First Sonogram!

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My wife, Kim, is 9 weeks pregnant. This morning we had our first sonogram!! Here are our baby’s first pictures )


Click on the images to view a larger version.

AIM Triton Beta

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You can check out the new AIM Triton Beta by clicking here. Note, you must be an AOL user or have an AIM screenname to access this site. Note this is a different build than the post made earlier today.

New AOL Browser Included in AIM Beta

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New AOL Beta (5.9.3782) now includes a web browser (built on top of IE6) called AOL Explorer. Here’s a screenshot:

Click me to view a larger version.

Seems pretty cool so far. Has tabbed browsing, a popup blocker, integrates with AOL Desktop Search (which must be installed seperately), and appears to have spyware tools built-in.

I thought this was a pretty interesting development for AOL. This feature is tucked away, and I wouldn’t have known it was included had the AIM Today window not popped up when I first loaded the new beta.

Apparently even more changes are in store for the newest AIM releases which, to my knowledge, are not available online yet. CNet reports the new client will have tabbed chats (text, video, voice), a feature called QuickNote that will let you access data re: your buddies, and more…

I’m most intrigued about the inclusion of this new browser though… might this be considered further competition for Firefox and IE(sorta)? Time will tell…

Addendum: AOL Explorer also includes an RSS FeedReader…!!!!

The Unspoken Rules of Graphic Design

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(Hat Tip: Adland via Zeldman.com)

Some of these I agree with, others could be reworded. I’ve taken the liberty to post comments in grey/span> below.

  1. Your fonts will default to the worst possible font available on the machine you are showing your work on. Comic Sans anyone?
  2. If you have two versions of a photo, the wrong one will make its way to the printer. Very very possible. When you’re dealing with a lot of assets in a project, it’s always possible to goof up which files are linked in your document.
  3. The less time you have the more useless your computer will become. I totally agree with this assessment. It seems like my 3Ghz Dell with 2Gb of RAM runs slowest when the deadlines are tightest.
  4. Promises made by the sales staff have no basis in reality. Sometimes they do, but I think this more accurately could be phrased as “Sales staff, on occasion, make promises without consulting with those responsible for completing the work.”
  5. The sales staff will promise anything. You betcha. An unfortunate necessity on some deals.
  6. If the text consists of two words, one will be misspelled. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to me too much… but it’s possible.
  7. Speed. Quality. Affordability. Pick any two. This needs to be carefully explained at times, because if it’s not discussed up front, clients might assume this is how things are from that point forward. Case in point, client needs X turned around in 3 days. They pay a little more for it, but perhaps you don’t charge enough. You run the risk of setting an expectation where the client assumes you can turn things around at the drop of a hat.
  8. If the run is wrong, it’s never the press operator’s fault. Press check, press check, press check. Even if you trust the printer you’re dealing with, you need to do a quality check before printing important pieces.
  9. Spell checkers don’t. Too right. I depend too heavily on Word processing programs.
  10. Grammar checkers don’t, either. See #9.
  11. Proof raeders are useless. No argument here. That’s why you need to have as many eyes check out a project as possible before getting it printed or showing it to a client.
  12. Global search-and-replaces aren’t. They almost always miss something. Never rely on them. They help, for the most part, but don’t catch everything.
  13. The index entry you leave out will be the first one the client looks under. Yep.
  14. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is good comedy. Right-o. That’s why I don’t rely on using OCR much these days.
  15. If three designs are shown to a client, your least favorite will be chosen or any combination of worst components of each. Too right. Too much choice is a bad thing. It’s better to present one strong layout that you can build on, than to provide competing designs that clients can pick and choose from. You are the expert after all. (Hopefully.)
  16. If two designs are shown, a third will be requested. If provided, then one of the first two will be chosen. I’ve had this happen a lot. It’s hard to tell how a client will go when presenting comps to them. Be prepared to urge them into a particular direction if necessary.
  17. If you ask for more copy it will be sent as a .jpg. If you ask for images they will send powerpoint presentations. Or it gets faxed to you… This is one of my pet peeves.
  18. Clients don’t have their company logo in a usable print ready format so don’t bother asking. Too right most of the time. We usually end up having to find it on the net, contacting the company that designed it for them, or recreating it. The latter is not preferred… we hardly ever get compensated for it, and it never turns out exactly as the original in most cases.
  19. Blue line proofs reveal previously invisible errors. Yep. But they can save you a lot of stress, money, etc. by catching the errors early.
  20. The best designs never survive contact with the client. In most cases. Clients like to take ownership of work that is done for them, and they want to provide influence/direction that enables them to leave their mark on the work. Not all clients are this way, but some are.
  21. You will misspell the name of the client’s spouse. You mean your wife’s name isn’t Suzie? It’s Susie? Whodathunkit?
  22. Your best idea is already copyrighted. Too right. There are no original ideas… The best designers take great ideas and make them their own.
  23. The best way to find errors in your code is to show a client “a new feature”. Unless you document specifically how things need to work and get signoff from the client, you’re invariably going to get something screwed up somewhere.
  24. There is no stock photo ever made that matches the image you have in your head. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. On rare occasions, I find what I am looking for and they are rights-managed images.
  25. Creative inspiration flows in inverse proportion to the distance from the studio. lol, I find this to be the opposite for me. I work in downtown Augusta, and it’s beatiful down here. It’s easy to be inspired here at work.
  26. Time allowed to complete work is inversely proportional to time taken by client to work out what to complain about. hehe. I find this to be true a good part of the time. Getting approval is a long, drawn out part of the process most of the time.
  27. Doctors, astronauts, and plumbers need training to do their jobs, but anyone with a computer is a graphic designer. We battle this on a daily basis. Ultimately, my counter to this assumption is that you get what you pay for. If you want to spend $10/hr paying your cousin’s uncle’s brother’s friend’s daughter to make your website, you’re probably going to get something that looks like an amateur did it. You pay professionals more to do the job right, to make you look good …
  28. No matter how detailed the tech support FAQ is, nobody has ever heard of your problem. I’ve encountered this a lot with new hardware I’ve purchased. Fortunately, most things can be resolved with some tinkering… and/or sledgehammers.
  29. The number of colors in a client’s design will equal the number of colors in the original bid specs, plus two. I try not to let this happen. If it does, change orders are always in order.
  30. The client’s disk won’t run on your equipment & when it does will contain unusable copyrighted images. This happens often (the latter part). Clients often send us pics they found on competitors sites. That’s a no-no.
  31. If you purchase new equipment to read your client’s disk, it will be the last disk of that type you will ever receive. I bought a Zip100 USB drive off of eBay for this very reason. I haven’t used it since.
  32. Your client will often not like your design but not quite know why. Yep, I’ve gotten feedback that designs are “child-like” or “crap” and they couldn’t tell me why they felt that way. Sometimes I think this happens because the client has an idea in their mind about what they want but can’t accurately explain why they feel that way.
  33. Computer crashes always happen exactly 30 seconds before saving. Save often! Bah, I’ve been hit with Photoshop crashes far too often to suffer this fate again.
  34. A client who knows exactly what he wants is worse than one that has no idea. Hitting the mark with a client that knows exactly what they want can be more difficult if they don’t accurately explain what they want.
  35. Clients who do not provide content upfront will complain about the use of Lorem Ipsum. Yep. Almost always. You need to be able to read a client before submitting a comp. Some can take things very literally.
  36. Everything has to be done immediately, deadlines are incredibly important unless client has to provide materials or approve your work. This happens a lot with us. Deadlines are pretty strict when it comes to us completing things, but become very liquid if things are required from the client. I understand why this happens though… Your client has a job to do on top of working with you on the design project. You’re probably very low on their priority list.
  37. The customer is always right. And an idiot. In some cases, I agree with this, but I don’t think clients are idiots. They are just uneducated when it comes to graphics and design and web stuff. That’s why it’s our job to inform them to the best of our abilities. Occasionally you’ll butt heads with clients and they’ll have to have things done their way or no way… in those cases, you do what they ask in order to get the work done, and you move on. Better to get those projects out of the way, instead of letting them linger on while you fight a losing battle to get a client to see things from your point of view. Pick your battles wisely.

