Web Design Computers

This week I had to sit down and take care of my tax filing for the year and one of the things that I put down is my computer. I sit in front of computers all day long, that at this point, they are like my car. I hardly can see myself living without one. But what I really started thinking about was what would be the best computer for web design, since WebKeyDesign is now a huge part of my life.

MacOS Versus Windows

Without a doubt I am a huge Macintosh proponent. I absolutely love my 15 inch Powerbook and think it is the best computer I have ever used. However not everyone is the same and not everyone wants to make such a big investment. If you are really serious about web design, I am going to recommend that you have both a Macintosh and a Windows PC. If you can swing it, you might also consider a home test server with Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP setup. The linux server will be great to test out new projects before you actually implement them on your hosting server.

For most web design, if you absolutely are going to have one computer, I would recommend a Macintosh. The Powerbook or iBook will give you portability and the ability to do graphics work as well. If most of your web design is code based though, like PHP, Perl, or any other scripting language, I would probably choose a standard PC laptop like a Leveno Thinkpad. Although there are great text editors on the OS X platform, your options on Windows are more and more varied. Portability aside, you could probably do well with a nice desktop. Whatever you decide, make sure your main computer has a large monitor size. Something higher than 1024 is a must for today’s web work.

A Windows PC is what I use to check sites once they are up and running. Even though by now IE 6 is the most hated browser, you still need to check your site on it. There are tons of small utilities that are available on Windows that you can use for web design and maintenance. Yes, I know many of these apps really are bad, but sometimes you find a few that are worth using Windows for.

The Portable Web Server

MacOS X has Apache server already included, but you may find that messing up your main computer is not worth the trouble. If you already have the Windows computer, then you can also use that to run a test setup of Apache. My personal favorite is EasyPHP, which runs as a private server on Windows, only accessible to the local machine user. This is a great way of testing your site’s files before uploading them to your hosting account. If you have a third machine, you could probably run full blown Linux with Apache and have your own web server for testing.

Web Ruined By RSS?

I was browsing the web as usual this week, when I read that A List Apart is taking responses on what you love or hate about the web right now. Without a doubt, the most annoying trend on the world wide web, is the number of junk sites. At least an hour or two of my day is devoted to technical problems, and the web is my number one resource for technical solutions. Google and Yahoo are my default search tools but more and more searches are turning up sites that list partial RSS feeds for other sites. Each of these sites takes at least five minutes of my time to assess and see if they actually have anything of value, so the more sites I find coming up, the more time I waste. In some cases, I am completely given up, and tried other search terms to see if I can hit a real site instead. All this work reduces productivity and makes the web useless to me. In the past most scrapper sites would get their content the hard way, they would scrape other sites using Perl scripts. These sites were plentiful, but they never ranked very well on search engines, and so their existence did not really bother me. Eventually RSS came along and tons of blogs would syndicate their content. This made it easier for webmasters to put together a site made completely of RSS feeds from legitimate sites. The end result was a tide of splogs and scrapper sites that now rank very well in search engines and clog most search results.

Some would argue that the reason why all these splogs exist is that they are financed by online ads that make splogs a good business to be in, and I really cannot argue with that, but what matters to me is that like most other Internet related problems, no one party is responsible. The search engines are hesitant to not rank these sites well, which leads one to wonder if this conflicts with their own advertising business. Then there are the sploggers themselves that have taken it upon themselves to abuse the ideal of the blog. Their chief argument being that Google does something similar with Google News, why can’t they? All of this leads us to the current state of the web, namely RSS pollution has made internet searching a less effective resource for all of us.

WebKeyDesign Reaches 100 Posts

Back in May of 2005, I had this idea that I should start a web design and hosting business as a hobby, because I was really bored with my life and needed something challenging again to pick me up. I am positive some of my friends were skeptical and in some respects I agreed with their points, but hey I always preach to others that you can do whatever you want if you put in the effort. Well it’s now 2006 and WebKeyDesign is now more than six months old and so what exactly happened and what did I learn?

Google As Your Partner

If you have any kind of business, from a coffeeshop to an online business such as mine, then you really need Google for everything. Although I would like to think that in the future Yahoo and MSN Search will be as helpful and as important, for the time being Google is my most important search engine. From bringing plenty of visitors to WebKeyDesign.com, to allowing me to show my business in Google Local, to providing me with free tools like Google Sitemaps, Google really has a lot to offer small businesses. If you do one thing, learn all you can about what Google can do for you.

Business Decisions Are Costly

Most of the time I researched for weeks before I spent any money for the business and executed pretty well. However for some decisions I ended up going for it and it cost me. This happens to any business and let’s face it, there are going to be times when all the research in the world is still not going to tell you anything. Sometimes the only choice you really have is to take a chance, or play it safe and never experience any growth. Even if you lose money from a business decision, the least you can get out of the experience is what not to do next time you have a similar choice.

