You're looking at all articles on The Hickensian tagged 'updates'

New Goodies!

I’ve finally been through the entire site, and kicked out any legacy stuff (some of which went back to 2003!) and implemented the new responsive design. Originally, I’d intended to change the layout in the various sections, but in the end I’ve used the same one. After trying the other options, it just felt right.

Wallpapers

One of things I’ve changed is a new Goodies section. With the exception of the Hill House font (download link now works!), everything is new, including brand new desktop and iphone(4)/mobile wallpapers.

Icon Reference Chart

Another new goodie is a little labour of love: The Icon Reference Chart. Fed up of checking various sources to get the information I needed, I started compiling it all together in one table. I’ll add to and improve this chart over time.

Change of Face

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a chance to do some housekeeping on Hicksdesign. Implementing Matthew Tretter’s genius new approach to Vertical Centering, updating the portfolio and improving images like tree footer on this page (that were a bit too slapped together initially). I’ve also been considering a redesign, which I’ve since abandoned, but elements from that are sneaking in. There’s still a lot I want to do, but I’ve had a couple of emails asking about the change in corporate typeface, so I thought I explain that.

For a while now, I’ve been unsatisfied with my use of Chalet Paris 1970, the curvular font used previously on Hicksdesign. Instead, I’d been looking for something that would be unashamedly ‘British’ in feel, without relying on Gill Sans. I purchased the DF Ministry family to use as a body face in all my documents, but still felt I needed a stronger identity for headings and the logo.

P22 London Underground Sample

In the end, I went with ‘London Underground’ by P22. It’s a faithful reproduction of Edward Johnston’s original typeface, developed in 1916, rather than the ‘New Johnston’ redesign conducted in the late 70s. It retains the character of the original, which I felt was lost a little in the later redesign. While there were a few sans-serif faces back in 1916, they were rare, and the I still find it hard to imagine that such a radical typeface was created during WWI.

I’d always lumped this typeface along with Gill Sans, for being ‘too obvious’ a choice, but I’ve changed my mind, and I’m really happy with it!

Google Reader Theme update

Here’s an update to the Google Reader theme, mostly positioning bug fixes (see below for more information). Feel free to modify the CSS to suit your own tastes, but be aware that ‘highlighting the current selected entry better’ is still ‘on the way’. In some ways I find the Google method of a big rounded box outline a little too much, so I’m playing with some options… when I get time!

Also, I’ve been using CSS Edit 2.5 more for these changes – the recent update is even more suited to site skinning than before. Recommended.

Finally – a word on getting this theme onto userstyles.org, so that Stylish users can update easier: I have been trying to do this, but the theme currently clocks in at 76k, 12k over the userstyles limit! I need to look at optimising the code to get it work :(

Which does lead to a warning – this theme may well slow down your Google Reader experience.

Changes in this update:

  • Fixed: RSS icon positioning
  • Fixed: Toggle triangle position
  • Fixed: ‘Loading’ animation repetition glitch in Mozilla
  • Fixed: Green star is now Orange as it should be ;)
  • Fixed: odd placement of RSS icon on feeds not in tag folders
  • New: Replaced the small icons under each entry (Share, Email)
  • New: Proper ‘Home’ icon (well a nicked one anyway)
  • Combined Webkit and Mozilla versions to use same CSS
  • Implemented @-moz-document url-prefix to make the theme work when subscribing in Mozilla (thanks Tobu!)
  • Now supports https URL in Mozilla too.

Installation

Download gReader.zip. There are 2 versions, one for Mozilla browsers and one for WebKit & Opera.

Firefox

Once you have the Stylish extension installed, just copy and paste the css into the ‘create styles for this page’ window. If you don’t want to use Stylish, follow the Camino method below.

Camino

In Camino, either paste this into your /Library/Application Support/Camino/chrome/userContent.css file, or if that file doesn’t exist, rename the greader.css file to be userContent.css. The theme will be applied when you restart Camino.

Safari

Once Safaristand is installed, place the greader.css file in your user/Library/Safari/Stand/UserStyleSheets folder. Then visit Google Reader, go to SafariStand > Settings > Site Alteration. Add the site, enable Site Alteration and choose the greader file from the list. Make sure the matching pattern is just www.google.com. You may have to empty your cache, restart Safari and refresh before seeing any changes!

Omniweb

In Site Preferences > Page Appearance, choose the greader.css file under ‘Style Sheet’. The change should happen instantly!

Opera

Put the greader.css file anywhere you like! Right-click on the Google Reader page, choose "Edit Site Preferences" and select the CSS file through the display tab, under ‘My Style Sheet’. Like Omniweb, the change should apply immediately.

Have you found this theme enhances your life beyond all telling?

Please consider donating some spare change to the Hicksdesign Cheese Fund.

