Awesome Free Groovies for Designy Type Folks, Vol. 1

I loves me some free stuff, especially stuff that helps me grow in my career. I spend plenty of dough every year on subscriptions to Treehouse, Skillshare, and Smashing Books, so sometimes I just want something for free, you know? I plan on creating follow ups to the list as I find more resources, here is volume one of Awesome Free Groovies for Designy Type Folks.

All You Can Learn by UIE

Right now, you can get a 30 day trial to the All You Can Learn website, no credit card required. The site is loaded with ux, ui, and usability videos and presentations, most from User Interface Engineering conferences. I was able to go to UIE conference way back in 2003, I think, and it was awesome. I actually learned something, rather than just sat in in 40 minute long advertisements.

Vimeo has mostly short 3-7 minute intros to the creative spark series, but they have a full 30+ minute one of Jeffrey Zeldman. Just go to Vimeo and search for Also, at, each course has a few free videos available as well.

Documentary on Zeldman from on Vimeo

Fro Knows Photo

Fro Knows Photo: Fro is funny and smart and has a ton of free training and tip videos on the art of photography on his site and on YouTube.


Pinterest is great for way more than finding pics of kittens and donuts. Search for a topic and you can find some great material, mostly graphical, that can help break down complex ideas for you. Lately I have been looking into Agile and Scrum, but there is much more. Awesome pins on ux, ui, this great pin on exposure in photography, web design, even pins on how to make awesome groovies and thingies.

Microsoft Expressions Web 4

This is an oldie but still worth noting. If you need an IDE to do some web work in and can’t afford Dreamweaver and you are not on a mac and can’t get one of the cool tools available to use on that platform, Microsoft Expressions Web is now free. It is a full-featured web editor and it used to cost a few hundred bucks. Even though they stopped working on it in 2012, it is a still a great editor.


I was fortunate enough to see Luke W in person last year at an all day mobile session he did-great information, great delivery. What’s even more great is that pretty much all of his articles and content is freely available on his site right now, including his new book on mobile. Definitely go see him in person if you have the chance, though, well worth it.



So last weekend I did what ever other grown women did, I went and saw the Lego movie. And it was AWESOME!!! I also recently spent my evenings photographing some of my toys, Legos included. Wouldn’t you know, I’m not the only person who takes fancy photos of plastic friends. May I present some of my Lego toy fancy shots, and some from other folks on the interwebs:

My Photos:

Photos from Other Folks

Other Lego Groovies


Discoveries for 2/2/14

I have been busy the past few weeks working on three major projects at the same time. I did find time to do some discovering, and here are some of the interesting things I found:

Sneauxmaggedon 2014!

Oh nos! It like, snowed, in the south!!!!! I was fortunate enough to, for the first time in my life, see real, true, powder snow here in Mississippi. Back home in New Orleans, they got mostly ice and slush, but it was enough to shut that city down. Alabama and Georgia also had sum interesting consequences of a wee bit of snow… Anywho, yes, to northerners, we southerners are hysterical. The pure joy we exude at the slightest snowflake, followed by the abject horror of any accumulation and the realization that we have no idea how to drive in this stuff, is pretty funny. But we know how to deal with 100 degree/100% humidity, tropical storms, and hurricanes, and giant flying roaches (you set them on fire, or just scream until your daddy kills them with his shoe…), so stick that in your pipe and smoke it! :)

I was able to take some groovy shots of this amazing fluffy water, and I found some macro shots of snowflakes that are flipping amazing.

NOTE: Snow spelled Sneaux is a Louisiana thang, we add eaux in whenever we can, cuz that’s how we roll. Geaux Saints!

