Just How Hard is it for An Internet Marketer to Design a Website?

Many of this comes with data entry, and many of it also comes with web site technical issues, whether it is hosting, or some type of styling or formatting issue that you would like to change. Or something is just slightly off. When it comes to web site design and website management, the problem doesn’t have to be large for it to take you 3 hours to figure out.

And that is where a lot of learning comes into play. You can learn a lot by going into WordPress themes and figuring out what coding does what, or by going into your HTML files and trying to fix something that a coder has already done for you. Things you can learn include the basic structure of a website, the basic formatting and structuring of HTML, the basics of CSS, and if you’re really diving deep, maybe even a little bit of JavaScript here and there.

Side Note:There is a huge difference between things like JavaScript and PHP versus things like HTML and CSS. The way I like to explain it is that HTML and CSS is more like coding while JavaScript and PHP is more like programming.

But, say you want to start doing all of the coding yourself. Is it even possible? How hard would it be? And how would you even start to learn or where would you begin? You might have to work extra hard to clear a litte bit off of your plate especially if you are on the servce provider end of things, like an SEO company, content writing service company, or link building service company.

School VS Teaching Yourself

Many computer programmers will tell you that the best and fastest way to learn programming or web coding is to immediately start doing it as soon as possible – contrary to what you will be doing in school.

The thing about school, is that you spend weeks just learning all of the jargon, what everything is called, functionally, definitions, how programming even works, etc., when you can realistically just be learning all of this stuff along the way.

Here are a few tools to help get you started (these are ones that I use every day to teach myself):

Fire Bug: Probably the coolest software ever invented on the Internet. One great way to learn how to code websites is to see how it is done on other websites. If you like the way something is formatted, or the way something looks, and you want to do something similar, and then all you have to do is check it out with Firebug. Firebug allows you to click on elements of a website and then it shows you exactly what is happening behind the scenes coding wise. This makes it very useful.

WAMP, XAMP, or MAMP: You will use one depending on what type of computer you have. WAMP and XAMP are for Windows computers while MAMP is for Macs. These software programs allow you to install a local server on to your computer so that you can work on your website throughout the day without ever making it go live. You will be able to click through all your links and your website will act like it is live on the web – although it won’t be.

Networking

There are many great places to learn how to code websites on the web. There are many tutorial websites, for both basic and expert coders, and there are many many blogs out there – as well as many tutorials on video web sites like YouTube.

Another great place to learn is throughout the many web design forums on the internet. Since forums are interactive, and many of the web design ones are filled with absolute pros, you can usually get your questions answered pretty quickly. With the amount of tools and researching that is available on the web, it offers everything you need to know to learn how to code every aspect of a website.

The hardest part is getting your foot in the door. It may not be worth it for you to learn coding – perhaps it is more cost effective if you pay for the services as an Internet marketer. One thing is for sure, you have to love doing it, otherwise you might just end up wasting a lot of your time!

Design-Focused University: Is It Really Needed?

The baby boomers are gone, and we need a new breed to continue what they started.
Today, design is an obligatory and additional academic subject in majority of American universities. Design is being taught only as a minor skill that is added in every student’s curriculum. It‘s taken so lightly that it slowly affects and undermines the current design industry. Although there are design-focused courses offered at some universities in this country, the numbers are not enough.

A lot of writers, designers and critics have expressed their thoughts about the importance of having a university that will solely focus on Design. In fact, this call to put more importance on a creative class has been around for years. A lot of books about it has been published and reissued; newspapers and magazine have tackled it as well. However, the problem is still there.

We have to admit, the baby boomers of design are ageing and most of them are already gone. Although we still have new breeds to give us new and innovative approach to design, their number are not enough. Only few are making a name for the industry because most designers today end up employed in a commercial firm where they hardly contribute to the general need of the industry. They are too busy satisfying their clients and bosses. What the industry needs is a new breed of innovators that will create change in the industry, not a new breed of employed designers.

