Tag Archives: technology

What is Responsive Design?

The term responsive design is a hot topic with anyone who’s serious about their online presence and it seems like everyone is beginning to offer it in one form or another, yet you may still be asking what IS responsive design? I hope to answer that question in the next few paragraphs and hopefully both of us will come out of this exercise better for the experience.

Mobile browsing is set to outpace desktop browsing in three to five years and shows no signs of slowing. Given we have a multitude of browsers each with their own aspect ratio and viewable area, how do we make something that works for each device? If you have noticed how many manufacturers releasing new devices multiple times a year, creating device specific site(s) hardly seems reasonable, so what do we do? Enter responsive design.

The following techniques are found in almost every responsive site:

Leveraging Media queries in your CSS:

Media queries allow you to ask a device what type of device, browser and browser window dimensions. Using this information, we can choose how to best display the content. We can also make more drastic changes to our page layout by setting “thresholds” for browser sizes at which we need to make a more drastic layout change, this is called a breakpoint.

Implementing Fluid Grids:

Fluid Grids allow your site to expand to fill or shrink to fit (within limits, we’ll get into this later) to the size of your devices browser.

Flexible media & Images:

A flexible image or media element is an image or video element which can be displayed at full size if space permits, yet it can also scale down proportionately in order to display equally well on a device with a smaller viewable area.

It works a little something like this, imagine you’re looking for news on http://www.bostonglobe.com/ from your laptop, you will most likely get a layout with full size pictures, weather, a full size masthead and all the trimmings. Whats happening in the background is first off a “Media Query in CSS, which asks your laptop, what kind of device are you, what is your os, browser and also what are the dimensions of your browser window. Once the site knows what type of device, browser and dimensions you’re viewing at, it can give you a layout which makes the most of your space, which is where a flexible grid comes in to play.

full 3 column version

fig 1. ~ This is the widest layout using a full 3 columns in its layout

A flexible grid is like an accordion, which can expand and contract to fit the available space, whether your browser window is 1200px wide or a mere 800, a flexible grid has got you covered. The grid is basically a set of columns which hold the contents of a site in a neat and orderly fashion, regardless of the width of the window its being viewed within (Laptop1168px wide fig.1). The flexible grid works well on larger browser windows, yet when things start to get small, our media query and its breakpoints have our back.

2 column version

fig.2 ~ This is the in-between layout consisting of only 2 columns

When a browser window gets small, such as a tablet or a mobile phone, the layout we were looking at on a laptop would be impossibly small and illegible on tablet or phone, so the media query says, if the browser is smaller than 768px, wide, change our grid from 3 columns to 2 (this could be a tablet fig.2), if the browser is less than 600px, stack all the content on the site in a single column (which is what happens on a mobile phone fig.3)

fig 3. ~ This is the smallest layout consisting of only 1 column

These are the basics of responsive design, the broader topic of responsive design and its implementation can become complicated quite quickly, yet for the purpose of this introductory article we’ve covered the basics. If you would like to read more about responsive design, try the articles below.

Wikipedia: Responisive design
Smashing Magazine on Responsive Design

“Big Data” Shifts Business Trends

The New Information Age

We are just beginning to wrap our heads around the vast amounts of information available to us in this new information age. With computer processor speed doubling every 18 months along with increasing storage capacity, we can afford the means to assess data in its entirety. This phenomena is known as “Big Data” which refers to our new found ability to crunch a vast quantity of information, analyze it instantly, and draw some astonishing conclusions.

Collecting information is just the beginning of creating the ability of artificial intelligence as we saw way back in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey

HAL 9000 (a computer) decides what’s best…………….

Gone Are The Days Of Traditional Statistical Analysis

In the old days, statisticians would have a hypothesis and test it with a random sample of a population. The greater the size sample of the population being measured, the more accuracy of the sample being a representation of the entire populace. This would reinforce the notion of “causality”, that being, we as humans have a yearning desire to try to understand the world around us. What causes things to happen? For example, say we have a theory that someone buys a home because they eat eggs in the morning.  As you can imagine, there’s a fair amount of people who get up in the morning, fix themselves some eggs for breakfast and go off into their day. And, of people who purchase homes, it can be said that there may be a high degree that they also had eggs for breakfast. Thus, eating eggs causes home sales? So, is it realistic to prove this preposterous hypothesis with a statistical analysis? However, if one was to gather a random sample of new homeowners, there would be proof that would suggest that egg consumption yields new home buying behavior. This type analysis is known as causality as opposed to correlation and takes the form of trying to understand a phenomena, coming up with a hypothesis, and proving it through statistic analysis.

