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May 2004 Archive

Sex Sells, but who is buying?

posted by DL Byron on May 27, 2004

Preparing resources for blogging panels and lectures is relatively bland when compared to the media coverage of blogging this week. There are sex scandals, Nick Denton saying he’s not making money, while Jason Calacanis says he is, and more articles from the NYTimes and Wired. Last month, I posted about blogging overload and I still don’t see a business in blogging — neither does Nick. He posts that it’s “Media about media about media” and business journalists’ sad, “wish fulfillment.”

Markets are conversation

While the media hype continues, more businesses are communicating with blogs. See TechEd Bloggers for an example. A business blog isn’t a revenue generator, it’s a market conversation. Last month, I was talking with Lenn Pryor about Clip-n-Seal and he said, “you’re riding the cluetrain.” I hadn’t really thought about it that way and googled the Cluetrain Manfesto.

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notes on the redesign

posted by DL Byron on May 25, 2004

We've cleaned up all the lingering bugs (I think) and I just got a big chunk of a project I'm working on out the door (and approved!), so I finally have a chance to make some notes on the recent redesign.

Going in to the redesign Byron gave me a lot of creative latitude - just giving some broad goals, including:

  • Keep the column nav
  • New logo and banner - something dreeping like
  • Migration from a personal site to a more business oriented site
  • Possibly be more liquid

So, we didn't want anything drastically different - a refresh more than a total overhaul...


The big strategic shift was from a personal site (that evolved to serve business needs), to a site more focused on the business side of things (but that retains a personal touch). This was mostly done via the things that aren't immediately apparent when discussing visual design: tweaking the Information Architecture, editing content, etc.


The site is now liquid, so the main content area expands as the browser window grows. For those browsers with decent CSS support it caps out (via max-width) at 1050px.


By design, the image at the top of every page can be easily changed out. In fact, I tried of number of different images but I kept coming back to the clouds and that little plane. Something about the stark (almost abstract) nature of the photograph really seemed to work well, especially in an area that contains navigation and the company name. I have plenty of other photos that I like, but they seemed to fight with the other elements (or they didn't work at the required dimensions). So that image could very well change, as soon as we find one that we like better.


Byron has noted the prominence of what he has dubbed "baby blanket blue" - as previously noted, I found it to be a nice complement to the grey sky in the photo.

Like the image at the top of the page, the colors have been designed to be readily changed. While today is Baby Blanket Blue, green and orange, it might be something totally different next month. Or next week. Or whenever Byron feels the itch for a fresh look. The layout and code have been designed to accept such whimsical changes with little trouble.

The End

There more, or course (there's always more) - but I've gone on long enough.

If anyone has any thoughts or feedback I'd love to hear it.

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Baby Blanket Blue

posted by DL Byron on May 24, 2004

Scott and I were chatting about the redesign and I said, “baby-blanket blue is the theme for that site.” He replied, “yeah, i thought the baby blanket blue was a nice complement to the grey cloud picture…sort of a grey sky /blue sky sort of thing.” “Like, dreeping in the rain.

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A new outfit

posted by DL Byron on May 20, 2004

Redesigning is like getting a new outfit. I put it on, hope someone notices, ask how it looks, check the mirror occasionally, then eventually get used to it. I’m fiddling with this style, that style, and trying pictures in posts, which I’m not sure I like.

A business shift

The site shifted to be less personal and more about our business (a direct reflection of how many hours we work). Hopefully Scott will post later today with details of the design, including the how and why and the deal with the column nav. That’ll include a lists of props.

Some Browser funktasticness

Mac IE has got some funktasticness going down with the fonts and I’ll look into that later. Scott went into a marathon, “Kill Bill Dance Hall of Death” style coding session and chopped most of the bugs. That was impressive.

More later.

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Digital Design World & Webvisions

posted by DL Byron on May 20, 2004

Scott and I will be speaking about Flash Accessiblity at Digital Design World in Seattle, July 21-23. I’ll also speak about blogging with Steve Broback. It’s going to be a great event.

