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Archive for August, 2010

Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

25 Aug


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What do corporate websites have in common with other people’s children? Three things: they have their charm, like finger-paintings on the refrigerator; they can be useful, if infrequently; they are usually admired only by the people who created them.

While designers know that a user’s experience on a website has a large impact on the way that customer will interact with them, impressing that concept on the corporate establishment has taken a very long time. Trends in design are making their way into corporate web, albeit slowly; with patience and a little luck, businesses will soon start to consider carefully coded and appropriately functional design as important as their mission statement and recent sustainability reports.

One unfortunate fact is evident above all else: despite having plenty of money at their disposal, many corporations are lost in sterile MS Word-esque designs that are more stagnant than a museum exhibit… though at least museums have dinosaurs and mummies and stuff. Here’s hoping we all will get new corporate clients soon.

Below, we present some interesting corporate websites, although the insight they offer may not be immediately apparent. This review is not about aesthetics or visual appeal, but rather about the design solutions the sites exhibit. In fact, corporate websites aren’t as visually arresting as you might think, so if the appeal isn’t immediately apparent in the previews below, take a moment to visit and interact with each of them.

[Offtopic: by the way, did you know that we are publishing a Smashing eBook Series? The brand new eBook #3 is Mastering Photoshop For Web Design, written by our Photoshop-expert Thomas Giannattasio.]

Beautiful Corporate Websites

Levi Strauss & Co
With its website, Levis demonstrates that it has not only a strong flair for style and interactivity, but a rich sense of history. Hover over or click the photographs to see some of the company’s defining moments; ever known for its sense of identity, Levis draws you into its past, present and future, excellently breaking through to customers and inviting them to stay.

F Levis in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

McDonald’s
By simplifying and softening the navigation, McDonald’s opens the entire screen up to use as canvas for their product. Harmonious colors in the typography complement the food (and exploit the visual association with hamburgers), while the vivid photography does not obscure surrounding elements.

F Mcdonalds in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Starbucks
Gentle colors and careful hierarchy of elements aside, Starbucks’ strength is in the details. The navigation exhibits an attention to hierarchy not often seen on corporate websites, while offering alternative destination links, should you find yourself in the wrong section. Such consideration for the user would be a welcome trend in design going into 2011.

F Starbucks in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Sony
You’ll see that this is a link to Sony Canada’s website. While the navigation and theme is the same as its American counterpart, the experience here is different: here you can see short films in which people relate their experiences of how Sony technology has enriched their lives. Best of all, a floating meter lets you sort stories into categories, giving you control of the content. Brilliantly executed.

F Sony Ca in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

The Ones You Would Expect

Adidas
Few websites employ a grid design that is at once so rigid and flexible. Individual modules expand and contract to allow for dynamic exploration—a lot of fun, particularly because the website has so many parts to explore. The only thing to note is that images do not obviously reflects the content they open to display, necessitating the standard top-menu — an important point in usability.

F Adidas in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Citroen
While the technique of using tiny images to fill a shape has been done a million ways, Citroen takes an old technique to the next level. Draw your cursor across the world to see the photos dance around it, beckoning you to select a region. An excellent use of a landing page, effectively drawing in users without information inundation.

F Citroen in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Fender Guitars
While you may need to be a guitar player to fully appreciate the beautiful lines and tones of Fender products, you need only a pair of eyes to appreciate the simplicity and functionality of Fender’s website. Unobtrusive navigation at the top and hot links lower down make way for a large stage on which Fender can showcase the stars of its website: its beautiful instruments.

F Fender in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Heinz
One of the most recognizable brands in the world, Heinz has intelligently focused its website on its consumers. Rotate the globe by clicking on photos to see simple recipes from around the world. A design brilliantly suited to users of any skill level, Heinz has found a new means to engage their customers and entice them to visit more.

F Heinz in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Prologue Films
Any company that designs opening credits and effects for movies needs a keen aesthetic sense, and Prologue Films’ visual dynamic is evident on its website. A clean grid with gray tones puts the company’s custom type and effects (an impressive collection) front and center, the same technique made famous by artists and photographers. Using a pop-up window for the content, though, is ill-advised.

F Prologue Films in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Rolex
The beauty of this website is in Rolex’ masterful attention to detail. With the gorgeous products on display, the eye almost misses the clever tricks contained therein, such as the clock face that adjusts to your time zone. The intuitive user experience reinforces the notion that great design blends together. When it works right, it’s seamless.