Tiger Theme for Omniweb 5.5

I’ve finally updated my Omniweb theme to work with the sneaky peeks

Tiger theme for Omniweb 5.5

Changes for this version include:

  • New Icons: Mark page, Next Mark, Previous Mark, Favourites Folder, News Feed Folder. Thanks go to Dan Carson who created the ‘Mark page’ and ‘Favourites folder’ icons.
  • Added ‘small size’ icons for the main toolbar icons.
  • Improved close tab icons.
  • Added the large bookmarks image for the tab drawer.
  • Redone splash page.
  • It no longer replaces the Omniweb application icon.
  • Downloads window – tweaked to allow it to be resized narrower (like Safari). This may compress text when smaller, but I prefer a narrower window
  • Workspaces window- Changed from a ‘utility’ window to a normal one, with margins removed.
  • New Change (4.5.06)- Improved the smoothness of the Safari-esque buttons. Please re-download and re-install to get the improved icons.

As before, if you want to pick and choose which icons you want to install, all the original files are included, as well as goodies folders of applescripts and sample workspaces. Don’t forget to back up Omniweb first.

Download the Tiger theme for Omniweb 5.5 (888k)

New desktop wallpaper

I’m still slowly doing site updates, bit by bit, and one of the changes I want to make is refreshing the desktops I have on offer. These are 3+ years old now, and they need updating to new identity.

The first of these is Bloody Hippy, available here in enourmo-scope 1920×1200 resolution:

preview image of the bloody hippy wallpaper

I have a question for anyone listening – do I really need to supply all the different resolution versions like Veer do? My Intention is to design them to be centred – so that it doesn’t matter if edges are cropped. Is that enough? Let me know if I’m missing a trick here!

Explaining the new logo

I wasn’t quite prepared for the generally negative response to the new identity. Looks like it was a bit of a shock to most people! Comments ranged from positive to lukewarm to negative but constructive to downright condescending and rude. I think the worst were the suggestions that my colourblindness explained the logo colours, as if somehow it was a mistake (or an April Fool’s joke). That hurt! There were also those who proclaimed it ‘wasn’t me’. What the hell do you know is ‘me’? I think people have got this image of an ale-loving tree-hugging hobbit, and that such a design can only mean I’ve had too much old tovey.

Many referred to the 3 leaf logo as some peak of my career. The irony is, if ever I spent 2 minutes slapping a logo together, that was it. Seriously. Zero thought went into it at the time, and the execution was less than slick, but it’s seemed very popular with wives! I never change logos just for the hell of it though. A logo should be something that is in place for very long time, but I’ve already talked about my reasons for changing. Time to move on.

Maybe I shouldn’t have enabled comments (its not as if the logo was up for debate or anything), but people were emailing me to tell me they thought it was ugly anyway (which was nice), so it makes little difference.

So basically, stuff you. It’s staying. This is what I want.

What I wanted:

After I’d convinced myself that I needed to move on, I drew up 4 goals for myself as my own design brief:

  • The key was something so completely different from previous logos, and from everything else I’d seen out there. Part of that is colour – there’s a lot of muted, conservative tones at the moment.
  • A shape that could be used with different colour combinations, and still be recognisable. Thus, I could have a seasonal variation if I wanted. The current one is deliberately bright (these colours are very IN this year), but could be anything I wanted. This would allow me flexibility, which in turn, would give longevity.
  • To highlight a different interest to nature.
  • If it had a 70’s in feel, with a modern edge, I would be happy too!

I’d been searching for new ideas for a long time, but finally at SXSW I got inspiration. Glenda the Good Witch took a small group of us off to for a preview of the yet-unopened Blanton Museum of Art. It was there that I saw a piece of art that inspired the new logo:

Filles de Kilimanjaro III for Miles, 1976 Acrylic on canvas

Its called “Girls of Kilimanjaro III” by Kazuya Sakai, and was intended as a homage to Miles Davis. I was hooked, and not just because I like Miles Davis.

On the flight home, I did a few sketches, and knew that this was what I wanted:

New Logo Sketches

Apart from achieving all my goals, I think the logo also suggests constant movement, which wasn’t intended, but I like that fact that it does. The shape is also pointing/moving/leaning forwards, which suggests direction. Others have suggested it reminds them of scalectrix, race tracks and roller discos, which is great. Its the music connotations that I particularly enjoy though – vinyl records and infinite movement.

The biggest setback was the discovery that Firewheel Design were using the same typeface – Egret. If they didn’t have the word ‘design’ in their name too I would’ve thought sod it, and left it. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with that, so I’ve switched to the other typeface I was considering during development – House Industries’ Chalet. I’m very happy with this, and it doesn’t feel like a second choice. It fits the logotype just as well, and has the added benefit of bolder weights.

Finally – I see this current site design as being a transitional phase – a clean minimal style (much like Doug Bowman did with his ‘whitespace’ phase) to give me time to evolve and develop it. While I intended the logo to be a complete departure, I wanted keep parts of the design that I felt still worked, and didn’t clash with the new identity.

Hicksdesign's Found Sounds

Here’s another of those small steps.

I’ve been wanting to dip my toes in the podcast pool for such a long time now, not to bring my droning about OS X browsers to an audio format, but to share music that I’m into. Podcasts are too much like hard work, but I loved the way that Buzz Anderson has done his – ad-hoc linking to single track mp3’s in de.licio.us. So Found Sounds is in effect, a complete and utter steal of his idea, sorry Buzz.

Whereas Buzz looks like he’s going to be using Odeo in the future, I wanted to use Textpattern for mine, with Feedburner converting the feed, providing the support for enclosures. I just add a rel=”enclosure” attribute to the mp3 link and away we go. Thanks go to Tom Martin for the method.

The criteria of Found Sounds is simple. If a band or record company has provided an mp3 free on their site, and I love it, it goes in. Occasionally, there may be crossover with those provided by 3hive, but I hope to avoid repetition if possible.

So, here’s the first post, here’s the second post, and here’s the feed to grab for it. Feel free to use the comment fields on each post to tell me what you thought.

P.S – I also got around to adding tags to posts, thanks to this wonderful plugin

What I'm doing at the moment

I keep being asked why I’m so busy, so I here’s a quick summary of what’s going on at the moment:

First of all, what I’m not doing…

  • I’m not writing a book. I’ve been toying with the idea of self-publishing for a couple of years now, but it’s come to nothing.
  • I’m not preparing to speak at any conferences (although I am on a panel at @media). It has to be said, speaking is not where my skills are.
  • I’m not redesigning my branding and site, although I desperately want to. I have various ideas, but after sitting on them for a week or two, I always reject them. Then everytime I see another leaf logo, I get embarrased that I haven’t done anything about it yet.

Now, what I am doing…

What I am doing is working for Attap (which stands for ‘All things to all People’). As well as Riffs (which I worked on) and PersonalDNA (which I did a little work on), with another site to follow, as well as the biggie project LifeIO. My favourite part so far was the Attap ‘wee guy’ logo as he/she is affectionately known. It came together very quickly (once I’d turned the ‘a’ on it’s side).

I can’t say more about LifeIO than what the holding page does, except that I’m very excited to be given the chance to a project like this. It’s design is something to really get my teeth into. I know the amount of web apps being released is getting past silly, to the point where apathy is setting in. Barely a day goes by without another ‘Sign up, and we’ll tell you when we’re ready to Beta test’ goes by, or someone else drops the last vowel in their name. Its a harder market to release apps into than it was when Basecamp or Flickr started. This doesn’t put me off though, it just makes it more a challenge to do the best job I can on LifeIO.

I am also getting psyched up for another SXSW. I fly out next Thursday with other Britpackers, and I am so looking forward to it, despite my usual find-it-hard-to-leave-the-family-behind sadness. If you’re there, please come and say hi!

I’ve also been trying out Feedlounge and Wordpress (not as a replacement for this site, but as a CMS for a new site). More on those soon!

Keeping score

This will be the last whingey post about powerbooks, promise. Here’s where I’m at now:

Powerbook #1: Dead on arrival
Powerbook #2: Lid catch broke after 1 week, Hard Drive died after 2. Thats where I got to last time.
Powerbook #3: Dud battery.
Powerbook #4: Made of jam.

So, I’m now on #4, which while I hate to tempt fate, is looking good so far. I’ve still got a long way to go to top Michael’s record of 8 (see comment 49).

As I added in the last post, I’ve used Macs for 16 years now, and owned my own for 5. I’ve never had any issues, until these new powerbooks, never. All my macs have been rock solid, with any problems arising from my own extreme stupidity. Could it be that these powerbooks were rushed out, with little quality control? Or that Apple’s efforts are more concentrated on iPods? After all, thats where the money is for them. I’d like to think that I just got the few dud ones, and that these are just overly-paranoid conspiracy theories.

All of these have had screens with the horizontal lines problem by the way, but its still too subtle to concern me.

Riffs: your social recommender

At last, I can finally talk about what I’ve working on for the last 5 months! It’s so hard to work in stealth mode, and when everyone asks you why you’re so busy, you have to say “a thing”. Anyway, today, Riffs has gone live in ‘public alpha’ mode.

Riffs is a recommendations engine, a place to rant and rave about anything, recommend and get recommendations. My main use for it will probably be to give music recommendations, but you could use it to rate and review a gig, movie, conference or meal you’ve just had. Perhaps you want to get users opinions of a certain digital camera? While this is the early life of riffs, there are already over 10 million items in the database, and we’ve tried to make the process of adding a new item as quick and easy as possible.

There’s also the social network side of riffs. If you see someone with similar tastes you, add them to your riffrs, and keep up to date with what they’re reviewing. There’s a lot going on in there, but i wanted to give you a brief overview.

As this is an Alpha stage, yes, there are rough edges, and many changes/improvements/code cleaning still to come. Its there to try out, give feedback and help advance. Open Firefox/Camino/Flock/IE if you must, get stuck in and have a play around. (Please feedback to Attap though!). Safari support is coming very soon!

While I was worried about the scrutiny that the code is going to get, I decided sod it. I’ve worked long and hard on this site, and the Attap team much more so. I’m proud to have got to this stage, and really want to show you all what I’ve been up to for so long. I see that 37 Signals have picked up on it already (i’m glad the logo rollover tickled their fancy so much!).

Oh, about that font. Its VAG rounded, which I did use on another project. My lesson learnt is never to include it in any more design options. In the case of Riffs/Attap though, it felt the most applicable though, so I make no apologies! I’m still desperate to use Omnes on a project though.

