Feature
Post

Category
Design

Ready for May 1st?

Ahh, May 1st. The annual “right of passage”, where designers across the globe come together for one day of freshness, a day to reinvent themselves and usher in a season of changes for the upcoming summer. Participants are scattered throughout every continent, and find themselves participating in one if not all of the many reboots out there today. Regardless of which one or ones you may be participating in, the message is the same – it’s time to reboot.

May 1, 2007

Last Minute Checks

On the eve of May 1st, many people frantically find themselves trying to fine-tune final elements of their sites before the big launch date. Many may have already filled their sites with temporary placeholders to increase the suspense between the final hours and the actual launch time. Some meanwhile, missed the invitation and are trying frantically in the last remaining hours to put together a new site just so they can say they were part of the event. No matter what you’re situation, be on the look out for some common checks that somehow get lost in all the madness.

  • Make sure your site is validated – Particularly if you are participating in a “standards reboot“. It was sad to see many of the submitted sites in the Fall Standards Reboot didn’t even validate. As a judge this year, one of the things we’re looking for is sites that actually read and meet the criteria for participating, and aren’t just trying to leech off free traffic.
  • Check for cross-browser compatibility – The last thing you want after an exciting (re)launch date is people complaining about a site not looking properly in their os / browser of choice. Make sure you go through some extensive checking to prevent discrepancies between different browsers. You can also turn to services such as Browsershots, iCapture, and ieCapture.
  • Re-read your content – If your site is being filled with new content (for example, you created some new pages, etc, with writing in them), make sure you have everything spell checked. Obviously, if you have a huge collection of past blog entries and articles, it could be impossible to go back and check everything, but make sure all new sections of your site are properly polished up. Eliminating mistakes will help leave people more impressed in the long run.

Get your launch post ready to go

If you are relaunching a blog of some sort, a great way to kick things off is with an introductory / about the redesign post. Share your own experiences from the reboot, showcase new site features, and finally, explain the process that went into the redesign. It’s always insightful to read someones methods of designing, because everyone does something different. It’s also a great way to focus visitors to specific areas of a redesign, such as new pages, favorite articles, etc. It really helps tie the whole event together, and it takes things a lot further than just saying “well here’s my new design, hope you enjoy it.”

Ready…or not?

An important thing to remember is that there is no need to rush a site relaunch simply for the sake of participating in the May reboot. Even if you are already registered somewhere as a participant, don’t stress over it. When things are rushed, you end up half-assing the work, which leads to a poor job. Do you think visitors would rather see a fully polished site launched all at once, or a semi-completed design that was put out that way too soon for it’s own good? You don’t need one specific day to refresh a design. There are 364 other days in a year that are fully open for the taking. Just because they don’t have a special label on them doesn’t mean you can’t hold your own reboot. Please, for everyone’s sake (yours, your visitors, and the judges of these events), don’t publish something that you don’t take pride in. It’s not good for business, and it’s not good for yourself.

Feature
Post

Category
Homepage News

Slow Month

What a slow month it has been. Coming into April, I promised an output of articles like a heart rate, and instead, we flat lined. New content was very limited over the past month, and it has been reflected in our visitors, as for the first time in 4 months, our unique visitors will not top the previous months. Does this mean we are losing visitors or readers? Of course not. Our subscriber numbers have happily hovered around 1,000K, and have not sunk below 1k in quite some time. This is good news, because even with limited content, people aren’t giving up on us. So what’s the deal with the lack of output? Work.

As a junior in high school attempting to run a resource now read thousands upon thousands of times a month, it makes it very tough to balance school work with site related work. As March came to an end, April was looking good – and than everything hit. I’ve since be swamped with end of the year term papers, projects, and preparing for the SAT’s occurring next weekend. With all this busyness, it has forced me to put Devlounge in the back seat, and content has unfortunately suffered. From now until early June, it appears that Devlounge will be stuck in this rut, without putting out all to much content.

Luckily, Ronald is back after spending a month working on the Reader Appreciation Week project, where he put out a lot of great plugins, including the ajax comment editing plugin we started utilizing here. After all this plugin creating, he’s now ready to share his secrets with you as he gets ready to start a new series on creating your own WordPress plugins. It should continue for a few weeks, and will do us good as a way to hold you over until June when I can really begin stepping up my own efforts once again. Also, an interview we’ve been planning for weeks with a great bunch of flash designers should be out soon, as long as I get off my ass and email out the questions sometime this weekend.

