Posts Tagged ‘Darn Good Read’

What is the Preferred Operating Systems of Designers?

The ever-changing culture of web design has grown into a wild array of sub-standards. Over 20 years now designers from all over the world have contributed their brilliant ideas to the World Wide Web. Software is often an afterthought from the consumer’s end, but when you’re at the front lines this topic is very important.

In the realm of Operating Systems it breaks down into 3 core groups: Windows, Mac OS X, and various Linux packages. For the sake of this article we’ll be focusing on Windows and Mac implementations. That’s not to say Linux (especially Ubuntu) can’t be used for graphics and web design – but it’s certainly not within the majority of market shares as its two rivals.

Easy User Experience

Both Microsoft and Apple have released astounding advancements into their latest Operating Systems. Windows 7 boasts an incredible new taskbar and updates on many of the UI elements where Vista failed miserably. Similarly Mac OS X Snow Leopard has exposed Apple’s soft creative underbelly.

With this latest version we see client support for tasks such as exposé. This feature is a refined view control offering thumbnails for photos and video files within explorer. Also some great additions to system processes to increase bootup and shut-down speeds!

As both companies have so much to offer their userbase you may understand how deep this rivalry goes. When polling from various forums about personal choice in Operating System the results are, for the most part, unpredictable. Everything comes down to personal choice.

Generally if a digital artist grew up using Windows XP he may find Windows 7 a more comfortable transition. This isn’t always the case since many artists break out into OS X and find the controls much more suitable.

Tasks and Required Software

When examining into such a dualism we must look at the potential work environment, even past the Operating System. What software is going to be required to get your work done?

Mac OS X and Windows 7 do support most of the same core software suites. Although there are plenty of differences between just for Mac and PC only software, the digital age is versatile. For designers and illustrators the Adobe Creative Suite will prove the most useful item in their toolbox. Software is available for both OS choices and includes such popular items as Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, Flash, and After Effects.

For Windows there is an alternative application very popular among open-sourcers. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) has been around for years and runs many of the similiar features as Photoshop.

The work area looks much different and you also don’t have access to the advanced filters from Adobe Labs. However for those on a tight budget GIMP comes with no price tag! It’s perfect for creating small graphics and resizing photos for the web.

The Working Web Developer

Web Design incorporates many aspects behind the curtain. Digital art, icons, graphics, and layout wireframes are all very important aspects. But without any HTML/CSS code you won’t be getting anything live online!

Along with graphics suites Adobe also offers a web developers software IDE(Integrated Development Environment) titled Dreamweaver. You can work on any plaintext file such as HTML, PHP, SQL, CSS, JavaScript, or anything you may think of! Dreamweaver comes bundled with a host of additional features such as page templates, which allow for easy duplication of pages and content.

Development over both Windows and Mac OS X offer individual packages for Adobe Dreamweaver. The program runs exactly the same in both environments and offers a very stable solution for programming. If you don’t have money to shell out luckily there are plenty of alternatives.

Having previously developed over Mac OS X many web designers I’ve asked have concurred Panic’s Coda is by far the best option for text editing. It includes code highlighting for the most popular languages and offers self-help documentation within the program!

If you’re developing for iOS mobile apps XCode 4 is a much better solution. This has native support for Objective-C and the Cocoa library which is included for all apps at runtime. Apple provides exceptional documentation on the language so it’s brutally simple to comprehend and build something great.

All Windows Development

If you’re looking to the simpler side Windows has tons of freeware solutions. All the way from XP to Win7 there are tens of hundreds of open-source projects for code junkies. Prominently Notepad++ is widely spoken of from frontend and backend developers alike.

It’s a free download and comes with some great features you don’t find in other applications. Tabbed browsing for editing multiple documents within a single window, also a library of 50+ languages for syntax highlighting.

If you’re looking for professional options a bit cheaper than Dreamweaver I highly recommend phpDesigner 7 for Windows. Don’t let the name fool you – although the package specializes in PHP it offers code highlighting for all web documents including HTML and JavaScript.

What’s so great about phpDesigner is how integrated the software becomes. You are able to run a local server directly from the application window for testing PHP code. The IDE will also mark read errors with a red “X” at the end of a line of code. This feature is not found in anywhere Dreamweaver and has saved me hours of tirelessly searching and fixing bugs in my programs.

Conclusion

The investigation of digital Operating Systems could also include a comparison of features such as document processing, alternative web browsers, and FTP software. However these are all minor accessories. Truly the choice is yours and comes down to personal opinion and comfort.

If you are more satisfied working on a Macintosh then absolutely stick with it! Generally graphics designers and video editors enjoy the simple controls allowed within the Mac Unix-like OS. At the other end of the spectrum I have found many developers enjoy the freedoms and administrative control in Windows, allowing for easy file manipulation and installation of local web server(s) and databases.

What do you think?

If you’d like to research a bit more check out our list of free Mac apps for graphics/web designers to see if anything jumps out at you. Also our small collection of free CSS editors is worth a glance for frontend devs on both Mac OS X and PC.


