Building Big Things on a Small Budget

Most people have great ideas, good plans, and little follow through. Over the years I have seen a lot of this and have even participated on occasion (my want to create heated windshield wipers for one).

With consulting – time and time again – I hear great ideas, get a time/cost estimate in place and then the client comes back with “well we want all these features in the $10,000 estimate but we want to only spend $2,500”. For most people they either give up completely or get a family member, friend, etc that does some web development – but cannot completely follow through and in turn – the idea dies. Another common issue is that the idea holder has so overcomplicated the implementation/planning, that the idea never gets off the ground.

So what can you do if you have a big idea and a small budget? Modularize the project! If you really believe in your idea – take small steps and build the essentials. Then as you get feedback, extra cash, or even funding – add in the extras which will really make your idea stand out. This might take some extra time – but it will ensure your idea is well flushed out and done right the first time.

Next time you have a big idea – sit down and think about realistic steps in accomplishing it. You can always add on to the idea later, but you have to start somewhere and that might as well be something that is done right and done well. A strong foundation will always make the difference in the end!

Jappler Recommends: Trim the Fat With Facebook Status Updates

I cannot tell you how bothered I am when my “news feed” is littered with all sorts of updates about zoo this, farmville that. I like to keep up to date on family friends but I really do not care about the games they are playing which I am not participating in. Fortunately – Facebook allows you to “hide” statuses from applications.

If you want to hide these as well (or anyone in your newsfeed which you might not really care about) – simply hover over the status update and a “hide” link will appear. You can either block that application or the person.

This made my day!

Jappler Recommends: Best Tools of the Trade

In the last year or so I have really found a great set of tools that I use for almost any/all projects if needed. If you are considering building a web site or a web application – consider taking a look at the following (and consider using this as your “WWJU (what would Jen use) list:

If you ever need any recommendations – please ask. 😉

Jappler Recommends: jQuery TOOLS

About a year or so back Demitrious shot me over a link to something he thought looked pretty slick: jQuery TOOLS. I took a quick look but never did anything else with it because I had my old standbys in place for most of what jQuery TOOLS offered (overlays, tabs, tooltips, etc).

What does jQuery TOOLS offer?

  • Tabs
  • Tooltips
  • Overlays
  • Expose
  • Scrollable
  • Flashembed

Last week I decided to finally step out of using what I normally used (Thickbox for overlays) and try something from jQuery TOOLS. One look at their demo and I was completely sold. The overlays were slick, easy to implement and best of all – really light weight. Demo: click on the photo.

If you have any web development projects coming up or in the mix, do yourself a favor and check out the demos at jQuery TOOLS. You can accomplish a lot with a little (and have fun doing it).

Jappler Recommends: 2009 Finds

I have found a lot of really cool things over the last year and wanted to share my 2009 favorites before the year was over.

General

  • Cleaning Service The money spent on hiring someone to clean is worth every penny.
  • Dog Trainer With two more kids on the way – it was time we taught our dog some commands and respect. We have a trainer come to our house weekly and it is making a difference.
  • Find a Trustworthy Non-Dealer Car Repairman for the Non-Dealer Essentials Generally I am a car snob, but when a brake job is double at a dealer vs. at a friend’s trusted brake repair shop, it just makes sense to save the money. I finally ventured out of the dealer for brakes and tires.

Podcasts

Web Sites

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day I love astronomy and look forward to seeing the new picture each day. This really puts things in perspective for me on tough days.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission You can easily keep track of all recalls (use the RSS feed).
  • Twitter If you still do not get it – it is too bad. This has by far changed how I keep in touch with people much more than Facebook. I actually get updates on people and not if they are playing Facebook game.

Stores

  • Three Potato Four (store) This is where you go to find the perfect gift for the person who has everything.
  • Playgrounder (store) If you have kids or shop for kids – this is where you can get some awesome ideas for kids of all ages
  • LEGO Apparel, Home & Outdoors (store) If you were a LEGO fan when you were little or still are today – check out the cool LEGO stuff (LEGO ice cube trays, watches, stationary, etc).

Shows

  • Venice the Series With Guiding Light no longer in existence, some of the actors from GL and other soap operas can be found on this web based soap opera put together by one of my all time GL favorites – Crystal Chappell.
  • Wedlocked Another web based series with some other GL stars.
  • The Universe The most amazing TV show I have seen in a long time, if not ever. I gasp at least once every episode after learning some new amazing fact about our Universe.

My Take on Twitter

So many people still do not get Twitter so here is my take:

I was forced to get a Facebook account in order to work on an API project for a client. After a few months of using it for then personal stuff – I got completely sick of all the garbage. “X person played Y game”, “Z bought you a drink”, etc. For some people that is great – and fun…just not for me. I did walk away thinking – “I really like the way I can keep up with certain people (family, friends, etc) when they update their status. I also did not like the fact that all of your content is “stuck” in Facebook. Let’s say you get tired of Facebook – all your photos, updates, etc are not exportable. You lose everything you put in there.

