Characters, Symbols and the Unicode Miracle – Computerphile (Video)

What exactly is UTF-8? I’m always telling students to choose it as the character encoding for their HTML documents. It turns out that representing symbols, characters and letters that are used worldwide is not easy, but UTF-8 managed it. Tom Scott explains how the web has settled on a standard. @tomscott

10 Awesome Free Photoshop Extensions

10 Awesome Free Photoshop Extensions

Photoshop is one of the most amazing pieces of design software ever created, and I, for one, absolutely applaud Adobe for adopting the software-as-a-service business model, which makes Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite more accessible to graphic designers everywhere. Another key component of Photoshop is the ability to extend it with third-party plugins. If you want to take Photoshop to the next level, download the following 10 awesome free Photoshop extensions today.

Skeumorphism.it

The days of high-gloss and texture are over – flat is in! With this Photoshop plugin, you can make your design flat in, well, no time flat!

Flat Icon

The Flat Icon plugin lets you instantly access more than 25,000 icons to use in your designs, right from Photoshop’s interface.

CSS3Ps

Crafting a compelling design in Photoshop is one thing, but turning it into workable CSS styles for websites is another. This handy Photoshop plugin automatically converts your layer styles into CSS.

BlendMe.in

Access thousands of vectors to use in your designs fast and easy right from Photoshop’s interface with this awesome plugin.

Interface Tools

The ultimate interface toolkit for Photoshop, Interface Tools eliminates the need to endlessly search for Photoshop tools and provides a host of other functions that streamline the design process, all free of charge.

GuideGuide

Grid-based layouts are the most attractive, but Photoshop makes it painfully difficult to work with grids. With GuideGuide, you’ll have properly proportioned grids in seconds.

Layer Guides

If you add guides to your layers, you know how tedious it can be to click, click, click for every single layer. Layer Guides adds guides to all of your layers with a single click.

Divine Project

PSD to WordPress designers take note: This is the ultimate extension for you, because it helps quickly convert Photoshop designs into workable WordPress themes. Zero coding required!

Web Font Plugin

Access Google and WebINK web fonts from Photoshop’s interface with this ultra-useful plugin.

CutandSlice.me

For all its advances, Photoshop is still old school when it comes to slicing graphics for the web. The Cut&Slice Me plugin makes it easy to quickly slice graphics for today’s web, including the capability to slice and capture all button states at once.

What’s your favorite free Photoshop plugin?

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.

Givers and Takers in the Web World

I’m reading Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Successby Adam Grant. Here’s the premise of the book from the book jacket:

In professional interactions, it turns out that most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

The book dissects how givers, takers, and matchers achieve success – and hang on to success – while others may ultimately fail. Adam Grant is a professor at The Wharton School. The book is based on research and many studies. I was afraid from the title that it might be some of that woo-woo stuff like you read in The Secret, but this is based on research.

It’s an enlightening book and a new way of thinking about success.

Grant’s premise is that givers, people who put the success of the team or the company or the other person in an interaction above their own success, if they do it right, ultimately become the most successful and valuable people to have around.

I’m only a little over half way through the book, but I keep having the same thought as I read. Grant talks mostly about famous men: Ken Lay from Enron, George Meyer from “The Simpsons,” basketball star Michael Jordan, Obama aide Reggie Love. I keep thinking, but what would he say about Sheryl Sandberg or Oprah Winfrey?

As I read, my mind also goes to the people in the web design world. Not world famous names, but people who make this little niche of the world work. Who are the givers are takers and matchers? It was easy to come up with names of men I think would be considered givers. A couple of quick examples: Jeffrey Zeldman, Eric Meyer. But what about women?

Two Women

I want to mention two women in the web design world that I’ve had the experience of working with, and who I consider givers.

Glenda Sims (@goodwitch) is someone I’ve always thought of as a connector. She knows everyone. Ten minutes after you meet her and she hears a bit about who you are and what you do, she’s giving you names of people you should meet, dragging you off to meet them, telling both of you how you can help each other.

