All posts by Santex

13 Steps to Producing Better Code

On occasion everyone takes the skill of producing and delivering superior code for granted. With that said, after many internal discussions we at Santex have come up with a quick list of items to support in everyone’s success in the matter.

  1. Ask questions (not doubts) and never make assumptions!
  2. There is no substitute for long term hands on (real world) experience because school only works as a good introduction.
  3. The more you care about your work and the result of it, the better results you will get from your work.
  4. Always Google (in English on the .com site) for a solution because you are not alone in the world and someone else has come across a similar issue before.
  5. Think about the entire picture/project and not just your assigned tasks. Having blinders on will cause your tasks to not integrate as well with everything else and perhaps cause extra work to be done later.
  6. Test your own work a couple times in more browsers than you think the client will use before you say it is done and working.
  7. Read the requirements before you start your work, read them during development and read them at the end of your tasks to confirm it is correct.
  8. Use source control and make backups as often as possible.
  9. Use only one testing instance. More than this wastes space on drives, time figuring out which is correct, time creating/editing/deleting all of them and it creates a nightmare when some have only parts of the system implemented.
  10. Write your code in English, include comments in English throughout your code, declare every variable and reuse code throughout a project to make things more slim and clean.
  11. Never write code or do work that you know will need to be eliminated later. Do it right this time as it saves headache and heartache for everyone involved.
  12. Make sure your and the testing environment are setup to work as close as they can be to the live environment. (in US English and the same versions of Apache, IIS, MySQL, PHP, OpenOffice, ImageMagik, PEAR, SWFTools and so on…)
  13. Never hack the core or modules from a CMS or Framework for any reason.

If you have any feedback feel free to post it in the comments section below.

Get the design, look and feel right from the get-go… so it is never an issue later.

Design creation (or UI) is a critical process in the creation of an application or website. There are many steps in the creation of a project and while each step is essential to the success of a project, design is the foundation of how that project will look. The result of the design phase (or mockups) will then stand as a contract which can be referred to later to assure the final result is what was ordered.

While design tends to seem unrestrained and often seems to have no boundaries, websites do however have many boundaries. They are certainly constrained by the many different browsers, user skill level and the technologies used. The world of design and the Web must be frequently married up to assure congruence throughout. A design might look cool in a still mockup but that doesn’t mean that it can be easily converted to a functional website. This results, in the designer constantly choosing between a time-saving method as well as a cost saving one to create the best form and function possible within budget.

Planning Phase

A project starts in the discovery phase and moves into the planning phase. This is where all the critical thinking comes into place to figure out what, why, how, and where things should go/do. The planning phase can sometimes take as long as the development phase because it is so critical that all the requirements are hashed out from the beginning and things are as clear as they could be. Part of planning includes:

Documentation

As much information is gathered regarding the project to figure out the flow of the website, navigation and the functionality.

Wireframing

Wireframing is the process of creating rough sketches or layouts using the information gathered from the planning phase. Wireframes can be rough sketches or simple layouts on the computer that do not exactly represent the final look and only are used for placement. These can often be boxes or line drawings that depict the placement of things.

Design

Once the requirements have been thoroughly thought out, they must be given shape and color. The planning phase only provided a rough idea where things would go but the design phase is where things become more concrete and the look and feel of the website starts to resemble a real website without the functionality. The design phase can be divided into:

Mockups

This is where the designer reviews, requirements and wireframes start to give the project shape. Mockups are created in Photoshop and this is where a color scheme, typography and layout is chosen. The designer provides a variety of options to the client and the client will narrow down the style and look they desire. The final and approved mockups will be used as a blueprint to create the website functionality and look.

Client Review

During mockup design the client must review the mockups in detail to ensure the final approval is what the client wants. The final approval will be used as a contract along with the SRS document to create the final website.

Good planning and design will ensure the success of a project and can prevent many obstacles, glitches and drawbacks. In the end it will also mean a satisfied client and a smooth project.

How to Keep the Command Center Running at Santex

It is no surprise that here at SantexCommand Center at Santex we love coffee. In fact, I think most people enjoy a nice cup of coffee. I walked into what I call the “Command Center” early today I was a little surprised when I saw our Systems Architect drinking a Slurpee. The Command Center is where the Systems Architect sits and basically controls many different aspects of our web development company.

I asked why he was drinking a Slurpee and he said he needed to change it up a little. I agree. When you have 6 Starbucks or coffee mugs on your desk that have been used in the last day or two a break might be needed!

Using Social Media to your Advantage

Digg, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr…all of these social networks can be a little overwhelming. However, they are great tools for increasing your business’ presence on the ‘net. In today’s world, to say that Internet presence is essential for success is an understatement. So how can you use social media in San Diego and beyond to better your business?

The first step in learning how to use social media, is to understand it. At its most basic level, social media refers to Internet-based tools used for sharing and discussing information. From a business point of view, social media is user-generated content, or consumer-generated media.

Essentially, social media is any and everything that involves social interaction on the Web. Mark Hopkins of Mashable.com, the largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Networking news, accurately defines social media as a “collection of platforms for interaction and networking”. All of the sites and networks out there are vehicles that can be used to spread your message. When someone posts on someone else’s “wall” on Facebook, that is considered social media. When a blogger publishes a new post and someone leaves a comment, that is considered social media. When you update your Twitter account to let your followers know about the latest news at your company, you are using social media to your advantage.

By sending messages and interacting with consumers through social media, you can reach a wider audience, boost search engine rankings and improve your overall image. A great way to open the social media door is to start a blog. Blog about the latest news in your company, a new product, or even about your (amusing) day in the office. If your company is travel related, you could talk about local events or give useful travel tips. The goal is to provide your readers with information they can use and information that is interesting. Most of all, remember to be real and be personable – people can spot a product push ten miles away.

Other social networks, such as Facebook, should be used in a similar way to a blog. Provide consumers with knowledge about your product, impart interesting and useful information on your field of expertise, let people know about special offers or events and be available through comments and posts if anyone has a question. Keep in mind that social networks can also be used to connect with other people and businesses in related fields.

It really is that simple, albeit often time-consuming. Just get out into the Web playing field, sign up for a few accounts and start talking to people. The trick is to stay updated with all your blogs, Twitter updates and Myspace bulletins. Don’t just post once and never return. Once you join, you are a member of a community that will only work if people participate. As with everything in life, you will only be as successful as the effort you put in.

Most importantly we believe that a strong social media’ plan will significantly increase your site’s search engine optimization which brings you more site potentially more visitors and more business.