IE7 has Tabs

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A lot is riding on the new Internet Explorer 7, due Summer ‘05. Web webgeeks are clamoring for better standards support, improved rendering and more. On May 16, webgeeks weezed a collective sigh of relief as the IE7 developers announced IE7 will, in fact, have Tabbed Browsing support.

This seemingly mundane feature has been available in other web browsers for some time now, but the adoption of the technology will make it a standard to the 89% of the market still using IE. This coupled with other highly requested features, including a RSS reader, will help bring several popular web technologies to the masses.

RSS/XML is going to enjoy even wider adoption. They’ll be found on all of the sites you frequent – not just the blogs and news sites you visit often.

Better support for PNGs will mean improved graphic quality without compromising site load speed. They’ll also mean better alpha channel support (GIFs just don’t cut it anymore). Better support for web standards will mean improved and more consistent page rendering. Most of these things are going to be seemless to basic users, but they are going to make a huge difference for developers and designers alike.

It’s still early, but there’s a lot of hope that IE7 will be a browser worth using. I hope the developers really listen to all of the feedback they’ve been getting and deliver a product worth upgrading to.

Educate Customers

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It is our responsibility – as designers, developers, salespeople, etc. – to educate customers as we build a relationship with them. Setting expectations as early on as possible and explaining deliverables is key to creating and sustaining a healthy client/company relationship.

Failing to educate a client can cost you money.

Search Engines

With all of the sites we create at PowerServe we do an initial site submission to Yahoo!, Google and MSN upon completion of a project. We explain to clients that it may take several weeks before spiders start crawling their site. The initial submission is not a magic bullet. It does not guarantee inclusion in any of the engines, nor does it guarantee placement. If this is not explained to clients, they might assume we haven’t done our jobs.

