Category Reviews

Mini Review of Pencil by 53

Today I received Pencil by 53. It’s incredibly comfortable to sketch with. Compared to the 10 other styluses I’ve used this one has the best feel.

Pencil by 53
The Pencil feels great in the hand!

Book Review: Neuro Web Design

Book cover: Neuro Web Design - What Makes Them Click?


A great insight into human behavioral patterns as it relates to influencing consumer decisions and building engagement with Web sites.

Neuro Web Design – What Makes Them Click?


I’ve bought and read “Neuro Web Design” for my airplane ride to SXSW and really liked it. It was an entertaining read. The book doesn’t really focus on design elements or “hardcore” IA, it talks more about some basic ideas about how people interact with Web sites.

I didn’t find the actual conclusions in the book to be revealing. Most of the stuff is User Design 101, but the books gives some good insight to why people have certain behaviors and how it relates to psychology and even life outside of Web design. My favorite parts of the book are the descriptions of psychological studies that demonstrate a premise in the book. It great to be able to understand more deeply how and why people associate themselves with specific personas and as a designer how you can tap into that. One potential downside for the reader is the book isn’t a how-to book, it’s just informative about behaviors.

Example Study

Here one of my favorite studies (very edited version):

In “Chapter 7 – Building Commitment—We Want to Think We’re Consistent” (on page 76-77) the author writes about a study where unsuspecting people were asked if they would put a large and ugly “Keep California Beautiful” sign in their lawn. Three groups are asked separate questions.

Group A:

The organizers for “Keep California Beautiful” in their first encounter ask the home owner to place a large promotional sign in their yard.

< 20% approve

Group B

Before being asked if they’d place the large sign in their yard. They were asked if they would place a small three-inch “Drive Carefully.” sign in their car window.

Three weeks later they are asked if they would place the large “Keep California Beautiful People” promotional sign in their yard.

46% approve

Group C

This group is first asked to sign a petition to “Keep California Beautiful.” Then three weeks later they are ask to place the large “Keep California Beautiful” sign in their yard.

76% approve

This is a good example of how the study is more interesting then the design principal. Most designers have heard of tapping into internal personas (meaning tapping into people’s views of themselves as a certain type of person such as environmentally conscious or thrifty), many know how, some even know why. But the study really shows how strongly it can affect people’s decisions.

I recommend the book as a good and entertaining read, but don’t necessarily expect it to change the way you do your work. It will most likely just reinforce some of the principals you already use. Plus, it’s great to be able to show a client, boss or co-worker that making great design isn’t just about flourishes, gradients, and racing stripes.There is a science to the way people interact with design.

<cynicism>Note: logic doesn’t prevail with all people.</cynicism>

My Rating: 4.2 out of 5

hReview version 0.3 Review type: product

Pixie Content Management System Review


Note: Oct. 9, 2008: I updated the Criticisms section.

pixie cms logo


Ease of Use

I recently installed Pixie CMS. To start I have to say I’m really impressed. It is easy to use and set up. Pixie also seems pretty flexible and customizable as well as having some pretty nice code. But I make my living building websites so it should be pretty easy for me. So what about the average person or, an even scarier scenario, a client.

If the end user isn’t familiar and comfortable with HTML and using URLs then I fear they may find creating content frustrating.


According to the—home of the project—the CMS was created because the creator Scott Evans needed a website for his band. This was in about 2000 – 2002. He states:

…I found that most of them left me confused and frustrated. … After a long time searching it became apparent that I would be better off trying to make my own software, that worked in a way that was logical to me (and hopefully to you too).

The site doesn’t say when the CMS was released as open source. But it is an open source project under the GNU General Public License v3.


Pixie CMS is only in version 1.0, but compared to other 1.0 software Pixie is rock solid and full of features. When compared to Expression Engine, WordPress, or Drupal it definitely isn’t as feature rich. The main area that needs improvement is the feature available to you when your using the WYSIWYG editor. Pixie CMS uses the popular TinyMCE editor, but a lot of its features aren’t enable.

Here are my main grips.

  • Placing images in a post or page requires multiple unintuitive steps.
  • Lacks a paste from Word feature.
  • Placing any media other than images require xHTML skills.
  • Not many plugins or modules.

If your a skilled or even intermediate online content creator this problem probably won’t slow you down. But because of these issues I don’t feel I could use this CMS to power a client’s site. I’ll go into each of these point in start from the bottom of the list.

Sparse Amount of Plugins or Modules

Pixie CMS is only in version 1.0 so this isn’t a fault of the CMS team. It does seem pretty easy to create modules. Pixie is built on PHP so once the size of user base increases I’m sure the plugins and modules will too.

