The panel was about quitting your job (or coping with a layoff), working as a freelancer, collaborating with others, and what to do if your collaboration starts morphing into an agency. We sought to answer questions like these:
What business and personal skills are required to start a freelance business or a small agency? Is freelancing or starting a small agency a good fit for my talents and abilities?
Is freelancing or starting a small agency the right work solution for me in a scary and rapidly shrinking economy? Can the downsides of this economy work to my advantage as a freelancer or small agency head?
I’ve been downsized/laid off/I’m stuck in a dead-end job working longer hours for less money. Should I look for a new job or take the plunge and go freelance?
What can I expect in terms of income and financial security if I switch from a staff job to freelancing? What techniques can I use as a freelancer to protect myself from the inevitable ups and downs?
How do I attract clients? How much in-advance work do I need to line up before I can quit my job?
How do I manage clients? What client expectations that are normal for in-house or big agency work must I deliver on as a freelancer or the head of a small or virtual agency? Which expectations can I discard? How do I tell my client what to expect?
Do I need an office? What are the absolute minimum tools I need to start out as a one-person shop?
How big can my freelance business grow before I need to recast it as a small agency?
What models are out there for starting an agency besides the conventional Inc. model with all its overhead? Which model would work best for me?
Who do I know with whom I could start a small or virtual agency? What should I look for in my partners? What should I beware of?
If I’m lucky enough to be growing, how do I protect my creative product and my professional reputation while adding new people and taking on more assignments?
How big can my agency grow before it sucks? How I can grow a business that’s dedicated to staying small?
[tags]tim murtaugh, mike pick, seed, seedmagazine[/tags]
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
[tags]DouglasBowman, Google, design[/tags]
Web Standards Test: Top 100 Sites
While working on the third edition of Designing With Web Standards, I decided to visit Alexa’s Top 100 US Sites to see how many of the top 100 use valid markup, how many nearly validate (i.e. would validate if not for an error or two), and which DOCTYPEs predominate. Even with a fistful of porn sites in the mix, it was dull work: click a link, load the home page, run a validation bookmarklet, record the result.
I had no expectations. I made no assumptions. I just clicked and tested.
Such tests tell us little
I make no claims about what I found. If all the home pages of the top 100 sites were valid, it would not mean that the pages beneath the home page level were valid, nor would it prove that the sites were authored semantically. (An HTML 4.0 table layout with no semantics can validate; so can a site composed entirely of non-semantic divs with presentational labels.)
Validation is not the be-all of standards-based design; it merely indicates that the markup, whatever its semantic quality may be, complies with the requirements of a particular standard. Conversely, lack of validation does not prove lack of interest in web standards: ads and other third-party content can wreck a once-valid template, as can later third-party development work.
Moreover, nothing causal or predictive can be determined from these results. If 25% of the top 100 sites validated in my test, it would not mean that 25% of all sites on the web validate.
And I got nothing like 25%.
Enough disclaimers. On with the test.
Seven percent validate
On this day, in this test, seven out of 100 “top US” sites validated:
The Pirate Bay (#68), “the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker,” goes in and out of validation. When it validates, it’s a beautiful thing, and it belongs on the list. But when it goes out of validation, it can quickly stack up ten errors or more. (Validation Link)
Google (#1) does not validate or declare a DOCTYPE.
Yahoo (#2) does not validate or declare a DOCTYPE.
YouTube (#3) does not validate but at least declares that it is HTML 4.01 Transitional. Progress!
A surprising number of sites that do not come close to validating declare a DOCTYPE of XHTML 1.0 Strict. For instance, Twitter (#93) is authored in XHTML 1.0 Strict, although it contains seven errors.
This preference for Strict among non-validating sites suggests that at one point these sites were made over by standards-aware developers; but that any standards improvements made to these sites were lost by subsequent developers. (It doesn’t prove this; it merely suggests.) Another possibility is that some developers use tools that are more standards-aware than they are. (For instance, a developer with little to no knowledge of web standards might use a tool that defaults to the XHTML 1.0 Strict DOCTYPE.)
Some sites that used to validate (such as Blogger.com, previously designed by Douglas Bowman, and Reference.com, previously designed by Happy Cog) no longer do so; maintaining standards or design compliance may not have been important to new owners or new directors.
Web designers and developers power the global economy, but almost nothing is known about who we are, where we live, how we work, what tools we use.
The A List Apart survey (2007 survey, 2007 detailed findings, 2008 survey) of over 32,000 full-time, part-time, and freelance web designers, developers, and related user experience professionals began answering questions about who works in this field, where we are located, which kinds of businesses and organizations employ us, under which titles we work, what we earn, how satisfied and secure we are, and so on.
Complementing this information, in 2008 Web Directions North conducted a State of the Web 2008 survey of designers, developers, and other web professionals to find out more about our philosophies, technologies, and best practices. The findings include details and analysis of all responses to over 50 questions. You can read all the questions, download the complete (anonymized) set of responses, read detailed analysis, and more.
If you’ve been longing to follow Jason Santa Maria’s lead and bring real art direction to the no-budget, publish-now medium of the personal website, Noel Jackson‘s Art Direction Plug-in is for you. The plug-in lets you style individual entries in your WordPress blog without hacking the publishing tool or expending energy on time-consuming workarounds.
Web education is out of date and fragmented. There are good people working hard to change this, but because of the structure of higher education, it will take time. As part of a year-long journey to discover where we are in web education and where we need to go, Leslie Jensen-Inman interviewed 32 web design and development leaders. The consensus: technology moves too fast for college and university curricula to keep up. How, then, can educators create a sustainable foundation for the future?
No industry can sustain itself if it doesn’t master the art of cultivating new talent—an art that requires close ties between practitioners and educators. Yet web design education consists mainly of introductory Flash classes and the occasional 90s-style HTML table layout tutorial. How drastic is the web design education gap, and what can be done to close it? Designer, developer, and web design educator Aarron Walter of The Web Standards Project surveys the state of the curricula.