In-Browser Visual Editors


Froont is an in-browser web prototyping tool that allows you to drag and drop elements onto the screen to visually design responsive websites. It goes from free to $49 a month, with no in-between plan. As someone who already pays $50 a month for Creative Cloud, I would be hesitant to shell out that much for what this program does. The best feature of Froont is the immediate responsive feedback-you can instantly see what your design will look like in several common breakpoints. Though to be fair, you can do this is Dreamweaver as well, and you can even create your own breakpoints in Dreamweaver. You can also preview multiple Typekit fonts in your design, which was my favorite part of this service. Once you are done designing, you can export the project. Here is where they lose me-you get their code. As a web designer that can actually code HTML and css, letting a program do that for me makes me feel, well, icky. I want to choose what frameworks I want, what snippets I want, and I want to decide exactly what to name my classes.

I do see value in the free version for quickly prototyping a general idea, which you can then move into a code editor and actually build yourself. The paid version has value for those sad “web designers” who can’t code worth a dang, or for developers who are terrified of css and have found themselves forced to design a site. Overall, an interesting service that has plenty of time to mature and find its place in the web designer’s arsenal.


The other in-browser editor I checked out this week was Jetstrap, which is built specifically for the Bootstrap framework (which happens to be the one I prefer and use, for now…).

Jetstrap is different from Froont in that it is less about prototyping a fully designed site and more about prototyping what the different Bootstrap elements look like. So after you drag all those elements on the page, what you end up with is a completely generic Bootstrap design. For me, I would find this useful only so I can quickly get a feel for a Bootstrap element to determine if it serves my purpose. Jetstrap also has no free version, it has a demo version , and then three pricing tiers, starting at $16 a month to $99 a month. I really find these pricing models a bit ridiculous. Web designers already have code editors they have paid handsomely for. Having to pay what could be a grand a year for a prototyping tool is nuts. For either of these tools, if they had a $5 a month plan then I think they would get more traction.

Photography Groovies and Thingies

Super-Charge Your iPhone

This is so cool-the Ladibird iPhone Portrait Camera. It is a case for your iPhone 5 that connects to the camera and it adds a prime lens AND a big ole CMOS sensor! This is kinda a big deal, because it isn’t just adding another dinky lens on top of the iPhone lens, it is literally a camera that uses your iPhone to store and process the photos. The lens is a 50mm f1.8 prime-that’s the ideal portrait lens, and it is fast, much faster than the iPhone’s built in lens. A lens like this gives you beautiful bokeh and is great for taking pictures of life that you see right before your eyes. 50mm is also considered the “journalist’s” lens because they prefer to travel with small cameras with a fixed 50 lens to capture everyday life. The sensor in this thing is 7.5x as big as the one in the phone-that’s a huge difference!!! Bigger sensor = better pictures. This baby is not in production yet but is ramping up for release later this year. It won’t be cheap-it will most likely sell for over $300-but that’s a lot cheaper than my Leica DLux6 that I bring with me everywhere (heck, I’m still gonna bring that baby everywhere…).

New Toys from Nikon

I am a Nikonian. I started off with a D50, then got a D5100, then a used D200, and now I have the D7100. I love me some Nikons. Announced at CES 2014, the D3300 has a lot of the same goodies as my D7100, but is much cheaper. It is the next evolution of the D3000, which I recommended to a friend. This is an entry-level DSLR and they take excellent photos. I found them a bit too small in the hnad for me, but maybe that’s because I have big man hands, but anyway… The D3300 also comes in red… Nikon also announced a new full frame 35mm f1.8 lens. I have the cropped 35mm f1.8 and it is one of my most favorite lenses. These things are soo freaking sharp!

Nikon also announced the upcoming D4S-a camera I will never be able to afford to buy. If I had a ton of money, I would get the Nikon Df, just cuz it’s so retro groovy looking.

Sigma Makes Lenses Sexy

The new lenses from Sigma are hot looking. They just announced a 50mm f1.4 Art lens. Fast lenses really make a difference. The slower lenses impact spontaneity and make it hard to shoot critters. The Sigma lens I want is the 18-35mm f1.8 Art lens. That’s the lens you want for landscapes and shooting buildings on vacation.

