Web Design

Things I’ve learned and noticed about web design

More handy links

April 11th, 2009

A very nice looking design gallery:

A gorgeous shopping cart system

Just about every programming book you could ever want online, FREE!

Fighting for CSS

March 28th, 2009

It seems that now, the year 2009, in the world of Web 2.0, over 10 years after the beginning of CSS level 2, every website would be coded using this incredibly simple, elegant, and powerful solution to formatting web pages. Yet, my entire work history in web design and development has been a losing battle in advocacy of CSS use.

At my first positions at UWM I could understand why I was seeing so many awful table layouts and so little CSS – many of the sites were nearly 10 years old. The real shocker was that as I became involved redesign projects CSS still was nowhere to be found. I got used to this fact, and after a few years of working there, no ridiculous web practice could surprise me.

Or so I thought. Then I saw pages that clients attempted to make using Microsoft Front Page or some other equally wacky web page editor. Talk about overcomplicated, completely ineffective formatting code!

Then I started at Hal Leonard and saw the strangest combination of tables and CSS I’ve ever encountered. Tables galore, but with a different CSS style applied to every single table cell. Hundreds and hundreds of styles applied practically to every single sentence. No divs, no style information that spanned multiple elements, or you know, cascaded. Yup a complete lack of cascading styles when using Cascading Style Sheets.

I think a lot of people just don’t care or are afraid of using CSS. A lot of programmers don’t want to take the time to learn how to use CSS to align text when they know a font tag will do the same thing, even after I explain how you can use one line of CSS to achieve alignment on every page of your site, every paragraph even, rather than using thousands of <font> tags across a site. Others give it a try, run into some browser support troubles, and then revert back to tables, which aren’t even universally supported themselves!


Web Design Inspiration

January 24th, 2009

I found a cool site today, webcreme.com, which just lists a bunch of nice looking websites. I’m finding it’s a great place to go when stuck on how to start a new project. I used to just do general searches for the type of business I was creating a site for to check out the competition and get an idea for the design paradigm for the business, but I found that there are a lot, I mean a lot, of bad looking sites out there. I really am my harshest critic, but it’s very easy to find sites that just look terrible, so it’s great to finally have a consistent resource for great web design inspiration.

Upcoming Web Design/Development Projects

January 17th, 2009

Now that I’ve done all that I had hoped with my sample CMS site, sample shopping cart, and portfolio redesign, I’m onto some projects that should be a bit more fun and a lot less work (hopefully).

To begin, there’s the Benno’s Bar and Grill site redesign project. One of my favorite establishments, a place renown for an incredible selection of craft beer on tap, it’s current website falls well short of giving the restaurant a good online presence. Nate and I offered to revamp the site at very little cost and plan to implement a brand new, modern design, an online rating system of the beers on tap, an accurate menu and specials page, and a CMS so that the owners can update the site content as necessary. Most everything is in place and we’re just waiting for the go ahead to put our new design online.

Nate and I also had an idea for a site called MyWikiTrail.net. The site would be another WordPress blog where we, and other users, will log our often confusing and entertaining paths through Wikipedia. The project will give me an opportunity to create a new design, work with applying themes to WordPress, and learn the WordPress end-user features.

Additionally, I am taking two new web programming classes this spring. One class is intermediate Java programming and the other is simply called “Advanced Web Programming” and will be a mixed assortment of database access, advanced javascript, advanced formatting, and more.

Recent Web Projects

January 15th, 2009

Well, I always seem to keep myself busy, usually too busy. I really love nothing more than mastering a new technology or putting the finishing touches on a new design I’m really proud of, so working on new projects really has become quite an addiction for me. Actual paying work has been scarce, but I’ve been putting any free time I have to good use.

Over the last few months I completed a few projects of my own, most notably the redesign of this website. I took a long, steady approach to the site, working 20-30 minutes a day for about 3 weeks before I was finished with what is by far the best version of my web design portfolio I’ve ever made.

I also poured a ton of time and effort into learning all I could about CMS Made Simple. I set up a sample cms website to explore all of the features including photo albums, blogs, forums, comments, web forms, and more. I though I knew a lot about the system before this experiment as I have used it in 5 previous web projects, but now I really see the true power of it all. I cannot think of an easier and more efficient way for a client to maintain a site.

Shopping carts have always been a source of ire in my freelance experience- everybody wants one, nobody really wants to pay for one, nobody is willing to invest the time into setting one up. Therefore, I’ve never actually set up a full shopping cart system. Last month I took the initiative to just set up a cart of my own using Zencart. It’s not a fully functioning online store now, but I think it’s a pretty good shopping cart solution.

Installing this blog was actually yet another project, as it was only recently added- months after the initial site redesign. The purpose of the blog was to learn the ins and outs of WordPress so that I could have an outlet for delivering news and thoughts about web design and development.

Busy, busy, busy, and more to come.