A Note From Dr. Mỹ An T. Nguyễn

In conducting my research for the redesign of Everlasting Eye Care, I looked around at other optometry websites to see how they are done. What I have found are similar templated designs on their homepage with stock photos of people wearing glasses, a few marketing words, and a big button to schedule an appointment. They all claim to be “personable” and yet they all look and feel generic.

In talking with Dr. Nguyễn, I felt the deep passion she had for her profession and the genuine caring she had for her patients. As a result, I decided to scrap all the marketing materials on the homepage and just put up a personal note from Dr. Nguyễn:

Hi, I am Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen and I have been practicing optometry, specializing in dry eyes and contact lens, since 2007.

I have a passion for vision care because I get to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. As an optometrist, I enjoy interacting with many different people and learning about their diverse backgrounds.

Your eyes are precious; therefore, I will take the time to get to know you, to address your concerns, to provide you with the best treatment options, to offer the latest advancements in the vision industry, and to reassure that you are completely comfortable.

I invite you and your family to come to one of my offices for all your eye needs.

–Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen

I just love that she wants to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. Her message is relatable and a nice photo of her added a personal touch. When you come to one of her offices, you know exactly who will take care of your eye health. If you live around Trappe or Norristown, Pennsylvania and need an optometrist, come see Dr. Nguyễn. I guarantee that you will get the highest quality of services. I have known Dr. Nguyễn since fifth grade.

WordPress Races to the Bottom

As WordPress moving toward full-site editing with Gutenberg, the software has become an expensive alternative to Squarespace or Wix. Developing a WordPress theme from scratch seems like a waste of time. The quick way to create a site using WordPress is to use an existing theme and make a bit of cosmetic changes.

I had seen web agencies charging $30,000 to $40,000 to develop a WordPress site. They simply bought a $59 theme and created a child theme to develop the site. They also added tons of plugins to meet their client’s requirements. As a result, the code is messy, the loading is slow, and the look is similar to thousands of sites from the same theme.

It’s a shame that WordPress has gone down this path. to compete with Squarespace and Wix. WordPress is no about clean HTML markups and minimal CSS. The markups WordPress rendered behind the scene were just horrendous.

Flashback

Đán has been obsessed with Flash. He spends most of his screen time finding ways to install Flash Player on his PC. He explained to me step by step the process of getting Flash to run. He showed me newgrounds.com, which still has Flash games. I haven’t visited that site in 20 years. He even showed me the Flash Browser, which is still in beta. I don’t know if it will ever gain traction.

Even though I repeatedly informed that Flash is dead and unsecured, he kept digging in. I feel bad that he’s just wasting his time, but he feels passionate about it. I don’t want him to end up like I did. I wasted so much time learning Flash in college and I ended up ditching it. All I cared about was making cool Flash animation. I thought I would get paid just creating Flash intros. I was so dead wrong. The reality started sinking in when I could not find a job doing Flash. In addition, I had a Flash burn. I was creating the same thing over and over again and I failed to learn Flash scripting language. I was depressed and thought of quitting web design altogether. I could not do anything else besides Flash, but I also hit the crossroads on my Flash path.

I dropped Flash and hit the reset button. I transitioned over to HTML and focused on web standards. CSS rescued my career. HTML for structure and CSS for presentation made so much sense. They opened up a whole new web design world for me that I didn’t know existed. I was stuck in the Flash bubble for so long. Once I discovered HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP, I never looked back. They aren’t as sexy and as cool as Flash, but they are accessible and outlived Flash. HTML and CSS are the backbone of the web. Flash came and went. Fancy JavaScript frameworks dominated and faded. HTML and CSS are here to stay.

I still love creating pure HTML and CSS sites because I know they will work for years to come. My fancy Flash creations are completely useless, but my HTML and CSS sites are still usable. If Đán wants to learn about the web, he should learn HTML and CSS. I’ll teach him if he’s willing to learn. In the meantime, I just let him explore on his own. He’s just nine years old. He has plenty of time to learn.

The Web I Love

The other night, I woke up around 3:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I reached for my phone then started browsing. Somehow Greg Tate came to mind. I wanted to reread his essays. I found a handful of his work from the Village Voice and a few from Rollin Stones and Spin. As much as I love Tate’s articulate criticism, particularly on music, I hated reading his essays filled with annoying ads and JavaScripts that not only slowed down the loading to a crawl, but also kept freezing up the page. I wanted to just take all the content and create a book website without ads and JavaScript and with high-quality typography and editorial design. I want to keep his legacy alive. I might be running into the copyright issue even though I won’t make any money off it.

