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June, 2021 Desktop View

As we begin another month, here are my thoughts regarding what is happening in our industry.

This month, my thoughts center around longevity. Hope you find this information useful. In case you are curious, I built my first web page in 1992 (yes, 29 years ago). It no longer exists, nor does the company where I built it at.

I am already looking forward to your comments.

Ageism

My colleague and friend, Tom Green, recently posted an article on LinkedIn.com about this last acceptable prejudice.After you review the article, let’s start a discussion in our Slack #general channel about this topic. What are your experiences? Does Tom’s article resonate with you? Why or why not?

CSS

Eric Meyer reflects on 25 years of CSS. Has it really been that long? If you have a moment, please post a comment reflecting on your first use of CSS. Consider a discussion in our Slack channel as well. What are your thoughts on the past 25 years of CSS.

WordPress

Speaking of longevity, WordPress turned 18 in May. Isobel Weston has a great overview article at NameCheap. From a simple blogging platform to a technology which powers nearly 41% of the WWW these days. And it only took 18 years to get to this point. Makes me wonder what the next 18 years hold for this technology.

Annual Web Competition with SkillsUSA

Speaking of longevity, this year marks the 19th year for our national web competition held in conjunction with SkillsUSA. Our first year (2004) was a demonstration contest. This year will mark our first large scale virtual competition. We did a smaller competition in 2020 as the pandemic raged. This year, we have over 20 teams competing at secondary and post-secondary levels. Winners will be announced near the end of June at the above site.

I am curious – now that you have read this far, what information would you like to see next month? Please tell us via the comments.

May, 2021 Desktop View

Note from Mark. I plan to periodically provide article summaries and insights. I am hoping this will happen once each month. Hope is the operative word. Here are my thoughts as we begin May, 2021. I welcome your comments about additional topics you would find helpful as well as your thoughts about these articles. I found them most interesting/ thought provoking.

Accessibility

Using Modern CSS to Improve Accessibility. This article by Stephanie Eckles provides a quick overview of what it means to have an accessible website. Stephanie then covers using some of the newer CSS to enhance accessibility. This includes use of outline-offset to position the outline away from the element. The focus-visible pseudo-class will display an outline only when the user agent determines it needs to be visible. There is so much more in this article, I encourage you to set aside time to read it in its entirety and digest how these CSS features can be used to solve real world accessibility issues.

A.I.

GPT-3 is a language supermodel which is quietly ushering in the A.I. revolution. This article by Luke Dormehl explains why this text generating algorithm makes a difference. The main difference with prior algorithms is that limited training is required. In the past, significant input was required for A.I. to “learn.” This no longer seems to be needed. Think. About. That. Here is a key quote from the article (it certainly resonated with me).

“Machine learning has been transformative in all sorts of ways over the past couple of decades. But machine learning requires a large number of training examples to be able to output correct answers. GPT-3, on the other hand, has a “few shot ability” that allows it to be taught to do something with only a small handful of examples.”

Ok, Mark, what does all this A.I. have to do with Web design and development? One example mentioned in the article is a layout generator which”renders a functional layout by generating JavaScript code from a simple text description.” Another example is a GPT-3 based search engine. I think you will find this article most interesting and informative. Our industry is changing and A.I. is going to have a major impact. Plan accordingly.

FLoC

Federated Learning of Cohorts is Google’s replacement for tracking cookies. Our advisory board member, Deborah Edwards-Orono, has a great article about this effort and her concerns. Simply put, FLoc is included by default in the new version of the Chrome browser [see our recent post on the popularity of this browser] and collects your recent browser activity. It takes that activity and labels it then shares the “cohort” with other websites and advertisers. The main concern with this approach is privacy. She also discusses a new WordPress plugin Disable FLoC which is easy to install and has no configuration settings, it just  does what it claims to do. If you would like to learn more about the implications of FLoC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a solid overview as well.

For those not using WordPress, Marko Saric has an overview article at Plausible which also includes the snippet of code you can add to your .htaccess file to disable FLoC as well.

Future of the WWW

Professor Sir Tim Berners’Lee (inventor ot the WWW) thinks his creation is out of control. In this interview, he explains his plans to save it.The big issue these days is privacy. He proposes Solid (a new system to decentralize the Web). His core idea is PODS (Personal Online Data Stores) which each person has control over. The fundamental change is that anyone wanting to use your information must ask for your permission. After you review the interview, I would be keen to learn your thoughts about this approach. Comments are open.

Hardware

Gizmodo recently discussed the fact that Verizon is recalling 2.5 million of its hotspots because they are literally too hot. There have been 15 reports of the devices overheating (6 instances of fire damage). Review the article to see if  you have one of these hotspots (various models sold between April, 2017 and March, 2021).

