Thirst Studios

May 28, 2009

It’s a little bit old news now, but I’m very pleased to announce that I recently teamed-up with Andrew Gunstone to form Thirst Studios.

Andrew and I decided to join forces in order to offer a more complete end-to-end service to our clients, with me heading-up the strategy, IA, design and user-experience side and Andrew taking care of the back-end code and CMS development (but we both do a bit of everything in reality).

Check out the new Thirst Studios site and let me know what you think.

The Best Job In The World

January 15, 2009

As usual it’s been a busy few months here at BTD, having spent most of my time of late working with a fantastic team over at Cummins Nitro on a really interesting project - The Best Job In The World.

The site launched this week and has already had a phenomenal response, with a rush of dream job hopefuls causing the site to crash in just two days of it’s release.

Besides looking great with a nice design, great imagery and smooth flash work there’s a lot going on ‘under the hood’. This is easily the biggest site I have worked on in terms of ‘whistles and bells’. It makes use of over 30 scripts, libraries, frameworks, plugins and API’s, and just how the team enabled all of these to work in harmony across the site whilst still adhering to web standards is really quite an achievement!

Hats off to Matt, Horia, Glen, Anton and Mark. Great work, guys.

My interview on spicy web designers

September 9, 2008

I was recently approached by Luc Arnold, founder of Spicy web designers to be interviewed for his new site.

In their own words: features some of the hottest web design talent around the world and strives to showcase them and inspire others with what is possible in the world of web design.

It’s really nice to have been considered worthy of a listing amongst other great designers such as Chris Dawson and Elliot Jay Stocks!

Here are my answers to Luc’s questions.

Rearranging page code & advanced CSS techniques to improve SEO

September 8, 2008

I was conducting a review of some XHTML and CSS templates for a client recently when I came across an interesting SEO concept that I hadn’t heard of before. At first I was skeptical (and I still am a little), but upon closer inspection I started thinking that there could be something it it. Not only in terms of SEO, but accessibility too. The articles I found describing this technique date back to 2004-5 and the fact that I’ve not found anything more recent on the subject just further fuels my skepticism. Anyway - I thought I’d post my discovery here and see what the wider web design world had to comment…

So what is it? Well, the idea is this: Rather than structuring your HTML in the usual order of header/navigation, content and footer, you build the pages such that the main content appears first, with the navigation and footer underneath. Then, using CSS to style the page you pull the navigation/header back up to appear above the content when viewed in a browser.

The articles I found describing the technique promote the idea that doing this will raise the relevance of your page within search engine rankings since it’s believed that some spiders only read the first few characters, or give more weight to content appearing towards the top of a page. You can see the articles here:

Tech republic’s ‘Rearrange page code to raise text relevance’article. Brook group’s ‘Putting Content First: SEO and Advanced CSS’ article. It does seems to make sense, but does anyone know of any evidence to support this?

While this is all very interesting from a SEO point of view, what interested me more was the idea that this method of marking-up a page could actually aid usability and accessibility for those using assistive technologies like screen readers, or people with old mobiles or PDA’s that can’t handle CSS very well. Traditionally we responsible web designers have added things like ‘skip to content’ links within our HTML markup to help such users, but this negates that need since upon arriving at a page coded like this, the user is presented with the article title and the article immediately without the need to skip past the logo, navigation etc. The flip-side of course is that they would require a ‘skip to navigation’ should they want to navigate away from the page quickly.

There is another argument I can think of against this method and that’s down to good usability through consistency. By this I mean most, if not all pages are currently marked-up in the traditional way that I mentioned before: header/navigation at the top, then content and then the footer. As a result, most people visiting websites using assistive technologies will be familiar with the current structure, expecting to find the header information and main navigation at the top of the page and used to the idea that they need to skip past this to reach the content. As such, re-arranging the HTML as these articles suggest could actually do more harm than good as it’s an unconventional approach and inconsistent with most other sites.

Have any of you ever actually implemented this technique anywhere? Does it work? What are your thoughts?

Darebin libraries website

June 13, 2008

Having experienced many online offerings from local governments and local councils in the past, as well as having worked for a few, I had pretty much resigned myself to accepting that most are going to be rubbish in terms of antiquated code using tables for layout and inline styles, bad interface design, little or no regard for usability or accessibility and, more often than not containing outdated content.

