Browsing articles tagged with "phoenix-web Archives | april.holle.blog"
Feb
18

Changing Gears: Career Move

I’ve left my position at Terralever as a front end architect to explore other opportunities within the Phoenix area. Over the last few months I’ve developed an interest in other aspects of the web industry, not just xhtml/css. I’d like to expand my abilities in areas such as web marketing strategy, seo/sem, design and other areas in web design and development. Terralever is a great company that provided me with spectacular opportunities to work with big name brands and cutting edge technology. However, each employee is very specialized and a very T shaped professional, while this position allowed me to become very specialized in XHTML/CSS, I didn’t find the flexibility I required to delve into other areas I was interested in.

I have accepted a short term contract with Drawbackwards, a smaller strategic design and interactive marketing agency. I will be filling several roles at Drawbackwards that will enable me to have the flexibility to explore the other areas of the web industry that I’m interested in. Over the last week I’ve been able to create information architecture, SEO/SEM suggestions, project plans, etc. I’m sure this is just the beginning.

I’ve realized that I’m interested in more than just how the web is created. I want to know how people make the web great. Focusing on strategic approaches to connect great companies and services with customers and users whose lives will be enriched by these products, services and relationships.

Look for the tone of my website to change a bit, perhaps less technical and more theoretical. With the career change I’ll have more mobility, working from home three days a week, so I hope to be able to post more often. Also, in early March I’ll be attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, so I look forward to posting regarding all the exciting ideas I get from there. 🙂

Feb
6

Refresh Recap: Demo Night

Great Refresh meeting last night over at Inza Coffee. There were about 10 to 15 5 minute demos of new and exciting web projects coming out of Phoenix. Some of the highlights were:

Show in a Box – If you’re interested in starting a video blog, but you’re not technically savvy, check out Show in a Box, a wordpress based starter kit that comes with everything you need to start your very own vlog.

Square Mile Web – Ever want to see a square mile of interesting user generated photographs? Look no further than Square Mile Web, where you can broadcast your images, tag and rate them.

DurtBagz – If you need a new satchel and you have an affinity for street signs check out DurtBagz.

My Community Board – Want to get to know your neighbors, using My Community Board you can. You can also post classifieds to get rid of that old barbecue, post the new HOA regulations documents, and more.

Crowd Box – Ever wish you could revisit that great presentation you saw at that last conference? Crowd box offers conferences the ability to create social networks for their attendees and to make videos of the presentations.

Read Phoenix – Want to know what Phoenix is all about? look no further than the blogs of Phoenix. Showcasing blogs from all over the metro area you can find someone you’re bound to get along with.

XID Card – Wish you knew all the social networking sites your friends are involved in? Now you can get the skinny on where your people are at and what they’re into using XID card.

Neh 🙁 Meh 😐 Yeh 🙂 – Ever wonder if you’re just having a bad day or if your life is perpetually unhappy? Now you can track your moods on Neh Meh Yeh! Each day you can select one of three happiness faces and track whether or not you’re really in a bad mood all the time. Now if only they could track it by hour…

Twitter Sign – Ever twitter when you see an awesome sign? Now start your post with sign: and it will show up on Twitter Sign.

After HalloweenSteam Crow Press is at it again! Amazing illustrator Daniel Davis graces the world with his third book, After Halloween. What’s it about? Why.. it’s about what monsters do for careers… after Halloween! Also, if you’re an illustrator, check out the new illustrators group Daniel Davis is starting called, Tiny Army.

Jan
14

Tweet Up AZ!

Had a great time this weekend at a tweetupAZ meetup. Basically a lot of us twitter addicted peoples get together in one common area to interface offline and in more than 140 characters. This was the second TweetUpAZ meeting I believe, the first at a coffee house, and this one at Tempe Marketplace. It’s so interesting the different types of people who use the same types of technologies. While there were a fair amount of webbies there, there were also business folk, video bloggers, startup gurus, and a billion other personas. I made a lot of great connections there and really got to put a face with a screenname of some of the local people I’ve been following.

However, there is a bit of weirdness to it all, I’ve always been a pretty transparent person, I like letting everyone know what I’m up to so they can join the fun. But I’ll admit it was weird to have complete strangers come up and congradulate me on my recent engagement. How did they know? Because I twittered it. But does it bother me? Not in the slightest.

I often wonder if I should ever censor myself, but when I honestly think about it, why would I want to? I’ll always remember my 12th grade English instructor, “If you write, you obviously want someone to read it, either subconsciously or consciously. So if there really was anything I wanted to hide from everyone, I would just keep it to myself. If I feel like sharing, I evidently want to have some one pay attention to it.