There are lots of CSS things I want to write about, like the fact that Firefox 1.07 threw up so many problems compared to 1.5, or the odd IE fix that saved my bacon at the last hurdle. they can wait for when there’s more time.

This is the just one of the projects I’m working with Attap on, there’s more to come…

Flock & Hickr

There are two questions I get asked a lot at the moment, so I thought I’d answer them here, rather than in the FAQs.

Did you do the Flock logo?

No, that was Bryan Bell. I was fortunate to be involved in the early stages of creating the Flock browser theme, and some of that work is still in there, but since starting a large project in June, Bryan has been handling all that too. Its come a long way since then, I might ask Bart if if I can post some of the odd ideas we had at the start.

How did you do the Hickr bit on your site?

This question still bemuses me, as its nothing more than the basic HTML Flickr badge, with a bit of css, but it definitely ranks as the most asked question at the moment.

The javascript is wrapped in a div with the ID of Flickr. Just in case the javascript has recently changed (and adds unwanted ‘stuff’) here it is:

<div id="flickr">
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.flickr.com/badge_code.gne?nsid=yourflickridhere&count=12&display=latest&name=0&size=square&raw=1"></script>
</div>

I manually altered the ‘count’ to get 12 images. Here’s the css I use on that:

/* Flickr */
#flickr img { width: 50px; height: 50px; }
#flickr a { padding: 3px; display: block; float: left;}
#flickr a:hover { background: #ddd; }

RSS Feed problems

So, I’ve got to get this RSS feed problem worked out. Loads of people are reporting problems, and I think its to do with the feed URL, and my brief flirtation with feedburner.

Could everyone who is having problems make sure that the URL is http://www.hicksdesign.co.uk/feeds/rss/, and let me know if that fixes it?

Sorry for the inconvenience!

Gravatars will be OK!

As you may have noticed, gravatar.com has been down for a few days, but have no fear. I had an email from Tom Werner this morning which explains everything:

I left for vacation to China on the 11th, and it seems I forgot to renew the gravatar.com domain before I left. Now I have the rude awakening here in Hangzhou that gravatars have been down since the 15th. Curse my timing! I am renewing the domain right now but it might take a little while to go through and there might be other problems I don’t forsee. Could you to make a little note on your weblog informing the peoples of this misfortune? Tell them I still care!!!!

Try and enjoy your holiday Tom!

Seven Seven

It’s been very touching to get emails from friends abroad, concerned for us in the UK. Fortunately, I’ve not had any meetings in London this week, and instead I feel numb watching it all happen from the ‘safety’ of the Cotswolds.

As I don’t live in London, I don’t feel qualified to comment on that cities grief, but as Fraser said, its my capital too, and I have friends there I care about.

It’s been surreal. On one hand I read about the terrible atrocities, and on the other, I get the news of my friends Emma and Kevin and the birth of their son Noah. I can’t quite take it all in.

I’m still trying to find out about 2 friends in London, and whether they’re OK. Hopefully they’re just inundated by others trying to contact them. All found – huzzah!

Thats all, Rich says it better than I could

Just to update you

I have a habit of asking questions and pronouncing apps on my blog (and some people have been asking for follow-ups), so I just wanted to take a moment and tie up some loose ends…

Deskspace

Remember I was looking to get out of the house? Original Post

I am finally back in the land of the real people, and renting deskspace at a local print design company. I have my own little corner, but still have other creatives to talk to. I think it was Dave Shea who recently advised freelancers to never work from home, and I can see why. My productivity has really improved since moving out (and Daniel can finally have his own room).

Accounting App

Trying to find a cocoa app to do the job of MYOB – Original Post

In the end, I discovered that there is no one app that will cover all of MYOB’s functions, so there’s a gap in the market there for an indie developer to get their teeth into! Instead, I decided to hire an accountant to do my bookkeeping, and have gone over to iBiz for my project management/invoicing needs. Don’t let the name put you off, this is a great app. While its not perfect, and Billings definitely has the better interface, it offers vital features such as invoice customisation and being able to start invoice numbers from a number other than 1. It integrates with iCal and Address Book, and makes emailing invoice pdf’s a snap. Its the one I wish I had when I first started freelancing.

To pep up its interface, removing the metal with Unifier instantly makes it a whole lot nicer to look at. I like metal, but I think this is one instance where I think its irrelevant.

Safari RSS

The best thing about Tiger? Original Post

OK, so run Safari as your RSS reader for a while, and it does start to slow down, even if you set articles to be removed after a day or week. Once more, Safari becomes unresponsive – click a tab, wait for it show. I’ve whittled my feeds down to about 200, but even then, “View all RSS Articles” increasingly becomes a drag. That whole clicking twice thing is starting to grate too.

Looking for desk/office space in Oxfordshire

Ideal desk space is somewhere with natural light

Please note : This is an old post – and I have since found a good office – thanks!

Just like Dan Cederholm I’ve decided it’s time to move out and find some local desk or office space. In the slim chance that someone reading this will know of any workspaces, I have only a few needs:

  • Must be in the Witney or West Oxfordshire region (That’s the UK folks)
  • Broadband access (or the facility to install it)
  • A window too look at outside land.
  • Sharing with other creatives would be ideal, but not essential.

