than a basic template SiteBlocks™ install. Maybe this world recession is starting to recover. I've never been in this much demand.

J's web fact of the day:"Plan to revisit your website content and design on a regular basis. If your content and design projects an image of you/your company that is out of date, why would customers be interested in you or your company?"

July 23, 2010

Ok, from previous posts to my blog I have made it known that I am not a big proponent of full Flash websites. It's not that they can't provide a purpose, if I had world wide branded clients like BMW, Smirnoff, Dell... I'd be building full Flash micro sites all the time. Now, here's an interesting and not well known issue for the 'must have full Flash' fanbois: New attacks exploit vuln in (fully-patched) Adobe Flash.

J's web fact of the day:"If you have a blog then blog. If you want a blog then be sure you will have time and content to blog."

July 21, 2010

Having a quiet day coordinating some website design work coming up soon. Meeting a client at a coffee shop. Trying to decided what I'm going to have for dinner.

J's web fact of the day:"When you meet with a web designer and you're looking for elements like a shopping cart, have the designer show working models of their work with shopping carts. It could be a huge risk both in time and final product if your project is going to be the first client using a custom built element. Ask for demonstrations, it's in your best interest."

July 20, 2010

Seems that it's that time of year that people are looking at their current websites and deciding that they are looking for a redesign. Time will tell if they are committed to their web presence.

J's web fact of the day:"You should be prepared to address your web content at least once a month. People today are put off on the internet when they are not engaged, simple things like a blog or a latest news will show that you are enthusiastic about sharing what's going on in your business with current and potential clients."

July 17, 2010

I have a buddy that just had his mini van stolen. Poor sod. He used to install vehicle anti-theft devices and didn't install one in his families van thinking 'no one would steal a mini van!' I know his wife isn't impressed. It just goes to show that the attitude of 'It won't happen to me' catches up to everyone.

J's web fact of the day:"Ok, as I posted above, It will happen to you or attempts will be made at some point to access a computer login you use. I beg all of you to change all those weak passwords for your computer logins to something strong; 'password', 'hello' and 'god' are not passwords. Use at least 8 characters, numeric, alpha and special (underscores, asterix, till...). The strongest passwords are sentences that make sense to you, like 'I_have_1_nephew_&_2_daughters', that's the strongest password method. Oh and don't complain 'it's too long!' either, the time typing that password will eleviate the time and pain if some 15 year old Iranian, Romainian, Turk... hacker gets access to your information."

July 16, 2010

I am making a marketing flash movie for SiteBlocks™. I like using flash media for pure marketing, it's the eye candy of web design. I should have it done by the weekend, so check back soon.

J's web fact of the day:"If you just recently registered your domain name, be aware that Google has a policy that is called 'The Google Delay'. The Google delay is where your new domain will not be indexed for 9-12 months. Indexing is where a search engine will go through your website for meta data/content, so that searches for your website content will return your website in the search engine results. If you search for your domain name in Google it should return your website in the results, but that only works for people that know your domain, probably very few. I tell people with new domain names not to get Google eyes, that's my term for people that don't remember that there are other search engines out there, without an indexing delay."

July 14, 2010

I need another coffee. I'm really impressed with companies that are environmentally responsible that seek out to purchase or supply products that are in a recycle life cycle.

J's web fact of the day:"Look at the nearest product to you and think about the design process that went into producing it. It could be a desk, chair, poster, pen... Subconsciously people will be thinking about your website with similar thinking processes, is this functional, can I find what I'm looking for, I like the design..."

July 13, 2010

I just got rain soaked walking from the truck to the Starbucks. I find it such a ebb and flow to running a small business, going through a quiet period and then past and new clients contacting me for quotes/demos/updates all at once.

J's web fact of the day:"A template website design might be the most cost effective method for getting a redesign or new design completed in the most efficient time period. It's not to say custom would not be cost effective or that it would take too long, just that it should be properly assessed for your web project."

July 9, 2010

It's so cool to meet people with true passion for web design. I met two new friends that have varied experience in web design, one who's been doing it for years and another that just completed school for web design. It is very rewarding to see experienced and new enthusiasm in my industry and they just happen to be really nice people too.

J's web fact of the day:"If your web designer does not ask questions during the development process there is probably a disconnect to what the final product will be. You may get everything that you ask for but are you the expert in user interface design? are you the expert in writing for the web? are you the expert in search engine optimization? probably not. All design elements/changes will probably impact each of those important factors somehow and if not questioned/explained can be very detrimental."

July 7, 2010

I'm doing up a couple templates for the oil & gas industry. I'm curious if it will lead to any new business. Now to hunt for photos of wells, dirty oil patch workers and the big skies of the Canadian prairies.

J's web fact of the day:"If you have a website, remember that it's not just about the look and feel, usability is extremely important. If you require the users of your website to guess or interpret where the information they are looking for is, they won't stay long or return to your website."

