Posts in "Design"

A Patron of the Arts?!

In keeping with the Saturday evenings of culture and learning (like the traditional Indian dances I saw the other week when we came across the cultural exchange show), and in a rather depressing sign that my youth and partying days are drawing to a close, I got invited to an art exhibition inauguration event by my friend who had some of her pieces featured.

The exhibition showcased work from the final year fine arts students from the Stella Maris College for Girls – and before you jump to any conclusions I would like to lay to rest any vicious rumours that the only reason I went was to mingle with exceptionally pretty young 20-something girls…that was just an added bonus 😀 (note to mother: I really AM trying!).

Indian art gallery

Indian art gallery

Art...really!

Art...really!

Now this is art that even I can appreciate!

Now this is art that even I can appreciate!

Now first and foremost I should say that I am by no means an art critic (ha! Imagine!) and I think a lot of the art scene is so far up its own arse they’ve lost touch with reality.

With that said and out of the way, I was really taken aback by just how good exceptional a lot of the work was. I don’t know my Classic from Renaissance (private ‘in’ joke there, wonder if they’ll get it), but I do know what I like when I see it. To me, what I like is waaaaay more important than what some pompous art/design critic says.

Infact, I liked what I saw so much, I’ve decided to actually go ahead and buy some (yeah, it came as a complete surprise to me too!), the problem is, I can’t decide which pieces to buy because I’d happily take them all, so I’m going the ask the audience and see what you think. Take a look at the photos, and let me know if you have any opinions!

I really like this one

I really like this one

I love the green and black on this one

I love the green and black on this one

I have no idea why, but it's great!

I have no idea why, but it's great!

This is actually my personal favourite...but I couldn't tell you why

This is actually my personal favourite...but I couldn't tell you why

i love the colours and the style of hair

i love the colours and the style of hair

It's quite an ethnic feel to it

It's quite an ethnic feel to it

I want to be very clear on this, I don’t want to be mistaken! I’m not turning arty farty, I’m not buying them as an investment, I just genuinely like them, and at the price they are being sold at, they are a bargain!

I’m usually very harsh about the creativity of Indians because in my line of work it’s incredibly hard to find good graphic designers (my old work colleague, Vel might be an exception here), but these pieces show me that there are very talented artists…if only I could convince them to come and try their hand at web design!

The highlight of the inauguration was a live painting by an artist called R.B. Bhaskaran who regularly sells his art work across the globe for thousands of pounds. He literally stood there in the gallery while everyone was watching and painted this – although on a personal note, in this case I prefer the students work to the one he knocked up in 30 minutes.

R.B. Bhaskaran painted this in 30 minutes!

R.B. Bhaskaran painted this in 30 minutes!

Creating The Perfect SEO Optimized Website

On one of the forums I visited recently someone asked what was the perfect website design for SEO. It got me thinking because although I have a good idea what makes a perfect (or at least a best guess perfect because who really knows how the search engines work) design, I’ve never sat down and created one.

What’s more, I don’t have any evidence to suggest that a search engine optimized layout will do any better in the search engines than a normal HTML layout. Using an SEO layout could be wishful thinking for all I know.

With that said, here are the ingredients that in theory make up the perfect SEO website layout.

  1. The code has to be as clean as possible. This means using tableless CSS to define the layout rather than tables because it makes the website much ‘lighter’ and the content becomes the dominant factor rather than the table dividers, rows, font attributes etc.
     
  2. The should be as little text and or code from where the body starts to where the content starts. Again, this is the case for using tableless CSS as you can virtually have the content be the first thing the spider reads as it crawls your site while still maintaining an attractive design
     
  3. Your H1 and H2 tags should be as close to the beginning of the code as possible. This is to make sure the spider reads it first as the H1 tag is often given a lot of prominance in the search engine rankings. It’s like a big neon sign that says “this page is about ABC”
     
  4. Make your content appear before the menu in your code. This makes sure the spider doesn’t get distracted by all the other keywords in your menu and indexes all your content before it moves on to another page
     
  5. Use the title attribute in your h1, h2, a and img tags. The title attribute enables you to add a few more relevant keywords about the page and increase the keyword density of the page
     
  6. What ever method you use to code the website (HTML/XHTML) make sure it is valid code. It is often said that Google will rank a valid code website above a non-valid one, however, I don’t have any evidence to support this. But hey, it can’t hurt, right?

Using the pointers above, i sat down and attempted to create my first XHTML/tableless CSS valid website that was extremely optimized for the search engines. Here’s what I came up with…

Screenshot of my SEO Template

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Another New Design!

OK, so I got a bit bored of the old design – it was a bit too dark for my liking and the right hand navigation didn’t work so well, so I took the main menu element from it (because I liked that part) and created a new design around it. I’m quite pleased how it has turned out.

I made the new design to be lighter and have more white space that gives it less of a cluttered feel. I also wanted to make sure each blog post was in it’s own container so it was obvious where one ended and the other one started. I increased the font size too because I think it will make the text easier to read.

It’s still got a few more bits and pieces to be sorted out before it is done but I think the bulk of it is completed now. Even the search form works! Check it out above! I was happy when I saw that working for the first time.

Unfortunately the website isn’t XHTML valid – I’m just not that good yet. I still like to use Frontpage to do all my editing (and sod anyone that slates Frontpage…it does a bloody good job and is no different to Dreamweaver) though I do a lot of the design integration using Wordpad. Maybe when I can get my hands on Microsoft’s new Expression software I can start coding sites in XHTML and tableless CSS but to do that I need to get a new computer.

I found that working with WordPress can be infuriating at times, particularly when it comes to the menu options down the right hand side. More than once I found that I had to delve into the bowels of the software to edit/remove/add some code to make the menus display right.

I am actually developing the easyCMS software because it was born out of the frustration of trying to integrate designs into WordPress and finding I didn’t have complete and utter control over absolutely everything design related. Can you say control freak?! :p

Well, I’d really like to get your feedback on what you think of this new design. So far the response has been 50 / 50, some saying that they like it, others are hating it.

Top 5 Places To Buy a Website Template

A website template is a pre-made design and layout that you can adapt to your own needs. For a designer it saves lots of time in coming up with a design, for the webmaster it’s a quick and easy way to get an attractive design for your website and for the small business owner it’s a cheaper way of having a professional look to your website.

The drawbacks to using website templates are that your design will never be unique – there may be lots of other websites out there with the same design – maybe even a competitor. Next, a template may not have the exact layout that you require (maybe the nav bar is in the wrong place or there’s not enough room for your logo or the menu has too many options that you don’t need) in which case you would end up paying a designer to modify the layout anyway.

However, given that there are tens of thousands of pre-made website designs available on the internet the chances of you having the same design as a competitor are extremely remote. Infact, given the cost advantages of pre-made templates, I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

There are dozens of different website template stores online so knowing which is the right one can be a difficult task. I have composed a list of the top 5 website template stores that I highly recommend from personal use.

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Great Web Design Resource

Just a quick note for anyone interested in web design or thinking of building a website to go over and check out http://www.oswd.org as they have loads of good (and not so good) quality templates and layouts for free. There the occassional gems in the collection too.

I think I have found where I will be getting all my templates from in the future 🙂

The website is: http://www.oswd.org