Archive for the ‘Real World Web Design’ Category

20 yrs of web design – my perspective.

Thursday, February 20th, 2014


I’ve been building websites since 1994 … that’s makes it 20 yrs now! Anyway, it only takes me 9 minutes of video to give you my perspective … I think young nerdlings might find useful. Check it out:


Web Design in 2014 – what should you learn?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

design skills


Let’s start off this article with the conclusion – web design in 2014:

  • Code – learn more code: HTML, CSS, HTML5, CSS3, PHP and JavaScript.
  • Usability – learn to make websites easier to navigate.
  • Simplification of design.


In the last few years, the web design world (finally) totally embraced the importance of understanding code. The move in that direction started back during the web-standards evangelizing days … in about 2002-2003. There was resistance, but my feel for it now, is that the vast majority of web designers accept the fact that you can’t just rely on point-and-click web visual web design tools, if you want to build sites on a professional level.

… Yes, if you just need to build a brochure website that promotes your raspberry muffins, you can use simple website builders and a template. But if you are building a website that will have any depth to it, code is king and is required. Why? In a nutshell: control and optimization.


Usability is as much as art as it is a science because each site requires it’s own innovation (if you will) when comes to making a website easy to use. That said, there are simple conventions that people come to expect:

  • Top left logo is always a link to the homepage.
  • Navigation is found at the top and footer of the pages.
  • Breadcrumb navigation is fantastic for deep sites.

I would argue that the hardest part of building a website is in making it usable. It also probably the most important aspect of any website because if a site is too hard to navigate, no one will use it.

Simplification of design

This trend towards simpler minimal design I believe is a reflection of the growing understanding in the importance of usability. Usability is hard enough, but making a complex visual design easy to use it mega hard! Simple design means:

  • More whitespace – more ‘breathing room’ on the page.
  • Use larger sans serif fonts – less fancy.
  • Less images, but larger and higher quality.

Putting the money where my mouth is, we kept all this in mind when building the StudioWeb e-learning website.


Stefan Mischook

Stay at Home Mom wants to Build a Web Business

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Stay at home mom - web design list


I get a lot of questions from people wanting to build a web based business. I’m not talking about becoming a web designer or a web programmer, I am talking about building a website and then making money off it.

Sometimes, people just want to put up articles and then sell other peoples products (through affiliate programs) other times they simply want to put up a bunch of ads.

The more ambitious want to sell a service or a product. This blog post is going to be about how to do that … in a nutshell.

What do you need to know (and what to do,) to set up a web based business?

Well, before I get into it, I should mention the stay at home mom who contacted me recently. She had an idea for a website and her goal was to generate ad revenue and sell memberships/access to premium content. She was asking a bunch of questions about setting up a forum, an e-commerce system etc …

So the first thing I ask when people come to me with these questions, is if they know anything about building websites? If you don’t know much, you will either:

  • Need to hire someone.
  • Or, learn some web skills.

Since this mom in question had no money to pay someone to build her site, she was going to have to learn. Before I get into what you have to learn, when you are a do-it-yourself web entrepreneur, let’s quickly talk about NOT ‘putting the cart before the horse’.



Website Design Battle Plan

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

do it yourself web design

Building a website can be a daunting process … there is a lot to do! And sometimes, it’s hard to figure out where to start!
No worries though, after nearly 20 yrs experience, I’ve figured it out for you!

The steps:

1. Diagram the site:
Create a hierarchical map of the website. This will allow you to properly plan out all the pages and as an added bonus, the main menu for the website becomes easy to map out.

No need to use any special software … just a pen and paper will do! Draw boxes (that represent web pages) and connect them with lines that represent the links between pages.

2. Create the Content:
Write out the content (text only) for each page in the site diagram. Be sure to include sub headings and sections on the pages. You can use any simple text editor (MS Word, Apple Pages etc …) to do this.

3. Usability:
Once you have the websites content in place, it’s time to look at how you can rearrange the order/placement of page elements … to make it easier for people to find things.

Hint: logical menus can play a big role in this. So again, the quickest way to get this going is to draw out your pages on paper.

4. Design:
With the first three steps complete, you are ready to consider the design/look of the site. Though the design phase of the process is largely about making your site look good, a lot of consideration for usability has to be kept in mind – be sure that the design does NOT get in the way of how easy the site is to navigate.

In the PDF attached to this blog post I’ve included a couple of images that I was too lazy to link embed directly here.


If you want to learn much more about web design, you may want to check out my popular training package: Complete Web Designer



Is SEO Dead?

