Blogs, images, Photos, Productivity, video, Web Development

Love Links? – Try Thinglink

Since I’m always looking for new ways to make my designs more interactive, I thought Thinglink was a great tool to bring new ideas to my projects.

Thinglink lets you create images with little links that give information about the photo. The possibilities here are endless because you can inform, entertain, and engage your audience all at the same time. Instead of typing out endless paragraphs of related information you can just link it directly to the image. Thinglink links to video and music too. You can leave the image editable so that others can add their own links to the image. You can also allow your visitors to make comments and share your image on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

I posted the image that I used below (click on the Lake Lanier link to see it in action) just to give you an example of what can be done but the website has a gallery with some really good examples of how people are using the linking features of Thinglink.

Lake Lanier

Signing up and using Thinglink is free and allows 100 image uploads. You can set up a paid account with 500 images for $5.00 a month and a Pro account with unlimited image uploads for $20.00 a month. You can also get statistics with the paid accounts to track your visitors.
I’m really looking forward to using Thinglink in my projects. If you are using it please let me know how its working for you.

design, images, Productivity

Looking for Design Inspiration? It’s All around You

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
— Confucius




Every wonder where good design inspiration comes from? It’s all around you if you just take the time to look. There are many ways to get new ideas for your projects but these are the ones that I use the most because they never let me down.

Carry A Notebook
notebook

I started doing this a few years ago and it has helped me immensely. It helps me gather my thoughts at the moment so that I can look at them later. I also jot down places I visit and draw simple sketches of the things I see even if I don’t have any specific concept formed yet about what I’m looking at. I also do this with things that I see on the web. Sometimes just a random image can spark an idea at another time for a great project.


Look for A Change of Scenery
pond

I get bored very easy so I’m always looking for new stimulus to get me motivated. Sometimes just going to a mall or taking a walk in a new area brings a new outlook on things. I found a beautiful little pond in someone’s backyard one day just walking in a nearby neighborhood. That gave me an idea for a new website interface for a friend that owns an aquarium shop.



Go To A Bookstore
Books

Of course we all know that books are a great tool for the mind. I love going to book festivals as well because you find some great books on architecture, typography and illustrations for your future projects – usually at a decent price. I find that the children’s books also help me with my drawing and sketching.


Visit A Museum
museum

I love going to any type of museum because it gives you instant perspective on creativity through another person’s eyes. Normally I try to later research a particular artist and their life. Usually they give great insight and perceptions about the world around them and how it affects their work. This is a great way to help you think outside the box in your own projects.

So the next time you find yourself getting stuck in a creative rut just look around you – You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

design, Productivity, Web Development

What I learn from my Clients without Asking them

What I learn From My Clients without even Asking

Recently I took an online design course that discussed different ways of determining what your clients want and need from a website or interface. Of course we all know the basics when it comes to colors, pages and logos, but as I found out there is a much more important and critical stage of the process that will overall make or break the success of the site itself. It’s something so simple but often overlooked.

Basically just “ask” them to actually use the site themselves.

Do they know what they are looking at? Is it easy for them to navigate? Would they be comfortable using the site themselves without looking at the help page first? Does it say what they are trying to project as a company? Before you start adding a lot of bells and whistles make sure that your going in the right direction.

While this might seem obvious, when you are designing a website, this is probably the one thing that gets overlooked the most – observation. Ask others to take a look too. If you actually ask 10 people to look at a website and tell you their thoughts while they are using it, most likely you will get at least 3 different types of feedback from each of the participants. I actually did this experiment with a prototype that I was working on and I was surprised at how the participants responded to certain things. This let me know that although I thought certain things were self explanatory the user did not. Photos that I thought were relevant where not as clearly embraced as I thought they would be and some data was completely useless to the user.

This made me realize that this important step in the design process should not be overlooked or taken lightly. You might have a bruised ego but you have to have this input in order to make successful changes to meet the ultimate goal of the site. You should definitely test your site with as many users as possible so that you can get an unbiased indication as to what your ultimate users are looking for when they land on the clients webpage.

design, design events, Productivity, Programming, technology, Web Development

Looking for An Upcoming Design Online Class or Conference?

Computer Image

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’d like to tell you about a great online course that I am taking through Stanford University. The course is called Human-Computer Interaction and is taught by Associate Professor Scott Klemmer. The course explains the process of how projects are developed using prototyping, surveys and user experiments all the way through to completion and implementation by the final end user.

This course is offered for free online https://www.coursera.org/course/hci and there are many other courses available as well: https://www.coursera.org/courses.



