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There’s a Script for That …

May 30th, 2012 No comments

For a while now, I’ve been trying out the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox and really find it useful. The add-on doesn’t work by itself – you have to find and install scripts in order for it to work for you. There are a myriad of scripts available at http://userscripts.org/ , and I’ve installed quite a few of them. Among my favorites are:

1. Disable Text Ads
2. Remove/Hide All Gmail Ads
3. Facebook Ad Remover
4. Youtube Video Download
5. Craigslist Image Preview

To me, it’s all about taking control of your own user experience on the web. Now, after installing a few scripts into Greasemonkey, if I don’t want to see ads on my Gmail homepage, or Google ”sponsored links” on my search results page, I install a script and voila! no more ads…. If I want to click a button and download a particular Youtube video to my computer or see image thumbnails under Craigslist listings (instead of having to click into the actual ad) now I can do that too!

Now, I have to say that not all of the scripts that I’ve installed have worked as promised – you get a dud every now and then. If you do, just delete it and find another one that’s similar – there are usually multiple scripts out there that accomplish the same thing. Also, sometimes a Web site change (i.e. youtube.com), or browser update may cause a script to stop working and you may have to uninstall it and get the updated version in order for it to continue working the way it did previously.

Categories: A little fun, Creativity, Uncategorized Tags:

A little “Morning Coffee” to start your day …

March 29th, 2012 No comments

Everyone around the Greystone.Net office knows that I’m not big coffee drinker, but what they don’t know is that I usually start my day with a little “Morning Coffee.”

How can that be? Well, the Morning Coffee that I use is not the kind you drink…. It’s an add-on for your Firefox browser that, according to the Firefox add-on page, “Keeps track of daily routine Web sites and opens them in tabs.”

Basically, you can add Web sites that you visit on a daily basis and have them all open up in tabs at the touch of a button. This saves you from having to visit each one individually.

Categories: A little fun, Uncategorized Tags:

Graphic Design Trends for the New Year

January 24th, 2012 No comments

The beginning of a new year is always a good time for new inspiration. As a graphic designer, I’m always trying to keep up on the latest and hottest trends and while I don’t have a crystal ball, I do see some recurring trends that have the potential of being the big design focus in 2012 based on the industry:

  • Big Vector Art
    Large, illustration-type graphics seem to be popping up everywhere. In the past, people were inclined to shy away from using vector artwork on Web sites, but now it seems much more commonplace. Even the use of vector mascots is becoming popular. Some other good examples can be found on the Mozilla and Mail Chimp sites.
  • Circles
    Circular shapes were the rage a few years ago, but seemed to fade away for one reason or another … possibly due to the fact that they were challenging to create on Web pages. Currently, through the use of CSS3, circles are making a comeback. With CSS3, designers can incorporate circles into their designs without even needing to create images in Photoshop.
  • JQuery/CSS3/HTML5
    With Apple discontinuing further development of Flash Player for mobile devices, it left designers and programmers scrambling for other options. The use of JQuery, CSS3 and HTML5 are all viable options for creating animations, especially considering HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices. Here’s a nice CSS3 animation example that if you didn’t know better, you might think was created with Flash.
  • Typography
    It was difficult in the past to program a Web site to use custom fonts because you had to consider whether the user would have your particular font installed on their machine in order to see your true design intent. Now it’s all too easy for Webmasters and Designers to embed non-standard fonts into their Web designs, providing more flexibility to create without being concerned with using a font that all Web users can view. Google Web fonts is probably one of the easiest services to use and Typekit is another viable option. At the end of last year, Adobe acquired Typekit, currently being offered as a standalone service, but has plans for adding it to Adobe® Creative Cloud in the future.
  • Shades of Blue
    After skimming multiple Web pages displaying Web trend colors, the blue colors seem to dominate on most of the Web designers color palettes. I’ve typically seen the shades in combinations of three – light, medium and dark – along with a few accent colors like white or grey. Even I have succumbed to using the blue hues on several print and Web pieces that I have created recently.

Nobody can say for sure what to expect, but these are a few of the more common design trends that seem to be driving the creative culture in 2012.

 

Passing on the Double Underline

September 30th, 2010 1 comment

Surfing the Web nowadays, I guess you get used to being bombarded by advertisements on almost every Web site that you visit …. no, not THOSE sites … I’m talking about your normal everyday run-of-the-mill Web sites. I usually make it a point not to click on any paid ads that I happen run across … mainly just for spite. Well, that and because I feel like I’m harassed enough by advertising in other media during the course of a day. Even when I do a generic Google search, I avoid the “sponsored links” like the plague. Again, I really don’t have one significant reason for this other than they happen to be “ads” and they happen to annoy me. The few that I actually have clicked on in the past gave me no results related to my initial search so that may have also jaded my enthusiasm for them.

