Wearing different hats…

It’s one of the main things I enjoy about my job that I have to wear different hats. Not real hats, of course, I’m talking about metaphorical hats signifying different roles. Some of these hats I enjoy wearing more than others, and some I absolutely resent even going near as they are way outside my responsibility. It seems like web guys are lumped alongside general IT people when they clearly aren’t the same breed. But I digress.

Here’s a quick rundown of the hats I wear, how much time I wear them (in percent), and how well-fitting they are to me.

Developer Hat: Worn 40% of the time

My main hat is the Developer Hat. It’s plain black with a very small purple PHP logo on it. It fits pretty well, although sometimes I see people wearing the same hat and it’s quite obvious that they were born wearing the Developer Hat and I only got my one relatively late in life.

What most people can’t see is the intricate and complex mesh of technologies that make up the inside of the hat, a mesh that I concieved and constructed with my own two fingers (hmm, note to self, learn to type properly). A mesh of objects, functions, expressions and tricks that I’ve picked up over the last decade and now carry around with me. This is my Developer Hat, and I wear it with pride. It’s a pity that other people see it as a…

Technical Support Person Hat: Worn 25% of the time

That’s right, many people seem to see me as a general helpdesk dogsbody. Just because I work on the internet they ask me things like “Are my credit card details safe on this site?”, or “My screen has frozen, what do I do?” (reboot, muppet) or even “My mouse is going a bit funny, can you help?”.

The Technical Support Person hat is very distinctive. It is bright yellow with a big badge on it that says “Happy to help!”. I hate wearing this hat, it just Isn’t Me.

Let me say this once, in the hope I don’t have to say it again: there are people who are paid to answer these questions, they are called Technical Support. Ask them, not me. I am too busy to figure out how you can print every other page of your document.

Secretarial Dogsbody Hat: worn 10% of the time

Quite a lot of the time I find myself doing menial tasks that could be easily done by a much more junior person than me. The Secretarial Dogsbody Hat, therefore, covers a whole range of scenarios; from checking spelling in web pages to resizing images. While this brain-light work is sometimes a welcome change from the heavy development brain-ache stuff, it’s more often than not an annoying distraction from more important work.

Still, at the moment, there isn’t anyone else available to wear this hat, so I’m stuck with it.

Designer Hat: Worn 10% of the time

The Designer Hat is also quite distinctive. It has a set of tools down the left hand side containing things like ‘Gradiated Fill’ and ‘Bezier Curve’ and sucks up memory like nothing else on earth. It’s not a natural fit for me, but very occasionally I get it a a good angle and someone says “That looks nice”. I’d like to fit inside the Designer Hat better, but most of the time it’s a case of just jamming it on and hoping it doesn’t fall off.

Marketer Hat: worn 5% of the time

The Marketer Hat is slightly wierd. On the ouside it is all smiles and flashy graphics and low, low prices. But on the inside it is hollow, built with bits of string and devoid of soul. The kind of Marketing Hat I’d like to wear is one that is big enough for a whole community to get inside, but those hats are few and far between in big business.

Business Development Person Hat: worn 5% of the time

I like the Business Development Person Hat. It’s a no-nonsense sort of hat, plain and strong, with several useful compartments. The problem is I don’t get to wear it very often because people think that I am only capable of wearing the Technical Support Person Hat. And the few times I do get to wear the Business Development Person Hat most people tend to think I dont know what I’m on about because I don’t have an MBA or wear expensive suits.

Community Facilitator Hat: worn 5% if the time

The Community Facilitator Hat is a fun hat to wear, even if it does mean hard work. It comes with a mop for cleaning up messes, and a megaphone for making announcements. Wearing this hat means you have some degree of power, but it definitely doesn’t mean you have some degree of respect. The Community Facilitator Hat is the rarest of hats to find a perfect fit of, but once you find the right hat it’s there for life.

What most business people don’t realise is that the Community Facilitator Hat, Business Development Person Hat and Marketer Hat could (and should be one and the same.

projectGenie – the website…

Just like “Cheese – the film”. I’m being a bit premature with this, but I’ve waited so long to get this live I’m going to tell you all about it before I’ve had chance to finish it. You know my project management software? Well, it’s now got it’s own website.

Obviously it’s not finished yet, and I’m frankly not sure when it will be, but I’m happy with it all the same.

Open letter to Oxfam…

Dear Oxfam,

I was happy when I heard that you are selling music online. However I wan’t so happy to learn that you only allow Windows IE use only.

Is that because you think Macintosh and Linux users don’t want to give to charity? Is it because you are unaware of the other, more secure browsers available? Or maybe you’ve signed a deal with Microsoft to use their audio file format rather than one of the many other formats available.

Also, your main music page is also built using broken and invalid code. I’ve done a new version, built using web standards which works in all browsers.

The advantages of web standards are clear to see; for example consider that the HTML code of my version of your page weighs in at a fraction the size of your HTML code. That may save you a considerable amount in bandwidth charges when applied across your whole site.

Whatever the reason for the decision to not build your websites using international standards, I’m disappointed and it’s made me have difficulties in using your site. Surely it’s in your interest to make your website as open as possible, so as many people as possible can use it and help to fund your excellent work. I firmly believe that web standards are the way forward to ensure a more open, accessible and scalable future for the web.

Yours sincerely

Chris Taylor

Web standards in action…

I had a nice email from a client late on Friday night saying that their website was on the first page of Google for one of their most important products. The site: House of Crystal. The search: glass trophies (note: this position may change in the future, so get ’em while they’re hot!).

The great thing about this is we’ve not done anything special with the site – it’s just plain HTML pages. However I built the site using web standards, which means the text on the pages has semantic value. That means Google (and other text-dependant ystems such as screenreaders) can tell easily which bits of text have different types of meanings. Meaning like “this is a heading”, “this is a paragraph”, “this bit should be emphasised” and much more.

It may be a minor point to some, and the number of web developers using web standards may be small at the moment, but I firmly believe this is the future of the web. And, in case you don’t think using web standards has much tangible benefit, look no further than House of Crystal – they’re on the first page of Google, and all with very little traditional SEO effort.

The customer is always right…

Yes, sure. As the good people on Andy Budds website have made clear, some clients are just clueless. That goes for managers, too. If you want to feel my pain, just read that list.

My three things:

1) There is no substitute for good content (and no, I won’t ‘just make something up’)
2) There is no substitute for good design (and no, I won’t ‘just use the Powerpoint template’)
3) There is no substitute for hard work (and no, it won’t happen overnight)