Just a list of some links found online that may prove useful to those who use WordPress. More links will be added in January 2012.
Moving a WordPress Site
E-Commerce – Turning your site into an online store
Advertise on Your Site
photo: Salvatore Vuono
Creating a website top to bottom can be a complicated process with many hurdles and pitfalls along the way – even when you have prepared for the worst, the worst can happen. Boxes aren’t lining up in IE6, video not loading properly… there is just so many variables that come into play and the results are known until the testing stage.
Building a site can be compared to building a house – there are logical steps that must be taken otherwise expect a site that gets run down quickly, needs fixer uppers, and ultimately, a good chance of being a money pit.
Having a process mapped out – one that you stick to – will help in avoiding mishaps and will help out in making the process be a pleasurable and rewarding one instead of a frustrating complicated one. Having an outline not only keeps you and your team on track while simplifying communication, it also informs and educates the client on how the website will be created from start to finish.
Here is a basic outline to follow as a guideline – each client and project will be unique and should be treated so, there will always be slight differences. Over time and with experience you will develop an outline of your own.
- Start with a reason
- Research / Education
- Create a checklist
- Create a sitemap
- Client Testing / Revision
1. Start with a Reason
Why are you creating the site? What is the site supposed to do? Advertise a product, increase a user database, increase ticket sales….
Be clear and write it down. There may be multiple reasons, prioritize each one and try to limit one as the main goal and the rest as subsidiary goals.
Again, write it down and have the client agree and commit.
All design decisions will be based on the goal from this point out.
2. Research / Education
Go online and look for site that have similar goals and look for common elements. Are these elements common because it speaks to the target market? What colors are being used, what types of images and graphics, is there multimedia (video / sound), what types of layouts.. you get the picture.
You may want to question the client on their market as well as ask them for reference sites that they already recognize as efficient sites for their target audience.
From your research you should move toward having a clear idea on what look your site is going to have, how the information should be organized, what technology you are going to incorporate into the project, etc.
Remember, we often are working on projects that contain specialized information that is not part of our knowledge base – I once had to do a web site for an industrial heating company, I have no clue as to what industrial heaters involve, but going through many websites I starting seeing similarities in the navigation. All of the sites had sections for sensors and controls, meaning I should probably important and I should include them as well.
Technology and methods are changing all of the time – be sure to build in time to educate yourself on the best resources for the project. This sometimes means learning a new JQuery plugin vs Flash, how to use a new WordPress them, etc.
Discuss your results with the client and come to an agreement on how to proceed.
3. Create a Checklist
photo: Filomena Scalise
Simply outline all of the needs for the website. This can be simple or complex depending on the project.
Categories can include any or all f the following (and more!):
- Browser support – what browsers will the website work in
- Device support – what device will be able to access the site
- Page size – basically the target width
- What bandwidth speed are you going to target
- Content list
- Color scheme
- Special needs
- User support
- Tech savy or not
- Operating system
- Database needed?
You get the idea – the check list helps keep the team on track to complete the site by the deadline and also helps you concentrate on the potential trouble spots.
4. Create a Sitemap
photo: Filomena Scalise
- Create a simple branching diagram outlining the structure of the site. Include the folder and file names.
- From the sitemap you can work out your navigation and do some basic user testing before you invest time on coding and troubleshooting.
- Do this on paper first as there will most likely be some changes. Once you have a sitemap you are committed to, create a cleaner digital version.
- Doing things on paper is faster, easier to brainstorm, easier to make changes, easier to edit. Also I find that by doing things quickly on paper makes it easier to throw out and start over if a complete overhaul is required.
- This is a live document throughout the project and there will be changes – edit the working sitemap with changes immediately and share with the group
- Use a version numbering system to make it easy to keep track of the current sitemap being used. Example: Sitemap v2.1
- Sometimes the sitemap may be more of a flow chart as some sites are changing content within the same page.
- Sitemaps help out in determining any changes in the layout based on how many levels are in the sitemap.
- Helps out in determining the number of templates are going to be needed
Anytime I have been brought in to code a project and there was no sitemap, there has always been extra work involved fixing things that shouldn’t have been broken. The sitemap is crucial for the whole project.
To see examples of all different kinds of sitemaps, Google sitemaps and click on the images link at the top or CLICK HERE >>
photo: Suat Eman
This is an important step in taking what has been discussed and making it laid out in a logical manner.
