WIMPgives 2015 to Donate Websites to Eight Nonprofits in Daylong Nov. 7 ‘Hackathon’

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Members of local digital media community, WIMP, to help local nonprofits create online presence

Santa Rosa, CA – Members of WIMP – Web and Interactive Media Professionals – will gather on Nov. 7 for a daylong “hackathon,” WIMPgives, during which they will create, free of charge, websites for eight local nonprofits. The event will take place at SoCo Nexus, at 1300 Valley House Dr. #100 in Rohnert Park from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

All work will be provided by WIMP members, over 50 of whom have volunteered for the event. Each nonprofit will be assigned a team of professionals in the various technical disciplines needed to build a website – project manager, web developer, designer, content strategist, online marketing specialist and a student apprentice. The goal is to build a website for each nonprofit in a single day. WIMP also plans to offer continuing support for the sites it builds.

This year’s event is the third annual staging of WIMPgives. The previous two events provided 12 nonprofits with websites. Some $75,000 worth of services were donated at last year’s event alone.

“It’s great to give back to the nonprofits that make Sonoma County a great place to live and work,” said Melissa Geissinger, President and COO of WIMP. “And the results from the first two WIMPgives events were spectacular, with the nonprofits we helped now better able to get the word out about their services and raise funds. But beyond that, we’ve found that coming together for a high-energy, fast-paced project like WIMPgives teaches us about the amount of good that exists in our world and makes WIMP a stronger community. Everybody who volunteers and sponsors tells us afterwards that they got a lot more out of the event than they put in, and I think that’s why it’s been so successful.”

The nonprofits selected to receive WIMPgives websites are Code Blue, Coast Ridge Community Forest, Daily Acts, Halleck Creek Ranch, LandPaths, Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise, Sonoma Valley Dog Owners & Guardians, and Sonoma West Medical Foundation. All were chosen on the basis of need and a commitment to participate alongside WIMP volunteers in the website building process.

WIMPgives takes place thanks to the commitment of the Sonoma County nonprofit community and the support of the generous businesses and individuals that donate money, food or in-kind services. Sponsors include 1 Day Web Designer, Anthroware, The North Bay Business Journal, O’Reilly Media, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Slow Food Russian River and SoCo Nexus. Direct donations are still being accepted through a crowdfunding campaign on Plumfund: http://bit.ly/wimpgives.

WIMP – Web and Interactive Media Professionals (http://beawimp.org) – is a community of professionals working in all sectors of digital media. In addition to an active online Facebook community of over 1,000 people from around the world, WIMP also hosts a variety of meetups, classes and workshops from WIMPspace, its coworking and event space located at 201 D Street in downtown Santa Rosa. WIMPspace is a founding member of CASC, the Coworking Alliance of Sonoma County (http://coworksonoma.org).

More information about the WIMPgives event and how to donate or sponsor can be found at: http://wimpgives.com.

More information about WIMP can be found at: http://beawimp.org.

More information about WIMPspace and its coworking and colearning space can be found at: http://wimpspace.com.

Telephone number at WIMPspace is (707) 827-1334.

Life After Wimptator

A screenshot of an email: "Melissa Crain wants to be friends on Facebook."

Melissa and I first met at A’Roma Roasters on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011. It’s easy to remember, because the WIMP meetup was registered on the same day. That’s probably the first sign that we were going to kick ass. Since then, WIMP has changed Sonoma County: it’s a far less lonely place to be a technology or media professional now than it was 5 years ago.

WIMP has changed me, too. For all my labors of love, none have been as enduring or meaningful as WIMP. The friendships I forged, especially with Melissa, Randy, and Cole, are ones I can’t imagine living without.

Now it’s time for more change. After four and a half years, it’s time for me to step down from WIMP leadership. Deciding to resign is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, which I recognize makes me one of the luckiest guys alive. But giving up your baby is hard, especially when it’s doing so well.

First trace of Melissa in my life is a comment on this photo Philip Wyers posted to Facebook in 2010. Nerd humor FTW.

First trace of Melissa in my life is a comment on this photo Philip Wyers posted to Facebook in 2010. Nerd humor FTW.

I have spent the better part of my adult life as a scrappy careerman trying to overcome circumstance — and myself. While the journey continues, my time as a careerman has to end.

I still have ambitions to leave this world a better place than I found it. Hell, I’ll still be a big WIMP supporter. But my priorities have to change… As I approach my 30’s, I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I also want to think about building a family of my own.

And WIMP is growing up. What WIMP needs now is different from what it needed to get started. While I’ve got some skills, I’m no CEO — I learned that the hard way with my startup, Bluebird.

In closing, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the support. For the creativity. For the love. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

Your Wimptator emeritus,
Josh Simmons

Be Your Business: Don’t Forget to Fail Well

Photo Credit - Chuck Olsen CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo Credit – Chuck Olsen CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Adversity: The New Normal

It happens. Things go south and it’s not even clear how. Your client and you can’t see eye to eye, or your enthusiastic new business partner has dropped off the radar. The project you’ve invested weeks, months, or years into may never see the light of day.