I’m very clean, and come with my own furniture if need be. If you do happen know/have somewhere available, please let me know. If you don’t, please spread the word anyway.

What's goin' on

Just a quick update – this is my last night sunning my pale English body in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. The family are alive and well, and I’ve barely touched the laptop since Christmas Eve. Its certainly the longest I’ve ever been able to go without email or RSS Feeds, but I will soon have to face them.

As well as ‘what we did in Sydney’, I’ve got the following blog posts in the slow cooker for sometime soonish:

  • Textile preview in MarsEdit
  • How to use NetNewsWire 2 as a Browser
  • Skinning web sites in Safari with PithHelmet
  • Looking for a link between Faith and Web Standards
  • Textpattern Notes 5 – creating a Portfolio section.

And the usual browser stuff of course! I’ve also (finally) got my act together and organised flights and hotel for SXSW. I look forward to meeting everyone!

Dr Comfy Chair (Or how I learned to stop worrying about originality)

Ever since I changed the layout of this site back in October, I’ve not been happy with it. It just hasn’t sat comfortably with me, and its an odd feeling – like my teeth being on edge.

The whole reason for the tree/landscape image was to do something in the ‘dead area’ on the right. It wasn’t intended to be seen by all, more a filler for those with larger screen resolutions. However, looking at the site on 800×600 brings the horrible realisation that it looks very dull indeed, and the landscape has become the focus.

So, the design will evolve again soon. Don’t expect anything radical, but the landscape’s days are numbered. In fact, if anything it will end up looking very unoriginal. But hey, I’m getting older, I want a pipe and slippers site, a comfy chair with the indentation of my rear in it. My attempt at making a slightly quirky chair is something I just don’t want to use.

The ones that didn't quite make it

Clearing out my ‘dev’ folder on the new site, I came across some of the site comps (created in Fireworks) that didn’t make it. They’re just the initial ideas, but here they are if you’re interested…

I quite liked this one, but The Missus felt that the whole retro/worn look is getting quite common, and others do it better. I’ve got a thing about 1940’s-1960’s car magazines, and I’ve been desperately wanting to use that MG illustration somewhere

This one was trying to get away from everything. I’d found an illustration of a boy holding a prism up to the light, and again, really wanted to use it. This wasn’t it though.

This is the one I created in July, that parts were taken from for the new design. Too bland, odd hierachies of headings. You can see some of the elements that made it into this new design though.

This was the next attempt. A refresh of the previous design – rounded corners, more colours. I still like this one, and who knows, it may appear again. There’s that boy illustration again…

The Redesign has landed

OK, I’m finally done around here (for now). Clear out your caches, refresh, and make sure you’re seeing the most recent version. I’m in danger of turning this into a blog about a blog, but I feel I need to give some more information about the redesign, and the changes I’ve made in the last week, so please bear with me. Let’s get this out of the way…

Why Redesign?

The previous design seemed to be well liked, and I had received death threats after I mooted the possibility of removing those sacred leaf images. However, I felt that that design was a little cramped, and after seeing Fireondesign I was struck by how much I preferred viewing the portfolio images as one page, rather than clicking back / next links. I’d also just felt it was time to move on.

At the same time, I wanted to keep the elements I was happy with, such as the journal entries style. I’d started to introduce new elements into this anyway (such as the wee icons) that stem back to a design idea I had back in July, which I then later shelved, prompting me to write this. However, a few weeks ago, I realised what needed changing to make it work, so I dug it out again, and introduced the vertical landscape image that became the dominant part of the new design. I liked it, so I set to work with a duplicate of my textpattern database, and css files wiped clean.

Fixed, then Fluid, then back to fixed again

One thing I really wanted to acheive with this was a fluid layout. The old site had a lot of grey-space that looked bad on large resolutions. Although I’m not a fan of fluid layouts normally, I realised it would avoid having a large expanse of blue to the right of the tree, but the more I fiddled, the more I realised that the layout I really wanted to acheieve wasn’t possible. Originally, I used a technique devised by Cameron Adams, dubbed Resolution dependent layout. Basically, once the window was larger than 1170px (a minimum size of 770px for the content and 400px for the side image) a new stylesheet takes over thats fluid. However, in IE this conflicted with the live comment preview, where every key typed caused the large tree to reload. Ouch! This also had a knock-on effect on my bandwidth.

Having tried every other possibility since then, I’ve still not been able to produce the flexible layout I really wanted. Solutions that looked good in most browsers broke in either IE or Opera. While it was tempting to cut out IE and just send it plain, unstyled text, you just can’t go doing that sort of thing (not if I want clients anyway). So, for now, good ol’ fixed width it’ll have to be. I’ll still keep looking for solutions…

That big background image

I also wanted to use the background image without creating unnecessary horizontal scrollbars. This was made hard by the fact that I had a background repeating image, and a single tree image to overlay that (so that there wasn’t a big repeating tree every 600px or so). To get around this, I applied the repeating image to the <html> tag, and the single tree image to the <body> tag like so:

html {
background: #fff url(tree.jpg) repeat-y 770px 0 fixed;
}
body {
background: url(solotree.jpg) no-repeat 941px 0px fixed;
}

If you’re interested, the photo was taken in Swainswick Valley, part of the Cotswolds. Unfortunately, I didn’t take it, its a stock image.

