Bonky WP automatic upgrade was a blessing in disguise :P

Redesigning this blog has been long overdue… Like ONE or TWO years overdue. I just haven’t got the time to sit down and make something just for me—yep, work has been taking a huge chunk of my time. Most of the time, work stresses me out so much that I don’t want to do anything during the weekends but to sleep. My husband and I are still in the process of expanding our business, and that being said, you really end up valuing every little free time you have left.

Frankly, I was never too happy with the previous design I made for this blog. And being a web designer by profession, writing on a poorly-designed blog gives me an iffy feeling. I’m not making excuses for my lack of updates—this is still mainly due to my lack of free time—but my unease with my previous creation had also something to do with it.

But thanks to my haste to upgrade my WordPress installation, I am now forced to create a new design for this blog. I totally forgot to backup my files and the database before clicking on that ever-convenient “Automatic upgrade” button. My upgrade went bonkers, and for some reason my custom theme just disappeared. Poof! No more.

I don’t want to hassle my host in getting a backup, so I’m just creating a new theme for this one. Do watch out for it (let’s just hope I find the time to work on this during the week!).

Are blogs bad for web designers?

“Neglecting this blog” is an understatement—I haven’t been blogging at all in this blog. Sorry about that. I guess I’ve just been so busy with work that I felt talking about anything that directly pertains to my profession won’t do any good to my stress levels. Anyway, on to the topic!

I have to admit that I was never really active in the local design scene here in the Philippines—I’ve been more active in the blogosphere. Anyway, I stumbled upon this discussion about Personal Site Versus Blogs, a few months back (I think that was sometime in February). It basically asked what the difference between blogs and personal sites is, and which of those two are gaining leverage.

Sadly, most say that the two are one and the same—which I totally disagree with. The topic poster was referring to “personal sites” as those personal sites that was so “in fashion” back in the 1990′s, where the owner would put in his autobiography, favorite things, links, and of course, ever-popular guestbook.

It’s easy to confuse blogs with plain old personal sites, especially if you only consider blogs as an online diary of telling whoever cares what you did and ate that day. Blogs have already evolved into so much more. It can be a recipe center, a wedding guide, a tech news and reviews journal, or a sports reportage—all written with a personal touch. Considering blogs as simply a “Dear-Diary-this-is-what-I-did-today” aspect of a personal site is just so… outdated.

But then again, if you still think that Macromedia Flash is the new black… It isn’t really surprising that this mentality exists, doesn’t it?

Now, back to the main question, are blogs bad for web designers? Continue reading

Personalized news with Thoof

Note: This is a sponsored post.

Thoof is a user-generated news and information service web site. Basically, the site shows Personalized News submitted by visitors. Kind of like Boing Boing, but Thoof has a way better Web 2.0 interface.

As a web designer, I can’t help but notice the interface first before anything else. Because for me, good design isn’t just about fancy graphics and color combinations—it’s also about how usable a site is. I don’t find Boing Boing’s layout very attractive—they should have spent a bit more time on paying attention to how important proper spacing is, it’s just so hard to read—and I think this is where Thoof is at an advantage.

The site has made a good use of colors, a refreshing combination of green and orange shades. However, the yellow mouse-over effect of the header navigation bar could use a bit of work. A lighter shade of yellow perhaps?

In terms of being user-friendly, I found it quite easy to use the “Send to a friend” link. I’m the type of viewer who doesn’t like loading new pages so much—I think it wastes my time—so I guess that’s why I really like the way they presented this feature. You just click on the link and a javascript-enabled overlay popup appears—not like the annoying adverts popups mind you, but one that’s similar to a Lightbox popup. I just wish they did the same for the Edit feature too.

Thoof also allows you to hide posts that you don’t like. Again, another one with a javascript effect.

Another thing I really like about this site is the fact that the community is encouraged to suggest improvements (this is done through their “Edit” feature). Maybe I’m biased, being a blogger myself, but I honestly think that for a site to be truly interactive, there should be reader participation.

To be honest, I basically see Thoof as improvement to Boing Boing. It’s similar, but this one’s more interactive. And that, I think, is what Thoof should capitalize on: its strengths. Boing Boing’s been around for quite some time, but if Thoof continues to capitalize its strengths and continuously improve its features with users in mind, I think this new personalized news site’s future would be promising.

Should you include everything in your portfolio?

