Don’t Settle For Less

I get emails from a website called Service Seeking when there is a job listed that is related to my field of work, specifically web design. I have practically given up on it though as there seem to be a number of firms on there now that come in with quote on under $1000 on pretty much every job, including jobs that I cannot see any way possible to do for under $6000 unless those working on it are paid around the $2 an hour mark. It’s just not possible.

I find firms that offer quotes like this to be degrading, they devalue the job and the designer. The brand image should be an important part of any business. A business should be willing to recognise that they need to spend money to get a job done well. Once it’s devalued, it can be difficult to help customers realise that our time as designers is valuable, that we are in control of how their business looks online and that subsequently if we are undervalued, we cannot make their business look good.

There was one new job listing posted today that reads:

“Hi, I am currently in the process of putting together my own … business and as I am still in the researching stage I am just simply after quotes so that when I am ready to hire in a few months I know exactly who to call. I am after a company that can build my … site exactly to my needs, be easy and helpful to work with, fast and can also host my website for me. I expect to pay no more then $1000 if not less and would like my website to be put together in a couple of weeks as when I am ready to go I want to get up and running asap.”

I’ve edited out a couple of points that may make this business identifiable, but what they are asking for here is pretty unrealistic. Part of one point that I had to remove is that they are after e-commerce functionality as they need to be selling things online. They want it for under $1000 AND done in a matter of weeks. Basically it’s a case of wanting the world for nothing, which is becoming all too common in web design. Let’s break it down and look at it more closely.

Let’s say we use Drupal for the content management system on this project with Ubercart handling the e-commerce side of things.

  • Installation of Drupal with Ubercart and other required modules could be done in about half an hour.
  • Customisation and testing of Drupal, Ubercart and other settings could take anywhere from an hour upwards. In my experience it averages at 5-10 hours.
  • Setting up and testing Ubercart with PayPal could take half an hour to an hour.
  • Doing up the graphics for a design with a customer that sounds like they are going to be picky could be anywhere from 2 hours to 15 hours.
  • Converting the graphic design to a Drupal template using another template such as Framework to form the basis of the design could be 5 to 15 hours as well depending on complexity of the design, not to mention ensuring that it suits the e-commerce side of things as well.
  • Consultation times, could vary from 1 to 10 hours.
  • Miscellaneous extra 1 to 15 hours.
  • Total minimum: 15 hours work.
  • More likely minimum: 40 hours work.

At an average rate of $85 per hour, that’s an absolute minimum of $1275, but more likely $3400. That’s still a cheap e-commerce website, and costs more than 3 times the amount they want it for. Most e-commerce sites that I have worked on have been around the 50-60 hour mark or higher. By devaluing the market, clients don’t realise just how much they need to invest in this sort of thing.

Compare it to radio or TV advertising where advertisers will unquestioningly pay $5000 upwards on advertising campaigns, many looking at over $20,000 for one campaign, it’s a big difference, especially considering your website is advertising for you 24/7 compared to your TV or radio advertisement that’s only 30 seconds or so here and there!

One thing to keep in mind is that you always get what you pay for and you certainly cannot get the world for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, there are some quality designers that have specials and do quality work for cheap. In the end though you need to analyse what you need and be prepared to pay for it. You don’t have to pay top dollar, just ensure that what you are paying for is what you really want.

A final example to leave you with. I had one client previously whom I quoted for. They decided to go with another group who quoted them about a fifth of what I did. After the other group completed the website, I thought I should point out to the client the (numerous) accessibility issues with any non-IE7/8 browser. By the time they had paid the other group to get everything right, they ended up paying more than what I had quoted them in the first place, so paying a bit more to start off with would have saved them both time and money, and potentially saved them on any damage to their reputation that the poorly designed website could have caused.

Investigate your options and make an informed decision, don’t just go with what seems to be the cheapest.

Adwords Management

I picked up a new domain name yesterday, http://adwordsmanagement.net.au which I’m thinking I’ll use to create a landing page relating to Google Adwords management as part of the TerraMedia website. I’m not sure when I’ll get round to it though as I’ve got a number of other things on my to do list that are of a much higher priority.

It is quite a good domain name to use for an Adwords management landing page, or even more so for an entire website relating to Adwords management simply because it has exactly those terms in the domain itself – Adwords management. It would be better if it were a global domain, such as a .com or .net, or even if it was the .com.au country coded domain simply because those ones are all easier to remember. Regardless of that though, I think it has potential.

