That’s a WordPress Site?? – Debunking WordPress Myths

Last night I debuted a 5 minute lightning talk at the WordPress Providence Meetup in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 30-40 locals with varying WordPress interest and experience. Entitled “That’s a WordPress Site??”, the presentation is a tongue-in-cheek, rapid fire debunking of 3 pervasive myths about WordPress: that it’s just blogging software (not a CMS), that it’s not meant for big business or enterprises, and that all WordPress sites sort of look the same.

All of the lightning talks were recorded, so we’ll hopefully have video of me engaging the audience with the slides sometime soon. The raw slides really work on their own as a 3 1/2 minute showcase, so I’ve published the slide deck – animation and all – in HD quality on YouTube for all to enjoy.

Typekit: the font solution we’ve been waiting for?

Ask any front end web developer to describe common challenges involved in converting (or “cutting”) a design. Ask a designer who’s savvy about front end web technology what the biggest creative limitation of the web “canvas” is. In both instances, you’d likely hear an earful about fonts.

For the front end web developer, it’s all about taking someone else’s creative – often designed on a highly controlled and extremely flexible canvas like Adobe Photoshop – and implementing it in the much less controlled and much less flexible world of HTML/CSS/JavaScript. Sometimes, a design that look great as a static image or storyboard just doesn’t translate well into web code, especially when not-so-design-sophisticated clients have to maintain the content and some of the imagery.

Fonts have long been a classic example. A storyboard designer can use any font they have installed on their own computer to make a beautiful design, but hacks aside, web browsers have only been able to render text with fonts installed on the visitors’ computers. Since there are only a handful of fonts that are more or less guaranteed to be on  all modern computers (think Arial and Times New Roman), websites have been limited to a handful of uninteresting choices.

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Home page face lift for NELLCO

Most of our website design projects involve a first design for a new site or web application, or a complete redesign from the ground up. A home page and design “refresh”, however, can be a smart, often overlooked investment in a site’s vibrancy, particularly in times when budgets are tight and that vision of a redesign might be out of reach.

Of course, not all sites are suited to an evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) face lift. Putting lipstick on that 10 year old site with the scrolling marquee, blocky graphics, and green background is probably not a smart investment. But there are many websites with reasonable aesthetics – maybe a few years old – that don’t need to be torn down and rebuilt. Some creative thinking about how existing structural elements can be refined, coupled with a face lift of the home page’s content and, perhaps, key landing pages, can offer real bang for the buck.

Recently, we did just that for the New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO).

NELLCO Home Page Face Lift

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3 simple examples: why Internet Explorer 8 disappoints web developers

UPDATE: Paul Thurrott, a Windows journalist, has featured some commentary on our post over at his Winsupersite. Check out his post, and the great discussion below it! Thanks for the input, Paul!

have me concerned that there’s a growing and false notion that IE8 is just great, and its rendering problems are the result of web developers writing non-standard code optimized for IE7.

To understand why IE8 is a legitimate disappointment, we need to start by providing background on how different browsers impact web development, both from a cost and design standpoint. If you think you already have a handle on this, you can skip ahead to our 3 straightforward examples of IE8 disappointments.

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Interactive Flash maps: using web games to teach concepts

Any educator will tell you that the best way to communicate a concept is not just by stating it, but by opening the door for the learner to discover the concept by way of their own experience or reasoning. Science experiments that go on in classrooms across the country are a testament to the importance of knowledge earned through experience, known, in the case of science, as experiments. Learning on the web, often called eLearning, is no different.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a D.C. based think-tank dedicated to advancing educational excellence in U.S. schools, understands this concept as well as anyone. So when they approached us to help them build an interactive study resource and web based game to illustrate some concepts for their “Accountability Illusion” report, we were excited to get started.

Interactive Flash Maps for Fordham Institute

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iPhone / Android Optimized Theme

iPhone and Android optimized WordPress templateAfter our previous post on mobile-optimized websites it seemed to us that we should lead by example. That’s why we’ve released version 1 of “C. Murray Consulting Mobile”.

For v1, we focused on the powerful and increasingly ubiqitous mobile WebKit, the website rendering engine used by the web browser on the and (available today on the T-Mobile G1) as well as some Nokia Symbian devices. It’s also the web engine behind the forthcoming Palm Pre. The core WebKit engine also powers and let us know what you think. We’ll be adding a check for other mobile WebKit devices, as well as a manual web address to check it out, soon.

“Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship” blog featured on WordPress Showcase

The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s blog has been featured on the WordPress Showcase. The blog, featuring three distinct “columns” (in the content, not design sense of the word), engages is its readers with ideas and opinions on corporate citizenship.

Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Design Comparison

We think this implementation’s most interesting features are under the hood. The blog needed to be integrated with BCCCC’s primary content management system – CitySoft CE. We developed a WordPress template that automatically pulls and caches the top navigation (drop downs and all) from its CitySoft counterpart.

On the CitySoft side, we developed a home page template that pulls the recent items (the Director’s Blog, and general news) from WordPress. The CitySoft template loads a cached version of the entire home page that refreshes ever hour, resulting in a “zippy” home page despite the number of complex elements, not to mention the site’s traffic. Most visitors never know they are switching between two completely different systems!

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Introducing the “Ning-tranet”

Over the last year we’ve helped several clients deploy social networks on the Ning platform. Our early Ning deployments were elegant, but traditional: we helped member organizations create rich, dynamic online member communities. Recently, we’ve been breaking out of that box.

Earlier this year, we customized an instance of Ning for FIRST Credit Union in British Columbia, creating a social network that enables their staff to meet up and share ideas online. The project included a custom design (implemented via CSS), custom home page components (via the Ning API), and some creative hiding and renaming of core features (using CSS and JavaScript).

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