Tag Archives: web design

Interview: Lisa Presely, Web Master at The Independent

This is a screen shot of the banner for the website The Independent at Clark College.Lisa Presely is the current Web Master for The Independent and one time student of WordPress here at Clark College. Lisa in fact, decided to attend Clark College to learn more about WordPress.

Ever since I discovered WordPress, just a couple of years ago, I quickly fell in love with the fact that I could have a website almost instantly by choosing a theme and entering my information, and…bam! A website!

Since then, especially since I took the WordPress class at Clark College, I have also fallen in love with the way I can completely make a WordPress Theme my own by customizing almost any aspect of a Theme into the specific details that I need.

Matt:

Did you have a defining moment that ignitied you to continue your education?

Lisa:

I have been a stay at home mom for 16 years. In that time, I only worked part time outside of our home for a few months. My kids are all in school full-time now, and even though I still keep busy with the demands of my home life, I felt a strong desire to continue my education.

I knew I had skills that could help others, and I wanted to learn more about web design in order to build beautiful things for other people…and web design gives me an opportunity to hopefully be able to do it mostly from home so I can still be available for my kids.

It was important for me to teach my kids that we can do hard things. I knew adding school to my already busy life wouldn’t be easy, but I felt like it was the right time, and my kids have been nothing short of amazing in helping me achieve this goal.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to change careers, start a first career or just improve their job skills by learning WordPress?

Exactly one year ago, I knew I needed a new career field, and I wanted to make sure that if I was going to take the time and money to go to school for it, that it needed to be something I loved! For me, it was web design, and more specifically, to learn about WordPress in depth. I saw potential in that field, and I continue to see it.

If you love a career that you constantly need to stay on your toes about what you’re learning (I LOVE to learn!), then web design is for you! Especially if you love to create and design beautiful things that make other people happy. That is my joy in life, and with WordPress, I can do that.

Does your five year plan include continuing your WordPress mastery?

Absolutely!

Given any content management system to work with, I will always choose WordPress.

I have done my research, and I am very impressed with the way WordPress stays on top of the changes in technology and builds them into their users’ experiences.

They have the best, most generous group of users, who continue to give up their own time to help other people learn about the benefits and joys of WordPress. The WP community is so helpful! It doesn’t matter if you are working with WordPress.com or WordPress.org, you will always find the answer to your questions out there.

If you are interested in WordPress, you should really try to go to a WordCamp. I went to my first one this year in Portland, Oregon, and I met so many wonderful people there who just wanted to share what they had learned with people like me who are trying to make a living out of this.

What has been the biggest challenge of running The Independent?

There really haven’t been a lot of challenges with The Independent. The people I worked with to build the site were fantastic, and very supportive. Any of the challenges that have come about have been because I am still a student of web design, and really need to learn a lot more about what I’m doing! But that is the great part of working for a student run newspaper…we are all students here, and we are loving what we are learning.

As a web designer one of them is wrapping my brain around the complexity and constant changes of coding.

I can do it, and I’m continuing to build my weakness into a strength, but with WordPress in my tool box, I can build a gorgeous site without much coding involved.

It is a beautiful thing that has given me the chance to start building sites for other people before I had the ability to code much at all.

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris, a 19th century British textile artist and poet.

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Interview: Cheri Calvert, WordPress Web Designer, Web Developer, & Incredible Artistic Talent

WordPress gives women a voice. WordPress gives women an opportunity to better integrate meaningful income-producing work into their family life. I especially enjoy helping young mothers grow a business out of their talents and passions.

WordPress supplies Artists of all kinds – from authors, musicians, and actors to painters, photographers, and sculptors – with a platform to showcase their work and preserve their memories. WordPress enables graphic designers to include complex functionality at an affordable price through the use of its vast assortment of Plugins. Cheri Calvert

The Interview

It was the first significant rain and wind storm this fall: Mother Nature was angry, and I had the greatest opportunity to meet with Cheri Calvert, Web Designer, Developer, and Artist, at her breathtaking Hayden Island work office. The wind was whipping my scarf around my face and rain pelted my glasses as I approached Cheri’s front door.

After a soft knock, Cheri opened the door; her friendly face appearing with a smile. She was so stylishly outfitted as well as accessorized with a beautiful black and silver scarf.

Andrea: Cheri, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to meet with me! This is such a pleasure, and your view is amazing!

Amazing view from Cheri's home office on Hayden Island on a very stormy day.
Cheri’s home office view onto the Columbia River on an especially stormy day.

