News WordPress

Anny gets shortlisted for the Best Job in the World proving the power of social media

In preparation for WordCamp Whistler 09 I threw together a website for my sister-in-law Anny Chih to support her application for the Best Job in the World. Today she found out her application is one of the 50 shortlisted from close to 35,000 videos submitted. Of course this is mostly due to the video Angela and I made for her but it also shows that a sound social media strategy will pay off in the long run.

When we made the website we had three main goals in mind:

  1. Strong search engine presence (a.k.a. SEO a.k.a. Search Engine Optimization)
  2. Striking appearance – no matter what people say, having a website that looks good increases the chances of people actually visiting and reading what’s on it
  3. Harness the power of social media

Search Engine Optimization is Snake Oil – Just use WordPress and you’re good to go!

The first point was a simple one. As I’ve said before and will repeat here, using WordPress as the base for your site pretty much guarantees good and relevant SEO right out of the box. And when coupled with the All-In-One SEO Pack plugin it is a veritable SEO powerhouse. The goal was to get the site to the top of Google searches for “best job in the world” and “vancouver” and that was achieved with minimal effort. I have to stress here that we did not do any SEO tricks or link pimping or anything along those lines: The site ranking is solely based on good coding and well written copy.

Design with the target audience in mind and people will flock to your site

The second point is always where people get stuck. And I’m no exception. But fortunately for me Anny had a very specific look in mind and with that and some of her sketches as a base it wasn’t all that hard to come up with an overall look. You can read more about the design process in this earlier post. What’s important to note here is that the entire site design was built around quick load times, semantic code and easy editability. It was built on the Typograph core and uses clean text for all its functions. I also spent a lot of time organizing the layout in such a way that it would be easy to understand and navigate for the visitors. At the end I was so happy with the overall design that I used the root of it to design my newest project

Twitter – when used correctly – can be a powerful tool

The third and final point was my first real experiment with social media. I added a Twitter box to my sidebar a while ago and it has generated both interest and a lot of followers but I never really sat down and tried to use Twitter actively to gather interest for anything (basically because I never had anything I wanted to gather interest for). With the creation of Anny and I discussed ways to build interest for her site and her application and Twitter seemed an obvious addition. So with her handle @AnnyChih she started Tweeting actively, at first by mooching off my followers and then quickly expanding to other IslandReefJob applicants and so on and so forth. And in a week or so without any deliberate campaign to build numbers she had gained a high number of followers that were actually interested in what she had to say.

In addition Anny went beyond Twitter to interact with other applicants on sites dedicated to the job search and was able to build quite a following there as well. The trick on both Twitter, in forums and in blog comments was to present a mix of funny commentary, helpful advice and information. And by providing more than just blatant self promotion and random noise she built a solid following over just a few weeks.

Just how solid didn’t really become apparent to us until the news broke earlier today that she had been shortlisted. In a matter of minutes she was getting Tweets and comments of support from all over the place and TV and radio stations were calling her for interviews. In short order she was featured on CBCs The National, Virgin Radio’s The Rush, ABC Brisbane’s All-Day Breakfast and the Afternoon Buzz on Talk 1410AM largely because the Twitter community was able to get the word out.

So what should you get out of this long self-congratulating piece? That WordPress is a great place to start if you want your site to not only work but to get noticed, that by spending some time considering your target audience and designing your sites around them you can build a larger audience and that social media, when used correctly, can greatly enhance your brand and your reach.

Now go vote!

Finally I’d just like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Anny and ask instruct everyone to vote now and vote often (you can vote once per day from as many email addresses as you can get a hold of).


Apple Tax is renamed Apple System Access Fee

Ever since Microsoft introduced the term, “Apple Tax” has referred to the premium cost of buying an Apple computer as opposed to a “regular” same spec PC. The problem is that the word “tax” implies that the extra money is paid into a pool that benefits everyone. But in the case of Apple, the extra money paid goes straight in the pockets of good old Steve and the other share holders. In other words, the term “Apple Tax” is misleading. We need a new and better term to fit the definition. Once again Morten’s Encyclopedia of Proper Definitions comes to the rescue:

Apple System Access Fee (formerly “Apple Tax”): The added cost of buying an Apple computer (Mac) that is not reflected in increased performance or usability but solely in the brand. The term “system access fee” stems from a fee charged by Canadian cell phone carriers that does not relate to any real cost for the carrier but is designed to bleed the users dry. Similar terms include “Sony Manufacturing Fee” and “Bang & Olufsen Style Fee”.


