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Etherycle sometimes blogs about ways to make you more money!

As web designers, who do we serve?

Clients: Our duty to the client is to help them achieve their business goals. Often our work is a keystone in their sales process, so we must meet (and hopefully exceed) measurable objectives such as "increase sales 25% over 60 days" or "generate more leads." For the client, our goal is to provide a return on their investment.

Users: We have a moral obligation to the users of our sites. We must provide them with websites that are usable, accessible, and engaging. We strive to serve the user with a positive experience. Conversely, we can never do things we know to be an annoyance.

Ourselves: As a team, we have to make things that we're proud to share. The footer credit we place on our work is not an advertisement, it's a signature. We can only sign those projects that we know improve the web.

Pushing back with clients on what we know are bad ideas can result in friction. In a few cases it has even meant losing clients, but that's acceptable if it means we produce the highest possible quality of work.
Every few weeks a prospective client calls our offices and breathlessly explains that they have the next big idea. These grand plans all boil down to "It's X for Y." Some very real examples are:

"It's Facebook but for nightclubs!"
"We're like Charity: Water only more sustainable."
"I want to create StubHub but just for Chicago at first."
"It's a free website to buy & sell cars. Like Craigslist except free."
"I'm building an e-commerce venture that will sell costume jewelry but all pieces will give back to a charity. Like Russell Simmons."

This isn't innovation, and it certainly isn't a sustainable business model. Why should anyone choose these imitations over the original?

I challenge you to rise above these imitations. When you do, we'll be here to help you build it.

The Amlings Cycle Holiday Toy Ride is an annual charity bike ride event that raises toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation. The ride was started in 2003 by local bike shop owner Joe Reichert.

For the ninth anniversary of the Holiday Toy Ride, we created a site that allows participants to register online for the event. Through the use of illustrated elements and a prominent call to action, the Holiday Toy Ride is now much more friendly to new participants than it was in year's past.

Register now.

Is social media right for your business? Maybe not. Consider the following:

Social Media is not free – Just because there are no subscription or setup fees associated with most social media services doesn't mean that they're free. Its cost is your time. What is your time worth? How many hours a day can you dedicate to planning, writing, and maintaining a social media campaign? Will you have to sacrifice serving your customers to make time?

Social Media can be negative – A social media presence that appears abandoned is the digital equivalent of turning your lights off. People assume that because you're not updating, you're going out of business. In reality, the opposite is true. Often times businesses are just too busy to update their social media campaigns.

Social Media can't be measured – How do you determine the efficacy of a social media campaign? What is the return on investment? Is it working at all? Presently there is no reliable metric for ROI in social media.

Social Media is dominated by the few – A study from Yahoo Research showed that half of the most influential tweets came from 0.05% of Twitter's users. The lesson is that Twitter works so long as you're a celebrity. This is in stark contrast to the idea that social media allows anyone to amplify their voice.

It's not that I think you shouldn't use social media. It's that I think you need to determine its value to your business, and prioritize accordingly. For most businesses owners, there are more productive ways to promote themselves than writing status updates.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” 
— Steve Jobs (1993)
Over the weekend we attended, sponsored, and presented at BarCamp Milwaukee 6. It's an unconference hosted by BucketWorks/SchoolFactory. It's a grassroots effort that has more in common with a wiki than a traditional conference.

We are all experts at our own experiences, and BarCamp is about sharing those experiences with others. BarCampMilwaukee6 was free (thanks to sponsors) but you can’t just sit there and absorb, you have to get involved, and take part in the event.

View more photos from the event.

Semantic HTML is a style of writing web pages that emphasizes a page's content over its presentation or style. Rather than use HTML tags to just create a document, we use them to describe the content of the document. By doing so, we create streamlined code that has meaning by itself.

Semantic HTML is important to us for three reasons. It makes updating and maintaining a website more efficient by strictly segregating styling from structure, it improves SEO by clarifying content to search engines, and it improves accessibility for audio browsers and screen readers by simplifying code.