F Rolex in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Steinway & Sons
Lucky for us, Steinway invests as much effort into its website as it does into its pianos. Elegant type and warm subtle imagery grace this design and project an image of quality, undoubtedly the intended effect.

F Steinway in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

The Ones You Should Have Thought Of

Aflac
While a blue and white palette is nothing new, Aflac has mastered the use of subtle gradients to enhance type. Smartly assembled, this site is intuitive and easily digestible. The clever part is the horizontal scrolling frame, a visual hook aptly used here to display customer testimonials.

F Aflac in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

American Standard
A gorgeous website; American Standard exemplifies grid design, employing the majority of frame as a news scroller. Intelligent use of color, elegant type and thoughtful spacing make this website particularly easy on the eyes.

F American Standard in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Avery Dennison
At first glance, this might look like the website of any old manufacturer of office supplies. At second glance, though, brilliant little touches leap out:: the subtle grid, the attention to readability, the side-scrolling frame that harmonizes type, color and imagery. Oddly dissonant, the side and top navigations make this website looks almost as if it were a composite of different designs over time, a curiosity.

F Avery Dennison in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Con Edison
While the Con Edison website doesn’t have much to look at, the section for the annual report has been capably executed. Great attention to space, clean type and subtle movement are all used to great effect in this section where Con Edison addresses its corporate responsibility.

F Con Edison in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Grow Interactive
Most interactive firms don’t have exciting websites, which makes Grow stand out all the more. Grow demonstrates an expert use of type and illustration, moving your eye in perfect circles over the page, and nuances like the small interactive animals along the footer make it stand out among its peers.

F Grow in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

PGI (formerly Premiere Global)
Here is another rare instance of a Canadian version surpassing its regional siblings. A playful take on the boxed blog/corporate theme, the website for PGI puts an interactive panel into the fold, an attractive way to draw users further into the website. The layout and color elements are evidence of authentic design acumen.

F Pgi in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Rohm and Haas
This Fortune 500 company knows how to engage visitors online, with interactive features coming from every angle. The innovation in its products is reflected in the playfulness of the website, which encourages users to explore. Careful, effective use of otherwise familiar textures and themes support an engaging concept, to good effect.

F Rohm Haas in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Society for Environmental Graphic Design
While the inclusion of an organization of graphic designers in this showcase is no surprise, SEGD shines in its presentation of simple yet powerful elements. As any designer can attest, bold colorful shapes can easily run a design off course, but that isn’t the case here. SEGD has married vivid color with effective usability, creating a website that is smooth and wonderfully user-friendly.

F Segd in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Virb
Recently rebranded and redesigned, Virb demonstrates a capable grasp of visual elements even in this placeholder page: good typography, ample white space, soft shapes and forms — akin more to social media than standard corporate toadery, excellently indicative of the target demographic.

F Virb in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

The Ones You Might Not Know About

Acro Media
A Web development firm that knows exactly when to stick to the grid and when to break boundaries. The most impressive parts of this website are the way certain elements react to hovering, such as the company name in yellow at the top left. Mousing over it flips the logo around to display a toll-free number. Clever.

F Acro Media in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

AgencyNet Interactive
The spirit of AgencyNet is clearly the team of creatives behind its work. Showing the team at work (and play) behind the scenes in the office is refreshing, well executed and a great way to engage viewers to learn about the company.

F Agencynet in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

AmoebaCorp
A small creative firm, AmoebaCorp shows expert use of type on its website. The type establishes a strong hierarchy, enabling the content and navigation to coexist on the left without confusing the user about functionality.

F Amoebacorp in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Imaginary Forces
Less is more with Imaginary Forces, which displays its brilliant work as prominently as possible by cluttering the screen as little as possible. Even without the showcased work, the website would stand out: take away the grand images, and you’d still have a clever arrangement of type and navigation, which is more than can be said of most websites.

F Imaginary Forces in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Kurylowicz & Associates
This Polish architecture firm has produced a website that bleeds inspiration from every pixel. Elegant in its use of gray tones, this website combines line, shape and space in a way no other website does. Perhaps it took an engineer to think abstractly enough to design with such abandon, but the result is brilliance online, from start to finish.

F Kurylowicz Associates in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

Vancouver Convention Centre
Aside from the harmonious colors and subtle grid that frames the content, the Vancouver Convention Centre succeeds by going the extra mile to make its website visitors feel local: the “Cheers!” factor in action. Not many websites impart a sense of belonging with their welcome; that this one does makes a strong case for using heart as a design tool as much as shape, color and texture.

