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  1. #1
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    advice: static vs dynamic design skills

    I've been reading theses posts and have been finding a lot of useful things here.
    But it's time for me to step out and ask for some personalized advice.
    I've been getting ready to "go public" to do some web design, and I've reached a bit of a plateaus and am not really sure which direction to take.
    I am very confident in my ability to design a static page - and, in our local market, there actually seems to be some demand for that. Nobody here is doing the tableless layout, and accessibility isn't even a consideration among my competitors. I am eager to "get out there" and offer some better service to local clients, who are starving for pages they can afford to update!
    But I've also been working on my php/mySQL skills. And they're very rudimentary. I've been able to put together a few things that have proven really useful to some clients.
    But ultimately, if the dynamic, database driven design skills are essential - I'm not ready yet.
    So I guess I'm looking for some advice. As professionals in the industry, do you think there's a market for excellent static coders? Are these skills already obsolete?
    Is it realistic to expect to be able to continue upgrading my scripting skills once the clients start rolling in?
    Any other advice you can offer?
    I'm just at a point where I need to be connected.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard cmuench's Avatar
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    It depends on the client and what they want to accomplish via their website. Some clients will want to update it themself. That usually means a CMS with an admin backend. Now if they want you to run it then you can edit the site in dreamweaver or whatever so you could use a static page.

    It really does depend on what the customer wants though.

  3. #3
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    Well, I'd like to be useful to a broad range of clients.
    So far, I've been trying to avoid using a CMS (Under the assumption that most clients can do that themselves) but have been able to make a few functions that helped clients.
    On a properly designed static page, periodic updates are easy and cheap.
    And for clients with specific needs, I can sometimes code them a solution, but my skills aren't adequate to guarantee that I can do that for all clients. (I'm currently working on a script to manage classified ads for one client, and have done a blog, type article archive for another, and a nice little events list from a plain text file for another... not rocket science, but met the need)
    Anyways, I'd like to be able to offer a custom solution for each client: but obviously, that will; never happen, because I'll always need to learn one more thing.
    But how to start a business, offer a useful service, and still continue to expand my skills?
    Last edited by cereal_girl; Sep 6, 2006 at 22:17. Reason: terrible typo!

  4. #4
    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    There are vast numbers of clients whose needs are fully met with a static site that's updated manually from time to time. Go out and sell to them and make some money.

    I think it's best to just get out there and start selling the services you are able to provide right now. There's no sense in waiting while you learn a few more technical skills.

    You can expand your range of services gradually.


    Paul

  5. #5
    Matt Williams revsorg's Avatar
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    Excellent static coder skills are not obsolete.

    I think there are very few individuals who truly excel in every aspect of building professional websites: consultancy, information architecture, project management, branding and design, accessible CSS, technical development, content authoring, creative marketing, search engine optimisation... etc. You could spend years trying to master just one of these skills.

    One way forward might be to sub out work to a techie. You never know, you might find it liberating if you accept that you can't do everything on your own...
    work: revs | ecru
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  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cereal_girl
    On a properly designed static page, periodic updates are easy and cheap.
    And for clients with specific needs, I can sometimes code them a solution, but my skills aren't adequate to guarantee that I can do that for all clients.
    As a designer, don't expect to do it all. Nobody is expert at everything.

    If you get a project that needs services you can't provide, you can always outsource that part of the project to someone who can do the work.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  7. #7
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cereal_girl
    But how to start a business, offer a useful service, and still continue to expand my skills?
    If you work for yourself or for the man, you will never be finished learning. A profession is never static. A constant growth is necessary forever, especially now that technology is so dominant in all areas of life. What happens if you do not want to do this? Look at the older people today who are so handicapped by their unwillingness to learn new skills, they can barely say the word computer not to mention run one. Their life has become separated from how the world works today. The same will happen if you sit on established know-how and think you are done with it. All things computer and communication is just in its infancy, we have barely started to walk and say a few rudimentary words.

    My advise: go out and do what you can and challenge yourself with jobs that are just beyond what you are capable of now, stretch and fight. It will mean agonizing times and often little sleep, but once you are capable working like that, nothing will faze you and you will be on your way to becoming really good. Your whole life in other venues is affected positively as well by that challenge of yourself - Datura
    Ulrike
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  8. #8
    PHP/Rails Developer Czaries's Avatar
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    Part of the profession of being involved in the web and internet is it's constant state of change. I really enjoy the web, because I love learning new things and expanding my knowledge. If you expect to be a part of this profession, one of the first thing you're going to have to learn is how to adapt and change with the medium you work with (the web). Whether that means learning PHP yourself or learning how to properly outsource and manage the project, I don't know. The bottom line is client will ask for it, because they've seen it on so many other websites. You can try to sell them static, because it is a bit cheaper, but be prepared to offer some sort of dynamic solution.

