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May 24, 2008

This is the week to redesign your blog it seems

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Apparantly, this is the week for blog redesigns – with both Joi Ito and John Battelle of Federated Media either deploying new looks, new blog frameworks, or posting new screenshots of what their blogs could look like.

I know Thord has been working on the redesign of The Blog Herald as well.

Anyone else dropping a new look & feel on their blog this week?

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April 30, 2008

Should We Stop Using Ajax?

I have no idea who this Brothercake is, but he has submitted a pretty interesting piece titled Stop using Ajax! to the Opera Developer Community. It’s lengthy post, and he finishes it by summing it up like this:

  1. I’m not saying Ajax is bad, I’m saying it’s immature
  2. 2. I’m not saying never use Ajax, I’m saying don’t use it for the sake of it, and try to avoid it for now, instead sticking to accessible alternatives

Like all new technologies it’s easy to get caught up in them. It’s an interesting post, I advice you to check it out if you’re a web developer, or just plain curious.

Lots of blogs are using ajax, most via plugins to add cool functionality. The admin interfaces are full with these things. Should we stop using ajax?

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April 26, 2008

New York Times – Q&A with Design Director Khoi Vinh

Blogger Khoi Vinh, who blogs at Subtraction, is also the design director of the New York Times – where he leads a team of 11 visual designers, information architects, and design technologists that work on the user experience of nytimes.com.

He was interviewed this week in the New York Times as a part of their Ask an Editor interview series.
read more

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April 22, 2008

Internet Studies publishes a case study on 9rules

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9ruleslogo.jpg

Elle Meredith, who published a blog called Internet Studies, has published an academic case study on 9rules as a virtual community.

It’s an interesting and fascinating read if you’re interested in how large virtual communities are created, maintained, nurtured, and their evolution over time. Elle does a great job of telling most of the key facts of the history of 9rules.

An excerpt:

9rules started as an idea Paul Scrivens had to aggregate quality blog posts in one place in order to drive traffic to both the blogs and the Network site. Differently to other social content networks, where everyone’s post can appear and get voted by readers, on 9rules the blogs are selected by the site staff , which make the decision whether the blog publishes quality content or not. Qualities that are being sought in a site are passion, quality writing, consistency, wide range of topics, blog design while not hosted on free blogging service sites.

The entire report is available as a PDF file as well.

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Emersian on Limiting your Design, and a few comments on the current BH Design

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Paul Scrivens, aka Scrivs, talked about limiting your design at his design blog Emersian.

As a part of that post, he talked about the current design of The Blog Herald:

Now let me say that I think BH has a beautiful aesthetic about it. However, without trying to read anything do a quick scan and scroll of the page and ask yourself what caught your eye? What were you inclined to clickthrough on? Now going back to look at the site let’s see what content is being offered to the reader on the homepage excluding any ads which take up a ton of space on their own.

Interesting thoughts considering that Thord is working on a redesign…

And a final thought from Scrivs’s post:

This constant struggle between achieving business objectives and making sure your audience gets everything possible out of a site without overwhelming them is one of the things that I love about design so much. it is one of the reasons that we have no problem redesigning so often to the enjoyment and dismay of our audience. Design never seems to be a finished product even when you reach the deadline. There never seems to be a 100%, but a constant struggle to maintain a 90% completeness.

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April 16, 2008

How to Blog Design Style Guide

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Skimming through Twitter tonight, I came across a blog that I had not read before – The Blog Design Blog – which is an excellent resource on blog design – including tips, tricks, galleries, and how-to guides revolving around the business of designing great looking weblogs.

Their current feature post is entitled How to Blog Design Style Guide. The post takes a look at nine key areas that you should examine while designing a blog – and provides great examples that you can emulate and aspire to in your design.

The post is full of great advice – such as this section on how to ensure that your blog has a great header design:

How to make your header design great for your blog:

1. The first element in a blog design that I like to design is the header, because I feel that it sets the tone for the rest of the blog design. So I recommend to decide on what message you want to convey, title, and taglines before getting to work in photoshop. This will prevent a lot of headaches and changes down the road.

2. While there are many different ways you can design a header for you blog, it is important to remember to prioritize the communication of the purpose of your blog above everything else. A reader needs to be informed as quick as possible as to what the purpose of your blog is.

3. Get creative and don’t be afraid to try different things until you find a header design that works for your blog. This is generally the first thing people see when they come to your blog so make it memorable.

Take a look – you won’t be disappointed…

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April 12, 2008

What’s your blog workspace?

I wrote last weekend about my problogging setup – which is essentially my blog workspace.

If you missed the article, it looks like this:

Today, however, I’m in St. Cloud, MN, about 80 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul where I live and work – blogging with a large cup of hot java from Caribou Coffee and living off of their free wi-fi. My blog workspace today looks like:

Caribou 041208

I’m always interested in where bloggers blog from and how they setup their workspace – whether it’s a home office or a local coffee shop or drinking establishment.