F Vancouver Convention Centre in Corporate Website Design: Creative and Beautiful Solutions

What Have We Learned Today, Bobby?

Finding beautiful corporate websites proved to be quite a challenge, and we had to make a number of unusual choices along the way. We sought regional versions of international websites, for instance, because multi-national companies present a number of differences among their sister websites. Bizarrely, did you know that many Fortune 500 companies don’t even have websites? Or worse, have non-working ones?

Admittedly, the word “corporate” is pretty loose in definition here. For the sake of impartiality, we did not discriminate by industry or field. We were more interested in collecting websites that employ interesting techniques. Because innovative and fresh stand out on the Web whatever the industry, putting aside traditional definitions is crucial.

For further reading on corporate websites and design, you may be interested in Corporate Blog Design: Trends and Examples, published August 2009.

Would you like to see more similar showcases on SM?



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Inception Movie Plot Explained Through Mac OS X’s Folder Hierarchy

24 Aug

Here's a piece of silliness that should definitely put a smile on your face, though we warn you that there are spoilers ahead.

If you've seen Inception, you know the ridiculousness that is idea of a meta dream world. But if you can't seem to wrap that concept around your head, then perhaps this explanation will lay it out for you in laymen's terms. Jonah Ray, host of the Web Soup, posted a nifty graphic in his Tumblr explaining the many levels of Inception's dream hierarchy using Mac OS X folders. It's a pretty clever way to unravel the mystery behind the movie. Check it out for yourself.





Follow this article's author, Florence Ion, on Twitter.

 
 

All ducks are wearing dog masks

23 Aug
All ducks are wearing dog masksI know, right? Mind blown! :)
 
 

Planets Weighed Using Pulsar Flashes

23 Aug

The rotating corpses of massive stars can help scientists weigh the planets in the solar system. By carefully timing radio blips from spinning stellar leftovers called pulsars, astronomers have measured the masses of all the planets from Mercury to Saturn, plus all their moons and rings.

Until now, the only way to figure out the mass of a planet was to send a spacecraft past it. The spacecraft’s orbit is determined by the gravitational oomph of the planet (plus whatever moons lay within the spacecraft’s orbit), which in turn depends on the planet’s mass. The new method is the first to let astronomers weigh planets from the comfort of Earthbound observatories.

“That’s what’s remarkable about this technique,” said space technologist William Folkner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a co-author of a study in the upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. “I can’t think of any other way to measure masses of planets from the Earth.” 

The new method relies on the clock-like regularity of a class of neutron stars called pulsars, the rapidly spinning remains of massive stars that died in supernova explosions. Pulsars shoot tight beams of radio waves into space that sweep across the sky like a lighthouse, so from Earth they appear to blink or pulse.

Because the Earth is always moving around the sun, the time it takes for these radio blips to reach us is always changing. To get rid of this effect, astronomers calculate when the pulse should reach the solar system’s center of mass, or barycenter — the point around which all the mass in the solar system moves. But because the planets’ arrangement around the sun is constantly changing, the barycenter moves around with respect to the sun, too.

To pin down the center of mass at a given time, astronomers use a special table of where all the planets are, called an ephemeris, plus values for the masses of the planets taken from previous space missions. If the masses are slightly wrong, then a regular, repeating pattern of timing errors appears in the pulsar data. For instance, if Jupiter’s mass is a bit off, then an error appears every twelve years, once for every time Jupiter orbits the sun. Correcting the value for Jupiter’s mass makes the error disappear.

“You can see that 12 year wiggle in timing of neutron stars,” Folkner said. “That tells you how far the sun is from the solar system barycenter, which tells you what the mass of Jupiter is.”

An international team of scientists used three different radio telescopes, the 1000-foot-wide Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, the 210-foot Parkes telescope in Australia and the 328-foot Effelsberg telescope in Germany to time the blips from four different pulsars over a period of 5 to 22 years. They then used computer models to use the pulsars’ times to calculate the masses of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The masses the team found are not as accurate as the best measurements from spacecraft flybys, but they’re close. The measurement for Jupiter, for instance, was found to be 0.0009547921 times the mass of the sun. This value is more accurate than the mass determined from the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, and less accurate than, but consistent with, the value from the later Galileo spacecraft, which includes more decimal places.

