Of the many challenges and opportunities facing digital agencies, one of the most pressing currently is how to present content across the huge range of platforms and devices available to today’s consumer, from website to mobile phone, and magazine application to embedded tablet. How do we build in such a way that we create once for all of these mediums? It is the quest of our current age – the essential digital Holy Grail.
To the client these requirements are self-evident, spun out as a few simple words that have as their core image a wonderful conclusion. They are loaded with positivity, a sense of the future and not a small amount of magic – sitting on the development side I wonder at times if it’s akin to approaching Merlin and requesting a “nine-page website, viewable on mobiles, with social media interaction and a nice flipping image thingy”. No doubt Merlin is also grumpier and more problematic than one might initially have imagined.
Back when Internet speeds were slow, you either didn’t use images on your website or you optimised them to the point of a badly taken identity document photograph. With the Internet speeds increasing astronomically since then, the art of image optimisation has become a less known and even lesser practiced skill. So here’s the low-down on what image optimising really is, why you should do it, and how you should go about optimising your images.
There are two major camps for digital graphics: vector (What is a vector? ) and bitmap (What is a bitmap?). However, simply put, vectors are more commonly reserved for digital illustrations (see the image below for a visual referance), and are their own subject. Bitmaps are bit based (as in bits and bytes) where each pixel present in the digital image has a colour value that it remembers. So the more pixels your image has, the more values the image has to remember, and the bigger your file size will be. So there are two options to optimising your digital images: reduce the pixels used, and reduce the information/colour value each pixel holds.
Recently we at bigFIG have begun exploring responsive design techniques as a solution to the constant evolution of viewing mediums for our websites and apps. When we started building interactive magazines four years ago this concept really didn’t exist, and as the tablet space and HTML5 have matured, we’ve watched closely as this philosophy and technique has started to gain a lot of momentum.
WHAT IS RESPONSIVE DESIGN? So, what is responsive design? It most commonly refers to an approach coined by Ethan Marcotte that is used in web design as a technique to make a website adapt its layout to whatever device it is being viewed on. So if you are viewing a website on a desktop or mobile device, the content will reformat itself to be most optimally viewed on that device. Take a look at this website www.dolectures.com. If you play with the width of your browser (assuming you’re reading this on a computer) you’ll notice how the site reformats itself, changing style and dispensing with certain elements to allow for optimal reading at cretins sizes. Also notice how it doesn’t slavishly repeat one layout and it is in fact hard to know what the principle layout is. Whether you read this on a mobile phone, a tablet or desktop computer, your reading experience will be optimized for that medium.
The students are part of a class taught by Ed Madison and I am still quite amazed that they were able to track down our small studio on the southern tip of the Africa, and that we were able to have an engaging Questions-&-Answers session via Skype across a nine-hour time difference – I sitting in Cape Town at 6 o’clock in the evening and the students in their classroom in Oregon, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Pacific Time. What a wonderful privilege and experience it was.
Welcome to the first of a bi-weekly (that means once every two weeks) series of blog posts, aimed at those with a vested interest in Safari interactive magazine and anyone else in the industry who’d like to know more about what we do.
Why take the time to write these posts? Well…
In the world of digital media, things change so quickly that sometimes even I can’t keep up. Like a cheetah chasing its confused and petrified prey, we, the publishers, need to be as supple and movable as possible, changing direction – adapting to our surroundings at every turn.
The bigFIG (digital) and Africa Geographic (print) partnership has thrown down the gauntlet to South Africa’s media and publishing industry: “We will plant more than 2,500 indigenous trees in 2011,” declared bigFIG CEO Simon Espley at a recent tree-planting exercise. “And we will match or better this number in the years going forward.” What is your business doing to mitigate its carbon footprint, was his challenge.
Espley threw down the gauntlet to the South African media industry while the team was digging holes for some 20 trees at the Lady Michaelis Community Health Centre in Plumstead, Cape Town.
Paul Steyn, a member of the bigFIG team and editor of Africa Geographic digimag went on a flying safari around Namibia recently. Upon his return he made this video as a teaser for the full digimag feature scheduled for early 2011.
Digital media production company bigFIG is offsetting its transport emissions by planting trees to rehabilitate Slanghoek Mountain Resort – a farm near Rawsonville in South Africa that has suffered from severe erosion due to past flooding in the area.
Setting out early on Friday 15 October, the bigFIG team travelled together in a bus to Slanghoek Mountain Resort to spend a day on the farm planting trees, enjoying the area and getting to know how it will benefit from the new vegetation.