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Debut Creative http://debutcreative.com web development studio Thu, 03 Mar 2011 16:12:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.23 Debut Creative Changes Lanes http://debutcreative.com/debut-creative-changes-lanes http://debutcreative.com/debut-creative-changes-lanes#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2010 20:42:43 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=773 I really love this job.

For the last three years I have been extremely fortunate as I’ve run Debut Creative. I have worked with some great clients on great projects. I have learned so much about other areas of this business, and I have broadened my skill set tremendously.

Recently my wife and I moved to the GTA, and we learned that we are going to be parents! With all of this I find myself yearning for some predictability and stability in my job. Plus, who wants to work when in the next room is an adorable baby?! I began to crave something different than the life of a freelance / contract designer.

Yesterday I took a job as a Web Designer with Thrillworks in Burlington. This incredible team produce some very high end enterprise websites for notable clients across the country… maybe the world! I am really ecstatic about the chance to work with these people. Here’s more in depth how I landed this job.

With this news comes great change for Debut Creative. I will no longer be taking client projects, or working outside of Thrillworks; I am slowly winding down the last few projects. If you’re looking for a freelancer please email me and I can make some recommendations.

My inbox is always open, stay in touch.


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Google and the end of IE6 http://debutcreative.com/google-and-the-end-of-ie6 http://debutcreative.com/google-and-the-end-of-ie6#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2010 14:35:53 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=759 Web designers and developers have long complained about the restrictions developing with considerations for older browsers like IE6 places them under (find out what the fuss is here).

Recent statistics show that the other IE versions are growing in popularity – this means the average user is making browser updates. The biggest hold-back is the larger company or organization (including the Canadian Government no less). Upgrading OS or browser isn’t a simple matter; many rely on apps and intranets that have been optimized to IE6. A change of browser could cost millions of dollars as changes to age-old systems need to be made.

Yesterday Google issued this statement which could mean the beginning of the end for IE6:

In order to continue to improve our products and deliver more sophisticated features and performance, we are harnessing some of the latest improvements in web browser technology.  This includes faster JavaScript processing and new standards like HTML5.  As a result, over the course of 2010, we will be phasing out support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 as well as other older browsers that are not supported by their own manufacturers.

We plan to begin phasing out support of these older browsers on the Google Docs suite and the Google Sites editor on March 1, 2010.  After that point, certain functionality within these applications may have higher latency and may not work correctly in these older browsers. Later in 2010, we will start to phase out support for these browsers for Google Mail and Google Calendar.

Google Apps will continue to support Internet Explorer 7.0 and above, Firefox 3.0 and above, Google Chrome 4.0 and above, and Safari 3.0 and above.

Starting this week, users on these older browsers will see a message in Google Docs and the Google Sites editor explaining this change and asking them to upgrade their browser.  We will also alert you again closer to March 1 to remind you of this change.

In 2009, the Google Apps team delivered more than 100 improvements to enhance your product experience.  We are aiming to beat that in 2010 and continue to deliver the best and most innovative collaboration products for businesses.

Thank you for your continued support!


The Google Apps team

If you haven’t upgraded to a modern Internet browser and have the ability to do so check out any of the following:

Google Chrome

Mozilla FireFox

Internet Explorer

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Inbox Zero http://debutcreative.com/inbox-zero http://debutcreative.com/inbox-zero#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2010 16:50:39 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=749 In college I was always fascinated by work-flow best practices. I spent my first year obsessing over work spaces and learning keyboard shortcuts and gleaning tricks from the pros. You can find stuff that works and fails in everyone you watch work. Everyone has a work-flow weakness, and I quickly discovered that for a lot of people it’s email.

If you follow any web nerds online you’re bound to hear some noise about Inbox Zero now and then. A lot of it is misleading however. When I first heard of it I thought it was the title you rewarded yourself with for battling your way through the clutter, but it’s so much more. Inbox Zero is an approach to email, not a mandate or mandatory goal.

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders (the author of the upcoming book by the same title) spoke on Inbox Zero to Google several years ago after some blogs on the subject got a lot of attention.  The video is nearly an hour long (half of which is a question and answer period, which bears watching), but is a pretty eye opening dose of email rethought.

