Imagination is our power

Archive for July, 2011

6 tips to create better one-page websites

One-page websites are hot and popular — no doubt about that. But they aren’t for everyone or every business. It’s easy to want one because they’re popular; and if done correctly, yours could be a hit. But make sure you’re project qualifies first.

A good candidate for a one-page website is not super-heavy on content. You only have one page to get your point across, and there are only so many animations and tricks you can throw in before they get stale.

Plus, most one-page websites are unconventional in their layout. Trying to fit a lot of content onto one page without looking cluttered is pretty tough.

Potential uses vary, but some of the most popular candidates for one-page websites are personal portfolios and websites for businesses that sell only a few products or services.

If you qualify, make sure your website hits the mark. There are always certain things you have to follow through on when making any website, but the points below are especially critical to single-page websites.

1. Stay focused

Make everything as simple as possible for the audience. Chances are, if you are considering a single-page website, you probably don’t have a ton of content. That’s fine. We’re sometimes tempted to add a lot of fluff to our websites. Single-page websites don’t require any fluffing because their sole purpose is to get to the point. If you are a designer putting together a portfolio, present your best work; don’t get distracted by mediocre projects or your side t-shirt business.

Strip your website of any fluff, and get down to the stuff that matters. While this is a good strategy for any website, most multi-page websites can get away with a bit of fluff, because users will usually know where to find the information they want. With one-pagers, you get one shot, and if the information someone is looking for is not there, you’ll lose them.


There is no question about what this e-commerce website is selling.

 


This portfolio gets right to the point. A pretty wonderful minimalist design, too.

 

2. Give the layout a hierarchy

Along with maintaining the visitor’s focus, a single-page website is supposed to showcase your product or service. If you think about one-page websites you’ve come across, they probably have a singular purpose, whether to showcase an agency’s design work or to drum up interest in an upcoming event.

A great design and focused layout can help define your website’s purpose. You, as the designer, have the power to direct the visitor’s eyes where you want them to go. People naturally notice big things first and small things last, so use that to your advantage. Important things should not be the smallest or last things on the page.

Those large-font introductory paragraphs have become so popular on designer portfolios because they get to the point quickly and sound appealing to people looking for a designer. The last thing you probably want to see is what school they graduated from. But you do want to know what they specialize in and what kind of work they do.

Again, you have precious few opportunities to get your message across, so get it right. If you find that you have too much content to be able to do this, then consider going with a multiple-page website.


While this website makes several different points, even within this screenshot, we can pretty much tell what’s most important.

 


We can tell what this company does, but the visual hierarchy could be better.

 

3. Clear navigation

Some one-page websites are static pages whose navigation takes the visitor to external websites. For example, a musician might have a navigation option on their website labeled “Videos” that takes you to their YouTube account. Absolutely nothing is wrong with this, and it even makes things easy (especially for non-coders). The only thing is that visitors should know when they are being directed to an external page.

If your one-page website is to showcase a product, and your purchasing link sends customers to an external payment platform without telling them so, you could lose some sales.

Your aim is to keep everything simple. Redirecting users to external websites without warning can be confusing. They might assume that the link is broken or incorrect. Consider using icons (plenty of free ones are out there) or headings to let visitors know where they’re headed.


Here is what not to do. The links at the top take you outside of the website with no warning. This really threw me off.

 


The design and coding of this website are very unusual. Nevertheless, links to external pages are distinguished by the green circles, and they’re labeled as such.

 

4. Go design crazy

Now we get to the fun part: using a single-page website to show off. You don’t want the website to be boring or repetitive, so go nuts. Take the design to the next level, and think outside the box. An unorthodox design is fine to draw attention to your product and make it memorable.

One-pagers are becoming synonymous with great design, because you can do more with the bigger canvas. You aren’t forced to use the same background everywhere; you change it across the sections. Scrolling through one-page websites is often like thumbing through a magazine or a well-assembled slide presentation. Exploit the possibilities.

Make the design great, whether by using big pictures that span the full browser window or creating a great illustrated background. You’ll get bonus points and may end up getting featured in Web design showcases.


This design is breathtaking, something like a poster. And the rest of the website does not disappoint.

 


The cleanness of this design (and the code) is amazing. It makes you stop and stare.

 

5. Go coding crazy

Much like with the design, you want to show off your coding skills as well. Single-page websites are supposed to be interacted with. The user experience is critical, so pay attention to the details. The code can take your website to the next level.