Failure comes in many forms and the increasing complexity of our projects and the world they operate in doesn’t help. Despite our best efforts, learning the hard way is often the only way. Perhaps this is why modern startup culture has rallied around the mantra: “Fail fast. Fail early. Fail often.” But I spent the better part of my career failing, and the experience leads me to believe the common refrain to be lacking.

Like gymnasts who train to fall properly, I believe we must learn to fail well. Something I never did. It took me 12 years and spectacular failure as a freelancer and as a startup CEO, but I think I’m starting to learn the art of failing well.

Don’t Make Things Worse

Here’s the framework I use. I hope it helps you remain lucid in the face of failure and, FSM willing, makes your next failure a little less painful.

  • Managing Yourself: Stay calm. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Mindfulness meditation, hikes, and frequent visits to the beach helped me through my most challenging failures. We can easily be our worst when things get rough, so proactive self-care is fundamental to failing well.
  • Managing the Relationship: Failure tests relationships with coworkers and with clients. Do not seek blame – most failures are collaborative – but do a post mortem. Your goal is first to establish a conciliatory, productive, tone, and only then dive into the nitty gritty of resolution. Be generous. Learn to apologize well. And, when appropriate, cut your losses.
  • Managing Your Reputation: Do not bad mouth former clients and coworkers. Learn to tell your story without peppering them with mitigating factors – they sound a lot like excuses. But actions speak louder than words, so focus on doing good and learning from the failure.

Those should help you think through your next rebound. But I’d be remiss if I left you with advice only in the abstract. I have stories and practical applications of the above framework in depth, and I’m happy to share my wisdom.

Upgrade to Better Failures

I will close with my list of the top 10 freelance pitfalls. Do your best to avoid these, or at least learn from them!

  1. Fail to Measure: Do not put this off. Do not believe the voice in your head, you should be measuring even if you don’t “have to.” Track your time. Watch your cash flow. Without data, both your business and your welfare is subject to the winds of intuition. With data, you can build ever more precise estimates and craft ever more lucrative proposals.
  2. Work Without a Contract: I don’t care if you are BFFs or married to your client, you need a contract. Even if money is not changing hands, a contract brings clarity to critical issues like ownership of intellectual property, communication standards, and warranty/maintenance. Don’t want to pay an attorney? Look online for templates, or just write a “Memorandum of Understanding” in plain English and have both parties sign it.
  3. Over Commit: It seems obvious but we humans are skilled at overestimating our own abilities, so it bears repeating. Of note, it is shockingly easy to over commit if you have failed to measure and do not know either your capacity or the current utilization of that capacity.
  4. Give it Away for Free: Pro bono work is good. But ask for a recommendation, referrals, or a case study. Even if your invoice shows a 100% discount, send that invoice. And if you’re doing a free consultation, remember you’re there to build a rapport, not to instruct your lead on how to provide the service you are offering.
  5. Surprise a Client: I’m not talking about flowers or wine here. I’m talking about failing to set expectations, or over promising then under delivering. People are more forgiving than you think, so alert them at the first sign of danger. Nothing is worse than radio silence.
  6. Do Everything: Don’t be everything to everyone. Even generalists need a specific hook. Consider subcontracting for things that aren’t central to what you offer. For instance, don’t do your own taxes just because you can. Your time is more valuable than that.
  7. Be an Island: You cannot learn all of the things, and there’s no better way to find new opportunity than to meet new people. Engage the world around you, seek community online and offline.
  8. Work Yourself Out of a Job: Sure, you didn’t choose a creative profession just to find yourself doing sales. But if we only engage in our craft, one day we’ll finish a project and go white with horror as we realize we don’t know where the next check is coming from. We must learn to juggle promotion and production.
  9. Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: Failure is inevitable, but diversity builds resilience. Don’t set yourself up for catastrophic failure by having only one client, or one marketing channel, or one pitch.
  10. Lose Touch with Your Clients: The easiest way to grow your business is by selling more to the clients you already have. Stay “top of mind” with a newsletter and cards for birthdays or holidays.

I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve missed. What advice would you add?

View From The Front: JavaScript MVC Frameworks Crash Course

JavaScript MVC Frameworks

The Rise of JavaScript MVC Frameworks

There was a time when front-end web authoring technologies were the “V” of MVC frameworks. As user interaction became more complex, JavaScript MVC frameworks became necessary in order to meet those needs. In this article, you’ll get the gist of what’s popular today, and what’s on the horizon tomorrow.

When to Use A JavaScript MVC Framework

JavaScript MVC frameworks aren’t suitable for every project, but for the right projects, they are clutch. These include single page apps, pages with large datasets being frequently requested and changed, pages with complex user interactions, or likely all of the above. e.g. WordPress and Drupal dashboards.

