Do You Need a Web Designer Or a Web Developer?

Look and Feel Hooks the Visitor

Your website literally has only seconds to make a good impression on your site visitor. Whether they realize it or not, people surfing the Internet are quick to judge. They are ready to jump ship – so to speak – at a moment’s notice. That is precisely why you need to know if your web professional has design skills.

Web designers have the skills and knowledge it takes to create attractive layouts and color schemes that lead the site visitor through the material on the page in a predetermined manner. By using a variety of design techniques, design professionals draw attention to specified areas of the web page according to a hierarchy. So, if your website had a primary goal of signing up members for a newsletter and a secondary goal of contacting you with questions, the web designer would design the web page to draw the attention of the visitor to those areas of your site in that order.

As you can see, the designer’s skill set is directly related to keeping you visitor on the site and directing attention to the proper place. Accomplishing this in a subtle manner takes creativity, something that designers possess in abundance.

Functionality and Ease of Use

Keeping someone on your website is great, but if they have a hard time getting things done, they’ll get frustrated and leave. This is where the developer comes in – well, sort of. Because ease of use is subjective and programmers are usually more objective in nature, you may have a different view of what is “easy” to use. But the key is whether your web professional can make the website do whatever it is you’ve determined “easy” to be.

An example might be a sign up form. You decide that it is not very practical to have your site visitor fill out 30 fields only to have it display an error and require that the form be completed again if they enter an improper zip code. You determine that the solution is to have the website check each field as it is being filled out. “If an invalid value is typed in”, you say, “I want the visitor to be notified immediately”. Well, a developer can make this happen. Web developers are programmers and their job is to make the website do what you want it to do. These type of individuals usually are trained in following specific protocols and are not as free thinking as designers.

The bottom line is that you’ll want both skill sets. A web designer to help you direct the visitor to a specific goal and make them feel good about doing it, and a web developer to make your site serve the wants and needs of the visitor to make it easier for the visitor to use the site. Some individuals are familiar with both aspects of building a website. However, if you find out before the project begins, you’ll be in a better position to make your hiring decision.

Web Developer Start Up Kit

With the rapid advancements in the field of computers and with the boom of the Internet, Web sites are flourishing and so is the business of a Web designer. The demand for a Web designer is increasing day by day. A web designers’ job in today’s times is challenging as well as thrilling. Each company wants its websites and contents to be the best in today’s world when there are so many marketing geniuses promoting their businesses. Thus, a very creative and extremely professional web designer is required. A few start up tips for web designer include:

– First of all, find a university that offers courses online for web development or any website that provides tutorials for learning the course step by step along with some exercises.

– Secondly, you must also keep in mind your budget as well as your learning capacity. Always go for courses that offer you course within your monetary limit, and then the course content should be appropriate and suitable for you.

– Try to read more and more on your topic of interest. There are many magazines available out there in the markets which help you to build a good base concerning web development and it will help you to enhance your creativity. If possible, become a subscriber of the magazine so that you don’t have to run to the market every week to purchase one. Further, take part in the contests organized by those magazines itself, so that you get to know your skill at the national and international level.

– As you do more and more work and practice, you will come to know about the various techniques and the situations in which they can be implemented. Always keep trying your hand at something new. If possible, complete your chapter a day before the teacher teaches you in the university, so that you can clear your doubts if you have any. Then try your hand at developing some web content for some starter company. Find out a company which is just forming, so that you can get a job there as an intern. A combination of a new web developer as well as new company usually works out great, since there is no clash of egos as both are starters.

Thus, summing it all up, a job of a start up web designer is not a tough one. It’s just that it requires a good research in the beginning for choosing the right college, and constant practice.

Choosing a Web Development Framework

I recently had the opportunity to develop a small online booking system. This time round I was determined to make use of some development framework. Not for me the slow slog of writing all my code from scratch – surely we have moved beyond that now in web development?

The big question was – which framework to use? Since the advent of Ruby on Rails, development frameworks have become quite the flavour d’jour and there are now, well, maybe not thousands of them, but quite a few! The last time I heard there are about 80 development frameworks out there. I am not 100% user of this number, it could be a bit higher, it could be a bit more conservative (on the phpwact site you can find about 40 PHP frameworks listed). The point is, the web developer is now really spoilt for choice. Which is a problem in itself, since having too much choice can leave you dithering between different options.

This article is therefore about how I made my choice, which was CakePHP, and which factors I took into consideration.

Obviously, and certainly, I will get bombarded with “Why don’t you try X framework, it is really much simpler to use…” type responses. That is quite OK, to each his own! But this is the choice I made and I am sticking to it. Frankly, the idea of going through another learning curve gives me the heeby-jeeby’s….

I found that the selection criteria were not independent. In other words, once I have ruled out some frameworks due to some specific criteria, other factors came into play. It was therefore more a process of elimination than judging all the frameworks off a predefined set of criteria.

The first major selection point was: Ruby on Rails or not.

Obviously there is the attraction of using a brand new, hip, buzz-word hyped framework. You can’t go wrong with something that is getting so much attention… or can you?

Let’s look at some of the selection criteria that filtered out Ruby on Rails

1. Ease of installation and ability to run on shared hosting The problem is that most of my clients make use of a shared hosting environment. Can Ruby on Rails run on common-or garden variety type shared hosting? The answer was, I soon discovered – no. One needs to either have access your own private servers or run on a shared hosting environment that has Ruby on Rails preinstalled. Admittedly, there are a couple of them now starting up.

2. Minimize the learning curve Even though I knew that any new framework will involve a steep learning curve, I really did not have the guts to go through TWO learning curves – one for the language itself and one for the framework. I might still have been prepared to go through the learning curve though if it wasn’t for the fact that RoR requires special hosting.

So basically the decision was: Not RoR. And based on criterion 2, I decided to stick to a PHP framework, and not go for something else based on Perl or something else since I’ve been developing in PHP for the past two, almost three years. Having said this, it is all very well to say that CakePHP allows you to use your PHP skills – because it is an object oriented framework/MVC based framework it has its own rich language infrastructure. You still need to learn the CakePHP terminology and the learning curve is pretty steep!

3. Ability to run on PHP 4 Although PHP 5 offers more object oriented features, once again, not all shared hosts offer PHP 5 out of the box. I decided that I wanted to stick to a framework that will offer backwards compatibility and enable me to run on most of the servers that I, as well as my clients, host on.

My further criteria came down to:
4. Must have good documentation Under good documentation I count the following:

– User manual

– Examples and code snippets

– Screen casts and videos – although I do not see these as essential

5. Good support by the user community This, in combination with formal documentation is absolutely essential. All of these frameworks are pretty young and the documentation is also constantly evolving. Some documentation might be patchy in details. This is where the user support in terms of the community comes in. How active are the forums? Is there a bug tracker? Any other informal tutorials, write-ups, comments, blogs and other support?

6. Regular upgrades and bug fixes..but not so close to each other that the software becomes unstable and unusable. Backward compatibility is also important.

Version number of the software can be used to indicate maturity.

The following frameworks are quite popular (2007):

  • CakePHP
  • Seagull Framework
  • WACT – since ‘disqualified’ since the latest version now requires PHP 5
  • Zoop
  • CodeIgniter

The next step was a bit less scientific – but still fitted in with point 5 – how well is this Framework regarded? How much support does it generate in the ‘community’.

I scouted through forums and followed links and surfed the net and tried to get a general feel – and overall, CakePHP did seem to come out tops. A similar check that one can do is the following – do a Google search for each of the frameworks and see how many results are returned. This will give you a good idea of the general support, number of tutorials, number of forum posts and general ‘talked about’ factor for the specific framework. The results for this exercise can be seen here: http://www.tm4y.co.za/cakephp/ruby-on-rails-popularity-for-web-development.html

In summary therefore, the support for Ruby on Rails and the amount of information available for it is astounding and you will probably not go wrong if you decide to go this route. But if you want to stick with a PHP framework – CakePHP seems to be the route to go!