In The News – Ruby/Rails Programming for Beginners

prog blog pic

Hello everyone. I wanted to give you a brief update on what I have been up to for the past few months. I found this great free course given at Coursera by the University of Mexico – Web Application Architectures. The course gave a basic overview on how databases play a major role in Rails applications and how to start a blog in Rails. The course touched on HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery and Ajax as well so that you could get an idea of how these tools all work together as a whole in creating your project. I have also been learning Ruby (Learn Ruby the Hard Way) and Javascript  by myself as well.

What I realized going through the course was that backend programming is not as hard as I thought it would be. With a little patience and free time you can have yourself set up and creating small programs in a few weeks. I’ve also joined a few Meetup groups which gave me the support and mentoring I needed to keep going and learning along the way. Coursera will also offer a free programming course from the University of Michigan..check it out here.

As always…happy designing!

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Skitch for Evernote

 I have to admit – I’m a little late to the game as far as Evernote is concerned. I was a bit intimidated by it at first because its such a robust program and I didn’t want to take the time to actually “learn” it. But I kept hearing how great it was so I took a few youtube courses and now I feel like I can actually get some of the best features from it. One of them is Skitch. Its a great little tool that lets you annotate and share web clips and full page URLs. Of course there are many other tools out there that do this but since I was braving Evernote anyway I thought I would give it a try.

Ok – first off I had to download it. It sits as a standalone program to Evernote but you can send your Skitch file right into an Evernote notebook or copy and paste your link URL into an email. You can also share your file with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. I tried sharing mine to Twitter which it did no problem.

skitch

The tools are a little bare and I found the highlighter tool hard to work with. I also couldn’t see where to move my annotations around if I wanted to (other than the undo button I was stumped). It also had a pixelate tool that I thought was cool if you wanted to edit something out real quick.

stitch test4

I wasn’t really sure what the shape boxes were for but I think I got the idea once I started a blank document and played around with it. Pretty cool actually.

highlighter

Ok so- overall I liked it. Turns out it was kind of like Diigo and Microsoft Paint blended together. If you like Evernote (which I do) you will definitely get some use out of Stitch.

If you use Skitch and have any other tips please share.

Fun on The Fly with Pixlr Editor

I came across a great article the other day called The Best Chrome Apps You’re Probably Not Using and  I was intrigued because I like to think that I know pretty much whats out there as far work tools go. Well, I decided to take a look anyway and of course Pixlr Editor caught my eye because I like to take pictures on the fly with my camera phone and we all know those aren’t the greatest quality. So I decided to give it a try and see what I came up with. It works right in the Chrome browser which is a plus right off the bat. Now I normally just try things right on launch without reading anything because I figure if I cant get it work in a few minutes I’m probably not going to really go any further anyway. I think most people are like that actually (tell me if i’m wrong 😉 ..i can accept that). Well anyway so I just opened it up and went for it.

I had a pic that I had taken at a recent art festival that I went to. I had already edited it in Firefox. This is what I came up with just playing around with the filters in Pixlr Editor.

beautiful bird

Original Photo

beautiful bird art poster

Using Vignette at 50 percent, Sepia and Hope Filters

beautiful bird hope

Using Art Poster at 80 percent, Color level at 38

beautiful bird vignette sepia

Using Pastel filter at 1 percent

Okay, looks good. I was impressed with the simplicity of it. It had all the normal editing tools – crop, burn, paint, stamp, etc and it looks just like Firefox and Photoshop in appearance so I wasn’t intimidated at all. But the real test was going to be making those tiny grainy cell pics look like something interesting. I opened a pic that I had taken a few days ago and just started playing around to see what I could come with. I have to say I was really impressed at what I could do in about 10 mins with the editor. Of course your not going to get as good as Photoshop but this was definitely good enough for quick editing and sharing on Facebook .

grape edit

Original Photo

grape edit done

Edited using Auto color levels, Sharpen, Burn, Spot heat, and Vignette

Good deal. This niffy little tool will definitely make me use Chrome a lot more than I have been. WeeVideo looked interesting too. But I’ll save that for another time.

If you have used Pixlr Editor please let me know. Happy Designing!

New Conferences and A New Project!

