My Writings. My Thoughts.

Debut Creative Changes Lanes

February 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Debut

I really love this job.

For the last three years I have been extremely fortunate as I’ve run Debut Creative. I have worked with some great clients on great projects. I have learned so much about other areas of this business, and I have broadened my skill set tremendously.

Recently my wife and I moved to the GTA, and we learned that we are going to be parents! With all of this I find myself yearning for some predictability and stability in my job. Plus, who wants to work when in the next room is an adorable baby?! I began to crave something different than the life of a freelance / contract designer.

Yesterday I took a job as a Web Designer with Thrillworks in Burlington. This incredible team produce some very high end enterprise websites for notable clients across the country… maybe the world! I am really ecstatic about the chance to work with these people. Here’s more in depth how I landed this job.

With this news comes great change for Debut Creative. I will no longer be taking client projects, or working outside of Thrillworks; I am slowly winding down the last few projects. If you’re looking for a freelancer please email me and I can make some recommendations.

My inbox is always open, stay in touch.


Google and the end of IE6

February 2nd, 2010 | 5 Comments | Industry

Web designers and developers have long complained about the restrictions developing with considerations for older browsers like IE6 places them under (find out what the fuss is here).

Recent statistics show that the other IE versions are growing in popularity – this means the average user is making browser updates. The biggest hold-back is the larger company or organization (including the Canadian Government no less). Upgrading OS or browser isn’t a simple matter; many rely on apps and intranets that have been optimized to IE6. A change of browser could cost millions of dollars as changes to age-old systems need to be made. Continue Reading

Inbox Zero

January 26th, 2010 | Comment | Work Flow

In college I was always fascinated by work-flow best practices. I spent my first year obsessing over work spaces and learning keyboard shortcuts and gleaning tricks from the pros. You can find stuff that works and fails in everyone you watch work. Everyone has a work-flow weakness, and I quickly discovered that for a lot of people it’s email.

If you follow any web nerds online you’re bound to hear some noise about Inbox Zero now and then. A lot of it is misleading however. When I first heard of it I thought it was the title you rewarded yourself with for battling your way through the clutter, but it’s so much more. Inbox Zero is an approach to email, not a mandate or mandatory goal. Continue Reading

Domain Registry Scam

January 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Industry

Once a year I get a snappy reminder to renew my domain name – but not from the current registrar. Domain Registry of Canada is an unsolicited third party that is hoping you’re not going to scour the fine print and pay the premium to renew with them.

I would sooner let my domain expire and blow away than renew with these fiends. My two cents. Continue Reading

Could Wave sink BaseCamp?

December 21st, 2009 | 8 Comments | Industry

Conceptually I love Google Wave. It promises to revolutionize the way we collaborate on projects. It is branded as Email for the 21st Century. It’s hailed as a huge time saver – yet I am beginning to think I’m the only one using it.

Google Wave

When I first heard rumors of what Wave could be I immediately thought of Basecamp; a leading project management tool. Over a year ago I decided not to bring this app into my development process as client adoption of another communication tool would be hard to swing. Wave made me reconsider; Google has a lot of clout, and with Google accounts being so amazingly handy and ubiquitous, a glimmer of hope built up in my little heart that this could be a game changer.

My Google fandom not withstanding, I was rabbidly anxious to get my invite like everyone else. Finally the day came that the invite graced my inbox. The “now what?” moment was not far behind it.

Continue Reading

Platform Agnostic

December 7th, 2009 | 4 Comments | Industry, Work Flow

Unisys_Icon_System_s1I’ve always loved computers. The first computer I ever used on a regular basis was the Unisys Icon. You know, the one with the trackball. I would love to make a website on one today. That’s right: I would gladly develop on this beast right now. I’m not saying it would always be pleasant, but I could do it, and want to just because I can.

Today I work primarily on two machines: A robust PC desktop and an Apple MacBook Pro. I use the desktop by default as I love having three monitors for multitasking; but I rely on the laptop frequently for when I need  a change of environment or to work on the road. Continue Reading

Happy Blue Beanie Day!

November 30th, 2009 | Comment | Industry

Today is the third annual Blue Beanie Day; the day to show your support for designing with Web Standards and Accessibility.

Web Standards awareness has been growing largely by the work of industry giant Jeffrey Zeldman for his work writing Designing with Web Standards. In an ideal world if all sites were created to a standardized best-practice for building websites (as layed-out by organizations like the W3C) all browsers could smarten up and render them properly. Making sites with Accessibility in mind ensures that the most possible users (and robots!) will be able to experience the site as intended. Continue Reading

The Practical Value of Twitter

November 20th, 2009 | Comment | Industry

Twitter buzz seems to be dying down, and I’m sure the media is ready for the next big site to emerge. There has been a lot of talk about the value of the micro-blogging site from a dollar sign point of view, but rarely do people talk about the practical value. Twitter has really proved itself to me in three key ways. Continue Reading

To Scroll or not to Scroll?

November 13th, 2009 | 5 Comments | Debut

I am amazed how often scrolling on a website is called into question. Some clients truly feel that it is an extreme faux pas. When asked why,  the client will give responses ranging from their own laziness (and unwillingness to scroll), the hope of getting more impressions/exposure for ads, or the fear that their audience won’t think to dig deeper and check out what is further down the page. The client will instead prefer the idea of many pages with less information.

To defend the ubiquitous paradigm of the scroll, I often refer to the namesake. Continue Reading

Email Signatures

November 6th, 2009 | 10 Comments | Industry

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you don’t need a thousand words to say what you need to say.

