About two months ago, SiteInspire got a responsive redesign and the internet once again started tweeting up a storm about this nice redesign. It’s a cycle that seems to happen every few months: a site gets redesigned responsively, is done professionally, and the design/dev community starts feeling proud of itself and about the real changes we’re having on the everyday experience of using the internet. It’s great that we’ve begun to convince businesses of the need to cater to everyone instead of just desktop users.
I have a problem with SiteInspire though. The sites they feature and their site itself caters to showing off homepages and sites that are rather light content-wise. It’s not to say that they don’t have complicated UX behind them but in general they are variations on “large photo up top,” “sign up field here,” and “scroll through a few sections of content below.” They feature a lot of personal portfolios and smaller scale projects–and they’re very well done. But it’s not particularly great if you’re designing for a large-scale website.
On the other hand, Dribbble does a great job of letting designers show off the sites they’ve designed that, because of the nature of Dribbble, do tend to be larger-scale projects with bigger brand names. Twitter’s design team is on Dribbble. Some of the Instagram team’s on Dribbble. There is a lot of good work on it…just if you want to see it at 300x400px (and now 600x800px for retina). Even more, because of the 2D nature of Dribbble, there’s no way of being able to browse how users interact with it. The interaction design is missing and that’s a big part of designing for the web. Dribbblers have begun to upload animated gifs to get around this but it’s not the norm.
What all this makes me think of is that designers of large-scale, content-heavy sites don’t have a ton of resources available to see what’s out there, much less to have an appropriate platform to see how design problems are being solved. Every time Time, People or Instagram, go responsive or add a desktop or Android experience, we note it in our minds or maybe favorite it on Twitter but it’s not being collected anywhere. And these are sites with millions of users. I might be biased about wanting to see content-dense sites featured, having worked on the Design & UX team at New York Magazine, but I believe that people are reading articles from major publications who produce a lot of content. That it’s not just the one-off blog that millions of users are reading and it’s not just on social networks that people are producing content. Where do you think all those links on Twitter are coming from? Traditional publications who produce a lot of content at fast speeds.
There needs to be resources and tools available for everyone to see how other designers are handling these specific challenges of designing for content-dense sites because what ends up happening is that these conversations happen offline. It’s great to be able to email or IM fellow designers you met at a conference or worked with to ask how they’ve solved particular problems of designing at scale but it’s a luxury that not everyone has. UXArchive is the only site that I’ve seen taking a stab at this problem but they only handle apps, which are one part of the equation. What would be great is if they added in media sites that also have these same product problems of onboarding, search, exploring, sharing. I’m not sure if there’s one site or app that’s going to solve the problem of sharing solutions to design problems but I hope that someone out there is willing to take on the challenge.
It’s been a while since the iPad retina was released last year, so the new year seemed like a good time to update my free iOS icon Photoshop template. It’s by far the number one reason people visit my site and I’m glad to offer it as a resource for other people who pull their hair out designing these at all the different sizes.
Download the template here!
I’ve added the ability to tweet posts here using a great plug-in called “WP Tweet Button,” which took maybe 5 minutes max to install and customize. I wasn’t looking for anything super custom with this, just the ability to have it appear both in the feed and on an article page. There are more features for users wanting more control but for it’s ease of use, I would recommend it.
What it made me realize was that I should have my own custom short domain for my own content a la nym.ag or nyti.ms. After looking into it, I found out bit.ly will do all the magical things behind the scenes, all you have to do is buy the domain and set the DNS to a bit.ly IP.
After deciding that I didn’t want to pay Tunisia a ridiculous $400 a year for .tn, I bought jencot.in, linked it with bit.ly, linked the WP Tweet Button plugin with my bit.ly api info…and voila. Ok, so not quite voila. Turns out this is the ideal order you want to do things in: domain buying, bit.ly DNS stuff, THEN tweet button. I made the asinine mistake of setting up the WP Tweet Button plugin with bit.ly first, which meant that bit.ly gave all my existing content it’s own bit.ly link that isn’t using my fancy pants jencot.in shortener.
Lesson learned. But for all future posts, you can tweet it with my sweet new jencot.in links. It’s the little things in life
Left to Right: Erik Spiekermann, Roger Black & Matthew Carter at TDC Judges Panel Talk
Two Thursdays ago, Maxim Zhukov moderated a panel with Paul Shaw, Erik Spiekermann, Roger Black and Matthew Carter that touched on a range of topics from Open Type to how they judge non-Roman fonts to everyone’s favorite fonts. With such a range of personalities as well, Spiekermann’s German extrovert to Carter’s stoic Brit with charm, it felt like hanging out backstage in the VIP lounge of a festival with only headliners. Throughout the panel discussion, you got a sense that despite the frequent claims that a typeface emerges from a given client’s demands, typefaces emerge through each designers background and personality. Georgia could only come from Carter, FF Meta from Spiekermann.
While there will always be a sense of the designer behind a typeface, the part of the discussion I found most interesting centered around Roger Black’s recollection of print shops. (I’m probably really biased here since my family still runs a print company in California.) Black remembered a time when you could pick up a book or anything printed and know exactly who printed it by the tracking, leading, and word spacing alone. Each print shop had such exacting standards, a typographic dogma so to speak, that you instantly knew who it was. It was true typographic branding, more than just the idea of one typeface or type family representing a brand–and it made me wonder if there was an equivalent online. A site that by the way the copy is set you know instantly where it’s coming from. I’d wager that the New York Times comes close to this with their digital experience but I don’t know if it’s all the way down to the bones, to the line-height and letter-spacing. And with Carter’s ubiquitous Georgia everywhere I’m not sure if I could safely be able to blindly distinguish an article from the nytimes.com from a bostonglobe.com article or any other major publication if the other branding were hidden.
