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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Merry Christmas Post

This will be the last blog post for this year - and I am sure you are all looking forward to shutting shop for a few weeks over the holidays just as much as I am.

It's a good time to clap oneself on the shoulder and think about the good things that have happened in the business. For me, it's mostly the feedback I've had from my customers.

Julie Comparini wrote me recently that she has been shortlisted for a solo part in an opera project in Linz, Austria, and that one of the reasons was that the people there were so impressed with her website. Last week she wrote to me that she has got the part! And that's just a few months after her site went live. In terms of job satisfaction, to me, to hear about such a fantastic result just about tops the heap.

Inkibus has also been quite ecstatic about her new site - WONDERFUL, she said - but she seems to be a bit under the holiday season at the moment - stressful times, I imagine, if you help to run a home based handcrafted furniture business - so I'll expect to hear how the site is working out for her in the new year.

This month has also been one of the best ever for my own online shop. I have been exploring options to sell my articles through additional channels - Ebay, Trademe, that sort of thing - and the success has been quite impressive. My Middle Earth New Zealand photo calendar has proved a particular success. I am now down to only three copies left, and pretty confident that I will get those sold as well. Next year, I think, will see a larger print run!

Besides: Having figured out how to promote my own goods more effectively, I will be able - and most happy to - pass on that knowledge to you my customers.

Happy holidays - whatever it is that you celebrate at this time of year - and all the best for the new year 2010,

from Asni

Thursday, December 3, 2009


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Finally back to the computer screen, after spending most of last month dealing with the things that life throws us - such as setting up a new home in the Wairarapa!

These last few days, I've been designing away on my friend and fellow fantasy artist Inkibus - aka Alana Schmitt's - website. Alana is a young illustrator, photographer and costume maker whom I have known for several years through a couple of art websites we both frequent. She lives in a remote rural area in Arkansas (USA), and is entirely self taught. Her parents, back in the day, did the hippie thing and went to live in the woods, to grow their own vegetables, keep chicken and various other beasts, and set up a handcrafted furniture business, in which the entire family (Alana, her twin sister and younger brother) all are employed.

This was an excellent opportunity to test an idea I've had to set up a real simple, low budget type of site that contains some basic information, but mainly functions as a portal to the artist's various online presences - in Alana's case, several online storefronts where she sells her artwork and photos, an equally large number of online galleries where she displays her works, her Facebook page, and a blog and a couple of Deviantart portfolios which I suggested to her she should create.

The purpose of this is to combine the professional image an own domain and custom designed web page helps to build, with the networking opportunities that online galleries and social networks offer, and the easy updateability of third party applications such as the rather well thought out DeviantArt portfolio. As a young artist just setting out to establish herself, I figure these features are particularly important, and Alana is someone who certainly knows how to use the networking opportunities that the internet offers well! The site is not quite completed yet - the "blog" and "costumes" links aren't working at this stage, and being the perfectionist I am, I may go in and twiddle with the layout a little more in the next couple of weeks, but do have a look:

This leads me to another matter that has recently come up: Browser woes!

I would like to point out that my pages are designed using the most recent W3C web design standards, and I do like to try and use some of the more adventurous features they offer. The problem with this - and probably one of the reasons one sees so very many very boring websites around - is that the current standards which we as web designers are encouraged to use, aren't actually supported by all browsers.

The Black Sheep, these days, is Internet Explorer - if you are using it, please be aware that even the most recent version, IE8, does not fully support all features of current CSS based design. And older versions - IE7 and below - are not compliant with current web standards and are likely to scramble up your pages.

Now, of course, as a web designer, one always aims to make the page look good in as many different scenarios as possible - different browsers, different screen sizes, different operating systems - but there is a limit to how extensively one can test, and still charge an affordable price for a site. I test my pages in IE 8 and write fixes, but have, after some deliberation, decided that I will draw the line at trying to make them compatible with IE7 and lower.

There is, however, an easy fix for this --- standards-compliant browsers - such as Firefox, Opera or Apple's Safari browser, which also has a PC version - are readily available as free downloads, and so is the latest version of Internet Explorer. If you're still stuck with a waaaaaaaaaay outdated browser like IE 7, I encourage you to make your internet life better by getting a more up to date version!

Here is a small list of download links:

Firefox - available for any operating system and in any human spoken language, plus klingon, I'm sure.

Opera - also a standards compliant, free, cross platform browser

Internet Explorer 8 - if you must.

Safari - highly recommended, if you got a machine that can run it.

Happy browsing!

cheers, Asni