Tag Archives: Internet

I want it all, I want it now!

I think this is a problem that a few people face, particularly in creative pursuits.  You finally find something that you love to do. You become a sponge and read everything you can find, follow all the latest news and trends and you get an idea of where you want to go and the look and feel you would like.

But there is one small problem, you haven’t given yourself time to practice, to refine your craft and develop the strong foundations you need to support you as you launch yourself into the stratosphere.

Now as a few of you may have already guessed, this is a realisation that is hitting me hard at the moment.  I spent so long looking for something that I love to do, that I understand and that inspires me that I want it all now, I want to be an expert now, I want to know everything, to be able to do everything, to not make mistakes and be able to create the visions of design that I see in my head.  But alas this is not always the case.  Of late I’ve been pushing myself to the limit trying to get everything moving as fast as possible, I figure why wait? It took me this long to figure it out, I can’t waste anymore time in getting where I want to go.

But is it a waste of time to develop and hone and refine your craft?

I think not.  As hard as it feels to do at the moment, I’m starting to realise that I need time and practice.  That pushing myself to be a professional freelance web designer in one easy step really isn’t giving me the foundations and grounding I need to really succeed.

I’m beginning to understand that if I rush too much now, I’ll finish my degree and still be uncertain of my own style, still not have the foundations I need to be great, and still be unable to create the elusive visions that flash across my mind.

So if you’re at the beginning of something you really want, although it may seem better to move fast, speed through the boring fundamentals and get to the fun stuff at the end, my advice is take your time, practice your craft and give yourself the space to learn, to make mistakes and to grow.  Because if you don’t allow yourself the time to develop your foundations, you may fly high, but you’ll fall back down just as fast.


Down the rabbit hole I go

On beginning this journey, I knew that it would be a challenge.  I knew that web design and SEO was more than a set and forget occupation, rather an interactive pursuit of ever moving targets, strategies and timeframes.  But I think it is only just starting to sink in exactly how detailed and vast my knowledge and experience needs to be to make myself an expert in the field that I love.

So to help myself think through everything that has been running through my mind, I’ll break down my main learning and focus areas at the moment:

  • Web Design

Now this heading is deceptively simple, however the breadth of knowledge needed to be an expert for this one portion of my journey is mind boggling.  Currently I’m refining my already well versed skills in HTML, XHTML, CSS, Photoshop, Illustrator, file naming conventions and the W3C standards of design.  To the uninitiated this may appear to be a fairly long list of experience and attributes.  Sadly this isn’t so.  My aspirations in this area of development include PHP, Flash, JavaScript, Ruby, Perl, XMS, Ajax, Asp.net, jQuery and MySQL.  Not to mention perfecting the graphic design, typography, color theory, accessibility, strategy and planning, wireframing, designing for mobile devices.

This may seem excessive (though I’m sure many of you can cite dozens more areas that I haven’t mentioned), but I’m a perfectionist, I want to know not only what needs to be done, but how to do it, and more importantly how to do it with flair and passion!

  • Project Management

Clearly as a freelance worker of any kind you need to have super human project management skills, and web design is no different.  To be able to manage your time effectively, deliver your clients objectives on time and on budget everything needs to be planned, re-planned, tested and re-tested.  Just like you can’t decide one day that you’re going to build a house and the next day start installing the fixtures, everything in the web design timeline needs to come in the right order and have the right amount of time to percolate and develop.

  • SEO & Social Media Marketing

You can create the best website in the world, with the most amazing graphics and the formula for everlasting youth, but if you don’t market it, no one will ever know.  The mere creation of a website is only half (maybe less) of the job, to make it work, bring in visitors and convert those clicks into sales/referrals/enquiries requires even more dedication and an extremely flexible approach.  Now I think I’m fairly good at letting go of my ego, evaluating what’s working and what isn’t, and changing my approach based on that.  This skill is ESSENTIAL for good SEO and SMM (Social Media Marketing).

It’s great that you know HOW to enter SEO information into your webpages, but unless you know why, who you’re wanting to attract, what action you want them to take once they get onto your site and how you’re going to build the relationship beyond a single click or transaction, then your not marketing, your just on the sidelines hoping that people will miraculously be drawn to your site on the 88th page of Google results.  Good luck with that 🙂

  • Web Analytics

Not only do you need to create, upload and update websites, but more than that to be successful you need to analyse what you’ve done.  You need to test your formats, check your clickthrough rate, your conversion rates and your bounce rates.  You need to keep coming up with ideas and inspiration and test them against your other ideas.  Always be testing!