Essentially it breaks down to the fact that we check our emails too often. If your mail client auto-checks once an hour it quickly adds up to over 20,000 interruptions a year.  To get things done simply close the inbox and work. He goes on to suggest checking the inbox once an hour and blitzing through the messages doing on of five things by way of ‘processing to zero’ and creating actions:

  1. Delete / Archive
  2. Delegate
  3. Respond
  4. Defer
  5. Do

It’s a great message (he goes into more detail in the presentation, and I’m sure he’ll go into even more detail in the book). It’s been a help to me. I have always taken pride in my email netiquette, and have always strove to keep my Gmail inbox with a white space between the oldest message and the repeated nav bar; but in doing so I was spending too much time on email and taking time from more important things; namely doing actual work.

Watch the Video

Or view here.

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Domain Registry Scam http://debutcreative.com/domain-registry-scam http://debutcreative.com/domain-registry-scam#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2010 17:00:30 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=741 Once a year I get a snappy reminder to renew my domain name – but not from the current registrar. Domain Registry of Canada is an unsolicited third party that is hoping you’re not going to scour the fine print and pay the premium to renew with them.

I would sooner let my domain expire and blow away than renew with these fiends. My two cents.

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Could Wave sink BaseCamp? http://debutcreative.com/could-wave-sink-basecamp http://debutcreative.com/could-wave-sink-basecamp#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2009 21:40:39 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=728 Conceptually I love Google Wave. It promises to revolutionize the way we collaborate on projects. It is branded as Email for the 21st Century. It’s hailed as a huge time saver – yet I am beginning to think I’m the only one using it.

Google Wave

When I first heard rumors of what Wave could be I immediately thought of Basecamp; a leading project management tool. Over a year ago I decided not to bring this app into my development process as client adoption of another communication tool would be hard to swing. Wave made me reconsider; Google has a lot of clout, and with Google accounts being so amazingly handy and ubiquitous, a glimmer of hope built up in my little heart that this could be a game changer.

My Google fandom not withstanding, I was rabbidly anxious to get my invite like everyone else. Finally the day came that the invite graced my inbox. The “now what?” moment was not far behind it.

Building anticipation through an invitation system worked really well for Gmail, and makes lots of other sites (dribbble, fffound, etc.) seem very elite and hip. While the hype and mysteriousness is palpable, the experience is ultimately a let down.

Dare I say it? Did Google make a mistake?

Using Wave

My first experience with the app was probably the same as yours: you (or the person who invited you) created a wave and proceeded to write some inane drivel like “So what is this good for?” and threw in the obligatory Map and Yes/No/ Maybe extension. Did you get any further than this?

I have been trying desperately to get Wave to catch on. In addition to no less than five useless “test” waves with various collegues;

  • I have created a wave for an upcoming client site I’m developing
  • I am taking part in a wave for a site I help manage
  • I recently wrote an entire article for SixRevisions.com solely in Wave.

In the six weeks or so since I’ve had my Wave account I have checked my account every single day. Only the Six Revisions wave has seen any action (because the Editor had no choice but to go to the wave to get his story!) The other two waves sit lonely and unused, gathering dust – they show no sign that they’ve been checked by the shared parties.

What’s wrong?


Google’s name carries the weight it does because their products have a high degree of polish. I get that tingly Google feeling when I see their brilliant attention to detail in action. Remember the first time you noticed Gmail was autosaving your draft? Or the first time the sidebar recommended you add an event to the calendar?  I feel this love and care is missing from Wave.

Google made it clear that our Wave accounts are previews, and that this is in no way the final product. That said, I think they have taken the “release early, release often” principle too far this time. Here are some must have features I think were needed to make the initial splash more notable (yup, pun intended).

  1. The most crucial missing feature is Notifications. The only way to see if your wave has been updated is to go to the Google Wave site. We don’t need new communication tools to monitor, we need them to work with existing tools. Comparable apps like Basecamp at least offer email notifications of updates. I desperately want Wave to be in the upper left navigation of Gmail – before the Calendar. I also need the “unread count” in brackets.Waves are supposed to be email reinvented; but they won’t replace it anytime soon. Email notifications are a no-brainer and are sorely missed from the preview.Inman's Tweet
  2. Project Types – Currently a wave is a blank canvas of opportunity – maybe a little too blank. Blank paper is beautiful and perfect for its limitless potential, but sometimes we need lined paper and graph paper.Templates for different Project-types might be a nice touch.  I love the way Basecamp does this; the project itself is tabbed with areas for Messages, To-Do lists, Milestones, Chats, and Files. I think currently with Wave you’d have to create multiple waves and label them. This is less intuitive, and is a surefire way to alienate less savvy users.

    Basecamp's tabbed system is incredibly intuitive

    Basecamp's tabbed system is incredibly intuitive

  3. Calendar Integration for the aforementioned paradigm of milestones could be an amazing feature to see integrated into the Google Cal. Google has gone out of their way to make the Calendar integrate with other popular calendar clients (This would also act as a handy reminder for people to check their waves more often). Suddenly, Wave becomes a much more dynamic and powerful tool; keeping people organized.The more this new workflow tool can integrate into people’s existing workflow, the better its odds of survival are.
  4. Internet Rockstar buy-in – They say that 5% of Internet users make 75% of the noise. I have a feeling a lot of that noise comes from web designers and developers. We are creating content and sites for the Internet, by using the Internet. The medium is the message, and the message is the medium. Currently Wave isn’t trending the best with these users. Win the hearts and minds of the industry’s heroes, and you’ll win in the long run.As bizarre as it seems, there are celebrity web designers out there whose words and blogs carry a lot of weight. I’m not suggesting that Google do anything unsavoury to woo them, but making an app for the people who create amazing apps (albeit on a much smaller scale), takes a little more finess and attention.Khoi's Tweet
  5. Settings – Any settings would be better than this “Under Construction” page. It’s an animated gif away from being classic 90′s facepalm worthy. Other Google properties have some incredibly handy settings. I am certain that a sad percentage of users looked at the settings wave, saw there was nothing there, and will never ever check it again.UnderConstruction

There is a lot that could be suggested; a more traditional track-changes, wave Export, Android app, easier hide-comments, and letting my clients use their existing email address (I’m not sure I understand the @googlewave.com address). Still, I know this degree of care and attention is the norm with Google, and I expect Wave could be the game changer I’ve been hoping for.

It doesn’t seem like Basecamp has much to worry about yet.

Join the Conversation

I would love to hear your Google Wave suggestions as well as success or horror stories in the comments.

Incidentally, Wave keeps giving me more invites. If anyone else needs one please share your Gmail address in the comments and ask! I will remove this line when I’m out of invites.


Google Wave


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Platform Agnostic http://debutcreative.com/platform-agnostic http://debutcreative.com/platform-agnostic#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2009 01:51:52 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=719 Unisys_Icon_System_s1I’ve always loved computers. The first computer I ever used on a regular basis was the Unisys Icon. You know, the one with the trackball. I would love to make a website on one today. That’s right: I would gladly develop on this beast right now. I’m not saying it would always be pleasant, but I could do it, and want to just because I can.

Today I work primarily on two machines: A robust PC desktop and an Apple MacBook Pro. I use the desktop by default as I love having three monitors for multitasking; but I rely on the laptop frequently for when I need  a change of environment or to work on the road.

I am refusing to take part in the Mac vs. PC debates anymore. These are just tools. Apple has some amazingly well marketed and well built machines (complete with hardware to drool over). PCs come with greater freedom, are cheaper and the wider base can mean more help from the nerds who write about this sort of stuff. Linux is a frontier I haven’t jumped into yet (it’s only a matter of time), but again it will be a User Interface accompanied by text, image and code editors.  I am confident that I could do my job on any machine.

Websites themselves are content (usually images and text) arranged in some kind of a logical layout. While the layouts are generally developed in XHTML, CSS or HTML, the content can be delivered in a number of ways including PHP, ASP, .Net, or XML. Whatever. I do have more experience with PHP, but the principles are the same across these platforms as well. Without code to recycle I might not develop as quickly as I would on a platform that I have resources handy for; but I can build a site in any language.

