Basic HTML Tutorial – What is HTML?

HTML is a short acronym for HyperText Markup Language. The language consists of tags surrounded by angle brackets and can effect the way a person sees a website. It can be used in scripting languages like cgi, php, and javascript to person any number of actions.

Example of a tag:
<head>.

A basic page consists of several key points that should be placed in the layout. There will be another tutorial illustrating how to build a basic page, but below is very general example of how a web page is composed. In a way, the HTML to a browser is somewhat like Writing is to a Book. It tells a story all in itself on how the page should look.

Here is the basic bare bones structure of a page:

The Document Type, HTML Head, Title, Body, tags are extremely important and should always exist when coding a website layout or the page may not show up properly or not at all. If you notice, the tags seem to be repeated, but the second time it is repeated with a forward slash (‘/’) in front of the tag name. For every open tag, there must be a closed tag. Some tags like linebreak (br), and image source (img) tags are singular tags and the forward slash is within the url.

Just a few example of tags that do not have a paired tag:

If you put a web page together, you can label the page with the extension of .html or .htm and view it offline (without accessing the Internet) or you can load it to a server, whether you pay for a webhost or for a free account.

When breaking down the code above for the basic HTML page, you will note that there are really 3 main sections: the header, the content, and the footer.

The Header

The Content

The Footer

In between the body tags goes the code for all of your layout and content. In the header, that is normally where you will put in your style sheet code and any elements like javascript or other script to help allow your layout to dynamically function.

5 Ways Your Site’s Design Can Pop

Design is not that hard for some, but others, it might not be as great. Designing a website should convey its own type of message to your visitors that enhance what content is already available on your website. Design elements that are strategically made to attract your visitors to certain places are certainly things you want to apply in order to successfully convert your visitors. Here are 5 ways to make your site’s design pop in a way to convert your visitor to other places on your website than just the front page.

Colors

Color is important. People are visual creatures. It does not matter whether you are male or female, things that attract people are well put together palettes or tasteful, yet attention grabbing colors.

Typography

Years ago, it was not possible to properly implement different types of fonts on a site to dress up a site. This took encouraging visitors to download fonts they did not have. Since those days, people can use Typekit or what I like to recommend, Cufon Text Replacement to change elements in their site- like headings (h1, h2, h3, etc…) or using it in their graphics.

When considering the right font, choose them not just on how cool it is, but also for legibility.

Sliders/ featured post tools

Featured content sliders really have made a great element for converting websites. While some of the theme developers out there are implementing the content slider just for your posts, you can break out of that and use images and direct to different pages or areas of your site, much like a banner ad, but with some tweaks, you can really make a successful conversion tool. One of the plugins I like for sites that do not have built in featured content sliders is the Easing Slider for WordPress by Matthew Ruddy. You can use custom images or use it for your posts. A similar example of this is here on the front page of Blondish.net

A featured article widget is nice to have in your sidebar. You can show people the way to articles you think they really should read.

Design format

Your design format is important. If you have too much space or things seem smashed together, it becomes a problem for visitors wanting to read your site or go where you want them to go. Good code and clean design is good. If you made your site by yourself, consult a web design friend for advice. They will know or they SHOULD know the best practices in web design.

Interactivity/ forms

Leaving a way for your visitors to communicate with you is an excellent feature. Whether it is the comment form for your blog entries, a lead form, newsletter subscription, social network icons, these will build that dynamic that other sites may not have. Make sure to give the impression to your visitors that your door is open to them and they can contact you. The number of doors, or methods you choose to leave available will exponentially increase that engagement factor on your website.

Of course, the methods above are very basic, but with some clean design and proper placement on a web page, your website can attract those you are trying to reach.

What methods do you like to use on your website to attract visitors?

Is Your Web Designer Really An Outsourcing Project Manager?

There are so many freelancers out there, and there are people who get jobs and outsource them, claiming the credit of the designers they hire. These people are known as project managers, or depending on how they conduct business, they might even be considered con artists.

Being a project manager is okay. For myself, I do my own projects, but I am sure for traditional project managers finding a good freelancer is tough – especially one that is not with a team of people handling the project you really only want only 1 or 2 people to even have their hands on the project.

The problem is a lot of project managers are popping up with websites. While I could easily point out a few people, I will not. I will though give advice for people who are project managers or are contemplating on becoming one.

Advice to Web Design Project Managers:

  • Be transparent about your business. If you are outsourcing, make sure your client is aware of it. Putting on your website that YOU are the one designing is a untrue. For some clients, it could be very alarming, especially if they want to keep their project under a Non-disclosure policy. Be truthful with your designer and developers as well.
  • Be prepared to negotiate with a web developer or designer if you are claiming their hard work. While you paid for it, if the details of licensing is involved, you might face some legal issues. (Some project managers may put their link up on the client’s finished site, but allow the designer to put the work as a “joint project” in their portfolio.)
  • If you are wanting to provide web design work that is affordable to clients, you might not be able to afford a web designer, especially a talented one. Some of the freelancers out there may have a minimum set on projects. Make sure if you get paid, they get paid decently.

As for anyone who has had their site done by a freelancer, it is important that you know how your site is being done and when it is yours, what you can do. If the project manager is not able to explain, then it is more than likely they did not design the website.

For some people, this might not be important, but for those who want to keep their projects private, a project manager who outsources is not always the best choice. For some web designers and developers, project managers can be nice to have, but truthfully after personal experience with several, the honest ones are just about “a dime in a dozen.”

What is your advice to outsourcing project managers? What is your advice on how a client can find out in the most polite way how their project is being handled?

Our Sponsor:

Project management is a growing field in the graphic design and marketing world. Many undergraduates are choosing to receive higher education in order to advance their careers. (Project management degree online Retrieved March 30, 2012)

Is Designing Your Own Site Hurting It?

When you decided to start a website, you may have looked into what it took to put one together. It may have become intimidating and you did not know what to do. A lot of business owners face this. Not every person out there is naturally gifted with creativity, nor has the patience to learn HTML or any type of markup language.

Most business owners want to get on and have some control over their website, or be able to hire someone to do it at a fair cost without the fear of being screwed over from service or price. Some are so intimidated that they with design their own sites.

So, for those embarking on this method – Is designing your own site hurting it?

It depends.

Yes it does hurt to design your site on your own.

You know your content, but often the tools you might choose will not be the best ones out there. I know college students telling me they bought themes from their professors that when I took a look, it was just one hot mess I just about cried. It was shameful.

People are being screwed over even when they want to design their own website. They are not finding the correct tools, nor the best advice.

While things may seem so simple, ALWAYS research before stepping right into investing ANY time or money into building a website. Make sure before you build the site that you have a clear focus and a general outline of what you want for your website to begin with. As a web designer and developer, I often have clients who have no idea what they want. That is not a problem. I ask questions to hopefully give them an idea of what information they need to put together in order to help me give them the best product possible.

Doing it alone only makes you, the site owner have to question yourself:

  • Who do you want to target with your website?
  • Where do you want to promote your site at?
  • What type of design (color, possible design elements, or the general framework) do you want for your website?
  • What content do you want to put up (plan your pages)?
  • How much do you want to invest in both time and money?

I keep meeting clients who want me to maintain their static websites because it takes too long for them to do it. And you know what – they could be managing it a lot faster with (content management systems) CMS like WordPress. Even with some of the premium themes out there for WordPress, it makes putting a site up that much faster and easier. Though I love being paid, I like to make sure my client has the means to have control over their website and this is a great way to do it.

No it does not hurt to design your site on your own.

Maybe you have done the research? Maybe you can dabble in code or wing it? However, you may be missing things like optimizing your site for local listings. Your competition may be ranking higher because they went that extra step.

It is fine if you want to be in control, but there is always room for improvement, especially if you are wanting to succeed. Why not invest a little and reap more rewards? If you have a static website, you should be aware that WordPress is a content management system, and no longer just a blog platform. You can have an entire website built on WordPress. You can even forgo having a blog on it. Editing and adding pages is really as easy as typing an email up in your Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, or even Outlook.

The point is, regardless of how you get your site up and running, make sure you are doing it the right way and always willing to improve. Business owners with open minds are always open to things that will eventually mean making money.

Did you design your website yourself? Do you have recommendations on good resources for business owners who want to design their own websites the DIY method?

Freelancing: Why A Revision Limit Is Necessary

Whether you won a project in a freelancer website or acquired a project in person or through social networking online, it takes time to get a project done and communication between the service provider and the client. It is the communication that is important and one of the largest failures that can happen during a project.

Some of the scenarios involve:

  • The client know what they want, but unable to communicate it.
  • The freelancer did not read the original project and understand what was needed, nor asked the necessary questions up front to clarify the project.
  • The freelancers is not resourceful enough or not knowledgeable to complete the project successfully.
  • The client has the project done, but unsatisified.
  • The client likes the project so far, but requires numerous revisions.
  • The client requests for something outside the agreed project contract and expects the freelancer to do it for free (freelancer has previously stated their terms on extra services.)
  • The client does not have complete content or information to send and has to be asked a lot.
  • The client still has no idea what they want.

The problem is that a lot of freelancers, and please note that I do not say most or all, because not every freelancer does this – they block off an amount of time for a project. Sometimes the service provider will have several projects scheduled over the course of a few days, a week, a couple weeks, or more. It all depends on the comfort level the freelancer has when taking on a workload.

Especially in web design, and sometimes other types of freelance work, it is imperative to at least have over 90% of the work completed before showing the client. 100% is even better. :)

  1. Let the client look over the first proof.
  2. Have the client put together a list of feedback, much like a checklist so everything that is missing or needs to be done can be tackled.
  3. Go over revision checklist and fix or answer questions if an explanation is needed (sometimes the client will put questions in.)
  4. Send back completed revision checklist for client to check for a second proof.
  5. If all is good, great. If there are a few more, ask for another revision checklist and repeat process until satisfied.

Personally, I allow for 3 revisions. For anyone with a busy workload, more than 3 revisions is too much time being spent playing cat and mouse trying to go through each individual request. Make a list!!! In putting this policy of 3 revisions, or whatever number you have for yourself, you are effectively making your workload more efficient.

No freelancer is psychic – although I have had a few that I have gotten the project right on the first proof, communication is key.

What is your revision policy with clients?

Freelancing: Keeping A Positive Reputation With Former Clients

I have had to encounter some fairly bad feedback for other freelance web designers from my clients who had issues with the “freelancer who is sensitve.”

What I mean by this is when a client decides to take up a new freelancer to design parts or all of a site to make it far more effective, both in usability and to look better aesthetically. The previous designer/ developer feels hurt and starts somewhat of a cyber temper tantrum by withholding information.

The information could be hosting information, need to know info about the site to pass on to the next developer, and even login information. It can be really frustrating, especially if the client is running a business that the lead form is not working or even some part of their e-commerce is broken.

I have 2 pieces of advice on professionalism in this matter – for the client, and for the freelancer:

To the Freelancer

  1. 1. It is not your website. You were paid to do the job and yes, you spent all that time on the site, but it is not to be considered like family. Be a professional, suck it up, and release the information needed to the client.
  2. If you want to succeed, you need to give a good and everlasting impression. Regardless if the project you had once worked on was contracted out to another designer, if you left with a good reputation, you might just receive a surprising recommendation down the line.
  3. With holding things like login or anything that was agreed upon as the client’s property in the design contract can be put in court. Be smart.
  4. Do not talk smack about former clients on social networks. It is unprofessional and overall, immature. Future potential clients, if they have access to viewing your social network talk streams would definitely be turned off by such behavior.

