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We’re Remodeling Our Website And Were Doing While We’re In Flight…

Years ago there was a great commercial for EDS (Electronic Data Systems) about building airplanes while they we’re flying in the sky and I think that is apropos to what we are doing as we are remodeling our website.

We’re making a big switch in the WordPress theme we’ve been using switching over to the incredibly powerful and flexible and responsive Divi Theme from Elegant Themes and after doing the basic re-design off line I decided to load the theme and continue to work on the new content while we are up and running since I have 135± blog posts to go though and review in the new design and that is going to take some time.

Divi WordPress Theme

To preview the “new look” for ParadigmProjects click here.

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Responsive Web Design

Once upon a time the big concern in designing and deploying your website was how would it look in all the different web browsers that were out there and how would it look when your users went to print out the page.

Times change and the concerns a web designer/producer faces continue to change too.

Today the primary concern for a web designer/producer may indeed be what kind of device or devices will the website be viewed on. In addition to laptop and desktop computers we also have BlackBerries, iPhones, iPads, netbooks, Kindles and undoubtedly there will be more to come.

Web designer/producers are now interested in what we know as “Responsive Web Design” which is where the: ”

…design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market. (Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It – SmashingMagazine.comResponsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It - SmashingMagazine.com)

A great article with some visual examples of just how this works can be found here: Responsive Web Design: 50 Examples and Best Practices -DesignModoResponsive Web Design: 50 Examples and Best Practices -DesignModoAn excellent example of how this works is second example they have there in their article for ‘Andersson-Wise Architects‘ so anyone in the building and remodeling industry wondering how this would apply to them should have no problem seeing how important this can be.

Responsive Web Design: 50 Examples and Best Practices -DesignModoResponsive Web Design: 50 Examples and Best Practices -DesignModo
The Andersson-Wise Architects example
designmodo_AnderssonWiseArchitects

Maintaining a web site’s personality and feel and as a result maintaining the brand identity of a company across all those platforms is the new challenge web designer/producers face today.

P.S. this is another good reason supporting Why We Generally Don’t Use Flash.

For some futher information and education regarding Repsonsive Web Design may I suggest a few books and web articles:

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Why We Generally Don’t Use Flash

Contractors I talk to sometimes ask me why we don’t do our web sites in Flash. Well the truth of the matter is we would do a website in Flash if we felt it appropriate to achieve some kind of artistic experience that reflects the brand identity of the contractor, architect , or other type of client we’re working with but we would still at the very least still want to do another HTML site in parallel.

Okay,…why?

Let me tell you this little story to explain. The other day I pointing out to some close friends that I ran across what I thought was one of the best looking most well executed Flash based web sites I’ve ever seen for a builder/remodeler/contractor. It has an excellent design, smooth well designed transitions and animations and the light jazz background music is pleasing comfortable and I think it does a great job of communicating a "kool & classy" brand image. The "Press" section includes several videos produced about the company that when the video starts or ends the background music fades appropriately in or out. It’s just a damn excellent presentation.

The problem with it is let’s say I was with those friends of mine in a local restaurant having dinner and while waiting for our meal to be served I told them I had found this excellent contractor that I thought they should check out for the project they are considering. So I whip out my iPhone and type in DevitoBuilders.com and unlike the great presentation you get on your computer if you clicked on the link to see the site you get this on your iPhone:

Yes, I know not everyone has an iPhone but there is a significant number of people that do and there are other reasons we don’t recommend a Flash only web sites that I’ll get into shortly.

Basically what I am saying is that a Flash only website without a HTML alternative running alongside of it says to some potential clients "we don’t like your phone, you can try contracting us again when you get a different phone" and any chance for some positive ohs and wows in a conversation looking at the company’s portfolio of work was lost for the sake of using Flash exclusively.

I was reading an article Flash, iPad, Standards by the noted web designer Jeffrey Zeldman the other day on the lack of flash in the recently announced iPad and iPhone where he wrote:

Lack of Flash in the iPad (and before that, in the iPhone) is a win for accessible, standards-based design. Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first. Additional layers of Flash UX can then be optionally added in, just as, in proper, accessible, standards-based development, JavaScript UX enhancements are added only after we verify that the site works without them.

As the percentage of web users on non-Flash-capable platforms grows, developers who currently create Flash experiences with no fallbacks will have to rethink their strategy and start with the basics before adding a Flash layer. They will need to ensure that content and experience are delivered with or without Flash.

Developers always should have done this, but some don’t. For those who don’t, the growing percentage of users on non-Flash-capable platforms is a wake-up call to get the basics right first.