  9. #9
    Romans 12:2 codyrockx's Avatar
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    Why offer a static or otherwise lesser-quality website because it's cheaper? Most likely, business in the area wants that because thats what they know. Taking a look at the other local designers/developers, you've noted that accesibility isn't even a consideration among them.

    If you can not only offer but pitch a better solution to a client, you will earn their respect (and contract) much easier than offering what they 'want'. As far as you know they may not want static, inaccessible websites - that's simply all they have access to.
    Codyrobert.com - Designer and Developer

  10. #10
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    I know of quite a few successful designers who have made their success by starting simple, and only offering static sites. End-users don't care if the site is static or dynamic, once it looks good and is functional.

    Content management can be offered on both static and dynamic sites and the usual thing a small business wants from a website is for it to be good looking, functional and to have the ability to update it themselves.

    I say get out there and offer good quality static sites - you will quickly establish what sort of things your potential customer base is after.

    Richard.
    http://www.richardoc.com
    http://www.usltechnologies.com
    On-demand whitelabel CMS for web-designers
    Browser based image editing

  11. #11
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    Start out now with what you know and work from there. If you are serious about being in this industry, whether you're freelance or not, you will find yourself in a constant state of learning anyway. While you're building some static page for a client you'll also be spending time learning something else you're interested in, i.e. a scripting language or a rdms. I do design (PS/Xara), client-side coding (html/css/js), server-side coding (python/php/java/etc), databases (mysql/postgre/etc), and rudimentary SEO on top of just general desktop programming, and I still spend 90% of my time reading and learning.

    The best part about this industry (imho) is that there will ALWAYS be something to learn. Period. It doesn't matter how smart you are. This also means you can never really "know enough", because every month there's some new technology or fad or framework or... you get the idea. I wouldn't wait another year to look for clients just because I have no experience with .NET because there are enough people out there that just need static pages, simple scripts that can be done in PHP, and so forth.

    There are some jobs where you can go to school for four years and learn essentially everything you need to know for that job and the stuff you don't you just gradually pick up once you get out of school and start throwing resumes everywhere to get a job. Web development, and software development itself, are not those kind of jobs. You either keep up with it or you get left behind, but you also can't make any money if you spend 100% of your time learning, so you just have to strike a balance. Okay, I think I've rambled enough.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard mcsolas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cereal_girl
    So I guess I'm looking for some advice. As professionals in the industry, do you think there's a market for excellent static coders? Are these skills already obsolete?
    Obselete, no, excellent opportunities... well.. if you consider band sites and designing for small business an excellent opportunity. I would think of the smaller sites as a way to get paid to learn.
    Quote Originally Posted by cereal_girl
    Is it realistic to expect to be able to continue upgrading my scripting skills once the clients start rolling in? Any other advice you can offer?
    In the beginning, I would get an idea of skills I needed to learn.. then go and find someone that needed a site like that. Not always the best pay, but your heading in the direction that is of the most interest to you. Over time, you will start working for sites that continue to challenge your new skills .. and hopefully you also have an interest in the subject matter at hand. Any good site requires a sustained commitment in the long run

  13. #13
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    I'm going to go along with all the excellent advice you have already been given, especially the bit about stretching yourself. It does not matter how good you are or what your speciality is you can bet your bottom dollar sooner or later a client is going to come along wanting something that is outside your field of expertise. Say yes, try to come up with the solution and if you get stuck outsource it. The client gets what they want and at the same time you learn how to do it for the next time. It never ceases to amaze me actually though how many companies still just want a simple straight forward static site with a feedback e-mail facility. It's even more brilliant when they state that they would prefer that you do all the up-dating. Grist to the mill and long may it continue.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  14. #14
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    Lot's of great ideas so far...
    But any advice for outsourcing? If I want to "specialize" and offer a premium service in a particular area, I want to oursource to others with the same ideas and standards.
    I'm certain I'm not going to find these people locally.
    SO where are they going to come from? How do I find affordable, high quality programmers to work with?

  15. #15
    SitePoint Zealot mpdesigns's Avatar
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    Web Frameworks play a huge part in this. They provide designers the toolsets to accomplish what normally they've been able to in a shorter amount of time. Learning curves are getting smaller and smaller not to mention deployment is getting easier. dynamic designers are definitely favored more than static.
    Keep it Symple!

  16. #16
    SitePoint Guru DCS's Avatar
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    I have made a fairly decent career spanning 10 years now doing about 90% static designs. I myself do nothing but static design, my wife or a contractor handles the dynamic work.

    Static is anything but obsolete, in fact in our local market we are seeing quite the opposite. Static sites have been all we have done lately.

    If that is where you are comfortable, go for it. The market is there. Look to smaller businesses and smaller non-profits. If your skills are hot and your customer service is a high priority you will go far.

    I'd like to clarify by static I mean not database driven. I design sites that are not database driven (I just don't do the coding, I do the visual part though) but are tableless and accessible.

    And for those that look...yeah, there are designs in my portfolio that are old school table based, I have been doing this a long time now and as stated earlier you are always learning.