The World Wide Web Consortium, who maintains the open standards used on the the Web, believes that semantic HTML is so important that they have made the use of presentational markup tags illegal in HTML5. In this website, we've taken it a step further and used pseudo-elements to keep our HTML strictly semantic. Go ahead and use your browser's view source to take a peek under the hood at our Process page.
We've set up a machine running the Windows 8 Developer Preview to test Metro widget/app development in preparation for client requests, and working on another machine to test Windows to Go. (This might be a good fit for our longer-term freelance contractors.)

So far, we're most intrigued by the Metro UI and, to a lesser extent, the Control Panel. The whole interface appears to be geared towards tablets/touchscreens and casual users, with great potential.  Even with this simplicity, the underlying architecture is sufficiently full-featured to support applications for power users and professionals. I'd love to see a touchscreen solid modeling solution that uses the UI elements of Metro.

Let's dive right in to our lightning review:

Fast boot/UEFI: Convenient, but no longer as important as they once were. Modern users look for devices that sleep and wake quickly, rather than needing to be shut down. Between smartphones, tablets, and laptops, devices are approaching uptimes on the order of weeks and months.

Windows to Go: This will be a boon to corporate users bringing their work home with them. Far easier than traipsing laptops back and forth just for a platform and some files.

Trident Rendering Engine/Chakra Javascript Engine: Probably responsible for the largest part of the perceived increase in speed. The Metro UI appears to use HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript for the info tiles instead of 3D elements as in Aero. Assuming this is the case, the new OS will run far more smoothly on slower/older hardware without the need of a relatively powerful GPU. On the flip side, Chakra does have access to the GPU, so incredibly complex web applications are feasible, such as high-end browser-based games, image manipulation software, or solid modeling. (These are available today, but don't run very smoothly even on the most powerful hardware.)

Windows Store: Much as I hope Microsoft will be able to pull this off, I don't think they have the kind of culture/direction/vision required to build a successful ecosystem. (See: Apple)

Charms menu: The tablet/touch version, swiped in from the side, makes sense and gives a nice central location to rarely used but necessary functions. The non-touch/PC version, on the other hand, looks like it was tacked on as an afterthought. There's no visual indicator that any kind of menu exists in the corner. I ended up finding out about it via accidental mis-click.

NFC: Neat feature to have, but I don't see the point. More and more phones have NFC, which is far more convenient to pull out at a cash register than a tablet or laptop.

Wi-Fi Direct: Hoping this will work as advertised. I'd love to have a Windows tablet that plays nicely with wi-fi enabled devices anywhere.

Ribbon Interface: The best thing about the ribbon is it can be hidden, and I never have to look at it again. A simple interface existed, worked well, and arguably could have been further simplified for more ease of use. Instead, we have a crufty, overloaded interface cribbed from the productivity suite.

Native ISO support: More and more useful with the slow disappearance of optical drives. Also adds convenience with the rapid increase in available hard drive space: I no longer need to carry my physical media with me, I can just have the images locally stored.

ARM Tablet Support/Swipe gestures: With the dominance of ARM processors in the tablet market, Microsoft has a huge market available. Between this, the Metro UI, engine upgrades, Windows to Go, and SkyDrive, it really feels like Microsoft is trying to make this their primary market rather than PCs.

New Control Panel: Nearly makes up for the Ribbon UI. Very simple and clean, allows access to everything a user could need without being cluttered.

Overall we're very excited by what we've seen in Windows 8. It's one of the most genuinely impressive things to come out of Redmond in years. Let's hope it's the start of a new era for them.
Autumn is an exciting time to be outdoors. The summer heat has passed, but the bitter cold of winter has yet to come. This is especially true for us in the midwest where we really only have two months of great weather.

In an effort to enjoy that weather, we attended Evanston Bike Club's 27th annual North Shore Century, a non-competitive 100mi bike ride from Evanston to Kenosha and back. From 4am to 11am, we worked to provide support to attendees.