Black reminded me of this lack in the digital space and I wonder if anyone’s going to tackle that this year. Or if we’re so wrapped up in mobile first and responsive design that we’ve forgotten the basics of typesetting.
Last month, I bought Louis C. K.’s comedy special when it went on sale for $5 (!!!!) exclusively on his website. For the same price that I can rent a movie on iTunes, which I’ve only been conned into doing once, I bought my favorite comedian’s comedy special. The download has “no DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap.” And it’s a pretty hilarious comedy special, melding the brilliance of Chewed Up with a whole lot of Louie. The best example of his George-Carlin-cum-everyday-man style has got to be his bit about leaving a rental car at the airport curb. I died. Best of all, as he explains here, it was so wildly successful that he was able to give a good chunk of it away to charity. Because he made ONE MILLION DOLLARS IN TWELVE DAYS and set the Twitter-verse on fire. If that’s not a game-changer for how TV specials are produced, distributed and marketed, then I don’t know what is. Read More »
Cover image on the first issue of New York Magazine.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of going into the library here at New York Magazine to do some research on the how our Intelligencer logo has changed over the years. It’s kind of like being a kid in a candy store going through the library. It has every issue from 1968 till the present–all organized and sitting among sometimes multiple copies of each issue.
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In the past few weeks, twice I’ve had to design the icons that go along with apps/bookmarks in the iOS world. These tiny little buggers come in seven different sizes and are used for different devices (iPad, iPhone, iPhone4) and different instances (home screen, settings, spotlight, iTunes store). It’s pretty confusing figuring out which corresponds to which…and this doesn’t even begin the challenge of designing at sizes as small as 29 pixels square.
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This week’s New York magazine is on the newsstands today and includes the my first designs to make it into the print version! Last week was pretty exciting, first hearing that it was going to be in the print version, getting hi-fives and congrats from my awesome co-workers and seeing the online proofs of the half-spread. It feels really special and seeing it in print today made it even more sublime.
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There are a lot of really amazing things I get to design at NYMag. There are also a lot of ridiculous things I get to think up and make real. Like the True Blood Sex Index, which charts who’s had what kind of sex…and just how much. So there were brilliant parts of my day last week where my fellow designers sat around helping me brainstorm what would represent what (there’s a master Word doc that will one day unfortunately re-surface I’m sure).
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A fun thing happened yesterday. Justin Bieber got almost the exact same tattoo that I Photoshopped onto him as a part of a slideshow for Vulture. It was a fun moment at the office when we realized we foreshadowed reality…orrrr that he totally took our tattoo advice!!
I think we all need to take a moment for what today is: Oprah’s final show. The church/cult of Oprah has guided me through many years and so about three years ago, I built a wonderful site that serves up Oprah quotes for when you just need a bit of her in your life. And it only seems fitting that I re-launch this bad boy on the day that she bids us adieu.
Visit the site: Oprah Says to Me
When I was in grad school at Parsons, there was a definite divide between the people who chose to study in the 10th floor lab and those who went…well anywhere else that was quieter. The lab was (and probably still is) more of a lively environment. People user tested in the lab, did group projects, ate meals, checked out equipment, had loud Skype calls, and just about anything you can imagine. Suffice it to say, there was a consistent buzz around the lab. If you needed to get serious work done, the adage was that you went somewhere other than the lab.
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I had a few moments during my job search where I would be showing my portfolio live in an interview and my site seemed…just sluggish. Images were loading slowly even though they were optimized for the web and sidebar widgets loaded sometimes 30 seconds after the rest of the page did. I assumed it was just the network that I was on, but after accidentally landing on a couple articles today, I realized that there are WordPress plug-ins that totally help with site loading and a surge in traffic.
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I got burned today by a non-profit who rejected my bid to redesign their site. It was my first time actually going through the hoops of reading and responding to an RFP because my normal stance is that it’s too much time for too little payback. I’ve agreed with those in the industry who have debated back and forth on spec work, and while this wasn’t technically spec work, it was.
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I’m rolling it out slowly but you can now buy a Jen Cotton Design!! I’m using Etsy for my store, but bookmark it now: http://jencotton.etsy.com. Or click on the Shop link if you’re on my website.
Currently, you’ll find some of my jewelry–including my unique logo as earrings–with ceramics to come!! Just in time for the holidays
I’m trying to do more design lately while I wait for the dust to settle. This thought came about me last night. I think I like this meme of designed thoughts meets quick poetry.
I had a lot of amazing love happen around my graduation. Family came out, friends celebrated me. I am truly thankful for everyone who shared in my happiness. To thank everyone who decided to give me gifts, I thought I would handmake them all thank you cards. It turned into a fun (post-grad-unemployment) side project. Here are some of my faves:
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“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”
The other day I posted the question on Twitter: what are your 5 desert island books?
And then promptly took it down. I took it down because I was at a loss for what five books would last me on a desert island. Sure Joy Luck Club would be on that list. So would Midnight’s Children and a few other honorable mentions that floored me in my late high school/early college years. Yet beyond my college years, I’ve read one book that has impacted me: White Teeth. Just one.
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Lately I’ve found there seems to be a general lack of doing. There’s a lot of talk about doing (by myself and others) but no real result. I sit around in class listening to others talk about these round about ways of getting the job accomplished (prototyping, writing, brainstorming, testing) and while all of these things are valid parts of the process, there just comes a time when enough is enough. It’s time to do.
I’d like to note that I’m not a huge fan of doing without thinking but I think that if you’ve put in the appropriate amount of thought, then you should do it. Ok appropriate is subjective but if you’re questioning that well then it’s just another excuse to not do.
This is where I’m going to start writing about what I’m doing, with a little bit about process peppered in. (I’m excited to write again too!!)
So with black pen in hand….