The Daily News: Keeping clients, javascript and an interview

Keeping Clients Around

Once you do the hard work of landing a client you always want to keep them. Repeat work for good clients is always a bit easier. If you want some tips on those little things that keep clients around check out this article on Freelance Switch. It lists 3 easy ways to provide that little bit of extra service that will keep clients coming back for more.

curvyCorners

If you’ve been developing websites for a while you probably know a few ways to achieve rounded corners. For non-crucial effects I often use -moz-border-radius (along with the webkit version) and leave IE out in the cold. In fact, the corners on my blog are achieved in that way. curvyCorners uses javascript to perform on the fly rounded corners for all major browsers. While I’m not a fan of relying on javascript, if it is a non-crucial application you can include IE in the party. It seems that there is also a jquery plugin in the works.

Tutorials Galore

Now how about a round up of links in my round up (a bit ironic isn’t it). Over at NETTUTS there is a great list of things to know for web designers and developers. Everything from photoshop designing to jquery is covered in this list. I’ve done most of them over the months and highly recommend you at least skim through each one and expand your mind.

Getting Inspired

I love reading about other designers. Learning how and why they do what they do is simply just fun. Over at Just Creative Design there is a great interview with Doug Cloud. Doug does beautiful work and has a cool story.

That’s all I have for today. Hope you enjoyed.

The Daily News: Stolen designs, site conversion, and usability

Let’s start today with an article from Freelance Switch (FSW) on Intellectual Property Resources. All of us designers get worried about our design work getting stolen. It seems that when this happens it’s hard to do much about it. The list provided by FSW gives you places to find your legal rights.

Second up is an article on redesigning your blog. Most of us, myself included, think of a ground up redesign when they want to change their site or blog. What about just tweaking the look. Read the article for some good ideas on how to make small changes that will impact your users greatly.

All websites are trying to get more traffic and keep it. This article from conversion rate experts details 14 free tools for tracking your website. I am particularly interested in the heat map stuff from crazy egg. I am currently going to redesign my portfolio and blog, and actually the site at my fulltime job, and this will come in handy in testing designs.

Finally today we look at usability. This is an article that challenges you not to think of site usability as an after thought but as the first thought in a site. I truly think that this should be the case. In any major redesign I do I want to make it easier to use, I call it ‘stupid simple.’ Many of the resources from the last article would help greatly in making an existing site more usable.

The Daily News: GIMP, usability, and WordPress

I decided that I would start rounding up interesting links each day and pass them along to my readers. I will still be publishing my own articles, but find that I don’t have as much time to get them out as often as I would like. So expect a semi-daily round up of cool links and once a week an article that I will write.

Today we’ll start with an article from Ar-bent-ing on places to submit your articles. The author correctly states that many of the main stream sites for social traffic really aren’t that great for niche blogs. I have personally seen that stumbleupon drives a few hundred visitors on the days that I get stumbled but there is not an increase of subcriptions to my feed and the bounce rate is high. I test submitted an article yesterday and saw about 15 people hit the site and around 3 new subscriptions. I would go through the list and start submitting your articles to some new sites.

Second up is a post that presents a new plugin for WordPress called the Homepage Excerpts Plugin. It really just gives you more control over how the content is displayed on you your homepage but can also make things easier for people that land on your homepage. I will probably install this over the weekend and start to make use of it to clean up my homepage.

I know for most of us Photoshop is the end all in photo editing but there are some pretty good Open Source tools out there as well. The most popular is the GIMP. Over at Noupe there is a post linking to 30 great GIMP tutorials.

Finally today is a post on usability (funny enough it on the usability post blog). The post details 7 usability mistakes often found on websites. A good read for anyone in web design cause if you’ve fallen into bad usability habits now is the time to break them.

Bit of a Dog’s Breakfast: News Round up

Today the news seemed to range all over the place, a bit of a dog’s breakfast follows.