And finally, on top of all this, work has begun on the next version of Devlounge. We’ve heard a lot of different opinions and thoughts about the current design vs the next design, and what people find wrong with both of them. We’ll be working though all this to really bring the focus back to the articles and un-cramp everything, while keeping the creative flair that has made previous Devlounge designs what they have been.

We thank you for understanding the reasoning behind yet another lack of fresh content. It’ll all be worked out soon.

Enjoy the upcoming weekend, and be sure to go read our latest Friday Focus before you head out to the bar, your girlfriends house, or where ever.

Feature
Post

Category
Design Focus

Friday Focus #28

Here we go with week 28 of Friday Focus, and Ronald is now back to contributing to this weekly madness, where we pick some of the best of the best from the past 7 days. Let’s get to it!

Sites of the Week

Starting this week off is Flektor. This clean / grunge style design incorporates flash here and there to showcase features, and is a newly launched social / media storage site (ala Photobucket). It makes the list because I like the overall style.

Flektor

Next is I-Heart-Luxe which a womens fashion blog. While the design is nothing amazing, it is simply and clean, and goes well with the talk of “luxury” clothing. Some of the images could use some redoing (for example, rss and advertising options on the right) because they are a bitty choppy due to poor quality, but overall, a pretty solid blog design that serves the purpose.

I heart luxe

And rounding out this week is Coda, the newly launched application by Panic. I love the site design, which I think does an absolute great job at spot lighting all the features of the product. Plus, the app itself looks delicious – it’s times like these I wish I had a Mac.

Coda

Digg Weekly

Favorites from this weeks top submissions

Design: Icon Search Engine
While we all love FamFamFam icons, there are used just about everywhere now. Here is an “icon search engine” that should hopefully help ease the burden of finding different icons to use in designs and web applications.

Programming: Faster Page loads with Image Concatenation
Web applications tend to use a lot of images to help a user navigate the interface, and more simply, just to make the overall appearance look a hell lot better. Too many images can slow down the loading times of an application though and bog down bandwidth. This article offers some suggestions.

Up and Coming

DesignLifeHacker’s Coolest Workspace Contest: The home-integrated office
Cool workspaces we all wish we had.

SoftwareFirefox: Necessity Or Necessary Evil?
Wired Blog asks if Firefox is a necessity or a necessary evil. I guess Internet Explorer is already the necessary evil?

Design Dilemma

Adobe Creative Suite 3 is out. Which bundle do you go for?

Have your own dilemma? Send Ronald yours and we’ll feature it in the next focus.

WordPress Plugin Spotlight

Random Redirect is a plugin that allows users to click a link and be sent a random post somewhere on your blog. This plugin allows users to “discover” your content so-to-speak. The plugin is easy to install and easy to use.

Feature
Post

Category
Design

Steps to a more fulfilling redesign

If “Layout, YOU SO NASTY” is the first thought that occurs to you in the morning, aside from “OMGWTF NUKES” and “Mmm…donuts”, change should probably be on the horizon, because if it isn’t, a chupacabra might be, and in the history of the world, there has never been anything more unforgiving. Except, of course, an incomplete redesign.

The first place to start is the beginning

Make a comprehensive list of the things you dislike about your design. The easiest way to do this is to sketch some cool things you’d like to put into your design that you currently cannot, because your spleen dictates your creative judgment. First, get an idea for a layout. Think about boxes, about circles, about octagons; think about anything that will get your mind to orient itself around an idea or an image. If you’re having trouble coming up with something spur your thoughts, take a walk outside and observe nature — if you’re so tired of this that movement is beyond you, observe your favorite sites. Remember that the difference between theft and inspiration is the way that you interpret a design element. Do not cross the line; your creativity, although recently revived from a coma at this stage, will hate you.

If you can’t deduce that something is drastically wrong with your website, start with little things. Changing the colors and icons you use can refresh a tired old website; even better, the experts suggest realigning. Move your website around and use the space you gain to introduce new elements, be they illustrations or new content areas. It’s like feng shui for your website, and it will all work out, I promise.

Molding the perfect website

Once you have an idea for a design, don’t hesitate to start working with it. Think about how each page will vary from the one before it, whether parent pages will look different from child pages, or whether you want certain elements appearing on every page. When your sketches start to look promising, and your colors inspire you, start making your design concrete. Open up Photoshop or Illustrator and create mockups of your site; show drafts to the world and get critiques. It’ll be a pain trying to fix your design drastically later, so take advantage of your preparation time.

When you’re ready to turn your mockup into a live version, start by styling the text first. No matter how gorgeous your images are (unless you’re creating a portfolio site), your text is going to add some humanity to your page because anyone can write; not everyone can design. Gradually add the images; keep your mockup open so that you can see how you’re progressing.

If you make a mistake, work with it; some mistakes are beneficial. No matter which path you take, good things always come out of effort, so work hard for the design you want. It might end up being better for you :)

Architecture

Having just redesigned my site (I don’t listen to the masters as well as I should), I know that cleaning up the code I used was the hardest task I had. If you’re using a CMS like Movable Type, WordPress, or TextPattern, make sure you have a list of the various tags you can use. While a template can be split up into numerous files, most of the code there is fluff. Remember that if you’re designing a site yourself, you won’t need to use the default template or styles. In fact, scary as it might sound, you can simply strip it and move on your way. Here’s how you do it with minimum casualties:

In a plain Notepad (or preferred text-editor), make a list of essential template tags — body tags, comment tags, RSS feed tags — you can strip these directly from the default template, if you’d like. Even if you’ve never worked with one of the major programs, know that tags are usually named to be easily recognized and will sometimes have the program’s name as a prefix. For example, to make an entry title in Movable Type, use the following:

<MTEntryTitle>

The success of a site’s skeleton is necessary for a good design. If you fail to use semantics or valid code, you’ll find bits of your site breaking and the whole redesign will be that much more excruciating. Keep it simple, and save yourself the pain of watching your redesign flounder.

Design

As a rule of thumb, I always design my site in a static location elsewhere with about four different pages: home, an interior/post, a random inner page, and my archives. If you follow my method, all your bases will be covered; there’s no need to fret about how some of your pages will look because technically, you’ve already designed the canvas that you will create them on.

Fonts

One of the challenges ‘redesigners’ face is the age-old question of how to balance images and text. Text on its own is very beautiful; if you’re ever played around with typography, you’ll know that fonts can be a lot of fun when you treat them right. The first rule of web typography is to deviate; don’t worry about Arial, Times New Roman, or Courier. Look for fonts that speak to you. If you’re worried about paying for something like Helvetica (or its many children), many similar imitation fonts are available for free. You’ll find the widest variety in serif fonts, which are arguably the most beautiful to style with. Even if you use sans-serifs exhaustively on your redesign, serifs can help liven any page. Several news sites (and blogs, if you’d like something in the same hemisphere as your redesign) prefer serifs for headings to attract attention, and then sans-serifs for body text to preserve readability. The most important thing to remember is that any fonts list you find is not finite. While I haven’t attempted it myself (the wendigos tell me not to), designing a font can tremendously personalize your page, and help you to branch out of your redesigner’s clique.

Always remember that any font you use, unless you utilize sIFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), may not be available to everyone. Since you can’t force font usage on the general public (darn!), be sure to set your CSS like this:

font-family: Myriad, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;

… just so there’s always a back-up!

Grids

Grids date back to the Golden Ratio/Rectangle phenomenon — the most appealing geometric figure to the human eye. If artists, carpenters, and sculptors — even mathematicians — could style things with these ratios, why couldn’t web designers? Grids are not essential to a successful redesign, but they can certainly be used to refresh a tired website. If you’re interested, Mark Boulton documented his process very well; give it a read!

Message

Arguably the most important part of any successful redesign is your “message”. Your site is a visual representation of yourself online. Every bit of text that you write, every image you make is your creation. Be proud; reflect for a minute or two. And then think. What does your site convey to people? To yourself? Is it clean? Grungy? Minimalistic? Professional? A site can convey so much more than you often give it credit for. People can be enthralled by beauty or turned away by clutter; it could be the reverse as well. If you feel as if your site is truly something that you can appreciate, you’re done; you’ve just completed your own redesign. Now the design-raptors will have to find someone else to hound!

Feature
Post

Category
Design Focus

Friday Focus #27

Welcome back for another addition of Friday Focus. Let’s jump right into it this week and not waste any time with silly introductions!

