I think it’s safe to say that it would be nigh on impossible to take a photo of Dunstanburgh Castle with a perfect reflection mirrored by the North Sea. Therefore this photo required a little artistic license, and with the help of the Nokia Lumia 1020, I was able to stand in the middle of a large tidal pool and photograph the silhouette of the castle, the scattered overhead clouds and a near perfect reflection. With the camera phone held just millimetres above the salt water pool, it almost appears as if the sea has been calmed to a near glass-like state.
I was going through some old archive design files the other day and came across some icon sets that I’d completely forgotten about. A while back a client asked me to provide them with a range of bright multicoloured thought bubbles for a Flash website, so I illustrated the following icons for them. You could add your own symbols on top of these thought bubbles and use them as icons on your own website or design if you wish. Check out the free download category for more free icons too.
Download this free blank 3D thought bubble icon set
To use any of these free blank 3D thought bubble icons simply right click on the icon set and select “Save image as…” from the on screen menu and the high quality image will download to your computer. This is a royalty free icon set, free to download, and there is no need to obtain a license or refer to the Scottish Borders Website Design blog or website. Enjoy!
The bulk of the credit for this photo has to go to Imogen Cloët, an award winning designer and visual artist based in Newcastle. The art installation featured within Cragside House – the former home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius – which is now managed by the National Trust. It was photographed by pretty much everyone who passed by, but taking a good photo of a room filled with light bulbs, windows and tourists proved a little tricky. Thanks to careful balancing and the adjustable screen on the back of the camera, I managed to take a photo from directly underneath the light bulbs with the metal mounting plate and Victorian wood panel ceiling in the background. A lot of my textural and black and white photos feature unusual subjects, but I never thought that a room full of incandescent light bulbs powered by Victorian hydropower would be something that I’d ever photograph.
T&H Blamires, St. Boswells
T&H Blamires is an historic name in the world of textiles, and Scottish Borders Website Design were delighted to be a part of the responsive site design for the newly revived business name.
What appears to be a simple one page website features a responsive layout that automatically adjusts the content width and menu formatting to best fit desktop monitors, tablets and smart phones (on the latter of which, the menu switches to a simple drop down to aid speedy surfing).
The responsive site design also makes use of smooth scrolling navigational elements, with a click on the menu resulting in the page auto scrolling to the relevant section of content (and when content is viewed below the fold, a “Back to top” button automatically fades into view).
Customer feedback: “Looks great to me. Many thanks!”; short but sweet.
Whilst cycling between Howick and Boulmer along the Northumberland coast, I noticed how unusually still the sea was. I didn’t have my normal Canon camera at the time, so I took the opportunity to take snap this photo with my Nokia Lumia 1020. It took a few attempts to get it right , and it almost led to the phone being dropped in the sea, but I didn’t extend the exposure on this shot (to make the sea appear blurred and smooth), I just held the mobile phone millimetres above the water line with the wide angle focus on the horizon. The crisp outline of the fence silhouette cut straight through the sombre moody sky and the still dark sea.
AET Installations, Duns
Logo designs are often split between those that just use a unique font and/or background colour, and those that also feature some sort of graphical icon. When used within logo design, an icon can either be a generic shape (something utterly unique that helps the viewer of the logo quickly identify and remember the brand), or it can visually summarise the main function of the business (and again, this helps with quick identification, but it can also explain the nature of the business without the observer needing to think).
AET Installations requested that Scottish Borders Website Design create a logo to represent their new grain drying business for farmers in the south of Scotland and the north of England. The brief was for a modern sans serif font, with an icon and three colours; green, yellow and blue.
Unfortunately, by their very nature, grain drying systems (which occupy an entire barn) don’t particularly lend themselves to being easily illustrated, especially not in a small and quickly identifiable three colour icon. Despite this, the style, colour and shape of the icon were taken from one of the elements used within the grain drying process; the fan. So in this instance, the icon may appear to be a generic shape to some, but to those in the industry, it will be seen as a stylised fan blade that visually ties the core business into the AET Installations logo.
It’s not every day I see a drain and want to photograph its beauty! This rather unusual drain, or water feature, lies within a pond in Alnwick Garden. The raised pond featured what I can only describe as a square shaped funnel with curving walls, positioned just underneath the water line. Once the pond was still, the overflow resulted in perfectly smooth water gliding down the walls of the drain, with the most gentle of curving ripples at each corner. The play of the light sky and dark drain interior made the water look like it was permanently creased.
Should I have a Flash website?
I suppose I should expand upon that response otherwise this will be the shortest blog post ever. The question was, should I have a Flash website?
Okay, I’ll elucidate a little. When I ask if a website should be Flash, I don’t mean snazzy and showy, I’m referring to it being built using Adobe Flash software; a product that allows for fast loading illustrations, smooth animations, sound effects, music, embedded video and other forms of highly fluid user interactivity that simply isn’t possible with a standard HTML website.
I’ve said this before, I loved using Flash (note past tense). I took to illustrating and animating in Flash like a duck to hoisin sauce, finely chopped spring onions, cucumber and a wad of gently warmed rice pancakes. Given the choice of illustrating in Adobe Illustrator or Flash I’d always pick Flash hands down, I just found it so intuitive. I’ve done a lot of work using Flash in the past; stand alone interactive presentations featuring videos and a soundtrack, futuristic animated websites with sound effects, and too many advertising banners to mention.
The problem with Flash is that it only works if the end user has a plug-in installed. In the past most desktops came with the Flash plug-in included, and if it wasn’t present (and the website was set up correctly) it would prompt the user to download and install the plug-in.
So, why the short, angry response to the original question?