I have some confessions. I had Windows ME, and I thought it was fine. I thought Vista was a great improvement over XP, and I can’t wait to try Windows 7. If I woke up tomorrow with a deadline and only a Windows 95 box to do it with – no problem.

The platform doesn’t make the site. I do. :)

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Happy Blue Beanie Day! http://debutcreative.com/bluebeanie http://debutcreative.com/bluebeanie#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2009 14:27:16 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=713 Today is the third annual Blue Beanie Day; the day to show your support for designing with Web Standards and Accessibility.

Web Standards awareness has been growing largely by the work of industry giant Jeffrey Zeldman for his work writing Designing with Web Standards. In an ideal world if all sites were created to a standardized best-practice for building websites (as layed-out by organizations like the W3C) all browsers could smarten up and render them properly. Making sites with Accessibility in mind ensures that the most possible users (and robots!) will be able to experience the site as intended.

So show your support! Beanie it up!

ArleyM Blue Beanie

More Reading:

Zeldman – http://rle.me/3f

The Book – http://rle.me/3i

Flickr Pool – http://rle.me/3g

Facebook Group – http://rle.me/3h

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The Practical Value of Twitter http://debutcreative.com/the-practical-value-of-twitter http://debutcreative.com/the-practical-value-of-twitter#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2009 19:46:21 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=708 Twitter buzz seems to be dying down, and I’m sure the media is ready for the next big site to emerge. There has been a lot of talk about the value of the micro-blogging site from a dollar sign point of view, but rarely do people talk about the practical value. Twitter has really proved itself to me in three key ways.

Community News

Ok, so it’s a bit of a stretch to call Twitter a community since a lot of people I follow don’t follow me back; but still every day I read about sites, tools and news that is relevant to my passions. If you’re following people who share the same interests, it stands to reason that the links they share will be gold!

One of many great examples was getting in with a group of people signing up for a Browsercam account (I wrote a review recently). While this is usually a $1000 / year membership fee, this group of 25 brought the cost down to $40 annually. Peanuts!

Fast News

It’s amazing how fast news like the death of Michael Jackson or Balloon Boy spread on the internet (and at times a little annoying how dominating they are). Twitter has proven itself as a real-time news source – but only if you know what you’re looking for.

Last month Kristi’s Go Train got stopped on the tracks without warning. She texted me to ask if I could find out what was up. I went to the websites of The Toronto Star, 680 News and Pulse 24 (three prominent news sources in the area), but none had any reports. I then did a Twitter search of “Go Train Milton” and quickly learned what was going on from people on the train and in the area who were in the loop and sharing. It’s times like this when it’s easy to see why Twitter Search has been called one of the most important sites on the web.


Twitter is also an amazing way to see what the mavens of the industry are up to. Web Design and Development might be a unique field to catch these insights, as the medium is also the platform on which these rockstars work. This has impacted my approach to certain aspects of Web Design and work-flow. I would say over all it has helped me to make my daily processes a little leaner and meaner.

There is a negative side to the  humbling experience of having the most outstanding people in your field “in the room”.  When asked if you know anything about a subject it is very tempting to downplay your expertise in the light of what can be known.

To sum it up, I am loving Twitter; and will keep using it as long as it is useful. I get so much more out of it than I can ever give back.

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To Scroll or not to Scroll? http://debutcreative.com/to-scroll-or-not-to-scroll http://debutcreative.com/to-scroll-or-not-to-scroll#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2009 14:27:30 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=699 I am amazed how often scrolling on a website is called into question. Some clients truly feel that it is an extreme faux pas. When asked why,  the client will give responses ranging from their own laziness (and unwillingness to scroll), the hope of getting more impressions/exposure for ads, or the fear that their audience won’t think to dig deeper and check out what is further down the page. The client will instead prefer the idea of many pages with less information.

To defend the ubiquitous paradigm of the scroll, I often refer to the namesake.