Placing Media

Placing media such as video may seem like an advanced feature, but WordPress seems to do a pretty good job with it. And a lot of are getting into making videos. I generally recommend them to stick with YouTube, Vimeo,, or Viddler, for their video needs. Then they don’t have to worry about bandwidth, and their content is more likely to be found. Pixie doesn’t have a paste code button so you’d have to teach them how to use the HTML portion of the WYSIWYG editor to paste the embed and/or object code.

Lacks Paste from Word Feature

I never use Word, but most people use it or something similar. I’m sure most of you know that when you paste from word the em dashes, ellipses, ampersands, and apostrophes generally either don’t show up or mess up the code.



This section has been edited. View the original version.



This is the biggest problem I have with Pixie. To upload and insert an image to a blog post or page requires the user to use two different screens. The WYSIWYG editor doesn’t allow the user to upload images. You need to use the file manager which means you have to save the post and change screens.

Pixie does have a nice file manager that you can upload images and files into, but it’s not without problems. For example, if you upload an image that has a file name with a space within it the file manager will not except the image. It’ll tell you there is a bad character, but it doesn’t tell you how to fix it. For a beginner this would be confusing.

If the user uploads the images first and then proceeds to write the post then it is pretty easy to insert an image. You just click the image icon in the editor then a dialog box will pop-up. In the dialog box you can select the image from a drop-down list. The selector doesn’t show you a preview of the image just the file name so the user will need to remember the name of the image. Lastly if the user tends to use two to three images per post after 25 posts they will have a long list of images—a list of 50 to 75 images with no previews will be pretty hard to navigate.


Overall I’m pretty excited about Pixie CMS. I will definitely keep an eye on each release of this software and test it as new versions are released. If Coda wasn’t so easy to manage sites with I’d consider using it for my site.

My favorite things about Pixie.

  • Installing it is a breeze
  • It’s really easy to Admin the site, create pages, and multiple blogs
  • Admin interface is nicely designed
  • Creating themes seems pretty easy to do
  • Lack of complicated features makes it streamlined and easier to use
  • Open Source


To wrap up, if they solved the usability problems regarding adding images to posts and pages Pixie would be strong consideration as a CMS for simple client sites that need to manage pages. If the site is mostly going to be about blogging then WordPress would still be my choice. If the site owner needs a lot of flexible, special features, or need a database of products that’s when Drupal, Expression Engine, or Zen-Cart come into the picture.

It was fun playing around with Pixie. You can test the admin screen yourself on via their demo. But to have the most fun take five minutes and install it yourself.

MarsEdit 2 Review

MarsEdit 2 was released about two months ago. So I thought I’d give it a try. I’m not going to go over every feature, just the experience I’ve gained in the last month while using the trial period.

The Apple Aluminum Keyboard

Apple Aluminum Keyboard Unboxing Photo I broke down and bought the new Aluminum Apple wired keyboard. I went my local Apple store the day after the announcement to get iLife and iWork (possible future post), but unfortunately they didn’t have the new iMac out so I couldn’t try the new keyboard.

Well this Sunday I went in to exchange my wireless Mighty Mouse, I’ve went through two, I’m now on my third, I love the mouse, but the stupid scroll ball nipple thing always breaks. (another possible future post) So since I was there I tried out the new keyboard and decided to buy it. I went with the wired one because I need the extended keyboard.

As for my review of it… I love it. It looks OK in photos, but looks great in person and on my desk. I love the way it feels and ergonomically it is much more comfortable for me. I’m stuck on a computer probably 9-12 hours a day so ergonomics are important to me. At work I use a Dell keyboard and an evoluent vertical mouse (possible future post #3) and at home I use a Wacom intuos3 4×6 tablet and Wireless Mighty Mouse.

Good Bits

Basically if you like the Macbook keyboard you’ll like this keyboard. I was always of fan of “clicky” keyboards, but I enjoy the soft touch this one has. It’s great when your blogging at 4A.M. since it is quite. I also like the extremely low profile; it keeps me from bending my wrist too much. Finally the USB ports are 2.0! I hooked up my Canon EOS 350D and downloaded 30 or so raw images in a minute or two. It was nice not have to worry about where to plug the cable in. Apple Al Keyboard-08.jpgThe port are recessed so when you do hook up a USB cable to the keyboard you don’t have to see the fat knob part of the USB cable sticking out.

Negative Bits

I haven’t fully been able to get the “special keys” functioning. I did install the keyboard software update (1.1), which got the media, volume, and brightness keys working, but the exposeé key, and dashboard keys don’t work. I haven’t spent much time fiddling with it so if I get them working I’ll post back here. Lastly the USB ports will only power a high powered device if the keyboard is hookup to the new Al Imacs. Bummer.

Flickr: Apple Al Keyboard Photos

09/11/07 Edit: Keyboard Software Update 1.2 was released today and has fixed all the above issues for me.