The Popular MVC Frameworks in Town

There are currently three popular open source JavaScript MVC frameworks:

Angular.js

Pros:

  • Easy to onboard and take to cruising speed
  • Maintained by Google developers (curiously, no notable Google project to date was written in it)
  • Has the most adoption and buzz among its peers, along with an active Github repo
  • Lots of Silicon Valley startup projects use it, hence more available expertise out in the wild
  • Lots of Angular modules and 3rd-party directives

Cons:

  • HTML markup-purists object to its unconventional “ng-” directives polluting the markups
  • Too many unresolved pull requests and bugs
  • Core team declared there will be no new features until version 2 and the upgrade path is uncertain (more on this later)
  • Open-ended framework leaves lots of trivial decision-making to developers

Backbone.js

 Pros:

  • Considered the “grandfather” of JavaScript MVC frameworks; very stable APIs
  • Extremely flexible, easy to onboard and be productive in
  • Robust documentation and plenty of resources on Google and StackOverflow
  • Small and lightweight in size
  • Suitable for projects of almost any size

Cons:

  • Development has been stagnated since version 1.1.x; lack of forward momentum inspired projects like Marionette to consolidate and organize common Backbone patterns
  • Its simplistic approach means many technically trivial choices are deferred to developers which could mean more code
  • It’s easy for the codebase to look very different in parts of the same project (even for a small team of three developers) if there’s no established and enforced coding conventions; this leads to unmaintainable projects

Ember.js

Pros:

  • Maintained by established JavaScript and Rails veterans (this translates to arguably better framework architecture)
  • Runs on “convention over configuration” methodology — “Magic” happens if you follow conventions (e.g. you rarely have to handle ajax anymore); this has added benefits:
    • Internal dev team does not have to reinvent common patterns and conventions, implicitly enforcing code consistency
    • Trivial technical design decisions are handled by the framework (e.g. ajax lifecycle, event (re)binding… etc)
    • On average, you write a lot less code
  • Active community with a busy Github repo
  • Clockwork six-week release cycle
  • Framework rapidly evolves and features are added through a transparent and community-driven process; major API changes go through RFCs for feedback; “The Road to Ember 2.0” RFC is a great example (contrast to Angular); this leads to predictable and less stressful upgrade visibility
  • Active #emberjs and #ember-cli IRC channels (gasp!) for almost real-time support
  • Shipped with a test framework built right in!

Cons:

  • More painful ramp up than other frameworks (ember-cli, node.js dependency… etc)
  • Emphasis on conventions can turn off some developers
  • Rapid release schedule can take its tolls:
    • Conflicting and outdated documentation
    • Google search and StackOverflow results often contain outdated solutions
    • Time allocated to framework upgrades adds up if you want to keep up (you should); fortunately this is mitigated by well documented release docs
  • Existing in-house JavaScript libraries may need modifications to work with Ember

The Current State of Affairs

Angular announced in its v2 roadmap that there’ll be no upgrade path from existing Angular versions. I can’t imagine large Angular apps being rewritten to compensate for the Angular team’s lack of foresight. The roadmap also deferred all new features to v2, which effectively orphans the current Angular 1.x project.

Backbone has seen slow but steady releases. There’s no sign of the framework going away or seeing major upgrades. I don’t expect this to change soon. But it’s mean, lean, easy and works right now.

Ember has the least adoption of the three. But it garners a disproportionally active community with rapid releases and new features. Unlike Angular, the Ember core team pledged a clear upgrade path to Ember v2, to be released in 2015.

Parting Thoughts

Angular’s core team has painted itself into a tough corner. Until a clear upgrade path is announced, you should steer clear of Angular for projects besides throwaway prototypes. Then there’s Backbone, a safe bet for projects big or small — A gateway MVC framework before diving into other beasts. But be mindful of the freedom it affords. Ember is a tough nut to crack, but once your team gets used to its conventions, the architecture will redeem itself with less code, implicit code style consistency and easier cross-team collaboration.

Before you decide on a framework, visit ToDoMVC and take all the different JavaScript MVC frameworks out for a spin. Decide for yourself what’s best for your projects. With the Javascript community moving to ES6 modules (using compatible transpiling), whatever framework you choose, be sure to put that on your checklist for forward compatibility.

Happy coding!

From The Wimptators: Volunteer for WIMP Contribute Day!

Photo Credit - TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

Photo Credit – TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

WIMP has been running for almost 4 years. That’s about 1,460 days or 35,000+ hours. Come April 2015, we will have achieved this with no sign of slowing down. In these near 4 years, the Wimptators (Melissa, Joshua, Randy and myself) have been hard at work pushing the community forward to its limits (hint: we have yet to find those limits!).

