Office Hours

Do you have a specific question about your website that you’ve been wanting to ask? Maybe you want to optimize the way your site runs, or maybe you’d like to become more comfortable updating your site content in WordPress.

Our team is holding online office hours on Wednesday, December 14th at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT). We’ll be available to answer questions for a full hour. If the room is full, hang tight or come back later in the hour.

Whether it’s increasing your site speed or writing more effective meta and title tags, we look forward to helping you.

Join Office Hours!
(GoToMeeting link will be active during Office Hours)

December 7, 2016

Interview with a Developer: What is JavaScript?

Drew Barton: I’m here with Byron Johnson who is one of our developers here at Southern Web. Our topics today that we’re discussing is JavaScript, so what is JavaScript?

Byron Johnson: JavaScript is a scripting language that was created to provide various functionality that you could implement within a browser. But, recently, it goes into broader uses such as service side and desktop side programming. So that’s what it is in its basic form.

Drew: Oftentimes you’ll hear people say “JavaScript” or “Java”. Are they the same things?

Byron: No. JavaScript is based on Java but it’s a more simple scripting language as opposed to Java, but was created for the use within a browser, whereas Java is used strictly for application development. Most of your apps on your phones, particularly Android, those are created in Java. Also, desktop applications, or programs like we used to call them, can be built in Java. You wouldn’t find Java in the browser.

Drew: Okay. When you know JavaScript, what can you do with it?

Byron: You can do tons with JavaScript. JavaScript was originally created to build interactions within the browser, and it’s still used for that purpose today, but it’s taken on a lot broader perspective as well. For instance, whenever you click a button on a site, JavaScript can allow that click to perform all kinds of different tasks or interactions with other elements on the page. If you have ever browsed a site, clicked a button on the page, and had a screen pop up, that’s usually a JavaScript implemented interaction. That’s a standard use of JavaScript and it’s been used for since the 90s.

Today, it’s being used to send and retrieve data from servers so that it’s starting to tie a little bit more into the back end. You can also now use JavaScript to run tasks on your machine. So what a lot of programmers are doing these days is utilizing JavaScript to automate redundant tasks such as compiling SASS. That’s an example of a more current usage of JavaScript that we see it evolve in to.

Drew: When you’re doing development, do you choose to build it in JavaScript or HTML? Do you pick one or the other? Do you use them both together? Can you tell me more?

Byron: Yeah. HTML is your structure, whereas JavaScript is used more for the interaction. You can’t have one without the other per say. You can’t just build a JavaScript website; there’s always going to be HTML involved because that’s going to be your structure and your foundation, much like a house. Your walls would be the equivalent of your HTML, whereas the lights would be turning on and off, the electrical system, would be more like the JavaScript implementation. You’ll never really have just JavaScripts completely. There will always be HTML involved.

Drew: Earlier you mentioned server-side JavaScript and client-side JavaScript. What’s the difference between those two things?

Byron: Client side is referring strictly to browser interaction. These interactions can include showing or hiding data, parallax scrolling, interactive drop down menus, etc. You, as a client, are interacting with that website, and these interactions are controlled by client side JavaScript. The server side, which includes some newer JavaScript technologies, is the stuff that you don’t necessarily see happening on the front end. JavaScript is now being utilized to store data in a databases and can even control the whole entire database. Where you’ll see the server side and the client side working together, for instance, is searching on a website for a person. When you click “go” or “search”, that clicking is a client side event, then the person’s information would be returned from the server. That returned data would be controlled by the JavaScript database. This would be an example of the client side and the server side working together.

Drew: So, if you’re intrigued by JavaScript, and you wanted to learn some more about it, what would you tell them to do, where would you tell them to start to find out more about it?

Byron: The best sources that I’ve used thus far, and I’ve used a few different sources, is Code School’s JavaScript courses. They have a series of three JavaScript lessons, but they’re very good and they’re very detailed. If you’re looking for a free source, the best one I’ve found is Code Academy. Code Academy has a pretty good walk-through on JavaScript, I just don’t think it’s as structured as well as Code School’s is, but that’s another great option. Then, from the books that I’ve read, a really great source was the book JavaScript and jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development by Jon Duckett. It’s a really great book, especially for someone that learns more from a visual aid. The way it lays everything out and the flow of the book is really great. It also has jQuery in there, but that’s more of an added bonus. I’d highly recommend it as a starting point for JavaScript.

