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Treating cyclists like a horse will get us neigh where!

The latest Scottish Government Ad campaign for improving cyclist safety has been met with a fair amount of controversy from the cycling community for missing the point of road safety.

The Drums latest “Ad of the Day” is another example which will probably further enflame the opinions of cyclists as they feel that they aren’t being listened too.

The agency Newhaven behind the Ad is a great agency and one that I most certainly certainly hold in the highest of regards, but have they missed the mark with this ad campaign?

I myself am a keen cyclist coving around 100 miles a week on Edinburgh city streets as well as blazing the 7 stanes trails whenever I can, and have had the pleasure of working with Newhaven on other Scottish Government Road Safety Ad Campaigns.

It’s always difficult critiquing another agencies campaign, we don’t know what the brief defined as the goals , but lets run on the mass assumption that the main goal was to “reduce cycling injuries and fatalities on the roads and not to use shock tactics”. The Scottish Government (to my knowledge) has always shied away from shock tactics.

If that is the brief, I think that the TV campaign is a reasonable approach to the problem, the execution of the Ad is humorous enough to be endearing and memorable, but the sad fact is it will have only a minor impact on the statistics. Although every single percentage point is someones life potentially ruined through impatient and/or careless driving, hence any improvement on the stats can only be a good thing.

One of the main arguments from the cycling masses against this campaign is that we’re all people, we should be reducing the “us and them” mentality. The goal should be to increase understanding and respect not to further alienating cyclist by comparing them to a middle class luxury form of leisure.

Although the Ad is very well executed, I believe this was a massive opportunity missed.

The bottom line is cyclists are not horses, cyclists are people, soft squidgy bags of meat that burst open like the first cut into a haggis on burns night. It’s the implications of being impatient, being careless that needs to be driven home and attitudes changed.

But this isn’t the Ad Agencies fault, I think there needs to be a change of policy at the Scottish Government. Shock tactics are not pleasant they can be frightening, unnerving, but is that 30 seconds of pain that increases understanding but could potentially save lives.


A public safety video focussed around texting and driving created by the Gwent police department is incredibly graphic, it is difficult to watch, painful from the outset, but it has the intrinsic power to change the publics perception of risk and consequences

If you don’t believe me go back and watch the Horse advert again after watching the Texting while driving advert and tell me which one stays with you?

Please lets stop wrapping the general public up in cotton wool, the consequences of careless and impatient driving need to be understood, not made humorous, We’re not selling car Insurance, we’re trying to reduce needless deaths.

Quick Adobe Creative Cloud Review, should you upgrade?

As an Agency we colour in the web and build it, do flyer and brochure design, and love knocking up a brand or two, so we aren’t really in a position to review the whole creative cloud suite, but these are my main plus points for the pieces of software we use on a day to day basis from our single day of playing with the new digital tools.

General Creative Cloud benefits

The typekit integration will be priceless (when it eventually comes), the full typekit font library on your computer for use in print and online is making me salivate! Béhance membership is a nice touch, but I’m not that bothered, and the 20GB of disk space is a little useless for a Dropbox addict like myself.

Settings are now synced with the cloud, which is cool if (like me) you have “the workhorse” in the office for doing big work and a “rocking horse” laptop for when your on the move, that saves time messing around with settings and access details on different machines.

Photoshop CC

Preservation of vector object manipulators is a one thorn removed from my side, and the ability to liquify Smart objects all of a sudden is a wonderful non-destructive way of editing your assets. that and the camera Raw filter is a great improvement. Web previewing of your fonts (for anti-aliasing in your own browser) is a cracking idea too!

Illustrator CC

Improvements are pretty good, individual letter form manipulation is epic once more non destructive changes to letter forms in a line of text without breaking up your copy line (if that makes sense?). The ability to output SVG vector forms isn’t new, but the ability to export them with CSS integration baked in is good (My mind is currently spinning on how to use it at the moment).

Dreamweaver CC

Much to the derision of my colleagues I do use Dreamweaver, but only as a glorified text editor with FTP facilities (I keep trying Sublime text editor, but the FTP add-on is poor). Nothing really to talk about here,,,, errr,,,, emm,,,, you can now use Source sans as the code editor font, yeah I’m struggling here! This is probably the piece of software that has the least new features.

InDesign CC

Nothing too major to write home about, mainly font usage improvements, you can select and save favourite fonts and far better font searching, it’s also easier to preview fonts. No major headline features, but still improvements will save time.

