Sunday Oct 26 '08YUI Editor - a simple and easy WYSIWYG

Quite frankly, implementing WYSIWYG editors (and choosing the right one) for Drupal websites has been a pain in the ass the past few years.  For a while I bounced between FCK and TinyMCE - both integrated in the right fields fine and played well with IMCE for image uploads, but I remember finding their markup dirty (lotsa br tags etc..) and clients getting quite confused with line breaks in the editor not being truly mirrored on live content.  Of course, some of this is due to configuring Input Formats properly, but then there's also general interface and aesthetic issues with those mentioned editors.

Recently I've begun implementing HTMLbox on a bunch of sites - its simple, seems to markup html pretty well, and affords site users the basic buttons for simple formatting and link embeds [look out for a more in-depth review soon].  However, one downfall with it is a reliance on IMCE for facilitating embedded image uploads.  For anyone who's ever used IMCE, you'll know how confusing it can be for anyone unfamiliar with inline editing - though it integrates with the editor, its interface is still seperate and requires a lot of styling effort to pretty it up etc...

So, though HTMLbox is pretty nice, I've really been looking for an editor which installs light and easy *and* offers the ability to upload images inline - whilst editing a piece of content.  Added bonuses are future scalability and options for extending editor functionality to include things like seamless Flickr image and Youtube video embeds.

Guess what?
  I found all that in YUI Editor - a module for Drupal which lets you use the Yahoo User Interface Editor within your own site.  I highly recommend installing it and playing around; you'll be using it in no time and find that all the basic functions are there... though as Nick Lewis recently blogged, there are downsides with this Drupal implementation limiting the extensibility of the editor. 

Personally, I love the embedded image handling with YUI Editor but hate how it offers a very basic, Wordpress-esque, feature set - ultimately, there is no imagecache-style on-the-fly image sizing/thumbnailing, rotation etc...  However, as you'll be using the YUI module in order for the Editor to work, your sites can now benefit from other Yahoo User Interface widgets like their Calendar and html button override.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Oct 22 '08Machines may speak english but they aren't human

A few days back I was trying to book a flight on Porter Airlines - a small airline which flies out of the only downtown airport here in Toronto.  After hearing rave reviews of their excellent in-person service, I was absolutely shocked at how badly their poorly built website reflected such reviews.

After spending nearly an hour trying to submit site registration and payment processing forms across two browsers (Firefox and Safari on a Mac) to no avail, I threw up my hands in dispair and attempted to simply book over the phone or at least let the supposedly good fellows @ Porter know their website is broken and won't communicate this to me in a simple message I can understand; instead forcing me to figure out nuances of its irregular behaviour through not blatantly appearing disfunctional...  Well, they don't operate as late as I was awake trying to solve this issue (11PM-ish) and only have a contact form without a field for attachments - so the screenshots I tried to send them to help them diagnose their web problems couldn't be sent!!!  Read more »

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Monday Oct 6 '08Robot customer service and Vimeo

One thing clients always leave to the last minute and *love* striking off the time/budget for projects is the copy that, when used correctly, can really add character to your website and help form/define the personal attachment to it that its users feel.

This copy mainly exists as general system messages and automated emails.  When using Content Management Systems like Joomla or Drupal, all of these messages are usually included with the software in default robot language - they don't read personally yet their purpose is very personal; to warn, inform and relate to the site user out of concern for their relationship.  Such stock messages can usually be easily customised yet clients often feel [wrongly] that since the messages are already there, there's no point in drafting new ones.

I like many things about Vimeo, an online video upload/hosting/etc service, and one of them is the real-time communication they maintain when you upload a video - first off the website tracks the upload progress and gives you a realistic expected time of it being published, whilst allowing you to edit the video's description, add tags etc.  Then, when the clip has been converted to flash video and is online, the site will send you an email notification (picture attached to this post).

Note: I think Vimeo's email notifications are definately under-designed and through using Times and Arial, with too many font sizes, they read a little roboty...But I love that they hit my inbox as soon as my videos are ready to watch with a thumbnail, description and link to the video!

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)