Yes, its another Dribbble invite giveaway but this time, instead of the normal ‘show me your best work’ type of affair I’m going to try something a little bit different.
If you don’t know about Dribbble – and every web designer really should by now – it’s a fantastic community for web designers, graphic designers, icon designers and pretty much anyone related to the design world. You can post images of your latest web design or icon design and get feedback from the design community. It’s also great to see what other designers are doing and what trends there are in web design. Don’t use Dribbble for your only source of inspiration though, make sure you find inspiration from everywhere otherwise you’ll find you’re just copying the latest trends and not pushing your design skills to their limits.
Most Dribbble invite giveaways usually mean sending in your best design work and waiting until someone decides you’ve won. In the past I’ve tried this and it’s been very difficult. Sometimes you get a lot of very good design work and it’s hard to choose, other times the quality is very low and there’s just no one you feel is good enough. Dribbble have a very good system that keeps track of people you’ve drafted in so if you draft in someone thats not so good then it reflects badly on you. So, you always want the best designers possible to apply for the invite. With that in mind I have a plan…
- Send me a link on Twitter to @kcwebdesign of a live website you’ve designed.
- Spread the word of this Dribbble invite giveaway on as many social networks as possible (I’ll be tracking the links).
- The person with the best website design and most links back to this article wins the invite.
Wait a minute, he’s just trying to get back links! Well yes, and no. It’s a bit of an experiment in social media network coverage and how big peoples networks are these days. Do most people have a Twitter and Facebook account or are there many more social networks that people use on a daily basis. Once the Dribbble invite giveaway is over maybe I’ll publish the results so people can see the usage of social networks…if it works, it may not!
Google fonts get used a lot on the web. Even though I have a Typkit account here at kc web design I still find myself using Google Fonts for certain web design projects. Their list of good web design fonts is always growing but here in lies the problem. Many times in the past, while working on flat graphic mockups of web design projects, I’ve needed to use a Google Font in a web design and the only way to do this was to download the whole library and install them into your font management software. When I was a print designer we had huge font libraries managed by huge bits of software but designing for the web is different and we don’t tend to use so many fonts. Well, we didn’t until better font usage and external font subscription services became so popular. Now we can have pretty much any font we want on a web page design.
The other day I found a website using a nice looking font so using my font checking tool (Fount – very, very useful!) I saw that it was Muli, a new font from Google Fonts. Normally I would have to go to Google, find the font, download the zip file, open my font manager, install the font, go back to photoshop and use it. Not a huge amount of work, but enough of a hassle when working on a design and trying different fonts.
A while ago I remembered hearing about Skyfonts but at the time it wasn’t released to the public…it is now though! And what a wonderful little app it is!
A quick download and the app is installed and sits in your menu bar. All you have to do is click on a service – there are a few to choose from: Google Fonts, Fonts.com, my fonts and Monotype (It’s made by Monotype!) – choose ‘find Google Fonts on Font.com’ and away you go to a website where you select the font you need. You then click ‘Add to Skyfonts’ and magically the font appears in your fonts menu on whatever apps you have open as if you’d just spent the last 15 minutes downloading font files and messing around with font managers.
Its super easy, very clever and saves a lot of messing around! Anything that makes using fonts easier is a big plus in my book!
For a while now I’ve had a little side project bubbling around here at kc web design. I love weather. I love weather apps. So I’ve been creating my own weather app with some pretty unique features (all top secret!). I’ve had a number of proof-of-concept builds lying around that have utilised the Jquery UI script to deal with dragging, dropping and resizing but we’ve hacked it around so much to get it to do what we needed that its become a little unworkable. We did contemplate writing our own drag, drop & resize script but for a working prrof-of-concept the investment was a little high.
After hitting a nice patch of quiet time at kc web design kent I decided to revisit the old concepts and re-evaluate where we’d got to. The conclusion was that Jquery UI was to large and buggy to work for the job we needed and so I decided to go back to the drawing board. Making the decision to dismiss weeks of previous work is a hard one to make but when something just isn’t working you have to be bold. Hopefully the rethink and new direction will make the final product a lot better and it will actually save time in the long run.
After a lot of time Googling around it became apparent that there aren’t many light weight drag/drop/resize libraries around that would be suitable for what we needed and I was about to give up and start writing one of my own when I randomly came across interactJS.
InteractJS – Drag and drop, resizing and multi-touch gestures with inertia and snapping for modern browsers (and also IE8+)
It sounded perfect, was very light and had a few nice extras included…but would it work for our very specific needs? We’re not scared of a bit of hacking around and experimenting here at kc web design so we quickly got together some rough designs and through in some test code and it worked…but then it didn’t…and it wasn’t doing what we thought it might do. So with a little help from the developer we got a bit further, then added our bespoke functions and extra bits and eventually we had a working prototype again that was far, far better than the original that we’d scraped.
So the moral of this story is – never be scared to throw things away and start again from scratch. Never be so precious of your work that you cannot or will not see its failings. Learning when to erase and undo will help you move forward quicker.
And also have a look at interact.js. It is a very good drag/drop/resize script.
For a long time now I’ve been using Billings here at kc web design Kent for dealing with out invoicing and time tracking. I like Billings, it works well, has good invoice template customisation and is simple to use but it is no longer getting updated. Marketcircle have chosen to move a perfectly good single payment OSX app over to a monthly subscription fee so for an app I bought for £30 over 4 years ago I now would have to pay £10 per month for not much more benefit. So, time to look at some other options.
A while ago I had some dealing with Jan Lukacs at the company that make Paymo about another app they created called Viewflux (which is also a very good app for showing creative web designs to clients to get feedback) and remembered that Paymo looked good. The beta of version 3 is free to use for 100 days so I talked to Jan and got an invite.
Paymo is an online invoicing and time tracking app that is very simple to use and has a clean, easy on the eye user interface. iPhone and iPad apps are available as well for those on the move but the web app should suite most users. Its very easy to set up and start using and provides all the basics you need to create and manage projects and tasks, create invoices and estimates and track time. The project management side of things is very good and allows you to set tasks and milestones and add times against them so you can see what the total time allocated is and what actual time you’ve spent if you use the time tracker against that task.
Customising invoices was a big selling point for me in Billings because as a designer I like everything that comes from kc web design kent to look good and that includes the simple things like invoices. Paymo doesn’t really give you much customisation of the invoice template but the one that is provided isn’t bad at all. It might be nice if we had the ability to edit a custom style sheet to make changes to the invoice template and allow a bit more customisation.
On first impressions I like Paymo, time will tell how good it is and I’ll be interested to see what changes in the beta. Once I have a few projects in there and some billed invoices then the dashboard and reporting should become more useful so I’ll do an updated review in a few months time.
For a great full review of the newest version of Paymo see Lewis Parrotts Paymo review.
A few months ago at kc web design kent my trusty 2009 27″ iMac started playing up. The screen started flickering in the left bottom corner and over the new few weeks it got progressively worse until one day the screen went black. Gulp! Deadlines. Panic…
Luckily, I managed to get the screen working again, albeit with only one side working effectively. It turns out there are two LED’s in the old iMac screen and the one on the left had blown sending that side of the screen into a grey muted mess. It’s actually very hard trying to design when one side of your screen is white and the other dark grey…very confusing! We’ve been using iMacs’ here at kc web design kent ever since they first came out and for a web designer they are fantastic, especially with the 27″ screen. I also use a second 24″ screen as well which gives a huge amount of screen space.
After a quick scramble in draws for old documents it dawned on me that the poor old iMac was out of Applecare support and destined for the back room. And so a spangly new iMac was purchased.
The new iMacs’ are a thing of beauty. Much thinner than the old ones and they deal with heat a LOT better. The old iMac could BBQ sausages on top some days! This time round I opted for the new fusion drive which is a dual 1TB HD and 128GB SSD and I have to say it is fantastic. The iMac is an i7 stacked full of 32gb of ram with the OS on SSD and it absolutely flies! The start up time is unbelievable, it literally takes less than 10 seconds to start the OS then another few seconds to start a few apps. Compared to my old iMac its a million miles away. The SSD also makes OS tasks ultra fast and frequently saved files also get the SSD treatment as the OS learns what you do most which makes saving those files fast to.
Being a freelance web designer in Kent means every minute of my day has to be well spent and the speed of this new iMac means I’m saving time on every task. They’re not cheap, but when it’s your main business tool it’s worth spending the extra cash.