A Website Designer’s Opinion

After 20 years of website design I have reached a conclusion, at least one for the time being.

Having been self-taught in HTML from 1995 I have tried Joomla, ModX and a variety of other CMSs  before settling on WordPress. It’s pretty good now, having started as a clunky web-blog like all its contemporaries.

However, having gone through dozens of themes and plugins over the last few years, WP does have its drawbacks. Anything related to the blog aspect it is unsurpassed but to web pages, it still holds no candle to HTML code. I cannot count the times I have tried to customise some aspect of a web page using WP and come away – hours later in some cases – completely frustrated. Frustrated because what I wanted to do would have been accomplished in a few minutes with a straight HTML site.

I have taught HTML to a number of students over the years and some have gone on to take up web design as a career. Their environments have dictated other software such as Dreamweaver. To a man, they have all reverted to driving the code with straight HTML even though it may have eventually imported into Dreamweaver.

I think that more effects are possible through standard jQuery plugins than through WP plugins. To implement an effect using one takes a few minutes and to customize it takes a few more. A WP plugin can also be implemented quickly – though not as quickly – but to customize one means CSS mining at best. At worst, the customization may not be possible, at the end of struggling for a couple of hours. It is no wonder that jQuery plugin authors design for jQuery first and then – maybe – for WP.

Further, HTML sites have one tenth the code of WP sites and load very much more quickly and their content therefore is far more visible to search engines.

So, I would say that for websites that do not need updating frequently, use HTML. If the client wants a blog then tack one on.

A Website Designer’s Opinion

After 20 years of website design I have reached a conclusion, at least one for the time being.

Having been self-taught in HTML from 1995 I have tried Joomla, ModX and a variety of other CMSs  before settling on WordPress. It’s pretty good now, having started as a clunky web-blog like all its contemporaries.

However, having gone through dozens of themes and plugins over the last few years, WP does have its drawbacks. Anything related to the blog aspect it is unsurpassed but to web pages, it still holds no candle to HTML code. I cannot count the times I have tried to customise some aspect of a web page using WP and come away – hours later in some cases – completely frustrated. Frustrated because what I wanted to do would have been accomplished in a few minutes with a straight HTML site.

I have taught HTML to a number of students over the years and some have gone on to take up web design as a career. Their environments have dictated other software such as Dreamweaver. To a man, they have all reverted to driving the code with straight HTML even though it may have eventually imported into Dreamweaver.

I think that more effects are possible through standard jQuery plugins than through WP plugins. To implement an effect using one takes a few minutes and to customize it takes a few more. A WP plugin can also be implemented quickly – though not as quickly – but to customize one means CSS mining at best. At worst, the customization may not be possible, at the end of struggling for a couple of hours. It is no wonder that jQuery plugin authors design for jQuery first and then – maybe – for WP.

Further, HTML sites have one tenth the code of WP sites and load very much more quickly and their content therefore is far more visible to search engines.

So, I would say that for websites that do not need updating frequently, use HTML. If the client wants a blog then tack one on.

web-designers.co.za

I had forgotten I had this domain. I had just let website-designers.co.za lapse. This domain had a 301 redirect to warthog.co.za.

When I disabled it to see what was underneath, an early version of the warthog website appeared that relied on imported content so I could safely delete the lot.

I uploaded the search-optimizers.co.za site and had to modify the content in case Google thought the two were identical sites. As usual in these matters one sees all sorts of improvements in the words. There’s always a push to shorten and shorten without losing the meaning.

Still, it gave me a chance to look at the website again. It doesn’t look bad. I was determined that, unlike various other web design websites I’d done, it wasn’t going to exceed ten pages. There’s always the temptation to add extra pages that nobody visits.

search-optimizers.co.za

I thought this domain might bring some business but over  the five years or so it’s been up, nary a thing. I would have deleted it but several sites sit under it so I renew it every year. When it went up it used several new CSS3 tricks and I was quite happy with it but now it looks like a porn site. My experience is that prospects don’t look for search optimizers.  The few requests that I have had to do search optimization on existing websites have come through the warthog.co.za site. Invariably I decline the job – no-one likes messing with someone else’s code.

So, being un-busy I did what I usually do and spring cleaned the server and redesigned a website of mine – search-optimizers in this case. I also take the opportunity to try out some new code. I am a visitor to Hotscripts, PHPJabbers and CodeCanyon and it was the latter I wandered about.

Before that however, I thought I would ditch my usual site template in favour of a grid based layout and try it out. I found a very good one too – responsive and easy to use.

