What’s in a name?

As you may or may not be aware, I’ve recently taken a ginormous leap of faith. I’m doing my best to manage the fear accordingly given the enormity of it all. The business development side; the insurance; the getting paid; the time management; all are very scary to me. However, there is one thing that is slowing me down the most. I don’t have a name for my new company. Whatever shall I do?

The Background

The background is relatively simple. Yes, I’m starting Just Another™ web design &ampl development company. What I’m really wanting to do, though, is fill a void. While living & working in St. Louis, MO for nearly my entire life, I’ve been disappointed by many things that this wanna-be big city lacks. For now, my mission is quality web design & development. I’m not that great of a designer, nor am I that great of a developer. However, I know it doesn’t take Being Great to fill a void, it simply takes Action.

I’ll save my gripes on St. Louis for later, but what is definitely missing is anyone evangelizing the benefits of web standards, usability, Getting Real™ and the more philosophical side of web development. Most of what exists today is either very strong technically, very strong graphically, or neither, its just done by tradition.

I hope to be the New Voice of St. Louis. I want to Inspire Change.

The Idea

I want something that sticks. I recently read an article on business card design. Business cards are typically the lasting impression you give to a potential client. If your business card makes a statement, or gets people talking, they’ll remember you much more than that Power Tie. One could easily argue that the company name makes the same statement.

I could go the easy route and use some form of my name. However, I have a Crappy Name.

I could go cliche and create any sort of nonsense word that sounds like a new element in the Periodic Table.

I could combine two completely unrelated words that sound reasonably cool together (much like the name of This Here Website).

Really, there is no telling where the name of this company will come from. I know the feel I want it to have. I know that I want it to tie to my mission statement and say much more than what I do, but really who I am (or we are) as a company. I know that I want it to be easy to remember, easy to say, easy to spell. I know I want it to be unique, have an available domain, etc.

Why am I telling you this? No reason, really.

Celebrity Doctors

I now officially want to remove myself from society and live in The Lake House for the rest of my life. The current CNN Poll asks this question:

Whom do you believe more about treatment for postpartum depression?

  • Brooke Shields
  • Tom Cruise
  • My Own Doctor

Now, I figure you can factor in a few people who are going to use it as a Brooke vs. Tom deal and vote Brooke just to show Tom up. However, the results after 72342 votes shows 34%, 5%, 61% respectively. I sincerely hope the 39% percent that did not vote for “My Own Doctor” (take away those that are voting for Brooke out of principle) didn’t read all of the choices before clicking “VOTE.” This poll should be 0%, 0%, 100% in my opinion.

Microsoft gets something right

It has been really exciting to see the advancements that Microsoft has been making in the last year or so. Granted, they still have a long way to go, but for developers, things might be getting better a little sooner than we every could have imagined.

First, we heard that they’re speeding up a release of IE7 instead of making us wait for eternity for Longhorn.

Then, this week we hear that they’re working on an Ajax framework for ASP.NET development. This is something I’ve been wanting forever. I’ve used Ajax on a few projects lately and it’s really made things pretty snazzy. Most of the Ajax libraries have been built on top of Ruby or PHP. Doing something for .NET myself had been a consideration, but where is someone supposed to find that kind of time?

I ran across Ajax.NET, but I’ve yet to have good results with a free .NET utility/library/control (and I’ve used quite a few).

I was wicked stoked to see Scott Guthrie’s post on the Atlas Project and that Microsoft is taking action on what developers are asking for. Sure, they’ve had the functionality for a while, and Outlook Web Access makes generous use of Ajax, but now they’re opening up the framework. I can’t wait.

To blog or not to blog

I had a conversation yesterday on what the big deal with blogging is. I couldn’t easily answer the question, because, well, there are so many different types of blogs, it’s hard to pinpoint a single reason. The particular individual I was speaking to was thinking only of personal journals, where people write about what they had for breakfast, who kissed who, or how bad their hangover is. He was completely unawares of truly informative blogs written by industry professionals, or political blogs, business blogs, or how about funny ones. I think it’s time that we start making a distinction.

After a quick glance at wikipedia, blogs are categorized into a few areas. It actually does a decent job of covering many of the typical uses of the term blog, but do we need new words?

The term “blog” is just so informal. Maybe that’s the point. It is my opinion, though, that this word should be reserved for personal journal style writing.

I come to this conclusion beacuse I’ve found that there is a severe misunderstanding in the business world of how blogging can help them. Scrivs and the gang over at BusinessLogs have a battle on their hands if they are meeting the same type of people I’m meeting. Maybe it would be easier if we change the definition, or come up with a new word for the informal business communication that is the Cluetrain mainfesto.

In addition, we have educational, informative blogs written by industry “gurus.” These read more like magazines or how-tos. Posts are called “articles” because that is exactly what they are. Should these be called blogs?

What do we do? I’m so confused.

Happy Anniversary

Happy anniversary, my love. The past two years have been an amazing adventure, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our future.

Gasping for air

Here’s a recap of the last 7 days:

  • Last day at old job
  • Meet with architect at church to rush construction of new sound booth
  • Agonize that booth will delay sound system installation
  • Start new chapter of self-employment (aka. unemployment)
  • Leave early two of first three days on new job to be in friend’s wedding
  • Sweat away the pounds wearing tuxedo in friend’s wedding in 100 degree-plus heat
  • Wake up at 6 day after wedding for garage sale (let wife handle this)
  • Drive out of the way to find out highway patrol testing center isn’t open on Saturday
  • Wake up at 6 Sunday for duties at church
  • Train wife on the fly to handle word duties at church since team member didn’t show
  • Drive out of the way to return sound equipment used for wedding reception
  • Drive out of the way for meeting at church
  • Stay up late working on new business activities
  • Wake up very early Monday morning to take Class E driver’s test
  • Pass above test

Doesn’t really sound like a lot now that I look back, but man, am I exhausted. Oh well, now I have to leave work for a softball game. Oh, and my anniversay is tomorrow and I’ve planned nothing for tomorrow nor this weekend when we’re celebrating.

IA, Wireframing and not Branding

Yes, it has been way too long since this process started. Obviously, Kubrik is starting to really bore some people. So, we’ll move into the next phase of our live redesign. This time, it’s building the skeleton.

Information Architecture

The IA of solarfrog.com will be relatively simple, as are most personal sites. The main focus will be on the blog/article content. In addition to the articles, the user will have access to the usual information, about, contact, portfolio, etc.

Here’s how I expect it to break down:

  • Home Page
    • Latest Article
    • Colophon
    • Last N articles (offset by 1)
    • Search (live search)
    • Categories
    • Links (external)
    • Links to my network of sites
    • Latest photos in Flickr
    • Random selections from my portfolio
  • About
  • Portfolio
  • Contact

Wireframing

A pretty standard approach was taken to layout that I hope will be differentiated once color starts to be thrown about. It started with a typical four-column grid sectioned by content area. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking aboot (I’ve been speaking Canadian when saying ‘about’ or ‘out’ lately).

Wireframe of solarfrog.com

I take the solid block approach to wireframing because it helps me to better visualize the effect of each content area on those around it. The design is intended for 1024 x 768 for no solid reason whatsoever, except that it is time to move on. C’mon people, join me in the revolution.

Branding

I didn’t have time to get to branding this time around. Next time, though.

Getting out of the boat

A couple of months ago, our youth minister (now ex-youth minister) filled in for our senior pastor. His sermon was titled “getting out of the boat.” Needless to say, it was one of those two-by-four moments for me.

Ever since I can remember, I knew I wanted to be self-employed. I had no idea what I’d be doing, but I knew that it was the only way I’d be happy. So, last week I got out of the boat. I left my full-time job of three years to go independent. For the next two months, I’ll be lending my services to a local firm here in St. Louis, and starting my own company. If I told you anything about it, I’d have to kill you.

I’m elated, but at the same time scared out of my wits. It was Doug’s sermon that inspired me, and things like this that keep me going. This is most definitely one of those times where I’m saying “God, I believe this is what you are leading me to do but if you don’t show up I’m in big trouble!”

Couple that with managing the rather large task of upgrading the sound system in the main auditorium at our church, and I’m one stressed out fellow. For some reason, someone also thought that it was a good idea that I went as an “adult” on our World Changers trip in July.

Live Redesign – Requirements Gathering

I’ve always had a really hard time getting my personal site to a place where it needed to be. Here I am at version 7 (at least) and none of the first 6 was ever complete. I figure, the best way to do it is to treat myself as a client and see how the process works. I developed my own methodology around 2000 that has worked very well, with minimal modifications in the last five years. The most noticeable difference is in the requirements gathering phase (this one) where I’ve clarified, thanks to Keith, the difference of Business, Organizational and User Goals. We’ll explore those this time, and move into brand &ampl identity in the following posts.

Organizational Goals

Organizational Goals are probably the most predominant for a personal website. While I have some business goals, and obviously some user goals, I have some finite goals from an organizational / personal perspective that will make or break this site.

  • Give me an outlet for self-publishing articles about topics of interest to me.
  • Allow for publishing of a personal portfolio of various projects completed for potential employers, showing off.
  • Consolidate various aspects of my life on the web (Flickr, bloglines, etc).
  • Simple informal blog (as opposed to articles) for daily-life type stuff.

Business Goals

For my personal site, I don’t have a great deal as far as business goals go, but it would be nice to see something come of the hard work I plan to finally put into this project. As the definition of Business Goals are those that “affect the bottom line” I see them as more than financial. My bottom line as a blogger / website owner is not necessarily to make money from my personal site (thought it would be nice), but to simply have the satisfaction that what I do makes a difference.

Therefore, I’ve developed the following as business goals for this site:

  • Allow for a variety of income sources (advertising, donations, etc)
  • Provide for user feedback and suggestions (comments, contact forms, suggestion box)

User Goals

User goals are pretty obvious, but I wish to document them here so that I can checkpoint my success / failure at meeting my goals.

  • Read my indepent thoughts through informal daily blog.
  • Learn and communicate on broader topics through formal self-published articles.
  • Communicate with me / other readers via comments and other feedback sources.
  • Find new things via linkroll and other things of interest I may post

Conclusion

That’s a good start, I think. It at leasts gets my thoughts on the table and gives me somewhere to work from. As an informal project, pretending to be formal, I think we’ll make some pretty rapid progress having this type of information documented

Next up, Information Architecture, Wireframing and Branding.

Continue reading Live Redesign – Requirements Gathering

Too Much Kubrik is a bad thing!

Keith wrote a brief rant on themes today. I agree with his comment that its too easy to go with a themed design (look at me), but I have a short rebuttal. Time.

I’m a designer. I’m a developer. I don’t HAVE to be using Kubrik. But until some things change around here (which, they are. trust me. I can’t wait), we’re just going to have to go with the default. It’s not that WP is hard to make a custom design in, though any CMS has its limits, it’s that I just don’t have time to design a new layout, incorporate the 10 or so templates, and have any sort of normal life.