Marrying the working environment with the working materials

I love this team-space designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects and this personal-space design by Francois Perrin. I am attracted to these carefully designed spaces exposing raw materials because I spend so much time inside software. There is a comfort that comes from marrying the working environment with the working materials.

Good example of labeling

The Virginian Pilot, the local newspaper in Virginia Beach, VA, has a good graphic design department. I have always liked their maps and this Sunday's edition had another fine example detailing the changes on Witchduck Rd. One element of their design program I really like is how points of interest are labeled using a modified balloon -- a simple pin shape with the label text below. All the points of interest clearly labeled and aligned at the edge of the map and the connections acute triangular shape does not interfere with the map's content.

Does anyone have pointers to specific services or tools for cleaning up newspaper scans? It just seems that the page color can be subtracted without touching the printed image.

Give Your Readers Something To Do

"For some content providers, looking at content through the prism of actionable content is also a good way to decide whether it is content worth publishing at all. If your readers can’t do anything with the content – meaning they can't use it - then how useful is it?" Vinny Goldsmith, Give Your Readers Something To Do. The full posting makes other good points too.

Make the "holding page" useful

Building a web site always takes longer than expected. And the size of the web site does not seem to matter. There is an inverse relationship between cost and commitment: A $10,000 job with 100% commitment takes about the same time as a $1,000 job with only 1% commitment. And who can commit to any project 100%. The point of this is that that web site's "holding page" better be useful. An "under construction" sign does not help your client or your client's audience.

For example, the holding page at Social Venture Partners Rhode Island (svpri.org) is a one page web site. It tells you who they are, what they do, what is happening, and who to contact. All this on one page and maintained with an insignificant tool -- a few dozen line PHP script.
Mofuse, from local Pawtucket company Swift Blue, has an interesting tool that makes your web site mobile phone friendly. Here is its take on this blog. I like the idea that this can be done, but would rather see sites consider the information architecture and visual design of their content for mobile users.

Simple & Direct Tools

I have been using sftpdrive to enable me to mount the directories of remote file systems as local drives with Microsoft Windows. I chose this product over others as it does not cache much data about the remote directories and files. Not caching is important because I tend to modify files both via an editor in Microsoft Windows and an editor on the remote system. Without caching there is a noticeable delay in directory navigation. However, this is a small price to pay for having absolute consistency in the content from Windows and from the remote system.

One of the tools I use that mitigates the directory navigation delays is a Java class and package browser I wrote several years ago. The browser is a 300 line perl script that displays an interactive list of packages on the left and an interactive list of classes on the right. The significance of the class view is that it lists all the classes under a given package hierarchy and orders them by class name. For example, the figure shows all (4) classes under the "com.ingenta.oso" packages. Double-clicking a class name opens it in an editor.

The tool is very simple but surprising useful. There is no comparison between it and powerful package and class browsing components in Eclipse and NetBeans. However, these weighty tools sometimes offer too much when all you want is a class file list and quick access to the source.