Colly Logic

Designing For The Web

posted: 02 Feb 2009

Having read the thing cover-to-cover over the weekend, I was just about to write a detailed post about my friend Mark Boulton’s new PDF book A Practical Guide to Designing for the Web (available from today).

Opening my toolbox for @Media

posted: 31 Jan 2009

Its been a truly hectic start to 2009 with myriad complex projects on the go, plus some smashing “in-the-field” activity. In January I presented Writing For The Web at a Business In The Community “comm net” event in London, and in February I’m speaking at both Nottingham Trent University, and again at University of Nottingham. Yes, we have two universities.

Speaking at @Media 2009

The biggy this year for me will be speaking at @Media for a second time. In 2007 I co-presented a witty little manifesto with Drew (there was no fold), but this time around you’ll have me solo for a whole hour as I open my Process Toolbox and twist your melons, man traditional techniques. Its a corker, and hopefully of measurable value to all attendees - that’s the focus anyhow. Others doing ‘turns’ include Budd, Clarke, Hicks, Holzschlag, Rubin and Santa Maria - so in my opinion its a right treat.

This year’s @Media conference acknowledges the current fiscal apocalypse, describing itself as “a highly relevant conference for trying times”. My presentation should fit that bill nicely. Its worth reading the Changes for 2009 statement for more about reduced prices, the single-track and other carefully considered decisions.

Other events

Also, don’t forget that my esteemed colleague Jamie Pittock will be running the Building Beautiful Websites with ExpressionEngine workshop at Future Of Web Design in London on 1st May 2009.

Erskine gang members will also be doing turns at two or three other events throughout the year - plus some notable web and print appearances - and I’ll waffle on about those as each is confirmed.

Yes, I’m almost ‘back’

I’ll also finally get around to redesigning this blog, hopefully write a lot more, and get back into some personal projects this year. Promise.

All in all, I feel there’s a lot for me to be optimistic about after the personal traumas of 2008, and therefore plenty to write about - whether it be work, rest or play. Readers, I think I’m almost back.

Erskine Design v2

posted: 03 Jan 2009

Approximately five minutes before we finished for Christmas and ran to the pub, we launched something we’ve been working on for over five months whenever we could - the new Erskine Design website - lets call it version 2.

None of us will be going into any detail yet about the millions of decisions we made, as we’re saving that for an exclusive article elsewhere in the coming weeks or months. Still, read on for a brief explanation…

The EE 2.0 example site

posted: 03 Jan 2009

In December, the secret was out, and on Christmas Eve Eve our friends at EllisLab published an interview with Greg and myself all about Agile Records.

I was in the pub at the time, having just finished for Christmas, and I have been offline in the real world for 10 days, so apologies for the delayed post. Anyway, the interview should tell you most of what you might want to know. Certainly for us as seasoned EE users this was a unique opportunity - the chance to create the default site/templates that will ship with the eagerly anticipated EE 2.0. The project was completed a few months back, so we’re chuffed to bits to finally be able to let you see a teaser page.

We also launched something else just before we ran to the pub, and I’ll no doubt stick up a quick post about that shortly.

Building Beautiful Websites with EE - a FOWD works

posted: 08 Dec 2008

We’re very excited to announce that our man Jamie Pittock will be leading a fantastic workshop at the third Future Of Web Design in London on May 1st 2009. Its a killer, bringing together our passion for building beautiful websites with ExpressionEngine into the not unsurprisingly titled Building Beautiful Websites with ExpressionEngine half-day workshop. Read on for the details…

Building Beautiful Websites with EE - a FOWD works

posted: 08 Dec 2008

We’re very excited to announce that our man Jamie Pittock will be leading a fantastic workshop at the third Future Of Web Design in London on May 1st 2009. Its a killer, bringing together our passion for building beautiful websites with ExpressionEngine into the not unsurprisingly titled Building Beautiful Websites with ExpressionEngine half-day workshop. Read on for the details…

Why I use Dropbox, and how it enables killer scrap

posted: 03 Dec 2008

I think the chaps in the office think I’m on some sort of commission from Dropbox, so evangelical have I become about it recently. Well, I’m certainly not, nor has anyone asked me to write about it here today. I simply wanted to share with you why it has radically improved my efficiency, helped me manage files across two Macs, and also how I use it for killer “scrapbooking”.

