User targeted design and development from mobile to desktop

Happy New Year 2015!

This year really flew by for us, busy busy busy. That’s a great thing, we really appreciate the support! After a little over 10 years of running a small business in this rapidly changing field of web design and development, most of the time we are just happy to still be able to do what we love on our own terms. We’ve worked with some great new clients over the year and continue to grow and interact with many of our regular clients.

To keep current in this industry requires one to continually invest time learning and experimenting with new technology and code practices. This year as we continue to work responsively in our development we have added a few wonderful new tools to our development flow, and I’d like to give a few quick shout outs, as most of these are open source, developed and shared by other professionals in the industry! How cool is it that we work in a field that is so supportive and innovative?

  • Sass – How did we as front end coders ever get by without it! Sass is an extension language for css which makes our css code much more efficient and easier to understand.
  • Bourbon/Neat/Bitters – Pretty much all of our websites and apps these days utilize these amazing mixin libraries from the Thoughtbot team. Over the year we have tested and deployed sites with frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation, which are also both awesome, and can be more appropriate in some situations. In the end we find the Thoughtbot mixin approach is more semantically appealing, and leaves us with lighter, more efficient code.
  • Grunt – Nothing has streamlined out development process more efficiently than the addition of Grunt. While it might have a bit of a learning curve, the time is well spent, and you will be rewarded with things like having all your css and js compiled and minified for you automatically.
  • WordPress – WordPress continues to evolve as the most flexible open source CMS, with a huge community supporting it. This continues to make it the goto for us when building client websites (We have been working with WordPress for over 6 years, but I still want to give it a shout out!).
  • GIT – It took us a while to embrace GIT, and work it into our development flow (we’ve been in this business a while and sometimes major changes to the workflow are difficult to implement!). Now it is simply impossible to think we ever had to worry about writing over a fellow developers code on a cooperative project.

That wraps up my little shout out list this year, great stuff one in all! We look forward to a more productive year in 2015 and are excited to see what new technologies are revealed.

Cheers! Eric and Alex

We took a rare weekend vaction out to the Oregon coast! You should visit it sometime it is spectacular.

We took a rare weekend vaction out to the Oregon coast! You should visit it sometime it is spectacular.

Padding fix on form input fields for IE

One of the many annoying things about the IE browser…the disrespect of padding on form inputs! While trying some hacks for this recently (arrgh use a transparent border…really?) I did some testing. If it is an option for you to use display:inline-block; this will seemingly allow IE  to respect the padding you add. Hope that helps some poor soul like myself out of a jam.

What Exactly is Responsive Design and Do I Really Need It?

This is the question on many of our clients minds, and we thought we’d take a second to try and simply explain this new exciting design/development method in layman’s terms. The web design and development field is constantly growing and evolving, as you may be aware. Recently you might have heard about “Responsive Design” and you might be wondering what it is, and does your website do it?

The huge growth of mobile devices has had an impact on how we all perceive and experience this wonderful thing we know as the internet. We are now looking at websites, and using applications on a huge variety of screen sizes. As designers and developers we’ve had to react to this, no longer do we just have to worry about ie8, or the small variety of desktop screen resolutions…it’s a whole new ball field. Traditionally websites were coded at fixed widths, and we would check to see what the widest width was people were viewing sites on using their desktop computers, then we would tailor our designs to that.

When mobile devices took off in popularity, the mobile bowser developers had to figure out a way to show your website, hardcoded to a width of 800px in a much smaller screen. Their solution was to shrink the whole website down to fit (example to the right in the graphic below). The result of this is a nightmarish experience of pinching and scrolling around to navigate through any website. To remedy this in the past few years a few helpful tools have evolved (note my restraint in not using technical terms!) to help us target specific screen sizes and make certain adjustments to the website code which allows us to present a much nicer user experience across multiple devices.

This approach is quickly becoming standard practice for many websites. It is not ALWAYS the right choice, this depends on the needs of your website, and the type of traffic you get. We would be happy to take a look at your website and help you decide if it is the right option for you. You should know this though, mobile traffic is on the rise and will continue to constitute more and more of your visitors. Phone and tablet growth continues to skyrocket, and you want to make sure your site visitors are getting the best possible experience they can from your website.

img-responsive-compare

The graphic above quickly illustrates how much better the phone experience is when a site is coded using responsive techniques.  Boston Accountability is just one of many recent responsive websites we’ve designed and built. We’d be happy to show you more, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have on converting your website code to make it responsive.

My laptop battery is so swollen: trapped in right click hell

Yep, we are having a scorching August here in the Pacific Northwest, with what feels like record temps. You know who hates this damp steamy heat? My MacBook laptop. How do I know? Well, late yesterday afternoon my wireless mouse stopped working. Actually the mouse controls seemed to be locked in some sort of right-click nightmare where I could not escape the webpage I was on, nor could I close the page. Initial thoughts: time to change the batteries in my Targus. Fresh batteries inserted. No dice, still trapped in right-click hell. Due to a similar incident earlier this summer, I knew what the issue probably was. Swollen laptop battery. Our PHP developer ran into this exact right-click entrapment during one of the first hot spells here at the studio. Seems the old swollen battery is a known Mac issue, and removing it from my laptop alleviated the right-click hell immediately. Now I am running battery free, which will be fine provided we don’t lose power and all that. Seems it’s past time to replace my MacBook laptop battery.

