SMICK.NET | Website of Mike Smick Graphics and Web Developer

In-Browser Temporary Editing for Screenshots – Bookmarklet

If you ever need to make a webpage screenshot to show a UI change, or maybe just mockup purposes, a nice way is to utilize the browser bookmark toolbar and a script that enables Content Editable property on the body of the web page.

When you do this, you can click around the text and start typing. Things like button text, table, paragraph copy will start to change.

Drag the following links to your bookmarks toolbar (make sure it’s showing on you browser (View > Toolbar > Bookmarks)). The first link enables text editing, the second link disables it again. And if you need to scrap your changes for some reason and redo them, just hit refresh on the page, it will reload to the state it was in.

Make HTML Editable

Turn Off Editing

Once you get your changes right, you can take a screenshot or print the page and your changes should remain for those purposes. I imagine this tip helping project managers who want to show a developer how a task should be completed but have struggled doing so using graphic software.

December 2, 2015 at 11:28 am | design, webdev | No comment

My thoughts on website animations

Everyone seems to want animations these days. And they usually don’t realize how much more expensive it can get. Animation has its place on the web and finally we are creating experiences that we have dreamed of being able to do. But at the same time, I can’t help run through my mind a series of questions when animation starts getting hairy as part of a project where it has no business being, whether for ROI or being in the budget in the first place. The biggest question with animation is, if it’s easy enough to be cheap, is it worth doing or has everyone already seen it, making it just white noise.

Animating-stuff-on-your-website

Upon multiple viewings, does it become something you’re just waiting for?

Is it slowing performance on any device?

Does it make editing your site more difficult?

Does your audience care that something moves around?

The sun will eventually burn out taking all of humanity with it. Knowing this, will you still care about spending money on the animation?

Is it a commonly used trendy convention (played out?)

Is it your idea, or was it somebody selling it to you?

Does it likely score you more business?

Does it pull the eyes away from other important messages?

Does it make your offering look more expensive?

Does it help get point across?

Is it impressive (to people that actually matter)?

February 16, 2014 at 7:55 am | design, graphics, webdev | No comment

Ways of organizing your CSS to achieve flow

Could you be writing your CSS better? I’ve been thinking about my project flow lately and noticed there’s a lot less flow and a lot more rework than there should be. I think that’s because I’m always trying new things. But I suffer the consequences of not establishing consistency and clarity. In this post, I’m talking specifically about how you wire up your main CSS file. When I talk about organization here, I’m talking about categories inside that css, so it’s easy to traverse. I firmly believe it can help speed up development and improve everything.

CSS Comments

This is how you can create categories. Write CSS comments out so they visually look like category headers.  Example:

/* ========   This is a Category Separator CSS comment   ========= */

Everything under this comment would be idenfied with it as a category.  I’ve made a lot of variations on this type of header. I’m not sure what  you like but using special characters appears to work well. I like Equals signs because they create a thick obvious border.

Categorize by function

What are the bits of CSS affecting?  Consider that if you are covering font changes, you can group all your typography under one header. So when you make a font change, presumably that section will be easy to find and less stuff to read through. Same for layout. Are you changing the padding for one or more divs? Put it under the Layout / Div category.

/* ========   Reset (if applicable)   ========= */

/* ========   Colors   ========= */

/* ========   Typography   ========= */

/* ========   Layout / Div   ========= */

/* ========   Misc classes   ========= */

Categorize by task / override

CSS means Cascading Style Sheet. The cascade is like the waterfall down a multi-level rock formation. The code described at the top, falls all the way down. So the global rules you put at the top. Underneath that, you continue with the exceptions to the rule, going from genral to specific. You can think of this and how your project is built. The template will have some standard things, and trickle down to the very specific. Some changes might only occur on specific pages, while others only occur in a single spot on one page and never again.

/* ========  Base (styles every page)   ========= */

Things like the menu bar, the header maybe (unless it will change in appearance leveraging CSS)

/* ========   Site Section Level changes   ========= */

/* ========   Specific Page Styles or Overrides   ========= */

/* ========   Occasional Styling   ========= */

/* ========   Minutiae (could almost be used inline but decidedly better here)   ========= */

Categorize By Visual Areas

This one is really common for me, but I grow it organically for each project rather than commit to specific labels each time. I’m not necessarily sure how not to do this in some respect on projects because my brain thinks this way.

