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How to add New Zealand businesses to Apple Maps

Apple has today rolled out support for adding and maintaining New Zealand business on Apple Maps.

What does this mean for your business?

If you are a New Zealand-based business, we would strongly recommend you go ahead and claim your business listing on Apple Maps.

It’s super quick and easy to get started—just go to Apple Maps for Small Business and follow the instructions.


Our ideal workflow for designing new client websites

Every project is unique and the depth and scope depends on the budget, the requirements, and, how willing the client is to fully engage with the process.

In any case, this is typically the process we strive to go through when developing a new website.

Defining the brief

First up, we work with our client to define the brief. It is our goal to ensure we fully understand their vision, their business (and business goals), the people behind the business, and their customers and potential market. We also want to make sure we’re excited and inspired by the project so we can be confident our team will enjoy working on it—and, ultimately, be able to deliver great value!

Establishing a budget

Once the brief is defined, we work up a quote for the project. We never start a project without a quote! As with every step of the process, we treat the quoting phase as an open dialogue with our clients while we work with them to establish the ideal budget—it needs to deliver great value to their business and provide the best opportunity for a quality return on their investment; but it also needs to give our team the scope to put the required time and energy into the project so we can deliver something awesome! It can be a fine balance to establish an ideal budget but we need sign-off from our clients so everyone knows what to expect in terms of development and management costs and so our team knows the parameters they need to work within.

Research and discovery

This is an important step to ensure we’re going to deliver the best site possible that will appeal to our client’s ideal customers—and blast the competitors out of the water! We strongly encourage our clients to do their own research and it helps us a lot if we are provided with direction; however, in order to fully understand the project, the business, the people behind it, and the market, we still need to go out and do our own research and discovery. (If you haven’t already got a copy, go get Just Enough Research by Erika Hall.)

Content strategy

Before we begin the visuals or any development, we need to have a plan so we know exactly what we are working with and what features we may need to develop. We need to have a good understanding of what content will be coming and how it will all fit and work together. (A Book Apart has two good books on this, too: Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane and The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane.)

Content creation

It is so important to design a site around the content rather than to design and build the site and then jam in all the content at the end. Some of our clients will produce and copy-edit all the content themselves, some will draft the content, leaving it to us to edit and polish, and some will leave the entire content-creation process up to our team. What works best depends on each project and the skills, enthusiasm and inspiration of the client.

Domain and email setup

We find it best to obtain domain login details from our client’s current provider (or set up domains if new) early on in the project to avoid any delays later on. If the client already has email set up, we will likely simply obtain access to the DNS settings so we can ensure everything is set up correctly for the new site. If the client needs new email addresses, we will get them up and running well before the site is ready to go live. (We generally do this on Google Apps for Work.) We then test and ensure the client can access their new email account and that they are comfortable with the setup.

Designing the visual mockups

We now pull everything together and apply what we’ve established so far in terms of the desired look-and-feel, functionality, usability, and overall aesthetic. This is obviously an important phase and it’s a good time to focus on the details while also thinking about the big picture so we can make the job of coding up the templates as easy and efficient as possible. During the design phase, we strive to carefully consider how the layout, usability (and functionality) might change at different screen sizes. We generally start with one resolution (whether it’s best to go mobile-first or not is debatable—at Lucid, we tend to design for desktop first as it’s easier to see the big picture and overall feel). Ultimately, we will want to have all main templates mocked up in desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile versions. With smaller projects, it often doesn’t make sense to do pixel-perfect mockups of every single screen at every resolution but we will still create a basic template to work to. (As a little aside, our team designs for the web almost exclusively in InDesign—a bit of background on this here.)

Inputting content

Here we start inputting content such as static pages, blog posts, products etc. (enough to give the devs some real content to work with when they start coding). Any good website platform or CMS (and certainly the ones we use most such as Shopify and Siteleaf) will enable us to keep a clear separation between design, functionality and content. So, even if we need to drastically change the design and/or functionality (or even deploy a totally new look-and-feel later on), we shouldn’t need to redo the content. We recommend keeping all design out of the content if possible. This is especially important when it comes to optimising for mobile.

Beginning the build

Once we have worked through the visuals with our client and have sign-off on the mockups, it’s time to code up all the required templates. The more well-defined our content strategy is, and the more thought we have put into the visuals and functionality, the more quickly we are able to develop all the necessary HTML, CSS and javascript.

Refining and optimising

As the site nears completion, we start user-testing, cross-browser and cross-device testing, and we tidy up and polish the functionality and usability—continuing to add content and tweaking if needed to accommodate any unforeseen issues as the content fills out.

First-pass SEO work

Before the site goes live, we check wording, headings, calls-to-action, navigation elements and links. This is an ongoing task and we advise clients to budget for doing this on a regular basis if being found organically in search engines is important for the success of their site.

