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| Journal | The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton

The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Blog Category: news

The Icon Handbook by Jon Hicks

In December last year, Five Simple Steps was very proud to publish Jon Hicks’ new book: The Icon Handbook. A practical, beautiful book that’s available in both pre-order paperback and digital editions.

The Icon Handbook by Jon Hicks

No surprise that it’s a beautiful book. Jon (and the contributors he managed to snag) have provided us with some stunning iconography, all displayed big, bold and in full colour. We are very proud of the layout work that went into this book and the printed version is bound to look spectacular printed on uncoated stock. As I’m writing this, the team are preparing the final artwork and getting it ready for the printer.

The content of the book is light in tone but deep in value. Lots of really great, practical design information that you can take away and use today. But enough talk. You can buy it now from £16 from Five Simple Steps.

But before you head over there, just look at this thing!

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Filed in: five-simple-steps. on January 5th, 2012

The New, Convoluted Life Cycle Of A Newspaper Story

Great piece from 10,000 Words on the natural growth of news.

Having done a ton of thinking about this over the last year, this resonates so much with my thoughts and conclusions. This particularly struck me:

Unlike a blog like TechCrunch, for example, a newspaper is publishing to multiple platforms. TechCrunch has one platform, one story type: blog posts. Newspapers are the only type of publishing company to have the distinct differentiation of “print stories” (which are posted to the web) vs. “blog posts” vs. “web updates” (to the print stories). The different platforms, web CMS and print CMS, have different workflows associated with them.

So many news publishers are hand-tied by their own mental-models of perfectly manicured journalism similar to TV or Print. One to many, final-state publishing. The web’s different, but what’s crucial is how we show the change of the story for the user. How do we do that?

Filed in: news, ofinterest. Additional: newsdesign on November 29th, 2011

A Practical Guide to Web App Success

I’m very pleased to announce that, yesterday, Five Simple Steps launched A Practical Guide to Web App Success from Dan Zambonini. You can buy it now in DRM-free ePub, PDF and mobi formats bundle for just £15.

A Practical Guide to Web App Success by Dan Zambonini

Like our other Practical Guide books, Dan’s book is very useful. It’s about taking that might seem overwhelming, complex or just plain big, and breaking it down into manageable, empowering chunks. For almost anyone working on the web, but particularly for designers and developers wanting to take an idea to market, this book is a great place to get an understanding of what’s involved; starting from a scratchy beginning of a side project to a full-time venture.

Personally, what I got from Dan’s book was enough breadth to make me believe I could do the same. Not only that, but that it might just be a success.

Of course, it looks great. Our designer Nick, and particularly our new apprentice at Mark Boulton Design, Colin, have spent many weeks crafting a beautiful experience.

.Net magazine have published a sample chapter on ‘Prototypes and User Tests’, and of course, you could download the sample from the Five Simple Steps website if you wanted to see what it’s all about.

We’re thrilled to bits with it. If you pick a copy up, please let us know what you think @fivesimplesteps.

Filed in: five-simple-steps, news. on November 16th, 2011

Wanted: Web Designer

It’s funny to think that 5 years ago, I left the BBC to pursue a freelance career and have, quite literally, spent every day since scared to death. Today, Mark Boulton Design is going from strength to strength. Thankfully.

We’ve built a great team, a great working environment and approach to our work. We’re also incredibly lucky to be working with some amazing clients: from global news organisations, to pan-European scientific organisations, to open source communities and a global sports brand. The work is varied, and we think – in our small way – we’re making a difference. But, most importantly perhaps, we love what we do. Ok, enough gushing; you get the picture.

Today, we announced we’re looking for another Web Designer to join our team. I can promise interesting work, smart clients, talented colleagues and the option of drinking your own body weight in tea or coffee daily.


Filed in: news. Additional: jobs, markboultondesign on July 22nd, 2011

Want to be our Apprentice?

Today, the small design agency I run announced our plans to hire a Web Design Apprentice. It’s something that has been in my mind for ages now, but we’ve finally had the time to work out exactly what the role will be, how this person will work with us, and how, after 2 years we can make you into a web designer.

Why an Apprentice?

Internships are the norm in our industry. I did it, and it was mostly great. But the thing is; it didn’t pay well and I was only there for a few months. At which point, I was only just learning the ropes and finding my feet in the company. Then it was time to move on.

