Archive for the ‘Web design’ Category

Two sites where you can get great free images for your blog

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

People ask me all the time where I get the images that I use on my blog. There are two sources – and one tool – that I use to find and manipulate the images.

1. Flickr – This is by far my favorite site for free images because of the wide variety and types of images that are available. The community of users that upload their pictures to Flickr – from all over the world – ensures that there is a vast collection of images of varying quality (some are incredibly good). The trick with using Flickr images, however, is that you need to use images that are governed by the Creative Commons license that fits with what you’re doing.

Attribution licenseHere is a list of Flickr’s Creative Common licensing policies. Basically, the “Attribution License” is the most liberal, and allows you to use anyone’s image, manipulate it how you want to, and do most things that you would want to do with it – as long as you give the author of the image credit. My suggestion if you don’t want to get into the intricacies of Creative Commons licensing is to stick with these images. As of today, there are more than 7.5 million images with this license on Flickr, which is certainly a big pool of images to choose from.

Here’s the link to the images with that license.

Just make sure that whatever you do, you give credit back to the photographer. I use “Photo by photographer” with a link to the Flickr page at the bottom of posts. You can do that attribution any way that you want, however. (Hat tip to Skelliewag.org)

Young photographer
Photo by muha…

2. stock.xchg - This site has a database of very good free images that you can use for your blog. Just type in your search, and look to see what you can find. You will have to register to download images, and make sure that you check the “Availability” of each photo. If it says that “standard restrictions apply,” you can use the image. Sometimes, however, the photographer must be notified or approve the use of the image before you post it. So be careful to check this out.

BONUS- A great cheap tool for screenshots and minor editing of photos

If you have Photoshop or another major image editing tool, use that. But if you don’t have a great image editing tool, consider using SnagIt from TechSmith. There is a free 30-day trial and the tool is only $39.95 for a single-user license. I use this tool ALL THE TIME and it’s been really helpful. The learning curve is short and it can handle all the simple editing tasks that I do on my blog.

Do any of you have any other great free image sites that you use? If so, please post them in the comments.

My iPhone Web Clip icon

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

This is pretty trivial, I admit, but since I heard that the most recent iPhone update allows you to create a custom icon for your Website that will be deposited on the iPhone home page, I have wanted one for 16th Letter. It doesn’t help that I saw BoingBoing’s and TechCrunch’s and had some Web clip envy.

And now I have one. So go ahead, add it to your iPhone (or iPod Touch)!

iPhone Web Clip icon

iPhone icon up close

Here are the instructions on how to create your own Web Clip icon, from Apple.

This is another set of step-by-step instructions.

I hear that this is pretty easy to do. (I had a developer who did this for me, but he said it was a piece of cake.)

Recommended reading: Web design blogs

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

If you want to learn more about Web design, follow the experts. Here are some blog resources that I would recommend:

web design blogs

Some interesting facts about Web design

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Tim Berners-LeeModern Web design was (sort-of) founded at M.I.T. In 1994, after founding the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (pictured here) founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science. The group was founded to help create Web standards, a need that arose after various vendors were offering different versions of HTML. One HTML standard was eventually agreed upon, after which, the W3C was formed, and Web design history was made.

Web design has become what is it largely because of the W3C. The W3C may not have put together the first HTML specification, but it has been behind many of the technologies that have advanced Web design beyond its original form. A few examples:

  • October 1996 – The first W3C recommendation is Portable Network Graphics (PNG) 1.0, a cross-platform alternative to the graphics formats most prevalent at the time.
  • December 1996 – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1 is published.
  • February 1998 – Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 is released, promoting interoperability and domain-specific markup, and later serving as the basis for dozens of standards.
  • August 2000 – Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0, a language to describe 2D graphics in XML is released.
  • May 2005 – Mobile Web Initiative is launched with the mission of making Web access from a mobile device as simple as Web access from a desktop.

The first Web site design was created by…You guessed it, Tim Berners-Lee. I guess we don’t hear too much about this because if you could put on your resume “Created the World Wide Web,” you might leave out the part about creating the first Web design. This site was created using HTML, went online on August 6, 1991, and was educational, providing information about what the World Wide Web was, how someone could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. The first version of the site no longer exists (no one thought to take a screenshot of it, perhaps?) but you can see a version from 1992 here. We’ve come a long way.

