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Strategy

Guest Blogging, Woe and Dismay

Recently, more and more blogs are voicing their not-so constructive thoughts on guest blogging. What’s the beef? Some say the quality just isn’t there, but whose fault is that? You know, having another blogger write an article for you doesn’t have to be a half-assed attempt at link bait.

Guest blogging is to write, free of charge, one or more articles on a known contact’s blog as a favour. Benefits include a little traffic and recognition, maybe a link or two if you can make it relevant.

That said, to assure the quality of content remains and your readers don’t get bent out of shape, I present you with some tips, as a guest and as a host. For this to work both sides must be in mutual competence. Before we get into that, let me share with you my definition of guest blogging.

For the Guest

Being paid to write a post and guest posting are two different things. If you’re getting paid, you’re a writer for that site. If you’re guest posting, you’re simply a friend doing another friend a favour.

If you’re emailing another blogging asking to write a post for them, have a headline or topic in mind. On the other end of things, if a blogger asks you to help them out, work with them to come to a mutual agreement on a topic you both agree you can write a great article on.

The whole link bait and guest posts ordeal is one myth I wish I could abolish. Unfortunately there is a trend of guest bloggers making poor attempts at gaining traffic from Digg and other viral sites. I don’t want to take any shots here, but in the commentary category my creative freedom somehow needs to be heard. The ‘make money online’ niche is a big one. The guest blogging in this niche is absolutely horrendous and because this whole area reaches such a wide audience, everyone gets a piece of it.

The poor guest posts in the MMO sector are due to misunderstandings between inexperienced bloggers. I’ll say it: 95% of MMO online blogs are John Chow rip offs thinking they’re going to be rich tomorrow. This produces hundreds of incompetent people without blogging common sense. I know you were thinking it ;)

For the Host

First thing is first: should you squeeze a contact for a guest post? Keep in mind, while pulling a favour in, you might be called to return it in the future, if your guest isn’t returning it to you. This isn’t always the case. Personally, my blog is under my name and I would never have someone write a post at their own discretion for me. On the other hand, I do the occasional guest post, asking nothing in return. That’s just me though, many people are quite on the contrary.

Next, you’re not going to want to pick just anyone. Somebody in your niche, or close to it, is obviously the best bet. As someone who is design/blogging focused, it is a little awkward trying to fulfill expectations on a business blog.

For the record, when a guest post is quite sub par and readers know it, it’s on the host. Why? As a host (the blog owner for the not so observant) it was you who chose the writer, or approved it. Don’t pick any random person who asks.

  • Look at their previous guest posts if any.
  • Read their blog. I say skip it if they don’t have one.
  • Do they have something to plug? If they have an ulterior motive for leveraging your site, skip it.

The perfect candidate is one who writes eloquently with experience without being intimidated by the myths surrounding guest posting. Added bonus for having a popular blog in the same niche.

In the End

Don’t be afraid of guest blogging. It can be a three way of pleasure (err, in the blogging sense) for the guest, the host and the readers. It’s not for everyone, but if you think it is for you, do it right. It seems as if the present is a shaky time for guest blogging, but a little common sense goes a long way.

Connor Wilson is surprisingly enough a blogger also working as a freelance designer.

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Design Focus

Friday Focus #42

Issue number 42. Exactly 10 weeks to go until we hit a year. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Sites of the Week

Leading off this weeks top three is Kineda. How many times are we going to feature this place? I believe this is the third time Kineda has made the list, but every redesign looks cleaner and cleaner. I wish the Devlounge homepage was arranged like this, as I think it is very effective and helps tremendously with exposing a lot more content to the visitor. It gives me ideas, but as I said, I’m not redesigning this anymore – I’ve done enough of that already.

Kineda - Back here again

Next up is Challies. Another refreshingly clean magazine / portal style layout featuring lots of blues. Three columns and fairly polished up.

Challies Big

Wrapping up this week is Loose Stitch, an outlining app. It looks like the application interface itself is pretty clean, so I think I’ll be taking a look at this some time over the coming days.

Loose Stitch

Design Float / Digg Weekly

DesignA CSS Styled Table Version 2
Another great tutorial from Veerle. Nice and detailed, and comes with a clean final result (of course).

