Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


Making web stuff again

Nextgen Learning: Coming Soon

It’s freelance but still very exciting. The website itself isn’t technically exotic but is for a generally exciting & unique business concept, so it’s quite good to be involved with. It’s also brushing up on much-needed web skills for the slowly (oh-so-slowly) approaching CYIADA build… very good to be back in the field again facing challenging problems I’d nearly forgotten existed. I will be getting very little in the way of SEO practice on this one, though, because “nextgen learning” is a very low hanging fruit right at the minute. It’ll be taken by this site probably as soon as I make this post! Search traffic isn’t going to be a key business driver though, so it’s just important people can find the company by its name at the minute. I’ll probably do some optimisation around other keywords at a later stage, but it is in many aspects an establishment-phase business at present, so we’ll wait til it’s alive & kicking before pursuing anything further.

I picked up hosting from SegPub for this project today, so we’ll see how that goes. They’re actually using US-based servers from the look of things, but I’ve not read anything bad about them and they are Australian and have nice local phone numbers for me to call and are cheap and people had said their support was friendly (it is, I used it setting up!) Never content to just direct a client to a web host (they’d get lost, or something — I can’t think of anyone paying for web development who would want to know much about the geeky stuff — that’s why they pay someone else to take care of their website) , I had to set it all up so I can resell things… which meant assigning one domain under my control to them. I didn’t have any free and didn’t feel like mucking around with or, so bought the surprisingly-untaken Aussie personal domain I know. I legally own it and it sounds like it’s got commercial potential — Sup dawgs, get yo street ID-izzle here! — and I think that’s even within the realm of allowed possible applications of the domain. But I’m not really that interested :P It was pretty cheap for Aussie namespace, too.

Anyway, that’s got the SegPub holder up at present and I might change it at some point in the future. It’s quite a cute little holder graphic they’ve got going there, actually… I’m a fan.

I’m contemplating replacing it with something more interesting but probably won’t in the forseeable future. There’s the possibility of giving various family members email addresses/websites there but that has potential to turn into a horrible responsibility: SegPub aren’t astoundingly cheap, and I’ve only heard they’re reliable… at the minute it’s just a sandbox project & one client in there, which makes it easy to bail if I need to. I’m vaguely hoping to pick up a stack of potential freelance work in a week or two when I present at a conference, so I’ve got between now and then to find a suitable host for a decent number of new clients… at the minute I’m not exactly making money on hosting, but given the target audience (boards co-ordinating state school scripture & funding) it’s probably not going to be the toughest bunch to support. No-one’s going to be wanting RoR apps, for example (though SegPub do support that :P)

Having said that, I’ve got to figure out how best to show how to setup a website and sign up with PayPal to start accepting online payments in about half an hour. Actually, less than that.

I’m thinking I’ll focus on the PayPal side of things in terms of live demo and save Web Publishing 101 for a handout, because it’s important to communicate that e-commerce on the web doesn’t need to be scary & out of reach — though I often think it is. Part of that is a burning desire to do things well in terms of user experience, because that’s been drilled into me (from my own reading, research, and practice) over the last three years, but also because of a general distrust of 3rd party providers. Which is stupid, really, because a faceless API for a payment gateway is exactly the same thing, only without the UI-lameness factor.

I think the biggest challenge for this presentation in particular will be to stop thinking like there’s an audience who will be sold to by the aesthetic complement to functionality that we (rightly) place such value upon in other spheres. FEVA have been saying we should care about design for years (I’ve read/heard Malcolm Williams give the same spiel in about 3 different contexts, but it’s a good spiel so that’s okay!), but, here in particular, it’s worth trying to think the other way. Of course if they have resources that would be beneficial to consider — but, as I understand it, the people using these websites will be there for a purpose. Good design can help that, but for things like making a one-off donation or setting up planned giving (and, for the record, I have no idea how to do that with PayPal… I think that’ll have to be a version-2 advanced seminar!) and downloading a PDF newsletter, it’s probably not a really big deal.

In essence, it’s not trying to reach people who need to be convinced of the value of their project, or that they take it seriously/care. Seriously bad websites aren’t something to aspire to, but if mediocre ones are easier and achieve the goals they need to, then why not? Not the kind of clients I’d like to work for, but a lot of these people won’t have any money to spend on a website, anyway, so it’s hardly a big deal.

In summary: I’m excited about making web things again, good first impressions of SegPub as a host but we’ll see over the next two weeks, and I’m presenting soon to a bunch of people who don’t care about the web (as an amorphous we-are-the-web collective-entity being) but are enthused about the potential benefits it can bring.