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Homepage News

One month and counting

With tomorrow beginning March 1st (and due to our global reach, it may already be March 1st for some of you), I have begun planning what will be a month long celebration when Devlounge turns one in April. The homepage will be temporarily redesigned and feature some special content that will include some of the following; staff interviews, spotlight on some of our favorite content from our first full year in business, a birthday contest (yes, those paid reviews are going to good use!) where you could win a 30GB Microsoft Zune MP3 player along with other goods, and much more. April will be one hell of a month, and it’s exciting to be nearing such a milestone, especially since it’s the first time any of my projects (besides my portfolio :) ) has been able to stay afloat for a year. And not to worry, Devlounge isn’t heading anywhere soon!

Have an idea for our month long celebration in April? Let us know in the comments!
As always, enjoy the day and thanks for reading!

The DL Team

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Webapps

Using Colourlovers to design better

The following is a paid review for Colourlovers, but at the same time, it is also discusses how CL can help all of us when it comes to making design decisions. As with all our reviews, we are 100% honest and straightforward.

Colourlovers

An Intro to what Colourlovers is

First off, I’m not accustomed to spelling “color” with a “ou”, but no matter how you spell it, color/colour is essential to design. In fact, color is essential to just about everything. Without color, the world would be one boring place.

In terms of design, color can dramatically change the look of a site, even if it’s applied to the same layout. For example, dark designs give off a completely different “vibe” than light sites. In some cases, a design could be looked at as “horrible” simply because of color choices, but if different colors were used, it could be award winning.

So than there is Colourlovers. CL contains a wide collection of color palettes for you to choose from. Each palette is rated by the users and sorted into different categories based on the palette itself and the colors it contains.

Finding Good Palettes

I know this is something I struggle with every time I go to design something. I really try to stay away for dark colors for the most part, but than I tend to find myself using the same color schemes just with slight variations on multiple site designs. This makes designs seem repetitive, and makes it look like I lack creativity.

Colourlovers - One Color View

I have only used CL once before, nearly two years ago when trying to choose blue hues for an Anti-spyware site/blog I was designing at the time. At that time, CL had a completely different design and wasn’t as easy to navigate as the latest version of the site is. I was successful in finding a good combination of blues, and I went forward with a successful design.

Since my first experience with CL so long ago, the site has been retooled and reorganized, which makes finding palettes a whole lot easier. You can view the top and newest palettes and colors, and sort them accordingly (by rating, name, and date added.) Each palette and color submission can have comments and be rated, which allows you to get a feel of how the audience feels about the colors before you actually give them a try on one of your designs.

Colourlovers - Browsing Colors

Each submission now also contains tags. Right on the CL homepage you can view some of the most popular tags. Tagging colors can really benefit you, for example, if you’re looking for “calming” colors a search is most likely to bring up many light color schemes, while if you were looking for “angry” you would end up with dark color choices.

Find a few, than experiment

The best way to select colors for a design and / or site is to experiment. Don’t just grab one palette, but find a few you like and would consider using. Try to find colors they convey the meaning and purpose of the site or design. Right down the hex codes for the colors in each palette and begin the plug and play process. Almost always you’re not going to get it right on the first try. I constantly find myself tweaking colors up to the last minute. To this day I still tweak colors here on Devlounge, even after the site, and more particularly this design, has been up for months. Color combos can make or break or site, so getting it right is something that takes time, but is worth it in the end.

Beyond Colors

CL also has a few interviews and articles that relate directly to the importance of colors. You can also look at trends which analyzes color choices in print media. This can help determine is something is “hot” or not.

If you are struggling with picking the next best set of colors for an upcoming design, take a few moments to browse through the gallery at Colourlovers. Even if you don’t find exactly the palette you are looking for, it can give you inspiration for your own palette, and push you in the right direction.

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Webapps

Reinvigorate Preview

Reinvigorate is an up-and-coming hosted statistic tracker for websites, which mashes various elements of Google Analytics and Mint. While currently in private beta, I’m here to preview the service as it currently stands right now.

Reinvigorate

Reinvigorate – A new stats option

Statistical analysis always plays a key role in any kind of business. You always want to know whose buying what, where they’re buying it, what’s doing good and what’s struggling – so you can improve your products or services and tailor them better to your target audience. The same concept can be applied to sites, even if you’re not selling something.

As designers and developers, as well as writers (in the case of Devlounge, blogs, etc), there are key bits of information you want to know; what screen resolution are most of my visitors at, where (location-wise) are most of my visitors from, what browsers are the most popular, and what articles and pages are doing the best in terms of visits. These are all key stats to gather, because with them, you can have a better understanding of your visitors and begin making changes to better accommodate them, for example, designing sites to be larger if most of your audience is at a much higher screen resolution.

With so many things to track, how do you do it? There are many different tracking scripts and services out there – some self hosted, and some web based. Reinvigorate hopes to be an alternative to those using either Mint or Google Analytics. Let’s see how it stacks up.

A look into Reinvigorate

Reinvigorate takes on a look of it’s own, but does it using a feature combination of both Mint and Google Analytics. Let’s break down some of the main features of RI.

Once you get yourself situated with RI and install a line of tracking code into your sites pages you want to track, RI will begin tracking your data. In my beta access to RI I’m tracking hits on my portfolio (which is only one page) and my Testing Ground blog where I do a lot of playing around with new WordPress themes and client work.

After a login you’re presented with a dashboard showing an overview of the sites you are currently tracking. For the beta, there’s no limit on the amount of sites you can track. It shows you the status of each site (tracking in progress or waiting or tracking code to be installed). You can then remove a site, add another one, or view reports for a specific site.

So let’s just right into to the first tab of RI, which is the Overview.

RI Tabs

Each tab has multiple sub tabs, and a click on overview will bring you to the “Overview>Summary” tab. From here, you have a brief and simple look at your site. You can see at a glance the current active visitors on your site and the active pages, as well as a summary of your visitors and a comparison to the visits of the day before.

RI Summary View

The next tab I’ll focus on is Traffic. Traffic is broken down into sub tabs for hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly. Each tab displays 4 graphs: page views, visitors, returning visitors, and view depth. There are a couple different ways to view the graphs, but the default is a column (bar) graph. It also shows a trend line, which you can also fine tune for each graph.

Below the graph’s there is a standard text summary of each hour/day/month/year (depending on what tab your currently active on), the time, number of visits, returning visitors, and view depth.

RI Traffic

Next there is the Visitor Detail. This is essentially where all the tidbits of information gathered from each visitor come into play. Everything from browser and version number to timezone and language. Each page contains pie graphs to go along with the gathered data.

RI - Visitor Detail

The last tab we’ll take a good look at is the session tab. The visitors sub tab takes a good look at your last 50 visitors, and includes various information about them, including resolution, IP address, browser, operating system, language, region, and local time, as well as where they came from and where they went. It also shows how many return visits (if any) that particular visitor has had.

RI - Sessions

Other tabs we won’t get that in depth about are Referrers and Site and Path (For Popular pages, exit pages, etc).

If you’re interested in seeing some larger screenshots, click the thumbnails below (they will take you off the page, so either open in a new tab or have a look when you finish reading the article).

RI - Popular Path RI - Referrers RI - Summary

Advantages over Mint

RI does have some advantages over Mint, besides that fact that you don’t have to host the service yourself. Mint comes with a price tag of $30, while, at least for the moment, Reinvigorate is free. While I’m sure that the public release will not be at least entirely free (most likely there will be different levels and more advanced stats for a higher price, while limited stats will most likely be free.) If RI is fully available without restrictions for free, it does offer about the same features as Mint (excluding what peppers can add to Mint).

What it’s missing

Right now, something that stands out in my mind that RI is missing is the ability to export stats data to a text file and/or spreadsheet. Mint also lacks this ability, and it’s a must if you wish to present your stats and keep a hard copy of your visits away from the script / service itself. I’m also not too keen on the over anti-aliasing fonts. It gives RI an appearance like it’s flash based or something like that. Why not use css and regular fonts instead of trying to smooth everything over?

If these things get tightened up and a few more features are added in before launch, RI could very well fit right in with Google Analytics and Mint. We’ll see what the future holds for RI very soon.

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Homepage News

Couple of things

An error began popping up today that I think came out of an upgrade in one of our peppers running on Mint. The downloads pepper (I think) was redirecting .php files (sometimes) and giving you the option to download them instead of to execute. I have heard from a few people that when they attempted to leave a comment, a dialog box to download the file came up instead. The pepper has now been removed, so if you run into such an error again, please let us know as soon as possible so we can try to get it fixed. I myself haven’t run into the problem since this morning.

Another thing that’s starting to bug me is recent outlash on the recent review of Sitepoint’s RoR book. Apparently, not everyone understands that regardless if a review is paid or not, the review is 100% honest. We don’t play favorites. One reader went so far as to unsubscribe simply because we accept paid reviews. There have been a total of three, yes, three paid reviews in the months I’ve been with with Review me. I’ve gotten plenty more offers, but I only accept requests from sites that are connected to design and development in some ways. I’m not trying to feed you “ads” or some other nonsense like I’m some politician playing favorites to an oil company. Rest assured that each and every one of our reviews is fair.

Feel free to vent (but play nice) on the issue below. We always strive to improve and make our readers happy, so your thoughts on the issue are welcomed.

One final note, be sure to check out Clearmint if you haven’t yet. It’s awfully nice ;).

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General

New Mint Style – Clearmint

I’m proud to announce another Devlounge exclusive – Clearmint! Clearmint is a white / gray style for Mint 2.0+, where we’ve cut out many of the images to bring you a faster loading, cleaner style for Mint. Get your hands on it now by heading to the Clearmint info and download page.

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Build Your Own RoR Web Applications

Sitepoint’s RoR book: Build Your Own RoR Web Applications

We’ve all seen it. Any time you visit Sitepoint, you’ve probably been hit with the ad for their Ruby on Rails book, titled “Build Your Own Ruby on Rails Web Applications”, by Patrick Lenz. Dubbed as “The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Ruby On Rails”, I figured the book was pretty good.

Still, I had no intent to learn RoR simply because I didn’t have time. Then came the opportunity for me to review the book for Sitepoint thanks to Reviewme, and I finally decided to take a look at the book and see what I could learn. For this review I’ll be using the first four chapters of the book, which are currently available as a free trial so you can get a taste of the book before you purchase. I’ll be breaking down the key points of each of the four chapters, with a final wrap-up at the end of the review.

Chapter 1: Introducing Ruby on Rails

The first chapter presents you with a lot of history on RoR. Since I knew so little prior to reading this, I learned a whole lot that I never understood about RoR. Rails was actually extracted from Basecamp, the lead project of 37Signals, and then released – something I would have never expected. The first chapter also touched on three principles that differentiate Rails from other development languages. They were:

  • Convention of Configuration
  • Don’t Repeat Yourself
  • Agile Development

Each category was than expanded with a description of what exactly each principle meant in everyday language for us non-programmers. Finally the first chapter wraps up with a summary of what you can expect to get out of building your own sample application by following the instructions throughout the book, which lets you create a cloned site of Digg.

Inside the pages - Sample 1

Chapter 2: Getting Started

The second chapter is all about getting your system setup and ready to develop your first RoR application. You install three key components, which the book outlines how to install depending on your Operating System. They are:

  • The Ruby language interpreter
  • The Ruby on Rails framework
  • The MySQL database server

The book does a really good and straightforward job at describing the setup process. Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux are all covered. Towards the end of the chapter you learn how to setup “one directory setup to rule them all”. Finally, you’ll start up WEBrick, a small web server written in Ruby. While it has almost no functionality, you have started up your first Ruby Application.

Inside the pages - Sample 2

Chapter 3: Introducing Ruby

Chapter 3 is a very informational chapter that outlines on what exactly Ruby is, and how a object orientated language works. It talks a lot about how Ruby objects communicate with each other, how to read and write Ruby code, standard output and core classes, running Ruby files, and control structures. You can learn a hell of a lot of information on Ruby just from this one chapter alone – it really does an excellent job going over all the different elements that make up the Ruby Language.

Inside the pages - Sample 3

Chapter 4: Rails Revealed

The final chapter in the downloadable sample of “Build Your Own Ruby on Rails Web Applications” covers the Rails in Ruby on Rails. In it Patrick Lenz talks about using three different environments when developing in Ruby: development, test, and production. Next you learn how to setup the database for Rails – quick, easy, and straightforward. There is then a nice description of the MVC (model-view-controller) architecture that Ruby uses. This includes describing the differences between models, controllers, and views.

The chapter also contains information on generating code with Rails, and testing and debugging with RoR.

