Archive for March, 2008

I have asked alot of people their opinions on this subject. Basically asp.net versus php in the Content Mangement System areana. What I have found is that most developers 4-1 like php CMS better than asp.net CMS. Not only from a design standpoint but from a development standpoint as well.

Are the days of clunky Microsoft web technology on there way out. I would have to say yes. As the Open Source Community far out weighs Microsoft’s technology and the costs associated with Microsoft’s licensing fees. Open source is not only free but widely supported in the online community. Even for the most robust solutions php and Mysql seem to be dominating the main stream development community.

So whats your opinion on the matter? asp.net or php for CMS….

So what is the future of the internet? Allot of us believe that someday the web will be fully mobile. I have always envisioned a day where we all carry a personal genie around with us and it will be able to do just about every facet of the internet today and much, much more.

I always pictured a little floating ball that you can basically just ask it to do any sort of online search, check email, get driving directions and maps, schedule appointment, research anything you need information about, schedule reservations to your favorite restaraunt, help you book travel, keep all of your business contacts and information, have all of your personal files, pictures, videos and whatever else you need all in the convience of a tiny hard drive and web connection.

Basically you would just say “Genie get me directions and a reservation to…” and it would take care of the rest. Project a holigram display of the directions and call the restaraunt for you.

What do you vision as the future of the internet. I think it would be awesome to have a personal assistant that handled everything for you right at your side all the time.

Russell Taylor of cssmenumaker.com. The purpose of the site is to provide a library of CSS Menus that webmasters can customize and download. In order to jump start the site and increase the library of available menus he is holding a Menu Making Contest. The grand prize is a free iPhone to whoever submits
the best menu design! Learn more.

I’ve been writing CSS for about 3 years now and I still feel like every time I open up a blank file and begin writing CSS for a new design I learn something new.

For those of you that are new to CSS or experts always looking for a new trick, here are some of things I do on a regular basis to keep my code organized (kind of).

1. Size text without using pixels

If you’re wondering how some designers get font sizes to work using em as a unit rather than px, it’s easy. There is a trick that was written about a while ago (maybe on ALA) that resets the font sizes for the entire site so that 1.0em is the same as 10px.

body { font-size: 62.5% }

Simply throw the font-size: 62.5% bit into your body styling and you’re done. Now you can use ems to sizes your fonts rather than pixels.

So your paragraph styles might look something like this:

p { font-size: 1.2em; line-height: 1.5em; }

You might be wondering why it matters how you size fonts?  Any major site needs to be able to withstand a user enlarging text (old people use the web too!), and setting absolute sizes is not good practice.

2. Make your code easy to read

When I was looking at some of the CSS coded by Tatem Web Design I noticed that he separated his heading tags nicely. It looked something like this:

h1 {}
    h1#logo { font-size: 2em; color: #000; }
h2 {}
    h2.title { font-size: 1.8em; font-weight: normal; }

Quickly scanning the CSS for the different heading tags is a breeze if you use this technique. It is also helpful if you’re sharing code or working on a large site where you are using the same heading tags (say, h2) in multiple places since you’ll be able to style each one independently and not worry about child classes inheriting attributes from the parent class.

I also use similar techniques for paragraph tags, anchor tags, and any other tag that requires multiple classes to look correct in every instance.

3. Separate code into blocks

This might be common sense to some of you but sometimes I look at CSS and it’s not broken down into “sections.” It’s easy to do an it makes working with code weeks, months, or years later much easier. You’ll have an easier time finding classes and elements that you need to change.

This is how I usuall break down my site:

/* Structure */

This is where I’d put the primary site structure divs and classes.

/* Typography */

This is where I would list things like paragraphs, headings, and other miscellaneous font styles such as small and strong tags.

/* Links */

This one is simple – all the styling for anchor tags.

/* Lists, images, etc. */

This is where I would style images, lists, and any other elements that didn’t fit into the rest of the section. If I have an unordered list for the navigation I might setup a new section for navigation and setup all the styles for the navigation, including the list and link styles, in this section – it makes editing the navigation much easier.

4. Stop using so many divs!

This has been echoed by a lot of coders and standards nuts, and while I don’t think there is anything wrong with using a lot of block level elements, I laugh a little when I see someone style their article headlines using a div rather than a heading tag. Some people even style their bylines using a div! Try using the small tag or the a span for goodness sake.

5. Style everything at once

I noticed that I was typing “margin: 0; padding: 0;” in just about every element. I remembered seeing someone use “*” to style everything on a page at once. I decided it didn’t make much sense to define margin and padding over and over when I always gave them the same parameters.

It’s easy to do:

* { margin: 0; padding: 0; }

Now you only have to define margin and padding on elements where you actually want some.

Know of any other tips or tricks? Let me know…
Matt Tatem

 SEO is an abbreviation for “search engine optimizer.” Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted. However, a few unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results.

While Google doesn’t have relationships with any SEOs and doesn’t offer recommendations, we do have a few tips that may help you distinguish between an SEO that will improve your site and one that will only improve your chances of being dropped from search engine results altogether.

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

    “Dear google.com,
    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

    Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or through the Webmaster Tools and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
  • Some SEOs may try to sell you the ability to type keywords directly into the browser address bar.Most such proposals require users to install extra software, and very few users do so. Evaluate such proposals with extreme care and be skeptical about the self-reported number of users who have downloaded the required applications.
  • Choose wisely.While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
  • Talk to many SEOs, and ask other SEOs if they’d recommend the firm you’re considering.References are a good start, but they don’t tell the whole story. You should ask how long a company has been in business and how many full time individuals it employs. If you feel pressured or uneasy, go with your gut feeling and play it safe: hold off until you find a firm that you can trust. Ask your SEO firm if it reports every spam abuse that it finds to Google using our spam complaint form at http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html. Ethical SEO firms report deceptive sites that violate Google’s spam guidelines.
  • Make sure you’re protected legally.Don’t be afraid to request a refund if you’re unsatisfied with your SEO’s performance. Make sure you have a contract in writing that includes pricing. The contract should also require the SEO to stay within the guidelines recommended by each search engine for site inclusion.

