CMXtraneous: Designing for the Web

Right on the edge of useful

Much Ado About SP2

Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 8:35:28 PM by Kim


Meryl Evans, over at Meryl's Notes, has a good list of links to reviews and resources all about the changes in Windows XP SP 2.

The article at Personal Computing World gives a good overview, but Meryl also links to more in-depth articles for IT pros and developers. A good one stop source for more information on Service Pack 2 and how it may affect your work.

Category tags: Designing for the Web

Think Pink!

Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 3:23:50 PM by Stephanie


On August 18th, I was thinking about color and trends and wrote some of my thoughts out over here. I asked a question in that entry like, "Should we start using pink in our web sites since it's gotten so popular in clothing?"

Seems others feel it is time. Look at this site I ran across today: Rapha - High Performance Roadwear. Interesting. And though pink is not one of my personal favorite colors and I've not bought any girlie pink clothes this year, I admit to liking the palette on this web site.

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Dreamweaver, Fireworks

In Vivid Color

Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 9:09:11 AM by Stephanie


Recently I was talking about color and color psychology. Today, I ran across a site, from my Wise-Women list, that really shows this in the most creative way I've seen yet. If you're a visual person (or even if you just love Flash) check this site out.

It was created by Claudia Cortez as her Thesis for her Master of Fine Arts, Computer Graphics Design. I especially love the little "movies" that teach you about each color. Very visual, very easy to remember, and her graphics are really excellent. Take a look!

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash

A Color By Any Other Name...

Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2004 6:09:39 PM by Stephanie


It's not uncommon to hear web developers discussing colors. How do I choose them? How do I get them to harmonize? How do I know what the trends are? Or even, when in the world did everyone start using orange?

Since color has been an integral part of several fields I've worked in over the years, I've studied it in depth. I commonly use color psychology when choosing color palettes for client sites. I know before I create the client's palette what my desired outcome is. Do I want to jazz the surfer up or calm them down. Do I want them to take action, or do I want them to relax and read? Do I want the site to be punchy (complimentary color palette) or soothing (monochromatic color palette)? I wrote an article at CMX last year on The Science of Color which discusses the meanings of colors and how to select and blend them -- or you can Google for color psychology/theory info yourself.

Psychology is always a factor in my color decisions. But what other factors exist? A big one is trend. You may think that trends just appear out of the collective social consciousness of our minds, catch on like wildfire and spread. You're only about a quarter right with that theory. The social consiousness is tapped into. So are economic trends, the political climate and maybe a few mind altering substances. But it's a group of about 1,500 color designers, at Color Marketing Group, who make these predictions/decisions. "Our members are highly qualified Color Designers who interpret, create, forecast and select colors in order to enhance the function, salability and/or quality of a product." In other words, if the colors aren't predicted two years ahead, how will the dye makers know what color to produce for the fabric suppliers who will be supplying the clothing manufacturers whose designers will be creating the advertising that makes you believe you will not live if you don't have that perfect pink shirt?

If you've been to the mall, or even out on the streets, you know they did well marketing pink this year. It's everywhere. That may be proof enough that the CMG does use economics and social mood in their predictions. After all, psychological testing has shown that a certain shade of coral-pink may be calming and create lower violence in prisons. Pink is regarded, in psychiatric literature, as the color of delusion and denial -- rose-colored glasses if you will. Some believe its rise may foretell a harsh stock market reaction. So does this mean, it's time for us as web developers, to add some form of it to our next soothing, upbeat web site? Is color in web design like home decorating -- always a couple years behind the clothing trends?

There's another way to stay on top of the trends as they're happening. Twice yearly, Pantone creates and distributes their Pantone View Colour Planner, a binder featuring half a dozen or more palettes with names like Twilight Shadow, Black Sapphire, Briar or Thistle Bloom. Regularly priced at $750, I found it at Studica for the bargain price of $589.95. If that is as out of your budget as it is mine, you can at least read the descriptions of the colors, released in June at Graphic Design USA.

