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River of News? More Like a Tsunami!

I currently subscribe to 306 RSS feeds from around the web (That’s after cutting out all the pointless design galleries I used to syndicate). My morning ritual begins with checking the “tsunami of news” that I’m drenched in, over a cup of coffee. It usually ends up consuming an hour of my morning, there’s usually 50-150 stories to check over, and I don’t like to skip over any without first glancing at the story’s content.

If I’m ever to neglect my daily ritual, the stories simply keep piling up, and I end up having a few hours of reading ahead of me, which for some reason I won’t let myself skip.

I’d love to have this practice consume less of my time, but I just can’t bear to see any of my feeds go, lest I miss that one important gem of a story. I’m sure I’m not alone with my tribulations, and I’m sure that there are many out there in internet-land who subscribe to many more feeds than me.

River of News

Mint Vs Reinvigorate – Battle of the Stats

I’ve been an avid user of Shaun Inman’s Mint since a little while after it’s initial public release, and have been altogether pleased with it’s stat-tracking abilities and clean aesthetic.

reinvigorate map

But there’s a new kid on the block, and it’s been seducing me with an almost similar minty-green flair ever since I realized I still had a beta invite lying around. It’s called reinvigorate.

Being a hosted stats package, reinvigorate works in a slightly different manner to Mint, your stats are calculated and displayed on a remote server, which provides a great looking page filled with pretty pie charts, bar graphs and all the raw data to fuel blogger’s egomania. reinvigorate is currently free of charge, and with Mint priced at $30 per license, this may be it’s biggest advantage.

There’s no denying that both packages offer a beautiful interface, and both will be more than adequate for the average user’s needs, but my preference still lies with Mint. It’s level of customizability, plugin architecture and the fact that it’s hosted on my own server make it the most useful statistics package to date.

That said, I do prefer reinvigorate’s design to Mint’s, I just love the beautiful graphs and charts it renders, as well as the cool tabbed interface.

New Monitor

Today I unpacked my brand spankin’ new Dell 2407WFP Monitor, and I’m absolutely smitten with it. Moving from my relatively tiny 1440×900 MacBook Pro screen to this 16:10 widescreen beauty was a big step, but I now can’t figure out how I survived without it. Designing is so much easier when you have enough screen real estate to work with, and it makes multitasking so much smoother and more enjoyable.

Now I just need to upgrade my RAM to at least 1GB. With all these applications running, my poor old M-Book is getting a little hot under the collar!

Kevin Smith’s SModcast

I love Kevin Smith. If you love Kevin Smith too, check out his podcast, called Kevin Smith’s SModcast. Each episode usually ends up as 50 minutes of mindless rambling about non-important issues, but it’s still hilarious, and easy to listen to while working.

And Here Come the CS3 Icon Replacements

With Adobe’s new Creative Suite 3 icons receiving a less-than-warm reception in the blogosphere, a couple of designers have taken on the task of bringing them a different look. At the moment I’ve come across three great sets of icons to replace the basic CS3 ones, but there’s definitely more to come.

Check out Koregraphic, Louie Mantia and Adam Betts’ wonderful replacement sets.

Louie Mantia CS3 Icons
Koregraphic CS3 Icons

Inspiring Motion Graphics

In lieu of my recent post on Curing Designer’s Block, I thought I would share something that has been a wonderful source of inspiration for quite some time. An oft-neglected form of design that is (from personal experience) much more involved and difficult to master than any other field of design. Motion Graphics

Two-dimensional static design (such as that on the web or in print) is in itself a skill which requires much calculated thought, careful planning and a little bit of natural ability to truly master. Now, just think of the Motion Designers out there, who not only have to work with two and in many cases three dimensions, they also have to bring this design to life in a fourth dimension; time.

Some of the greats from this industry churn out beautiful works of art, that are truly captivating and generally inspiring in all walks of design. I have featured some of my favorite demo reels and clips below. I suggest that all designers look more into this industry, as it’s just a visually enthralling experience to witness some of the greater works.