I am not John Cleese

posted: 27 Nov 2008

OK. Lets start this post about my book Beginning CSS Web Development with one of my favourite reviews.

...for a Brit his humor is NOT funny! Collison needs to read “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” if he wants to learn about British humor. In the meantime, just skip it; you’re not John Cleese!

That’s an American there, telling me my British humour isn’t funny. Meh, I don’t care, and everyone else thinks both myself and the book are funny. Anyway, he’s right about one thing. I am not John Cleese.

Now, if you’ve time to spare, come with me now as I embark upon a retrospective look back at the process, aiming as I am to work out whether it was really worth all the bother or not…

Belle & Sebastian, Burgerman, and some other m

posted: 20 Nov 2008

I have to blog about this competition, seeing as it involves a mix CD created by a musician I once booked and purchased tomato soup and mash for; it has artwork by my friend and office pal; its on a website built by someone who taught me all I know, and it is facilitated by a company run by a friend I’ve known for 30 years; some cash goes to a charity researching a disease which hit my family hard this year. No arguments.

Trailer: Erskine and the Great Nottinghamshire Bik

posted: 20 Nov 2008

As “>previously posted, on Sunday 23rd June 2008, four members of the Erskine team completed the Great Notts Bike Ride 50 mile route. Well, some months back we edited some of Greg’s shaky footage into a a rough-around-the-edges horror movie pastiche thingummy. Its not big or clever, but we like it. You might not, but if you’ve 3 minutes to kill, have a peek:

Its not particularly good, and the footage doesn’t really fit Greg’s superb horror graphics, but its a lovely memory of an horrific day. Goes nicely with Greg’s brilliant poster too.

There’s more via the following: Flickr photos and Glen’s blog post.

So far we’ve raised over £1,000 for various charities. Thanks to everyone who coughed up their hard-earned dough. Oh, and music is from I Am Kloot’s first album, because I’ve always loved it, and its spooky.

Tracking another client on the icy wastes

posted: 17 Nov 2008

At Erskine, we’re lucky enough to be working with two incredible polar exploration teams this year. Back in the Summer, our man Ben Saunders hit the Arctic once more, and as I write, the Shackleton Centenary team are in the early stages of their Antarctic expedition, retracing the final stages of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic Nimrod journey.

Last week we plumbed in a bunch of new features tracking the team on their journey. Read on for details…

Tracking another client on the ice

posted: 17 Nov 2008

At Erskine, we’re lucky enough to be working with two incredible polar exploration teams this year. Back in the Summer, our man Ben Saunders hit the Arctic once more, and as I write, the Shackleton Centenary team are in the early stages of their Antarctic expedition, retracing the final stages of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic Nimrod journey.

Last week we plumbed in a bunch of new features tracking the team on their journey. Read on for details…


posted: 14 Nov 2008

You all know that I believe our blogs can be as much for personal reflection as they can be about bloody web design. For me its a cathartic exercise. This post is typical of that.

A couple of months have passed now since my Dad passed away, and (as I was warned by friends) the impact of this is having a greater affect as time moves on. I’ve moved past the initial business-like, pragmatic and stoic few weeks, and am now entering a gradual heightening of anger, upset and confusion that eluded me at the time. This will eventually lead to a more manageable, easier period I hope.

So, I wanted to archive my eulogy from the funeral. The large number of people who showed their support on that day made me very proud, and for those of you that wanted to read the eulogy in your own time or couldn’t be there on the day, well - here it is…

Fleet Foxes, Nottingham

posted: 04 Nov 2008

I haven’t written one of my typical ill-researched and untidy off-the-cuff gig reviews for some time, perhaps because I haven’t really been to many gigs this year. I think my ill-judged attendance at a Verve comeback gig earlier this year put me off. Anyway, the balance has been amply restored thanks to a stunning evening with good friends and Fleet Foxes at Nottingham Trent University (bloody students) last night.

Despite apparent bankruptcy, Iceland can still fly

posted: 18 Oct 2008

Yesterday I found myself sat once again in one of my favourite Reykjavik bars. I sipped a cup of cold Thule, served by an Icelandic lady, half-conversing in my rusty Íslenska. “Kemur þú oft hingað?” I asked. She laughed, politely. I suppose this would all make some kind of sense, were it not for the fact that I was about 30 minutes walk from King’s Cross.

Frith Street Gallery

posted: 10 Oct 2008

Another week, another launch. We got blisters on our fingers. Erskine was asked to redesign and rebuild the website for the renowned Frith Street Gallery, now based just behind Piccadilly Circus in central London. To be quite frank, most top-end gallery sites are rubbish and desperately outdated, so we relished the opportunity to rethink this one. Read on for more…

WallSwaps - an experiment

posted: 02 Oct 2008

We love doing web stuff every day, and we love our clients. However, all too often what we do is bound by rules, criteria and technical specs. So occasionally we (like many of you) need to break free and do something for fun. That is why we created WallSwaps.

Read on for an explanation…

Pens are Jons Friends

posted: 01 Oct 2008

Yes, its time for more pimping of our friend and office amigo Mr. Burgerman. Last week I wrote about the Heroes of Burgertown toys, and this week I am sitting thumbing through my own preview copy of his new 300 page monograph, published by IdN.


posted: 30 Sep 2008

We recently launched a major new website in that London - the ambitious CSR360 Global Partner network - a network of independent organisations that work at the interface of Business and Society to mobilise business for good. Read on for a little more info…

Under the stars & over the moon

posted: 29 Sep 2008

After the traumas of the last few weeks, I’ve been itching to just get away and get out of Nottingham. Its many months since I first suggest that the whole Erskine Design gang go camping, but this weekend we finally got the Defender, the Datsun and, erm… the Peugeot, and set off up North, mob-handed.

Our trip was a blast from start to finish, taking in the spooky ruins and fishy smells of Whitby, the smuggler’s coves and shanty-singers of Robin Hood’s Bay, and the vast moorlands and curious holes of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. This part of the world is stunning all year round, but for our trip to coincide with an incredible sunny and warm blue sky dream of a late-September weekend was something none of us expected (though we all took our shorts just in case).

At no point did we even mention the internet, computers, clients or work, seeing as we’ve actually become friends first, colleagues second. So, we were too busy having real japes. Drinking ale and dodgy cider from plastic containers; cooking steaks on fires and consuming massive stews; doing keepy-ups or batting a ball; playing guitars or singing sea shanties; hunting for crabs in rockpools; walking through enchanted pitch-black woods to find strange pubs, and getting covered in wet dog. That is - as they say - how we roll.

I’ve put aside my need for a good scrub and instead thrown together a Camp Erskine 2008 Flickr set, should you have some time to waste, or are curious to see what these “outdoors” are that I speak of. Alternatively, our Glen has summed the whole thing up from his perspective, removing the need for me to write much more. Good work that man.

All in all, this was a perfect weekend that couldn’t come soon enough for me. It made me a little sad at times, as I spent quite a few family holidays on that wonderful coastline, but with good friends around I didn’t dwell on those thoughts for too long. Now then, back to the grindstone…

Heroes of Burgertown

posted: 24 Sep 2008

Ok, lets put personal crisis (read “cry-seas") to one side and get back to some blogging, beginning with hot news of Heroes of Burgertown from the funny doodly chap who lives in the corner of our office - the man they call Jon Burgerman, because it is his name.

I’m thrilled for Jon, as these little critters have been in design, production and general flux for nearly five years. Some of you will know I’m a misguided fan of such “adult toys” (steady) and I have a fair old collection. No, I don’t know why either. I think its because they’re cute, have interesting backstories, and mainly because I get them as payment for websites rather often.

Anyway, they arrived in the office yesterday and our chum Jon was all giddy and weak-kneed with childlike excitement. Kind of like a proud father of multi-tuplets or whatever. I recall these toys being primed for mass production when I built his site in 2004, so it certainly has been a long period of labour.

They’re exquisitely made by the fine folks over at Kid Robot (about whom I have written before), come with little descriptive cards, foil-packed in nice boxes. You’ll want one, you’ll want them all. Or you may not. We’re all different.

You can adopt them via Jon’s site should you be so taken. I have a suspicion that these will be (as they say) big in Japan.