  • Domain & Database Management

As I’m discovering very quickly, the design of a website is great.  But where do you publish it?  What domain do you use? Do you have keywords in your domain?  Do you have a main domain that is your brand, with other keyword domains that redirect to the same content? How do you keep track of all the domains you acquire?  Keep them fresh, keep their content coming, make sure they’re registered loaded and have maximum uptime.

Once you get customers, or subsctibers, where do you track them?  How do you store their information? What do you use their information for?  What do you disclose?  Do you use a mySQL database to keep your customer data in or do you generate an offline portal?  Then comes the issue of needing to communicate between your site and the server.

  • Personal Branding
  • Business Management
  • Logistics and order fulfilment
  • And on and on and on….

Down the rabbit hole I go, will I stop, I’ll never know


I’m a hoarder

My name is Sara and I have a confession to make, I’m a hoarder.

I can’t really pinpoint where it started.  Like most people it kind of snuck up on me, I’ve never thought of myself as a hoarder but things get to a point that they’re so overwhelming you need to face the truth.

If I’m really honest I guess it started a couple of years ago.  Back then though it was just the one, and I was happy with that.  But as time goes on you start to realise that maybe one isn’t enough.  What if it goes missing? What if I can’t find it? Even worse what if no one can find it?

So I branched out, and got one more.  Just one more I told myself, it’s no big deal, I need it, just to be safe.  Then two turned into three, that turned into 5 and from there I just stopped counting.  Now I can barely move around my apartment for fear of knocking into a stack of them and sending my precious hoard tumbling over the floor.  I spend my nights searching, compiling and collecting more and more to add to my collection.  With each find I convince myself that this would be the last, this one was the last one I needed.  Just one more….

But there’s always another one waiting around the corner ready to take hold of my senses, entrance me in it’s beauty, sell me on it’s indispensability and how much easier and more fulfilled my life would be if I could only posses it.  So I dive in, I become ensnared by it’s song, it’s promise and add it to my collection, in essence to my identity.

So this is my confession, to cleanse my soul, my guilt and move on with my life.

I’m a hoarder of domains, you name it I’ve got it. I’ve got .com, .com.au, .net, I’ve got the plurals, the singular, you name it I’ve bought it.

I’ve ordered a skip-bin for Monday so I’ll do a big clear out and hopefully be able to move on with my life.


In for a penny, in for a pound

When embarking on a journey such as this you start to question your previously held beliefs about your value in the world.

At the moment my ‘day job’ (which is actually a night job so that I can study and create while my mind is fresh) pays what is a decent amount of money for my skills and expertise.  But as soon as you begin to create something, to branch out and generate thought, ideas, content and creativity all preconceptions about what your time is worth go out the door.

Looking into the winding and unknown road of freelance and entrepreneurialism makes you double check the value you’re putting on your time.  At the moment I’m selling the precious hours of my life for a price that on the surface seems acceptable even inflated for the work I’m doing, but on contemplation feels ridiculous.  My time, my life is worth less than $30 an hour.

Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy my job and the people I work with are great, but it’s not what I love.  It doesn’t excite me the way even the vaguest daydreams of my own freelance Web Design & SEO business excite and energise me.

This is what Robert Frost lovingly referred to the road less travelled by, and as with everything that is not a standardised, prepackaged, mass marketed portion of a ‘normal’ life experience, comes an inherent danger and fear of the unknown.  The unknown in the journey and the unknown in yourself.

So how much am I worth in this new world?  Who knows.  At the moment I’m working on web sites just for the pure fun and experience of it.  My time is reimbursed through knowledge, experience and ignited passion and creativity.  Now thats a trade that makes you smile.

But how to make the change from the mainstream to my own stream?  How much will my time be worth?  How much will I need to compromise myself, my creativity and my values in order to make a living doing what I love?

 


Privacy online, is there such a thing?

The world is too much with us.

With news that Facebook is introducing “frictionless sharing” it begs the question of if and how you can protect your identity online, or if you lose the right to privacy as soon as you step foot in the rabbit hole.

Facebook, known previously among users as having somewhat questionable privacy policies, the launch of “Frictionless sharing” has for some pushed the friendship too far.  Basically this new ‘feature’ allows apps from services and publishers to post a users activity without asking their permission for each item that it posts.  A once off, and possibly unread opt in allows third parties the right to access and republish your posts at any time.

