Why hire a Web Designer?

It would seem a valid question. After all, if you believe the ads it is remarkably simple to create an award winning website just using a template. Just drop and drag and voila, a great website! That’s if you believe the ads.

I had one of those dads, you know, the kind who make their kids learn things so that they can take care of themselves. I am that girl who can change a tire and oil. But I don’t. I love my AAA. I love the guys at Firestone. And do you know why? Because while I can do those things, they can do it better. The lug nuts will be tight, my tires will be aligned and some small glitch that I complain about but don’t know the source of will be located and fixed. I pay for their expertise, because theirs exceeds my own.

It’s the same way with web sites. Yes, anyone can take a template and build a site. But what happens when some glitch pops up and you want it fixed? What happens when you want to really make it representative of your business? That’s where someone like me comes in. You have the opportunity to hire a professional who can take the time to get to know you and your business. Someone like me can help you create a logo that represents your brand, or freshen up the logo you have. A professional designer can get into your code and really make that “cookie cutter” template a reflection of your business. Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that your site stands out in the crowd, knowing that people who visit will know exactly what you do and what you can do for them?

So, why hire a web designer? You do it for the same reason I hire a mechanic, you don’t ever want the wheels to come off.

Viera the Foster Dog

I have been reading several articles about dressing up rescue dog photos to make them more appealing to adopters, so here is a little work on my foster dog. Viera is really shy, but will blossom with some love and attention. So I put her on a background of yellow flowers and gave a few personal details about her. Will have to see if it helps.Viera

*Update – When I took Viera in to the adoption center, they had already had a call from an interested party. This “hard-to-adopt” dog was in her new home within hours.

Balancing Work and Life

Not sure why the Nov 3 & 5 chat had to be the topic I am failing at, evidenced by the dust on my furniture. Actually, I do a pretty good job of this with my day job. Quiz days are get paperwork or grading caught up days and I never take paperwork home. I flat out refuse because in the past teaching has absolutely consumed. Right now I am struggling more with class and life balance.

The author of the blog we read for tonight, “Work, Life And Side Projects”, suggests that people should work smarter, not harder. This can be done through three ways: Combining interests, Creating structure, and Knowing yourself. Find a way to combine your outside life with your outside projects, give yourself deadlines and focus on one thing at a time so you are not always getting interrupted and work to your strenghs (like I should probably find someone to clean my house). I’ll be honest, I know all of these things and at work I am really good doing them. I work smarter so that I can go home at night and pretend I won the lottery and don’t have a job. Class and life has been harder, because I am learning all of these things and a glitch can set me back hours from what I scheduled. I do have some four-legged friends that are great at distracting me and providing stress relief, but I have a very hard time putting aside a problem to come back to it later. It feels too much like quitting.

I had to laugh at the comment where the reader said he was going to start a really expensive hobby so he would feel guilty about now doing it. He could adopt a dog and get guilt trips every day for much less. I have a great deal of experience in big, puppy-dog eyes.

Microsoft offers this bit of wisdom on the subject “Need work-life balance? 7 tips”.

Biggest takeaway from chat was how aware people are of this problem. It almost makes you wonder why it is such a problem if everyone knows that it is there. I guess it is easier said than done to change the way things are.

Building Trust

I find this an intriguing topic. It is of course key to my current day job as a teacher. Students do better when they trust you, trust that you know the material and trust that you really care. It seems to me that this is probably universally true. Who do people trust? They trust people they see as knowledgeable and that they feel have their best interest at heart.

I went on something of a webquest to see if what I think is true and found that I am not far off the mark, although some bloggers would add a few more key components like clean, minimalist design and warm tones in the copy presented. Read here for more on those topics. Although I have mixed feelings on “social proof”, or reviews. Some of those reviewers are “professionals” and I don’t trust that.

Good design builds trust.

Good design matters.

AAMCOMP Online Store

Links to a trusted online store.

Since I don’t necessarily want to trust just one source on this, I also checked out this blog on the same subject, and this blog as well. Consensus from these articles, design matters. Showing that there are real people who care matters. Providing expertise and ease of experience matters. And there will be less than 30 seconds to convince people that you are the site to provide all of those things. In short, while trust must be earned, you must do so quickly.

To buy or build your next computer?

I have to own my bias at the beginning. Our computers are all built to our desires. Each computer designed for the user and what they need and/or want. My computer is pulling double duty for both my teaching and my computer work, with the sidelines of some online gaming and my storage needs for pictures and videos. So, I wanted a big hard drive (a terabyte), high end video card and ample RAM.

So when looking at your next computer, what should frame your decision? Here are a few thoughts on that decision.

The most important thing is understanding what you want your computer to do. Are you just emailing and cruising the Internet? Are you editing videos or music? Are you storing hundreds (or more) of photos and videos? Knowing what you want your computer to do goes a long way in helping you decide what kind of computer you need.

Benefits of buying a computer:

  1. It’s quick and easy, walk into the store and pick one up.
  2. Doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of computers or components.
  3. Manufacturer warranty available.
  4. Can be cheaper.

Benefits of building a computer:

  1. A system can be designed to meet your exact needs.
  2. Wider selection of components.
  3. Warranty available on individual components.
  4. Can be easier to upgrade your system.
  5. Can be cheaper.

The difficulties of building a computer:

  1. You will probably need someone to build it for you.
  2. Have to purchase software that comes with the store bought computer.

I am not alone in my belief that building is the way to go with your next computer, PC World shares my feelings on this matter.

A little research and reflection before you make your next computer (or first computer) purchase can help you decide which is best for you, building or buying.

What am I reading this summer?

As a teacher, I have a break in June and July. Without class (sort of, I have some small classes going on) I wanted to stay on top of things and practice what I have been learning. To that end I have been working on a website to keep my skills up, but also reading blogs and journals on starting your own business and various web design topics. My twitter feed has been invaluable for this.

The start-up issue is perhaps becoming an obsession. How to start a company with extremely limited resources is not an easy thing. This blog contained some of the best advice I have found on starting a new business.

A great deal of advice on one page, but some stuck out more to me than others.

“Stay focused and don’t try to do too many things at once. Care about execution quality.” Quality is what will bring people back to your business. Multi-tasking is great, but dedication to quality and details are what will bring people back to your business.

“Move fast. Speed is one of your main advantages over large companies.” I think the importance here is to move fast, but still provide a quality product.

“Hire people that you could describe as animals.” I love the concept of this, it brings a certain level of play to work. Which I think is also important, while it is a business it should still be fun. But, I also think that if you can describe someone as an animal, you probably know them well enough to have a feel for if they are a good fit for your company environment.

“You’ll often hear conflicting advice about everything but “build a great product”. This means you can go either way on much of the rest of it and it doesn’t really matter. Just make a decision and get back to work. Product/market fit is what matters. You can—and will—make a lot of mistakes.” I find it oddly comforting to hear someone tell me I will make mistakes.

“Remember that you are more likely to die because you execute badly than get crushed by a competitor.” I am the only one who can run my company into the ground. No pressure there.

“Simple is good. Be suspicious of complexity.” Simple is good. I like simple. Complex for me, is probably going to be complex for my clients.

“Always praise good work.” I learned this doing obedience training with my dog. They taught us five praises for each correction. I like to think I have honed my skills in this area in the classroom. People like to get praise and will work hard for it.

“The best startups are defined by exceptions; all of these rules are probably breakable, but probably not all at the same time.” Permission to break the rules is always appreciated.

The learning curve feels steep, but the motivation and determination are there to be successful.