Like many other Firefox users, the large number of Firefox add-ons that extend what I can do with Firefox means that it is my default browser. I probably use many of the add-ons that you know and love but I thought it would be interesting to list a few that are not so well-known… but that I find really useful. In no particular order, here they are:
If you want to embed Flash video on your website, you could do a lot worse than use Flowplayer which is an open source Flash player. The set-up process is really easy and there are lots of demos with code on the Flowplayer website. The player has many configuration options including the use of a preview image for your Flash video but the basic set-up only takes a minute or two. Excellent!
- Update: Another review of Flowplayer on Boagworld.
- Related: JW Player is another Flash player option but it’s not free and you’ll need to buy the commercial version if you want to use this for client websites.
Over the last week or so I have come across several websites that allow users to navigate using the left and right arrow keys. I think this is an interesting approach and I really like this method of navigating a website. Perhaps it’s just me but I like using keyboard shortcuts (because they seem to allow me to do things faster) …. so it’s interesting to see websites using the left and right keys in this way. Here are the website examples I have spotted that use this method.
- Crush + Lovely. This is a fantastic design and the left and right keys enable you to scroll between the various content sections. Try it and see!
- Pictory is a photo story website and it uses left and right keyboard navigation in a similar way.
- Thinking for a Living uses left and right keys for horizontal scrolling between sections/pages.
- OnSugar uses a left-right arrow key method to navigate between images in a gallery.
There is an adding keyboard navigation tutorial at jQuery for Designers which explains how a similar effect is achieved with an image slider. The jQuery Tools website has Scrollable which enables a content slider to be navigated with left-right keys.
There may be disadvantages to this method but I’m keen to find out more about it so if you know of other websites that use this approach, let me know.
One thing that I have been pondering recently is whether to use web templates or (WordPress) themes more regularly in web design projects. Yes, you might view this as a cop-out or some indication of lack of creativity. On the other hand, if you want to jump-start a website design and get straight into the front-end build CSS and HTML, perhaps a theme/template is a good starting point?
Whilst I was thinking on this, imagine my surprise (perhaps surprise is too strong a word but you get the idea) when Sabrina Dent, a designer whose work I have often admired, wrote this blog post called Confessions of a Template Whore where she outlines some of the advantages of using templates. One of the main reasons cited is for clients who don’t have a large budget. Hey, I get that all the time!
In my experience, a client is rarely satisfied with a template off-the-shelf and customisation will always be required. However, when a template or theme ticks most of the boxes, customisation becomes easier than starting from scratch. In addition, you can always learn from the way that another designer does things. Just because you always float a specific element does not mean that is the only way of doing it!
Now, I’m not saying you just choose any old template here. The client’s objectives, budget, and type of business will all influence your choice of theme. You might decide to spend quite some time at the start of the website design process choosing one or more themes or templates. Although a template can be a quick start for your web design process, don’t rush the template selection process. I like to look at a variety of themes and assess which might be best.
So, what’s your take on this? Are templates bad for web design or are they a smart way of getting the basic structure and design established quickly, with client customisation to follow?
Related: ThemeForest has some high quality templates and themes.
Here’s the story: Not so long ago, I was asked to redesign a client’s website that, to be frank, was long past its sell-by date. Great! An exciting new project and I was looking forward to it! Unfortunately, there was some ‘baggage’ with the job, namely the client’s logo. Without going into detail, it needed a redesign as well but this was not within the project scope. So, how should I work with the logo? Here are some options that I explored:
- Use high quality images in combination with the logo. Professional stock photography, as long as it is not too clichéd, can enhance an older logo. A montage effect, although not very original, can confer an attractive surrounding or background for the logo.
- Modify part of the logo to minimise its effect. Perhaps there is an element of the logo that can be removed to improve the overall look without detracting from the company’s identity?
- Make the logo a smaller part of the overall design.
- Add an attractive background colour or image to the element that contains the logo.
In an ideal world, none of these options would need to be considered because a logo redesign would be part of the website work… but small company web design isn’t always like that.
What have you done when faced with this situation? There may be better options than mine. Let me know if you have other suggestions.
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