June 28, 2010

I'm at Starbucks having a cup-o-joe on this lazy Sunday. The plan is to build two new templates today and do some writing. I've undertook the hardest personal project I've ever done, write a sci-fi novel. Cudos to all the authors I've ever read.

J's web fact of the day:"Have someone read and comment on the words on your website. Ask them to review them for things like is it descriptive, to the point and understandable without interpretation."

June 23, 2010

Just finished a vintage 50's style template layout. I was surprised that it took much longer to do a retro template compared to doing a more modern style. Being inundated with nice glossy styles that are all the rage for website design makes it harder to step outside of those modern styles and do something unique and cool.

J's web fact of the day:"Update your browser versions and or use a more modern browser, enough said."

June 19, 2010

I've been surprised at the amount of business activity that goes on at the coffee shops around the city. It is especially apparent that a large amount of web design and search engine optimizing business is done over coffee. I don't mean to overhear, but some of the stuff being told to people during these meetings is very disturbing to me as a web professional. I hope it works out for them. But, if they later come to me to fix a mess, I guess that's not bad for me either.

J's web fact of the day:"Please listen to your web designer. Yes, you might have a look and feel that you want to achieve and it could work. But, if your web designer raises issues/concerns around the usability, search engine optimization, and accessibility, engage them to explain in detail the issues/concerns. Detailed information from a website professional will only be in your best interest."

June 14, 2010

I'm liking the old school graphic arts work that was done in the early 20's, 30's and 40's. I'm planning a couple template layouts using some of those styles. Here's a link to some vintage style design work, check it out if you have some time to surf.

J's web fact of the day:"All browsers are not the same and even the same browser isn't always the same. When you have any web design work done, ensure it looks acceptable across the main browsers out there. I'm still amazed that I still see Netscape users out there."

June 11, 2010

I watched a woman at the coffee shop today fight with a Mac genius on the phone trying to figure out why her fancy Mac book air locks up and shuts down all by itself. I usually don't take PC/Mac sides for the fact that I've had PC's do the same thing. I have an old IBM think pad with Linux installed on it and I stuck a Mac apple sticker on the lid, yes it's a monstrosity and it crashes too. Maybe there is a correlation to how pretty the machine is and it's users level of anger when it crashes. I laugh when my Linux think pad crashes, because deep down I know it should and often.

J's web fact of the day:"Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter do not constitute the entire internet, surf the web for new things as often as you can. Try Stumbleupon once in a while."

June 9, 2010

Heading back to Calgary today. Back to coffee shops and client meetings. Currently I have the time available for a couple more clients so if you know of anyone who might be interested in a new website or a re-design have them give me a call or visit my website.

J's web fact of the day:"Consistent branding is a must. When you use letter head, marketing material, business cards, brochures, email signatures... make sure it's the official branding. It looks awful to customers to see 2-3-4 different versions of a branding used on different material."

June 5, 2010

Designing templates for a kids site and sports sites. I can whip up a couple templates a day now. I think I'll do a news and technology template next.

J's web fact of the day:"Don't throw up a website just to have a website. Treat your website like a cherished pet; love it, feed it, share it and pay attention to it. If you do those things your website will give back to you.'


June 2, 2010

I've extended my stay in Kelowna another week. I've been using a beautiful search engine called Cuil [pronounced COOL] it returns great results and adds a really attractive presentation. Now that I've used Cuil for a couple weeks exclusively for my searches, I've gone back and tried Google again and it works, but it's so bland.

J's web fact of the day:"It's really important to be straight forward with any message you are presenting on the internet. If you use MBAinese to relay your message to the general public, you're taking a tremendous risk that people will actually spend the time to read/interpret your message. Remember, write for your audience."

May 28, 2010

Sitting in a cafe working and watching the busy people is awesome. I'm on pace to be able to add a new template a day and I'm really enjoying being creative. I'm looking at adding a couple templates that will use some crazy new technology for rendering text, so stay tuned.

J's web fact of the day:"It's really important to have a web designer that understands the world of search engines. You should spend a bit of time with your web designer to discuss things like search engine optimization and understand that there are more search engines than Google. If they tell you they can get you to the top of the page in Google by using their secret methods, run away, they are lying, the ridiculous number of variables makes that statement a pure fallacy in today's web world!"

May 24, 2010

I'm in Kelowna BC spending some time with family. I guess I am really lucky that my industry does allow for me to work from any location in the world. It seems that most professions are so mobile now that people don't blink an eye when I'm doing their website work when I'm not in their city, province, country...

J's web fact of the day:"This ties into what I wrote above. If you have content that you want constantly to be updated, get a content management system (CMS). Trust me that your web designer does not want to be inundated with updates when you decide to make changes at 2am and your not happy that the updates are scheduled to be done in 2 business days. In the long run, the cost may be larger up front for a CMS, but over time having a web designer do the updates will cost you much more."