I know I haven’t written in a while but I have been so busy learning so many new ways to organize myself with the new projects I have coming this year. I wanted to take the opportunity to list a few of the great web helpers that I found along the way as well some conferences that will be happening this year.

First off let me say that I have made my Pinterest page into a Business page so please stop by and check out my web articles board. Theres alot of good stuff there. I also came across some great tools for helping me gather information. Feedly, Go to meeting, Flipboard, CodeAcademy, and IFTTT have become my new best friends. I will be starting to learn Ruby next month and I will share my progress on the blog. I’m a little nervous but excited at the same time because I have always wanted to branch out into the coding side of things.

Speaking of learning new things there’s quite a few conferences around the world that might help you in your learning process as well.

FOUND Silicon Valley2 April 2013 — Mountain View, CA

FOUND Silicon Valley will feature presentations and discussions on the future of SEO and content marketing. The intimate event provides a chance for attendees to learn and network with industry veterans and fellow professionals in a collaborative format.

FinTech Hackathon – 6-7 April, 2013 – NYC

The goal of the FinTech Hackathon is to promote technological innovation in the financial
industry. The FinTech Hackathon brings together developers, designers, product managers and
marketers to launch innovative financial products and services with tools from several API, data
and platform partners.

GSummit SF 2013 – 16-19 April, 2013 – San Francisco

Come to GSummit (April 16-18) and earn your official gamification design certification, hear detailed practical examples of what works and what doesn’t from the experts themselves, network with the world’s top gamification designers and vendors, and get inspired. As consumer & employee attention has been harder and harder to obtain, you’ll learn how many companies have utilized gamification to create loyal customers & engaged employees.

Future Insights Live – 29 April – 2 May 2013 — Las Vegas

The 2nd annual Future Insights Live is a multi-track, 4-day tech conference, featuring an optional workshop day and 3 conference days. A combination of our existing shows – Future of Web Apps, Future of Web Design, and Future of Mobile – FILive will discuss the future technologies, platforms, and business models YOU should be using and implementing to launch the next big thing.

OuiShare Fest2-4 May 2013 — Paris

OuiShare Fest is the first major European event about the collaborative economy. Organized by OuiShare and La Fonderie, this three-day festival will bring together a global community of entrepreneurs, designers, makers, economists, investors, politicians and citizens to build a collaborative future in Paris.

Future of Web Design13-15 May 2013 — London

For the third straight year, we’ll meet in the amazing surroundings of The Brewery for three days of the very best in web design. Here’s what we’ll have on offer:

  • 4 amazing day-long workshops led by the best in the business
  • More technical topics and practical guidance than ever before
  • Healthy doses of inspiration
  • Creative challenges
  • An instameet and other relaxed networking opportunities
  • A rousing after-party and the chance to pull some shapes on the dance floor
  • A showcase of amazing new talent on our Rising Stars stage

Find the complete list here: Upcoming tech and media events you should attend and special thanks to The Next Web who will be offering discounts to these events. Check out their site too – great stuff.

Ok..so that’s my update. I’ll be blogging much more in the coming months. As always keep in touch. Happy designing!

Happy New Year!…Let’s Start Designing

info pic

“Image courtesy of Staurt Miles /www. FreeDigitalPhotos.net”



Let me first take a minute to wish everyone…. Happy Holidays!
I hope your holiday was filled with family, friends and good times. Of course this time of the year is always a reflection of what we have accomplished and what we are looking forward to achieving with the new year. On that note I wanted to fill you in on some of the great online learning sites that can definitely help you on your way with your New Years resolutions if they involve coding and design.

I have been learning Ruby at Code Academy for the last few months. They have many other great free hands-on courses like CSS, Javascript, and Jquery. I like the fact that they keep in touch with you, ask you about your progress and offer help. That makes me feel like they really want me to succeed. They even give out badges along the way so you can see your progress and keep yourself motivated. I recently joined a Meetup in my city with other Ruby friends so we can learn together. I have found other great Meetup groups that get together monthly which make learning code fun as well as informative. Check for groups in your city.

If databases are your thing, Code School has a great Try R introductory course that can get you started learning this new language right away. But if your not really sure what interests you right now and want to try something new, give Udemy a look. They have courses on just about everything: Photography, Coding, Excel, and Adobe just to name a few.

