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
- 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.
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!