[…]

Zeldman clearly isn’t saying "don’t use Flash" but he is saying instead of using it as you primary and/or only delivery vehicle use Flash elements judiciously in a website designed with a semantic HTML framework. In a follow post a day or two later (Ahem) he writes:

The first part of my post of 1 February was not an attack on Flash. It described a way of working with Flash that also supports users who don’t have access to Flash…

… My point was simply that if you’re an all-Flash shop that never creates a semantic HTML underpinning, it’s time to start creating HTML first—because an ever-larger number of your users are going to be accessing your site via devices that do not support Flash.

[…]

Using any content that requires a platform specific technology or asks requires the viewer to have, or download, some kind of specific software such as Flash will alienate or turn off some visitors and they’ll just click out of your site and move on perhaps to one of you local competitors who is willing to talk to them on their terms at that moment.

You want to make to make your marketing message(s) easy to find and as assessable as possible which brings me to my next point on why we don’t like Flash.

A Flash website while it maybe technically and artistically flashy isn’t SEO friendly (Search Engine Optimization). Search engines also have a very difficult time indexing Flash content, and so your website might not rank as well if Flash is used. The robots that search and index the web instead of seeing the appropriate keywords that a builder, remodeler, trade contractor, architect, or interior designer or what have you should use in the text of a web site with good semantic HTML will instead see a jumble of text , numbers, and symbols. The result is poor to nonexistent set of search engine rankings.

Because of this, we don’t generally produce or recommend web sites built entirely in Flash. Nowadays almost all of the animations and actions that you see done in Flash can also be done using jQuery a lightweight cross-browser JavaScript library.

Despite the drawbacks, however, there are a few good use cases for using Flash that don’t have the negative factors. Most online video is done with Flash. A lot of online advertisements also use it. In these instances, we recommend using Flash.

That said however if you really want to and have your heart set on delivering your marketing messages via a Flash based website you should at the very least consider building a alternative semantic HTML web site along side that delivers the same content and message for the segment of the public that would otherwise just skip over and ignore you.

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Smashing Magazine: Top 10 Usability Highs Of Mac OS

It should come as no real surprise to anyone that knows me that I a big Macintosh enthusiast and that perhaps what I appreciate most about the "Mac Experience" is it’s "usability" so when I spotted the article Top 10 Usability Highs Of Mac OS article this morning that Juul Coolen wrote for Smashing Magazine (a recent mac convert) you had to know I was going to post a link to it.

Smashing Magazine: Top 10 Usability Highs Of Mac OS Smashing Magazine: Top 10 Usability Highs Of Mac OS

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The Expression Engine Web Publishing System

I have a domain name that I once set up ostensibly as a ‘Home & Garden E-zine’ and the idea languished and died from neglect. Thinking I could turn that domain name into a kid of regional online newsletter for architects designers and contractors closer to home I was doing some The Expression Engine Home Pageresearch online about possible using the Movable Type blogging tool as a web publishing platform and I somehow came across The Expression Engine Web Publishing System. Upon stumbling upon their home page I immediately picked up on the Macintosh look and feel an on investigating further I began to see this a the tool I should really take a look at using for the project I now had in mind.

ExpressionEngine as a Content Management System is a lot more than just a blogging tool in that is also has modules that support discussion forums, an image gallery, simple commerce using PayPal, mailing lists, a wiki, and membership.

While to use the ExpressionEngine publishing system you really need to have something of a background and understanding of HTML and how to design a website they do provide a variety of themes and templates to help you get up and running quickly.

In order to run ExpressionEngine you’ll need a web server that supports PHP version 4.1 or newer with XML support ,
MySQL version 3.23.32 or newer and 10 MB of disk space and if you server doesn’t meet those requirements and you can’t find one that does they also can provide you with hosting through their sister site EngineHosting.com.

Hertzler and George: Landscape Design & ConstructionI think on obstacle that may exist for many contractors is seeing how Content Management System is going to work for them in that their first impressionis that it really a souped up blogging tool and they can’t see how that going to work for them. I’ll offer then this example of an outstanding site desgin produced using Expression Engine that I found in their Showcase: Hertzler and George: Landscape Design & Construction.

if you a little bit hesitant about spending money on a web development tool you not sure you or your staff can handle ExpressionEngine also offer an outstanding deal with a 30 Day Hosted Trial on their servers for only $10 which should be plently of time to set something up and test it out and they’ll even apply the $10 towards the purchase of thier system should you like it enough to decide to use it.

I’ve got some other work I need to get done first t his coming week but I thinking by next weekend I going to set my self up to start working with this tool and I even now thinking of possibly changing over one of my other site to ExpressionEngine too if things work out like I think they can.

(This article also appears on my Mac4Construction.com blog site.)

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New Wesite Design for Clifford Renovations

Cliffor RenovationsWorking together with my friend and fellow contractor Andy Clifford of Clifford Renovations out of Cold Spring Harbor NY we quickly designed and put together a new web site design for him anticipating some new traffic he might get from a Newsday article that was being written about the project he was doing on his own home.

 

 

 

 

 

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