So if you’re interested in hearing what others are tweeting about in AZ, feel free to follow me and all my friends. If you want to participate in the next TweetUpAZ check out tweetupaz.com.

Dec
9

THE Brian Shaler

Brian Shaler

So I got to sit down with Brian Shaler yesterday during the Phoenix BarCamp and really pick his brain regarding his recent boost in popularity on the net.

I’ve been on a big personal branding kick and I’m trying to talk to anyone who’s someone to ask them how they “did it”. Not necessarily to find the best way “in” but to be able to at least assess my possibilities and think of it another way. So when I heard Brian was getting some SERIOUS digg attention and had over 6k followers on Twitter… I started to wonder if he was my next brain-sucking victim in the quest to become immoral. Sounds kinda creepy when I put it that way eh?

Anyhow, when Chuck Reynolds and I finally hog tied him and tossed him into the back of the van, after HOURS of threating to toss him into a vat of scorpions, THE Brian Shaler gave up his secret to his AMAZING popularity rise.

When he first found Twitter, he realized the growth potential of seeding the popularity contest that is viral marketing. How you ask? It’s brilliant really. You follow people… doesn’t matter who really, the more active the better I suppose. Lets say you start following… 3 thousand people… then all the sudden, even HALF of those people return the favor by following you. You instantly have a captured 1,500 user audience in which to broadcast yourself and things you want to become known. Once you have a decent size user audience, communication back and forth can continue the viral campaign, since every @brianshaler twitter statement someone makes is broadcast to all the users twitter followers as well, and these people start to ask, who is this person they’re talking to? Perhaps they too will start following you. All the sudden you have over 6 thousand twitter followers just like Brian Shaler.

He uses this captured market as a launching pad for things to become viral and tracks every link he sends out to this base group so that he can track the SEO effects of his experiment in viral activity. So, lets say… he has a site that he wants to promote. He sends out the link to his twitter followers saying, “Hey check this really cool thing out…”. Because of his extensive research on the SEO traffic produced by his Twittering alone, he knows that he can pretty much rely on about 100-300 click throughs from his Twitter followers alone. So perhaps his twitter followers actually think that this thing that he has sent them is a great idea, so they send it to a friend, two friends or three friends. The viral exponential factor already starts working its magic… but lets say that someone submits it to StumbleUpon or Digg, and the their own viral patterns start to build on top of this small 100-300 base click throughs. Suddenly you have created a mountain out of an ant hill.

The craziest thing about this, is that due to the way the internet naturally is a sharing device, people who will never ever meet Brian are now his number one fan. During the BarCamp we were recording and streaming the presentations. A Brian Shaler follower from Germany found out about the web broadcast and came into the web chat, this follower actually asked Brian to tell his friend (who was also a Shaler follower) that he had flown to Phoenix and had actually hung out with Brian. Crazy eh? Off of merely creating a viral platform to toss things out on, Brian has actually become internationally famous.

Besides creating that viral base for yourself, Brian also seriously recommended building your own brand of yourself. As cocky as this may seem, it really helps promote the idea of “he is someone” much like personalities such as Oprah or Michael Jordan. Then using this identity for everything that you toss out into the sea of the internet, or even in real life. Brian actually has business cards that just say “Brian Shaler” on them… on both sides, nothing else. Why? He says, “If you can’t contact me in 30 seconds using the information on that card, don’t contact me.” This very small piece of printed material just adds to the effect that Brian really is someone you should already know of.

Brian also chalks up his fame to some of the side projects he’s put effort into in the past, and believes that it’s better to have many sites to your brand with lower search rankings than one site with a high page rank. Why? Because different people have different interests and you can reach a larger, broader audience. He has recently broken out his blog from his personal portfolio site, widening his name sake that much more. But you can really see this effect in his creation crappygraphs.com. The whole site’s premise is crappy graphs that really don’t display accurate data at all, but more so a point. After creating only 20 crappy graphs, he decided to create a flash application on the site that allowed users to create their own crappy graphs and submit them to the site. After ten hours of intense manual labor over the course of one weekend, he now gave his crappy graph followers a way to really express themselves…crappily graphically. Crappy Graphs now has over a thousand graphs… why? Because of user submissions. These user submissions have been Dugg, StumbledUpon, and spread throughout the viral universe, and how did Brian accomplish this? By creating one, 10 hour application that allowed his users to express themselves.

So while the rest of us are trying to figure out the best way to market some silly viral ad campaign, Brian will be tossing links out into his twitter feed and reaping the click throughs, Diggs, and Stumbles.

** I was forced against my will to name the following links… part of the verbal agreement to be talked to by THE Brian Shaler. But do check them out anyhow. 😉 You’re welcome Brian. **

For those of you who DON’T know you Brian Shaler is, check out his blog, his personal portfolio site, his famous twitter account (6k followers and counting), the ShalerJump and of course Crappy Graphs.

Dec
4

Refresh Recap: ALA Web Design Survey

Alright so at this point everyone has read the 2007 Web Design Survey at A List Apart. If you haven’t, you should… really. This is the first time we’ve ever had a survey for the web industry alone, and while it’s not necessarily scientific, it is a good sampling of the community, nearly 33,000 web professionals.

The December edition of Refresh Phoenix shared the survey results and open discussion was has regarding what statistics we thought were interesting finds throughout the document. Such as:

16% of web workers polled were female.  Why is it that females are not prevalent in our industry? Check out a great set of interviews by fadtastic, where they contacted several of the industry’s leading female web designers to ask them the same question.

85% of web workers are white. What causes our industry to be so monochromatic? How is it that world wide there is still a serious racial rift in computers and design? Does this matter? Does this need to change?

53% of web workers said their field of study was directly related to their career. Leading one to reconsider the age old myth that you don’t need to be a college graduate to be in the web industry. Salary data also suggested that a bachelors degree helps boost web workers into that $40-60k salary range.

28% of web workers are in-house, 23% are self-employed and 22% are part of a design/advertising firm. This even split reminds us of all the employment possibilities there are. It also makes note that there really isn’t a large majority in one working environment.

23% of web workers work 30-40 hours a week, 42% 40-50 hours a week, and 12% 50-60 hours a week. So remember when you’re punching out at 7 pm that you’re not the only one out there!

When looking at the salary range data, salaries tend to bottom out at 40-60 k a year after 5 years of experience.  The highest paid are Information Architects and Usability Experts. The self-employed/freelance sector made the least, under $20,000 a year. However, this does not split full-time freelance and part-time freelance, so some of this may be supplemental income to their full time positions as well.

Project Managers and Information Architects seemed to be the most satisfied with their jobs, while designers, web designers, webmasters, and the self-employed were the least satisfied when looking at Job Satisfaction data by job title.

72% of web workers polled have a personal site or blog. This doesn’t seem unnatural that web savvy people would have their own sites, but what is interesting is that the percentage of people who blog across gender and salary ranges did not vary greatly. In other words, 72% of EVERYONE in the web industry has a personal site or blog. The real question is how often do they blog on their blog? hehe

One of the questions posed was, “What would you like to see survey statistics on that were not included in this document?” Answers ranged from “Percentage of web workers who have ADD?” to “Ratio of hours worked and salary.” The best questions that are currently not answered by the survey were, “What are the range of benefits?” and “What’s the percentage/range on working conditions (corporate vs. casual)?”

Still, my brief synopsis doesn’t do this survey justice. Please, if you haven’t already, read the full survey. It’s full of interesting information regarding education, salaries, work environments, how we stay current in trends, and more.

Dec
1

Lots to Do This Week

I just wanted to make sure you were invited to all the awesome web and design happenings this week in Phoenix!

Tues, Dec 4th – Refresh Phoenix

Refresh Phoenix meets every first Tuesday of the month to discuss current internet issues and trends. The topics range from becoming your own boss to css frameworks to make your work more efficient. This month the topic is results from the 2007 Web Design Survey that was put out by A List Apart. This should be a very interesting conversation since there really has never been a survey of the internet industry.

When: Tuesday, December 4th 6:30 – 9:30 pm (come early to get some networking in)

Where:
Inza Coffee
8658 East Shea Blvd, Scottsdale

Fri, Dec 7th – 16th Annual AIGA Art Auction

AIGA Arizona is holding it’s annual Art Auction event in Downtown Phoenix at MonOrchid Studios during December First Friday! AIGA Arizona is pleased to present over 100 original works of art (paintings, mixed media, photography, digital art, sculpture, jewelry, and more) displayed on sale in live and silent auction formats. Plus bid on a selection of special packages that include dining, entertainment and recreation. This year’s art auction will also feature the Mohawk Show.

When: Friday, December 7th 6-10 pm

Where:
MonOrchid Studios
214 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix

Sat, Dec 8th – BarCamp Phoenix

BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one. This is great because you can both speak and be an audience member.

When: Friday, December 8th 9 am – 5 pm

Where:
University of Advancing Technology (UAT)
2625 W. Baseline Road, Tempe

Nov
5

Refresh Phoenix: Blueprint CSS

Come on over to Inza Coffee House tomorrow night to join me and the crew of Refresh Phoenix as we discuss Blueprint CSS.

Blueprint is a CSS framework by Olav Bjorkoy, which “aims to cut down on your CSS development time.” Matt Heidemann & Matt Gist from Integrum Technologies will talk about their recent work with Blueprint. They’ll show examples of the framework and a project they recently used it with.

