Chris Garrett

Just Another Web Geek

January 2005 - Posts

Everyone is an expert, especially when it comes to Web Design

Jason Mauss has blogged about everyone having an opinion on web design. It gave me a chuckle cos it is so true. Got to disagree on one point though. He reckons people don't get so opinionated about interior design, etc. Sorry Jason, in my experience people will have an opinion about anything they are not qualified to discuss :O)

Like anything in life, there are people who are just plain opinionated. There are also people who "don't know much about _ _ _ _ but I know what I like".

Ever redecorated and had friends round or tried to sell a house and listened to what the potential buyers (tyre kickers) say about it? My wife is a qualified interior designer, does not stop people figuring they could do a better interior design job. After all, they have "Home & Leisure" on sattelite! ;O)

When it comes to web design people feel even more comfortable giving their opinions. It seems after people have used the web for about 10 minutes they suddenly think they "get it" and can start spouting about typography, usability, information architecture, online marketing, etc. Even worse if they have used frontpage, dreamweaver or some other noddy "can't do HTML but I can design web sites" do everything for you package.

Programmers are often the worst culprits of this, I know because I do it all the time ;O). A) Because they do know HTML B) Because they confuse writing HTML with design. Despite it being rare to find a programmer with design sensibilities they do exist. Problem is a lot of programmers think they fit into that mold ;O) I feel I am a little more qualified to have an opinion on this stuff but then I would wouldn't I?

Most people you can either politely listen to then ignore or throw your head back and laugh in their face. Clients, unfortunately, you do need to listen to. A talented designer I know has one client who says "Yeah, looks ok. Could have done it myself in Corel Draw though". Very upsetting and not much you can say back.

This problem was addressed by cunning designers in the past by adding stuff to their designs that the knew the client wouldn't like but wouldn't be too offended by. They new the client would have it removed and then would feel had improved the product and had made their contribution without actually ever compromising the designers original idea. Problem was some clients had absolutely no taste whatsoever and the bad elements sometimes ended up in the final design.

When presenting designs to clients we often present both the design and a rationale. When you explain the thinking, and some times the development stages before that brought you to the result, clients often understand better. You still get the odd one who say "I understand what you are saying but I still want a flash intro" but what are you going to do?

Noone has a monopoly on talent or good ideas. Getting Joe Publics opinion, no matter how odd or ignorant, can be very enlightening. Focus groups can often just give red herring results unless managed very well (especially need to quiet the big mouth bully, there is always one, and get peoples defenses down) but it is suprising how valuable focus groups and end user testing can be.

The real point is this though; listen to any and all feedback, everyone can contribute something and some times the best ideas can be sparked by a throwaway comment. Not everyone criticises to be distructive, more often people think they are being genuinely helpful. Some times it is more healthy and productive to send our egos off for a long walk for a while. It's often the best way to produce an excellent result :O)

Oh Canada

Still trying to work out the legal and logistical nightmare that is getting my family and myself immigrated to Canada. There are many issues, my mum and dads status and whether they can return (after 30 years!), if I can sponsor my parents and wife from here in the UK without proof of Canadian income, school for Amy, Job for me, which would enable us to look for a house .. where to go, what to do ..

It's a slow process, hampered by the fact not all the official departments answer email, some only accept fax and letters. A really helpful lady on the Canadian side has helped us out a great deal. At least we have Amy sorted and are filing the papers for her Citizenship and applying for my passport once we return from Vancouver in a few weeks (we need to send the passports off).

Job situation looks bleak. The job sites are not showing much joy, especially Winnipeg which looks our most likely destination. Anyone know any internet marketing, web agency, marketing agency or even asp/ programming shops in winnipeg? A search for winnipeg web agency showed my blog entry as the top result in google for a while, still on first page. I have been told not to expect Canadian companies to show any interest in applicants from overseas and especially "Limeys". I am not English but I do live here and sound like one which I am told will work against me.

Originally we looked at Vancouver as we love the place and has best climate but we only know one person there, Kevin O'Toole (a vancouver realtor) . He is a great guy but I am sure he wouldn't want to put up with us all landing on his doorstep!

We did consider Calgary as that is where my parents lived while in Canada and where I was born. We have some family there. I see there is a great tech community too, nice one on the MVPs guys.

Just lately we have been favouring Winnipeg, especially when I saw on this blog that there is a thriving Winnipeg tech community. I have two cousins there nearer my own age and who seem warm to the idea of us moving near them (they may change their mind once they have to put up with us!).

Anyone able to give me any hope? :O)



Accessibility Champions fail their own tests

"DRC, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID), the supposed standard bearers for website accessibility, continue to fail even the most basic A/AA requirements"

Posted: Jan 19 2005, 03:13 PM by Chris Garrett | with 1 comment(s)
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Spoiled by .NET, the pain of using PHP

This is not a PHP vs ASP.NET post, don't worry!

My problem is not PHP, it's the fact I have to relearn a whole load of stuff that I have already learned once (or twice!) in my normal languages and the tools are just not as nice. It is so easy to just do stuff in your "mother tongue" language. I think in BASIC having started playing with it when I was 9 (CBM Vic20). To use another language means I have to work out what I want to do and translate into the target platform, often with a large portion of Googling and reference books. Life is so much easier when you have freedom of platform and tools.

It is easy to forget other platforms and languages do not have the richness of development environment of Visual Studio and SQL Enterprise Manager. Dreamweaver is pretty crap as a programmers tool even though it does the best job I have seen for PHP developers. PHPMyAdmin is just a joke, don't get me started. I hear there are GUI alternatives which I am going to have to take a look at when I get chance.

The nice thing, and OS saving grace, is the community support that is out there for PHP. I remember back when I used Perl how great the support was too. I don't think ASP.NET community, lovely, clever, whitty as it is, is quite as comprehensive.

Anyway, whine over ...Back to the books ;O)

Posted: Jan 14 2005, 03:10 PM by Chris Garrett | with 1 comment(s)
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Cheap UK Internet Magazines Subscriptions

Don't you just love ASP and .NET? Because of Google Adwords recent TOS changes I have had to rapidly set up a site for my magazines campaign, thanks to these lovely web platforms I have been able to do this in double-quick time. I had scraped the merchants site and used regex to grab the content days before the official feed. Another campaigns feed is so limited I am going to use the same code and tweak to produce my other site. I know this could be done in PHP but I think the OS crowd would be hard pressed to produce a tool as productive as VS.NET :O)

Subscribe to .net Magazine

Subscribe to Internet Works Magazine

Subscribe to Practical Web Pages Project Guide Magazine

Subscribe to Web Designer Magazine

Subscribe to Web User Magazine

Posted: Jan 13 2005, 04:30 PM by Chris Garrett | with no comments
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New Web Browser beta from Opera

Opera 8 Beta

Press Release


With all this innovation in web browsers, anyone know how Microsoft will respond? Have Microsoft given up on IE? I am sure most users wouldn't want to have to buy and install a new operating system just to get a decent web browsing experience so it would be a shame to have to wait for the next windows release to see IE catch up.



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