The problems with Flash websites
Well, there are other downsides to using Flash. When browsing the web, all users, regardless of ability should be able to navigate and access the content that is available within a website structure. All websites have different designs, but if built by a professional website designer (especially those who care about their audience, accessibility and usability) they can be navigated by everyone, including people who are colour blind, partially sighted, blind or disabled. There’s nothing complicated about this, it just takes a little thought, sensible and considerate design, helpful colour choice and effective use of code.
- A user should be able to tab through the navigational elements of a standard HTML website and use the back and forward buttons within the browser – this isn’t possible in Flash.
- A user should be able to view the website content in black and white by turning off the stylesheet – you can’t do this in Flash.
- A blind user should be able to use a screen reader to hear the text content within a website – yep, that’s not possible in Flash.
- An HTML website loads very quickly and allows the user to scroll through content more or less immediately, in Flash there is often a pause or holding screen whilst elements such as music, video and other large files are downloaded.
- A normal HTML website can be set up so that the user can press control and + or – to increase or decrease either the text alone, or the entire website to make it easier to navigate and read – again, you can’t do this in Flash.
- The Flash plug-in is regularly updated, which means that browsers need to be updated on a frequent basis (and updates require downloads and sometimes just don’t work).
- To top it off, the text content within a Flash website is unreadable to search engines, so if you have a Flash website it will never be found in organic search results (and you have to ask the question, what’s the point of a website if no-one can find it?).
So why you might ask, am I even bothering to write this article when it’s so obvious a Flash website is such a bad idea?
Watch out for Flash designers
Amazingly, there are still “website designers” out there who not only use Flash for their own website, they are continuing to promote “bespoke Flash website design”. It’s simply staggering that this is still happening.
To put things in perspective, when I started designing and building websites all of these problems with Flash were known back in 1996. Nearly two decades ago! This was back in the day before the dotcom bubble burst, back when venture capitalists were buying web design agencies and hiring a Chief Operating Officer to run the design team instead of a Creative Director. This was at a time when the craziest business concepts would be taken seriously and have hideously large amounts of money thrown at them.
COO to design team “We’ve got a new client that wants an ecommerce website that sells live baby bunnies delivered inside chocolate eggs specifically for Easter.”
Design team to COO “Er, won’t the bunnies suffocate?”
COO to design team “They’ll put some holes in the chocolate eggs.”
Design team to COO “What if the bunny defecates, what happens if it starves?”
COO to design team “They’ll put a nappy on it and a nose bag full of carrots – it’ll look cute!”
Design team to COO “What’s the unique selling point?”
COO to design team “The USP? It’s a website that sells cute little baby bunnies inside tasty chocolate eggs that are delivered to children at Easter!”
Design team to COO “Isn’t the timeframe for prospective sales rather limited? It might fail.”
COO to design team “Of course it won’t fail, it’s a dotcom. Here’s £250,000 for the start-up phase.”
Design team pick themselves up off the floor having collapsed in hysterics, then start to sob wildly as they realise that web design of this type has absolutely no future.
So even at the dawn of the internet when the majority of website ideas and ecommerce plans were crazy, absurd and massively overvalued, every professional website designer worth their weight in salt knew that you never, EVER, built a website just using Flash, there was always an HTML back-up that was accessible, user friendly and search engine friendly (and even small uses of Flash within the page structure, say for an animated promotion, had a back-up graphic just in case). And what’s happened since then?
How can I put it? Flash is DEAD!
As I touched upon in an earlier post in 2011, things have become even worse for Flash in recent years. When Apple unveiled the iPhone, then later the iPad, they advised they wouldn’t support the Flash plug-in. Adobe tried to fight this for a while, but even Adobe gave up and they have now stopped supporting the Flash plug-in for smartphones. I’ve also noticed that many new desktops and laptops don’t now come with the plug-in installed.
Flashbacks to chocolate-encased rabbits aside, Flash websites are not only useless with regards online marketing, accessibility, usability and standards compliance, they are invisible to anyone browsing the web on mobile phones, tablets and iPads. It therefore really is quite disgraceful, if not professionally incompetent, that in 2014 web designers are still promoting Flash websites. So, if you find yourself being tempted to consider having a website built using Flash, JUST SAY NO!
*No rabbits were hurt during the development of www.I-cant-believe-its-a-live-bunny-inside-a-real-chocolate-egg.com.
I snapped this photo of two barnacle encrusted boulders near Howick on the Northumberland coast. One boulder, completely covered in barnacles, lay right next to another almost bare rock. The various gradients of light, dark, focus and texture really stood out along the almost straight edge of the boulder – an effect that wouldn’t look out of place in a pointillists sketch book.
Exclusively Scottish, Gordon
When Exclusively Scottish approached Scottish Borders Website Design they already had a website promoting their fieldsports agency, but they needed some advice and guidance with regards online marketing, as well as getting the most out of the different aspects of the business.
Although a lot of the project requirements revolved around a more organised and optimised online presence (that would help direct traffic, leads and sales more effectively), quite a bit of creative design work was required to clarify the different aspects of the business.
Some of the content was thinned out from the existing fieldsports agency site. Scottish Borders Website Design then set up and branded a new blog to help promote news that related to all aspects of the business:
In addition to the promotional blog, Scottish Borders Website Design set up and branded a separate online shop to help promote and sell the wide range of luxury tweed products that Exclusively Scottish sell:
Lastly, a new holding page was designed (featured at the top of the post) to help direct users to the most relevant website or service. All the websites within the Exclusively Scottish group now have a consistent style, a specific purpose and tailored optimisation. Each site serves a different purpose, but it also effectively promotes all other related services, products and news in a professional, uniform manner.
Feedback from the client: “Thanks for everything – site and shop look great!”