Aug
15
2012

360 Champagne Bar, MetroCentre Platinum Mall

Being a Twitter addict pays off on occasion: Graham had a +1 for a press preview night at the new 360 Champagne Bar in MetroCentre’s Platinum Mall, and not wanting free champagne to go to waste, I was obliged to join him.

360 Champagne Bar, in platinum mall in the MetroCentre in Gateshead. Copyright Soult's Retail View

I think the cynical side of me (“a champagne bar? In Gateshead?” ) is now a convert: the incoming platinum mall changes – slightly more upmarket shops – and the open air feel to it really work; it’s much more relaxed in feeling than the sometimes raucous Ebony champagne bar in Durham, which can only really be described as a ‘zoo’ on a Saturday night. The staff, I was told, are all based on their ability to bring someone more than pouring champagne: one guy in particular was really quick with card tricks!

Part of my interest (aside from the free champagne, obviously) was in getting the champagne bar’s details on to our student directory websites; as such, 360 Champagne Bar is now online in our Newcastle Uni Students website. Of course, if you want a more sensible review, Graham has duly obliged, with his usual retail twist. (Note to self: link to Graham’s blog).

Photo courtesy of Soult’s Retail View, because I was too lazy to remember to take any whilst I was there.

Aug
6
2012

Review of jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book by Natalie MacLees

jQuery has become – rightly or wrongly – the defacto JavaScript library for web designers and developers these days, so I jumped at a chance to review the jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book by Natalie MacLees.

jQuery for Beginners book by Natalie MacLees

The book is aimed at web designers with little knowledge of JavaScript; you won’t learn to write your own jQuery plug-in from the book, but the following topics are covered (taken from Packt’s page about the jQuery for Designers book):

  1. Designer, Meet jQuery
  2. Enhancing Links
  3. Making a Better FAQ Page
  4. Building Custom Scrollbars
  5. Creating Custom Tooltips
  6. Building an Interactive Navigation Menu
  7. Navigating Asynchronously
  8. Showing Content in Lightboxes
  9. Creating Slideshows
  10. Featuring Content in Carousels and Sliders
  11. Creating an Interactive Data Grid
  12. Improving Forms

The good

jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide is in Packt’s ‘cookbook’ format, with each ‘recipe’ being fairly self-contained. For designers who aren’t familiar with JavaScript, never mind jQuery, the book provides an excellent, gentle introduction to what JavaScript is, how it interacts with CSS and HTML, and what you can do with it.

There are some more involved recipes towards the end of the book including building asynchronous navigation alongside the usual suspects for any jQuery book (i.e., slideshows and carousels). Recipes are well explained throughout, with plenty of screenshots to help orientate the reader as to how much progress they should have made since the last step, and any common pitfalls seem to be mentioned with a remedy.

The not-so-good

There are a few recipes that replicate things you could achieve with good old CSS these days. For example, one recipe (Adding Icons To Links in chapter 2), guides the reader through using jQuery to add a class to links to certain file types. So, if a link in the page was to a PDF, this jQuery snippet adds a class of pdf to the link. In theory, fine, but in practice, you can do that with CSS (related guide on dev.opera.com):


a[href$='.pdf'] {
background-image: url("images/icon_pdf.png")
}

That’s fine as a case study to demonstrate the relevant principles in jQuery, but could be misleading to less experienced web designers; a note to point out that it could also be achieved through CSS would have been a nice touch!

jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide: ¬†overall

As a guide to jQuery for designers, jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide is a great introduction, with plenty of recipes for common tasks a web designer might need jQuery to do to enhance a website.

Other reviews of the jQuery Beginner’s Guide

Disclosure

I was gifted jQuery for Designers Beginner’s Guide book in exchange for the review.

Jul
21
2012

Inkscape article in .net magazine issue 231

Richard Carter in .net magazine August 2012

I’ve been fortunate enough to have an article (and, more importantly, my photo) published in the current .net magazine, issue 231. Entitled Escaping Photoshop, it’s a call to action for web designers to look beyond Photoshop and broaden the range of tools available to them. Or something like that. Out now in all good newsagents. And WH Smith’s.

tl;dr: give Inkscape a go.

Jul
14
2012

Dear WH Smith

This is an open letter to WH Smith, the UK high street newsagent/stationer/retailer. In particular, I resent the pointless, unrelated vouchers they ram in to your purchases (and I’m not the only one).

Dear WH Smith,

We had a good relationship for years. Over a decade of unintelligible scrawlings at school have been penned with blue ink cartridge from you. Newspapers and books have provided entertainment on cold nights waiting for trains, buses and helicopters (OK, I lied about the helicopters). And when Woolworths closed, you were there, filling that vital pick ‘n’ mix hole.

You’ve changed. You’ve become needy. You try and sell me cheap chocolate. With every purchase, you thrust vouchers for things I don’t want in to my hands. If I’m buying a newspaper, I don’t want to have to find a bin to dump your futile attempt to cross-sell to me. This is particularly annoying in your branches at train stations, where there are no longer bins.

Simply, you need to change, and this is an intervention. Stop trying to fob your vouchers, promotions and cheap confectionery off on us, and concentrate instead on giving us what we want: books, stationery, newspapers, pick ‘n’ mix and odds-and-ends that nowhere else sells quite the way you used to.

You used to be cool, WH Smith. Sort it out.

Sincerely,

Your customers