Summary

The first four chapters were very helpful in giving me (a non-programmer) a much better understanding on Ruby. It’s easier to understand why it should be looked at as the programming language of the future, because it helps make things so much easier and can greatly improve development time.

Reading these first four chapters really sparked my interest in Ruby, and it’s something I’d really like to try to learn more in depth in the summer months. The book itself does, in my opinion, a wonderful job by organizing the information in each chapter really nicely, and incorporating a lot of visual graphics to give you a much clearer understanding of the instructions and how things work in Ruby on Rails.

If haven’t read the book, you’re thinking about giving RoR a shot, or you just want to learn a little more about the programming language that is helping aid the boom in web based applications, this book is for you. With 163 pages just in the first four chapters, you are definitely getting your moneys worth by purchasing the book, which contains over 400 pages and digs a lot deeper than the intro chapters, and will help you put together your first application.

You can grab the first four chapters for free from here, or purchase the book at Sitepoint.

Note: The preceding was a paid review.

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Jobs

Rezoom

Job Description:
We are currently planning a major redesign of rezoom.com, we are looking to build a team of highly skilled, cutting edge designers and developers to pull this off. Right now we are looking for a CSS design super hero who can create the ultimate user experience for our visitors. If you think you have the skills to pay your bills send us some samples and description of your role (specifics please) on each project. This position will be contract work, we will pay an attractive hourly rate to the right person. Availability is needed from March 1 – May 1.

Site: Rezoom
Contact Name: Phil Thornton
Email: [email protected]

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Firebug and Myspace, Part Two

Firebog and Myspace, Pt 2

My short sidenote on using Firebug to download streaming songs from Myspace has turned into somewhat of a circus. Many people have been trying a bit too hard to get downloads to work. This rewrite eliminates some steps thanks to some comments by some users who found easier ways to get the songs, without all four steps. Hopefully these new set of instructions will help those of you who are struggling with the original method.

Step One: Visit a Profile

Straightforward enough. Head over to the intended bands myspace page and bring up Firebug. You must have Firebug installed and you must be using Firefox in order for this to work.

Once you have Firebug open (either by clicking the icon in the lower right corner of Firefox or going to Tools>Firebug>Open Firebug), click on the net tab, which will show you the status of all the various elements loading on the page. For this example we’ll be using a band that broke up a short time ago called The Waiting Game.

Step Two: Pull the Download Url

With Firebug open and yourself on the band’s profile page, click your required song and watch the Net tab in Firebug refresh. Scroll down to the bottom of the Net tab, because the song should have been the last thing loaded if you just clicked on it. It will be named something like “std…”. Copy the url by right clicking on the “std…” link and copying it.

Firebug and Myspace, Part Two

New Tab, Edit, and Download

The last step is to open a new tab, paste the url, and make one small edit. Find “std” in your newly pasted url and change it to “full”. Press enter and you should be presented with a download box in Firefox. If you have some kind of built in media player that may attempt to play the song in the browser window, you may have to save the link in an html file and than right click it and use “Save file as…” to get the download to work. Do all this while the song is still playing and you should be fine.

Notes about the method

Myspace is frequently changing methods of downloads, so we can not guarantee how long the method will continue to work for. Devlounge is a resource for designers and developers, so this will be the last post about Myspace and song downloading. The initial post was simply a trick, and the only purpose of this post was to clear up the many questions people had about getting this method to work. Please do not ask for support, because if you’re download doesn’t work, it’s not up to us.

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Homepage News

More New Features

Earlier in the week I said that this would be a week of updating and tweaking, and for the most part, that’s exactly what went on this week. While I still want to rework the Interviews page, there were many other things changed and reworked during the past week to add better functionality to Devlounge. You may have also noticed that the extras are now split into multiple pages, in preparation for the addition of some new features and sections planned to launch during the coming weeks. The main extras page remains the same, you’ll just need to click “downloads” in the extras subnav in the menu above. You’ll also currently notice one more link in the extras submenu, for “Site Showcase“. Beginning in March we will start taking submissions for Sites of the Month. One site will be selected each month, and we’ll put up a mini interview with them, etc, and the SOTM page will be dedicate to their page (our review, interview, etc) for the entire month. To get yourself submitted, please see our contact page.

In other news for this week, Ronalfy began his own columns in Friday Focus – he spotlights some WordPress plugins and asks a “Design Dilemma” question. Be sure to give it a read to wrap up another week in the design world.

That about does it for updates for now. The digg interview is being submitted sometime today, so we’ll have that for you in a few weeks. In the meantime, another interview is almost here with another extremely talented designer. Watch for it to go live soon!

Update: We’ve now (finally) added the option to get in touch with each and everyone of our [frequently] contributing Authors. Head over to the contact page to drop a line to your favorite author.

Thanks for reading.
The DL Team

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Design Focus

Friday Focus #19

This week as Ronalfy and myself continue to split the duty of managing Friday Focus, Ronalfy will begin his own columns, allowing us to bring more depth to your favorite week-in-review article series. Let the fun begin!

These are the two new sections to the Friday Focus, and like always, we appreciate any feedback you may provide. Design Dilemma will ask the readers for feedback on a particular dilemma. And since we have many WordPress readers, Ronalfy begin showcasing a few WordPress plugins every week or so.

Sites of the Week

The first featured design of this week is from Hyperwave. I like the design because it’s clean and professional, and that’s what your going for when trying to sell anything, especially an application that would be used on a business level.

Hyperwave

The final two sites this week are both in Spanish, but both look really good. First there is the portfolio of Benito Castro. While the layout is rather standard for today’s blog design trends, the site is still presented in a very clean manner, and the color choices flow quite well.

Benito Castro

And finally there is Presidentielles. An extremely fun, in your face magazine / newspaper type design gives way to a site packed full of information. Now if only I could read it… Regardless, I love the design, layout, and how much content that pack onto just the homepage itself.

Presidentielles Friday Focus

Digg Weekly

This weeks hottest (according to AJ) from Digg.

DesignUnclutter Your Desk: Mount things Underneath
I have to admit, when I saw this I was very impressed. If I had the time and patience I would give it a go, but I’m a bit too lazy. A great solution for those of us with way too much on the table.

Programming – Community Driven Open Source Web Designs
Free, downloadable templates which could help new designs by giving them good looking designs to experiment and learn with.

Design Dilemma

The purpose of Design Dilemma is to post one dilemma a week and allow the readers to voice their suggestions and/or opinions. So without further ado, here is the first dilemma.

You are in charge of updating a company’s website. The client has no technical knowledge whatsoever, and sends you several PowerPoint files and says, “Put these on the site.” However, the client doesn’t want you to simply link to the PowerPoint files. The client actually wants you to convert those to web pages. What would your approach be?

If you have your own design dilemma that you would like addressed, please use our contact form.

WordPress Plugin Spotlight

The first plugin mentioned is called Mint Popular Posts. The plugin works well, but is still rather buggy. This plugin now works with Mint being in a different database. I personally would like to see this plugin evolve and be able to also gauge how popular a post is based on views, trackbacks, comments, and date posted.

The second plugin mentioned is called WordPress Comment Spam Stopper. Spam Karma has been giving me issues, so I have been on a look-out for something like this. The plugin adds a simple question to your comment form that any human should be able to answer. Since installing the plugin, my comment spam has dropped to zero. One drawback of the plugin is that you have to modify the code if you want any customization.

Site of the Month

We would like to showcase one site a month here at Devlounge starting in March. The showcased site will have a detailed review along with a mini-interview with the site’s author.

We would like the site of the month to be user driven. If you think you have a well designed website, or know of one you really like, please submit the site for review. You can find more details on our Site Showcase page. We also may begin website critiques of the submitted sites as well (with permission from the creator of course). If you have any ideas or suggestions for the Site Showcase, please let us know in the comments.

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Strategy

Crossing the Language Barrier

When dealing with clients we constantly find our heads spinning with a barrage of different things – from “I hope they don’t say one of these” to identifying and dealing with task at hand, whether it be design, code, or both. We’ve always said that communication is essential for a good client-designer relationship, but what are you supposed to do when that essential line of communication is so hard to maintain due to language restrictions?

Breaking the Language Barrier

The Importance of Client Communication

Ever since I joined the freelance world, I always made sure the client communication lines were always open, especially since, hell, it would be their money I’d be taking a few weeks later. I generally try to update my clients as much as possible. And most importantly, I always try to be honest. Whether that means telling a client I’m too busy to take on their project at the moment or letting them know when uncontrollable situations arise that cause me to have to pull out of a project early. In most cases, this would probably piss clients off immensely, but if the line of communication had been there the whole time, they’ll appreciate honesty and truthfulness.