According to the Graphic Design USA report, "OPTIMISM DRIVES 2005 CONSUMER COLOR PALETTE - The emotional response to color humanizes hues for 2005, according to the color designers of the Color Marketing Group. While consumers desire comfort, stability and security, they optimistically yearn for bright and fresh signs of a better world to come. CMG's color professionals expect next year's colors to convey a respectfully serious nature yet touch the soul. They chose a 2005 Consumer Color Directions Forecast that includes many light-infused, optimistic colors."

According to the CMGs report, consumers are yearning to return to their roots and traditional materials such as metal, leather wood and sand will be applied to the latest technological products (it's obvious that Apple must be a member of the CMG). The visual communication category states that "edges will be blurred, luster sculpts patterns, tone on tone creates textures ... resulting in a discreet luxury." People desire serenity and security and color will allow for individual expression and cultural diversity. Okay, sure. So how do we translate this to web design? When I figure out what it is, I'm going to start using Black Sapphire everywhere. "Black Sapphire - Tradition with a youthful twist, safety with an attitude, this petrol-tinged jewel reinvents corporate blue." Don't know about you, but I'm really, really tired of corporate blue.

Category tags: Designing for the Web

Organically Grown Web Sites

Posted Monday, August 16, 2004 8:10:24 PM by Kim


In my new job I am going to be responsible for the overhaul of our entire school district's web presence. Not alone of course, since we are an incredibly large district (#11 in the US in terms of student population) and with a budget approaching $2 billion, we are in essence an enterprise-level organization. There are a lot of people who work on the site already, and many department web masters and mistresses who have overseen the growth of the district's web presence over the last 6 years or so.

So my job is a big one, and made more daunting by the way that the web site has grown organically, with little central control applied to the construction of individual department sites. Let's be brutally honest. It's an unholy mess, with dozens of different navigation methods and color schemes and varying page layouts. One part of the site might have a horizontal navigation while moving to the next department presents you with a vertical one. Go to another and there are drop-down menus while the next one might have Flash navigation. It's entirely possible that there are people lost in our web site. Poor souls who wandered in and can't find their way out, much less the information they were after.

This isn't to blame anyone for the state of things--it just is. The approach we have taken in the past is to purchase web design tools (Studio MX) for the department web masters and after some perfunctory training, set them loose with permissions to their folder on the site. No one really supervised their work, because no one was put in charge. As a result, the site grew organically, like something that was placed in the refrigerator a long time ago and then forgotten.

As I begin the design process, and probably equally importantly, the education process with my supervisor(s), part of what I'm trying to do is impart on them the absolute necessity for establishing standards on how pages should be built. Of course, there are the W3C standards in place, and much of what I'll be doing will be trying to insure that content is portable--able to move from one design to another without a major gutting and dissecting. Hopefully I can be an effective messenger and drive home the point that you simply can't have a positive user experience if your site looks more like a moldy lump of something that has grown on its own instead of a well thought out information system.

Category tags: Designing for the Web

Color My World

Posted Saturday, August 14, 2004 12:13:24 AM by Laurie


One night, a long time ago, when I had a lot of empty time on my hands, I decided to create a copy of the color chart that I could put on my server for easy access when I was color-challenged. Had I known how long it would take to do, I might have thought twice. :-)

I'm sure there are many copies of this exact page online, but since I always seemed to forget to bookmark them when I found them, I thought I would save myself the searching. Hopefully, it can save someone else time as well. Enjoy!

Category tags: Designing for the Web

The Big List of Web Design Basics

Posted Friday, August 13, 2004 4:46:45 AM by Kim


One of the things I like about following blogs is how frequently I find new sites and new writers discussing things that interest me. When your focus tends to be more tool-specific, like many of us who work with Macromedia products can be, it's good to get outside of the Dreamweaver/Fireworks/Flash box and have a look at the bigger issues of design and usability.

One of my favorite blogs that looks at the bigger design picture is Design by Fire, which is promintently listed in my Bloglines blogroll. Design by Fire had a nice pointer today to yet another design blog that I hadn't known about. (See how this works?)

Over at Asterisk* I found a nice little blog about design with some timely articles, including one that I thought was a good checklist for design usability: The Big Web Design Details List. There are some excellent points in that article, and more goodies down in the comments section.

Category tags: Designing for the Web