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Weblog of Freelance Designer Steven Clark


A Post-Mortem - Why They Never Got the Contract

Filed under: — 3:39 pm

A good 5 months ago I was informally asked for some advice on a project that would launch a national company involved in fuel transport onto the web. They were specifically looking to do the job right and wanted a company intranet / extranet set up for them. They emailed me as I had a contact there whose responsibility was actually this project with the question - we’ve got bids between $8,000 and $80,000 and what’s the difference? - so I sent them a bunch of information, recommended they contact the Web Standards Group for referrals, and they went off to choose their designer… so this is the story as this project nears completion.

The lady the Web Standards Group recommended came highly qualified but underprepared, the feedback is that she seemed to know her stuff but in her presentation she appeared to the corporate end of town to be unprepared and not someone they felt would work well within the corporation. They needed someone who they could rely on, they wanted a CMS that wasn’t free and which had support, and they wanted someone they could feel confident in bringing the job to a successful completion. So who got the job…

Well I’m not sure of the actual company but they won the $27,500 bid and are providing a CMS that meets the clients needs, they presented well on the day and knew what they could and couldn’t provide and were confident. Weekly meetings ensure that everyone involved in the project gets input and is heard, feedback is obviously important.

Its very unfortunate that the web standards lady who was very qualified didn’t get the job simply on presentation and the impression she’d made. Its highly unlikely you’ll find any company ready to risk that much money on another company that doesn’t portray professionalism. Not to be beastly to her by a long shot. I mean if you’re going to sell to corporate they’ll be more comfortable with someone who looks, acts and speaks on their level. Which is natural.


Steven - Pig in the City

Filed under: — 9:00 am

Well I’ll be in Sydney from April 20th (a Wednesday) until April 24th (the Sunday) meeting some clients for a face to face. Its that interstate move thing that has to happen with Taswegians (that’s a Tasmanian to the rest of the world) if they want to escape the local scene at all. How do I explain web development in Tasmania? Well yes we’ve got a few larger firms that pretty much have it sown up as well as a few solid established ones and of course 20,000 freelancers that can do anything from FrontPage sites to hard core programming on the back end. I guess its how it is wherever one travels.

The issues in Tasmania in general revolve more around the larger unemployment rate though. We’ve got a state where every second person seems to have a degree in something or several certificates and diplomas. Web design in particular has been a fave of Centrelink for ‘Work for the Dole’ programs where they teach basic DreamWeaver while exploiting them by doing business sites cheaply. TAFE also pumps out a large array of designers on a six monthly basis across 3 schools and also runs multimedia and graphic arts streams… so its a little pond (whinge whinge). What we don’t have is a real lot of standards compliant developers (or people who understand these concepts).

So if you’re interested in hooking up for a beer while we’re over there (or your company is looking to take on a standards developer who is always willing to learn more) then those are the dates I’m in town.

Why should you hire me? Because I do this stuff for a passion and the other guy does it for the money. Who will make you richer?!


Old Blog / New Blog

Filed under: — 8:51 pm

Down with the old and up with the new as always - the old Norty Pig blog was left up as an archive but I decided a few days ago to pull it down and redirect to this one because its newer and more relevant. It was a tough choice as Google loved it (hand coded individual pages choc full of lovely Googley keyword relevant content) but for all the many visitors it had every month in archive it didn’t get many return visitors so it was time to bite the bullet and chuck it into my filing system. I’d considered laboriously entering the articles into WordPress but no thanks… martyrs all turned left at the last corridor.

Easter sees me waiting for my new PC to be assembled in the shop too with a better quality monitor. There’s always the capital outlay for software and equipment to be concerned about in small business. But yes out with the old and in with the new (at bloody last).


Its the Trickle that Fills the Trough

Filed under: — 12:45 pm

Much is often blogged about the larger and more influential companies choosing a standards compliant solution and what it means to them and the web standards movement in general. I think when larger profile companies go down this road there’s a lot of hoo-ha and rightly so, it’s a big move. Its also a major job on a huge site to do an entire rebuild / redesign and often the team aren’t exactly the gurus of this methodology that live on places like css-discuss. Naturally a lot of these larger sites have trouble getting across the line of validation due to unencoded ampersands and sometimes other trivial hiccups. But all in all its a tough job and these companies hit the news for making their sites (or attempting to make them) standards compliant. Of course there’s the partially standards compliant claim that kind of baffles me but we won’t go into that one - how do you have half a cow in your dairy?

But today I really want to salute the small businesses that make the decision to have faith in another way of making sites, businesses who would probably not be able to absorb any loss if they’d made a bad decision. One such site launched locally today called Golden Moments Massage was created by Linden Langdon and shows that even on the more basic end of the local web community there’s a growing number of newer designers not settling for the WYSIWYG magic box approach to making pages. So although this one is probably small cookies in a lot of eyes out there its one of those little steps that make a journey. Its the trickle that fills the trough, after all.

Sites with valid DOCTYPES that validate in both XHTML and CSS (yes delivered as text / html) are still pretty rare commodities on the whole. So congrats to Linden and her new client on getting it off the ground.


Hunter Island Press and Harvest Supplies

Filed under: — 12:37 pm

We’re working on 4 sites here at the moment and trying to get the content together in between bouts of email regurgitation and tele-not-communication glitches. Plain text holding pages are up in the interim for 2 of these if you want a space to watch - pull up a beanbag and sit quietly for a period of time until we get us the stuff to create with - an NPO in Hobart called Hunter Island Press and a winery supplies distributor in Queensland called Harvest Supplies. Like I said they’re just text holding pages at the moment looking for Google’s love and affection.