ProgrammingImage Browser Controls
Another tutorial, this time from Pup Image on the common right / left arrow controls found on a lot of images theres day when shown as a gallery / slide show.

Other News

Earlier this week I released Particles, our newest WordPress theme. As I mentioned, its lightweighty-ness (not really a word) makes it a great theme to build upon. If you didn’t believe me, check out this screenshot from a blog we’ve been watching via our refer logs that has been building off of the Particles theme to make a web gallery. Obviously, it is still a work in progress, but it’s only been a few days.

Particles in action on a live blog

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Inspiration from Within School Walls

It approaches. The humidity takes a slight drop for a few days, and you can feel a refreshing feeling in the air. The leaves on the trees are still green, but a small portion fall to the ground and dry up. August is drawing to a close and September is coming. Another school year is upon us.

Inspiration from Within the Walls

Many, if not most of you are way beyond this point. But for me, my final year of high school looms just a few short weeks away. The last few weeks of summer always seem to play with you – you know as days go by you are getting closer and closer to the start of a new school year, which puts a damper on the “fun” the last couple weeks of summer should really be about. Time is quickly running out, and before you know it, the 10 weeks of summer have vanished.

As soon as the school doors bust open, my motivation to do much design work usually seems to slam shut. Especially early on, that first month always seems to be a motivational killer. School requires a major refocus of time and effort, meaning books and school work take the forefront and Photoshop begins to collect dust.

Up until last year, it was that very reason which usually led me to take very few clients over the course of a school year. I usually did most of my client work in the summer, and let it take the back seat once fall hit. But beginning in my junior year, the on and off periods flip flopped. Last year, I found myself gathering ideas all day long, in various forms, while sitting in the back of a classroom. Pens, pencils, and pads are good for a lot of things.

The truth is, you don’t need a fancy to do list application or Photoshop in front of you to get your ideas down and out there in the open. I spent a lot of time throughout last year using the back pages in notebooks to draw up ideas for new sites, client work, and just about anything else I could think of. I’d sketch out design concepts (including some of the ones that later became versions of Devlounge), and label different sections with numbers, including notes on what I planned to fill each section with and how I could get it to work. Then, whenever I got the chance, I’d go into Photoshop and create rough mockups of my sketches and save them, so that even if I didn’t end up putting them to use, I’d have the ideas stored up for future work or projects. It turned out to be a fairly productive method, which explains why I took more clients last year during my “busiest” year of high school.

So my advice to you high school or early college kids who are still trying to become the best designer possible – don’t let school get in the way of your creativity. Of course set your priorities in the right order, but when you have time for it and ideas come to you, write them down! Whether it’s with words or pictures, it can really help you learn by storing all your concepts somewhere you have easy access to them. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Extra Notebook – Score an extra notebook specifically for random things, such as sketches and notes. When you finish your work and your sitting there with nothing to do, rather than trying to sneak your iPod up through your sweatshirt so no one notices, take out your “design notebook” and start brainstorming. Get all your ideas down on paper.
  • Don’t throw away any of your failed concepts. At the end of the year it will do you great justice to have a compiled notebook of failed and accepted designs. You can see what worked and what didn’t, and hey, you might actually learn something from yourself.
  • Learn from usability mistakes right in front of your face. You’d be surprised, but you can pick up a lot of usability details from objects you use everyday. If you have a recently published text book, compare it to that old one from 1960 in the corner of the room. You’ll notice most books these days are much more clear cut; they draw attention to the important things and fill the pages with a lot more useful information then back in the day. Your likely to see just a bunch of jumbled text in the 1960 edition of the same book, but a lot more whitespace and vibrant colors to draw attention to details in newer editions.

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Homepage News

Particles is here

The newest WordPress theme is now available for your pleasure. Scoop it up today, and use it for your site now! More information is available on the Particles page. Special thanks to Robert for helping me squash the final display bug yesterday. Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.

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Friday Focus #41

Friday focus…but it’s not even Friday!

Please excuse me for a rather late Friday Focus this week. It was the first time in a while that I didn’t pre-write the focus on Thursday, and when yesterday came around, I was out most of the day. Since I’ve wasted enough time getting this one going, let’s skip the pre-game pep talk and get right to the action.

Sites of the Week

Kicking off this week’s [late edition of] Friday Focus is 2G Media. I don’t know why, but I simply like this site. Maybe it’s the color combination, or some of the cool 3D work, but I just like it a lot.