Sites of the Week

Rock Your Stock begins our list this week with the very green, very money like theme for an investing / financial blog. The design matches the content well, which is one of the main reasons RTS was chosen for this week.

Rock Your Stock

Next up is Deeper Devotion. Church sites are not what they used to be these days. The days of slapped on wysiwyg html are being replaced with some really nice designed sites, and DD was no exception. Everything is laid out quite nicely, and it actually gives an urban appearance to a religious site.

Deeper Devotion

A rounding out this week is the Yellowstone National Park tourism site. A grungy layout meant to give a park feel does the job well, and bits and pieces also use flash to add effect and features. What surprised me was the the site is also up a Webby Award – not something many national parks find themselves looking to score.

Yellowstone National Park

Digg Weekly

Design25 Reasons you might be a hardcore web/gfx designer
A great fun little post with 25 simple reasons of why you might be a hardcore designer, ranging from studying your boyfriend / girlfriends shirt to critiquing menu design while out to eat.

ProgrammingWordPress Digg Widget
The past 7 days in Programming only saw a few items get hot, and I though the most interesting [or useful] would be this release of a WordPress Digg Widget, simplifying the digging process from individuals sites’ even more.

Refresh07 Results

The winner of the 2007 Spring Refresh Contest is Greg Wood! Greg took our current layout, played around with it a bit, and cleaned things up to provide a fresh feel for the site. Even though colors remain close and the layout is essential the same, I think in the long run, it benefits readers who have become accustomed to how things look. We will be working off his winning layout (which he is even doing the base coding for us) and trying to add more too it and address some complaints of the site being “too much copy” with so much text stuffed together and such a busy homepage. We’re going to find ways to break things up, so don’t worry. Please leave your suggestions in the comments, so we can get moving in the direction you want us to go with our next design.

Refresh Result

Once again, congratulations to Greg. You can see an entire screenshot of his submitted design by clicking the image below (will take you off this page). Once again, thoughts are welcomed!

*Note: Footer won’t really be that big. ;)

Feature
Post

Category
General

Spec Work: Good or Bad?

No!Spec

The concept of “Spec Work” is one that is constantly thrown around in the design world, and became even more evident during our refresh contest, in which, despite a large reader base, we received just one entry. For this article (or more of a opinionated piece), I take a look at why people hate spec work so much, and why it is actual ruining creativity.

What is Spec Work?

To understand what we mean by Spec work, you first have to know what it is. As defined by the anti-spec work campaign No!Spec, Spec work is “the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing.

The simplest example of Spec Work is a design contest, where there is one winner, and the other entries end up going towards nothing, with no benefits to the creator. It’s speculative because you could work your ass off and get nothing for it, which would end up being a waste of time and waste of resources…right?

This is where the line in the sand gets drawn.

Let the battles begin

As a designer myself, I can totally understand why people would be up in arms over doing work they might not get anything for. When I first started out [and was a complete idiot], I spent a lot of time doing work for clients who would run away with mock-ups or stop contacting me all together after I started the design. This was never any fun, because I didn’t take down payments, and selling a custom based template wasn’t the easiest thing to do if it wasn’t generalized. So plain and simple, I ended up screwing myself over multiple times. I had then created spec work for myself, because I would get nothing or very little out of my hard work.

“…design contests devalue professional designers work…”
- 9rules member note

To prevent this, people started campaigns like No!Spec to try to deteriorate designers from taking part in such work, and to “educate” people on why they shouldn’t host such things as design contests. The topic was also recently brought up on 9rules notes, with one commenter saying so much as “No, please don’t, design contests devalue professional designers work.” after a question was asked about whether a design contest would be appropriate for someone to run.

That one sentence annoyed me, especially because it generalized all types of contests – the fair and unfair ones. There are contests that do offers fair market value prizes for the work they require you to put in, and there are others that offer you $10 to put together a full site. Obviously, they are two opposite sites of the spectrum. In our recent contest, we gave away a 30GB Zune, with a list price around $230 USD. In exchange we asked for one homepage mock-up of our next design, simply because I was strung out and stuck in a rut in terms of design ideas. I thought the prize being offered was very fair, because we were only looking for one page, which would not require all too much time being dedicated to get it completed. We had plans to showcase all of our submitted entries at the end of the week in Friday Focus, so un-used entries simply wouldn’t be thrown into the incinerator.