From the start, WIMP has been a community driven organization. We have many ideas and aspirations; however, there is only so much time and energy the Wimptators can put in.Even though WIMP is run by the four of us, it relies on the community’s efforts and contributions to make it what it is.

A Time To Give Back

Now is your chance to get more involved. WIMP is represented by the LLC, but it is by all accounts an open source community that thrives off of volunteerism and contribution. Last November we ran the first Contribute Day, we opened the WIMPspace doors for the community to gather and help improve and push forward our infrastructure. At first it was focused on our new website redesign, but we quickly realized there are many other ways one can contribute to the organization.

What’s great is that you aren’t required to be there all day – although I know you can’t stand the thought of being separated from your WIMP family. We had a few Wimps join us throughout the day, with some sticking it out for the whole day. Remember that you are always welcome to drop by at any time in the day, whatever works best for your schedule.

We had Wimps working on press releases, marketing materials, and getting our new website redesign a step closer to completion (note: still a work in progress!). Melissa had already worked on a mockup earlier in the year and we had volunteers slicing the mockup and building the HTML and CSS. We then converted the HTML/CSS into a WordPress theme. Meanwhile, others were working on refining the information architecture and sitemap of the new site.

And there are even more ways you can contribute, besides what we accomplished on the first Contribute Day. There’s always room for help with SEO, editorial work, outlining future events/meetups, design and any other skills you possess. What we’re saying is: this is the time to give back! It can also be a great time to learn something new too! At the same time, it’s not a time to learn something completely new from scratch, but a great opportunity to further your skills and learn.

How Can I Volunteer?

Okay, so you’re pumped and now you want to know how you can join us on this magical journey? You’re in luck, because we plan to host a Contribute Day once every quarter, our next one will be January 17! All you have to do is RSVP to the meetup event and show up!

The only requirement is that you bring a laptop (or some type of mobile computer) and your boundless energy to contribute! If you plan to contribute with development, a GitHub account is required and basic knowledge of Git. If Git is still new to you, don’t sweat! I’ll be more than happy to teach you some basics to get you off the ground, or you might check out this awesome blog post (h/t Quinn Supplee). With all that said, you are also welcome to contribute to our GitHub repos by submitting pull requests! WAT.

I hope to see you at our upcoming Contribute Day! It’s a great time to give back to the community and help us push it to the limit!

The Sustainable Freelancer: 6 Strategies to Deal with Difficult Clients

Mural of woman's face on wall, eyes open wide, mouth open as if screaming

Photo Credit – Thomas Hawk CC-BY-NC 2.0

Difficult Clients Happen To Every Freelancer

As freelancers, we all run into a difficult client situations here and there. Sometimes, it’s payment or contract negotiations. Other times, the client wants more from us than we anticipated. And every once in a while, we work with someone who just seems too difficult to please.

But the majority of the time, we can avoid difficult client situations by setting expectations upfront. The more that you, as the freelancer, control the process, communicate clearly, and explain what your clients should expect, the happier clients you will have.

The best projects run smoothly when you establish your rules of engagement early on.

1. Listen to the client’s needs and expectations upfront

Getting started on the right foot with clients can pave the way for much happier client interactions throughout a project

In your first discussions with a potential client, focus on learning what the client truly needs. The more you understand their expectations, the more you can tailor your estimate or proposal to satisfy them.

Often, a client has expectations around what is included in a project that you may not regularly provide, but they may assume will be included. Understanding these expectations upfront is one of the keys to establishing the parameters of your proposal.

For example, if the project is a website design, questions you should ask include:

  • Will the client want assistance with writing or editing copy?
  • How often will the client want to meet with you?
  • What level of design/creativity is the client looking for?
  • Does the client expect or need help with technical setup?

You also should use early conversations to understand how much hand-holding a client may need for a successful project. The same scope of work may require different time investments with different clients based on how much contact a client expects during the process, or how many decision-makers are involved. If you make yourself aware of this upfront, and price your work appropriately, you will be prepared to happily be available for the client since you’ve worked the appropriate project management time into your proposal.

2. Discuss your rules of engagement early – meetings, deliverables, and support

Discussing how content should be delivered, the number of concepts you will provide, the number and frequency of meetings and revision rounds you plan to make – prior to creating a scope of work – helps protect you later when the client makes a request outside of that scope.

This does not have to be a one-way conversation. But you, as the freelancer, are the expert in helping frame this discussion. Provide your suggestions and get their feedback, so you can appropriately shape your pricing and scope of work.

Clients will often want to say yes to everything you offer, so help them understand their decisions in context of price. “I hear that you’d like [insert time-consuming request here], and I’m happy to provide that. Just be aware this will increase the cost.” If they push back on the mention of increased cost, this is your chance to modify your planned deliverable while helping them understand a shared commitment to the agreed upon scope of work.

Don’t forget to talk through these points as you work on the project as well. If your client requests a 5th round of revisions and your contract mentions only 2 rounds, it’s easier to remind them regularly. You can say something like, “After this, we’ll have just one more round of revisions before we publish the site.” You can even help enforce this by politely explaining that you’ll start on the last revision only after they’ve provided all their feedback.

3. Detail the scope of work in writing

A one-page estimate, with just a few words covering each item you plan to deliver, may be easy and quick to write up, but it leaves too much open to interpretation once the project begins.

Writing a detailed scope of work is your protection against all unknown requests that may come up during your project.

Include everything you’ve discussed with your client in your written estimate – revision rounds, number of concepts, administrative time, whether or not you will be helping editorially, etc. This may take several pages. The amount of time you spend in writing a detailed scope of work will be saved in avoided trouble later.

4. Don’t be the bad guy

It’s easy to feel upset when a client asks for more than was included in the scope of work – you can feel taken advantage of and may immediately want to say no.

But instead, consider the opportunity behind the request.

Instead of getting upset, state the consequence of their out-of-scope request as a simple matter of extra cost to them, based on their needs. Don’t take their request as a reason to say you can’t help them (unless you truly can’t). Think about what it will cost to them – i.e. how much you would need to make it worth it for you – and state it as such.

5. Include terms in your contract to protect you

Your proposal or contract should include terms separate from job-specific deliverables that you will include.

You may want to include statements about:

  • Who owns the source files of your work (PSDs, vector art, uncompiled code).
  • What happens if a client abandons or seriously delays a project.
  • Consequences and/or fees for late payments.

6. Create a project timeline

Too many projects begin with an agreed upon deliverable date, and clients continue to expect their deliverable on the originally agreed upon date, even when they’ve delayed in providing the items needed for the project when you asked for them.

The answer to helping clients back off timing demands is to create an upfront, agreed-upon timeline.

The beauty of the timeline is not in the fact that the client will stay on track with it and all will be delivered to you on time (if only!).

Instead, it’s the fact that, once the client gets behind schedule on their deliverables, they know that it is due to their own delays, because the timeline details their culpability in delaying the schedule.

Create a timeline up front which includes milestones for both your production and their delivery of required items, and you can clearly show your client how their delays will affect the schedule, and help them respect your time.

Now You’re Off To A Good Start

Getting started on the right foot with clients can pave the way for much happier client interactions throughout a project. Your time spent upfront to frame the project and your expectations will be well worth it when you set your project in motion.

However, sometimes you’ll run into difficult client scenarios even when you’ve established the rules of engagement and expectations. Coming up later, I’ll share strategies for what to do when a client interaction starts to go poorly, and how sometimes you can even turn an unhappy client into your best advocate with the right responses. In the meantime, if you think of any other tips to deal with difficult clients, post your comments below!

From The Wimptators: Launching The WIMP Referral Program

Introducing The WIMP Referral Program

WIMP’s official Referral Program is a big fat GO as of last Friday [Ed: That would be December 12]. It may not seem like a big deal because it’s more or less what we’ve been positioned to do for quite a while, but formalizing and streamlining the process says a lot about where we are today as an organization.

The Impact of Referrals in the WIMP Community

In recent months WIMP has literally been put on the map with the opening of our physical location, and as we’ve put so many more hours into the running of the organization, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to us for help with finding just the right freelancer or agency for their project or position. Up until now it’s been a matter of finding the time to send off a few names of people in the WIMP community we happened to know (through them being engaged in the Facebook group or coming to meetups) that specialize in a certain area.

It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

It’s impossible to quantify just how much work people have gotten as a result of being involved and engaged in the community. We’ve tried, and we have an idea, but what we have learned is that the impact of WIMP goes way beyond what is measurable. The bottom line is that the impact on peoples’ careers has been huge.

At lunch with a couple members one day I asked just how much work they get as a result of WIMP – their answer was about 80%. My mouth literally fell open. I couldn’t even fathom that work that we were doing to bring people together and connect clients with contractors and employers with employees was paying off in such a huge way.

That’s just one example. We have heard so many stories of how Wimps, as a result of engaging in the community, have managed to have success and stability. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re even at least partially responsible for someone finding work, but to me there’s no better feeling in the world.

The Reasoning

We started the formal Referral Program for a few reasons. The first is because we have an increasing number of inquiries that come our way and we’ve been sending them in the direction of all the same people, despite WIMP having well over 1,000 members. We wanted to give all Wimps equal footing and an opportunity to benefit from the jobs that come to us all the time.

The second is that we need revenue streams in order to keep WIMP operating, and establishing a commission for work gained from direct referrals seemed a fair step in that direction. After polling the community first, we settled on the decision of a 5% commission for direct referrals, which is well below average for what I’ve experienced and heard of in the web industry. (I myself have paid companies 20% commission for referrals before and that was beyond painful.)