All of us freelancers (at least I would hope) do some sort of follow up with our clients at the end of a project. For me it is usually just a ‘thanks keep me in mind’ email but if you could improve your customer service by asking some tough questions I bet you’d be willing to do it. Sitepoint has an article today on just that, asking you customers the hard quesitons. They suggest offering an online survey that asks what customers liked and didn’t like (among other things) so that you stop making the same mistakes with more clients.

Next up (and there seems to be a lot of this lately) is an article on XHTML vs. HTML over at CSS-Tricks. I’ll admit that I currently site where Chris did a year ago. I code XHTML transitional pages and honestly don’t truly know the difference between that and HTML 4.01. Ultimately in my mind if the page works in all of the major browsers I think the code is good. Read this to get a better grasp on the differences and uses of each. I know that now I am going to evaluate my reasons for XHTML.

Now lets flip into some quick marketing. Jacob Cass at Just Creative Design just posted and asked us designers for our twitter names. If you are a design professional (or hoping to be one) add your name to the list and follow someone new to make some more contacts.

Well finish today off with some inspiration. Niki has some connections that let her see cool installation art. Check out this post to see everyday objects used in cool new ways and get some ideas for future design projects.

Market and they will come: News Round Up

Starting off today is a great article listing lots of helpful hints on writing an XHTML Strict web page. Whether you like XHTML Strict or not it’s here so here are some hints on how to write it if you choose to write your next website in the Strict Doctype.

Are you a student or full time designer looking to get out an freelance or build your portfolio? If so this article is for you. Written more specifically to student’s it covers how to fill out your portfolio and gain some reputable work experience. There are definitely some great suggestions for those of us that are looking to break into the freelance market as well.

On the same theme want to bring in more local business then check out this post on how to get free local advertising on Google. An amazing post that requires very little work and can yield some amazing results. Read through the post and get some free advertising.

Finishing off our marketing theme is a post from Small Fuel on learning marketing from McDonald’s. Have you thought about selling packaged services? I bet you will after reading this brief post.

Forms are on the Schedule: News Round UP

It seems that many sites were posting information on how to build forms that are easy for users. Jeff over at Blankenthoughts has a great post on 6 Tips for Making Website Registration User-Friendly. Many of the suggestions are great (especially regarding weird password requirements), but I have to say that I really don’t agree that CAPTCHAS are a good thing. I realize that they may be needed to compact the prolific amount of spam that is out there but they are a usability nightmare. I often have to refresh CAPTCHAS till I can read what I’m supposed to type (I have 20/20 vision). Other than that there are lots of good suggestions for making your site registration easy.

As I said up front there was a lot on the web about forms today. Our second article specifically addresses Best Practice for Form Validation. All you have to do is read the headings and you’ll be nodding your head in agreement. Don’t stop with the titles though, give the whole thing a good read and brush up on your form validation best practices.

The final link today is kind of off topic for web design but many designer also take pictures as a hobby. I was listening to This Week in Photography and they mentioned what looks to be a very cool podcast called the History of Photography Podcast (the link goes to iTunes the site is here). This is a podcast from a teacher at DuPage College on the history of photography. Just started listening but some very good information for those of us that didn’t get to work much on film.

That’s it for today.

The News — XTHML, the economy and your social blog

First up today is a reasonably technical article on XHTML myths and realities. Written by a member of the W3C this article goes over the start of HTML and the morph to XHTML. It comments on browser support and ultimately recommends that you write HTML 4.0 instead of XHTML. A real interesting article that get you thinking about your markup and the future of XHTML.

We all know that the economy is bad. Various countries are having a harder time but ultimately it has the potential to affect us all. The second article today runs through how to overcome the bad economy as a designer. The author recommends being different from your competition and providing a good ROI. This also made me think of a post over at Freelance Switch. Read through it and pay particular attention to the comment by FreelanceMan.

Finally today I recommend a post on increasing the interactivity of your blog. Lots of good ideas, some of which you will see here in the coming months, but I really think community forums are often not a great idea. It takes thousands upon thousands of people on a forum to make it look like there is anyone there. I know one forum that I frequent that has 4000 registered users and it often doesn’t see posts for a few weeks at a time. I suppose I am cautioning you in starting a forum not saying it’s a bad idea.

