iPhone apps too

Shaun tackles both the design and development single-handedly and reckons his time is spread 60/40 in favour of development time. Whenever he hits a dead end and gets tired by one side, he hops over to the other. The process involves a lot of trial and error and, as Shaun puts it, results in a fractured workflow, but he always makes it through in the end. The trick is to stay focused.

"Knowing that at any time you can just hop over can get you into a trap where you actually don't solve any problems. You just start hopping back and forth," warns Shaun. "But there are also a lot of positives that come from doing both sides. When you're designing something, you can anticipate implementation problems. And when you're developing, you're a little bit more sensitive to the nuances of the design that you're eventually going to be producing on top of that code base."

Recently, Shaun's also started dabbling in iPhone app development. His first effort, Horror Vacui, is an 8-bit two-player strategy board game. It secured Shaun a grant from a local organisation in Chattanooga to work on the next one, a Metroid-Vania side-scroller.

Since he was a kid, he always wanted to make video games and simply loves the idea of being able to get a game on a popular portable device. For Shaun, the hardest challenge when developing for the iPhone was working with libraries and frameworks.

"I don't like magic," he says. "I like knowing how things work. I don't like taking things for granted because if magic breaks, you don't know how to fix it, unless it's your own trick. I'm sure the Apple Objective-C frameworks solve a lot of problems that developers had for years, but as a new developer I haven't encountered those problems and I feel like I'm jumping through hoops that are actually there to protect me and save me trouble in the long run."

When things become a bit hairy, Shaun, who's also a musician, picks up the guitar. He's been in talks with other web developers about putting together an album of covers produced in their own special way. And of course, Shaun also initiated Scalable Inman Flash Replacement (sIFR), a typography technique that enables you to replace text elements on screen with Flash equivalents.

The method was later refined by Mike Davidson and Mark Wubben, who's taken over its development. For a while, Shaun lost interest in the web typography issue but now that the space is heating up he's getting back into it, switching his own site over to Cufón.

"It came along and didn't have the Flash requirement, which is great. And it even works on the iPhone because it uses Canvas. That's pretty sweet. But I'm not a fan of those commercial font-hosting services. They're interesting but I have the same reservations about them as I do about other third-party hosted solutions. One, they can analyse your traffic. Two, what happens if a couple of sites on a particular font licensing network get slashdotted or digg'ed, what happens to other sites on that service?"

Now, a CMS

Shaun's latest project is a little content management system called Less, or the Less Broadcasting System, inspired by Twitter. It came to Shaun when he realised that he'd abandoned his personal site in favour of Twitter's single little text area – that creating a blog post had suddenly become much too complicated.

"But what if your content management system was a single text area, I asked myself. So I'm building something that uses a slightly modified version of John Gruber's Markdown. It allows you to create posts and links from a single text area and is smart enough to parse out a title and tags or categories, like a custom slug for a URL for that particular person. The idea is to reduce the barrier to expression on your personal site down to a level that Twitter has achieved with their service."

During the development, Shaun's created a personal URL shortening service called Lessn that adheres to the same minimal aesthetic as Less, both in terms of UI and infrastructure.

If the success of Mint and Fever is anything to go by, the CMS will be a smash.

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First published in .net Issue 195

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