As is natural in a busy studio environment, dedicating the time to an intern is challenging. They’re there to learn, sure, but there is typically no program of learning with an outcome. You’re there to soak it up. Whatever it is.

An Apprentice is something completely different. It’s a commitment to teach and nurture you over a given period of time. You’ll also be earning as you learn. It’s providing web design education in a way that is supportive and fair, but most of all: industry-relevant.

Are you our Apprentice?

If you’re reading this thinking ‘I’d love to do that’, then I want to hear from you. Pop over to the page on Mark Boulton Design and read the application details very carefully.

Filed in: news. Additional: apprentice, mark-boulton-design on February 16th, 2011

The 24 Ways 2010 Annual

24 Ways (to impress your friends) is something us webby types look forward to every year. This web advent calendar, as they say in TV and Radio, is an ‘appointment to view’. This year is no different, but, together with Five Simple Steps, Drew and Brian have been working on something that’ll keep you entertained for just that little bit longer.

At dConstruct in September this year, I sat down with Brian, Drew and Rachel and we hatched a little idea of doing something special this year for 24 ways. Making something permanent. An opportunity to make some money for charity too. Today sees the launch of The 24 Ways Annual 2010. A limited edition, beautiful printed annual with all proceeds of sales going to UNICEF *.

What I love about this is that we have a genuine opportunity to do some good in the world. We’re aiming to sell 5000 copies of this. If we do, and we manage to snag a sponsor who is willing to foot the bill for the print costs, that means we donate £37,500 to UNICEF (that’s about $58,000). That’s enough to do some serious good for children across the world who are a lot less fortunate than ours.

The Annual is only going to be on sale throughout December. We stop selling it on the last day of December. Then we print the copies we’ve sold. That’s it. No more. It’s strictly limited edition. So, what can you expect? Well…

  • 24 Superb articles, beautifully designed and typeset.
  • Superb cover and supporting illustrations by Migy.
  • Bespoke packaging.
  • About 80 pages printed full colour on uncoated recycled paper.
  • A nice warm glow as you contribute to UNICEF.
  • We begin shipping late January 2011

We’re so thrilled to be involved in this with the guys at 24 Ways. We thrilled to part of the 24 Ways annual rollercoaster and, for us, today is only the start. But, oh, we’re looking forward to it.

  • All the proceeds will go to UNICEF if we secure sponsorship for the print run and additional costs. If you’re reading this and want to know more, then head over to Five Simple Steps and download the sponsorship pack.

Filed in: news. Additional: 24ways, five-simple-steps on December 1st, 2010

The book I wish I'd read ten years ago

A few weeks ago, Five Simple Steps - the small, indi publisher I’m a co-founder of - released our second title; A Practical Guide to Information Architecture by Donna Spencer. Derek Featherstone, who wrote a wonderful foreword for Donna, summarised his feelings in one closing sentence:

This is the book that I needed 10 years ago.

I completely agree with him. And here’s why: this book makes you feel like an information architect. It makes you feel empowered with a sense of clarity and purpose that you can bring to your projects. No other IA book I’ve read made me feel like that.

I think I first came across the term IA in about 1999. I’d just started working for Agency.com in London and was partnered with a guy (sorry, I forget his name now), who ‘used to be a designer’, but was now an ‘IA’. I really did learn a lot from him directly. I learnt that Information Architecture can be a slow, tedious practice. It’s often about making hard decisions and arming yourself with the facts before you do. I learnt that it was vital in a project, but perhaps most importantly, I learnt that good IA is not a quest for perfection. It’s about getting in there, making mistakes and then iterating.

Getting your hands dirty

Every year in the UK, there is a horticultural show in Chelsea; the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The BBC, as always, does a stirling job at covering the event over the course of about a week. As you’d expect, there are a bunch of well-known faces presenting the proceedings, my favourite being Christine Walkden - an energetic, passionate gardener with a wonderful turn of phrase. This year - whilst sitting on a park bench, discussing the difference between garden designers and gardeners with Alan Titchmarsh - she said something that will stick with me a long while:

You have to spend some time with grit under your fingernails

This phrase really stuck with me. There really is no substitute for getting stuck in, making mistakes, learning from them and then trying it all again. To get stuck in, you need to have the confidence to do so. And that’s what Donna’s book will give you; the confidence to spend some time with grit under your fingernails.

