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24
Jun 2010
11:01 AM

Twitter Proof Your Site

Twitter's Fail Whale

As we all know, Twitter goes down very frequently. Twitter has released a useful tool to inform users about outages, planned or otherwise, but this is no help to the many websites that syndicate their Twitter feeds.

Too often the script that is pulling the Twitter feed triggers an error that can take down the entire page. One of the common culprits is the XML parser, such as DOMDocument. When Twitter goes down, all status feeds return the infamous “Fail Whale” HTML. This, of course, does not validate as XML and causes the parser to throw an error.

The best method to deal with this is to wrap all XML parsing in try/catch blocks and cache the Twitter feed. If Twitter goes down, you can display the cached copy of the feed.

This is good advice for anytime you find yourself syndicating a feed.

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21
Jun 2010
06:28 PM

It’s time for @font-face

@font-face

Since the beginning of the web, designers have struggled to use fonts on their sites, but have been limited to using the fonts that come installed with users’ operating systems. This meant that web sites had to use Arial, Times New Roman, or one of a handful of other “web safe” fonts. Of course there are ways around this – including creating graphics using a font, employing Flash to render the font (sIFR), and using proprietary browser-specific font embedding techniques. None of these options are even near perfect.

In 1998, the W3C added the CSS selector @font-face, which allows sites to point the browser to a font file, to the spec for CSS2. It was dropped from CSS2.1, but returned in CSS3. Although it took some time, it is now supported by all current browsers. Recently at Google’s 2010 I/O conference, they announced a free and open font library called Google Font Directory. The significance of this announcement is that Google (arguably the most important company on the web) has thrown their support behind @font-face. It was’t until Google supported xmlHTTPRequest (aka AJAX) that it became widely adopted and I think that this will also be true of @font-face.

The next obstacle to overcome is the licensing of fonts. Although you can use almost any font with @font-face, most fonts do not come with licensing that allows this. This is also why the Google Font Directory is so useful. All of the fonts in their directory are licensed to be used on commercial sites. Another great resource, that Brandon shared with me, is Font Squirrel. They have 633 fonts and counting, all of which have free licenses. They also have some great tools to sample fonts and create your own @font-face kits. From now I hope to see more site’s using great fonts.

It’s time for @font-face!

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26
May 2010
09:09 AM

Top Web Development/Marketing Resources

As a creative agency, in order to remain relevant and produce the highest quality web/interactive work for our clients, it is important we stay up-to-date on what’s going on within the industry. Whether it be the latest technologies that are emerging, the intriguing marketing research being conducted, or the buzz about what the key players are up to, no matter what your job description is, you should be well versed in all facets of interactive media: from planning and designing to developing and testing to advertising and promoting. Here are the resources we use at BrinkMedia.

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Industry Buzz

The importance of knowing what’s going on in the interactive and technology sector is vital for staying ahead of the game and identifying opportunities.

Tech Crunch (www.techcrunch.com)

This is the most popular and comprehensive blog on technology news. Articles include introductions of the latest start-ups and web applications, buzz about major industry players (both companies and individuals), and sometimes special exclusives that only the most powerful tech blog can obtain.

Mashable (www.mashable.com)

There is only one place you need to go to remain up-to-date on everything social media, and that is Mashable. Social media is the fastest growing segment of interactive marketing and arguably the most influential. A creative agency that is not well versed in social media is an agency that is falling behind.

The Next Web (www.thenextweb.com)

What’s going on in the world of web, from more of a business perspective. This blog is stratified into both technical categories and geography, giving you a broader view of what’s going on.

Twitter (www.twitter.com)

Yes, there is actually a use for this social media tool. Tweets are honest glimpses into what people are talking about. Using the right tools (check this article out) you can aggregate the topics that have the world tweeting and leverage that information for further research.

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Design and Development Trends

Sometimes creativity is the number one asset we can offer our clients. Arthur Koestler defined creativity as “[the] result of the intersection of two quite different frames of reference.” By examining design trends and investigating the work of other talented designers and visionaries, we can increase our personal arsenal of reference frames and likewise increase our capacity to be creative.

