MA DIM Dissertation (1995): Web Commercialisation

I recently retrieved my old dissertations from MA Design for Interactive Media course back in 1995… This one discusses the likely commercialisation of the then-nascent Web – perhaps worth pointing out that this was when the latest cutting-edge browser was Netscape 1.1, Google and Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash didn’t yet exist, and the concept of ‘Social Media’ was still a decade away… The ‘SellNet Project’ referred to was a piece of interactive multimedia that I and two colleagues (Lee Woodard and Iain Jones) developed for our final MA project. It probably still exists somewhere, but whether it would run on today’s computers is another matter – it was built in Macromedia Director (version 3 as I recall) and at a time when anything above an 800×600 screen, 256 colours and half-a-meg or so of RAM was sheer luxury… ;-)

Looking back, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much now seems so prescient (notwithstanding a few moments of naivety!). Fascinating (for me) to re-read it after all these years. I hope you may find the same.

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So Why The Long Silence?

Um, hate to admit it but… I forgot I had this blog. Oops. Suppose I’d better do something about the look and feel then. Maybe. If I get round to it. Oh well. Hope you find my musings from back in 2004/5 interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0. Oh dear.

Yet another buzzword being prepped for the hype machine. As Jack Schofield says in today’s Guardian, this could be the beginning of Bubble 2.0. Not often I find myself agreeing with him, but I did this time.

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Life & Death & Stuff

I watched ITV’s two part “Walk Away And I Stumble” last night and the night before. Perhaps not the best of dramas (though not bad), but I found it thought-provoking. Got me thinking about what I’d do if I only had a few months left.

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Freelance Pay

For what it’s worth, here’s my 2p for some rules of thumb for working out how much web freelancers should be charging…

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On Usability

Is it just me who thinks all this hype around usability is totally overblown? Not that usability isn’t important – it’s essential – but it should be a fundamental part of the design process, not some bolt-on that requires specialist external consultants. We shouldn’t be needing to draw attention to it – it should go without saying. Shame that’s not the case.

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Waiting For My New Phone

I’ve had an Orange SPV M2000 on order now for several weeks. Theoretically it will arrive on Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, ever since I requested my PAC code from Vodaphone so I could keep my existing mobile number when I switch to Orange, my reception has been, well, intermittent would be to put it politely.

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Setting Up A Home Studio

I’m in the process of turning my home office into a basic recording studio. I write songs in my spare time and decided it was about time I recorded them. Back in my university days I played in bands, had a great time and would have quite happily made that my career, but something called interactive media came along and distracted me. I really ought to get a band together, just for fun, but in the meantime I reckon there’s not much point in writing stuff if no-one gets to hear it, hence the home studio.

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In The Footsteps of A-V

This article was published in InternetWorks magazine back in January 2002. I wrote it after having had some tangential involvement with the A-V industry, and noticed some similarities between its then-history, and new media’s then-present (time, eh, isn’t it great?).

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Planning For Survival – Plan For Value

This article is from 2001, post dot-com crash, when things were all looking a bit pear-shaped. For the better as it turned out – looking back, I think perhaps that period marked the beginning of the industry ‘getting serious’. Although then again, I still see some of the same old mistakes still being made, even now…

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Buying Time in a Digital Market

This article dates from March 1999. I guess we still haven’t really cracked micro-transactions, and the closing comment on set-top-boxes now seems rather naive, but I still maintain that the central tenet – that people don’t pay for content but rather for time and convenience – remains valid.

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Job Titles Are Meaningless in New Media

This article dates from June 1999, six months after I left my previous company to go it alone. Hence I had recently experienced first-hand the problems of trying to identify an appropriate title to describe accurately what I did. I became particularly aware of how little consensus there was in the industry about who did what, and what they should be called. This is still much the case today in 2005, and the concluding point of the article – that we should focus on the role and not the title – remains valid.

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New Media Design Is Industrial Design

I wrote this article in February 1999, at least in part out of frustration at a seemingly widespread lack of understanding of what interactive media was all about. Web sites in particular, it seemed, were being created either by programmers or by graphic designers – and never the twain shall meet. People who genuinely understood the medium were in short supply, and everyone else, it seemed, was desperately trying to adapt ‘traditional media’ thinking and skills to this new form – and frequently failing.

Looking back, I think much of my frustration came from the (inevitably) slow pace of progress in this respect – which may be ironic for a medium that was moving so quickly; or perhaps it was a direct result of this pace. Some of us understood the medium, saw the opportunity and wanted to get on with it – but often we had to wait while others caught up.

Re-reading this article now, six years later, I’m struck by how much of it still seems relevant today…

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What’s My 2005?

Some random predictions for 2005…


1. WiFi (free public access – taking off big time here in Brighton, not sure about elsewhere – does Starbucks et al still charge? Can’t see that lasting long), VoIP (goes mainstream), properly integrated mobile comms (anyone got one of the new Orange SPV M2000s? Do they live up to their promise? Still waiting for mine – they sent it to the wrong address last week…), cost of phone calls (local, national, international) plummets, ultimately becomes free (OK that might take a few more years yet, but it seems a logical conclusion of current trends).

2. CSS-based design (driven initially by all the hype around accesibility, but ultimately for pure economic reasons; goodbye tables-driven layout, hello semantic markup, progressive enhancement, graceful degradation etc.).

3. China. I had thought it would take another few years before the media picked up on the opportunity but it seems now you can’t pick up a business section without some mention of it. So much for my ten year plan to learn Mandarin… guess I’d better study harder ;-)


1. BT. Really should be Railtracked after their miserable excuse for customer service (BT Openwound especially) but I don’t suppose it’ll ever happen. Maybe they’ll get shafted one way or another. One can but live in hope ;-)

2. 3G. Maybe the TelCo’s should just give up and write off the £30 billion?

3. The United States of America. The beginning of the American Empire? Or the beginning of end of the empire? Either way… On which subject – a few years ago I expected China to become the #1 economic superpower in about 50 – 100 years, with Europe temporarily holding that position in about 20 – 30; now I think China might get there within 10 or 20…

Dangerous things, predictions, of course… ;-)

Putting the Brakes on Web Design

I wrote this article back in March 1999, when Web-on-TV devices were all the rage. It was largely a response to the tendency of web designers to concentrate too much on visual aesthetics, all too often at the expense of content, usability or robustness. My hope was that the emergence of Web-on-TV devices, and the associated contstaints of TV-based display would encourage designers to re-think their approach and develop more streamlined, fit-for-purpose pages.

Sadly that didn’t seem to work out, perhaps not least because Web-on-TV never really took off (though it may be making a partial resurgence as Interactive TV gains momentum). Even now in 2004 the web still suffers many of the same problems. There is hope, though – I sense that we are indeed moving towards the simpler, more text-oriented, sites envisaged in this article; only this time, the driving force is accessibility and standards compliance.

The article was published in New Media Age magazine.

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