Andrea: How long have you been working with WordPress, and do you have any other experience with non-WordPress website design?

Cheri: I’ve worked with WordPress for the last 8 years, but I started out hand-coding an HTML site back in 2002. I purchased Adobe Suites shortly thereafter, and worked in DreamWeaver and Flash. I worked for a couple of years for a company that was a pioneer in the field of virtual tours. One of their contracts was to film and create virtual tours for all the Best Western properties in the US. One of my jobs in 2006 at VRNational was to research blogs along with some of the cutting edge virtual environments of Second Life. This was my first blog, still published on Blogspot (she said to me as she pulled the website up on her computer).

Andrea: Why do you prefer WordPress, and what is your favorite feature?

Cheri: I really like the WordPress culture; it was created to share. It is affordable: a platform for the people, not designed just for corporate elitists. It is a supportive International Community that works together to create something that is bigger than merely the sum of its parts. I once had a question that I posted within the WordPress Community, and a young man in Belgium responded to me immediately with a solution.

Andrea: How did you get into Web Design and Development?

Cheri: As the world changed, I felt I needed these new tools to effectively market my own artwork. I fell in love with the creative possibilities and loved the fact that I could keep all my messes tidily on a couple of hard drives. I foresaw the freedom it would give me to earn a higher hourly rate, work from just about anywhere, and make my own schedule. When the sun comes out and it’s a glorious day, I want to be able to take a “Sun-Day” off and go out and worship our amazing Earth! I’ve found that living in the Pacific Northwest, Mother Nature usually supplies me with sufficient inclement weather for me to make a living. When it’s rainy like this (as she indicates out the window), it’s perfect weather to cozy up to my computer.

Andrea: How do you go about generating new business?

Cheri: I have participated in BNI, networking groups, several Chambers of Commerce and done numerous pro bono work for non-profits. However, most of my work comes from Word of Mouth. Existing clients have recommended friends from across the country that I have never met. I think any group that you are consistently involved with creates a feeling of trust. If you let them know what you love doing, they will seek you out if that need arises for them. In the past few days, I have had four new projects come in. One is an Artist who just moved here from Hawaii and has seen some of the work I’ve done for our HOA. Another is an Actor who’s appeared on Law and Order and Grimm who is in my cardio class at the Marshall Center. Another is a single Mom who is growing her personal chef business. My daughter is her food photographer and recommended me.

Andrea: How do you deal with clients that are difficult or resistant to change?

Cheri: I just let them go. I know the relationship won’t work, and perhaps there’s someone who can better accommodate them.

Andrea: How do you make a website mobile-friendly?

Cheri: I let the Theme do the basic heavy-lifting and tweak it with a Child Theme’s custom CSS. To ensure compatibility on all mobile devices, I test them out on my Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone.

Photo of Cheri Calvert with a Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone.
Cheri Calvert tests her sites with a Windows desktop, Apple Notebook, Tablet, and Android phone to ensure compatibility.

 

Andrea: How do you feel about Web Accessibility?

Cheri: In 2003, while working for Lewis-Clark State in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop introducing the importance of accessibility issues. Although the screen-reader technology was rather crude back then, it was a good tool to help understand how information would be extracted for the visually impaired.

Andrea: What would you change about WordPress?

Cheri: Nothing. I can’t think of anything I’d want to change.

Andrea: It seems that this line of work requires constant education to keep up with all the upgrades. How do you go about continuing your knowledge?

Cheri: WordPress Meetup Groups, WordCamp, Online User Groups, solving problems through researching. When things don’t work, I try to look at it as a game. I’m “Cherlock” Holmes, searching for clues to solve the mystery. When something breaks, it is oftentimes trying to determine what is different. Sometimes I find that it’s just a comma in the code…

Andrea: What do you enjoy most about your career?

Cheri: Flexibility. Plus, there’s always something new to learn! I am an introvert (meaning that groups of people drain my energy). I need solitude, like a nutrient, to keep me balanced. Web Development gives me a voice and allows me to connect with the world from the comfort of my own office!

Andrea: Do you have any advice for those who are pursuing the same line of work?

Cheri: You’ve got to love it!


Cheri’s Story

Cheri is not just a Web Designer/Developer, but she has also worn many, many hats. She went from processing crab in the Aleutian Islands in the 70’s to Head of Wardrobe for Bobby Vinton and the Glen Miller Orchestra at the Blue Velvet Theatre in the 80’s, and spending the majority of her time as a self-employed artist. 

