Sunday, July 19, 2009

"With great power, comes great responsibility!"

For those few that have followed this blog, you will understand that our Web design class is now over but that life in Blog-world has just begun. For others, you will go back to your typical lives; but STOP, ask yourself . . . "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" Times have changed. Those people used to be the guy or gal next door and now it can be the guy or gal in Japan for all we know.

The Internet has made our world that much smaller. In many ways, it's a good thing . . . in some ways, it has become our demise. So what should we take away from a service that connects billions of people with a click of a button? RESPONSIBILITY! Just because we have the power does not always mean we need to yield for our own benefit. If you stop and think about it, we use the Internet or the World Wide Web as a means to make our lives easier . . . but is easier always better?

Follow this one thought . . . if man didn't take the time to work hard, we couldn't make things easier. There are very few people that really appreciate hard work unless it benefits themselves, but for those who understand that hard work should be used to benefit others, they reap the benefit of their labor to the fullest.

My point? Work smarter, not harder but WORK . . . LEARN, SERVE, EDUCATE . . . stop and smell the roses now that you have the extra time. Don't become lazy because of the Internet or other modern technologies, become educated and serve others with the power that you have been given. Take the extra time to serve others now that you have instead of trying to cram more into your already busy lives.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Expressions of a Road Trip Website

Well, where do I begin . . . it's been an exhausting week on the open road. This includes trying to complete our website project while spending time with family I haven't seen in months. I now understand why and how website designers can spend months on a website . . . sorry to say, I am not completely satisfied with my website despite the countless hours I put into creating it. I won't bore you with my insanity to over analyze my work, instead I will just get right to the point.

Using the free web site, Webnode, I created my Web 2.0 website; It was pretty straight forward compared to creating a new website in Microsoft Expressions. Microsoft Expressions is like Frontpage on steroids. When comparing the two, Webnode has many limitations if you are an experienced web designer or are looking to put your website on the map. For the amateur web designer, Webnode is a great tool to get started. The website allows you to pick from several creative templates and modify the templates as necessary. Keep in mind, there are limitations to Webnode. If you are looking for specific fonts, be prepared to make adjustments. I used Papyrus for the titles and Palatino Linotype for the text in MS Expressions. Neither was available using Webnode so I selected Georgia for both the text and titles. I opted to use a template in Webnode that was designed using a better color scheme and layout than the one I created in Microsoft Expressions. The problem I ran into using Webnode was formatting the layout to match the one I created in Expressions. Some of my photos had to be redesigned to use them in Webnode. Though I used the same photos, not all of the photos are exactly the same size or layout.

Microsoft Expressions allowed me to create a website from scratch but time and patience along with a little experience (which never hurt) would have helped critique this project. I started creating the website in Expressions by creating my own buttons. After further investigation, I decided to use template buttons instead. Trying to create the color scheme I was looking for was taking more time than I anticipated because I was over analyzing the entire project from the beginning. I was struggling with the tables in the beginning but started to get the hang of it as I moved through the project. In Webnode, the layout was rigid and straight forward which made my decision making simpler.

Two entirely different websites were created although the theme was the same. I liked how the Webnode site turned out but didn't like the limiting factors for fonts, sizes, page layouts and resizing & laying out photos. With more time, I am sure that my website in Microsoft Expressions could have much more flash. I did reference the Frontpage book on several occasions which helped me work through Expressions.

I have learned so much using Photoshop, Expressions, Frontpage and reading through the course books provided by the college. I am definitely interested in purchasing Photoshop and MS Expressions so that I can critique my current skill set. Tomorrow night, don't be disappointed with the presentation, I believe I have the basic concepts down, just need to refine my skill set.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

ROAD TRIP: A Father and Son Adventure

For those of you who are wondering about this weeks blog title, you will understand better if you continue to read this blog. We have been assigned to create a website for our DIG 315 class and I have decided to use my road trip as my theme. Tomorrow morning, my son and I will be leaving on a 36 hour, 2200 mile round trip from Manheim, PA to Plymouth, MN. "WHY?!", you exclaim . . . it's simple, because I couldn't figure out what to make my website about . . . . just kidding.

See, several months ago, the economy started to take a nose dive which affected many people through out the world. Due to the economy my company has shut down for a weeks furlough from July 3 until July 10. This being said, I figured I would take the opportunity to go out to Plymouth, MN to visit my sister and family who I haven't seen in 5 years. Over the past 5 years, my sister has had 2 additional children and her oldest is now 6. "So why a road trip?", you so intently ask. Flying seemed the simplest means of getting from point A to point B but where's the fun in that? I guess you have to know me better to understand but its time that my son and I will have to create an adventure.

So now that I have your attention, I am sure you are looking for a little more of the details. I could ruin the surprise and spill my guts on this blog or you can visit my website when it is complete. The beauty of this project is that it will evolve over the next week depending on our adventure on the road trip. My website will explain how to turn a road trip into an adventure. There will be 5 web pages of information: the home page, a who's who page, travel facts, the trip itself and our destination (Plymouth, Minnesota). The 'Home' page will have a quick overview of the theme along with a collage of pics of what I call home. The 'Who's Who' page will cover a short description of the main people who are involved in this road trip. 'Travel Facts', will be the planning part of my trip. You will be able to view some of the sites we found interesting on 'The Trip' page. Finally, the last page will be about our 'Destination'. "Sounds boring!" Wow! Don't be so judgemental, I've seen some bad websites out there, I don't think mine will be in the top 10 worst (got to love the confidence or just wishful thinking).

Since I will not be able to join everyone in class Monday night (which I really, really wish the timing was different), I will be using Microsoft Expression Web 2 to complete my project. This is the newest web page software that Microsoft has introduced since Frontpage when discontinued. I have created my storyboard using Microsoft Excel, so the professor will be able to review my progress so far and get a pretty good understanding of my website. The text that I will be using throughout the website is Palatino Linotype with the titles in Papyrus. Each of the internal link buttons will be shaped like the states we will travel through. The external links will include,, and Photos will be taken by myself or my son along the way and my theme colors will be a green & navy blue (colors are subject to change). More details will be present on my storyboard and my concept paper so if you want to know, just check out my website when it is completed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Back to life, back to reality

This past Monday could not be described as a Moody Monday since I was enjoying my time away at the beach. However, tomorrow I must face the reality of going back to work and starting life once again as I know it . . . once again, we will also take the time to learn more about web design. This week's Graphics Lab project was a true test of what we have learned over the past 4 weeks. Creating our own collage became more challenging than I would have imagined compared to the other projects; none the less, it was a great learning experience.

The project this week got me thinking about all the people who start creating web sites thinking, "I can do this quickly and it will be easy!" It can be but many just throw something together because they don't want to take the time to use the creative side of their brain. Letting just anyone create a website is NOT always a good idea; its almost like receiving junk mail in your Sunday paper . . . I only want to read what I am looking for so you better send me something that catches my eye or I am not wasting my time reading it. "What's the point?" My point is, the creator of the web page must take into consideration his/her audience and the usability & accessibility of the web site itself. It is a big mistake to confuse usability with accessibility. Don't think that one is less important than the other. Optimizing a site's usability will help to make it more accessible for a wider audience. In the same breath, making a site more accessible will welcome the usability of that site. So what have we learned?

Accessibility can be defined as the ability to access the functionality and possible benefit of the website by as many users as possible (including able or disabled persons).

Usability can be defined as the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of the website by it's users.

"So what's the benefit?" The benefit of creating your own website is simply money! It's much cheaper to do it yourself because you could end up paying someone thousands. This is especially true if you are very particular to what you are looking for in the website. Even than, there are no guarantees on what you will receive for the money you spent so if you have the time, patience, creativity than do it yourself. "But I don't know HTML code as well as a professional!" Lucky for you, technology has come a long way and there are programs out there that can help. By using these website tools, the code is embedded for you as you place graphics and titles. This allows the designer to learn the code that goes into the website design. Even when writing this blog, I see the tab to edit the HTML. When I click on it, several lines of HTML code appear from my web blog. If I want, I can manipulate the code that is already written to enhance (or deform) my web blog.