  17. #17
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    People still use static sites?

  18. #18
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    @DCS - That's especially helpful. (I followed the links to your site and breathed a sigh of relief! THose are real clients represented in your portfolio, and I can do that!)
    I've somehow convinced myself that until I can produce ubercode, there's no point marketing my skills aggressively.
    And yet I've been approached regularly by clients who don't even know they have the option of a dynamic page.
    In our small local market, my competition is delivering static, table-based pages, and then charging clients an arm and a leg for every update - so I figure client's will be thrilled simply to have an accessible, well designed site that can be updated quicly, easily and often.
    And I CAN script a little.
    Knowing that there are people out there actually making a large chunk of their living designing static pages is a little surprising - but tremendously reassuring.

  19. #19
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    My advice is to find a good programmer, and in the mean time you can begin learning PHP and SQL. It really isn't hard to pick up the basics, and 90% of the work you get will be simple anyway... at least enough to get by.

  20. #20
    You Bet Your Life...Really lerxtjr's Avatar
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    Stepping out of my normal self and into the shoes of a typical client (a non-technical business owner that has products or services to sell and little knowledge about how to sell them online), "I don't care what kind of web site you create." I'm coming to you expecting that you will help me increase leads and/or sales. Period!

    What type of website do YOU believe will help me do that? Static or dynamic? I don't care! Whatever brings me more business! What type of involvement do I as the business owner need to have in the process? You tell me because you're the expert!

    Sorry, don't mean to yell. I just get kind of ticked when I see these debates about what kind of technology to force on clients. Anyone who has real clients and has been doing this for more than six months knows it's not about technology. It's about results and every audience and industry is different. And, if I can achieve those results better with a graphically starved white page and a big static table with dreaded div tags (okay, let's not get carried away) than some kind of custom php or cfm dynamic cms yadda yadda, THAT's going to be the recommendation to my client.

    Know your client. Learn about your client's audience. Advise what vehicle will get the best results. And, if you haven't already, create YOUR OWN product and attempt to sell it online. Then you'll learn what really works and what doesn't.

  21. #21
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    You got all the essential hints to enable you start off. Do it now as you feel and you will learn from your mistakes and from there you continue to forge ahead.
    fash

  22. #22
    <code></code><WoW></WoW> nukeemusn's Avatar
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    I kind of understand what you're feeling. I started my business as a side job (I'm in the NAvy) last october, and have a single client, but I'm trying to build this up so that it can be my main job when I get out of the military in 3 years. SO I've gotten pretty darn good with XHTML and CSS, but I'm at a loss as to where to go next. For example, below is a snapshot of a SMALL PORTION of my "Professional" library:



    As you can see, I am a man pulling myself in many different directions. Which kind of makes sense, since I AM my web design business. I figure that if you've got the static part down, don't advertise anything esle, yet. Pick a technology and work on it until

    a) Yout feel comforatble enough with your knowledge level that even if a client asks for somethig you don't know how to do, figuring it out wouldn't be too much of a problem

    and

    b) You've built up a small library of useful programs/scripts/apps that you have on hand and can modify for customer differences. This will save ou time (and uncertainty) in the long run, and you might actually be able to charge more for those particular services, because you will be able to deliver them more quickly than some of your competitors.

    I hoipe this helps! It might jsut help to know you're not alone with that problem.
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  23. #23
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    Cool know enough to know what you don't know well enough...

    Whether or not there's a market for "good static coders" is irrelevant. If you know your stuff (markup, css, scripting, etc) and fully understand the modular nature of backend programming (regardless of server model) then you will find a niche, whether creating mom&pop static sites or doing front-end design & development for a data-driven project.

    It's tough for a one-person shop to know everything. I'd say, know when you don't know enough and then hire someone (contract) who has proven experience in what you need to work with you if it is going to be your client.

    Casey

  24. #24
    SitePoint Enthusiast cajebo's Avatar
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    "Web Frameworks"

    could you expand on this a bit? is that an organization? a company? a website?

    as to cereal's jump: go ahead, leap. you'll be amazed at how quickly one's 29-hour day starts shrinking due to all the stuff you'll be force to admit you're going to learn about, and all the things you'll determin quickly that will need an additional hat-rack.

    trying to wear too many hats is the major source of neckpain.

    michael
    Let me be confident enough to be humble.

  25. #25
    Compulsive Clubber icky_bu's Avatar
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    I happened to start working online with static sites. I was in fact doing some graphic design work for this dj agency and they wanted simple websites to present events here and there. So, basically, a flyer would also become a static website using elements similar to both.

    Only later did I start to learn PHP/MySQL to get stuff moving along easier. And even used my newly learned programming skills to make static websites on the fly!

    So, I'd go for it and keep improving your skills as you go along.
    One word of advice: Don't accept to develop something you are not ready for. I've had to step in for quite a few pseudo-webdevelopers over the last couple of years.


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