She had her own line of sheepskin outerwear and hand-laced deerskin clothing. Cheri used the scraps to create hand-sculpted dolls, with faces made of deerskin. These dolls were featured on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens and Early American Life. She sold these little dolls, as well as elves and Santas, while featuring them in illustrated booklets.

Screen shot from Cheri Calvert's theleatherdoll.com.
Cheri Calvert’s Woodland Fantasy Elves, photo courtesy of http://www.theleatherdoll.com.

In the 90’s Cheri developed her own line of hemp clothing called the Cannabis Collection. She created beautiful clothing and bridal gowns, all made of hemp.

Cheri continues to play with the creative features of WordPress, which fits well with her Artist clientele. Her current favorite Theme is Elegant Themes DIVI to create fun special effects and layouts. One of the biggest joys of her career is being able to help promote her fellow creative-types and their work.

 

Web Accessibility: Removing Barriers to Web Accessibility

Do you know who Tim Berners-Lee is? If the name sounds familiar it’s because you probably heard the name before. He created the World Wide Web (WWW) and is founder of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that develops technological standards for the Web. He is committed to the ideal that the internet should be available to anyone, anywhere in the world, on any type of machine that has an internet connection.

This includes people with different technology resources, rural users or even people with disabilities which is estimated to be about 1 billion people worldwide.

In 2008, the W3C released version two of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.0). The same week, two major European standards organizations the Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) adopted those WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Barriers

The work of standards organizations help us identify what barriers people face when using the Web. There’s a plethora of information on what Web Accessibility is and what barriers there was to users on the Web. To remove these barriers we must first define what they are. I will focus on three main points that generally define what they are for all users.

  1. Perceivable: The interface and the information on a Web Page must be presented in ways that are perceivable.
  2. Operable: The navigation components and interface must be usable.
  3. Understandable: The user interface and information must be understandable.
  4. Robust: The underlying code and programming is robust, adaptable, and secure.

Along with these main points, there are also four main disabilities that can affect access to the web.

Visual

  • Text Magnification hardware/software
  • Relative font sizes
  • Use of proper CSS
  • Small or poor contrast text
  • Color identifying information

Mobility

  • Limited mobility devices
  • Mouse typically not an option

Cognitive

  • Learning disabilities benefit from well designed and organized pages

Auditory

  • Multimedia barriers to users hard or hearing or deaf

Example

Here is an example of ways to design your image ALT text to remove barriers to disabled users when using screen readers.

Because screen readers cannot interpret the content of images on a web page, the use of “ALT” text helps describe in words to the user what the image content is. Taking the time to accurately describe an image content will greatly help the Accessibility on your site.

If an image is a… The ALT Text should…
Chart or Illustration Summarize and explain
Photo or work of art Describe the image’s content
Graphic or button with text Be the same as the image’s text
Functional icon without text Describe the action to be taken
Background or other decoration Contain an empty space (” “)

Although, ALT Text is meant to be short and concise, when longer descriptions are used to explain or describe an image it can be very helpful in breaking down the Web Accessibility barriers to users on your site.

Standards in Accessibility on the Web

As the we move forward in developing web standards and adhering to those standards, we help define what barriers users experience in terms of Accessibility when using the World Wide Web. Organizations helping pave the way for these standards are helping remove barriers to users across the world by evaluating the needs of users from all demographics.

For more information on related articles and resources used in this article:

Web Accessibility: Seizure Prevention on the Web

When designing websites it is imperative to follow the necessary standards to design a site that is safe for those who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy or other seizures.

Photosensitive epilepsy is a form of epilepsy in which seizures are triggered by visual stimuli that form patterns in time or space, such as flashing lights, bold, regular patterns, or regular moving patterns.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines state that web pages should not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period, or the flash is below the general flash and red flash thresholds. Continue reading Web Accessibility: Seizure Prevention on the Web

Web Design and Section 508

In the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, US lawmakers recognized that the emerging information technologies could restrict the opportunities for those with a disabilities. This law started the process of enforceable requirements to ensure all individuals can receive the same benefits of internet access.  Section 508, as it is known today, provides web developers the guidelines for being compliant.

This section bars the Federal government from procuring electronic and information technology (E&IT) goods and services that are not fully accessible to those with disabilities.
WebAIM.com Overview of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

It is very clear, to do business with US federal government agencies, or any company or non-profit organization that adopts these policies, must be consistent with the Section 508 requirements. Be too creative and web design proposals can be rejected.