/* ========  Body  (A few type or color global values )  ========= */

/* ========  Header  ========= */

/* ========  Navigation Menu  ========= */

/* ========  Content / Main  ========= */

/* ========  Gallery  ========= */

/* ========  Sidebar  ========= */

/* ========  Footer  ========= */

/* ========  Misc. or further addendum ========= */

I just want to point out this last Misc. section I also would add things like classes that the WYSIWYG editor uses.

Collaborating with Others

If you work alone, you benefit from being able to drive standards 100%. If you work with others, you want to best conform but also to discuss and agree to ways to do projects. Mostly it will come down to cross-training.  A lot of developers do quick and dirty CSS while fixing the widget they are working on and unfortunately never go back to clean it up.  This behavior will go on and it just needs to be repeatedly trained.  Ongoing project improvements and maintenance require some attention to details.  When you put things in categories a benefit you’ll find is eliminating redundancy. When everyone is referring to the same codeblock of CSS for edits to the base or header or typography, there’s a good chance they will see the previous entry for that class so it won’t be repeated.

When you work in a version control system you can see who added what to the code, but whether or not that’s the case, consider this. Some changes might be best identified near the code itself.  Let me give a quick scenario.  Let’s say you are a 3rd party agency taking on a new section of the site.  Your front end dev may not have a couple days to get a full understanding of the site, and all the current or outdated pages under the hood. Your task might be to build a certain landing page page in the CMS. If you have say 4 hours to work on something while the main developer is on leave. Instead of meddling with the code, create your own section.  If it happens to break some outdated legal page, at least your code is easy to find.

/* ========  Edits by Open Ground Co (for x landing page 11.30.2013) ========= */

Another variation on this, if you happen to need to make a fix to an existing line, consider a quick comment after it:

.classname {padding-left:-1.2em; }  /* == OG edit 11.30.2013 == */

These variations and tips are attempting to say the same thing: “Begin with the end in mind.”

December 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm | computers, CSS, design, freelance, Front End Development, graphics, webdev | No comment

The Forgotten Adobe Customers

Adobe has announced their move to Creative Cloud this week.  And though it seems like a great deal to some, I’m beyond skeptical and downright disappointed. For one thing, it’s not really a great price as far as cloud storage goes. To get 20 GB of space, you can spend a heck of a lot less on your own hosting where a much smaller number of people will be hitting your own server every day. So your throughput will be better elsewhere for less money.

I’m sure Adobe knows who their customers are right? But I think they will find after a while, these forgotten user-types will have stopped buying the software and Adobe is going to miss it.  Will somehow the funds recovered from piracy make up for it?  Maybe. Or will the pirates just continue to pirate the best version out there?

The Administrative Assistant

This user is employed at small or medium business, like an architectural firm and the boxed Creative Suite Standard was purchased for them for occasional uses such as photo work, newsletter development, presentation graphics. The facts about this user are interesting. They don’t actually need the Creative Suite. It’s way too powerful for the kind of superficial edits that it will be used for. Lucky for Adobe though, the company boss purchases the license for the potential use by the employee. And it’s convenient for them to have the software around.  They get it installed and don’t have to think about it much.

The IT Guy with a Creative itch

This is a very common archetype if you will. The IT guy might own his own copy or convinced the boss to purchase the extra license.  The IT guy bangs on the companies fledgling website using Dreamweaver and a little Photoshop. Of course his graphics always display out of proportion, but things work. Maybe he’s aware of other options for web development, but this is the tool he knows is popular and was easy enough to get started and find tutorials. . Again seeing the potential of it’s use over time, it was a purchase made to get tasks done and scratch that itch.

The Retiree Hobbyist

He or she has graduated their careers and maybe is moving into a new hobby or startup doing weddings or nature videography / photography, and to maybe play around with music a bit.  Sure their Windows computer has the movie maker software on it but they never bothered to notice.  The Video Collection was a steep purchase, but they were sure they will have EVERYTHING they need to get things done. Because they often get stuck on things, weeks or months will go by on projects because they aren’t sure how to complete various tasks. They also have the patience and available time to return to something completed and rework it after they’ve learned a new technique.

