Category Archives: reblog Juxtaprose

Site Launch: Author Brock Clarke

Brock Clarke, the author of The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (whose website we designed and created a couple years ago) has written a new novel Exley. We were fortunate enough to a. get a pre-publication edition of the book (which is fantastic) and b. get to design his new site:

Brock Clark website

Be sure to check out the section On Frederick Exley for some behind-the-scenes tidbits…. And, the book is now available.

Site Launch: InfoClear Consulting

One of the recent projects we’ve completed is a new website for InfoClear Consulting, who offer search and content strategy, and semantic technology implementation.

Here’s a screenshot of the site, which, of course, you can see for yourself, as well:

InfoClear Consulting is Wendi Pohs and Michael Kilgore, and although we haven’t all yet met in person (they’re based in Issaquah, which is part of the Seattle-metro area), I can speak from our experience that they’re great to work with.

What they do is actually related to the information architecture consulting work I’ve done in the past—and still do. But, in many ways, their work is “the future” that I had glimpses of back in the 1990s when I worked as a “digital librarian.” They are working with cutting edge search and content organization systems to make vast amounts of digital information findable and available to the people who need it—e.g., in the enterprise.

Part of what was fun working with Wendi and Mike is that they had a desire to have their site reflect their own enthusiasm and passion for the work they do. And, they didn’t want the site to fall prey to that dryness / blandness that is something of a standard for websites about enterprise information strategy in general, and search / semantic technology in particular.

So, it was great for us to be able to design a site that was first of all going to be a communication of Wendi and Mike’s vibrancy as professionals in this field. This then created a context where we could include all kinds of facts and comments about their work, but have it inherit that energy in the design.

Yes, they do have a list on the website of the Taxonomy Tools that they work with, but I think we all found a way to give that list a context that makes for a web experience that is simultaneously straightforward and enjoyable.

Site Launch: Lori Fienberg Interior Design

One of the projects we’ve recently launched is a website for Lori Fienberg, a Los Angeles-based interior designer (who also happens to be Jay’s sister-in-law; you probably recognized the last name!)

I first designed Lori’s business cards, which then became the basis for the web design. We used turquoise and brown colors (two of her favorites), which add a warmth to the site, and also used stripes in both the masthead and the background, to add some playful design elements. We worked to have the site express the feeling of how Lori works with design, as well as communicate the range of services that she offers.

We’re excited to see Lori’s site online, and look forward to watching her business grow.

Hierarchy solves the hypertext chicken / egg dilemma

(I wrote this post in September 2009, but am just now getting around to posting it—because I have a follow-up post that I am writing that needs to reference this one!)

The World Wide Web has succeeded where other hypertext systems have failed due to the WWW’s strong assertion of hierarchy. Hypertext provides a way to view information that, in the extreme, offers no starting point, no destination, to top, no bottom.

Not only does hypertext, in this sense, make it easy for people to feel lost in information, but hypertext was inspired by people who were thrilled to feel lost in information.

Some of us are likely more inclined towards that kind of thrill, but note that the total quantity and range of varieties of digital information that was so thrilling for some to feel lost in, circa the 1980s, was positively microscopic compared with the vast quantity and variety of information on the WWW today.

So the WWW (and all of us) made hypertext more accessible by corralling hypertext to work within three strong concepts of hierarchy: DNS, web and file directory paths and, most importantly, the “website.”

Specifically, these hierarchies make something come first when we think of the web. We generally start into the web via either a domain name (the first part of a URL), or a specific page / file represented by the file path (the final part of a URL). And, in both cases, we now expect to find a “site” in our browser. That “site” is, almost by definition, a fundamentally hierarchical view into more information.

I was thinking how this is loosely analogous to the classical question about chicken and egg: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

This is a dilemma (specially, it’s a dilemma of circular cause and consequence) But, isn’t this pretty much the same as asking: what came first, the parent or the child?

When we think of ourselves, we know that our parents came “first,” before us. And, at least in my mind, the dilemma disappears just by changing the words.

