Happy WordPress Day! Why we heart WP.

It’s the day we unofficially celebrate the existence of the WordPress blogging platform.  Big thanks to Automattic for forging what has become one of our weapons of choice.

We hearted WordPress right out of the gate for its easy configuration as a simple content management system.  As open and streamlined as many CMSs are aimed at being, many “simple” CMSs with good intentions tend to be too bloated for some of our clients.  When we started using WP, it was the perfect minimalist shim to wedge in that static XHTML/CSS to simple custom CMS site gap. Continue reading

Battle of the clickTAGs for Flash ad click throughs.

First, a bit of background.  Flash banner ads are usually click-able.  Because the publishing site (ie network TV sites, online newspapers, etc) usually uses a third party ad system to serve and track banner ads, the destination URL for any click through is not hard coded into the SWF (Flash ad).  It is dynamically injected into the ad at runtime with the use of a “clickTAG” parameter in the object HTML.  The ad system handles the pairing of the ad and its accompanying clickTAG URL.

I make a fair amount of Flash banner ads for Grady Britton clients.  I’ve noticed a an annoyance that should be easily solved.  At some point since the invention of the clickTAG, there was a division on the correct case of “tag” in “clickTAG”.  Some publishers require that the variable name be “clickTag”, and others insist that it be named “clickTAG”.

Why does this matter?  It turns out that some of the third party ad systems are case sensitive when it comes to the use of clickTAG.  For me, that translates into creating 2 versions of every ad, one who’s code respects “clickTag”, and the other for “clickTAG”.

image of Adobe recommended clickTAG ActionScriptSure, I could write a simple switch to test which version exists and set accordingly, but the publishers employ QA folks armed with Flash decompilers. If the ActionScript that the decompiler reveals (which by the way, is rarely the actual ActionScript as written by the designer) does not exactly match the structure as required by QA, they won’t run the ad, regardless of whether or not it will work.

So, if the ad serving companies aren’t going to stick to “clickTAG” as recommended by Adobe, then let us designer/developers switch and validate the parameter without QA throwing up red flags because the ActionScript doesn’t look the same as the reference manual.  Creating one off versions of the ads to deal a basic case sensitivity issue is just silly, especially if it can be solved for all future projects with a few lines of ActionScript.

What version of Flash Player do I have?

Some sites will tell you that you need to upgrade your Flash player to see their content. Don’t always believe it. Check your Flash Player version, and compare it to the latest Flash Player version here: http://tinyurl.com/yrlrvb. Sometimes, the developer makes an assumption about which browser or operating system you might be using. If you don’t match that assumption, they will toss you the “upgrade your Flash Player version” error. Don’t believe the hype!

OmniGraffle maybe the best tool for wireframing a web site layout

OmniGraffle web site diagramming and wireframe applicationI know it goes against every good web design how-to book on the market, but I rarely start with a real pencil and paper. In fact, I rarely sketch out wireframes even digitally. I just go for it.

Part of my design resolution for this year has been to start sketching and wireframing before opening Photoshop or Illustrator. On that note, I’ve started tinkering with possibly the best known application for wireframing a web site, OmniGraffle from OmniGroup.

A lot of us Mac fans have had this diagramming application in our toolkit for a while, as it used to come installed on Apple machines. It has taken me years to warm up to it after poking at it here and there for sitemaps and such, but I’ve finally come around to deciding that wireframing in OmniGraffle will be a permanent part of my workflow.

Learning OmniGraffle was pretty darn easy. It’s one of those apps that you can learn in 10 minutes if you’re used to using pallettes and inspectors. Recently, I discovered that it also supports layers, which is even better for my wireframing needs. Once you’re ready to jump into the main design phase, OmniGraffle can export PDF vector graphics, PSD, or plenty of other formats.

The only complaint I have is that the shortcut key combinations don’t match the Adobe shortcut combos, and since I live and die by toggling the grid and snapping, it will take a while to get used to the new combos.

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