Drew: Great. Where do you see JavaScript going in the future?

Byron: Well, it used to be something that was used for basic interactions, and a lot of people even kind of shunned it in the early 2000s. In web development, it wasn’t something that was too big of a thing, but you needed it sometimes. Now, JavaScript, since it’s taken on this broader perspective of going more into the server side and being used on the desktop side for developers to automate tasks, it’s stretching out everywhere. Due to it’s newly emerged prevalence, I think it’s just going to keep flourishing from here.

If you can learn JavaScript just on the front end side, you now have that understanding of how JavaScript works and can begin to apply that same knowledge towards back end JavaScrip development. No longer do you have to learn multiple languages to interact with the front end and back end. For instance, with PHP you would learn PHP for the front end, but then learn MySQL to handle the server side of things. The same thing with Microsoft. You would need to learn .net for front end development, but then you’d also then have to use SQL to control the database back end side. Now with JavaScript, you can streamline your knowledge. If you know JavaScript, you can now create a whole website or an application just by knowing just one language. You can now bring those two worlds together with one scripting language. That makes it very powerful.

Another thing about JavaScript is it’s very fast, it’s a lot quicker than these older technologies. I think you’re just going to see it become more encompassing over the web development world as a whole. We also have two different frameworks created by two of the biggest web companies out there. Google has created a JavaScript framework called Angular and we also have React.js which is popular right now and was created by Facebook. When you see companies like that set up their own frameworks with JavaScript, you can only imagine how this is going to continue with leaders within the web industry. I think it’s going to keep flourishing from here.

Drew: That’s a lot of great information Byron. Thanks.

Byron: Awesome. No problem.

October 17, 2016

Interview with a Developer: What’s a Taxonomy?

Drew Barton: I’m here with Jeremiah Bratton, who is our lead developer here at Southern Web. Today we’re going to be talking about post types, taxonomies, and metadata, the need for them, where they apply, what you can do with them, and why they’re important.

Jeremiah:  Thanks!

Drew: Jeremiah, can you tell us what is taxonomy?

Jeremiah: Taxonomy is a broad term. In the sense that it is used in WordPress or in any other CMS, it is a way of categorizing and organizing content into consistent terms. Basically it’s a consistent system of adjectives for the content you’re putting into your site. It is also a useful tool for managing specific content views for your users. A good example that I could give that’s easy is a car. Every car would have a manufacturer, and a car would also have an engine, so you would have Ford or Audi inside of your car manufacturer taxonomy. An engine would be 6 cylinders or 4 cylinders, and so you could classify a single car as an Audi with a 4 cylinder engine, or a Ford with a 6 cylinder engine, and you could do this for multiple cars. It’s a consistent way to classify and organize your content.

Drew: Got you. You mentioned the word “term” earlier, can you explain what that is?

Jeremiah: Term is a description or an adjective that sits inside of a taxonomy, the taxonomy is like a binder. The binder is the taxonomy itself, and then all of the pages that you have inside of it, your terms, like engine type, or car type, tire type, those would be the titles on the top of every page, and then underneath that then you’d say Ford Focus or Audi A3. The binder, taxonomy, is how you keep your descriptors, terms, together and organized.

Drew: Are there any other types of terms? How do you further define things?

Jeremiah: Term is pretty much just a term. You can have a hierarchy with terms if you feel that a term on its own does not go deep enough or if a term is a broad category that has more categories below it. If you had a taxonomy for beverages, coffee could be a term. Coffee is a broad term that can have more classifications. Black, Espresso, Latte, and so on would be good child terms for the term coffee

Drew: You mentioned a post type, can you explain what that is?

Jeremiah: A post type … The funny thing about a post type is that in a way it is a form of taxonomy. A post type doesn’t operate the same way as taxonomy but it does essentially set a top level term in a way. A post type named animals expects everything entered as an animal to be an animal, so animal becomes the root level descriptor for that content. A post type in WordPress is also a way to store content that is specific to your needs or your businesses needs that are different from the default post type that WordPress provides.