2G Media

Next up is Blog Action Day. A great design for an even better cause. Devlounge is being added as we speak. From the site: “On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.”

Blog Action Day

And finally this week is Problogger. Recently redesigned, Problogger now sports a very “portalish” look. It’s pretty neat if you ask me.

Problogger

Design Float / Digg Weekly

DesignHundreds of Free Icons for Webs and Desktops
Some really nice onces here. I like those gloss looking digg / technorati ones. I may put them to use. Just maybe ;).

ProgrammingWant to learn PHP? Easy!
A 15 part series that, according to the poster, are some of the best tutorials on php that they have ever read. I should probably look into some of these.

WordPress theme on the horizon

Particles is almost here

I’m working out one final css bug in my next upcoming WordPress theme, called Particles. It’s a very lightweight, speed and seo enhanced theme that allows you to quickly and easily build upon it. All together there are maybe six images used on the whole design, and it has a rather “unique” and different looking post setup than “most” standard designs. Watch for it in the coming days (possibly today if I get it fixed soon enough).

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The Big Wall

A new and fun little project / initiative from Devlounge that allows you to submit your favorite work piece to our [soon to be] large wall / quilt (think Million Dollar Homepage meets a design gallery) has gone live. Hopefully, this will help boost forum activity around here, and allow everyone to have a little fun (and get a link back ;)). You’ll find that the forums have a lot more information about the project, so you might want to check it out once you get the chance.

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15 Design Decisions That Annoy Readers

I usually view a lot of sites when trying to come up with inspiration for a new design. After recently re-designing a site and creating a WordPress theme from scratch, I thought I’d share a couple design decisions I found annoying. It should be noted that this article is a combination of two articles I wrote over at the Reader Appreciation Project regarding annoying design decisions, so a lot of the annoyances mentioned here are directly from reader feedback.

Pop-Ups

Kontera Ad

Let’s face it. In-text advertising is annoying. Not necessarily because the ads get in the way, but because of the pop-ups that routinely show their face. Now I’m not talking about pop-up ads; I’m talking about pop-ups that show up when you hover over a link.

An example I came across (unfortunately no screenshot) is when you hover over a link and it displays, “You have the nth most popular outgoing link.” I could really care less how many people have clicked on my link. It’s also demoralizing when you come in last.

Another example of pop-ups is in-text advertising. Daniel from Daily Blog Tips mentions to stay away from in-text advertising. Part of this is because of the annoying pop-ups that come up when “accidentally” hovering over an ad-link.

Turning Off the Time Stamp on Posts

Erica says,
When I find a blog with no time stamp, I feel conned.
Read the full comment.

Rory Sullivan lays it out when he tells his readers that taking the time stamp off on a blog post is like public speaking with one hand in your pocket. Of course, the argument for turning off timestamps is to make the content “appear” more timeless.

Shouldn’t it be the readers — and not the bloggers — who decide which content is timeless and which content is not?

Pop-up Windows

In the age of IE7 and Firefox tabs, pop-up windows are growing even more annoying. It is becoming common for users to open pages in new tabs, not new windows. Readers should not be forced to view pages in new windows. It should be the reader’s choice. You can never force a reader to stay on a page, so why annoy them with a pop-up window?

Let readers navigate the way they want to navigate. Don’t ever force a reader into anything.

Snap Preview Pop-ups

MT says,
The Snap preview popup is one of those ideas that sounds good, but is very annoying in practice. I’d rather a small option to see the preview popped up. Read the full comment.

Snap Shots allow a reader to view a website’s design by simply hovering over a link. The feature is annoying for several reasons:

  • Readers have no choice in the matter. Now a reader can opt-out. Opting out still sucks, however.
  • Snap Shots are obtrusive.
  • Snap Shots are arguably unnecessary. What is the value of knowing what a blogger’s site looks like anyway?

Having the Subscribe Box Higher Than the Search Box

Having a search box towards the top of your theme is a given, or at least it should be. A search box should be visible and simple according to Jakob Nielson.

Arguably, a search box should also be above the fold and towards the top of any theme. While a designer should have the freedom to place the search box wherever he/she chooses, having a search box in an unpredictable location will just confuse readers. It should also be noticed that having the subscribe box higher than the search box will just result in more confusion, especially since said subscribe boxes often launch pop-ups after inputing a query.