Here are some Design Conferences coming up in the next few months:

The Front-End Design Conference
“The Front-End Design Conference is an annual event dedicated to content, presentation and behavior. The speakers and attendees are made up of awesome people from the web design and development community.”
When: June 8, 2012
Where: St. Petersburg, FL, USA at the Palladium Theater



NXNEi Interactive
“With over 80 presentations, NXNEi bridges the gap between creators of all kinds and interactivity. Whether you’re a musician, film producer, marketer, public relations pro or community manager, NXNE Interactive programming has you covered. Join us for three days of tech and social media exploration to learn how to boost ingenuity while enhancing your marketing and business efforts.”
When: June 11-17, 2012
Where: Toronto, Canada



Reasons to Be Creative
Reasons to be Creative is a festival for creative artists, designers and coders. The festival brings together some of the most respected and brilliant minds from the worlds of art, code, design and education to share their passion, knowledge, insights and work. Expect two days packed with talks, networking, inspiration and learning.”
When: June 14-15, 2012
Where: New York, USA



The Rich Internet Application Conference
“The Rich Internet Application Conference: Where architects and developers of all levels gather to share and learn about creating the next generation of web and mobile based applications. At RIACon you’ll get to network with fellow industry professionals and community leaders while being exposed to the most up to date skills needed for building great applications leveraging the best technologies available today.”
When: August 6-7, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA



An Event Apart
“An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference you’ve been waiting for.”
When: August 6-8, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA at the Westin Alexandria



UX Australia
“UX Australia 2012 is a 4-day user experience design conference, with two days of workshops and two days of presentations about designing great experiences for people.”
When: August 28-31, 2012
Where: Brisbane, Australia at Sofitel Brisbane Central

Full list here: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/02/10/upcoming-web-design-and-development-conferences-for-2012/#jun

Productivity, technology, Web Development

Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word – Should You Make The Switch?

Recently I read a great article by Charles Cooper – regarding giving up Microsoft Word in favor of Google Docs. I was a little stunned at first because to be honest with you the thought never even crossed my mind. I had no idea that I could viably use Google Docs as a competent alternative. But me, always being curious, I wanted to try it out. I decided to write this post in Google Docs and see if I could format and post it without any prior knowledge or tutorials.

First off, I Ioved the dictionary feature under tool. This is so useful when you’re trying to think of new ways to say something and don’t want to make a fool of yourself in the process. I was impressed that my document was saved immediately and also sent to my docs folder without any prompting which means even if I forget its taken care of and I can access it anywhere (especially key if your multitasking like most of us do). I also liked the fact that you can download the document into different formats right from the file menu which means that you can make a copy for OpenOffice, PDF, or Word. I found this especially useful because I have OpenOffice on my laptop. Of course it goes without saying that you can email your document directly to the web or email collaborators right on the main menu.

Actually everything seemed pretty intuitive from the main window and I was able to write and edit my document with ease. I did eventually do a search for a good tutorial. Here’s what I came up with:

I have to say that I liked the overall experience. I’m sure I wont give up Word immediately since you have to be online to use Google Docs but it was easy to use and will definitely work in a pinch for documents, spreadsheets, and other duties that you want to share right away and get feedback. If your online anyway – why not.

Bonus: now you can view your files offline in Chrome!

 

Do you use Google Docs regularly and have any tips to share? I’d love to hear them.

Productivity, technology

Install Your own USB Wall Outlet

USB Wall Outlet


If you’re like me you have tons of gadgets all over the house and can’t remember what needs to be charged at what time. Unfortunately, we don’t really think about the battery life of our gadgets until it’s time to use them. It’s so frustrating when you want to use a device only to be stopped cold by a dead battery.

I came across a great tutorial on CNET on how you can install your own USB port into a regular wall socket without too much effort. I didn’t give this too much thought at first since I’m not really electrically inclined, but I must say, when I actually looked at the video I was impressed – this was actually something that I could do myself!

I felt like I had to share this because I really think this could be useful to so many people.

Sharon Vaknin made a great How To video for this here: http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57389548-285/how-to-install-a-usb-wall-socket/

Do you have any other tips that can help us out with all the technology in our lives?

design, Productivity, Programming, Web Development

Getting Started With jQuery

Recently, I got an invite to learn jQuery in 30 days. Now, I’m not a programmer by definition but it’s always a good idea to add to your skill set and I love to learn new things so I was definitely curious. First off, I wasn’t really sure what jQuery was and why I would need it.

This is a brief definition of what jQuery is:

“jQuery is a library that makes it quicker and easier to build JavaScript webpages and web apps. Often with jQuery you can write a single line of code to achieve what would have taken 10-20 lines of regular JavaScript code.

jQuery is itself written in JavaScript, and comes in the form of a single .js file that you link to from your webpage. Your JavaScript code then accesses the library by calling various jQuery functions.”


