Cool hunting work on the web

I haven't posted much lately due to the recent lost ability to control
my own priorities. I guess real jobs are like that. Anyways, I have been
trolling the ITMalawi mailing list, and I thought I would paste a few of
my posts here.

Someone (lets call him Chingoni to protect the innocent) wrote the
following - my response is below.

> Developing sites Using Wiki's, Plone and (CM'S) its not a Bad idea, > but Removes a certain excitement of one being called a Web > Designer/Developer , I would rather use Dreamweaver than this tools > Because you in control and secondly your imagination and creativity > are not limited.

> Using the Wiki's, Plone (CM'S) Etc your limited, you are not in
> control, you don't have to touch PhotoShop or Fireworks to design
> those Graphics you like, Neither Flash to create those animations you
> like. One day we will woke up having our Websites looking alike,same
> concepts and having all features similar And all of us being called
> Customiser's not Developers/Designers.

Recall the first time you wrote:

Hello World

Loading that in Netscape Navigator was pretty exciting! But it wasn't
particularly exciting to change "Hello World" to "I am a web designer".
Along comes dream weaver, and you double click the screen and type
"Hello World" and that seems even less exciting, but at least you didn't
spend much energy doing it. Sure, you can add some cool effects, in fact
Dreamweaver makes creating a web site feel like creating a painting. Add
in some flash, and things are exciting. So you launch your site, and
everybody sees it and and is like "wow that is cool", and excitement
reigns. You get recommended to make another site, and you basically
develop the whole whizz bang thing again, and the client is happy, but
you are not feeling particularly excited, rather a little bit bored in
fact. Then the first client calls you and asks you to update their
prices, and you are double clicking dreamweaver to edit content and
re-upload the site. BORING!

Its at this point that you realize that whizz bang dreamweaver flash
sites look great, but are like a pretty girl with no personality: not
something you want to devote your life to.

The internet has realized this, and the internet has adapted. Content is
king. Content needs to be changing, well-written, thought provoking, it
should lead you to make decisions or perhaps to another piece of
content. Content is not something that a small group of web developers
should create. Content needs to come from the people who care about the
content. Most of these people would not find joy in creating "Hello
World" either in raw html or dreaweaver. They need to be able to update
their site everyday, and it needs to be as easy email (email has been
called the ultimate killer application - ponder why that is).

If the content is changing, interesting, and relevant then visitors will
come back - even if the website has been done with the default drupal
theme. They might even want to subscribe ("Wow, Steve Jobs is
interesting, I want to know the next time he announces something at
Apple computer" or "OIBM has some interesting products, I want to be the
first to know about them" or "This ICT Malawi group is really thinking
about important issues, I want to join the discussion"). Getting people
to your website once is important, getting them to come back every week
is invaluable.

It is the content of a website that will make it valuable. I am not
saying that making it look nice isn't important, but I am saying it is
not as important.

So what is left for us geeks - those of us that love dealing with the
technology - who get turned on by writing "Hello World" in Ruby?
Installing Drupal 100 times is as boring as installing MS Word 100 times.

Well, there is still plenty of interesting stuff to geek out with. CMS
systems are styled with cascading style sheets. A bit of CSS can utterly
transform a site without touching the content. Check out, and click on a couple of different styles and be
amazed at what is possible. Understand CSS and your ability to express
yourself visually will be limitless, even within the confines of a CMS.

But there is more! AJAX is all the rage right now. AJAX is basically
using javascript to do amazing things with content. AJAX makes websites
as responsive and dynamic as any client side application. This is how
gmail works. Perform searches, display new content, etc all instantly
without refreshing the page. I recommend using the prototype.js library.

Javascript is replacing flash (thank goodness!). Check out the
scriptaculous library and you will see why. This is exciting stuff, and
it can be used in CMSs.

A web developer needs to be on the cutting edge of the living,
breathing, changing internet if they want to stay relevant, and I think
that is the most exciting thing of all.

Install a CMS, show stakeholders how to manage the content, then dive
into this brave new world. Alternatively, use dreamweaver to make a nice
design, ask marketing to send you something in a word document and then
manually hack that into dreamweaver, upload it, and never touch it again.

The new web is all about content, at its leading edge are technologies
like tagging and AJAX, with concepts like collaboration, flashmobs,
virtual worlds, and blogging.

Go ahead, convince me that dreamweaver is more exciting than this.

2 Response to Cool hunting work on the web

  1. [...] Katanga province is perceived as being channeled to Kinshasa. Malawi: Mike of Hacktivate shares some of the discussions he has been having on Malawi’s ITMalawi mail [...]

  2. Great post Mike. Even though I am someone who enjoys design more than messing with code, I couldn't agree more. But that's the nice thing, I don't have to mess with too much code and can deliver dynamic sites. I believe that CMS and blogging software like Wordpress are bringing together the best of both worlds and unless you're a photographer or like to create web animations, flashy sites with fluff for content don't last.

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