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  1. #1
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    How important is content to a prospective employer?

    Hi,

    my first question on this forum, so forgive me if I ramble .

    I currently work as a programmer (VB, C, Oracle SQL etc.), but ideally I'd like to move into web development. There's no scope for this kind of work with my current employer, so I've been trying to pick up web skills in my spare time for a few months now. I'm aiming to work for a company as a developer, rather than starting my own business or working freelance - at least at first.

    I have a growing knowledge of HTML, ASP and PHP - the first site I ever wrote was completely database-driven, allowed for multiple users updating the content etc. However I'm well aware that there's a lot more I need to learn, so I'm planning to work on a few projects over the next few months to improve my skills before I seriously look for new employment.

    The problem is that I'm writing these sites in my spare time, and I don't know where to focus my efforts - having no clients means I have no-one telling me what to do, and as I'm doing this in spare time I don't want to take on jobs and commit myself to timescales I might not be able to meet. There are several sites I could happily write that tie in with hobbies of mine - mainly online gaming - which would let me further develop my ASP/PHP skills; but I'm concerned that, when I put these sites on a CV, they might be dismissed because the content isn't business-oriented and may seem... immature, for want of a better word.

    So would I be better served writing sites which interest me (but whose focus might seem "unprofessional" to some employers), or should I be aiming at more professional sites - dummy company or e-commerce sites, useful applications etc.? Am I right to worry that some people might dismiss sites based on the content before they see how it all works, or will most take the time to see past the words and look at the functionality, technical design etc.?

    Thanks for any help in advance, I know no-one can give me any absolutes but I'd really appreciate advice from people already working in this field .
    Nick Wilson [ - email - ]

  2. #2
    ********* Addict jaiem's Avatar
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    IMO, if you're goal is to show your skills at design, graphics, layout, programming etc go with what you like and as long as it isn't offensive (like 1001 Drinking Games) few will care.

    OTOH, if you want to show your writing skills then content can matter a lot too.
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  3. #3
    You talkin to me? Anarchos's Avatar
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    Functionality and complexity are far more important that content, but you shouldn't dismiss gaming sites as unprofessional. Plus you will be more motivated to work on a site that interests you.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the comments, much appreciated. Anyone else got any thoughts on this? - the more advice the better .

    Thanks again.
    Nick Wilson [ - email - ]

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Jeremy W.'s Avatar
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    From a prospective employer's point of view it is very difficult to judge what a developer does. You really need to point this out, for instance I was asked to prototype a site for my current company and make it look "the same" but make it db driven. I spent 40 hours and it looked so similar they thought I was messing with them and trying to take money (not in so many words).

    So, I did a writeup for them.

    Original site: http://server2.tacf.org
    New site: http://server2.tacf.org/examples/books
    Writeup:

    As of today the new TACF Bookstore Website ( http://server2.tacf.org/examples/books ) has gone into testing. This is NOT the full-blown version but simply an attempt to see what can be done given our current system. It does not include purchasing abilities or user customization and so is classed as a "basic" system.

    Because the site is database driven it gives us much greater control over the content as well as layout with very little work. We have around 20 "template pages" which are "filled" based on the information the user asks for.

    For instance http://server2.tacf.org/examples/boo...?id=0830727663 and http://server2.tacf.org/examples/boo...?id=0768420393 are both run off of showbook.asp (a template page).

    Some of the features we have been able to integrate so far include:

    Type of product listing pages (books, music, audio, video)
    TouchSearch Engine
    Dynamic category listings (only shows categories that actually have products in them. To see this in action, simply go to ( http://server2.tacf.org/examples/books ) and click on "books". It will list the categories that have books in them and no others. This is extremely useful because if ever a category becomes "discontinued" where it has no products in it, it requires absolutely no work on our part, it will simply "fade" out of existence).
    Dynamic product count. Included inside the category listing system it shows how many products are in each category
    Dynamic author listing. Just as in the category listing, only letters that have authors are shown.

    Feature Bar
    Included throughout the site are "context sensitive" (displayed based on area the user is in) featured products. These are easily added and removed from a centralized administration panel and include all relevant information on that product.
    TouchSearch Engine

    TouchSearch Engine
    A product developed in collaboration with Camelland Productions and studio:coco we have put together a very compact and simple search engine expressly for this site. It lists products that match the word(s) you request.
    It also "pages" listings with a maximum of 5 listings per page so that users aren't having to scroll through reams of information.
    It contains a "relevancy" engine whereby the products which most closely match your request are listed at the top.
    It is also "context sensitive" so if you search from the books section books are listed (if from the music section music is listed, etc). You can also search any of the above at the Search Page.

    Category/Author Display Pages
    Both pages have essentially the same functionality. Show the product and the author as well as continuing to provide information on feature books as well as the TouchSearch Engine.

    Product Display Pages
    If there is a picture, it is displayed (in most categories pictures are mandatory)
    If there is a description, it is displayed
    The category the product is in is shown so users always know exactly where they are AND can find similar books at a later date.
    If there is an author bio it is displayed
    All products by the selected author are displayed
    A listing of categories for that product type where there are products are listed
    Similar books in the same category are listed so users can quickly find relevant books and (hopefully) purchase for the full suite of their needs

    Administration system
    We have created a web-based administration system whereby you can add products, authors, news, etc from anywhere in the world (with the correct username/password combination).
    The system streamlines the entry of products (as well as other information). Previously it used to take 15-30 minutes to enter a product (not counting scanning the product) now it takes about 1 minute (not counting scanning the product).
    The whole website is updated as soon as a new entry is entered so the product you entered is automatically re-listed in categories, authors, search engine as well as having it's own product page created
    We are testing a full database emulator so that maintenance on the actual database can be done via the internet (for administrators only) as well.

    Other features and information
    The system was designed with the user in mind. Everywhere we could we have made listings dynamic so users don't go into a dead end (however if they do, or if they happen to try and "break" the system we have instituted some basic error-checking) and to make their visit as painless (and maybe even fun) as possible. We are constantly trying to provide them with as much relevant information (in as unobtrusive a way) as we can.
    The system we are currently using is capable of listing 1500 products and having 250 concurrent users. To go to full usability we will need an upgraded server as well as some "real" database software. The system is essentially "pluggable" into any database system by changing only 3 lines of code.
    The system consists of 30product and information pages and 27 administration pages, currenly contains 70 products and is 1MB in size. The system runs on an Access97 OpenSQL database and Active Server Pages 2.0+
    It is fully transferrable and portable
    It works across all browsers (that we've been able to test)
    Full product list is available to users (per product type is also available)

    Credits
    Primary development done in-house by Jeremy Wright
    Backup development by Chris Canal at Camelland, Inc.
    Database administration system (mullmin) by Mark Stringer
    Some codebases on loan from studio:coco (Jeremy Wright's company)
    Some codebases on loan from Camelland
    Some codebasees on loan from Mark Stringer
    SVP Marketing, SoCast SRM
    Personal blog: Strategerize
    Twitter: @jeremywright


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