Linking done right

Links are one of the most basic parts of HTML. They’re everywhere and usually pretty useful. One thing I really hate to see is bad linking practices. A link named “click here” tells me nothing. For all I know you’re trying to lure me into downloading a virus or some phishing scam (or perhaps worse, Rick-roll me). Here are a couple quick tips on how to link effectively:

  • Name your link something that makes sense. You want to clue the user into where they’re going. “Online Registration Form” makes much more sense than something generic like “click here.” It’s irritating and even scary to not know what you’re getting into and by giving your links good names, you can instill a sense of trust and legitimacy in your site. As an added bonus, well named links should help your search engine scores.
  • Surprises are a bad thing. If you’re linking to a PDF or a video file and it’s going to trigger something to download or open a plugin, you should tell the user this beforehand. A simple icon in front of the link or a description like “(PDF)” after a link can really improve user experience. People like to know what to expect and it’s easy to tell them. At the very least put a description in the title attribute so a user can get an idea while hovering over the link.

It’s really pretty simple but by keeping these things in mind we can make a better, friendlier web.

Google Maps 8-Bit Prank

Google has a long-standing tradition of April Fools jokes. This year is no different and they’ve set up a hilarious little prank with Google Maps. To check it out in your browser, go to Google Maps and click the “Quest” button in the upper right of the map. This is a really clever idea and I hope they keep it around for a while. It’s a really nostalgic way to view your maps, especially for any video game lover. Well done, Google.

Swiss inspired punk posters

A few months back I discovered this awesome ongoing project by graphic designer Mike Joyce called swissted. I instantly fell in love with it. They’re all absolutely beautiful and combine such a great design style to all of these great bands. They’re simple and colorful and wonderfully pieced together. I have to give big props to Mike Joyce for these. It’s really inspirational to see such a cool project that someone does just for themselves. The  It’s really hard to pick just one favorite but here are a few examples. Be sure to check out the swissted site and see them all.



30 by 30

Inspired by an old high school friend’s blog, I’ve created a list of 30 things I’d like to do before I turn 30. I’m currently 26 so I’ve got a decent amount of time to finish these up. A few goals I’ve already accomplished but I’ve left them on the list and just crossed them out. In no particular order here’s my list:

  1. Move to a major city
  2. Start a company
  3. Be a major part of a startup
  4. Get back under 200 pounds (getting close)
  5. Get to all 50 states (I think i’m in the 30s already)
  6. Run a 5k (not necessarily in a race)
  7. Go to Europe
  8. Launch an app in an app store
  9. Blog regularly
  10. Learn to play the guitar
  11. Actively pursue speaking German
  12. Own my own power tools
  13. Write a screenplay (that is more than 5 minutes long)
  14. Brew my own beer
  15. Perform a wedding ceremony (that’s Rev. Jones to you, sir)
  16. Go on a cross-country road trip
  17. Kayak down a river
  18. See all of AFI’s top 100 movies
  19. Go to SXSW
  20. Visit Australia
  21. Take an “advanced driving” course (where you do cool stuff like slides)
  22. Get a puppy (named Pixel, not that I’ve had this planned forever or anything)
  23. Punch someone in the face (who deserves it of course)
  24. Fire a gun (at a target, at a range)
  25. Live in another country
  26. Ride in a helicopter
  27. Play tennis regularly (again)
  28. Go to Germany with my father (and visit where my Grandmother was born)
  29. Design and publish an e-book (note I didn’t say “write”)
  30. Become friends with my brother

Starter kit: iPhone Apps

I’m continuing my “starter kit” series with another chunk of info I send friends. This time it’s all about iPhone apps. I was extremely excited to get my iPhone and quickly downloaded literally hundreds of apps within a few days (who am I kidding, hours). Here’s a bunch I enjoy. The list is unfinished and probably slightly outdated by now but enjoy!

You’ll want some type of flashlight app. I use one called LED flashlight that uses my camera flash and it’s quite useful. I’m pretty sure any of them would work fine though.

