Here I am at 7-ish in the morning… up all night working… again! I should just move to and live in Japan, since it’s clear that after almost 14 months since returning from my last season with Aimachi that I can’t get myself close to a sleep schedule that matches the rest of the time zone I’m in, or even the entire continent. I guess it doesn’t matter… but it would be nice to say “good morning” at 7am rather than “good night”. :)
I guess moving to Japan would require a lot of extras… like a job, so I can get a working visa, as well as a place to crash… I suppose it would be a bit of a hassle to make happen if I really wanted to do it. Or not? Who knows… I just think it would be fun. I was always on a “regular” schedule over there… but since I returned home I’ve just been lazy and unmotivated to make any adjustments. This reminds me…how am I gonna make it through the day on Thursday when my flight leaves here around 7am? Oh well…
So, who out there is an iPhone/iPod touch user? What about Android phones? If you can, do me a favor and visit my website on your phone:
Last February when I was at TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association), I was chillin’ with my friend Drew and some of his friends at the Hooters on the Riverwalk and we were chillin’ and having a beer or something. Something random caught my attention (besides our server) and that was the fact that of the 5 or 6 of us at the table, I was the only person without an iPhone. Soon thereafter, as I was wondering around the convention center, I noticed more and more band directors carrying iPhones around. Hell… EVERYONE had an iPhone! At the time, I didn’t feel ‘left out’ or anything like that, but it was just a funny thing I noticed when I was there.
The next afternoon, I was hangin’ out at the exhibits and wandering through the place and doin’ what everyone does. I saw a band director there who I have known for a while and we chatted for about 20 minutes about life, this and that, whatever… He asked if I had a card or a website so he could stay in touch. I reached into my pocket and gave him one of my cards and he looked at it, said something like “oh you have a website… I’ll have to check that out sometime when I get back home…”
And then… this little light bulb went off in my head. I’m here at a convention where 90% of the people I see have iPhones or something of the sort… wouldn’t it be cool if I could create a mobile version of my website so they could look at it while they’re walking around the convention center and not have to be on your computer at home or the hotel? hmm…
Now… lets get something straight. I already know I don’t need this. I know that maybe 5 people will care if I have a mobile site. And maybe 4 of those people wouldn’t visit it more than once or twice. It’s not like my website is all that interesting or “fun” for anyone. It’s not like a social networking site… it’s just a condensed version of my site, giving whoever may be interested or able to, visit my site on their iPhone as they sit at Hooters, walk around the convention center… or possibly even as they chill at home on the couch. (who would do that though, really?) ;)
But why do this? Because I think it will actually be a useful and helpful way for me to expand my advertising. I do advertise with the normal routines – website, business cards, word of mouth, etc. But I thought, “what if I could get my site on the mobile web, especially since there’s so much emphasis on web browsing on a phone these days?” Of course, you still have the anticipated iPad coming out in about 5 weeks.
I first created a website about 11 years ago, but I don’t think anyone knew about it. Some did… and if you do, you probably remember that it was just what myspace/facebook started out as at first. No, I’m not saying that I could have invented facebook, but all my site consisted of what a page with a picture of me, little bio, little list of “favorite” things… and a few photo albums. I did it just to kinda be a huge nerd and have a website just to have a website. I didn’t have anything to advertise or promote… but I just did it for fun.
It was around the fall of 2005 when I was in my first full season in TX and was attending school at UH. I was talking to some of my classmates and friends, and someone asked me if I had a website to advertise what I do. I just rolled my eyes, laughed and said something like “no way… I don’t need a website.” Mostly referring to the fact that I have a job that requires more than just a website to get gigs. But later that day, I was online at the library computer lab and I thought I’d do a search for drill designers on the web. I couldn’t find any sites for the designers I know and am close with. I did manage to find a few designer’s sites and looked through them to see what they were like. It was funny because I was looking for these sites as a designer myself, so I had no idea what I was looking for or what to expect.
I was honestly somewhat disappointed with just about every site I went to. Some of them had “samples” of their designs, but in the form of locked drill files you could download and open in Pyware, or PDF pages of maybe two or three sets from a show. As a designer, I try not to get that far into a director’s head, but if I were a director looking for a designer, I would not know what to think after viewing sites like those. No disrespect meant to those designers… I’m sure that was probably all they were capable of doing at the time anyway. This was 2005 – obviously there have been leaps in technology since then. However, they may as well have had nothing on their site regarding samples of their work if that was all they had (in my opinion). That’s just what how I felt at the time… and still somewhat today, but I do also understand that your work on the field, reputation and word of mouth are what gets you a job – not a flashy video on your website showing off what you did at the computer.
So, I contemplated this for several months… and during the spring of 2006 and as I was writing Pasadena Memorial’s show, I had a bit of extra time at the computer and thought about starting a website. It wasn’t really a spur of the moment thing. I just needed to find the right design software, a host that was affordable and just build it! I spent a great deal of time thinking back to when it was pointed out to me that having a website would be helpful. Looking at where we are in this day and age with so much of our lives involving a computers and the internet to communicate, I figured it would be more than worth it to give it a shot.
I’ll spare you the details of all that has happened in between then and now, but 3 1/2 years after I started georgehester.com, I have literally been bombarded with e-mails or conversations about my website more than anything. I get e-mails from other designers either asking how I do the video embed, or just a little compliment on the site design. It’s really a great feeling to be complimented for something like that, especially since I only did it because I wanted to try to stay ahead of the curve. And I am never offended if no-one compliments the drill I design. Some do, but it’s no big deal if they don’t.
But staying ahead of the curve is what I have been going for since I started my website. I may not have the “best” drill designer site out there… nor do I consider there to be any sort of competition for the best drill designer’s website. But it definitely got many people’s attention a couple years ago and I’m just glad that I took the opportunity to build a website for my “business” and put it out there on the world wide web!
I have actually been able to get jobs by way of people viewing my drill in video form either on my website or even YouTube. I would not say that I rely on my samples to get me work, but thankfully there are plenty of drill writers, designers and directors that can see those samples and see that I am good at what I do. I know I’m a decent visual designer and I’m very thankful for all who have taught or inspired me over the past 18 years since I started doing marching band.
I have taken great care in making sure that I built a site that is fast loading, easy to navigate through, has all of the information a director would want/need in the right places and gives people a way to view samples of my work. I didn’t just build a site and publish it without talking to people first. I am very thankful to have so many friends who are band directors and designers, to go to for advice on how to create the best “drill designer” website I could. I would be somewhat subtle about it at first and only ask things like “what do you look for in any website you go to?” just being general about the whole thing. Then I’d be more straight to the point and ask “what if a drill designer had a site… what would you want to see on it?”
So many of those people talked about being able to see video samples of the drill, more than anything – preferably live performance high cam, if available. Many also wanted to see charts to look at staging… but also mentioned how that’s kind of difficult without seeing it live and in person. I have tried to include as many live performance videos I can, but unfortunately have struggled just to get a copy from a director. I don’t know if it’s that they felt their band didn’t do a good enough job and worried/embarrassed by their effort. I certainly hope that’s not the case. These are just young adults/students performing. You can’t criticize that! And it’s in combination with art that I created. (along with other designers). This is all an “art” activity, in my mind, and to see it on the computer, to me, isn’t art… it’s almost no different than watching binary code float across the screen. But seeing the performances live (and in person) is something I get butterflies in my stomach for every single time. It’s the only time the show comes to life and it’s the “purpose” behind writing the show. I didn’t write the shows just to look neat on the computer. I wrote them for the students and the live performance of the art form.
So yeah… that was me sorta venting due to the fact that through 8 seasons of writing drill and over 60 shows designed, after asking every single director for a video of the shows I wrote I’ve only received about a dozen actual videos and maybe a dozen more that popped up on YouTube. The rest are kinda just out there somewhere on some band director’s bookshelf. : Sorry, but I think that sending the designer a video of the band performing should be mandatory. And no, I’m not going to take some people’s advice and put a note in my contract that says “I require a video of the performance at the end of the season”. That’s just dumb, in my opinion. That almost sounds like me saying “I require you march the drill you are paying me to write for your band”. ;) haha! To me, it makes just as little sense to not send me a video as it would be to pay me to write the drill and not march the drill.
Anyway – back on topic… what were we talking about? Oh yeah, my website. :)
Keeping the site HTML based was a must. About two years ago, I got some e-books and read a bunch of websites and forums about Flash. I am definitely a fan of Flash sites and many of the cool animations they use… especially on the menus – sound effects too. love it! But when I looked at my website and what it was for, I didn’t think twice – my site would never be Flash-based. Why? Because it doesn’t need to be. It needs to be fast loading, easy to navigate through and has what people want and need to see. More and more people are “converting” to Flash websites and it’s actually, in my personal opinion, making it limiting for people who visit those sites. Flash is slow and many computers (especially school computers) block Flash. Although my video samples on my website are in fact Flash (.flv) videos, they are still fast loading and as far as I know, work on every system without problems.