Setting up optimisation and analytics tools

We check that Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are installed and functioning properly and that any conversion tracking code snippets are installed on the final page of the checkout process for the likes of Google AdWords.

Product order and email testing

Now is the time to put through test orders and carefully check pricing, shipping rates etc. Important note: If the site is set up with a drop-shipper, we need to ensure that the provider is well aware these are dummy orders so they’re not fulfilled (unless we want to test the fulfillment process too!). We will also test all email notifications and tweak and tidy up as needed.

Going live

If everything is working correctly and the site is ready to go live, we do a final check over of content, headings, pricing etc. to ensure there are no loose ends and that usability and functionality are smooth.

Pointing the DNS records

Most services now just want the CNAME record pointing at the site—for the root domain, we recommend using a service like wwwizer.com.

Keeping an eye on the site

It can take up to 72 hours for domains to switch over so we try to keep an eye on the domain and check everything over carefully as soon as the site goes live. We also check Google Analytics, test tracking and conversion codes etc. and ensure everything is set up correctly in Google Webmaster Tools.

Checking in with our client

Once we are all up and running, we check in with our client to ensure everything is working correctly and they are happy.

Billing for the project

We typically charge a deposit for any new project and we progress-bill each month during the process. Upon completion of the project, we send the final bill—including any recurring invoices for hosting, email, ongoing support, SEO work etc.

Future support

Because the web is a fluid, dynamic, constantly-evolving medium, we are still around to guide and assist as needed once the site is live. We often set up a recurring monthly job to keep on top of tweaks, SEO work and any minor changes or adjustments that may come up. Ultimately, it is our goal to ensure we continue adding value to our clients as their websites evolve and their businesses develop and grow. Regardless, we try to touch base with our clients from time-to-time to see how everything is going so they’re no left in the lurch—even if they have a limited ongoing budget for improvements.

Recommended reading

We are huge fans of all the books by A Book Apart—they’re all excellent! But, if you read only one of their books, make sure you read Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro. It’s invaluable if you're a client or are working with clients in a creative capacity.

 


New in Shopify: Gift Cards at long last

One of the most requested features in Shopify is gift cards and vouchers.

We’re pretty excited to have been invited to participate in the closed beta of Shopify’s newest feature: Gift Cards (here are full details and docs).

This is something we are often asked about and, to be honest, the workaround of using promo codes has been less than ideal.

Promo codes are literally a code entered on checkout that applies a discount (either a dollar amount or a percentage—or free shipping). They can’t be used over multiple purchases and they have to be entered partway through the checkout process which is not overly intutitive.

The new gift cards, on the other hand, are treated like a product that customers can purchase like any other product. This in itself is a huge step up from promo codes as selling promo codes as de facto gift cards did not work very well.

Once a gift card has been purchased, the customer receives an email with a personalised link to the gift card. From the email, they can either spend the gift card themselves or there are links to gift it to someone else.

Customising the design

Gift cards are customisable through their own liquid template. This means they can be crafted to match the look-and-feel of your shop's theme.

What else?

With gift cards, store owners can:

  • Specify price denominations of gift cards you sell to your customers
  • Customise the design and look-and-feel of the gift cards
  • Personalise the email notification your customer receives after purchase
  • Set an expiration date for gift cards
  • Purchase a gift card for a friend and email it to them or print directly from the browser
  • Send customers their gift card balances and manage gift cards in the Shopify admin

Conclusion

We haven’t had a chance to have a full play with gift cards but from initial testing on some of our clients’ stores, this looks like another fantastic feature that just cements Shopify further as a leader in the e-commerce space.

Well done, team.


Shopify iPad POS app for New Zealand stores

For those who missed the announcement, Shopify recently launched a new POS (point of sale) app for iPad.

Shopify POS is an iPad application that lets you sell your Shopify store's products in a physical, retail setting.

It's quick and easy: browse your store's catalog, pick a customer's products, swipe their credit card, and print their receipt or send it through email.

For Shopify store owners struggling with alternative POS systems (or lack thereof), this is an excellent opportunity to get your bricks-and-mortar store running smoothly with complete integration with your online storefront.

In New Zealand, we can’t yet use the integrated credit card payment options so the hardware kits are not really applicable here but you can happily use Shopify POS with your own hardware.

Check out Shopify POS.


What is the optimal structure of Shopify theme settings?

As we develop a third preset for Lucid One and continue development of a new Shopify theme, we are contemplating how theme settings should best be laid out.

We've put together a little tiny survey to gather feedback from Shopify store owners and designers to try to get an idea of what people feel is the most logical structure.

Give us your input—it should take less than a minute.


How to optimise your Shopify site for mobile devices

In creating Lucid Mobile, our first, mobile-optimised Shopify theme, we’ve realised many Shopify store owners do not realise they can very easily add a 2nd, mobile-only theme to their site.

