lynda posts

Lynda: SEO – Search Engine Optimization Getting Started

Finally completed another Lynda course (see certificate Link no longer working). I’ve mentioned that I’m doing some SEO work at Cogneato, so I decided to go through a course on Lynda. I had started one a while back, but it was very long and on the old side (2006). There’s a newer, shorter one now entitled “SEO: Search Engine Optimization Getting Started “. It was good and detailed without being overly verbose. I like her methods, especially her message to write for users rather than search engines. I think they work better long term and are better for users than some of the more old school methods. I will try to implement some of the methods at Cogneato.

Some important points from the course:

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Lynda: Web Accessibility Principles

I’ve completed another Lynda course, Web Accessibility Principles by Zoe Gillenwater. This course was well put together, had a lot of good information, and should be very usable, though it perhaps had a lot of repetition (to give a feeling of what screen-readers must go through?) and pacing issues. It also, perhaps due to its age (from late 2007), missed some techniques, such as pure CSS drop-down menus.

As I watched it, in addition to taking copious notes, I stopped from time to time to implement some of the practices on my own site(s). For instance, I added a class for content that will benefit screen-readers but not be that useful to or possibly bother regular sighted visitors:

.screenreaderOnly{ position: absolute; margin-left: -9000px; }

I had been using “display:none;”, but evidently screen-readers hide that content as well. I added some screenreaderOnly headers in my navigation and footer since screen-readers provide easy navigation by header. I also created a skipToNav link (my nav is below my content) using the hiding technique above, but also used “:focus” and “:active” (for IE6) to allow keyboard users to access it:

<div id="skipToNav"><a href="#navigation">Jump to navigation</a></div>

and:

#skipToNav{ z-index: 3; position: absolute; top: -20px; left: 60px; }
#skipToNav a{ position: absolute; left: -9000px; }
#skipToNav a:focus, #skipToNav a:active{ position: relative; left: 0; }

I also added a few Firefox Extensions for accessibility purposes. Fangs writes out pages as text similarly to how they’d be read be a screen-reader. I had been using Lynx to see my pages rendered text-only, but hadn’t realized how much other stuff gets read out. Colour Contrast Analyzer and WCAG Contrast Checker both allow checking of page color contrast of individual page elements to make sure visually impaired folk can read text. They do things slightly differently, and both seem to show background-foreground pairings that don’t exist on the page.

I’ve done some other stuff to improve my sites accessibility, but plan to do more when I have free time. I will go through those accessibility checkers and attempt to move as close as I can to being compliant with them. As I start to implement this stuff on my own site, I will be able to more easily implement it on other sites I build as well. This will hopefully be helpful in getting a job as well.

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Lynda.com: Building an Online Shopping Cart

I’ve completed another Lynda.com certificate, my first since starting my solo lynda account. This one was titled Building an Online Shopping Cart. I don’t really have experience with eCommerce yet. I worked with the forms and some of the database information at my RPM internship, but the actual processing was already built and out of site, and all I was doing was modifications to something that existed.

The course had a fair amount of good information for doing eCommerce. It did kinda focus on Cartweaver a lot, which is unfortunate considering that I don’t do Coldfusion and don’t really have a desire to. The basic concepts of that could be applied to any shopping cart application though. It also didn’t go into enough detail for me about the specifics of working with gateways/processors or, to a lesser extent, SSL certificate companies. I will definitely have to actually do one to truly understand how to do it and what options there are.

Anyway, I think knowing this could easily help in getting a job or maybe a freelance project. Then I’d get some actual experience which will really help getting more.

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Lynda.com Training Again

Since I am not in school or working at the moment, I think I am going to learn some more using Lynda.com, with a normal subscription this time. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up some skills that will help me get a job, or maybe help make me more attractive for freelance work.

Lynda isn’t as much into development as design courses, but they do have some that’ll help me. I plan to learn Drupal, Joomla, and ASP.NET, which are popular items in the job postings I find. I could learn some of this without paying any money, but Lynda I can just sit and go through without searching and reading random articles or reading large books, and I can still do those as well if the Lynda course isn’t giving me enough.

I considered picking up a class or two at Tri C. However, one class would cost more than a year of Lynda, and the classes are on a rigid time schedule, not at my own pace where I can start and stop as I please. The classes I wanted are all online there anyway, so I wouldn’t get the classroom benefit.

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Lynda JQuery Certificate

We had the day off for Veteran’s Day, so I’ve had some extra free time.  I spent part of it doing some of the other Lynda tutorials.  I worked on the SEO and JQuery ones.  The SEO one is crazy long and it felt like I was making no progress.  The JQuery one was about double the length of the Worpress one, but I finally finished it.  Yeah!  Here is my certificate for that one (Link no longer working).

I already knew most of the basics of JQuery, but the tutorial filled in many blanks for me.  It went over all of the main parts and functions of JQuery fairly well.

It also introduced me to JQuery UI.  That looks very neat for sure, but the full plugin, with the theme and what not, is something like 312kb.  That’s crazy huge for a web site.  Some (92kb) of that is images which would only load when needed, but the CSS for the theme is 28kb and the script itself is 192kb.  Definitely a good thing that it is so easy to customize what parts you want.  I generally try to keep my entire page loads, or at least the home page, under 100kb.  That is becoming harder and harder as more images and functionality are expected, but it’s good to keep load times fast.

I took some notes on this one, a lot of notes.  It’s really just as a reference for me.  I forget the specifics of this stuff very easily and am always having to look it up, even sometimes for things I do frequently.  I’m somewhat dependent on my notes.  So, if I can figure out how, I will attach them as a text file.  No point in adding them directly to this post, they will make it huge.  But I’ll have to worry about that later:  I have a usability event to go to (Link no longer working).

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Lynda.com WordPress Certificate

Our class decided to use Lynda.com to learn more about WordPress and some other topics that will help us with our Stearns project.  Our teacher has an account and was able to set up a limited time and course version for us at a reduced price.  We are doing five courses with a little over a month to complete them in.  I was worried this would be too short, but have been moving along pretty quick thus far.

Just recently, I completed the “Self-Hosting a WordPress Site” course, and they gave me this certificate for my trouble.  This was the most important for the course, so that is why I did it first.  I don’t know what weight these certificates would really have on a portfolio or resumé, but I think I will complete a few courses just for those.

So far, most of the videos I’ve watched have been about stuff I already know somewhat well, but there have been tidbits here and there to fill in some missing knowledge and a few videos about things I in fact know little or nothing about.  Some of the videos seem a little long winded, repetitive, slow moving, or boring at times, but they do seem like they’d be good for complete beginners.

I’ll continue with the other four courses we have available.  I’ll probably not be able to complete them all, but at least a couple more would be good.  We have an SEO one which would be especially helpful, but is also rather long.

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