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Choosing a web designer

Choosing A Web Designer

Choosing a web designer can be a minefield, especially when there are so many unprincipled designers around. Some of our clients have been affected in one way or another by their previous experience with unprofessional web designers, and with this in mind, we have provided some information on what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

The aim of this guide is to help you to be confident in your choice of designer, and although we’ve attempted to keep it jargon-fee, we’re aware that we haven’t been entirely successful… of necessity you’ll need to know a little bit about how the web works, so please bear with the more techno-babbly bits.

Where to begin?

Your best bet for starting the process is by word-of-mouth. Ask friends who have websites if they were happy with the design process. Ask the owners of sites that you’ve seen and liked who created them and whether it was a good experience or not. Try and find out how much they paid for their web sites, including web-hosting fees.

Check out the web sites of potential web designers. If the site looks appealing and is easy to navigate, that’s a good sign. Any experienced web designer should have a good portfolio of sites they have created for previous clients – spend some time looking through these and evaluating them. Do they load quickly? Are they well designed? Do they appear professional? Is there any particular style that you like?

Having examined the designer’s portfolio it’s easy enough to contact a couple of their clients for references – just go to their Contact pages! Call several site-owners and ask about their overall experience with the web designer. Were they pleased with the results? Was the site completed in a timely manner? Was the designer helpful and easy to deal with, and did they respond to queries quickly? Was the web site costly and did they get exactly what they paid for? Was there anything they didn’t like about the company? Would they recommend them?

Getting definitive answers to these questions will help to ensure that you make the right choice of web designer.

10 Questions to ask a prospective Web Designer

This the aim of this section is to suggest questions that you may not have thought of, but we think are prudent to ask.
We think you already know the first one…

1. Can you guarantee that all the pages on my site will conform to W3C specifications?
If you’ve read the ‘technobabble’ section above, you’ll know why this question is so important…

2. Will it be tested in all the popular browsers and on different-sized screens to ensure that it displays well?
‘Nuff said.

3. Do you use tables to lay out your sites?
Unfortunately quite a few Web designers use invisible tables to hold the page layout together. For the client, this is something that is hard to detect, since it’s not evident when looking at the design itself. But it is something that needs to be checked — a site that uses tables won’t be accessible (a legal requirement in some countries), will perform less well in search engines and will take significantly longer to load. Tables should only be used where tabular data (such as a list of products and prices) is being displayed.

4. Can you register a domain name on my behalf, and provide web hosting — if so, what are the costs?
You need a domain name so that your site can be seen on the internet. You need web hosting to store your website files (think of it as renting space on the web), and to set up email addresses.

5. Do you hand code your web sites?
This is important. It shows a level of expertise that you cannot get with designers that use software to develop the site.

6. Talk me through the design process…
Know what to expect from the point of commission.

7. What kind of after-development support is provided?
It’s all very well having a website designed at a good price but if the after-sales support is priced extortionately then you haven’t got a good deal. Find out how much changes will cost, and if possible try to negotiate one month’s free support after your website has been completed as there are always unexpected changes that are required.

8. What about updates?
Depending on the likely frequency of updates, you may be offered a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can manage your website yourself, but this can be costly — anything from £200 to £500 a year for a decent CMS. An hourly rate for updates is a common solution proposed by design companies. Ask if you will be charged a minimum amount of time per update such as a full hour of service even if the task takes less time.

9. Is web design your main business?
It’s surprising how many print designers offer web design services these days, as do many graphic designers and even computer programmers. It’s usually best to go with a company that specialises in web design rather than a ‘Jack of all trades’ that has recently branched out. The skills required for each discipline are really very different.

10. Do you refuse to wear Crocs?
How can we put this? It’s doubtful that someone who would create a clean, elegant site would be caught dead wearing shoes that look like chew toys. Yes, they are practical and comfortable, and you won’t slip off a boat if you’re wearing them; but you need someone who’s a stylist as well as a geek — someone who is up on colour palettes, branding, typography, and page design that doesn’t obscure message or content. (Side note: If they subscribe to Grafik Magazine, that’s a good sign.)

Lastly, it’s important to establish a good rapport with your web designer. You’ll not only be working closely with them for the duration of your project, but will be collaborating with them for site maintenance for some years to come. If you’re instinct tells you that you’re not going to get along, then look further afield.

(Funny article and some good stuff by: artyitwebdesign)

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What is CSS?

CSS is an Abbreviation

It stands for Cascading Style Sheet.

