Democracy | May 31, 2005
As some of you may have noticed, we recently had an election in the UK. However it was nowhere near as big a deal as the recent elections in the US, primarily because the outcome was a foregone conclusion. However I wanted to have my say and exercise my “democratic” right to vote
I’d recently moved house so as soon as the election was announced I went down to the town hall to register my change of address. With four weeks until the election I didn’t think there would be a problem. Surely the point of announcing an election is to allow people to register or update their details. Especially as there was a big campaign encouraging people to vote going on.
The elections came and went without word from the electoral services officer. I assumed their office had been rammed with applicants and they were just too busy to process my details. However I was pretty angry that I’d been denied my right to vote so sent them a letter of complaint. As it turns out it wasn’t the volume of applicants that prevented me from having my vote, it was pure bureaucracy. By the time the election was called it was already too late to change my details. In fact I needed to send in my application about a month before the election was even announced!
Unfortunately this wasn’t mentioned on the websites I downloaded the application form from. In fact it said that there should be enough time for the change to take effect. Apparently changes are underway to allow registration 11 days before the poll. However I’m still annoyed that I was denied my right to vote for no other reason than bureaucratic red tape.
10 Bad Project Warning Signs | May 31, 2005
One of the great things about being a freelance web designer is the ability to turn down projects. I’ve come across a few projects recently that sounded interesting but made me feel nervous. It wasn’t any one specific thing; rather a series of small little things that set my internal alarm bells ringing. As such I’ve written up a list of bad project warning signs. Individually none of these signs should be deal breakers. However put a few of them together and it may be worth thinking twice about taking on that project.
- The project needs to be done in an incredibly short space of time, due to a fixed deadline. In these situations the potential client has often known about the deadline for a while. However it’s taken them longer to plan the project than initially anticipated so they expect the developer to make up the time.
- The potential client says that they have no idea about budget. This could indicate they haven’t done their home work and aren’t very serious about the project.
- The potential client says they have a budget but won’t tell you what it is. This is often an indication that the client doesn’t trust you and feels that if they let you know their budget, you’ll simply charge them more for the same solution.
- The client says they want the site to be as cheap as possible, or they have an extremely low budget. This usually means the client doesn’t value their web presence much, preferring cheaper over better. In this situation potential clients are often spending their own money, can be extremely demanding and expect more for less.
- The client expects much more from the project than their budget will allow. In these situations it can be difficult to manage the client’s expectations.
- You are expected to come up with design ideas for the pitch. This is often problematic as you won’t know enough about the project at such an early stage. These type of pitches can turn into a beauty contest where participants are solely judged on the visuals they create rather than their ability and track record. There is a strong risk that elements of your design will be used even if you don’t win the pitch.
- The potential client won’t tell you how many agencies they have contacted about this project. This could indicate that they have emailed a large number of agencies and are shopping for the lowest quote.
- You will be pitching against a large number of other agencies. This often means the client hasn’t done their homework researching potential suppliers. If the pitch involves lots of preparation this puts a financial burden on the agency, while limiting the chance of success.
- There is no central point of contact. Projects for large companies often involve many stakeholders. If there is nobody managing the project at the client’s end you’ll having to do it for them. This vastly complicates the project and increases your overheads. Being a supplier you’ll have no power in the organisation, making your task extremely difficult. You also run the risk of getting sucked into company politics.
- The potential client hasn’t provided you with a request for proposal and doesn’t have the time to fill in your design questionnaire fully. If the client isn’t willing to put the required time into the project it could indicate they aren’t going to take the project seriously. It could also indicate that they have contacted lots of agencies and just don’t have the time or are simply window shopping.
What are your bad project warning signs? Are there any projects you’ve taken on and wished you hadn’t? Conversely, were there any projects you were nervous about taking on only to find those concerns were unfounded?
Top Tips For Freelancers | May 19, 2005
If you’re a regular reader of this site you’ll probably know that I left full time work at the end of March to begin a new career as a freelance web consultant. If you’re currently a freelancer or running your own small business, I’d love to hear your top tips.These could be anything from productivity tips, to accountancy tips – tips about finding work to tips about keeping organised and focused. Is there a great bit of software you use or a process that you swear by. Is there something you know now that you wished you’d know when you started? I’m all ears.
A Musical Baton | May 16, 2005
Total volume of music on my computer
The last CD I bough
Song playing right now.
Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me
- Wonderwall by Oasis
- Lucky Man by The Verve
- .38.45 by the Thievery Corporation
- Chicken Payback by The Bees
- Just Dropped in from the Big Lebowski Soundtrack
Five people to whom I’m passing the baton.
SkillSwap Redesign | May 7, 2005
The website for SkillSwap, the peer-to-peer training organisation I run, has been looking tired for a very long time. I have ambitious plans for the site but have neither the time or programming skills to accomplish everything I want to do on my own. As such, the site hasn’t changed since it was created over two years ago, and it really shows. The dated design has been a real thorn in my side the last year, so the other night I knocked up a quick, interim design. It’s very simple and more a re-skin than a redesign. However it should last another 6 months until I can find the time and resources to redesign the site properly.
Background Image Positioning Bug | May 3, 2005
A few months ago I was building a navigation menu using a list. I’d created a nice little arrow bullet which I wanted vertically centred and indented by 10 pixels. Pretty simple stuff I though, I’d just do something like this.
background: url(images/arrow.gif) no-repeat 10px center;
However when I checked, neither Safari or Netscape were displaying the image. I played around a bit and realised that these browsers refused to display the background image if I mixed units with keywords – something that’s allowed in the spec. This wasn’t a huge problem as I could simply do this:
background: url(images/arrow.gif) no-repeat 10px 50%;
So I noted the issue down and promptly forgot about it.
All the versions of Netscape I tested failed to display a background image when I mixed keywords and units in the background property. The same was true for Opera 7. Opera 6 however displayed the background image but incorrectly centred it horizontally. Older version of Safari also displayed the bug, but it seems to have been fixed in the latest release.
Using the background-position property proved slightly better.
background: url(images/arrow); background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 10px center;
Safari 1.2 now displayed the background image correctly as did Netscape 7.2. Netscape 6.2 and 7.1 along with Opera 7 displayed the image but didn’t try to position it.
It’s not a particularly interesting or important bug, and is one that’s easy to avoid by not mixing keywords with units. However I thought I’d mention it just incase anybody comes across the same issue and wants a bit of a sanity check.