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New portfolio website

Ben Crothers portfolio website

It’s been ages since I’ve shown anything I’ve been working on. Plus, there’s a growing amount of stuff like sketchnotes, storyboards and bits and pieces that don’t really have a home on this website. So I’ve done up a new portfolio site at bencrothers.com.

It was also a great opportunity to get my hands dirty with some HTML5/CSS/CSS3/responsive design coding. I’m a big believer in having a decent working knowledge of the platforms, frameworks and code that ultimately bring to life the digital experiences I design, so it made sense for my latest code project to include HTML5 and responsive design.

Take a look, see what you think. I’d also be interested to know what it’s like on your mobile device – feel free to let me know if anything looks kinda wrong…!

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Create Conference is on again

Create Conference – the conference run by FEVA for churches and other ministries to tackle gospel communication issues – is on again soon, and I’ve just completed the latest version of the website.

Create Conference 2009 website

Create Conference 2009 website

The Create Conference is on Saturday 14 November, and by the looks of the program, it’s about twice as big as last year. The conference aims to equip Christians to understand the times, generate compelling ideas and messages, and package them relevantly.

Last year, the website design I did focused on the vintage neo-Victorian aspect of the airship, the main part of the Create identity, so it came out looking all steampunky and weathered. This year I expanded on the steampunk-inspired pop-art feel to the illustrations, but went for a lighter, airier feel.

My illustrations went to Andrew Nobbs over at Barton Design, who put together an amazing brochure for the event. His exploration of sky and clouds and bold typography was then translated to the website design. What a neat little example of collaborative design.  ;)

Visit the site, and if you’re keen, register online.

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Create Conference 2009 website

Create Conference 2009 website

Create Conference 2009 website

This is the new design I created for the createconference.org.au website for 2009, updating the design that I did last year. The brand had to still clearly focus on the airship, but FEVA was very keen to have a new look and feel, to emphasise the strong drive of creativity.

Last year’s vintage neo-Victorian ‘look’ was a big success, so this year I pursued the theme by exposing more of the pop-art illustrations, and less of the grungy weathered feel. I also wanted to use more white and blue to be more vibrant and to complement the deep red in the palette, moving away from the ‘tea-soaked’ age of the previous look.

The result was a lighter, airier feel, giving more space to the sky around the airship and dirigible. The 2009 topical ‘theme’ for the Create Conference was also ‘collaboration’, so I demonstrated this in the design by focusing on the ‘team at work’ inside the dirigible. Who knows what they’re really doing in there… the point is, there’s many complementary tasks going on to keep the airship going.

My illustrations went to Andrew Nobbs over at Barton Design, who put together an amazing brochure for the event. His exploration of sky and clouds and bold typography was then included in the website design.

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Create Conference 2008 website

Screenshot of the Create Conference home page

Screenshot of the Create Conference home page

Create Conference is a day-long ideas fest run by FEVA for churches and other ministries to tackle communication issues, covering everything from improving death-by-PowerPoint sermon presentations, to promoting church in particular, and Jesus and Christianity in general, to the world around us.

This website was a huge departure from the usual corporate flavour I’m used to designing for, and I went at the brief with a vengeance. Once I had soaked in the existing brand and vision of FEVA and the conference, I brought two themes — an airship and a clockwork-slightly-steampunky feel — together to evoke an image of broadcasting in a playful, graceful way to the world around us.

The pressure was also on, not only with a very tight deadline, but also to produce a website that would demonstrate all the best-practice things that they were going to be talking about at the conference, about what a website should be and do.

I did some concept sketches that the client liked so much, they ended up running with the ‘sketch’ theme in the downloadable conference information brochure (done by Andrew Nobbs at Barton Design). These were then transormed into what you see online.

Go to: createconference.org.au

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Importing NewsML and XML

A recent gig building a customised content management module to work with NewsML has made me look at how content management systems out there can work with NewsML and other XML-based structures.

NewsML is an XML standard specifically designed by IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) for structuring news articles and news article metadata. Since it’s XML-based, it’s independent of media, so it can be manipulated for a variety of uses (web, hand-held devices and so on), from communication in between agency systems, to RSS and other syndications, and efficient archiving. Oh, and of course it has its own website: www.newsml.org.

Loads of news services use it, from Reuters to Agence France Presse, from Business Wire to The Irish Times.

Workforce Guardian needed to publish employment relations news articles on their website and their secure service platform, sourced from a subscribed-to news agency feed using NewsML. To complicate matters, they source news from a variety of services, so one solution had to fit several XML schemas, as well as allow for traditional copy-from-Word content. They researched CM systems that would do this, and – guess what – they found none. Try searching CMS Watch for ‘import XML’: nada.

This turned out to be a neat custom module that I was able to build for Workforce Guardian using PHP, but it begs the question: how should existing CM systems out there work with current and emerging XML-based standards?

Can your CMS import XML?

All CM systems I know of have a WYSIWYG HTML authoring space that includes pasting content from MS Word documents. And that’s fair enough; Word is pretty much the proxy standard text content format of the business world. But as Web 2.0 really sinks in, and we get used to consuming more portable online content, I think the systems that businesses have bought should also be able to consume – and re-publish – content formats other than Word.

Can your CMS export XML?

It stands to reason that if a CMS can import XML content, it’d be good if it could export as XML too. Plone is the only CMS I know of that can do this, and any CMS that is RSS-enabled is effectively exporting content as XML.

RSS: just the beginning

The business world (apart from news agencies obviously) is really only just starting to grasp the potential of RSS. While RSS on intranets is becoming more common now, it’s only a matter of time before businesses will need to publish feeds of content more diverse than just news stories. And that’s a great opportunity for any CMS out there.

(By the way: if anyone knows of any CMS that can do these things, please feel free to let me know…)

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Workforce Guardian website

Screenshot of the Workforce Guardian home page

Screenshot of the Workforce Guardian home page

Workforce Guardian is an online application to help businesses hire, manage and exit employees. The production of this website was by-the-book in terms of audience analysis (carried out by PTG Global), stakeholder consultation, rigorous information architecture, website optimisation and content strategy. The visual design and W3C standards-compliant XHTML was outsourced to Reactive, who really knew what they were doing. The website has also been tuned for best search engine tastiness by another external partner, who also perform ongoing search optimisation.

Update: after the website was first launched, I re-did the Products/product options index page with an accordion-style product comparison feature, which opened up the details of the features much more efficiently for people to view and decide which edition was best for them.

Another note: the website – especially the home page – has changed quite a lot since it was first launched.

Go to: workforceguardian.com.au

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Rawson Park Tennis Centre website

Screenshot of the Rawson Park Tennis Centre website

Screenshot of the Rawson Park Tennis Centre website

Rawson Park Tennis Centre in Mosman NSW boasts the friendliest most dedicated staff you could find. They wanted a website that evoked the same friendly yet professional feel that tennis players experienced on court. The website is powered by Catch.Publisher, Catch Media’s CMS, which includes a comprehensive tennis match singles and doubles scoring and ranking application.

Go to: rawsontenniscentre.com.au

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World’s Greatest Shave website

Screenshot of the World's Greatest Shave home page (2007)

Screenshot of the World

Update: World’s Greatest Shave has (to date) raised over $12 million – and they were hoping for 9! All up the campaign this year had over 15,000 online registrations, nearly 14,000 uploaded photos, over 5,000 blog posts and over 11,000 online comments.

Background: the 2007 design is by Known, and Catch Media looked after the development. It includes some new features, like a blog (with comments) and photo gallery for every registered participant, and even easier online sponsorship.

Go to: worldsgreatestshave.com