Some things to pay attention to are the colors and behavior of links (especially the hover selector); the look and behavior of forms (for example, making the form fit the design, and using AJAX and JavaScript validators); submission and error messages (used with the forms and some AJAX); and the grid and placement of content (as well as the content’s behavior in the browser window). All of these should align with the design.


A nice simple way to put code to work on a single-page website.

 


I may be biased because I like the trick where content loads on scroll, but the attention to detail in the code here is incredible all around.

 

6. Get it moving

In addition to taking care of the coding details, you can use code to create some movement and excitement on the page. Again, avoid being boring. Give your page a sense of life and motion; make it look like it’s moving with visitors. Add some fun animations or transitions to make the page stand out.

Languages such as jQuery and AJAX have become the standard for creating movement on a website. Whether you make the content fade in from different sides or make the background a slideshow, keep the audience engaged.


This background is an animation. I have no clue what the website is about, but it looks neat.

 


The transitions on this website are excellent. Love this one!

8 Things Newbie Web Designers Should Know About SEO

Anchor Text

Anchor text should use keywords and describe the page being linked to. Ambiguous texts like “click here” or “read more” aren’t ideal. Those phrases don’t send signals to search engine regarding what the page is about and therefore don’t help rankings in any way.

Clean Code

Clean code is extremely important. If a human that understands HTML can read it, so can a search engine. Using standard tags like H tags and going easy on the DIV’s are good practices for SEO. That doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, have all the fun you want, with the CSS.

Accessibility

It’s also important to make a site accessible for all kinds of users. That means a variety of web
browsers and disabled users. Even though you may not use Safari or IE any more, some people do, and they need to be able to use the site too. Also, make sure that every part of the website can be recognized by screen readers to increase accessibility for the blind.

Images

On that note, image labeling is a time consuming, but necessary, process for SEO. Not only does it apply to the rule above about accessibility for the blind, it’s a huge factor in Google Image Search. Those searches rely heavily on image Alt-tags to return relevant image results, so if and how images are labeled matters. Alt-text can also be used on image links as a substitute for anchor text.

Title Tags

Title Tags are a major factor in search engine rankings. And while branding is important, it’s far more important to highlight keywords which reflect phrases that are being searched for by users. Always put primary keyword phrases in the front of a title tag and leave the brand names for the end.

Speed

Timing is everything. Ok maybe not everything, but load times are a factor in SEO. A search engine’s ultimate goal is to help provide their users with a better web experience. To that end, sites which take forever to load may get dinged when it comes to their rankings There are several ways to reduce load times for a web page; but the best option is to design a site to perform quickly from the beginning.

Pick a Good Platform

Just because something looks good, that doesn’t mean its Search Engine friendly. And just because something is free and easy doesn’t mean it’s your best option in the long run. Free website platforms like Word Press and Wix have a lot of attractive options, but make sure you look for flexibility. Being able to control things like meta-tags, URL structure and internal linking is important enough to be considered a deal breaker. Word Press has hundreds of templates available. Thesis, for one, is well reputed for its SEO benefits and is highly customizable if you know a little PHP.

There are a lot of great tools and platforms for designing a highly attractive website. But some are just better than others. Flash and Ajax are great programs to design with but they can be prohibitive n terms of SEO.

• It is completely possible to use Flash in an SEO friendly way, it just takes a little more effort. Having Flash in conjunction with HTML can make a site search engine compatible. But the 2 must be used together. Without the HTML for spiders to read a flash site is virtually invisible.

• Ajax is more of a programming method than a platform, but it can also be challenging for SEO. Particularly when it comes to navigation. While Search Engines are making improvements in their ability to index sites that utilize Ajax, there are still important things designers need to know. When it comes to links, no matter how good the Spiders get, for now HTML is still the best choice.

Conversion over Cosmetics

Important links and parts of the site should stand out. If a Call To Action doesn’t fit the color scheme, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can bring extra attention exactly where a user is supposed to look. Some things are meant to grab attention and others should blend in. Make sure that SEO and conversion priorities help you determine which is which.

Women have a bad habit of wearing gorgeous shoes, that don’t let them walk. What does it matter if something looks awesome if it doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to? That’s why no matter what kind of design you are doing, it should be wearing flats. A website must be, above all else, easy to use. All interaction should lead to the site owner’s end goal. And no website is going to make any money if it can’t be found. Search Engine rankings can literally make or break any web site. The competition for many keywords is stiff, so no web site owner can afford any weaknesses that may hurt their rankings. That makes designers who are artistically innovative and SEO savvy the ones who have the brightest futures on the web.