The Disenchanted Freelancer

This person is me.  Not on the continuous upgrade path, but willing to spend on the new Adobe Collection every odd or even version to stay up to date with colleagues and vendors. Things are expensive to stay current but on the plus side, a having those older boxed versions to outfit a second computer for an intern or collaborator, or to make an aging machine capable has been great.  As far a loyalty goes, a freelancer is about the best Adobe can hope for. Despite being more than capable of learning other tools, the freelancer uses Adobe because it’s convenient. The freelancer owns his / her own company name. They like having their own systems in place. They like not having a boss to tell them what to spend time and energy on.

All of these users are valuable customers and revenue for Adobe. And yet all of them represent a thin thread, easily broken.  That thin thread for many was the creative potential that owning your own software brings. Sure they won’t be able to crank out webpages, or videos or right away, but if they can sit on it for a while, let the ideas digest and come to fruition.  Then they can make something special or useful.  Or they won’t. But the point was the potential. With Creative Cloud, you remove that potential.

The disenchanted freelancer will sign on for a month when absolutely necessary to fix up a problem in an incompatible proprietary file, but otherwise, there’s no benefit to paying to borrow software for many of us.  Ask the IT guy whether he’s cool with yet another subscription. I mean he only pays for TV, ESPN, HBO, Family Cell Phone plan, kids hockey, Netflix.  Will the boss pay for a creative cloud subscription for the admin assistant or will he figure out that Office has Publisher and she can use Picasa or some online photo editor to handle the image crops. And the Retiree? Good luck getting his money now on something he’s only using 11% of realistically.

I’m not sure presenting people with the decision every month or even every year if they want to keep using the Creative Cloud is a good idea.  Because it’s a reminder of whether or not it’s worth their time or money. Whereas before somebody only had to worry about if they were living up to their creative potential.

May 9, 2013 at 10:45 am | computers, design, freelance, graphics, publishing, rants | No comment

Sketching Fashionable

Yet another terrific gem from over at the Internet archives (archive.org).

Check out “Costume Design and Illustration” from 1918. Like many others of the fantastic collection of public domain texts, you can read online or download in all possible formats.

I also just discovered tonight that the online reader app works really well on the iPad.

20130308-014838.jpg

March 8, 2013 at 1:38 am | books, design, general, graphics, learning | No comment

Estimate projects using OpalCalc

I created a video tutorial of a sample website project breakdown using some new software I found called OpalCalc. Estimating project costs for my freelance website and design projects is made easier with OpalCalc.  I think though you can do the exact same thing using other tools, this little app has a way about that works for people whose brain is maybe wired differently, or who just need something to help lay it all out quickly.

October 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm | design, learning, training, webdev | No comment

Workplaces for designers and front end coders are way behind

Ask yourself… How does my workplace help me succeed?

I’ve worked in a lot of office environments and it comes down to this fact. They are basically the same. They are adequate, climate-controlled and exist for people to work in the same vicinity, but other than that, they don’t serve the worker all that well.

You have a small area you can furnish yourself a little bit, typically a set of tools that are somewhere between mediocre or decent and you are expected to stay in one place for 7-11 hours a day.

There are no incentives to improve the space yourself using your own funds; you can ask for better equipment when you need it, but you’d be expected to demonstrate that it’s problematic or limiting. You can improve your workspace by requesting a better chair, maybe a doctor’s note will help you in that way, but a better desk isn’t likely.

Expectations that conflict

You’re expected as a designer / developer to create, to bring a succession of progressive enhancements to your work in order to provide better service. And my view is you can’t do that in a typical work space. And no change in wall color or cube formation is going to ultimately fix that. A creator who is stagnant and does the same thing repeatedly is going to dwindle in usefulness. They will miss their family, resent their job a lot of the time and go home at the end of the day tired and unable to absorb or maximize their life experience outside of the workplace, not refreshed for the next day.

How does one create?

Well we do so by absorbing through experience in our life and by crafting a solution to a set of problems.  When you sit at the same desk for a sequence of so many days. How is your life experience bringing you things to help generate ideas?  What about that hour lunch break? Does it regenerate you really? I’ve always found myself rushing through it, and basically listening or contributing to complaint sessions with my colleagues.

The structure of offices is just strange to me. I get the whole discipline thing and team oriented work. But with design and development, you’ll have short bursts of team work which then require an individual to separate from the huddle and actually bring something to life so the group can discuss it. The majority of your time is taken in these individual tasks. The group feedback loops are at most 10% of your days at most. Probably more like 3%.

So what I’m getting at is if I’m required to be at an office, but mostly working solo, in order to serve the creative requirements of my job, isn’t there a conflict in my lack of world experience that I’m generating as well?

