161. In or Out

Paul Boag

On this week’s show: Paul announces Micro-Boagworld, we discuss the pros and cons of outsourcing web work and see what recommendation the Boagworld forum has to offer.

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For a while I have been toying with the idea of doing a Micro-podcast that works in a similar way to Twitter but with audio. It would provide the opportunity to share hits, tricks and reviews too short for the main show. My problem was that I needed an application which made this as easy as posting a tweet. Anything more and it would prove too demanding.

Fortunately a new iPhone application has launched that does exactly that. Called AudioBoo it allows you to record 3 minute audio snippets that then get posted to a website, twitter, facebook and a podcast feed.

I am therefore pleased to announce Micro-Boagworld…

View Micro-Boagworld posts here

Subscribe to the RSS feed here

Boagworld AudioBoo Homepage

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Pricing and projects

Alyssa Gregory has written two good posts this week both relating to the pricing of web projects.

The first post tackles the notoriously difficult subject of How To Estimate Time For A Project. After all, time is money.

Estimating how long a project will take is tricky and although this post doesn’t provide any magic formulas it does provide good solid advice.

As well as considering the obvious deliverables Alyssa also recommends time for project management, reviewing work, debugging and client turn around. Finally, she recommends adding a buffer for the unexpected.

Of course, she doesn’t discuss how all of this time translates into your final price. How much you charge is a matter of conjecture. However, in a second post she does explore a related subject – How To Raise Your Rates.

In this post, she handles the sensitive subject of how to tell a client that you will be raising your rates for future projects. She suggests five techniques you should employ…

  • Give Notice
  • Set a schedule (make increases annual for example)
  • Make it fair (keep the increments small and manageable by the client)
  • Send it in writing
  • Balance it out (Balance your increase with an incentive – e.g. a special, a one-time discount)

Its all good advice and important too. As your skills and experience increase, you will need to ensure your rates reflect that. Knowing how to hand those rate increases is vital if you want to keep your clients happy.

IE8 and IE6

Microsoft have announced that IE8 will be released via the Windows Automatic Update starting on the third week of April.

The final version of the browser has been available since March and yet adoption has been sluggish. Hopefully Automatic update will change this trend significantly. However, it does not guarantee universal adoption. Although the update will be marked as important users will not be forced to upgrade. In fact Microsoft has released a blocker toolkit so corporate users can avoid the update entirely.

Worst of all, it is likely that the update will impact the numbers using IE7 more than IE6. IE6 users tend to be hold outs and are unlikely to upgrade now when they did not upgrade to IE7.

The only hope is that many IT departments have a policy of running a version behind the current release. If that is the case, the arrival of IE8 may encourage some of them to adopt IE7.

The entire web design community is keen to reduce its level of support for IE6 and hopefully this update will allow that. In fact, another post this week entitled – 10 Cool Things We’ll Be Able To Do Once IE6 Is Dead – points out just what a wonderful world it would be.

Once IE6 is gone we will be able to…

  • Use child selectors
  • Make full use of 24-bit PNGs
  • Use attribute selectors
  • Use a wider range of display properties
  • Use min-width and max-width
  • Throw away 90% of CSS hacks (and 90% of the reasons for needing them!)
  • Add abbreviations that everyone can see
  • Trust z-index again
  • Save time and money
  • Enjoy ourselves again!

Simple and impressive design techniques

Last week I was doing a consultancy clinic with a developer who wanted advice on designing his website. He was a great coder but did not have much experience designing.

Although I recommended The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird it would have been great to point him at the latest Smashing Magazine post – 10 Simple and Impressive Design Techniques.

This post has some easy to implement techniques that are ideal for developers trying to improve their design skills. Techniques include…

  • Adding Contrast
  • Using Gradients
  • A Better Use of Colour
  • Improved Letter Spacing
  • Changing Case
  • Use of Anti-Aliasing
  • Adding Imperfections
  • Implementing blurring
  • Careful Alignment
  • Trimming the Fat

Read the whole articles for more details and great examples of these techniques in action.