I also wanted to mention a few design conferences starting in the New Year in case you can make one of them.

Mobile and Web Devicon San Francisco – Jan 29-31, 2013  http://www.mobilewebdevconference.com/

Style Frames NYC – Feb 7-8th, 2013  http://www.styleframes.tv/newyork/

An Event Apart Atlanta – Feb 18-20, 2013  http://aneventapart.com/event/atlanta-2013?/2013/atlanta/

SXSW Interactive Austin TX – March 8-12, 2013  http://sxsw.com/interactive


Please share any design conferences in your area as well.
Ok..so let’s get those creative juices flowing!..Happy New Year!

Love Links? – Try Thinglink

Since I’m always looking for new ways to make my designs more interactive, I thought Thinglink was a great tool to bring new ideas to my projects.

Thinglink lets you create images with little links that give information about the photo. The possibilities here are endless because you can inform, entertain, and engage your audience all at the same time. Instead of typing out endless paragraphs of related information you can just link it directly to the image. Thinglink links to video and music too. You can leave the image editable so that others can add their own links to the image. You can also allow your visitors to make comments and share your image on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

I posted the image that I used below (click on the Lake Lanier link to see it in action) just to give you an example of what can be done but the website has a gallery with some really good examples of how people are using the linking features of Thinglink.

Lake Lanier

Signing up and using Thinglink is free and allows 100 image uploads. You can set up a paid account with 500 images for $5.00 a month and a Pro account with unlimited image uploads for $20.00 a month. You can also get statistics with the paid accounts to track your visitors.
I’m really looking forward to using Thinglink in my projects. If you are using it please let me know how its working for you.

Looking for Design Inspiration? It’s All around You

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
— Confucius




Every wonder where good design inspiration comes from? It’s all around you if you just take the time to look. There are many ways to get new ideas for your projects but these are the ones that I use the most because they never let me down.

Carry A Notebook
notebook

I started doing this a few years ago and it has helped me immensely. It helps me gather my thoughts at the moment so that I can look at them later. I also jot down places I visit and draw simple sketches of the things I see even if I don’t have any specific concept formed yet about what I’m looking at. I also do this with things that I see on the web. Sometimes just a random image can spark an idea at another time for a great project.


Look for A Change of Scenery
pond

I get bored very easy so I’m always looking for new stimulus to get me motivated. Sometimes just going to a mall or taking a walk in a new area brings a new outlook on things. I found a beautiful little pond in someone’s backyard one day just walking in a nearby neighborhood. That gave me an idea for a new website interface for a friend that owns an aquarium shop.



Go To A Bookstore
Books

Of course we all know that books are a great tool for the mind. I love going to book festivals as well because you find some great books on architecture, typography and illustrations for your future projects – usually at a decent price. I find that the children’s books also help me with my drawing and sketching.


Visit A Museum
museum

I love going to any type of museum because it gives you instant perspective on creativity through another person’s eyes. Normally I try to later research a particular artist and their life. Usually they give great insight and perceptions about the world around them and how it affects their work. This is a great way to help you think outside the box in your own projects.

So the next time you find yourself getting stuck in a creative rut just look around you – You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

What I learn from my Clients without Asking them

What I learn From My Clients without even Asking

Recently I took an online design course that discussed different ways of determining what your clients want and need from a website or interface. Of course we all know the basics when it comes to colors, pages and logos, but as I found out there is a much more important and critical stage of the process that will overall make or break the success of the site itself. It’s something so simple but often overlooked.

Basically just “ask” them to actually use the site themselves.

Do they know what they are looking at? Is it easy for them to navigate? Would they be comfortable using the site themselves without looking at the help page first? Does it say what they are trying to project as a company? Before you start adding a lot of bells and whistles make sure that your going in the right direction.

While this might seem obvious, when you are designing a website, this is probably the one thing that gets overlooked the most – observation. Ask others to take a look too. If you actually ask 10 people to look at a website and tell you their thoughts while they are using it, most likely you will get at least 3 different types of feedback from each of the participants. I actually did this experiment with a prototype that I was working on and I was surprised at how the participants responded to certain things. This let me know that although I thought certain things were self explanatory the user did not. Photos that I thought were relevant where not as clearly embraced as I thought they would be and some data was completely useless to the user.

