Looking forward to 2012 at Bluelime Media

A Mayan god identified by Eberl and Prager (2005) as Bolon Yokte' K'uh on the Vase of Seven Gods.

Whether or not you believe in the 2012 phenomenon and  are anxiously (or not) anticipating the cataclysmic or transformative events that will occur on December 21, 2012, it’s hard to ignore that change is among us. Climate change is happening, world economy is unstable and more and more people seem to be asking themselves,  “what else is there?”

I bumped into a total stranger last weekend and chatted about his work. Without me probing or making too many inquiries he insisted on telling me that the only thing that’s important is to do work that makes you happy. Throughout the year, we’ve seen this through the Occupy Movement and I’ve had similar conversations with many clients, colleagues and friends.

This year, saw an emergence of new technology and an awareness in the web moving beyond the desktop. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate these new technologies or care for them, but I’ve been working on the web long enough to know what I like and don’t like and I won’t be transitioning to mobile app developer anytime soon.

I’m planning on sticking around for a few more years, but will continue creating basic WordPress sites. I can do these very well and I love working with WordPress. It’s what makes me happy. Building complex jQuery sites that work both on the iPad, iPhone, blackberry and huge digital displays at the airport… not so much.

Being who I am, nothing makes more happy than referring folks who have the skills and the passion I lack. Should you need a software developer or you just want to bounce some ideas about your mobile app, then Denim & Steel are the folks for you. You would like a WordPress site, but need to integrate a shopping cart component, Curtis McHale is way better with e-commerce than I am. I’ve started a list of developers who I trust and recommend. These folks are all very talented and good at what they do.

If you haven’t made any commitments for next year, I hope you join me in looking at your work and deciding what truly makes you happy. Being happy is important and can easily be achieved by making simple changes.

Bluelime Media Design Principles

I had the pleasure of attending the Interlink Conference last Friday and loved every minute of it. The speakers were all very knowledgeable and gave excellent presentations. Following the event, I hopped on a plane and headed down to Portland for the World Domination Summit (WDS). Although both conferences covered very different topics, the main message that I got from that three day weekend, was simple – be yourself and be the best you can.

Whitney Hess gave a great presentation on the Principles of UX Design. In her talk she challenged the audience to read companies’ design principles and guess who they were. Some of these were then discussed and mocked a bit. Facebook claims that transparency is an important principle of theirs, yet, we’ve witnessed the opposite on many occasions. Charles and Ray Eames have a delightful list of principles and these are clearly felt in their designs. I’ve never been to Burning Man, but my friend Kathleen immediately guessed them to be behind this ambitious list of design principles.

Although the topic of WDS wasn’t Web design, similar set of discussions happened throughout the rest of the weekend. Whether you call them business principles or design principles, the principles you live by are what define you and make you who you are. On the flight back to Vancouver, I took a pen and paper and decided to make my own list. I probably should have done this 8 years ago when I started this company, but better late than never. So here is my list:

Bluelime Media Design Principles

  • Do good work
  • Code to standard and best practices
  • Keep files organized and easy to understand
  • Always look for better ways
  • Update client work even if they don’t ask
  • Find the easiest/best solution for the client
  • Suggest alternate designer or developer if I can’t do the work
  • Help others
  • Teach
  • Connect people
  • Be positive

Introducing CSS/HTML for Graphic Designers

As any professional will know, the best way to stay current and in the know is to teach. I’ve been teaching a couple of classes at Langara and I’ve learned a great deal about the industry and myself.

The hardest part about teaching is the course preparation. Planning slides, handouts, exercises and solutions takes a lot of effort and it’s never perfect. Following feedback from both past students and teachers, I’ve put together a website to accompany my introduction to CSS/HTML course for graphic designers. Aimed at teachers wishing to use my curriculum, this website has all of the slides and exercises used during my 6 week class. This website is also a great tool for students wishing to learn on their own.

If you’re a graphic designer, teacher or just curious, feel free to have a look at the site and download the teaching material. If you were one of my past students you may also want to have a look. You’ll find that the course material has changed drastically.

 

Setting up WordPress for development

If you’re like me, chances are, you won’t be building and launching a site in a day. Websites take time to set up, design, populate with content and test. As a web designers you will probably have clients who fall in one of these situations.

  • The client has a site, but requires a new one;
  • The client has nothing and needs a site.

Regardless of the situation, it’s best to develop the site in a folder that’s hidden from view. I usually like to develop my site in a wp folder. When people navigate to the site I’m working on they will see the current site or a Coming Soon page at www.domainname.com and the WordPress site in development will be at www.domainname.com/wp.

Another good thing to do while you are developing a site, is to set Privacy Settings to the second option “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors“.

When you are ready to launch, giving WordPress its own directory takes only a few minutes.

  1. Navigate to Settings > General in your admin. Change the Site url from www.domainname.com/wp to www.domainname.com. DO NOT TOUCH WordPress url. Hit Save.
  2. In your FTP, navigate to your wp folder and download the .htaccess and index.php files. (Uploading them to your desktop is fine. You won’t need to keep these once you are done.)
  3. Open the index.php in your text editor and change the line that says:
    require('./wp-blog-header.php');
    to
    require('./wp/wp-blog-header.php');
  4. Save the file.
  5. Delete the old site from your root folder (making a back up might be a good idea) or the Coming Soon page.
  6. Upload this revised index.php and the .htaccess files to your root folder.

That’s it. You should now be able to see the site at www.domainname.com and access the WordPress admin at www.domainname.com/wp.

Don’t forget to change the privacy settings back to the first option, allowing Search engine to find your site.

These instructions are also found in the codex.