Music: Pandora is a must although I’m intrigued by Songza and it could replace Pandora for me. is a really cool concept of social DJing. I’m a fan of having Shazam to identify music, even if it only works for me half the time. I was using GoMusic to access my Google Cloud Music, but that appears to be gone, Melodies looks promising to fill that void. The standard music player is decent enough and does have the advantage of  iTunes synching.

Wikipanion is a good Wikipedia app. It’s faster than using the wiki website but has access to all of the content.

Navigation: I like Waze a lot. It gives you all the spoken turn-by-turn navigation with a little social twist that alerts you to construction, accidents and the popo. It’s leaps and bounds better than the stupid Maps app Apple includes and it’s free so you don’t have to shell out $50 bucks for Garmin or something.

Photos: The quality of the iPhone’s camera is outstanding. I don’t even know where my point-and-shoot camera is anymore. In terms of apps, Instagram is my favorite. All those hipster filters and easy sharing make it a must have. IncrediBooth is a fun photobooth app. DerManDer is an easy to use panoramic camera. Shoebox is a cool app that makes scanning old photos super easy. Piictu is a fun social network of images. You basically add to streams of various topics, it’s kind of a game and very amusing, even if you’re just browsing.

Check-ins: Foursquare goes without almost saying. It’s a wonderful way to explore your surroundings. I’ve got a blog post about getting started on foursquare if you’re interested. If you want to go beyond that, check out Untappd for beer check-ins and GetGlue for movies, TV and video game check-ins. GetGlue will even mail you the stickers you unlock. Cheers and Stamped are both beautiful apps that are kind of “I like this stuff” apps. Soundtracking is basically the foursquare of music and Foodspotting is for food. Most of these are also good for discovering things and many of them will push your check-ins to other social services if you so desire.

ESPN ScoreCenter is actually a very handy app. I’m not a huge sports fan but it’s nice to get score and game alerts for the Red Wings.

IMDB, pretty self explanatory and necessary to settle arguments.

Flixter for movie times, trailers and watching any Ultra Violet digital movies (you probably “accidentally” got one with a DVD) you may have.

News: I can’t sing the praises of Flipboard enough. It’s pretty, easy and fun. It’ll even bring your social media feeds. Alternatives are Pulse and Google Currents but neither is quite as visually pleasing as Flipboard.

QR / Barcode: I have something just called Scan. It does the job, although I rarely use it.

Video: Vimeo, Tout and Apple’s iTunes Movie Trailers are good apps. Tout is video snippet sharing, Shaq’s really into it. If you have a NetflixHulu PlusU-verseHBOXfinity (Comcast) or Showtime subscription, check out their apps and watch on the go.

Coupons: It never hurts to save a buck or two and Groupon, Living Social, Campus Special and Coupon Sherpa can help.

Lots of stores have apps. I like the Best Buy (also check out their Reward Zone app), Target and Amazon ones. Google Shopper can be helpful to compare prices. There is a separate Amazon PriceCheck app that lets you scan barcodes in a store and see the Amazon price to compare. Walgreens is handy if you fill prescriptions or print photos there. You can do both right in the app.

Reading: If you’re into books, you’ll be happy to know you’ve got options. You may already be invested in some e-book service and they probably have an app. Apple’s got their iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle, and of course Barnes and Noble’s NOOK.

Dropbox is one of my favorite services. I use it across all my computers and my phone to easily keep files in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. Sign up for it now!

Google Translate is helpful and fun.

Tasks / To Do: Apple’s built in tasks doesn’t do a lot and you might need something more. It’s biggest advantage is integration with Siri. Try Awesome Note or Wunderlist. Both are pretty slick apps and I believe both are free. Some people like Evernote but I find it overly complicated. Lately I’ve been using Clear for it’s awesome interface.

Getting More Apps: A handy app to find on sale and free apps is called AppShopper. Discover Apps takes a look at your current apps and recommends new ones.

Foodily is a neat recipe sharing and browsing app.

RunKeeper is a good running/exercise logging app. It will even chart your activities with GPS. If you get it, be sure to link your account with foursquare on their website so you can earn special badges.

Skype is available and works.