I had that thinking less than 6 months into my first office job. And despite my best efforts, I’ve worked in many other offices after that. Will I ever learn? Slowly but surely I guess.

Can you go big, portable or remote?

I think the issue is, many of us simply cannot bring with us a sufficient portable space, so we work where a den was made, and though networking is sophisticated enough, teammates do not use the capabilities of the available tools to work remotely in nearly the same capacity as an in-person setup. It basically works like this…

Worker: I want to work from home, I think I could get things done just as well (murmurs about office distractions)
Supervisor: That sounds good, how about maybe every other Friday you work from home
Worker: That’s something, (that sucks) but let’s do that (for starters hopefully).
Supervisor: Of course you’ll need to check in with me during that time
Worker: No problem you want to set up skype or get on chat or maybe open a phone bridge all day, or just open the view to the source code repository as I check things in?
Supervisor: I’m not familiar with all that, let’s set up some phone meeting times to go over some things
Worker: Ok fine

And what happens is, the worker spends a few extra half-hours during the day preparing to provide reports to the boss to justify working there. Eventually it’s a huge hassle and at some point he’s on the toilet when a call comes in, the boss starts preaching that it’s not working out and feigns panic.

Humans should be together, but not necessarily co-workers all the time. I’m advocating for a change in creative work where schedules are mixed, working from remote locations is encouraged and the absorption of experience resulting in the synthesis of ideas is maximized.  I realize this produces more opportunity to screw off and bosses don’t like screwing off. But you know what… I really don’t care.  Because change starts at home. I’m advocating people demand of their next job and plan on updating their home or portable capabilities.

Try this, when you actually have time for your family, when you split up your day, go home or for an outing for 3 hours multiple times during the week rather than spending the majority of the sunlight hours sitting indoors. I’m going to bet that you feel a little more refreshed, and capable of being excited over new challenges. I’m not talking about a couple days vacation or a bi-monthly “teambuilding” event only then to return to normal and then work on those ideas. I’m talking about killing normal and creating based on goals and energy, not required sitting periods.

‘Cuz I won’t be the one left behind, you can’t be king of the world if you’re slave to the grind’

-Skid Row (1990)

May 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm | design, family, inspiration, philosophy, rants | No comment

Flatland Bike Check – Flatware Waltz

This post will be longer than you will care. But I’m putting it all in. I’ve built a new bike. My first bike change since 1999. Been riding flatland on a tank (Hoffman E.P) forever. I won’t give the impression that I’m some kind of pro, but even as an amateur I still want to share it. Part of the fun of Flatland is the equipment and the variety right?

I’ll get this out of the way quick…YES I ride back brakes. Nobody does anymore hardly but I like having them for all kinds of reasons. Sure they can get in the way and may even provide too much of a crutch, but right now, those don’t outweigh the positives (for me). I can understand the freedom of getting rid of brakes entirely, but I’m not quite done with them yet. I know I’m not alone but I’m in the minority in flatland certainly.

Mike Smick Bike Check - Flatland Flatware Waltz

I realize now just how much I’ve been missing out on the lighter modern frames. Lighter is better. That’s one of the things I like about the Waltz. It’s definitely on the lighter side, even of the newer frames. The heavier bike you’re swinging around you’re definitely expending more energy per hour.  I can tell right now I can maneuver this thing in ways that would have been too strenuous on the other bike.  I have been able to recover mishaps easier. It’s nice to feel like I’m working on the combo more than just straining to hold the bike up. A heavy bike is demotivating. Flatland is all about repetition, so there you go.

So how does the new bike work out for me? I dig it BUT there’s room for improvement. Here’s my full photo gallery and then I’ll give a few more thoughts.

The Flatware Waltz frame designed by Odyssey and Terry Adams is constructed well. I like the tubing. I’ve gotten used to the new setup and geometry in just one session. A couple more I will have tried nearly all the stuff I normally do. It’s all so smooth.

I made the right choice going with the taller and wider Flatware Chase Gouin bars. The shape and design is so right. Wider for me means more leverage in maneuvering. Too narrow and your balance can get thrown off (my opinion). I know my comfort zone and with longer arms, it makes sense.

Problems with my choices?

I’m glad you asked. The Flatware Waltz is right on the edge of being too short for my height.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping it and I’ll enjoy it to the max, but I’d bet adding a half inch to the front and then to the back would work well.  I’m 5’10” and I’d argue anyone my height with a shoe size 10 or over should get a longer bike.