“Our error bars are larger than those of these spacecraft measurements,” said study co-author Andrea Lommen of Franklin & Marshall College. “We are admitting freely that you should still use the mass of Jupiter measured from the spacecraft, but it’s comforting to know that our measurement agrees with that.”

The new method is also the first that can measure the masses of everything in a planetary system, including moons and rings.

“Spacecraft flybys don’t tell us the mass of everything in the Jupiter system, only the parts inside the spacecraft orbit,” Folkner said. “With this pulsar timing mechanism, we’re sensitive to the entire system, including the moons that are outside the orbit of any spacecraft that have flown by.”

The technique is actually a stepping stone to studying something even more exotic: ripples in space-time called gravitational waves that were predicted by Einstein but have never been observed. The timing of pulsar blips should change slightly whenever a gravitational wave goes by, but in order to see these changes, astronomers have to subtract out all the other noise that could alter the pulsar’s clock.

This study is “a graphic demonstration that you really have to understand the solar system really well if you’re going to be able to confidently detect gravitational radiation,” commented astronomer Scott Tremaine of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who was not involved in the new work. “If they can continue to develop these techniques to the point where they can detect gravitational waves, that will be a dramatically important event.”

Image: The sun, Earth and Jupiter orbit a common center of mass. David Champion, MPIfR

See Also:

Follow us on Twitter @astrolisa and @wiredscience, and on Facebook.

 
 

Planets Weighed Using Pulsar Flashes

23 Aug

The rotating corpses of massive stars can help scientists weigh the planets in the solar system. By carefully timing radio blips from spinning stellar leftovers called pulsars, astronomers have measured the masses of all the planets from Mercury to Saturn, plus all their moons and rings.

Until now, the only way to figure out the mass of a planet was to send a spacecraft past it. The spacecraft’s orbit is determined by the gravitational oomph of the planet (plus whatever moons lay within the spacecraft’s orbit), which in turn depends on the planet’s mass. The new method is the first to let astronomers weigh planets from the comfort of Earthbound observatories.

“That’s what’s remarkable about this technique,” said space technologist William Folkner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a co-author of a study in the upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. “I can’t think of any other way to measure masses of planets from the Earth.” 

The new method relies on the clock-like regularity of a class of neutron stars called pulsars, the rapidly spinning remains of massive stars that died in supernova explosions. Pulsars shoot tight beams of radio waves into space that sweep across the sky like a lighthouse, so from Earth they appear to blink or pulse.

Because the Earth is always moving around the sun, the time it takes for these radio blips to reach us is always changing. To get rid of this effect, astronomers calculate when the pulse should reach the solar system’s center of mass, or barycenter — the point around which all the mass in the solar system moves. But because the planets’ arrangement around the sun is constantly changing, the barycenter moves around with respect to the sun, too.

To pin down the center of mass at a given time, astronomers use a special table of where all the planets are, called an ephemeris, plus values for the masses of the planets taken from previous space missions. If the masses are slightly wrong, then a regular, repeating pattern of timing errors appears in the pulsar data. For instance, if Jupiter’s mass is a bit off, then an error appears every twelve years, once for every time Jupiter orbits the sun. Correcting the value for Jupiter’s mass makes the error disappear.

“You can see that 12 year wiggle in timing of neutron stars,” Folkner said. “That tells you how far the sun is from the solar system barycenter, which tells you what the mass of Jupiter is.”

An international team of scientists used three different radio telescopes, the 1000-foot-wide Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, the 210-foot Parkes telescope in Australia and the 328-foot Effelsberg telescope in Germany to time the blips from four different pulsars over a period of 5 to 22 years. They then used computer models to use the pulsars’ times to calculate the masses of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The masses the team found are not as accurate as the best measurements from spacecraft flybys, but they’re close. The measurement for Jupiter, for instance, was found to be 0.0009547921 times the mass of the sun. This value is more accurate than the mass determined from the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, and less accurate than, but consistent with, the value from the later Galileo spacecraft, which includes more decimal places.

“Our error bars are larger than those of these spacecraft measurements,” said study co-author Andrea Lommen of Franklin & Marshall College. “We are admitting freely that you should still use the mass of Jupiter measured from the spacecraft, but it’s comforting to know that our measurement agrees with that.”

The new method is also the first that can measure the masses of everything in a planetary system, including moons and rings.

“Spacecraft flybys don’t tell us the mass of everything in the Jupiter system, only the parts inside the spacecraft orbit,” Folkner said. “With this pulsar timing mechanism, we’re sensitive to the entire system, including the moons that are outside the orbit of any spacecraft that have flown by.”

