Web Development and Reverse Engineering

Web developers are always trying to create attractive and functional websites. If you are using a content management system you need no special knowledge of web technologies to create basic pages. But sooner or later you need to modify layout or some part of the website for which there are no settings in the user interface. Modifying code means knowing basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScipt, PHP and other languages used for websites. If you are new to this world you will need some tutorials and introductory texts to learn basics of web technologies.

However, there is another way of learning with possibility to experiment and test various modifications of the code or layout. It is called reverse engineering and means examining code of an existing page. Every web browser has a function to display the source code of displayed page. By examining it you can see what elements are needed to construct the web page. This is a great way to learn HTML and CSS language. Of course, examining and understanding how it works is one thing, creating your own project is another. The easiest way to start writing code is to make small modifications on your website. For this purpose you need a development installation on your home server, because experimenting with a live website is not a good idea. Depending on the system used for your site you will have to find files which contain the code for the page under examination. There is no general rule, but the main core of the page layout is probably in some template file.

This approach of examining the source code is also useful when you find a page with some fancy design or cool menu. To understand how it is done you need to find appropriate part of the code. Firefox, for example, has a nice feature to display only the source code of a small part of the website. You simply select the page elements you are interested in, click the right mouse button to display a menu and select View Selection Source. Once you find source lines responsible for the wanted page element, you can study them and try to implement something similar on your website. This doesn’t mean that you can copy the code directly, you will have to modify it to be compatible with your existing website. But the basic principle is that you examine existing code and experiment with small modifications. If you combine this approach with web resources explaining theoretical background of web technologies, you will be able to quickly understand and learn new languages and technologies.

The Role of SEO in Web Development With JavaScript

With the ever growing and evolving nature of the internet and the different websites you find online, it is expected to come across with a number of mixed messages along the way. One of the longest debated topics when it comes to the role of search engine optimization in web development is whether or not using JavaScript is a great idea when optimizing a website for search engines.

The online crowd is divided – some people firmly believe that Java should not be used at all, while others think that using JavaScript is essential and contributes a lot to the overall success of a website. If you are one of the many who is considering whether to use JavaScript on your website or not, this article will help you clear your head and let you see both the good side and the bad side of using Java and how it relates to search engine marketing.

One of the main reasons why a lot of website developers and web designers are big on JavaScript is its being simple and providing a lot of options for the website owner – Java is a relatively simple programming language that will let you create several web effects that is impossible for traditional HTML to do. On top of that, using Java in a website also provides a great solution to the common problem of code bloat.

Code bloat is a situation where the size of an HTML file used for a certain web page reaches its threshold, usually the limits set by the different search engines. When your website or even just a single web page on your website goes beyond the specified limits of codes, you will be penalized with a lower ranking in the results pages which is not good news.

On the other side of the fence however, a lot of web developers also think that applying Java will only harm your rankings simply because it makes it harder for the search engine web spiders to crawl on your website for indexing. Search engine crawlers already have a lot of ground to cover these days and crawling through overwhelming volumes of JavaScript codes makes it very hard for them to find what they are looking for.

Search engine crawlers look for keywords and relevant text and information in your website before it gets indexed and ranked, and if you have lots of JavaScript embedded within your website the crawlers will have a hard time figuring out if your website is relevant or not, thus harming your SEO strategy.

All things considered, using Java will not make or break your SEO strategy. As long as you have your online marketing strategy all planned out, you will not have a hard time deciding whether to use JavaScript or not.

Become a Web Developer Overnight – Well, Not Really

Since working in the technology industry, I’ve had many people tell me that they would like to get paid to develop websites. They’ve asked me numerous questions like: How do I start? Where do you find work? How much should I charge? and so on.

The truth is, there is work out there and ALOT of it. But the work that is readily available really depends on your experience.

When I first started, I was just out of college, with a handful of personal websites I had developed through a Multimedia Journalism class taught by Cindy Royal. And honestly, I wasn’t the best student or the most talented. I was married with a new baby, who breastfed while I worked on my homework. Who has the time or energy to develop award-winning websites with a baby attached to them? And since I didn’t have any real-life experience working with clients, I scrounged up some mom-and-pop type websites for really cheap. And I mean REALLY cheap. I got these jobs from my friends and relatives.

It was when I got a full-time job in the non-profit sector of the technology industry with salary and benefits I honed my skills and learned how the industry operates. When I had down time, I would train on Lynda.com. Which I highly suggest for less than $400/year you get training that would otherwise cost thousands. And lucky for me, my boss loved to send me to training seminars, and said “yes” when I suggested that I go to Photoshop World in Boston and “yes” again when I went to it in Las Vegas, sent me to SXSW every year, Knowbility’s AccessU and a plethora of others. I didn’t make much money at that first job, but the “perks” made it well worth it.

After that job (and my second child), I freelanced for a little bit, but I was antsy to get back into the workforce and see what the for-profit sector held for me. So when I got a job at an advertising and interactive agency with competitive pay, I was psyched.

Compared to my first job where my skill set grew by leaps and bounds and I exercised it at my leisure, this second job was where I put it all into practice. I was constantly under deadline for big name, big money clients. I learned fast that it is all about the client, the money and “getting it right the first time.” A huge adjustment after my “for the good of the people” job.

In fact, the first day my supervisor asked me how it was going, I said, “I didn’t realized I would be already working on a project,” considering I was still setting up my computer and getting passwords for my system. He told me, “Sink or swim!” If I had jumped into the waters of this second job before experiencing the first one, I definitely would have sunk.

That job catapulted me into becoming a true professional. I worked long hard hours. “This is not an 8-hour-a-day job,” I was told regularly. Eventually, the late nights and constant stress got to this mother-of-two (not to mention wife, cleaning crew, and all-around super-woman-extraordinaire). More tired then fearful of whether I would have enough work or not, I went back to full-time freelancing and I haven’t looked back yet.

Knowing people in the industry, has been a key factor in getting jobs. But there are a couple other tips that I can offer those first starting out.

1. Offer referral incentives to your clients, if they send you someone who signs a contract, they get 1-year of free hosting or something like that.

2. Start with the people you know, have business cards ready to hand out.

3. Go to seminars in the industry (Photoshop World, Flash Forward, SXSW, etc) – get to know people via networking to find out how they get clients.

4. Find a niche market and get to know the people in that market. (Ideas for markets listed below)

5. Avoid people who want something for nothing like the plague, try to work with people who know that starting a website will actually cost money.

6. Apply SEO to your own website. Advertise for yourself. Write articles for the industry, you never know when they will be picked up and linked to, which will increase your web ranking.

7. Subcontract with former employers.

8. Subcontract with agencies.

9. Always keep learning. The more you know…the more you know…and the more you are worth to a client.

10. Get to know other web developers and try to get a semiotic relationship going where you can hand clients off to each other.

Niche Market Suggestions

1. Wedding Industry
2. Restaurants and Nightclubs
3. Maintenance (Lawn Care/Plumbers/Auto Care)
4. Government/Non-Profit
5. Music (accomplished musicians, not just rock bands looking to make it big because they usually don’t have money anyway)
6. Children (Boutiques/Daycares)
7. Medical (Hipaa Rules Apply)
8. Home Builders/Construction
9. Lawyers
10. Death – a little morbid but as my favorite personal business finding motto goes “Birth and Death – neither are avoidable nor stopped by recession” (Funeral Parlors, Casket Makers, etc)