143. Partnership

Paul Boag

On this week’s show Paul and Marcus discuss how to promote your web application, ways to improve the client/designer relationship and tools for managing your font library.

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News and events

Obama top technology promises

One of the most exciting things about being at this years FoWD conference in New York was that I got to witness the election of the next U.S. president.

Whatever your political persuasions it was a landmark election. Not only will Obama be the first African American president he is also probably the most technically aware.

Obama campaigned aggressively online, from a dedicated YouTube channel to Obama pages on Facebook and MySpace as well as Twitter feeds. He even had his own iPhone application.

So what can we expect from this tech-savvy President? How will he shape the future of U.S. online presence and possibly that of the entire web? An article on tgdaily entitled ‘Barack Obama’s Top technology promises‘ gives us a roundup of various technological promises from Obama’s speeches. These include:

  • A commitment to Net Neutrality
  • A desire to expand broadband penetration in the U.S.
  • A review of the current wireless spectrum usage
  • Tougher legislation around online security.

Of course, promises made on the campaign trail are one thing. We shall see what the reality turns out to be.

Could Microsoft consider adopting Webkit?

Talking of things that may never be, a young (and very brave) developer at Microsoft recently asked Steve Ballmer:

Why is IE still relevant and why is it worth spending money on rendering engines when there are open source ones available that can respond to changes in Web standards faster?

Ballmer’s response was surprising to say the least:

There will still be a lot of proprietary innovation in the browser itself so we may need to have a rendering service. Open source is interesting. Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8.

Although some have seen this as a sign that Microsoft may adopt Webkit, personally I am sceptical. Were Microsoft to completely change its rendering engine it would inevitably break large numbers of sites and cause outrage among many of their large corporate clients.

The backlash when moving from IE6 to IE7 was massive. Moving to Webkit would conflict with Microsoft’s mantra of ‘not breaking the web’.

That said, we can dream. Without a doubt the real innovation and competitive advantage among browsers is in features, not rendering engines. This would in many ways be a smart move allowing Microsoft to concentrate on differentiation through ‘extensions’ and functionality, rather than wasting time on getting pages to display correctly.

WCAG 2.0 resources

Something that is definitely going to happen very soon is the release of WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 2.0. has now become a proposed recommendation. This means it is not only technically complete but has been successfully implemented on a large variety of sites. In short, it has been proved to work.

According to the Web Standards group this means it could therefore be released before Christmas.

This is hugely significant and very exciting from an accessibility point of view. WCAG 2.0. has come a long way from its controversial beginnings and is now a very good set of guidelines.

Now is the time to start building compliant sites and the Web Standards Group has provided some useful resources for implementing WCAG 2.0.

Prototyping with XHTML

Our final story is a post on the Boxes and Arrows website encouraging us to ‘Prototyping with XHTML‘.

The article lays out an approach to wireframing and prototyping, which is based entirely around the use of XHTML. Starting with the XHTML itself, you build up the structure and elements within your site. You then add CSS and Javascript to further refine the concept.

It is an approach with a lot of merit. Unlike other methods, the prototype is not thrown away but becomes apart of the final deliverable. It is also an approach particularly suited to multiple iterations, allowing you to refine the design over time.

In a world of web applications it is becoming increasingly important to demonstrate user interactions in a way static comps cannot. However, although this approach is appealing I do not believe it replaces the Photoshop mockup. Client’s like to see ‘finished’ looking designs. That said, it is another useful tool in your arsenal and you should be sure to read this post.

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Feature: A Partnership of Cooperation

At this years FoWD I shared how the relationship between web design agency and client is fundamentally broken. Where there should be mutual respect and cooperation, there is negativity and mistrust. Read More.

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Listeners feedback:

Marketing a web application

Nick Charlton writes: Long time listener, haven’t asked a question before though..

Apart from your blog, the podcast and twitter, how else have you marketed GetSignOff?

To be honest, I have done very little marketing yet. However, I know that has got to change. The problem is that I am not a trained marketeer and so don’t really know what I am doing. That said I do have a rough plan:

  • Free pro accounts – While in beta we gave away numerous pro accounts to ‘web celebs’. However, to be honest it was a waste of time. These guys were either too busy to review it or just didn’t feel it was worth writing about. This time I intend to give free accounts to those who blog about the application. Not entirely sure how I am going to do this yet but I think it might generate some buzz.
  • Offering discounts – Discounts are an effective way of spreading word of mouth. Again I am not entirely sure if or when we will do this, but offering the occasional discount should encourage people to tell their friends.
  • Targeting appropriate publications – I am in the process of writing a number of articles either directly or indirectly related to GetSignOff. I have also asked some sites to review the application. I have approached sites like Digital Web, Think Vitamin and printed publications such as .net. Having a product aimed at people like myself makes identifying appropriate publications easy.
  • Producing supporting video content – I have already produced the ‘Getting design sign off‘ presentation but also intend to make some shorter tutorials for YouTube. These will contain valuable content in their own right, but will also promote GSO.
  • Utilising CSS galleries – Because my audience are web designers we have submitted GSO to several CSS galleries. We know that many web designers use these sites and so this gives our application a lot of exposure.
  • Use speaking opportunities – Speaking opportunities have been a great opportunity for promoting GSO and I have started tailoring my speaking slots around the subject of sign off.

In time we may consider advertising through things like Google Adwords or the Deck. However, until we are confident in the return on investment we are not willing to invest more money in anything other than development.

Font management

Aurel writes: I would realy like to know how designers deal with fonts? From personal experience, I have alot of fonts and it takes me time to find or manage them. So I was wondering if you know of any way to group the fonts, e.g. when you go through the drop menu of fonts in photoshop, they apear in groups (or something along those lines).

The solution I use was recommended on the Rissington Podcast (oh the shame of admitting that.)

It is a piece of software called FontExplorer X which is available for both the mac and PC. It has some superb features if you are serious about fonts. These include:

  • Organising your fonts – Organise using a library, folders, tags and even smart sets. You can directly access all typefaces from a certain foundry or all fonts tagged with a certain keyword? You can even view all italic fonts.
  • Auto activation – FontExplorer allows you to decide which fonts are available in which applications. This is ideal if you want to avoid scrolling through large numbers of fonts in applications like Photoshop.
  • Font information – FontExplorer gives you a clear customisable preview of your fonts as well as detailed information on the character set and usage restrictions.

The application also has an in built store that allows you to buy additional fonts within the same intuitive interface. I am guessing this is how they manage to offer the whole application absolutely free.

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