Pencils Down

This weblog is about my experiences in software development

Browsing Posts tagged Design

That is the title of a recent article in the NYT.  The author talks about his experience with New Guinea natives who refused to camp under dead trees.  The reasoning being that there is a 1 in 1000 chance of one falling over, I sleep under trees every night, if a tree lands on me it will kill me, the mathematical likelihood is 100%.

The author uses another example of taking a shower (hence the name) and it’s likelihood for older individuals.

I started to think about computer stuff.  If you think about some of the systems you have developed or used you may have similar concerns:

  • that disk drive that has a 0.01% failure rate
  • the expected occurrence of a divide by zero
  • neatly computed mtbf for that system delivered

All of these fall into the same case:  with large numbers any percentage greater than zero will cause a failure.

Currently working on student course selection software.  It has been painful dealing with the number of special cases that have to be hacked into otherwise pretty good looking code.  Why on earth do we care about these odd cases?

Using the above logic, “any expected failure will occur” in this case with a large number of students over a period of time, it becomes clearer – the system will fail.  It is just a matter of time.

Working with a client where the designer they hired produced a nice looking design.  However, even though promising to just use standard fonts there are a couple of very conspicuous parts of the design that use non-standard fonts.  Sound familiar?

Google to the rescue! (I don’t know how they control what people spend time/money developing)  I saw a reference to Google Fonts in a HN post the other day.  What’s that?

Google Web Fonts provides high-quality web fonts that you can include in your pages using the Google Web Fonts API.

Just like everything else you can use google for, (especially CDN access to includes and the like) you can make reference to some non-standard font in the Google font set and then use it pretty much like any other font in CSS (have to quote the font name versus plain text(=standard font)).  Again, with their simple example:



<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=””>


body {

font-family: ‘Tangerine’, serif;

font-size: 48px;





<div>Making the Web Beautiful!</div>



So, next time you are graced with a design present you can just smile.

I have a long term client that wants to rework their web site.  We tried a designer I had worked with, but they weren’t happy with the result.  Probably too much part-time and indirect contact to convey their needs to the designer.

So, they hired a designer on their own.  After selection I talked with the guy to make sure it wouldn’t just be a PSD as the output: he agreed.  Once the design was agreed upon he didn’t just give me the PSD, he gave me a bunch of PNG files that he cut from the PSD.  How nice.

Now we are going into week two of the process trying to get HTML and CSS out of him.  I don’t think he has ever done this before.  He is good at coming up with nice pictures with the right color schemes and fonts and the like, probably an art background.  He is just lost coming up with the parts of the design you need to actually develop a web site – HTML, CSS and Javascript for any widgets/special effects in the design (there are a few).

Maybe I am expecting too much?  Every other designer I have worked with has produced the initial HTML… layouts.  Maybe I have  just been lucky?

Designer Irony

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I am working on a site for a marketing company.  They mostly specialize in concept marketing, things like brand and image.  And, like every other marketing company on the planet these days, they do a fair amount of web design as well.

The design for the site I am working on was designed using a non-standard font face as the primary font.  Like everything else it defaults back to Arial et al if that font is not installed on the client browser.  There was originally some discussion about auto-download of the font if it’s not there, but that is really not so cool in the web world.

So, step back and review:

  • The site was designed using that font.
  • The people at the marketing company all have this other font installed.
  • The people that work at the marketing company will see a web site.
  • Most everyone else on the planet does not have that font installed. 
  • They will see Arial and company, effectively a very different site.
  • Effectively a different brand image of a branding company.

Neat huh?