Causality vs. Correlation Analysis

Statistical Analysis vs Causality

Some things are best left to try not to understand












Within a correlation model of understanding, we are able to assess just pure raw data and observe correlations without trying to understand the cause of an event. What this enables businesses to do, is to view highly correlated events and capitalize from their relatedness. In other words, if a given situation yields outcomes with a high degree of correlation, then why bother trying to understand why?

In the book, Big Data – A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think the author explains how retailers are just beginning to understand their abilities to assess data for what its worth and understand the correlations of relationships. An illustration of this is how Walmart now sells Pop Tarts during times that precede a natural disaster. They observed that during times where people are preparing for hurricanes and/or a natural disaster, that not only did typical disaster items such as batteries, flash lights, and water sales spike but so did Pop Tarts sales. They then began to merchandise disaster related items and Pop Tarts in stores in order to make it easier for their customers to shop. Now who would have hypothesized that Pop Tarts would be a necessary item for preparing for a Tornado or Hurricane? In hind sight, it maybe easy to explain because of the product ease of use for their customers. However, if one removes the urge to try to understand what causes certain correlated events and just accepts the raw data and that these correlations exist, then a new era of marketing has begun using this strategy.

However, there are many ways to view the world, and one must be cautious as they develop ways to assess given circumstances of events. “Big Data” as some may have us to believe is not the cure all, but can be used in significant ways to observe the patterns of our society. This can be another great tool in ones tool box to be able to predict market trends, product sales, and any other activities if the right data is obtainable and accurate.(Read More – Big Data News Roundup: Correlation vs. Causation)

Shifting Gears in 2012

Stewart-Shifting Gears

Performance-Driven Approach through Integrated Process Management (IPM)

Shifting gears is second nature to NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart.  It’s critical to gaining the results needed to maintain his lead and charge beyond the checkered flag in first place.

For years, home builders were somewhat content with the minor shifts necessary to conduct their businesses.  They found there were manageable corners to take.  Today, however, there are many new variables as a result of a culture-shift effecting the purchasing habits, expectations, desires, and vast amount of products available to homeowners.  So, how do you respond and position your company in order to remain a leader?

Industry experts note that looking to technology alone won’t solve the issue of efficiencies, time-to-market issues, costs, and more.  What you, as a builder need to wrap your arms around is a “performance-driven team philosophy” where through people, processes and technology combined, you will experience the most profound changes to your bottom line, improved accuracies and faster time-to-market products.  This optimized approach recognizes the key drivers and integrates the right results for home builders.  The shift is gaining momentum through an innovative solution by our experts at The Contrado Group tabbed,“Integrated Process Management (IPM)”.  Now in its second year, IPM has been refined in 2011 and is proving highly effective for valued clients such as Maracay Homes, Scottsdale, Arizona who improved their time-to-market results by 60%.  How does translate in dollars? Well, a big bundle comes to mind!

Staying in the race in 2012 will mean making major shifts, according to industry professionals.  Improving efficiencies have driven builders to advocate an integrated approach by steering clear of their outdated, convoluted, building-in-isolation process into a results-driven project delivery model.  An IPM program by The Contrado Group will provide you with a steady and single-source of information/technology starting as early as the conceptual drawings , into structural design/drafting (BIM), to project management, to sales options, and then to the all-important marketing/sales solutions.  Our BIM (Building Information Modeling) affiliate, AmeriCAD (http://www.constructech.com/news/articles/article.aspx?article_id=7929) , sets the core technology standard for the Integrated Process Management platform and allows the reduction of risk through better information throughout the process.

It is reported by home builders currently working in a BIM environment (http://bookstore.ashrae.biz/journal/journal_s_article.php?articleID=827) , that they are not only gaining efficiencies via clash detection, coordination, scheduling, etc., they are also reducing risk of exposure for schedule and budget overruns, claims, and more.  Looking at the current climate, owners that would put down big dollars to purchase land and start a community may be reluctant. So what will help convince them otherwise? Understanding that there is a much better risk scenario out there and that is what BIM and Integrated Process Management (IPM) is delivering to the industry.

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