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The Beat is the Law : Redux

Filed under: Web — Tags: , , , — Andy @ 3:28 pm

April 21, 2010

In the run up to the release of the DVD, Sheffield Vision came back to us to update with the new and finalised branding. We’ve been with this project from the beginning, so were happy to be on board to take it to it’s final incarnation on the web.

This time the root of the core design came from The Designer’s Republic, the influential design studio that set up in the middle of the documentary’s focus period, rather than Martin Bedford, like last time.

The main challenge when turning a print design into something that will work on the web is making everything work within a medium that you as a designer has very little, if any control over how the viewer will see it in the end. You then have to factor in elements of usability, flow and user experience, all without sacrificing the aesthetic quality of the original design… Fortunately, we’re well versed in that ;)

The site’s content was all in place from the last version of the site, so it was important that it all stayed in place and the cross over between versions was perfectly smooth as nether us nor Sheffield Vision wanted to see any downtime on the site. This meant having to readjust a lot of content to fit into a very different form factor, as well as moving and reorganising the structure, all without changing the site’s internal structure, to avoid losing the PageRank.

I’ll think of a title later…

Filed under: Blogs,Thoughts — Andy @ 4:17 pm

April 14, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write an article about the curse of procrastination for a long time. However, of course, I procrastinated about that so long, several other people have. Rather than just repeating what’s been said, I’ll point you to John Perry’s website, who, aside from summarising it all very well, also makes a valiant job of attempting to turn the whole thing to his advantage.

What interests me is the fact that procrastination is almost universal in people who are normally described as “creative types”.Why? Douglas Adams used to famously avoid having to write by having baths. Several a day, in fact. Apparently his publisher once commented that he never once managed to hit a deadline…but he always smelt really nice.

As designers, we are surrounded by some very dangerous distractions. Computers. The most tempting, time-sucking creations ever made are, by a cruel twist of fate, the very things we are also supposed to use to get our work done with.

I took games off my Mac years ago. It just had to be done. However, since then the internet has sneaked up on us. Facebook, Twitter, the hundred blogs you feel you need to keep up with. Email, iChat. All of these toys with their shiny, glossy icons inviting you to come and play, and all with built-in justifications: Facebook could be helping you meet your next client. Blogging is a great marketing tool. Email is easier than phoning someone. That retro video PhotoShop plugin you just spent ten minutes downloading will, if mastered be great for some job in the future. Probably.

But it’s not all computers. There are endless possibilities for analogue procrastination as well. Never is our office tidier or more organised than when a big project has just begun. Well – you need to clean up, clear a space, get organised for the new work. And go and get some crisps and chocolate to see you through. Maybe the skirting boards need levelling off a bit. A new shelf to put all the new work on. Anything, in fact, to avoid doing the actual work itself (which, of course will be great when it is done, so no need to worry, really).

Wikpedia has some really scary things to say on the subject. Phrases like “psychological disorder”, “mental health” and “low self-esteem” kind of made me decide to go and do something else and maybe read that page later.

My own theory is that creativity is somehow in need of a jump start which can only be achieved with a buildup of adrenalin. Designers need the utter terror of a looming deadline in order to kick into action whatever part of the brain that supplies us with the instinctive solution to a problem without all that tedious thinking and planning that normal people have to go through. Also the act of thinking of something completely unconnected to what you are supposed to be somehow allows a hidden part of your mind to work away undisturbed and to quietly deliver the answer – usually at the strangest of times.

You could say rather than a negative aspect, procrastination is practised by people who have a supreme confidence in their own abilities. People who know they’ll always think of something at the last moment and know enough about how their own heads work to just let it get on with it automatically.

Either that or creatives are just people who are good at working out the bare minimum of work needed to complete a task so they can fill the rest of the day on Facebook.

Who knows? Not me. Anyway, there’s a deadline looming here so, naturally, I’m just going to fill the screenwash up in my car and maybe go and buy some crisps.