FutureSplash Animator (aka Flash). Flash didn’t arrive on the Web design scene all at once, it was developed over time by a group of people (more here about the history of Flash). And it was news to me that Macromedia didn’t develop the first version of Flash, rather, in December 1996, it acquired the vector-based animation software from FutureWave. At the time the software was called FutureSplash Animator. In 1996, Macromedia released the software as Flash. (How much better is that name?!)

Google’s ground-breaking Web design.Lots has been said about Google’s minimalistic Web design and how it greatly enhances the search experience. But the early Google designs came about due to some serious luck, at least according to 16 Interesting Facts about Google. According to the article, the Google founders didn’t know HTML and they just wanted a quick interface – hence, the spare design. In early user tests, however, they found that people would just sit and look at the screen, not taking any action. When they probed as to why, the testers would claim that they were “waiting for the rest of the page.” To combat this perception, the Google copyright message was inserted to act as the end-of-page marker.

A bad Web design could kill your business

Monday, October 29th, 2007

If you have a company, you have a Web site. If you work for a company, it has a Web site. If you don’t work, you use Web sites. OK, you get the point – Web design affects everyone. (Aside: If you have a company and do not have a Web site, it’s time to get one. At this point, there is absolutely no reason you should be without. Go buy a domain name, and get started.)

Even though Web design affects everyone, this post is really directed at business owners, or anyone who is in charge of or has an influencing role in the development and design of the Web site at their company. You may believe that the design doesn’t really matter, that as long as you have a “Web presence,” that’s enough and your company will be successful. This is a myth.

Your Web site is your #1 face to the world, your primary branding vehicle. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your offline presence is, if your Web site isn’t as nice – or nicer – than your store, or restaurant, or software or service, you will lose customers. This is increasingly true as more and more people use the Internet to research everything, and especially as the younger generations who grew up with technology move into consumer roles. This generation grew up using the Internet, and they use it to research everything because they don’t want to waste their time driving somewhere or ordering something only to find out that it’s not what they were looking for, for goodness sake, what a waste of time.

But what if you do have the product that they are looking for, but they just don’t think so because your Web site isn’t attractive? This happens! Let me give you two examples. First, I treated a friend to a day at the spa for her birthday, and I sent her the links to two spas that I had been to before. In person, they were very similar, nice, upscale spas. Here are the links: Paula’s and Bella Sante. Which do you think she chose? Yep – Bella Sante. It was actually less conveniently located, but she picked it solely because the Web site made it appear that it would be nicer. Second example – I went to Bermuda this past summer and stayed at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort. Did you go look at the site? Go now. I would 100% recommend this place to anyone – it was beautiful and we had a wonderful time there, but I would 100% NOT send anyone the link to the Web site. The reason? Their photography is so outdated that it makes the place look cheesy, like it hasn’t been updated since the 80’s. There are no up-close pictures of the beach, arguably the resort’s best feature, and even the models look outdated with their clothes and hairstyles. If someone else hadn’t booked this resort before I saw the site, I would never have gone there.

Web design matters; don’t try to fool yourself that it doesn’t.

This is the best font directory I've ever used

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Idiot font
Hands down, dafont.com is the most fun, cool, and (as far as I can tell at first glance) free font directory I’ve ever used. I honestly can’t believe that I never came across it until today. The font I used for this rendition of 16thLetter is “idiot.” Go figure.

Use a graphic to make your point online

Thursday, October 4th, 2007


DonationsI was reminded of the power of a graphic to prove a point and motivate people to action when my team in the Breast Cancer fundraising walk this past weekend was trying to hit our goal of $5,000. In the final week leading up to the walk, I found myself going online just about every day to see the stream of red ink creeping up the thermometer toward our goal. It was incredibly motivational for me, but I suspected that I was the lone person to feel this way until my mom mentioned that she had been doing the same thing. When our team hit our goal the day before the walk, I showed my mom the little graphic, now animated and celebratory, on my iPhone. Her over-the-head arm pump and huge smile were more enthusiastic than the little sparkling graphic, but not by much.