What is a website wireframe?

Wireframe for the homepage of my website.

Wireframe for the homepage of my website.

A website wireframe is a lot like a blueprint for a house. It’s a document that shows the framework of how the website might look or function. It will show things like navigational elements, form fields, and content placeholders, but usually does not show typographic style (fonts), colors, or particular graphics. The point is to show how the information will be displayed, the priority of the specific elements on the page, and particular functionality (how parts of a page will work).

If you’re interested in creating a wireframe, here are some great tools for the job:

What is Responsive Web Design?

Today, people look at the internet on all kinds of devices, from phones and tablets to desktop monitors and huge HD TVs. Each of these devices has a screen of a unique size and shape. It used to be that we only cared about the desktop experience, but a website built at that size is not always easy to use on a smaller screen.

Responsive Web Design is a way of building websites so that they respond differently to screens of different sizes. A responsive website automatically adjusts its layout to fit your screen instead of forcing you to scroll around or zoom in and out.

Look at the way my website rearranges itself depending on the screen that’s being used:

Responsive Web Design

Notice that the same elements are always present, they’re just arranged differently depending on the width of the screen. The best way to see this in action is to view my website on your computer, resize your browser window, and watch the site adjust.

More and more of us are using phones as our primary internet device. Who knows what we’ll be using tomorrow? Responsive Web Design is the way of the future. If your website isn’t responsive yet, contact me today.

Listening to podcasts

A podcast is an episodic series of video or audio files that are downloaded or streamed online. Think of it as a radio show that you can listen to/watch on your computer at any time. You can either listen directly on a website or subscribe to the Podcast through a Podcast client.

The easiest way to find and consume Podcasts is through iTunes. Go to the iTunes Store and click on the Podcasts category. Find a Podcast and either download episodes you want to listen to or subscribe to the whole show. When you subscribe, all new episodes will automatically be downloaded to your computer when they are released.

If you don’t have iTunes there are plenty of other podcast clients available.

My favorite podcasts are This American Life (NPR) and WTF with Marc Maron.

The Apple Dock

The Dock is the shelf full of icons at the bottom of your screen. It contains shortcuts to your favorite Applications and Documents. The first section (before the divider line) is for shortcuts to the Finder (the smiley face) and Applications. The second section, between the divider line and trash can, is for shortcuts to documents, folders and websites.

To remove a shortcut, just click and drag it off of the dock. It will disappear with a poof. You can also click and drag to rearrange the order of icons. To add a new Application, find it on your computer and drag the icon to the dock. You can drag documents, folders or links to websites to the second section near the Trash can.

If you right click on the divider line, you can change the way your dock looks and behaves. You can hide it when you aren’t using it, magnify selected icons, and change its position on the screen.

Read more about the Dock »

Web Hosting

When you start a new website you need a domain name and a web host. A web host is the company that supplies the computer server that your website files will live on. This type of service generally costs between $5-$20 per month. Some web hosts will also register your domain name for you, but you can use different companies for each service. My recent favorite web host companies are A Small Orange and WebFaction. Both offer competitive rates and have great customer service.

Zip Files

Zipping files are a way of archiving and compressing your data. A ZIP file contains one or more files that have been compressed to reduce file size. Think of a very well packed suitcase, it’s much more efficient and smaller than a heap of clothes.

The main reasons to ZIP a file are:

  • Emailing large files
  • Emailing multiple files
  • Emailing files you can’t normally email (such as .exe files)
  • Encrypting files to protect sensitive data
  • Saving space on your hard drive

Current versions of Windows and Mac both allow zipping and unzipping of files.

How to zip/unzip on:
Windows Vista
Windows XP
Mac 10.5/6 (Leopard, Snow Leopard)
Mac 10.4 (Tiger)

SMS vs. MMS

SMS stands for Short Message Service, otherwise known as your typical cell phone text message. It allows the exchange of text messages that are up to 160 characters in length.

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. It extends the SMS capability to include multimedia like pictures, videos, and ringtones.

Think before you text – not everyone has unlimited texting plans!

What is a Cookie?

Besides being a delicious treat, it’s also a small piece of information that is downloaded to your computer when you visit certain websites.

For example, when you visit Amazon.com it often recognizes who you are. This is because it saves a small bit of information on your computer when you register, so every time you go to the site, it remembers you.

Cookies are not harmful and do not contain viruses, they are just simple text files. They cannot access any information on your computer, they just help a website recognize who you are and if you’ve visited before. If you don’t like this feature, you can usually remove or disable cookies in the Privacy/Security settings for your browser.

What is an IP Address?

An IP Address (Internet Protocol Address) is a unique number assigned to computers (or other devices such as printers, routers and modems) that allow them to connect to each other over a computer network.

It’s like the mailing address for your home. In order to receive mail, people need to know your address. Similarly, in order for you to get information to and from your computer, other devices need to know your IP.

If you have a program on your website to track your visitors, you probably want to keep it from tracking your own visits. You usually can do this by entering in your IP address, and then it won’t keep track every time you visit your site.

The easiest way to find your IP (or your router’s) is by using this handy website: http://whatismyip.com

URLs and Domain Names

A URL (or Uniform Resource Locator) is the address for a website, such as http://www.example.com. To get to a website, you type it in the address bar of your browser (the field at the top of your browser window). You do not need to type in the http:// part of the address.

A domain name is the last part of the URL, i.e.: example.com. This tells your browser where to find your website. When you are building a website, you need to decide on a domain name and register it with a domain registrar before you can use it. Domain name registration does not give you legal ownership over the name, only exclusive right to use it. It generally costs $10-15/year and needs to be renewed each year.

Here are some domain registrars I’d recommend: