I ♥ Evernote

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Evernote logoThis program is only the greatest note program ever devised. If you keep a thousand paper notes and notebooks and always have ideas you write down in the night, or if you just like to stay organized this program is for you. Evernote allows you to capture text, images, pdfs, voice, photographs, you can even make notes with checkboxes.

I like to use it to compile and organize my ideas and if I don’t have time to type I use the voice note. Then I transcribe it into text later. I use it for my quote bible to record all my favourite quotes, I use it to clip parts of sites and pdfs for research. And best of all it syncs perfectly with my iPhone, my PC and on the web. The web app is just as good as the PC app and the iPhone app is so handy. I hate losing ideas and Evernote prevents me from forgetting.

Best of all it’s completely free. If you see me wearing an Evernote t-shirt I did not sell out, I just want to support these guys. (you can even share notebooks to a specific URL! or edit them between friends or team mates). And they are adding new functionality daily.

Check out the site yourself http://www.evernote.com and get started today.

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Systemized: A guide to understanding the world of ERP software

ebookI wrote this white paper (more of a guide I guess) about my perspectives on ERP software from a consultants point of view. I have been working with ERP for seven or so years now and have worked in business all my life. Technology is a powerful lever and if you want to use it effectively you need some sort of business management software.

This is where an ERP system comes in and if you have no exposure to Enterprise Resource Planning systems then you must check this white paper out!
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SAP Business One and Business Efficiency

The average progression for most businesses is as follows:

  1. Choose a product/service
  2. Sell a couple
  3. Sell a lot
  4. Build your customer base
  5. Track everything on paper
  6. Invest in an off-the-shelf accounting package (QuickBooks or Simply Accounting)
  7. Track everything else in spreadsheets

If you are persistent enough you come to a point where you can’t manage any more growth, you have no idea what one part of your business is doing and you have no real way of seeing any of your data unless someone manually compiles it into a spreadsheet for you. Your administration is increasing, you have less and less time to work and you desperately need more information to make decisions.
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Love is a Business

I wanted to call this post, Love is a Business (but most people are trying to win the lottery).  However, the title was a little too long to be snappy.

Laziness and entitlement are the scourge of the world.  I deserve this, I deserve that is the cry of the new generation (of which I’m a part of).  “You don’t deserve anything you don’t have, if you don’t have it, there is a reason you don’t have it,” is what I say.

So in that respect, how is love different from life?  Is it an accident or luck that people stay together.  Like most things, weak people blame circumstance or situation (it is always too this or that, always not the right time, or whatever excuse you can think of) but you need to be the captain of your own ship.  You need to take the bull by the horns and buck up.

Love takes work, that dreaded thing.  It takes compromise and maturity.  If everything was so easy, then everyone would be married happily ever after.  But unfortunately, weak people just get bored, or think there is some other easier prize on the horizon.  Why didn’t you go to school?  “Well I was working” they say, but they don’t see the benefits in the future, they only see the shortest term goals.  Sad, shallow and gratuitous.

So with all that groundwork put into place.  Lets examine my analogy.  Businesses take work, they require responsibility, planning and a certain je ne sais quoi?  When there is a recession, you need to keep the faith and continue to plod forward, you can’t just get bored and leave it in the lurch.  This is how life works… you need to stick with things to see them through.

If you go through life thinking you are going to simply win the lottery for money, then that is fine, but most likely it won’t happen so you will need to work, build and stick with a relationship.

And this needs to be mirrored in love.  If you go out there and look for a good business partner, someone you can work with and weather the recessions, then you are set.  If you are expecting to stay single, focus short-term and wait until some magical love bomb hits you in the face then you are mistaken.

You will be penniless, waiting in line at the lottery stand of love.  Find a partner, enjoy the ride, stick with it and you will produce much happiness.

WEB DEV – General Tips

Here is a list of tips that I would give to any new webdever:

SAVE YOUR WORKING FILES – for god sakes man, stay organized and keep those working files organized. You will need them one day. A client will be like, hey you, change our phone number or we want to move this here or whatever. You will need to have a nice organized archive to pull from with all of the working files, images and PSD (photoshop raw) files to draw from otherwise you won’t be able to do it. If you are at all talented with Photoshop, keep all the layers unflattened and group items together and colour code them with proper names! If you have a 100 layers how will you know which one is the grey bunny with the pink bow?