One of the perks of working at the law school is that every once in a while I would receive a bobblehead of a Supreme Court Justice from a generous and creative law professor. In the past ten years, my collection has grown. From Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Sonia Maria Sotomayor, I have a display on my bookcase at work. I heard the rumor that some of these bobbleheads had been sold on eBay for a few grants a pop. They are gifts and priceless to me. I will keep them for as long as I can and I wanted to make a website showcasing them. I also wanted to learn more about them since I still don’t know many of them, especially the Justices from the past.

Just the thought of creating passion projects like these makes me love the web even more. I love to just design a website and share it to the world. All I need is some great content to markup in HTML, style in CSS, and set in flexible typefaces. I don’t need bloated CMS, JavaScripts, and third-party ads. For almost two decades working on the web, I sat out on all the frameworks. Even WordPress has become way too complicated for me to develop a theme. Full-site editing is where WordPress is heading. I have become more of a WordPress user than a developer. For my own blog, I am using about ten percent of WordPress’s capacity. I am still using my own theme, which has an index.php, style.css, and screenshot.png. From the start, I knew I wanted to keep my blog simple and easy to update. I use no photos, no JavaScripts, and no bloated CSS. I am still using the Classic Editor, which I don’t know how long the support would last.

So far, my simple sites with just HTML and CSS still stand the test of time. I hope all of my sites will stay online for as long as I am alive. I don’t want to worry about them after I am gone. My body will return to dusk and my sites will return to nothingness. I have learned to accept the reality of it instead of trying to keep my legacy alive.

Những câu thành ngữ

Cách đây hai tháng, tôi đọc quyển sách Vietnamese Stories for Language Learners gồm những truyện dân gian được ông Trần C. Trí và cô Lê Trâm dịch sang tiếng Anh. Ở những trang cuối của sánh có phần mục lục những câu thành ngữ tiếng Việt. Tuy không đồng ý với một số câu chuyển ngữ của dịch giả, tôi vẫn lấy làm thú vị nên thiết kế một trang mẫu để đưa vào quyển sách Vietnamese Typography của tôi. Mời cả nhà xem thử trang “Vietnamese Idiomatic Expressions” tôi vừa thiết kế xong.

The Art of Poetry Translation

In his book of poetry collection, Spring Rain, Tâm Minh translated 50 classic works from poets including William Henry Davies, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, Christina Rossetti, and Thomas Hardy. I chose a few pieces that dealt with life and death to create a sample page for Vietnamese Typography. For typesetting, I chose Loretta, designed by Abel Martins and Joana Correia, for text, Mea Culpa, designed by Robert Leuschke, for titles, and Albula Pro, designed by Silvio Meier, for authors. Take a look.

Almost There

In the past three weeks, I had been working late nights to edit my aunt’s stories about our family. I wanted to turn it into a web book similar to Vietnamese Typography. I wanted to add old photos as well as profile information for the characters in her stories, which included my mother’s parents and her siblings.

Although I volunteered to put the website together, my main focus was on editing. I had been blogging on this site for 20 years, but it was the first time that I edited someone else’s work. It was a daunting task to edit both English and Vietnamese. What I looked for were spelling errors, cutting down repeated sentences to make the flow better, and consistency—particularly in English to keep the stories in past tense.

I had the impression that when my aunt wrote these stories, she wanted to get the words from her head to the page. As a result, she didn’t pay much attention to the technical part of writing. As an editor, I came to her stories from a fresh perspective; therefore, I had an easier time to spot the errors. I had learned quite a bit editing someone’s writing, but I don’t enjoy it as much as writing.

In addition to editing the stories and designing the website, I wrote an epilogue. I wish I could share the entire book, but it was intended as a family project. I will share my piece on this blog.

The final draft is almost finished. I just wanted to get it done so I can get back to my normal routine and catching up on sleeping. I had a booster shot yesterday and my arm is sore.