Since June 2011, Shopify has made it possible to install a dedicated mobile theme in parallel to your main theme. This is great for sites with themes that are not are not well-optimised for mobile devices.

Many recent themes are “responsive,” meaning they adapt elegantly and automatically to different screen sizes however there are many older or custom-designed themes that are not. The browsing experience with these sites when viewed on a mobile device can be cumbersome at best—and sometimes unusable!

The process of adding a mobile theme is easy:

  1. Login to your Shopify site at www.yoursite.com/admin
  2. Go to the Themes Manager at www.yoursite.com/admin/themes
  3. Browse to the Shopify Theme Store and click on Mobile to view the dedicated mobile themes
  4. Once you've found the theme you want, click Get Theme to install it on your store (you may need to enter your store’s yoursite.myshopify.com address)
  5. You can now tweak and customise the theme while it's un-published
  6. Once you're happy with it, click Publish

It’s really that easy!

And, it’s clear there’s a rapidly growing trend towards consumers making purchases from their mobiles. Is your Shopify site taking advantage of this trend?

Let us know if you have any queries or would like advice on getting your Shopify store optimised for mobiles.


Homepage A/B testing for The Monocle Order

When revising the design of a website, it is important to experiment with different versions rather than simply constantly changing the look-and-feel of the site.

Making regular changes is good but it's advisable to do it in such a way that you can track the results between the different versions.

If you just go ahead and make a big change, it can be difficult to measure the results as changes in buying habits from one month to the next can influence sales just as much as the changes you might make to the site. This can make it difficult to ascertain whether it was the revisions that made the difference or simply that it's a busier or quieter period than usual.

A/B testing allows you to test different versions at the same time by serving up your different versions randomly to different users.

We are currently running some homepage tests on the Monocle Order (you can see versions A—the original—B, and C in the images above). Our goal here is to see if, B, images of more "real" people will lead to better site interaction and, C, whether removing the emphasis on membership entirely from the homepage will draw more people in.

The interesting thing is that, rather than simply making some big changes and checking back in a month or two to see how they've gone, we're testing all three versions right now in unison. 33% of visitors see each version so we get valuable insight into which ones work better.

It's worth noting that this only works on relatively high-traffic sites as you need a reasonable number of clicks to be able to measure the differences and determine a winning version.

We will post a follow up with some results from this experiment.


Video from The Monocle Order's New York City launch party

The Monocle Order had their official launch party on June 30th in New York City and had this fantastic video made. Pretty impressive for being made at a live event with lest than two weeks of editing. Impressive.

And love the soundtrack. If anyone knows who it is, please let us know in the comments.


The Monocle Order, our latest website project, featured on racked.com

Over the past month or so we have had the pleasure of working with the small team at The Monocle Order, a members only designer sunglasses store based in New York City.

In addition to designers such as Waiting for the Sun, Lotho, Mayfourteenth and Cassius, they are selling a range by New Zealand's very own Karen Walker! Nice.

The site hasn't been live for 24 hours and it has been featured on Racked.com which is pretty exciting—for us and for the Monocle Order!

We'll post more screenshots and info to our portfolio shortly but wanted to share this in the meantime.

Built with Shopify, you can check out the Monocle Order website now.


Compare iPhone app live on the App Store

Our third iPhone app has gone live in the App Store just seven days in review.

Compare is a simple iPhone app developed as a little side-project by Galen as a way to learn iOS and have a little play with designing and building an app from scratch with no input from our dev team.

Most supermarkets in New Zealand do not display price per unit making it difficult to determine the best deal. Compare is a price comparison app that shows the best deal between two products.

All you do is enter the price and units for each product and Compare will instantly show which ones is the best value.

There are numerous comparison apps on the App Store but they all seem overly complicated with interfaces that are more complicated than needed. I have designed Compare to be the easiest way to check which of two products is the best value.

The app does not even ask for the units of measurement as it simply assumes the same units are used for both sides.

Check it out on our portfolio or take a look at Compare on our Lucid Code site where you can buy it from the App Store.

 


WIN a free lunch at Petite Fleur at Seifried Estate

In support of Petite Fleur's recent rebrand, we are offering three lucky people a $25 lunch voucher each—that's three vouchers in total.

All you need to do is tweet the reason why you think you deserve a free lunch mentioning @luciddesign and @petitefleurnz and we will give a $25 voucher for the three best tweets. Be sure to follow @luciddesign so we can DM you. If you're not on Twitter, you can leave a comment on Lucid Design's Facebook wall at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucid-Design/95129958238

If you miss out, you have 13 hours, 30 minutes, and a few seconds to buy a $25 voucher for just $10 from GrabOne…. Starting… now!*

Conditions: This competition is open to anyone however you will need to be in Nelson by April 16th to redeem your voucher at Petite Fleur at Seifried Estate. Tweets must be received by NZT 5pm today (Monday, January 17th) and must include @luciddesign and @petitefleurnz to be eligible for the draw. Full conditions of voucher available at http://www.grabone.co.nz/nelson-marlborough/petite-fleur-at-seifried-est. Voucher not redeemable for cash. (*GrabOne deal finishes at midnight I believe)


Think Packaging on The Dieline and Lovely Package®

We do quite a lot of work with Mat at Think Packaging including designing their new logo and branding so it's really cool to see this on two of our favourite packaging blogs:

If you're looking for an incredibly talented packaging designer, check out Think Packaging.