Having a Dark Background

I personally am very fond of dark backgrounds. However, some users do get annoyed by darker backgrounds. There are some that have the firm stance that all websites “must” have white backgrounds and plenty of “white” space.

I of course do not agree holistically, but I have seen some designs where the darker background hindered reading. When I do design for a darker background, I make a considerable effort to ensure that all of the text is readable.

Examples of sites with dark backgrounds which I think look awesome are ShawnBlanc.net and also Larissa’s site.

Auto-Play Music

Snoskred says,
If a site plays music at me I find out which site it is, close it down ASAP, and if that site was in my google reader I choose to unsubscribe right away. Read the full comment.

May all MySpace users who have music be sent to a special place in hell. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. MySpace users don’t really know any better, right?

However, a serious website owner should know that readers should have a choice in the matter whether music plays on a site or not.

Not only do you have people browsing from work, but you also have people who aren’t very technical who can be really confused when the music starts blaring. Music on a website should be an opt-in affair.

Not Separating Trackbacks from Comments

Not separating trackbacks from comments can hinder a conversation going on in a blog. Trackbacks and pingbacks are there to say to the blogger, “Hey, I’ve talked about you on my blog. Check it out.” To a regular commenter and/or reader of the post, the trackback is not really part of the conversation. To me, a trackback interspersed with regular comments is more of an interruption than a continuation of discussion.

I’m a big fan of readers leaving a comment adding to the current discussion, and then also saying, “Hey, I also wrote about this on my blog.” Those types of comments add a lot more value than a trackback in my opinion.

For WordPress bloggers, I use this technique for separating trackbacks from comments.

Talking Advertisements

Congratulations. You’ve just gone to a site where there are talking advertisements. You’ve won a month supply of Viagra as well as Trojans (good combination, no?).

Too bad all of your co-workers heard what you have just won. Avoid embarrassing the readers. Do not ever let ads that “talk” onto your site.

Obtrusive Subscription Requests

MT says,
As for examples of the subscription-nags… I keep running across blogs with big outlined boxes at the top of posts, noting that I look new, and asking me to subscribe. They just annoy me — especially since often I’m already subscribed. (I think this is due to a cookie/ip checking plugin/script, intended to show only to new readers — but I’ve got a dynamic IP, and I use Firefox (which frequently updates and resets) so I’m often getting messages intended for first time users). Read the full comment.

You’re new here, right? Why not subscribe (sorry, couldn’t resist) to our feed?

A better phase might be, “Yo, dude… check out the feed NOW! If you don’t subscribe, I’ll keep nagging you. Even if you do subscribe, I’ll still nag you. HA!”

Hidden Subscription Options

Another thing the readers pointed out as annoying were hidden subscription options. I, myself, have personally been annoyed when I would go to a blog and couldn’t find anywhere a subscription option. I don’t like going to blogs anymore ever since I’ve discovered my lovely and handy feed reader.

If I can’t find your subscription options, guess where I go? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not back to your blog.

This is a point for debate, but I say that subscription options should be as prominent as search. It’s one of those things that readers (albeit, more technical readers) look for when coming to a blog.

Failure to Interlink Posts or Show Related Posts

As with any website, it should be easy to find related content, posts, products, and more. Part of this can be solved by some intelligence behind the scenes like Amazon.com where it recommends products. Another example is the WordPress extend plugins directory where it recommends other plugins based on what you have just downloaded.

Here at Devlounge, there are related posts for every article. All of our content is also organized by articles, features, and sub-categories. How do you help readers find relevant content?

I am personally fond of a nice sitemap, easy to navigate archives, and a prominent search bar.

Obtrusive Advertisements

InspirationBit says,
Lately I stumble more and more upon websites with the dynamically flowing ads, that slide right on top of the article and stay there until you click on an obscure “close” button. That annoys the heck out of me. Read the full comment.

Every now and then when I browse to CNET News or Slate, I get a full-page view of an ad where I must click a “close” button to view the page content. I also get the same treatment at MySpace or RottenTomatoes when I must “continue to the page” or continue viewing the ad.