As you can see, each week we assemble another piece of the puzzle to create our own web page. We are learning how to use tools provided to us by technology in order to create a beautiful web page for our last week of class. Hopefully we will take that education and apply it to our every day lives.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Breaking the law, breaking the law

This week we were asked to complete a HTML lab to present in class. So I plead to the jury that I have successfully completed this assignment and have submitted it on time using the drop box in blackboard. It was necessary for me to do so since I will not be with you on Monday night. "So what!" you exclaim. Well, I have broken some of the rules that we have learned in our readings when creating the vocab html. "How?" you ask so puzzling. Just look at the evidence; our professor might be kind enough to show you the facts of my project this week in my absence. The intent of the vocab HTML page was to practice using HTML code. Based on this fact, I am asking for a reprieve since I broke some of the rules for this exercise to make a point, "I did understand the rules". For example, I underlined the terms but they were not linked (sue me); truly this is not a good practice and personally would not like the misleading information if I were you. I used rainbow colors as text and though you could read them, there was no rhyme or reason for using these colors (what a rebel). I did however align the terms to the left, utilized proper spacing & font sizes, enlarged the title and provided a link to another vocab related website. So people of the jury, I did follow the general rules of the project. I understand that the vocab HTML project I prepared is not the prettiest but I understand my crime and am willing to face the charges (by the way, I was just making a point).

Let's now cover some of the facts in evaluating 2 other websites, the criteria in which the evaluation is done along with how to apply this information to future website projects. I will briefly review 5 areas: authority, coverage or purpose, currency, objectivity and accuracy.
Since I am away on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, my wife and I took a look at My wife actually wanted to do some shopping with the kids since it was overcast today . . . "wonderful". As I was looking at the website I was being overly critical (Thank you Professor Mislevy). The title page of the website was presentable, warm and inviting. Click on 'enter site' and "BLAM"! Tons of information scattered throughout the page. Blinking graphics, hard to read text, links that do not bring you back to the home page and the list goes on. The website did cover several different activities, was up to date and well detailed but did not use CRAP to it's fullest (do you remember CRAP? If not, reference my week 1 blog, Walking through a spider web).

Since it was overcast, windy and the kids were dying to go to the beach after being here 2 days you would have thought I went to but instead went to This is a very resourceful website that interactively allows you to view the weather anywhere (Hawaii seems nice this time of year). You can easily follow the links back and forth from page to page. You can also select information that covers the weather anywhere & anyway you would like to see it. The website is clear, concise with properly placed graphics, fonts, texts and alignments. As with the Rehoboth Beach website, there is a ton of information that is covered but in this website it is laid out in a format that leads you to where you want to go without getting lost on the linked pages. Lucky for me, I will not need to go to because tomorrow the weather is supposed to be wonderful. The website will get a worse review if they are not 'accurate' about tomorrow's weather but they have clearly covered their purpose, objective, authority and currency in understandable detail.

Moving forward, I have learned my lesson about bad website designs and will follow the CRAP I have learned. I will take into consideration the authority, purpose, currency, objectivity and accuracy. For more detail on evaluating these areas, please visit

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You say you'll change the resolution . . .