Smashing Magazine (www.smashingmagazine.com)

Smashing is a more comprehensive design and development e-zine, but we particularly like it as a resource for showcasing creativity.

Inspired Magazine (www.inspiredm.com)

The design inspirations in this blog reach beyond interactive to include film, television, and video games as well. Sometimes different media can provide the inspiration you need to try something truly groundbreaking.

Unmatched Style (www.unmatchedstyle.com)

A great resource for web design inspiration from around the world. This vast database of talent let’s the work speak for its self.

A List Apart (www.alistapart.com)

It is important to look at development trends as well. Understanding topics such as HTML5 and mobile development is pertinent to staying ahead of the game. A List Apart is a well respected e-zine focusing on the latest trends in standards-based HTML, CSS, and primarily front-end related topics such as usability and accessibility.

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Marketing

The primary thing that separates a web development expert from a amateur is a deep understanding of the marketing and business behind the services provided. There is a lot of beneficial marketing research being conducted regarding how users interact with the web in their day to day lives. We use this information for everything from client recommendations, to altering the way we develop, to setting up what skillsets we will be learning and hiring for over time. We subscribe to a simple axiom: know your customer.

eMarketer (www.emarketer.com)

Much of their great content is offered through a paid premium service, but there are many informative free articles as well that summarize the latest research collected. Subscribe to the eMarketer feed or follow their Twitter account to receive all of their free content as it’s published.

Hubspot Inbound Marketing Blog (blog.hubspot.com)

There has been a lot of talk about the concept of inbound marketing lately. Hubspot basically wrote the book on it. If you can look past their frequent product plugs, you can gain a lot of interesting insight from an industry leader via their blog.

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These are just a few of the resources we use on a day-to-day basis. We utilize Twitter and Google Reader to follow many different blogs at once and aggregate the information that is available. We want to hear from you, what web resources do you use?

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15
Apr 2010
05:00 PM

BrinkMedia Gets Inside Healthcare

BrinkMedia’s in the press!

Our redesign of Casa Grande Regional Medical Center’s website is highlighted in Inside Healthcare’s March/April 2010 issue. BrinkMedia’s total rebuild of CGRMC’s site included a user-friendly interface and a custom Content Management System which allows hospital admins to control virtually all elements of the site for up-to-date content. Since the site now acts as the primary resource for current information, it reduces the number of inquiries the hospital handles via phone and email.

Take a look at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center’s new website at casagrandehospital.com.

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22
Mar 2010
04:15 PM

Scrolling Websites

Anyone that has dealt with clients in any field has become familiar with the odd requests that usually don’t make any sense. In web design, there are too many to list. Today we will focus on CSS scrolll bars (overflow:auto).

A client quotes:
“Users will be confused if they have to scroll”

This is not true. Market studies have basically proved that scrolling is universally accepted as a standard element in the web experience.

However, it is YOUR website. It is understandable that you might want your website to be contained on the screen without having to scroll, but there is a huge difference between not scrolling the screen and using a CSS scroll bar.

The CSS scroll bar requires the user to focus on the containing element before the mouse wheel or keyboard page buttons will work.
Random scroll bars in the middle of the site just don’t look good in general. Some sites are designed around them and they can work, if done correctly.
The internet is not exactly brand new. Most people are very familiar with basic web navigation. To say they will be confused if they have to scroll is like saying they are too stupid to enter your domain in the browser. Have faith in your viewers.

Take a look at the internet giants of today. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay, Buy, New York Times, Craigslist, etc… All scroll. They all have quite a bit of content delivered to the viewer, but none make use of the CSS scroll bar. It stands as a testament to the user. They will figure it out.

On the flip side, CSS scroll bars can be used appropriately. Some sites are heavy on graphics and the design calls for a static overlay in a tight area. In this case, the CSS scroll bar is often the only option for long lists or information. The important part is knowing when the design of the site should call for a CSS scroll bar. In most cases, it is best to just let the page flow.

When in doubt, consult with a web design firm. We’ve seen so many projects, we live our lives on the edge of breaking news in standards, design, functionality, marketing, usability, and quality, and it’s our job to know. We will be able to tell you if your site should scroll, or if a CSS option is the best way to go.

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