- Start with paper and pencil. Again, it is easier to brainstorm and make changes.
- The purpose of the wireframe is to organize the structure of the site as well as placement of the content.
- No style is used at this stage – no color, no images, no typography… this is not designing the look of the site, it is designing the structure.
- I can not stress how important it is to NOT, start designing the site in Photoshop or Illustrator before understand the structure and having a sign off on this step from the client. It will save you tons of time and the client money by you not creating multiple layouts before agreeing on the the structure should be.
- User testing can start by testing how the navigation will work. This also can be done on paper, sometimes with sticky notes.
- Create a wireframe for each template.
To see examples of all different kinds of sitemaps, Google wireframes and then click on the images link at the top or CLICK HERE >>
In the sitemapping and wireframing stages, we often use pencil and paper and do not get too detailed yet so the client does not build a false idea on what the site will actually look like. We have learned over the years if you give them something with details too soon, they build a false sense of idea on how the final site will look and act, so it is actually better to have something rough and have them knowing it will be different (and better) in the final version.
Looking for more info on wireframes? http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/09/01/35-excellent-wireframing-resources/
Now is the time to get digital!
The goal is to take your wireframe and turn it into a full blown storyboard incorporating all designing elements – colors, images, typography etc.
Usually the clients will want a few variations to choose form.
Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fireworks are all commonly used design applications used to create the storyboard.
Some will actually start coding at this stage and show web pages as story board with hopes on saving time upon client approval.
Once the client has approved the storyboard, it’s time to put the plan into action.
Build the site based on the storyboard importing all images and code up your HTML / CSS pages.
I find it is best to not include the client unless necessary. If they are shown a page that is not complete they may get a different sense on how the site will actually act, and start top make changes based on an unfinished page.
Within the team, test and revise the site until it is ready to present to the client.
8. Client Testing and Revision
Send a link for the testing site to the client and let them go through the site and requests changes.
A few things to keep this step as uncomplicated as possible:
- Define what is a revision and what constitutes a redesign.
- Give the client a deadline as to when you need the revision list by
- Ask for the list to be sent in one email
- If they must edit the list, have them resend the entire list with the new changes to avoid multiple emails
- Some sites / projects will require a few round of revisions
Once approved the site is finished and it is time to publish to the server.
You can use this outline as a guideline to start from and develop your own process. I’ve tried to include as much information as I can based on years of experience with the hopes of making your web site development experience a better one for you and your client.
Please feel free to comment. I will most likely be making revisions to this posting as the process does change over time.
Before preceding write down the first three things that come to mind when you hear the name Steve Jobs. Seriously do not read further until doing so.
Ok, so we’ll get to Steve in a bit.
Last week Apple released the new App store for the computer following their success with app stores for the iPhone and iPad. At first glance to most this may not mean a big deal… but it is.
I once attended a keynote speech with Nettwork Records, Terry McBride, who many consider to be a marketing genius in the music industry. While CD sales are in a huge decline and record labels are crumbling McBride talked about how to increase sales in a declining market. At the time McBride was the manager for Avril Lavigne and revealed the plan behind the success Avril was currently experiencing.
Leading up to the release of her CD they created a cartoon character that was a fan of Avri’ls music, they released music only versions of her songs through Myspace and newsletter sign-ups. Within days fans had Karaoke versions of her songs filling up YouTube – creating free viral advertising targeting the consumers of Avril’s music. Smart.
Next up, Terry had Avril sing and record her single in over ten languages. McBride explained this as the “how-to for increasing sales in a decreasing market”. Avril would go on to be number one in markets she hadn’t yet broken because she was singing to her new fans in their own language. Terry said they couldn’t translate the song into any of the hindu languages because of the rhythm but they tried. So when the record sales of other artist are impressive but not quite what they used to be, Avril was going on to selling millions more than she did before, in North America we didn’t here much about it as the sales were overseas. There have been times when attending conference with Terry speaking you can overhear people ooing and awing while waiting on every word from the marketing genius of McBride. Even if you are not in the music industry he is worth seeing.
Back to Apple.
I have been a Mac/Apple supporter from my junior high days while being in thew computer club working on Apple, Apple II, Apple IIe, Apple, II Plus…you get the idea, I have seen the up’s and down’s of the company and have studied their growth.
This is the year of the Apple – they have gone form underdog to near death, back to struggling underdog to now revolutionary leaders. The music comparison works as Steve Jobs is often considered to be a rebel as Bob Dylan was, a music fan, and an underdog. Apple has done what the music record labels haven’t been able to do and that is sell and distribute music successfully online.
Throughout the years of watching Apple I am now looking back as a few light bulbs went off after seeing the new app store.
Before the new app store there was the app store for the iPad, before the iPad there was the app store for the iPhone/Ipod, before the iPod there was iTunes! This is going over years which reveals the longterm vision that Apple has had.
It all started with iTunes, a way to manage your songs on your computer. The next step was to get people to actually use it. So why not create a device to listen to music – sell the device so people use the software. The next leap was huge – you could almost compare it to being a drug dealer. Sell songs to be heard on the device which forces people to use the software – and yeah the software works really well on an Apple computer (make sure the software is free and installed when the computer is purchased). Instantly a full product line with consumables – people will continue to purchase songs while artists continue to release them. (one could also say it all started with the iMac but at that time people still hadn’t been fully convinced on Apple products – the iPod took Apple mainstream).
This was huge for a number of reasons. First they took a page out the book from SONY, a company that made CD players and had a record company putting out music. I do remember the day working in HMV receiving new releases and questioning, “where are the cassette’s?”. Later realizing why make cassettes when you need to sell more CD players which make more money than selling cassette’s. Apple had put themselves in both markets which instantly is a win-win situation. Especially it costs them nothing to make the music they are selling. This instantly becomes an increased growth in profit as that income did not exist for Apple before.
Same thing with the iPhone – the market did not exist for Apple before. They now have millions of sales in the phone but that also drive millions of downloads of apps. Both are new markets for Apple, both drive customers to become new Apple computer users and owners. So now the result is increasing the market in which Apple always struggled in. Profit, increased sales, the tide has turned.
With the release of the iPad, Apple created a market that didn’t really exist. In the other cases there were devices that played music and there already were mobile phones, but the iPad? This is something new for everyone. The sales shattered what the initial expectations were.
And now we have the App store for the computer. Again as I said, I used to download shareware from the site. Well over the years Apple buried the page deep into the site as well as the quicktime movie trailers and such. Sure you could easily find them if you wanted to but you had to know what to search for. I ask students in class if they know it exists and they don’t. You can bet Apple purposely made these options less visible to not distract from downloading apps for the Iphone, iPad and now the app store. Smart – keep it simple.
In the music biz while working with indie bands I would always be arguing with bands to not have too many things to sell and they would argue, “that’s how we make money!”. My argument was put out one shirt not two – sell off as many of the one shirt that you can because people will buy them. Once sales slow or drop off then you release the second shirt and sell the new shirt to new customers but also the people who already own a shirt and take their money twice. Once you have enough fans that are loyal, release different variations of shirts – colors is an easy one and people will buy not one, but two or more. When you look at it over time you will make more money by increasing the purchases from each individual. Most of the bands didn’t get it and felt that it was more value to their fans/customers to have more options – therefore increasing the costs and driving profit down. Not good business.
Apple all along through this rise has released only improved versions of their core product line of computers – they didn’t try to add different products other than Mac Air. They only grew in new markets which in turn supported and increased sales in their current market. All in all turing Apple into a profitable company.
So what makes the app store revolutionary. Well we can all speculate what they have schemed up for us and here’s my take on it.
Throughout the years Apple have also tried numerous times to enter into another market – failing each time.
With the apps already sold on the iPhone and iPad – people are now playing games on Mac products. The new app store doesn’t really do much more than the previous download page from the Apple website but it does what they have educated their users to do. And that is download apps, more importantly games. I predict that the app store will bring Apple into the gaming market as a major player. It may take time but this just may be the time it works for Apple.
Expect a 1 download option for all devices. Expect online multiplayer games. And finally, expect major releases of big games featuring music that can be purchased as downloads.
Music, Gaming, Phones, iPads, and yes computers.
I haven’t really touched on the Apple TV which is another market Apple is working on – as I write this it is speculated that Apple may release an actual TV in 2012.
If you take a look at the devices Apple sells – they are great, so are their competitors, but you don’t hear much about the competitors. You hear about Apple. Apple has it’s own store and it is packed Apple is also smart to be the leaders, or at least the first to release the “next best thing”. Sure iPhones were released without the ability to text message – but it did later. The iPads were released without a camera – but it will.