That being said, lately I’ve also become annoyed by the double underlined links that seem to permeate all of the articles or blogs that I’ve been reading. I’m one of those who just happens to move the mouse around as I’m reading a Web page and without fail I inadvertently mouse over an “in text advertisement” (usually marked by double underlines) within the content. As soon as this happens, the ad immediately pops up –sometimes playing automatically –severely distracting me from what I was trying to read. To me, these types of ads are highly invasive and have never motivated me to buy any of the products being pitched by them.

Web usability expert Jakob Nielson seems to feel the same way and sums it up quite nicely by stating that “One of misery design’s most insidious recent examples is the idea of embedding links to advertising on the actual words of an article using a service like IntelliTxt. By sullying the very concept of navigation, such ads not only damage the user experience on the host site, they poison the well for all websites. Such links make users even less likely to navigate sites, and more likely to turn to trusted search engines to guide them to the next page.”

Today, I was overjoyed to find some instructions (note the “tips & warnings section) for turning off these ads. This solution worked for the particular site I was on, but may not work on all sites. I also ran across a Firefox browser add-on called “Greasemonkey” that you can customize to your liking, but I haven’t installed it yet. Greasemonkey can do a lot more that just block in-text ads and does seem to be a little more involved, but either option might be worth a try if you’re as tired of those annoying double underlines as I am.

Categories: Usability Tags:

Three….Word….Taglines

April 14th, 2010 1 comment

Three….Word….Taglines

Lately, here at Greystone we’ve been talking about updating our printed marketing materials. As I was tossing around ideas for a possible folder cover, I found myself using the dreaded “three word tagline.” My decision came about simply enough. I was thinking of a simple, straightforward design with the possibility of including a few photos. Anyone that is familiar with my design work knows I’m a fan of grouping in threes – photos, text areas, buttons, etc. So, as usual, I ended up with three symmetrical images on a nice, clean, light grey background. This was fine, but then I immediately grabbed three keywords from some of our old printed materials and proceeded to place one under each photo. There I was staring at three photos with three “keywords” underneath them. I have to say that I liked the look, but something still bothered me.

I finally realized that the previous day, I had read a brochure for the upcoming HOW Design Conference and one presentation in particular entitled, “Three. Word. Taglines. (And Other Horrible Branding Practices),” had apparently stuck with me. That particular session’s presenter was Tate Linden, who also blogs on www.stokefire.com. His observations may be a bit dated, but still relevant, nevertheless. In fact, his ideas and opinions were very helpful regarding the use and over-use of Three Word Taglines, or as he termed them, TWTs.

Of taglines in general, he says that “It seems that companies use them because they’re supposed to have something under their name and above their address on their business cards – but they’re not quite sure what it’s supposed to do.” This is the rut I fell into – thinking that I needed to have “something” under the photos, but not quite sure why.

Specifically, he notes that “There’s one thing that the TWTs do pretty well – they communicate to the people that work for the company. They see it on their cards, letterhead, and website. It’s a constant reminder of what their own product does (or what it stands for).” He goes on to say that “The only problem is that most of the companies using these TWTs seem to think that people outside the company actually care enough to remember which three words are the ones that matter.” In a related blog posting, he uses theTWT example of “Creative. Strategy. Execution.” and bluntly asserts that no one ever pays attention to taglines like this, and they end up sounding, as he puts it, pompous.

However, he states that there are satisfactory ways to use TWT and points out several interesting commonalities between strong taglines. These include representing brand spirit, using a slogan that is unique to the company, employing something unique in the slogan and using a tagline to address a specific audience. Tate uses Nike’s “Just Do It” as an example of an acceptable TWT. In my opinion, the words “Just do it” are a connected, flowing thought, unlike the previous example of “Creative. Strategy. Execution.” These words seem incomplete and read as if someone is hammering them into your head. Admittedly, Nike did an excellent job creating a personalized feeling and an image with its tagline. That is what all marketers strive to accomplish when creating a tagline and more broadly, marketing a business.

In the end, TWTs are not the enemy, but you should proceed with caution before using them. I did end up using three words in our brochure, not to break the rules, as I am often accused of, but because it worked for what we were trying to accomplish. So, I would say be careful using three word taglines because you may find your company being perceived as a “four letter word.”

Categories: Creativity Tags: