Category Archives: Design

How to get a repeating text effect background on your website

The difficult part is cutting up your image so the repeating text works and you get seamless tiling. What you do first is write out the text, rotate it 45 degrees anti clockwise, and then work out how regularly you want it spaced and try and roughly space out your text the way you want it. Of course at this point if you want a wide gap between your lines just stop right now :)

Otherwise, it helps in photoshop to turn on your grid (ctrl + ‘) and create a square on an underlying layer. Basically wherever a letter exits the square you need to make sure on the opposite side of the square the remainder of that letter is entering the square.

For example, for the first diagonal line in the diagram below the ‘w’ in ‘workflow’ exits the square on the top line and is cut off at the first tip of the w, and on the opposite side of the square at the bottom line the ‘w’ enters the square with the tip cut off. Similarly on the left side of the square the ‘f’ tip is cut off, and on the right hand side the ‘f’ tip is the last thing in the square.

It helps to use guides to get things exact. Once you’ve got it you can select your layers of text, press ctrl+e to merge them into a layer, then press ‘w’ to select the magic wand, make sure you are on the underlying square layer, click anywhere in the square to select it, and then select the merged/rasterized text layer and copy the selection onto a new layer. hide the other layers, trim, save, etc.

WordPress 3.3

This blog has recently been updated from WordPress 1.something to 3.3. I’ve got to say, the new WordPress interface really is lovely, makes me realise why so many people complain when they move from WordPress to Joomla or Drupal. Besides looking stylish it’s also very well organised, and I think that being able to install plugins in 1 click is a massive bonus, as is the ‘autosave’ function.

And I’m very impressed by the default 2011 theme which I’m using. I feel a bit uneasy about the MASSIVE amount of whitespace up near the header, plus the huge header image – I guess above-the-fold space no longer is the precious commodity it once was. It’s a responsive design though, so at least it degrades nicely for smaller screens.

To celebrate, here is a  cat attacking a paper bag:

Pet peeves

I’m made upset and uneasy by the following:

  • People being reluctant and antipathic towards learning basic HTML, when it would make their life so much easier
  • People not using tabs in browsers and instead opening loads of windows
  • The fact that most people won’t start or even try reading a book if it is over 300 pages long
  • People using colour coding and formatting in spreadsheets instead of an extra column for data, and then looking surprised when I point out how useless it is because it loses the formatting when converted to csv and it doesn’t allow sorting
  • Someone USING the word ‘utilise’ (oh my, yes)
  • Me writing an email carefully and clearly explaining something and then someone replying in a way which makes it obvious that they just haven’t bothered reading it because it would mean them employing their brain for 5 seconds and they just can’t be bothered, so please can’t I explain it more simply?
  • Irrational numbers and recurring decimals
  • Word documents being used when a text file or spreadsheet would be much more appropriate
  • The millions of shorcuts you have to learn for vi/vim and how they make my memory apparently completely disintegrate
  • People using me as an interface for google instead of their computer/web browser – lmgtfy.com indeed.
  • Jeremy Clarkson
  • People always choosing to learn things in a very narrow, blinkered way instead of learning the fundamental rules about how things work and then extrapolating. So it’s kind of like me saying “So would you like to learn how to click this button and then the next button, or would you like to learn about what the system is doing and how it works?” == “So, would you like a step by step set of instructions to follow every time you want to cook cheese on toast, or would like to learn the fundamental principles of cooking and be able to create your own delicious dishes (including cheese on toast) effortlessly”?
  • Continuing from the above point: the problem is that people just aren’t lazy enough. Anybody who is remotely lazy will of course choose the second option, as it’s setting you up for life and means you will have to expend less effort further down the road. Only a machine needs step by step click-this-go-here-open-this sort of instructions. We are human beings, and we should be better. And yes, I’m aware it’s not possible to learn everything and some people just don’t have the time, but for stuff you do every day there is no excuse. This is kind of my first point reiterated I guess.

And, delving into my own shortcomings: The question is, is it better to be hopelessly bewildered by irritating bureacratic forms/bills and to put off doing anything about them, or is it better to be ruthlessly efficient and open your post as soon as you get it or fill out forms beforehand so you are organised? The former means you’re irritated and frustrated for a small period of time when people yell at you to get stuff sorted and then it is all over, the latter means you are CONSTANTLY irritated and frustrated (and worrying and fretting and organising and getting stressed out) but are also not selfish or working against the system.