To not talk about cars anymore, if your site were a bookstore, you wouldn’t put everything underneath the ‘post’ type, because that’s for a blog. It has the workflow for a blog, the fields for a blog post, so you would create a post type called books. With the books post type, you now have the ability to create a specific workflow for the way that books are entered into your site. It is also easier to tell WordPress directly that you want books from the database. The books post type also opens up the ability for you to have a specific taxonomy for books because blog posts and books have different adjectives, and the same would go for any metadata that you would want to save for a book as well because there’s different data that describes a single book versus a single blog post.

Drew: Got you. I remember a couple of years ago there was a lot of talk about security and telephone conversations and AT&T providing metadata. Can you explain what metadata is?

Jeremiah: Metadata is information that is relevant to a single item. This is where it can get a little tricky, metadata and taxonomy can be very similar, but to make it easier, the best way to think about it is … the definition of the word meta is to be self-referential. Metadata would be … You, Drew, are the person, or the human being, that’s your post type, your sex is male, that’s your taxonomy, but your name, Drew, is metadata. Everybody has a name, but everybody’s name is different. It’s too broad and too inconsistent for you to categorize everyone’s name

Drew: Got you, got you. Okay, so then are you categorizing via metadata or are you doing it by post types? How do you know when to use which?

Jeremiah: It can get a little muddy. That’s kind of an upfront warning for that. Personally, for me, concrete, consistent adjectives are what become taxonomies and terms. To make it simple, if you were describing any particular object that you might, shape is a taxonomy because there is a finite amount of shapes that could be consistently applied to an object. It’s round, square, rectangular, oblong, so forth. Metadata is good for variation. I’m going to have to use the car example again, but all vehicles have VIN numbers. VIN numbers are expected to be there. Every car ideally should have one, but if you were to try and create a term for every VIN that existed you would end up with a huge taxonomy full of one use terms. That consistent but unique data like someone’s age of their name is perfect for metadata.

Drew: Got you, okay. Those are some good examples. When you’re looking at websites does every site need post types, metadata, or taxonomy? Can you just build a site without it?

Jeremiah: You can definitely build a site without it, but unless your content is either very flat in terms of genre or type the site would become an unorganized mess. WordPress has a default out of the box taxonomy for posts called Categories. From the moment you start using it WordPress assumes you will need and use taxonomy.  Again no, Not every site needs it, but I would say unless the site that you’re running is very specific, meaning that the single type of content that you create pretty much encapsulates all of the adjectives, like you only do Olive Garden reviews on Thursdays for a specific dish on the menu … and that’s all you do, then you are going to want to do something to organize your content. If you have reviews or if you have a blog, you might have a broad range of review types, reviews for a restaurants, movie reviews, reviews for video games or books, and each one of those gets a separate category or term. That way you can filter out what’s not necessary at any given moment or build views for your users to see exactly what they came to your site for. I have primarily talked about taxonomy and post types purely for organization. However, there is a big theming benefit. Taxonomies, terms, and post types call all have custom appearances in your theme. If you need to supply different sidebars, graphics, or layouts for your different types of content then using Taxonomies, terms and post types is the way to do that.

Drew: Would you give some examples of how you would filter content using taxonomy, post types or metadata on a site?

Jeremiah: Yeah. In a WordPress query, if you have taxonomy available to you, if you have a post type available to you or metadata, you can adjust your query to match some of all of your information. WordPress allows you to do a query for taxonomy, where you can ask for any post of any type in the system, “Hey, look into this taxonomy for me, and I need all of the posts in the database that match this or these terms” This would allow you to have a list of Science Fiction books or cars with 6 cylinder engines.

You can do that with metadata as well, and that’s kind of where the taxonomy metadata thing can get a little gray, because you can approach them in the same way, but metadata typically you’re looking for something that’s like another thing. If I’m looking for the name that’s like Drew, perhaps a feminine offshoot of Drew would be – “Drewina” I could get both Drew and Drewina back using a meta query. Post types, simply that’s the top level one where if you’re only looking for people and that’s all you want, then you would tell WordPress, “I only want people,” and then you could go further to say, “I only want people with the sex of female, with names like Drew,” to get really specific.

