Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Grinn Album OUT NOW!!!!!

Yes, at long last the new Grinn album "Ordinary Day' has been released. It may take some time to make it to a record shop near you, but you can get it right now by ordering from the Grinn online shop. Whats more it will only cost you £6 +P&P.

While you are at it, why not order a T-Shirt or one of the previous albums.

If you are new to Grinn there is a fantastic online only offer to buy all three albums for just £12 and complete your Grinn back-catalogue in one go.

Ordinary day - 2007 Bubblegum & Machine Guns - 2004 Grinnstitutionalized - 2003

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Web Design Companies - The Future

I've had a lot of queries of late (some prompted by my recent talk) from people in Web Design companies asking about the future of their industry and what they can do to stay competitive.

I initially wrote a long post on this topic, most of it late at night and much of that after several glasses of fine wine and it all became a little rambling. So, at the risk of passing up some consultancy cash*, I deleted that and instead I offer this slightly more succinct and considered Top 5 tips for Web Design Agency survival:

1. Understand what the Web actually is!
The Web is moving from a publishing platform to a global computation platform. This means that the Web site is becoming the Web Application. The Web is becoming the medium through which not only humans, but other web sites and other systems will interact with the organization. The notion of the brochureware site will die for all but the very bottom end of the market.

2. Respect your Geeks!
Firstly, engineers are not unwashed, uncouth social misfits. These are stereotypes perpetuated by a society fundamentally suspicious of science and technology. If a painter is reclusive it is because of artistic temperament, if an engineer prefers quite isolation to work they are deemed socially inept. You will find that your engineers are good at understanding problems and finding ways to solve them - they are trained to do this. They are also well placed to recommend new possibilities. Involve an engineer in your initial client meetings, they are not just the guys to build what others have imagined, they can offer incite into the process. Programming is a fundamentally creative pursuit and as such demands the ability to see things from many angles, capitalise on these abilities.

3. Get to love technology.
How many times has your account director or new business guy uttered a phrase like "I'm not a technology guy" or "I don't really understand how it works!" Shame on you! You are in the technology business now, get over it. And while it is true that the technology should often be hidden from the end user and it is the problem-to-be-solved and not the technology used to solve it that should remain paramount in mind, your job is to demystify the technology for your client not dismiss it. You can only do this properly if you understand it.
If you understand the technology and where it is going you can really offer something useful to your client and solve their problems, as opposed to making their problem fit your understanding. 'If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail in need of a good pounding' - expand your toolbox!

4. Hire designers
Ok, so this one may sound a bit like the teaching of egg sucking to the elderly relatives, but there is a real difference between a fine artist and a designer. Design is essentially the human end of engineering. Not the thinking of how things look and feel but the application of these thoughts to the problem space. Design isn't about competence in any given medium - those are skills a designer should poses - no, design is about problem solving, just as engineering is about problem solving and in this context design is about the engineering of usable interfaces. This is not just about aesthetic layout (though that is important) - it's about 'interaction' design. The page based paradigm is on its last legs, designers need to see the screen as a dynamic atomized pallets of possible state.

5. Reorganize your structure
How many agencies have a design team, an engineering team, a production team, etc all sitting in individual blocks. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Building this stuff is a multidisciplinary endeavor, not a conveyor-belt starting with marker pens and ending in bytecode, so arrange cells of multidisciplinary teams with a competent producer in the lead. A good producer will have a feel for design, understand code, data structures and load balancing and will know how to talk to clients - they are rare but more than worth the investment. Of course birds of a feather need to flock together for support and the development of ideas, engineers need to spend time with engineers and designers with designers etc, but when it comes to the project, mix 'em up.

So, this post may seem a little basic for those well versed in emerging tech, but judging by the contact I've had recently from some small (and some not so small) but ambitious companies it should be of interest to some of you and hopefully of help to a few.

* I am of course available on a consultancy basis to help you realize these ideas within your own organization.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Open Coffee Leeds II

The second open coffee in Leeds took place this Tuesday at the new venue; The LoftArt Gallery on the Third floor of Flannels on Vicar Lane - Thanks Justin for the venue, coffee and cakes.

Not a bad turn out (max 19 concurrent attendees by my calculations and 21 in total) for the difficult second event and some very animated conversations took place not to mention one or two demos, the venue's free WiFi being a real boon in this respect.

(photo from Imran's Flickr)

Imran has posted a more detailed review here so I won't duplicate.

Keep your eyes on upcoming for news of the next event.