 

The future of IT will be reduced to three kinds of jobs

There’s a general anxiety that has settled over much of the IT profession in recent years. It’s a stark contrast to the situation just over a decade ago. At the end of the 1990s, IT pros were the belles of the ball. The IT labor shortage regularly made headlines and IT pros were able to command excellent salaries by getting training and certification, job hopping, and, in many cases, being the only qualified candidate for a key position in a thinly-stretched job market. At the time, IT was held up as one of the professions of the future, where more and more of the best jobs would be migrating as computer-automated processes replaced manual ones.

Unfortunately, that idea of the future has disappeared, or at least morphed into something much different.

The glory days when IT pros could name their ticket evaporated when the Y2K crisis passed and then the dot com implosion happened. Suddenly, companies didn’t need as many coders on staff. Suddenly, there were a lot fewer startups buying servers and hiring sysadmins to run them.

Around the same time, there was also a general backlash against IT in corporate America. Many companies had been throwing nearly-endless amounts of money at IT projects in the belief that tech was the answer to all problems. Because IT had driven major productivity improvements during the 1990s, a lot of companies over-invested in IT and tried to take it too far too fast. As a result, there were a lot of very large, very expensive IT projects that crashed and burned.

When the recession of 2001 hit, these massively overbuilt IT departments were huge targets for budget cuts and many of them got hit hard. As the recession dragged out in 2002 and 2003, IT pros mostly told each other that they needed to ride out the storm and that things would bounce back. But, a strange thing happened. IT budgets remained flat year after year. The rebound never happened.

Fast forward to 2011. Most IT departments are a shadow of their former selves. They’ve drastically reduced the number of tech support professionals, or outsourced the help desk entirely. They have a lot fewer administrators running around to manage the network and the servers, or they’ve outsourced much of the data center altogether. These were the jobs that were at the center of the IT pro boom in 1999. Today, they haven’t totally disappeared, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of available workers or a high demand for those skill sets.

That’s because the IT environment has changed dramatically. More and more of traditional software has moved to the web, or at least to internal servers and served through a web browser. Many technophobic Baby Boomers have left the workforce and been replaced by Millennials who not only don’t need as much tech support, but often want to choose their own equipment and view the IT department as an obstacle to productivity. In other words, today’s users don’t need as much help as they used to. Cynical IT pros will argue this until they are blue in the face, but it’s true. Most workers have now been using technology for a decade or more and have become more proficient than they were a decade ago. Plus, the software itself has gotten better. It’s still horribly imperfect, but it’s better.

So where does that leave today’s IT professionals? Where will the IT jobs of the future be?

 

1. Consultants

Let’s face it, all but the largest enterprises would prefer to not to have any IT professionals on staff, or at least as few as possible. It’s nothing personal against geeks, it’s just that IT pros are expensive and when IT departments get too big and centralized they tend to become experts at saying, “No.” They block more progress than they enable. As a result, we’re going to see most of traditional IT administration and support functions outsourced to third-party consultants. This includes a wide range from huge multi-national consultancies to the one person consultancy who serves as the rented IT department for local SMBs. I’m also lumping in companies like IBM, HP, Amazon AWS, and Rackspace, who will rent out both data center capacity and IT professionals to help deploy, manage, and troubleshoot solutions. Many of the IT administrators and support professionals who currently work directly for corporations will transition to working for big vendors or consultancies in the future as companies switch to purchasing IT services on an as-needed basis in order to lower costs, get a higher level of expertise, and get 24/7/365 coverage.

 

2. Project managers

Most of the IT workers that survive and remain as employees in traditional companies will be project managers. They will not be part of a centralized IT department, but will be spread out in the various business units and departments. They will be business analysts who will help the company leaders and managers make good technology decisions. They will gather business requirements and communicate with stakeholders about the technology solutions they need, and will also be proactive in looking for new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will also serve as the company’s point of contact with technology vendors and consultants. If you look closely, you can already see a lot of current IT managers morphing in this direction.

 

3. Developers

By far, the area where the largest number of IT jobs is going to move is into developer, programmer, and coder jobs. While IT used to be about managing and deploying hardware and software, it’s going to increasingly be about web-based applications that will be expected to work smoothly, be self-evident, and require very little training or intervention from tech support. The other piece of the pie will be mobile applications — both native apps and mobile web apps. As I wrote in my article, We’re entering the decade of the developer, the current changes in IT are “shifting more of the power in the tech industry away from those who deploy and support apps to those who build them.” This trend is already underway and it’s only going to accelerate over the next decade.