The Right Customers

There are always going to be people who need your services, but not everyone who asks you for help will be a right customer. What I mean is that being helpful and assisting non-customers is a great way to promote your business, so even if you do not get a paying customer from answering someone’s questions, you at least build a relationship that can hopefully lead to other customers. In certain instances helping out becomes a wrong customer. Some people are going to be rude or perhaps a drag on your time, in these cases you really do need to walk away from the situation and do it in a friendly manner. Undoubtedly many relationships do not work out and in business it is the same thing, you cannot work with some people and the sooner you find this out, the better your business will run.

Read More Books

Since starting the business, I have been hanging out at the library more and more. The stack of books that I go through has expanded ten fold. I have picked up books on every facet of my business, from accounting, to computers, to marketing, to more marketing. In the last month I have scaled back the book reading and now invest 40% of my reading time to business reading, and the rest to casual reading. This has happened mostly because I have found which books I like and can use, and which ones do not work for me. Now I concentrate more on the books I know are of value to me, and give myself a break by reading for pleasure. The idea is to find a comfortable balance between your business and your personal life.

Owning Your Business

The one thing that really sticks out to me after doing this is how much more respect I now have for other business owners. There is a lot of stress with having a business and anyone who can live with such pressures and still maintain their composure is truly unique.

Splogger Hits WebKeyDesign

Just recently I had written about Om Malik in Bloggers v/s Splogs and Scrappers and how he was upset at having his blog’s rss feeds used as content for another website, (without his permission of course). Although WebKeyDesign is not anywhere near as popular as Om Malik’s blog, I figure that sooner rather later I would also be splogged. I usually check for sites that link to WebKeyDesign once a week, just to see how my linking campaign for WKD is progressing and sure enough I spotted a real splog site with WKD’s content. Usually my own web stat programs pick up what I call a blog links site, this is what I call a site that just links a bunch of blogs based on a keyword, something similar to Technorati, but not as sophisticated or well intentioned either. But b-1st.com is not just displaying links to WKD, they are displaying the entire RSS feed. However, since my feeds do not contain my full content, but only a summary, not all of my content is being stolen, just summaries of it.

I am sure that there are some bloggers out there who believe in syndicating their full postings and having sites like this one really make those bloggers take pause. In my case I really would not mind the actual splogging much, but then I start thinking of the hosting costs involved with running WKD and at the same time the loss of third party revenue, and it does begin to bother me somewhat.

Over the weekend PlagiarismToday.com sent me a nice email informing me of this splog. If you are a blogger and are at all concerned about this issue, you can take a look at their site. I am not in any way affliated with PlagiarismToday.com.

In the case of b-1st.com, they have already angered another group of webmasters and eventually they may be taken down in the near future.

I am still somewhat undecided about splogs, and just what they mean for the average blogger. I suppose I would like to have Google, Yahoo, and MSNSearch, remove them from their indexes but I have a feeling that the big search engines themselves are still coming to grips with the issue as we speak.

WebKeyDesign Store

This week I added a new section to WebKeyDesign: The WebKeyDesign Store is an online shop for all those books that you need to read when you first start learning web site design. I figure that the store would help make WebKeyDesign more popular in general with our site visitors and search engines, and secondly it comes in handy for refering friends and clients to yet another source of self-help. Many times I get asked about how to learn HTML and other web technologies like PHP and MySQL, and usually I can recommend a book or two on the subject, but I always end up having to look up my recommendations on Amazon.com, so I figure why not just make an Amazon based web store? This week, I got around to putting something together that works.

The WebKeyDesign Store is powered by Associate-o-matic’s Amazon Shop script. This is a PHP based script. Most of the other Amazon scripts that I found were based on Perl, but I chose Associate-o-matic based on their Lite script which is commissioned based. Most scripts cost around $99, and their look leaves a lot to be desired. Although I did find BlueLightSoft’s AJAX based Store scipt interesting, I decided against it because it is still in testing stages.

NBA TV Shedule Design

Basketball season is upon us and so I thought about redoing a web page I had done last year. Olaguez.net’s NBA page was redone in Transitional XHTML, using a basic 3 DIV design. I originally started out with trying to do XHTML Strict 1.0, but I was not able to do the layout I wanted, and so I finally settled on Transitional. No tables are used for layout, in fact the only table you see is the only table! I will eventually get around to adding a Print Stylesheet for those who just want to print out the page, but for now I am going to let it be and see if I can catch some NBA action before the actual season starts on November 1st.