Sheffield Gets Shortlisted

Filed under: Blogs,News — Andy @ 1:15 pm

April 12, 2010

Sheffield City of Culture

Sheffield: Shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2013

Sheffield, Derry, Birmingham and Norwich have made the shortlist to become the very first UK City of Culture in 2013. Sheffield is therefore on its way to achieving its ambition to be the most creative city in the UK by 2020.

Sheffield’s bid sets out to curate an amazing programme of events and activity in 2013 which will engage, not just those already involved with arts and culture but, everyone in the city by inspiring, nurturing and celebrating their creativity. The bid also highlights Sheffield’s international credentials as a city with strong cultural assets; a diverse community; a great place to live, visit and work; the capacity to deliver big; and an innovative approach.

UK City of Culture 2013 aims to build on the success of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture 2008, which had significant social and economic benefits for the city – including a total income of £130 million over six years.

The four shortlisted cities will be required to submit a final bid to DCMS on 21st May 2010 and the winner will be announced in early July.

Join in at

IE 6 is dead

Filed under: Blogs,News,Tech — Andy @ 4:28 pm

April 8, 2010

According to today’s statistics Microsoft Internet Explorer v.6 has dropped to 8.9% share of browser usage worldwide (have a look at for the latest stats – it might be even less by the time you are reading this).

This has prompted us to make a decision which we have been agonising over for quite a while: by default we are not going to support it any longer.

Why? Well, in short it doesn’t really work. We have to do things to our websites that we’d rather not do to make them work in IE6 – things that often break the site in other browsers.

That’s an oversimplification, of course. IE6 was OK in its time. But its time has passed. Things we take for granted just didn’t exist in August 2001 when it was released. No PNG transparency, lack of proper CSS support, non-standard rendering of pages and bugs galore were not so much of a problem when there were no standards to stick to. However, times have changed and browser manufacturers – despite still arguing about details – are making an effort to standardise the way websites display and work in order to deliver a better user experience.

The Web 2.0 revolution that has happened since the release of IE6 depends on technologies that just don’t exist in that browser. Neither YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Google want anything to do with it any more because they don’t want to be held back. Other browsers allow them to move forward and innovate.

The biggest problem we have is that we are constantly told that “large corporations” still use IE6 because their IT departments insist upon it. We’ve never actually seen proof of this but we do come across clients who have shown their new site to somebody who is still using IE6 only to see it break or just look plain ugly. This, of course, makes us look incompetent. The hacks we need to do to avoid this often cause a huge amount of lost time as it involves actually finding out what the problem is first before embarking on a long quest around the internet to find a solution which doesn’t have the opposite effect on the other browsers. Then we have to actually implement that solution. Naturally the incompatibility is usually spotted at 4:45pm on Friday.

If we allow for this when quoting for work our prices will look expensive. If we don’t and take the chance everything will be OK, we’ll probably lose out. It’s always a dilemma.

We’ve read endless tirades against IE6 and why it should be killed off. Calls on discussion groups for militant action and rants and raves (which just usually end in general Microsoft-bashing), usually made in the early hours of the morning by web developers who are at the end of their tether trying to make their site work in a crappy, obsolete browser and not getting paid anything for it, whilst trying to explain to clients in simple terms what’s actually going wrong. We understand this – we’ve been there ourselves.

But mouthing off on the internet isn’t going to help, so we’ve decided to do something a bit less confrontational and, hopefully, helpful.

We’ve decided to make IE6 support an option with the websites we build. From now on our quotations for web work will have an “IE6 compliance” line which will detail the extra costs involved in making the site backwards-compatible for this browser. It’s not a way of charging extra…believe me, we’d really rather not have to bother supporting IE6 at all – life is just too short. But we can and we will if we have to. This way the client has the option. Long term, we hope if more web development companies calm down a bit and do the same IE6 will just become a ghost in the browser’s graveyard along with AOL, Netscape, Mosaic and CyberDog.

We’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this approach.

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