That line of communication can sometimes be very “hard to maintain”. Hard to maintain can come into play on multiple occasions. Sometimes you end up with a client who just isn’t willing to play nice, and has more of a “Take the Project and Run” type strategy and will attempt to do anything but pay you. Other times, we’re put into situations where a client really wants us to work on their project – only there’s one major problem – You don’t speak the same language.

Where’s my Translator at?

This becomes a time when the line of communication requires you to pull out your favorite edition of the world’s Multilingual dictionary. We’ve all been faced with it before. A client asks you do to something, but it takes you as long as it would to get their project done just to decipher what the hell they’re asking in their message.

You can’t fault everyone. Some people try extremely hard to get their message across in your own language, but not everyone is perfect at it. For example, here’s a recent excerpt from one of my emails from a client who wanted me to take on the duties of redesigning their online magazine.

“Uh, it sounds too good for me, especially the price, i mean, for us in Latvia it is big summ, thats why i want to use WP or Pligg or something instead of codding. But maybe it is cuz needs ir for internet magazine, more in newspaper or magazine style, not like regular style, right?”

Laying out the options

If it’s your first time attempting to deal with an international client, chances are you’ll be under a lot of pressure. You want to take the project, but you’re unsure if you can handle it. You end up having a short list of options for working through or around the international request.

  • If the client does speak my language well [enough] that we can easily get on the same page, I can move along with the project and nail out specifics.
  • The client has somewhat of a grasp on my language, but leaves out essential details that they can’t describe well enough for me take the project. Should I be in or out?
  • It’s extremely hard for me to understand the clients request(s), but I do need the money…

Is it Possible to take International Clients who don’t speak your language? (And Should You?)

For most of us – no way. Unless you have a lot of experience in multiple languages, it’s never a good idea to try and connect with clients that you can’t understand. While money talks, so do clients. And there’s no way you’re going to find yourself with a payday if you can’t understand what the persons asking for to begin with. That’s not to say you have to say no to every international request you’re ever going to get.

Some International Clients could have a better hold on your native language than you do. In that case, brush up on some of your own vocabulary and jump right into the project without any concerns. Just make sure you and your client are on the same page before you begin and get too deep into the project.

And the message to clients before hiring non-native speakers

As designers, developers, freelancers, and industry leaders – we all want to be able to do our job for you without the extra hassle of trying to nail down what you mean. If you really want someone to design for you but you don’t speak the language at all or well enough that they could understand what you’re trying to get across, than don’t bother! Or, find someone who could translate your native language to the potential designer / developers’ language so they can have a better grasp as to what you’re looking for. In the end it will speed up the entire process, and safe both parties countless headaches and visits to Babelfish.

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Design

Portfolios – What I’ve Learned

Welcome to another addition of my column, which has yet to be named. I must apologize before I go into this column. For those who remember, I released a previous column a few months back, and like various other columnists appeared to drop off the planet. Unfortunately, a few issues in life came at me un-expectantly and I had to deal with them, while working on my freelance projects. You need to take life as it comes, and deal with it the best way possible and sometimes certain things are set on the back burner, while more pressing issues are attended to. Now that these issues have been resolved, I am hoping to get back to something I enjoy.

Now that I have apologized, I would like to get into more pressing matters: The creation of a portfolio. For those of you who are experienced, successful web developers and designer this will be old and repetitive I am sure. However, I thought I would pass long what I have learned so far.

Portfolio 1: Under the Sea

Portfolio Screen 1

This was my first attempt at a portfolio. It was a required piece for school and at the same time was acceptable, considering what I knew. Of course, things have changed, and I look now and there are about a dozen things I did wrong. One of the most obvious is the photo I selected to represent myself. It was a year old, still had a time stamp, my fiancée is in it, it’s at a dance, and I’m drunk. As you were to continue to explore this portfolio, you would learn I used a star wars light saber affect on the rollover of portfolio items, simply because it sounded cool at the time. The pieces that I provided were not easily accessible, and believe it or not, I didn’t even link to my websites shown. In the “About Me”, I was more focused on announcing my official status with my fiancée (although in fairness, I had just gotten engaged at the time). However potential clients and hires, didn’t want to know and didn’t care that I wanted to own my own business, support my family, and live comfortably. They wanted to know my knowledge, employment history, my past experiences, and my education. None of the three I mentioned. The closest I came was saying I was growing fond of flash. Although I did alright on the project, I must say I am glad I never took a point to show that to future employers.

