Cross Browser Testing

Cross-browser testing is one of the most annoying, tedious, time-consuming parts of web design. The worst part about it is that it really should not be necessary.

These days unless you are using lots of CSS3 techniques and html5 most modern browsers will render pages in a very similar fashion (with exceptions of course).

However, when you go back through older versions on Internet Explorer you’re basically looking at a world of pain to get your website looking as good in those. It isn’t impossible of course but it takes time and practice.

One of the biggest problems is testing: how do you check that your website performs properly in all browsers? There are a number of alternatives:

below are the ones that I have used and have found to be useful at different times along with my final tool of choice that I now use daily to check out cross-browser compatibility. It should be said that there are paid services that I have not used which allow you to use a remote machine of the relevant type with the relevant browser and check your website – crossbrowsertesting.com being one of these.

If you don’t have access to lots of machines with various operating systems like Linux, windows7, windowsxp, macOS, freeBSD etc etc and have all the various versions of browsers installed on these then there are various possibilities:

browsershots.org is a brilliant website – you just key in your webpage url and then their software runs on a load of computers out on the internet collecting screenshots for you to view in a webpage when the results are ready.
The downsides are that it can take a long time to render the screenshots, as a free user you are limited to being a non-priority user in the queue (however you can donate for priority), and all you get is a screenshot of one page. If your entire website uses only page type then ok. The big downside is that it only provides screenshots – you cannot check functionality, ineractivity, taxonomy etc etc.

That said – for a tool that you can just set running and then come back later and examine the look of your webpage accross dozens of different browsers and OS it does a very good job.

Multiple Installations

Firefox, chrome, Safari etc play nicely with older versions in that you can install them side by side on your system and they will work fine independently. The same cannot be said of IE which will not happily run multiple instances side by side without programmatic intervention. Under XP it was possible to run multiple IE’s using a particular tool but that has now disappeared.
If you have windows 7 professional or ultimate license you can use the MS Virtual Machine to run up multiple instances of Windows and test your website in those. Other alternatives are VMWare and my favourite – VirtualBox.…

Why I Open my Sketchbook Before Photoshop

With so many aspiring graphical artists eagerly purchasing Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and artist tablets, it is easy to forget about one of the most useful and vital tools an artist can have: their sketchbook. Some people might even argue that physical media (such as drawing and sketching) is a dying art

While I do think that most art these days is constructed digitally, I also believe that many of the most prolific and refined artists still consult physical media often, even when creating a completely digital work.

While you certainly can create great designs and ideas initially in Photoshop, I benefit so much more with both time management and idea refinement with using a sketchbook that I actually consider starting a design from scratch on Photoshop might even be detrimental to a design.

Visual Brainstorming

Without a doubt, the number one reason that I love using my sketchbook is that it is the quickest, most free method of visual brainstorming. Even if you know the Adobe Suite inside and out with every shortcut memorized and custom macro commands in use, I’m still willing to wager it would take you longer to put together a prototype than a skilled artist on a sketchbook.

Because of the speed in which I can produce prototypes on a sketchbook, I am able to more quickly determine which design choices work for a project and which don’t simply through process of elimination. In the couple times that I have designed prototypes straight from Photoshop, I felt less inclined to scrap ideas I already had on screen because of the longer time it took to get the screen how I wanted it. The more design options you are able to visually consider for a project, the better your project will be.

Fewer Constraints

Even if you are super speedy on Photoshop, I would argue that it is much more difficult to think outside of the box when working through a design program that is marketed toward thousands of artists. You are working with a similar set of tools and a similar interface to so many other artists, so naturally your vision will be skewed towards the convenience of the program. Perhaps you will rule out a visual idea because it would be too tedious to work out on the software.

When working with pencil and paper, you don’t have to construct your design through the tools and interface of a program. Sure, you may have to creatively problem solve as to how you can implement a sketched design into Photoshop or Illustrator at some point later down the road of the project, but simply having that openness of options and possibility can be a huge benefit to planning and creating a visual project.