Coda 2! All I can say is Hallelujah

There is simply no application I use more as a web developer than Panic software’s Coda. It is the cornerstone of our production here at Bitclone, and we are slap happy that the new version is finally out. If you are thinking of getting into the web development industry…I can’t recommend this application enough. They have simultaneously released Diet Coda for the iPad…I can’t wait to give that a spin, once I am comfortable with the new Coda2 interface. It’s been a long wait, but it seems like they have addressed a number of my main complaints.

  • Better site management (you can group sites)
  • Support for GIT!
  • Built in MySQL support. Awesome.

Ok that is all…enjoy the holiday friends.

Upgrading to WordPress 3.2!

Well we just pulled the switch here and upgraded to WordPress 3.2. It’s a pretty hefty upgrade, and our Media Temple DV server is always a bit finicky when I run WordPress upgrades, however all went pretty well (You can feel free to contact us if you need help upgrading your WordPress system). The new dashboard is quite a big change, and a few things to note with this upgrade.

The WordPress team has officially dropped support for IE6 (hooray I say) and they now include a little browser check right there in the dashboard to help give you a little poke if your browser is in need of an update (you’ll see in the screenshot my version of Firefox is outdated…yes I know, shame on me, I was waiting for a 1Password update). Next thing of import, your server will now need php5 AND mySQL 5. This will require those of you running older Media Temple Gridservers to upgrade. I’m sure MT support phones have been ringing off the hook, and they have already been addressing the issue diligently. As a matter of fact they just posted a video to Facebook which should help you on your way.

Last bit of advice should always be the first bit of advice. BACK SHIT UP! You’ll feel better about the whole process.

Here is a screenshot of the new Admin Dashboard, pretty slick!

Wordpress 3.2 Dashboard

You want fonts? Google got fonts.

Google is everywhere…it’s true, they have a hungry tentacle in so many cookie jars it is hard to keep track of. One of the more recent and I say exciting evolutions in web design and development has been easier embedding of fonts! Yay! No more just relying on the 18 or so web safe fonts available (let’s face it 6 or so that get used) to all viewers across platforms. Of course you always want to be careful and make sure your cool new embedded fonts will degrade gracefully, just to be sure you have all your bases covered. This of course has opened a new can of worms, and opportunity for font makers…it is of course not legal to just use any font you have on your website.

There are TONS of free fonts out there and I’d say (being generous) about 5-10% of them are attractive and usable…it’s like web design in general these days, almost anyone can design and build a font thanks to computers, but you know there are reasons you hire a professional! We’ll save that for another post. So, moving foreward, once you have found a free font that works for you, all you need to do is head over to the Font Squirrel @fontface Generator and upload your font: convert it, download it, and add it to your CSS! Excellent. Google has made it even easier, they have 182 fonts (as of this post) for you to choose from, and they are all converted and ready to go. they even serve them up for you, all you need to do is add a simple link to your code.

Take this final piece of advice to heart. Keep it simple…don’t use embedded fonts for your content, use them for headers or emphasis, as they can cause some page load issues if you load too many styles or use them for large areas of content.

Google Screencap

Check out the open source Google Web Fonts

If you need to grab them all for the purpose of design mockups, Google has made it kind of difficult. A kind fellow named Joe Maller has zipped them all up for you and posted them here.

“Briefly unavailable for Scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute”. Say What?

So I was just trying to update some WordPress plugins and the new automatic update system went all fubar on me. It claimed my ftp info was incorrect and sent the site into permanent “maintenence mode” which might be frightening for someone updating their site obviously as you simply get that nice message above on a blank page…no way to access the admin again. Here are the solutions. First to get the site back, look in whatever directory is your root install for a hidden file .maintenance (note you’ll need to be able to view hidden files in your ftp program). Once you find it just delete that bugger and the site should be back. I found I had to go into the wp-settings.php file and comment out line 50 which runs the function “wp_maintenance();” in order to be able to update the plugins…for some reason it kept not accepting my ftp info and adding that file…wonky.

Battling evil mailto harvesters with CryptX

So it’s fairly common knowledge that it’s a bad idea to put your email address in a mailto: tag unprotected on your website right? The wicked spammers have nasty little web bots that will scan the code of a page looking for that tag, or even your unlinked email address (they can tell from the formatting of it). One way to protect yourself is to use javascript to encode your address and hide it. There are a few plugins for WordPress that will automatically do this for you. One we have used for a few clients is CryptX (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/cryptx/). All you need to do is install it and activate it, then it will filter through all your pages and cloak your addresses for you. Excellent work, hats off to plugin developer and spam warrior Ralf Weber.

The Bitclone process of building a dynamic WordPress powered website!

It’s amazing how fast the world of business, and seemingly the world in general, has changed in my lifetime. This is, of course, heavily due to first the personal computer revolution, and secondly the internet boom. I graduated from Boston University in 1987 with a graphic design degree which gave me the ability to hand-paint fonts! Needless to say, it quickly became obvious to me that unless I started learning how to use computers I would be left behind as an artist and a designer.

In addition to designing and developing websites I also run a small business, which has opened up a whole other area of evolution and education for me. I interact directly with every client, and when I am approached by a potential customer some of the first questions are generally:

  • “Help me understand the process of building our new website.”
  • “How long does it take?”
  • “What are the costs involved in this?”

So let’s hope this post will begin to illustrate one of Bitclone’s basic processes – developing a WordPress CMS-based website. It should provide something of an overview, and help you get started in thinking about your project and some of the questions you’ll need to answer. We feel it is important to point out that every job is different, and part of our goal is to help you maintain your company’s unique identity among your competition. Having said that, there are some common points of focus we have identified through experience, and can discuss here.

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