"You say you got a real solution, well, you know . . . we'd all love to see the plan (the Beatles, Revolution)." If you remember from last week, the web was actually around in the 60's, so maybe John Lenon was on to something when he wrote this song and maybe, he meant resolution!
See, the story goes that Ringo was actually trying to send John a picture of Chairman Mao over the Internet. Unfortunately, John was tired of waiting for the picture to load and the rest is history, thus the song!
This was a bad idea to just attach and send the picture. If Ringo would have taken the time to do a little homework, he would have understood a few basic concepts when dealing with digital photography (just play along).
The original picture of Chairman Mao was originally printed using CMYK color. When the actual digital picture was uploaded, index color was used. Though the pic might looked dithered, RGB colors would now be used on the computer image (yes, all 256 colors).
There are several different forms of file formatting that Ringo could have used in this situation (TIFF, JPEG, GIF, etc.) The file format tells the computer what kind of file it is. Typically with a picture, Ringo should have saved the image as a JPEG. A JPEG file can contain 16.7 million colors also known as 24 bit which is preferred for digital photographs.
Ringo could have also compressed the file. There are several ways to compress a file. Cropping the picture by cutting out all the unnecessary "white space" changes the amount of pixels being sent. Since Ringo probably didn't know any better, 800 x 600 pixels is a safe way to send the picture using 72 ppi. He could have re-sized the picture which would have changed the size of the picture without affecting quality. He could have also sent the picture using a medium quality versus a higher quality resolution.
To ensure better speed when opening the photo, Ringo should have checked the KB of the photo. It is good to keep the image between 30 & 100KB. He could have also used a feature called re-sampling but this changes the pixel dimensions and negatively affects the quality of the picture.
After all of this, you ask, why didn't he just scan the original printed photo instead of uploading the digital photograph. Great question! See, a scanner analyzes an image by use of OCR (optical character recognition). So in this case, Ringo's scanner did not have the best optical resolution so interpolation could have occurred which would have derogated the quality of the photo.
Lenon finished his song, "But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow. Don't you know it's gonna be all right." John wrote this song for Ringo explaining the importance of resolution and it was all right, all right, all right!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Walking through a spider web . . .

What is the web? No, not what is a web . . . we all know that spiders spin webs and I guess now that you mention it, a web could be symbolic of the World Wide Web. We use the Internet to travel the information highway all around the World as far and as Wide as we can imagine all interconnected like a Web. Newsgroups, mailing lists, search engines, blogs, podcast and even Nana's baked lasagna recipe that you were not supposed to post. "Shame on you!"

I discovered that the web has been around since the 60's but everyone was trying to change the course of history and didn't really care about it than. Oh well, its pretty popular now and it was nice to learn what all these acronyms actually stand for (i.e. URL, uniform resource locator). But FYI, it's OK with me if we use the abbreviations.

Honestly, even though I know better, I'm the guy that expects the search engine to bring back exactly what I was looking for. A search engine searches through a database using robots and spiders (there's that spider again) to identify another site's content for what you are searching for. Directories are broken down into subject categories and are a more efficient way to drill down to what you are looking for. No more getting tangled up in the web for me!

You all know how much you like junk mail another form of printed advertising. So why don't we all just create web pages instead? Well, there is a time and place for printed advertisements and web pages. In a nutshell, I now understand that printing is more portable, cheaper to read, better developed, reliable and space is measured in inches (did I mention its easier to read in the bathroom . . . sorry). Yet, the web's advantage is infinite. It's cheaper to design, easier to update, has a better visual spectrum of colors, you can archive information using minimal space, you can utilize "cross-marketing", improve ease of customer response, space is measured in pixels . . . I think you get the point!

At this point, you can see I have learned CRAP. Come on, relax, that's not what I am talking about. CRAP is an acronym for Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Now that I am over analyzing every newspaper article and catalog, my time in the bathroom has increased two fold. Contrast can be defined simply as creating a focal point for your eye ensuring that other elements follow a hierarchy on the referenced page. Repetition ensures that the elements of the page are being tied in together. Alignment brings order, DON'T MIX ALIGNMENTS! Proximity refers to the relationship between items on the web page and how they belong together. All of this spun together creates a spectacular web page of CRAP! By the way, check your spelling . . . the acronym should probably be CRAPS!

Graphic design obviously plays a vitale role in our every day life. Whether it is at work or at home, it all depends on the application, a good designer needs to understand their audience so that the best source (web or print) is utilized to grab the consumer's attention. The designer must also keep up with the latest technology so that they can stay a cut ahead of the competition.

Check me out next week for more Moody Monday Montra!