Tag Archives: web development

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.

 

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WordPress News: How to use GIT for WordPress Development

Do you like Time Travel? Do you also like saving your work files? Well now you can do both at the same time by using Git to save your files while keeping track of each change, to each file along the way. Once you’ve saved (committed) a file in the project, the old version is saved forever allowing you to travel back through time to make changes or revert back to old files when needed.

Imagine your just uploaded your beautiful new custom theme to your WordPress site and you realize that you forgot to save your old CSS file and you’ve just overwritten the old one on your web server. You now have no way to revert back to your latest version of the old layout in case you have problems with browser compatibility in the new layout.

Git is a very powerful version control system that allows you to keep track of all your files during a project so losing file version along the way will never happen. This requires a few extra steps during your saving process, but it has saved the skins of many programmers from all over the world every day. Now, we should all try to save backups of our projects and files to protect from data loss and keeping old versions. Git takes that idea but saves each version of that file since it was created. It also protects someone from editing a file at the same time someone else is, preventing overwriting of each others new version.

Let’s take a look at the Git structure to get a clear picture of how the system checks out and references each file.

Git file reference structure
Git file reference structure

This table shows us how Git associates each file to the master project. Each time a change is made, a “snapshot” of the entire file structure is made. This allows us to see our project in front of us, while old versions are saved and hidden from view unless we physically use our time travel capability to revert. Additionally, if no changes were made to a file in a new commit, the old version will automatically be referenced instead of uploading the unchanged file into the project commit. These basic features are why Git is so powerful and efficient, that might explain why 42.9% of professional software developers reporting that they use Git as their primary content version control system.

To learn more about Git the features and the benefits, please refer to these links from which this article was sourced.

How to Test a Site for Web Accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.
Web Accessibility – Wikipedia

The best reason for building an accessible website is that it is “the absolute right thing to do!” Not only that, but it also comes stocked with other important advantages, among them legal protection, cost savings and marketing potential.

The United States has accessibility laws governing websites funded by the federal government, non-profits, and other public access business sites, while many other counties have established web accessibility laws for a much broader scope.

When you develop a website, consider website accessibility as part of the initial development. The cost of styling is nominal at the beginning of a project, but the the price of going through the entire site to identify and fix the past problems can be very costly. Continue reading How to Test a Site for Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility: Low-Bandwidth Users

As of 2013, we have an estimated 2.7 billion users on the internet, which is nearly 40% of the entire human population (7.3 billion, as of July 2015). Of those users, only 1.8 billion are connecting to the internet at broadband speeds (this includes both land-line and mobile broadband connections). With web pages becoming more and more data heavy, thanks in large part to Plugins, large images and videos becoming common content, the 33% of internet users who have connection speeds under 150 kbits/s are at a major disadvantage when it comes to accessibility.

So what can you, as a developer, do to better serve the lower third of internet users who suffer from low connection speeds? Well, Aptivate has already put together a very comprehensive guide to developing with low-bandwidth users in mind, so in this article, I’ll just be reviewing the most important aspects of their approach.

Size Matters

One of the main points that you must be aware of when developing for low-bandwidth users, is to keep the total size of a page (including all HTML, Javascript, CSS and images) under 25kB. I know that this may not sound achievable in some situations, but in the modern age of design, minimalist structure and design is not only good for low-bandwidth users, but also for all users in general.

After all, when users arrive at a page that has too much (or too little) information displayed on a single page, they are likely to leave. This requires designers and developers to work hard at distilling the raw idea of what you need to convey to users on your site, instead of just filling your site with content.

A Picture Takes as Long as 1000 Words

Though this metric isn’t completely accurate, the message is this: If you can convey a message with words, instead of pictures, always use words. When you do have to use a picture, have it in the correct format to reduce size, and if the image is very large, consider using a thumbnail that links to the full-size image. This way, the user isn’t forced to download those large images when your page loads initially.

Cache and Inform

Allowing your site to be cached enables users to save duplicate content (like images) so they don’t have to re-download that content each time they visit your page. There are several techniques that you can utilize for this, and the full guidelines go over those techniques in their section about caching.

Lastly, it’s best to warn users of page sizes when you link to them. This way, they can decide whether or not they want to follow the link. For example, if you provide a link to a chart that details more about the subject you are talking about on your site, a user would probably be very interested in the link. However, if that chart is a 20MB image, the user may want to know that before they prepare for the 5-minute or more download time that it will take to access the information.

Additional Resources

More information on this subject can be found in thew following locations:

WordPress Words: JavaScript

JavaScript is a programming language commonly used in web development. It was originally developed by Netscape as a means to add dynamic and interactive elements to websites. While JavaScript is influenced by Java, the syntax is more similar to C and is based on ESMAScript, a Scripting language developed by Sun Microsystems.
TechTerms: JavaScript Definition

Example: A website that uses JavaScript has been proven to be more user-friendly by responding to the user’s commands more rapidly, and thus creating a more efficient site.

About The Word

JavaScript is a program that enables websites to be more interactive with the user. It continuously communicates with the server to quicken the responses, instead of having to wait for a whole new static page to load.

JavaScript is especially useful with online forms and can catch an error within a field before the user is able to proceed onto the next field. Online forms without JavaScript won’t catch an error until the whole form is completed and submitted to the server, in which case, the user will need to fill out the whole form again and resubmit.

JavaScript is also used for loading new images or scripts onto the webpage without having to refresh.

Though, not all visitors will have JavaScript, so you’ll need to make your site usable to those who do not have it installed on their computer.

JavaScript can be added to WordPress Themes, Child Themes, and template files. However, you’re not able to add JavaScript to your post content without a special Plugin.

For More Information

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

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

How To Move From Drupal To WordPress

Why?

The first thing you should do when considering changing the platform is ask yourself, “Why?” What is wrong with the platform you are on? Figure out why you cannot improve on what is bugging you. Be a Donald Norman and keep asking yourself what is wrong with that; and, when you answer that, ask it again. You might be surprised that the root problem is not the platform itself but a feature of it.

For instance, if you’re running Drupal and you just do not like the way it loads images, well, why not? I have to create content types; hardcode it in; it is just not easy. What is not easy? Why? Because it takes several clicks and a long process to achieve? Okay, so that is the root of the problem. A simple solution could be a module known as “Image Block,” a click and load feature.

If you have considered all your options and you just wanna switch publishing platforms, here are some precautionary things to keep in mind.

Back Up Your Site

Before you make any updates to your site, download a copy of your SQL database from PHPmyAdmin. If you have know idea what I am talking about, it would benefit you to download a Drupal module called “Back Up And Migrate.” Copy the files off the web host server and save them with your SQL database.

Next, in your administration panel, you should set your Drupal site to maintenance mode and turn “Clean URLs” on.

Now, for a bit of redundancy. Copy your SQL database and hosted files again. If you want to be a bit clever, create a file named something like “Drupal” and move all your hosted files to that folder.

Then, go to your DNS (Domain Naming System) manager and repoint it to “www.’yoursite’.com/Drupal.” This will help you avoid down time while you make the switch.

Delete And Upload

Once you have a backup of everything, you may at this time delete the files associated with your Drupal site on your hosting service.

Then, upload the latest version of WordPress where you had Drupal or another server or web host.

If you are code savvy, explore the WordPress PHP files for your template, erase them and Copy>Paste your Drupal code into it to the correct sections.

Make sure you study WordPress code format correctly and make changes as is necesary or it will not display.

Because this:

<?php get_header(); ?>

is not the same as:

<!--?php print render($page['header']); ?-->

Then, moving your style sheet over would be pretty.

Repoint your domain back to its root file from the Drupal folder you made earlier. Your viewers won’t know the difference.

Interview with Scott Gere of Gere Donovan Creative

The following is an interview with Scott Gere, partner and account director at Gere Donovan Creative, with offices locations in Anchorage and Portland.

I chose to interview Scott because I know him and his family personally and I admire their work ethic and quality of work. I also admire their business and the way they have chosen to build and run it – keeping it small and more personable and treating their employees well. Scott and his wife Monica are admirable people who, in my opinion, excel in the marketing industry.

Jessica: Who are you and what is it that do you do?

SCOTT: I’m partner and account director at Gere Donovan Creative, an agency that specializes in integrated marketing and particularly websites, email, e-commerce, etc. Among other things, we’ve been building websites since 1994.

Jessica: In what instances do you use WordPress and when do you choose not to?
Continue reading Interview with Scott Gere of Gere Donovan Creative

Interview with Robert Hughes, Computer Technology (CTEC) Department Chair

Recently I visited with Robert Hughes, the Clark College Chair for Computer Technology (CTEC) to ask about how it is he came to sponsor the first WordPress degree programs to be offered in the country and what he sees for the Information Technology future.

Bob Hughes, Dept Chair CTEC, Clark College Vancouver, WA

Robert Hughes has a long tradition at Clark where he currently serves as Chair for Computer Technology, CTEC Department at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. Mr Hughes has been faculty at Clark for over 20 years, where he also attended as a student, earning degrees and certifications in Scientific-Technical Communications and Electronic Publishing. Mr Hughes came to Clark to explore a range of educational programs with a prior degree in the mid 1980s. His mission at CTEC (Computer Technology) is threefold:
Continue reading Interview with Robert Hughes, Computer Technology (CTEC) Department Chair