Gary Venter 2

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In Part 1 Gary Venter told us a little about his life and loves and Now we find out more about web design, Textpattern and the love shack.

TXPQ Are there things on an architect's site you do that perhaps you would not do on a different kind of site?

GV Architects come in all flavours - but most respond well to simple, functional designs where white space dominates. The trick is coming up with a look-and-feel that matches the methodology and approach of the subject, and getting 'em to drop their penchant for 100% Adobe Flash websites...

TXPQ Is there a usual way you and Ingrid go about making a site to order?

GV We prefer a collaborative process with clients - developing the design in stages, incorporating feedback into the next phase and so on.

I normally spend a while sketching ideas and layouts using pencil-and-paper Our first task is to cajole some content out of the client - this generally takes ages, but once we have a reasonable idea of what their Practice and design approach are about, I normally spend a while sketching ideas and layouts using pencil-and-paper, eventually committing the strongest ideas into a realistic-looking 'Paper Prototype' in pdf format. I typically use Omnigraffle Pro for all my presentation stuff, and then call on Ingrid for a crit. She intercepts my design dead-ends with her eagle-eye, and more often than not is a catalyst for improving the direction of our designs.

Once each client is happy with the general direction of the design, we move onto a 'Working Prototype' of selected pages which I prepare in BBEdit, my text-editor of choice. This is normally my 'first' stab at the semantic and css structures of the site - which we occasionally bounce off the client for their collaboration. When all parties are happy with the direction things are going, we commit to the final build.

Typically, most websites take a month or two to complete, with some projects taking over three years (ouch!). It reminds me of another reason why I found the switch from Architecture to web design so easy: in building and construction there are many expert fields involved, and so one's time is taken up largely with management and not actual 3D design. Getting all those experts to work in sync takes forever, too. This doesn't happen as much in web development - the designer has far more flexibility, particularly if they can build and code the thing themselves.

Gary Venter and Ingrid at the Love Shack" title="Gary Venter and Ingrid at the Love Shack


TXPQ You have made a lot of websites. All with Textpattern? Why? Have you tried other CMS?

GV I discovered Textpattern early on (sometime in 2003/2004 from memory), and have used it exclusively for all our sites since. TXP appeals 'cos it is so flexible - sure other packages might best it in some areas, but it is hard to beat as an all-rounder... a regular TXP lesson for me is to discover that it is my knowledge of how to drive TXP that is lacking, rather than TXP itself.

I'm still learning, discovering that there are umpteen ways of doing things I'm still learning, discovering that there are umpteen ways of doing things, particularly in TXP builds of the last year or so, where much functionality which only used to be available as a plug-in is now included in the core distribution.

Prior to this, our CMS sites were handled differently. Being a designer and not a programmer, I opted for database software that I could drive - FilemakerPro. It allowed us to build a very-easy-to-use bespoke CMS (designed to fully mirror how the website looks) which, at the click of the publish button, spat out all the necessary gumpf that makes up a modern website in the form of static files, which were then duly uploaded to the server via ftp.

This approach had its advantages but was cumbersome to develop and maintain - unlike Textpattern.

For me the weakest part of TXP is its end-user admin interface - some clients find it daunting, particularly at first. I often find myself writing and re-writing help-manuals to aid end-users in how to do things, and as much as I try, I can't settle on a standard set of help texts - largely due to the fact that I tend to use TXP differently for each project: I'm constantly experimenting.

The Love Shack

TXPQ How's the love shack coming along?

Gary Venter's Shack too" title="Gary Venter's Shack tooGary Venter's Shack" title="Gary Venter's ShackGV Really well - we're having fun completely modernising it to make the most of the stunning views whilst keeping it energy-efficient AND sustainable AND affordable. I'm doing everything myself - and so it is coming along s-l-o-w-l-y. My delicate Architect/Programmer hands are no more - I'm now Captain Calloused, and discovering (to my horror) that I know my way around our local 'home improvement megastore'.

The fix-up of the Love Shack is only part 1 of our fiendish plans. After a suitable hiatus we plan to build something really Modern and sustainable on the same land, mixing in some of the ideas I developed in an earlier attempt - yes it's for sale. Also see Studio2.

TXPQ How much has New Zealand influenced your work and your life?

GV Too soon to say. I'd like to think we design better websites 'cos we're less stressed now that we're chilling in NZ, but I'd be bull-shitting you. I've expanded the number and type of projects I have on the go at any one time. This should be daunting - but I think it is allowing me to think more laterally about my various design problems.



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