Helpful Tips Archive

Web freelancer conference

indieconf – the conference for independent web professionals – is now open for registation.

What is indieconf? It’s a conference that brings together the topics that affect freelance web people with experts who’ve been there and done that.  I’ve attended a number of tech/web conferences over the past 12 years or so, and while they’ve all been ‘good’, there’s usually very little in the way of information that helps me in the business side of my work.  As an independent, there’s questions about bookkeeping, outsourcing, legal issues, time management, billing, sales and marketing, and more that don’t typically get addressed at the typical tech conference.  And at ‘small business’ events (conferences, networking meetings, etc), there tend to be very few ‘web geeks’ who speak my own language and understand the particular challenges that I face.

So, from that quandary, indieconf was born.

Michael has been contemplating this for a while, focused the idea some, and have been working for the past 6 weeks organizing a core set of speakers/sessions, location, paperwork, and more ‘stuff’ that goes on with a conference.  Michael’s got a pretty solid line up of speakers and sessions so far, although and there’s  room for a few more (planning between 15 and 18, and about 9 or 10 nailed down).

One of the things he’s tried to do with this is to get speakers from outside the Raleigh area.  Right now speakers from California, Texas and Pennsylvania as well as the Raleigh area and the Carolina coast.  Even people who’ve been to many local or regional events in the NC area likely won’t have crossed paths with all of these speakers, which he hopes is seen as a good thing (I think it is!).

So whether you’re a PHP guru just starting out freelancing, a PSD master who’s been at it for years, or someone just considering getting in to the world of freelance web work, I think indieconf will have something for you.  With that said, what are some other types of sessions/info you’d like to get out of a conference like this?  He’s got some more topics planned based on early feedback from people, and would like to take on a bit more before making more decisions.

IndieConf is in Raleigh this November, Ill look for you there!

Category: Helpful Tips | Comments Off on Web freelancer conference

Setting up a Virtual Machine on Ubuntu without KVM

I recently took a foray into the world of virtual machines on my Ubuntu server.  I decided that since I could not use the well known KVM (my cpu does not have the proper extensions) I could use virtualbox.  After installing it, I next learned how to mange the VirtualBox headless.

Main Installation Method

  • Create a vm with the name ubuntu
VBoxManage createvm -name ubunutu -register
  • Using the vm we just created limit its ram usage to 256MB, boot off the dvd and set the network interface card to use nat.
VBoxManage modifyvm ubuntu -memory "256MB" -acpi on -boot1 dvd -nic1 nat
  • Create a virtual hard disk drive, at that location.
VBoxManage createvdi -filename "/var/vbox/ubuntu.vdi" -size 5000 -register
  • Add the previouly created hard disk drive to the actual virtual machine.
VBoxManage modifyvm ubuntu -hda "/var/vbox/ubuntu.vdi"
  • Register the ISO with the virtual machine.
VBoxManage registerimage dvd /var/vbox/ubuntu-10.04-server-i38.iso
  • Modifying the virtual machine to use the ISO.
VBoxManage modifyvm ubuntu -dvd /var/vbox/ubuntu-10.04-server-i38.iso
  • Finally, we start the vm and the real fun begins.
VBoxHeadless -startvm ubuntu

Your new virtual machine is now running, however we need an application that can allow us to install the actual operating system.  On my Ubuntu desktop, I use gnome-rdp, you retrieve the ipaddress of the virtual machine, and type in port and after confirming, you will see the new OS booting from your server.

Alternate Installation Methods

Additionally, there are two other methods I came across that allow configuring a virtual machine easier with the use of a gui or web manager.  The first is enabling X Server forwarding through ssh and the other is PHP Virtual Box. PHP Virtual Box is a a web based application which uses Virtual Boxes built-in api to interact with virtual box.

Category: Helpful Tips | 2 Comments »

Developers vs Graphic Designers

With some many webdevelopers/ designers/ graphics people all making websites how is a company or anyone for that matter to find someone to make their site?

1. Assuming a WYSIWYG editor can create a great website
Using a program to code your site will only result in jarbled code that no person or search engine, for that matter can understand.  I have times where I was hired to move a website created with such a tool, into a application and it was easier to copy paste, and recode links, etc.

2. Slicing an image in Photoshop and exporting it as an html is “good enough”.
Photoshop does not know that using CSS you can repeat an image several thousand times, which reduces the time a downloading a site takes.  In most cases, graphic designers do not have the knowledge to make optimization choices that can improve a sites speed.

