Category: Updates

Website Updates and useful information for the readers

Updates
Getting your hands dirty

Getting your hands dirty

Food for Thought, lessons of life, Updates

Being a designer / developer means always keeping your knowledge updated and challenging yourself to the next level. It takes more than just mere knowledge of HTML and CSS to be sought after. You are expected to move your magic mouse and create amazing websites and applications (at least that is what the clients expect).

Although I have considered my knowledge of PHP/MySQL/ WordPress sufficient to get me through most situations, I knew it wasn’t enough. I have always known this, which is why I always kept Design Playground around for practice. While browsing tutorials, I stumbled upon Sitepoint‘s e-books for web development. I always have been a fan of Sitepoint’s tutorials. They explain each step with a good reason. So I decided to go ahead and buy their PHP E-Book: Jump Start PHP Environment

While reading their book I came upon a paragraph from their book. Here’s the link to that statement . What it mean was that using Windows based environment software (such as XAMPP, WAMP etc.) was actually bad developer practice. It was nearly like you have the whole kitchen with you to bake that cake. Quick, easy, good for practice and testing – yes ; production – not really. Here are some arguments for why using XAMPP is a bad practice : –

  • You share environment between all of your projects which leave a lot of potential bugs.
  • You save time of setting up environment only to avoid the world of Linux
  • You do not practice Linux Commands frequently, even you will never do it when you deploy your website via FTP on a shared host with support control panel
  • Your test server is not same as the production server.
  • You will use PHPMyAdmin quite frequently for database administration practices.
  • You will depend on it for updating any new libraries, updates from the dynamic LAMP communities such as testing performance of WordPress or Magento on PHP7

So in a nutshell, if you continue to use XAMPP or any similar software, you will get by for a while, but this dependency is going to bite you in the butt in the long run. Let me share a personal experience with you.

We had a crucial client that we were dealing with. My mentor had been shifted to marketing and my other senior project managers were just project managers of name i.e. no help at all. So now I had been tasked with getting this clients web application deployed on a vanilla Red Hat Linux web server. I had always used XAMPP and knew not a thing about Linux, nor did anyone else in the workplace. With a lot of requests and great difficulty , we got the server changed from Red Hat to Windows Server, only to install XAMPP on it. We did get it running, but somehow I felt it wasn’t the right way. That was one of my last projects before leaving the company in 2015. Surprisingly despite the goof up, the head chief of the client said it was great working with me (whether this was heartfelt or just a polite business way of saying “Fuck You”, I wasn’t sure).

Fast forward to July 2017

I am doing a course in Big Data ( I talked about it in my previous post). Turns out setting up the software environment (Hadoop) recommends Linux. It can be done on Windows but it wouldn’t be that efficient and effective and most certainly not production grade. We had been introduced to Virtual Box and had implemented the quick start virtual machines which were available for download from Cloudera. One of the tasks we were told to perform was installing a database on a new virtual machine in Virtual Box. To be honest, it seemed daunting at first but then it seemed similar to loading Windows on a new laptop. Even though I had installed Ubuntu Desktop version of Linux and it did have Graphical User Interface, the thing about Linux was that it is command line driven. So I needed to as someone would say “get my hands dirty”.

When you are stepping out of your comfort zone and you are trying something new, it is difficult at first but then when you don’t quit you get better. I started to get a hang of what command did what or how to run a particular command for installing certain software into it. Not many of them had installers but some of them didn’t even need them as it was downloaded to your system in a location and all it took was just one command to extract the files and install it on the system. Comparatively it was way faster than windows installer and lesser chances of crappy malicious software being installed.

As I started to practice more on it bit by bit, I started to quite appreciate it. After a few interactions, it wasn’t that bad as I had initially assumed. Once upon a time it struck me about the PHP book I had been reading. While the book guys said to use Vagrant for the projects, the idea was to use the command line interface instead of the popular Windows GUI. For me, setting up a Linux virtual machine and using the command line felt easier than using Vagrant, but that’s just me.

Another thing that I realized at that time was that PHP frameworks were trending. Maybe I had been living under a rock but knowledge of frameworks was preferred over just some core code snippets. I had worked mostly on WordPress CMS projects while there were many developers out there using these frameworks to create amazing web applications from scratch. I was fearful that if I did not at least acquaint myself with one or two these frameworks, I was going to be rendered obsolete ( the fear is what made me take the Big Data course in the first place).

Noting this, I looked into the current PHP frameworks. I decided to learn at least one of the 3 PHP frameworks: – Code Ignitor, Laravel or Symfony. I had started to learn about Code Ignitor in my previous job but I had not set up a virtual machine for that. While Laravel is said to be an easy framework to work with, It was nothing close to easy when installing it. I spent almost 3 days to get Laravel up and running on my Ubuntu 14.04 virtual machine. This got me frustrated to a boiling point.

Symfony, however, was not that difficult to deal with. I was able to install it in about 15-20 minutes which was OK. I may not know a whole lot about frameworks, but if they trouble you even before you begin working on it, no amount of conviction is going to make you think about giving it another shot. Laravel did work, but only once and only after I had successfully installed Symfony previously without much trouble. Laravel is a fork ( new age term for clone or derivative) of Symfony. WooCommerce was a fork of JigoShop and it was quite independent of its father, not to mention it became hugely more popular to the point that creators of WordPress, Automattic, assimilated the plugin company into itself.

So Code Ignitor didn’t feel powerful and Laravel was a pain in the butt, leaving me Symfony to practice with. I have just started so I cannot say much, but I hope my post is somewhat a guiding light in choosing the right tool for the job. We need a tool that can get the job done within the time frame allotted. If we keep fiddling and fudging up the installations of our tool, when are we going to work on the real deal. Just something my 5 year work experience has taught me.

While using Ubuntu, it also made me wonder. Had I known a bit about Linux back then when I got the project, I would have been able to deploy their project without ever needing to change the server. While that client still complied, had they been adamant or if they did not have the resources to get a new one, what then? I would have been totally fudged. In a way, this Big Data course really did help out.

My pearls of wisdom entering the world of web development: do not shy away from trying something new. Merely doing a course isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you do need to practice coding and setting a web application for your next client, do what I did; Get a virtual machine software, install a Linux desktop or web server and practice on that. You will get a real feel on how to ACTUALLY work on a production server and deploy your client’s application. You can thank me by thinking about my advice carefully and then taking a decision for or against it, as neither I nor anyone else has the power to force you into anything. It is you who calls the final shots. Good luck.

Big Data – Is it worth the switch ?

Big Data – Is it worth the switch ?

Food for Thought, Updates

As per the recent reports, US president Mr. Donald Trump has signed an executive order to prevent further “abuse” of the H1-B visa, which was previously enabling the software developers from India to work in the US. The billion dollar IT Industry had been using this phenomenon for decades without any trouble. The users of this include giants such as TCS, Infosys, HCL, Cognizant, Wipro and others. President Trump wants to revise the H1-B visa laws so that:

  • Americans get the equal opportunity to work fairly in their own country
  • Only skilled software developers and individuals with rare talents are called in the country
  • Prevent further abuse of the H1-B Visa

After announcement of this rule, UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand followed suite, implementing their own rules to make it tough for the “immigrants” to “steal their jobs”.

Soon after, we got to know the report we all have known since a long time : 60% of Indian engineers are unemployable.

Shocking right?

The reason? After the introduction and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence, Analytics and Big Data, the services the IT industry once thrived upon and were once upon a time sought after are becoming redundant. If our IT people do not upskill or upgrade, they will become redundant in the next 5-10 years.

Now, my question: Are the web designers and developers safe from this flood of change ? In all honesty, I was not able to find an answer for this, but I am going to assume that the answer is not in my favor.

How could have I missed this? why did I spend 4 years of my life just to show “Experienced web developer” on my Resume, when the technologies I work on will become redundant in the next 5 years. Somebody did warn me about the Big Data flood, but my adviser was not exactly a role model in my books. Even if they were right all along and I should have listened to them, I chose to stay my path.

Because I was struggling with something else

Because my mind had become so fragile, any subject that forced my brain to think logically (like advanced engineering mathematics, which turned out be absolutely useless in my line of work) would induce fear in me. I really regret not doing MCA (Master’s in Computer Applications) , but I didn’t have many mentors to guide me.

Because no one would hire a person who had not completed his degree.

Because no one would hire a fresher either.

Because I focused on Shut up and learn instead of Question and Earn.

But most of all, I wanted to prove that I am not a failure of life. I contemplated suicide but figured my life was worth way more to my parents and some close friends than ending it because of a difficult phase.

That was in 2012. 5 years and 2 jobs later, I stand a different man but still have a similar dilemma.

Even though the place where I work I am grateful and convenient ( Pay is on time, no reasons for headache, respected as a senior person, no troubles with management; I’m living the dream job), but seeing this news about becoming redundant and see my friends earn higher than I never did, I figured it was time to “upskill”. Then I worried about the HRs asking me about job hopping, but I realize I have bigger concerns ( I have completed 1 year at my current workplace at the time of this writing) so not really worried about that question anymore. 

I am the kind of person who is always trying out something new, keeping myself engaged. I entered web design so that I can learn SOMETHING, ANYTHING to get through that difficult phase. Choosing to do distance learning MBA was my first well thought decision, something I truly wanted to do. I did a course in Digital Marketing because I believed that SEO was more than just on-page and offpage updation, keywords and article submission. I learned Photoshop,Illustrator and InDesign to keep myself relevant. I worked in WordPress and Core PHP on a daily basis. I wasn’t able to get into other programming languages for the fear of getting confused; plus I wanted a project to actually apply that code. Freelancing is difficult for me as I cannot roast my brain in an IT project after just doing the same thing for the past 8 hrs in my office. I’m sorry but I just can’t do it. Currently working on a self made e-commerce apparel store, because I want to.

Now I’m hearing about Big Data, Analytics and Machine Learning at age 26. It’s not too late to start over, or is it ?

What I want to ask is if I need to be ready for the Big Data flood that is about to hit. I want to do something that matters and pays fairly. I will probably keep web design as my passion, but I wonder if it is worth the switch ? 

Suppose If I did learn big data and got certified, would a fresher get a job in a country who only sniffs for “experienced professionals”. I would like to know what do you think.

My experience with Drupal

My experience with Drupal

Tips and Tricks, Updates, Web Design

In order to become better in what they do, one must take up challenges and keep in mind the lessons learnt from them. You cannot stick to one task alone and expect to grow. That is insanity

far-cry-3-vaasDid I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact… same f*ing thing… over and over again expecting… s|~|!t to change…

– Vaas

 

 

So now that we have cleared that up..let’s move on

In one of my recent projects I was asked to create a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for internal use. Let us first define what exactly is a CRM is ?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth.

In a nutshell, I am to create a software generally used by the sales and marketing executives. Challenge Accepted.

I have usually worked on WordPress, but for this software I felt WordPress wasn’t the right choice. We needed something better than that. It wasn’t a going to just a small website that the managers can play around with and then call the IT company developers when they  f*ck it up or make shitty customization requests for it. No, this was going to be a serious business software which would house all the contact information extracted by the research team. For a serious software like this, We needed something…more. Therefore I decided to go with Drupal

If by any chance you have been living under a rock, Here’s what we call as Drupal

Drupal is free, open source software that can be used by individuals or groups of users — even those lacking technical skills — to easily create and manage many types of Web sites. The application includes a content management platform and a development framework.

The Scenario

Create a CRM software to store massive customer contact information. The software should preferably be offline as it is to be used in-house by the managers. Also, Data security is a priority.

Solution Recommended

CRM software with Drupal CMS

Steps Taken

  • Research about CRM, its modules, activities and available solutions
  • Testing the software locally on XAMPP
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion

Analysis

Although the software did not workout as planned, I did find some considerable differences between WordPress and Drupal, which has raised my respect for Drupal

Usability

Although Drupal is harder to learn from WordPress, what it lacks in learning it covers up in its power to give control to the users and administrators to enhance the website’s security

Modules

Like WordPress has plugins, Drupal has modules. The wonderful thing about modules I found was that not only they are lightweight (most of them being less then 1 mb ) but you can switch them off like a bulb in your home ( How cool is that; Try disabling a plugin in WordPress without messing up your website)

Not for your average customer

Since Drupal takes quite some effort setting up, knowing the terminolgy, mastering the controls and getting used to, its not really the choice of the clients who want a website in 2 days or less. Its no wonder that The White House is a part of the Drupal portfolio

Seperate Front View and Admin View

If you want to seperate your website view from your admin section or completely change the look of your admin view, Drupal lets you do that.The looks are good too. WordPress doesn’t give many customization options for the admin section.

Lack of backward compatibilty

The only con I found in Drupal was that it was not compatible with its previous versions; this is a feature WordPress has created fantastically,hands down. If you have a Drupal 6 website and want to upgrade, consider it that you are going to be restructuring your website. Last I saw, the latest version, Drupal 8, does not have many modules upgraded from Drupal 7, so you might want to put those upgrade plans on hold or get your developers to contribute.

Conclusion

I feel that Drupal is much more powerful than WordPress and create any kind of website without much of the hassle. If only you get through the initial phase of learning and Drupal is successful with backwards compatibility, we can have more professional, more secure and much more amazing websites that will be irresistable to our customers and it will be like having an amazing business partner.

How to Stop Getting Paralyzed and Start Making Better Decisions

How to Stop Getting Paralyzed and Start Making Better Decisions

lessons of life, Updates

decisons

This article originally appeared on goinswriter.com. To get more tips on business and living more creatively, sign up for his free email newsletter.

  • “I have three books I’d like to write, but I don’t know which one to start first.”
  • “I’d love to quit my job, but what would I do? I have so many passions.”
  • “I’ve always wanted to live on the beach, but I can’t decide exactly where.”

Let me tell it to you straight:  Thirty years from now, you will not remember what cereal you chose at the grocery store. You won’t recall whether you saw this movie or that one.

What will matter is that you acted, that you made a contribution, that you decided to do something.

The fact is most decisions aren’t life-changers. The universe doesn’t care what you had for breakfast, but chances are you will eat something. And certainly, you’d be better off eating eggs than Pop Tarts.

It’s not to say that there aren’t such things as good decisions. It’s just that most of the time, you just need to decide, to do something. To act. And this is the very thing that most of us are afraid of: making a choice. We waste time writing up plans and setting goals that never get done.

And we sadly squander our lives.

Better than planning

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-planning. I just know that for me (and plenty of people I talk to), a lot of that stuff is just stalling, hiding. Another way to stay stuck.

So what’s the solution? What’s the answer to this paralysis we sometimes feel?

Just start. Life is a journey, not a business plan. Quit trying to control things. Let go and live the story. What I’m trying to say is this: Where you’re going doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Just go.

More often than not, you just need to move in a direction, any direction. As you build momentum, you can learn to steer.

Pick something

Your job is to take chances, not have all the answers. If this resonates with you, if it challenges the very fibers of your being, try any of the following:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Take a run.
  • Sit outside without your smartphone or laptop.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Do something dangerous.
  • Fall down.
  • Scrape your knee.
  • Tell someone you love them.
  • Laugh even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Write the first paragraph of that book.
  • Deliver a speech to a stranger.
  • Fill out that application.
  • Ask that girl/guy out.

Sure, some of these may seem silly, but the more you do them, the more alive you’ll feel. And that’s the secret of a fulfilled life. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the direction.

If you don’t know what to do with your life — what book to write, what song to sing, what job to choose, which person you should ask out — try picking something. It’s not a fail-proof solution, but it ain’t a bad place to start.

Because the truth is once you start moving, you can always change direction.

Commandments of Good Web Design

Commandments of Good Web Design

Updates, Web Design

Websites have gained more importance than ever before. Not only are you viewing them on your laptop, mobile or tablet but the website having their own app means a new step towards brand recognition. No matter what your website is about or what kind of business you are in, your website’s look is of critical importance and plays an important role in attracting customers.

There are certain rules of the web design game that have been accepted by many established Designers and brands. If you still haven’t been following these rules, somebody needs to drag your ass out from under that bloody rock

 Without further ado, here are the 10 (or more) Commandments of Good Web Design

1. Thou shalt not abuse Flash.

Adobe’s (ADBE) popular Web animation technology powers everything from the much-vaunted Nike (NKE) Plus Web site for running diehards to many humdrum banner advertisements. But the technology can easily be abused—excessive, extemporaneous animations confuse usability and bog down users’ Web browsers.

2. Thou shalt not hide content.

Advertisements may be necessary for a site’s continued existence, but usability researchers say pop-ups and full-page ads that obscure content hurt functionality—and test a reader’s willingness to revisit. Elective banners—that expand or play audio when a user clicks on them—are much less intrusive.

3. Thou shalt not clutter.

The Web may be the greatest archive of all time, but sites that lack a coherent structure make it impossible to wade through information. Amazon.com (AMZN) and others put their sites’ information hierarchy at the top of their list of design priorities.

4. Thou shalt create immersive experiences.

Merely looking good doesn’t cut it anymore. Sites like Facebook and YouTube draw in users with compelling content and functionality. Creating Web sites that can capture and hold users’ attention is what matters most.

8. Thou shalt be social.

Designers and Developers must work together to make the website as engaging as possible. The more engaging, interesting and addictive the website is, the more people will talk about you and show it to their friends. If you are actively social and your website does something great, your website’s trend will spread like wildfire in a jungle.

9. Thou shalt embrace proven technologies.

Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and their cohorts have become a part of daily life. Sites that can incorporate these elements into their design will connect with users in a meaningful way by providing functionality and an interface with which they’re already familiar.

10. Thou shalt make content king.

Though the slogan is old, it still stands. Aesthetic design can only go so far in making a site successful. Beautiful can’t make up for empty.

11. Thou Shalt Entertain

Have fun. We spend a lot of time thinking about accessibility, usability, performance, all that good stuff …but we sometimes forget about making it delightful and entertaining—the kind of thing that TV people have to think of all the time.

When creating a website for a client, it is easy to overlook humor. Playful designs can often become coding nightmares that creatives would rather avoid. The good news is that  web-based entertainment does not have to be complex (or even brilliant). For example, Canada’s New Democratic Party website turned a technical error into an opportunity to promote their message. When a broken link redirected web surfers to a 404 Error page, they were met with the following message: “Ottawa’s broken. And so is this link. We’re working to fix both.” The result is funny, pointed and makes visitors feel like they are interacting with a personality instead of a computer.

12.  Thou Shalt Test Everything (Even Assumptions)

Google the words “SEO tips” and the search engine returns with more than 43 million hits in .37 seconds. Since it is unlikely that all those pages are full of carefully curated information on how to get more people to your page, it’s understandable why there is so much misinformation about what works and what doesn’t. In addition to getting potentially erroneous information online, people also tend to assume that people exhibit the same habits as themselves on the interwebs. Thus,  we must test different web elements to make sure they are intuitive for the majority of the people who visit your site. 

13. Thou Shalt Iterate

Consider the following quote by Milton Glaser: “I move things around until they look right.” When designing for the web, this method still should ring true. Repeatedly moving things around until they look right is the best way to find what works for your audience. 

14. Thou Shall Prioritize

We’ve all been there: You call a meeting to discuss a project and end up discussing everything but the project. Getting sidetracked, brainstorming ideas that end up not being feasible due to budget or time constraints, etc. are all time wasters that no one has the patience for. The solution? Get better at prioritizing. One of the best sources for learning how to do this at the very first kickoff meeting is Kevin M. Hoffman’s Kick Ass Kickoff Meetings post on A List Apart. Read it. Learn it. Live it.

5. Engage Thy Community

Instagram did a poor job of relating their change of terms of service. This was actually pretty good for Flickr, who had just launched their great iPhone app.

Big companies buy small companies to get the cachet that the small companies have. “Isn’t that right?”, Jeffrey asks Rey. “Yes.”

Fonts.com are beginning to get more playful and engage with the type community. It’ll never be as cool as something like Dribbble (because fonts.com is a big company) but they can still push things forward.

The Happy Cog website has comments via Twitter (because, hey, who comments on blogs anymore?). A List Apart has embeddable comments: you can take a comment with you and embed it on your own website.

6. Love Thy User As Thyself

The first five commandments are really about this: knowing your user, and making sure they have a good experience, regardless of browser or device. Be responsive — not just in the technical definition of responsive web design, but in your mindset. Don’t make dumb assumptions just because someone is using a phone.

7. Remember The Content

Jeffrey brings up my blog post about Content First. And, of course, Mark has been writing about A Richer Canvas. Jeffrey took our words and wrote about them thusly: put the content first always. Instead of asking “Where should we put the sidebar?”, ask “Do we need a sidebar?”

Karen McGrane talks about content strategy for mobile and how it is literally becoming the law of the land: governments are mandating that content must be accessible on mobile. You don’t want to be the test case in a law suit.

10. To Thine Own Self Be True

Ah, the old Hay.net site: have hay, need hay. The site has since changed, but it’s still about hay. It didn’t “pivot.”

Smart talented people get promoted to being directors, but they might not be as good or as happy at that.

11. Think For Yourself

A bonus eleventh commandment. Don’t be a lemming.