182. North and South

Paul Boag

On this week’s show: Molly talks about the future of web standards. Paul explains the differences between print and the web, and Ryan asks if job titles matter.

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Being a better blogger

These days blogging has become an important tool for most organisations. Although I have written about the Harsh Truths of Corporate Blogging, I have said little about how to actively improve your corporate blog. I therefore want to draw your attention to two excellent articles that were published this week:

  • A Simple Way To Funnel New Traffic & Sales From Buried Blog Archives – One of the problem with blogging is that old posts get buried over time. Because of the way blogs are structured older posts normally receive very little traffic. This article suggests a couple of good solutions. First it recommends editing older posts so they are suitable for republishing via sites like Ezine Articles. Second, it recommends turning your better posts into PDF reports. Strangely this seems to significantly increase their creditability.
  • Do Long Blog Posts Scare Away Readers? – One thing I struggle with is the length of my blog posts. After all copy for the web should be short, right? Well not according to this article. Using movie lengths as an analogy, this post argues that it is not length that matters but ‘tightness’. A good blog post should be exactly the length it needs to be in order to effectively communicate its point. Not a word more.

If you are a blogger, both of these posts are definitely worthy of your attention.

Demystifying the “duplicate content penalty”

So Google have posted an article in the attempt to put peoples mind at easy about duplicate content on their websites, and whether or not Google penalises you for doing so.

The article goes through how Google filters duplicate documents by grouping them together reduce redundancy when searching.

They summarize with:

Having duplicate content can affect your site in a variety of ways; but unless you’ve been duplicating deliberately, it’s unlikely that one of those ways will be a penalty. This means that:

  • You typically don’t need to submit a reconsideration request when you’re cleaning up innocently duplicated content.
  • If you’re a webmaster of beginner-to-intermediate savviness, you probably don’t need to put too much energy into worrying about duplicate content, since most search engines have ways of handling it.
  • You can help your fellow webmasters by not perpetuating the myth of duplicate content penalties! The remedies for duplicate content are entirely within your control.

The general gist of the article is, if you deliberately post duplicate content in an attempt to rank higher on Google they will penalise you, but otherwise you don’t have anything to worry about.

7 common design mistakes that clients love

Although our next post is aimed at web designers I think it is just as important that website owners read it too. Entitled “7 Common Design Mistakes That Clients Love” it puts together a series of carefully constructed arguments tackling the more common design mistakes requested by clients. The list includes:

  • Scrimping on photography
  • Wanting a Flash intro
  • Too much information
  • Using white text on a black background
  • Wanting the logo bigger
  • Ripping off someone else’s logo
  • Wanting a terrible font

The arguments against each of these atrocities are a nice mixture of referencing research, quoting stats and simple effective communication. If you are a designer this article will help you better articulate why these things are wrong. If you are a website owner it may go someway to explaining why your designer gets so grumpy when you suggest any of them!

How To Give A More Exciting Presentation: A Note To Speakers

Our final story is courtesy of Inayaili de León over at the Web Designers Notebook and it’s stemmed from her recent attendance at dConstruct.

Yaili shares her advice to conference speakers on the do’s and don’t of a good presentation.

She goes into these points in detail so read them in detail there, but to summarise her do’s are:

  • Make us Laugh
  • Ask questions that we had never asked ourselves
  • Make controversial remarks
  • Be practical
  • Sprinkle your presentation with interesting facts
  • and use multimedia

She then goes on to explain her don’t and offers a selection of emergency tips to recover a dieing talk such as bashing Micrsoft and loading up a LOLCat (which always get a laugh).

It’s a thorough article offering good advice and she also links to some examples of well presented talks to learn from, so if you’re planning on presenting in the future it’s well worth a read.

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Interview: Molly Holzschlag on the future of web standards

Being transcribed…Thanks goes to Todd Dietrich for transcribing this interview.

