Web Development Archives (21 posts)
Been There Done That
I’m not proud of it but I’ve done a few jobs on spec when I started out in the industry and none of them were worth it. I’ve also done free websites for friends and a few churches but these were by choice. I did them because I wanted to help an individual or group.
One thing that most people never realize is that none of these websites was really ever free. They take a lot of time to design and develop, time that I could have spent working on sites for paying clients. There have been many instances where I’ve put off client work so I could work on some of these “free” websites. In the end, I the designer, end up paying for the free websites.
Time Is Valuable
I don’t want to sound bitter because I’m not but sometimes it annoys me when people think that creating websites is simple. Some people think that if you have a copy of DreamWeaver or if you’re “good with computers” that making websites is easy. It’s not.
The older I get and the more established my business becomes, the more I value my time. I’m fortunate that I’m always busy with client work. It’s a struggle to stay on top of it all and for the most part I love what I do. The one thing I always wish I had more of is time.
Unsurprisingly, this desire for more time isn’t so I can work on another free website. I’d rather be reading a book or taking photos at the edge of a quiet lake. This might sound selfish but unless you have some balance in your life it’s easy to burn out and resent your day to day work.
Posted in Web Development at 2:25 PM
I’m always curious what tools other designers, bloggers and artists are using to do their work. It’s a great way to discover some really useful apps.
All of my work is done on a Macintosh Dual 1.8 GHz PowerPC G5 with 2 GB of RAM. For storage I have two internal hard disks (150 GB, 500 GB) and 3 external hard disks (1 TB, 500 GB, 120 MB). I’m using a 23” Apple Cinema Display and some Edirol speakers (MA-20D).
An Apple AirPort Extreme manages my wireless network and shares my HP Colour LaserJet 2550L laser printer.
For photography I’m using a Canon 5D with 3 Canon lenses — EF 50mm f/1.8 II, EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L, EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L. An Induro tripod and ball head keep things stead and a Lowerpro backpack keeps my kit organized.
When I’m not in the office I stay connected with a 16 GB iPhone 3G.
For email I’m using Microsoft Entourage with SpamSieve to keep my inbox clean. Web browsing and development is done in Safari. I also use the Safari Tidy plugin to validate pages. NetNewsWire is my feed reader of choice.
TextExpander saves me a lot of time with text/code snippets. Yojimbo is another utility that gets used constantly to store bookmarks, notes, images, serial numbers and more. Everything is tagged and very easy to find when I need it.
1Password manages all of my passwords and fills out my online forms. Default Folder X improves the Finder and also saves me a lot of time. Cocktail and Disk Warrior handle file/system maintenance while Time Machine and SuperDuper! manage my file backups.
Adobe Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS2 and InDesign CS3 handle design. Microsoft Office handle my documents and spreadsgheets. Final Cut Studio takes care of my video production and On2 Flix Pro encodes all of my video files so they are ready for the web.
If you’re looking for more great utilities then have a look at Merlin Mann’s Desktop Tour.
My Movable Type installation is very slow on Dreamhost. I use Movable Type 4.0 to power this blog and it can take up to 30 seconds to publish an entry. Admin features are also very slow.
I’m too lazy to switch to another host and I don’t want to switch to Wordpress or Expression Engine — too much work. So a couple of Google searches gave me a quick solution.
Patrick Beeson had the answer I was looking for with his entry Faster Movable Type with FastCGI. I simply followed his instructions and within 5 minutes my Movable Type installation was running a lot faster!
FastCGI = Fast Movable Type
Switching to FastCGI on Dreamhost makes Movable Type fun much faster. You don’t need to be a hardcore web developer to speed things up either. It bugs me that I need to hack Movable Type make it work at a reasonable speed. I hope the developers at Six Apart are addressing the speed issue for future versions.