Obtrusive advertisements are detrimental to the readers. If I had my choice, I would just read CNET and Slate from a feed reader, but they don’t offer full feeds. So I’m “forced” to view these ads if I want to view the content. And it’s a wonder why sites like these are losing their popularity.

Readers should have a choice in all things and should never be forced into anything, including viewing or clicking on ads.

In-Text Advertisements

DailyBlogTips had a post that discussed avoiding in-text advertising. The reason is that readers are tricked into thinking a blogger is endorsing a product.

Andrew Rickmann weighed in and said: “Snap previews, in-text advertising, and those flash adverts that are all designed to interrupt you and prevent you getting to the content properly actually work against the company. If a company that is willing to shove their product in my face that way then they must have a significant amount of contempt for the customer, or at best, think their product is so poor that no one would take notice any other way.”

I agree with Daniel (DailyBlogTips) and Andrew that in-text advertisements should be avoided, especially since pop-up advertisements are so annoying in the first place.

Small Font Size

Bill says,
I realize (that small fonts) are somewhat subjective, but if one’s font size makes post text look like “fine print” compared to “most” websites – it’s too small. Read the full comment.

Simonne Matthew wrote a post a while back that explained things that make her nervous when reading your blog. Her first point was to avoid small font-sizes. So why should small font sizes be avoided and why is a small font-size an annoying design decision?

Small fonts are hard to read. And as Simonne pointed out in her article, not all readers are aware of the tools necessary to increase text size. Furthermore, a lot of designs break when text is increased, so it is best to design from the start with a larger font-size in mind.

Conclusion

Within this post I laid out fifteen design decisions that annoy end users. Readers such as yourself contributed to a lot of the annoyances mentioned in this article. All of the points mentioned are open for debate and should be debated.

My hope is that this post provides some food for thought next time you make that design decision that may be annoying to some of your readers.

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Design Focus

Friday Focus #40

Here we are with week number 40, a little bit later than usual on your favorite night of the week – Friday. It was a good week for us, with quite a few really good articles, that you should probably consider looking through if you haven’t yet. Alright, enough chit chat, it’s time to kick off week 4-0.

Sites of the Week

You may remember that when GoPlan first launched, we featured them here on Friday Focus. The old design was white, with a lot of pastel color choices. The recent redesign took the darker route, but it still looks fairly nice.

GoPlan Redesign

Next up is Miingle, a one page, extremely vibrant design for a small advertising network. I think it is a very clean design, and perfect for the purpose of the site.

Miiingle

There was a rather small pool once again this week, leading up to a rather small Friday Focus. Hopefully we can come back big next week. Remember, if you want to get your site noticed and possibly featured here, please show it off in the forums!

Design Float / Digg Weekly

DesignMassive Collection of Photoshop Brushes
I know how most of you would probably want to make your own brushes, but if you are in need of a time saver, there are an abundance of brushes available from this site. Check them out.

ProgrammingFinally We Get New Elements in HTML 5
At look at some of the new things coming with HTML 5. It’s always good to stay ahead of the game.

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

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No One Digs Us

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the somewhat “coveted” digg-effect, it’s that it can either come in bunches, or not come at all. We had our fair share of good excellent articles that still have yet to receive the amount of traffic and recognition they deserve to have. I find it somewhat surprising, especially considering the amount of shit crappy, pointless things that are dugg frantically by the digg user population everyday.

Digg and Devlounge, No Love

Let’s take a look at what received a massive overload of traffic this week:

Digg in the 90’s8,618 Diggs
A photo – yes a photo – that someone put together showing what digg could have looked like in the 90’s, using tables and no css. The description says “very funny” but maybe it’s just me, because I didn’t find myself “ROFLING” after looking at this.

Girl’s boyfriend *accidentally* cooks her laptop in the oven5,157 Diggs
Another amazing story. I guess stupidity is more important than a well researched article for example. This girl lives in a high crime area, so she keeps her laptop in the oven. Yes, an oven. I hope you marked that down, as I know I did. Ever since I read this, I decided it be a great place to keep my wallet, house key, and birth certificate. If her laptop can survive when he boyfriend burns the shit out of it, I guess all my goods can too!

