Beautiful Charts, Diagrams, and Maps

How many times are you going to use that nasty looking Excel chart to show your data? If you are like me and are tired of seeing ugly charts, diagrams, and maps, check out: amCharts. Hmm, another example where 1. I do not have to use Office to get a chart and 2. it is much nicer! Good work!!

software trends.

In the past few years, I have used AppleWorks, Keynote, Open Office, Neo Office, Google Docs, and yes, Microsoft Office for my document, spreadsheet, and presentation needs. I have not been too happy with any of the options – but yesterday things changed. I downloaded the new version of Open Office (v.2.3) and I tried Google’s presentation software within their free web based office software called “Google Docs” and no longer do I miss Microsoft Office at all. I do not get stuck with weird MS Office bugs and I do not have to spend my money on their licenses. I get the ability to do online collaboration, and to use open source software without worrying if this will be “the” last version Microsoft puts out for us Mac users. The fear is gone – and innovation is everywhere. I would be worried too if I was MS.

Over the last year or so, it has very interesting to see how technology has shifted. It is extremely rare (less than 1 client per year) that wants any sort of static web site. On the office front, over the past few months, clients have been coming to me with their Google documents and spreadsheets, sharing them for collaboration instead of passing Microsoft Office documents back and forth. They want to use Base Camp for project management and are keeping more and more of their assets accessible online. They are also contacting me after they have made the decision to move to a content management system (not before) – and they know exactly what they want.

It is quite exciting to me to see users empowered by the software they use instead of what I was used to: seeing users who continue to suffer and fall behind because of the software they used. I look forward to seeing where Google goes with their office software and when people are going to start realizing that open source software is leading the way in innovation – not the big software companies (for the most part) that charge big bucks for their software. Once the users are empowered, look out!

Busy Busy…

It is now after 8pm and I just got through my email for the day. I am not sure how it is with other self employed people, but by far Monday is always the busiest day. Time to sit back and watch some Big Love before I have to enjoy a day full of meetings. Hopefully by the end of the week, I will be able to finish up my CSS containers series.

feedburner services: free!

A big thanks to Demitrious for sending a link that made my 4th of July: Feedburner Free for Everyone. I have been using Feedburner for quite a long time now and have had some clients using their pay service which I was almost considering – now I do not as it is available for free. Now I can have “control” of my feed once again while still using Feedburner to manage my feed.

Find Your Location

If you ever are not sure of the path to one of your scripts of files (.htpasswd), you can easily find out by creating a new PHP file, and then copying the following code into the file:

After you save the file, view it in your browser and you will see the location of your file. No more guessing if it is /home/username/public_html/ or some other naming convention that your host might use.

if you want a web site redesign…

If you have thought it through and tried to make small changes but you are still unhappy with your site, here are some things to consider:

  • Existing successful web sites. The first thing that I do as a web developer/consultant is ask my clients to list three-five web sites they like and find easy to navigate. This not only makes them think about what they consider good practices, it also helps me to create a “best of the best” web site for them based on real usable web sites and not abstract design thoughts.
  • Color/Branding. I also ask to see their letterhead, logo, or anything else the individual or company uses. I feel it is very important for companies to set a consistent and professional tone for their users and visitors. Brand recognition is key in most markets. There are a number of web sites that can help you choose a good color palette – use them. (Adobe Kuler is a good example)
  • Purpose. I recommend really thinking about what users are looking for when they come to your web site. If your site’s purpose is to provide information to the users, make it easy to find that information. Users will appreciate being able to find the information much more than the expensive flash animation when the site loads regardless of how cool it might seem. There is a time and place for most everything. Once you figure out your purpose, do not get distracted. (Think Google.com)
  • Audience. Know your audience. If you expect a large number of users to be on a certain platform using certain browsers or using cell phones to access the site, make sure you spend some time and optimize your code appropriately. With a little effort, you can also do a lot to your site to make it more readable and accessible for people with disabilities. Be sure and also analyze your logs to get more demographic information (this is invaluable).

Although the list of items seems pretty straightforward, you would be surprised how many people do not consider any or all of them. If you can address all the items above, you will be on the right track to creating a successful web site. Have a project you need help with? Contact me, I would be happy to help out.

Happy Valentines Day

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like working on PHP homework all day! I have three days left of training and then I should be back to more regular blogging. Work + Homework + Work + Baby = Not much time left for anything else.

php training update.

I have to say I am enjoying the PHP Essentials training a lot more than I had originally thought. I am learning quite a bit and ended up working on my “homework” last night for a few hours. I have never had any formal training so it is nice to have someone start from the beginning to make sure I have a solid foundation. At the end of the month, I am going to also be taking the PHP Full Immersion class. If you are interested in getting some formal PHP training, I highly recommend PHP Architect training.

who is linking to me?

If you own a domain name or maintain a web site you have, at one time or another, wondered who is currently linking your web site. Wonder no more. If you have a Google account, you can log into the Webmaster Tools, add your site and view (and download) a table full of incoming links – both internal and external. Thanks Google!