What is really wrong with being a commercially employed designer? None. Yet, in the last few years, the heavy demand for commercial designs created a stronghold that bound talented, employed designers and kept them away from moving outside the boundaries of their companies, while independent designers spent their design careers sharing their knowledge by educating young designers and creating change in the industry itself with their innovative ideas.

Erudite vs. Autodidact

Surprisingly, while the number of educated and well-trained designers slowly diminishes, the figure of self-taught designers grows. Thanks to the Internet, a lot of designers became acquainted with design. However, what these autodidact designers learned from ubiquitous YouTube videos and blogs were not adequate. Designers, according to experts, should be introduced to design in a very structured and systemic way, which they can only learn in a focused university. Internet videos and blogs cannot provide the fundamentals, theories, and training design-focused universities provide. Even design firms noticed the big difference between university-graduate designers and self-taught ones; the latter always lack the knowledge of design fundamentals and experience.

But what the industry needs is not physical universities. In the past years, there have been humongous efforts from commercial institutions and design schools to elevate the quality of design knowledge young designers were currently getting. Established art schools and institutions from around the globe collaborated with reputable design companies that paved way to the several cheap design courses that were directly offered to young aspiring designers. Fortunately, it has become a trend, and similar initiatives are now being put into practice around the globe.

Yet this hardly solved the problem. The results were not that bad, but there were few numbers of graduates from these initiatives. Some students quit after learning some ‘basic’ knowledge and went back to being autodidacts while finding their luck in small design firms.
Another problem is the ubiquity of design blogs on the Web. A big number of misleading sites exist here, and these are believed to be the leading factor why aspiring designers take formal design knowledge and training for granted. The ironic part is, these misleading sites that influence readers to wander off from formal studies are written by learned designers who spent long years in Design schools.
According to studies, most of self-taught designers who choose to learn the craft without any support from an institution usually end up slaving in small design firms that pay little importance to the depths of Design. This happens because they find it hard to adapt and cope with the real design world, where independent designers interact and collaborate with other independent designer for a non-company based project. On the other hand, designers from universities normally find themselves working for bigger projects while creating a name in the industry.

The argument in pushing aspiring designers in a university is not about having a formal degree; it is about giving the proper training, guidance, and experience needed when they join the real world of design. A design-focused university is not just about frivolity and requiring superfluous papers that are not necessary in the industry. In a focused environment, students will learn to speak the business language of design with fluency, its social relevance and its power to create change, and the reality that design is not only a skill and social need to get a secure job.

Yet even up to this point, the argument remains an argument, and the entire design industry remains in need of a new breed baby boomers.

Create the Illusion of Space Using Shadows

At some point in your life as a web designer you’ll have more than likely used a feature that comes with Adobe Photoshop known as ‘Drop Shadow’. Why do we use this? The answer is simple. As web designers our job is to inject an element of 3D space on a flat screen. At times this can be quite challenging depending on the theme of the website. If your new to Photoshop and have not yet seen the layer styles palette, then it’s worth checking out.

To begin exploring the features of the Layer Styles ‘Drop Shadow’, you’ll need fire up Photoshop, create a new file and unlock the base layer. Once you’ve done this, draw a new shape using the shape tool, double click directly on to the new layer to open up the ‘Layer Styles Palette’ and navigate down to ‘Drop Shadow’.

Tip: An alternative method to activate the ‘Drop Shadow’ is to to navigate to the bottom of the layers tab and look for the ‘FX’ icon, simply click this and you will reveal a drop down menu displaying a range of layer styles, click ‘Drop Shadow’.

So what can we achieve with this style of style?

Usually with each drop shadow effect (using layer styles) we can apply 1 directional light source. Although this is can be limiting in terms of the range of shadow possibilities it’s usually my first port of call for putting a nice bit of consistent lighting on all of elements within my websites.

I would suggest when experimenting with this feature, and all Photoshop layer style features for that matter, you don’t use default settings. Default layer styles look terrible, the settings are there to clearly show you a drastic look of the style so you can begin to tweak the effect, track your progress and nurse the style to suit your situation. Customise customise and customise!

One way to customise is with the ‘new’ shadow effects. I think these are really cool, quite clever and work really well. Believe it or not they are also extremely simple to create.

Using a variety of shapes with block colour fills and the ‘Gaussian blur’ Photoshop filter we are now able to create dynamic shadows that really add an element of 3D to websites. As long as you observe the light sources and keep it consistent you can make a website look really great using this method.

As a web designer you can also combine the shadow effects to create dramatic lighting effects. Not always realistic but it’s good fun! Enjoy, Experiment and Share!

Tips For Website And Graphic Designers!

You need to know the tactics of marketing online, if you are a freelance website designer or a graphic designer. If you are working for yourself, or you have a small business of your own, then market yourself on the social networking sites by yourself. It would be really easy for you to market yourself on a medium, which is extremely easy and fun doing.

Why choosing social media sites:

Reason No 1: Population

The part of the world population which lives above the poverty line can be found easily on these networking sites. That means you can find millions of your target audience in your direct links through social networking sites. For example, there are five hundred million active users of facebook currently.

Reason 2: Daily Interaction

All these social networking sites allow you to interact directly with the customers. More than half the population on these sites, log in daily to check. Well this is a big number. 2: 50 active users, according to facebook research, log on to their facebook accounts daily.

Reason 3: Interlinking

The interlinking between the users would allow you to reach a big amount of indirect audience as well. For example, if you share anything with your direct audience or friends on facebook, and they comment on it, it will be visible in front of the friends of your friend as well. This way the circle of share goes on increasing.

Following are some tips of marketing for the freelance website designers and graphic designers through FaceBook alone.

Tip No. 1: Creativity In Your Ads

Facebook has introduced its own platform for advertising. The best thing about advertising on facebook is that it’s targeted and it’s cheaper than the conventional one. If you buy space in the local newspaper or magazine, you might not reap the same profits, which facebook can yield you. Now the phase of mass- advertising has come to an end. However, the phase of de-mass-ification has emerged in the world market. Therefore, you need to target only the specific people only. For that there is no better place than facebook, since it gives the opportunity to set the target through location, status, profile information and more.

In addition to this, ads are more clicked, if they click the minds of people. If these ads are creative enough, they would tend the users to click the ads. Therefore, if you are a website designer or a graphic designer, create an attractive profile of yours with information about yourself and have your page clicked through a fan page.

Tip No. 2: Importance Of A Fan Page

A fan page helps you boost your business. Your profile is enough to cater your friends and family, but for your business you need a fan page. Facebook fan page allows you to use FBML customization on tabs. So, you can now design the tabs according to yourself now. You can apply all your designing skills here. You can even make welcome tab for your visitors. Keep the page updated so that visitors may not get bored.

Tip No. 3: Quality Content

You content decides the quality of your page. If you have the content static on your fan page, your visitors might get bored and they will stop visiting or referring your page. Keep the visitors updated on all issues like what are the projects that you are currently working on.

Keep the tips in mind and take your career to the level that you have always wished for!

8 Free Tools to Make Designing a Website Easier

Web design is constantly evolving, and the tools that are available to designers are also constantly being improved. While the sheer amount can become somewhat overwhelming at times, here is a list of tools, resources and useful bits of info that can save you time, money and hair loss while designing your next site!

Firebug

I personally couldn’t imagine working without Firebug now, this is literally the best free tool for any web designer. The full capabilities of Firebug are too many to list in this article but in essence it allows you to make live changes to any web page, allowing you to see the difference immediately. I use it when I have the majority of a theme or site coded up to tweak the positions, colours and sizes of elements to perfection.

jQuery UI

jQuery UI is a library of open source interactions, widgets and animation effects that all run off of jQuery. This is an invaluable resource for designers that could literally save hours – next time you need a date picker for a form or nifty autocomplete field, this is the place to visit first.

W3C Validator

This is essential for all web designers – use it to ensure that your code is valid and not likely to cause any major issues. With web development becoming increasingly more advanced and complicated adhering to standards is more important than ever.

Clean CSS

This is a really handy little tool for reorganising and compressing your css to make it cleaner and more efficient. You need to feed it decent, valid code but then it can compress amazingly.

Web Developer toolbar for Firefox

Rather like the Firebug extension, I can’t explain the full usefulness of this tool in the scope of this article. It’s incredibly useful for debugging by switching off certain elements or languages like Javascript or CSS.

IE Netrender

There are lots of browser testing tools – including the awesome browser shots. But more often than not its IE thats causing the issues. This is the fastest tool for checking the difference between IE versions and I thought it deserved a shout out.

XHTML Character Entity Reference

The amount of times I had simply Googled the answer for HTML entitites before I found this – all entities are listed and easily sorted, making life a little easier.

Flickr

Quite why people don’t use Create Commons, commercially licensed images as much as they could is beyond me. The prices of stock images can be ridiculous when there are millions of awesome images on Flickr that can be used for free (just don’t forget to leave a link back somewhere on your site. Visit http://coursehub.ie/ for more tips.

How to Create an Awesome Contact Form with On-the-Fly jQuery Validation

NB: You’ll need PHP4 or higher enabled to use this contact form. You can upgrade your version of php through your .htaccess file.

This is a very lightweight and easily customisable contact form, which uses jQuery to validate the required form fields in real time. No need for clunky contact processes, which navigate the user away from the page they are using to tell them that they failed at completing the form. Now you can tell them that on the same page! And it even works in IE6!

A star is born

So here is a simple contact form that I designed and coded up earlier. I’m now going to show you each step of hooking this bad boy up into a fully functioning jQuery contact form. As I said, this form (like most) is pretty easy to add to and modify, but for the sake of this tutorial, we are going to use four fields, three of which will be required and are marked *.

Now for some code

If you check out the example source code below, you’ll probably notice a couple of things:

1.    Form fields are wrapped in div tags
2.    Required fields have a class of “required” (“required email” for the email field)
3.    Form action is

All three are necessary for the dynamic validation to work properly. If you usually style your forms using classes on the fields then you’ll have to use either ids or cascading styles using the form id.

[CODE FOR FORM HERE]

Next, there are a couple of include files which will need to be included in your contact.php file. They are:

1.    cont_process.php
2.    form_mess.php

The first of these two files handles the validation of the form fields and the sending of the email (should all fields be valid). The second file handles the output of the sent message, which is triggered when the completed form is submitted.

The form_mess.php file needs to be placed wherever you want your ‘Message Sent’ feedback to appear. This is usually just above the form itself but this may vary depending on your design. The cont_process.php file needs to be placed inside your document head.

cont_process.php

This file handles all the variables from the form and creates an array, which it then uses to generate an email. It is executed once the form is submitted.

Non-required fields:

$message = trim($_POST[‘message’]);
Required fields:
if(trim($_POST[‘name’]) == ”) {
$hasError = true;
}
else {
$name = trim($_POST[‘name’]);
}

The only difference at this relatively basic level of customisation, is the email field, which requires a second level of validation, to check that not only the field contains data but also that is meets the criteria of a ‘valid email address’.

if(trim($_POST[’email’]) == ”)  {
$hasError = true;
}
else if (!eregi(“^[A-Z0-9._%-]+@[A-Z0-9._%-]+.[A-Z]{2,4}$”, trim($_POST[’email’]))) {
$hasError = true;
}
else {
$email = trim($_POST[’email’]);
}

You can also play around with the section of code at the bottom of this file too, which handles the generation and format of the email to be sent. Additional emails can be added to the form recipients, separated by a comma.

if(!isset($hasError)) {
$emailTo = ‘joebloggs@gmail.com’, ‘joebloggsmum@gmail.com’;
$body = “Website Enquiry nnName: $name nnSubject: $subject nnEmail: $email nnMessage: $message”;
$headers = ‘From: Your Site <‘.$emailTo.’>’ . “rn” . ‘Reply-To: ‘ . $email;
mail($emailTo, $subject, $body, $headers);
$emailSent = true;
}

Tip: I recommend putting these two files into an ‘includes folder’, just to keep the site root tidy! Up to you though of course… but remember to change your URLs accordingly.

form_mess.php

This php include will output one of two messages depending on whether all required fields have been filled out or not. Very easy to edit as you see fit!

Are we there yet?

So that’s pretty much it! If you’re experiened in web design, you can obviously go to town a bit and jazz up the CSS and add new fields into the form should you wish to. All in all, it’s a great little contact form and is really easy to modify. Much better than clunky contact processes that navigate you away from the page you’re on just to tell you that you failed.

Yes, there are some downsides such as captcha integration but this could be done relatively easily. I’ve just left it out of this example for simplicity. Feel free to download the source files and have a play around. Thanks for reading.

About the Author: Jay Pick is a Web Designer at Creare; a Web Design company who also specialise in SEO, internet marketing, e-commerce solutions and web video.

5 Things You Can Do to Improve the Quality of Your Blog Posts

Starting a blog can be a lot of hard work. Before you begin, you have to spend time coming up with a topic for your blog and writing its content. In order to get readers, you have to make sure your content is something worth reading and on a topic that your readers will enjoy. Here are five things you can do to improve the quality of your blog posts.

Add an Image

Adding an image  to your blog post is a great way to improve the quality. Many people enjoy viewing pictures along with the articles they are reading. By adding a picture, you can add more to your content because the picture can help tell its story. You can purchase your images online or find free images. Just be sure to follow the license requirements for the image to avoid legal issues or fines.

Write Regularly

For most individuals, you have to practice a skill in order to get better at it. In order to improve the quality of your blog posts, you have to keep writing on a regular basis. You should post new content to your blog daily if possible. In fact, many new bloggers are often amazed at how much their writing skills improve from when they started their blogs. Remember practice makes perfect.

Use a Dictionary

The dictionary is an excellent resource to have as a writer. You should keep a dictionary handy when you are writing your blog posts. When you find yourself using the same word over and over again in your writing, open your dictionary and use a similar or related word instead. This is a good way to grow your own vocabulary as well.

Use Important Facts

In order to add more quality to your blog posts, you first should do your research and use facts from well-known sources only. For example, if your content is about high blood pressure, you should included facts regarding the statistics and causes from some well-known health websites such as the Mayo Clinic or the American Heart Association. Not only will your blog post have more quality, it will also be more trustworthy.

Provide Screenshots

Similar to pictures, using screenshots as part of your blog post can be an improvement as well. Many people are visual learner so screenshots would be an added benefit. You can write your content on how to a certain task and provide step by step screenshots to get your point across more easily to your readers.

Dreamweaver MX

Dreamweaver has come a long way in properly rendering CSS; it’s far outpaced GoLive. This being said though; it is still far behind what modern internet browsers can do and thus is lacking in CSS rendering.

This program can be confusing to use as it calls CSS boxes ‘layers’; the same term used for layers in a graphic program or flash maker. Everything is counted as being part of the same layer unless you give it a different index code. In the program GoLive; it is much simpler to understand as the boxes are called floating boxes with numbers attached to indicate which box they are. In short; calling them layers makes it harder to understand and creates unneeded confusion.

Dreamweaver does have some upsides. Dreamweaver is able to fully render left floated columns in their correct positions even when they are side by side. Dreamweaver is also able to display them with the right dimensions. Even when boxes were positioned absolutely; Dreamweaver was able to place them in the right areas of the page according to the CSS code. A downside however is that it cannot display layered graphics pages like GoLive can. You will be unable to preview these pages in Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver also seems to have an issue with easily coded pages as well. Even pages with just simple text and links can cause Dreamweaver to fail. This will leave you with no way to edit the pages you have just spent hours creating. It also prompts you to save as soon as you open your files; leaving you to wonder if the program itself is changing your code.

Another upside is that Dreamweaver now comes with some add-ons that help you to design and layout out your web pages easier. It is best not to use this add-on to create anything complicated however.

In short; both the Dreamweaver and GoLive products by Macromedia and Adobe fail to deliver a product worthy of buying. Neither is able to keep up with the browser advancements that have been made in recent years and they both fail quite frequently when trying to edit your code. As well; neither of them have a great previewing engine.

These products might be ok for the average user depending upon what they are looking for in a CSS editor; but for an actual website designer; these programs are not worth their cost and fail to deliver a quality product. Visit http://www.wbutekta.org/ for more tips.

An Outline of XHTML

The xHTML is an upgraded version of the HTML. With the HTML the features did not work uniformly in all browsers and this resulted to the developers undertaking all kinds of measures to overcome this. For instance, they tried to disentangle the primary structure of the page from its content. The latest model of the HTML is the 4.01 version which is available in three options which are namely the Frameset, Strict and the Transitional.

The xHTML is an advancement of HTML that has extensible features.

The benefits

The xHTML assists the user by providing clarity, affixing ones mark up, enhancing coding speeds.  Genuine xHTML assures that all pages one creates will be efficient and will integrate well with the browsers both now and in the years to come.

The HTML has evolved progressively and is still growing. The x in xHTML refers to extensibility and guarantees long life than HTML.

Moving from HTML to xHTML

Moving from HTML 4.01 version to the xHTML 1.0 version is very simple and fast. One can do it manually or with the assistance of the “locate and substitute” BBEDit’s.

The initial step is to substitute DOCTYPE HTML 4.01 with its equivalent xHTML 1.0.

Note that the 4.01 version does not care about the composition of the small and big alphabetical letters. While on the other hand, the xHTML works solely with the lower case letters.

The xHTML 1.0 is a clear and orderly system that erases unnecessary labels and this controls space use.

Some illustrations of HTML components that are open to HTML include; The <img>, the <link> and the <meta>. Similar to the <br />, it is possible to delete them in XHTML using a forward cut and space.

Other examples include the <img src=”../pictures/logo.gif” alt=”firm Logo” breadth=”252″ depth=”125″ boundary=”0″ straighten=”beneath” />

With XHTML all the features are placed within the quotes.  For instance, breadth=300, depth = 150, would be displayed as breadth= “ 300” and depth = “ 150”. This is also the case when it comes to letters. They must be quoted as well.

It is an ideal moment to initiate the usage of xHTML. By constantly checking it to ensure that it is within expectations does not imply that one should not go over the pages in the majority of browsers to check for foul play.

The benefits that come along with converting from HTML 4.0 to XHTML 1.0 are definitely worth it and the process is very easy and quick that one simply has no excuse of sticking around with the old version. It is great to move with the times as upgrades always have something new to offer the both the existing and prospective users. Visit http://www.kawarthaheritage.org/ for more tips.

Tips on Selecting a Good Web Design Company

There are a lot of web design companies in the world that can be one of your chosen companies to work with. This is because they usually operate online and choosing an Indian or European company is not something special in this business.

As there are more and more people needing web design services, there are also more and more web design companies you can choose from when you need them. In this article you will find the best tips on selecting a good web design company.

Many times people need to choose between web designers that work alone and full web designing teams that work for a company. If you are in this situation you should know that there are advantages and disadvantages of every method. You can go for the single web designer for the lower price. On the other hand, if you want something great in terms of web design you should definitely opt for the web design company.

The experience and technical skills are important and this is why selecting a company in this domain is a more appropriate alternative especially if you need a professional looking website. Once you opt for a company, you should take a look at their website. If you like it, you should research furthermore.

If not, you should move on because if their website is not something you like, chances are you will not like their work on your website. Also, you should check their portfolio and see if the websites in there still exist.

There are a lot of services you need once you have your website ready. SEO, web hosting and other services are needed by almost every website. This is why you should go for the same company to do all these services. Otherwise, chances are you will pay more from your own pocket as you will not get any discounts.

The customer services and the price should also be important criteria when choosing your webs design company. This is because you need to know what to expect from them before you sign the contract. You can do that by talking with a customer representative and noticing his attitude towards you. Also, the pricing is important because you want to get the most from your money.

Therefore, doing a little research is a very good idea because the high competition on the web design market drives the price down and you should profit from this situation. Even if you will pay more for a well established company when it comes to web design, in the future you will be repaid with great reviews and a great retain rate from your visitors. Visit http://www.hope-care.org/ for more tips.