Wednesday Apr 13 '11Featured Artwork for Spring: Bicycles!

To celebrate the weather changing over here in Toronto I've just changed our site backgrounds to hand-drawn bicycle art :)

You can see all the images in the gallery above - one loads as the site background randomly per page load.

(Cheers to the following flickr folks for their groovy images: nyoin, doubledareyaa & tps12 !)

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

Monday Apr 11 '11Wordpress for Wedding Websites - approach and essential plugins.

As soon as I heard the good news about my brother's wedding date being set for this Easter, I began thinking about how I was going to build him a simple website that would allow the couple to edit their own content easily and solicit information from their friends and family - such as RSVPs and comments via a guest-book.

After some poking around online I came across a few terrible hosted solutions specifically marketed at non-techsavvy couples, which were either built in Adobe flash (which meant that they didn't play nice with google, were cumbersome to navigate, took time to load etc..) or feature-limited.  From there I questioned whether tumblr or Posterous could be a good platform - after seeing Posterous co-founder Sachin Agarwal's wedding website built as a simple blog I knew it would work well (especially for letting attendees post photos, videos and so on to the site), but kept coming back to the idea that I'd like the site to sit on my own hosting setup so I could make sure it stays online for a very long time.

The platform I chose to use was Wordpress and the site I created is http://www.kameelandkashfi.com

Here are some of the aspects of Wordpress as a wedding website platform I like, which helped make the choice:

  • Wordpress has an excellent iPhone app
    • Posting/editing posts on-the-fly is very easy,
    • I can monitor comment submission in real-time.
  • Multiple user accounts/login - the bride and groom can use the site as a collaborative blog in years to come; with posts being attributed to their author; this gives the site itself longevity,
  • Optional post commenting meant that I could create a Guest-book out of a simple single post with public commenting turned-on,
  • Plugins - installing new site functionality is fairly straight-forward, such as a forms plugin to handle an email RSVP form with captcha/spam protection,
  • WYSIWYG editing with full-HTML view; embedding iframe content, like Google Maps into posts was very easy whilst editing content for the bride and groom using Wordpress' editor buttons was simple as they didn't need to understand HTML to add/edit posts.

Here are some plugins I found essential along the development path:

  • Akismet - the popular spam blocking plugin from Wordpress parent company Automattik
  • Fast Secure Contact Form - to create the custom RSVP form; this simple plugin provides a Graphical User Interface that let me make a form in minutes > determining what fields I want to offer guests RSVPing (dietary restrictions, number in the guest party etc...), where the form should be emailed upon submission and what message to be displayed to people once they had RSVP'd.
  • Google Analyticator - an easy way to add google analytics/statistic tracking to the site, without editing the site template,
  • WP-Cufon - a down-scalable solution to display non-web-fonts; this javascript font-replacement system is a cinch to work with and let me covert custom forms I used in designing print materials, on the website for page headings etc...

I'm quite happy with how the site has turned out - it took just two days to design and build and has proven to be highly useable.  Of course, there isn't much content that goes into a wedding website but to have a simple publishing interface that allows the bride and groom to edit information easily and moderate their RSVPs & Guestbook posts right on their cell-phone has been amazing.

* Sidenote: I created a bespoke design inspired by research I did into pan-Islamic mosaic-tiled architecture.  Once I created the design in Photoshop, I simply edited the stock Twenty-Ten template that comes with Wordpress to my needs.

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

Monday Apr 4 '11The value of Insight

Recently, as an incubated Design Guru project, I created a website which collates posts from various publications across the web - all thematically related to innovation/technology and society.  The site auto-populates and updates posts every 5 minutes.

It seems increasingly difficult to keep abreast of the full mass of technological advancement these days and this new site has been a very useful tool over the past few weeks to sort through interesting posts at-a-glance using a few factors which are built-in:

  • Posts by incoming publication/feed (RSS/Atom),
  • Category/Tag - the site automatically pulls keywords from the posts, based on frequency of use, or otherwise applies pre-defined tags (which I've entered to sort the individual feeds),
  • Region - the site traces incoming IP addresses and combines that information with geo-referenced wording in post content to plot posts on a global map,
  • Channel - Feeds have been grouped into arbitrary clumps - to start with; Agency News, Objects, Physical Spaces, User Experience and Interface

The site has been named Design Guru Insight (http://insight.designguru.org) and has been entirely built using Open Source Software and then aesthetically themed to match our main website. 

Perusing Insight, you'll notice some neat functionality asides from the neat geo-locational tagging and mapping - particularly:

  • The site remembers your preferred display mode (detail/list/map),
  • Dynamic embed codes are available as widgets you can add to your own website - they auto-update with news as posted to feeds/channels and so on,
  • RSS feeds are available to throw into your own aggregator,
  • You can search through posts using keywords.

There will be some additional changes being made to Insight over the next few months - because the site is based on the Drupal framework, which we typically do web development work using, its very flexible and should be fun to add additional functionality to!

I'd love to hear what you think of the project; drop comments below!

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