While in Town

Seattle Public Library Not only is DDW in my hometown, but there’s a fantastic lineup. If you’re going to be in town, be sure to schedule time to see the new Seattle Public Library. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it’s been described as the “The Library That Puts on Fishnets and Hits the Disco.” The superlatives continue once you see it and it exemplifies Koolhass’s, “organization of space according to use and function.” I haven’t been inside it yet, but have seen it’s faceted corners as I ride around downtown.

Before that in Portland

The week before I’ll be at Webvisions with Scott in Portland. There’s another conference in the works for Fall and I’ll post on that as soon as it’s confirmed.

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Unidentified Casual Hall

posted by DL Byron on May 16, 2004

I ride my bike through the industrial areas of Seattle and pause occasionally to take photos of things I find interesting. The Unidentified Casual Hall sign was always beyond the reach of my shitty camera phone. I thought the sign was poetic, without intending to be. Not only is the hall casual, but also unidentified. It would seem to be an interesting place to go. Today, I noticed another sign had been added to a fence near the entrance to the port and took the photo in today’s post. Googling the term returns a document from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that indicates "Unidentified Casuals" are on-call, new employees that hang out in a hall.

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Do no harm blogging Updated

posted by DL Byron on May 15, 2004

As a small business owner, I understand the struggle is to develop a pricing strategy, get your product out, try to make money and pay the bills. Watching the Movable Type (MT) aka “MT-Gate” controversy unfold has really taken me aback. I don’t know their business case, nor do I want to speculate, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt until I decide otherwise.

What I will say is that others should follow the “do no harm” blogging tenet. I don’t think that’s written down anywhere, but it should be. Scoble first told me about it.

Why spit so much venom at a company that has done so much good? If you don’t like what they offer, choose something else, and let the market decide. Maybe they’ve made a terrible business mistake, or not, but they certainly don’t deserve this attack.


For those that criticized MT so strongly, see their clarification. As I stated above, I decided to give MT the benefit of the doubt. They made a PR, or community, mistake. They should've be transparent and had a discussion about their new pricing. To their credit, they got on it, and clarified.

You can also observe MT-gate as blogging for business in action. I guess this all took place without any PR people or spin meisters.

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Talking to ourselves about Atom and RSS

posted by DL Byron on May 13, 2004

Last week, I posted to an internal mailing list about how I lamented offering so many feeds on my sites and wondered what possibly benefit to the user that was (ya know, those little badges of courage). Does Jane blogger need 6 feeds on her site? No, she needs a feed link or button with a format that is read by feed readers. I personally don’t care what standard it is, but do not want to offer multitudes of them. We don’t offer different versions of html on our sites with shiny little buttons.

This is an other example of the blogosphere talking to ourselves too much. We need to talk less about technology and more about the user. How does the average person visiting your site know which feed to choose? They don’t and I haven’t found any information on why Atom is better, other than because it’s not Winer.

Today, the W3C announced their suggestion to the Atom community that they standardize through the W3C.

That's great news and it'll be really interesting to watch how that plays out.

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Site Navigation: Self Links and Onstate

posted by DL Byron on May 06, 2004

Various Design Sites

I’ve noticed a design trend of onstates or no onstates in nav systems and the occurrence of self links in navs — check a related ALA article on creating current tabs. By onstate, I mean an indicator that you’re on a page. By self link, I mean a link that points to itself. When you click a self link, it reloads the page you’re on. I think the navigation on the various design sites is not changing to an onstate or the link is linking to itself (self link) because the page is served by a template or include. Open for debate is whether or not an onstate, or no onstate, with self links confuse the users. I’d expect usability experts to argue for no self links and onstates to help the user know where they are in the site.

Click around various design sites and you’ll see:

Self Links with Onstate

Self Links with no Onstate:

No Self Links with Onstate

New, even harder to navigate

While I was updating this post, a colleague sent me an instant message about his new site. I said, “Cool, nice, not down with the wood grain so much, and where’s the onstate?” He replied, “Well, I’m working on it. See it’s all includes.”

