The problem with poorly executed image compression

Century 21 Ad Campaign

Actual Century 21 Ad – unedited.

There was a time when image compression was both an art and a science. In the late 90’s I remember new tools coming out, like Fireworks, which gave us better quality images and smaller file sizes. Options like JPEG or GIF, baseline or progressive, selective or adaptive or… mattered. Many people have forgotten this, and many never knew how important it can be.

Often now we just make images PNGs, and we’re more concerned about latency than data transfer, so we often use sprites.

Century 21 Real Estate seems to be running an ad campaign. Unfortunately, one of the final steps in executing such a campaign – image compression – was mishandled. Undoubtedly, the process to create the campaign contained executives, product experts, at least one copywriter, photographer, makeup artist, model and graphic designer.

The problem with poorly executed image compression is that it renders all of those roles rather pointless. The execs and experts could be replaced by untrained monkeys. The copywriter & designer could be replaced by a three-year-old with a crayon. The photographer could have been replaced by a two-year-old with a camera phone from 2003, and perhaps some lighting tips from his mom. Continue reading

An easier resolution to the issue of “Microsoft [program] cannot be opened because of a problem” error when you start an Office program

microsoft office updater Microsoft provides several methods of fixing this issue, but they missed a rather easy one – Run the latest updater.

I usually don’t use PowerPoint, so the last time I installed Microsoft Office for Mac (2011) I didn’t install PowerPoint. Recently I needed PowerPoint, so I grabbed the Office installer and installed only PowerPoint. When I tried to launch PowerPoint, I got the error “Microsoft PowerPoint cannot be opened because of a problem”

I tried running the Microsoft AutoUpdate app, but it didn’t find any updates. I tried restarting the app a couple more times, and the issue persisted.

Then I searched for the issue, and found a Microsoft support page detailing three possible resolutions. The first two were non-issues and thus didn’t help at all. The third is to uninstall and reinstall Office. But I don’t really want to do that. I would probably lose things like my Lync history, Outlook settings… and I really just didn’t want to go through all that.

The answer? Just download the last Microsoft Office Update and run that. I quit all my Office apps, ran the updater, then launched PowerPoint and it worked. My Outlook settings and filters are all still intact.

Clearly, I did this running OS X (10.9.1 to be exact.) This may work for Windows instances of this error as well, I’m not sure. And I can’t say for sure that this fixes all instances of this error. It fixed it for me.

The time for changes is over when files are sent to print

I don’t do a ton of print design anymore, but one thing I’ve noticed is that often clients have a misunderstanding of what “proofs” are for, or how the workflow should work.

The short: When files are sent to print, the time for changes is over. The overall purpose of printed proofs is to catch printing errors.

The purpose of a “proof” is to spot issues like low resolution images or other potential printing errors. Catching typos at this stage, although they really should have been spotted sooner, is acceptable. Anything else that’s flat-out wrong is usually also acceptable to change. Some examples might be:

  • Wrong name cited
  • Credits/disclaimer incorrect or missing
  • Content being trimmed or position of folds miscalculated

What shouldn’t be open for discussion:

  • Copy change (short of typos, grammatical errors…)
  • Messaging – If you wrote “Buy one, Get one free!” it’s not time to change your mind and say “Buy one, Get one 50%” – all “mind changing” should occur before files are sent to print.
  • Swapping photos/artwork. If the wrong image was used (eg a FPO was not replaced) or if the image show it will not print well, then those items could be swapped.

What are the drawbacks of making excessive changes to the proofs?

  • It will delay the process more than if the changes were made during internal proofing (ie printing black & white samples for review.)
  • The cost increases. Most printers will charge for additional proofs.
  • Printers go through a fair amount of prep before those proofs are printed. They have to repeat those steps, and if they’re making changes along the way it can complicate the process, increasing the chance something gets missed.
  • Printers will likely give you less leeway next time. Rather than telling you they need five business days before delivery, they may tell you they need 10. And if you deliver files eight days out, they may tell you they will not meet your delivery deadline. Whereas if you show that you did you work upfront, and that their process will be efficient, they will allow you to give them less time.
  • As much as printers should have their process together, having to deal with multiple proofs can lead to mistakes. I’ve seen it happen where the wrong version of the proof gets printed.

How to add multiple destinations (or stops) in “new” Google maps

Since May, Google has been publicly testing a major update to the Google Maps user interface for desktop web browsers. In early October, they released it to the masses. Many of the features have moved from easy to discover buttons, icons and labels, and instead buried more deeply into less obvious locations.

One feature that is now not as immediately apparent, is the ability to add multiple destinations or stops when mapping directions. This feature was missing for a while in the new version, which has probably contributed to its lack of discoverability.

To complicate issues, the instructions on how to add multiple destinations to your route, isn’t very clear. For example, the help documentation states:

Add destinations and waypoints

To add a destination in your directions search, click the button in the infocard. This will create a new text box to add your additional destination. Add the location of your destination by typing or left-clicking on the map. To add more, click again.

However, that doesn’t actually work. As a test, I ran a search to get directions from Seattle to San Francisco. As you can see below, there isn’t a “+” button in the infocard.  Continue reading

How to Remove Yourself From a Google Beta or A/B Test

Recently I went to do a search using Google and found that the interface had between tweaked in a few ways that made it difficult to use. I did some searching and found that the tweaks were indeed tests being run by Google. On the Google Product Forums, I found a lot of ranting. I also found a Google employee post instructions on how to get out of the test base.

Unfortunately, it’s not fool-proof. It impacts a lot of other sites and your browser usage. It’s not a vote that you don’t like it – you need to track down a thread for the specific issue and post your feedback.

The answer? Clear your cookies. This will log you out of Google services as well as any other service you’re logged into, so you will need to log back in when you’re done. Google has a page with instructions on how to clear all your cache & cookies.

But what if you don’t want to have to log back into all of your sites? Well, if you’re using Chrome, there’s another way. Continue reading