Ok, sounds good, but what does that mean to me? So I go in search of a better explanation:

Huh?? Did you get that?..I sure didn’t. Lets try that again:

Ok..I think I got it. I’m very intrigued now and will see if I can at least wrap my head around the basics in the 30 day tutorial lessons. You can download jQuery and use it for free. There are tutorials available on the site that will get you up to speed fairly quickly. If you use jQuery and have any additional tips  I would love to hear them.

Blogs, facebook, Productivity, Social Services, video

Tell A Great Story With Storify

I love blogging and sharing information that I find across the web on any given subject as soon as I see it. I came across this great tool called Storify which lets you do just that in a nice visual format.

The way it works is that you pull information from Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube and many others into one big story that you can then share with your friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook. Now the idea of this is really simple and you would think that this would be really easy to use. Unfortunately, I found a few stumbling blocks when I tried it out. Once I developed my story, I couldn’t export it to other programs such as WordPress or Tumblr even though it says that you can do so. Upon further investigation, I found out that you can only do this on WordPress if you have a self hosted account and the plug-in (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/storify/?utm_source=Users). I also couldn’t find any way to delete the snippets that I had to create once I was finished using them in my story. Do they just sit there forever? That would seem to get confusing and cluttered after a while. There also doesn’t seem to be a standard help section or forum to answer questions.

Overall I like the concept of the platform because you can gather a lot of information very quickly and share it immediately. I also liked that when you publish your story to your twitter account, it also notifies the author or tweeter to let them know that their content was used in your story. This is a great way of course to generate goodwill with other writers and bloggers. I really hope they get past these small quirks because as it stands now this platform is a little limited. If you use this program with WordPress or Tumblr I would love to know how it works for you.

Here is an overview of Storify:

Photos, Productivity, technology, video

Free Programs That Can Make Your Life Easier

Everyday I come across tons of free programs that can definitely make your life easier if you have the patience to learn how to use them. Having a computer background I often wonder how easy these programs would actually be for someone who might not have the time to learn an extensive program with a lot of bells and whistles. I came across 2 that are very easy to use right away but offer tons of great features that you can discover at your own pace.

Open Office

This program is like a free version of Microsoft Office with all the same features that you would pay hundreds of dollars for. You can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations very quickly. I tried this one out a couple of months ago because I wanted a doc editing program for my laptop that I could use on the go. Without reading any of the tutorials I was able to create a document in about 5 minutes and save it into my docs folder. I don’t use spreadsheets very often but I was able to create a simple table in about 10 minutes. I honestly thought that there would be a major learning curve here but if you know anything about Microsoft Office this wont be a painful switch at all. The only thing that I had to remember was to save my file to a .doc format so that I could read it in Microsoft Office on my desktop. Here is an example of Open Office:

 

Gimp

Gimp is the closest free program that I have found to Photoshop. There is a download available for Macintosh as well (http://www.gimp.org/macintosh/ ). Gimp lets you do simple photo alterations, create web pages and brochures, as well as draw and paint with text just as easily as Photoshop without the major expense. Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve, but I was able to put together a simple one-page brochure in about 30 minutes my first time using it. There are also numerous tutorials available on line and at Gimps official website to get you up to speed fairly quickly. Then you can take your time becoming a pro. I’m sure I will be using this one a lot more often since I realized how extensive the program actually is. It’s definitely worth the effort of learning. A quick review of of Gimp:

Do you know of any other free programs that are fairly easy to learn? Please share them with me.

design, Productivity

A fun way to develop your creativity

Psykopaint is a great tool for drawing and painting on the web. It allows you to paint from a photo or just freestyle if you’re truly gifted. I’m a budding artist so I use the photo feature which has a lot of brushes as well as spray cans and ribbons which allow you to make some very creative designs. I love the pencil feature too if I just want to freestyle a bit without feeling guilty. This the first painting I made:

Bahamas Original Photo
Origional Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bermuda Psykopainted
My Psykopaint Creation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok..granted I’m not that good, but I’m working on it. If you like your creations you can save them and come back later. You can also save it you your computer. Of course it also has the basic tools like zoom, capacity, eraser, color picker and text options. You can export your creations for the web for free with a watermark, purchase coins to obtain a full size un-watermarked printable copy or send as postcards to your friends. You can also gain coins for sharing your creations through Facebook and posting on the site gallery. If you’re interested in drawing and painting you should definitely give Psykopaint a try.
Check it out here: Psykopaint