The Referral Process

one-does-not-simply-make-a-referralOur referral process is a bit different from anything we’ve seen before. We don’t just put a link on a page and point potential clients that way – we recognize that we are the first point of contact. When someone comes to us asking for help, we provide them our Referral Questionnaire. We ask as many questions as we can to match them with the right person or company for their particular needs. We want to uphold our reputation of being a valued resource for the broader community to look to for anything related to digital media.

From there we send them a list of referrals based on Wimps who have submitted an application and been approved for the Referral Program. We match people based on type of service needed, technology and platform, industry specialty, budget, timeline, and a few other factors.

Each Wimp keeps track of their inquiries and jobs and then reports back earnings. It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

Join the Program

If you are a Wimp, no matter what skill level you are (student or seasoned professional) there’s a need for what you have to offer. It’s our biggest wish to see you succeed and have professional stability. Don’t hesitate – fill out the form and we’ll start to send your information to potential clients immediately!

If you need a Wimp, don’t worry, we’ve got you! If you are looking for a web designer, back end developer, social media strategist, video content producer, photographer, copy editor – odds are we have just the right fit for you. Better yet, they’re a vetted and reliable member of the WIMP community!

Share Your Story

Have you or your career been impacted by WIMP in some way? Have client referrals, either direct or indirect, helped you get work and maintain a steady income? We want to hear your stories! Please tell us in the comments section below!

Search Engine Debunked: A 10 Point Pre-Launch SEO Checklist

Pre-Launch SEO Checklist

It’s Time To Launch!

So, you finally finished the project and you are ready to launch your client’s new cat toy website.

But are you really ready? Probably not. There are a number of things you should review before you set that new site free for everyone (including the search engine crawlers) to see. In no particular order, here are my 10 points:

1. Title and Description Tags

There are dozens of tips and tricks that can help a website rank well.

One of THE most important things you can do to help a new site rank is to make sure that there are unique Title and Description tags on every page of the site that clarify for the search engines what each page is about. Creating these tags can be very time consuming as it requires a lot of work, including:

• Researching and understanding the content of the page
• With the clients help, picking the keyword phrases that best fit the product and/or services of the website.
• Researching these keyword phrases to determine which phrases can provide the most possible traffic.
• Writing the tags and making sure that they are not too long as they will be truncated by the search engines.
– Posting the tags on each page of the website.

2. Create “schema” markup

Does your client have a brick and mortar location? Do they have testimonials on their website? These are just two of many reasons to use schema markup on a website. For specific details, Google Webmaster Tools can help. If you want more info on tags that can be added to a specific page of your site, you can check that as well on Google Webmaster Tools. Just enter the URL you want to know more about.

Schema tags are made for the search engines, not humans, although information such as contact info can be displayed on the web page. I highly recommend adding schema tags to the “contact us” page at the very least. If it is possible to add contact info with schema tags to the footer of every page on the site, that is even better.

Here is an example of schema markup for contact information:

 <div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/FoodEstablishment”>
 <link itemprop=”additionalType” href=“http://www.productontology.org/id/Delicatessen” />
 <span itemprop=”name”>Name of Business</span>
 <div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
 <span itemprop=”streetAddress”>100 Fourth St.</span>
 <span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Santa Rosa</span>,
 <span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CA</span>
 <span itemprop=”postalCode”>95404</span>
 </div>
 <span itemprop=”telephone”>(555) 555-5555</span>
 </div>

Google has said that they do not rank one site above another because one has schema markup and the other does not, but they also say that a site may get more traffic due to the markup because the information in the search results is more complete and may therefore standout to viewers.

3. Make sure your pages have enough quality content

Each page on your site should have at least 200-250 words on it. This may seem like a lot, but actually it really is not that difficult to write content for each page with the help of the site owner. If you know enough about the subject matter, you should expound upon it as best you can. Pages with thin quality, such as 50-100 words and one or two images will not rank as well as pages filled with quality, focused content.

4. Header Tags (H1, H2, etc.)

This is incredibly important: every page on the site should have a descriptive <h1> tag that best describes the content of the page. Many times this is the exact same information in the Title tag, but it does not have to be so. Variations between the title and the H1 header can give the search engines a better picture of the overall content of the page.

You should also take into consideration any content on the page that should be considered a sub-heading and apply an <h2> tag to the description of the sub-section. You can use other header tags to create a hierarchy similar to an outline or list.

If the default size for your tags don’t suit your page design, use CSS to adjust it to look as you want, but don’t just leave them out because you don’t like how they look on the page.

5. Responsive design should be used whenever possible

There is little doubt that a mobile friendly website will rank better then one that is not mobile friendly, all else being equal. If you have not yet viewed your creation on a smartphone and a tablet, you really should do so before making it live. Not only is this a good SEO practice, you can avoid the embarrassment of having an angry client call you complaining that her site looks like garbage on a small screen.

6. Make contact information as easy as possible to find

Whenever possible, the contact information, at the very least the phone number, should be prominently displayed on the page somewhere near the top, preferably at the very top and most definitely above the fold. This is particularly important on mobile devices as visitors using a phone to find a business most likely would like to contact them by clicking the phone number.