After Effects

I don’t use After Effects much, but the integration of a lite version of Cinema4D for After Effects is really cool (but hell of a time investment to get on top of it).

Overview CC

If you’re on boxed software that you’ve already paid for and you don’t need the other apps, then don’t bother upgrading. If you’re a jobbing designer who uses a lot of the tools and you like bleeding edge features then you’ve probably already moved to Creative Cloud as it’s more cost-effective. If you’re a jobbing designer who doesn’t want the new features, then don’t bother.

Is web testing a drag or a joy?

For the past four years there has been constant mumbling and grumbling from developers around the world about how IE6 must die. Now I know as well as anyone else the intense pain we all suffer when doing cross browser testing, and specifically getting sites to work as expected in the evil IE6!

The way I see it, there are three main ways to successfully test your latest digital master piece across all the relevant browsers and email clients. And shock horror i’ve done all at some point in my long winding past. So the three options, drum roll please:

Have separate machines with all the options you could envisage.
Use one of the many and varied online testing suite
Run several virtual machines with your options on them

Wonderful, three options but which option is best? Lets at least try and base this on something tangible. The real challenge is how to do this reliably, efficiently and without wasting time.

Option 1: Having separate machines for each different options, or having a testing box with multiple installs of the different web browsers. It could be argued that this is the most accurate way of doing testing. It’s a real machine with a real install of IE, opera, whatever you’re testing. One issue with this is testing multiple versions of a browser version. I’ve played with multiple install version of IE before and it ended up being an incomprehensible mess with DLL libraries being shared between versions,,,,, that’s not conducive for an accurate testing environment.

But it does allow for hover effects, and jScript testing.

From a timing perspective it is rather inconvenient to jump from machine to machine and taking up valuable desk space with extra laptops, monitors or signal switching boxes is hardly endearing!

The cost of this can be very variable, PC’s go for around £300 or maybe you’ve got a couple of old Computers lying around maybe you could use them,, a nice bit of up-cycling! You’ll also need any licenses for software of course. A second hand copy of Windows XP can’t be more than £20.

As a side point it’s not very environmentally friendly, are you going to run three or four machines plus your development machine. That’s tree killing on an epic scale!

So I’m not a massive fan of this one!

Option 2: use one of the online testing environments.

I remember back in my fuzzy past when the first online testing service started up. What an epic idea I thought! You submit a website URL to the service it runs it threw their network connected browser tests and shows you screen shots compared to a variety of different browser and platform combinations.

Litmus is a cracking online tool and does some great email checking tools along with web testing, but my personal favourite is from Adobe called Browser lab, it does onion skinning and is free, (for the moment anyway).

Modern technology at your beck and call, wonderful isn’t it! And there are many tools and and ons that are adding extra value, for example onion skinning where the different browser results are laid over each other. A great feature to ensure consistency.

To be honest this solution sounds epic, but in a “business as usual” scenario it is near unusable, Litmus app takes a month to bring back half the results you were expecting, and you can’t use internet explored tool like the web dev tool bar to diagnose problems, and as it’s just screen shots no hover or jScript interactions.

So what’s the cost, well browser lab is free, you just need to give up the privacy of your email address to Adobe. Litmus on the other hand is from $49 – $399 a month, but does come with extra tools that are of massive value.

Now our final option (let’s hope it’s. Good one).

Option 3: virtual machine testing.

Another option is to run virtual machines on your main developer computer with each of the options that you feel you need. These almost run as separate computers in your own computer, the similarity to inception is astounding!

The benefit with this approach is that you have full control over the versions of IE, for testing trying the hover effects etc.

So is this perfect option, well maybe by the time your testing your designs running 3 or 4 virtual machines will bring your pride and joy machine to a near stand still!

So costing, well I’ve played with Virtual machine software called VMware fusion, and it’s been cracking so far and at $49.99. There are others, I hear virtual box and parallels are also cracking options.

So in conclusion, these online testing suites aren’t mature enough at this stage, the fact you can’t test interactive elements or JavaScript is a major issue! The option for having different versions on different machines is painful, time consuming to set up and a bit inconvenient really, but it’s better than the online testing suites.

So tame the hassle out, get some Virtual Machine software, a few versions of What you need to test. Oh and buy yourself some more RAM, you’ll probably need it!

.mobi vs .com domains

Back in late 2006 a decision was made ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to create a new domain postfix specifically for the mobile internet. The principle was that all domains on that contain the .mobi postfix (like amazon.mobi, bbc.mobi etc) will be fully accessible and readable by mobile phones and their browsers. Is this really the way forward to be separating websites into mobile based and non mobile based?