By the way, soon I’ll blog about the forthcoming enormous book all about Jon’s work over the last few years. Its a weighty tome full of creative idiosyncrasies that really does him proud. I’ve seen a copy (and even get a credit inside - yippee) and its a fine retrospective.

David Stanley Collison

posted: 05 Sep 2008

My Dad. 12th July 1942 - 2nd September 2008. Finally at peace.

Tanks, troops and terror

posted: 03 Aug 2008

Having spent a comfortable Sunday morning reading the newspapers and pondering how best to use my freedom on this wet day, I began to feel compelled to write about the worrying reports coming out of Tibet, a country an “autonomous region” that I have spent many years reading about, hoping to one day visit before its whole identity and heritage is obliterated…

North Pole Speed Record

posted: 03 Aug 2008

A few days ago we launched the North Pole Speed Record site for our intrepid client Ben Saunders. Ben is a record-breaking long-distance skier, with three North Pole expeditions under his belt. He is the youngest to ski solo to the North Pole and holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton.

This latest expedition (supported by Ernst & Young) is an attempt to set a new world speed record from Ward Hunt Island to the Geographic North Pole. The current record was set in 2005 by a guided team using dog sleds and numerous re-supplies in a time of 36 days 22 hours. Ben�s expedition will be solo and unsupported and on foot. This route has only ever been completed once solo and unsupported, by Pen Hadow in 2003. Ben aims to halve his time and complete it in 30 days.

I love the Equipment page (below). Just check out the sheer volume of stuff ben has to drag behind him, including his trusty “spork”, and a gun to ward off polar bears. Gulp.

We worked closely with Ben, his team and the sponsors in a very short time frame to pull this website together and reflect the scope of the expedition and Ben�s personality. We also created bespoke tools to allow him to easily post journal entries from the North Pole on his mobile without exposing himself to frostbite or hammering his batteries.

We’re still waiting on clips from a couple of TV interviews and a few other bits, but to get some other perspective on Ben and his achievements, check out the press page.

Huge credit to our Greg Wood who led the design and development on this project. Greg has written more about his approach here. We’re now counting down the days until our client sends a blog post from the North Pole using the tools we built. That will be pretty special. Ben is off to the South Pole in November too, so hopefully we can collect the set. Next stop, the moon.

The Future of Web Design conference 2008

posted: 03 Aug 2008

This year’s Future Of Web Design (London) was an almost complete success. I’d love to explain at length why talks by Hicks, Budd, Burka and most others were so fantastic (or at least reassuring), but in truth, I’m burned out on a diet of too much alcohol and way too little sleep. I think an impromptu gate-crashing of Pub Standards followed by late bar mayhem with my fellow Erskine alcoholics and assorted geeks is ultimately to blame. Not hungover, just sort of… fermenting. Relieved I didn’t have to do a turn this year.

Most folks I spoke to seemed really upbeat and positive about this year’s event. Anyway, the ever-giving Mr. Keith has wrapped it all up for you via some accurate live-blogging, so I don’t feel the need to write anything particularly insightful today. Time for a bath, then time to sleep in my own bed.

Still, I would like to extend my thanks to all the folks I caught up with again, and all the new folks I met, and those of you who presented me with gifts (wonderful). Apologies to those who I’d forgotten I’d already met! My bad. I failed to respond to Tweets, or introduce people, or even be gracious in conversation at times, but I hope you’ll forgive me. The nurses don’t let me out very often, you see.

Oh, and steer clear of asparagus as a pizza topping. The colour is one thing, but the smell was rather too much at 7am.

Fuel Conference

posted: 03 Aug 2008

Over at Erskine, things are going well and the team is growing. But we’re a restless bunch, itching to realise a few of our crazier ideas and step up to the next level. Aware that hard work and great ideas aren’t necessarily enough on their own, we’re going to the inaugural Fuel Conference in London on Friday 13th June, in search of some inspiration…

The best cover versions ever made?

posted: 03 Aug 2008

Partly because some friends and I were discussing classic cover versions in the pub, but mostly because (as regular readers will be aware) I love making music lists, I decided to finish a list I started ages ago.

