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It’s been a long and ongoing effort learning the ropes on PHP and MySQL. This week  I concentrated on a few aspects of my website.

  • I wanted existing clients to have their a simplified version login
  • I want them to change a form to their most current info – e.g.  company website, phone #, email address, etc.
  • I want them to access their exclusive page to review their in-progress images with a comment box which would send comments right to the company email inbox.
  • And of course I want them to logout.

Like CSS, only more intensive – PHP needs hours of research and implementation. Plus, to preview pages containing server-side code, you have an extra step to specify the server. It was fun to see how other websites used the PHP script. You have a question: the answer is on the web…somewhere!!! You only have to keep looking! 🙂

I am still in the process of tweaking my website but I got the website workable to submit for this week and good enough to get a jumpstart on the tweaks. Hopefully I should be able to get some tweaks done before I hand out the testing plan to my eager testers!

I did mention in one of my previous emails that I would review the book, Build Your Own Database Driven Web Site Using PHP & MySQL, 4th Edition
http://www.sitepoint.com/books/phpmysql4/?historicredirect=phpmysql1

I think it’s a good book if you have some experience with PHP. For beginners, I would recommend Head First PHP & MySQL for some general concepts or techniques (http://www.headfirstlabs.com/books/hfphp/).

The major chunk of learning the language comes by searching codes on the internet and looking through web links, articles and blogs. Below are a few links for PHP/MySQL :

Please feel to add-on if you have links to share.

Have fun celebrating July 4th – have a great long weekend!

I consider weeks 6 and 7 contiguous with the website creation process. Being in the web development track is more challenging. Not only does your website has to have the design aspect (maybe not as much as a design track website) but also the development requirements have to be met.

I separated out the 2 weeks simply by putting design and content in week 6 and the development part in week 7.  This does not mean there won’t be tweaks, but a big chunk of it would be complete. This way, my process would be easier to work with. Week 6 was demanding – I had content but my template had to be worked on sufficient enough to get the child pages ready for content. There are essentially three main parameters to the corporate website design characteristic in the template.

  • One is the logo & the navigation bar.
  • Second is my right column which marks the important links for potential and existing clients who have visited the page in the past.
  • Third is a separate social media bar where Raltec Corp (the company name for which the website is being designed) is connected and wants to connect with different individuals/organizations virtually.

Week 7 would get the development side of the website in check. I have also been checking my website on different browsers and seeing some subtle differences.

http://browsershots.org/
http://www.browsercam.com/, or
http://browserlab.adobe.com which lets you see your website as viewed in many different web browsers.

It also helps to test your website on different computers. It definitely looks different on different monitor resolutions. For accessibility testing, Adam mentioned about Dreamweaver’s Link Checker, Browser Compatibility Check, and Validation features (all three can be opened from the Window menu) can help.

It is week 6 crunch time and all the knowledge we soaked in all those classes is coming to good use. That and more. I’m finding myself putting in a lot of effort in researching things I see in websites, the cool stuff – now it makes more sense to me rather than being just overwhelmed with it.

It is a wonderful feeling to see your baby grow…lol. It started with a lifeless yet brilliant one page flat design which eventually turned into a template. Now the template is getting the third dimension through links, dynamic pages and more.  You have been seeing less posts and more of me commenting about my work as this is kind of it. We’ve done the research and we’ve done all the preparation for helping us to get to the design stage. I now understand how much goes into the actual website – even simple things need to be thought of in detail. Each part you design is seen by the audience. Nothing can be left unfinished or unthought of (for the purpose of this first draft stage).

It’s been a long silence on my side, I apologize. We’re halfway down Project Capstone (50% of 10 weeks done) and now it’s crunch time!

I anticipated this taking a lot of hard work, but I guess I was mistaken when I thought it would take this long. I worked hard on the wireframe and the main composite of the design. A design background helps you there. I was happy to have the design ready by last weekend….piece of cake!

Now the fun begins! How does this “design” translate into HTML –  that’s still doable.
How does this translate into CSS?

Quoting Adam after bugging him with my in-progress templates:

Alignment w/ CSS is definitely one of the more challenging things with layout out a page.

So true. My tryst with CSS has not been the greatest experience but after a string of online tutorials and trial-&-error testing helped. Long hours trying to work with different properties and values do get the results you want eventually but I’m still searching for an effective way to resolve the CSS issue. There has to be an easy way…….

On a positive side, I am learning and discovering how presentation in CSS makes a whole lot of difference.

This week we looked at analyzing Keywords – below are the links for keyword research tools

Free: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal (very useful)
Free: http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/index.php
Free: http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/suggestion/
Paid Service: http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/

The challenge was the placement of your keywords in your text content. A fine line between whether you’ve used too many/very little of your keywords. The title tag is your heading provides the additional extra benefit for your keywords from search engine optimization.

Text content: Very relevant, yet cumbersome to gather and even more tough to get those keywords you shortlisted into it.

Her are some fun links I encountered on my adventure of writing my text content:

http://www.clickz.com/3623058

http://www.whydev.com/blog/how-write-good-web-content – This one was very relevant as it talked a little about content, keeping a company website in mind.

It is also important to know how a user read on the web platform, hence the below links:

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

http://www.sensible.com/chapter.html

http://websitetext.com/

Generating the text content is slowing putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I have already started designing my template and it now makes sense to sit down and composite the collage – you now have the text, you’ve gather a range of images (you may/may not use) and you have the functional requirement document in front of you. This should be easy, right?  :)

The challenge now lies in design. I have an art background, but my goal is not to have the best looking site here. These are baby steps for me and my objective is to gather my knowledge and make this a workable website – using my web development knowledge and skills. Not that the beautifying does not matter, functional and presentable are the words I am looking for, for the first take. I’m sure I’m going to be tweaking this even after Capstone is done!!!

Hop, skip, …………. JUMP onto Template-Design !!!!!

Times just whizzing by…so much to do and so little time! I’ve been sneaking-a-peek at this book from the library, Build your own database driven website using PHP & MYSQL by Kevin Yank. I am liking what I am reading – the language is simple. It provides what the author quotes, “a hands-on look at what’s involved in building a database driven web site using PHP and MySQL“. I’ll provide updates as I cover more of the book.

More on the articles Adam provided:

http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Choosing-Keywords-Help/Choosing-Keywords-Wisely/

http://www.avangate.com/articles/keyword-research_40.htm

I enjoyed both articles – a special mention to article #2 (16 Rules of Thumb) for how to choose keywords effectively. Today’s world of websites is aiming to use search engines optimization from the beginning, for new websites, especially like mine. It was harder a few years back but with technology like Google AdWords and Analytics, the internet is becoming an easy tool. For the older websites, it’s still a good insight into what recovery measures can be undertaken. SEO is becoming a powerful industry by itself and what made the articles worthwhile were the use of keyword terms like density,  localization, placement, conversion rate and primary & secondary keywords.

I also looked up and tried my keywords in Google Trends. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most. If you have a global market which is also a potential market for my website, it was fun to see what kind of words/terms were used differently in different countries and how that would also help framing my website’s  content.

Coming to the “Content” part – here were the list of articles –

http://www.clickz.com/3617566
http://www.clickz.com/3625220
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/zombiecopy

You would be amazed to think that content does not have to be only thought of from the client’s perspective, but also from an SEO one! Your website is not yours anymore – this is what you get for current trends in internet marketing and globalization…lol. P. J. Fusco, the author of one of the articles quotes:

Good content contributes to a site’s overall visibility on a page-by-page basis. It engages users and provides an optimal path for easy navigation throughout the site. It stays on theme and naturally accrues inbound links over time.

Great content maintains all the essential elements of good content but produces higher conversion rates. It’s action-oriented in that it inspires users to make a purchase, request more information, sign up for a newsletter, make a reservation, or set up an appointment.

It calls for the ability to Analyze, Implement, and Measure content. We also need to keep in mind that people don’t read every word of your content, keeping it concise helps. I really wish I had the skills of a copy-writer, right now 😦

Wish me good luck!

It’s end of Week 3 and some more homework submitted. Yesterday in class, we discussed previous homework’s and the importance of quantitative data the will you, as a web designer/developer would use to measure your progress toward the “Smart” goal. As Adam pointed, it may not matter that much if  it’s your own website, but it does with a client. Where I am concerned, I always presumed this would be a definite time-line. You I did put some thought in it and yes quantitative goals such as”40 people to fill request form” or say, “A certain now of hits or views on a specific page in the website” could classify as quantitative data and you would need to define or help the client focus on these quantitative goals rather than just time-line.

This week was drawing some navigational site diagrams and charting out the functional requirements of the website work flow. A navigational site-map outlines the flow that a user might take in navigating through your website. I had fun playing with the newest trial version of Microsoft Visio. I have used it before but the current version always makes it easier and I figured there’s no better time to try it than now 🙂 I looked up http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/4-presenting-information.html for more information – a helpful article.

The other document was the Functional Requirements/Feature Plan document. The idea of developing this one is that another web professional who could understand the needs well enough to build the functionality with almost no additional information. I did get down to some detail on this one and yes, took a lot of my time. On the positive side, it resolved a few issues. It gave me an idea how the site map and requirements go hand in hand. Also I now knew how many pages I really had in the website and how the web pages linked to one another. I also chalked out some wireframe diagrams  on what I really needed constant on the template,  in terms of content on each page.

Here are a few other links I have been reading:

http://blog.craigslist.org/ ( Craigslist CEO blog….interesting!)

http://online-social-networking.com/ (An interesting approach on social media)

A great Memorial Day weekend spent with family…now back to bloggin…. and of course working on Week 3! I won’t say I did not do any part of the homework but some of the external information architecture links posted by Adam were indeed thought provoking. I would like to share my thoughts (while lazing in the sun next to a pool!!!) on these:

  • http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/site_diagrams_mapping_an_information_space
    Wow! I thought site diagrams were going to be a piece of cake!!! Well, now that I am back on ground (was flying high thinking I could easily ace these site diagrams) I am not so sure 😦 I learned a lot from the article and intend to use some concepts in my homework for Week 3. The diagrammatic approach is very important in Information architecture , the information has to be concise and precise.
  • http://evolt.org/article/Web_Site_Architecture_101/4090/635/index.html
    A simplistic approach to help you understand how effective navigation can help a website. I think this comes as a boon to web designers like me who waste a little too much time into details that do not matter 🙂 What matters is getting relevant information in the quickest time to the user, Having 20,000 pages is not the solution! The “Aside:” comments and the scheme diagram is useful to understand the navigation concept and laying out your web-pages.
  • http://www.digital-web.com/articles/ia_as_an_extension_of_web_design/
    I like how Joshua (the author) likes to integrate the two aspects: Information architecture and Web Design. It’s hard to see these two getting married, often people tend to side one over the other but both in their own way play a key role. I think it is interesting to understand how both can work their way into the common Wed tasks as he described: Navigation, Layout and Code. I also like the idea about not having boundaries and keeping both roles open to experiment. That way, we don’t have preferences and that will surely expedite the web development process.

I created  a separate post for these two topics as I intend to elaborate even further. The first few stages  (if you adhere to the six stage process) are a little tedious, you find yourself generating a lot of information wondering whether it will ever come to good use. I did it anyway.

Adam did pass on a sample website time-line but since I am reading Web Redesign 2.0/Workflow that works I really enjoyed the section, “Creating Schedules”. Interestingly, they made an overview schedule as well as a detailed one. I now understand why. The overview helps you to break the schedule into months (if longer) or weeks. The detailed one becomes a concise day-to day list of action items — as quoted in the book. Here it becomes important to keep track of scheduled date and the actual date when it was completed.

The other topic – Why goals now? Did we not just complete a preliminary questionnaire where most things come out clear? What if goals change?
Defining your goals is important. One of the reasons is you as a web designer/developer could have a different goal than your client and you may not even know it. Putting your goals and getting client feedback on these goal definitions will give you a clear blueprint on feasible and valid goals. How you can help the client facilitate and support the goal (or to what extent) is important and the link http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/TristanLoo5.html gives  a good idea what these  smart goals have to be:

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. outlines the set of criteria that your goal must follow in order for it to be a well-focused and achievable goal. That set of criteria is:

Specific: Do you know exactly what you want to accomplish with all the details?

Measurable: Are you able to assess your progress?

Attainable: Is your goal within your reach given your current situation?

Relevant: Is your goal relevant towards your purpose in life?

Time-Sensitive: What is the deadline for completing your goal?

It also is a good idea to create a priority list for which goals you want to achieve.

You would think figuring out your target audience would be easy…isn’t it? A bunch of people waiting all day to view your website exclusively!!! LOL!!!!

It took some active dialog with the client to figure out what audience we are catering to. It was only after we looked at our short term and long term goals, could we narrow down who primarily would be our audience and the list did surprise me. A few months back when we discussed this topic, the audience part got concluded as, “well, potential clients”. But today after homework # 2, the answer is different.
I guess you may think you’re just a web developer/designer, but directing your client (and thus your website) plays an important role. It helps you understand how and whzat you will focus on when you start the website. It also helps the client get a direction on what the focus should be , while supplying imagery, content, etc.
We picked three kinds of audience. One existing, one potential and third is the kind that have been past collaborations but never taken seriously as a target market.