The technique is actually a stepping stone to studying something even more exotic: ripples in space-time called gravitational waves that were predicted by Einstein but have never been observed. The timing of pulsar blips should change slightly whenever a gravitational wave goes by, but in order to see these changes, astronomers have to subtract out all the other noise that could alter the pulsar’s clock.

This study is “a graphic demonstration that you really have to understand the solar system really well if you’re going to be able to confidently detect gravitational radiation,” commented astronomer Scott Tremaine of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who was not involved in the new work. “If they can continue to develop these techniques to the point where they can detect gravitational waves, that will be a dramatically important event.”

Image: The sun, Earth and Jupiter orbit a common center of mass. David Champion, MPIfR

See Also:

Follow us on Twitter @astrolisa and @wiredscience, and on Facebook.

 
 

Install a local email SMTP Server with Mercury

23 Aug

Page edited by Ben Shoemate

Step by step instructions to install a local email server.

What it does
At the end of these steps you will have an email server running on your computer. That is an email account that people can send email to and you can check it or send email to other people. It will be running on port 25 which is not secure, but good for development and other tasks (like migrating email).

Why?

  • Test sever to send email in local development
  • Set up local email box to upload old email to Gmail or other cloud based email services

Steps

1) Download the software for windows - http://download-us.pmail.com/m32-472.exe (or go to - http://www.pmail.com/downloads_s3_t.htm and get the one marked - Mercury/32 Mail Transport System for Win32 and NetWare Systems v4.72)

2) Run it

3) Go through the steps of the wizard, here are the screen shots.

4) Launch it - go to start, Program Files, Mercury for Win 32
(you may want to rearrange your windows) go to windows > Tile

5) Configure to route mail sent locally to the web. Your going to use gmail to send mail.

6) Create some user mailboxes: Configuration > Manage Local Users

7) Congrats - you now have an email server running at localhost, on port 25 and an email address [email protected]
8) to test it

 
 

Ron Paul breaks with GOP on New York mosque: The opposition ‘is all about hate and Islamaphobia.’

23 Aug

Ron-Paul2 In strongly-worded statement released today, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a tea party favorite and perennial GOP presidential candidate, strongly condemned his “fellow conservatives” for opposing the proposed Park 51 Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The outcry over the mosque “implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” Paul said, explaining that the rights of minorities must be protected, even when it’s unpopular. Ultimately, Paul argues that the opposition to the mosque “is all about hate and Islamaphobia,” stoked by “neo-conservatives” who “never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars”:

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible. [...]

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty. [...]

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

Paul is the first national Republican leader to break with the party and call out the undercurrents of Islamaphobia in the opposition to the mosque. He is also likely to offend some of his own supporters, as many in the tea party movement have come out in strong opposition to the Park 51 project. (HT: Glenn Greenwald)

 
 

The bizarre limestone spires of Madagascar [Photography]

23 Aug
Photographer Stephen Alvarez has captured the beauty of Madagascar's limestone "tsingy" towers, which house lemurs and vegetation within their crevasses. You can find a full gallery of Alvarez's photos from this unearthly landscape at his site. More »
 
 

Self-dusting solar panels to make life a whole lot easier

22 Aug
Self-dusting solar panels to make life a whole lot easier

It makes perfect sense to build a solar power plant in the middle of the desert - after all, that place gets a whole lot of sun throughout the day (even better if someone could come up with the technology to convert heat into electricity). After all, land is really cheap, but the downside to this would be the insane amounts of dust, dirt and wind which could result in dirty solar panels faster than you can clean them, reducing the efficiency by a pretty large margin. Of course, having someone clean those panels in the sweltering heat is definitely not a job most people would be willing to do, which is why the next best thing would be self-dusting solar panels. These are made possible thanks courtesy of an electric charge that is provided by the solar panels themselves. Who says that space travel to Mars have yielded nothing? Such technology was derived from the self-dusting solar panels used on the rovers which were sent to Mars. It takes just two minutes to remove around 90% of the dust deposited on the panels.

Permalink: Self-dusting solar panels to make life a whole lot easier from Ubergizmo | Hot: iPhone 4 Review, Droid X Review, BlackBerry Torch Review

 
 

Beat It + epic Crazy Chinese Omnipotent China red army

21 Aug

Omnipotent China red army rules the world. epic crazy chinese. Beat It