WordPress

Easy WP Guide has been released for WordPress 5.7 (most current version). No discussion of PHP or the technical details, just a comprehensive guide to help you edit the content of your site. This is a free download. Web Professionals who build sites using this technology may wish to share this document with their clients (if you haven’t already). You can purchase the guide which allows you to brand it as you wish.

For those developers using Elementor as part of their WordPress installations, you may wish to review the recent Wordfence post discussing recent vulnerabilities with Elementor.  For those who are not aware, Elementor is installed on over 3.5 million WordPress sites. The Wordfence team found over 100 vulnerable endpoints.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you found these articles and insights helpful. What else would you like to see in future articles? What did you think about these? I look forward to reading your comments.

Best always,
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals (a.k.a. World Organization of Webmasters)

Career in Web Design and Development in the Age of COVID-19

Career in Web Design and Development in the Age of COVID-19

By Steve Waddell, Director of Education and Training

Traditional retail was already taking a big hit before the days of COVID-19. But the worldwide pandemic has accelerated the shifts we began to see in retail over the last 5 years and accelerated the closing of many retail operations, both big and small. Essentially, the hope for most businesses is to become COVID-proof, meaning serving customers as easily online as in the store. For retailers this means finding a way to take that great customer experience of the store and move it to a strong web presence. 

This means an opportunity is opening up—a new and growing demand for web designers, developers, content writers, and retail experts to help small and large operations convert what they used to do on the sales floor to making the magic happen online. Hard-working and talented retail staff who once walked the sales floors are well suited to take their retail knowledge and sales skills into the cloud to help retailers build success on the web

Before the COVID-19 crisis, web design and web development were already high-growth career paths. Now with companies scrambling to reach customers on the web, every business needs to have their web capacity to reach existing and new customers. To do this, retailers must have skilled web designers who can help bring the retail sales narrative to the business’s website. Selling on the web is a little different than selling in person, but retail skills still translate very well to web design and development. 

Web design and development is a fast-growing STEM career path that offers flexible and fun careers to those who don’t want to report to an office every day. The median salary for the industry is $73K and ranges up to $150K. Let’s take a look at how the retail experience aligns with web design and development.             

What Do Web Designers and Developers Do? 

Broadly speaking, web designers and developers work with clients to market products and services online. Designers utilize text, images and video to create websites and reach intended audiences. Developers write the code that provides the technical foundation of these websites. 

Most web designers and developers keep a foot in both the design and coding worlds. The beauty of this career is that you can weave elegant design with rock-solid code to create a compelling website for your client and site visitors. By merging visual and technical solutions, web designers and developers help their clients succeed and meet business goals. 

How Does Retail Experience Relate to a Career in Web Design and Development?

Retail workers looking to reskill have excellent qualities including working under pressure, talking through problems, taking on new responsibilities, managing time, taking initiative, and serving each and every customer with empathy and respect. Retail helps you learn how to focus on what you can control and not worry so much about the “overly concerned customer in aisle 3.”

In retail, you help people figure out what service or product is right for them. Guess what? Much of that is at the core of what a web designer does—except instead of standing in a store, designers and developers figure out how to reach people through a web presence. Web designers and developers take client ideas, products and services, helping to sell them to targeted audiences. 

Benefits of a Career in Web Design and Development

According to research, 30 percent of the U.S. working population currently freelances in some capacity, and that will grow to 51 percent by 2020. Many web designers and developers freelance and/or work remotely, and that has only increased in the age of COVID-19. Surveys of freelancers show that they are happier and earn more than in previous office jobs. This isn’t a surprise: when the most recent recession hit, companies began to seek ways to cut costs. They began to hire contractors who could work from home, saving on rent, insurance, and utility costs, and allowing freelancers more flexibility over when and where they could work. Web design and development is one of the growing STEM careers that offers unparalleled flexibility and opportunities to work on impactful projects.  

How Can I Get Started?

One of the wonderful things about the coding industry is that you don’t need a four-year degree (or even a two-year degree) to become a trained professional. To get started, you will need to gain technical skills, whether it be through online resources, books, or more organized courses. The easiest way to learn web design and development is to use media-rich courses that utilize images and video to engage you. All you need is a browser and text editor – you want to avoid courses that teach specific applications like Adobe Dreamweaver. Focus on basic skills first like HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript.  

As you learn, you will build a career-ready portfolio of your work including real-world projects, a digital resume and a portfolio website that will showcase your story to potential employers. This is important to demonstrate your technical aptitude and ability to successfully develop and guide a project from beginning to end. You can also achieve in-demand industry certifications to prove to companies you have a comprehensive skill set and are ready to produce for them on day one. 

WebProfessionals.org offers an engaging web design and development online course featuring over 200 engaging videos that will tutor you step by step, perfect for visual learners. The course also prepares you to sit for an International Industry-Recognized Certification (IIRC). Try to avoid courses that only offer a course completion certificate. Anybody can issue you a piece of paper saying you completed their course, and the industry knows this. An IIRC will help open more doors for you faster and get you career going quicker. So, take the time as you look around for training to be sure you know what you are getting for your educational investment.   

Reskilling in the Age of COVID-19

Although it can be a scary time, don’t panic. There are numerous opportunities out there for transitioning from retail to a new career. Why not web design and development? The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers services for laid-off workers, dislocated workers and those transitioning to new jobs. This helps provide job training to people looking for a new challenge and growing career path. 

The Web Professionals Organization has reskilling courses available for workforce programs, vocational schools, universities, job centers and community colleges. Not sure where to go? Contact the Web Professionals Organization for more information today.

Is the bar too high for beginners?

Is the bar too high for beginners?

Personally, I have been working with web technologies for almost 3 decades (started in 1992 – yep, 27 years at this point). It was quite easy to view the source code on a web page to learn how the author had developed the page. It was easy to build a solid foundation regarding these technologies. Of course, when I first started, CSS and JavaScript did not yet exist. Fast forward to 2019. Now we have JavaScript frameworks (minified, of course), CSS pre-processors, and much more. View the source code on most sites and you will not be able to fully understand what the author has done in constructing the site.

Question - are we making it too difficult on top of a screen capture of minified code

Barriers to Entry

At one point, individuals could learn the fundamentals and enhance their knowledge as they worked through code snippets. It seems that many today are relying on frameworks for simple tasks. I first asked this question a few years ago in my article – Are we relying too much on JavaScript? Since 2016, it appears these issues have only grown. Of course, many professionals have specialized (as they must). Whether the discipline is UX, or UI, or server side development, it is still important to have a solid understanding of how all the pieces relate. Sure, one can take classes; but many at various institutions seem to cover out of date materials. This seems to force students to learn on their own. We see the results every year with some individuals participating in our national web competition. It seems that many have decided to focus on a specialty or framework from the start. Rather than developing a solid understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it seems many focus on learning a few frameworks with the intent of then landing a job as a developer. Time and again, I see social media posts demonstrating a lack of understanding of CSS fundamentals (such as float or the box model). Likewise, I have seen instances where a large amount of JavaScript code is developed where a simple paragraph tag would suffice. It seems that many are now focused on learning a subset instead of developing a solid foundation and then branching out. Perhaps this is because there seems to be so much complexity in web sites these days?

Content management systems

I have also seen the rise of content management systems (such as WordPress which now accounts for roughly 30% of new websites). I listen in various meetings where individuals speak of a language (such as React) when they mean framework. I also hear many conversations demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of CSS (and the proper separation of presentation from content). I also see many sites where there is no consideration for accessibility (or it seems an after thought). Certainly, Content Management Systems make it much easier to get your content online. However, I believe one should still have a solid foundational understanding of the technologies involved.  There may well come a time when a minor change is needed to make a page display as one intends. Without an overall foundational knowledge, this may be nearly impossible to achieve.

Return to the basics

Personally, I believe it is time we return to the basics. This message is particularly directed at those who teach web technologies. It is important to keep up with trends, but it is also important to make certain aspiring web professionals are grounded with a solid foundation of how to build web pages (with a good understanding of semantic markup [and why it is important], CSS, and vanilla JavaScript). Only after they have a solid foundation should they specialize (and learn frameworks).

I am stepping off my soapbox now. I am curious as to your thoughts? Are we neglecting the fundamentals and not providing a solid foundation for students? I look forward to your comments.

Best always,
Mark DuBois
Executive Director and Community Evangelist

Web Design Trends 2019

Web Design Trends 2019

Website Design Trends for 2019

For those who are already thinking about 2019 and what web design trends will be popular, we provide a starting analysis. Technological advancement has revolutionized the way we interact, socialize and do business and there will continue to be significant innovation and improvements in web design in 2019 and beyond. We all want our clients to get greatest and latest when it comes to their sites so it is not too soon to be thinking about 2019 trends in this area.

We found a lot more information about these new design trends in 2019 at Website Trends – 2019.

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September Update – Web Servers

September Update – Web Servers

What are Web Servers?

For those just beginning to learn about web technologies, we thought it might be helpful to provide this foundational article. A Web server is a program that uses HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol and the secure HTTPS version) to serve the files that form Web pages to visitors, in response to their requests (which come from the requesting computers browsers). Dedicated computers and appliances may be referred to as Web servers.

Web server also refers to server software, or hardware dedicated to running said software, that can serve contents to the World Wide Web. A web server processes incoming network requests over HTTP and related protocols. This Wikipedia link gives more information on Web Server.

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