Style sheet refers to the document itself. Style sheets have been used for document design for years. They are the technical specifications for a layout, whether print or online. Print designers use style sheets to insure that their designs are printed exactly to specifications. A style sheet for a Web page serves the same purpose, but with the added functionality of also telling the viewing engine (the Web browser) how to render the document being viewed.

Cascade is the special part. A Web style sheet is intended to cascade through a series of style sheets, like a river over a waterfall. The water in the river hits all the rocks in the waterfall, but only the ones at the bottom affect exactly where the water will flow.

The same is true of the cascade in Web style sheets.

Every Web page is affected by at least one style sheet, even if the Web designer doesn’t apply any styles. This style sheet is the user agent style sheet – the default styles that the Web browser will use to display a page if no other instructions are provided.

But if the designer provides other instructions, the browser needs to know which instructions have precedence.

For example, in my Web browser, the default font is “Times New Roman” size 16. But nearly no pages I visit display in that font family and size. This is because the cascade defines the second style sheets set by the designers to redefine the font size and family and override my Web browser’s defaults.

Where is CSS Used?

CSS is used to style Web pages. But there is more to it than that. CSS is used to style XHTML and XML markup. This means that anywhere you have XML markup (including XHTML) you can use CSS to define how it will look.

CSS is also used to define how Web pages should look when viewed in other media than a Web browser. For example, you can create a print style sheet that will define how the Web page should print out and another style sheet to display the Web page on a projector for a slide show.

Why is CSS Important?

CSS is one of the most powerful tools a Web designer can learn because with it you can affect the entire mood and tone of a Web site. Well written style sheets can be updated quickly and allow sites to change what is prioritized or valued without any changes to the underlying XHTML.

The challenge of CSS is that there is so much to learn. But it doesn’t seem like it. After all, there are only around 60 properties in CSS Level 1 and around 70 in CSS Level 2. Compared with the number of HTML tags and attributes to learn, that can feel like a cake walk.

But because CSS can cascade, and combine and browsers interpret the directives differently, CSS is more difficult than plain HTML. But once you start using it, you’ll see that harnessing the power of CSS will give you more options and allow you to do more and more things with your Web sites.

If you want to be a professional Web designer, you need to learn Cascading Style Sheets. But luckily, they are fun to learn.

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Your Life Is Tetris. Stop Playing It Like Chess.

Your Life Is Tetris. Stop Playing It Like Chess.

I grew up playing chess. It taught me a lot of great lessons about competition — and a lot of wrong lessons about life.

From the age of seven, I played chess constantly and competitively. I played in school, online, at national competitions. Chess taught me patience, perseverance, critical thinking — crucial skills for tackling life’s hard problems and difficult situations.

Chess wired me to think causally at a young age. Move your knight here; you’ll trap his bishop. Capture that pawn; you’ll weaken his right side. Every correct move led me closer to a checkmate; every false step brought me closer to defeat.

Chess also introduced the idea of the “other”. Black versus white. Our school versus theirs. And every game was zero sum — there was only ever one point to score, either to be shared or taken in its entirety. No way to grow the pie.

I played chess seriously until the age of fifteen, around the time I got my first cell phone. The cell phone was a significant mark of freedom for a teenager, even though it lacked real utility. I remember it well — a small flip phone with a color screen. I carried it everywhere with me as a symbol of my independence. My phone couldn’t access the internet or send a Snapchat, but I found it could kill boredom with its one included game: Tetris. And I became addicted.

Tetris, to some, is frustration incarnate. It’s repetitive! It’s impossible to win! It’s driven by luck! But to me, it became the truest representation of life there is. In comparison, chess is just a silly war game.

I don’t play chess competitively anymore. But to this day, Tetris is the only game on my phone. It sits on the front page of my apps, a constant reminder that life is Tetris, not chess.
I’ll make this distinction clear in four simple points. Maybe you’ve been playing the game wrong too.

1. In life, your only opponent is yourself.

I grew up looking for opponents — people to fight, people to blame, people to prove wrong. I imagined enemies when there were none because fighting was easy. I treated everything like it was zero-sum when there was so much else to gain.

That’s the chess mindset. And it holds you back.
In Tetris, you’re only playing against time and the never-ending flow of pieces from top to bottom. The mindset is internally focused — you are challenging yourself to correctly manipulate a random stream of inputs into an orderly configuration. There’s no final boss. No blame to assign.

The real game of life is completely internal. There really are no big, bad enemies who exist to make you suffer. There is no absolute right or wrong move that a certain opponent can punish. And your score can increase to infinity, if you just push yourself harder. Your life score can increase slowly or quickly, depending on how hard you push yourself. Which brings me to…

2. In life, things don’t get harder — they just get faster.

Some games get harder the longer you play, including chess. Positions get more complicated, opponents become more challenging, the stakes increase. You have a public rating, and thus more to lose when you play the same opponents.
Not Tetris. The game remains the same from Piece One until you run out of space on the screen. The only thing that changes is the speed.