Whether I keep it is under review. Its been problematic to implement, and I may decide to remove it a later date. If I do, it does mean I’ll have to redesign again…

Relative font sizing.

I’ve been using percentages and ems on clients sites for a long time, but I’d never given up control on my own site. I still haven’t. My precious designer head just can’t cope with the inconsistencies. Again, something to work on in the future. Then again at the rate at which Firefox is being adopted, maybe it won’t be a problem using pixels in the not-so-distant future.

The new corporate font is called Monark, and its available from the Identikal foundry. They make beautiful typefaces.

The ‘nearly there’ launch

Then for some reason, late one Saturday night an hour or so before I hit the sack, I decided to just dump the current site design and replace it with the new, unfinished, barely tested, design. Too tired to have the foresight that this might be a bad idea, it wasn’t until I woke up the next morning, that the panic started.

Despite this, it still got picked up by StyleGala and the CSS Vault (137 submissions for an unfinished site – what kind of madness is that?), followed by much bug reporting their comments. In hindsight, it may have been unwise to progress the design in public, but it has given me the impetus to get it finished. Had I not taken this leap, it may never have been done.

Since then…

In the last week I’ve polished, bug fixed, changed from siFR to traditional FIR (for more control over the typography), tidied up the hierachies (so there’s only one <h1>, followed by <h2> and <h3>). There was also a lot of really useful feedback, a lot of which has been implemented.

So, there we are. Now is the time to report any annoying bugs I’ve missed. For this post, ignore the ‘please email bug reports’ message, and leave any problems you’re experiencing.

Its not quite finished...

But it’s not far off. Sometimes, even though you’re not finished, it has to happen. The old has to go. The thing is, a site is never finished, so its either take the plunge, or it’ll never happen.

There are rough edges, IE bugs, and not-thought-about-yet-bits aplenty. Give it time, think of this as the starting point, and like the last design, it will evolve over time. Oh, and you’ll probably have to delete stored ‘style’ cookies again – sorry about that. In the meantime, 2 changes of note are the (sort of) fluid layout and relative font sizing rather than the old pixels. More on all that later.

A quick note on adverts

You may have noticed something new lurking in the sidebar, and like Ryan, I feel the need to explain myself. I’ve always resisted ads such as google’s, I’m not keen on how they look or the idea of making money from site visitors. The exception to this was when Dooce mentioned eating Leta with barbecue sauce, and her google ads made suggestions of where to get that sauce.

So, I’m experimenting with the iTunes affiliate scheme. The advantages here are:

  • You get to choose the advert you display
  • They’re suprisingly well designed for a link scheme
  • Most importantly, I see it as being a way to promote an artist that I’m excited about. If it does make a few pennies then they’ll go somewhere other my pocket, but I don’t really see that happening.

I hope that’s OK!

Redesigning is hard to do

Since November, I’ve been attempting to refresh the design of this site, particularly the journal section, but each time I keep coming back to the same design.

Each of my redesign attempts has resulted in just a little tweak here, or image added there – nothing on the scale I was intending. The leaf illustration on the left is one such result of the one of these attempts.

Looking at sites like JustwatchtheSky, Jason Santa Maria and Airbag with their attention to detail and originality makes me lust after some of what they’ve got. They’ve thought their sites through, and it shows in the execution.

Why bother redesigning? Redesigning is the new staying in, its where its at. Its two turntables and a microphone. Dave Shea(twice), Doug Bowman, Ryan Sims, Ethan Marcotte, Adam Polselli, Zeldman and Nathan Borror have all unleashed excellent redesigns so far this year. Doug Bowman even released a ‘limbo’ redesign, a plain white minimal space inbetween designs. In a strange sort of reversal-of-the-universe, Scrivs has conversely kept the same design for at least a couple of months!

Seriously though, its nothing to do with any of that. As a designer, I like to keep things fresh. When I look at sites I’ve designed for clients, after a while I wish that I could improve this, redo that, introduce X feature. I can’t, but I can do that to my own site! You just feel the urge to change sometimes. I also look at my site a lot (usually when responding to comments) and I get a bit sick of the sight of it. Problem is, no new design I do looks good enough!

A few weeks ago I announced I had a new design almost ready to go. Then after taking advice from Leigh and a mysterious one-eyed sock monkey, I dumped it. There were many things wrong with it, but basically it came down to this. Why replace a design with something not so good, just for the sake of keeping things fresh? I still like what I’ve got here, whereas all my new ideas just looked like a copy of someone else’s site.

So this is the plan. There’ll be no radical change at hicksdesign, I’m going for a Simplebits approach now. Keep the general look and layout, but freshen it up. Not reinventing the wheel, but polishing it certainly. A print css file here, new images there.

Thats all I’m going to say on the matter. I don’t want this to become a blog about a blog!