2008 Weblog Awards Finalist

Design is Philosophy is among the finalists in the Best Blog Design category of the 2008 Weblog Awards. It is an honour to be mentioned among great blogs like such as Verlee’s, Rin-Wendy and OurWorld 2.0 and I wish all the contestants the very best of luck.

Voting begins on Monday and is only open for 5 days so vote early and vote often! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to vote in the other categories as well.

Expression Web Microsoft Expression News

Get Microsoft Expression Products 50% off for the Holidays!

Just before the Holidays this dropped into my inbox. It’s a great deal made even better by the fact that the Microsoft Expression line is already competitively priced. Add to that the great review Expression Web 2 got form and you have the perfect last-minute or belated gift for yourself or the web designer / developer in your life:

For a limited time (exact timeframe is TBD), there is a 50% off discount on Microsoft Expression Studio, Expression Blend and Expression Web through the new Microsoft Online Store. *This is US Only*

Events News WordPress as CMS

WordCamp Whistler Pitch: Moving Beyond the Blog – Building Web Sites with WordPress as the CMS

WordCamp is coming to the wonderful winter wonderland of Whistler on January 24th, 2009 and I’d like to throw my name in the hat of presenters and share some of what I’ve learned working with everyone’s favourite blogging platform WordPress as a full fledged CMS. Now I’m not part of what is considered the Vancouver blogging community and most of these people don’t know who I am or what I do so I figure instead of just sending the pitch off to the great unknown I’ll share it with the good readers of this blog for comments, questions and suggestions.

Session title: Moving Beyond the Blog – Building Web Sites with WordPress as the CMS

Alternate title: This is not a blog! Harnessing the Power of WordPress for Non-blog Websites

Alternate alternate title: Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle: WordPress is More than Reverse Chronological Posts

Session length: 30 minutes to 1 hour (1 hour preferred)

The Pitch:

It is well established that WordPress is a great blogging platform. But the capabilities of the application go way beyond merely outputting posts or articles in a reversed chronological order: WordPress is in fact a full fledged Content Management System (CMS) that beyond blogging can serve as the basis for pretty much any type of web site imaginable.

By understanding the anatomy of WordPress and how the different pieces go together and interact with each other you can create some truely spectacular sites that look nothing like the classic two-column blogs but still retain all the functionality, ease of use and SEO power that makes the application so popular.

The session will start off with a crash course in WordPress anatomy and how to quickly move beyond the standard templates through some simple theme hacks and CSS. Using the WordPress based sites for Sablok & Sablok and Bellevue Gallery (work in progress) as examples I will demonstrate how to use pages, posts and categories to create strong and functional taxonomies that make for easy navigation as well as management. The session will go on to cover how to use custom templates, conditional custom fields and template tags to create pretty much any layout you can imagine. And to wrap it all up; a brief discussion of why using WordPress as a CMS for “regular” web sites gives the site owner and end user a huge advantage over regular sites and how businesses can increase their web presence and findability by adding a news page or blog to their site and share some of their know-how with the public – for free.

So who is this Morten dude anyway?

I’ve been designing web sites for close to 10 years now but over the last two years WordPress has become the most imporatnt tool in my web design arsenal. In fact it is now the foundation upon which 80% of my business is built. I’ve learnt most of what I know about the application by reading and listening to the thoughts of others and experimenting with the code and now it’s time I give some of that aquired knowledge back. My blog Design is Philosophy features a series of tutorials and articles on how to customize WordPress to make it do what you want and I’m in the process of developing a free “God Theme” for WordPress that will give the user access to pretty much everything they need to create web sites using WordPress as the CMS.


Design is Philosophy featured at Webdesigner Depot


A big thanks to the people at Webdesigner Depot for featuring Design is Philosophy in their list of 100 Websites With Outstanding Artistic Design. The props are much appreciated.Take a trip over to the site and check out the other great and unusual designs featured.

The one site missing on the list by the way is Webdesigner Depot itself!

Browsers News

Internet Explorer Alert – Critical Product Vulnerability

This just dumped into my inbox. Since so many people use Internet Explorer 6 or 7 and it talks about a very bad security issue I thought it important enough to warrant a repost (for the full details visit

Basically the bulletin says that if you have automatic updates turned on, your computer will be updated shortly. This may mean your computer will reboot itself. By the way, if you don’t have auto updates turned on, do so right now. It’s not safe otherwise (that goes for Mac users too btw).

Executive Summary

This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights. The security update addresses the vulnerability by modifying the way Internet Explorer validates data binding parameters and handles the error resulting in the exploitable condition.
This security update also addresses the vulnerability first described in Microsoft Security Advisory 961051.