Tips for Converting Your Freelance Operation into a Business

Having spoken with many freelance web and graphic designers over the years, I can say I have heard some extraordinary tales. The path from freelancer into single business is an arduous one. It proves to be extremely rewarding and will offer many benefits to those willing to stick it out until the end.

A freelance operation is no different from any other. Sitting down to plan out a marketing strategy, operation times, scheduled work, and other tasks is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be sharing some tips about how to shift your freelance business into a well-oiled machine!

Remember as well that all businesses in the digital realm will run off a similar structure. Whether this is freelance writing, web design, programming, animation, or anything else from a similar spectrum. All freelancers should consider some of the same points regarding invoicing and work structure.

Building up your Network

It’s no illusion the most successful businesses out there today run off efficiency. The more efficient you are with producing services or goods for a network of clients, the better your reputation will be and spread to others.

Networking to some is a pain and almost comes across as unnecessary. However, in this scenario networking does not mean going into the world to find high-class clientele. With freelancing it’s much more common to meet potential business partners through relations of other means.

Connecting with webmasters, blog writers, e-book authors, Internet marketers, and nearly every other digital professional under the sun can only improve your own business. Well why is this? It’s actually a very simple idea of spreading out your resources.

As a freelancer you are only able to accomplish so much by yourself. Having a network of professionals to contact and bounce ideas off will ensure your projects have that much more fluidity and freedom to grow. It’s also an important segment in meeting new clients who wish to hire you as a contractor.

Build the Company Image

Branding is essential when it comes to business growth and development. All of the most popular brands on the market today have well-recognized symbols. McDonald’s, Verizon, Toyota, and Microsoft are just a few which come to mind.

Now it’s not to assume your small operation will grow towards the size of a software giant like Microsoft. But it is important to recognize that branding even, for a small business, will give off a professional feel to your consumer base.

This may seem like a strange understanding of the market, and it is to an extent. You may find it easier to brand yourself other than a company image.

I have talked with graphics designers and illustrators who find creating cartoons or imagery of themselves is branding enough for their freelance ops. Not only does it offer some personal feeling into the website, but it’s a great way to showcase their creative talents and prove to potential clients what they’re made of!

Create a Systematic Invoicing Procedure

Money will always be at the heart of your corporation, more like the fuel inciting the internal fire. Creation is an ongoing process and as artists we find it difficult to stop and invest time towards handling economics (well some of us).

If you have the extra money it may be worthwhile to work with a professional accountant. They can handle much of your taxes and invoicing information from all projects you’d be working on. This would leave your schedule wide open to focus on communications, IM chats, e-mails, and project work.

If you haven’t got the money and would rather handle your own finances there are plenty of solutions. It’s not as difficult as the suits on Wall St. would make you believe, and with the great accomplishments in Internet technology we have seen tons of new applications flooding the world wide web. Check out our list of invoicing tools if you’re in need of some inspiration.

Understand Distractions

We all would rather be doing something else other than working. This is our human nature, and to go against would be relieving the creation process. When entering into the world of business it’s important to recognize when you are ignoring tasks which should be done.

If possible try setting a short-term schedule where your projects would be completed well before due date. This gives the illusion that you have more time than you need, yet if you approach your schedule as the end-all be-all project timeline you can ensure all work will settled far before the actual completion date.

Try setting limits on your time as well. If you recognize there is a TV show you’d like to watch at 8PM, start work early in the afternoon and continue before you would like to rest. In this way you’ll get a small amount of project work completed and feel much more accomplished come end of the day.

The Art of Blogging

Blogging has become a great way to express new ideas and share opinions on the web. As a business it is crucial to offer this for your visitors as it gives them insight into what you do and who you are.

Writing is practice itself for the art of transcribing and sharing information. Blogging is the same idea, however shared digitally in any format of your choosing. Some businesses may run their blog as a small personal affect for their client base, while others may offer an extravagant magazine-styled theme.

Whatever the reason I would always recommend new freelancers to get into blogging. Even updating once or twice per week will give your interested readers something to check out. Freebies such as PSD mockups and icons will draw in a crowd from Google as well, propping up your brand into a glimpse of popularity.

These are all new-age tips related to freelance business structure in the 21st century. We have seen examples of businesses like these all throughout the web which have flourished in our golden age. Function and Envato are two which immediately come to mind.

If you’re interested in further topics of freelancing I’d recommend browsing the archives here. There are plenty of pros and cons to consider before even launching your website branding. Before approaching clients I’d also recommend our tips on landing your first freelance job as a starting point into the industry.


How Good Web Design should be like Good Hygiene

One of the first things a child is taught when they are growing up is a proper daily hygiene routine. This matter is stressed heavily throughout a child’s formative years because these routines are one of the few things that a child will take with them into adulthood. Of course things in the routine will change, and or be altered, but the framework that was built back when one is a child will stay with them for the rest of their life.