The principle of having a separate web specifically designed for mobile phones and their restrictions sounds like a great idea. Specific content can be catered that will deal with the limitations on interactivity, screen size, and form based input that are inherent by restricted interactions that mobile phones allow. With this type of solution we can maintain consistency and create severely optimised sites.

My main issue with this is from a marketing perspective. SEM (Search Engine Marketers) and advertising spend a great deal of time and resources publishing and promoting company websites; are we now to give them the task of not only promoting the main site but also the mobile site, and to try and explain why there are two sites and which they should go to?

So is this a separate web a feasible solution to the problem? If not what are the other options?

Some of the older web designers/developers may remember the days when you have separate websites to deal with internet explorer and the Netscape, some slightly younger developers will remember when you would have a flashed based version of your website and an HTML based version, and in some cases this practice is still employed. Is this not exactly the same steps that we are going down again? We are once more trying to communicate the same information to different media by duplicating content in separate sites. We have overcome the IE vs Netscape (browser incompatibility) battle by utilising style sheets and web standards [link to standards Blog piece] , we have overcome the flash HTML duplication by using replacement content, or by melding the two in a sensible fashion. We can use our ingenuity to think of better solution for this.

Also, what is the saturation rate of .mobi domains to the public knowledge, do they even know what they are? The public know .com’s and .co.uk’s some know of .org’s but will the public when viewing on a phone go to amazon.mobi, instead of amazon.com?

So am I telling you to not bother with .mobi domain names, well no! I think it would be an incredibly poor decision to let [your companies name].mobi to be taken by someone else. Your name is of tangible value on your balance sheet, and not having the rights to your name may well hinder your brand communications. What I am saying is buy these names and forward your traffic on to your main site. Once you then make sure your standard site deals with mobile phones, you are prepared for the present and for any future developments.

Distribute it and they will come!

As the internet continues to evolve molding and bending to the needs and wants of both the web developers and the users, exciting technologies and trends have emerged. Many of the new technologies are concerned with the distribution of information and encompass a new model for the distribution of this information. Although not a new concept in itself, Pull marketing has hit the internet! With Pull Marketing your clients can be better informed, enthusiastic and evangelical about your products and services. And with these new media strategies and technologies reaching a wider audience is not only possible but markedly cheaper and arguably more effective than traditional methods.

So what are these technologies? Well technologies I’m going to mention are based around one core principle of users grabbing the information that they want, when they want. Although not new, the technologies entitled RSS (Really Simple Syndication), and Atom are known as micro-formats. In this case these micro-formats are small packets of information that describes other information. This information quickly describes what the information is, the author, the date of creation and the location of the information that is being described, as well as other information.

These small packets are then grouped together and made available on a website like a menu or list of recent activity. No big deal I hear you say, it’s like a menu; well yes and no. This is a menu, but specifically this menu is designed to be read by computers and not by humans! Interesting, but by no stretch of the imagination can you say that computers have any purchasing power! But wait, now the information can be read by any computer software that deals with information.It could be used to distribute news articles for an interactive newspaper, music files for an MP3 player, images for an image gallery, videos of a TV series, dates for a calendar, software updates for a computer, anything that can be described and listed can be distributed in this fashion!

So where is this being used? Well this exact principle is being used to power pod-casting, music files are detailed in a micro-format which your music player (iTunes, Window’s media player, real player, Winamp etc) reads and then downloads to your computer or MP3 player. It’s being used by many websites to distribute details of website updates, or new blog posts that have been added to their website. All of this information is going straight to end user because they have requested your information. They are kept up to date without the need to go back to your website daily to get these updates. In fact these blog articles you are reading are distributed through an RSS feed to keep our past and potential clients as informed as possible about what’s going on in the industry, and what can be done to better improve their communications.

So its obvious that this little micro-format has the potential to stream information that users are interested in a speedy and convenient fashion. So what’s the catch? Well like any Salesman will say ‘there is no catch’, but there are serious considerations and hurdles to success.

To keep users drinking from your stream of information you have to keep the stream tasty! If the stream gets polluted with a heavy marketing slant users will leave; if it is found out that your information stream isn’t honest and transparent users will leave; and if the information is boring, yup you guessed it, your users will leave!

