Monthly Archives: September 2008

Work and other fun stuff…

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Wow, my web design business is really starting to take off. A little more than I wanted it to, but hey, it’s all good. I have 2 projects already started, with several in the waiting list. Sadly, I can’t reveal the secret project yet, but it will be big when it comes out. School’s going pretty well, as is Saturday school.

Also, Adobe is going to be releasing CS4. While Photoshop, Fireworks, and Illustrator receive minor changes, Flash is receiving some major things. The most awaited feature is inverse kinematics. To describe it shortly, you draw a skeleton and then put parts on it. You would then animate the figure by moving around the skeleton, and the “skin” would move accordingly. Another feature is real-time 3D transformation. A new motion editor has been added, making it possible to tweak animations even further. While no concrete release date has been set, CS4 is expected to be released sometime in October.

I also might be going to see The Misfits in Manhattan on October 31 (Halloween). That is, if I can get tickets.

Update!

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I have Saturday school today, and work right after. Meaning I won’t be back until Sunday.

Saturday School

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Today was my first day of Saturday school, and it actually turned out better than I expected. Good thing it starts at 9:00 am and not at 8:05 am like a regular day. This morning I came nice and early, and I was surprised to see some people who I actually know. The teacher I got for Saturday school is pretty good, so boredom won’t be too much of a concern. The only downside is that it’s until November 15, and every session is from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. Granted, I get a half-hour break in the middle, but the sessions are still pretty long. Also, I got really lucky, as the Saturday that my birthday is on doesn’t have Saturday school due to Columbus Day or something like that. 1 session down, and only 8 sessions to go. Then I will be free, with all classes made up.

In terms of websites and stuff, I already have several projects laid out in front of me. The first one is secret for now, but will probably be great one once it actually comes out. I’m well aware of the fact that the footer is completely unfinished. I intend to fix that sometime tomorrow. Also, I do not intend to fix my blog for Internet Explorer 6. I’ll just add a little notification thing at the top telling the user to get a different browser. My portfolio site will be finished… someday. Maybe.

Also, Facebook finalized its new layout. Now, the users have no choice but to use the new layout, as there is no option of switching to the old layout. Two things that might happen- Either users all leave Facebook, or they suck it up and learn the new layout. The latter will probably happen. Apple did the same thing in 1998 when they released the iMac, with only USB and Firewire ports. People still loved it, even though it was radically different. Maybe in a little while people will come to love the new Facebook layout as well.

9/11 and stuff…

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First off, I would like to mention that today is 9/11. Today marks the seventh anniversary of this tragic event. We will never forget those who perished on that dark day.

In other news, this site’s redesign is almost finished. I’ll be adding on all sorts of meaningless stuff onto it, but what you see here is basically how it’s going to be for quite a while.

School sucks as usual. While the classes are unbelievably easy, it’s still a drag to have to sit in a classroom for about 7 hours a day.

Also, Facebook has undergone a redesign. What I don’t get is why so many people are against it. It’s more useable, especially with the ability to edit information without realoading the page. It’s a marvel of Ajax. MySpace has also gotten a very much needed redesign, but it’s still not semantically coded, and is still a mess.

UI Design

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User Interface design is one of the most important aspects of web design/development, as the UI is what the user sees. While this article mostly pertains to Web UI, some aspects may apply to software UI as well. Some basic rules for UI design:

1) Make it usable. This comes above all. The user must be able to use the UI without any help. If your UI is gorgeous and the user can’t use it, then the UI fails. When it comes to UI, put function over form. It doesn’t have to be pretty, as long as it gets the job done.

2) Make it cross-browser compatible. People will hate you if your UI only works in one particular browser. One obvious offender of this rule is MySpace (there’s so much wrong with that site, but that’s for another article). You can’t use the profile editor or the advanced features blog unless you’re using IE 6. Bad. You as a UI designer have to realise that people have different browser/OS preferences, and you have to work towards satisfying everyone.

3) Make it legible. Do not put very light gray fonts on a white/gray background, and don’t use red fonts on a dark background. The basic rule of thumb here is to not make anybody’s eyes bleed. If your retinas are immune to horrible colours, ask a few normally-sighted people to test/review your UI. Fonts should contrast against the background, and they should be simple fonts. No script fonts or anything like that.

4) Make it light. Unless you’re going for an “emo” look, make your UI light-colored. Notice that most programs and sites out there have light-colored UI’s, and that’s because they work well.

5) Use neutral colors. Don’t use super-vibrant colours for everything. A splotch or two of colour may be needed to highlight certain parts, but nobody’s going to want to use a UI that’s a bright tangerine colour. The colours (and graphics) should not be distracting. They should enhance the content, not distract from it. It’s best to stay away from super-bright colours in a UI if you don’t know whether to use them or not.