Search Engine Optimization takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a combination of optimizing TITLEs, META keywords, META descriptions, and CONTENT among other things! In order to improve placement on search engines, you have to keep your content fresh and relevant to your keywords, descriptions and titles. The time and effort involved in successfully optimizing a site for search engines can be costly. SEO can be a crap shoot most of the time, and tweaks you make to any of the elements of your site can positively or negatively effect your placement on search engines. You’ve constantly got to educate yourself on the latest strategies. Customers need to understand all the work that is involved in Search Engine Optimization.

Design

Design takes time. Design isn’t easy. Just because tools are readily available to allow home users to publish websites or to create basic graphics, does not mean that it is easy to do graphic design or web design. Paying a professional to design a website or an ad or a brochure, etc. for you buys their expertise and their ideas, which are things no program can buy you.

Sites made by Front Page or Publisher, for instance, look unprofessional.

Google Alerts

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I just stumbled across the updated Google Alerts feature while searching on Google tonight. I was aware that there was a Google Alerts for News… but now it seems you can also save Search Terms and have those search results emailed to you on a daily basis as well. Very cool. Nice extension of an existing service. This will come in handy for SEO professionals. There are already services that do this … but it’s interesting to see that Google is now doing it as well.

Link: Google Alerts

myGoogle

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Straight from the Google Labs comes the new Personalized Google Homepage, which I’ve dubbed myGoogle for short.

Google is launching a personalized home page tonight, which you can view now by going to the URL below. It’s basically a custom portal of your own Google services, like a Gmail preview and Google News highlihgts, as well as Word of the Day, Weather, and Wired News updates (they must be pretty happy about that).

Oh, and a search box. I forgot about that.

Google Personal Page [Google]

(From Gizmodo)

I’m not overly impressed by it.

I’ve been wondering when Google would get into the portal game to compete against the likes of Yahoo!, AOL and MSN… but this seems like a sub-par effort.

The personalizations that are available represent a good cross-section of info I actually would want displayed on myGoogle. The design is, well, boring, at best. Pretty much everything Google has done, with the exception of Google Maps, has been pretty bland when it comes to design. (Obviously, Picasa and Hello are exceptions to this.)

A few things to note:

Easy Sorting:
Drag and drop the modules you choose where you want them positioned on the page. This was pretty cool. Nicely implemented. Worked in Firefox. Did not test in IE.

Easy Personalization:
Select only what you want displayed and how you want it displayed. Choose how many articles, quotes, emails, etc. are displayed on the page at any given time. Easily edit the settings on the page to make it more to your liking. Worked in FireFox. Did not test in IE.

Overall Impression:
Not bad, not great. I’d like to see where they take this. But right now, I’m not overly impressed. I know it’s fresh from the labs, but I’ve come to expect a lot more from the folks over at Google. They need to really innovate if they hope to stay ahead of all of the competitors nipping at their heels right now. I do use Google.com as my primary search engine, and I use Gmail exclusively for my private email account, so I will use this new page as my main Google entry… I hope to see it evolve more, and soon.

Netscape 8 Released Today

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Netscape logoI’ve been using the Netscape 8.0 Beta off and on for a couple of months now. I wasn’t especially thrilled with it, since I’ve been using Firefox as my browser of choice. Having said that, Netscape may be the right browser for you. I’ll explain why below:

Page Rendering

The most important feature of 8.0 is that you can toggle rendering engines on the fly. If a page doesn’t display properly (or at all) using the Firefox engine, you can switch it to the IE rendering engine. In some cases, the browser will do this for you automatically (i.e. while browsing https:// pages for instance).

Most people aren’t going to worry about this feature. Designers however may be able to use Netscape as a development tool to preview their work using the two primary rendering engines without the need for two different applications open.

I realize that this does little to convince you to download it, but you might find it useful if you’re tired of switching back and forth between applications.

MultiBar

The new Netscape sports a new interface design with tabbed browsing and something they’re calling the “MultiBar“. The Multibar has multiple “trays” of information that you can have displayed in the MultiBar where stuff like the weather, email status, news, and more can be configured to be displayed in this area. Clicking on items in the MultiBar can generate Live Content. Not groundbreaking… but not a terrible idea for some users.

Sidebar

Like 7.0, this also features the Sidebar where you’ve got built-integration of AOL Instant Messenger, Weather, etc. I hide these by default when using the app. I use the standalone version of AIM for instant messaging and don’t like having to rely on keeping a browser window open in order for my buddy list to persist. Nor do I like IMing within Netscape. The interface just doesn’t work for it.

Other Stuff

8.0 also has built-in Search, skins, a “Security Center”, and more…

Overall Impression

All in all, it’s not a bad browser. It’s a nice upgrade from Netscape 7.0, but probably won’t win many IE or Firefox converts. The downside? It’s PC only. (Sorry, Mac people.) It’s bloatware (it has lots of extra features that some might enjoy, but aren’t really necessary in a web browser.)