Web Design

A Challenge!

The other day, on Twitter, I set myself the challenge of designing and developing a Tumblr theme in one day:

This meant that I could not work on the theme at any point before or after the allotted time. I had never done anything like this before – I typically like to spend time making sure everything is looking good before I say it’s finished – so I had no idea how good the end product would look.

This process involved me doing three things, which were:

  1. Designing – A digital mock-up. I like to use Adobe Photoshop for this.
  2. Developing – This is the actual building of the theme. I like to use Adobe Dreamweaver.
  3. Testing – Arguably the most important part. This is where I needed to make sure that the theme was working on all browsers, and also that it scaled correctly on smaller devices, such as mobiles and tablets.

As you can see, there was a fair amount to do in order to say that the challenge had been a success, and to say that the end product is finished.

If I was to do this, I wanted to make sure that I did nothing out-of-the-ordinary in order to accomplish the task. So, I woke up at my normal time, and did everything that I would normally do in the morning. So, at about 9Am, I started work.

The first thing, as I have said above, was to mock-up the design. Doing this allows the designed to get an understanding of what he/she will be building when the time comes. Again, as I’ve said, I like to use Adobe Photoshop, so this is what I did.

There were eight things that I would need to design, which were:

  1. The Menu
  2. Text Post
  3. Photo Post
  4. Link Post
  5. Quote Post
  6. Chat Post
  7. Audio Post
  8. and Video Post

As I almost always do, I began with designing the menu. Doing this allows me to get a grasp of the size and dimensions of the rest of the theme, relative to the menu. This would be fixed to one spot, meaning that as the user scrolled, it would be constantly visible and accessible. The design for the menu, and also the area when the Posts will appear can be seen below.

01 Menu

 

As you can see, the menu of the theme is one left, and the area in which the content of the blog will appear is on the right, in a lovely shade of purple, I might add. After this, I needed to design the different Post Types. I’m not going to write about every one, as it is clear what they look like.

Text Post

02 Text Post

Photo Post

03 Photo Post

Link Post

04 Link Post

Quote Post

05 Quote Post

Chat Post

06 Chat Post

Audio Post 

07 Audio Post

Video Post – I pretty much always use Achievement Hunter videos in my mock ups. Both because I’m a huge fan of what they do, and also because it’s nice to have something good to watch when testing.

08 Video Post

 

The designing of the theme took me up to about 1Pm, which for me was great time. I usually take a week or more during this stage. Anyway, the next thing to do was the actual development of the theme. As I’ve mentioned, I like to do this in Adobe Dreamweaver, but really any text editor will work.

I only really came across one issue during this, which was the fixed positioning of the menu. I had never needed to have something that was fixed in one place, but also relative to the rest of the design before, but in the end I worked it out. But, to be honest, I’m not really sure how I worked it out. For this particular area, it’s a case of It works, but I don’t know why. 

The development stage took about three hours. Also here I was testing as I went along, to make sure that everything worked and displayed correctly.

A demo of this theme can be found here. It should be noted that neither the video or the audio are linked to the page, but one can get a sense of what they would do. Also, the link at the bottom of the menu section will bring you back to this blog. This is the only link that takes you anywhere, the rest are just for show.

That’s about it. I managed to designed and develop a desktop theme in one day. I’m currently looking to into putting it up for download, but if I were to do this, I’d want to refine a few things like, for example, the Tag and Clock icons not lining up correctly with the text to the right.

I said I developed a desktop theme because I didn’t have time to make it responsive (meaning that it displays correctly on every screen size), but, this is something I can work on if I were to put it up for download.

Thanks for reading, see you later.

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Redesigning Twitter

Twitter, as a whole, is very well designed. But, there are some elements that are not really needed, or could be better arranged to make the overall site more appealing. Take a look at the image below:

Twitter Red

As you can see, I have highlighted the two sections that I think aren’t really necessary.  These will either be moved into a new menu area, which would be accessed via a new button, or removed completely.

The proposed redesign of the website can be seen below.

Twitter Redesign

The changes I have proposed remove the sidebar, with some of the elements being moved to a different part of the page. As you can see, the profile image and name have been moved to the top right of the page. Next to this, the menu icon can be seen. This would, when pressed, make a rest of the previous sidebar slide in the from the right. I have also shortened the search bar, but it would stretch to the full size when typed in.

The is room for improvement, like adding the “Compose New Tweet” text area. This could either appear in the expandable menu, or at the very top of the tweet list, either was would work just as well.

Website Re-Designs

Recently, I saw that Patrick McDonald created a proposed re-design of Facebook. Although this is just a technical exercise, it’s a great way to better understand how corporate, and well-known, websites ticked, what made them popular and what made them usable.