Cards: Lots of cool greeting card and postcard apps. Postagram, Sincerely Ink, Apple’s Cards, Jiffygram, and Red Stamp, just to name a few. Most of them will let you create a card, then they print and mail it for you. Usually for a buck or three. A couple of them let you email or send a text of the card for free.

Square Card Reader is a little app lets you accept credit cards on your phone. You’ll need the small attachment (free if you request from their site) that plugs into your headphone jack.

Games: I’ll do another post on games, there are too many.

There you have it. An intro to iPhone apps. Did I miss your favorite? Do you think my suggestions just totally suck? Tell me about it in the comments.


Making Google forms your own

One of the greatest features in Google Docs is the forms. In just a few minutes you can be up and running with a form that accepts user input and automatically fills that information into a spreadsheet. It’s super easy to set up and that’s why I’ve been using them for a number of tasks both at work and in my personal life. I’ll soon be marrying the lovely abbyabbyabby and we wanted to do online RSVPs. I immediately knew a Google form would do the trick with little-to-no work on my end. The problem was how the final product looked.

default style of my RSVP Google Form

Because both Abby and myself are designers, we weren’t comfortable directing people to such an un-styled form. “No problem,” I thought, figuring one of the many provided templates from Google could do the trick. I looked over the options, and while there are many they actually were worse than the default look.

some themes for Google forms

I was at a loss. I tried messing around with the embed code a bit but it was just an iframe pulling in the URL to the form. A few Google search attempts finally turned up this wonderful post about how to style Google Forms. It was perfect, easy to understand and provided me with the absolute control that I wanted. Below you’ll see what my final form looks like. It’s quite a bit better looking than the original. With my new-found trick  my future projects with Google forms will look just as good.

the final RSVP form with my styling

Starter kit: foursquare

I’ve always been the guy people turn to with technology questions. I read a lot of blogs and news sources and love to share that knowledge whenever possible. My good friend Rachel once told me I was a maven of technology. So keeping all that in mind I started making “starter kits” for people when they’d get a new phone or joined a service I was also on. The first one is foursquare. I thought I’d post it here as it could be helpful to anyone just joining or thinking of joining foursquare.

I love foursquare. I think it’s fun. Earning badges is a blast and it has really gotten me to explore my surroundings. I check it for recommendations all the time. Through my badge pursuits I’ve discovered some really tasty joints around town. I know a lot of people are afraid of privacy issues with location-based services but foursquare has done a really great job of safeguarding you and allowing you to control who’s seeing what. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been sending people after they join:

First, you can optionally share your check-ins and badges from foursquare to Facebook and Twitter. If you log into the foursquare website you can set up these options pretty easily. I usually share my mayorships and badges automatically and then pick and choose which check-ins I want shared from the app.

Next, is a great blog that covers all the latest and greatest foursquare news. They’ve also got some good guides for getting started and common questions.

If you’re curious about the badges you can earn and how to earn them check out Matter of Grey’s Badge List. Some badges require you to “follow” certain brand pages. Most of the instructions on that site spell it all out pretty well though.

In your badge pursuits these next few website might be helpful: — Shows all your check-ins, broken down by category and even on a map — Shows you what badges you could earn nearby and with how many more check-ins

Feel free to direct your questions to me and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m also a super user so if you come across venues that are incorrect, let me know and I’ll clean them up (yup, I’m that big of a nerd). An extra pro tip for you: you can only earn mayorships with a profile picture. Enjoy!

There you have it. A guide to getting started on foursquare. I’ll post some more of these guides later. I’ve got a pretty handy iPhone starter kit too.

Adventures in blogging

Over the years I’ve attempted many a blog, only to continually let them fall by the wayside. This time I’m ready for a true blogging experience. Why the change of heart? For starters I’ve been inspired by my lovely fiance’s blog and an old high school friend, Rob’s blog. I’ve also realized I’ve got a lot to say and there has to be a better way to share it. I’ll be posting about things that interest me, whether that be the latest and greatest iPhone apps or a really cool new web technology. From time to time I’ll be posting interesting design projects that I’ve come across or even things I work on myself. Here’s to my new blog and the exciting possibilities to come!