Web Design News 02/03/10

Paul Boag

This week: the search for inspiration, using CSS3, ecommerce tips and why the browser landscape in Europe is about to change.

The search for inspiration

I am always encouraging those of you who listen to this show to be more adventurous in your designs. With website owners tending to be conservative and designers jumping on the latest design trend, website quickly all look the same.

Design Instruct has an article this week outlining some ways that you can find inspiration. Other than a recommendation to ‘look to the history of design’ for inspiration, none of the suggestions are that original. Most we have discussed before on the show.

However, there is a second post this week from Smashing Magazine, which is truly inspired. Entitled ‘Find inspiration in uncommon sources‘ it lists some great ideas that you should take a look at. My favourites sources of inspiration were:

  • Board games
  • Food
  • Fashion

These are certainly not areas I have considered looking at before. Infact shortly after reading the Smashing Magazine post I stumbled across this amazing post about food design which I highly recommend. It will certainly inspire.

Art made from Toast

Using CSS 3 right now

We talked a lot about HTML5 and CSS3 on the 200th episode of Boagworld. Hopefully this has left you keen to get stuck in, especially as these technologies can be used now and not at some future date when they are universally supported.

If that is the case then here are two great articles on CSS3 you should check out.

I would recommend starting with ‘You can use CSS right now’ as it focuses on basic stuff like rounded corners, drop shadows and alpha transparency.

Once you have your head around that, turn your attention to the mind blowing possibilities in the second post. Some of the stuff they cover includes:

  • CSS only content sliders
  • CSS only dropdown menus
  • Image free speech bubbles
  • 3D ribbon effects
  • Awesome buttons
  • Letterpress type

Of course these techniques are not universally supported, but as they are enhancements to a site rather than crucial to its operation, that is fine. This is progressive enhancement at its best.

Example of a CSS only menu

Europe set to have a broader range of browsers

We have known it was coming for a while but it looks like the moment is finally here (in Europe at least) – Microsoft now has to offer a range of browsers on its Windows operating system, not just Internet Explorer.

According to Sitepoint this will happen any day now through automatic update and is going to affect every user with IE as their default browser. Sitepoint writes…

The Browser Choice screen will be offered in Windows XP, Vista and 7 to users who have IE set as their default browser. It will be installed through the standard automatic update system.

Following installation, a new “Browser Choice” icon will appear on the desktop and the IE icon will be unpinned from the Windows 7 taskbar. An introduction screen will appear which explains what a browser is.

The user can opt to select later or proceed to the browser choice screen. The five most popular browsers are shown in random order — IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. A further 7 randomly-ordered browsers are available if the user moves the horizontal scroll bar.

The system can download and install any number of browsers.

This will have a massive impact on the European browser landscape. My bet is that the big winner will be Google. Many users will play it safe and stick with the blue E that they know. However, a lot will be tempted by Google because it is a brand they know and use regularly. Expect their market share to jump.

However, I have left the best bit until last – According to Sitepoint:

IE6 and IE7 users will be prompted to upgrade to IE8!

This means whether users upgrade to IE8 or opt for a different browsers we are going to see a dramatic improvement in standards compliance here in Europe.

Oh happy day!

Browser Choice Screen

Ecommerce development tips

I am very conscious that I don’t cover a lot of news for developers on this show. That is mainly because I don’t understand much of what you guys do. However, an article this week caught my eye and I thought I would share it with you.

24 Ecommerce Development Tips appears to be a comprehensive list of technical things to consider when developing an ecommerce site.

The article covers everything from database configuration to handling the complexity of discounts.

24 ecommerce tips

One part that jumped out at me in particular was:

AJAX is fine for checkout, not for product browsing. Don’t load products or product previews in DHTML windows or an AJAX widget. Search engines won’t be able to find them. Which means you won’t sell anything. Which means you’ll go from full time to part time to contract to unemployed.

The reason this grabbed my attention was because it reminded me of my own post on Javascript and ecommerce.

If you happen to be considering building an ecommerce website anytime soon, I highly recommend you read it.

We recently discovered that very few of the big name ecommerce software packages run without the use of Javascript. If that includes your website then you may well be turning away 1 in 20 of your potential customers.

Certainly food for thought.