What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

What are some other things to look out for?

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:

  • owns shadow domains
  • puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
  • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
  • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear in search results
  • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
  • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
  • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
  • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/ and click on “File a Complaint Online,” call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in another country, please file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/.

This post is related to the current U.S. Economy and Website design companies in the United States. In the last several months as the news media has told americans about the ever growing problems in the U.S. Economy and the issues we all face financially, I have seen a dramatic shift in companies spending on new websites and web development. Things have crawled to a stand still in our company and I can see that major corporations are no longer spending large amounts on Internet Technology.

 As each day passes and the phone rings less and less with new business opportunities what is really coming? Are we really heading into a recession in the economy? I would have to say yes we are heading for a recession and yes we are already in one. 

Where does the future lie for web design companies in the United States and when will things start to get back to normal?

 First off let me say that the republican party has really made a mess out of the U.S. economy and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Special intrest groups have swayed politicians into doing everything for corporations and completely left out the small businesses that fuel the U.S. economy. That being said what is a small business owner in america supposed to do to keep things rolling. Allot of them turn to the web to drum up new business and to try and establish new business contacts. The problem for website developers is that clients now want things at a discounted price or they expect to get way more for what they want to pay for.

Second is the problem of outsourcing website design and development to India and other countries abroad. It seems that more and more web companies are outsourcing work to other countries thus taking work and food out of the mouths of hungry U.S. website developers. Unfortunately many people only care about the mighty dollar but what happens when all of the work is being outsourced to other countries…This has been an issue I have been faced with on many occasions and have finally decided that I will not outsource my clients work to India and else where and that it is more important to keep jobs in the U.S.

We all have an obligation to keep our nation’s economy flowing with new jobs and not out-sourcing them to other nations. As the U.S. dollar gets weaker and recession sets in for all us…many things are going to need to be looked at on how we can make the United States the super power it once was. Take Russia as an example here was a country who was just as powerful as the U.S and it fell to pieces based on the huge amounts of corruption with in its government. The United States faces the same threat as Russia…to many corrupt politicians taking money and not doing what they were elected to do. “Protect the American people”

 What happened to the days of morals and believing in whats best for the country and it’s people? I think the time has come for Americans to stand up and take back our country from the corrupt politicians who currently run it. The fact that special intrest groups have as much power as they do is a joke to our For Fathers who built a new nation based on freedom and equality to all. Today it seems that only huge corporations have a say in what happens here in the U.S.

For the Website development community and the Internet as a whole we need to re-evaluate who we elect and closely monitor what they do. Government needs to be more accountable to the people and not to themselves. I am scared of what is to come in the coming months as business continues to decline for myself and probably allot of other website developers.  What is going to take to get this once great nation back on its feet and keep the American people at the top of their game.

Being a U.S. Veteran and also a small business owner I believe in this country and it’s people…unfortunately I have lost faith in it’s government and their ability to properly run our great nation.

A common question I get from people, is whether it makes sense to go to college to learn web design?I’ve talked about the web design profession in other articles. Yet, as you will see in the following email I recently got, I haven’t dealt with all the issues regarding web design and education:

Hi Mr. Tatem,

Anyway, I am interested in web design. I am in the middle of trying to figure out whether I should go to my local community colleges for courses in HTML, photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc … or an actual art school for graphic art/ web design. Of course cost is a factor.

I am a mother of two, and my work schedule needs to be flexible. I am very creative and have a great eye for design.

My question is, which course of action you recommend? How much education is necessary? Is a degree necessary, if so, what type? associate, bachelors, certificate?

What are the salary potentials in web design working for yourself and for outside companies (I have research outside company positions advertising 40k – 50k, is that realistic?)

I’m not young, (a youthful 44) and I really need to do something in the form of a career for myself, other than taking care of everyone else.

Thank you so much for your time

Laura #####

  1. First, let me begin by saying that college degrees always help when looking to get hired as an employee. This is especially true in larger companies, where they have strict rules (in their HR departments) that have to be followed.
  2. On the other hand, if you are looking to become an independent contractor, degrees from college won’t help much … if at all.
  3. How much education is necessary? Is a degree necessary, if so, what type? associate, bachelors, certificate?
  4. The most important thing to have in the website design field is skill and experience. If you have a solid portfolio, where you showcase your talents as a web designer or web developer; that will go a long way to securing a job.    … When I hire people, I look at their past work and skills before their degrees.
  5. I would argue that if you have say, a bachelors in some other field (art, history) and then you supplement that with a certificate in website design, you would be better off than if you just had a tech certificate only. I have found that companies tend to like university graduates more than tech school grades.

Website Design Salaries

  • I can’t speak to exact salaries, as this will change from state to state or country to country. But I know that in large companies, degrees play a big role in terms of your earning potential. But again, more important than a college degree, is your skills.

Website Design’s Most Valuable Skills

  • Typically, the more technically advanced your skills are, the more money you will make. And this applies to both freelancers and employees. So unless your a fantastic artist (in the top 1%) I would be working towards learning more and more advanced skills like PHP, Javascript, Flash and AJAX. Not only will you be able to command a higher wage, you will be opening yourself up to many more job opportunities.

Case in point .. me!

When I was a really active contractor, I found myself more and more busy as I learned new languages. Over the years, I have done commercial work with around 9 programming languages! When you have that kind of flexibility and experience … it’s hard NOT finding work.

Matt Tatem
www.tatemwebsitedesign.com