Hutli—our Mix & Mash competition entry

Most of our team have been working feverishly on-and-off over the past two weeks on our entry for the excellent Mix & Mash — the great NZ remix and mashup competition, which closed tonight at 9pm.

They have done a fantastic job often using unfamiliar tools and methods and coding that has pushed them past anything they've done before. I'm very proud of them and they really deserve all the credit. Great stuff!

One of the data sources made available for this competion is all the hut (and track) information from the Department of Conservation (DOC).

We immediately had some ideas around how we could make hut and track information a social thing and set about creating Hutli. We couldn't achieve everything we wanted in time for Mix & Mash so initially it is focused on huts. But it's pretty cool. People can tweet about their favourite huts as well as "like" and comment on them which posts back to their Facebook wall. It's a great way to share stories about our experiences in New Zealand wonderful range of huts (over 750 of them it seems!).

So, go check it out and leave a comment. If you have any feedback, feel free to comment here or we have a forum setup at support.luciddesign.co.nz/discussions/hutli or you can drop us a line on Twitter, @luciddesign or @hutli_nz.

The website is hutli.co.nz

Will post more about the process and what data sources etc we used to create Hutli in the coming days.

Enjoy!


The Bridge Street Collective—A space for creative people to gather

Source: Nelson Mail, page 5 on 09/11/2010.

Until graphic designer Galen King took on his first employee he felt like a lonely only child with no- one to share his creative ideas with.

Now he wants to replicate the feeling of creative collaboration on a grander scale.

“It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off. I really enjoy working with a bunch of creative people. It’s great to have that stimulation.”

After taking over a 300 square metre commercial space on Bridge St, Mr King saw the opportunity to realise a dream six years in the making. With the Bridge Street Collective he hopes to create a shared creative space in the building - one filled with architects, photographers, designers and writers, to name a few.

“Basically we are not simply setting up another cluster of office space.”

He said the benefits of working alongside other creative people could not be overstated.

Mr King, the founder of Lucid Design, moved from Golden Bay a year ago to grow his business in Nelson. He said the city was quite competitive among designers but hoped his concept would result in more collaboration.

The shared space would feature meeting rooms and shared resources like internet, printing and possibly a receptionist. It would also give each business the financial clout to advertise as a collective entity.

The space would suit freelancers currently working from home who were looking for something more professional, he said.

“I don’t think it’s bold, it’s not risky, there are only pros, really.”

A landscape architect had already signed on and moved in. Several others had expressed interest. There would be flexible options to suit members whether they wanted an office or a part- time desk. There were successful examples of similar set-ups around the world, Mr King said.

Mr King was also playing with the idea of setting aside a space for a design student to come in on a part-time basis.

“When you are starting out I know it is so hard, you have to get experience somehow, and this is a way to help that process.”

Anyone interested should visit bridgestreetcollective.co.nz.


Today we launch our new website

It's been almost a full year in the making and we are really thrilled to finally be launching our new website.

At first glance it may not seem much different from our previous site but, after countless hours spent on design concepts and numerous revisions, we concluded that we got so much good feedback on our previous site and there were so many things we liked about it that we simply had a major freshen up.

We also rebuilt the entire site from scratch since we have been wanting to move away from our old CMS (content-management system) for some time and we're really pleased to now have Lucid Design running on our new platform, Harmony which is just fantastic.

In addition to being more stable, faster and hugely more flexible, it also makes it considerably easier for our whole team to manage the site, add articles, blog posts and portfolio work and tweak and polish to design as things evolve.

There are still a few little glitches and rough edges to iron out but we have had a great response to the new design from those we showed it to prior to launching and we welcome any feedback anyone has.


Tip: How to reset your PayPal password using a New Zealand bank account number

I received an email this morning from someone asking if I knew how to contact PayPal from New Zealand because they have been locked out of their account and can't get back in.

I have had this problem before too and their email prompted me to write up a quick article on how to unlock a PayPal account with a New Zealand bank account number.

The problem is that PayPal expects your bank account number in a specific format but they don't specify what this format is.

I've done some trial-and-error and worked out that, despite the fact they ask for your "full bank account number", you have to exclude the first six digits (bank and branch).

So, if your account number is 12-3456-7890123-00, you would need to enter just 789012300.

Can't get much more obscure than that!