If I haven’t gotten around to doing anything with it when you are reading this, and you are interested in purchasing it, I will consider selling it if the offer is reasonable, so you are welcome to make an offer. Otherwise, hopefully I’ll be setting it up within the next couple of months.

Using the GMap Module with Drupal’s Private File System

If you use the GMap module with your Drupal installation, something you may not realise initially is that a file is created in your Drupal file system called gmap_markers.js.

By default this file goes in sites/default/files/js/gmap_markers.js and is not the same file as the gmap_marker.js file in the Drupal module directory.

When the Drupal private file system is enabled, you cannot directly access a file in the sites/default/files directory, this means that when the the gmap_markers.js file is looked up, Drupal doesn’t allow access to it. Fortunately, GMaps provides a way around this.

Change the location of gmap_markers.js

The first thing you need to do to resolve this issue is to change where the gmap_markers.js file is located. The next thing you need to do is to tell GMap where to find it.

  1. Pick a location outside of the Drupal file system. For example, files/js/gmap_markers.js instead of sites/default/files/js/gmap_markers.js
  2. In your Drupal administration section, go to your GMaps settings and below the “Google Maps API Key” text box, there will be an option to specify the path to gmap_markers.js from the Drupal root directory.
  3. Enter the path.
  4. Save the changes.
  5. Click the “Regenerate” button in the “Regenerate Marker Cache” section.

Your cache should now be rebuilt in the new location using these settings. This should resolve any private file system issues relating to the GMap module in Drupal 6. Drupal 5 may vary a bit and I have not tested this, but I suspect it should still resolve the problem, for the most part, but you may need to use a different directory than what I suggested.

Good luck, if you have any issues or other tips, such as for Drupal 5, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

CSS Clip Property

I recently came across the clip property on the Web Designer Wall, it’s a property I’ve not heard of before, probably because I’ve not really had a need for it, but now that I know what it does, there are so many things it would save time with!

The example below is an excerpt from the Web Designer Wall:

.clip {
 position: relative;
 height: 130px;
 width: 200px;
 border: solid 1px #ccc;
}
.clip img {
 position: absolute;
 clip: rect(30px 165px 100px 30px);
}

How it works is you have a surrounding element, such as a div or li which sets the overall width and a border which gives the appearance of masking the image. It also sets the position of relative so that on the img tag, we can absolutely position it within the outer element.

The img tag is then set to position: absolute; with a clip property that clips the image to a rectangle shape (so it can also be a square).

The uses of this property are potentially huge, especially for image galleries, and you can also resize images by specifying the width and height on the img tag. Perfect for a gallery, as long as the images you are scaling aren’t huge, you don’t want images that appear small ot take a long time to load after all!

The big downside of this is that according to the SitePoint CSS reference, Internet Explorer up to and including version 7 do not fully support it, so you may need to use a variation on the syntax especially for Internet Explorer. The way I understand it,  you just need to use spaces instead of commas in the rect() syntax for Internet Explorer, but I haven’t had a chance to test this yet to be sure.

Even if it doesn’t work fully in Internet Explorer, you could easily implement it in a way that will gracefully degrade in IE.

I’m looking forward to using this property, have you used it on one of your sites? I’d love to see how you’re using it, let me know in the comments!

What I’ve been Doing – Yahoo Pipe Feed Aggregation

For KIB216 I have created a pipe which takes an RSS feed from numerous sources where I post blogs and updates, including:

It then lists them in chronological order:

Embed Flash video in valid XHTML

Getting a Flash video to embed in an XHTML strict document without breaking validity is something that has always been a frustration to me, as I aim for every website I build to be written so that it validates and is the most search engine friendly. After a bit of a hunt around, I came across this code snippet from Yoast.

Basically, the key is the <embed> tag that usually gets used. It’s not valid and it turns out, it’s not actually needed. So basically, you want something that looks like:

<object type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
	data="music/sound.swf"
	width="0" height="0">
	<param name="movie" value="music/sound.swf" />
	<param name="quality" value="high"/>
</object>

Thats basically it, just change the width and height to the dimensions you need and change the path in object and in the movie parameter. There you go.

As Yoast indicates, this doesn’t automatically update the Flash player for clients if a new version is needed, but thats fine for my purposes at the moment. You would need to add in a codebase attribute to the object tag in order to have it automatically check, but I think thats for another time.

