You’ll Never Succeed as a Web Designer

Getting into the web design field is easy. It’s actually probably the easiest industry to throw yourself into. The barriers to entry are minimal at best, and the cost to bootstrap your own venture low. All you need is a domain, website, and business cards. Stamp a logo on those cards and it’s official.

Ha! You’re going to fail. Or maybe you already are failing. That’s because there’s a hidden barrier to entry; one that only few see and even fewer are able to actually overcome.Keep Reading

Fixing the Non-Updating FeedBurner Issue Once and For All

A month back, I ran into a continuous issue of FeedBurner refusing to update feeds for a couple of my blogs. No amount of pinging or feed resyncing would solve the problem, and endless Google searches proved futile. After finally stumbling across a fix, I think I have this issue solved.

So, if you’re having issues with FeedBurner not updating, I recommend these actions:

  1. Use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin (you have to download it from Google).
  2. Remove any 301 redirects you may have setup in your .htaccess file for the feed.
  3. If you have a caching plugin installed, make sure it’s not caching the feed or the feed path (/feed/).
  4. Once done, go into FeedBurner and ping and then resync it.

This has worked for me in every case — hope it works for you, too!

Oh yeah — just a little reminder — if you haven’t seen the previous updates from this blog, I’ve moved all of my project management related postings to a new blog at The Project Web (www.theprojectweb.com) — please check it out and make sure you update your RSS subscription.

Managing Hacked Client WordPress Sites: Prevention, Reaction and Investigation

As project managers, web designers, and freelancers, we deal with a multitude of issues, especially when it comes to content management systems. For me, most of the issues arise in WordPress as it’s my choice CMS for clients. The most serious of these issues is dealing with hacked client sites where either spam has been placed, or more detrimental, malware.

So as project managers, web designers, and freelancers, we must by default become quasi experts in security. No problem. It adds more fun to the challenge.

Combating security breaches should fall into two camps (which are obvious if you’re a long-time reader of this blog): proactive and reactive. Proactive is preventing the problem before it occurs while reactive is after the fact and how to perform damage control.Keep Reading

15 Ways to Make Your Contact Form More Effective

Contact forms are the lifeblood of the internet. They offer the most basic way to communicate with an organization and they’re pretty much here to stay.

While contact forms may be a clumsy way of communicating, they can get the job done. The problem: are they getting the job done effectively?

There are three common problems with contact forms. The first problem occurs when a form is too daunting for a user to complete. Usually, the form is either too long, confusing or asking for information deemed too personal. The second problem occurs when the user does fill out the form but the information provided is not useful. This is typically the result of an ill-prepared form that asks all the wrong questions. The third and final problem is technical in nature. If there’s a problem with the server and the form doesn’t submit correctly, not only could you lose the form data, but you’ll also have one annoyed user to deal with.

How can we improve the effectiveness of our forms? Here are a few guidelines that I try to follow whenever I create a form.Keep Reading

Death and transformation in web design

About 16 days ago I prophesized the death of web design in my oh-so verbose post. In hindsight, I do think many elements of web design are going to die, but I also think in death will be a transformation.

In many regards, web design has not changed significantly since its founding days in the ’90s. Most sites are created as static presences with text that users can consume and perhaps a contact form that can be used to transmit a simple message. This method of communication has become so branded on the internet that it seems almost routine to set it up for any organization.

That’s not a bad thing. Organizations should communicate with people online. The internet offers the ability to communicate with the most people at the cheapest rates.

However, I think web design is due for some death and transformation. No longer can organizations just idly post content. They must engage. They must reach out to their market and actively communicate with people. They must build a brand online that can be accessed, discussed and followed with ease.

Right now, much of the web is passive. There is little interaction and few ways to connect with most organizations.

Web design as a concept won’t die anytime soon, but the methods that have engulfed it will — they must — and a new breed of communication will emerge. I look forward to it.

The death of web design

Ah, web design, good buddy..you’re about to die. That’s right. Web design is on its deathbed. There are no cures or operations that can save it. Web design is dying.

If you’re a web designer and reading this then you’ve probably put down your coffee and asked yourself what the hell I’m talking about. I’m a designer, too, so let me shed some light on the grim death of web design.

Web design started pretty much around 1995 or whenever companies decided it was a good idea to get online. It was the birth of a new level of communication. It was pretty freaking exciting, too (though, at the time, I was 11 and had more pressing concerns such as the release of Independence Day).

