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[originally published 6 January 2012 20:51]

A few months ago, I ran across a short post on Website Magazine on Inspiration: 5 Destinations for Designers

 The five destinations are:

Of the seven sites listed above, I found Layer Tennis the most fun. What is Layer Tennis? From the site,

This is the Third Season of our live design events called Layer Tennis. Matches are played using video, animation, sound, photos, type and lots more, but the basic idea is the same no matter what tools are in use. Two competitors swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley” and then we post it to the site live. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action, as it happens. A match lasts for ten volleys and when it’s complete, Fans tell us what they think and we declare a winner.

As Website Magazine said in their review, Layer Tennis is a hoot whether you’re a Web designer or not.

The other six sites are work – work you enjoy doing, if you’re a designer, but serious work nonetheless. Layer Tennis is pure fun.

If you want to find out more about the other sites, check out the Website Magazine article.

When I installed Microsoft’s Visual Web Developer Express Edition last year, I was surprised to find that the available downloads included a package for writing Windows Phone 7 apps. Surprised, because I was not aware that any Windows Phone 7 devices were actually on the market.

Now it’s 2012, I own a Windows Phone, and Microsoft continues to support developers and would-be developers for Windows Phone 7.

Besides the Express Edition capabilities, Microsoft has made Programming Windows Phone 7 available for download free. The book is authored by Charles Petzold, well-known Microsoft Windows expert programmer and programming book author. This 1000-page ebook contains the same content that you can buy in printed version on Amazon, but it’s available free for the downloading from Microsoft.

When I first began considering a Windows Phone as a possible replacement for my aging Android phone, I wondered if Microsoft was committed enough to the success of the Windows Phone to hang on and try to get significant market share. Recently, I’ve become convinced that Microsoft is in smartphones to stay, and will take a chunk out of the smartphone market in much the same way they carved out a portion of the gaming console market – by sheer force and serious investment.

Nokia has committed itself to Windows Phone 7, and a Nokia representative tried to bolster industry perception of that decision by claiming that young people are abandoning Apple iOS devices en masse. Personally, I think that’s ridiculous. For every Apple user who switches to Android or Windows phone devices, there are probably 10 new iPhone or iPad customers.

However, I do think Windows Phones will take a huge bite out of Blackberry’s dwindling market share. In fact, I think Microsoft will have Blackberry for lunch, and start nibbling on Android’s market for dessert.

To do that, however, Microsoft will have to build up the Windows Phone Marketplace. They’re definitely trying, with this free ebook, Windows Phone 7 integration in the Express Editions, and other programs. Currently, the Marketplace stands at over 37 thousand apps. This is a small fraction of the Android Market (which just hit 400,000 apps) and the iPhone App Store (over 450,000 apps). However, the Windows Phone Marketplace is coming up fast – in fact, the Windows Phone Marketplace grew by over 400% over the past year.

Google’s Android Market hit 400,000 apps last weekend. Do you believe Google thinks that’s enough apps?

If so, think again. In fact, Google has just announced a program to increase the number of Android developers – and it’s free.

Google Android Training is an online training program. Currently, there are 34 lessons in 11 sections. Google plans to add more lessons in time.

If you want to join the ranks of Android developers, Android Training is probably a good place to start.

[originally published 4 January 2012 16:09]

Many years ago, I read and was inspired by Seth Godin’s book on user flow design, The Big Red Fez.

Seth never used the term “user flow” if I remember correctly. But The Big Red Fez was all about the desirability of articulating the goal of one’s website, then designing the “funnel” to control the user’s journey from his/her arrival on the site’s home page or other landing page, through intermediate steps or pages, and on to the desired goal.

Today, Smashing UX Design features another take on this idea of crafting the funnel – Stop Designing Pages And Start Designing Flows. The article makes many of the same points that Seth made 10 years ago, but it’s aimed at Web professionals, where Seth’s book was aimed at business owners and what Paul Boag calls website owners.

One point in the Smashing Magazine article that I don’t remember from Seth’s book is the idea of stacking funnels. It’s based on a well-known principle in big-ticket sales and marketing – that you usually can’t make a big-ticket sale without developing a relationship first.

In Web marketing, this relationship-building may be the first “sale” – that is, first-time visitors arrive on your site thanks to a Facebook ad or a link on a friend’s Wall, or perhaps a banner ad on another site. You build a User Experience (UX) “funnel” to convert those first-time, low-information visitors into subscribers (say, to an RSS feed or email newsletter). The output of that UX funnel is the input to the “real” funnel – that is, a link from a newsletter taking the subscriber directly to a product page and a purchase.

Reading the article has caused me to reassess my strategy for a site I’m doing for a local nonprofit organization. I’d been thinking of little more than an online brochure, but reading the Smashing Mag article has reminded me that a proper job requires more than a brochure page.

I recommend Stop Designing Pages And Start Designing Flows to anyone learning to design Web sites. Even if your expertise is more technical and less marketing, the insights in this article are invaluable for any Web professional.

From CodeAcademy (via TechCrunch and LinkedIn) comes Code Year. Sign up (with a valid email address) on the Code Year site, and you’ll get a new programming lesson in your inbox every week.

From the TechCrunch story:

Codecademy co-founder Zach Sims tells me that the courses will be a mix of everything so people have “well-rounded basics,” beginning with Javascript and then continuing to server-side languages like Ruby and Python.

I’m already working on server-side Python and plan to work on Javascript later, so I probably won’t be working through the Code Year lessons for myself. However, I think I will sign up to see how the lessons are ordered and how challenging they look. Watch this space for more!

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[originally published 2 January 2012 23:21]

This is What Happens When You Give Thousands of Stickers to Thousands of Kids

This December, in a surprisingly simple yet ridiculously amazing installation for the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, artist Yayoi Kusama constructed a large domestic environment, painting every wall, chair, table, piano, and household decoration a brilliant white, effectively serving as a giant white canvas. Over the course of two weeks, the museum’s smallest visitors were given thousands upon thousands of colored dot stickers and were invited to collaborate in the transformation of the space, turning the house into a vibrantly mottled explosion of color…The installation, entitled The Obliteration Room, is part of Kusama’s Look Now, See Forever exhibition that runs through March 12.

The story was on the Colossal Art and Design blog. The blog is full of similar inspirational examples of art and design. Check it out any time you need some inspiration or just a break from commenting on Facebook.