Web Design Requirements for Section 508

Section 508 1194.22a-p provides the 16 requirements for web design. Since they have been the standard for many years, most are included in web development tools or are considered best practices. For easy reference, listed below are the first five.  All the requirements with explanations are available at the Quick Reference Guide to Section 508: Web Based Internet and Internet Information and Applications.

  • 1194.22 (a) A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided.
  • 1194.22 (b) Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation.
  • 1194.22 (c) Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color.
  • 1194.22 (d) Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.
  • 1194.22 (e) Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map.

Win Government Contracts

Web designers seeking the award of government contracts should understand the law. They should be familiar with the accessibility requirements of those with disabilities and incorporate them in all web projects.

Resources:

WordPress Words: DIV

A “DIV” is an HTML element that divides sections of your WordPress site.

Example: A user can customize their site by adding DIV tags around their content sections in the text editor. Then they can add custom CSS to their DIV’s by going to the Theme Editor in
Appearance–>Editor–>style.css and adding a new line in the file.

.main-grid-content {display:inline-block;background-color:#FFF;}

About the Word

The DIV tag in HTML is used widely on most websites today. By default, a DIV is a block level element, which means it will take up all of the horizontal space  in its current container. In WordPress DIV’s are used to create new sections of content within your site, that may be linked to current classes or new ones.

New sections can help you separate portions of your site to add embedded maps, special offers, promotions, contact information, images and other content.

For More Information

Web Accessibility: Lists

Why should we use lists? Why are lists important to web accessibility? How do are lists need to be structured in compliance with web accessibility laws?

Using ul, ol, and dl elements for defining list content ensures users with disabilities can easily distinguish a list from the rest of the content and move between items of a list and between lists themselves. You should write link text that clearly communicates the target of the link making navigation easier for all users. Using link lists also makes it easier to find and update links on web resources.

According to the Web Accessibility Guidelines (WAC), website designers and developers are required to: Continue reading Web Accessibility: Lists

Using Post Sandbox Examples for Testing WordPress Themes

You’ve just started your new WordPress site, and you are browsing the selection of Themes WordPress has to offer. You fall in love with a Theme and start filling it with content. Then you discover a huge flaw. You hate how your pictures align, and how your headings look. With a Sandbox post you can alleviate that issue.

According to the WordPress.org article “Test Driving WordPress:”

A Sandbox is a term related to the sandbox you might have played in and built sand castles in as a child. It is a playground for working on concepts and exploring your imagination.
Test Driving WordPress – WordPress Codex

Essentially, a sandbox post lets you take a test drive of your theme before you put it live on your site. It is a post that shows you an example of every HTML and CSS code and how it will be displayed. Continue reading Using Post Sandbox Examples for Testing WordPress Themes

Installing WordPress on Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services  (AWS) offer a way to host your own WordPress sight with no hardware and little to no expense on a small WP blog site. This is ideal if you want to start working with a self hosted WordPress site for developmental purposes, monetization of your blog, or just good ol’ bragging rights.

In this article I will go into an overview of the EC2 service and the various Virtual Machines (referred to as instances from here on out) that are free and paid. Some may be free to download and initially spin up but may incur an additional cost to the AWS price tier even if you are in the Free Tier. Even though I discuss the free tier exclusively and micro-instances it should be mentioned that the AWS allows for scalability of your WordPress site so it can grow as your site(s) grow.

Bitnami Logo for WP instance.There are various pre-made instances for use with your AWS account that are configured for just about “one touch” configuration. Some are free, others are free to upload to AWS but incur a usage cost, and others cost for upload and usage. A few of the providers are; Bitnami, JumpBox, and Turnkey Linux. If you do choose to go with these “one click” solutions be sure to read all the print to verify if there are any charges for the instance or use of and how the charges are calculated. Continue reading Installing WordPress on Amazon Web Services

Domain Name Services: Postman of the Internet

Domain Name Services (DNS) is a service which exist to help us humanize the addresses of networked resources. Humans remember words as a whole easier than numbers representing octal based Internet Protocol addresses of those same networked resources be them across the Wide World Web or just an arms length away on our local network.

That was a mouth full. Essentially through DNS you can type in a URL into your favorite web browser and through the process of name resolution your system contacts a server acting in your behalf to find the correct IP address that matches the human oriented address you type in.