For the last few months, I also took the opportunity to play with some sliders. I am not a fond lover of these things. Not because of what they are but because of the way they are abused. So many designers have no design ability but feel compelled to have a slider. So, they take a bunch of happy clip art and add some banal marketing text. How boring can that be? What a waste of pixels.

I first bought WowSlider which comes with a GUI.  It’s a bit limited but is a good start. Then NivoSlider simply in order to get text on the side of the slide like the BBC rather than at the bottom. I thought it was overrated and only used it once.

I then came to CodeCanyon and RevoSlider which I used on warthog.co.za/primatecare. I was impressed until I chanced upon LayerSlider. This thing can do just about everything so I stress tested it on warthog.co.za and had real fun.

So, this was the slider of choice for the new website. In contrast to the frenetic Warthog slider, I was going to make this one more refined and subdued. In addition to the new layout and slider I bought a megamenu script. Now, I used these things way back in about 2000. There was no jquery then but they worked.

Another element that’s very useful in containing a lot of content in a small space is tabs. Since CSS3, there have been quite a few. Nowadays, they are very sophisticated and versatile so I ended up with SkyTabs.

Responsive Grid System: www.grahamrobertsonmiller.co.uk

MegaMenu: pixelworkshop

LayerSlider: kreatura

SkyTabs: voky

So, the new site was going to be challenge. It was and I spent more than a week at it. It all dovetailed nicely together and the only grit in the Vaseline was the width of the tab content. I used up most of a day trying to find the suspect code and eventually it was some CSS for a <li> element that was stopping the tab content box from being resized. Other than that, I found the scripts very well done, nicely commented with an understandable CSS and very good value for money. I spent a lot of time on the second slide on the Warthog site – it had over 50 layers to simulate a shotgun of websites and I couldn’t neglect so I had to include just that one slide on one of the pages.

One more new thing on the site – font awesome for the icon fonts on the menu and visual light box for the screenshots.

 

I was used to working with a single CSS stylesheet but now I have twenty.

Image5

Incidentally, PHPJabbers have some new free scripts – single long web page with sticky header, ‘To Page Top’ script and an infinite scroll (Facebook) script.

Not Taking My Own Advice

I always advise others never to discount their services. We have a certain skill set that has a value attached to it. I offer very discounted rates to a very few friends but I always invoice them the full amount less the discount – even if the discount is 90%. They then know the full value of what they’re getting.

Problems arise when discounts are given to clients unknown to yourself. I have a number of clients in a small area so when I was approached by one of their own, I offered a 10% site discount. THe quote was in November and the client only replied in March when the quote was well out of date. I could have requoted at a highert rate, particularly as the new year had started, but didn’t.

In addition to more than R1,000 off, I quoted only at 50% of the rate for a logo he wanted. Now, I hate doing logos. There’s no money in them and I made the cardinal mistake of not quoting an hourly rate.

This logo very quickly became two logos but I didn’t requote and it then did what all logo jobs do. It went back and forth. The client couldn’t make up his mind. They never can and after a couple of weeks and several drafts ended up pretty near where we were at the beginning of the job.

He also then wanted – an unquoted – business card. As I had done the logo, I did one. Then he wanted another just for himself. As the two were similar I did that too.

Complicating all of this was the inability of the client to express clearly what he wanted. Worse, he tried to give  long complicated instructions over the phone. This is a recipe for disaster and despite me cutting him off, the next call would again come with instructions.

The website itself went off with very few changes. Except the bloody photos.

Having asked for, and been given, and inserted photos, I was then told that a whole lot of new ones had been taken. A DVD appeared that not only had new pics but also all the old ones mixed up.

All of these things of course make an unpleasant job even longer and more frustrating. Half way through the job he asks “Now how are we with the brochure?” What brochure? It was never asked for nor quoted for but I agree to do a simple layout if I have the time.

Then we get to the hosting package. Yes he wants the package and he wants to transfer to my ISP. And already he has a list of substantial additions to the site. But first, when I tell him how much it will be monthly he asks if that’s the best I can do. I remind him that he’s had R1,000 off the the site, two logos for half the price of one, two free business cards and if I can, I’ll do a brochure draft – and you still want me to discount the hosting? At which point he he backs down.

He asks for a written invoice but before he gets that, the additions he wants arrive in the mail.

Hang on – the cart has just got in front of the horse. Pay first and transfer the site and then the addition – up to thirty minutes only

At this point, I write up a schedule of what actually the package consists of – including the 30 minutes only of attention to his website monthly.