National Television

National Television







If you’re looking to find out more information on Motion Graphic Design, or just crave more cool clips, I suggest checking out the great Motion Graphics blog, Motionographer or

Curing Designers Block

When designing for the Web, or for any environment for that matter, every designer gets stuck at one point or another. Many people simply scrap their progress and start from the beginning, but is this the best practice? Here are a few tips that have helped me get through some creative dry patches.

Sleep on it

One of the best things one can do to bring a fresh view to their stale design, is to sleep on it. Get a good nights sleep (a nap may also help), forget about your design woes and come back the next day to your work. This is probably the most effective means of rebuilding your inspiration.

Take a walk

Walking is a great way to clear your mind, and we could all use a little more exercise too 🙂 If you don’t like walking, then just get out of the house, go and get a coffee, take a stroll through the mall. Just get away from your computer.

Take a shower

If you’re on a tight deadline, then Designers block can be a serious issue. And it’s effects are compounded with the stress and pressures of meeting your oncoming deadline. Taking a nice hot shower will cleanse your mind (and your body for that matter), and help you to relax. This has been a great help for me in some cases.

Do something else

Go and watch a movie, read the newspaper, hit up your Xbox 360, whatever you enjoy doing. These things are great helps in getting your mind under control, as long as you don’t get carried away and spend all day on them!

If you do ever run into Designers block, then be sure not simply scrap your work. Once you look upon your progress with fresh eyes and a clear mind, then your inspiration should come flooding back.

Why You Should Display “Time Ago” On Blog Posts

I’m a huge advocate of displaying the “Time since this was posted” for your blogs posts. On the internet, our blog audience varies from people halfway across town to strangers from halfway across the planet, all of which live by differing timezones.

Displaying the time since each blog post was made can enforce to your readers that you maintain an active blog, and provides a simple way of letting visitors know how “fresh” each post is. And with the United States using a different date format to the rest of the world, keeping track of this becomes less trivial than it should be. Plus, reading “This post was made 2 hours and 5 minutes ago” is so much more “human friendly” than “Posted 02/12/2007 at 06:30 PM”

Standard date formats are just so 1995.

If you’re running WordPress, there’s a great (in terms of, it does it’s task simply and surely) plugin called Time Since (published and popularized by the well-known Binary Bonsai, that does the trick for me. It simple terms, it subtracts the post’s date/time from the current server date/time, and outputs it in a human-readable format.

Getting to Know WebKit

I’ve recently stumbled upon a great post by Paul Stamatiou, which reinforced my love for Safari/WebKit. Check out Getting to know WebKit.

Why I Dropped Firefox for Safari

Why Safari over Firefox?

I have always been a devout fan of Firefox, and it has many excellent features that make it a wonderful browser, and I love supporting open source projects, however, recently I begun to fall back on Safari as my browser of choice for daily browsing. There are a number of reasons why I did this, and I will do my best to explain myself in the following paragraphs.

Reason 1: Fonts

Firefox’s font rendering and anti-aliasing capabilities are far surpassed by that of, I am not sure as to the reason why this is, but Firefox seems to not render fonts in the same way that the OS X GUI does, and thus the overall smoothness of type in Firefox is clearly sub par when comparing with the native OS X look. The crisp and smooth look of OS X’s font rendering was a major reason that I switched from Windows to Mac, and Firefox detracts from this experience.

Reason 2: Search Bar

This may seem like a minor thing to many people, but I can’t stand not having the little “x” in the search box in the top right of Firefox (clearing the input from the box). It takes way too much time to use the keyboard to delete the text in there after a search has been completed. On top of this, Safari also automatically clears it for you when a new tab is opened. Allowing you to quickly fire off another Google search, without hassle

Reason 3: Forms

Many people have attacked Safari for being quite restrictive when it comes to styling forms within web pages, form elements cannot be styled with CSS like any other standard page element, they are fixed to the “OS X” style. Many people find this irritating, however I quite like the look, especially when compared to Firefox’s “Windows Default Gray” feel.