Whatever the reasons for this, be it that the website is perhaps considered a low priority, that there’s no dedicated resource allocated to the website or that it’s simply too hard to get people to agree to a redesign, the sites’ users seem destined to lose-out.

This has always amazed and concerned me considering the broad, diverse user base that these organisations must have, and the importance of the content to a lot of people.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore, by the Darebin libraries website that I discovered this week. Not only is the site nicely designed with a simple, clean interface, but it’s nicely coded too, with semantic (x)HTML, clean CSS and carefully implemented javaScript that helps maintain good accessibility through the use of graceful degradation techniques, otherwise known as progressive enhancement.

Good work Darebin libraries.

I Vote For Art

May 20, 2008

I’m really pleased to announce the launch of my latest website - I vote for art. It’s a new online gallery, where you can buy and sell art, as well as vote for your favourites.

I Vote For Art homepage

Based in Melbourne, Australia the site showcases some fantastic contemporary work by local and international artists.

An example detail page

Thanks again to the wonderful Andrew Gunstone for assistance with the back-end programming and checkout functionality. Andrew, you’re a legend!

So get on over to I vote for art and get yourselves something cool to decorate those walls with!

Judging the International Web Awards

May 20, 2008

I’m delighted to announce that I have been asked to be one of the judges in this years’ International Web Marketing Association WebAwards web design competition.

Now in its 12th year, the WebAwards is the premier annual website award competition that names the best Web sites in 96 industries while setting the standard of excellence for all website development.

It’s an honor to have been called upon to contribute to the judging of the competition this year. Stay tuned for the results!

Oh, and entries are still open so why not submit a site or two?

Whereis products

May 15, 2008

I’m pleased to announce that the ‘mini’ site I built for Whereis has gone live. Whereis products explains some of the new features at the recently launched new, as well as explaining how you can make use of whereis’ maps across a range of products including mobile and in-car GPS devices.

I built the site from scratch in (x)HTML and CSS to be as standards-compliant and accessible as the design would allow.

The help pages that I authored for Whereis are also now live over at the Whereis main site. You’ll need to click the ‘help’ button in the top right and then the ‘Help contents’ links to find it.

Stay tuned for details of the flash demo videos and associated player that I built for Whereis too. It’s not live just yet…

BTD quiz #2: Usability issues resulting from a staggered web application release

May 14, 2008

Here’s another little usability conundrum for all you user experience designers out there. This question was asked of me recently while designing an online transactional web application for a company here in Melbourne and I’d like to hear any suggestions you may have about how best to tackle this issue…

The client wanted to release their shiny new web app as soon as possible. The reasons for this from a business point of view were obvious, not least to get to market first ahead of the competition! In order to do this however, the plan meant releasing a basic version of the app with a limited feature-set first, with the intention of releasing updates over time, adding features within various sections of the application.

At the time of launch the full app architecture had been decided upon, with the final app to consist of a series of about 7 sections, each to contain a number of features. Some sections would contain all or some features available now, whereas others would not contain any until such time that they were developed and released later.

My question is this - Should the app be released with:

The full architecture in place with all sections and labels visible to the user such that they can get a feel for what will be the full app, even though some sections will be empty at launch (These pages could be populated with content about the features that will redide here eventually). The full architecture in place with all sections and labels visible to the user, but ‘disabled’ or ‘greyed-out’ until such time that they become ‘active’ and contain content. Only sections with active feature content visible, with a view to ‘turning-on’ sections and their relevant labels/buttons as the content is added.


May 13, 2008

I watched Helvetica last night which is a fascinating documentary about typography, graphic design and global visual culture.

It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.

I know, I know… A film about typefaces and letters doesn’t sound all that engaging but I assure you this really is! I’d say it’s a must-see for anyone that works with type. It’s not only informative and inspirational, but features some good interviews with some of the most well-known and influential graphic designers in the world.

As someone that uses type as part of my work every day it really got me thinking about typography (and how little I currently know). It’s prompted me to learn more about type and take a lot more notice of how it works in the world around us.