Scrolls were likely invented as a way to protect and keep paper based messages in order. You can imagine carrying around loose pages would be cumbersome and fraught with difficulties. Like webpages it would be easier to read the first section, but the reader would have to scroll to read the rest.

The metaphor works. Consider the option to have many pages; it is far easier for the reader to deal with one scroll that deals with the text than sifting through a few dozen little strips of paper.

In fact, multi-page posts are often decried by the hardcore as being one of the “worst things on the Internet”. If you have any doubts  read some of the comments on sites like Digg.com; “Buried for 20 pages“, “View the printable version for one page“, “Mirror!“. It happens every day.

Scrolling works, and is the simplest solution for organizing content. A quick peek at some of the top websites of the world shows a lot of sites that scroll (with the exception of search engine front pages, or login pages for sites like Facebook)

The client has an excellent point though, the real estate at the top of the screen is vitally important. Designing “above the fold” is a major consideration that has to be addressed. That will be the first impression your site makes; it has to be the right one.

Likewise, I’m not advocating dozens of browser-heights of straight text. The content should be broken up into logical pages. The content itself will be easier to digest with a modest smattering of helpful and relevant images and breaking some content up into lists (oh how the Internet loves lists).

If someone you know hates scrolling, please tell them how this post ends as they likely didn’t read it.

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Email Signatures http://debutcreative.com/email-signatures http://debutcreative.com/email-signatures#comments Fri, 06 Nov 2009 21:45:55 +0000 http://debutcreative.com/?p=682 A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you don’t need a thousand words to say what you need to say.

When it comes to email signatures I can see the appeal to have your logo in there. I used to do it! I used to spend hours testing different ways of embedding the image to work with the widest range of clients possible – but it didn’t always work, and it often required the audience to “allow” images.

Only once in three years of running my own company have I earned business simply because someone liked my logo (not that it was seen by them in an email). I don’t see that adding it in the signature will add any ROI or glorious tales of victory , it could only create problems.

Look at the message you’re sending. Sometimes you only get one first impression.

An email caught as Phishing in Windows Mail

Worse case scenario is the attached image will make your email look like the worst form of spam; a phishing attack. This doesn’t happen often, but one person I know (who uses Mac Mail I believe) has this routinely happen to their messages to me. If your first impression is spammy, it fails! If the user even sees it, they will associate it with the most malicious form of junk they receive.

Obviously, the phishing phenomenon doesn’t always happen (if it did I wouldn’t have to explain the virtues of avoiding images). Images in signatures aren’t a best-practice for a couple other reasons.

• I often find myself asking “Where’s that email from so-and-so with the PDF attachment?” Suddenly the attachment icon notice is of no use, since all messages from that user have attachments. Every email I get with an image in the signature has an attachment icon because of that signature image.

• Even small images are a few kilobytes. This space ads up. If I was working in an office that enforced images in the signature I might get hundreds of inter-office emails weekly. This accumulated space leaves you stuck with a slower system, and large archives.

• Some images are too large physically. Some users might be reading your emails on mobile devices. Many signature emails are over 320px, and this will cause scrolling on most smartphones (I’ve even seen an extreme case where the signature image was 1152px which was ‘breaking’ my Gmail in my 1280px desktop browser!).

Here are some real world examples of text signatures in action from relatively big players:

Paul Boag is a popular podcaster, author, conference speaker and is a principal at Headscape.


Gary Vaynerchuk is “the wine guy”, a podcaster, social media advisor, consultant and an author


Norma is an Art Director from Henderson Bas, one of the big agencies from TO.


You’ll note they’re just simple straight up text. Text is simple and beautiful. Text readers can read them, they work the SAME way regardless of browser, OS or mail client. Text never breaks, it’s the smallest and easiest way to communicate with readers in light of so many technical obstacles that could become barriers.

9 times out of 10 email images don’t make or break the signature and can be removed with no further modification to the signature. Removing them removes clutter and gives the reader only one simple thing to read: your name, and maybe how to contact you.

Sometimes, simplicity is worth more than a thousand words.

Arley McBlain
Debut Creative


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