High School Web Design

August 1st, 2014

k12 web design

Many K12 teachers are now being asked to teach web design for the first time. This presents a challenge since few teachers have professional web design and development experience.

I was approached about two years ago by a couple of schools who needed a way to more easily teach web design. Luckily, I had been working on an application that would more than just help: Studioweb is an interactive web design and programming training system that automates the teaching process:

  • automated quizzing
  • automated scoring
  • automated hinting

All based around a proven turnkey curriculum that I’ve been training people with for years.

The Key to Modern Web Design

Web design has evolved a lot over the last 20 years, the way websites are built today is nothing like the way we did it back in the early 1990′s. It is so different in fact, that web designers from that time would almost have to completely retrain themselves!

Today, web design is about:

  • HTML 5 … NOT XHTML
  • CSS and CSS3
  • Responsive web design – Bootstrap
  • WordPress
  • JQuery
  • JavaScript

You might have noticed that I did NOT mention Photoshop, Fireworks, Flash or even Dreamweaver. These tools are still used a lot but they are no longer central to web design. In fact, many web professionals never touch them!

The Recognition of the Importance of Code

One of the biggest changes in the last few years, is the world’s realising that code is now as important as reading, writing and math. When kids learn to code, you give them a practical skill set along with problem solving experience … all the while, you reinforce logical thinking.

Studioweb focuses on teaching real-world web design and programming techniques as well as the key fundamental concepts. Students come away with demonstrable skills that can be applied in the real world on real projects. The aforementioned cognitive benefits come as a bonus.

If you want to learn more or if you are interested in trying out Studioweb, feel free to contact me.

Stefan Mischook
Killersites.com

Learn one thing at a time when learning web design.

July 6th, 2014

List of things

Hi,

I recently got an email from someone who felt overwhelmed with all the apps they were trying to learn – learning Photoshop, Fireworks and Dreamweaver all at the same time can do that!

Do one thing at a time says I!

I’ve been there, where it seems there is so much to learn, that it becomes overwhelming. First, don’t make the mistake of believing the tools (Photoshop, Fireworks etc) are the goal – they are not. In fact, once you understand web design (development), you will likely being using 10% of Photoshop’s features … as an example.

That said, it is best to concentrate on one thing, get functional skills and then move on to the next. Jumping around and learning bits of this one day, and a bit of that another day, will just cost you time because you will be constantly shifting gears when moving from one subject/app to the other.

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

Studioweb now used in STEM education Programs in Northeastern United States.

June 29th, 2014

icon-studioweb

Hi!

I am happy to announce that Studioweb is now being used as part of STEM education programs in the northeastern US.

Studioweb (that’s us!) continues to work with K12, community colleges, cultural centers and vocational schools to provide an to easy understand curriculum in modern web design and programming.

… Our courses are effective because experienced teachers designed them – not 20yr software developers.

Over the last two years, the Studioweb team has worked in the field with teachers and thousands of students to continue to refine Studioweb’s features and courses.

If you are interested in a turn-key interactive training system for web design and programming, please feel free to check out Studioweb.com.

Thanks!

Stefan Mischook
Studioweb.com

My new Site on Apple’s Swift

June 18th, 2014

Apple Swift

Hi,

It took us a week but my site on Apple’s Swift programming language has officially launched!

swiftplayground.org

I decided that (once again) I had to walk my talk and explore a new programming language. Swift is a good one to learn for several reasons:

  1. Swift is an ultra modern language. It’s always good to be clued into the cutting edge.
  2. Swift will open up the doors to speedy iOS programming. There’s good money in them Apples!
  3. It looks like a lot of fun!

So there you have it PHP nerds. If you are looking to stimulate your programmatic brain or maybe expand the type of (programming) work you can do, Swift is something worth learning.

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

The Design Process in Web Design

June 16th, 2014

design skills

Hi,

So I’ve cracked out my designers brush (mouse,) and started to work on a new website that we are setting up to log our adventures in Swift programming – Apple’s new programming language for both iOS and Mac OSX.

The Web Design Process is Iterative

You can watch the video below … but here’s the summary:

  • design/layout ideas should be explored by creating many versions and variations as quickly as possible.
  • don’t try to fine-tune your layouts when you are just working on basic themes and ideas.
  • once you’ve picked your basic style, then you can get into polishing it up.

Bonus tip: you want to leverage web frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap – it will make your life as a web designer or developer about 356.23 times easier!

Check out the video:

I hope that helps,

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

StudioWeb now being used by Stefan’s old High School!

June 11th, 2014

stefan mischook

 

Hi,

I just wanted to announce that starting this school year (August 2014) my old high school is going to be using Studioweb as part of their core web design and programming curriculum.

Needless to say, this is somewhat of a personal thing for me. And if you knew me back in high school … the word irony would come to mind.