3. A certain software package will make me better.
I have heard this one at to often, people believe that if they use a high end software package they can make sites that are wonderful..

4. Tabled layouts are fine to use for site layout.
Although tables have their time and place, DATA ONLY. Designers believe that using them is the best way to code a site.

Are you a developer or a graphic designer and how do you like dealing with the otherside of the web?

    Category: Helpful Tips, Interesting | 1 Comment »

    How to measure your site’s success

    New websites are being created every single day.  You want your website highly revered, but with so many tools and methods for measuring your sites success what is a site owner to do?  Other the next few posts, I will be highlighting several tools, measurements and tools to examine the successfulness of your website.  Remember everyone has a different goal for their website.  It is important to first discover your sites reason for existence, measure your sites conversion rates or how many times your goal is completed, then improving the site and testing again.

    Most people consider a website to be a static piece of paper, to be read and discarded.  However, I consider a site to be a living breathing organism which needs nuturing and care, to assist it to grow into a fruitful and worthwhile endeavour.  I will layout a few tips for improving your sites success, in later posts, I intend to delve deeper and includ:

    • Determining your site’s goals
    • Tools for measuring your sites success
    • Tips to improve your site’s success
    • Other useful tidbits

    How have you been measuring your sites success? Has it helped?

    Category: Helpful Tips | Comments Off on How to measure your site’s success

    4 Ways to Reduce Bounce

    Bounce rates are quickly becoming the metric people value the most.

    What does “Bounce Rate” Measure?

    the brave pig is still undecided
    Creative Commons License photo credit: loungerie

    By logging into any analytics software like Google Analytics or Piwik, you will find a wealth of information. One such piece of information is the Bounce Rate. The Bounce Rate, measures how many people left your site after seeing one page.

    As previously mentioned these tools provide tons of information, some which is more useful then others. One such statistic, “unique visitors” tells how many new visitors viewed your site during a certrain period time.  However, sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and others can bring large numbers of visitors, however those visitors will commonly view one page and immediatley leave.  This does not help your build a customer base,  create community or further your goal for creating the site.  Sites like these can negatively affect your bottom line.

    What is a good bounce rate?

    A bounce rate of 0% would be best, meaning everyone who visits your site viewed more then one page hopefully completing your sites “goal action”. However, not everyone who visits your site will contiune surfing your site.  Guidelines suggest the follwoing standards:

    • Under 30%  – Keep up the good work!
    • 30% – 50% – Needs work.
    • 50% + – Needs serious improvement.

    Reducing site bounce rate

    A few tips to help improve your site’s bounce rate, can go along way in improving your site’s chances of visitors going deeper.

    Provide Relevant Content– The person visits your site but what are you going with their attention? Have other content they can visit to entice them to visit your site deeper.

    Have Clear Navigation – A user does not want to visit your site if they can not figure out how it works.  Users are looking for navigation that can use quickly and easily without a lot of fuss or errors.

    Test your site – Present your site to as many different users as possible.  Watch them visit your site, their actions will provide a wealth of knowledge about your site’s usability.  What appears to be straight forward to you, is not always so to your site’s visitor.

    Establishing a hierarchy to your site helps direct users around your site.

    Expose the next step – Highlight the action you want your users to follow.  If you want them to contact you, highlight or otherwise differentiate your contact link.  This acts like a magnet to pull the user to complete the action you want.

    Are you monitoring your site’s bounce rate? What is it? What have you tried to improve it?

    Category: Helpful Tips | 1 Comment »

    Stopping Spambots

    Where are these entries coming from?

    After creating a website with a guestbook I started noticing entries which were not left by a person.  The name field was filed by an email address ie) “[email protected]”.  The comment would  contain jiberish like “auto auto something nothing”, and they were repeated quite often.In a few hours I have 10 entries that were from unknown origins.  Once, I noticed the entries, I figured removing the “submit” button would stop the entries temporarily until a better solution could be found.  That was wrong, I will explain how it was completed later on.

    Resolving the mystery entries

    I first, had to access the database and remove the spammed entries.  To stop false entries, there are two main solutions.

    1. Improve the server side validation
    2. Use a Captcha

    Server Side Validation

    My first option and the one I choice, was to improve my server side validation.  I realized they had a copy of the form and were submitting entries, so I improved what the server would approve.  Originally, it was set to allow any thing that had more then 3 characters.  After the update, no symbols would be allowed in names.  This solved my problem until the people figure it out and change their methods.