See ya there!

Oct
21

Local Lifestyle Magazines Recieve Facelift

I’m proud to announce that Terralever launched two new sites into the world wide web this week. We have just finished production on a redesign and large back-end content management system for Cities West Publishing sites, Phoenix Home and Garden and Phoenix Magazine.

I am really proud to have been part of this success. The website may seem large and elaborate, but with the use of themes, masterpages, and dynamic content the site itself is about 20 pages in total. This was the first website in which we were really able to experiment with large scale theme usage and I learned quite a bit about how to make the front end flexible enough to reskin.

Making sure css naming conventions were simple enough to reuse through out the process was a key piece of the puzzle. I used the content to determine the class and id naming instead of color or position since both of these could change dramatically. This was not only important to switch from theme to theme within the sections of the site, but also we chose to reuse quite a bit of code from one site to the next to save cost for our client. Thus, the reasoning in similar layout from one site to the other.

Making sure each piece of content knew what month and what section it appeared in was also a large undertaking in this process, thankfully our wonderful back end development team did an amazing job of coordinating how the data manipulated the themes and sections with in the site.

In addition to the amazing design and development that went on to create the front end look and feel, there was an amazing effort on the back end administration system. Back behind all that wonderful content is an editorial staff that needs to input it in every month in a quick efficient manner! To help them with this, Terralever created an amazing custom content management system that allows the editorial staff to select which issue an article appears, what section, enter in the content and add supplemental photos to each story.

For each story the editorial staff has full access to create and layout articles however they please. They can add as many photos, call outs, etc to make each layout custom to the story it holds. To help them with this process, we created five templates for them to start with, allowing them to enter content quickly and then make the necessary additions with more photos, more call outs, etc.

The administration also gives the staff full access for the featured flash piece on the homepage, to create and edit user polls, add events, showcase photos in galleries and have users sign up for news and emails.

While these sites were a big project and some nights were spent eating at my desk instead of in front of the TV, it’s always worth it in the end. To go to a live URL and see something you’ve invested so much and learned from is amazing.  These sites are definitely two projects I’m proud to have been a part of. I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed building them.

Sep
16

Letters from Code Camp

So I spent a good chunk of time yesterday over at the Phoenix’s Desert Code Camp and I must say, what a great set up! There were lots of sessions available for most every type of coder. I found two sessions to be especially interesting, SEO for Coders and Designing the Obvious.

 The SEO for Coders session went over how developers can start from the inside out when creating a site to really give SEO a fighting chance.

Some of the on-site SEO considerations are:

  • keywords in the domain
  • relavant, keyword rich content (Content is King!)
  • keywords in page titles (Page Title should go before Site Name)
  • clean, keyword rich urls
  • keyword proximity and density throughout the site (use Ranks.nl to test density, 2-5% is good, anymore and possible spamming might be considered)
  • having keyword encompassing meta tags, make sure all your keywords are covered
  • internal links
  • relevant, keyword rich alt and title tags
  • valid xhtml code that’s quick loading

Some of the off-site SEO consideration are:

  • inbound links to your site
  • reciprocal link exchange
  • press releases
  • forum comments
  • e-mails
  • paid links and pay per click

Overall it was a great session that covered the basics of SEO as well as some of the tips and tricks of the trade. Such as using dashes instead of no space or underscores in your page urls. I confirmed a lot of my beliefs about SEO as well as learned about some new tools to look for great keyword combos and how to better market my sites outside of my own.

Designing the Obvious was a wonderful session as well that covered some of the overlooked, but very important pieces of designing a user-friendly site. Some of the highlights were:

  • first impressions are important, make sure you put a lot of thought into the front page of your site
  • use wireframes to mock out your site before designing or developing, it saves time and money
  • pay attention to diagonal balance, don’t force it, but be aware that the users eye will tend to shift from the top left to the bottom right and try to put your main branding and focal point to fall within that diagonal line
  • when designing navigation try to use verb noun pairs to support the users mind set of getting things done
  • many sites are now changing the style of used objects to make them more pronounced on the page, the more the user uses it, the darker it becomes, making it easier for the user to find what they’re really interested in
  • we need to explain exceptable values on forms, approach form design as if you were a user looking at it the first time, make sure everything is instructive and clear
  • there are three states to any interaction on the web, invitation to act, manipulation or the steps to complete the process, and completion and confirmation, confirmation is the least remembered step in web site creation, but a very important step for the user, make sure to include it

Robert Hoekman, Jr., the speaker for Designing the Obvious session, also has a book out by the same title. Also check out his blog and he’s starting Up Down Repeat Workshops that you may want to check out, the next one coming up is about form design.

What is this?

This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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