Random thoughts of a digital web weaver

Taking the Plunge

Ever since I read Jen Simmons’ post about sitting down and launching her website in one night, I have been determined to do the same. So here is it. I have taken the plunge, scrapped everything that I did before, and put together a very simple WordPress template. It’s probably more stupid looking and has more stupid HTML than Jen’s site (just kidding, Jen. I like your site a lot) but it’s here. It’s without the SVG logo that for some reason works locally but not on the server (which I will figure out eventually) but I’ve launched the minimum shippable product and now, as Jeffrey Zeldman states as part of his 10 commandments of web design (see An Event Apart), it’s time to iterate.

Designing for your Clients

As a web designer who likes to experiment with the latest web technologies and concepts, it can be frustrating when you are faced with certain restrictions imposed on you by a client. I am always excited at the thought of being able to use new ideas and code. But it can feel like you’re being stifled when you’re told (for example) that you have to design for a specific screen size or support IE6.

The thing to remember is that your client is the one who you are designing for. They don’t care if you have the HTML5 spec memorized. They care about getting the website they want. Your job as a web designer is to design/build that website.

Sometimes you’ll get a client that will give you carte blanche and will be happy with whatever you build. Then there will be other times where you will get a client that will micro-manage every design choice and nitpick pixels. Obviously, we all hope for the former.

No matter what kind of client you have, your focus should be on delivering a website that they will be happy with. As you build your reputation as a reliable web designer, your ability to influence and guide clients will grow. This will then translate into more opportunities for to spread your wings and provide more input and direction into your clients’ websites.

Social Media Sites Want You to Stay Connected

Photo of various smartphonesI’m not sure how many people actually log out from their social media websites as opposed to just closing their browser. If you do log out of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you may have noticed that the log out confirmation page serves as a reminder to connect to their respective mobile app. 

It made me think about mobile websites and applications and I realized that it’s not just about creating a site to fit on a small device that people can take anywhere. It’s about keeping users close at all times.

Using a log out or exit screen as a spot to direct users to your mobile application is a great way to take a screen that represents the end of a session and use it to re-engage a user.

It’s not just a push to mobile. It’s a push to stay connected no matter what platform you’re on.

The Importance of Branding to Your Online Identity

I know there have been many articles out there that talk about branding and how important it is to a business, but I thought I’d share a little insight from personal experience. 

Like many, in addition to my own website, I use various social media sites to interact with others. One of the things I have tried to do is to keep my branding consistent between sites that I use for business/professional means (most notably Twitter and LinkedIn). For the most part, that involves using my logo as my profile picture on these sites.

I didn’t put much thought into it. I like my logo. In one form or another, it has been the representation of me as a designer since I started learning about the web. It just made sense to use it wherever I was promoting myself as a web designer.

However, I didn’t realize how much of an impact this kind of consistency actually had with people until I attended An Event Apart (AEA) earlier this year in Seattle.

As part of the event, a feed aggregator called “A Feed Apart” is set up so that attendees can interact with each other via tweets. It’s a wonderful little tool that helps to enhance the whole experience. I used it as a notebook of sorts where I could record notes (until I saw Luke Wroblewski’s in-depth notes and decided to use his instead), jot down interesting/relevant quotes, ask questions to see what other attendees thought, and also engage in some banter and fun.

So people saw my logo pop up on the feed as I happily tweeted away during the event. However, if they were like me, all they were associating the profile picture with was a twitter user name. Granted, it was kind of easy to connect my twitter user name @shaunrashid to my AEA name tag but work with me here.

Here’s the connection part.

During lunch, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with our fellow attendees. It was nice to be able to meet those twitter user names and associate them with people. Many would recognize me by name (again those AEA name tags) but when I handed them a business card, I was surprised by how quickly they recognized my logo. Many comments along the lines of “I saw you on the feed” followed and it was quickly apparent to me how important that logo was in terms of establishing and promoting an identity.

Making connections has always been an important part of business and life in general. The explosion of social media and it’s use as a communication and networking tool, we are able to connect to many more people than ever before. It becomes important to establish your online identity and to make that identity consistent across your social media channels.

You don’t want to become just another name. You want to be known for who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can do.

I found that a little blue and white symbol helps me to do that.