This site has always been my own little personal playground. I am constantly changing the design, the platform, and just experimenting.
Over the past few weeks I started building a brand new backend that I named Wardrobe. This was built from the ground up using Laravel 4, and Backbone.js with Marionette for the admin. The main goal was to create something minimal and simple to use.
Even though it is minimal it still includes what I feel as the most critical features.
- Post Slugs
- Post Scheduling
- Post active/draft
Even though these are core features I only think content is a priority so everthing is hidden away but still quickly editable via the content toolbar.
I have the luxury of being friends with the author Taylor so he made sure the backend was architecturally pure using service providers. Currently the backend only supports content stored in a database but because of the service providers swapping this out for flat files or some other service will be very easy.
I have used flat files with Jekyll and Statamic in the past but at the end of the day a database is so much easier to work with and I didn’t want to force a square peg in a round hole. :)
All the administration is written using CoffeeScript and follows a lot of the same principles as Brian Mann covers in his BackboneRails tutorials. I then use grunt to compile and concat everything.
I had the honor and privilege to speak at the first ever Laravel conference. After my talk I had a few people ask me about my slides so I wanted to share those and give little insight into them.
First off I was doing my presentation on a actual product. So I wanted to be sure that it wasn’t presented as a sales pitch. Instead I wanted to just share some good tips and some of the things we had learned throughout the process of building it. So for that I wanted to step away from all the branding that we currently use for Snappy.
For the design I based everything around two fonts. Veneer as the primary and Thirsty Script as a secondary font. Once I locked in my fonts I decided on using the color scheme that Yellow Design had in the font screen shots. I knew it would compliment the fonts nicely and look professional. From here I just made everything match and be super big.
I am excited that I will get to speak at the first ever Laravel conference next month. I am in the process of building my presentation and I wanted to share a lot of tips, tricks and resources that I have found along the way. With the goal it will help you if you are ever presenting and just need a quick start.
The first step is plan your presentation. I use pen and paper for this. Stepping away from the computer allows me to gather my thoughts better and not get sucked into just doing research and browsing. I found this really helps.
Next I take my brainstorming notes and opened up a markdown app. From here I actually write out everything in story form. From what I have read presentations are better if they tell a story so this helps me get all my thoughts together. Almost like I am writing a blog post.
This is the hard part for me. I am not a strong designer but I feel like I have a good grasp of what good design is. In other words I know it when I see it. The problem is everything I create I never see it being any good. So I am sticking with the classic big font and single color background.
For the color scheme I like to stay away from common white or black backgrounds. I found a lot of great color schemes from kuler, colourlovers, and even dribble. Of course there are many more sites that offer color schemes. Just pick something that has good contrast so your words will “pop”.
Fonts are a real struggle for me. There are millions of fonts and I have wasted about 5 nights just this past week looking and searching for the perfect one. I personally only like at most two fonts and I usually go with two that have a big contrast. Something like a sans-serif for big bold titles and handwriting for subtitles. A good site for finding free fonts is fontsquirrel.
I save images to the very end because I am constantly changing things as I go. Since I am not really to this point I wanted to share a great site for finding creative commons images on Flickr. The site is CompFight. If you do want to go with a commercial offering istockphoto seems to be fairly inexpensive.
In the end visit SpeakerDeck and browse their Featured Presentations. Most of those look great and will give you great ideas.
I am far from a keynote expert but here is a few tips I have picked up while doing my design.
First open the color picker box and get the color you want. Next drag this color down into the little swatches box. By doing this you can get all the colors you are going to use and have quick access to them. Here is an example:
I have found working with fonts a chore. I choose the generic white template as a base and it always reverted to Gil Sans. So any text box I add I then had to go and change the font manually. To change the font for all new text boxes all you have to do is first create a new text element. Pick your font, and finally go to format -> Advanced -> Define Text for all Masters.
I was honestly about to throw keynote out the window until I discovered this.