CRASH IE6 with one line of code2,613 Diggs
Check out this beauty. One piece of code gets IE6 to crash! That one really threw me for a loop. Really, I didn’t know that any code existed that wouldn’t crash IE / cause it display wrong / not display at all / etc. I thought that other people would realize the same thing, but apparently not, as close to 3,000 people found this interesting enough to make the frontpage of Digg.

What’s Better than Mouseovers? How About Scrollovers2,760 Diggs
Want a new way to annoy your visitors? Get scrollovers, the modern way to make your links do flips when you hover over them! My favorite part of all this is that a lot of the comments are all negative, but yet people still kept digging away. Bad publicity rules!

I’ve also noticed that many Digg users are deeply into lists. (But will this one get any love – probably not). Smashing Magazine, which very well could be called ListMAG, gets thousands of diggs on almost everything they publish, which very frequently, is a list of some sort. Not that I’m bashing any of their lists, as some of them are extremely helpful and many of them have included us, but a list is still just a list. We’ve listed some things too, but to no avail.

Then there are the digg users with a sense of humor. You know, the ones that laughed historically at that funny digg 90’s picture above. I’ve tried the “humor” route, and even that didn’t succeed all too well. I guess I won’t be doing stand up any time soon.

Occasionally, you get an article that shows the author really knows what their talking about. More often then not, people enjoy this, and show their appreciation. In our case, all of our authors (with the exception of myself probably) have a pretty damn good understanding of what they’re saying. Take, for example, and extremely large, full-length article series on building a WordPress plugin. With the amount of WordPress users out there, you probably would have figured this baby would have rocketed to the Digg top five in less than 24 hours. We came pretty close to reaching the top five alright, with a record shattering 4 diggs.

And, it appears that even when we take the serious / commentary type route, we still get shut out. It appears that digg really shows no love for us.

Is the World Over?

No, of course not. Digg is nothing more than a burst of traffic and a status symbol, and for any one of our posts to ever make the front page, it’d be like us playing the part of Ronald McDonald and robbing the crown right off the BK King’s head. It is a bit disappointing, considering if you found any of our best articles anywhere else, say Vitamin, they would have been crowned with front page status a long time ago. Instead, we walk down the red carpet alongside the other stars, but the reporters and paparazzi ignore us. We’re okay with that, because hopefully, sometime soon, we’ll be due to break out – and if this is the article that does it – well it’s about damn time.

What this post just did

If you just read this post, than I can congratulate myself for a mission accomplished. And more importantly, if this is the post that finally gets a lot of diggs, it just pointed out a few prime articles – that are all fairly new – for people to look into. For first time visitors, this is a key way to try and get them to stay, and “dig” (no pun intended) further into the site. I played it pretty sneakily (I don’t really think that’s a word), by dropping in in-site links mixed with some random sarcasm and a whole lot of pointlessness (another non-word?) to [hopefully] keep people interested and entertained. It contains a mixture of what everyone seems to love on digg – comedy, a partial list, lots of links, and even an image. That makes for one hell of a complete article, ehh? For regular readers, hopefully you didn’t find this post too annoying. Actually, I hope it got you to laugh (at least once would have been nice). All in all, the main goal of this commentary post was to make it to the front of digg, and allow our other, actual articles to enjoy the same benefits, and get the same kind of exposure they deserve to have.

Disclaimer: Digg doesn’t matter all that much too me ;).

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More Homepage Space?

Update: Everything will be staying as is – forget I said anything.

In an effort to conserve more homepage space and get more content to the visitor at first glance, how would you feel about removing the “Abstract and Motion” from the homepage? This is not to put away Fernando’s excellent illustrations (as they are used throughout the rest of the site), but simply to open up more homepage real estate to showcasing content. My thoughts are for something like this:

Header + Nav / 1 Top Post (the newest) / Ad + Subscribe Bar / Featured and or Recent Articles (3-6?) / Front Feed + Jobs + Interviews / Rest of page continues as is.

How would you change it so we get the most content coverage?

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Piracy – Adobe’s Best Friend?

Disclaimer: This article in no way endorses piracy of any kind.

A lot of big companies, like Adobe, complain a fair bit about piracy of their software, and who can blame them? It’s a huge loss of profit for them. At least, that is what they would have us believe, and that may be what they believe as well, but is that really the case?

While I have no hard statistics to back this up, I believe that most people would agree with me when I say that the majority of Adobe programs that are pirated are done so by teenagers. A group of people who don’t typically have the funds to buy something like the Adobe Creative Suite.