Hmm….. Hmm. Sometimes it does feel as though we should have better systems for managing our lives with. Is this really the best we can come up with, human race? Filling out forms and soul destroying bureaucracy is the only way to organise ourselves because we exist on such a large scale now? Bah. But on the plus side I’ve done a foreign conversion on my driving license and although I might have forgotten to fill out my second leave form, at least I filled out my first one.

Dear Internet Explorer

In all your manifestations, you are a sorry excuse for a browser and have caused hundreds of thousands of developers countless hours of misery and irritation. Including me, right now. IE developers, at the very least, please give me some better debugging tools.

Fresh website

Working for a digital agency as a developer is great, it really is. I do miss stretching my design muscles though, and I do want to get to grips with javascript better, so I’ve set myself the task of creating a new portfolio website. What I want most of all is for all of the information I want to display to be immediate, but I want to try and present it will enough to not need the feeling of ‘web pages’ and navigation. After all, all that a porfolio site should have is your work, a bit of information about yourself (including any twitter/whatever feeds that are relevant) and a link to your CV. Everything needs to feel categorised and exactly in it’s right place… I’m tempted to use Drupal, which is my current favourite toy, but I don’t need anything especially complicated and I’ve got enough Drupal projects going on at work…

Well with any luck now I’ve made a blog post about it I’ll start setting myself real deadlines and get this show on the road!

Why the new bbc weather site sucks

I know people are all about numbered lists with bite sized information chunks now, but I don’t seem to be able to order my thoughts enough to do it, but here is a quick summary:

Whereas previously the weather was viewable the instant you got to the page, you now have to search and then scroll down on a laptop or smaller screen to be able to see what the weather predictions are.

Ok, now why :

1. Over complicated with less crucial information and more useless information. Also, the layout just sucks. What were they thinking!

I don’t want to have to scan the page to work out what I’m trying to do, and the fact that they’ve had to put instructions right in the front goes to show exactly how bad the design is. Good design, the kind you would expect from a corp like the BBC guides you with visual cues rather than with a list of points on how to use the site. I don’t care that they’ve got a ‘don’t show me this again’ tickbox – this isn’t the kind of site you go to to interact with, this is the kind of site you go to to find out whether you need a bloody umbrella today. This is the kind of website I check on friends computers before going out, that I check on peoples phones or at an internet cafe or on wifi or whatever, I don’t want to be prompted each time.

I don’t care about forecast maps and videos or related links but they seem to be taking up an awful lot of page space. I care about the five day forecast (which is now a four day forecast) and the 24 hour forecast (which is also just four icons). Was the issue that it wasn’t very accurate or something? It was too difficult to try and predict something in that much detail? Can’t be because they have the maps showing forecast times in a much more fine-grained slider.

Why is the ‘recently viewed’ thing hidden so far down?

Why are the weather icons on the 4 day forecast and the 24 hour forecast highlighted every other time in pink? It suggests that there’s something significant about those days, why didn’t they just use a plain divider if they wanted extra visual separation?

Why is the navigation on the left hand side when it means it sacrifices so much more page space? I really liked the system they had before, they could have just expanded that by adding extra tabs for the forecast maps (which i guess are pretty useful) and whatever all the rest of the junk on the page is that’s cluttering it up and making it look so verbose.

Why haven’t they given more prominence to the search box? If they’re making people search for the weather now instead of just displaying it like they used to they might as well at least make it easy to spot and use, like google did or any other site where the first thing you do when you get to the page is to search. Admittedly the convenience of having London’s weather on the main page might only apply to people who live in London, leaving the others had to search for it anyway, but it makes sense to have the capital city the default thing to show, rather than sweet fa).

It’s perfectly possible to have a site with loads of cool useful techy content and make it easy to use and visually clear. Why haven’t they done it, why!?

2. Sucky icon design
The other icons might have been a tad ugly, but there was no mistaking at a glance that they meant cloudy or rainy or whatever. For me and for a lot of others this site is not about visual aesthetics but about utilitarianism.

Anyway in conclusion I’m really annoyed about the whole thing and I don’t understand why most people seem to like it. If you’ve found my ranty post with it’s poorly set out points and you disagree, please get in touch and let me know why I’m wrong.

Working and Costa Rica

I am currently working for a company called 33above in london near liverpool street as a sort of general all purpose designer. I’ve been mocking up screenshots of a skin for their cms (which would be used by clients as well as themselves) and writing an xsl-fo parser in actionscript 3. It’s been very exciting. I’m also going to Costa Rica in a few weeks till December in a mad rush to avoid growing up and getting a permanent job – also to teach english as a foreign language and learn to surf and speak spanish.

Oh, and I miss living with my friends. <3 8 Church Close! The new soul calibur is pretty good though.