May 21, 2010

Had a friend come by last night with a computer that crashed. It was choking on many years of dust and debris and the OS was corrupted. I popped the hard drive into one of my machines and got all her files off it with her help. Going to rebuild the OS tonight.

J's web fact of the day:"It seems that everyone is trying to be cutting edge on the web. I see the clean and simple designs continue to trump the crazy cutting edge designs when the industry doesn't necessarily need to be so out there.'

May 16, 2010

I'm in the middle of three small web projects, two are for the SiteBlocks™ website and one is for a client. It's important to have a schedule to follow and plan the day around projects. I find that if I blast away on a single project without a break I don't enjoy the project as much as I should. A break allows me to approach a project with not one fresh start, but sometimes many.

J's web fact of the day:"It's funny that all these Apple fanbois are walking around with iPhones that can't display Flash websites, yet most of them are the people that insist that their website be made entirely in Flash.'

May 12, 2010

Sitting in Starbucks having a muffin and a cup of coffee. It's raining and actually a nice grey day. Client meetings here are great, friendly staff, good seating and quiet.

J's web fact of the day:"If you want people to return to your website, write good web copy. If people are engaged in your website and enjoy, understand and take something away from the content, they will return.'

May 11, 2010

Looking forward to getting my bike out in the nice weather. I have found that riding is vital to staying grounded physically mentally. It's too easy to get tied up in so much work and forget to do good things for myself.

J's web fact of the day:"People do not enjoy reading centered text, ever. It's the hardest alignment of text for people to interpret. Avoid the idea of center aligning a paragraph, unless you don't want it read.'

May 6, 2010

Got a laptop with wireless and need to get out of the office to keep sane do work? Starbucks is awesome, get yourself a Starbucks coffee card, load it with some money and use the code on the back to login for 2 hours per day of free internet. The coffee is good too.

J's web fact of the day:"Get any recognition you can on your industries media websites. For example, a photographer should submit their best photos to websites showcasing the best photography submitted by the photographer community. Then link to the showcase work on your website.'

May 2, 2010

People always ask me what program should they use for photo manipulation. Photoshop always comes up and in my opinion it is overkill for someone who wants to do basic cropping and resizing. Here is a great solution called Sumo Paint. It's an online graphics program, no software to install, you can use it anywhere there's internet and it's tools are nicely packaged. Definitely worth a look.

J's web fact of the day:"Print material graphics and text are not necessarily the best web material. A link to a PDF version usually will suffice, but to actually translate the print material raises issues with custom fonts, text/graphics arrangement and readability on a screen as opposed to print material.'

April 28, 2010

Ok, Calgary is an awesome city for web design projects. I have met some great people with the right attitude towards their web projects. It makes all the difference as a designer when a client entrusts me to put them in the design and search engine space that they deserve to be in.

J's web fact of the day:"Pay attention to your branding. Be consistent in how you use your branding. You should maintain your branding information, like size and positioning around other graphics and text, branding colours (CMYK/Pantone), and you must maintain authoritative versioning of your branding."

April 27, 2010

Did up my new business cards and got them off to print. I like the nice and clean look of a business card, kinda reminds me of the movie American Psycho where he's analyzing a friends card in respect to his social standing.

J's web fact of the day:'A business card is no bigger than 3.5 X 2 inches, any bigger than that and it's like your handing someone a postcard'

April 16, 2010

Spent the day at Starbucks, well 2 hours of free internet, then did some work on a crappy Flash template a friend bought. Ugh, it kills me that people buy into the full Flash websites without talking to a professional in the industry. First question I ask is 'do you care that your site will suck for search engine rankings?'

J's web fact of the day:"Ok, you Flash developers out there. Why can't you name an object properly? Symbol 1 to Symbol 1000 isn't acceptable, unless you're doing it for job security. Arrggh!"

April 15, 2010

Lots of life stuff happening around today. The closing on the sale of my Ottawa house is today, let's hope nothing hangs up on that one.

J's web fact of the day:"The underline tag should never ever be used on a website. It's either a link or it's not."

April 10, 2010

Well, I'm back online doing what I do best. I'm going to be running the new studio a bit different than 2Design Web was run out east. I'm getting great response from friends, partners and past clients about the new direction.

J's web fact of the day: 'If you think you want a full Flash website you're so wrong. Check your bookmarks to see how many full flash websites you have and do you visit them everyday? The majority of people have no full Flash websites bookmarked.'

April 9, 2010

The new site is officially launched. I'm a little anxious to get rolling full speed. Templates are coming together really well and lots of them (should be a full library to browse shortly). I have my custom design guidelines and time frames ready too, it's going to be a one custom website at a time model until I find the quality designers I am comfortable working with. So the client gets full attention for the entire process, no more 5 at a time custom projects, ever!

J's web fact of the day: 'If you think you want a blog, forum, e-comm, image gallery... element on your website, but you don't have detailed out who is it for? why would someone use it? how is it going to be integrated? You probably don't need it."