It was nice finding out what my sister was up to, what cool new restaurant my cousin tried, or what some of my friends were doing last weekend. I found myself staying in better touch both using Facebook, as well as actually calling them to talk about what they were up to.

From there – I looked into Twitter and started using that for increased interaction with the people I really cared about hearing about/viewing their quick pictures, etc. Basically – you get status updates from people you care about. It is not what most people think either “I am getting coffee”, “I am walking to work”. Some people do write those updates, but if you start following someone or actually use Twitter – you will see most people actually write something interesting. Using Twitter – I keep in contact with friends/family, and interact with people I normally would never interact with and enjoy getting to see first hand photos from some of my favorite TV personalities, have conversations with family, and learn about new stuff from people I choose to follow. Basically – I get the best of Facebook (the status updates) minus the garbage I hated…and on top of that, everything is exportable – and can flow right into my personal blog. This way – if I decide in a few months/years Twitter is not for me, I can dump it and keep my content.

Not sold? Hey – it is not for everyone. But it is pretty cool to get a timeline of what you thought was interesting/important at the time and then look back on it at a later date. You can make what you want out of it and for me…it has been interesting, I have learned a lot, and I enjoy making new connections!

http://www.twitter.com/thejappler

WordPress Wednesdays: Little WordPress Gems

Every once and awhile while looking through the WordPress documentation, I find little gems. Here are a few that I found particularly interesting:

  • wp_page_menu Easily create a menu with the home page appended onto the menu with a lot of parameters. Similar to the standard wp_list_pages, but with some different possibilities
  • the_search_query I have seen several ways to get this, but this is by far the easiest, quickest, and most secure.
  • wp_reset_query If you use conditional tags, you will end up going crazy at some point and then will realize this is needed. Note to self everyone.

WordPress Wednesdays: Custom Taxonomies

I recently worked on a project where we needed something sort of like tagging, and sort of like categorizing – but neither really worked as there would be way too many exclude this and only show that stuff involved. I needed a way to classify certain content, have easy access to it, and display it in a manner that be effective and quick.

After exhausting all ideas – someone pointed me towards using “Custom Taxonomies” and it was a perfect fit.

What is a taxonomy? Simple – a way to group things. Why not use categories and or tags?

An example to better your understanding:
Right now – on this blog I use tags for my post themes (WordPress Wednesdays, etc). This is not ideal, because I am trying to group together posts by a particular theme, not necessarily by tags. Even though WordPress Wednesday could be seen as a key word – it is more a description or a classification of the post. What I plan to do in the next few days is to go back, create custom taxonomies for all my post themes and then use that for classification of posts instead of using tags. With this, I can then query them using query_posts or even make a tag cloud.

 'wordpress-wednesdays', 'showposts' =>; 10 ) );
 'post_theme', 'number' => 15 ) );

Still confused? Check out the links below. Once you start thinking about organizing information, I think it will make sense.

References:

CSS Tuesdays: Fun With User Agents

If you are going to do any serious CSS development and/or troubleshooting – you need to be able to see the site on as many browsers as possible. Generally – we have several browsers on several operating systems going at once so we can make sure our bases are covered.

Last week I built a mobile theme for a client and after a few refreshes on my iPhone – I decided I needed something easier and more developer friendly (I needed to view source). I use the “Develop” menu in Safari (Preference > Show Develop menu in menu bar) – and with that, I was able to choose my user agent (iPhone) – and then view how it would look using Safari which was much faster then using my iPhone – and I could easily view the source. If you need to do any development that depends on the user agent – don’t forget about this little trick!

Choose Your User Agent

Choose Your User Agent

WordPress Wednesdays: It is All About the Query

My last ten or so projects I have been working on all have a common theme: maximize WordPress’s ability to be a powerful CMS. Clients more and more are coming to me with the need to create a custom fields which they can store/query data throughout their site.

WordPress is completely customizable and because of this – it is easy to add custom fields to any post or page and then use the data put in them throughout the page.

Example: You have all your clients listed on your web site – and have created profile pages for them. Not only do you want to show their profile – you would really like to have a page template that shows all your client logos – and does so dynamically so that anytime you add a new client – their logo gets added to the mix automatically. The examples are endless and the solution is easy.

Step 1: Create a custom fields plugin (or use the generic custom fields) – personally I like to create a plugin so that I can completely customize and make adding content as easy as possible. If there is interest – I can cover how to create a plugin.

Step 2: Now that your data is stored – you can use it anywhere you want (in the loop, outside the loop). You can use something like:

ID, $key, true);?>

to display the data. (see Using Custom Fields for more information).

Step 3: Again – now that the data is stored – you can also query it so if you wanted to show all logos (as mentioned above) – you can do so by using WordPress’ query_posts to query and then display the data. (see Query Posts for more information).

Stuck? Interested? Let me know.