Darren Rowse, over at Problogger.net, even released a video showing his “Problogger HQ”.

Not long ago, Darren profiled several sets of Blog Workspace photos:

So what’s your blog workspace look like?

Post your links to photos and/or descriptions here and I’ll feature in an upcoming post.

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April 6, 2008

CSS Naked Day on April 9th, 2008

Are you going naked this April 9th? Not you, but your blog, that is. I’m talking about Dustin Diaz’ CSS Naked Day, which started in April of 2006.

A couple of days ago, I had this very embarassing experience. I was at a conference explaining to students the different aspects of problogging, when I showed them my site. It was devoid of any styling. I realized later on that I had left my CSS Naked Day WordPress plugin running, and it was already April 5th.

However, this year, CSS Naked day has been moved to April 9th, to ensure best exposure. No pun intended.

A lot of you may be wondering–what’s the point behind naked day? Well, basically it’s a way of celebrating Web standards. Remember the good ol’ days when sites were formatted with tables and font tags? And remember those days when just a simple change of formatting would require you to hunt for dozens (or even hundreds) of tags on dozens of pages? And I won’t even mention the tacky styles that used to be popular, such as flashing text and marquees.

Aren’t you glad the Web looks better today? Or does it?

The idea behind this event is to promote Web Standards. Plain and simple. This includes proper use of (x)html, semantic markup, a good hierarchy structure, and of course, a good ‘ol play on words. It’s time to show off your <body>.

Additionally, CSS Naked day gives you a chance to highlight the accessibility of your blog. The best designs out there are those that appear sensible even to viewers using alternative devices that may not necessarily be able to read stylesheets. These may include older smartphones, PDAs, text-based browsers (like Lynx). And of course, text-to-speech readers that visually-impaired users benefit from well-structured sites.

So before your stylesheet lays out your site, how does it look underneath? How does it look naked? Is it sexy? Is it bloated? Is it in so much disarray that you’re embarrased to show it to the world in the nude?

Again, CSS Naked Day is on April 9th this year. If you’re using WordPress, there are various plugins available such as this one by Aja Lapus. Plugins and scripts for other CMSes and platforms are also available.

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March 17, 2008

Running Websites With WordPress?

Aside from my work in the blogging world, I sometimes accept web development work on the side, such as the Parish website I recently helped launch, in collaboration with a designer colleague. I’ve also helped out my daughter’s preschool in running their own site and email system. And there have been a few organizations I’ve lent a hand to in this matter.

In all of these cases, the common denominator is the use of WordPress as the content management system. I’m sure there’s not much need to explain why. Being used to running WordPress on an entire blog/new media network, it’s almost like second nature to me. So preparing the hosting account, installing the software, uploading themes and plugins, and actually setting up and maintaining a site running WordPress is something that I’m very much comfortable with. Actually it can be a no-brainer with the easy install scripts (i.e., Fantastico) that come with most hosting packages. A few clicks and a few lines of typed-in information and you’re good to go with a basic install.

I tend to think that others share this sentiment with me. A quick Google search for “inurl:wp-login.php” will yield all indexed sites running WordPress, and some of these will not actually be in blog format, but instead websites and e-zines belonging to companies and organizations. A search for “site:.gov inurl:wp-login.php”, for instance, will show you that a number of US government organizations and local governemnt units running WP on their official websites.

Another observation of mine is that WordPress theme designers are coming up with themes and theme packages aimed at users who want to run a WordPress-powered site that is not necessarily in a blog format. For instance, there’s the Revolution Theme and WP Remix. Then there are those for users who intend to run magazine-like themes like Premium News and Zine Style. (Disclosure: WP Remix and Premium News are advertisers on the Blog Herald.)

So there is a market for WP themes not aimed at the blogging community, but rather for other entities such as corporations or businesses, or perhaps people running traditional publications. This only goes to show that easy-to use back-end software goes a long way. If there are others using WordPress for non-blogging purposes, I’d love to hear how you do it!

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February 22, 2008

Add a Customized Signature to Your Blog Posts

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Add a personal touch to your blog posts with My Live Signature, a Web app that allows you to customize an embedded signature.

Simply type your name, choose from over 120 fonts, pick your size, color and slope, and you are in business.

There is no need to login or register, upon completion you will be issued a signature ID if you’d like to access it again in the future. Unfortunately, this code is a million digits long:

54486-86-FA0958872343234A26199E188BB42C74

Grab the HTML snippet or BB Code and you can embed the signature on any e-mail, blog or Website.

There are several pay features too. The company will prepare an animated signature or recreate a paper scan for a fee.

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