That confirms what I thought was happening. Designers aren’t purposefully making their sites harder to navigate (note, this site isn’t that easy to navigate either - a redesign is in progress…). It’s just much easier to use templates and includes. Coding a site with includes to indicate what page a user is on requires a bit more work with CSS and PHP

The CSS conclusion

After several emails, one argument, chats, and the urging of Scott Benish, our Brand Manager and Designer, the conclusion is to use "Self Links with Onstate." I’m no CSS Zen Garden master and it gets tricky with the sub nav, but here’s how I do it on Clip-n-Seal:

  1. IDs are applied to the body and list item tags that add a bullet image and changes the style of the link.
  2. The style is over ridden for the parent of the sub nav inline.
<!--Inline style for onstate-->
<style type="text/css">
<!-- body#about li#aboutnav a:visited { color: #336699; }
body#about li#aboutnav ul#subnav
li#businessnav a:hover{ text-decoration: none; }
body#about li#aboutnav a:hover{ text-decoration: underline; color: #333; }

A Lil' PHP

You can't apply more than one ID to the body tag. So, for the subnavs, I use PHP code that I tweaked from the Keeping Current ALA article. The PHP identifies the subnav and writes the id for the subnav page.

 <!--Identifies the subnav page-->
<?php $thisPage="purchase_satisfy"; ?>

<!--Writes the subnav ID-->
<ul id="subnav">
<li<?php if ($thisPage=="purchase_satisfy")
echo " id=\"satisfynav\""; ?>><a href="/html/satisfy.htm"
title="Satisfaction Guaranteed">Satisfaction Guaranteed</a></li>
<li<?php if ($thisPage=="purchase_retail")
echo " id=\"retailnav\""; ?>><a href="/html/retail.htm"
<li<?php if ($thisPage=="purchase_industrial")
echo " id=\"industrialnav\""; ?>><a href="/html/industrial.htm"

It works

With CSS and PHP, I can use includes, indicate what page a user is on, and make the site more usable.

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Reuters of RSS - Updated

posted by DL Byron on May 04, 2004

I wondered today where the Reuters of RSS is? So I got a bunch of feeds that all pretty much talk about the same thing: Gizmodo, Boing Boing, Cool Tools, Endgadget. With all the multitasking I do, it gets tedious. I don’t want to miss an important Goatse update from Boing Boing, but also don’t need to read the same story on 7 different blogs. Should we expect a consolidation of sources and maybe a business plan for it?

Another example is Google news, which displays the headline, source, and related links. With the same info in a feed, I’d know if I’ve seen the news item twenty times before and can then choose to view a local spin on it. I get the value of RSS, but I don’t think it’s saving me anytime when I’m reading the same topic over and over again.


When Clip-n-Seal hit the blog marketing Trifecta, I didn’t check read my RSS feeds for a few days. When I finally checked, I had thousands of links and headlines to check. Sure, I could expire them all, but maybe I’d miss something. So, there I am, looking at a screen with a sea of “headline, blurb, links,” and I’m thinking, “geez,” some pictures would be nice. I could scan to see a photo that interests me and kick on that. Is RSS a triumph for Jakob Nielsen? Is it the developers over the designers? Would it be hard and controversial to put some design into the feed view?

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No Comments, No Spam

posted by DL Byron on May 04, 2004

I don't offer commenting on the Clip-n-Seal blog. One of the reasons is, "no comments, no spam." Every day, I check Jay Allen's rss feed for a spam update and purge spam on this site. While Blacklist has saved my Texturadesign from spam overload, it's not something I particularly enjoy. Molly posted earlier about comments and commenting systems. One of the best features on Keith's site is the comments. While Clip-n-Seal has comments turned off, we do publish what are customers tell us. Maybe MT 3.0 and TypeKey will be better, but I'll note that I don't really want to register online for anything ever again.

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