I’ll be looking at a something between 19 and 19.2 next time. You’re going to want to go with 165 cranks for this setup, unless you like your heels hitting the back pegs. If you like longer cranks, this is gonna be a noticeable thing for you.  I jam up back there and my pegs aren’t even that fat.  That tells me the back or the entire bike is too short (at least for somebody with size 11 shoes. Let me make the only other strong criticism. The dropouts on this thing are done wrong. They are notched for grinding for larger axels but once grinded are way too thinned out. Best to just have the larger axel

I’m giving the Waltz a rating of 7.5 / 10.  If it also came in a longer size like 19.2 with proper dropouts it would easily be a 9.5 / 10

I learned a lot from shopping, making a couple mistakes not knowing what to get. I’m better prepared now. Expensive lessons though.

After reading a lot of bike checks, I knew I wanted to show my full parts sheet and prices in the table below. That way you know what’s up. Plus EVERY time kids see me ride they ALWAYS ask,  “How much was your bike?” Now I can tell them to go here and see how ridiculous we all are for loving this expensive sport. I thought about including links to online stores but I don’t want to recommend one retailer over another (unless somebody wants to give me a gift card kickback for promoting them!) Prices should be pretty similar online everywhere.

Part Name Description Price Per piece
Odyssey Flatware Waltz Flatland Bike Frame $344.99
Colony Dejavu Fork $134.99
Demolition Zero Rim Rims x2 $131.98 $65.99
Demolition Bulimia Hub Front $43.99
KHE Reverse Hub Rear (Freecoaster) $149.99
Odyssey Flatware Chase bars 8″ High 6 degree back and upsweep 26″ w $85
Fit Cranks Fit Spline Drive 3pc Crankset $144.99
Eastern Plastic Red Pedals Plastic $11.99
Animal Jump Off Remix Stem Anodized Red $69.99
Tree OG 48 Spline 19mm 22T Sprocket $59.99
Animal Stitched Pivotal Seat $19.99
ODI Longneck Red Grips $19.99
Colony Transformer U-Brake Front and Rear Brakes $119.98 $59.99
Mechanik Hollow-Trac Chain Chain White $29.99
Snafu Moebius Detangler Detangler (gyro piece) $25.99
Quamen Gyro Plate Gyro Plate $11.99
Animal Integrated Headset Headset $27.99
Tech 77 Brake Levers x2 $29.98 $14.99
Oryg SST Cables (top = shorty) Detangler Cables top & bottom $19.98 $9.99
Wheel build labor Danscomp building bike wheels $0.01
Powdercoating frame (white) Custom Paint Powdercoating service $100
Wasted money (in mistakes) Odyssey Chase fork, + $30 powdercoating on unused fork, astroglide detangler cables $185
Odyssey Frequency-G Chase Gouin tires 20×1.85 x2 (NOT soft cp) $47.98 $23.99
Macneil Valve cap (red) Tire Valve cap / cover – anodized red alum 3.99
Colony Jam Circle Pegs Front and Rear pegs (anodized alum red) x2 $89.98 $44.99
Dans Tubes Shrader Valve Tube $7.98 $3.99
Unused Tree Big Balsa Pegs x2 $113.98 $56.99
Demolition Chain Tensioners Chain Tensioners (unused) $19.98 $9.99
TOTAL COST $2052.68

April 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm | bikes, design, general | 1 comment

The Apple iPad revealed. What now?

Apple's new iPad - image from Apple.comI was wrong on plenty of things regarding this tablet computer. Some of the things are disappointing, but I’m happy I’ve taken some time to digest it a bit, to listen to some arguments. I think Apple’s iPad is pretty darn cool. It *might* be something I’d buy, but I can’t say for sure just yet.

I’m going to start with this statement. I’m relieved that I now know what this is. The build-up was just ridiculous.  But I think that the suspense was valuable because people put forth so many ideas, they may have even encouraged innovation by other organizations to meet needs.

I think the iPad will be a good computer for people of every age to read and learn. I think most media companies will like it because it encourages the consuming of their information, books, films, and audio. And it’s created to be hyper-convenient to purchase those materials via this mainstream channel.

