azureabstraction > out of the blue

Archive for January, 2012

The New Design Is Live

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

My redesign is live. I spent quite a bit of time with this design as a showcase of my knowledge of modern web design. The previous design was around 6 years old, so it was well past time for a facelift. Let me know what you think!

Here is a summary of the features of the new design:

  • HTML5 — I used header, sectioning elements and an IE8 shim.
  • Typekit — This is for the fancy web fonts.
  • OOCSS grids — This is Nicole Sullivan's CSS framework.
  • Responsive design — The basic scheme is closely related to the grid system.
  • Advanced CSS — Take a look at the Flickr stream; it was tricky.

Interestingly, the old design used an early technique similar to responsive design: the horizontal columns collapsed into one vertical column depending on the page width. This was accomplished using floats, percentage widths and something to cause overflow. The new design goes much farther with responsive design, and applies subtle changes to the layout to fit any size screen. Unfortunately, I was unable to use responsive image techniques for my Flickr stream, due to the complicated css to center the square images. I may revisit that, although the technique is impressive in its own right.

This is a screenshot of the old design, for comparison:

Screenshot of the previous design for my home page.

Redesign Teaser

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

I've been working hard on a redesign of my home page for a couple weeks. I started with a few quick sketches, then created wireframes in Fireworks. I've now built a functional page, which I will push live as soon as I'm done revising the copy and making a few other small refinements. As a teaser, here is the wireframe image.

azureabstraction redesign

Snow in Seattle

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I had almost despaired of getting any good snow this winter. Saturday teased us with a brief flurry in Wallingford, which dropped about an inch on the plastic chairs outside of Irwin's Bakery. Monday sent more snow at us, and for a day the tantalizing possibility of "Snowmageddon" hung in the air, before being downgraded. But after the snow began to fall early Wednesday morning, it just didn't want to stop. Here in Fremont it never reached a full-on blizzard, but the snow remained steady most of the day.

Sarah and I walked around the neighborhood that afternoon, taking pictures and enjoying the change of pace. There were only a few cars on the streets; people brought out whatever makeshift sleds they could find — we saw garbage can lids, plastic bags — even a cookie sheet was pressed into service. People were friendly, perhaps because the only ones out wandering the streets were those who were determined to enjoy it. We devoted the rest of our day to drinking tea, and watching the snow accumulate outside our windows. After night fell it grew even more peaceful. The snowflakes fell past the streetlights in endless succession.

Early Thursday morning the freezing rain hit. This is hardly a positive thing from a practical standpoint — a snowy road merely wants to impede your uphill progress, whereas an icy road actively tries to kill you. It causes power outages and property damage from ice-clad tree limbs breaking. However, from a photographic perspective, the thin layer of ice adds a new vibrancy to everything, refracting light at the edges of all the plants, preserving the delicate forms in clear amber. Against the white of the snow, and the shadows of trees and buildings, it's perfectly irresistible.

So I went on a meandering walk to our local tea haunt, Teahouse Kuan Yin. On the way there, I stood beneath a large cedar tree, trying to find a picture of ice on its leaves. At the time, the major precipitation was small, light ice pellets instead of snow, and I noticed that the tree gave no protection against them. Unlike rain and snow, which change their character as they fall against a tree, accumulating on the edges, or coalescing into bigger drops, the ice pellets just bounced through it like a giant rain stick. They made a sound, too, a light rattle, a little like falling grains of sand. I thought of the tree as an hourglass, slowing time for the ice crystals on their way toward the ground, and it was strange and otherworldly.

The one thing I regret is that I didn't have skis. When I walked up near Fremont Peak Park, I felt that the most amazing thing would be to ski the backstreets of Upper Fremont, to glide past parked cars and around the traffic circles, and then fly down the slopes of Fremont's ridgeline. I hope I'm prepared the next time we get snow like this.

Tea Lights

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I like candles. I like their bright dot of flame, not overwhelming like an exposed lightbulb, but small and flickering, uncertain and alive. They evoke elemental forces, powers that both threaten and comfort.

Large candles bother me. They always seem to demand: consume me. I start to light them out of obligation rather than to create ambiance. I think, "When will this be over?" When the flame is hidden deep inside tall walls of wax, it's hard to tell if there's anything still alive down there.

Give me a tea light or a taper over a pillar or jar candle any day.

Shift in Focus

Monday, January 16th, 2012

I've been thinking about the focus of this blog for some time now. My website is a combination of personal and professional, but this blog has remained solidly personal. In the past I've put off writing technical articles on here. I wanted to wait until I had some method of segregating the content so that people who didn't want to hear about my personal life wouldn't, and people who didn't want to hear about programming and design would be spared the horror. That's not realistic.

At work (and off work) I think a lot about web design, api design, information architecture, and complementary subjects. If I don't write about any of that, there is no way I will be able to write consistently. If I don't write consistently, I won't write at all. Most importantly, there are ideas in my head that need to be recorded in order to critically examine them. There are small javascript projects that should be out there for others to learn from or critique. This blog, at least for now, is the best chance for that to happen.

So I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to mix articles about my life with articles about design. Maybe it'll take us somewhere new and exciting.