As companies scrambled to get online, web design became a new, uncharted avenue for making money. To know HTML, DHTML and JavaScript in those days was like having a PhD, but you didn’t have to pay gazillions of dollars to acquire those skills! So some smart fool started selling these skills.

When you have one guy raking in boatloads of money for something that’s actually pretty easy to do, it catches on. The next guy opens shop and says, “I can do what that guy’s doing and I can do it better.” Now you have new people with new skills and ideas permeating the new found web design industry. It’s pretty cool, especially during the dot com bubble. Imagine gobs of money. Don’t I wish I had started web design back then? That’s a different story.Keep Reading

Who’s the designer? You or the client?

I experienced two separate incidents this week in which I had a client complain about pretty significant things with my designs. Normally, during the mock-up stage, I’m all ears for critical feedback but these complaints surfaced after the sites had been designed and built. I guess that was just the frosting on the cake.

The more important thing is deciding who the designer is on the project. I’m serious. Is it the designer or the client? The client brought the designer on supposedly because they need a web site created. That’s the purpose of the designer and the job they have been paid to do. I can appreciate client input during the design process — in fact I wholeheartedly welcome it — but there comes a point when I just want to say, “Why did you hire me? You’re obviously a very capable designer.”

But then it strikes. Why are they doing my job?

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered. Sometimes it’s because they’re a control freak and can’t let any detail escape their approval. Other times they just don’t know better. Actually, I guess those are really the only cases I run into.

There are different solutions I apply to these two situations. For the control freak, I have to stroke their ego. It sucks and I hate it, but if it gets the job done, then I’ll do it. These people are typically overbearing and at times annoying. The best way to deal with them is by reaffirming their status and — unfortunately — by running every little thing by them. I try to keep them in the loop every step of the way so that they feel involved and important. Usually, if I do it this way, I don’t get the major complaints at the end of the project. And if I do, I just explain the decision processes that we both went through.

The other type of client who doesn’t know any better just needs a little hand holding. Typically, strong communication and clear explanations of “how it is” will get them to calm down.

Finally, I find it important to just hold my own at times. If someone’s complaining about a design decision I made, I’ll look at them pointedly and say, “Look. This is my job. I designed it this way because I want to maximize the potential of the site. Here is the methodology behind my approach.. yadda yadda..” Well, I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as that, but you catch my drift.

This isn’t about feeling insecure because a client doesn’t like my work. This is about defending my profession and not letting someone who frankly doesn’t know anything about creating web sites take control of the project and destroy it. This is the cold reality of it.

Besides, would you ever tell your doctor how to do their job?

Building Dynamic Navigation Using JavaScript and jQuery

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m pretty new to JavaScript and jQuery, so as a disclaimer, my coding may not be perfect or concise. With that said, I’m going to explain how to build dynamic navigation highlighting using a little JavaScript and jQuery. The first step is to explain the problem.

Most web sites that follow good usability practices will tell visitors where they are on the site. It’s kind of like that directory map in a shopping mall with the big red “YOU ARE HERE” arrow. On web sites, this is usually accomplished by highlighting or shading the navigation object that the user is currently on.

js-dynamic-nav-highlighting-exampleKeep Reading

The State of the Web Design Industry (Web Design)

As a member of the web design industry, I’ve been immersed in the going-ons of various industry trends, practices, and activities. For my own benefit, I think it’s critical to assess and analyze the state of the web design industry.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything that is happening in the industry. To make such a list would be too exhaustive. Instead, I boiled my list down to the few items that I think will have an impact on the industry within the next six to 12 months.

I would also impress upon those not in the web design field to skim through this. Many of these trends extend beyond web design into other industries. The web is tying things together. To operate successfully in most fields today, you must have a solid understanding of how the web works. This list could help you direct where you need to improve your own knowledge.

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Bubble Frames – Rapid Prototype Wireframes (Ideas)

Whenever I start a new web project, I want to conceptualize, and fast. Ideas seem to flow at a rapid pace in short intervals, making it hard to capture everything. I’m a huge proponent of rapid prototyping. I want to take as many of those ideas as I can, build a quick prototype, take a step back and then carefully analyze everything.

The best ideas are born in those critical few moments that you rapid prototype. And over time, those ideas can be melded into something that is truly incredible.

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