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Cool New Tools: Balsamiq, Friendfeed and Lijit

Mockup_2_3 If you're one of those companies that are looking at updating your website or blog, you should check out Balsamiq, Friendfeed and Lijit.

After reading the "Future of Blogging" from ReadWriteWeb, I was pretty inspired to try something different. In the past, it would take days or longer to put anything together. 

But this time, it only took me about 10 minutes to put together a wireframe (above right) using Balsamiq, and from there a little over an hour to get the domain name, and collect all the widgets necessary to build the DNC Blogger page.

Long ago, I learned I could save a lot of time by working with the client to develop wireframes -- basically storyboards for web sites. Balsamiq is the first web tool to really simplify the construction of wireframes.

Julia_allison_blog The goal with the page was to provide "eventstreaming" -- highlight the breaking news and storylines as reported by the 54 or so "official" bloggers of the Democratic National Committee Convention to be held here in Denver at the end of the month. After looking at ReadWriteWeb's analysis of the design of Julia Allison (left) and Alan Cheslow, I decided to roll with Alan's approach.

Friendfeed provides a "river" of the latest posts in a single feed. Next to it is our version of the blogroll -- rather than providing just the names of the blogs, why not give them a bit of color and the last five or so posts? I think that RSS feeds often depersonalize blogs and rob them of the idiosyncracies that make each blog so memorable.

I included the blog search widget from Lijit.com. I think all political blogs should use these guys. I asked Lijit's bizdev guy Micah Baldwin (MEE-hah BALD-win) to create a custom version of the search for DNC blogs. This search was different in that it provided two levels of search:

  1. Search the blog itself. This is the search people are used to. 
  2. Search the blog and all blogs in its blogroll. This is what I think is really interesting -- it returns search results based on the blog and its "kindred spirits", as defined by the preferences of the blog editors.

The Lijit widget provides a search term cloud that lets you see the most frequently searched terms.

Plus, if you discovered the blog by using Google to search for a specific term, Lijit remembers that and suggests blog posts that contain that same search term.

Lastly, I put in a feed that contains the last 15 or so Twitter "tweets" that relate to Denver and the DNC. Twitter is like CB radio -- you can tune in to specific channels and get a never-ending narrative about what people are doing. For the DNC, Twitter will let us provide a backchannel much like a mobile phone tour guide: people will be able to find out what's going on, ask questions, and as a result, make smarter decisions about where to go and what to do.

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