In no particular order, I present what I think are the best cover versions ever made. To prove I am not a music snob, I have even included (gasp!) Pet Shop Boys and Sinead O’Connor in there. Feel free to shout at me or do the classic ”Hey you missed out X” if you so desire, as though you and I have the same taste. Lets argue!

Updated: I’ve linked to any appropriate versions that exist on YouTube. Newer live or inferior versions of the covers I love have not been linked - and if anyone can find The Fall or The Wedding Present you win a biscuit.

Apologies for the interruption in service

posted: 03 Aug 2008

We’re back. Well, I’m back. Actually, I never went anywhere, but my blog (which was for some time a broken EE version 1.4.2 that couldn’t be upgraded) curled up and died - a desperately broken database leaving me unable to post any new items. Grrr. Nearly three weeks later (it not being a priority), there be air in the lungs once more.

So, what next? Well, now that Mr. Swinbrook has fixed it all for me and shunted 1.4.2 data into a fresh 1.6.3 build, I’m up for it again. I’m already working on three different ideas for the redesign I’ve been promising for 18 months, and there’s a mammoth amount of vaguely interesting news to impart across the Summer. I’ll also be ditching my personal Media Temple server soon (seeing as it is shite) and hosting all my personal sites within Erskine. About time too.

Things will still be a bit broken in some places, so approach this site like you would a scared and wounded puppy. I’m working on it (really slowly).

An industry defined by accountability and technol

posted: 03 Aug 2008

Broad discussion about our industry is a tinderbox that I like to keep my burning roll-up well away from these days. The problem is, I bottle my thoughts up for so long that during weeks like this I just burst.

Whilst regular readers will appreciate my good intention, others may not. Well, that’s a risk I take by speaking my mind. If, as I am, you’re getting somewhat fatigued by the weight of over-analysis and opinion out there, and want to protect your own ways of doing things, you might be with me.

If you are in any way interested in web design process, standards, guidelines, the “right” tools for the job, and the role the tone of our writing plays in shaping the direction of what we do, then please read on. Whatever your view, this is a debate I’m happy to have…

Readers, I want your money!

posted: 03 Aug 2008

On Sunday 22nd June, myself and the other Erskine chaps will be taking part in this year’s Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride to help raise money for several charities. We’re doing 50 miles!

I’ve decided that we should each try and out-do each other, so I’m hoping to raise the most money and be the hero.

I hate asking you for money, but please, think of the children! If you’re a kind soul, please visit my Just Giving page for simple and unavoidably easy methods of sponsoring me and helping me hit my frankly unrealistic target figure.

Doing our bit for charity

posted: 03 Aug 2008

Yesterday, four members of the Erskine team (Phil, Greg, Glen and old man Colly) completed the Great Notts Bike Ride 50 mile route; cycling from Holme Pierrepont to Newark, then back to Nottingham into brutal and constant 30 mph headwinds that nearly killed us.

So far we’ve raised over £1,000 for various charities. Our pain is captured in the GNBR Flickr set.

Huuuuge thanks to those of you that dug deep into your credit-crunched pockets and sponsored us. You are wonderful people.

If you suddenly find twenty quid down the back of the sofa, you can still put it to good use as donations can be accepted until 22nd September over at the Just Giving page.

My body hurts far too much for me to write any detail about it really, but thankfully Glen has summed things up perfectly.

Twenty posts in one

posted: 28 Jul 2008

This is at least twenty long posts all rolled into one handy list, so be grateful for small mercies. Its basically an excuse to list the books, TV, bands, experiences and stuff that I have in some way absorbed over the last two months or so.

I have been mostly going insane through insomnia because my old friends next door have let their house to a young family who have the mardiest baby in the world. Its been crying for approximately seven weeks non-stop now - all day and all night and its really screwing with my head. Sanity comes for me by playing (at full volume) Cry Baby Cry by The Beatles, or Stop Your Crying by Spiritualized, although the subtlety of these songs is lost on the Dido fans next door, so they usually end up receiving some Rage Against The Machine, obscure Icelandic punk, or even Gobsausage - at full volume.

Anyway, when I have been sane of mind, and/or not lost in the myriad whirlwind that is a very, very busy and thriving Erskine Design (more on that later), I have mostly been doing the following: