Posts Tagged ‘Web Development’
Posted on February 18, 2009 - by Khaled
Success... A word that might carry many different meanings! It can range from riding a bike without falling for a young boy, to making billions of dollars and be as famous as Bill Gates. Just remember Brendon Sinclair’s quote: “Success is whatever you want it to be!”. But here we are talking about a specific field which is the web design and the web development business. In my opinion, being successful as a web design agency is measured by the quality and the prestige of your clients that were attracted by the quality of your services (You have to provide outstanding Web development services and have excellent technical skills along with an excellent capability of selling those skills). The number of clients is important too but if you are working for ten small unknown companies you won’t be as exposed as someone working for just one big well known company. This is going to be translated, of course, into dollars language. I started being involved in Web Design since 1999. I worked as a freelancer, started few LLCs here and there that were more or less successful and earned/lost random amounts of money. The real first success was when I started a Web Agency that was based in Paris, France back in late 2005. Since then I’ve sold the company 16 months after its launch as I had to move out of France and I was offered a nice amount of money to sell it to a communication agency that merged it to be an in-house web department.
A handy guide about creating a successful Web Design Agency!
After merely one year, the company grossed more than 5 million dollars. Here are few tips that truly helped me achieve this. I am posting this for educating and informing sakes, so I won’t include any names/brands etc… Of course 5 million dollars are not a huge amount of money for many people but I think it is a really good start for a new web agency.
1. Planning, researching, setting goals and benchmarking
First of all you must identify the reasons that might help you succeed if you start your own company. Clearly set your goals and define the meaning of success for you: When/Why will you consider that your Web Design company is successful or a failure? How are you going to grow? What staff do you need? How much should you pay them?
Plan for everything, consider wisely your investments and keep them minimal, have your own specific marketing plan, think about how are you going to create a positive aura around your company? Ask professionals and business acquaintances for good free advice and make your research to validate their recommendations. Don’t just get their thoughts for granted. You should also avoid asking close friends and family members as they will tend to be subjective, but if you have a ‘successful’ relative/friend just ask them how did they achieve that? And learn! You must be confident when you take your decisions.
Do some market research; are you choosing the right region or area for your company? Is there enough business for you? What clients can you possibly target to get started? Are there any well established competitors? If yes then you must benchmark against your competitors, get to know their clients, the number and the qualifications of their staffers, their prices, how do they market their business, which ones are the leaders? Try to find out why? etc…. Now that you know a lot about them (While they know nothing about you yet) try to establish the methodology that will help you be competitive and to enable you to surpass them. Focus on their weaknesses and try to match their strong points.
Do all the previous by yourself and take the time to do it correctly this is really important as you’re going to save money (you won’t hire someone to do this for you) and you’re going to learn a lot of useful things that will help you to start, to survive and then to fully thrive.
This first point is the basis of all the upcoming points as you will notice! If you don’t elaborate it the right way then all the next points will not help you a lot as you won’t do them correctly. This phase took me a little bit more than three months (40 hours per week) and all I needed is computer, an internet connection, a phone, a library access and a means of transportation (you don’t even have to own a car, public transportation is just fine!)
2. Create a remarkable, recognizable brand to build your business around
Unlike what you may think, this is a something tough to achieve. It has to both translate how you perceive yourself and how people must perceive you. Both impressions should be almost identical. Otherwise your branding is not working properly! You should set your goals, decide what will you do and what kind of specialty are you going to offer to which niche and start from there.
After clearly setting your goals, knowing your targeted audience, deciding how you want to be perceived (that’s how you perceive yourself too) convert the whole thing into material. Choose your company name (keep the domain name issue in your mind: preferably .com, easy to remember, easy to spell, avoid dashes, avoid words that may be written with different spellings such as color/colour etc…) Create a logo (if you are not good with logos hire someone), a professional looking one! Take your time, long session of brainstorming and sketching on a paper are inevitable. Choose carefully the colors (Royal and Marine blues are good colors to have in a logo by the way!) A logo should be created in a vector format and remember… A logo should be able to look good on a golf ball!
Once you have a nice, recognizable, unique, remarkable, professional logo you need to create your business card (make it stand out from the crowd, don’t just have a plain white business card with some black or blue text!) and the rest of your stationery (Cover letters, letterheads, envelopes, Fax covers, brochures…) and make them also unique and clearly inspired from your logo.
The next step is your website with your online portfolio and references. Don’t stuff it with tons and tons of data! Make it nice, appealing, unique, usable, accessible, Standards compliant, simple and a tiny bit sophisticated.
You may also create an offline Portfolio presentation to show during meetings with clients and that can include more content and details. Also create a PowerPoint / Keynote template for your presentation.
Make your email account look professional and avoid using nicknames and/or lots of numbers! Such sweetieses87799(at)website.com! john(at)website.com or john.doe(at)website.com or even j(at)website.com are a lot better.
Start using social networks proficiently and create professional Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Stumble Upon etc… accounts. If you are just starting use the same profile image/logo in all of them. Also create a professional IM accounts (don’t use your own) and customize them adding your company logo and so on…. All these components constitute your personal brand! So they must be unique, professional and share the same design/feeling/spirit.
Try to create an aura around your brand! Start an educational blog, write articles, write columns for a newspaper, attend conferences and speak during them, launch training cycles, meetings, events and educate people, write books, participate in radio programs or in podcasts, Join and help people in some web related communities ( i.e. SitePoint.com)… Make yourself visible!
3. Brand yourself as a specialist/expert in something and pick a good niche
You should present yourself and your staff as being specialists in some given fields. You are not handy or the ‘jack of all the trades’! You are THE Company that can do this specific kind of work as you are, by default, the expert team that specializes in resolving these particular issues. When I started my “former” company in late 2005, Web standards were not widely used by the Parisian Web companies. Semantics, Accessibility, Usability and full-DIV CSS designs were not popular. That was a good starting point! Let’s just brand the company to be the one that fully respects Web standards and creates semantic, usable and accessible web sites totally relying on CSS tableless designs! But wait! This plan lacks something! Why would a client be interested in such web sites? There was a real need to educate the clients so we created a buzz around web standards by preparing documents, brochures and flyers to some potential clients, we carefully chose (point #1). We targeted fairly important companies that had old, outdated and clunky web sites. We sent them the prepared documents about the benefits of Web standards and we asked if we can visit them in their offices to make a presentation/speech about web standards and to point out problems about old-fashioned sites etc… We were not selling anything we were just educating. ~70% answered our correspondence and most of them were OK to ‘hear’ us. After the presentation, they were able to see the problems with their own sites and more than 50% of them immediately hired us to redesign their sites. That was the real starting point! We also started the same process about PHP Vs ASP (not that ASP is bad, but we used PHP and we had to sell that!). Soon we were regarded as the PHP specialist company of the moment. We were passionate and committed about Web Standards and open source so we were able to convince and to educate our prospects.
Another opening for us was the choice of a specific niche of clients to target. In addition tom y web studies, I have a Biology Ph.D. (was preparing it at the time I started the company) and this helped me a lot. When we contacted (or were contacted by) Biotechnology firms, food industries, research laboratories, pharmacology industries to have a proposal about the development (or re-development) of a web site or a web application I was able to discuss their needs and propose a solution that was by far superior to our competitors as I was able to understand the slightest details about what they were doing and what kind of solution they actually needed! And that was a huge advantage! Rapidly we were recognized as specialists of the Biology/Biotechnology/pharmacology field and we were even contacted by clients from outside France and Europe. I, then, dedicated all my efforts to pitch and make presentation for companies involved with this sector. I hired another person to do the same for the other types of companies and clients. Do the same pick up a fairly big niche about something you quite know! Are a sports fan? Target clubs and teams web sites! Are you into Music? You know what you should target and so on!
If you are specializing in solving some unique issues you will have less competition, you will provide better quality of services and you will be able to charge higher rates. A good example of a unique service is Webnotes.
Posted on February 6, 2009 - by Khaled
FireFox is becoming more and more popular. This is due in part to its great extensibility and easy customization. Here are 46 essential FireFox addons that I have and I think that they are really useful to help you with your daily activities related to web design, web development, graphic design, blogging and keeping yourself informed , productive and up to date. Feel free to post your own extensions that you use and love and that I missed in this list.
17 Essential Web Development & Web Design Add-ons:
1. Abduction! Enables you to capture screenshots of an entire web page or just of a part of it and saves it as an image.
2. Fire Vox Think of it as an open source screen reader that is designed especially for Firefox! Now you no longer have any excuse for not testing your site with screen readers! Probably the easiest Screen reader I’ve ever used.
3. Codetch by Zachary Carter is Dreamweaver-like text editor for firefox.
4. ColorZilla Advanced Eyedropper, ColorPicker, Page Zoomer that also enables you to work with palettes.
5. CSSViewer Very handy and light. A simple CSS property viewer.
6. Dust-Me Selectors a cool little extension that finds unused CSS selectors. Released by SitePoint.
7. FireFTP a free, secure, cross-platform FTP client for Mozilla Firefox.
9. FirePHP An extension for the Firebug add-on. It enables you to log to your Firebug Console using a simple PHP method call.
10. FireScope Another extension for Firebug. It enables Firebug with HTML and CSS refrences. This one too was released by SitePoint.com
11. FireShot An excellent and ery complete solution for Web development, maintaing blogs and much more. It creates screenshots of web pages or parts of web pages, it provides a set of editing and
annotation tools for those screenshots (insert text annotations and graphical annotations). The captures can be: uploaded to FREE public screenshot hosting, saved to disk as PNG, GIF, JPEG or BMP, printed or copied to clipboard, e-mailed or sent to configurable external editors.
12. Font Finder Get all CSS styles of selected text in Firefox (or thunderbird).
13. MeasureIt Lets you draw out a ruler to get the pixel width or height of any element on a web page.
14. SEO Toolbar Displays ILQ and other important SEO numbers for a given web site.
15. Stylish Customize the look of the application and of websites you’re visiting with Stylish, a user styles manager. Great for testing.
16. Total Validator Web standards rule! A 5-in-1 validator that Performs multiple validations and takes screen shots in one go.
17. Web Developer Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools. An excellent replacement of Firebug although I believe you can combine the use of both of them for an optimal result.
8 Essential Bookmarking, Socializing, blogging and Micromessaging Add-ons:
18. Netvibes Adds RSS feeds to your netvibes.com account
19. Delicious Bookmarks Delicious Bookmarks is the official Firefox add-on for Delicious, the world’s leading social bookmarking service. t integrates your bookmarks and tags with Firefox and keeps them in sync for easy, convenient access.
20. Digg Toolbar lets you Digg, submit content, and keep track of Digg even when you’re
not on the Digg site itself. With a notification window built into the
toolbar, you’ll never miss a popular story or when friends Digg,
submit, or comment on stories.
21. Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer If you use Firefox on more than one computer, you’ll want Foxmarks.
22. StumbleUpon StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests, learns what you like and brings you more.
23. Shareaholic If you use sites like Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Gmail, Twitter you’ll want Shareaholic.
24. TwitterFox TwitterFox is a Firefox extension that notifies you of your friends’ status on Twitter. You can use it to post Twitter updates and it will convert your URLs to tiny ones.
25. ScribeFire Blog Editor ScribeFire is a full-featured blog editor that integrates with your browser and lets you easily post to your blog. Anfd it helped me a lot while creating this post
5 Essential Organizing and Executive Assistance Addons:
26. WebNotes a nice highlighter and sticky tool that’s still in Beta but works fantastically good! With WebNotes stop copying and pasting… Start making your notes online. For more info read this Interview with Alex King, marketing director at WebNotes.
27. ReminderFox ReminderFox displays and manages lists of date-based reminders and ToDo’s.
28. FEBE Firefox Environment Backup Extension allows you to quickly and easily backup your Firefox extensions. In fact, it goes beyond just backing up
29. Sxipper Forget your passwords! Sxipper accurately fills in forms, manages passwords and your OpenIDs. it really helps keep organized and spend a lot less time filling in forms.
30. Glue I hesitated to put glow in this category or in the preceeding one. I believe it fits perfectly in both. Glue is simply Outstanding! Alex iskold and co did amazing work for this one! I started using glue since it was called BlueOrganizer. connects you with friends around things you visit! Glue works automatically as you browse popular sites about books, music, movies, wines, restaurants, gadgets, stocks, actors, tv shows and other everyday things around the web.
3 Essential Shutterbug Addons:
31. Cooliris An outstanding extension! Cooliris transforms your browser into a visually stunning, lightning fast way to search and enjoy online photos, videos and more.
32. Fast Video Download Download video files from popular sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, Break.com and more.
33. Fotofox Drag, drop and arrange pictures adding photo titles, and create albums by multi-selecting photos, and then upload to one of a selection of online photo services – all of this without interrupting your Internet browsing. A greattime saver IMO.
6 Essential FireFox Functionalities, Appearance and Tabs Addons:
34. FaviconizeTab Let’s you just reduce the size of the tab to restrict it to just displaying the favicon! If you open many tabs like I do this will be really helpful.
35. Morning Coffee A very useful extension that keeps track of daily routine websites and opens them in tabs.
36. Personas for Firefox is a extension that adds lightweight theming to your browser. It’s an experiment in personalizing. If you are a graphic designer then this enables you to style the browser without having to code.
37. Session Manager I love this one! Saving sessions and pages is so easy! and restoring a session of 100+ after a FireFox crash shouldn’t be a problem with Session Manager. Same when you restart your computer or FireFox. It saves and restores the state of all windows – either when you want it or automatically.