New Old Stock:

Copyright-restriction-free vintage photos. I’m not quite sure how I would use them in my projects, but they sure are interesting to look at.


Hugs and Pugs People!


My 2014 Resolution

I have but one official resolution for 2014 (that I will share): to write one weekly “here’s what I thought was interesting/cool/etc this week” post. I started this blog six months ago and have two whole posts for 2013 on it. Why? Because I work alot, and once I am done working I come home and work on freelance gigs. After all that, I want to collapse on the couch.

I have been trying to carve out time each week to look at web blogs, read more about the design industry, and learn new skills. If that means less Netflix, so be it :) So here is my first “this is what I learned/saw/thought was cool this week” for 2014.

First off, I have gone to the dark side, or rather, the shiny chrome side. I finally bought a Mac Pro tower. It’s from 2008 but it is a beast with 8 cores and 16 gigs of ram. It is a lovely addition to my MacBook Pro and increasingly cranky PC tower. As much as I appreciate the aesthetics of Apple and the stability of their products, there are still things about them that make me crazy. Why can’t I get a physical button to open the superdrive bay??? 30 minutes screwing around trying to find the magic keystroke to release the thing is uncalled for- a wee chrome button next to the bay would have been logical and useful. Why hide functionality?? Le sigh…

Another toy that I recently bought was the Google Nexus 7 tablet. I already have an iPad2 and  a Kindle Fire HD. I wanted to have an Android device for testing purposes as well as I just thought the commercial with the little kid asking Google was glossaphobia was seemed cool. I wanted to ask Google questions too. The Nexus is a beautiful little tablet, with a gorgeous high rez screen. I really like the form factor. I never liked how the Kindle felt in my hands, and sometimes you don’t want to deal with a giant tablet like the iPad, so the Nexus is the perfect fit. I’m not getting rid of my other tablets or anything, I just wanted a different experience, and for the money, it is a great tablet. My websites look so shiny on it :)

Hmm, what else? I just upgraded my onOne PhotoSuite to version 8. For my personal photos, I love using the suite because it helps make nice photos look cool, and heck, isn’t that the point? No software can make a crappy photo great, but most of us aren’t submitting images to National Geographic, so I say have fun. The onOne suite is cheap and has a ton of features and is easy to use. You don’t have to own PhotoShop to use it as can run as a standalone app.

Another photo enhancing app that I really like is Snapseed. As I am transitioning from my PC to the Mac, I am finding that some of my software isn’t available anymore. Snapseed used to be available as a desktop app, but Google recently canceled it. I saw today that Google has made it available again, though not as a stand alone piece of software. If you have Chrome and Google+, you can open an image in Google+ and when you click Edit, it pops up an in-browser version of Snapseed, so thats pretty cool. I’m not getting rid of my PC, so I think I will use the standalone version of Snapseed when I really want to do some editing, but in a pinch the in-browser version will work nicely. Now if I can figure out how to get Google to let me download the Nik filters I just bought in May to my mac, all will be good in the photo world for me..

My last discovery of the week has nothing to do with technology, design or the web, it is about your face, or rather my face. I just bought a PMD, or personal microderm machine, and lets just say, don’t leave it in one spot too long unless you want to sandblast a hole in your face…. because I kinda did, oops….


Until next week, Hugs and Pugs!



Welcome to I Heart Dragons, the Design Blog of Michelle Pakron

Hi, I’m Michelle. I have been a web slinger for over 15 years now. I have been running the blog SharePoint for Designers for seven years now and I find increasingly that my interests and discoveries lie less with SharePoint and more with CSS 3 and modern web design techniques. This blog was created to provide me a place, beyond the brevity of Twitter, to share what I am finding. I may also post the occasional dragon, pug, or robot-It’s my blog, I do what I want.

To start off the fun, here be a dragon:

Groovy Dragonfly


Discoveries This Week

and because I am feeling generous, meet my new rescue pugish dog, Mickey Midnite:

Mickey the Dog

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