I worked with her when creating the web education curriculum that began its life under the name InterACT and has now gone to live at the W3C. This was a team of people who volunteered to build a web standards based curriculum and put it on the web to give away. Glenda wrote little bits of this material, but the real contribution she made was in herding everyone along, in keeping everyone productive, in finding the right person for a job, in managing time and information for everyone else, in knowing where to get funding. Glenda’s name is not the big name attached to this project, but if she hadn’t been there acting as a giver, the project might not have succeeded.

Search Flickr for Glenda Sims and you find her face next to most of the people you’ve heard of in the web design world. I wasn’t kidding when I said she knows everybody.

Another woman I consider a giver is Zoe Gillenwater (@zomigi). I first became aware of Zoe years ago when the CSS Discuss mailing list was part of my regular reading. The list was about 9 parts people struggling with CSS questions and trying to learn it and 1 part people who were willing to answer questions and help others learn. Zoe was one of that 10% who spent hours answering, explaining, clarifying, helping. She was obviously brilliant at CSS and has gone on to prove it in many ways since. But back then, she was an unknown.

She’s not unknown now, as you can see in a Flickr search.

I worked directly with Zoe when my publisher asked her to be the technical editor for one of my books. Maybe you aren’t aware of this, but technical editors get paid about 50 cents an hour for what they do. It’s a crappy job. But Zoe took on the job with every intention of being the best at it and she was. She was most excellent at making sure that the CSS material in my book was correct and in helping me learn about and use the best CSS examples and techniques available at the time. It was my name of the cover of the book, not hers, but she took the time to give me a lot more than she actually had to to make sure the book was a good one.

If you have stories about the givers in the web design world, men or women, I hope you’ll share them in the comments. Let’s recognize the givers who make all of us a success.

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4 Tips for Safeguarding Your WordPress Install

4 tips for safeguarding your wordpress install

The increasing popularity of WordPress – now the most prolific content management system used for websites, stimulates interest among hackers, who’d love to exploit such a widely used platform.  Millions of users, however, count on WordPress security to get their messages out, so a great deal of attention is paid keeping WordPress resources protected.

If you are not an IT professional, unsure of exactly where to start protecting your WordPress install, lean on basic, proven approaches to stay safe.  Dialing your security efforts back to square-one lays the groundwork for continued success, reinforcing barriers against hacker intrusions.  Use these tips to keep your WordPress install out of harm’s way.

Secure Logins and Passwords Furnish First Line of Defense

Login information is a primary barrier against attacks, so maintaining reasonable password and login values is essential for ongoing security.  Pre-loaded words, like Admin, for your administrator account should be changed immediately, since they make obvious targets for hackers looking to infiltrate your website.

Secure passwords consist of multiple characters – at least eight, and should be made-up of a variety of different types of icons.  Both lower and upper case letters should be integrated into your password for the highest levels of safety, as well as numbers and symbols which interrupt identifiable patterns recognized by hackers.

Each person requiring WordPress access should be set-up as an individual user, so there is never a need to share your login information with others.

Updates Keep you Protected

Essential to combating emerging threats, updates should be routine parts of your WordPress management strategy.  WordPress versions should be updated themselves, as well as plugins and themes you use with your install.

In addition to CMS updates, designers add new features periodically and install fixes against the latest hacker attacks. If you are not up-to-date, it becomes easier to breach the security of your outdated version of WordPress.  Updating is simple; just follow instructions given in WordPress, taking care to back-up your files before you proceed.

In case you are not sure whether or not you are current, WordPress clues you in with a yellow banner across the top of your installation, reminding you to update soon.

Use Secure Connections to Access WordPress

Wi-Fi connections leave you vulnerable to hacker attacks, which can glean login data and other sensitive information.  To keep your WordPress safe, connect only from wired sources and trusted home connections with data encryption.

As a periodic safety check, look at the IP addresses of logged-in users to your WordPress site. Unfamiliar entries tip you off to unauthorized activity, requiring immediate password changes.  As an additional measure, hide the version of WordPress installed on your site from users, giving hackers as little information as possible to use against you.

Security Plugins and Backups

Plugins furnish added security against attacks, targeting spam comments and other exploits. Askimet is one free example, preloaded to WordPress installations.  To activate, visit this site to get a WordPress key, which launches basic coverage.  Additional paid services are available upon request.