But the key trick is that there’s an obvious difference between “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” and “what came first, this chicken named Lucy or that egg she just laid?” We tend to think of “parents” and “children” more like this latter, specific case—no doubt because we think in terms of ourselves when faced with the parent / children comparison more than we do with the chicken / egg comparison.

This trick isn’t a real solution to the philosophical dilemma, but rather it’s about the introduction of a constraint that changes the original context in which we were stuck with a philosophical dilemma:

Something specific comes first.

And this added constraint is what we call hierarchy.

So, similarly, the WWW introduces constraints on hypertext that alleviate the dilemma of “what comes first.” We don’t so easily get lost because we can find our way (back) to starting points (or, way points) from which we branch out on new paths.

The idea that any web page is related to a bunch of other web pages as a “website,” and then that the website has a home page (and further, typically, that the home page is at the top of a directory tree at the “root” of a domain name), describes key hierarchies that make the WWW different than older hypertext systems—and easier to understand and use.

Site Launch: Sharon Eiler, Counseling and Psychotherapy

We’re happy to announce the launch of a new website for Sharon Eiler, who is a Seattle-based counselor and psychotherapist:

We designed and built Sharon’s site in WordPress, so she could easily refine the content, and make the updates herself. Since choosing a counselor is a very personal matter, we worked to create a site that communicated who Sharon is as a therapist and a person. She did a great job on her content too, which is well written and articulate.

Thanks Sharon, it was great working with you!

Goodbye 2009, New Year Thanks

Anastasia and Jay on New Year's Eve

A big thanks to all our clients, collaborators, and colleagues for making 2009 a great one for us. Highlights of 2009 for us include:

  • creating and keeping updated 30+ websites for authors, small businesses, and smart, creative, and interesting people
  • keeping busy all year, even with the economy the way it was (thanks to everyone who hired us, referred business our way, and kept moving forward!)
  • participating in a long weekend retreat in beautiful Tofino, B.C. with like-minded business people and great new friends
  • having had time for personal endeavors and overseas travel
  • planning some exciting new things for Juxtaprose 2010

Cheers – to an even better one next year!

—Jay & Anastasia

P.S. for more about “Free Schmidt,” be sure to read Lisa Lutz’s The Spellmans Strike Again when it’s published in March 2010!

Click to agree, an example for E-Junkie carts

In response to some requests, we’ve posted example HTML and Javascript code for making a “click to agree” checkbox work with E-Junkie “Add to Cart” links. Feel free to go right to the code and its explanation here: Click to Agree for E-Junkie: An Example.

For posterity, here’s more background:

The website we created for Common Craft is integrated with E-Junkie, who provides the cart / checkout pages for the sale of Common Craft’s video downloads. E-Junkie is a nice, hosted, shopping cart service that we’ve found to work well, in our experience using it with Common Craft.

On the Common Craft website, when someone wants to buy a video download, they click an “add to cart” link that then triggers a custom process we created, different than what’s standard with E-Junkie. (Click around this video page to see it in action.) That process includes the requirement that the buyer check a box indicating that they agree to Common Craft’s video licensing agreement.

A number of people have asked Common Craft (and us directly, as well), how we did this. And, we couldn’t find an example posted by anyone else, so we thought it’d be helpful to release an example based on the Common Craft code.

On the current Common Craft website, the code is actually very elaborate, because it’s part of a larger process tailored to the specific needs of the Common Craft website—to help buyers select the correct options (license, format, language, etc.) for the videos they are about to purchase.

But, we actually had created some E-Junkie-specific code for the old Common Craft website, that did simply what people were looking for: it required users to check a box prior to making a purchase (e.g., a “click to agree to our license agreement” checkbox).

So, the code example we’ve posted is a well-commented version of the simpler code we created for the old Common Craft website. Again, you can see the code and its explanation here: Click to Agree for E-Junkie: An Example.

Thanks to Lee and Sachi at Common Craft for allowing us to post this code!

Let us know (here, in the comments) if you have any questions!

Site Launch: Extraordinary Groups (the book)

As we’re moving into the end of the year, we’re looking back on sites we’ve completed, and there are a number we still want to announce here on the blog. One is the Extraordinary Groups website, which we launched back in September.