Posted in Web Development at 1:01 PM
People ask me what I do for a living. I could say that I’m a creative director or an art director (for my company of one) but after reading Nick Cernis’ funny entry about The Job Title Blacklist For The Self-Employed I’ll settle on being just a web designer.
Yes. I also do web development, photography, video editing, logo design, print design, search engine optimization and sound editing for my clients but what I do the most is design websites. And that makes me a web designer.
Posted in Web Development at 12:32 AM
DreamHost used to be a good web hosting company. Their server downtime was rare. Service disruptions in the middle of the day were unheard of. Unfortunately, in the last couple of years the company has grown so much that its service is suffering, badly.
I’ve recommended DreamHost to friends and clients without hesitation. Their shared hosting plans are incredibly cheap, but now it seems, you get what you pay for — mediocrity. The dream was too good to be true and now a lot of people are waking up, looking for alternatives.
If your business or blog depends on a rock-solid web host, then I can’t and won’t recommend DreamHost. Whenever one of their servers goes down, my clients phone me as if I was DreamHost tech support. Dreamhost doesn’t have telephone support for their basic hosting plans so the guy that recommended them gets the blame when things don’t work properly.
Today, DreamHost decided to bill all of their customers for the next year and beyond. To drive their customers crazy they send out lame messages like:
Ack. Through a COMPLETE bumbling on our part, we’ve accidentally attempted to charge you for the ENTIRE year of 2008 (and probably 2009!) ALREADY (it was all due to a fat finger)!
A lot of my clients can’t stand these messages and it reflects poorly on DreamHost. It makes them look really unprofessional.
I received a couple of dozen emails from DreamHost today for incorrect charges to various accounts. If that wasn’t bad enough, this pathetic apology was stuffed in by Inbox:
Thank you very very much for your patience with this.. we PROMISE this won’t happen again. There’s no need to reply to this message unless of course you have any other questions at all!
The Foolish DreamHost Billing Team!
Hobby or Business?
Despite the server outages and spotty service of late, Dreamhost is still a great deal for some small businesses and bloggers on a budget. You get an awful lot with your DreamHost account and most of the time it works. So don’t panic just yet.
If you’re hosting needs go beyond a hobby site or small blog then I would start second guessing DreamHost, now. If your business depends on your website then invest in solid hosting and don’t take a chance with DreamHost. The money you’re saving now on cheap hosting may cost you down the road. Why take a chance?
Shared hosting is tired
There have been a lot of rumblings about shared hosting environments of late. Alex Payne recently wrote that shared hosting is a ghetto:
As a web developer, dealing with shared hosts is a nightmare… The constraints, the instability, and the unpredictability of a shared hosting environment are a big part of the reason why the web hosting business is moving towards virtualization everywhere you look.
If you want a clear understanding of what’s wrong with shared hosting and Dreamhost in particular, then head on over to The Dark Side of DreamHost (and Shared Hosting).
I’m seriously looking at (mt) Media Temple as an alternative to DreamHost. If anyone has switched or has some experience with (mt) I would love to hear about it.
Posted in Web Development at 10:15 AM
If you design and code websites for a living then you grow to loathe Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). I can code a site to have it work perfectly in Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 7, and Camino. Then along comes IE6 and everything breaks.
For the next couple of hours and sometimes days, I’ll use Google to search for a solution. I’ll modify my stylesheets, tweak my XHTML code and hope that I find a successful hack so that my web page renders properly in IE6.
I have IE7 on my Windows machine and can’t test a site in IE 6. It’s difficult to have two versions of Internet Explorer on a single machine. How do you beta test a website in the worst web browser used by 42% of web users?
Smashing Magazine has a great article on Browser Tests, Services and Compatibility Test Suites that led me to IE NetRenderer — a fabulous and free browser compatibility testing service.
Just type in your problematic URL and you can view a screenshot (1016 x 741 pixels) as it would appear in IE5.5, IE6 or IE7. Brilliant! Another interesting option is to view an IE6 page overtop of an IE7 page so you can see how the rendering engines layout a page differently.
There are no limits to how many pages you can test with IE NetRenderer and it is absolutely free. If you like the service you can make a donation to IE NetRenderer.
Posted in Web Development at 10:22 PM
GoogleAnalyticsWidget lets you view Google Analytics information from within Movable Type. This free plugin from Apperceptive saves a bit of time by providing me with a quick overview of my blog’s website traffic.
Apperceptive also makes a plugin for Google AdSense but I couldn’t get it to work — it’s an alpha release and could be buggy with some installations of Movable Type 4. When it gets released I’ll definitely be installing it.
If you’re a web developer you don’t use Adobe Dreamweaver to make websites — you use a bunch of different applications to edit code, transfer files and test your code.
Under Mac OS X I am using:
- Photoshop for graphic design, production and optimization
- BBEdit for coding
- Transmit for file transfers
- Safari and Firefox for initial testing
When it came to editing CSS I would use a combination of BBEdit and Firefox (with plugins) to see how my code was rendering. Switching back and forth between the programs works but it can be tedious. It’s also easy to make mistakes when writing the CSS.praised CSSEdit for CSS development in the past, so I gave it a try but I just couldn’t get excited about it. I chose Panic’s Coda instead. I drank the Kool-Aid, tried the program a few times but went back to my full-featured toolkit of applications.
The “one-window web development” of Coda is nice but it sacrifices too much in the way of features and by trying to simplify the web development workflow (at least for me). Joe Kissell at TidBITS has a great review of Coda that explains where the program falls short for some.
If anyone is interested, I’m selling my copy of Coda for $30. It currently sells for $69-$79 on Panic’s website.
Today I found myself having to do a lot of CSS editing for a site redesign and thought I would give MacRabbit’s CSSEdit 2.6 another try. I’m sold! CSSEdit is a fabulous piece of software. I don’t know how I managed without it.
You can also validate your CSS and catch mistakes before your code gets out of control and makes debugging difficult. The interface is very slick and full of useful features that have completely sold me on CSSEdit.
If you’re a web developer and you haven’t tried CSSEdit then download a trial version. Find out why this might be the best $30 you’ll spend his year.
I’m still publishing this blog using Movable Type and haven’t jumped ship to Wordpress or ExpressionEngine. I’ve invested a lot of time in the Movable Type templates that make up this site and I’m too lazy to switch.
It looks my loyalty may have paid off. Movable Type 4 was just released and there are a lot of new features. A couple that I’m really interested in are paginated archives and a ratings framework that lets users rate any item in the system â€” great for movie and music reviews if it works the way I think it will.
Posted in Web Development at 6:29 PM
In the article, 37signals president, Jason Fried says “Interruption is the biggest enemy of productivity.” I couldn’t agree more and this is why I prefer to work after 5 PM â€” I get more work done because my phone isn’t ringing and I receive fewer “urgent” emails.
Posted in Web Development at 10:14 AM
I’m guessing that the web developers who created the John McCain MySpace page are out of a job.
They borrowed Mike Davidson’s MySpace template without giving him credit AND they were linking to images on his server (which meant Davidson was paying for bandwidth used on the McCain site).
The funny part is that Mike Davidson pulled a prank and changed the image that the McCain site was linking to. The image read:
Today I announce that I have reversed my decision and come out in full support of gay marriage… particularly marriage between passionate females.
You can see what the site looked like before the McCain web developers caught on and changed their code by visiting Hacking John McCain.
Posted in Web Development at 4:01 PM
I create a lot of animated GIFs with my web development work and until a few minutes ago I’ve been using Macromedia Fireworks MX to do this. I knew that Adobe ImageReady could do this and never bothered to figure it out.
It turns out that Photoshop CS2 lets you create animated GIFs. No need to use ImageReady or Fireworks. And it couldn’t be simpler. Jeremy Schultz at Designorati has a great tutorial that will get you animating GIFs in no time.
Posted in Web Development at 3:38 PM
Lately I’ve been checking John Gruber’s blog, Daring Fireball for the latest buzz in the Mac community, web development and technology. Great site with plenty of fresh content served up daily.
CNET reviewed the recent release of Internet Explorer 7. These comments made me laugh out loud.
IE 7 was Microsoft’s one chance to leapfrog ahead of the competition, but the company has only barely caught sight of the current front-runners. For more features and greater security, switch to Mozilla Firefox.
Then I read that IE 7 “reuses old IE 6 code and doesn’t yet comply with current Web standards” and I wasn’t laughing any more. Why? Because now I’m going to have to use more hacks and work-arounds to make my client’s websites render properly in IE 7.
What has Microsoft been doing for the last couple of years?
Posted in Web Development at 3:52 PM
Yahoo released a beta of their new homepage, but if you use Mac OS X and the Safari web browser you’re out of luck. Yahoo says they only support Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 1.5 for this beta. Unbelievable.
This is a huge step backward for web development. I thought we were seeing the last of these homepage messages from lazy web developers. I thought the entire industry was moving toward standards-compliant websites.
I guess Yahoo is ready to dump most of the Macintosh community into the Google camp. More info at MacDailyNews.
Posted in Web Development at 3:45 PM
10 Things You Might Not Know About Google is pretty interesting read if you’re a web developer. I had no idea that Google has over 16 official blogs.
Inside Google Sitemaps is one blog you might want to investigate to increase your Google page ranking.
Does anyone use Yahoo or MSN Search?
Posted in Web Development at 10:47 PM
Listible.com has a useful list of 138 online tools, generators and checkers. If you’re a web developer then you’ll find many of these links to be of interest.
dhtmlgoodies.com has a nice library of DHTML and AJAX code that you can use in your own websites.
Posted in Web Development at 9:35 PM
I’m not sure how old this link is but it looks pretty useful if you’re doing CSS layout and design. It’s making the rounds on digg which is a great site of popular links to other blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
Posted in Web Development at 3:29 PM
If you’re using Mac OS X and Movable Type to publish your weblog then this will be of interest to you. When you’re creating a new entry using Safari or IE 5.2 (OS 9), you won’t be able access some formatting buttons for bolding text, adding hyperlinks, etc.
If you’re using a PC then you won’t have a problem in any browser. You’re probably already using those icons to format your entries.
Safari is still my browser of choice on the Mac. Hopefully this bug gone in the next version of Safari, due out in a couple of weeks.
Posted in Web Development at 9:10 PM
A lot of people use Site Meter for tracking visitors to their blogs because it is free and easy to use. I’ve been using it for 3 years and now and it’s great.
Last night the lovely discovered the little rainbow coloured Site Meter icon. She noticed it on other blogs and had to have it on her site immediately! She’s becoming dangerous on that G3 laptop.
A couple of things you should know about Site Meter. If someone clicks the Site Meter icon on your site they will be able to view you website statistics. The default setting for Site Meter is to make your site statistics public.
If you don’t want everyone to know how many visitors you have, who’s on your site right now and where they are coming from, make your statistics private. Go to the Privacy Level settings in your Site Meter account and change the Privacy Level to high.
Site Meter has updated the options for the HTML code you place on your pages to track web traffic. If the code on your site is XHTML (and if it’s not is should be) then update your code so that your pages validate properly.
Posted in Web Development at 3:58 PM
IE 7 isn’t supposed to ship until next year when Microsoft releases the next version of Windows. IE 6 is prone to numerous security flaws and has lousy support for various web standards.
Web authors have long complained about Microsoft’s spotty implementation of various Web standards including Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image format, Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML).
Hopefully Microsoft listens to its customers and releases a decent browser this time. I don’t know how many hours I’ve wasted by tweaking style sheets to work properly in IE 5.5 and IE 6. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Posted in Web Development at 3:04 PM