Web design: the most important thing is simply to start

Many people ask me, “How can I get started in web design?” or, “What skills do I need to start making web applications?” While it would be easy to recommend stacks of books, and dozens of articles with 55 tips for being 115% better than the next guy, the truth is that you don’t need learn anything new in order to begin. The most important thing is simply to start.


My first gig was for a small charity that I was doing summer admin for and they didn’t have a site.. so I just went for it.

I take therefore I give

Image credit – myself

I consume a lot of other peoples stuff and happily feel that if I can in any way give back, I should. So the blog is creative common licensed to make other peoples lives easier should they choose to use any of my ramblings.

I went for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 as that seems pretty lenient and used by a number of people I respect and trust – if it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.

Unify – let the client have control

A group of ballons
Photo credit Thomas Hawk

When it comes to my web design clients, they all want control of the content and rightly so,  – plus there is NO money in offering to do it for them.

Typically my clients say that they want full control and dynamic this and dynamic that. In reality 90% never touch the site once it launches. However, about once every 1-4 years most of them will want to alter the copy (text and images) of the odd section of the site.

I used to tell them to use Contribute which is an affordable content management system (CMS) that works pretty much like Microsoft Word. The problem was that they didn’t use it enough to justify the money in their eyes or know enough about how to use it and thus would ever never go through with the purchase or contact me. A dilemma for both parties.

Luckily for me, I am not the only person to have come across this problem. Enter Unify, the  affordable and most crucially, simple content editor built by the talented Unit Interactive.

The feature set that made Unify stand out was:

  • Affordable ($25)
  • Less than 5mins to install and begin to use
  • Only requires PHP5 and NO mysql database
  • Browser-based editing environment (no software to install)
  • Allows cloning of content – Good for news/events type content

If you have a site that needs a simple to use tool then look no further than Unify. I have used it on Caroline Menzies and today www.adaokorliakpe.com whilst I typed this.

So while it is not all things to all people, it certainly makes the client happy and keeps you on budget.

MotoGP, Twitter and leading by example

Last month Robert Scoble wrote about one of my favorite things: bikes,  specifically MotoGP, and Lorenzo’s use of twitter for personal branding.

What I like about this post, is that we can see Jorge Lorezno actually wants to connect with fans and sees Twitter as the most obvious way. You can’t shake everybodies hand or sign all the autographs, but you can make connections to everybody by tweeting.

Robert actually met with Jorge and thus his observations are based on this meeting as opposed to  heresay.  He has no hope of out shining Rossi in the popularity stakes now – but when Rossi hangs his boots up, Jorge is better positioned to be the most well-known after him, I certainly paid more attention of noticing that he tweets.  That and he is completely dominating on the track.

If the by-product of using twitter is that we as fans think we know him better and it raises his profile,  and he gets paid more in sponsorship, than good on him. What makes it interesting and refreshing also is that is is clearly  Jorge’s tweets and not some marketing angle. If he wants to know what film to watch, he can ask his ‘fans’ and share what he is doing outside of the office job – just like you and me, and that’s the beauty.

Photo credit – Robert Scoble

HTML5 for web designers – the book

Cover of the book

The first thing you notice about the book is the restraint. It claims to only tell the dear reader exactly what they need to know in the physical book, leaving us to use the internet for the rest . The book  reminds me of the highway code. The restraint is purposeful and even mentioned in the foreward by Jeffrey Zeldman:

..only as many words and pictures as are needed

It didn’t take long to read and with ten or so other books waiting to be read I am thankful. I was very happy with the subject matter covered and the chosen level of depth – saying no more than the author felt was required for our brushes with HTML5 in 2010. If this book was to be published in say 1-2 years time, I bet it would leap-frog of all of the topics here today and just tell us what we need to know.

Curious about HTML5? then this is the book for you to give you the lay of the land. Off the back of reading it, I switched from old school to new school HTML5. Enjoy.

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned


I was wondering what software and equipment a friend was using on a regular basis and thought that I would share my personal learning environment (PLE) here. I don’t require much stuff but feel I have everything covered with my use of the below.

The hardware

At the office we do not have a say about the computer at our desk – it is a Windows XP box and Samsung 2243 WM monitor which is currently turned on it’s side so that I can read lengthy webpages.

Being a digital media team we do have shared access to a range of kit to enable full digital media creation and support including macs, video, camera and audio kit. Most of which I never use so I won’t go into any detail save the fact I sometimes use the Nikon D50.

Personally, I own a Apple Macbook which my other half detests for its trackpad and my use of ‘spaces’ which moves things around on-screen depending on which corner the cursor is placed. I have a magic mouse which is terribly suited to my hand so never gets used and a Apple remote. The laptop is plugged into a pair of unforgiving Mackie MR5 speakers, which have made me realise that 192kbps MP3 recordings are too low quality!

I use my Xbox 360 mainly for watching DVDs and occasional spurts of online gaming.

I have a borrowed Apple iphone first generation which has hardly any apps on it and none of which are worth mentioning.


I use quite a bit of software but only on rare occasions.  I pretty much live in Mozilla Firefox,  thanks to cloud based services and extensions for web development such as firebug and the web developer toolbar. When coding I use Coda (or 1% of its functionality anyway). I use Tweetdeck for twitter and skype for synchronous chat. For client work I use Google Documents and ExpressionEngine for content management.

Web services

Dropbox sits in the background and is used for all of my file management so I use it pretty much solidly – though it is banned at work so I pretty much curse about this fact at least once  a day when I cannot find files or have to duplicate them. I find so many useful items via Google reader that I need delicious to keep track of it all and it works seamlessly across my work and personal computers too.

5 Websites that I always check for

  1. I am a fan of f1 fanatic which doe’s a great job at making me love the detail of the sport more and more
  2. Subtraction, an inspiration in many ways
  3. Techcrunch for tech news, though really I only check for Paul Carr
  4. 5by5 podcasts, the site that got me listening to podcasts – great while cooking
  5. Alistapart for people who make websites BUT many of the topics resonate with e-learning

Then about 100+ daily RSS updates covering web design and e-learning