Reason 4: Speed

When I was using Firefox as my everyday browser, I had it loaded with 5 or 6 different extensions, which began to seriously impact the browsers performance. Memory leaks were frequent, and the thing was just generally slow.

Reason 5: Aesthetics

To me (I’m running Uno to eliminate the tacky “brushed metal”) Safari just looks better. No unnecessary buttons, clear and clean design.

Reason 6: Download Icons

One really neat “feature” of Safari is that when you download a file, it’s icon actually has an updating progress bar on it. This means when you download multiple files simultaneously, you can easily track their progress simply by glancing at the desktop. This simply removes the necessity for a “downloads” window that only adds to screen clutter.

All that said, there are a few things that Firefox can do that Safari just can’t, and I still use Firefox and it’s wonderful Firebug and Web Developer plugins to test and debug websites. A flexible plugin engine would be really cool for Safari, however I don’t see this happening in the near future.

If any of you think I’m out of my mind for not using Firefox, or can suggest any ways to improve my Firefox experience, let me know.

Sitescore 2 – How Does Your Website Score?

Silktide‘s well known Sitescore version 2 has recently been exhibited as an invite-only beta.

The online tool is used to analyze and score websites from a host of different methods, and is an invaluable tool for examining usability and SEO status.

Along with a brand new and down-right sexy design facelift, the behind the scenes score generating process has undergone some major changes, and according to Silktide, will now be more accurate and balanced.

Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to try it out, although I am thoroughly looking forward to it’s open release in the very near future.

Check it out at

(Image courtesy of

Smirnoff Wallpaper

Download Smirnoff Wallpaper – A free Wallpaper featuring Smirnoff Vodka!

Smirnoff Wallpaper

Web Design Podcasts

When it comes to podcasts that focus on the topics of Web Design and Development, we aren’t exactly spoiled for choice. However, there are a couple of great little ‘casts that I really enjoy. They are as follows.
If anybody else knows of other good design podcasts, be sure to let me know.

Live from the 101

Initially hosted by Brian Veloso (of Avalonstar fame), Live From the 101 is an excellent podcast, covering topics ranging from Dance Dance Revolution to the latest issues in the world of Web (surprisingly). Dan Rubin (Superfluous Banter) and Brian are joined by such guests as Cameron Moll, Steve Smith, Jonathan Snook and many other e-lebrities. I just loved the drunken SXSW coverage 🙂


Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington of Headscape (a UK-based Web Design firm) have created what has now become quite a well known and downright hilarious (at times) podcast, that just oozes delightful British wit. “For those involved in designing, developing and maintaining websites on a daily basis”. Boagworld was the first design podcast I found, and it’s got a permanent place in my iTunes syndication list.

W3C Validator PHP Function

I just finished off this simple little PHP function that some of you may find useful.
It’s a quick way to determine whether a site is valid or not, returning a simple “true or false” result.
Requires the Snoopy class.

function w3Valid($url) {
$snoopy = new Snoopy;

$snoopy->fetchtext("" . $url . "&output=soap12");
$validator_output = $snoopy->results;

if(preg_match("/false/", $validator_output)) {
return false;
} else {
return true;

Humble Beginnings

Hi there!

Well hello there! You’ve stumbled upon the inaugural post of my humble little web blog. This is hopefully the beginnings of a well-established and frequently-updated experience.

So, who am I?

My name is Matt, and I like to consider myself as many different things. Primarily, I’m a web designer, but lately I’ve been licking my lips at the premise of developing and managing my own *web 2.0* app, but more about that a bit later.


The aim of this blog isn’t going to be to generate ad revenue. It’s going to be a place for me to express my thoughts, to teach others some of the things that I’ve learned along my journeys, and a means of communication and networking. I’d love to make new friends, begin educated discussions and just have fun.

I’m about to embark on a project that I have been planning on for some time. Which I will be gradually releasing more information about over the next few weeks. I plan on using this blog to document the rollercoaster journey of single-handedly building a web application, and to share my successes and inevitable hardships with readers.

Well, that’s it. Enjoy.

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