But is this all too different from the once reproachable ‘News Feed’ that gives each user a stream of the most recent posts and activity of those that they ‘Like’ and are friends with?  When it launched in 2006, the news feed feature caused outcry and mass account deletion in protest of the invasion of privacy it posed.  But one wonders if Facebook would have reached the infinite proportions it currently has, if this feature had not been available.  Where would the draw card be for users to come back to the site?  Although initially it seemed as though our lives were being put on display against our will, now many users log in with the sole purpose of checking the news feed as an easy way of finding out what their nearest and (questionably) dearest have been up to.

Although Facebook acts as a “free” service, is it any real surprise to users that there’s a catch?  The reason it is free, the reason they have the money to run a multimillion user service with minimal downtime is that advertisers and marketing companies pay Facebook for something else, for us.  That means that the real ‘product’ that Facebook sells, is us, it’s users and our information.  Is it any wonder that a marketer or company wants to know the intricate details of their target audience, what we like, what we don’t like, how we react.  This is marketing 101, but in this case we’re creating our own buyer persona, can we really be surprised that companies are trying to get it?

To me it seems clear, whatever you put online, wherever it is posted be prepared for that information/image/text/video to be seen by the entire world.  That is the beauty and curse of the internet and especially social media.


Why Web Design?

The perfect storm of a creative, logistic and scientific mind.

This is what makes Web Design so formidable.  Evolution tells us that it is not in our nature to have both our creative (right) and logical (left) sides of our brain working at the same high level.  But this is what Web Design asks us to do.

Creatively you need to see the end product, to envisage beauty, sleek lines, beautiful or powerful images, you need to see each page as its own work of art, having its own beauty and fitting into the showcase of the website as a whole. A website is not raw creativity, you can’t  just envision your page and start painting it using fine motor skills that we have developed over thousands of years, in the technological age it would never be that easy.

In order to translate your vision there is a myriad of technical hurdles to jump, you need to think about usability, will anyone be able to go to the site and intuitively know how to get where they want to go?  You need to think about functionality, do you need a sidebar on the left, the right or both? Do you need a footer? Do you want the menu to drop down or pop up? How will this affect click through rates? Will you need to reference the work or images of another?

Once the vision of the page is determined, and the site’s functionality is drilled down, the web designers job is not over, no not by a long shot.  This is when the days of endless coding come in, typing frantically into the night, squinting at lines of seemingly illogical code looking for the hidden piece of the puzzle that will make your vision a reality.

Web Design as a pursuit pushes anyone who commits to it, if you are a naturally strong creative person it draws you in and then challenges you to be systematic and logical.  If you are left brain dominant, it pushes you to stimulate your creativity, to draw on inspiration from others to find your own vision.  I believe this is why Web Design is such a booming industry at the moment, every business needs a website to survive.  If you’re not on Google, you won’t be found.  This is forcing the Web Design industry to push the boundaries of their creative, usability and technical sides to have continuous growth and improvement.


In the beginning

In the early hours of the morning I found myself yet again staring furtively at the screen, my eyes weary from hours spent searching the endless lines of code for an answer that I was starting to believe wasn’t going to come. As I rise to fetch a new mug of coffee to fuel my endeavors for hopefully another hour or so, I ask myself “Why?”

Flashback to a few months earlier, I am at home, slumped on the couch half watching a TV show just to pass the time.  I’ve returned from another day at work, going through the motions, doing the same thing I did the day before, and the same thing I’ll do tomorrow.  A sobering thought flashed across my mind, the same thought I’d had for as long as I can remember “Is THIS all I can do?  Is this all I’m meant to be?”

Then something changed, an idea, a spark of life, an online business.

My friends and I decided to create our own business, but how to get it online?  I’ve always been technically minded, always wanted to know how things work, why they work, with a keen eye for detail, systems and patterns.  As soon as the website was mentioned, something deep inside me said “I can build it”.  Up to this point I’d never had any training or experience with web design or any other kind of programming, but still this voice “I can build it”.

Despite my lack of experience, my friends put their faith in me to bring our website and our business to the world.  I started reading, I watched seminars, I downloaded videos, I attended online conferences, I signed up to every web design blog/article/magazine I could find.  Slowly but surely it started coming together.  The more I learnt, the more it fuelled me to discover more, the more it challenged me the harder I pushed myself.  I was driven, I was alive!  But there was only so much I could learn on my own.  On a leap of faith and without a second thought I enrolled in an Internet Communications & Web Design degree and I’ve never looked back.

The internet has changed the world and continues shape the way we live.  Web design is the perfect mix of creative and logical thinking, driven by beauty and inspiration, built from systematic technicality, built for me.