Moral – NEVER discount your rate to a stranger.

Another Durban Web Designer Scandal

Headline in the Sunday Tribune states that Ethekwini Municipality needed a Facebook/Social Media page.

They gave it to Carver Media who charged half a million rands for ten days work. Apparently there is a GetOutofJailFree option where certain jobs do not have to go through the tender process. Then why have tender regulations?

Firstly, all of this can be done free of any charge. Second, ten days? Most web designers would have taken two or three days at the longest.

And thirdly – how on earth did Carver Media believe that this job was worth half a million rands? That’s obscene. I might have really ripped the municipality off and charged R20,000 and felt really lucky to get away with it. This rate is R104 a minute.

Remember the scandal over the three million rand World Cup website? This job is for:

  1. Two FB updates a week
  2. Three pics a week
  3. Send bulk email
  4. Twitter updates
  5. Upload Youtube vids
  6. Upload 20 pics to Instagram
  7. Advertise on it’s website

What a joke. There is a whole communications department with a web team and secondly, the municipality states that they ran out of time and in any case #welovedurban is owned by Carver Media.

It never ceases to incense me when I see huge numbers like this. Where did the half million rand come from????

Carver Media should justify to other web designers how it came to this amount.

A Strange Decision

I had an enquiry a few days ago for a website design. The prospect had a plain vanilla website a few years old. No SEO.

He requested that I put something together based on the existing content. I told him that I do not design on risk but the prospect told me to submit a quote and he would pay the 50% deposit.

He also told me that two other website designers were being considered and that deposits would be paid to them with the same request. One of them I was told had quoted twice as much as myself.

That would mean that the prospect paid around R15,000 to see what was offered. The chosen website designer would get the remainder of the payment and the additional content.

Still haven’t heard from them!

Register. Why?

login

These things occur by the thousand – Register|Login. However, I don’t think that there is more than a tiny fraction of one percent that tells the visitor ‘Why?’

The absence of any indication that there may be some benefit to the visitor from registering leads to the suspicion that the only reason can be data harvesting.

A couple of years ago, Pick n Pay started their ‘Smart Shopper’ programme and I duly took a fanfold. There was absolutely nothing on it about any advantage. I looked at the application form and it required my cell number and email amongst other items. Pick n Pay ‘REQUIRED’ these details otherwise you couldn’t register.

In the absence of any advantage and because I have enough spam I chose to leave the thing. Eventually, of course, if you spent R500 you earned enough points to get a R2 discount. Whoopee. You’d do better shopping at Shoprite.

Where there is a ‘Full Content’ option or ‘Members’ Area’ I understand the Log in but without any incentive to do so, why bother? I think most Internet users have little or no idea of the importance of email addresses to businesses and that these ‘Register’ boxes are no more than email and personal details harvesting.

I have gone through the registration process a couple of times with no visible benefit from having done so. It seems contemptuous of websites to expect visitors to register without telling them why.

 

 

 

 

 

IE8 – Again

For those of you other than the two of you who remember this website, it used to have a dropline menu.  I used  one from CSS Play but have never really been happy with it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The dropline either wouldn’t drop or wouldn’t undrop. Anyway, more on droplines later but for now, I thought I would replace it with a standard dropdown.

I am very inefficient with menus. I have dozens of good ones but can never remember which websites they are on so have to hunt around CSS Play and Dynamic Drive. So, the sensible thing to do would be to get one that would work on all browsers to IE7 and would be eminently styleable. I did buy css3menus which has a variety of styles but if you wanted to modify it (always) the CSS was awful – part linked and part inline.

I picked a default dropdown from Stu Nicholls CSS Menu site – nothing fancy but quite flexible. Those looking at this in a civilized browser will see a bunch of radii with some styled buttons in  the middle.  Even IE9+ deals with it. But, IE8, what a disaster.

I spent a whole day using CSSPIE and a bunch of other .htc and jquery workarounds  with no luck. When radii could be imposed, they had to equal – unlike the end menu buttons on the site.

I would have thought the it would be possible to style a <li>. IE8 had no problem with the menu wrapper or the menu <ul> but it stuck at the <li>. Finally, I removed the radii altogether on IE8.

broswerstats

IE8 usage is down to about 7% which is reflected on my own stats. IE7 – about 3% but what surprised me was IE6 – 6%. Perhaps this is an aberration – I’ve certainly seen it a lot lower and as far as I know, it’s about 1% worldwide other than China which loves it. So what to do?

