Design Coming Full Circle

I’m not sure how or when it happened or who started it. I would blame M$ or Apple, but their websites aren’t the greatest. I’m thinking about blaming the French, just b/c it’s always easy to blame them.

I ran across this article about grid-based design and one line in particular caught my attention:

Table layouts are great for grid designs. The markup itself reproduces a specific grid, and the tendency is for us to just fill up the boxes with the images, type, and interface elements that make up our design.”
[ Molly Holzschlag ]

bold is taken as is, but it would have been the part I emphasized.

Clicking the link on her name took me to an article she wrote on A List Apart about Grid Design. Simply writing for ALA tells me that she knows what she’s talking about, so I’m not going to say she’s wrong. And, while I agree the grid design is clean and looks nice and is probably what I would use on a lot of projects, it amazes me that we’ve come full circle as designers. I got into web design fairly late in the game (it seems to me): ~2001 at the age of 19 or 20. Ever since, it has never been a job, but more of a passion or hobby. Back then, though, all I had was a pirated version of Dreamweaver and all I knew how to do was to draw tables in Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG editor. But then, talking to a buddy who was also into design and subsequently being introduced to Stopdesign’s Douglas Bowman (not face-to-face, but my face to his website), I got into the world of tableless CSS. I’ve only been back to tables once since then and I don’t intend to go back ever.

However, the grid design almost seems to be begging us to come back to the tables. And I know tables aren’t gone forever, but wouldn’t it be great if they were. I used to be able to tell (and probably still can tell) which websites are made with MS Frontpage and which aren’t (most aren’t but Frontpage sites seem to just jump out and choke me). Frontpage has that same block, or grid, design to it. And again, this isn’t a bash on the grid design. It’s simply amazement that we go from tables to tableless to simulated tables.

Today’s grid designs are much more clean and neat and pleasing to the eye. But, theoretically, these designs could’ve been done very easily with tables. What’s next? Will Netscape make a huge comeback?

God 2.0

Wow. It’s been a while since either of us has written anything meaningful here. Yes, we love to brag about Trinity. I love to talk about nerdy stuff. Jen loves to avoid the blog whenever she can. Well, it’s good to be back.

Jen and I actually got to attend most of a church service this past Sunday (don’t judge, we are usually doing Kids’ Church). And during worship, a man in our church got up and started talking about obediance. He had something to say to the congregation and he felt that he wasn’t being obediant until he said it. Neither Jen nor I can really remember the whole point to his message, but what caught both of us was the obediance.

That got me thinking about what I should be obediant about and how I should use my gifts. We all have gifts, and we all need to use our gifts for the advancement of the Kingdom. We aren’t here to promote ourselves, our club, group, church, etc., but that’s a whole other topic. We’re here to use our gifts. I thought to myself, “Self.”

Self said, “Yes?”

“What are my gifts? What can I do to be obediant and reach the people for God?”

Self replied, “Well, you’re a nerd that is into computers. You know HTML, CSS, a little Flash, you know, nerd stuff. You’re fairly quiet, fairly inquisitive, a decent thinker. You’re really into technology, getting into politics and the news, but are still a conspiracy theorist to a point.”

“Okay, that’s a little random, but I generally agree with that,” said I.

“Why can’t you use technology to reach people? You could build websites for God and be all geeky for the Kingdom.”

“Good point, Self. I’m an okay designer though. What are all the good designers doing to promote God in their media?”

To me, it seems like when anyone tries to promote God through the Web (and most of any technologically advanced media), it comes out hoakey, cheesey, and irrelevent. This includes church web sites, businesses that promote religious artifacts and non-profits that promote the Kingdom. I have decided not to post any specific sites on which I would put the aforementioned labels. I believe that, even though I see them as cheesey and irrelevent, someone may find comfort and joy in them. I also do not wish to tear down brothers in Christ. Plus, I realize that many organizations cannot afford help in designing a Web site, so some poor secretary is sitting in front of her screen trying to sort through a WYSIWYG editor or trying to teach herself HTML from online searches. I would like to draw your attention to some of the better examples:

Godbit.com

The guys over at Godbit.com have actually answered my question before I even asked it. From what I can tell, Godbit.com is the brainchild of Nathan Smith. I’ve been reading Nathan’s blog for about 6 months now. He is a talented designer/developer who loves the Lord and wants to see the Kingdom advanced. From his writings, I can’t tell what denomination he is, which is a big reason I like him so much. Godbit features many authors discussing ways to bring the Church into the 21st Century.

This is so common in fact, that the term “Christian” when associated with the Internet has become synonymous with “sub-par.” Without pointing fingers specifically, some of these practices include overuse of JavaScript, malformed (X)HTML, all-Flash websites, and over-dependence on tables for layout.

We realize that no one person can do everything well, and so we hope that through engaging in a community discussion, we can all learn from one another, and in so doing be like iron sharpening iron, spurring one another on to further understanding, and greater achievement.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the “all-Flash websites” (see: Origins Community), I love the job that they are doing. They are probably doing the best job in bringing the Church up to speed on web development, technology, and Spirituality. Their name says it all: Theology + Technology.