I think that I’m going to do something like this. For a while now, I’ve had this exact idea in my head, but have never actually got around to doing anything with it. But now, after seeing the Facebook re-design, I want to get going.

So, expect some re-designs of popular websites to be appearing on your screens any time soon!

Tumblr Theme Creation | Part One

As all web developers know, it’s all well and good being able to write HTML, CSS and JavaScript, but you need to be able to apply that when working with Content Management Systems (CMS). Because of this reason, I have been looking the Tumblr blogging system. The reason for looking at Tumblr rather than WordPress is because of the cost. I understand that it’s not expensive to upgrade, but I wanted to work with a system that more people have access to.

Originally, when I first had a look at it, it was rather daunting. There are so many Variables and Blocks that I needed to work with and understand. But, after a while of playing around with them, eventually they all started to sink in.

Going into this, I didn’t have a particular design in mind. I just wanted to be able to play around without having to think about anyone actually going to use it. That might not have been the best way to go about it, but it worked for me.

The in-built Tumblr code editor isn’t the best around, but it worked for the time that I was using it. In the future, I think I’ll be using Dreamweaver or something of that ilk. A down side of working with something outside of Tumblr would be the fact that you cannot view the effects of the code straight away, but have to cut and copy it to Tumblr code editor.

After playing around with the Blocks and Variables of Tumblr theme creation, I looked at what I had created. For a first attempt, it wasn’t bad, but overall, it was dreadful. (so dreadful, it’s not even finished) I want to make something more appealing for my ‘serious’ attempt at theme creation. This is when I had the idea for a design that I want to work with.

Check back soon for Part Two!

More Web Design

Although this is technically a blog post, I see it more as a way for me to get my head around what I will have to do for the projects I’m currently undergoing.

So, for IT, we have been given the chance to redo one of the first projects that we ever did. This is because a lot of us didn’t really get very good marks, for one reason or another. I’m taking this chance.

It will involve me making an eBook that would be part of a time-capsule to be read some time in the future, and also creating a portfolio page for this, and any other work, to be stored.

Now, I understand how to build websites, so this part is easy. In fact, I built the portfolio in around two hours with no major problems. But the eBook is another story all together.

First is the layout. Because I am used to building conventional websites, I don;t really know what an eBook should look like. I think the problem is that, an eBook as I understand it is literally a book that can be viewed on a digital device, like on a Kindle or whatever.

But, we’re having to make an eBook that is interactive, with multiple menus that the user can click through to go to the content that they want to see. So in fact, it isn’t really any eBook at all, but instead an actual website with a strange type of navigation.

Many people in the class have opted for a small website on the page, like a square, in which the content will appear. To me, personally, this is a dumb way of doing it because they will not be able to utilize all the space that they have available to them. And one of the specifications of the eBook is that there is no, or minimal, scrolling. So, with this design, these people are going to need to either make more pages, and more work for them selves, or use a smaller font, therefore potentially making it hard to read.

Taking this into consideration, I have completely re-designed my original eBook to make more room for the actual content of the eBook. Below, you can see two screenshots, one of the first design and one of the new re-redesign.

First Design

eBook Design One

Here, you can see that the design of the first eBook is not very appealing, in fact, it looks pretty horrible. This is because we were stuck using Microsoft Front Page and I did’t know a lot about hand coding a website.

This screenshot doesn’t really show this, but the first design of the eBook doesn’t use a lot of the space on the screen. It’s positioned at the left hand side of the page.

Second Design

eBook Design Two

This design of the eBook is far more effective at utilizing the available space on the screen. It stretches from left to right and top to bottom. The Menu at the top, right-hand side of the screen makes it far more easy one the eye.

Overall, I am more confident that I will do better this time around that last, because I understand web design more than I did last year. I also feel that I am able to write better than last year, so I should hopefully get more marks for the written side of the project.

Planned Posts

I have been neglecting this Blog recently. This is due to the coursework that I have to do for my various A Level subjects, the amount of Web Development that I have had to do also factored into this. But I now plan to post here on a regular basis.

I have several subjects that I am planning to write about, some that I have been working on for some time, and others that I have had suggested to me. Some will revolve around the world of Web Development (write about what you know, right?), some about the work that I am doing for my A Levels and the usual Film Reviews. Should they be called reviews? I don’t really review them, I just give opinions on a film. I don’t know.

Trailer Site

Because I have nothing else to do, I had a little play around with making a website for the trailer that will have to be made for the trailer that we will be making. I have to say, this part is going to be a piece of piss cake.

There are literally about four things that need to be done with CSS and the rest is simple HTML like embedding a video and adding links. So easy! Personally, I think that hardest part will be making the backing image for the website. Because it is essentially just a video, there doesn’t need to be a lot of design for the page, this means that there is going to be a lot of empty space that is going to have to be filled with something. But, you know, a bit of Photoshop and it’ll be good.