10 things you should never say on the job

1: Never say, “I don’t need the money” or “I don’t work for the money”

Whether you realize it or not, you’re talking down to people. Plus it’s probably BS and, even if it isn’t, you sound like an idiot. Better yet, don’t even discuss money… ever.

 

2: Never threaten, “If you [fill in the blank], I’m going to the boss”

For the most part, threats are a sign of weakness. If you have a strong position, act on it. If not, suck it up. When you threaten, you just sound like a whiny little brat.

 

3: Never diss or dress down anyone publicly

Not even if you’re right. It’s humiliating, offensive, and besides, you don’t know who their friends are. Could be your boss. Seriously.

 

4: Never say anything privately you wouldn’t say publicly

Of course, managers and executives have to discuss private matters behind closed doors. That aside, it’s a good rule to follow. These days, anyone can be recording your conversation on a cell phone. Next thing you know, it’s everywhere.

 

5: Never assume you’re “in” with the boss

He may like you, but don’t count on it mattering when it comes to business. For managers, business should and will always come first. It also makes you a target of coworkers. Nobody likes the teacher’s pet.

 

6: Never say, “[fill in the blank] makes me uncomfortable”

If it’s illegal — discrimination and/or harassment that creates a hostile work environment — report it, and if it’s not fixed, sue. Otherwise, you’re just whining.

 

7: Never say, “When I retire I’m going to… “

The whole retirement thingis off the table for a big chunk of the population and bringing it up just rubs people’s faces in it. Bad Karma.

 

8: Never gossip, especially about office romance

It can only end badly. What if the couple in question is trying to keep it a secret? What if the person you’re talking to knows someone or is himself involved with one of the people in question? Just don’t do it.

 

9: Never say you have authority for something you don’t

And don’t make offers you can’t back up. It’ll destroy your credibility and make you look like a small, weak person who wants to appear big and powerful. Face it. You’re not.

 

10: Never make a mistake you have to live with

An old boss once said this to me. He was referring to his ex-wife, who took him to the cleaners in a divorce, but there are certainly examples of work-related mistakes that can haunt you forever.

10 things you should never say on the job

1: Never say, “I don’t need the money” or “I don’t work for the money”

Whether you realize it or not, you’re talking down to people. Plus it’s probably BS and, even if it isn’t, you sound like an idiot. Better yet, don’t even discuss money… ever.

 

2: Never threaten, “If you [fill in the blank], I’m going to the boss”

For the most part, threats are a sign of weakness. If you have a strong position, act on it. If not, suck it up. When you threaten, you just sound like a whiny little brat.

 

3: Never diss or dress down anyone publicly

Not even if you’re right. It’s humiliating, offensive, and besides, you don’t know who their friends are. Could be your boss. Seriously.

 

4: Never say anything privately you wouldn’t say publicly

Of course, managers and executives have to discuss private matters behind closed doors. That aside, it’s a good rule to follow. These days, anyone can be recording your conversation on a cell phone. Next thing you know, it’s everywhere.

 

5: Never assume you’re “in” with the boss

He may like you, but don’t count on it mattering when it comes to business. For managers, business should and will always come first. It also makes you a target of coworkers. Nobody likes the teacher’s pet.

 

6: Never say, “[fill in the blank] makes me uncomfortable”

If it’s illegal — discrimination and/or harassment that creates a hostile work environment — report it, and if it’s not fixed, sue. Otherwise, you’re just whining.

 

7: Never say, “When I retire I’m going to… “

The whole retirement thingis off the table for a big chunk of the population and bringing it up just rubs people’s faces in it. Bad Karma.

 

8: Never gossip, especially about office romance

It can only end badly. What if the couple in question is trying to keep it a secret? What if the person you’re talking to knows someone or is himself involved with one of the people in question? Just don’t do it.

 

9: Never say you have authority for something you don’t

And don’t make offers you can’t back up. It’ll destroy your credibility and make you look like a small, weak person who wants to appear big and powerful. Face it. You’re not.

 

10: Never make a mistake you have to live with

An old boss once said this to me. He was referring to his ex-wife, who took him to the cleaners in a divorce, but there are certainly examples of work-related mistakes that can haunt you forever:

Five reasons you need to trust your staff

You’ll inspire confidence.

Trust begets trust.  Do you trust your staff to do their jobs and do them correctly?  If not, you have a situation that needs to be resolved. Your issue may be that:

  • Your staff truly doesn’t have the skills to get the job done. If this is the case, you need to train your staff or add people with the correct skills.
  • You may not have the self-confidence or experience to lead an experienced staff. This can manifest itself in a need to interfere or micromanage.