Have a consistent backend setup to save time – this has saved me so much time. Don’t change everything every time. When starting to make a new website make a folder and then make the following sub-folders:

  • images – for images obvi
  • js – for storage of your remote javascripts that you will use on each page. Trust me
  • pdf – most sites I do at least have articles or something where they use pdfs
  • flash – flash goes here if you are going to use it

There may be more as you need them but you want to keep clutter out of your main directory, that is where all the html files will be kept and it will be hard enough to keep track of those. Separate the types of info and you will find it much easier to do an update of the images or scripts.

Use proper spacing for your code! – this is a huge deal for coders and it should be for you too. As you start to use <div>s then you will see how hard it is to keep track of what goes where if you don’t use the proper spacing and indentation. Just follow my examples and I will show you what I mean. Don’t worry about it right now.

Google has everything, free scripts, tips, design ideas – just search around for javascripts if you need help, if you need a tutorial on something, it’s most likely there. If you want some free images to work with or some design ideas they’re easy to find. I have a list of websites I use the most, but google will always be able to help you find what you need.

Don’t use dreamweaver or frontpage if you want to be serious – just as the title says, these tools make very static sites that produce unpredictable results with cross-browser applications. They may help some people but in the end you will not know how to hand code and if things go wrong or you need to change things you are SOL. If you use frontpage specifically, your results will usually be very amateur looking unless you are seriously pro with frontpage in which case you probably already know how to hand code or need to move on anyways.

Get images for free – just starting? Need ideas for getting that site going? Getty (URL) has free images of a certain size so does images.google.com (URL)

Paypal – for all your micro ecommerce applications… it’s super easy to use and free

Templates are inspiration not working files – don’t use templates because they are too rigid, they are made of tables and they are not your work. They looked canned and if you disclose that you are using a template to your clients (which you should) then they might not be satisfied with the results. Use templates for inspiration, for shapes and for colours or styles to help you along when you have a creative block.

Make sure they have logos!@! – many times I have just started a website and low and behold they don’t even have a logo. OR, the logo is really ugly. Logos give me my primary inspiration for the design of the site and if there isn’t one and they want me to create it that could add 10-20 more hours to my work not to mention it’s not in the scope of the job

Don’t use tables – they are rigid and hard to work with, and even harder to manipulate if you want to make changes. It becomes a jigsaw where you can’t move anything around because if you shift a pixel upwards then you would have to change five pictures because the table is cut that way.

Use an estimate that is clear and make sure you have a materials clause – estimates manage everyone’s expectations. Get the amount of the job in writing, get 50% up front before you start working (if necessary) and MAKE SURE you put something in the estimate called a materials clause (or what I call it) so that if the client says he’ll give you copy (industry term for chunks of writing like “hello, this is our site, thank you for visiting”) for the site within two months he does it. See, they say they will, but 90% of the time they don’t, they get busy or whatever and as you spend your time carefully crafting the site they are doing nothing and when you are completely done the site and revisions as well, they still have not given you that image they were going to, or all the copy for the site. It is a HUGE problem. I usually include in the clause that if the client fails to give me materials within two months then I will charge the second half of the 50% and then adding the copy will be charged on an hourly basis as a revisions. I don’t want the site on my plate for 6 months. Cash flow is important!

Creativity 200 – The ID, The Ego and YOUR Design

Now, I was here once and you will be as well. Your design is perfect; you love it, you are so happy to start building it. Your client will love it and it will serve all of their needs perfectly!

WRONG, they want things to be moved, it wasn’t exactly what they wanted and maybe you missed the mark a little bit.

They want a bit more picture to show, they don’t like the coloured box in the corner which you think makes the entire site. They want more text on the front page despite your warnings to the contrary.

Give it up man!

Leave your ego at the door. It sucks yeah, that little site was your baby and now it’s being dismantled (sometimes moreso, sometimes less so) and you are not happy. At the end of the day it’s what your client wants and not what you want despite the fact that you are designing it. You are the designer but you need to make your client happy and really what does it matter if they deviate from your plan just a little bit?

If you are accommodating and reasonable they will be more likely to recommend you to their friends than if you storm out and refuse to do the project because they didn’t want to let you combine red and green with the tiny little nav you envisioned.

Stick to your guns on matters of importance such as balance of the page and any other serious matters of design but make the client happy!

Leave your ego at Starbucks