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?


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.


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 Website Development Window

Here’s a problem I don’t have an answer for.

Any website designer will agree that a web  design project that proceeds smoothly from start to finish results in a superior website to one that stutters piecemeal over a long period.

So, how to get clients to organize for website development and what to do if they don’t?

No matter how much encouragement they have to paginate their website, get their content refined and graphics ready, there is always a point where you have to accept what they have at that time.

Sometimes it will be pretty nearly perfect and others – mostly – will be largely imperfect even if they had years to prepare. My experience has been that however substandard the content is and however much you want to create a first rate website, the client may end up arguing with you over edits you’ve made so leave his mess alone.

The only sane approach I think is to make it clear to the client that a website ‘development window’ will be created for his site development. Typically, for the small business website, about four weeks which allows for the to-ing and fro-ing needed to complete the website.

The client should be aware that if the content is late arriving the development window will shut to permit the development of other websites and their site may be delayed. One might go a step further and inform the client that he may be charged for the allocated time whether or not the content has arrived unless he has asked for a rescheduling with due notice or that he will be kicked out of the queue completely.

The clients who cannot get their act together are usually those which have several personnel adding to the website, one or more of whom is always late. Still, that is their problem and not yours. As soon as I hear that there is a ‘website team’ which expects to be consulted at every step, the quote doubles.

I have just finished two websites. One has taken 15 months for fairly straightforward work (the contact went and had a baby in the middle – and there was a ‘web team’) and the other, four months. All web designers hate to have to go and find files, edit them and repost them time after time. I eventually lose interest in the project and it turns out often to be mediocre. Occasionally I have refunded deposits and told the client to go elsewhere.

The second client mentioned above wanted a revamp and submitted a list of edits which was quoted on – and more edits kept coming and coming. The final amount of course was three times the original quote and when invoices are submitted in these cases with just an amount, the queries may start. ‘But I understood it was RXXXXX’ etc. So, now I also put in the hours that were worked and if there is a query I also put the hours that were originally quoted for and the EXTRA hours that were worked. If that doesn’t work I send a full, itemised bill with hours worked for every edit.

It normally doesn’t come to this for most clients.

There’s no easy answer, particularly if it’s a redesign for an existing client who you don’t want to lose. Usually, threatening to back-burner the site gets things going, particularly if the back-burnering  extends over Christmas. It gets the client to focus on what they really want. One of the clients above wanted the site to be set to music (‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ I thought appropriate), have a sound effect on mouseover, have a promo ticker, have a news ticker, have an exchange rate ticker and have a conversion calculator all on the same page. And they complained about it being slow.

I saw it described well on another web designer’s T&Cs. It said ‘a dynamic relationship exists between ourselves and the client’.

Excellent. It means that both parties respond timeously at all times. Perhaps one needs to invoke contracts? I’ve never needed one but it’s a piece of paper to wave when things go wrong. Contract or not, it is sensible that the client must be aware that the development window opens with the first of his content submissions and will close at a prearranged date, website finished or not. Thereafter either additional charges apply to ensure the speed of development continues or the website is back burnered.

Trouble is, us small developers need the cash.