Lucid Design T-Shirts—the Summer 2010 Collection

A couple years ago we did a run of t-shirts and a number of people said they'd love to have been able to buy one so this year we're taking orders.

The tees will be printed in white on high quality cotton garments and we have a wide range of colours and styles available including men's and women's (scoop necks and v-necks), children's….

To keep it simple, we're just inviting you to send an email to galen@luciddesign.co.nz with your first and second choice for colour and your size and style (i.e., men's, women's, v-neck etc). We're keeping it pretty relaxed and will contact you if there are any problems with your choice.

The price is NZD$35 incl. GST and we'll be happy to send anywhere in New Zealand for no extra charge. For our friends and clients outside NZ, there will be a shipping fee of some kind. We'll let you know when the time is right.


Simple, elegant, minimalist iPhone app icons

For an iPhone app we are developing for a client, I really wanted to come up with a strong, simple, beatiful, elegant icon. I knew in my mind what I wanted but had trouble describing it so I have come up with this collection of icons that stand out for me for their strength and simplicity. Let me know if there are any you think deserve to be included.


Parcels, Lucid Design's first iPhone app, gets a nice little write-up by Etch Magazine

"Lucid Design, a small web development and graphic design studio was founded by Galen King in early 2000 when she was still studying at Canterbury University.

The main priority of the business is to make beautiful and elegant designs that truly meet their client’s needs. Their style is minimalist and they put a lot of emphasis on not over designing or over complicating their projects and applications.

They are strongly committed to looking after small businesses and helping them grow, which makes them a truly great little innovative kiwi business…."

Read the full article here: http://www.etchmagazine.co.nz/Technology/Parcels+the+innovative+new+iphone+app+by+Lucid+Design.html


Our Campaign Monitor app hits the Shopify app store

We're very excited to announce that our first app for the Shopify app store has been released.

We've simply called it Campaign Monitor because that's what it does—Campaign Monitor integration for Shopify.

It's as simple as inputting your Campaign Monitor API Key, choosing which list you wish Shopify to add new buyers' details to and that's it.

It only adds those names of people who have implicitly opted-in to receive further emails and it also will update a contact if it's alreay in your Campaign Monitor list.

We've set up a discussion topic in our support system and welcome all feedback: http://support.luciddesign.co.nz/discussions/shopify-campaign-monitor


Looking for beta testers for our Shopify + Campaign Monitor app

Lucid Design is currently developing a Shopify app that automatically adds a buyer's email address to a Campaign Monitor subscriber list if they have ticked the "keep me updated" checkbox on checkout.

So that we can build a nice little app that meets people's needs, we are currently looking for people who are keen to test the app out before it's released.

If you are keen, please take a look at the Shopify + Campaign Monitor page in our Goodies section.


Using "Contact Links" in Xero to do all kinds of cool things

I've seen Xero's Contact Links feature before but I didn't pay much attention to it as it appears, at first glance, to be rather limited without the ability to define custom "key" fields for contacts.

You can access this feature by going to General Settings » Organisation Settings and you'll see Contact Links at the bottom.

However, I've discovered that it's actually quite powerful as it is.

For example, while you can't easily link to a client's specific record in other systems, you can easily link to search results which means generally two clicks to the client's record.

For example, in WorkflowMax (the timetracking and billing system we use, you can link to the search like this:

https://my.workflowmax.com/common/search.aspx?search_field={!CONTACTNAME}

To show search results in Basecamp that contain the client's name, you can do this (however it's not as reliable due to the fields Basecamp indexes for search results):

https://luciddesignnz.clientsection.com/search?global=true&scope=all&terms={!CONTACTNAME}

And something else that is very cool is that you can do a Whitepages™ lookup very easily like this:

http://yellow.co.nz/whitepages/search/new+zealand/{!CONTACTNAME}-1.html

The Whitepages™ one is particularly handy as it gives you a 1-click Whitepages™ lookup for a contact in Xero which I find useful since we don't always store all a client's details.

Anyway, I've just touched the surface of what's useful here.

If Xero were to add "custom fields" to their contacts interface, it would make this very powerful as you could, for example, put the client_id for a Basecamp record into a custom field so you could link directly to that client in Basecamp. Now that would be great.

If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments below.X

Lucid Design is moving to Nelson

We have news!

After much deliberation, we have made the big decision that Lucid Design will be moving to Nelson towards the end of this year.

It has always been a possibility that my family would move to Nelson at some point but one of the big factors that was keeping us in Golden Bay was our team at Lucid Design to whom I have always felt a strong commitment.

However, with two of the team moving to the North Island towards the end of the year—from where they will work remotely—our team in Golden Bay is getting smaller. Taking on new designers and developers is going to be hard in Takaka so, along with several other factors, now really feels like the best time to make the move.

