Real World Web Design
June 5, 2014
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.
February 20, 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:
January 7, 2014
Let’s start off this article with the conclusion – web design in 2014:
- 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.
November 27, 2013
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’.
October 15, 2013
Building a website can be a daunting process … there is a lot to do! And sometimes, itâ€™s hard to figure out where to start!
No worries though, after nearly 20 yrs experience, Iâ€™ve figured it out for you!
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.
Once you have the websites content in place, itâ€™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.
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
October 8, 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@killerSites.com
January 14, 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
October 30, 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?
August 13, 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 – donâ€™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 canâ€™t see your Flash site? Because, as much as 50% of the Webâ€™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.
June 15, 2012
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 personâ€™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: