Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

Random Rotation of Images Using PHP and Not Javascript

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

I am not really against javascript but I do prefer to not use it when I can do the same with other coding methods like html, css and php.  There are a lot of scripts and examples to enable the random loading of an image each time a page loads, however most of them use javascript.  While they work, they relied not only on javascript but also that the viewer of the page was running javascript. Many people turn javascript off for fear of being hacked, hijacked or something else, which for 99.9% of the time will not happen, but paranoia is there with quite a few ;).

I am still relatively new to php, but I am learning the more I play with it.  While learning I came across the rand function which gave me some ideas when combining it with an echo.  Could I use php to look for images in a folder, randomly select one of them and then display it.  It sure could and it is very easy to do, you can do it as an ‘img src’ or even css background. (more…)

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SobiPro Templating How To…

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I am not against anyone making money from their great work and the developers of SobiPro are no exception.  However I do believe that if you are providing a solution that is supposedly for free that it comes with some basic documentation on how to use the product.  However to access this basic documentation a ‘club’ membership is required which I feel is wrong, but that is only my view, yours may be different.  During my use of SobiPro I have been compiling a list of how to references on using the SobiPro Template framework and the template language (XSL) used.

UPDATE: Yesterday I decided to trial a Club Membership and bought a 1 month membership to see what the documentation was like, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised and really do believe that a 1 or 3 month membership is worth it as the documentation is very good.  It fills the gap between what I already knew and what I have been trying to work out.  So if you can afford a single months membership I suggest you get it, or better yet a 3 month membership.  The only thing that they need to consider adding is an upgrade path from a Bronze to Silver to Gold which I think will assure ongoing payments by users as they notice the true value of the documentation. 

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Joomla Admin Template – Mission Control by Rocket Theme

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Rocket Theme Joomla Administration Template - Mission Control

I am not usually one to overly praise a template design but I must make a note of this one as in my view it is the most simple, visually nice and best administration template I have ever used since using Joomla (since it split from Mambo).  Mission Control by Rocket Theme is an elegant administration template that is very well layed out, easy to identify where each part of the admin side of Joomla is and far better for the novice user of any Joomla web site.  It is now my default Administration template for all Joomla sites I have, use and develop.

While the default and standard administration template for Joomla is fine it is more targetted towards a user that really knows Joomla, which for me is fine but for many others it can be daunting and even a little scary to use (based on comments from non Joomla users).  I have tried many other administration templates, including the Adminpraise templates which are quite good as well, however the Mission Control template is less cluttered, better layed out and just easier to use for the novice to even the most expert Joomla user.

I need to make a note I have been a great fan of Rocket Theme templates for quite some time, having a full paid membership with them for about 4 years, however I dropped membership earlier this year simply because they now solely use the Gantry system, which I personally don’t like.  That is not to say the system is not good it just means itis not good for me personally.  I prefer to have control of the framework myself.

The Mission Control template is absolutely 100% free and is available for both Joomla 1.5 and Joomla 1.6, hopefully they will continue to maintain it for the upcoming Joomla 1.7 and then 1.8, which I am sure they will.

Instead of me showing every aspect of the theme I think it is best for you to get it and install it yourself, try it out and I am sure you too will think that this is one of, if not the best admin template for Joomla so far.

Rocket Theme – Mission Control Administration template

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Joomla 1.6, time to reflect, or is there?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Joomla 1.6 PageJanuary 10 2011 saw the release of the much anticipated release of Joomla 1.6.  Like many other Joomla users world wide I too was eager to get a hold of 1.6 and give it a whirl.  With a reported 2.7% of the worlds web sites supposedly using Joomla, the 1.6 release had the hopes of a significant amount of people to take their web site to the next level.

I installed Joomla 1.6 as a fresh test site and had a play with the new features and began to get familiar with the new layouts, templates, categories, menus and user system.  It was nice, it had a better interface and from what I could tell it seemed quicker and sleeker than the 1.5 version.  Of course this was a fresh install with no added extensions but it still had the new feel to it that was a draw card.

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Using an open source web solution for your web site? If so donate 1% back

Friday, January 7th, 2011

More and more web sites are using an open source solution that has been developed by 1 or many individuals in their own spare time for little to no money.  The open source community is massive, with many thousands of people contributing daily to further develop existing solutions as well as develop new ones.  Many of these open source solutions are provided freely, without cost of any kind and usually with only a simple request for a small donation if you find the solution is useful to your needs. This is what makes open source so great. (more…)

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TopStyle replaces Homesite

Monday, July 13th, 2009

If you read my earlier post about Adobe killing of Homesite you may have thought so what will I (and others) use now.  I am very happy to say and recommend a great product called TopStyle.  Initially developed by Nick Bradbury of whom was the original developer of Homesite, TopStyle is now being further developed by Stefan van As.

As a long time user of TopStyle Lite that was included with some Homesite installs I can happily say that the latest version, TopStyle 4, is a remarkable product.  Originally designed to be for css documents, Topstyle 4 has now been expanded to cover most web code formats from html, xhtml, php, asp and so many more.

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Internet Explorer 6 must be killed off!

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I am sure many out there that develop web sites have had the annoying need to keep tweaking styles and code for Internet Explorer 6 (ie6), I know I have and enough is enough.

There has to be a time where web developers must make a stand and say no more.  For me this is now, I feel people have had more than enough time to update to a better browser and for those that still use ie6 (or less) then they need to be told to update.

My reasons are simple, I have better things to do with my time than to keep trying to tweak web sites to suit a smaller group that continue to choose not to update their web browser.  There are many other obviouse reasons that if your nodding your heading you are already aware of, if not then go and read up on why by doing a Google search for ie6 hacks…

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Adobe kills off Homesite :(

Thursday, June 25th, 2009
Adobe kills off Homesite :(

Adobe kills off Homesite 🙁

It is sad news, my beloved XHTML editor is now dead no thanks to Adobe with them announcing the death of Homesite as of the 26th May 2009.  They acquired Homesite from Macromedia (2003) and simply let it die, without even a hint of updating it or letting anyone know it would be abandoned since they took it over.

While other editors exist and will have to take the place of Homesite, at this stage there os no product (yet) that is as good as Homesite.   Adobe have simply said use Dreamweaver, but if I wanted to use Dreamweaver I would already be doing that.  The benefit Homesite has over Dreamweaver is that Homesite is light weight and very customisable – which is very different to Dreamweaver which is well over priced (as are all Adobe products) and is over bloated with extensions and tools and add-ons that for the most part are not needed.

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Less is more….

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Ever heard of the phrase ‘Less is more’?  I am sure you have and you only need to look at the internet and some of the most popular websites to know this is so true.

For myself and many others I talk to getting to a website with a busy header, content on the left and right, some in the middle, some in the top of the middle a few more in the centre at the bottom and then there is the footer, oh and somewhere in all that mess is a menu – you know what I mean, the cluttered website.

So why is it that Less is more?

Well branding for one, how easy is it to see your name and logo if your name and logo is clearly visible and not being distracted by other header images or other highlighted content?  Google of course is the first that always comes to mind.  Google has shown that over the many years it has existed it has run a site that is… well simple comes to mind.  It has its logo, brightly coloured and very large when you consider the size of the text on the rest of the page.  Compare this to Yahoo.  While Yahoo is still a well known brand what comes to mind first for most people – do you Google it or Yahoo it?

Having a page less cluttered also helps the reader read your page.  An uncluttered page will have a more natural reading flow from top to bottom which is very user friendly.  Having extra columns with flashy signs might draw a persons attention which is fine if that is what you want (and many do), but if you want your content to matter then that is what you want your readers to see.

If you must have additional columns for content navigation and general awareness a great example is A List Apart (http://www.alistapart.com/) with its main content to the left for better reading and its columns while there are kept simple but easy to follow.  This also shows how a page can be well styled visually while still maintaining that simplicity.

There are lots of example sites out there on the internet that show how less is more… so consider it when designing your next website and maybe make your site less cluttered and strive for less to get more.

Other example sites;

That Net Site (http://thatnetsite.com) < shameless plug 🙂

Twitter (http://twitter.com/)

The Web Squeeze (http://www.thewebsqueeze.com/)

Creaticca (http://daily.creattica.com/)

Apple Computers (http://www.apple.com/) < Their ads often show good examples of less is more….

If you have other good examples of how less is more please share them

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Web Design is more than just design…

Friday, October 24th, 2008

I often read on forums I frequent many requests for designers with specific skill sets that are mainly related to the design side of web design, I guess that is why they call it Web ‘Design’.  The problem I have with this is that there are many web designers out there that can whip you up a quick design but lack skills in how to manage the web design process from proposal, concept and all the way through to completion.

I also often read many posts where a company or even an individual has chosen a free lance designer or even a company to design their web site and the end result has been very poor, not so much in the design side but in the functionality, the methodology of the web design project and of course communication misunderstandings… to name a few.

A good designer for anything be that web, print or anything else needs a skill set beyond design or at least have a partner or supervisor that has these skill sets for them to follow, these skills sets consist of, but not limited to;

Project Management: Any web site design project needs to be managed as a project and it needs to follow certain steps from concept through to completion.  This will include development of time lines, reporting on progress, detailed scope of the project, time management, expected outcomes, project modifications (that are agreed to or provided by the client) just to name a few.

Communication: Clients love to be involved and kept in the loop of their project, it is their money so they want to be involved in the decision process so you need to keep up contact, it might just be a quick update report every few days or a phone call or online chat to show them progress, whatever it is keep the contact with the client, keep them interested in the project and let them get involved.  This obviously means that a web designer needs good communication skills, both in writing and verbally.

User Interface Methods: A good design is only as good as the user functionality of a web site.  There is no point having the best looking website if no one can use it or find it difficult to find what they are after.  Most users of the web have a short instant desire to find what they want, if they cannot find it quickly they move on.  So A good designer will need to know how a site will be used, who will be using it and will test the user interface over and over again with the client and also a group of unrelated people (peers etc) that can test for you.

Knowing what to charge: It would be an interesting exercise to see how many web ‘designers’ have any idea of time management and billing as it is quite amusing to see some of the guess work charges you see on various forums where there is a request for quotes.  There are many examples where a project request has gone out and there are prices that will range from $1k to to 20K (or more) for a simple online store.  There is suggestion that the $1k quotes are from monkeys and that anything decent will cost the higher end.  Buyer beware is what I say as the higher priced ones are usually well over quoted and things can be done far cheaper still with great quality results.  The Web ‘Designer’ needs to know what they charge per hour and keep that clear in their mind, whether that is $15 or $150 per hour (or more) will depend on their market and skill sets.  Then be realistic and quote with what you are comfortable with getting for your time and effort.

Marketing: A good designer knows about marketing, not marketing themselves but for their clients as this will need to be incorporated into the design of the site and how it functions, this will include Search Engine Optimisation.

Know your limits: A good designer will not take on a project they are not comfortable with or not have the skills to complete. I have taken on quite a number of projects where a previous designer has tried (very hard) to get the client the results they wanted but they lacked the specific skill sets required to get it to work.  Know what you know, keep learning and by all means develop some non client websites to test and learn from but don’t take on a project that has work required that you cannot fulfill as this will kill your reputation.

What to out source: Out sourcing some of the project is fine, but you need to project manage that very well and keep that contractor to time lines and ensure they know their work also.  Be mindful of other contractor costs and better yet develop a contact list of developers that have skills sets you may require (that you do not have) and use them where needed and ensure your quote if you need them covers that cost as well.

Have an open mind: We all know the expression of ‘Work outside of the box’ but often many designers are not sure how to achieve that.  It is not as difficult s it may seem, it is a case of keep your mind open, listen to the client and NEVER say something cannot be done as sure enough they will find someone that can do it.  By all means suggest, make comment and provide guidance to the client but keep an open mind about the possibilities of what they are suggesting, is it really not achievable, if you are creative and keep that mind open more times than not you identify a solution that suits the client and along the way the designer will learn.

Be Versatile: This one really bugs me, where a designer uses one or two, or maybe three different platforms or open source solutions to build everyones website…. While this can work well for basic template sites most websites need specific elements that one solution for all cannot really fulfill effectively.  Too often I see a simple site being created with a significant Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla, or Drupal etc and the site is small and does not need to be as complex as those CMS systems.  Stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, develop a solution for the client not the client for the solution.

Ok so the above is a few skill sets I feel a good designer needs, there are others and I will do up a part 2 of this post next chance I get, so if you have comments you think might be useful in a part 2 please suggest away as I am always learning too 🙂

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