The decision to move has not been an easy one as Lucid Design has effectively 'grown up' in Golden Bay with a strong connection and commitment to the community here. However, we know that we will still be able to provide the same level of service—if not better—from Nelson.

So, from a business perspective, what will change? Well, for most of you there will be no obvious changes at all. Due to the nature of our business, much of our communication is done by email or online so business will run as usual—just from our new Nelson office.

For our Golden Bay clients, we will be sad to go but we will continue to give you the full attention you deserve. We will make regular trips to Takaka as needed and, of course, you're welcome to pop in and visit us when you are in Nelson.

We look forward to establishing new networks and relationships with Nelson businesses and organisations.

We will be in touch again with our new contact information and more specific details of the timing of our move once everything is finalised. For now, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Press-release: Lucid Design one of the first in New Zealand to become a Google Apps authorised reseller

5 August 2009 -- Lucid Design today announced it has become one of the first authorised reseller of the Google Apps™ suite of communication and collaboration tools in New Zealand. The focus will initially be on offering clients highly flexible, robust email to complement their businesses.

"Google Apps enables us to offer our clients a solid, robust email solution built on a reliable platform. By bringing all our clients' email services into a single system, we are better able to reliably support any issues that may occur and, with the backing of Google's support team, we feel confident we are now able to offer one of the best email systems available" said Galen King, Creative Director of Lucid Design.

Google Apps brings simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools to organisations. With Google Apps, users can use applications such as Gmail™ webmail service, Google Talk™ instant messaging service, Google Calendar™ calendaring service, Google Docs™ program, Google Sites™ web application, and Google Video™ for business on their own domain to work together more effectively. Best of all, it's all hosted by Google, so there's no hardware or software to download, install or maintain.

The Google Apps Reseller program includes resellers, consultants and independent software vendors that sell, service and customise Google Apps Premier Edition for their customers. Lucid Design received training, support and deployment services from Google, as well as access to APIs for integrating Google Apps into their customers' business operations. Lucid Design is able to retain a close relationship with their customers in order to provide additional service and support. The businesses receiving Google Apps will benefit from the additional attention to their specific needs. For more information on Lucid Design, please visit www.luciddesign.co.nz.

Lucid Design, 23 Motupipi Street, Takaka 7110, New Zealand | www.luciddesign.co.nz

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Google, Google Apps, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Video are trademarks of Google Inc.X

Clean Earth Soap recognised as one of the best Shopify CSS designs on the web

I received a nice little surprise this morning when checking out the new Shopify Theme Gallery website. Clean Earth Soap, one of our first Shopify sites, is featured in the initiall select of "The Best Shopify CSS Designs on the Web".

It's always nice to get some recognition—especially when it's totally unexpected.

Take a look: shopifythemegallery.com/2009/06/clean-earth-soap/


PayPal's security 'flawed'

A security flaw in the online payment service PayPal means sensitive information is at risk and customers could lose control of their accounts, according to an Auckland software developer.

Ewart MacLucas says the flaw means customers who have not registered a credit card or bank account to their PayPal account need only supply a street address or phone number to change their password information that can be easily obtained by others.

Once an account is accessed, people can see details of financial transactions and change account settings so a customer could be locked out of their own account, he says.

PayPal spokeswoman Kelly Stevens confirmed that for PayPal accounts not tied to a credit card or bank account and which have "little to no remaining balance", customers can reset their password by providing "personal information like a phone number and street address".

"This does not put account holders at risk of disclosing sensitive personal or financial account information that can be used to steal their money, so we do not see this as a significant threat.

"It's important to note that for PayPal accounts that have bank accounts, credit cards or cash balances tied to them, the password reset process is much more sophisticated."

But Mr MacLucas says information in a PayPal account should be protected, regardless of whether it can be used to steal money.

"As a paypal customer, I consider a list of who paid, how much and when to be sensitive personal information.

"I shouldn't have to give PayPal my credit card or bank account number to protect that information."

Many small companies and community organisations use the PayPal donate scheme, in which people can donate money to them via PayPal.

"While I don't know how many people could be affected by this, the volume of Paypal users means even if it's only one in every 1000, that's still a big number."

By CLAIRE McENTEE - The Dominion Post | Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/2480292/PayPals-security-flawed


Golden Bay Hideaway on Campbell Live

A client of ours, Golden Bay Hideaway, was on TV3's Campbell Live at the end of last week showcasing their revolutionary new housing concept, The Little Greenie.

With a 9-star HERS energy rating, The Little Green is officially the highest-rated home in New Zealand in terms of its energy-efficiency. Pretty impressive.

Watch the five-minute video clip on TV3's website.


A little laser-cutting project

A graphic designer friend in Wellington recently showed me some cool stuff they were working on that had been made by Ponoko. I had heard of Ponoko before but hadn't had a chance to check them out. I was immediately inspired by the possibilities and thought a little sign for our building was the perfect excuse to test out what Ponoko does.

