Having finished the redesign for my Retropolis site, it was much simpler to make the same changes to The Celtic Art Works. The two shops are built in a similar way: for the most part I’d solved all the problems already.
Okay, they’re not exactly the same. I had several surprises along the way. Still, this shop took about half as much time as the first one.
When I posted about the Retropolis redesign I described it as “phone-friendly”, but I never explained what I meant by that.
It seemed ridiculous to maintain two separate versions of these shops, one for desktops and one for smaller displays. I’ve always thought that was a pretty terrible solution.
If you view either site on a desktop computer you can see what I’ve done by resizing your browser window, from full screen to just under 400 pixels wide.
You can use CSS to wrap the elements differently at different widths, but there are design limits when you rely on CSS alone. So I made things a bit more complicated.
That allows the site to use more than just CSS to move the elements around. If your window’s wide enough (as in the first image), you get a large, fixed-position menu at the top of the page and a sidebar on the right; on smaller displays the wide menu gets hidden, a narrower one is revealed, and the right-hand sidebar is replaced by a copy down below. (Most of that’s shown in the second and third images.)
Because I can make different changes at a variety of widths I’m able to get a pretty good looking layout at almost any size.
The redesign has a problem with wide left-side content when the sidebar’s visible. So on a few pages I’ve always hidden the sidebar and revealed the lower copy.
Anyway, as I said you can play around with this by resizing your computer’s browser window. I can’t promise hours of fun, but it may be kind of interesting to see the layout change at different widths.
Oh! And consider buying something while you’re there, right?
I’ve spent the last two weeks on two projects: rebuilding part of my front porch (which you probably don’t care about unless you’re knocking on my door), and creating a phone-friendly redesign of my Retropolis web site.
I’m not crazy about the ways that phones have affected web page design – and I really miss my old page layouts – but because I am also not actually crazy I finally caved in to peer pressure and converted the site into something that works well on phones. Mostly.
The big exception is the Business Card Construction Kit. You still need a much wider browser window to do much with that one.
But in every other respect you can now shop quite comfortably even on one of those tiny, ridiculous devices that you all use.
So go do that, please, while I dart outdoors between the rainstorms and try to get my deck boards nailed down in time for Winter.
As always, you can find the Retropolis Transit Authority T-shirts, along with posters, greeting cards, postcards, business cards, and other things that are not cards. Like, uh, coffee mugs. And books. And other stuff. Go get ’em!
I’ve been selling customizable business cards for several years now at Retropolis and The Celtic Art Works. Customers would click on a sample image and be carried over to the Zazzle site, where they could edit the text on that card design to their own specification. The system worked pretty well, and a lot of people bought their business cards that way; but I’ve always thought it could work better.
After I built the Pulp-O-Mizer I could even see how it might be better: if all the possible background images were available in menus, and the whole user interface worked a bit more like the Pulp-O-Mizer, I figured that the process would not only be more fun, but more engaging. Customers would be able to try out all sorts of possibilities… so they would. They’d be more likely to buy their cards once they’d invested their time in them. It could work out better for all of us.
But it wouldn’t be a small job, and I’d need a fair-sized block of time to work on it.
As it turns out, the job took about a month.
It’s alive! Alive, I tell you!
So today I’ve unveiled the Business Card Construction Kit at Retropolis. (It’ll show up soon at The Celtic Art Works, too; but I’ve included all the Celtic art backgrounds already.)
The Business Card Construction Kit includes much of what the Pulp-O-Mizer does, but it also does more. You can design a business card in either horizontal/landscape or vertical/portrait shapes; you can have images and text on both the front and the back of the business cards; you can select any colors you like for your text; you have over 250 background images from which to choose, along with a wide variety of typefaces; and I’ve made innumerable little improvements to the user interface and user feedback.
It’s a pretty nice system!
Over 250 background images
The background images are divided by subject and style; in addition there are separate menus of images for the front and back of the cards. (That’s because the card stocks are usually coated on just one side, so an image that works well on the front may not look as good on the back of the card.)
There are a lot of Retropolis images, of course, but I’ve included all the old Celtic card backgrounds from The Celtic Art Works, and then added a lot of new border designs and images in that style. And I can continue to add more designs and styles as time goes on.
Many text controls, typefaces, and selectable text colors
Both the front and back of your business card can have up to six different areas of text, each with their own controls.
The color selector is something that I decided to leave out of the Pulp-O-Mizer, but it makes a lot of sense here.
And because there are so many typefaces available in the Business Card Construction Kit I’ve given you a second menu, which you can use to filter the typeface list by font type: Serif, Sans Serif, Hand Lettered, or All.
Save, export, and share your card designs
In order to save, move, or share your card designs, you get the same options as you do in the Pulp-O-Mizer. You can save and load locally, or you can export your card data as a block of text that can be imported into the Construction Kit on another device or browser.
There’s also a menu of example designs that you can load, and learn from, and even use as the basis for your own business card.
So that’s what I’ve been working on. I think it’s a much improved system for buying your customized business cards, and it’s designed to grow, as well. Give it a spin!
The Radio Planet Books web site is now alive and kicking.
I did a bunch of work on this late last year and at the beginning of this one; then I worked on it again through March, and picked it up one more time in early May.
Radio Planet currently has a slim list of one, count it, one book: the eBook edition of The Lair of the Clockwork Book. At the moment you can buy that title directly from the Radio Planet Books web site (as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo).
But even though there won’t be news about a second book until some time this summer, there is still more at the site than you’d suspect.
That’s because this site is rich in secondary content like page animations, dynamic sidebars, and other content that changes depending on the kind of page you’re looking at. So it’s the very broad foundation for what is, today, a very narrow thing: it’s kind of like I built the Great Wall of China so I’d have a place to put my Eiffel Tower.
This site adapts itself dynamically to the width of your browser window. That helps it to be readable on just about any device.
The thing likeliest to change at this point is the home page copy. I wrote that last, as I usually do, and what’s up there now is only the second version. There will probably be a couple more before it all settles down.
But, more importantly? More books. Expect to see news about my Patently Absurd here, and at Radio Planet, in a couple of months. There’s also another project that I haven’t been able to talk about, because nothing’s settled: an illustrated book of stories by someone other than me. But negotiations have dragged on for such a long time now that I’m not even sure where that one’s going. It’s a case where you and I might be equally surprised, later this year.
Because they’re meant for the web, there are very few frames. I have to allow enough time after the page loads, and before the animation plays, for all the frames to get loaded. For that reason there’s a very simple animation that plays first, and there are only two animations on each page.
There are usually two things going on in each animation. There’s a primary motion that carries the element around the page, and a secondary action that’s sometimes a limited animation within the element, and sometimes a special effect.
The site’s page layout responds to the browser window’s width and it changes any time the window’s resized. That did lead to some conceptual weirdness. I can’t predict how large the browser window is, or whether its size may change between one frame and the next. In some cases I had to deal with unexpected outcomes when I resized the browser.
Everything seems to work now. There’s just one case – an element that travels along an arc – in which phones may have trouble keeping up with the frame rate. I can’t test that because I don’t use a mobile phone. But the math in that one instance is fairly intense; I don’t think any of the other animations will present a problem.
And I may even do one or two more before you get a chance to see them. But, honestly, this was just a twelve-day obsession. I really ought to be working on something else. It’s just that it’s nearly impossible for me to leave something alone when it almost, almost works.