Now, looking at this from one side, it looks pretty bad. Millions of dollars lost each year since none of these people are paying for Adobe’s product. I, however, would say the exact opposite. The piracy actually helps Adobe grow and sell more licenses for their products.

If I was a kid in high school, and I got my hands on a pirated copy of Photoshop or Flash, I would probably give it a try for a couple days. After this point, my attention span would be spent and I would move on to something else. But if I enjoyed the program, and kept tinkering with it and learning about it, I might be inclined to take a course at my high school for Photoshop. There’s one license bought as a result of my piracy.

Now, in this class, I learn more about Photoshop and some of the more powerful things it can do, which interests me more in the program. I decide that this is something I would like to pursue as a career, so I go build a portfolio and submit it to a few colleges that offer programs related to graphic design. I get accepted to a program; another license bought that I am using. This single license turns to two as Adobe releases a new version of Photoshop while I’m still taking my 4 year course. I’m up to 3 paid licenses for my use.

Now after school I get a job, and the company I work for buys me two licenses, one for work and one for my home computer. Now I’m hitting FIVE licenses because of that one pirated copy that got me interested in Photoshop and graphic design back in high school.

While all this might be hypothetical, it’s not too far fetched. I took the number of purchased licenses based off of my own experience through high school, college and work. The other thing to consider is the spin-off licenses that are purchased. I’m a Flash developer, but I also have Photoshop and Illustrator on my computer. Sure this is all in the same license now, but before there was a Creative Suite license and a Flash one.

So, a message for Adobe: rather than try and fight piracy, maybe you should look into ways of getting your software to high school students so they can get into your product legally. Then make a fortune off of the educational and business licenses that will sell as a result.

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Visual Metaphors: 7 rockstar examples on the web

What’s a metaphor? Let’s take a trip back to high school (or over to Wikipedia), shall we? A metaphor is a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects describing one subject as being alike to another subject in some way. Metaphors are useful for illustrating ideas, simplifying complex subjects and making people think.

Metaphors should not be confused with a simile because a simile makes the comparison by using “like” or “as”. Metaphors are commonly used in poetry, music, writing, advertising and traditional art. If it still sounds a bit confusing here are some written examples:

  • “You are my sunshine.”
  • “They need a financial safety net.”
  • “Let me play the devil’s advocate.”
  • “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Why visual metaphors work?

Metaphors visually enhance the subject at hand. Metaphors make you think, inviting you to analyze how two subjects relate. On the web, visual metaphors can enhance content and a site’s purpose dramatically. This works magnificently if you seek to capture the attention of an audience for more than a quick glance. A metaphor consists of two main parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which the metaphor is applied. The vehicle is the metaphorical term through which the tenor is applied. These two parts come together to reach a point of similarity known as a ground. 1

In a world where many websites embrace simplicity by providing content in an easy to digest format, visual metaphors will always steal the spotlight. While you have a visitor’s attention, give them a reason to stay and mull over an idea. Why not make your audience think?

Here are 7 excellent examples of metaphors at work on the web.

01 – Extended Metaphor

An extended metaphor sets up a principal subject with several subsidiary subjects or comparisons. Essentially the subject is developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work. A written example:

The winds were ocean waves, thrashing against the trees limbs. The gales remained thereafter, only ceasing when the sun went down. Their waves clashed brilliantly with the water beneath, bringing foam and dying leaves to the shore.2

Hope Garden is a great example of an extended metaphor. The tenor is "hope" and the "garden" becomes the vehicle. Thus, the flowers become symbols of desire from individual submissions. Hope garden becomes an extended metaphor when the flowers are “watered” with support from users illustrating the idea that hope will "grow".

Hope Garden

02 – Paralogical Metaphor

Paralogical Metaphors have no apparent similarity between the idea and the image.3 This means that two completely unrelated subjects are compared to create the metaphor. Example: "My toilet is the mailbox of the bathroom." (Ewww, that sounds disgusting!)

Post Secret serves as a wonderful resource for all kinds of metaphorical inspiration and often has examples of visual paralogical metaphors. (Not all secrets are paralogical but many are). Users submit the content so this one isn’t about the design of the site but the metaphorical beauty of each secret. Many of the submitted secrets have images which are not related to the secret but add to the subtext when absorbing a secret’s meaning. New secrets are posted every Sunday.

