The Isle of Sheppey Academy - new look website goes live...

Oast One completes and uploads the new look Isle of Sheppey Academy website for Grebot Donnelly Assosiates. Yes - two academy sites live in one week :o) we're on a role!

Thanks to Og Design for the great brand overhaul.

The Oxford Academy - brand new site goes live...

Oast One is proud to put the new Oxford Academy website live. This is another project produced for Grebot Donnelly Associates - one of our biggest, and very valued clients.

Silverlight? Leave Flash to the Experts...

I try to avoid being negative on my blog but I realise that its been sliding that why over the last few articles. I promise I be more positive in the future...

I have been noticing more and more pro-Microsoft sites (the ones that bang on about the latest laptops and Internet Explorer patches in the same way Apple-worshippers go on about Safari updates and the MacBook Air as if it was a gift from God) have started asking me to install 'Sliverlight'... Absolutely not! There is no chance I am going anywhere near this rival to Flash. Why do Microsoft have to keep inviting themselves to other people party's? They must have taken one look at the latest Flash Player statistics, saw the figure: '99% Penetration' and just couldn't resist a piece of that action. They have done this before.

Look at Internet Explorer. Back in the 'good old days' most users I knew used to install Netscape Navigator rather than use Microsoft’s IE. It was by far the superior browser, came with all sorts of other groovy web apps such as an email client, and was free (unlike Outlook). Microsoft soon cottoned on to the fact that if they could control the browser they could essentially control the internet. The used all sorts of dirty tactics to gain superiority over their better rivals and even had legal action taken against them so users could still be given the illusion of browser choice. Now, what PC users are left with is an operating system with the web browser integrated into almost everything. This is one of the reasons Windows has so many security risks. Most users now can’t be bothered to install anything else and you even come across websites where developers haven’t bothered testing on anything other than IE. And even this wouldn't be a problem if Microsoft hadn'yt seen fit to bastardise CSS. Somethig there were only able to do after they'd won the War of the Browsers.

I'm hoping that people shy away from Silverlight and don’t give Microsoft the chance to get a foothold on interactive and streaming content (because we all know that’s what they are after.) Yes, Silverlight seems to have a good technical spec but Adobe Flash is extremely good, has been number one for years and is the web standard. We don’t need yet another pluggin to install on our browsers.

Another reason to stick with Flash is because of the existing knowledge-base. The design industry has been using Flash for years and Flash content is of a very high quality. It seems to me that currently the only people authoring in Flash are Microsoft-sycophantic techies. Whilst these people are no doubt highly skilled at coding they don’t seem to have the design flair that makes Flash content of such a high standard.

So Microsoft - if it ain't broke, don't fix it! (Your time would be better spent fixing all your products that ARE broke!)

Cuil - rival to Google by ex-Google employees...

Cuil (pronounced 'cool' or probably more like 'kewl') is a new search engine, just launched by some ex-Google employees who think they can do a better job than Google. They claim that it will be better than Google because is has a index of sites three times bigger (120Billion to Google's 40Billion).

I've just tried it and, to be honest, I think they have a long way to go.

It looks nice. But I think style has been put above substance. The landing page is all black with a logo and search box positioned stylishly off-centre. Once you search you are taken to a white page with a black header displaying the results in three columns! I don't get this yet. What is the order of importance? Up and down or left to right? Typing the same thing in a few times seemed to throw back different results and for soe searches I get a 'Explore by Catgory' box top-right which seems to disrupt the flow of results further. This layout seems to be very difficult to get my head around after the traditional search result layout we are all used to.

It doesn;t seem to accept the same syntax as Google either. When I searched for James +Marett it literally searched for "james +marett" and, of course, returned no results.

But the main reason I don't like it is because when I type in 'Oast One' I get nothing to do with Oast One. Not a sausage. It's number one on Google!

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it'll become the leading search engine, doing all the things Google does wrong right, but as yet I'm not convinced.


Warning over sharing music in the UK - is the music industry just plain greedy?

Six of the UK's leading ISP's are today announced Plans to send 'warning letters' to people illegally sharing music on the web.

"The deal, negotiated by the government, will see hundreds of thousands of letters sent to net users suspected of illegally sharing music." - BBC News, 24 July 2008

Is it me or is this just a case of greed on behalf of the music industry? Yes, distributing/sharing music is illegal but there are many applications of the sharing technology that could be legitimate. For example: If I own a Rolling Stones album I am within my rights to back it up to tape, CD-R or other medium. I am also able to import it into iTunes for my own personal use. So surely - if I am unable to get to my copy of a CD if I need to rip it or own an album on an unrippable format such as cassette - could I not download a version instead? After all, I have already paid for the music. In some case I have bought the same album on various formats over the years (Cassette, LP, CD) meaning I have already paid for the music 3 times over. Do the record companies really want us to have to pay for it again in mp3 format?

Are people no longer able to mediate their own activities? I'm sure everyone made a 'mix tape' for a friend in the days of the cassette. Strictly speaking that was illegal distribution of music but I didn't see HMV handing out warning letters to everyone buying a pack of blank tapes!

The fact that the music industry seems to have enough clout to get the government to negotiate the sending out of letters on their behalf highlights the fact that they have enough money already. Music, especially live music, has never been more popular - there are more festivals that ever before in the UK this year. The revenue from them alone must be enormous. Let alone the merchandising, radio play, interviews, endorsements and even those people like me who still like to actually buy a CD and have something tangible in my hand rather than the risk of my computer crashing and taking all my music. Is it possible that the music industry is just getting greedy?

Why is the government not cracking down on spammers in the same way? Maybe its because the sharers are an easier target and the music industry have more money to throw at the 'problem'.

I personally think that stopping illegal downloading won't really affect the profits made by the music industry. I mean: would the people who think illegally downloading music is OK actually go out and buy it if they weren't able to get it for free?

Good Stuff Consulting - new site goes live...

After a smart overhaul, simplifiying and updating the design of the original site, Oast One has put Good Stuff's new site live. I'm very pleased with the simplicity and clarity of the layout, hopefully Good Stuff are too :o)

Clear Partners - website overhaul...

After being closely involved with Clear Partners since the creation of their brand, Oast One was asked to overhaul their website. In doing so we advaced and evolved the online brand without moving away from the instantly recognisable aspects and character of their identity.

Removing the dotted border on active links in FireFox...

I was involved in a discussion earlier today about the dotted boxes / borders that appear around links in FireFox once clicked. The initial question was how to remove them which simply involves adding a line of code to your CSS similar to this one:

a:focus {outline: none}

However - the topic soon turned to why they were there and should we be removing them. The argument was that they provide accessibilty for user that need it and should not be tampered with. In my eyes removing them is no worse that setting the size of text to a small font - it shouldn't be done but many, many sites do it regardless. Designers should be mindful of usability of their sites as well as the look. 

Online Lipsum generator...

Just remembered this - a site allowing you to generate random Lipsum (Latin) for use when laying out where text is going to go.

Scroll down a little and look to the right to see the generation tool. 

Adobe Kuler complimentary colour swatch creation tool...

This is a little online tool by Adobe that I've recently sarted using. Its pretty useful for picking out sets of complimentary colours and generating swatches:

You can also see sets created by other designers.