News Round up

Starting today is an article from Ars Technica about the future of Internet Explorer Mobile. Internet Explorer Mobile comes on Windows Mobile phones as the default web browser (of which I own one the HTC Touch). Anyone who has coded web standards based websites is well aware of the beast that is IE 6, which can render standards compliant code in what seems like a random way. Internet Explorer Mobile is another horrid beast entirely. Based of the code for IE 4, Internet Explorer Mobile often entirely breaks web pages making them un-useable as a mobile page. With the rise of Safari and the iPhone (also Skyfire, Opera Mini among a few others) people have seen that mobile browsing doesn’t have to be as painful as an in-laws thanksgiving. Unfortunately it appears that the new version of IE Mobile will be based of the IE 6 code, which while a vast improvement over IE 4, is still not even close to the user experience that we see from the iPhone. If you’re thinking about building for the mobile web give the article a read to catch up on the state of affairs in the mobile browsing world, though you may be disappointed.

Secondly, Freelance Switch has an article on missing the point of being a freelancer. Most people got into freelancing for an increase in freedom in choosing clients and their work habits. Often though we end up working with the same clients on the same type of projects, which removes much of the freedom we can see in the day. The article walks you through a number of ways to break the monotony of the same clients and projects so you don’t burn out.

We talked about brand designing yesterday and today there is an article from Veerle on her design process for Scroll Magazine. She starts by walking us through the design brief (if you’re not doing one you should be) and shows us some of the logo concepts. I love getting inside the mind of other good designers so I really enjoyed this article and Scroll looks beautiful and sounds like it will have interesting content so I would also suggest you get a copy as I did.

Next up if David Walsh who lists his worst  CSS mistakes. It is a humorous read, especially when you realize you did many of the same things, and it’s interesting to see how far you’ve come as a CSS wizard.

We’ll finish off today with an inspiring post from Smashing Magazine that shows off some awesome retro web design. It lists a bunch of secrets to vintage design and shows off a number of amazing designs.

News Round UP

Here’s the weekly news round up culled from the stack of RSS feeds that I subscribe to.

Starting off is a great post from Just Creative Design that lists all of the WordPress plugins used by Jacob Cass. They range from spam filters (Akismet) to SEO tools (All in one SEO Pack). Many of these tools I already use in my WordPress installations for clients but there are a few that I will probably start installing for clients. I generally install Google Analytics for clients, though most never use it, but I will also probably start to use the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin for my own tracking and really it’s easy to install so having it for clients to reference is easy.

Second up is a post from NETTUTS on the ultimate ways to fight spam. It goes over many of the common ways that are used to fight spam. One, keyword black lists, are used here on this blog. I have a number of "off limits" words that if you try to leave a comment with it your comment will be rejected. The post ultimately recommends Akismet which was developed by the people that developed WordPress. I do have one small exception to this post’s information. It calls Akismet a new service but as far as I know the service has been around for quite a while. There have even been ways to port the service into phpBB bulletin boards for quite a while so I’m not actually sure what it new about it. Regardless Akismet saves you from a bunch of spam so if you don’t want spam install it.

Next we look at position:absolute, which I have mentioned a few times. This post discusses XHTML strict validation and is sure to get some people in quite a twist. This post can be summed up by saying that not everything needs to validate just make sure it is well written. I agree with the theme of this post. I do my best to code all of my sites to XHTML strict. I do allow for failing the validate if there is a good reason. As stated in the article, target=_blank is not a valid attribute in XTHML strict so you have to use a bit of JavaScript to make it work. I really try to stay away from javascript to make things work so am totally fine with using the target=_blank attribute if it is needed. Ultimately if there is a good reason for the failure then I am fine with it.

Finally a post from Smashing Magazine titled 7 Ingredients of Good Corporate Design. This post covers such topics as logo design, typography in design and colour in design, all with a bent to corporate branding. Good for designers of all experience levels to read through and brush up on corporate brand design.

That’s it for today.