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013


In the last year or so, Google has basically turned the whole SEO industry on its’ head: once coveted ‘techniques’ and strategies that permeated the SEO industry, actually went from being a benefit to websites to sometimes being the cause of their doom.

… Many, many highly ‘optimized’ sites got taken to the woodshed (and then behind the woodshed!) because of SEO!

Why did the vast majority of SEO fail?

In a nutshell: most SEO techniques gamed the system.

Rather than structuring websites (and their web marketing efforts) in a way that the Web wants, most SEO firms went the route of trying to exploit weaknesses in the search engines.

… Any system based on loopholes, will eventually get wrecked as those holes are filled. Common SEO practices suffered the same fate.

Not all sites got killed – why?

Some people realized a long time ago, that SEO practices and strategies based on loopholes, was not the way to go. A very few forward thinking web masters, adopted a long term view of SEO and web marketing practices and as such, the avoided the trashing and thrashing the others got.

… If you want to properly promote your site, you need to understand how to be forward thinking. That what’s I’ve always practiced at KillerSites and that’s why all our sites still rank well in the engines …. for well over a decade now.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at:

Stefan Mischook

Flash will soon have company – iOS programming!

Monday, January 14th, 2013


One of the things that I see time and time again, is a (once hot) technology … fall into a niche.

This time, I think it is native iOS programming that will slowly fade away. Why?

Here are my top five reason why native iOS programming will become niche


Stefan Mischook

Web design is like sculpting, not painting.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012


Many years ago, during the time of the dinosaurs, I was taught a very important rule about the perfection of technique:

… The master’s movement is polished, minimal, without waste or clutter. One of the primary goals of a martial artist, is to strip away non essential movement, and to clear ones mind of distracting thoughts.

What the heck does this have to do with web design?


Top 3 Web Design Mistakes

Monday, August 13th, 2012

In web design, you have many competing options available to you where many times, there is no clear cut winner.

… But there are some things, that you simply should not do in most cases.

1. Flash based websites – don’t build them!

The Flash nerds who read this are not going to be happy. A lot of people hate change, especially when something new comes along that replaces what they are used to. For Flash, this thing is HTML5 and CSS3 … these two widely adopted technologies replaces Flash for animation, easy page layout and many other things.

So why is Flash to be avoided?

A pure Flash based website has always been a bad idea. Today though, it is a disaster because iPad, iPhone and generally speaking, most other mobile web browsers cannot and will not be able to properly view Flash or in the case of iPhones and iPads, even see it at all!

Why should you care that people on smartphones can’t see your Flash site? Because, as much as 50% of the Web’s traffic is from mobile devices.

Beyond that, Flash is terrible in terms of search engines (this means terrible SEO) and you also have the added overhead of having to buy the Flash program to edit the Flash files. Whereas with HTML5 and CSS3, all you have to do is open the pages up in a simple text editor to make changes.


Learn a CMS or Learn Dreamweaver?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Hey everybody!

Recently someone asked whether they should learn Dreamweaver OR whether should they jump into a CMS like Joomla or WordPress.

What is a CMS?

CMS is short for Content Management System, and are web based programs that you upload to the server and they provide word-processor like capabilities to your website – and much, much more.

To make an analogy: you can think of a CMS as being a restaurant buffet, where you have many prepared dishes to choose from, that you can use to create your meal. Where Dreamweaver is like an electric appliance, that helps you create a meal from scratch.

You can learn more about it here:

… The above link points to an older blog post, but it is still good.

Anyway, the core of this person’s questions, comes down to skill-set choices and choosing the best technologies to be able to:

1. Get the most work as a web designer.
2. And to be able to build the best websites.

Here is my answer:


WordPress, Joomla and Drupal in Web Design

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I was recently asked a question about the future of web design:

I have a short general query about the Future of Web Design: do you think that we are going towards a trend where, particularly with the use of Web environments like WordPress or Joomla, programming skills will be more and more oriented towards updating and customising plugins?

My answer:

I have been a long time believer in this strategy of using a CMS as the basis of almost all your web design projects. I wrote about this back in 2010, talking about the ‘WordPress Web Designer‘.

I use WordPress for my web sites, but Drupal and Joomla can do a great job too. You just have to figure out which one suits you best.

Learning PHP and JavaScript:

Since Drupal, Joomla and WordPress are built with PHP and JavaScript, it makes sense (if you really want to learn how to use these tools to their fullest,) that you should learn at least a little programming. You don’t have to become a full-blown nerd coder, but you should be able to write simple scripts and modify existing PHP and JavaScript code. It will make your life so much easier.

For a more detailed discussion, watch my video below:


Stefan Mischook

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