David Heinemeier Hansson’s O’Reilly interview is quite an enjoyable read – with much inspiration even for a non-progammer like myself. When David is asked what he likes best about Rails, his response:
In general, all the things it doesn’t do. All the features we said no to. All the ornaments we turned down.
Yes! Thank you, David! This is quite similar to our own web design philosophy and was a delight to come across.
I remember the switchover from Flash 6 to Flash 7 pretty well. The distribution of the Flash player is remarkable – by many accounts, it is the most widely installed piece of software in the world! However, the rate at which folks switch from one version of the player to the next is not as fast as some of us would like.
When developing a Flash site, we take a serious look at the number of people who have a particular version of the Flash player installed before deciding on which version we’re going to develop for. We didn’t feel comfortable developing for Flash 7 until the beginning of this year, when about 80% of a site’s visitors could be expected to have that version installed. You can’t expect everyone to have the “latest and greatest,” nor can you wait forever, so you make a compromise. We typically wait six months to a year before using the latest version.
Well it’s going to be a long six months to a year this time around, because the advances in Flash 8 are nothing short of amazing. For Mac users, in particular, performance will finally be on par with Windows users. And there are so many new visual effects it’s kind of a designer’s dream come true.
Here at Needmore, we really can’t wait for it!
I am not always convinced that great design is easy to appreciate – it takes a bit of thought, a moment of pause. I’ve run across a couple examples of this lately in reading about author J.R.R. Tolkien and designer Alfredo Haberli.
After reading Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit, reviewer May Lamberton Becker, wrote:
At the time of writing, still under the spell of the story, I cannot bend my mind to ask myself whether our American children will like it. My impulse is to say if they don’t so much the worse for them…the story has the unmistakable signs of having been told to intelligent children.
Luckily, children did embrace the book.
However, it does not always go so well. I was first introduced to Alfredo Haberli’s designs after reading an interview in June’s I.D. From there, a discovery of his Origo dish set which is a study in beautiful simplicity. These pieces are every bit as intelligent and lovely as you might imagine. Haberli elaborates:
Our eating habits have changed. We are more and more open to inspirataion from Mediterranean, Scandinavian, Asian, and African countries. With all that in mind I designed a set of seven pieces that interact with each other or work along…It’s playful. It adapts. Different containers have new and multiple functions. People don’t really understand the system.
Is marketing at the center of this? Tolkien had a publisher that went out of their way to highlight the children’s book, even taking out the rare full page adds. On the other hand, Haberli states that for him, “marketing efforts did not succeed in communicating the invention behind the set.” Two different times, two different creations – one big lesson?
There is a very clever service now available for programmers called Codefetch. You basically select the programming language you’re interested in, type in a keyword or two, and it searches through code samples from current and in-print books that are freely available for download.
No ads or anything, just great search results for programmers.
The angle? All of the code samples come with prominent links to the books they come from. Buy one of the books (and sooner or later you’re bound to) and Codefetch gets a small percentage through the booksellers affiliate programs.
Our good friend Michael Paulus has a new show up at the Basil Hallward gallery (on the top floor of Powell’s here in Portland), opening this Thursday, August 1st at 7pm. If you’ve seen his work before, you know better than to miss this opening – his work is always amazing.
UPDATE: You can see pictures of this show online!
There’s a new service called Gvisit that lets you see where your website’s visitors are coming from, leveraging the wonderful Google Maps. Look at ours for an example. It’s pretty neat, you’re seeing up to the last 100 visitors to our site!
I’ve been looking into e-commerce for a client lately, and one of the companies I’ve looked at is “Monster Commerce.” Their offerings seem reasonable, so I filled out their contact form on their website a few days ago with some of my specific questions, asking them to email me a reply, so that I can in turn answer questions for my client.
Imagine my surprise when I finally received not a response to my question, but rather an email offer to waive my setup fee if I sign up by 5PM Friday. That’s all well and good, but having not answered my question, it does kind of seem like they’re trying to rush the sale without providing decent service. Bad idea, guys.
The Square Deal Wine Company has quickly become our favorite place to buy wine in Portland. Not only do they buy only from small wineries, but they keep their store at a strict 58 degrees year-round. In fact, all of their wines are shipped, stored, and delivered at that temperature. That makes a big difference.
We recently enjoyed a case they put together, which included several pages of delightful stories about the wines. It’s nice to find a place that cares as much about their wine as Stumptown cares about their coffee. It’s just a reminder that surrounding yourself with the sublime is not much more effort than surrounding yourself with the ordinary, but it’s so much more rewarding.
Many of the 37signals folks are fond of saying “it’s better to make half a product than a half-assed product.” I couldn’t agree more – in fact, I would say that applies very well to web design.
It’s better to make half a website than a half-assed website!
Often people come to us with a good idea of all of the features they’d like to see. E-commerce, a blog, user forums, message boards, etc. But sometimes it’s better to start with just the essentials, and make those great.
Say you’re a band planning a major tour, and it’s time to get your website up. You’re probably pressed for time, and don’t have a ton of money to spend. Concentrate on the things people will want to see for the next six months, and then take it from there. You might want a gorgeous website with a photo album, complete biographies and discography, and so forth. But you could end up watering down the whole project in your attempt to get everything up there.
In that situation, I would say pick the two or three things that are going to give you, and your fans, the most benefit. I would say put up MP3’s (so they can give their friends some idea of your sound), put up a forum (so they can discuss their shows… enthusiasm is contagious!), and put up a tour blog. Come up with a simple and consistent design for the site and don’t get bogged down with fancy Flash movies or features you don’t need yet.
Too often I see people trying to put up the same eight or ten sections that every other band puts on their site. But under a tight deadline or small budget, they get a lackluster site that doesn’t do any one thing compellingly. Focus on getting the features that sell your (band, art, product, whatever) right from the start, and your audience will eagerly come back for more.
Seth Godin has reposted an article he wrote more than a year ago for the magazine Fast Company. It’s an excellent read.
Smart organizations ignore the urgent. Smart organizations understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.
A key corollary to this principle is the idea that if you don’t have the time to do it right, there’s no way in the world you’ll find the time to do it over. Too often, we use the urgent as an excuse for shoddy work or sloppy decision-making.
I couldn’t agree more. Make sure you know the difference between the important and the urgent stuff. You may not always be in the spotlight, but you’ll be the one with the consistent, high-quality results.