Post Secret

03 – Iconic Metaphor

This is the type of metaphor where icons visually represent a subject. Iconic metaphors have become common place on the web, such as a home icon representing the route to get back to a site’s index page or an envelope representing the contact page.

Davor Vaneijk uses icons prominently on the index page and as a consistent mechanism to represent each section. Icons are meant to be visually obvious and the beauty of this example is the simplicity and consistency of styling.

Davor Vaneijk

04 – Color as a Metaphor

Color metaphors are commonly used in art where red may represent passion, gold hues are flash-backs of the past, blue represents melancholy emotions and so on. Color metaphors on the web are often used as a way to represent sections of content and provide a sense of location in place of breadcrumbs.

An example of color used to represent sections of content is SharpIdeas.com.
This site uses colored shapes to represent the types of content. For example print is blue, brand campaigns are gray, design is pink and so on. These colors don’t represent the sections in an emotional sense but become a simple visual metaphor to organize the user experience.

Sharp Ideas

05 – Mixed Metaphor

This one is a bit confusing so let’s start with an example: "He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns". Mixed metaphors are different metaphors occurring in the same utterance that are used to express the same concept. Mixed metaphors often, but not always, result in a conflict of concepts. 4 This is one of the most difficult metaphors to pin-point on the web.

Pet Mustache is a close example of a mixed metaphor. The site is a viral initiative for Burger King. The entire concept is a mixed metaphor stating, "Next to a horse, every cowboy has a well trained mustache too. It’s time to bring out your inner cowboy, cowboy". The first part of the mixed metaphor is the pet mustache. In fact, you can not truly have a mustache as a pet but you can groom or "train" it. The second part of the mixed metaphor is the inner cowboy as a metaphor for bringing out your wild side. Interestingly, the BK King has a "well groomed" mustache too which is what probably inspired the concept.

This is a mixed metaphor because of the comparison of pet and mustache – and bringing out your inner cowboy.  I’m sporting my very own pet mustache below and that was me at age 4. I need to train my "stache" better; it’s looking a bit unruly. Yee-ha!

Pet Mustache

06 – Dead Metaphor

Even though it sounds a kind of creepy, it’s not. Dead metaphors, by definition, normally go unnoticed. 5 Essentially a dead metaphor is a metaphor that through overuse has lost figurative value. Example: "to grasp a concept" or "to gather you’ve understood." Both of these phrases use a physical action as a metaphor for understanding (itself a metaphor), but in none of these cases do most speakers of English actually visualize the physical action.

Capital Corporate Communications opens with the tagline “We Shape ideas”. This is a dead metaphor because it uses a physical action to give tangibility to the metaphor. It is a commonly used phrase where the user doesn’t visualize the physical action of shaping an "idea".

Capital Corporate Communications attempts to overcome this and demonstrate the metaphor by using origami to indicate each section of the site. The dead metaphor becomes illustrated through the unfolding of paper thereby changing its shape.

Capital Corporate Communications

07 – A Synecdochic [si-nek-duh-kee] Metaphor

This is a fun word to keep in your back pocket if you ever want to sound ridiculously smart. Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a term denoting a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing, or a term denoting a thing (a "whole") is used to refer to part of it. Synecdoche is also a term denoting a material is used to refer to an object composed of that material. 6

A Synecdochic metaphor is one in which a small part of something is chosen to represent the whole so as to highlight certain elements of the whole. For example: "I dig your wheels!" [wheels = car].

A great visual paradigm of a synecdochic metaphor is the WDCS Life Size Whale. This example is synecdochic because as you view the whale you view small parts which represent the whole. This perspective also relates to the scale of humans in relation to the whale giving an emotional tie in perspective of our human view compared to the true scale of the whale.

WDCS Life Size Whale

Creating successful metaphors takes a lot of time and thought – but they can have big payoffs. Metaphors will add to the stickiness of your site and create buzz. They also visually stimulate your audience’s appetite for creative thinking.  The first step to creating a successful metaphor is to understand the types of metaphors. Next, think about what makes a metaphor work. Finally, focus on presenting your metaphorical concept in a visual manner. Step outside the box and start making metaphors!

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