Wednesday evening, as an addition to my regularly scheduled shift, I got to play locksmith, first attempting to fix the lock on the office door, which wouldn’t lock for me, and then replacing it with the old one.

Cogneato: SEO

In addition to my front-end development at Cogneato, I’ve begun doing site SEO.  I’ve always done the very basic SEO that comes from clean HTML structure with descriptive content and basic accessibility considerations as well as simple but descriptive URL structures.  However, for Cogneato, we are going much deeper than that.  It’s a good opportunity to learn more of this SEO stuff, but so far I haven’t liked it that much.  I’d much rather be cutting up layouts or programming or working with data.  The SEO can be very boring.  For instance, setting up and monitoring rankings for a big list of keywords can be boring and tedious:  Perhaps it will be more interesting when I’ve gotten to look at trends and use that information to modify things.  There’s also stuff I don’t like about it in principle.  Throwing keywords into title tags, headings, and alt text can potentially go against usability and accessibility (the blind love keywords repeated over and over).  We aren’t nearly doing the blackhat type stuffing with bunches of keywords stuffed everywhere, mostly just one per area, but I still don’t like it or having to figure out creative ways to make it work and make sense.  Also figuring out ways to put in different phrasings of the same basic keywords isn’t fun, and can potentially make a site look less professional in my opinion.  I’d much prefer all this happening in the copy, as there as a lot more room to work it in without it being so glaringly noticeable.  And I don’t like moving away from semantic structure for search engines.  I did a FAQ with li’s, h2’s, and div’s rather than dt’s and dd’s.  I’m not sure what the “best practice” is for that, but the dl seemed more appropriate to me than the ul.

Still, I think I’ve learned a good starting bit about optimizing for search engines and will continue to learn more, which will be very useful for my own sites, even if I don’t go all out with them.  I’ve been doing some research and watching some Lynda courses on the subject, which has helped a lot with learning some best practices.

Cogneato: Long Term?

Well, it seems like my job at Cogneato is likely to end up long term. Cogneato seems to be doing rather well this year, so Ron the owner thinks he will be able to keep me on long term. He is setting me up as the front end developer, as he finds me to be fast at the task. I take designs he’s done in Fireworks, slice them up, and convert them into HTML and CSS. I’ve done quite a few now, plus a few other things such as some set up on the CMS that will drive a couple of the sites.

I get to do the sites in modern HTML and CSS. I’ve only used a few tables for layout purposes (stuff I couldn’t figure out how to do cross browser without them), get to use PNG’s for transparency, and have been using the HTML 5 doctype. So far, every site has been at least somewhat different than the others, and most of them have required me to figure out something new. Some of the designs are fairly fancy. I find myself using a lot of extra divs/spans for appearance purposes only. It has been quite enjoyable. I test sites in Safari and Firefox (the newest versions) plus IE 6, 7, and 8. IE always gives me troubles. For IE 6 I am able to give them a simpler styled site, I just have to make sure it works, so I usually hide PNG’s and some other hard to deal-with elements. IE 7 usually isn’t too bad, and IE 8 usually works or mostly works with no special effort.

One site gave me a lot of trouble: DG Bar Ranch. It had a lot of the difficult things going on at once: drop shadows, gradients, boxes with variable height and width, a changeable part of the background image, z-index issues, all sorts of things. I took longer on that site than probably most of the others combined. The drop down menu’s caused me a fair amount of difficulty. I also had issues making the body background, composed of three separate repeating images, repeat properly while staying where they were supposed to. I couldn’t get the “position: absolute” to expand to the width of the body in all instances, but rather the width of the viewport, so I used “position: fixed” for one of them. I then, for IE 7, had to create two special divs to allow a background gradient fixed to the bottom to slide over a background image. The site isn’t up yet, but I can link to it when it’s up.

Anyway, I like the job and am glad it seems I will be staying on long term. I will try to post on some of the techniques I’ve learned along the way.

Cogneato: A New Job

Yay! I finally found a job. After six months of no income, I needed it. I’m doing front-end development for Cogneato, a small web development firm in Akron. They’ve done quite a few sites over the past decade, and have their own CMS/CRM they’ve built over that period. It’s pretty neat, allowing for some complicated things to be done with data and interesting features for managing customer information. It has many fancy AJAX features in the administrator interface. There have been seven people working there, and another one is coming soon. I only get to work on the front-end though.

Cogneato is only a 20 or so minute drive from my house. The atmosphere is very casual (hoodies instead of ties) and relaxed, very comfortable to work at. The owner and all the employees have been very nice.
Continue reading Cogneato: A New Job

Applied for Job: Bluestar

Angela Berlingeri, my instructor for my Web II class, forwarded me an email about a potential PHP developer job at bluestar-design.com.  There weren’t any details about the job, including information about what skill levels and sets were required, so I went ahead and sent my resume.  Julia Brigg sent me an email fairly quickly saying she might have an entry level position (the kind I’d need) in the near future.  Yay.

She also forwarded my resume to an associate, who called me immediately.  He needed a full time developer, which would conflict with my schooling, so I was unable to meet his need.  But he did say that he might be interested once I graduate.  Yay again.

Suddenly I have some job prospects here.  That is a good thing.  I was just starting to get a little concerned about going through my savings.  This was by far my most positive job application yet.

Potential Freelance Group

I am very excited about this.  Last week I asked Nadia, a girl from my Web II class who is good with design, if she would like to form a freelance-like group with me.  She had mentioned earlier in the semester that she didn’t like the idea of going fully freelance, being totally alone.  She liked to have people to critique ideas and collaborate with, as well as to share expertise.  I had thought when she mentioned that to ask her about forming a group, but my shyness and unsurity made me wait.  I finally did it, and she said yes, and was excited about it as well.

We talked a bit (via email) and she wondered who else we could include in this group, so I mentioned Jason, another good designer from our class.  We asked him the next day of class, and he said yes.  He, of course, was also excited by the prospects.  And he has had experience with freelance design.

They are both very good at design, which I am not.  They can do flash and drawings and what not.  I am fairly good working with scripting and data, and have, and have some experience turning designs into HTML/CSS.  So we should complement each other well.  We seem to work together in class well as well, which will hopefully make things work smoothly.

So we’ve been talking a bit via email and class.  We have to figure out things such as what sort of business entity to become, how we will handle money (don’t want any disputes with this), what sort of contract we will use, etc.   We will probably want to become an entity like a partnership, with a separate name from our own, so that we have a brand and people can pay that single entity.  This will also make sense for tax purposes.

Part of the idea of this is to be like freelancing, but with the support and image of the other members of the group, so we don’t want it to start off as something complicated and expensive.  It is also going to be set up as something that can be done on the side of a full time job.  We want it to be easy for people to come and go if need be, and maybe even have only part of the team work on some projects.  Our entity and other choices will have to reflect this.

We’ve discussed where to find clients, and we may start with some free sites, such as for non-profits, to figure out how things will work and get a group portfolio going.  Those shouldn’t be too hard to find.

We will continue talking, get things going, and hopefully it’ll work out.

Unemployed

This is a little late perhaps, but I am now unemployed. My internship at RPM had been done for school purposes at the end of spring semester, but I had continued on to train the next intern. I of course had quit out at the Lizard around the end of spring as well. I finished at RPM at the end of August there, and have since been without a job.

I haven’t really been looking that hard for a new one. I have little motivation to at the moment, and am working on doing some things around the house and some other personal issues for the moment. I also want to get together a good portfolio before I really start looking.

Ronda Leffel, who is the new director of the eBusiness program I am in at Tri-C, has been and will continue to look for jobs for me. There is the possibility of a job at Sherwin Williams, who is headquartered in Cleveland and recently partnered with the school. The program is touted as having a 100% placement rate for students. Though I do know one who never got placed, I am fairly confident that I’ll get something at some point.

I luckily have a fair amount of savings from my years of working at the Lizard combined with thrifty spending and careful saving. I should be fine for about six months. I’m not sure if I really want to eat all of my savings that isn’t in stocks or cds, but I may risk it. If I get worried about available funds, I’m sure I could quickly find a job at a restaurant again.

Internship

It looks like I’ve got an internship for the eBusiness Managment program I’ve recently begun at Tri-C. It will be involving web development, which was my primary interest in going to Tri-C. RPM International is the company, a multi-national conglomerate mainly focused on coatings and sealants, including Rustoleum. The main company sort of owns many smaller companies, and it has web people to build web sites for these smaller companies. The company also does a lot of charity work, including helping non-profit group make web sites. I will be learning while helping RPM’s web people.

The company uses some Visual Basic and ASP stuff along with Microsoft’s SQL Server, so I will be learning those. I’ve never used them before, coming from a PHP MySQL background. But the concepts are all the same, and the syntax and what not involved will be very good to learn. I will also learn much more complex and sophisticated things than I’ve been able to do thus far. It’s been slow going learning on my own.

This will be my second actual job ever. I’m going to continue at the Winking Lizard for a while, but reduce my hours. The internship is 3 days a week, and I’ll probably end up with that at the Lizard as well. It will be six days with no chance of overtime, but I’m fine with that given the circumstances. Once school starts, I’ll probably leave the Lizard completely so I can focus fully on the eBusiness program. It’ll be nice to finally be free of that place. It’s been rough going there every day for so long.