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Listeners feedback:

Moving from print to web

Jake Knight writes: What are 5 things you would want any print graphic designer to know first and foremost about designing for the web?

I think the differences between the web and print causes a lot of confusion, not just among designers but also clients. The problem is that in the early days of the web a lot of work went into making the web behave like print and this led to the table based designs that have proved so problematic since.

In reality, although there are some similarities between print and the web, there are also a lot of differences. Narrowing down the list to just five things is hard. However, here are the issues I believe cause the most confusion especially among clients:

  • Lack of control – When developing a design for print you can guarantee that everybody will have the same approximate experience. Each copy of a design will be identical. However, that is not true of the web. Differences in browser, resolution and countless other factors means that everybody will have a slightly different experience. Accepting that is key to producing a successful website.
  • The scrollbar – Print designs do not come with a scrollbar. Typically a reader of printed design can view the entire design in one glance. Even if they cannot the designer knows exactly the point at which readers will need to turn a page or unfold the design. On the web, designers do not have this luxury. There is no way of knowing what the user can see in a single glance and this has a fundamental influence on the way we design.
  • Lower resolutions – Print designers are mostly used to working at 300-600dpi. On the web we are limited to 72dpi (generally speaking). This seemingly minor difference has profound consequences on the selection of imagery, use of typography and application of logos. An image, font or logo that works beautifully in print can become unreadable on the web because the lower resolution pixelates graphical elements at smaller sizes.
  • Colour – While colour in print is produced by the application of ink on paper, on the web it is produced through projected light. This means that colour will be reproduced differently on screen. Typically this means that dark colours become darker and light colours become lighter. This can often mean that corporate colours need to be adapted to work online. For more information on this read Jason Santa Maria’s excellent article Cheating Color.
  • Interaction – Finally it is important to remember that the web is an interactive medium with more in common with software design than print. Users are required to click links, enter data and interact with applications. It is not the passive experience of reading. Although print and web design share a lot in common, a print designer will have to considerably expand his skill set to accommodate these interactive elements. Learning about user experience design is key to the role of web designer.

Obviously this is only the tip of the iceberg but hopefully it demonstrates just how different the experience of designing for the web is. Something that clients in particular need to be aware of.

The importance of job titles?

Hi Paul and Marcus, I work for a 8+ people studio that develops websites. My job title is “developer” and I do tasks from chopping up a design and turning it into HTML, then adding it into our CMS, and then adding content. I will then help clients by supporting them on their website and helping them add future content.

I am quite happy in my job, but I know that if I ever want to apply for a new job, the job title I have is very important. I am worried that my job title is not specific enough to my skills, do you think I should change it to something that sounds more representative, as “developer” could lead someone to believe I only do small tasks.

I think the question of how important job titles are is one for much debate, however there is an obvious requirement for people in any industry to have an appropriate title that describes what they do, the problem is peoples definitions of what a particular title means can be extremely varied.

To add to the confusion there are often multiple variations of the same title. For example my definition of a Front-End Developer is someone who codes HTML, CSS and javaScript, however this same role is often labeled as:

  • Front-End Engineer
  • Client-Side Developer
  • Client-Side Engineer
  • or simply Developer

The same goes for Back-End Developers i.e. people who code in a server side language such as PHP or Ruby. Again the list of variants can be endless:

  • Back-End Engineer
  • Server-Side Developer
  • Server-Side Engineer
  • or again simply Developer

So if your job title is Developer, which discipline are you or do you do both?

I don’t have a definitive answer to this question, however things certainly become much clearer when you specialise in a certain area, for example:

  • javaScript Developer
  • PHP Developer
  • Front-End Developer

To answer your question though, your job title isn’t as important to potential employers as you may think. When you apply for a new job they will look firstly at your portfolio and whether you can demonstrate the skills that they require. Instead of picking a job title that you think potential employers would like to see, pick one that is actually relevant to what you do and have a good portfolio to back it up.

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