38. Tab Mix Plus Tab Mix Plus enhances Firefox’s tab browsing capabilities. It includes such features as duplicating tabs, controlling tab focus, tab clicking options, undo closed tabs and windows, plus much more. I don’t use its session manager as I prefer using “Session Manager” extension -see above-
39. Undo Closed Tabs Button How many times did you accidently closed a tab you still need? Tired of going to History -> Recently Closed Tabs just to undo a closed tab? Then this extension is for you! This extension allows you to undo closed tabs via a toolbar and/or tab bar button or the right-click context menu.
7 Essential Miscellaneous Addons :
40. GooglePreview Inserts preview images (thumbnails) and popularity ranks of web sites into the Google and Yahoo search results pages.
41. FlashGot Download all the links, movies and audio clips of a page at the maximum speed with a single click, using the most popular, lightweight and reliable external download managers.
42. Flagfox Displays a country flag depicting the location of the current website’s server and provides quick access to detailed location and webserver information.
43. FoxyTunes Music and Web/Graphic Design/Development are quite tied together in my opinion. FoxyTunes lets you control almost any media player and find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and much more with a click right from your browser.
44. Better Gmail 2 Based on GreaseMonkey, it adds useful extra features to Gmail, like hierarchical labels, macros, file attachment icons, and more.
45. Gmail Manager Allows you to manage multiple Gmail accounts and receive new mail notifications. Displays your account details including unread messages, saved drafts, spam messages, labels with new mail, space used, and new mail snippets.
46. eBay Sidebar for Firefox Keep an eye on your eBay trading wherever you are on the web when you install the eBay Companion for Firefox. It’s a free tool built with eBay users in mind that will help you get more out of your buying and selling.
Posted on January 7, 2009 - by Khaled
Nowadays, Podcasting is gaining a ceaseless increasing interest. The word podcasting was created by blending the words “iPod” and “broadcast”. This is due to the fact that the first podcasting scripts were developed for Apple iPod portable media player. However, an iPod is no longer required to listen to podcasts. Most Media Players will do the job! I prefer iTunes though as it allows searching podcasts, subscribing to them (free and paid podcasts do exist) and of course listening to them. iTunes offers really cool features for this.
Podcasts are generally a series of audio or video files which are diffused on the web via syndicated download, through Web feeds. So they are a perfect combination of RSS specification and the MP3 compression algorithm.
Over the few last years I gathered a nice collection of podcasts that I like to watch/listen to. I am going to share with you the top 10 podcasts that I favor when it comes to Web Design and Web Development.
Paul Boag’s Podcast (co-hosted with Marcus Lillington) started since August 2005. It has, as of today, 147 episodes. Episode 148 will be released within a week or so. Paul deals with different subjects related to the web design business. He usually invites some big names to the show. The live streaming recording is a nice bonus too!
A fairly new, yet excellent Podcast, that started last November (2008). The Hosts are Brad Williams, Patrick O’Keefe, Stephan Segraves, and Kevin Yank. The SP Podcast is about The Web industry. This is an outstanding show with different point of views. 5 episodes till now but the 6th is in its way soon!
An excellent Podcast to watch for Photoshoppers! Hosted by the Photoshop guys: Dave Cross, Matt Kloskowski, and Scott Kelby from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). The Photoshop guys share each week some very nice Adobe Photoshop tutorials, along with some very cool tips and tricks that will hugely increase your Photoshop productivity. 167 episodes for now.
This podcast is produced by .net magazine. This podcast deals with different web design aspects and presents several software tutorials and tips (CSS, Graphic design, Flash, Photoshop…). The podcast started back in March 2008 and 28 episodes were released till now.
The Adobe Creative Suite Podcast features tips and tutorials mainly about Photoshop, Indesign and other Adobe CS software. It is hosted by Terry White. This is a 2 years old podcast that started in 2006 and still active till now.
Hosted by famous web designers John Oxton and Jon Hicks. Deals with Web geeky stuff. Started in late 2007. 19 podcast episodes were released.
A bi-weekly radio-style podcast full of news, events and discussions about PHP. It is probably one of the oldest Podcasts on the net as it started since 2003.
A video Podcast with tutorials for graphic designers hosted by Adam Hay.
An audio podcast about web design as a job/career hosted also by Adam Hay. This podcast wasn’t very active lately but the early episodes are great.
10. Rails Podcast
A nice rails podcast.
Now even if some of these are less active these days, listening to older episodes is really a good thing that will help learn tons of things. Most of them are available for subscription via Apple iTunes which the media player I really recommande for podcasts.