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Josh Can Help brings you: 2009 Technology Resolutions

I think resolutions are probably a good idea for the most part (lose weight, exercise more, smoke less/no more crack) but, psychologically, they just don’t work. Still, it’s never a bad thing to think about how you want to change your life. Since I’m neck-deep in technology and since my personal life is immaculate (chuckle), I figured this might be a good time to think about how I’d like to change how I use technology in my own life.

I’m done selling tangible objects on Craigslist, I’m done using eBay, and I’m through with PayPal

Between PayPal’s ridiculous user agreement and business practices and all the unscrupulous people out there, I’ve been ripped off 3 times in the last year. In the end, the money lost has not been crippling by any means (probably about $300) but it has been frustrating and makes me think less of the human race in general.

Selling things on-line is tricky. My advice to anyone using eBay or Craigslist is to cover your butt completely. If you use PayPal (I wouldn’t recommend it), make sure you completely understand the user agreement and you don’t leave your money in there for longer than a few days if you can help it. If you ship anything, get a tracking number always (that should be obvious but I guess I needed to learn my lesson the hard way). All my advice comes down to not leaving yourself open to anything. I hate to say it but assume that everyone you’re dealing with is trying to rip you off. That way, when you think “I’m sure this guy will send my stuff back, I’ll just reverse the payment” you’ll immediately laugh and ignore phone calls and emails until you get your stuff back *cough*.

My first step towards avoiding any future screwings is to cancel my PayPal account for good. These guys make so much money for doing next to nothing and involve themselves in transactions when they aren’t needed. In an attempt to appear to protect buyers and sellers, they move money around, take money away, and will sick collection agencies on you before you know it. PayPal sucks and I won’t use them ever again:

I closed my PayPal account and I'd suggest you do the same

eBay too:

I closed my eBay account for good

I’m going to finish targeting/optimizing my website, clean up all the static content, and style all pages

It’s a bit sad that me, a person who helps other people build their on-line presence, has an un-optimized, incomplete, unsatisfying website. I still haven’t picked and optimized for keywords that I use, there are a few pages (like the search results and my 404 page) that aren’t styled, and I change my mind about the page content on a weekly basis.

Just like the lawyer who gets a DUI or the personal organizer with the messy car, I just don’t make time for my own projects because, well, no one is paying me for them. The problem comes when I miss out on work because someone doesn’t want to hire a web designer with an unfinished web presence. As such, here is my to-do list:

  • The Portfolio page is going to be changed into more of a client presentation than a list of things I’ve done. It makes more sense to concentrate on the client, their needs, and how I helped them than on the individual projects I’ve completed. I see myself as much more of a consultant and an on-going resource than just a guy who builds sites and emails and then moves on.
  • The Resume page needs to be updated and new testimonials need to be added. I’m putting together a list of questions that I will be sending to current and past clients about their experience with me and how they liked the outcome.
  • The Hire Me page is going to be more of a list of products/services that I offer rather than a meandering list of stuff I can do. I want to offer 5-8 different products, each with its own base price (website from scratch, SEO analysis, page content re-tooling, full web presence package). I think this will go a long way towards showing people what I can do and what they might be missing.
  • I need to pick out keywords and write for them, period. I made a few small changes and watched my traffic from search engines grow by about a third. Each post should be optimized and targeted or I’m just wasting my time.

I’m going to use Adobe Illustrator for design and layout more often than Photoshop

illustratorcs3Unless you’ve used both programs, you might not understand the benefit of one or the other. I’ve been using them for almost a year now and, while I understand, for the most part, the benefits of one over the other in various realms, it just never occurred to me to use Illustrator for web design and layout.

The main and most obvious difference between these two programs is that one works in vector artwork (infinitely scalable and very flexible) – Illustrator – and one works in pixel artwork (only one true size but displayable anywhere) – Photoshop. When possible, you always want your artwork or logo or layout in a vector format and exported to pixel format (like a JPEG) for use on the web.

I’ve always assumed that since the web is displayed in pixels that you should probably design in a pixel program. What didn’t occur to me is that creating everything in Photoshop really limits you in terms of future changes and expansions. Since you can’t really “finalize” anything in Illustrator (make into pixels which can’t, for all intents and purposes, be changed), your designs are much easier to change and adapt later on when minds are changed or goals are modified.

On top of the many benefits of using AI to do layout, it’s also going to force me to use it more and get better at it. I like using Illustrator but I’m not very good at it and I want to get better. Practice makes perfect!

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