Supremely Mobile

One of the hugest benefits I receive from keeping a sketchbook is that I can take it anywhere with me; it is incredibly mobile. While this mobility is currently being contested by improving smartphone and tablet software, there is still the issue of battery charge and precision of tools on the touch screen. Perhaps one day there will be an electronic day that can legitimately replace a sketchbook, but at the moment they seem to fall short of my needs and process.…

You Can’t Afford Not To…

This sounds like a cheesy sales pitch, doesn’t it? One you’ve likely heard before when a salesman was trying to pitch a product to you that was somehow going to change your world. The good news is that we don’t use unsavory sales tactics to try to convince you to work with Forest City Sites for your small business website.

If your small business does not currently have a website and you’re contemplating having a website designed, I’m going to borrow that line from a sales pitch and say this:

You can’t afford not to have a website for your small business.

The question of whether you should have a website at all is one that shouldn’t even come up in 2012. Yes; You need to have a website. Is it going to change the way you do business and bring in more revenue? Maybe and maybe not. While we can’t promise that just because your business gets a website, that sales will increase dramatically, a website has become a sign of credibility.

Statistics show that when one of your customers is looking for information about a business, 97% of people use the internet to get that information. They don’t open up the phone book to search through the business listings. They go to their computer or in many cases, their smartphone and they search for either your type of business (ie. Plumbers, Piano tuners, Dentists) or they search for your business name because they have heard about you from a friend or colleague.

The bad news for businesses without a website is that customers looking for basic information about your business can’t find it because you don’t have a website. Information on your history, skills, specialties, pricing, specials and more can all be found on a small business website and having a website is one sign of a business’s credibility. Much like business cards where 10 or 20 years ago, a website shows your customers that you’re serious about your business and that you want them to find you.

Many businesses have stopped short of having a website built because they feel that 1.) They can’t afford it or 2.) They believe it will be too much work to keep up with.

That’s where Forest City Sites comes into the picture. We will build a visually appealing yet affordable website that will represent your business professionally and we will take care of all the details (hosting, domain, content, photography & more.) We pride ourselves in offering exceptional client service and we will go the extra mile to ensure your transition to the online world is an easy one.…

Letting Your Voice Be Heard….

The voice on the other end of the line was cheerful, courteous and helpful, with only a slight hint of accent betraying an Asian heritage. “We are open seven days a week and are happy to welcome you.” Along with describing a few of their specials, the woman became a pleasant and personable introduction to my upcoming lunch experience at Kambie restaurant.

I was planning a lunch at the Chinese and Szechuan restaurant to write a review for Metro News here in London. It is a very enjoyable place with flavourful food and good prices especially for traditional home-cooked food, but I needed background information to flesh out research for the column.

Finding Kambie online was challenging because they do not have a website.

For a business that does everything else so right – the food is good, service is friendly, price is decent – it is strange that their basic marketing was lacking. Fortunately the restaurant was recommended to me from a friend for had it not, I might not have ever learned about it. No Yellow Page ads, no flyers, no ‘official’ online presence.

Sure, they have a good presence from social media sites like Yelp and Restaurantica, and the submitted reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but as a source, the information I required was missing, inconsistent or contradictory. Social media reviews can be submitted by anyone, subject to incredible manipulation, and no one is responsible for vetting any content. Most of the restaurant profiles do not even have their hours of operation. In fact, several sites even have the incorrect address. I was perplexed as to why they did not have their own site for no other reason than to set the public record straight as to their basic business information.

You can never let other people speak on your behalf.

This was the lesson I took away from this particular instance. It is simply a matter of fact that today it is essential for a business to have their own online profile. Connect it to social media, even better. The barriers and investment to do so are much less significant than even a few years ago, while the costs – especially in terms of lost revenue — of not having your business promoted well online are extraordinarily high.

Fortunately, affordable website development options, such as ForestCityWeingart and others, can help provide small business owners with an affordable way to get themselves online and speaking for themselves. Kambie’s owner was friendly and pleasant to speak with; her restaurant should also have its voice heard with the same charm but for 24 hours a day to potential customers searching for a good Chinese restaurant. And no one can do so better than herself.…