Regular backups provide assurances your vital website data will not be lost, even when problems do occur.  For the best results, store backups remotely, so they are not caught-up when server difficulties arise.

Safeguarding WordPress starts with basic precautions like using secure passwords, and stays on track with frequent updates and security plugins.

Guest blogger Sarah Brooks is from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.

10 Places You Should Share Your Design Work

10 Places You Should Share Your Design Work

The social web has made sharing more important than ever, especially for graphic designers who are continually seeking new (and potentially lucrative) clients. Now, sharing your design work is more than simply publishing a portfolio; it’s engaging in a community and making real business-networking connections that can pay huge long-term dividends. Portfolio-driven and personal/professional websites aside, here are 10 places you should share your design work.

Facebook

Facebook is perhaps the best platform for sharing your design work. What makes Facebook (and other social sites) perfect is the fact that potential clients are likely not surfing portfolio websites – but they are paying attention to designs being shared here.

Pinterest

Rapidly growing in popularity, Pinterest is a great platform for setting up your own board to showcase your design work.

LinkedIn

Post your latest designs to the business community; with a few good connections, you’ll have the work and the references needed to land great contracts.

Forrst

Share and collaborate with other creative professionals, some of whom might just hire you for their own projects.

YouTube

Whenever you create an outstanding design, take 90 seconds and make a video that discusses your decision-making process. Share your video on other social sites and quickly establish yourself as an expert in your field.

Dribbble

Dribbble isn’t just for designers; a lot of potential buyers browse Dribbble these days.

DeviantArt

Still one of the most popular sites for designers, DeviantArt has a robust community that’s happy to “reshare” your posts.

Creattica

Unlike many other sites, Creattica reviews each work before publishing it. That third-party validation is critical and results in potentially thousands of shares across a wide network.

Press releases

Whenever you complete a big project for a client, offer to submit a press release announcing it. This is especially true for newsworthy releases such as a new website launch or redesign. The press release should include the fact that you were the designer; when it gets picked up by media sources, everyone will know your name.

Business and marketing blogs

Most graphic designers focus on getting posts published on design blogs, but designers aren’t your clients. Instead, post design-relevant information on business and marketing blogs to establish your expertise and talent.

Where else can you share your design work?

Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.

Review: SASS for Web Designers

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SASS for Web Designers by Dan Cederholm is from A Book Apart (2013). Like all the A Book Apart books, it’s brief and very good. And like all books from A Book Apart, it isn’t available new from anyone but them.

SASS is a CSS preprocessor. The book’s first chapter is Why SASS? Cederholm does the explaining with this elevator pitch:

Ever needed to change, say, a color in your stylesheet, and found that you had to find and replace the value multiple times? What if you could change that value in one place and the entire stylesheet reflected that change? You can with SASS! Or how about repeated blocks of styles that are used in various locations throughout the stylesheet? That’s also SASS!

From the first page, you see code examples for how something would be written in SASS. Following that, the CSS output from SASS is shown, to explain exactly what the SASS example does. You quickly begin to see the connection between what you’re asking the preprocessor to do and the CSS output.

Chapter 1 also explains SASS syntax and using the .scss file extension.

Chapter 2 is Workflow. It explains how to install SASS on a Mac and/or Windows. It gives you a few (very few) command line entries but also mentions some apps you can use if the command line freaks you out. Finally it explains how to choose an output style for the CSS that SASS is going to spit out.

Chapter 3 is Using SASS. You learn about nesting rules and namespace properties, about referencing parent selectors with &, about commenting in SASS, about variables and mixins, about mixin arguments. Cederholm also explains mixin libraries and the use of @import rule. He discusses the pros and cons of the Compass framework and the Bourbon library.

He explains extends, multiple extends, and extend vs. mixin. Every one of the topics in chapter 3 comes with very clear code examples that help you see how to do something with SASS and what the results would be in CSS.

Chapter 4 is Media Queries. You find out about nesting media queries, using variables for breakpoints, using the content directive, and putting mixins inside mixins.

The book wraps up with a list of resources for learning more.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of SASS for Web Designers (rating: 5 stars)

Summary: You could start using SASS today with this book as a guide.