This is quite similar to the routine web designers go though while working on a project. As soon as we find a system that brings out the best end result, we usually end up sticking with it. Some designers go as far as to post it up on their portfolio/company sites to showcase to potential clients. Now the relationship I just described between these two routines could be made to almost any system one has for doing something. However, the relationship between the two is much deeper than those few similarities.

Brushing Your Teeth

Brushing Your Teeth
Image Source: ?????? on Flickr.
Its the start of a new day, birds are chirping, the Sun is shining bright through your bedroom window, and the taste of whatever you ate last night is plaguing your breath this morning. The only thing that can cure the only downside to your perfect awakening is for you to brush your teeth to get that fresh breath that represents the new day upon you. Does this sound familiar to you?

Well this should, and not because this is how you started off your day today. However if that does describe your morning, then that’s great for you. Moving on, this sounds familiar because this is the feeling web designers get when starting a new project.

Its a great time because that annoying client you dreaded dealing with is finally gone, at least until they start contacting you wanting free technical support of course, and its time to start on a brand new project. Much like how last night’s dinner was still on your breath, your last design project is still on your head.

The brushing your teeth stage is when you get rid of all the creative space being held hostage by your previous project, and leave them wide open for new thoughts for your next project.

Taking a Shower

Taking a Shower
Image Source: ?????? on Flickr.
This is the time in the day when your usually alone, and you don’t have to worry about the criticism you’ll face from others. Because of that, people have the tendency of letting themselves go and doing whatever it is they would be too embarrassed to do in public. Let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone like to think they sing great in the shower?

Its the creative freedom right there that every designer needs to have when they are just thinking of ideas for their next project. At this stage the designer should have no worries about how practical these ideas are, how your client would feel about them, or if you could actually pull it off. Its all about coming up with ideas here.

Grooming

This is where one does things like put on lotion, styles their hair, shaves, etc. This is important because here is where we start weaving through all our crazy ideas for the day. Forgoing the crazy and somewhat improbable ideas, and deciding on pursing those that have the most practicality.

At this stage the designer will take all the ideas that they came up with in the shower stage and start throwing away ridiculous ideas, or storing them for future use. With those gone, the designer would sort thorough the ideas that seem they will work, and begin to work on them.

Flossing and Cleaning your Ears

Flossing and Cleaning your Ears
Image Source: kevinpetez on Flickr.
These are two hygiene practices that are constantly being stressed to people by doctors and dentists as being vital to good health. Despite that, for most part people overlook them. Simply describing them as a waste of time that really won’t matter if it is done or not. This feeling more so directed towards flossing than cleaning your ears.

Hm, now what is an essential process a designer should always go through, but many don’t spend nearly as much time as they should on? The first thing that should come to your mind, especially since its been heavily stressed in resent design trends, is user interface. Its a well known as being important in the design of a web site by every person calling themselves a web designer. Despite being known to be important, we all at times tend to forget about it. Instead replacing an aspect of your design that would improve the experience a user would have with a flashy new HTML 5, jQuery, or CSS3 feature. Granted I love the previously stated technologies, but when it is implemented at the cost of the user, I loath it.

Much like how when you constantly forget to floss or clean your ears those body areas get infections, the same is said for a person visiting your site if not giving this stage the full attention it deserves.

Getting Dressed

When getting dressed people tend to have at least five different clothing combinations from their wardrobe that they want to give a shot, maybe more if you’re a fashionable person. You start putting each outfit together and decided which one to wear based on how well they appeal to you or the person your getting dressed for.

This is where you take the good ideas you got from the grooming stage, after taking into the user experience factors from the flossing/cleaning ears stage, and get to work. Here the designer starts up Photoshop, or whatever graphic design software of their liking, and get into designing. Much like getting dressed, this is where you being to express your creativity into your project and decided in which direction you want to take this project into.

Washing Your Hands

Washing Your Hands
Image Source: midge mckay on Flickr.
This is something one should do regularly throughout the day. It keeps the infections bacteria lying in wake in the air streams, and things you touch from doing any harm to you. It also can keep your hands nice and soft, depending on what hand wash you decided to use.
This relates to the aspect of going back over your design time and time again to make sure that everything is going well in the design. Its like the you taking a break from just focusing on the big picture, and go back over what you have done so far by looking at the minor details. Also, just like when you wash your hands one might decide to rinse off their face, the same practice is applied to the design process. This being that if a designer feels that the project is not going in a good directeion, they can just start over with out having wasted too much time.

Doctor/Dentist Visit

Doctor/Dentist Visit
Image Source: Michael Joseph Goldst… etc on Flickr.
This is where a designer would get feedback from other designers about how they are coming along with their design. This is important because as designers, we spend a lot of time studying and working on our design and our judgment can become cloudy on our own work. Getting an outside view from a peer can help get you over a design hump, or bring great new ideas to your design.

Washing Your Hair

This is something you only due at the end of the design process, right before you turn your project into your client. This is where you do all the little things that you don’t normally do at other stages of the design process. This is where all the little details like jagged pixels get addressed and corrected.

What about you? Do any of your daily routines reflect your web design process?