I'm back

Boy, did I need that break. There’s a mound of emails to work through, so if you’ve contacted me, please hang on, I’ll get there.

While I’ve been away, there’s been a few goings on…

  • Dunstan has launched version 2 of his site, with even more sorcery and dark arts powering the site. Can you tell that he’s switched to Mac recently? Well done Dunstan.
  • The IE development team (don’t laugh) have a blog. Good on them for allowing comments, but as Dave Shea remarked, any good that comes of this won’t affect our lives for years yet. Priceless quote from their round up of initial comments:

IEv6x is the Courtney Love browser in a world of Kirsten Dunst browsers

  • Omnigroup released the version 5 release candidate 1. This means that we’re finally getting close to a proper release. More importantly, it means we’re closer to 5.1 – where they incorporate the latest WebCore (currently 1.2). Its faster, more stable and delightful to use as ever. The do-anything-you-want-to-with-them tabs and comprehensive history and bookmark searching keep me coming back to this sweet browser.
  • While I’ve been away, I’ve finally come up with a replacement design. Its taken me 9 months to find a design that I’m happy with. Its nothing to get excited about, and it will take me while to get it implemented, but at least I’m on the way.

More soon. Be well…

the winner was

Back in January, I asked you all for recommendations for a replacement Hicks family digital camera. If anyone is interested to know what happened, I finally plumped for the Canon IXUS 400 – a diminutive beauty.

In the end, I decided to keep my 35mm SLR for anything really creative. The main advantage of the Ixus is that it is so small I can really take it anywhere. Yet the features and quality were amazing, especially the macro facility – much more powerful than I expected. Of course, less than a week after I bought it, the Ixus 500 came out – same price, more pixels. Typical.

Using the simple wonder of Photostack, I’ve thrown together an album of sample images taken by the Missus and me.

yay or nay?

I empathise with Paul Scrivens (see ‘Sometimes I get bored’). Designing your own site is very hard, especially when you work on your own, and don’t have any easy way to gauge whether something is a good idea or not.

Cut the chase: to improve the readability on the journal and articles pages, I’ve tweaked the CSS. This means no viewing long pages through a letterbox and support for your mousewheels. (There are display issues in IE 5 Win and Mac, but everyone else should be OK). So what I’d like to know is: do you find it easier and more readable, or do you prefer things the way they were?

ch..ch..changes

After what seems like far too long a process, my personal and portfolio sites have merged as one, and the design has evolved a wee bit. From now on everything is accessed via www.hicksdesign.co.uk, although I have spent a long time setting up redirects in a .htaccess file. Hopefully, the transition will be easy – if you’re reading this, then it has. The new location for the RSS feed is now http://www.hicksdesign.co.uk/feeds/rss/index.rdf

The personal site was a public learning space. The design of it evolved as my knowledge of XHTML/CSS methodologies improved, which meant that the CSS contained redundant styles and was larger than it needed to be. This time, I started completely from scratch.

The portfolio section has been rebuilt using Movable Type, and whenever I get a chance, I’ll write up the templates so that others can use the code. Updating it should now be easier than the old flash site.

This is sort of a ‘phase 1’, which means I’m too busy with paid work to do everything I was wanting to. There are still some rough edges, and there will be more slow evolution of the design to come. My plan is to add another style option that works better under 800×600, but not as plain as the ‘diet’ style. One thing I have been able to improve on, is the look of the search results page. Under MovableType, this is a .cgi page, and can’t contain any of my php includes that make the site easy to maintain. A few days ago, I finally found a fix on a site called MT-Stuff, and all is well.

gettin' all strict

I’ve just changed the site from being XHTML Transitional to Strict, and I was surprised how little work was involved. What follows is a list of everything that didn’t validate, and had to be changed:

  • remove target=”_blank” from <a> tags. Opening new windows breaks the back button anyway, which is an accessibility problem. You can always use a simple javascript to open new windows, which is what I’ve done for the desktops section
  • remove border=“0” from <img> tags (use css instead – img {border:0} )
  • add <fieldset> tags around form elements. (You can actually use p, h1 etc, to validate, but fieldset makes more sense.
  • remove language=“javascript” from javascript tags
  • change any remaining name=” “ attributes to id=” “

The last 2 were leftovers from the original Movable Type templates. In a matter of an hour the site was converted. The search and replace function within Movable Type meant I didn’t have to go through every entry individually.


Why bother? Well, apart from a chance to be even more anal, it was education. My reason for creating this site in the first place was to practice and try out new things. While it doesn’t mean I have a thorough understanding of all the nuances of the XHTML strict spec, I know more now than I did a few hours ago. (There may well be the odd entry page that doesn’t validate – let me know if you spot one.)

Happy and Poppy!

It may be a description of the site, but it pretty much describes my mood at the moment. Hicksdesign has made it into Zeldman’s externals page! Thanks to Zeldman and everyone else kind enough to link to this site.

I’ve been meaning to say, while I don’t publish a blog roll as such, I do have a ‘regular reads’ section in destinations, and you can also download my subscriptions opml file if you like that sort of thing.