For those who have never heard of them, Ponoko is a website that enables people to updload vector artwork and they laser-cut and engrave per your design and send it back in the post. It's all very easy.

A bit like the painter who never paints his own house, we at Lucid Design have been without any street signage since we moved into our new studio over a year ago.

We decided to create something simple and a bit different than the usual vinyl-cut signage. Ponoko turned out to be an inexpensive and fun way to do it.

We created the artwork in Illustrator, uploaded it to Ponoko, chose our materials and, about a week later, got a little package by courier. Yippee!

The cool thing about Ponoko is that they are actually based right here in New Zealand. Check them out.

I've included some photos of the process. Hope you enjoy them.


Unusual spike in web traffic (the kintiskton problem)

I noticed a large spike in visits to the Lucid Design website over the last couple of days and have been trying to figure out the cause.

My first thought was to check keywords thinking it had something to do with the changes I’ve made recently to my SEO strategy. But, interestingly, I quickly discovered that the increased traffic all came via direct hits (i.e. not through a search engine or as a referral from another site).

I then thought perhaps it had to do with recent magazine advertising campaigns we have been running (and I was quietly pleased that they might actually be generating some interest).

But, on further investigation, I have discovered an unusally large number of “visitors” from a town in California called Montara (which I’ve never heard of and therefor became suspicious).

And, this is when it all becomes clear.

It seems there is a spider/robot/something automated hitting our website repeatedly at present from an organisation called kintiskton llc. A quick Google search brings up 966 pages (see http://www.google.com/search?q=kintiskton+llc). It appears this has been going on for at least four months and we’re just falling victim now.

I don’t know at this stage how widespread the problem is or how many of our sites it is affecting. I just wanted to give a heads-up to clients and others to check their server stats for traffic from “kintiskton” (in Google analytics, you can do this by viewing stats for Networks: https://www.google.com/analytics/reporting/networks and you can filter it down if you wish).

I’m curious to hear how many other New Zealand websites have been affected by this.


Redesigned Lucid Design website

We felt it was time to spruce up our website to better showcase the range of work we do.

In the past I have focused on web site design in the portfolio mainly because it was the easiest thing to put online.

Astra and our team have worked hard to create a wonderful portfolio showcasing each category of work we do including print, photography, web design and application development.

This is still a work in progress so please feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.


Building a picture of preferred markup

I've decided to share the results of the markup survey as they come out. You can view the report here—feel free to check back as more people give their feedback.

 


Textile vs. Markdown vs. TinyMCE etc

We've been debating for some time what the best way is to handle markup in an upcoming hosting CMS we're developing in Ruby on Rails (more on that to come!).

I've put together a little survey to see what people's preference is when it comes to manipulating text in a content-management system.


Google Street View comes to New Zealand (and Takaka!)

Google has just announced that Street View is now available in New Zealand.

Whether or not you're concerned about the privacy implications, there is no denying it is pretty darn cool.

My impressions of Street View up until now is that it is mostly available only in more populated areas so I was quite surprised to find that even our little remote town of Takaka is available in Street View—and not just the main street. You can see the Lucid Design offices (see image above) but unfortunately this was taken before the renovations were complete.

Anyway, it's worth a look. Check out Commercial Street, Takaka


A bit of advice: Don't click your own Google ads!

I have discovered the hard way that Google doesn't like it if you click on ads on your own site.

Perhaps I am naïve but I would have thought they would have systems in place to ignore such clicks.

As the host of ads from companies I have no dealings with or have never heard of, it seems natural that I might wish to see a bit more about them, what they're offering etc. It only seems natural that I might want to have an idea of what I am in fact advertising and promoting on my site.

I recently set out to find out more about the companies I was promoting and I clicked on all the ads on my site.

Uh oh! Alarms bells certainly rang somewhere.

Within a few days, I tried to login to Google AdSense only to discover that I had been blocked with no notice, warning, or explanation. Just the rather unhelpful and unfriendly message above.

I promptly followed up with an email to their support team. To be honest, I wasn't holding my breath for a reply but I did eventually get one: a computer-generated response saying they were looking into my case.

Then nothing. For a good month or more.

And finally, after submitting my query again, another computer-generated response to say they've reviewed my case and they had this to say:

Hello,

Thanks for providing us with additional information. However, after thoroughly reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, we've re-confirmed that your account poses a significant risk to our advertisers. For this reason, we're unable to reinstate your account. Thank you for your understanding.

As a reminder, if you have any questions about your account or the actions we've taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information by visiting
https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

"Thank you for your unerstanding." Great. I'm not sure I do understand. In fact, I don't!

There must be ways to disregard such click activity.

I'm pretty annoyed by the lack of communication, the lack of any personal response and the lack of explanation.