The message – get in the game early and fast, get customers and keep selling as products get better – take their money not once but twice! Take their money repeatedly.
Apple doesn’t make the apps they sell but they take a percentage. Free money!
This week, the rumours are that Apple is going to release a Verizon iPhone, a new iPad possibly in April. You can bet new computers will be released this year.
The man behind it all – Steve Jobs.
A man who was ousted from the company he started, said to be a person with unattainable goals, someone who has been labelled impossible to work for by driving coders to work endless hours only to get a “not good enough!” (hmmmm Gordon Ramsey?). He’s self-indulgent, a brat…. the list is endless. He doesn’t even do any market research before working on a product.
Taking from a famous quote from Einstein, “Great minds have always met great resistance from mediocre minds”. The problem is that there is always much more to the story than what most people can even think of, they don’t investigate to the depth it takes to fully understand, they do not look to the future. They do not investigate all options.
So the app store looks simple, isn’t revolutionary as to what it does – but what it will do, will be.
Steve Jobs was able to resurrect a struggling company – battled cancer, had a liver transplant, nearly died – all while changing our world. Remarkable.
In 2005, Jobs gave a speech at Stanford University stating, “Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your inner voice, and most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary… Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
Steve jobs has reinvented music, Steve Jobs has reinvented the telephone. Next up? Television. Gaming. Only Steve Jobs knows and he will share with us when he is ready.
Now look at what you wrote down describing Steve Jobs. Still think the same?
Note: Speculation also is surrounding Steve Jobs as stepping down in 2011-2012 and Tim Cooke taking over. Mighty big shoes to fill.
Here are some videos that are worth watching – lots to learn and grow from.
So this posting is more of a personal story I felt like sharing rather than any tips, tricks, or references. I just felt I had to say something about the kind of service I experienced in dealing with an issue with Apple.
So I was on the phone the other day when a loud popping sound went off, similar to a balloon bursting but it also sounded like glass breaking. I finished my call to try to find out had happened and … nothing. I couldn’t see anything amiss. It wasn’t until I tried to use my mouse when I found the battery backing off including one of the plastic rails on the bottom. Looking further I found that the battery had literally exploded inside the mouse. Crazy.
So I was stuck not being able to do anything on my iMac while I just sat and saw the emails roll in.
An unscheduled trip to the Apple store was in order.
I packed up the pieces of once working wireless Mac mouse and hit the trail to the Eaton Centre Apple store. Of course all while I should be working – so I was in a rush and had no time to go digging around for any semblance of paperwork/proof of payment. Said a little prayer that they will have record on their system, I mean it’s Apple after all.
Approaching the store I was immediately amazed at how freakin busy the story was, I mean Christmas is over, boxing day sales have gone, but man it was jamming. Almost busier than when I did go there during Christmas. I was expecting a long boring unproductive wait.
I was waiting in line at the genius bar when I was approached by a staff member and she asked if she could assist me.
Alright – now I have to explain I have a mouse that exploded and I have no way of proving purchase date or basically anything. SO here goes…this is the account of what happened as best as I can remember.
“uh ok you might not believe this but my mouse… it well, uh I was on the phone and it basically just blew up.”
“It blew up?”
“hmmm, I’ve never heard of that happening before”
“Well you could only imagine my surprise then. It’s really important in my work and I’m losing time.”
“Ok no problem, do you have your receipt with you?”
“uh…. no sorry I just thought you might be able to find me on the system. I bought only a couple of months ago.”
“Ok do you have the credit card you used”
“Sure thing here you go”
So far none of the resistance or fifth degree I was expecting. She shortly returned saying that she couldn’t find any record of the transaction on the computer but not to worry because someone was bringing a new mouse out for me.
Within about 2 minutes I was at the till, the new mouse scanned in and I was on my way – the whole experience took maybe ten minutes max. No receipt and no hassle – awesome!
I know I am a bit of a flag waver when it comes to Mac but this just made my attitude towards Mac even stronger. So thanks Apple, I was able to get back to work quickly and finish the work for the day with the least bit of trouble that could be expected for such a thing as a mouse exploding.
The only thing I regret was in the haste to get back to work I didn’t take any pictures.