This made me realize that this important step in the design process should not be overlooked or taken lightly. You might have a bruised ego but you have to have this input in order to make successful changes to meet the ultimate goal of the site. You should definitely test your site with as many users as possible so that you can get an unbiased indication as to what your ultimate users are looking for when they land on the clients webpage.

Looking for An Upcoming Design Online Class or Conference?

Computer Image

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’d like to tell you about a great online course that I am taking through Stanford University. The course is called Human-Computer Interaction and is taught by Associate Professor Scott Klemmer. The course explains the process of how projects are developed using prototyping, surveys and user experiments all the way through to completion and implementation by the final end user.

This course is offered for free online https://www.coursera.org/course/hci and there are many other courses available as well: https://www.coursera.org/courses.



Here are some Design Conferences coming up in the next few months:

The Front-End Design Conference
“The Front-End Design Conference is an annual event dedicated to content, presentation and behavior. The speakers and attendees are made up of awesome people from the web design and development community.”
When: June 8, 2012
Where: St. Petersburg, FL, USA at the Palladium Theater



NXNEi Interactive
“With over 80 presentations, NXNEi bridges the gap between creators of all kinds and interactivity. Whether you’re a musician, film producer, marketer, public relations pro or community manager, NXNE Interactive programming has you covered. Join us for three days of tech and social media exploration to learn how to boost ingenuity while enhancing your marketing and business efforts.”
When: June 11-17, 2012
Where: Toronto, Canada



Reasons to Be Creative
Reasons to be Creative is a festival for creative artists, designers and coders. The festival brings together some of the most respected and brilliant minds from the worlds of art, code, design and education to share their passion, knowledge, insights and work. Expect two days packed with talks, networking, inspiration and learning.”
When: June 14-15, 2012
Where: New York, USA



The Rich Internet Application Conference
“The Rich Internet Application Conference: Where architects and developers of all levels gather to share and learn about creating the next generation of web and mobile based applications. At RIACon you’ll get to network with fellow industry professionals and community leaders while being exposed to the most up to date skills needed for building great applications leveraging the best technologies available today.”
When: August 6-7, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA



An Event Apart
“An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference you’ve been waiting for.”
When: August 6-8, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA at the Westin Alexandria



UX Australia
“UX Australia 2012 is a 4-day user experience design conference, with two days of workshops and two days of presentations about designing great experiences for people.”
When: August 28-31, 2012
Where: Brisbane, Australia at Sofitel Brisbane Central

Full list here: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/02/10/upcoming-web-design-and-development-conferences-for-2012/#jun

Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word – Should You Make The Switch?

Recently I read a great article by Charles Cooper – regarding giving up Microsoft Word in favor of Google Docs. I was a little stunned at first because to be honest with you the thought never even crossed my mind. I had no idea that I could viably use Google Docs as a competent alternative. But me, always being curious, I wanted to try it out. I decided to write this post in Google Docs and see if I could format and post it without any prior knowledge or tutorials.

First off, I Ioved the dictionary feature under tool. This is so useful when you’re trying to think of new ways to say something and don’t want to make a fool of yourself in the process. I was impressed that my document was saved immediately and also sent to my docs folder without any prompting which means even if I forget its taken care of and I can access it anywhere (especially key if your multitasking like most of us do). I also liked the fact that you can download the document into different formats right from the file menu which means that you can make a copy for OpenOffice, PDF, or Word. I found this especially useful because I have OpenOffice on my laptop. Of course it goes without saying that you can email your document directly to the web or email collaborators right on the main menu.

Actually everything seemed pretty intuitive from the main window and I was able to write and edit my document with ease. I did eventually do a search for a good tutorial. Here’s what I came up with:

I have to say that I liked the overall experience. I’m sure I wont give up Word immediately since you have to be online to use Google Docs but it was easy to use and will definitely work in a pinch for documents, spreadsheets, and other duties that you want to share right away and get feedback. If your online anyway – why not.

Bonus: now you can view your files offline in Chrome!

 

Do you use Google Docs regularly and have any tips to share? I’d love to hear them.