Microsoft recommends customers prepare their systems and networks to apply this security update immediately, to help ensure that their computers are protected from attempted criminal attacks. Please visit to apply the security update.


Microsoft will host two Webcasts to address customer questions on this Out-of-Band bulletin:

Title: Information About Microsoft December Out-of-Band Security Bulletin
Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 1:00 P.M. Pacific Time (U.S. & Canada)

Title: Information About Microsoft December Out-of-Band Security Bulletin #2
Date: Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:00 A.M. Pacific Time (U.S. & Canada)

To remain informed about security threats and solutions, please subscribe to the Microsoft Security News Letter

News WordPress Themes

Typograph for WordPress 2.7 Coltrane released

With the release of WordPress 2.7 Coltrane came the introduction of a new template tag called post_class(). Interestingly I have been using a custom template tag by that exact name for a long time in my themes including the free Typograph. That means when users of Typograph upgrade to WordPress 2.7 Coltrane a conflict occurs between the WordPress functions.php file and the Typograph functions.php file because both define the same template tag.

To solve this issue I have released a new version of the Typograph theme customized for WordPress 2.7 Coltrane. It has been submitted to the WordPress Theme Directory pending approval. In the meantime you can download it directly from my server:

Download Typograph for WP 2.7

News WordPress

WordPress 2.7 up and running

I just updated this site to WordPress 2.7, aka “Coltrane”. Turns out there are some rather interesting template tag changes that have caused some weird problems with my theme. I did a quick cleanup to get things sorted out but I’m pretty sure there’s more work to be done to comply with the new world order. So if you come across something that looks off on this site, please drop me a line so I can fix it.


Best of 604 Nominations

Design is Philosophy has been nominated in three categories for the Best of 604 Awards. I don’t know who nominated the blog but it is much appreciated to be placed in such esteemed company.

This blog has been nominated in three categories:

Best Tech Site or Blog

Best New Blog (2008)

Best Company of Business Blog

So now it’s your turn: If you like what I do, click on the links, vote for Design is Philosophy and share the news with all your friends so that this blog ends up on to.

And while you’re at it, put in a vote for Dabbler under the Audio/Video Blog or Podcast category and The Style Spy under the Best Style/Fashion Site or Blog category.

Finally, a big thanks to Miss604 for mounting this effort. Vancouver has a great blogging community and it’s time it was celebrated properly.

My Book News

My book is featured in the Canadian User Experience Blog

One of the people responsible for my company switching to Microsoft Expression as our main web publishing platform is Qixing Zheng – a UX (User Experience) Advisor for Microsoft Canada. Qixing and her colleague Paul Laberge have been instrumental in both our transition to this new platform and also in getting me to the point where I was able to publish a book about Expression Web 2.

Today Qixing published a short article on the Canadian User Experience Blog about the book as well as my recent article in the Expression Newsletter. So here is a link back to the blog, a great place to get info, tips and tutorials on Microsoft and their products, customized for Canucks, “straight from the source” so to speak.

CSS Expression Web News

Pure CSS Drop-Down Menu tutorial – a slight omission

I just got a comment from a reader of my recent Expression Newsletter article The No-Code Way to a Pure CSS Horizontal Drop-Down Menu with Expression Web. He was having trouble getting the grey boxes to “fill out” properly which left the menu looking weird.

A quick review of his CSS told me the problem was he didn’t have the display property set to block. A slight omission for sure but I was more focused on where it originated. A quick read of the paragraph in the article showed me that somewhere in the editing (probably during my rigorous clean-up) this small but important piece of code was ommitted. Which means if people follow the tutorial step by step they’ll run into the same problem.

I’ve already informed the newsletter team of the issue and hopefully they’ll fix it presently. In the meantime, if you’ve run into this problem and you found your way to this blog, here is the full paragraph and the resulting code:

5th paragraph under the heading “Style the links”:

To set the height of the link go to the Block category and set the line-height attribute to 30px to match the height of the ul li style you defined earlier. The reason you are using the line-height attribute instead of the height attribute is that line-height automatically places the text at vertical center. If you were to use height you would have to set the vertical placement manually using padding. To set the width, go to the Position category and set width to 150px to match. Finally, to “fill out” the area with the background colour, go to the Layout category and set display to block.

The resulting code should look like this:

ul li a {
	background-color: #808080;
	color: #FFFFFF;
	width: 142px;
	display: block;
	text-decoration: none;
	line-height: 30px;
	padding-left: 8px;

You can find a full working version of the menu here and it’s CSS here for reference.