7. Don’t use images for important text

Always put important information in text, not in an image. This is especially important for contact information, like a phone number or an email address as mentioned above. If you have content that you want to prominently display, use text and alter it using CSS. If for some reason the client insists on a graphic for something, make sure to use an ALT tag at the very least.

8. Image ALT tags

Every image should have an <alt> tag. The ALT tag is particularly important as it is read aloud to blind users on a  screen reader and is displayed to visitors that have images turned off. It is considered by Google to be one of the hundreds of “signals” they use in determining ranking because it creates a higher quality user experience.

Google uses ALT tags to help determine the best images for a visitors query and can help an image show up in the results pages for a search, thus increasing visibility.

9. Use an XML site map and make sure to submit it to the search engines.

There are many site map generators out there and many times there is one built-in to a plugin that you may already be using for the website. Make sure to have separate site maps for your pages, posts, images and even the post categories as this will ensure that the search engines are aware of all of the information located on the site.

10. Use informative file names for pages, images and other files.

Hopefully you thought of this before you created your site. Ranking can be improved if your website is created using URLs such as www.example.com/choosing-cat-toys as opposed to www.example.com/pageid=468. Also, having a descriptive name such as my-cat-loves-this-stuff.jpg is much better then IMG0003490877.jpg. Make sure to utilize this in as many places as you can including PDFs and video files.

But That’s Not All!

There are dozens of other tips and tricks that can help a website rank well. If you are a one-stop-shop as far as web development is concerned, I recommend subscribing to the news feeds of some of these sites to keep on top of the moving target that is SEO:

Be Your Business: Meet Your Marketing Future

Later this week, I will turn 46 years old. Not a particularly noteworthy milestone, and I don’t say it as some sort of “dude, you’re old” message, but rather more like, “it’s never too late to define yourself”. Here’s what I mean.

Recently, Forbes published an article talking about marketing trends to watch next year. In it, Forbes contributor Avi Dan talks through some interesting developments, and in them, something extraordinary happened.

The Rise Of The Marketing Technologist

Companies using digital marketing strategies are preoccupied with your eyeballs: using these computers, mobile phones, basically anything with a screen on it to try and get you to engage and interact, with the possibility that you might, someday, possibly, turn into a paying customer. Treating the digital world much like they would the broadcast and print worlds they’ve been working in for decades or longer.

And while the so-called fundamentals are sound, their execution of it is wanting.

So, I was excited to read the following:

We will witness the emergence of the marketing technologists. Too many companies think in terms of digital marketing. Instead, they should be thinking in terms of marketing in a digital world. The best marketer in a digital world would be the marketing technologists, people with heavy digital DNA and technology acumen.”

Themes such as authenticity, transparency, agile processes, lateral thinking, and breaking down traditional silos all play prominently in any marketing campaign going forward, because they’re the only ones that are expected to really work going forward. Sure, the old shotgun spray-and-pray marketing will still be seen out there in the world, as it steadily rides the curve under the noise floor of consumer attention spans. But as businesses need to execute these new strategies and apply these new ways of thinking to marketing problems, they’re going to need people who can actually, you know, do this.

“Crap, this is me they’re talking about!”

For the last two decades, I grew up immersed in this lifestyle. Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation: at first glance, nobody can quite tell what value you bring to the marketing process: you’re not purely product, and you’re not purely marketing. However, as soon as you open your mouth and use your technological know-how to inform how people will perceive and receive the marketing strategy, the product people say, “he understands us!” and the businesspeople say, “I get it!” Suddenly, instead of being the red-haired stepchild, you’ve become the “lovely auburn-haired wunderkind”.

Of course, I have my own name for it: Unicorn.

Can You Get Here From There?

However, while we can’t all be mythical magical creatures, there is a very closely related cousin to the unicorn who is equally capable as marketing technologists: we call them generalists. These are rare people who simultaneously exist across many skill categories, who aren’t easily pigeonholed into a single role (though many middle managers try their hardest to do exactly that). These folks have wide and seemingly improbable interests. They are hard to identify, and even harder to retain, mainly because you don’t realize who they are until they’ve moved on.

Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation

What’s more, there is no recipe for becoming this nexus of technology and business know-how. If there was, every MBA program in the world would churn out as many of these beings as possible.

Okay, that isn’t helpful, but this might be: When you find yourself struggling to work out a digital marketing strategy, realize that it might be that you’re thinking about the problem the wrong way. Try turning it into a question of how to demonstrate your company’s relevance to your audience, letting them know that you get them, that they are your tribe and you are one of them. The hard part here is that it can’t be forced or faked.

Most importantly: if you don’t feel connected to your audience in that way, then find someone who does. Hot tip: they are not likely to be the marketing consultant, or the MBA graduate, or the cousin who “knows social media”.

It’s more likely to be an unassuming person from the community who listens and observes but rarely speaks. However, when he or she does speak, the things they say are profound and insightful. And if you can get them on your team, you should rejoice, because that person will be your greatest marketing asset this coming year.

View From The Front: You should really learn HTML

You Should Learn HTML

Really?

Working in the web arena I find myself more often than not with my back against the ropes facing down my own learning curve. I’m constantly getting pummeled by an onslaught of new technology and improved methodologies. At times it feels like I’m striving and struggling just so I can live to fight another day.

The front end of the web experience is where everything comes together…

or falls apart.

Lately I am astonished at how often I meet a web professional who doesn’t know the basics of HTML and CSS. I’m talking about people way more intelligent and talented than I am who can do amazing things in worlds where I only dabble: design, SEO, even advanced software development.

These same people can’t clear a floated div without flipping a table or banging their heads on their desks.

There are also those who are new to the web, who have the privilege of getting started with robust frameworks that function great, right out of the box. Still others prefer to stay out of code completely and leverage GUI editors, which are becoming better able to generate decent looking, usable websites.

I can see why it’s tempting to skip learning to code web pages by hand, but in the ever-changing technical landscape, having a fundamental understanding of HTML, how it’s affected by CSS, and the basic operation of the box model is still a necessary and useful skill.

What is so great about HTML?

With HTML5, semantic data is inherently integrated into your markup. HTML gives your content structure by breaking it up into meaningful sections, adding a hierarchical flow to the content. In an HTML page, your content is structured into sections which make sense for both search engine robots and your end users. Adding CSS to style your markup lets you change the way the content looks. You have the opportunity to give your content even more visual nuance to convey a deeper meaning and create a greater impact. You have the ability to articulate the meaning of your content in a visually rich and organized way.

Is HTML even still relevant?

The web is constantly changing, and the tools we use to create it are constantly improving. And yet, HTML has been around since the beginning. But this doesn’t mean it’s obsolete or irrelevant; rather, it demonstrates HTML’s ability to adapt and move forward in pace with the web.

For some applications it makes sense to bypass HTML almost entirely in favor of a robust language like JavaScript; but if your aim is simply to display content in a web browser, using HTML as your foundation and then enhancing with JavaScript gives you better accessibility.  Mobile apps built with HTML5 and responsive design using CSS media queries is making web content device-agnostic. If you want to target the largest number of web-capable devices and keep with the best practice of progressive enhancement, HTML is still highly relevant.

Aren’t there GUI  web builders that do just fine?

I’m not typically a drag-and-drop kind of girl. I recently built a dummy web page with Wix during half of a lunch break while trying to fight off a nasty flu. I got the job done (that is, I published some content to the web), but there were still limitations which I could have easily overcome if I were simply coding HTML. Instead I had to struggle with, and eventually give up on, the limitations in the GUI – such as the fixed 980 pixel page width.

Other common frustrations that come up when helping non-tech people use GUI web editing tools include: extra line breaks that appear for no reason, images aligning to text in inexplicable ways, and text links that don’t encompass the first or last character in your link phrase despite all your best efforts. Even the best GUI experience leave something to be desired, and the ability to switch to code or text view and see quickly what’s going on can save hours of frustration.

My favorite front-end framework is awesome, why reinvent the wheel?

I’m not advocating that you code every web experience you build from scratch. Even though I enjoy it, I understand that people have other things they’d rather be doing with their time. What I do advocate is to cultivate the ability to code a webpage by hand so that, if there are pieces in your framework that get in your way, you are empowered to not just overwrite, but re-write them. You gain the ability and confidence to identify and remove pieces that you don’t need in order to achieve the best performance, and keep your CSS well organized, lean and easy to revise.

I’m a (Designer/Programmer/SEO/Content Writer). Knowing HTML isn’t my job.

Everyone who works in web can benefit from knowing HTML. The front end of the web experience is where everything comes together, or falls apart. If everyone on the team knows what goes into rendering the project in the browser, then everyone can integrate their specialty more fluidly into the whole. The programmer can understand the semantic markup to wrap around database queries. The designer can anticipate content reflow from the wide monitor to the narrow handheld view. The content writer can direct the nuance in the language by leveraging structural tags. The SEO can polish the well structured page with additional micro- and meta-data. Sure, the front end developer still does the bulk of the HTML coding, along with the PHP and JavaScript and whatever else is needed to tie it all together; but if HTML is a shared context among all the members of the team, the odds of telling a successful story are greatly increased.

 

HTML is a future-friendly technology because it is a present-friendly technology, highly accessible on all web-ready devices. Writing good HTML has benefits in accessibility, performance, and presentation. Learning it might seem challenging at first, but it doesn’t take long to get up and running. The only tools you really need to get started are a text editor and a web browser. Once you get a firm grasp on the basics it becomes fun and easy to learn more.