Category Archives: reblog Juxtaprose

Site Launch: Lairmont Manor & Estate

Collaborating with Juli Douglas, we recently launched a new site for Lairmont Manor, a manor and estate in Bellingham, Washington.

We enjoyed working with Juli, and bringing the manor’s web presence to the level that really matches the aesthetics and quality of the location. The beautiful photos, taken by Michele M. Waite, really add to the elegance.

I especially enjoy working with other designers and artists, and Juli does some great work. She’s also our neighbor too, so getting to know her more was an added benefit!

Site Launch: Rock On!

Despite our three-week vacation to New Zealand over the holidays, we have a lot of site launches to announce. The first is for Dan Kennedy’s new book, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

The book is great. Dan is very funny. Visit him at one of his tour destinations (when you go up to get your book signed, ask him what he keeps in his silver suitcase).

And check out the Rock On website. While you’re there, enter the Power Ballad Contest (”your chance to live beyond the gilded cage and in the limelight”) and take a spin on the Rock-o-nator (with sound effects / music by Jay’s band The Ear Reverends). If those links don’t get you to click through, hmm…

Anyways, we had great fun working on this site. Enjoy!

In public, social graphs and contact lists

I am playing with Google’s new Social Graph API. For those unfamiliar with the term, a social graph is a map of the connections between people—it’s basically what one gets by combining two or more individuals’ contact lists, and drawing lines between who knows who.

Social networking sites, like Facebook or LinkedIn, are designed to let individuals create and explore contact lists and social graphs. But, these sites have specific and commercial motives and, one way or another, attempt to “own” these social connections.

As an alternative, many people have been working towards ways that one can create and explore their social network on their own websites—under their own independent control and ownership. So, as freely as one can have a website or a blog, one might have their own mini-Facebook.

Google’s new service fits into this more distributed approach to social networks by indexing social information on any website, and providing a convenient way to aggregate that info into a consolidated view (e.g., my friends).

In order to work with this new service, one need only post a public contact list formatted in either the XFN and/or FOAF formats. These are (semantic) web data formats that have been around for many years.

I’ve done a good deal of work with XFN and FOAF, and I even have an old contact list of sorts published in both formats. You can see how Google sees My Connections according to the contact list I posted several years ago on my old iCite.net blog.

It’s interesting to think about these specific formats becoming more widely used. FOAF is really generic in that it, in itself, only really represents who knows who. But, FOAF can be extended through something called the Relationship Vocabulary, that makes it more on par with the terms in XFN.

XFN represents a much more robust, but ad hoc, set of relationship types, e.g., friend, spouse, neighbor, colleague, etc. And, it’s interesting, in looking at my own contact list, seeing how XFN isn’t (in my opinion) consistently designed in relationship to time.

For example, in XFN, you can have met someone. But, someone can also be a neighbor. Once you meet someone, they are always someone you’ve met. But, thinking of someone as a neighbor might mean that they are currently one’s neighbor or (possibly) that they have, at one point, been one’s neighbor.

So, given a lot of info of this type, suddenly useful in a public context, the lack of clarity around these concepts (in XFN, but in FOAF as well) might be the basis of some strange assumptions made by applications and people. But, I guess we’ll see what comes of this—hopefully stuff that’s interesting in a good way!

Social sites and self-promotion

In Social Media Founders on Undisclosed Mass Promotion, Andy Baio is collecting informal, basic policies for dealing with “self-promotion” on social sites. Andy asked the founders / managers of several sites (del.ici.ous, Mahalo, Magnolia, Metafilter, and Propeller, so far) about their policy and design with regards to individuals who submit links (generally, lots of them) for the sake of self-promotion.

I thought this would be particularly interesting to a number of our clients, who, in the context of making their sites more findable on the web, are interested in building word of mouth on social sites and/or getting incoming links from social sites.

There is enough marketing hype around “social media” that the promise of “eyeballs” or “buzz” sometimes gets in the way of recognizing where the value is on social sites. That value is, more than anything, really in the way people are able to connect with each other as peers. At the very least, people connect in ways that are more like friends than like sales people and customers.

And so, it’s interesting to see this from the perspectives of the managers of these social sites. They actually need to deal with self-promotion as a potential threat to these “peer-to-peer” connections that make the sites successful.

Site launch: Nikzad Flooring

Starting last summer, we began a process of taking Nikzad Flooring, a fine hardwoods and flooring company in Los Angeles, online. We quickly launched a portfolio-style site in July. And, more recently, we launched the official Nikzad Flooring ecommerce site.

The exciting thing about this project, for us, was working within the clients requirements to create a beautiful, portfolio-worthy, visual communication, combined with a fully functional ecommerce site. In order to meet these requirements, we conceived of an so-called “ecommerce 2.0″ style site that makes significant use of Javascript-powered interactivity.

In the context of the online marketplace for fine hardwood flooring, most websites tend to be either dreary, stripped down utilitarian product catalogs; or they tend to be over-hyped Flash-based commericals. So, we saw an obvious opportunity to create a site that took a more elegant approach across all dimensions of content, visuals and interactivity.

We also worked hard to use a more web standard, text-oriented approach to the website build, which has already proven invaluable in making the site search-engine friendly. Even before we started doing additional optimization for search engines, we started seeing fantastic results for searches for the key products on the site.

So, the site that’s online now reflects the first complete phase of our implementation for Nikzad Flooring. We have a lot more interesting plans for more interesting content, interactions and enhanced visuals. But, for now, check-out the site and imagine how nice a pyinkado or teak hardwood, or custom-colored, distressed bamboo floor might look in your home :-)

Site Launch: My Answer Is NO…. If That’s Okay with You

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new site we just finished for the book, My Answer Is NO…. If That’s Okay with You: How women can say NO and (still) feel good about it, by Dr. Nanette Gartrell, MD.

We had a lot of fun imagining a visual approach that works both on the surface, as an extension of the book cover design, and also, through interactive elements, as a draw deeper into what the book is about.

We really enjoy working on sites for authors and/or their books, as we love creating sites that are cohesive across all of the levels of visual elements, interactive flows, information structures and communication / content. Books, and their authors, serve as excellent soundboards as we strategize design approaches.

So, by this I mean, first of all, that the book itself can answer many questions we have about what will or won’t work for the design. But, then, of course, as in the case of this book, the author herself communicates so much of the “halo” (of intentions, ideas, entrance points, connections, people, etc.) around the book; and it’s in (and, to some degree, as) this same “halo” that the website itself needs to “work.”

(Often, we also work with publishers, editors and others intimately involved in publishing a book—they’re similarly invaluable as authors.)

We hope you’ll take a look at the site for My Answer Is NO…. If That’s Okay with You, and, of course, the book itself (which can be pre-ordered now, and will be generally available on January 1). Also, Dr. Gartrell will be appearing on Good Morning America on January 10, and I am sure (based on our conversations with her) it will be an interesting discussion!