An Event Apart: The Design Conference For People Who Make Web Sites

On a tour to Sweden many years ago, Ringo Starr was asked the following question about his role as the narrator in the famous children’s television series:

“Prior to working on Thomas the Tank Engine, what did you do?”

To which Ringo’s humble reply was:

“I was part of a wee band”.

For some reason, this story stuck in my head, not because of Ringo’s humility or the ignorance demonstrated by the interviewer, but rather, by the fact that anyone working away in any industry can get trapped so deep in their own work that they forget that there’s a whole world out there.

In the case of web design that world is changing fast. Much can be self-taught on the web by reading tutorials, viewing videos and demos but in my opinion, the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to attend conferences such as An Event Apart. When asked why I love going to An Event Apart, I always think of Ringo’s interviewer. Perhaps if he had been less obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine maybe he would have heard of the Beatles.

Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer and everyone involved with An Event Apart never fail to impress. Their speaker line-up is always stellar and cutting edge technology is always on the menu. More importantly the speakers are approachable and genuinely nice people. During each others presentation you can find them in the back listening to each other and commenting via blog posts or twitter. How often have you been to a conference where the speaker comes in for his talk and then immediately leaves once done? There’s a sense from both the audience and the speakers, that there’s always something to be learned, no matter how experienced or talented.

As their tagline says, An Event Apart is a design conference for people who make web sites. If you’re in that industry, you should check it out, you will learn something, I assure you.

Bluelime Media gets a facelift

It would be nice if things stayed the same, but they don’t. In fact things like business goals, plans, strategies, constantly need refining and tuning. Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to grow develop and learn new skills. Of course these changes have consequences, one of which is the need for a website refresh.

Today is the launch of Bluelime’s fourth website re-design. I’ve revised and reduced the content to bring clarification of my skills. I’ve also cleaned up the blog. I know that some folks don’t believe in killing blog posts, but I just couldn’t have old, irrelevant info and I must confess, I’m addicted to the delete button.

I also inserted various jQuery elements. I’m not a jQuery ninja and I don’t think that I’ll ever be, but these few elements were easy enough to achieve and are here to showcase what can be done.

I’d like to thank Todd for editing my website content and Kathleen for her visual input.

Hope you like the new look. Let me know what you think.

WordCamp Vancouver 2010
Panel Discussion: WordPress as a CMS

With only a week away from the sold out WordCamp Vancouver, Cameron Cavers, Dave Zille and I have been preparing our slides and questions for our upcoming panel. As you’ve probably heard me say before, WordPress is not only for blogs and we hope to demonstrate what can be achieved during our panel.

Having said that, we’d like to make sure that our presentation meets the audience’s needs. If you have your ticket for WordCamp Vancouver, are interested in learning more about how to use WordPress as a CMS and have a question, please leave a comment below or on the WordCamp blog post.

See you next weekend.

January 2010 has been a wirlwind of activities

With Vancouver gearing up for Olympic frenzy, I thought that everyone would have sat back and waited for the party to begin, but no.. It’s been crazy busy at Bluelime Media. So much so, that I totally missed track of January and now heading into February with yet another full plate. I’m not complaining though. Some of the projects we’ve worked on have been delightful.

During the holiday season, I took a stab at redesigning the kitsilano.ca blog. The original design was somewhat too constricting and Rob wanted a few features added. The greatest addition is the incorporation of random banners submitted by the community. If you ever find yourself in Kitsilano and snap a few pictures, simply upload them to flickr and tag them with kitsilanoca, and you never know, you’re picture may be used as a banner on the site.

We also completed a blog for Patricia Robitaille’s company, PR Strategies Inc. Being self-employed since 1993, Patricia’s wealth of knowledge on self-employment is incredibly valuable. Her blog will allow her to share tips and tricks with those wanting to learn more about self-employment.

Another self-employed colleague of ours, Bruce Clarke is president and co-founder of Superna Life Sciences which is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the commercialization of treatments for niche diseases and indications, primarily hematology and oncology, in the Canadian marketplace. We built a simple, yet elegant website for Superna allowing them to promote their new venture and raise funds. The branding and design of the website were created by Johnny Kuan at Avenue Creative.

Next, we also collaborated with Splat Designs and built two websites for the Yaletown Laser Centre and Cosmetic Dentistry. Both sites used the same layout and look and feel but display different content. Building two sites at once was very efficient but also very confusing. More than once, I inserted the wrong image and content on the wrong site.

Last but not least, my on-going collaboration with Tzaddi at ThriveWire continued and we put together a WordPress site for the Vancouver Convention Centre‘s Intranet. Unfortunately, this site is located on their own private server with no public access so we can’t show you anything. Working with the VCC’s IT team, we developed it on an IIS server which proved very challenging at times, but the the team at VCC is very happy with the end result and it will serve their company well.

The Minerva Foundation of BC gets a new look

During the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a new website for the Minerva Foundation for BC Women. The Minerva Foundation offers a wide range of financial, emotional, educational, and leadership programs. Whether it’s helping women develop new skills, assist them to return to the workforce after an extended absence or providing community grants to other non-profit societies who provide services in the area of safety for women, the Minerva Foundation is a leader when it comes to empowering women.

Working with Catherine Worrall and Marga Lopez from Ideastream Design, the Minerva Foundation created a new logo and colour palette. Instead of simply slapping the new logo on the old website, Ideastream Design approached me and inquired about converting their existing site into WordPress. The old website consisted of a huge amounts of documents, static html files (with Ack! tables) and images, making it quite challenging to update. Converting the site to WordPress, simply made much more sense. Using a few plugins, like the Next Gen Gallery, the Foundation can now create as many photo galleries as they want and the rest of the website is a breeze to update. The new website is inviting, easy to navigate and will hopefully help the Foundation with their future endeavors.

The Minerva Foundation of BC Women