Portfolio 2: Plain, Simple, Effective

Portfolio Screen 2

Although I probably designed half a dozen portfolios after the last one I showed, this was the one I decided to go with in the end. I’ll admit it certainly did the trick for me. About four months had passed since creating underwater themed portfolio and I decided to take a new approach. Implementing a far more simple design, I decided to focus on what I had to offer at the time. This worked out well for me, getting me my diploma, as I sailed through the Portfolio review, as well as landing me three jobs, including my current one. Of course, this layout, being a year old, has it’s own flaws I can see now. The home page was almost too bland. As I looked at it now, it really doesn’t give too much impression as to what I can do. I provided to sentences, and then my name. It doesn’t exactly force a user to get interested. Also, the contact information followed the same trend. It actually provided less information and accessibility then the former portfolio. I didn’t even provide a mailto link. Then again, it was only minor as the “About Me” was much better this time, not focusing on my personal life, and instead my current web goals and aspirations. Although I touched on previous unrelated jobs, it was done in a manner to show my determination and my ability to showcase hard work. The Portfolio section itself was done far better then my previous site, allowing better user interaction, as well as the ability to actually view my sites! To this date, this is still, in my opinion, one of the better portfolios I’ve done. I’ve thought of only updating this version to show case newer work, however I feel like I have grown past what I have here, and wanted to push myself both design-wise and code-wise.

Portfolio 3: Current…. Disappointment

Portfolio Screen 3

This is my current site, which I can’t say I am too proud of. As it stands right now, I currently don’t even have a portfolio properly listed. As with most designers, when we run out of time, and have various projects on the go; we ignore our stuff first. This site is a result of that. Due to the rush of things, I don’t even show it to potential clients. I’ve made a list, and went with that instead. Embarrassing? The content is solid, I had three people, two English majors, review it and make sure it all checked out. The coding was solid, as I’ve been told on a few occasions it’s even blackberry accessible. It’s the little things that I don’t like. I feel like the text looks out of place on the home page. I should have used an sans-serif based font. The resume should be up to date, and a pdf instead of a cut together jpg of two print screens. My portfolio should have been finished. I should have taken more time on the articles section. I should have made the Quote Form work properly, instead of basic text. There’s a lot I wish I’d done, and didn’t. That’s why, even with my busy schedule, I am forcing myself create a new portfolio. (That and career advancements).

Portfolio 4: In the Works

Portfolio Screen 2

Portfolio Screen 2

I won’t go into details regarding these two layouts today, as I plan to save this as another column in the future. I will, give you a quick idea of what was going through my mind. My past projects, I found to be a little “bland” and I wanted to jazz it up, pushing myself to think of a new creative way to represent myself. I made sure all my portfolio items were present right away, while following a theme that made sense to have them there. As I said, this project will be another column.

Final Thoughts:

I know, I more so, just reviewed what I’d done. However, I am hoping you did pick something up.

  • One of the first things I ever learned was that content was important. Your portfolio needs to show you in a serious, professional manner, and not just someone who loves what you do. I know that sounds harsh, but people want to know what you have to offer, and what you’ve done in the past. They don’t care about how much you love it.
  • Simple is the safest route. I know, a lot of the time, you hear about needing to push the envelope. However, in my opinion, you need to pick when and why. This is your career, it might look cool to some, but if it’s too busy or complicated, you risk losing more clients and work.
  • FINISH WHAT YOU START!!! As designers, we set our stuff aside most of the time. When it comes to your portfolio, you need to find time. Right now, I have six freelance projects on the go. I kept putting my portfolio off, and now I am risking potential full time work and more freelance work as a result.
  • Be creative. I know, I also said keep it simple, but you need to find a way to mix the two. Without it, you can be bland, and boring. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who keep it too simple, and their sites lack a professional feel, and don’t allow them to show off their other talents. If you don’t have the “design ability”, I would recommend hiring someone, because odds are your programming abilities would make most jealous.

I hope this helps at least one person in the future. Good luck with the portfolios!