I am a UX Designer, creator of Design Meltdown and the author of six web design books. Several times per year you can find me speaking at conferences on various topics.

10 Web Design Elements that You Shouldn’t Overlook

Posted on: March 28th, 2011 by patrick 2 Comments


In my first guest post on WebDesignerDepot.com I take a look at some basic design elements that are frequently left out of the design work. As a result, developers have to accommodate for them. Here is the introduction to the article, and you can read the complete article on WebDesignerDepot.com.

When it comes to designing and building websites, it never seems to happen fast enough.

Given this fast pace, many small details that are eventually required to build the website are often left out of the design process. While these details might be minor, they are what take a website from nice to truly awesome.

These details are often easy to miss because they don’t drive the overall look and feel of the website. The problem is that as your development team works through the design, it will be forced to design and create these elements for you anyway.

You could adjust the production cycle so that the developers have time to return these assets to you, but why not just get it all done up front so that the process is that much cleaner?

Read the full article on WebDesignerDepot.com

Introducing the HOW Interactive Design Conference

Posted on: March 17th, 2011 by patrick No Comments


I am delighted to be a part of the planning committee for a brand spanking new web conference. It is coming from the fine folks at HOW, and is titled The How Interactive Design Conference. Not much information is published yet, but I am excited to be on the list of speakers. Stay tuned for more information and get on the mailing list for the event if you are interested!

The Elements of Content Strategy

Posted on: March 16th, 2011 by patrick No Comments


On my flight to New York yesterday I brought along my freshest reading material, The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. This short and to the point book weighs in at 80 pages. As such, I figured it would be a great, light weight book for the road.

While a book on content strategy is not exactly what I would pick out, it turned out to be well worth the time and money. I do of course write a lot, but the notion of a content strategy is something new to me. The real reason I purchased the book was because the previous books from A Book Apart were fantastic, and I just wanted to see what this one was about. So, much as the author fell into her role as a content strategist, I fell into the book.

The book is broken down into three core sections: The Basic Principles, The Craft of Content Strategy and Tools and Techniques. As such, I will briefly review each.

Section 1 - The Basic Principles

This is by far the shortest of the three with only 10 pages of content. In this section the author establishes basic concepts, or principles, that define a content strategist. It also sets the stage for some basic ideas of how good content can fundamentally be identified from poor content. I particularly enjoyed the process she went through on page seven in establishing how to properly define the goals of any given piece of content. Through this process of getting to a more descriptive purpose I was surprised to see how often I fall into the way to generic bucket. This gets you thinking and opens your mind for what is to come.

Section 2 - The Craft of Content Strategy

This section was by far my favorite. Through it, I felt like my entire perspective on content was tweaked and my mind was opened up to a new way of visualizing it. This portion outlines the four key influences to the role of a content strategist. These are: the Editor, the Curator, the Marketer and the Information Scientist. In assessing these four influences and their individual views on content we come to a much clearer purpose of the content strategist. This was the highlight of the book for me as it got me thinking more and more strategically about content in general. Being a person that generates a lot of content, this has obvious importance for me. But again, even if your not in such a content generating role, I think the insights will impact how you design and build sites. After all, the content is the entire purpose of a site, so it just feels diligent to learn about it.

Section 3 - Tools and Techniques

I struggled with this section. I found it to be the most difficult to digest. Perhaps this because the knowledge of the previous section was still settling in. I believe another factor is that this section outlined methods for actually doing content strategy, as such, it inevitably gets more complex. I suspect that I will soon return to this section as I become ready to use the knowledge it contains.


In the end my opinion is probably fairly evident, this book is well worth the $18. Its short and to the point and exposes the fundamental concepts of this niche with brilliant clarity. After getting through section two I can't imagine not having an altered view of content. Its shortness ensured that I did not get bored with an exhaustive study of the topic. Instead, I was introduced to a way of viewing content that I had not expected. Even if you work as a designer or developer and content seems like a problem for someone else to deal with, I highly encourage you to give this one a shot. The notion of content strategy might fall primarily on those who specialize in it, but it impacts everyone. Much in the same way SEO is everyone's problem, even if there is an SEO specialist on the project.

Check out the book, you won't regret it.


Posted on: March 16th, 2011 by patrick No Comments


Well, if you are reading this you have found my new online home. For a long time I have been torn over what to do on PMcNeil.com. It has been a portfolio, a blog, a landing page and at times, nothing. With this, I will finally make it a permanent blog. It just stands to reason to have this as a central point to reference all of the things I find myself involved in. For example, after six years of writing for .Net magazine, it never occurred to me to log those articles somewhere online. Seems kind of silly in retro spec, but most things do.

So, moving forward I will be putting pointers to my activities around the web, some original posts and hopefully a new section for book reviews (something I have wanted for some time to do).

Thank you for visiting!