Sounds simple but a lot of chatter between various servers near and far may happen just to pull up that favorite site that you wish to view. First your own system will see if it has the particular IP/URL pairing locally in it’s own tables. On your computer this information will be kept in a host.txt file and depending on the operating system the location varies. Continue reading Domain Name Services: Postman of the Internet

How to Create and Use Abbreviations in HTML

Our friend the <acronym> tag has been deprecated with the release of HTML5, so how does this affect the use of acronyms generated with HTML? Well, we have a new friend! The <abbr> tag joins the HTML element list with HTML5. Continue reading How to Create and Use Abbreviations in HTML

WordPress Theme Frameworks

To begin, you will need to understand what is meant by WordPress Theme Framework. Technically (according to the WordPress Codex) any stand-alone Theme can act as a Framework. This is in the sense that any stand-alone Theme that allows you to make alterations to it, can be used as a framework.

What is a WordPress Framework?

There is a bit of confusion when it comes to the term WordPress Theme Framework. While the concept is that a Theme Framework is a bare bones, well-designed WordPress Theme for a developer or designer to build many client sites upon, some people think that a WordPress Theme Framework is an ultra-basic theme that has next to no formatting. When someone refers to WordPress Framework they may also be referring to the archive of code used to create Parent Themes.

Continue reading WordPress Theme Frameworks

WordPress Developers Discuss Common Fears About Using WordPress

After grappling with my own fears around exploring WordPress more deeply for several years, I finally decided to take a college course on using WordPress. Just gaining some basic understanding of the working’s of WordPress helped me move beyond those fears.

My fears around using WordPress sparked a curiosity in me. I wondered what held others back from using WordPress.

I began with former business owner and fellow student, Karen Desemple. I asked her about her past fear’s about using WordPress. I say “past fears” because she has taken Lorelle VanFossen’s WordPress class at Clark College. Here’s what she had to say when asked if she had used WordPress for her business, and if not why?

The potential of WordPress was overwhelming and I felt like I didn’t have time to figure it out. I ended up going with Blogger at the time because it felt more basic.

Now that I have worked with WordPress at Clark College, the thing that scared me about it before is the thing that would make me want to use it now – because it is easier to use, more flexible, and powerful. I let it intimidate me -no. That’s not right. I let my fears intimidate me. I wanted it to work right out of the box, and when it did, I was suprised.

Karen sees all of the potential in WordPress. That potential is the strong driving force that motivates her to use it now.

Wow, that is some powerful stuff. Sounds like people just need to learn a bit more about it to shake loose that fear! Continue reading WordPress Developers Discuss Common Fears About Using WordPress

Interview with Chris Martin: Professor and Web Developer

Portrait of Chris MartinChris Martin has been a web developer since 1997. Chris is also a documentary film maker, writer, speaker and professor here at Clark College. Chris started teaching about a year and a half ago, which has inspired him to learn even more about the subjects he teaches: Web Design, Web Multimedia Content, and Web Video Production.

Chris loves people. He loves listening to people talking about their passions. Chris believes first and foremost that stories matter. Because of that his mission is to tell stories about people, businesses and organizations that are positively impacting others throughout their communities and around the world.

“In Internet years, I am ancient and have had to redefine my skills and abilities several times based upon changing technologies and amazingly smart people who have developed open source projects such as WordPress.”

Here are a few sites that Chris created with the use of WordPress:

Continue reading Interview with Chris Martin: Professor and Web Developer

Interview with WordPress Web Designer Brian Balla

Brian Balla a WordPress Web DesignerRecently, I had the opportunity to interview Brian Balla. Brian is a WordPress Web Designer located in Portland, Oregon.

In 2009, Brian Balla left a 9 to 5 corporate design position to embark on a career as a freelance web designer and WordPress specialist. Since then, Brian has been able to retain a client roster of over 55 small to medium sized businesses in five states and two continents. With a background in small business, Brian is passionate about helping business owners and scrappy start-ups make their websites work harder for them. From one-page informational websites to complex enterprise level applications, Brian offers his clients expertise in a variety of areas including web design, WordPress development, standards compliance, analytics interpretation, and search engine marketing and optimization.

How did you get introduced to WordPress?

During high school and college, most of my free time was spent either writing or building websites.

After college, my web design hobby went to the “back burner” and laid dormant for several years as I immersed myself in suits and ties and 8 o’clock meetings. Fast forward to the fall of 2006. As I was searching for a restaurant for dinner later that evening, I came across a website with the link “Powered by WordPress = Code is Poetry”. This reminded me of my days designing and developing. I skipped the menu and I followed that link. Fast forward again to several weeks after that. I had fully immersed myself in the world of WordPress and began building and breaking things faster than I could keep track. Continue reading Interview with WordPress Web Designer Brian Balla