Banned. No alternative. And, to cap it off, the money in my AdSense account is never to be seen again. Sure, it wasn't a large amount of money (around $25) but it's the principle. I wonder how much Google makes from closed accounts. Presumably the advertisers have still paid that money but nobody ever received it!

So, for those of you who thought it might be cool to check out what you're advertising on your site. Don't.


Google Chrome. Do we need another web browser?

Google today announced the release of their own web browser, Google Chrome.

My first reaction was, do we need another web browser. With several versions each of Safari, Firefox, Internet Explore, Opera and others already making life very complicated for web developers, what's it going to mean for us having yet another browser to test for. However, Google Chrome is built using components from WebKit and Firefox and it apparently renders the same as Safari.

If this is the case, Google Chrome could be a good thing. With its vast user base, perhaps Google will help eradicate (ha!) Internet Explorer as more and more users make the switch to Safari, Firefox and now Google Chrome. Perhaps it will, in fact, make life easier for web developers.

Will this mean a renewed browser war? I doubt it but it will certainly put the pressure on Microsoft.

Google Chrome is available for Windows first but a Mac (and Linux) version is on its way. I look forward to checking it out.


Xero: Accounting for small businesses

One of the hardest things for startups (and small businesses in general) is the accounting side of things.

Over the years we have used spreadsheets, self-built Filemaker-based systems, MoneyWorks, and other small Mac-based accounting packages. None worked very well for our needs and you need a degree in accounting to understand or appreciate their complexity.

Earlier this year we finally made the change to Xero (www.xero.co.nz). Xero is a web-based accounting system that is simple, intuitive and downright beautiful.

It makes bookkeeping for us non-accountants really pretty simple. As a web-based application, users can login from anywhere in the world to view the state of things, fiddle with the books, etc. It has multi-user access with various user-levels so staff don't have to see everything that the boss does!

With the recent addition of the Xero Network, there is a rapidly expanding collection of other systems that integrate tightly with Xero to syncronise information such as contacts, payroll information, invoices etc.

All our job, staff and client management is handled online through systems that integrate with Xero. More about that in another post.

I highly recommend taking a look at Xero and giving it a test drive: www.xero.co.nz


How to show NZ Post tracking details in Shopify notification emails

Shopify has recently added two great new features: shipping confirmation emails and shipping update emails.

By default, for some reason, the emails generated show a link to www.google.com/?q={{ fulfillment.tracking_number }} which, of course, doesn't work.

However, it's not very hard to change this for New Zealand Post (including CourierPost) so it does work.

New Zealand parcel tracking

If you want to give your customers a link directly to the tracking information for their parcel, you can use this in the two email templates for shipping:

http://www.nzpost.co.nz/Cultures/en-NZ/OnlineTools/TrackAndTrace/?trackid={{ fulfillment.tracking_number }}

Update 12/05/11: http://nzpost.co.nz/tools/tracking?trackid={{ fulfillment.tracking_number }}


Putting Rails dependencies in vendor

A problem we encounter in our small development team is that different Ruby on Rails projects use different versions of gems. Generally, most of our local development computers are up to date with the latest or close to the latest gem versions but, due to server constraints etc, a project is often lagging behind.

This means, when it's installed and setup locally, it doesn't run and throws a series of errors. We don't, of course, want to roll-back the version of a particular gem on each local development machine so it can be a bit tricky.

Another great article from Err the Blog gives what appears to be a very simple, robust and straightforward solution to this problem. Haven't fully tested it in-house but plan to do so this week.

Check it out: errtheblog.com/posts/50-vendor-everything


We launch our new website

I have often said I feel like the painter who doesn't paint his own house. We have had a lot of good feedback and comments on the old Lucid Design website but the reality is it really no longer reflected who we are and what we can do. I had been meaning (for about four years!) to put some of our other work online—not just our websites—but our old site didn't make it easy.

Our new website is built using our wonderful CMS and gives us the great flexibility we need to publish articles, add to our portfolio, work with images, and all the things one needs in a good, flexible website.

We are still putting on the finishing touches and it will probably remain a work in progress for some time. We welcome your comments in the form below.


From the archives, 2005

This was a basic update of the 2004 design with refined layout and a clean-up of the navigation. Font sizes were increased, too! This design has carried us forward until we launched our 2008 site on July 17th.

I'm quite fond of the design but have felt for some time that we are ready for a change as we need to showcase our work and better communicate what we do.


From the archives, 2004

You can see the imagery and logo here which remains much the same to this day. The logo has evolved slightly but with only minor changes in the weight and style of the typeface. We still use these images to this day. This is a classic example of the phenomenon many critics commont on of designers using impossibly small typefaces and shades of grey on gray. Beautiful!


From the archives, 2002

Here's our homepage from 2002. Interesting to see the logo has not changed significantly over the years. Don't you love the combination of lowercase and faux smallcaps with italics (and a bit of motion blur!).

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