I’ve been doing freelance work since 1999. Some projects I’ve done are still existing, while others have simply succumbed to the “fall” of the dot-com boom. There are some sites I’ve designed that have already been changed or have their domain expired. So, the question is, should you include everything you’ve done in your portfolio?

I’ve done work for a variety of clients—admittedly, some really have exemplified the meaning of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In short, what I’m asking is the issue of whether a designer should go for quantity or quality.

Quantity can definitely be a sign of experience. It can show your transition from a newbie to a kick-ass designer. It’s like telling a prospect client, “see how much I’ve grown as a design professional.” But the thing is, do you really want the below-the-par quality work on your portfolio? Continue reading

Kaban: The answer to the Philippines’ shopping cart issues?

Me neglecting this blog is an understatement. My most “recent” post was last February. Cripe. Well, my husband is now officially resigned from his day job—somebody would be around to nag me to keep this blog up-to-date. Besides, our company website is now sporting its new design—which means, I’ll have more time to blog here and actually release the themes I’ve been meaning to finish.

So anyway, I was invited last Wednesday with a few other bloggers at the Yehey! Office in Mandaluyong for a dinner and a sponsored podcast. It was basically to discuss their new service called, Kaban. Too bad the recording got corrupted—it had been quite a good discussion.

I was actually very interested on what Jonas and Eugene of Kaban had to say, to be honest. Why? Well, for one thing, Paypal isn’t fully functional in the Philippines. A payment gateway specific for Philippine use would be a great alternative. Besides, Marc and I have been looking for other payment gateway options that we can recommend to our clients who want shopping carts. Continue reading

Look, ma! No Javascript!

First of all, I’d like to apologize (again!) for my lack of updates. I know I promised you guys new themes. Believe me, I’m working on them on my spare time. Unfortunately, spare time is a luxury for me these days.

So, to make up for it, allow me to give you a short tutorial on creating mouse-over graphics without using Javascripts. I’ve seen this effect in action through sites featured in CSS galleries. And frankly, I had some difficulty finding a tutorial on them—maybe because I just don’t know which keywords to use. Hehe

If you’ve been reading my personal blog, you’ll notice that I recently did a design make-over. I kept the mouse-over effect, but this time, I used CSS for it—not Javascript.

You’re probably used to seeing simple mouse-over effects like this. It changes color when your mouse is over it. This is a simple effect, and you can even dress it up a bit by putting a background image behind it or something. But what if you wanted to use some fancy font for your link? A fancy font that isn’t available in all computers?

Usually, the solution is Javascript. But not really :) It’s still possible to use CSS. Continue reading

Can design be learned?

I’ve been seeing this discussion all over the internet—designers’ forums, mailing lists, blogs, articles, and what-have-you’s. I think it’s about time I give my own opinion about it. Besides, this blog’s been stagnant for months—it’s about time I write something on it.

A lot of people say design is art per se, but I beg to differ. Design, by definition,

…refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a new object (machine, building, product, etc.).
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design)

Design, by itself, doesn’t necessarily have to have aesthetic value or emotional effect. So, per se, it’s not art. But for some reason that the design becomes beautiful (has perceived quality other than the purpose it serves), it can be considered an art. In my opinion, design can be art, but it doesn’t always follow that design is always art.

Getting that point clear brings me back to the question: can design be learned? Yes. Anybody can learn how to develop a plan for a certain object—he doesn’t need to be born with an artistic talent.

Let’s take a closer-to-home example: web design. After all, I am a web designer. Hehe.

You need to design a web site in order to post your thoughts. You can easily just install WordPress then put in something like Scott’s default Sandbox theme, no skins. You have a navigation bar, an area for posts, and a title with a tagline on top. No frills, just that. It does exactly as it was supposed to be—as it was designed. But would you call that art already? I think not.

But then, you start creating your own graphics and making your own CSS structure. You get more creative, and start using graphics as a way to convey your thoughts. You make your website look as if it’s conveying your very thoughts and emotions. When you’re sad, it’s gloomy. When you’re ecstatic, it’s sunny. That’s when it becomes an art: you go beyond the purpose and add quality to the work through creativity.

Can anybody make an “artistic” design? No. I really don’t think so. Sorry if this sounds condescending, but really, there are people who can’t make a design into a work of art. Although I don’t think it’s necessarily bad.