Obviously, there is a difference between general management and micromanagement and even the best leaders can sometimes devolve into micromanagement when stress is high. But when you have confidence in your staff, they will know it.  No one wants to be micromanaged; people want to work for those who value their contributions and that treat them like professionals.

There is also a difference between micromanagement and rolling your sleeves up and working alongside your staff when necessary.

 

You’ll get more done.

Every minute that you spend too closely monitoring someone’s efforts is a minute that you aren’t spending on strategic IT issues that can help propel the organization to new heights.  Further, when you’re riding someone, their productivity also suffers.  As a result, both of you are doing less.

Instead of sitting down with your staff and explaining to them exactly how they should do their jobs, consider a different approach to managing projects.  When the need arises for a new project and you’ve decided to assign the project to one of your staff, provide them with an assignment that consists of:

  • A project explanation
  • General guidance and expected outcomes
  • Deadlines
  • A project communications plan that provides you with updates in an agreed-upon manner

From there, expect the person to provide you with regular reports on progress and to come to you when there is an exception of some kind or a need for clarification.  There’s no need to constantly go to the person’s office and ask for updates as long as the person is providing you with information at the agreed upon intervals and milestones are being met.

This frees you up to work on your own work and keeps your staff focused on their work and meeting your expectations.  Sticking to the agreed upon communications plan also works to inspire confidence from your staff since they know that you trust them to be professionals.

 

You’ll breed new leaders.

If you’re micromanaging people all the time and doing their jobs, they’re not getting the opportunity to grow.  When you let them do their jobs and hold them accountable to outcomes and expectations, you’re helping them work better on their own.  By not jumping in and attempting to solve all of the problems they may encounter, you force them to seek solutions and answers.  Obviously, don’t be cruel.  If someone is truly at a roadblock that only you can clear, do it.  Watching people suffer isn’t really fun.

 

Your staff will stick around.

When people have opportunities and can see possibilities, they’ll stay.  If you’re the kind of leader that inspires confidence and trust, people will want to work for you.  On the other hand, if you’re the kind of CIO that has to push your DBA out of his chair and take over the keyboard to write a query for him, you’ll probably see some eventual resentment that will eventually take the form of staff departures, morale issues and complaints about their horrible boss.

 

You will get promoted.

Many CIOs have come up through the IT ranks and have significant difficulty letting go.  I say that from experience.  However, I’ve been fortunate in that, if I do happen to step too far (hey, I’m only human!), they respectfully tell me.  I like to believe that they trust my intentions and have enough respect for me to let me grow as a leader as well.

CIOs that have come up through very technical ranks sometimes tend to focus on the technology at the expense of overall company goals.  If you’re a CIO that has come up through the ranks and you’re spending most of your time doing the jobs of your staff members, you’re not focusing on being a CIO and will lose the respect of your executive peers.

On the other hand, if you’re able to move beyond your technical roots and can help propel the business, your opportunities are endless.

 

Summary

I try to avoid words like “always” and “never” because I absolutely, completely, definitely do not believe in absolutes.  In some circumstances, you’ll need to break the micromanagement rules for a perfectly valid purpose. But, that should be the exception, not the norm.

Trust your staff and avoid micromanagement to help your staff grow, help the organization better meet its goals and help your own career.

Are you ignoring your top performers?

Let me open this blog with a sad story. A good friend of mine had a relatively happy childhood but always felt that her older, black sheep brother got the lion’s share of attention from her mom. My friend, unlike her brother, was a straight-A student who never got in trouble.

When her mother died, she was speaking to an older woman at the funeral home and said that she always felt like her mother loved her brother more. The woman, responded, “No, honey, she just felt like she had to show him more love.”

This was some consolation to my friend but it couldn’t undo years of feeling like an afterthought.

Now although that story occurred within a family, I see it a lot in workplaces. Some managers feel like they don’t have to encourage the superstars with compliments because those superstars are internally motivated to do their best anyway.

Sometimes, there are even more insidious reasons for the lapses: the manager is jealous of the superstar employee, the manager doesn’t want to feed the superstar’s ego because then he or she might leave for greener pastures, etc.

It is true that most outstanding employees will do great things with or without the manager’s encouragement. But that’s no excuse for a manager to take an employee for granted.

Everyone needs to be nurtured and encouraged. Recognition and encouragement should not just be tools for improving behavior.Be a great leader and give credit where credit is due.