    A much better method is to use a Captcha.  Websites like Myspace and Facebook have increased their usage of them to stop spam on their sites.

    You enter a code the website generates when visit the page.  The spambots can not read the code, and as a result are unable to make a post.

    End Result

    I fixed the server side validation and was able to keep the nasty people away from my posts.

    Have you had any problems with spammers in emails or on websites? What did you do to remove them?

    Category: Helpful Tips | 3 Comments »

    Free Webdevelopment Tools

    When starting webdevelopment, several tools can aid in your work.  Some developers enjoy using the standard while others require a little more assistance with coding.  The tools come in two variations, the WYSIWYG variety and the straight forward text.

    WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get

    These generally are for entry-level people to create a website that meets their needs.  The software takes care of all the background coding while advanced web designers, hand code everything.  This allows higher quality, cleaner code, which allows higher grades of customization improves SEO (search engine optimization).  This improves your sites overall position on search engines like Google, Yahoo and others.



    Notepad++ is not a WYSIWYG editor, so this is for users who know how to program code. Nice program which has an easy way to add additional scripts


    Eclipse may require a little fine tuning to get PHP scripting to work.  In Linux Eclipse is a breeze and runs smoothly, although in Windows it appears to hog system resources and bring everything else to halt.


    Intype appears to still be in beta, but shows promise a program that supports both Linux and Windows.

    This concludes our list of free editors, do you have any you use?

    Category: Helpful Tips | Comments Off on Free Webdevelopment Tools

    Update WordPress Templates

    Recently, we decided to make some upgrades to our current theme.  As the process progress, I have found lots of wonderful online resources to aid in theme creation.  One particular help was:

    Blank Theme

    This next theme, is very helpful, it actually comes configured with several different column styles and configurations.  It allows a user to adjust the css file: @import url(‘sandbox-layouts/3c-b.css’); By modifying this line with other css files found in the sandbox-layouts, folder a designer can easily manipulate its layout.

    Second Blank Theme, which allows easy switching column styles and numbers

    Category: Helpful Tips, Site Design | Comments Off on Update WordPress Templates

    Does a small business need a website?

    Everyone is getting a website. Families, are bringing their photo galleries online to show to their families.

    Websites like Facebook and Myspace has become the center of attention. Simply posting your website on the net will not guarantee your returns, its the first step to building your business.

    When people began researching a business they follow a very easy hierarchy of tasks.

    1. Google It!

      The most common way to research a company is to simply Google it. If your company is not visble by searching on the internet, you have already lost 50% of your audience.

    2. Ask friends and family

      Word of mouth has become more important because people trust the experince of others. If you have a wonderful experince, you will tell others and those people will inturn return to that experince. Using proper controls for your business will help control customer disatifaction and create a long lasting positeve image for your business.

    3. Yellow Pages

      As the internet gains steam and becomes more important, the yellow pages and other static soucres are becoming less used. The problem with the Yellow Pages is, information on it can become outdated.

      For example, technology is ever-changing, how often do you get a magazine which presents old and outdated information. You knowingly perceieve this information as relevant and up-to date. Resulting in you being 1 step behind everyone else.

    Category: Helpful Tips | Comments Off on Does a small business need a website?

    How do I get new visitors?

    There are several ways to drive traffic to your site. The newest and most popular technique is using a blog.

    A blog implemented blog can drive visitors to your website. For instance, my blog brought you here, hopefully you joined the RSS feed avaliable. The RSS feed informs you of the next post I make. RSS feeds are a relatviely new concept in internet marketing.

    RSS Feeds

    RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, which allows people to create dynamic links to a blog or other news source. For instance, when I submit this post your RSS reader would updated to include information about this post. Its like a news bulletin and that can be useful in bringing visitors to your website.

    Blogging Software

    Currently there are hundreds of different blogging applications avaliable on the market, most are free.

    This blog uses WordPress, which is one of the most popular blogging softwares to date. Google, is full of different blogging softwares, each one has its pros and cons. Select the one the that fits your needs.

    Post on related forums

    The last method for generating a traffic for your site is posting on related forums. Find a few forums that are related to your topic and talk about your knowledge. People who see your posts, will follow them to your sites.

    Word of mouth has always been a very effective way to drive traffic. When people talk about your business or website, you can reap the benefit of continued visitors.

    Category: Helpful Tips, SEO | Comments Off on How do I get new visitors?

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