As my mom said, not everyone is born with the talent for the arts, but those without it is blessed with other talents that the artists aren’t good at. That is so true. I’m lucky to be born in an artistic family (both my parents are artists, so is my sister), but I can’t do calculus or any of those numeric things without bleeding my brains out. I can whip up artsy designs in less than a day, but I can never say the same for math :P

If your web site design is important to you, which it should be since a good web designer can make a site that, through your web page design, can encourage return visitors, then learning web site design or hiring a good firm to do it for you is a worthwhile investment.

How do you know if your blog is ready for a new look?

That’s one question I’ve been poundering on lately for this blog and my personal blog, Kutitots. I’ve been doing mostly blog re-designs lthe past few weeks (not mine, but for my clients), that I’ve considered getting one myself. I haven’t really bothered to ask my clients WHY they wanted one, but I guess the answer would be the same anyway: it’s just not working anymore.

The first reason for this is the most obvious: you’re so behind the design trends. There are some designs that are “seasonal,” kind of like clothes that can go out of fashion. But there are those that are simply “classic”—it would work whatever the current trend is. But regardless of which, even the most classic design will have to undergo a design “improvement.” It will have to adapt to the current viewers’ needs.

That is probably one of the most important things to consider when you’re thinking about getting a redesign. If your viewers matter a lot to you (well, it should actually—they’re the ones keeping your blog alive), then you would need to consider their needs. A design that worked for viewers back in the 90′s will definitely not work with those in the present. Web 2.0 isn’t just about curvey edges and cool gradients—it’s all about usability. And in order to keep up with that “usability” need, you will then have to consider getting a redesign.

Another thing that can brought about this need to change a blog’s look is an evolution in the blog’s subject. There are those who have started having a personal blog which then revolves into a tech blog—it’s pretty obvious that a “personal” look might not work well with a tech blog. This can happen you know… I myself started Kutitots as a plain old journal, but now it’s more than just a recap of my day—I prefer to think that my entries have more substance, letting other people pounder on some issues I bring up.

Anyway, whatever the reason for a redesign may be, it all just boils down to the question of “if you can handle it.” There are some people who are too attached to their current design, or just simply can’t let go because of the gazillions of modifications they did on it. Then there’s also the issue of whether you can afford it if you don’t know how to install a new theme or would like to have a custom theme designed.

The only thing to keep in mind (I guess) is that when you do decide to redesign, make sure that the old one really needs to be replaced. Let the public “absorb” the design first. I’ve already seen some blogs that change themes every week (it can get pretty annoying, and shows that you really can’t make up your mind). Besides, if you want the blog to establish a certain personality, it’s best to keep the design for some time.

The B5media $2m

Ok, I don’t normally like blogging about stuff like this here, but this is really interesting. Well, for me at least. What can I say? I’m a sucker for hearing about controversies (I just don’t like being in one myself hehehe) :D

I first heard the news about B5media getting a $2 million VC funding from Abe’s blog. Bloggers I know from the group are ecstatic—I mean, why wouldn’t they right? Jayvee is happy, and so are the commenters on Abe’s post about it.

Before I go on further, congratulations! Good work, B5!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “congratulations” stuff and “good work” comments within our local community, but going outside the circle, response isn’t exactly as fine and dandy. But then again, I guess that’s how life is—if you aren’t the receiving end of the $2 million funding, it’s only natural to wonder why it wasn’t you or somebody else you think “deserved it more.”

Valleywag says outright that B5media doesn’t deserve $2 million. According to Nick:

“With information overload comes opportunities on a number of fronts. The most obvious is authority.” Which b5media doesn’t have. Why not invest in someone who’s already established some of that?

There really aren’t much explanation on the post except for a few remarks on why Rick Segal “gives all the wrong reasons.” It would have been nice to see some of that though. Because right now, the impression I’m getting is a simple case of sour grapes.

B5media doesn’t have authority? The investors obviously saw something that Nick didn’t. After all, they DID invest in B5media, and not the ones he thought already “established authority.”

Pardon me for saying so, but Valleywag comes off a tad bit snooty about B5media’s $2m. A little bit elaboration on the scathing remarks would have been nice, and would justify the snooty tone :P

Well, that’s just MY opinion. But then again, who am I to say anything? I’m not even a B-lister in whatever list they may have out there :D

If you are working on a web page design and are stuck in a rut on how to do your overall web site design then step away from the project a while, show it to a web designer or two if you know any, and then come back to the web site design with a fresh mind and possibly new tips found online in your spare time.