Archive for May, 2009

Art Is Design

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

…at least it is on this site.

The scope of this site extends far beyond just web design. Design, after all, transcends just the internet.

I’ve got an art project coming up, it may be major, it may be minor, but the wheels are in motion to make it happen. It will be documented here. I plan to get this project in motion by this weekend. I just have to get a printing brayer and ink..

This project may be related to the upcoming Deacon Design 101 as well.

A Design Lesson From A Cute Women’s Magazine

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

At lunch me and my coworkers often entertain ourselves by reading through various magazines. This week, Real Simple Magazine is sitting in the lunch room.

At the end of the magazine they had a perforated, detachable cheat sheet that summarized some of the content of the magazine. The sheet itself was perforated so you could separate it into even small, wallet sized sections. One section had a recipe, one had information about a bottle of wine spotlighted in the magazine, one had information about makeup, etc.

I was astounded at this.

This simple, detacheable card was the most useful part of the magazine. This card allows anyone to take the information with them, and easily try out or implement the information in the magazine.

Brilliant design.

This got me to think about how, with design, you make something more useable and useful. I have a few things I want to implement along these lines, such as popout articles, instructions, references and the like. There is a lot more, but I think the overall key to this is to think about how the end user of your product, site, or thingy will actually use what you are providing them.

Design To Your Site’s Purpose

Friday, May 15th, 2009

The best web sites accomplish just the right amount of stuff.

Bad web sites often try to do too much, or too little, and become hard to use.

What does your website attempt to do?

I thought about this while reading this article on design at User Interface Engineering. The summary of the article is that good design is invisible. We don’t notice when something works well, we only notice when something works poorly.

The example the article uses is Netflix as an example. The design is so good that you don’t even notice the design, things just work well, and it is easy to use.

Netflix is able to have such a good design because it does something simple, and specific. It allows the user to rent movies.

Netflix users know that Netflix actually does a whole lot more than just let you rent movies. You can watch movies on your computer, review movies, network with friends, get movie recommendations, etc. All of these features are hidden to the new user, and slowly get revealed. The design does not overwhelm the user with all of these features at once. If they did, the site probably would not be as successful.

The best, easiest to use websites are clear about their purpose, and are designed to promote that purpose. Extra features are revealed slowly.

Websites that display everything available on the site become hard to use and inaccessible. I have been to many websites that I know contain plenty of information I am interested in, but the design is so poor, that it is hard to navigate, and hard to find. I am not sure what feature of the site contains the information I want.

I give up on these types of sites pretty quickly now, because I don’t have time to figure out how the convoluted organization works.

When I design a website, I determine what the primary purpose of the site is, and design the site to promote that function. Other functions may be available, and I incorporate them into the design in a way so that they are slowly revealed to the user.

Knowing the primary purpose of your site, designing the site to promote that purpose, and making the site easy to use will result in better websites.

WordPress: How to scrape the Tags from Posts of a certain Category

Friday, May 8th, 2009

One of the features of WordPress is that it has a 2-D taxonomy built into it (taxonomy refers to the method of categorizing information).

The built in taxonomy consists of Categories and Tags.

For this site, which I am working on redesigning, I want to separate large portions of this site by category. For instance, I want a portion of the site to be information and articles focusing on Web Design and Development. I want another to be my personal blog. I may add others down the road, like a section displaying my art, and so on.

My plan was to distinguish these areas by assigning them different categories within WordPress.

This would only leave me to use Tags to further categorize content within these major areas.

In this way, I am really using Tags like Categories. Sure, this leaves me without the functionality of tags, but really, I don’t care.

So here’s the problem:

WordPress doesn’t really treat Tags and Categories as a true 2-Dimensional taxonomy system. The way WordPress functions, it is more like a 1-Dimensional system with two segments, and slightly different functions are built in to each.

I wanted to be able to pull a list of all the tags assigned to posts of a certain category, but this proved hard to do, or hard to find out how to do, with WordPress’s current functions and documentation.

I found a piece of code that did something similar as a starting point, and modified it to make it do what I needed it to do.

This code determines which posts are in a specified category or categories, determines the id numbers of the tags associated with each post, throws out duplicate tag ids, then lists all of the tags with those id numbers in an unordered list.

Here’s the code:

 

EDIT: I moved the unordered list html tags to within the IF statement, so that you don’t end up with an empty unordered list.

Shortcomings that I know of: The list is not ordered by anything except internal WordPress database IDs, so it appears to be in random order. Also, I don’t know how this works with child categories.

If you know of a better way to do this, let me know!