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Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future
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Author:  jack_indigo [ Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future

So far this year, I've been asked to make the following types of websites. It got me thinking about how to prepare for the future.

- manage a sales campaign pipeline -- was mostly CRUD with table and record views, and lots of heavy roles on what could and could not be done, followed by alerts

- classified listings (niche vendor topic), browsable on category, searchable on keyword

- product catalog with admin backend, along with simplistic PayPal integration (the free kind) with Add To Cart and Checkout Now buttons

- gadget to randomly show arcade game icons and links

- job search site -- is mostly CRUD on table and record views, but had a lot of similarities to the classified listings site

- contact forms w/captchas - 6 different clients

- 3 sites with custom CMSes (each client didn't want something canned)

- phpBB forum integration -- gadgets for putting into a CMS + comments on CMS articles get posted directly into the forum instead of into the CMS

- every site needed an admin system; had to use AJAX instead of FRAMEs and IFRAMEs in order to make the site zippy fast over the Internet -- admins don't like to have to wait for menus to be redrawn all the time on sometimes slow connections (busy websites).

- about 7 out of 10 sites needed some kind of file upload handler for either an icon, an image, an invoice, etc.

So, to all those guys considering becoming a freelancer out there, still working that regular programmer day job in a cubicle somewhere, I have this advice. Consider building the following frameworks, either using some existing framework and customizing, or develop your own framework on pure PHP. The frameworks would be:

- admin system with basic CRUD of record and table views; keep jQuery Accordion menus on the left and use jQuery Forms' AJAX to swap out the forms on the right (so you don't need to keep redrawing the menus and don't need FRAMEs or IFRAMEs).

- build a file upload handler

- learn a forum system well enough to build gadgets that draw content out of it, or to have comments on CMS articles post content into it.

- make your own micro CMS -- tie the admin system you build with some end user front-end gadgets that draw the CMS content out

- make a really good contact form that can't be hacked easily at all

- make a reusable product catalog that can be tied to PayPal with Add To Cart and Checkout Now buttons, and if you have the time, one with Google Checkout.

- build a job search site

- build a classified listings site

What I mean to say is, if you can do all of the above BEFORE you take the leap into 100% freelancing, you'll be able to hit the ground running with reusable code on like 70% of the projects you see out there. I mean, now that I've done these sorts of sites, I'm seeing my timelines shorten a great deal because I have so much reusable code that I just alter slightly and off I go. And you can do all of these kinds of sites initially as your own hosted projects, earning ad revenue or subscription revenue, BEFORE you start doing it for other clients. This will give you the necessary residual income you will need to help you ride out the dry periods.

Of course, this isn't the recipe for turning anyone into an excellent PHP developer. There's far more to learn out there to be the best you can be. It's just that if I had done all of the above BEFORE I had become a freelancer, I wouldn't have had such a rocky road up until now.

Author:  lukewilkins [ Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future

jack_indigo,

Thanks for the post. It is interesting to hear what exactly is being asked for most out in the freelance world. I work full time as a PHP developer, but knowing what systems I should expand upon and know I can use in the future is a plus. Thanks for the post.

Luke

Author:  jack_indigo [ Sun Aug 24, 2008 6:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future

Yeah, it's by no means complete. It's just a trend I'm seeing here. Sure, there can be like 100 different ways to build a classified listings site because of special client needs -- it's just that if you build one version, it sure makes building the other 99 a lot easier, right? And no freelancer can probably survive without being asked at least 3 or 4 times in a year to build a product catalog or integrate with one. So this is more about trends rather than concrete observations. And every site needs an admin system on the backend, so why not make a reusable framework for one that you can customize for each client?

Before I became a freelancer, I had only built a call tracking system and a dozen specialized needs (very small projects) on an intranet for a company. Eventually after so many years, the cubicle life wasn't for me, I didn't need the babysitting anymore, wanted a more flexible lifestyle, and set out to earn it. The only regrets I have now are (a) wishing I had done this sooner, and (b) wishing I had known about these trends and built these frameworks/systems/toolkits (whatever) before I had taken the leap so fast. If anything, I could have made some cash on the moonlight personal projects before I had taken the leap into freelancing, such as building a product catalog and selling digital media kinds of stuff, saving the cash and collecting up the skills for the big day.

Author:  Sindarin [ Tue Sep 02, 2008 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future

Thanks for the tips.
Most people here in my country (Greece) want sites with simple cms they can use, blogs, forums, e-shops and they are wild for Flash(y) content. Give them ajax effects or flash animations and they become crazy!
A client wanted to show my name in a popup on his site after the cool flash animation I made him. Exaggerations. :D
My personal aim is to create a program that does most of the work for me (generate css by drag and drop elements, generate secure contact form code, SEO assist etc.), and secondly a cms which is highly customizable and multi-purpose. For forums and blogs, IPB and Wordpress will work fine.

Author:  onion2k [ Tue Sep 02, 2008 10:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  Sindarin [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  onion2k [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  matthijs [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  Sindarin [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  onion2k [ Wed Sep 03, 2008 9:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


Author:  josh [ Tue Sep 09, 2008 4:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Typical Sites, Preparation for the Future


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