People were hoping for more than the iPhone of course. And the lack of camera surprised some.  I think I don’t mind it not having an onboard camera as long as a durable one can be connected. I think it might be better as a peripheral actually, then it could be pivoted to see the subject best for whatever use case, chatting or games.

One area that does bother me right now, but I hope for resolution is the lack of a dedicated drawing program. I thought for sure that one of the most important ways to justify the existence of a device like this is to throw down with designers. In a way, I think Apple owes the design community something like that because the design community supports them.  People were mentioning they were surprised about a lack of stylus. I kind of agree, but I want it known that a stylus does exist that can work with these capacitive screens. How the device will handle a sharp input, I don’t know. And that’s too bad, because it’s a niche opportunity.  But I think it’s something Apple probably wants other companies to handle, Adobe of course and smaller companies.

Sounds good right? Well yes but still I go back to this intended as a consuming device.

What else is missing?  Well I said in my earlier posting that I expected the device to have a real operating system, not just the iPhone OS. Well I was wrong. And that means it doesn’t really have the ability to support programs and utilities outside approved app store apps. Will this matter to most people who can find useful programs in the 150,000 large app store?  Nope, they’ll be fine.  And in fact, for every lost hobbyist, there will be hundreds or thousands of users who are given more than they need at prices they don’t mind, in a closed platform they don’t mind.

The good news is, plenty of other devices predating and developed concurrently are going to work for hobbyists. And these will gain a lot from the iPad. The envelope must be pushed. And it’s happening in price, weight, battery life, user experience and more.

What’s hot?  As much of a bugger it is for me to say, the app store is really hot. Because it is a market where a lot of people can get involved. Sure it’s closed off, but it’s not 150,000 strong by keeping people out. It’s quite open too. And somehow non-public apps will be made as this device and platform evolves if certain businesses want to take advantage.

What else is missing? I think a lot about the possibilities of a really strong voice recognition to complement a handwriting recognition where one could produce text to share these ideas almost as quickly as with a keyboard.

So after seeing the real thing, will I get it?  I’m torn, I mean the price points certainly make it more fun, but given that the potential for the Android devices, the battery life potential of Pixel Qi screen tablets and Ebook Readers and it’s hard to part with the money if I don’t have a killer drawing program. And I want the   It’s a good idea if one were to skip this device that they might keep an eye on the app store still. Because that’s where one might find exactly what they’re looking for.

It’s very exciting.  A few years ago, there were plenty of devices that would fail and never return.  One might think this wasn’t something people wanted and would go away before it reached a potential.  You get the feeling now though that we are definitely inching towards the right version for most people in this form factor.  It’s happening now and just like all other technologies, it will keep getting better. It will get to the point where you will see too many reasons to buy one.  They present many opportunities for in-home control over networked devices, energy settings  or other monitors and smart features.

February 5, 2010 at 7:07 am | computers, design, mac | No comment

On the eve of the Apple Tablet

Some would tell you that tomorrow the world will change.  I’ve loved all the coverage, I eat it up. As an ultra enthusiast of portables, this is a big year. And tomorrow is a significant day in the material world. Big player, massive expectation. Great potential no doubt.

Intrigue surrounds this thing, not just because it’s Apple. Not because of controlled leaks. People are looking for something. They want to do new things, or do old things better. Will this thing help people do things, or is it just a device for consuming?

Many of us have realistic expecations for this. Writing and drawing, taking notes, good battery life, durability, responsive UI, games, specialized programs, photo and video viewing, reading books.  A netbook or high end notebook isn’t enough for some.  They want to interact more naturally. Some, like me want to be able to create higher quality designs using their refined motor skills and talent, not just push a mouse around.

These gadgets are personal man, they spark all kinds of debate. For some of us, they seem to run our lives, they own us as Tyler Durden would say.  But they let us work in special ways, to share, to communicate. We scupt them through the programs we use, the shortcuts we deploy and what we throw out entirely.

I was disappointed with some writers covering or commenting on these devices, who insist that they know what people want, or more often what they don’t need. Stupid.  There are enough people in the world in all niches that you could make any kind of tablet product fly if you targeted it properly.  Medical, education, logistics,  and more.  And don’t forget the technique many use to market wares to people who don’t know about them. Create the need by introducing a problem, one that people didn’t know they had.  A 9-year-old understands this brand of persuasion.  It’s a mixture of What-if? and Don’t-You-Hate personal inquiries that lead to great answers.