The fact that people would believe that contests devalue the work of a designer I found quite unbelievable. Contests are one of the easiest ways for beginning designers to get started, because they can experiment in a no pressure situation, where they have nothing to lose and plenty of experience to gain. This is why $50-$100 prize logo contests on forums became so popular and generally garnered many participants. The work wasn’t all too complex, the prize wasn’t that bad, and it gave you the freedom the experiment and see how you stacked up against other designers.

And what if you are not a beginner but a seasoned veteran? What the hell would a contest do for you if you are years past the “experimental” stage? Veteran or beginner, you would be able to have the same benefits. The ability to design without restrictions and limitations, and to try something new, would all be on the table for you. No client influence hanging over your head, no exact style you have to follow. The ability to be free – something most clients unfortunately don’t give their designers. And if you aren’t declared the winner and don’t win that valuable prize, you could add the work to your portfolio or go along and sell it. Your work would not be devalued – in fact; you’d gain even more in experience.

A contest is…a contest

When you enter a contest, you should realize that you might not win. That is after all, the purpose of a contest. No!Spec supporters believe that you have to get something for participating, so they must not play the lottery too often, because they would find themselves severely disappointed 99.9% of the time. Contests help people expose different sides of creativity that they might not be able to get out in a client orientated world. It also allows them to grow as designers, even though their wallets might not exactly be overflowing because of it. In the end, whether or not you take on spec work is your own call, and it is best to base each call off the situation at hand. Analyze whether or not you have the chance at possibly getting anything at all (because if not, that definitely helps you lean towards the “don’t do this” side), and if there is a prize, make sure it is worth the work you may end up putting into the project. But don’t, I repeat, don’t, turn away contests [or the opportunity to host one for that matter] because a portion of designers think it is wrong and/or devaluating. Your work is what you make it, and if you believe a contest is giving your work less of a value, maybe you are the one actually devaluating your own hard work simply because you are not seeing green.

Note: Please see my comment note for my view on why taking is spec work does differ and depend on whether or not you are a freelancer or full time designer. As evident (and should have been stated earlier), I am a freelancer, so this view / opinion is based on designing not be your sole source of income / full time job.

Your turn. We want to know what your thoughts are on spec work. Do you support contests and doing spec work from time to time, or are you totally against it? Please let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear your responses. This article is not intended to offend anyone who follows one view or the other, simply to present the view most people ignore.

Feature
Post

Category
Homepage News

Final Reminder: Contest Closing

Just a final reminder that today is the last day of the Refresh contest, and there is just a few more hours for you to get your submissions in! Please send them in as soon as possible if you haven’t yet, so we can begin the judging process quickly. If you are close but may require an extra day, let us know, and we may consider extending the submission period by one day. Thanks to anyone that participated. We may be running a logo contest in the near future after we pick a winning layout, so be on the lookout for that.

And finally, I’d like to give my thoughts and prayers to the students and families of Virginia Tech, after today’s horrible events.

Feature
Post

Category
Jobs

Magnetik

Contact Name: Doug Steinberg
Email: [email protected]
Company Name: Magnetik
Site URL: http://www.magnetik-nyc.com
Location: Cheslea | NYC

Job Description:
Do you spend your free time checking out the latest hot sites? Do you have an opinion on whether ajax or flash is better for user interfaces? Can you crank out killer designs in the time it takes other people to sit down at their desks? If so, you may be just who we’re looking for.

MAGNETIK, a growing advertising and marketing agency in NYC is seeking a designer to work mostly on web projects, but you should also be able to work in the real world without panic. This is a freelance position with opportunity to become a long term contract or full time position.

On any given day, we’re churning out retail print ads, html emails, landing pages, flash banners, enterprise-level sites and more for some of America’s top brands.

Programming skills are a big plus, but not required, though you must have an in-depth understanding of flash and html from a capabilities and usability perspective. A knowledge of AJAX techniques and the latest JS goodies is also a big help.

We’re in midtown Manhattan and only interested in people who can work on site. DO NOT apply if you’re not able to work in-person, though we may consider a candidate who can come in for briefings/presentations but wants to work remotely on occasion.

If you’re interested in this opportunity, please email us a resume, salary requirements and samples/URLs of your work. You will not be considered if you don’t send us all of these items.

