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I remember the first time I sat down and decided to learn the Bootstrap framework. It took about one day to go through the information on getbootstrap.com and at the end of the day I could not believe that this was available! At the time I designed only static websites and had created my own sort of framework using the very popular CSS reset by Eric Meyer and my own set of CSS classes to handle semi-responsive design. Once I discovered Bootstrap, that old custom framework of mine went out the window and everything static has been Bootstrap since.

Robot coder. I was somewhat disappointed when I started working dynamically with Joomla! and realized that it is still using Bootstrap 2. With Bootstrap 3 as the current standard and Bootstrap 4 on the way, I couldn’t believe that this was the case. After a little bit of exploration though, I found that it is very easy to override Bootstrap 2 in Joomla! and then use either some or all of Bootstrap 3 in existing templates and very easy to create custom templates using Bootstrap 3. I say that it is very easy, but is that because I was designing before Bootstrap was the norm? I wonder if designers who have always had the luxury of Bootstrap even really understand what it is doing. The Bootstrap grid system makes perfect sense, but understanding how it actually works could be a little more complex for a designer that has never had to struggle through making their own customized framework.

This is the struggle we face in any computer field, the easier we make it for ourselves by allowing the code to do things for us, the more likely we are to slowly over time lose the skills and knowledge on how to write the code in the first place. It is a real issue and one that seems to come up again and again in apocalyptic movies. There always seems to be some computer program that runs amuck and no one knows how to stop it because the code has learned to rewrite itself. While artificial intelligence may be really good fodder for Sci-Fi, the idea that we can code ourselves dumb is something to realistically consider. So next time you have some down time (like that ever happens), build a responsive, static website without using Bootstrap or some other framework and see how you do. Let’s stay smarter than the machines, okay?



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In my opinion, a web designer has the responsibility to have, at the very least, an advanced level of expertise in HTML and CSS, and a moderate level of experience with JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL. But what level of experience should a web designer have in computer programming languages like C++ and Java? While you might think you don’t need to learn them, I think it is very important to the direction of web design as a career field.

Web design and web development, while often used interchangeably, are actually very different creatures. Web design is mostly concerned with the look and feel of the site. Structure, theme, and presentation of content all fall under the umbrella of web design. Web development usually entails creating new methods for delivering all that information to the end user. Creating a new module for Joomla!, for example, would be considered web development. Creating a countdown clock using PHP or JavaScript would be considered web development, how that clock looks would start to fall under web design.

Java programming code. However different the two fields are now, they used to be very different in the past. There wasn’t much crossover. Now though, with dynamic websites becoming the norm, web design and web development are starting to grow closer together. A web designer that can’t do much web development will in the next few years find themselves falling behind. Now, if their business is strong they can hire a web developer to help them or buy extensions for dynamic sites built with a CMS like Joomla!, but why not learn to create on your own and keep that money as part of your profit?

While my computer programming experience is still in the intermediate level, the knowledge I have gained learning C++ and Java has definitely helped me navigate through the world of web development. I can usually pick apart open source code and modify it to meet my needs. Java has especially become important since Android apps are based on it. Many of my clients now want apps, so that is something I am just beginning to branch out into.

So, if you don’t want to get left behind, get out there and learn a computer programming language. Especially focus on understanding the concepts behind object oriented programming. This is very similar to the MVC structure that is used to build PHP websites. Remember, the more you understand how the tools you are working with, like Joomla! and WordPress actually work, the more successfully you can implement them into your site designing process.



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So often a prospective client calls and asks “Do you do SEO?” I always giggle to myself, because it really is an odd question. I’ll get to that, but first why do business owners who have little technology experience always seem to know about Search Engine Optimization?

I was redoing a website a few years ago for a small winery in my town and the first topic they wanted to discuss was SEO. They said they receive calls, emails, and even walk-ins from people selling SEO packages. The winery owners wanted to know what it was all about. I was blown away when they told me that one of the walk-in guys had offered up a great SEO package for $1,000 a month. Now I know this guy is just trying to make a living like everyone else, but it seemed like a bit of a snake oil salesman’s move to me. Flash forward a few years and I have met many more clients who have become caught by the hook of SEO salespeople and their amazing packages, only to find out that once they stopped paying, their SEO dropped. Apparently many of these SEO packages are actually people selling Google Ads while disguising it as actual SEO. Fraudulent if you ask me.SEO.

So why is “Do you do SEO?” an odd question for business owners to ask? Well, if I am creating a website then yes I “do SEO”. A properly built website should always be carefully structured with SEO in mind. As I wrote in my blog post Why Your Website Absolutely Needs to be Mobile Friendly, Like Yesterday…, “In April of 2015 Google began demoting websites that were not mobile friendly in their search rankings.” So clearly mobile-friendly is important for SEO. Creating and linking a business Facebook page seems to help rankings, possibly because Facebook is essentially always being indexed due to its size. A good looking site that is easy to read seems to help; ugly sites seem to be demoted. Making sure all the images on your site have the proper alt tags helps by making sure screen readers can describe an image. (Oh and be sure to end that alt tag with a period and a space so that it doesn’t just run into the next line of code). Claiming your business on Google is an easy move and helps in your rankings. Submitting your site to the Search Engines is a quick and easy process that at the very least lets the Search Engines know you exist.

“But what about keywords?” clients ask, “What about this thing called metadata?” This is where it gets tricky. Metadata, the information in the head of your website, is beyond controversial. Supposedly the Search Engines ignore keywords in the metadata now because of misuse, but who really knows. So take a few minutes during the web design process and throw some keywords in the metadata, just be sure to mix them up for different pages so they are not all the same. Metadata descriptions are helpful and will show up on the Search Engine descriptions for your site, so make sure to craft these well, if not for optimization, at least because your prospective client will be able to see them. A well-written page title is very important for SEO. Don't just name your page "About", that tells Search Engines absolutely nothing. A page title like, "About Widget Makers, LLC | Durable Widgets for Scudfutters | Made in the USA." is much more effective. Use Open Graph metadata to control how your posts look on Facebook and it may just help with SEO. And of course, make sure the site has the relevant information about the business clearly displayed: what you do, where you are, how to contact you, etc. SEO is not magic, even if it seems a bit magical at times, but a well built site that meets all the standards will eventually climb in search rankings and be easily found by prospective customers.