The must frustrating statements made to me have been things like:

As obsessed as I get with wanting to strike back at these with my own strong feelings about the potential for the device here. I’d feel just as energized if Apple didn’t announce a tablet tomorrow. The ball is already in play buddy. Somebody is going to take hold and run with these ideas. We all know after the media storm what many people are after.   So it’s exciting, and it feels like anyone’s game to win.

Now for my speculative remarks.

God knows I’ve listened to everyone else on these matters.   I don’t care of Apple does any of this, it’s just a fun exercise.  But I do have some personal certainties here. Take it or leave it.

  1. I don’t see how it could possibly be called “Tablet”, “iTab” or iSlate or iPad”  Not that the name matters at all to me, but it’s going to play off the graffiti theme or will have a cool name like “Moses” just like the “Newton” was used for their first tablet, something strong. If Steve Jobs did say this is his most important work ever, why wouldn’t he break the standard and  give it a name with real pwnage.
  2. I think the screen will be different in materials than anything else we’ve seen.  Or if we have seen it, we’ve forgotten about it. It won’t be like the iPhone and it won’t be OLED and won’t be Pixel Qi either(unfortunately), I think it will be something else that’s been overlooked by everyone. I’m betting a 3rd party company has been developing the substrate quietly for a long time, and it’s a key selling feature that Apple would NOT allow a controlled leak on. It won’t be unbreakable, but durable.  It will be something that works for reading and writing in daylight better than we’re used to. The screen will perform well, but don’t get your hopes too high, too many compromises are in play.
  3. Lack of ports will bother me. Focus will be on wireless connectivity and against my wishes, there will be a lack of ports, thereby making the device less useful to hobbyists. Apple always does this to me, so I don’t see this changing. If there are more than 2 ports, I’m betting they will be non-standard and annoying to connect to. I’m very curious if it will have an SD slot. I’m thinking not, tragically.
  4. Apple will allow docking in vertical position for pairing with a keyboard easily, and will probably have a good docking station for it (look at logitech’s dinovo keyboard charger dock for example of what you’ll get with this.
  5. Screen will be 10 inches. That’s my guess. One size, 10 inches.
  6. In order for this event not to end too quickly, there will be a massive amount of use cases and software revealed where all sorts of problems are “solved” in the demo. The use cases will take up a large portion of the time. Videos and testimonials in areas like design, home entertainment, commercial use and media creation (photo / video / audio).  Education will get some time, but not enough, because Steve trimmed that part for the sake of brevity.  Those items ARE most important for the device to succeed though. They’ll be more evident when the microsite goes live.
  7. A few years ago, Apple changed iMovie so you could drag your mouse across clip thumbnails and it would shuttle through the video. That was killer and you will see nice UI features like that for plenty of oohs and ahhs. These things WILL get people thinking and it will drive more innovation.
  8. Some kind of iPod goodies will be part of the announcements to hold interest, the 2 devices will fuel each others’ progress.
  9. Special Mac software will be what sells this thing which is also where the other “failed” tablets and multi-touch didn’t grab the mass market.  Designers will get graphic software, students WILL get office. Learning software will be apart of this. This device will do more than just App Store stuff. It will allow for custom builds.  Because it has to appeal to commercial users who want to create their own lock-in for their company.
  10. Price will be $899 or higher. Look at Apple’s current offerings across the board. How could it be cheaper if they stick to their pricing as usual?
  11. 3G will be available, but not locked to a vendor like AT&T.  That will too easily hurt sales.  No contracts required.
  12. There will be exclusive partnerships which are made to sound cool, but really are just annoying. Something about these tablets and portables that brings out the old-world corporations and their attempt to control the future by creating a false scarcity on things. Extreme content and intellectual property fascism wrapped in the guise of the simple and convenient purchase and exclusivity.

Wrapping up, It won’t be for this guy =(

I’ve been disappointed before and probably will this time too. I’m doubting the Apple Tablet will be my choice of tablet in the long run. There’s a lot out there now, with the Entourage eDGe, HP’s offerings, and I’m really hopeful for Notion Ink’s Android tablet with the pretty Pixel Qi screen.  A lot of devices are using Wacom technology for pen recognition. I think I’ll be paying for the most flexible choice.  Apple doesn’t have that reputation of being flexible or open.  But I bet it will do a few things I’ll be jealous of when I see it in the field.

January 27, 2010 at 1:30 am | design, gadgets, mac, media | 1 comment

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