To the Client -

  1. If is not your fault if your designer is not cooperating with you. It is your website and you are entitled to all information, files, and anything agreed upon in your design contract with the developer.
  2. It is okay to be nice and give a few days, but tough love is necessary, especially if it is losing you money. Be prepared to warn a developer that is not cooperating with releasing your website’s intellectual property, that you are within your rights to seek arbitration.
  3. Be aware that if your case involves that the designer is not releasing web hosting login information that you paid for, that you will need to find out how to get your web hosting account back into your hands. Go directly to the web host, put in your case, and make sure to ask them how you can establish that the account is yours and not the designers.
  4. In worse case scenarios, there are people who have hosted their clients and have deleted everything. If you can afford it and if you have enough documentation to prove your case, you can seek out legal retribution.

As said, it is important to keep a positive reputation with clients, both current, and former ones. You never know if a client might come back later or refer someone else. Due to some of the online tools to measure your reputation, both your own words and former client’s words can come up. One example that comes to mind is StepRep.

If you are a developer, have you heard of incidences where a client has had a nightmare experience in wrestling their account away from a previous designer? Any other stories that relate? What tips do you have for both freelancers and clients in this matter?

13 Awesome Social Network Icon Sets

Social networking sites have brought webmasters to seeking ways to entice their visitors to follow. Other than normal linking, social network icon sets can be a nice visual touch.

It is a good thing that there are generous web and graphic designers out there willing to take the time to make social icons for the hundred of social networks out there. Below are 13 places I think that have the best social network icon sets that bloggers, business owners, and well, any type of site owner can download and use.

Simple Circular Social Media Icon Set

Set of Social icons no. 2 by Tydlinka

Social Media Mini Icon Pack

Set of social icons

SocioLEGO, a free Social Icon Set

Heart v2: Free Social Iconset in Heart Shape

21 free social vintage icons

Socialize Part 3 Icons

Social Media Stars Icon Set

Web2 Icons

Social Media Balloons

Woodgrain: A Free Social Media Icon Set

Page Peel – A Free Social Media Icon set

stock icon sets

How Easy Is It To Set Up A Website?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, setting up a website seemed so confusing. The materials offered were very basic and to a lot of people confusing. Yahoo! Geocities, Tripod, and other free webhosts were a bit difficult for the common Internet user because it meant you had to have a basic understanding of HTML or you ended up having a strange design generated from what the free hosts offered.

Today, it is much easier to set up a website. WordPress.com, Blogger, Typepad, and a few others offer a much friendlier means to have a presence online.

How easy is it to set up a website?

This is the easy part – Establishing a host, a site name or domain are just the very first steps. It is designing, and creating content that is what is a bit more challenging.

First time bloggers may want to start off with a free host as it might be a good base to make sure that they are serious enough and have established a readership.

So, as a summary of how easy it is, here are the general steps:

  1. Brainstorm what you want your site to do and who you want to reach.
  2. Choose a web host.
  3. Come up with a site name or select a suitable domain name for the website.
  4. Start creating content.
  5. Choose or create a design.

Why did I list creating content before design? Well, you can set up a site in WordPress and start writing right away. This is important as when your site is beginning, it is often that the content is the most difficult part to continue maintaining. If you can jump start your site with a couple posts, you will be able to give visitors a clue to what you want them to get from your website. The design can come second and be a nice surprise. Technically the design will probably change as you grow into your own brand.

I know some would not agree on this, but frankly, your visitors, even if your site has an awesome layout, will find more value in what you have to say. Why not start that first and grow into your brand. A lot of interesting people have grown or are still growing into their sites and brands. Just some examples: Kim Castleberry of Just Ask Kim, Ileane Smith of Basic Blog Tips, Kristi Hines of Kikolani, and Hesham Zebida of Famous Bloggers.

However, once you have a web host in mind, you can choose to install a free theme or pay for a premium theme in the case you are not design savvy. Remember that you control what your site will be. When you put your content together, you are paving the road to your own success.

Also remember that there are a lot of great places out there giving awesome FREE advice to people wanting to become a successful blogger, online business owner, or great webmaster. Use that to your advantage.

Setting up a website is not as difficult as it use to be.

What tips would you like to share to others looking to start their own website?