I haven’t bothered with IE6 for years – if a site looks about right on it or can be made to look about right without spending more than 20 minutes, I’ll acknowledge it. Now, I think, I am going to employ again what I used to do. Put a conditional comment banner across the top of the home page telling the visitor to basically get a life and offering a link to a screendump of the website in a decent browser – plus some links. While I am at it, I’ll use the conditional comments to add IE7.

There are so many elements to make a site interesting that I hate to go back to – basically – tabulated design. Perhaps that’s the answer? Do everything in tables so absolutely every browser will support it. BTW some of the CSS3PIE type hacks involved either adding image corners or blanking image corners. I’m sorry, I refuse to go back to pngs that are a pain to change the colour of.

Back to droplines.

I like these because they are economical with space. All the big news sites use them so there must be a good reason. I love Stu Nicholls’ work on CSS Play, cssmenus, stunicholls.com and istu.co.uk.  I am always in awe of his imagination. So, back there I went and ploughed through the droplines.

I discovered one that had a sticky submenu so that when one of the items was active, all the other items in that menu group were always visible. It also highlighted the active submenu item. Not only that but the dropline submenu has a dropdown if a third level is necessary. It required a small donation but considering the inspiration Stu has been, a small price. I think it’s a ‘sliding door’ menu but I’ll deal with the images.

It’s difficult to get a decent colour change on such small images so I create big versions and resize them. A pain in the proverbial.

The Boogeyman has Arrived (in about 1990 actually)

NSA/GCHQ in other words.

I have very strong feelings about the right to privacy as anyone who has seen my Twitter feeds will know so I’ll keep this short.

Surveillance-NSA-PRISM-FBI

The Five Eyes (UK, USA, Canada, Oz and NZ) have exceeded all bounds of morality, discipline and professionalism in their collection of intelligence. This information in the hands of such a bellicose nation as the USA is very dangerous for the entire planet. The NSA has been described as ‘a bunch of middle schoolers run amok’ – about right.

The embarrassment of the USA in particular is a joy to behold and follows a predictable path.

  1. Blanket denial followed by…
  2. Attempt to stop the whistleblower that went spectacularly wrong
  3. Vilification and demonization of same bloke instead and
  4. a spiteful fiasco involving Venezuela.
  5. Deal out vicious sentence to Bradley Manning while we’re at it
  6. The Head Honcho lying under oath to Congress
  7. But everybody does spies!
  8. We didn’t know what they were up to. Really?
  9. We’ll launch an investigation (yeah right)
  10. We have appointed an oversight committee (Ha Ha)
  11. Tapping Merkel will not happen (but did happen)
  12. We did our job – the politicians told us what to do (like the SS)
  13. Mea culpa from Kerry – ‘yes it may have gone too far’
  14. 35 Heads of State, diplomats, conferences, international organizations, businesses and the Vatican – Yup, he may be right
  15. To come: Larger demonstrations followed by
  16. Another bigger Congressional enquiry and
  17. A change in spying regulations that tinker with the edges
  18. And of course, more damning revelations
  19. etc., etc. I cannot wait.

lk060713dAPR-nsa-surveillance-500Each of the above points can be picked over but the sum total is the final loss of any trust in the USA.

Their greedy domestic policies have affected most of the planet. Their aggressive foreign policy has served only to destabilize parts of it. Their political system and much of their media have been taken over by big business and big finance.

PdYV5MYAmericans never win wars. They just stampede in on a pretext and fuck things up to feed their huge military industry.

The Israeli lobby in the US is so powerful, it gets the US to do its fighting for it. It has been said that America’s most dangerous export is democracy – see how peaceful Iraq is.

Back to computers . . .

I think that the allegations of spying and ‘back doors to the NSA’ all over the place will gradually result in the proliferation of security-related products. No-one trusts the chip makers, Microsoft, Tracebook, Google and even the current ‘security’ software any more.

6.siClapper admitted to lying to Congress, a very serious offence but he’s still out there.

The queue of businesses offering anti-NSA products is visible already and many will use them as they get better and easier to use. In five years, there will be a major change in the way the Internet is used. NSA may still get in – and it will certainly try – but it will be much more difficult.

And the reason? Money. Security is paramount in the game and the slightest hint of compromise will send customers stampeding off. AT&T are suffering already in Europe. Google, Scrapebook and others will have to re-establish trust.

Not possible in my opinion.

ophone650w