Drew: Any words of warning for someone that’s starting to learn taxonomy, like your big a-ha lesson that you’ve learned when you first started becoming acquainted with them?

Jeremiah: Probably the worst thing that I ever did with taxonomy was not use it, and early on I was kind of scared of it. Most of my original CMS experience was with Drupal, which is very similar to WordPress, but it made taxonomy maybe a bit less friendly than WordPress does, and it’s easy to look at taxonomy, which can be kind of broad and tough to wrap your head around, and I think it scares most people away at first. The biggest mistake that you can make is to not organize your content, be 2 to 3 years down the road, and all of a sudden need better filtering, better sorting, different displays, or just better search tools for your site. Organized content will make those revisions and updates so much easier.

I guess the more practical answer to your question would be not being mindful and really thinking about what your content is and how to describe it. There have been plenty of times where I would jump in and start creating my taxonomies, and getting metadata ready without taking the time to study my content. This ended in me having to backtrack and re-plan my content when suddenly post number 7 didn’t fit the plan. Measure twice cut once I guess…

Drew: Right, right. Excellent. I think we’re a little bit clearer now on taxonomy, and do you have any final thoughts?

Jeremiah: Organize your content, keep your house clean.

Drew: Excellent. We’ll leave it there.

September 21, 2016

Best Web Fonts for 2016

2015 has been a year of change in the design community. We’ve seen a shift in popularity from Apple’s iOS 7 flat-ui to Google’s flatmorphic material design, which has not only affected the designs that we see for apps and the web, but also the typefaces being used in those designs. Google has become the trailblazer when it comes to design, and with their 2015 logo redesign, they have taken a stance on modern typography.

Geometry

Google-Geometry

2016 is going to be all about Geometric design with typefaces getting rounder and bolder. Taking Google’s new logo as an example, each letter has been constructed to be perfectly linear and geometric, using only circles and rectangles in their construction. In creating their brand, Google crafted up a new typeface that they call “Product Sans.” Product sans reflects the same principles as Google’s new logo, and it’s being used for all instances where a word appears after the logo i.e. Gmail or Maps.

So what can we take out of this? For starters, sans-serif fonts are gaining market share. We’ve been seeing a decline for years now, but serif fonts are becoming about as dated and dusty as your high school year books. We can’t have a world filled with plain sans-serif typefaces though. That’s where slab fonts come in. Slab fonts aren’t by any means new, though some might think so due to the recent increase in popularity. Slab fonts take the detail that serif fonts bring us, but they add a few more sharp geometric edges that complement these new geometric fonts so well.

The List

The following list is categorized into Sans-Serif, Slab-Serif, and Serif. Without a doubt there are far more popular sans-serif typefaces than the other styles, but it’s important not to lose sight of what the rest of the world has to offer. Here are the best web fonts for the coming year:

Sans-Serif


Poppins

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.16.37 PM

You may not have heard of Poppins yet, but now is a good time to get to know it. This font has very clean geometric shaping as well as a bold weight that feels like more of a black weight. The bold weight makes for a great heading font and will make almost anything stand out.

Montserrat

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.29.07 PM

Montserrat is one of the more popular web fonts out there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The font has gained a lot of popularity over the past year, and it won’t be long before you see it up there in the ranks with Lato and Open Sans. This font is very similar to Poppins, but adds a few extra curls and swoops here and there. Google Fonts only has the 400 and 700 weight variants, but there’s not much of a need for anything else when it comes to using this font for your websites.

Lato

Lato

We all know Lato. It’s been topping the list of popular Google Fonts for quite a while now, but there’s a reason for that. Lato is an incredibly versatile font that can be used for nearly any subject matter whether it be your personal blog or a website for a large university. Lato just works and we can’t get enough of it. You’re sure to see Lato continuing to be used in 2016.