Feature
Post

Category
Jobs

Jagpar Technologies

Contact Name: Samir Gaokar
Company Name: Jagpar Technologies
Site URL: Jagpar.com
JobTitle: Design
Budget: $25k – $45k depending on experience per year.

Job Description:

  • 5+ years relevant web design experience plus Strong knowledge of XHTML
  • 5+ and CSS Permanent position but will consider freelance / contractors 5+ too

JAGPAR is a leading ecommerce company and innovator in the e-technologies sector through its website www.JAGPAR.com and the largest seller of cars on eBay. Using the latest in Web 2.0 technology, JAGPAR has pioneered the concept of accurately describing a car online.

Cars are displayed in JAGPAR’s client virtual showroom which offers an interactive view of the car, including an application that shows any dents and scratches. 90% of the company’s customers pay a deposit on the car without seeing – by far the third highest in the industry. Company’s online technology and marketing also allows it to sell cars very quickly – up to 4 times faster than traditional dealers, which is unprecedented in the industry.

The company’s commitment to customer service is second to none which is why we had a 99.8% customer feedback rating on eBay and thousands of satisfied customers.

we had raised £3M in venture capital funding from Accel Partners, one of the top venture capital firms worldwide who has funded companies such as Macromedia, Real Networks, Netvibes, JBoss and Facebook. Our head office is in central London, with local processing facilities in other cities.

This position will provide you with the opportunity to work in a dynamic, team oriented environment with good opportunities to grow your career and take on additional responsibilities with the growth of the company.

JAGPAR is seeking a highly motivated individual who is passionate about e-commerce and cars for the position of Lead Web Designer. You will be a part of the team which is responsible for developing JAGPAR’s web site and internal software systems. As the lead designer you will be responsible for overseeing and developing JAGPAR’s brand and visual identity as well as our web site look and feel, design and user interface. You will also be involved in the design aspects of our internal software system.

JAGPAR and we are preparing for a major overhaul of its web site to turn it into a world class e-commerce site for cars, leveraging the latest in Web 2.0 technologies. As the lead designer you will play a key role in this major new development for the company and help build us as a mainstream consumer brand.

You should have a combination of artistic and technology skills and must be able to take a brief and execute on it to meet deadlines. In addition to design you will ideally also have experience with e-commerce, user interface (UI) design and search engine optimization. You will have the capability of contributing in a fast-paced, integrated product team environment and grow with the rapid pace of the company.

Permanent position but will consider freelance / contractors too

REQUIREMENTS

  • - Bachelor’s degree in computer science / art / multimedia preferred
  • - Artistic and aesthetic skills, specifically proven graphical design skills with impressive portfolio
  • - 5+ years relevant web design experience, preferably with some agency experience
  • - Good knowledge of standard tools, web architectures and processes
  • - Good knowledge of XHTML and CSS
  • - Experience with usability aspects e-commerce websites helpful
  • - Search engine optimization experience a plus
  • - Proven ability to take a brief and balance the tradeoffs of delivery schedules, customer needs, and long-term system maintainability and meet deadlines
  • - Capable of contributing in a fast-paced, integrated product team environment and grow with the rapid pace of the company and take more responsibility as required
  • - Strong communication skills; ability to interact with both technical and non-technical people
  • - Startup and agency experience a plus

Feature
Post

Category
Webapps

Xhtml Slicer

With multiple slicing services available just about every where you look, it is hard to select a clear leader. Each service offers its own benefits and has its own pricing scheme – some more expensive than others. Today we look at XHTML Slicer, a service I recently used for client work.

Xhtml Slicer

Wait, why would I need someone to code for me?

Before we get going, there is an issue I have to discuss. Most of our readers would probably be asking, “Why would I need someone to code for me?” True, most of our readers can handle both the designing and coding aspects of site creation, but not everyone is capable at doing both. And then there are the times where we are simply too busy, and are forced to outsource work to help ease our own loads, as was the case when I went with XS. The problem being, out of respect to your own clients, you don’t want to outsource their work to a $15 coder on some forum who has little experience. This is where slicing services come in handy, and can become a real great time-saver.