I focus the majority of the time spent on my website working on the presentation and layout to appeal most to those who I want to visit the site rather than for me. Personally, I’d wanna add a lot more… a bunch of cool Flash animations, revolving door/reveal windows when you roll over images. Heck, I’ve got one seriously awesome website in my head that I would love to design, but I don’t have the time or need for it. But that’s just a “me” thing, and maybe I’ll do it someday, if the timing is right and I actually sit down and figure out how to actually create it all. :) But what’s there now is for you guys and from the feedback I get, it’s made most everyone happy. (Not everyone likes my drill or wants to hire me, but that’s ok… it’s just art and business…)
Which then brings me to the whole iPhone/Android mobile site topic. I am not an iPhone user. I used to want to be one, but I am now the proud owner of the Motorola Droid and still with Verizon. I couldn’t be happier with the phone and it’s the best phone I’ve have to date. I can talk more about the phone, but I’ll save that for another blog. :) And I have been a 1st generation iPod Touch user since the day they were released (literally) back in October of 2007. My iPod Touch is my all-time favorite gadget and I would usually leave the apartment with just my iPod and computer, leaving my cell phone at home. (no-one calls me anyway- except when I’m working). Anyway… I randomly visited my website on the iPod just to see how it worked, and it was kinda neat. My site looked good and had all the stuff it needed….. except… the videos didn’t work. : Hmm… That’s not cool. It was at that time I realized that the iPods/iPhones couldn’t run Flash. Although Adobe is supposed to be coming out with Flash 10.1 this year and enable Flash for mobile devices, at that time I was just kinda bummed that it didn’t work. I figured that after some time that Flash would soon be available for the iPhones and it wouldn’t be a big deal. iPhones were made to be able to browse the web just fine and all that… but with there being so much detail and complexity in it the way it was then, a mobile site just seemed necessary. (then again, I never really cared if I could view my site on my iPod Touch).
So, about 15 months go by and we’re at TMEA in 2009 – the time I was talking about earlier. And noticing how many people I interacted with were on these touch-screen mobile devices. After following Apple a bit more during that time, and also converting to a Macbook as my primary computer (loving it, by the way), I ultimately decided that since reading Flash isn’t really something Apple wants to implement in their products, why not work around it? :) So, last February, I created a quasi mobile site just for iPhone users, and it had video samples in a format that was readable on the iPhone. I didn’t tell that many people about it… I just did it to do it. :)
But things are a tad different a year later. Not so much with evolutions in technology, but with the introduction of the iPad… me getting an Android mobile phone that can’t play flash videos either, nor the formatted videos for the iPhone site. Only YouTube (for now). I know that the iPad attracted many people that are in the music and marching business and I also know that, just like the iPhone and iPod Touch, Flash on it will be limited.
So… I went ahead and did a quick redesign of my mobile site in anticipation for TMEA, and also to have something that will work on an iPad when everyone goes to pick one up in a couple months. Also, it is optimized for Android phones too, giving multiple options of video samples according to which device is being used. It won’t work on ALL mobile phones… but more than likely any touch-enabled mobile device.
The funniest part about doing this is that I did it in about 4 hours a couple nights ago. I was in need of a break from work and shoulda gotten up and done something else… but I was looking at my calendar and thinking about TMEA… and it reminded me about the mobile site I developed last year. I knew it was kinda simple and cheap. But like I said earlier, I like to stay ahead of the curve. I may or may not be the only drill designer out there with a mobile site and many people might think “That’s because it’s dumb and no-one cares if you have a mobile site.” Well, I’ll give that about 6 months and we’ll see. When I first did this last year, one friend actually told me they thought it was a waste to do the mobile site. I didn’t disagree or argue with them, and I could see what they meant at the time. But now, I think it’s almost a must. Many will disagree with these statements, but I think that the way technology is going and the direction of the tablet computers coming out and iPhones/Android phones being such a hot item now a days, and a device that many people can’t put down for two seconds, I think it’s almost a given that I should create a site specifically for those devices.
It’s no big deal… just a few hours on photoshop and encoding some videos… I also had to add just a bit of code to my homepage for the mobile device detection and auto-redirect… piece o’ cake!
Well… I guess that’s about all I have right now. Again, if you are using iPhone/iPod Touch or one of the cool new Android phones, please test out my site and let me know what you think. I don’t really need the feedback, but if something doesn’t work or doesn’t work right, it’d be good to know. cool? word!
Okay… time for bed… at 8:50Am. hooray! :P
P.S. – A screen capture of the mobile site, for those who might be interested.