Find your Latitude and Longitude

While I was experimenting with Yahoo Pipes for the Flickr photo display mashup I made the other day I found another mashup which could potentially be very useful.

It is simply called “Find Latitude and Longitude” and does pretty much exactly what it says.

You are shown a big map which is pulled from Google Maps and you can subsequently navigate the map just like on Google Maps. The latitude and longitude of your cursor is shown below the map, and if you click on a location, that latitude and longitude is stored below the map along with the address until you click on another location.

The interface for locating a latitude and longitude on http://www.findlatitudeandlongitude.com/
The interface for locating a latitude and longitude on http://www.findlatitudeandlongitude.com/

This makes it very quick and easy to find the latitude you are looking for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an address search option, but if you know where it is and how to use Google Maps, you can quickly navigate to the locatino you are after and grab the latitude and longitude for it.

Uses

This is something that has a lot of potential use for in web site development for determining geocodes for the geolocation tags of a web site. An option, such as a copy to clipboard button that copies the longitude and latitude in a single string could be a nice extra feature for this purpose that isn’t currently available.

Obvious other uses are mashups such as the Flickr mashup I mentioned earlier which I used the latitude and longitude for.

Aside from that I’m not sure that there are a significant number of other uses, aside from just general curiousity or needing to know the latitude and longitude of places for planning say a hiking expedition.

Final comments

The interface is very simple but effective, the design could perhaps be spruced up a bit to make it a nicer site, but I don’t think it’s really necessary.

I think adding the extra clipboard functionality would make this tool tremendously more valuable than it already is, and it isn’t something that would take that much more to add I don’t think, after all the information is already being printed, it’s just a matter of some JavaScript on a button to store it in the clipboard, ready to be pasted.

What do you think? What else could you or do you use it for?

Triplify – Search Google, Yahoo and Bing all at once!

The Triplify search box
The Triplify search box

Triplify is a mashup that is highly useful to me as a web site designer, especially when looking at search engine optimisation.

What does it do?

Triplify is a search engine front end that takes your search query and then passes it on to Google, Yahoo and Bing. Those 3 search engines return the search results to Triplify, and it collates and displays them to the user.

By default it sorts the results based on their position in the results of each search engine which is great for quickly seeing where a web site is ranked in each search engine without having to go hunt through them all separately. If you aren’t in the first 16 results though then you are out of luck as Triplify does not currently appear to have paged results available and so only 16 results for each search engine are given. So what you get is something like this:

The first 6 results in a Triplify search for "brisbane web designer"
The first 6 results in a Triplify search for "brisbane web designer"

What do the colours mean?

Google is shown in blue, Yahoo in Red and Bing in that yellow/green colour. I’m not sure that these are the best colours as they don’t really symbolise those search engines. I was thinking while I was using it that the colours aren’t the best choices, in my opinion, Yahoo should be yellow and Bing should be blue and Google red. I’m not entirely sure why though, after all, the Yahoo logo is Red and Google uses blues as well as reds. Blue seems to better suit Bing, after all, blue is very much a Microsoft and Live colour, and Bing is related to both of them. The others I’m really not 100% sure about though. I associate yellow with Yahoo, and I’ve been trying to figure out why for a while now. I think it’s because of the smileys that used to be on their home page in that strong yellow colour that were part of the Yahoo Instant Messenger branding. I used to use YIM quite regularly, so that may be it. Upon thinking about it further, the colour choices are good, they are just not the colours that I associate with each of those search engines.

What else can it do?

If you only want to show the results from two of the search engines, or even only one, just uncheck the boxes below the search box of the ones you don’t want and voila, they are gone! Need them back? Just check the box again and they will reappear.

If you want to sort the results by search engine, or any of the other column headings (though search engine seems to be the only other particularly useful one to me), just click the column heading, for example, click “Title” and the search results will be shuffled into alphabetical order. Click “Engine” and the results will be grouped by search engine.

There is also a handy “Add Triplify to your browser” link at the top of the page which, if your browser supports this feature, will add Triplify as a search option to your browsers search box.

Quirks and nuisances

Unfortunately at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any way to sort in descending order rather than ascending, this isn’t a big thing, but it would be nice!

The main issue I have is that the sorting is affected by whichever sort you used previously. This can be a handy feature, but it can result in unexpected behaviour. For example, if you are viewing with a position sort, then you sort by search engine. The results will be shown in order of their search engine ranking. Now sort by title, then sort by search engine again. They are now sorted by search engine, but in alphabetical order instead.