Influencing user behaviour

A big part of good design is guiding the user to complete the actions you want. Influencing user behaviour can be achieved through a variety of techniques. However, it can often be hard to know where to begin.

One resource that might help you influence user behaviour is The Design with Intent Toolkit. This is essentially a printable ‘cheat sheet’ that suggests a variety of techniques you can apply to your projects.

The techniques do not just apply to web design but all aspects of design. Consequently not all of the techniques will apply. However a lot do, ranging from the use of metaphors to setting up good default options.

Some of the techniques contained in this cheat sheet are also beautifully demonstrated in another post I wanted to mention. Entitled 12 Excellent Examples of "Lazy Registration" it addresses the problem of user signup.

Essentially it is a post that showcases methods for getting around the problem of user registration. As the post itself says…

Signup forms have long irked the casual visitor. During the process of discovery, nobody wants to stop and fill out details before they can "unlock" the rest of the site’s potential.

It has certainly been my experience that signup forms are a barrier and so it is interesting to see how different web applications have overcome the problem.

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Feature: When to outsource web work

Your in charge of your organisations website. It has become moderately successful and now you have a decision. Do you hire a full time web designer or outsource to a web design agency?

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Listeners feedback:

In this week’s listener feedback section we look at a series of recommendations from the Boagworld forum…

A good introduction to Javascript

Jake writes: I’m curious as to whether or not anyone on the forum has strong opinions on a good introductory javascript book? And by introductory I mean something that’s more about initial learning steps such as syntax, etc. and then talks about best practices.

Doug answers: You might want to look at one of the books out for coding in jQuery, if you’re planning on going in that direction anyway. As for how to learn javascript I usually push people towards Lynda.com.

Matt also replies: Awesome book – DOM Scripting – I’d start with this before jQuery as I think you need some javascript knowledge to use jQuery to its fullest.

A good but free survey tool

Simon asks: I want to create some simple(ish) survey’s to get clients to fill out after a training session. I know of some paid for solutions, but does anyone have any suggestions for any free tools?

Laura replies: For something short, I’d use the survey function on PollDaddy. You can get up to 100 responses, and I think ten questions. Ten isn’t many, but you can do conditional branching for free, which is rare, and good.

I’ve also used SurveyMonkey before, it’s clean and simple.

A review of Clicktales

Peter shares his experiences of Clicktales…

On the recommendation of Paul, I tired out ClickTales.com; and I have to say the results have been interesting (sad, in my personal case) to say the least.

For those of you not in "the know", or missed episode 141, ClickTales is an app that lets you record and review the actions of your website’s visitors. And I’d agree with Paul: inexpensive, revealing, but limited in essence because you can witness what a user goes through.

In my case it was most effective because my results have been telling me that I should redesign my website’s structure completely… so I decided I should start from scratch all together and redesign. :)

Web Design for ROI

Bill reviews Web Design for ROI by Lance Loveday & Sandra Niehaus…

Each year I find one or two books that really stand out. This book, Web Design for ROI, changed the way I look at current eCommerce projects and helped me identify better strategies for building web sites.

Rich adds: I agree this is an excellent book.

Not too much new for a seasoned pro like myself, but I did still learn a fair bit and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in websites that make money.

Pro Paypal e-commerce

Finally, Ian shares an extensive review of the book ‘Pro Paypal e-commerce‘. Ian writes a very thorough review but here are a couple of highlights.

I thought this was a great read. It’s not often you finish a book and feel confident you have all the information you’re going to need to complete your project. The book isn’t just technical but also has lots of useful nuggets on business practices and background on payment systems in general for those that are unfamiliar with them at this level.

I feel confident in recommending this book to anyone who is involved with developing E-commerce systems or is going to be in the future. The author Damon Williams has a very readable style that is mercifully faux-humour free but never dull and explains everything clearly and concisely and despite its relatively low page count at 260 pages or so, still manages to cover a lot of ground without ever feeling as if it’s being too terse.

For more reviews about everything from web design books to software visit the Boagworld forum. We are also going to do some cool new stuff on the forum over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on it. We have already added a Jobs category for those of you who are looking to hire a web designer, so be sure to check that out.

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