So how do you win? Fill your information stream with information that only you can provide, and don’t be scared to go niche. Your company does what it does because it’s the best at that specific product or service, and there are previous and potential customers who work in their own niche areas and want to know everything from the latest innovations in flexible-head toilet cleaner brushes to the latest news and views from a football team’s manager. What ever it is your company or organisation sells or does, you have people out there who are interested in it, as if there weren’t you wouldn’t be in business!

By being transparent, by keeping your customers informed and by making sure your name and your information are never far from a user’s mind will create loyal customers that will talk about your company, and what they have read.

The future is in the palm of your hand

Over the past 15 years the popularity and uses of both the internet and mobile phones have not only grown, they have exploded! There is very little in life at the moment that doesn’t have an associated email, and/or web address. You can buy pretty much purchase anything on-line and we can communicate and share information with friends, relatives and customers anywhere in the civilized world at the touch of the button. But with mobile phones being so prolific and mobile data speeds increasing how long till we have the world in the palm of our hand?

Internet based technology keeps on developing, using online Maps you can see your house in detail from a satellite or plan a route to anywhere from anywhere in the world. Not only has the internet exploded in popularity and functionality, but the medium we use to distribute this information has improved in speed and reliability, with the average UK broadband speed at two megabits a second, and most of these now being an ‘always on connection’ the internet is there when ever we need it! Or is it?

Yes we have speed and reliability when ever we want, well as long as we are in our own homes sitting at a computer, or in a city where there is an internet café or depending on your vocation, at your place of work. That sounds like it ticks a lot of boxes, and it does, but it is far from the ‘always available, always timely, information highway’ that it could and undoubtedly will be.

How do we solve this problem I hear you ask (and by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, and by ‘ask’ I mean ‘scream at the top of my lungs’)! The answer, as with all good solutions, is staring us in the face, or ear as the case maybe!

Mobile phone use has rocketed over the past 10 years. Phones are no longer devices you talk into, you can send text messages, take photos, listen to music, and play games and that’s just on the most basic of phones!

On many phones they also have the ability to send email and browse the internet. But this is hardly the norm, or at the very best it is a feature on people’s phones that they don’t use! Why is this? I subscribe four main reasons to the slow uptake of the mobile phone based internet:

User interface
Popularity
Speed of connection
Cost
The good news is these hurdles are dropping as fast as the Apple iPhone soars up the Christmas must have gadget list!

That brings me nicely on to the solution for the first problem user interface. The apple company has always had a flair for user interface design and their technology although not groundbreaking has always taken the best of what’s out there and improved it, or joined it with other ideas and technologies to make the whole package an over all great solution. I believe that the strong point of Apple’s iPhone is not simply the ability to use your finger to navigate webpages but the size of the screen, which makes the webpage viewable at a reasonable resolution. Safari (iPhone’s internet browser) also renders complete WebPages rather than trying to reorder them to fit the available screen space. Neither of these are new per say, but what will make the iPhone so important is Apple’s branding power.

To solve the second problem, we can once more look to Apple’s evangelistic customer base. They drive popularity for nearly every product that Apple sell. This happened with the iPod; before the iPod there were many MP3 players out there and I had two before the iPod came out but MP3 players were the near silent minority. Few people knew the capabilities of MP3 players and at the time I believed it was going to be an uphill battle to move people away from CDs, minidiscs and cassettes. Once the iPod came on board people quickly turned away from CDs and minidiscs. But a few years later the populous were turned on to not just iPods but the whole principle of MP3s. The iPod drew people into the MP3 market through their design, user interface and branding power.

I believe that the iPhone will become more popular as the price slowly lowers, it becomes available on other networks and V2 comes out. This will drive competitors to directly compete with the iPhone and its functionality, including screen size and browser functionality. This will subtly grow the size of mobile phones to include larger screens as the internet will slowly become necessary and clarity will be expected.

The speed of data rates for the mobile internet has generally been very poor, this is set to change with the growing popularity and expansive network of 3G mobile networks. This network has the potential for speeds of around 384 kbs. This although a vast improvement, is hardly home broadband speeds. The next step is HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access) which will lift this to 1.4 Mbps and was the potential to go up to 10.2 Mbps. And that speed will make the mobile internet a reality.

The cost aspect has been a major issue in the take up of mobile internet access. But in the previous four months all major mobile communication companies have reduced data costing, or provided a package with infinite bandwidth at a fixed cost.

With all of these aspects moving forward it won’t be long till the mobile internet is with us. And the internet can continue developing to further enhance communication, functionality and information decimation.

The next battle is to prepare the internet for the new usability challenges!