Better than adblocking

add-ons, Browsers, Design & Usability, Firefox, Mozilla, Web, Web - the Industry, Work 3 Comments

Just jumping on the adblocking yea/nay blogging train: I don’t block ads. I could but I don’t bother. Most of the time they don’t bother me unless I’m trying to read a long article, at which point I use Readability, which is infinitely better than an adblocker for that situation.

Before Readability

After Readability

Note: Readability runs fine on Minefield if you use Nightly Tester Tools to force-install. There’s also a bookmarklet version if you don’t want to install an add-on.

Why I love Readability, with screenshots

add-ons, Design & Usability, Firefox, Innovation, Productivity, Reading, Web, Work 5 Comments

Readability is a Firefox add-on that improves the experience of reading long articles in your browser by getting all the extraneous cruft out of the way. I use it every single day and love it to bits.

Here, for example, is a screenshot of what a typical Harvard Business Review article looks like in Firefox (Persona: Save the Bees Plz by monorail cat):

Old Crufty

With the Readability add-on installed, all I have to do is hit a quick keyboard shortcut (alt-cmd-R) and the page will reload and be reformatted by Readability. It looks like this:

New Clean

It’s just so, so much better. arc90, you have made a great thing. Thanks :)


Books, Computers, Design & Usability, eBooks, iPad, Reading, Technology 3 Comments


So as pretty much everyone in the world knows, Apple announced the iPad yesterday. Unlike apparently everyone else, I actually don’t have a problem with the name. Legal pad, note pad, hockey pad, bachelor pad, launch pad…etc. etc. etc. Come on.

Anyhoo…while I’m crazily excited about the iPad (and I will be ordering one the second Apple lets me send them money), I don’t think it will be a Kindle killer for me. It could be for a lot of people, but the way I use my Kindle doesn’t really lend itself to immediate replacement by the iPad. It’s too big, for one, and too heavy. And the Kindle’s buttons are ideal — I often read my Kindle lying on my side (on the sofa or in bed) and the buttons are great. The iPad’s swipe-to-turn-the-page thing is just not going to work for that. As others have said, the LCD screen is a double-edged sword…while I desperately wish e-ink were more contrasty, I’m not sure I could spend more time staring at an LCD screen than I already do. I’m on my laptop or iMac 10-14 hours a day as it is — I use books and my Kindle as a way to rest my eyes, and the iPad won’t work for that either.

I also like that the Kindle is a single-purpose device. Like John, I’m able to read longer and more complex works on my Kindle than on my laptop, with a much better ability to focus. Reading on my laptop, I fall into the trap of responding to IM pings or just flipping over to check a quick email or jot down a note or quickly glance at my Twitterstream, at which point I get lost in the other distractions. The Kindle, on the other hand, is just for reading, a step away from the hurly burly of the internets and all the shenanigans therein. The iPad seems like it will split the difference — other apps will be available, but without background applications there won’t be IM pings and whatnot. I’m not sure what that will turn out to be like in practice.

We will see. I am going to get an iPad, and I am going to try reading some books on it. I’m very much hoping that Apple continues to allow Amazon to have their Kindle app on the iPhone and iPad because at that point they’ll have to compete on the price of content, and less expensive ebooks are something I’m Very Interested In. Once I’ve had a chance to do an actual comparison of both as an eReader device, I’ll post a review.

Honestly, this is all jetpacks and flying cars, anyhow. I like living in the future.

Interesting blog

Design & Usability, Essays, General, Innovation No Comments

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of the Design Observer archives all day, and expect to continue doing so for quite a while. Good stuff.

Cool source for Web Designs (or just inspiration)

Design & Usability, Web Development No Comments

I’ve stumbled across the site a few times in the past, but I just checked it again and was floored by some of the designs people are making freely available. Check it out:

Open Web Design

There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be using a design from OWD to create a new WordPress theme here.


Design & Usability, Web Development No Comments

If you’re looking for colour inspiration for your latest website design, look no further than ColorBlender. This tool mixes and matches a set of six colors based off a main color that you adjust with some very slick Red-Green-Blue color sliders. For the seriously inspiration-impaired, there’s the “Load a random blend” link. It also provides Pantone colour matching, and auto-generated Photoshop and Illustrator palettes. Extremely useful. Below are three palettes I generated in about 15 mins:

Colour Palette Generation

Design & Usability, Web Development No Comments

If you’re working on a new design and are stuck for colour inspiration, this short post has a great hint: Pixelate a favourite photograph.

The basic concept is that a photograph, being a natural juxtaposition of colours and shades, will render up colours that naturally complement or contrast with each other without looking garish. I gave it a try to see what it would produce.

1) Find a photograph. This part’s easy.

2) In Photoshop, go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic, and adjust so the mosaic squares are pretty large in relation to the photograph.

And that’s basically it. Once you have the pixellated photo, just pick and choose a set of 5-6 colours from it and lo, you have a palette. The following three palettes are all obtained from this experiment: the first is a set of unaltered colours from the photo, the second has had its value and saturation adjusted slightly, and the third is a result of playing with the “Hue” slider in the “Hue/Saturation” adjustments dialog.

Here are a few more quick examples I just cooked up, unadjusted from the original:

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