Blogs on the go

So mobile is the next big thing, right? People have been saying that for the last 10 years! First WAP, then those crazy phones from Japan… Now we’ve got Apple iPhone and Google Android and Palm’s Pre and even Nokia have been able to produce some reasonable devices! With modern phones come modern web browsers and bundled data making it cost effective enough to browse the web for more than 30 seconds.

All these phones are capable of browsing the so-called “full web” but equally, users often expect a version of the site optimised for mobiles. That’s what we’ve been able to do on the Edge Hill blogging platform using a nifty little WordPress plugin called WPtouch.

It intercepts requests from certain mobile devices (currently iPhone, iPod Touch & Android) and a special theme with a few custom features to integrate more closely with phones. If you want to see the original site, there’s a toggle switch at the bottom of the page.

It’s available for all blogs hosted on blogs.edgehill.ac.uk so if you’ve got one of these phones, give it a try and let us know what you think. We’re starting to look into doing more for the mobile web both for the corporate site and for GO so keep an eye out for future developments.

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An Apple a Day

Apple recently released the latest version of Safari and it’s really impressive. It’s blisteringly fast compared to Firefox 2 and IE (Firefox 3 – currently in testing – is set to be pretty fast as well). In the last couple of days Apple has started pushing this out along side updates to Quicktime and iTunes.

This comes as absolutely no surprise to me, in fact I predicted it when Apple first announced Safari was coming to Windows:

It will be interesting to see how much market share they can get from IE, Firefox and Opera, and I suspect that as soon as it comes out of beta they’ll be pushing it out along side QuickTime and iTunes.

Quite a few people are upset about this. Seriously, get over it. If it reduces the number of people using criminally bad web browsers like IE 6 then that’s a good thing.

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)

Andy Clarke’s presentation at @media 2007 was concerned with international styles in web design, some interesting questions arose.

I was interested in why designers felt that they needed to conform to an international design style rather than adapting regional traditions in design to the web.

For example would an Italian designer look to adapt Giovanni Pintori’s classic typography for Olivetti to the web, or would they regard themselves as a world citizen designing in a universal medium where local traditions and innovations were insignificant?

Is there really an international style?

One thing I noticed when I started looking at CSS Gallery websites was that there appeared to be a specific look and feel to a design that wanted to say:

“I am a Standards Compliant CSS Website”

I feel that a lot of European designers began using American design styles because the first wave of Standards Compliant CSS Websites were American, and this trend has stuck.

The main difference would be in Typography, Europe gave us Sans Serif fonts like Helvetica and Eurostile. Whereas Americans’ prefer serif fonts like Georgia and Palatino. Serif fonts are now much more common in Europe.

Another striking thing about American design is a sense of history, a lot of contemporary design has a retro look, a certain early 60’s American Graffiti influence. The continuing vogue for logos with a flowing hand written feel like Coca Cola is evidence of this. Coca Cola incidentally have gone retro, and their new cans have simple flat colour and clean traditional type, rather than the recent fad for gradients and drop shadows, an interesting diversion.

Coca Cola Redesign

Americans also like to use a lot of texture and bring organic elements into web design, whereas European designers were always quite evangelical about white space. Nowadays Europeans’ have gone crazy about colour gradients.

One of the biggest American influences has been Apple Computers. Appletastic black and grey gradient backdrops are ubiquitous, as is typography with a faded reflection or shadow. It’s neat and tasteful, but it’s becoming homogenised. Websites don’t need look like an Apple product in order to appear more Web 2.0.

So I think there has been a move towards a universal style in web design. This could subconsciously reflect a medium without old rules and boundaries, but where is the variety?

And then there were four

Safari LogoApple made the surprise announcement yesterday that they’re releasing Safari for Windows. First impressions are that it’s fast, with some neat features – check out the article length slider when you view an RSS feed and search as you type – but it’s got the iTunes grey interface which I don’t particularly like.

The browser wars are really hotting up again. It will be interesting to see how much market share they can get from IE, Firefox and Opera, and I suspect that as soon as it comes out of beta they’ll be pushing it out along side QuickTime and iTunes.

As web developers, the major benefit will be if rendering is the same as Safari for Mac OS X which would allow us to more easily test compatibility. If it’s another slight variation then it’ll just be a pain!

Apple Video Solutions: Training For the Media Industry

On May 31st I attended a briefing session in Manchester from Apple Computer entitled Apple Video Solutions Training for the Media Industry.

First we were given an overview of current trends and Apple’s strategies to exploit new markets. New trends included: quick adoption to digital technologies and HD television within media industry and by the general consumer; the changing face of media distribution, for example iPod, DVD, SDTV, HDTV, and 3G technologies; and diminishing costs of technology in relation to the cost of people who work in the new media industry.

Some interesting phrases were introduced such as Creative Cross Pollination, this doesn’t involve Bees or the wind, but refers to the multiple technical skills which creative individuals need to get ahead in the new media industries.

The remainder of the day was split into two sessions:

The first session was an overview of the revamped video editing package Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Server: Apple’s media asset management and workflow automation software.

The session second related to Apple Authorised Training Centres and the Apple Pro Certification for students training for careers in Video Editing and Music Production.

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