A Practical Guide to Information Architecture is available to buy now as a downloadable PDF, ePub and preorder paperback from Five Simple Steps from as little as £12.

Filed in: news. on June 28th, 2010

Announcing Project Verity

As you may know, Leisa Reichelt and I have been working for the past year or so with the Drupal community; first on the redesign of Drupal.org, then the User Experience project for Drupal 7. Since then, I’ve been using Drupal more and more. My company has hired two Drupal developers, we use Drupal 6 every day to build new sites and applications for ourselves and for our clients. Throughout all of this work, there is one thing lacking: Drupal does not do a great job at providing an admin for content creators.

During the D7UX project, we defined two personas: Verity and Jeremy. Let’s focus on Verity for a moment. Verity is a content creator. She’s not a developer. She doesn’t care how Drupal works, she doesn’t need to know Drupal terminology. All she needs to do is manage her content. Then she leaves work and goes home to do other things. Verity needs the admin of Drupal to help her do her daily job. Currently, Drupal doesn’t do a great job of that. That’s where Project Verity comes in.

Project Verity launched today. Leisa and the team at Mark Boulton Design are teaming up to design a paid/premium admin theme for Drupal 6 designed to make you look good and your clients feel great. From the Project Verity site:

The Verity Theme (a paid/premium admin theme for Drupal 6) will allow you to hand over a website backend that you can feel proud of, that has a great User Experience and that continues the great design experience you’ve created for the front end through to your clients experience of managing the website. You develop the site in whatever theme you like, then when you’re done developing, switch to the Verity theme to create a user experience specifically designed for content creators like Verity.

I’m very excited about this little project.

We’re designing in the open — as we did with the two other previous Drupal related projects. We’re doing this at the blog at Project Verity, and you can keep up to date by following the Twitter account: http://twitter.com/projectverity

For more information about Verity, read today’s announcement and find out if Project Verity is for you.

Filed in: drupal, news. on January 8th, 2010

Drupal 7 Redesign

DrupalLast week, I flew to Boston, MA, to have a meeting with those fine folks at Acquia about a project they wanted my small design studio to look at. Today, Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal, announced that, together with Leisa Reichelt, we’re going to be working on improving the user experience of Drupal 7. Needless to say, we’re very, very excited to be part of this project.

From what we learned on the Drupal.org project, both in terms of process, but also some of the stumbling blocks that Drupal has, we’re confident we can make some changes that will make it easier to use for people who are new to Drupal, but also experienced users.

Leisa and I are going to be at DrupalCon DC in March. We’ll be kick-starting our research, presenting on the redesign of drupal.org, and doing a lot of listening. if you’re going please tap me on the shoulder and say hi.

Filed in: design, news. on February 4th, 2009

A couple of books

A couple of books coming up which may be of interest. Firstly, Web Standards Creativity is up on Amazon for pre-order. It’s a sumptuous full-colour paperback covering topics like Typography, PNG transparency techniques and Grid Design from the likes of Ethan Marcotte, Simon Collison, Cameron Adams, Aaron Gustafson, Jeff Croft, Derek Featherstone, Dan Rubin, Andy Budd, Ian Lloyd, Rob Weychert, Andy Clarke, and me.

Secondly, Five Simple Steps: Designing for the Web is nearing completion. It’s not quite finished yet, and yes I’m going to miss the January deadline, but it will be worth the wait. To keep you going until then, here’s a few tasters…


Above. Example spreads from Chapter Two: Typography.


Above. Example spreads from Chapter Two and Three: Typography and Colour.

Self-publishing your own book is tough. I was naive to think I would get this finished by Christmas and ambitious to think it would be finished this month. These things take time, especially if you consider I’m writing, art-directing and designing and publishing this book. That said, it’s only a little overdue and I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

Thanks to everyone who has already signed up for the launch discount. There will also be a bulk licence available for £25 for five copies for you and your collegues. There is still time to sign up for the discount too if you haven’t done already.

Right, that’s enough talk, I’ve got a book to finish.

Filed in: news, simple-steps. on January 28th, 2007