If you played Tetris at the slowest possible speed for the rest of your life, you could possibly never lose. The only enemy would be fatigue. But the algorithm for beating Tetris is not complicated, and you have plenty of time to move the pieces to their optimal locations.

In Tetris, more often than not, we challenge ourselves. We are not content with simply making one row at a time. We push ourselves to get a Tetris — four rows simultaneously. It’s the name of the game. Why bother playing if you don’t go for it?

I treated life like chess for a long time — a series of ever-increasing challenges. I would invent problems where none were required and take on a victim mindset. But life doesn’t actually get harder the longer you play. As we get older, we have more money and more wisdom. Our independence increases. We don’t have to take on new challenges if we don’t wish to. But we seek fulfillment, so we often do.

However, life does get faster. Every day we live is a smaller percentage of our total life, and we perceive time as moving more quickly. Our responsibilities grow until tasks we should sincerely enjoy are treated as annoyances or mindless distractions.

The only way to master life — like Tetris — is to learn to play with the same self-control at the highest speeds. You can’t allow your goals to be compromised, no matter the pace at which you move. You must control your own mind, your own behaviors, and your own time. Which leads us to…

3. In life, you can’t control the board.

As I mentioned earlier, chess is causal. There is a “best move” for any given position. You can force your opponent into a corner. You can see twenty moves into the future, if you’re a supercomputer.

Chess comes with a set of prescriptions and best practices. 1. e4 is considered a strong opening move for white. 1. h3 is not. That’s because chess is a closed system. There’s no random constraints, no dumb luck. The pieces always move the same, and the starting position is always identical.

Tetris? You only know what the next piece is. You play for the present moment, trying to construct the best possible configuration of pieces, knowing that it is impossible to predict the situation even two pieces from now. You don’t get fooled into thinking you can control the future.
I spent much of my life in that chess mindset, trying to find the best possible play or force my way toward a predetermined conclusion. I was hard-wired to see causality all around me and to seek control.

But real life isn’t causal. There is always a distribution of possible events. Things happen that are one in a billion. There is no direct, predictable response to our actions. Our lives are open systems, where any number of unobservable events can change our outlooks and perspectives in moments. Even life’s biggest decisions are hardly calculable — that’s why lots of marriages end in divorce.

Don’t try to guess what pieces are coming when you try to improve your situation. Like Tetris, you can simply put yourself in the best possible position without seeking to completely control the system you play in. By all means, control and challenge yourself — seriously, go for that Tetris — but don’t expect any favors just because you did. And remember…

4. In life, no one tells you when you’ve won.

In chess, you’ll get to see your opponent tip over his king in resignation. You’ll see the final tournament scores posted. You’ll feel the satisfaction of victory — unless, one day, you don’t.
I remember the day I quit chess. I didn’t get beaten and give up in frustration. In fact, I won a tournament. And afterwards, I felt nothing.

According to the millennia-old rules of chess, there’s only two ways to lose — get checkmated, or resign. The day I quit chess, I came up with another. If I wasn’t learning, if I wasn’t enjoying the struggles or victories, I had already lost.

The decision to quit was liberating, terrifying, and confusing. Why did I feel so free when I had given up one of my first loves? But quitting felt good for the reason that starting to play chess felt right in the first place — it was entirely my choice to do so. And with that decision, my competitive, causal chess mindset began to weaken, and my perspective finally cleared.
Meanwhile, Tetris began to fill my gaming void. I play Tetris every day, and every day I pick up the game knowing that I will lose. How long will I play before I lose? How fast will the pieces go? How much will I score? Those are the metrics the game tracks. But I added a way to win — if I play Tetris every day.

I enjoy being uncompromising in setting goals for myself. I get great satisfaction from knowing that I can regularly set myself a personal challenge and attack it daily. Whether I accomplish what I set out to achieve, only I know.

Playing Tetris every day builds my determination, my focus, my will to persevere at things I know have no conclusion. And I don’t play to win — I play to play.

We should all be playing life to play. We shouldn’t only see our enemies or seek to control.
We must understand that this is simply a matter of perspective. Chess can be a lonely game — but so can Tetris. Both require patience and determination. Both require an open mind.
You and you alone get to choose how you play your life. Try to play the right game.

(Did you enjoy reading? Please recommend ❤ or share this article, follow me on twitter at Tor Bair, and check out more of my work. You can also visit my personal site: www.torbair.com)

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