The Multilingual Web

September 01, 2012

How many coding / framework / markup languages can you use to create a web page? It seems like that number is growing. People want a personal interactive experience when they explore the web. Internet sites now have the ability to learn users' habits and create custom pages that appeal to them. However, to create sites like this requires the designer to familiarize himself with more than just HTML and CSS. It also requires more planning and dialogue with the client. The advent of HTML5 and CSS3 has given more functionality and dynamic ability to these languages, but you'll need to know more.

If you want a truly dynamic site, you'll need to dig into a bit of programming. Server-side scripting can serve up pages taylored specifically for each user. The user doesn't see what happens on the server, but they do see the pages produced. A favorite language used is PHP, but it is not the only one out there. There are frameworks like ASP.NET or Ruby on Rails (which uses the Ruby language).

Client-side scripting is playing a bigger role than ever. These scripts are embedded in the pages and are interpreted by the web browser. JavaScript is one of the most important programming languages for designers to know, because all major browsers support it. Flash, while still relevant, has not been supported by many mobile devices. JavaScript has been tapped to create Flash-like animations and interactions. Many programmers in the community have contributed to JavaScript "libraries" to help save designers some time and headaches. A couple of widely-used libraries are jQuery and MooTools.

You want a packaged hybrid of both server and client side languages? Content Management Systems have been developed to help designers put dynamic sites together with user-friendly Administrative User Interfaces. The most popular of these are Wordpress, Drupal, and Joomla. Community-developed modules are constantly being created to add functional widgets and design themes to these systems. It would be easy to believe that a CMS will make it effortless to build a site. However, there is still a bit of a learning curve to master these tools.

Do you have to learn it all? No, please don't -- your head will explode. Just get familiar with what's available. Find one you that does what you need and try it out. Once you win a couple battles, it'll get easier.

Website redone

August 29, 2009

Work and life have been very busy lately...all for very good reasons. Although lacking free time, I still managed to attempt and abandon several prototypes. There were several drafts that included a vending machine theme and a seventies-era military computer interface. Although kitschy and fun, they just didn’t make it completely through the development process because I wanted something a little more mature and clean. This final version is based on a design by Felix Boyeaux, a Swedish web designer. I heart Swedes and their crisp designs.

At the workplace, we’ve been quite busy in spite of the economy. It has been a big year for us, and the company is growing along with the workload. The end of the summer / beginning of fall is an extra busy time of year because we work with many schools.

To add to all the madness, my personal life has been very busy as well. My (now) wife and I had an autumn wedding. As many of you may know, the wedding is a tradition that requires a lot of planning and expenses. The true purpose of this ritual is to see if the couple can cope with high-stress situations without killing each other. That being said, the wedding was beautiful and everyone is still alive. I must attribute most of the planning and patience to my wonderful wife, who puts up with my all of my oddities as well.

Graduated & employed

April 26, 2009

I’m redefining the meaning of “lifetime learning.” It’s a good thing it didn’t take as long to find a great job. I won’t say how long it took me, but if you can avoid going part-time in favor of going full-time, I’d recommend it.

I found a design job last summer. It was a bit of an accident, but it was the good kind. I was looking for a summer internship, and stumbled across their ad. It looked like they needed a graphic designer / illustrator / computer dork. I decided to research the company. They turned out to be an automated building controls contractor. I wasn’t sure what they specifically wanted or if I could even do it, but I decided what the heck, I’ll send in my resume.

They emailed me for an interview, and I found out more about the job. The company is smaller, but in the top of their field. They work with schools, hospitals, small businesses, and well-known household names. They have an awesome graphics department that blows away the competition. My duties would include building GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) for automated building systems, designing proposal materials, and some web design.

This was an application for my graphic design education that I’d never even thought about. If you would’ve asked me what I’d be doing when I graduated, I would not have guessed this. I saw an opportunity to get on board with a growing company that is in a booming industry, and I took it.

It’s been over a year now, and now I have a part in helping us stay on the cutting edge. I learn something new almost daily. There is still a lot to learn about the industry, but I enjoy the challenge.

First place in illustration

December 05, 2008

I’m finally putting my award-winning barbeque sau---I mean vector illustrations on the website. If you like Joss Whedon or Alphonse Mucha, you might like this tribute series to the television show, Firefly (Serenity).

I really enjoyed creating these pieces, and hope to revisit the project when I have more time. There is at least one more character, if not more that I feel would complete the set.

I am a big fan of Alphonse Mucha and the Art Nouveau style. I’m also a big fan of Firefly. Those two are like chocolate and peanut butter. It was fun to study Mucha’s work and to apply his style to a vector format. The Firefly characters (at least the females) lend themselves well to the style, while still being recognizable. It was interesting to boil them down to their basic roles: Mechanic, Soldier, and um “Entertainer.” Of course, I needed to make the appropriate icons, which I developed into patterns that served as a backdrop to the characters. (For Inara, I did a stylized firefly.)

Incidentally, this set of drawings won me First Place in Illustration in the 2008 Electronic Art & Design Showcase. Thanks Joss and Alphie!