SacredSpace.ie

SacredSpace.ie could take a few lessons from Godbit.com in the way of design, but needs no help in the Annointing. Jen found SS somehow (not exactly sure), but it is a great site. They post a new prayer every day, actually they are always a few days ahead, and let you see a few days back (in case you missed one).

It’s just a few minutes, in front of your monitor, getting alone with God. In this crazy world of multitasking and gadgets, SS.ie lets you get in touch with God, even if it’s just a few minutes. It’s a good way to spend a lunch or a break.

The design could use some help. They use Javascript for the prayers, but the homepage is one long page in which you are taken down to different sections by links. If you are using a monitor that is smaller than 17”, you may think you are being taken to a whole different page. But if you look at the scrollbar, you can tell.

These definately aren’t the only 2. I would like some feedback into what sites you visit that have Spiritual meaning or any technology-related material that promotes God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.

Go Shorty, It’s My Birthday…

That’s right, today is my birthday. Another year gone by, another to look forward to. Usually my wife is all about making “the day of” special (and she did), but she made the day before special to. The day before, she told me what my present was going to be: a new wireless keyboard and mouse. Okay, I’m admitting I’m a geek, but I’ve been wanting one of these things for a long time. I got one @ work and I love it, so I had to have one for the house.

So Jen and I hop into the car and cruise on down to Circuit City and CompUSA. CompUSA had a better selection. I really liked the Logitech’s media controls on the top of the board (especially the volume control that was a spinning knob rather than + and - buttons) and the rechargable docking station for the mouse. Unfortunately, I also had to have the tilt wheel feature only found on Microsoft mice. So I went with this one:
Microsoft Wirless Optical Elite

And I absolutely love it! Buttons for everything: Media (including volume, mute, play/pause, stop, prev and next track), Web, Mail, Messenger, Calculator, and 5 customizable buttons. I’ve only done the first 3 so far (1. Dreamweaver, 2. Flash, 3. Photoshop; I’m thinking about making one Opera just to see what my sites look like in that browser). One of the best features is having mouse controls on the left side of the keyboard. Without leaving the keyboard, my left hand can control back and forward in my browser along with scrolling up/down AND left/right with the tilt-wheel technology!

The mouse has 5 buttons: left/right click, the scroll wheel toggles between open windows (which, again, has the up/down and left/right scroll) and back and forward buttons for web browsing.

Have I sold you yet? Really that’s not my intention of this post. This one is to reflect on my last year and the year to come. I’ve noticed that I no longer feel a part of the college scene - which is both good and bad. I love the college scene. Hanging out @ the 3p, the freedom of living on your own and (for me) having the parents supporting me. I didn’t like class, but I liked being around people in class. I hated group projects, but I usually liked the group. The freedom of being young, being stupid and living off Dr. Pepper, pizza and cereal.

Now I’m a husband and (almost) a dad. I’ve got to worry about getting a good job that I like, a mortgage, car payments, keeping food on the table, and taking care of my wife. But I am finding joys in life after college. I do get to have a kid! I do get to have a job that I like (granted someone will give it to me). I get to make desicions, like starting my own business when no one will give me a job.

In my last post, I said that I had joined The FaceBook. In doing so, I find that most of the people on there are people younger than I. I have found 3 or 4 people from my high school (granted Elk City wasn’t the technology capital of the West) and a few from my classes @ OK State. While I am friends with people younger than myself, I do feel old and out of touch with these groups. Does this mean that I am old? Or that I am a part of places that I am too old for? Should I join more adult forums? If so, where? Even the OK State Forums seem a little immature sometimes.

I have been reading a couple web designer blogs (told you I was a geek). These seem more my speed now, but where do my old friends fit in? I don’t want to lose them, but I seem more “technologically connected” than most of them. And being “technologically connected” is my preferred method of contact. How does this all work out? Well, right now, not very well. You can’t really carry on a solid relatioship over email. I have incorperated webcam chats with my buddy, E.J. What’s great is that we can even add audio and I never have to touch my wonderful keyboard — just like video phone.

So my resolution for my 23rd year on this planet is to be more connected to people — my friends (even the younger ones), the designers whom I admire, and random people. I plan to leave more comments on people’s sites and blogs. I really enjoy all the comments and notes that I’ve been getting lately and I believe that the only way to perpetuate is to recipricate. So beware of the stray emails, messages, and comments that may be flying your way.

Speaking of technologically connected -

I love my wife - I really really do. She is so cute. She loves that I love computers and it’s so cute that she wants to be just like me. I downloaded the Mozilla suite on my computer (Firefox, Thunderbird (the email client), and the Sunbird Project (a calendar)). She saw me using Thunderbird and she wanted it for her laptop, “because she wanted to use what I use” (I had already downloaded Firefox onto her computer, although I hear Safari is just as safe). I recently switched back to Outlook 2003 (but still keeping FF), b/c I really didn’t like Thunderbird’s interface and the three didn’t integrate well. Now Jen wants Outlook and refuses to use Thunderbird b/c I don’t use it anymore. Microsoft doesn’t make Outlook for Macs, but makes a similar-yet-just-different-enough client called Entrourage. And Jen refuses that too. She loves that I love this stuff and really tries to learn it b/c of me, but sometimes she just doesn’t understand. But that’s why I love her - she’s so cute!