When it comes to email signatures I can see the appeal to have your logo in there. I used to do it! I used to spend hours testing different ways of embedding the image to work with the widest range of clients possible – but it didn’t always work, and it often required the audience to “allow” images.

Only once in three years of running my own company have I earned business simply because someone liked my logo (not that it was seen by them in an email). I don’t see that adding it in the signature will add any ROI or glorious tales of victory , it could only create problems. Continue Reading


November 4th, 2009 | Comment | Recent Work

Since the launch of the DEBUT site I have wanted to have a simple clean site to act as an index to the places where I spend the most time on the web. As vcard / business card websites are all the vogue in the last few months I decided this was the perfect time to execute. solves a number of problems for me; not the least of which it will catch the people who hear, but phonetically misunderstand ““, and hopefully improve my search engine ranking on just “Arley”. More than that, I find personal projects an awesome opportunity to cut my teeth on new technology and practices. Continue Reading

Wave, Hello

November 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Industry

Last week I finally received my Google Wave invitation (though I signed up for the beta the day it was announced on Digg, I got my invite through a friend). I don’t plan to make another needless review; but I will say I can see this being a Project Management game changer. I wish all of my clients were using this tool right now!

Finagle an invite if you can! Continue Reading

Updated Contact

November 2nd, 2009 | Comment | Debut

You may note that I have a new mobile number now, as is updated on my contact page; 905-599-0086.

Browser Testing: A BrowserCam walk-through

October 14th, 2009 | 33 Comments | Industry

Your website exists to be seen. When you build a website you want it to work for as many people as possible. Sadly, not everyone uses a modern browser so it is vital to test your site – especially if the target demographic includes large corporations (who may have no choice which browser they use) or people less likely to be upgrading their software (Google discovered that many people don’t even know what a browser is, so they took it upon themselves to educate them).

Using Debut Creative’s modest traffic as an example you can see I am getting traffic from a very wide array of browsers. Continue Reading

Change of Contact Information Coming Soon

October 1st, 2009 | Comment | Debut

After three years of working out of Kincardine my wife and I are moving to the city (and to think I almost made it through half of my business cards!) If you hadn’t heard already ( Kristi and I are moving to be much closer to our family. Kristi has taken a new job in Toronto as a Technical Consultant. We intend to live in Burlington, but our house hasn’t sold yet, so we’ll be in a bit of limbo for a number of weeks.

In the weeks that follow Debut Creative may be up to 4.5% harder to contact! Here is some updated info. Continue Reading

Getting the most out of Lessn

September 23rd, 2009 | 31 Comments | Tutorials

As I wrote about a little while ago, I’ve been using my own URL shortener, powered by Lessn (app install notes here, and info about the update here). If ridiculously hyper sentences like that aren’t convincing enough, linking and how we link is very important. Continue Reading

Easy DIY HTML Emails

September 14th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Tutorials

Every so often a web project will have a campaign that requires a mass email. This may be called a “Newsletter”, an “e-blast” or “HTML Email”. I want to explore some of the pitfalls of this trend. If that doesn’t talk you out of it, we will talk a bit about how to pull it off.

Warning One: Why?!

This isn’t the kind of marketing that should be done “because you can” in my opinion. As someone who gets a lot of email I admit that getting a newsletter or any email with embedded images usually has me scrambling for the Unsubscribe link. In 2009 there are many effective ways of engaging your audience online without emailing. Before we begin ask yourself; “is an HTML email the most effective way to communicate to these people?”

Warning Two: Spam?

Once you have your message together, who will you send it to? Where are you getting your mailing list? Have these users opted-in on your site (like this), or have you simply collected the addresses independently?

If your registration form didn’t indicate there would be mailouts, or (and I have seen this happen) if the mailing list is from another site or campaign entirely, you are working against your privacy policy! This is essentially spamming, which no sane person will respond favourably to. You may be doing the brand or campaign a disservice in this case . Continue Reading

Doing Group Emails – The Hard Way

September 8th, 2009 | Comment | Tutorials

Recently I was asked about managing an Emailing list, and the best ways of distributing newsletters to your group.
I think

Recently I was asked about managing an Emailing list, and the best ways of distributing newsletters to your group. I think the answer that was expected would be either sharing about some mailing service (like this one, but there are many others that also Google well) or to give a step by step on free distribution methods (Update: I have written a post called Easy DIY HTML Emails).

What I want to share is a smarter and much more impacting way – and I don’t think it’s what the average client wants to hear:

Email your newsletter one at a time. Continue Reading

The Underestimated Importance of SEO

September 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments | Industry

I am so glad my parents named me the way they did.

Arley McBlain (and by extension “ArleyM”) Googles very well. Thinking to the future when we start having kids, I feel pressure to come up with a unique name for a kid. SEO is so important!

We are a search engine culture. Life is full of questions, and Google has the answers (well, so do many other search engines, but c’mon. Google’s killing it out there!). If I need a phone number I won’t ever go to a phone book. If I want to know some fact I won’t even go to Wikipedia; I’ll let Google find that for me. Continue Reading

Arley McBlain writes for Six Revisions in HD

August 26th, 2009 | Comment | Debut

Yesterday an article I wrote called How to Design the Web in a Hi-Def World was published on the Six Revisions site. Six Revisions is a popular weblog for web designers + developers that Technorati recently listed in the top 100 blogs. It’s been exciting to get this kind of exposure, as well as to get some great feedback and optimized code from a very cool community. Continue Reading