The designer’s toolbox with Tyson Evans and David Wright

The designer’s toolbox: Post-Adobe, post-Apocalypse

It should have been called Really useful, open-source tools for designing for content on the web that you need to go look at now. Seriously. Go.

Don’t hold the mis-naming of their session against them because they do a lot of other things extremely well – namely their jobs. Evans is the Interface Engineer at The New York Times and Wright is the Interactive Graphic Designer at NPR.

Evans and Wright presented their session at SND Denver on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

The prominence of sessions that are dedicated to teaching free tools for communication is a testament to the resourcefulness of news designers. The vast number of these tools that are open-source and free shows the evolution of the willingness of developers to collaborate to improve the way these tools operate. This is a relatively new and promising pathway of communication.

Exploring the concept of designers and developers sharing is logical and exciting.
In rapid-fire succession, the two showcased resources (in complete form in The designer’s toolbox) for everything in an online newsroom from conceptualization to finished project.

Unfortunately, “there’s no golden piece of software that helps you get from the beginning to the web,” said Evans. If that did exist, it would probably look something like this wish-list, A Real Web Design Application (including a wealth of comments weighing in on the subject).

Then Wright mentioned a concept that is often forgotten when a designer is caught up in front of a computer screen:

Look at what people are seeking and let that influence your own design.

“Look at most tech-savvy readers,” he said, “because what they want is to read a story the way it looks in Google Reader.”

Some readers are doing this using readability.com, which with the click of a button immediately transforms a web page into a clean, open, white space of increased readability.

The problem, Wright said, is that content heavy pages on the web “lack experimentation and innovation – there’s lots of copycatting and kind of a lack of editing in some way.” There is an excess of “internet lawn ornaments” because there is not a responsible party to art direct a page, he added. The social media people want their corner, the ad people want there’s and everyone has their own agenda.

The solution to these cluttered pages, Evans and Wright said, is in the importance of the maturity of new tools giving us the ability to have more time to look at a page as a whole.

“There’s a hug proliferation of tools out there now; it’s an exiting time to see solutions being formed to for new problems we encounter,” said Wright.

Highlights of the Toolbox

subtraction.com – an article with smart comments relating to detail nerds versus process nerds; you must be both

MAMP – a self-contained application that manages your website locally; you can install several instances of it for different projects

Chartbeat.com – from a small startup in NY, see who is looking at your site right now; updates every second

Alistapart.com – “for people who make websites”; technical code accessibility, usability tips and tricks

littlsnapper.com – screenshots with iPhoto-like organization; you can email, save, share, annotate or color, it’s all nondestructive

patternry.com – for inspiration or problemsolving; collects user interfaces

skitch.com – screengrab and share

dribbble.com – inspiration; a creative showcase of webdesign and typestuff often in progress