I Love Ngoc Lan is Back On WordPress

So I decided to bring ilovengoclan.com back to WordPress. I didn’t want to use DigitalOcean because it would take too much work to setup WordPress and to migrate the site over. I definitely didn’t want to go back to HostPapa; therefore, I needed to find an alternative. WordPress recommends three hosting companies: BlueHost, DreamHost, and SiteGround. I have heard of the first two for years, but not so much the third one.

After reading a bit about SiteGround, I was drawn to its WordPress Automatic Migrator. I signed up for the StartUp plan. Setting up WordPress was a click away. I didn’t even have to touch the config file or the database. I installed the WordPress Automatic Migrator plugin on HostPapa, pasted the migration token, and voila. The migration process took less than five minutes. I switched the IP address and that was it. My jaw dropped. Everything worked just as expected.

I am really dig SiteGround. Give SiteGround a shot if you just want to get WordPress up and running quickly. If you want to migrate your site off HostPapa, SiteGround is the way to go.

Chữ Việt phong phú

Thông thường những nhà thiết kế chữ liên lạc với tôi để cố vấn về phần dấu trong chữ Việt của chúng ta. Họ muốn biết những dấu họ thiết kế có đúng và dễ đọc cho những người bản ngữ. Cho nên trách nhiệm của tôi là nhận xét cách thiết kế và vị trí của từng dấu. Chẳng hạn như dấu sắc và dấu huyền nên đặt bên phải hay bên trái của dấu ớ để người đọc có thể nhanh chóng nhận ra chữ ngay. Hoặc các dấu cao hay thấp để những hàng chữ không bị chạm vào nhau. Tóm lại là tôi chú trọng vào sự rõ ràng và dễ đọc trong phần chữ Việt.

Tuy nhiên cũng có đôi lúc những bộ chữ không thuộc về sự rõ ràng mà thuộc về thẩm mỹ. Phần lớn chữ được thiết kế theo thẩm mỹ có những cá tính rất riêng. Chẳng hạn như bộ chữ Megazoid của nhà thiết kế David Jonathan Ross. Bộ chữ này có tính cách hình học (geometric) qua sự thử nghiệm giữa hình tròn và hình vuông. Khi David thiết kế dấu cho chữ Việt, anh hỏi ý kiến của tôi như thế nào. Lúc đầu nhìn cũng khó chấp nhận, chẳng hạn như những cái dấu bị dính liền với nhau, nhưng để ý kỹ tôi nhận thấy lạ và hay.

Lúc đầu anh đưa tôi xem, những chiếc dấu rất mong manh so với chữ cái nên tôi góp ý với anh là thiết kế dày dặn hơn để dấu và chữ được phối hợp chặt chẽ với nhau. David đồng ý và đã sửa lại. Dĩ nhiên bộ chữ này không thể dùng để đọc mà dùng để đẹp.

Nếu như bạn thích những bộ chữ có tiếng Việt để thư viện chữ của mình phong phú hơn, bạn nên tham gia câu lạc bộ Font of the Month Club của David. Mỗi đầu tháng anh sẽ gửi một bộ chữ cho những người trong câu lạc bộ. Mỗi tháng chỉ có $6. Nếu tài chính bạn hạn hẹp, bạn chỉ cần đóng $2 một tháng. Tôi đã tham gia từ lúc anh mới bắt đầu ba năm trước. Đến giờ tôi vẫn là thành viên.

I Like Buying Fonts and I Cannot Lie

Although I have more than I can use for my personal projects, I keep acquiring new typefaces. I recently bought a complete web license for Captura Now, designed by Anita Jürgeleit. Captura Now is a friendly, flexible sans-serif family with a variable font and Vietnamese support. I haven’t had a chance to, but I will put it to good use one day.

I invested in Lang Syne, designed by Stephen Nixon, from Future Fonts. Although Lang Syne is still in its early development, I trust that Stephen will complete it with a variable font and Vietnamese support, just like what he is working on for Name Sans.

As much as I have been excited about Future Fonts, I have refrained myself from making purchases. Except for Name Sans, a handful of fonts I have invested in have no future. Some of them aren’t going anywhere. With the exception of Name Sans, none of them supports Vietnamese, which is not too useful for me. As of this writing, only five typefaces on the entire Future Fonts catalog support Vietnamese.

I am still a long-time member of the Font of the Month Club. I am really happy that every font David Jonathan Ross each month comes with the Vietnamese language. I still highly recommend this club for students and font enthusiasts.