Archives by tag:

2006, 2007, 2012, 2013, accessibility, acoustic, actionscript, adobe, advert, adverts, advice, air, alternative, ambient, analog, apple, applecare, appletv, apps, appstore, art, articles, atmedia, attap, audio, australia, authenticjobs, awards, ban, basecamp, bbc, beatles, belkin, bikes, bikeshops, bitmap, blackhole, blog, blogs, bluetooth, boardman, bonecho, books, boxee, boxeebox, boxmodel, braindump, breakfastbaps, britain, british, browser, browsers, browsers.mozilla, bug, bugs, cairo, cakes, calendar, camera, camino, casestudies, cbbc, cc, chap, chaps, charity, cheerup, cheese, childreninneed, christmas, cinelli, cms, cocoalicious, coda, code, collections, colnago, colour, colourblind, colourblindness, comedy, comments, competition, comps, conferences, copywriting, cotswolds, country, covers, craft, crafts, creativity, cs5, css, css.webstandards, cycling, danielsmonsters, delicious, dell, design, design.colourblindness, desktops, development, digital, discovery, discussion, diy, dock, doctorwho, dogs, drawing, dream, dreams, dropbox, drwho, education, electronica, email, emoticons, endofyear, england, events, evernote, expressionengine, eyetv, family, favicons, feedback, femalevocal, figures, film, films, firefox, fireworks, firstworldproblems, flash, flexible, flickr, flock, fonts, found, foundries, foundsounds, fowd, free, freelancing, frontrow, ftp, g5, games, gaming, gardening, garlic, geek, geekends, geekery, geekmediabox, genesis, genius, gentleman, gifs, gigs, google, googlereader, grammys, graphics, greader, grids, gtd, guvnor, hacks, handbag, handbags, hardware, harrypotter, helvetica, helvetireader, heros, hicksdesign, history, holiday, hosting, howto, hp, html5, humanrights, icab, ical, ichat, icon, icon design, icondesign, iconhandbook, icons, ideas, illustration, illustrator, illustrators, im, images, indesign, infographics, inspiration, installation, intel, interface, interfaces, internet, internetexplorer, interview, interviews, inventions, ios, ios7, ipad, iphone, iplayer, ipod, itsmyblogandillbangonifiwantto, itunes, javascript, jobs, journal, justabitoffun, knitting, koken, leaflets, lego, leigh, less, lifecraft, lifeio, links, list, listening, lists, littlebigplanet, logo, logo and branding design, logo design, logos, london, londonbombing, mac, macbook, macmediacentre, macmini, macs, macworld, magazine, magazines, magazines.illustration, making, maps, mechanics, mediacenter, mediacentre, mediacentres, mellow, memes, memories, menus, merchandise, messages, metal, metro, microformats, microsoft, mkgn, mobile, modernart, moleskine, monkeybutler, moon, movabletype, movies, mozilla, mum, music, myob, natural, nerdery, newmusic, news, nintendo, nostalgia, nostradamus, notes, obituaries, offers, office, offscreen, omniweb, opacity, opensource, opera, organisation, os, osx, oxford, oxfordgeeknight, packaging, panic, panther, paper, parallels, pashley, penguin, people, personal, phantogram, photo, photography, photos, piecharts, pimp, pipes, plex, plugins, png, podcast, polygamy, posters, powerbook, practice, presentation, presentations, presents, press, print, printmaking, productivity, products, projects, propoganda, ps3, published, punditry, puppetry, questions, quicksilver, quotes, radio, radiohead, raf, railway, rants, rapha, recentwork, repair, resources, responsive, retorts, retro, review, reviews, riffs, righteousindignation, rip, ripoffs, rissington, rss, safari, saft, sage, samantha, sass, sauce, science, scifi, scrapbook, scripts, security, server, shelf, shiira, sideprojects, signage, simplenote, sites, siteskin, siteskins, sixties, skinning, skype, slides, slowcore, software, solutions, songbird, sony, sound, spam, speakers, speaking, sponge, spotify, spotlight, starflyer59, startrek, starwars, stationery, steel, stevejobs, store, stories, summerboard, surveys, svg, sxsw, syncing, tagging, talks, tasks, tattoos, tea, teasing, templates, ten, texpattern, text, texteditor, texteditors, textile, textpattern, thebeatles, theme, themes, theming, thenational, theory, tiger, time, timeline, tips, toys, tumblr, tv, tweed, typefaces, typography, ui, updates, updtes, userstyles, vans, vector, veer, versions, video, videos, vinyl, vw, wallpaper, web, webapp, webapps, webbies, web design, webfonts, webkit, website and logo design, webstandards, whitenoise, why, widgets, wifi, wii, windows, windows8, winter, wireframing, wishlists, wordpress, work, working, workshops, xhtml, xul, yojimbo, youtube, zengarden, zip

The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

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Upcoming Talks

I sometimes pop up at conferences and waffle about design, icon creation in particular. Here's where I'll be next:

An Event Apart Chicago- "Icon Design Process" - 25-26th August 2014

Web Expo Guildford- "Icon Design Process" - 26th September 2014

playlist

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Contact

Hicksdesign

73a High Street

Witney

Oxfordshire, UK

OX28 6JA

+44 (0)7917 391 536

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