Web Development Pet Peeve: This Site Best Viewed By …

It only takes a little looking around the web (even among professional web developers) to find the words “This site best viewed by…” emblazoned somewhere for all to see (as if it were something to be proud of.) A quick Google search shows several hundred million results. This particularly abhorrent practice is a major pet peeve of mine. It means that someone was too lazy to do their job properly and probably got paid for it anyway. That’s just wrong.

There’s also the implication that any site visitor not using the specific browser, browser version, or screen resolution listed as “acceptable” by this particular wannabe webmaster (or better yet, “webfailure”) just deserves whatever garbage comes out on their screens. You’d think that no one else had ever heard the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I keep trying to imagine what day to day life would be like if this practice were adopted by any other industry. Can you imagine a television station that advertised the best brand of television on which to watch their broadcast and was unconcerned by the fact that their signal was blurry or unwatchable on any other brand? Can you imagine a sign outside your local grocery store that said, “This parking lot best used by Toyota Camrys, 1995 or later, 2-door, not 4-door.” Tell me you wouldn’t want to stick some massive, old RV across 14 of those parking spaces and dare anyone to say a word.

People, the time has come to end this practice once and for all! There have been efforts and all-out campaigns to do this before, but they’ve had very little success. I have a plan that I think could be pretty effective. I call it my “Many Happy Returns Plan.” It goes like this:

  • Everyone starts contacting the real owners of these sites and telling them to get their money back. It’s clear that the person they paid to do this was either too incompetent to do it properly or too lazy to finish the job. They should get their money back to pay someone else who knows what the heck they’re doing. It’s only fair. I think that a few well-publicized lawsuits would end this particular trend in laziness.

It really comes down to this, the only time that you should see the words “This site best viewed by…” on a website is if they’re followed by the words “…anyone in any browser they prefer.” If you don’t know how to do this, ask, search the web, learn, find out. Don’t just stick some piece of garbage site up and charge a client for it. In the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so.”

Basic Steps Involved in Teaching Yourself to Become a Web Developer

If you’re a young person finishing high school, you had good grades, you’re sharp, you love computers, and you have financial backing…you might just be headed off to college to master the art of higher learning. However…let’s say you’re not. Let’s say that the college opportunity door opened, then closed, and you’re still standing where you were without having gone through it. SURE, you can go to college now, but do you want to?

Let’s say instead that there were a way to earn very good money in the real world, but without having to spend the next 3 or 4 years of your time (to say nothing of your money) learning a trade that may or may not pay off for you. Let’s say that you could simply apply yourself to being your own teacher, and still come out on top. That is precisely what is possible in our day and age, and precisely what you’ll need to do to make yourself a Web developer without going to college.

Okay, it’s time to talk details. Let’s start with basic computer skills. If you’re not computer literate at this point, then you’re not necessarily in the wrong place (i.e., wanting to become a Web developer), but it might just be that you’re here at the wrong time. First, become computer literate. There are other classes that are built for that. Go do that, then come back here. However, if you are computer literate, take the first step toward becoming a Web developer…and this will involve a trip to Borders, or Barnes & Noble, or whatever bookstore is close by.

#1 – Buy yourself a coffee, then go look at the Computer Programming section of the bookstore. When I first took this step, it was recommended to me that I buy Sam’s Teach Yourself ASP.NET in 21 days. I bought it. It’s a great book, but nobody told me that page one of that book is still like Greek to a true beginner. Thus, first pick up the newest teach yourself ASP.NET for true beginners and you’ll be off on the right track. Then find Sam’s Teach Yourself ASP.NET in 21 Days, or some such “instructor’s manual”.

#2 – Now, organize your schedule. You’ll be needing the next few months to BEGIN to teach yourself this trade. Decide on a truly reasonable schedule that you can live with over a relatively long period of time. It’s much better to study for one to two hours daily than for 12 hours straight on the weekend. Find the time…then sit down in front of your computer, open the first book to page one, and begin to read.

#3 – Be a kind teacher. The really cool teachers that we remember from school were the ones that were kind, but at the same time, could really teach us something. Be that way with yourself. When you’ve been studying for a few days and you shut your book, drop your head into your hands, and say, “I’ll NEVER get this!”, then be kind to yourself. Recognize that nobody got it in the first couple of days, weeks, or even months. It takes time, but you have to keep moving forward. When you get worn down, depressed, or just feel like giving up, take a break! Go make a coffee, take a nap, or whatever relaxes you. Then come back and before opening the book again, stop and ask yourself this one, simple question: What do I know right now about this subject that I did not know when I started? Chances are very, very good that you will answer that question with quite a few things that you’ve learned. Thus, you ARE INDEED learning.

#4 – Find a way to enjoy what you are learning. When we actually enjoy something, we will keep doing it. Thus, when teaching yourself to become a Web developer, don’t forget to isolate what it is that you enjoy most about the tasks that the books/manuals give you, and then capitalize on those! Share them with your family and/or friends. Live it up. Enjoy yourself.

#5 – Once you have worked hard for months at this “project”, chances are that you’ll be wanting to start to earn money at it.

Stay tuned for the following article about how to take your training to the next level…and actually earn some money!

Copywriting as a Part of Web Development

A part of web development is copywriting. Excellent copy means it has to be appealing to both readers and to search engines. This combination will help websites to rank highly. A problem occurs when there are space constraints to a site, page layout requirements or other issues.

Because appealing to both readers and search engines is so important, you don’t want to sacrifice one for the other. Adding a big block of copy to the middle of a page may not be the best answer, however, if a page needs content, adding a couple of sentences to the bottom of each section is a good option. Your copy will still be readable and the additional content will appeal to the search engines.

There are some things to remember when writing content for a website.

  • Web users are active. One click and they have left your site. If they don’t see a reason to stay, they won’t. There is a 10 – 15 second window available to capture a visitor’s attention.
  • The longer the text is, the less likely they are to read it. With long text, they will skim it, if they bother to read it at all.
  • Web users don’t believe in hype. If you want a web user to believe you and to believe in you, you must back up your claims.

Four questions must be answered on each page:

  • What am I doing here?
  • How do I do it?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • Where can I go, next?

If your design and navigation isn’t obvious, then you need to explain it in the copy. Most visitors will not take the time to figure this information out. If a first time visitor cannot find their way around your site, they will likely never come back.

Unless your visitors are expecting to read something on your page, don’t expect that they will read more than one or two lines of copy.

Understanding your copy is as important as length. Don’t make the copy so complicated that it is difficult to comprehend or make it so the customer will have to think about it because they won’t.

What this means is you want to convey one key idea in just one or two lines. Don’t try to add a third line because if you say too much, then even the first idea won’t penetrate. If your site needs more content, break it down into sections that are one or two paragraphs each. Say what you want to say in the first sentence and then expand the thought into the paragraph. Use meaningful headers. Most people will only scan the headers to the paragraphs and not even bother with the copy on the page, unless it is something that appeal to them. It is better to write only one or two lines with links to another page with the longer copy.

Even when users are expecting to find text heavy content, don’t expect they will take the time to read all of it. Longer copy doesn’t have to be as abrupt as shorter text, but it needs to be as easy to read.

Make your copy clear, but not boring. Lively writing with an unassuming voice is best. Boring writing will turn your reader off and nothing you say at that point will make it through.

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