My Experience with XS

To understand why I used this service, this is not going to be a typical run-of-the-mill review, but a summary of why I used XS and my experience with using them. First, this was the first time I had outsourced any client work, so I was a bit worried about the differences is in my own code and someone else’s. I had just accepted a new project for a client, and was getting another request for a much bigger (and more profitable) project. I wanted to make sure I had time for both of them, but the requests came only a day apart from each other, so it was looking like I would be forced to stay out of one or lengthen the time-table on the second project by at least quite a few days.

After quickly completing a successful mock-up for my first client, I was ready to move on to the coding stage. Rather than spend a few days to code it myself, I decided to use my friend Prash’s service and have him and/or one of his coders get the xhtml and css done for me. I submitted the client-accepted psd and within 3 days I had a zip file sent to me containing the sliced images, index html, and stylesheet. At $200 for a 3-day turnaround, I thought it was a great value, and more importantly, it had saved me time to get started on the next project while I waited for the code to be sent over.

Now it was time for me to complete the project. I had to port things over to WordPress, and this was the only part that scared me a little bit. Not because I don’t know what I’m doing, but because it was the first time I was dealing with code other than my own. Luckily, I was happy to see very clean code that was easy for me to edit and get running cleanly in WordPress. After working around some of my own created bugs from modifying the template, I had wrapped the project up with the same valid Xhtml and CSS I had started with.

So whether or not you’re looking for a permanent solution for your coding needs if you are not a coder by hand, or you simply want to know where you can turn if you have to outsource some work, Xhtml Slicer is a great choice. I was very happy with the turnaround time, and I know that if I ever need to outsource again, I will be heading back there. While everyone is entitled to having their favorite slicing services, XS is the only one I’ve had personal experience with, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.

Feature
Post

Category
General

R.A.W. – Day 4/5 Featured Site

Topping off the last two days of Reader Appreciation Week, we have the last two random commenter featured sites.

First up with comment number 668 was our very own Ronalfy. Of course, the place of featuring would be the other place he writes – his personal blog. He recently ran multiple contests for R.A.W., so if you like his web related writing here, check out his site for some more personal stuff.

Ronalfy

And coming in with comment number 166 was Shaun Charity. His link from his comment led to his portfolio, which is actually quite nice. A nice collection of motion, print, and interactive design.

Shaun Charity

We will periodically be running reader appreciation days / weeks throughout the coming weeks, so continue to comment to increase your chances of getting featured next time around!

Feature
Post

Category
Design Focus

Friday Focus #26

In the midst of Reader Appreciation Week comes Friday Focus #26. This is a much smaller Friday Focus compared to next week’s, because next week we will showcase all of the submitted designs from the Refresh contest as well as the usual weekly three. So without further a due, here we go.

Sites of the Week

RocketSurgeon is a great looking, simple one page portfolio. They have done a lot of nice work, definitely worth a look.

RocketSurgeon

Next up is Dara’s Garden. I was wholly impressed with this site, and I think it looks absolutely superb. An excellent job was done mixing flash and rollovers with a simple layout, and it all leads to a very impressing result.

Dara’s Garden

And rounding out this weeks top three is the Habitat for Humanity youth site. A fun and colorful site, with a good purpose behind it. Also features some minor use of Flash.

Habitat For Humanity

Digg Weekly

Design: 7 Things You Don’t See in Websites Today
A list of 7 things you don’t see in websites these days, with a few added extras based on user comments. And I agree with some of these things listed here, I’m glad we don’t see them anymore!

Programming: 10 Tips for Optimizing MySQL Queries (That Don’t Suck)
Ten ways you can speed up your MySQL Queries to help ease the load on your server and the wait time for visitors.

Submission Deadline Reminder

Just a reminder for all of our Refresh contest participants, the submission deadline is Monday, April 16, 2007. That does not mean you have to wait until then to submit if you have already finished. Please make sure your submission is in PSD, ZIP, PNG, JPG, or GIF format, and remember to keep a PSD handy (unless you went straight to code and didn’t use a psd, as is sometimes the case). A question that has come up is, can I use the work as part of my portfolio? Of course you can! Whether you win or not, we want you to showcase your hard work! And as stated about, all submissions will be showcased in next week’s Friday Focus as well.

Another Color Picker

Some of you may remember our review on Colourlovers. I recently stumbled upon another color picker that can be downloaded or used online. It shows schemes and different variations of colors based on whatever original color you pick. It’s called Genopal, so give it a look if you’re struggling with selecting colors for your next project.