More on the big story of the week…

Yesterday I completely forgot to mention Macromedia and Adobe GoLive, both website development tools. I forgot partly because I’ve never used GoLive (so it isn’t at the forefront of my mind) and secondly I no longer use Dreamweaver. I’ve taken a shining to the excellent TSW WebCoder, which to my mind does everything that a web developer needs.

However this Adobe/Macromedia merger/aquisition – I’m not sure what the proper legal terms are – continues to get people chatting. I was happy to see that someone else agree with me about Fireworks, but there remains fair amount of uncertainty regarding what’s going to happen.

Update: More doom and gloom prophecies for web people

In other news: after a discussion with a collegue last week about Fred Dibnah and other fans of older technology I’ve been thinking there aren’t too may people that we could call “craftsmen” around nowadays. At one time craftsmen in a variety of fields could be found on every street corner – jewellers, steam engine mechanics, watch makers etc. But with the advent of a much more centralised outlook to technology – the internet being the epitome of this view – these people are growing less and less.

That’s a great shame, after all the machine and constructions these people made last for far, far longer than our modern efforts, even with the advances in technology we pride ourselves in. Why else would tower blocks put up in the 70s and 80s need to be demolished because of dodgy building practices, yet churches from three hundred years ago can still be found in regular use in many UK towns?

I’m not a Luddite, after all I work with the internet for my job, and it’s my hobby and passion as well. However I’d like to see a return to the traditional craftsmen values of reliability, understanding, patience and above all a well-designed output. In a world of fast-food, mass-production and international travel let us not lose site of the fact that just because the tools of our trade might be a keyboard and mouse rather than a hammer and chisel, we should continue to strive to produce items that will last.

I’m very tempted to put “web craftsmen” on my business cards :0)

When two tribes go to war…

Well, actually, it’s more like when two companies merge. Adobe and Macromedia are to join forces to create a super-graphics-company. While there are precious few details yet from either party, this is sending shock waves around the web design world. For one this nobody saw it coming – or at least I had no idea, and everyone else I’ve read anything by on this subject seems just as flabbergasted.

You might be thinking “so what?”, but to anyone involved in the web and graphics industries this is a big deal. After all, both companies have products that are rivals of each other – Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand for graphic design, Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks for image creation and editing. What’s to become of them? Fireworks has long been a favourite of mine, because of it’s (I think) easier handling of vector images and export to web facilities. Is it to be discontinued, with features being imported into Photoshop, or will they continue to develop both product lines? I doubt that, somehow.

And then there’s Flash – with the weight of the mighty Adobe behind it, will it now be used for much grander and powerful things than it has already? And if so does that mean that the big strides taken by Macromedia in the past towards making Flash more accessible and user-friendly will be undone? How about the Flash server technologies? Adobe aren’t known for writing platforms, so will that whole area be fazed out?

As you can see, there are many questions that need to be answered, and I’m sure we’ll find out in due course what the outcomes of all this will be. What I can say is that the tools I use to create websites in two years time will be very different to the tools I use today. Who knows – we might even get Flash support inside Acrobat files.

Desire lines…

Behind the offices I work in is a retail park. It doesn’t contain anything really useful for the workers in my work (the only place to buy food is Boots, which can be expensive) but at least it’s a change of scenery, and being able to nip out at lunchtime to get batteries, shaving foam, or even order a new sofa can be useful.

However the really interesting thing about this retail park is how people get to it from my work. We don’t follow the road, instead most people walk through a broken fence down the side of a carpet factory behind our offices. This is a shortcut, and takes us through some trees and onto the retail park in a few seconds. The shorcut isn’t particularly nice (in fact la inamorata refused to go that way once) as it gets muddy, and quite often there is broken glass and other signs of inner city life there. But the worn path throught the grass proves that people use it.

Reading this article from pixelcharmer.com reminded me of this shortcut. Apparently, and I didn’t know this before, landscape architects take notice of where people want to walk, rather than where they laid the paths, around an area so they can redesign according to the users needs. It’s a revolutionary idea, and one that has massive potential implications for web designers.

What if we could do the same? Allow people to click anywhere on a page to get the information they wany, then collect those click coordinates and from the data redesign the site so it meets the users desires? I’m not sure if that would be technically possible, but it does seem an interesting idea to explore. Of course I’ve always tried to think as a user rather than developer when creating websites – even more so with web applications. I don’t like text that is too small, colours that don’t give enough contrast, unintuitive navigation and all the other bugbears of “normal” users, so I try not to put them in my systems. Hopefully I get it right more often than I get it wrong.

So, next time you’re going from the kitchen to the front door, try going the way you want to go rather than the way the path tells you to. If you partner/kids/mum asks why you’re clambering over the sofa rather than going around it you can say you’re just following your desire line.