See it Live
Designing a presentation is only half the battle. The actual speaking part is what most fear. I have seen surveys where people say they would rather die than speak in front of a room full of people. I think that is a little extreme but everyone has their quirks. On a positive note if the talk bombs you can always share your beautiful slides and people will think you did an awesome job. :)
If you want to see my finished presentation there is only one way. Attend the first ever laracon. It should be loads of fun and nice to finally get to meet a lot of the Laravel community. I want to give big props to UserScape for getting the ball rolling on this.
This past year has flown by and it is really hard for me to grasp that it is already 2013. As I sit here and look back it has been a wild ride for me and I wanted to write a post covering some of the big things that happened in my life both personally and professionally.
Back in January I took a new job working at UserScape. In hind sight this was an awesome decision. I not only work with two of the smartest guys I know but UserScape is an awesome employer.
A week after starting this new job I bought a new house just a few miles down the street from where I had been living for the past 7 years. It was a foreclosure and they had a front porch auction. That was my first experience in an actual real life auction with big numbers. Luckily we were able to get the house for a good deal even though we went over our initial budget. If you have never been in an auction and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment.
After a very short few weeks we had finishing the closing process and decided to fully go through the house and paint, fix any issues, and get it perfect for when we actually moved. My wife knew that if it wasn’t done before moving then it would never get done. :) Looking back that was a great decision and I couldn’t have gotten finished without the help of my family. There is a reason I work on the web. Painting is horrible, fixing things is horrible, moving is horrible.
One of the perks with this new home is the neighborhood has a pool. So we spent most of the summer swimming and meeting neighbors. Having an employer that offers summer hours is awesome. All this time at the pool did have a positive side effect though. I wasn’t happy with my weight and going to the pool every day made me realize I needed to start exercising.
In July I decided to get serious about my weight. After researching various diets I settled on just eating less calories. I love sweets and I wasn’t willing to give those up. So I tracked my calories everyday, stopped drinking sodas, and started eating less during meals.
Men or women who are 5 feet 4 inches tall would have “normal” BMI if they weighed between 108 and 145 pounds, for example, and overweight if they weighed 146 to 174 pounds, and obese if weighed more than that.
Next I got my mountain bike out and started riding again. It had been a few years since the last time I rode and I had forgotten how fun it is. I was able to ride close to 100 miles before it got to cold and the time changed. With both riding and calorie watching I was able to go from 172 down to 150.
Just because of the changing seasons I didn’t want to stop losing and in December I started the Insanity workout program. Currently I am down to 144. My original goal was 155 but now I am thinking 130’s.
Work wasn’t slow either. One of the first projects I did was build the simple Laravel Bundle site and convert a design Fixel created into the Laravel site. This was all easy stuff but got my feet wet in Laravel after using CodeIgniter for the past 6 years.
From here we started a new project which later was put on hold and instead it turned into Snappy. Originally we never planned for it to look or work as it does today. It was going to be more a traditional app with some ajax interaction thrown in.
From all of our ajax discussion I started researching JS frameworks and settled on giving knockout a spin. At first glance it seemed to fit with our goals but after a short time I wasn’t really happy with how it was all working. At this point I found BackBone and jumped in to learn it.
I will be the first to say that I have been complacent over the years when it comes to JS and it was never a strong suit for me. Sure I could integrate a jQuery plugin, write some simple stuff, but never dreamed of building anything substantial. So going from pretty much nothing to a giant single page application was a huge learning experience for me. I can’t count the number of days I stayed up to ridiculous hours reading, practicing, and learning.
After a month we had a working wireframe working and then FocusLab was brought in to handle branding and design. As you can imagine the app at that point took another 180 degree turn. As a developer you always hate when that happens but you have to look at the end goal. You have to WOW your customers.
Now it is the end of the year and Snappy is in private beta with lots of goodies in the pipeline before our official launch. It is the classic software design issue where the last 10% takes 90% of the time.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Seeing as I haven’t done the latter I am going to try and write something worth reading. I have put together a new design and plan to write longer article style posts and tutorials this year.
Zurb has put together this set of super awesome email templates so that you can make your email campaigns responsive!
If you ever create newsletters I am sure you know how much pain is involved and how horrible it is. Hopefully this will make it a little less tedious.