Perhaps some explanation of how this works would make it clearer to understand to the new user, it took me playing with it for about half an hour before I realised that it sorted by both the current and previous sort option. My initial assumption was that it should sort Title, Description and URL alphabetically, then search engine should show pages in their ranked order, not in Title, Description or URL order. I do admit, it is useful, but unexpected.

In hindsight, the motto “Search, compare and sort!” does actual indicate that you should be able to do some sort of advanced sorting such as what is available, and if you go to the about page it does explain how the search sorting works, but the about page is hidden in tiny text down the bottom of the page and isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when trying to figure out how to use it. Maybe a more prominent link at the top of the page, such as “Help” on the right hand side underneath the existing tools navigation box that is there.

Final thoughts

I think Triplify is something that is going to play a very important part in my future search engine optimisation efforts. I don’t see any particular appeal in it from a general search point of view because the search results are not as easy to understand as they are in any of the search engine interfaces, but it will save a lot of time determining if a web site is ranked in the top 16 results or not and checking on it’s progress.

It is only in beta, so no doubt the things that are unclear may be cleared up once a 1.0 version is released.

Have you found an interesting use for Triplify? Share it in the comments!

How to create a Flickr photo feed through Yahoo Pipes

I have been experimenting with mashups, in particular utilising Yahoo Pipes as part of my studies at university at the moment, and one of our initial exercises is to create a mashup that takes 30 images from Flickr that are related to “QUT Kelvin Grove”.

The most logical way to do this to me seemed to be to simply use the Flickr module in Yahoo Pipes.

This was really straight forward, it’s basically just a matter of:

  1. Drag the “Flickr” module onto the screen from under the “Sources” tab on the left.
  2. Enter the number of images you want in the “Find” box.
  3. Enter a search query in the “images of” box.
  4. Enter a location in the “near” box.
  5. Join the pipe output from the bottom of the Flickr module to the pipe input in the top of the Pipe Output module.
  6. Save your pipe.
  7. Run your pipe.

You should have something in the pipe editor that looks like this:

The Flickr Module in Yahoo Pipes being used to output 30 images of QUT Kelvin Grove.
The Flickr Module in Yahoo Pipes being used to output 30 images of QUT Kelvin Grove.

I have entered the name of the location “Kelvin Grove, Brisbane” in the “near” box, but you can also enter a latitude and longitude, for example 1532727 will put you in basically the same area as what I used. However, just the suburb name “Kelvin Grove” did not return anything, so you do need to be fairly clear about where it is.

You can check it out at the Pipe page, or you can see the end result here:

Experimenting with Landing Pages

At TerraMedia, I am currently working on an interesting project. That is, I am working on pushing the website up in search results for a number of different regions.

One of the ones I am working on at the moment is users searching for  web site design and related services in the Byron Bay region. If you do a quick search in Google for “web design Byron Bay” or “Byron Bay web design” or similar, TerraMedia cannot be found on the first page of results. The home page of TerraMedia is visible on the second page in the case of both those queries, but we would like it high up on the first.

There are a couple of places to start here, the first is to update the home page to more specifically target Byron Bay, or, to create a landing page which is optimised for Byron Bay searches. We don’t really want to adjust the home page too extensively as it is currently placed quite well for a number of other regions, so we decided to begin with landing pages, starting with Byron Bay.

To start off with, I have setup a new page on the TerraMedia web site that has all of the keywords we are looking for in both the page title and the page address. The page that I have set up is located at http://terramedia.com.au/web-site-design-services-byron-bay and uses some new copy that is based on copy used in other sections of the website combined with some newly written information to help target potential Byron Bay clients.

A sub-domain or domain that is specifically relevant to these terms may be easier to rank higher, but at the same time, they would lose the benefit of being on the terramedia.com.au domain and could confuse the user in the case of a completely different domain name. Wouldn’t you be confused if you went from say “websitedesignservicesinbyronbay.com” to “terramedia.com.au”? That domain is an exaggerated example and is much too long, but I’m sure you can see how it could get confusing.

Now that the page is created I will be developing links to it and marketing it through our Facebook page and Twitter account.I want to get twitter followers for our page to see how it goes. The aim is then to push this page up in search results specifically regarding web site design in the Byron Bay region.