Catamaran

Catamaran

Here’s one you haven’t heard of yet. Catamaran is new to the Google Font list, but it’s sure to rise to the top quickly. If you want something that looks as clean as Lato but a bit more unique, this font may just be the way to go. Catamaran is similar to Lato in many ways, including in how polished it feels, but it comes with a bit more of a relaxed feel, which can be great for many different types of projects.

Work Sans

Work Sans

The last of the best sans serif fonts for 2016 is Work Sans. This font has been around for a couple of years, but it’s just now gaining popularity. The designer has been updating regularly and you can even contribute to the project on Github. Work sans combines a little bit of what we love from the fonts that we’ve been using for so long. Take it for a spin on your own projects and see what you think about this up and coming font.

Slab-Serif


Slabo

Slabo

Nothing makes a better heading font than Slabo. Combine this font with Lato, Poppins, or Catamaran and you’re sure to look like someone that knows a thing or two about typography. As of now, the only weight available on Google Fonts is 400, but don’t be discouraged. This still makes for a great font for all types of projects, and we may just see a few more weights added in the future.

Josefin Slab

Josefin Slab

So you’re looking for something more unique than Slabo? Look no further. Josefin Slab is the perfect creative and unique slab font. This slabular cousin of Josefin Sans lives up to the family name. It’s available in plenty of weights and has italics (something not too common for a slab font) as an added bonus.

Serif


Lora

Lora

Lora is the Lato of the serif world. It’s a classic font that looks great almost anywhere. Using it for large headings is a smart move for any project whether it be for the web or print. Lora also pairs very well with sans-serif fonts and can be used as either body text or heading text. The classic styling yet modern feel is what keeps Lora on the list for best web fonts of 2016.

Andada

Andada

Described as an “organic slab-serif hybrid,” Andada is the perfect cross between classic and modern. The hybrid nature is very apparent in that it contains elements from both slab and serif fonts. Typical slab-serif fonts don’t work too well as body text, while this hybrid would fit perfectly well as a font for both body text and headings.

Martel

Martel

Martel is the new kid on the block when it comes to serif fonts. Development began in 2008, but it wasn’t released until 2014. The  Martel project is led by a Berlin-based designer named Dan Reynolds. It’s very easy to see Dan’s love for typography in his use of classic styling with Martel. If you’re in the market for a new serif font, this is the one to choose. Check out the Github repo for Martel, and if you like what you see, there’s even a sans-serif version to pair along with it.

 

October 12, 2015

Why Have Website Prices Steadily Risen?

One would think that over time, the price of developing a website would go down. The designers and developers would steadily get better at their craft, and the time spent developing those projects would go down. With very few exceptions, the opposite is true: year after year, website prices have steadily risen, and this trend seems poised to continue. Let’s explore some reasons why. Read More »

October 12, 2015
SSUMC

Before & After: Sandy Springs United Methodist

Since 1848, the Sandy Springs United Methodist Church has served the greater Atlanta area. We are thankful to be selected by the established institution to help redesign their website. The new site is responsive and built on the WordPress platform to enable this very active church manage their content and event calendars with ease.

Client’s Name: Sandy Springs United Methodist Church

Location: Sandy Springs, GA

Services Provided: WordPress content management system, Web design, and Cloud Hosting

Website Link: ssumc.org

SSUMC Before and After

December 4, 2014

The Best Google Fonts for 2014

Launched in 2010, Google Fonts, formerly known as Google Web Fonts, is a free directory of many popular (and not-so-popular) fonts available to designers, programmers and more. Last year, we highlighted the best fonts for 2013. So, it’s only fitting that we take a look at 2014’s best Google Fonts:

Read More »

May 21, 2015

Wireframing: What They Are and Why We Use Them

If you’ve ever had a website developed, you know that there are two main stages. First, you go through the design stage where you figure out what your website is going to look like. Then, you go through the development stage where your website is built and you test its functionality. While this is still generally the case, there are many more steps that most experienced web developers take to ensure clients get exactly the product they desire. One of these steps is wireframing. While it has been around in the design field for years, most people outside of the industry don’t really have a clue what wireframing actually is.

Read More »

May 15, 2015
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