:)

Stefan Mischook
KillerSites.com

 

 

The Web Design Process in 4 Steps

June 9th, 2014

Hi,

Web design and development keeps evolving and in the last few years, they’ve been in fact merging! Yes, if you do web design these days, you have to learn:

  • Coding: HTML, CSS, HTML5 and CSS3
  • Basic programming: PHP, JavaScript
  • Web design frameworks: Bootstrap and JQuery

That all said, the web design process can be distilled into the following 4 simple steps:

  1. Sketch out a design, choose structure, choose colors. You would use Photoshop here a little.
  2. Slap it into bootstrap.
  3. Add behavior with PHP, JQuery and JavaScript.
  4. Deploy

You are done and so am I … for today!

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

How to make WordPress More Secure

June 8th, 2014

A lot of people use WordPress and WordPress is hacked all the time. How do you prevent WordPress from being hacked? My top 4 things to do:

  1. Great passwords that contain both upper and lower case letters, numbers and a symbol or two like underscores, dashes etc.
  2. Keep WordPress up to date! Fortunately in 2014, WordPress can be set to auto update. Do it and save yourself headaches.
  3. Don’t use plug-ins unless you absolutely have to. Do some research to be sure that they are safe and secure.
  4. Delete any unused themes. WordPress comes installed with a few themes … delete them because they could be a place for hackers to drop in malicious PHP files.

I recently had an old WordPress based site hacked and though I had updated it to the latest version of WordPress, will still found a malicious PHP file in this folder:

/wp-includes/images/smilies/ajax.php

… Yes, inside the images folder. That’s one example of where these bastards will stick their malicious code. Remember, they don’t want you to find it. We don’t know for sure but I am guessing they got in the file BEFORE I updated WordPress.

Final Comments
I have to tell you that over the years, the few times we’ve been hacked … it’s always been via WordPress.

We are really reconsidering our use of WordPress, since it can be such a liability. We are asking ourselves, how much does WordPress really bring to the table(?) and weighing that against the risks.

BTW, I am not picking on WordPress, all the major CMS’ out there (Drupal, Joomla) are major points of attack. The open nature of these products, makes them that much easier to hack than closed-sourced (code is not public) private software.

For our new projects, we are rolling out our own blog tool – with all the advanced PHP frameworks out there and given that our needs are fairly simple, it makes sense to us.

If you do end up using WordPress, be sure to follow the above steps.

I hope that helps,

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

Swift Programming Video Tutorials

June 7th, 2014

Apple Swift

Hi,

It’s been a few days since the xCode 6 beta and Swift was released by Apple to members of the iOS Developer Program. I’ve been working with Swift and created a few screencasts but because of NDA restrictions, I cannot post the videos!

:(

But, I can talk about the language and teach you how to code in Swift – just without showing you xCode Beta 6.

I’ve already put out a quick article (on KillerPHP.com) a few days ago where I went over some basic concepts in Swift.

The NDA should be unlocked very soon and so my videos will have to wait until then. But in the meantime, I will be covering Swift and iOS programming using other code editors and releasing those publicly. In private though, I will be working on Swift screencasts and as soon as the beta period is over, I will release them all.

Thanks,

Stefan Mischook
killerSites.com

Burnt-out Web Developer – and his return.

June 5th, 2014

stefan mischook

Hi,

Web development can be an exciting game but it is also all-consuming – you cannot casually code. You cannot casually write good software while listening to tunes. You must be 100% there or your code will suck. Burnt-out developers are not uncommon … and I was one.

How to Burn Yourself Out

I loved to write software, it was something I would do even on Friday nights! It sounds really bad now but at the time, exploring a new Java library or building out a new module to some app, was exciting to me. The weekdays were for writing commercial code and the weekend was for playing with new code.

I still remember seeing the first members on my dating site posting profiles and sending messages. It was great fun. You start with few messages here and there being exchanged, then hundreds and (to my amazement) soon thousands!

… I eventually shuttered that growing dating site because I was not interested in making big money with it; it was just a hobby site for me, a vehicle to learn with. Maybe I should have left it running!? I think all the swingers posting profiles on there made me shut it down … not sure now, it’s been 15yrs.

I could tell you about many other similar projects/sites … but I think you get the idea.

The burnout Formula

You get burnt-out when you go too deep, too long and too fast into something. After years of code, code and more code … I was burnt. So for several years after, I did everything/anything but technology. It was sometimes almost painful for me to even pay attention to KillerSites, KillerPHP or any of the other sites/communities/apps I developed. The people were great but I just didn’t care what was going on in the tech world.

Interest slowly builds again

I don’t know why but starting a few years ago, my interest in technology slowly started coming back. Slowly. Psychology is a strange thing and any number of hidden variables can play into your mood. So for whatever reason(s), my interest is coming back and for the first time in years, I find myself learning a new language … it just seems like fun to me again.

Stefan Mischook
Killersites.com

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