Still working slowly on the PC4Peace redesign / rebuild in Japan although I’ve recently had a run of email mis-configurations on this end of the planet. I know they’re busy with their latest consignment of computers being sent off to Cambodia though so its not surprising with Uni commitments and everything else that they’re finding it hard at the moment. I’ve pitched a rough proposal and we need to really look closely at the logo and so forth but its coming along.

My partner has taken on a couple of sites recently and seems to be gathering interest in the Arts sector. She’s a printmaker - lindenlangdon.com and Translucent - with a B.A. in Natural Environment and Wilderness Studies and a B.F.A. with first class honours in Printmaking. She’s also doing a Certificate 4 in Website Design and another Certificate 4 in Multimedia. So while she isn’t directly Norty Pig she’s fast becoming the wave of the future here.

We’re meeting the guys from Harvest Supplies in Sydney from the 20th April to the 24th to discuss content and their parent site for IMEMS Pty Ltd. Then we’re also over to Perth in W.A. from the 18th May to the 23rd as my partner is a part of the Hatched exhibition which is displaying the best contemporary art from graduating honours students around the country. Exciting stuff.

So things are looking kind of busy on the ground (if and when content arrives to get it all moving again). Its always like full forward and full stop with these things, never a constant speed. Maybe its the way I judge my momentum and exactly why I’d never be a great speedway racer. Ah but that’s another story full of bullshit and wishful thinking. Its better just to enjoy the ride.


May 1st Reboot

Filed under: — 10:28 am

Here’s an interesting concept that I’d never known about until this month - the May 1st Reboot.

The idea is an international array of web designers register with Reboot and commit to creating a new design to be launched simultaneously on May 1st and its been happening since 2000. So on April 25 all the sites that are participating in this year’s Reboot will go down and just have a Reboot holding page. On the 1st they’ll all upload their index pages at exactly the same time and voila! Yep I’ll be checking out their work bigtime.

Uber-cool way to get yourself out there with something new, experimental or innovative.


WSG - Two Years Down

Filed under: — 9:00 am

Having been a subscriber of the Web Standards Group mailing list digest for about a year and a half (a year at least on my current subscription) its been a valuable ongoing resource of links, information and sometimes even advice (oddly enough) about not only CSS but all web standards. In two years the list (from Australia) has grown to nearly 1500 members with about half in the USA and a good smattering from around the globe.

The first meeting of the Web Standards Group originally met on March 19th, 2003 and are about to see in the beginning of their third year.

Apparently I was the only person ever to send them a Christmas card too which quite surprised me. Maybe other members might think of dropping Russ, Peter and the others a Happy Birthday card in the next few days.


TheNews.com.au moves to Weblog.com.au

Filed under: — 2:05 pm

The recent article relating to TheNews.com.au has been kind of put out of date prematurely by its move and renaming back to Weblog.com.au, so many apologies to anyone looking under the hood and not seeing the product I’d advertised. These things happen in the wild world of website creation.

To make a positive of this move is probably to use both these sites as a comparison to some extent with perhaps the true path being one of design integration rather than exclusive islands of difference that now stand. Is one better than the other? Well no. Is one more usable, accessible, or visually attractive? Well they both have their high and low points of course. A site without content or visual design elements can be, well, yes a site with writing and not much else. While a site with an array of well crafted work may fail to offer the level of usability that’s probably expected in some quarters nowdays.

It’d be good to work with Jason sometime and make sites that are both visually dynamic as well as functionally and structurally more sound. The meeting of those two worlds is where the money sits. While I think a Jakob Nielsen design is like polishing the teeth of an elephant (both stupid and hilarious), so is the opposite pole of pure eye candy for the sake of it. Naturally its about bringing to market a product that makes money both for the developer and the client and creating good and interesting interfaces which have science behind them, which fulfil a users purpose on the site and makes them spend more time and money.


TheNews Becomes Standard Compliant

Filed under: — 10:14 am

The recent dramatic rebuild of graphic designer Jason Carter’s TheNews launched today with a new minimilist look and with XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS, and powered by WordPress. While its not the eye candy but the white space pushing this design it’s built with a definite eye on being more usable and accessible than the previous one.

It’s encouraging to see the local web development industry becoming more open to the ideal of a more accessible and universal web. So, no tooting because I did the coding, congratulations to TheNews for reaching a greater audience more effectively with this new facelift. I’ve already subscribed to the RSS feed too.



Filed under: — 1:52 pm

My call for an NPO which needed free services badly a few days ago resulted in a prompt email from a deserving group called PC4Peace.org in Japan. It always amazes me how the world is so big and small at the same time.

PC4Peace refurbish computers and send them to Cambodia as well as sending books to Laos. Small as they are they have global ideals and recycling useful stuff isn’t just uber-cool in a humanitarian sense but also kind of geeky-cool in the fact someone who’d never get access to some books or technologies can be checking out Pacman (or doing Math) on your old Pentium III in whole other country. So if anyone else has services they can help these guys out with (ie. experience helping us deliver a multilingual site) then drop an email or a comment to Norty Pig. Its important to us, at least, to be a responsible part of the global society which our Web encompasses.

While only a few years ago most users of the web were U.S. in origin this is steadily decreasing as more countries get online in a big way. As a small firm we definately want to go down the multilingual route with these guys because in the long term we’ll be a stronger competitor in the marketplace. So its win / win really. PC4Peace gets a facelift and boob job and we get to evolve toward an International capability.