Extraordinary Groups

This project has been nice for us in a number of ways. One is that the authors are local to Seattle, so we’ve been able to have some face-to-face meetings. We work remotely so often (which we enjoy, and find that it works well for us and our clients), but it’s great to meet people we work with in person when possible. Meanwhile, we’ve been working on another site for Kathleen and her partner Bud for their consulting business, the Orion Partnership, which we’ll be announcing here soon.

For the Extraordinary Groups site, we based on the design on the bookcover, while using elements from their groups model (a Celtic knot) which is used throughout the book and in their presentations. Both the Extraordinary Groups site and the Orion Partnership site are built in ExpressionEngine, and we set them up with a multiple site manager, so they can easily manage the content for both sites through one interface / login. (We’ll write about some of the neat things we’re doing with shared content when we post about the Orion Partnership site.) We did some one-on-one training yesterday, and are looking forward to seeing how the sites grow. For now, look for updates in the blog for regular examples and exercises that supplement the book.

Site Launch: Lori Ostlund

We’ve just launched a new site for author Lori Ostlund. Lori’s debut book is the collection of short stories, The Bigness of the World, which is a winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (2008).

Lori Ostlund site design

Lori has been great to work with, and we’re excited to see The Bigness of the World when it becomes available in the next couple weeks. The book can be pre-ordered / purchased from your favorite booksellers via Lori’s website.

our work on the site

For us, one of the interesting aspects of Lori’s site was in presenting a short story collection, as compared with the sites we’ve done for authors and books. This is something we looked at first in terms of both content strategy and information architecture—e.g., how much of the stories to present and how to organize them in a way that feels as simple as an excerpt from a (single story) book.

Working with Lori, we chose to present excerpts from four of the eleven stories, and Lori wrote an additional “backstory” to accompany each excerpt on the site. This also provides a nice introduction to / preview of the book, and works as a “bonus” to people who (will) read the full stories in the book. (Example excerpt: Dr. Deneau’s Punishment.)

For the information architecture between the book and excerpts, we were also able to use one of paradoxes of hierarchy on the web to our advantage: the excerpts exist at both a “deeper level” (level 3) of the site in conceptual terms, while being, in practical / interaction terms, flat (at the same level—level 2) as the rest of the book information.

We often have to do things like this with author websites, as they grow from one to multiple books. And, in this case, we also designed the site to expand as Lori publishes new books—she is working on a novel now, in fact.

So, in conceptual terms, when Lori adds a new book, The Bigness of the World will move from “level 2″ to “level 3,” and the excerpts from “level 3″ to “level 4.” But, again, we’ll make some navigation changes that make that all flow more like a simple flat space (e.g., less clicks to get between all the book info, “deeper” info more visible at the main level). Of course, when it’s time to actually make this kind of change, we’ll review Lori’s goals and needs for the site at that point, as there may be new requirements that come into being between now and then.

This is also the first site we’ve done in a few months that uses Wordpress as the site CMS. I was wondering if was going to be hard getting back into Wordpress after such a stretch of working in ExpressionEngine. But, over the years, we’ve created so many custom templates for Wordpress—and used it so many times as a full-site CMS, that it was a bit like riding a bicycle where one never forgets.

So, it was actually pretty fun for us doing another Wordpress site! And, of course, it’s always useful to go between CMSs to get some perspective—beyond Lori’s site, we are working now on three sites in ExpressionEngine, and we’re also finishing-up a site in Joomla.

(Although we’re now almost always recommending ExpressionEngine to our clients who need CMSs, we’re happy to do certain types of sites in Wordpress or Joomla when clients request those CMSs.)

Twitter vs the blog

It is summer in Seattle, and so it’s been easy to fall prey to the convenience and brevity of Twitter when it comes time for us to post news about what we’re up to. So, although we’ve used our Juxtaprose Twitter account to announce each of a bunch of recent site launches for clients, we’ve now grown a bona fide backlog of sites to announce here on the blog.

So, weather permitting, we’ll be playing a bit of catch-up here on the blog, announcing these nice new sites.

The advantage here, of course, is that we can say a bit more about each of them—so stay tuned!