6) Don’t use fancy new-age coding/techniques in the UI. The UI should work in any browser on any system. Use proven techniques and code until the new-age techniques become ubiquitous. An example is CSS3. You shouldn’t rely on it. Rounded corners in CSS3 are okay to use, but don’t use obscure CSS3 and expect it to work everywhere.

7) User feedback is key. This means two things. The first is that you have to make the UI feel less static. Buttons and links should change color or something like that to show the user that they are in fact buttons and links. The second part of it is literal user feedback. On new or reworked UI’s, you should include ways for the user to give their opinion/thoughts on the UI. Usually it’s a contact form.

8) Links should be links. While yes, you can style links however you want, it’s best to stay with a tried-and-true underlined links. Underlined links instantly tell the user that they are in fact, links. The link color should stand out, and should remain legible even when rolled over. Also, don’t forget to style visited links!

9) Don’t rely on Javascript too much. While a completely Ajax-ed UI is nice to look at, not all browsers have Javascript, and not all people turn on Javascript in their browser. While you may be tempted to use the smooth little “slide” effects, keep them to a minimum. When used in excess, effects can be distracting, and sometimes annoying.

I’ll add on more stuff as needed. If you have any suggestions, contact me.

I’m not dead…

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I’m back, after about two weeks of silence. I’ll explain later, but first the main news.

Apple had its iPod event today at 10am PST. In the event, Steve Jobs first announced that he was not dead. Then, he proceeded to introduce iTunes 8 to the public. After iTunes came the long-expected next generation iPod nano. The new nano goes back to the second generation’s form. It’s tall and narrow, and yet it manages to fit a screen just as big as the previous generation’s screen. The screen is put vertically, so that you can just turn the iPod sideways and watch a movie in widescreen. It also has a built in accelerometer, just like the iPod Touch. The 8gb model is $150, and the 16gb model is $199. It also comes in a ton more colors, which the public will probably love. The iPod Classic didn’t get anything major. Apple dropped the 160gb model (presumably due to lack of sales) and bumped the standard 80gb model to 120gb. The price is $250 for the iPod Classic. The iPod Touch got the expected iPhone 3G treatment, with a built in speaker, curved back, and it finally got the much-awaited hardware volume controls. The iPod Touch is $229 for the 8gb model, $299 for the 16gb model, and $399 for the 32gb model. Jobs also announced firmware 2.1 for both the iPhone and iPod Touch. It fixes supposedly fixes bugs, adds battery life, and adds a new (and much-hyped) genius feature, which automatically creates playlists based on your musical preferences. I’ll be sure to test that little feeature out sometime. Also, more good games will be coming to the iPhone, such as Need for Speed. Yes, Need for Speed is coming to the iPhone. It’s in 3D, and you supposedly steer by tilting. It looks pretty good. Maybe the iPhone will start competing against the PSP and the DS as a true gaming device. Apple also introduced new headphones, which are $79. They are better than the ones that come with iPods, and they even have remote controls on them, along with a microphone.

While these news from Apple are nice and all, it doesn’t directly affect me. I’m perfectly happy with my current iPod, and I really don’t mind unlocking it to change the volume. Now for why I’ve been gone for so damn long.

One word. School. I’ve been swamped with homework, school, and guitar to the point of where I have about 2 hours of computer time in a day. And after homework and guitar, I really don’t feel like doing anything productive. School sucks completely, but at least I don’t have science and my classes are easy.

Other projects have also been taking up much of what little time I have left. I’ve redone my portfolio site several times, but the current design is pretty much a keeper. Now I just have to put in actual content rather than crappy placeholders.

This site’s been pretty much redesigned. All that’s left is to make an interesting footer, format the article titles, and redo the archives. Maybe I’ll make a new, greener favicon. Also, note that the green is back. Hopefully this time it won’t be as hard on the eyes as the past designs. Also, it’s XHTML-Strict compliant, which means I wasted a bunch of time fixing my code in order to gain bragging rights. Also, I ended up using a lot less CSS3 than I intended, which I suppose is a good thing. Also, my site is COMPLETELY borked (for lack of a better word) when using IE 6. I’m still pondering whether to fix it or not. I probably won’t as I don’t care about the IE-using fools.

This blog probably won’t be updated nearly as much anymore, but it’s not dying. Nope. It’s staying right here, an outlet for my anger/amusement/entertainment/venting/ranting/informing/technology. Of course, I am going to adding all my artwork into the art page, which I have needed to do for quite some time now. There will probably be lots more articles added, which are actually quite fun to write.

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