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Web and Multimedia Design

Three pieces of advice for new web and multimedia designers

I was recently featured in a list of resources for multimedia students and it made me to think back to when I was a student, yet to experience the world of commercial multimedia.

It would be no exaggeration to say that I learned more in my first few months as a multimedia designer than in my entire final year at university; and that’s nothing against my university – I just learned an awful lot! So if I looked back to when I was just leaving university and about to move into employment, what words of advice would I give myself?

Become a good Googler

Google is a fountain of knowledge – Do not be afraid to use it if you get stuck. You might think that your co-workers or your boss will think less of you, but let me tell you, even after over four years as a multimedia designer I visit Google at least once a day to help me solve problems that come my way. Your boss would much rather you spend 20 minutes finding a solution on Google than spend 4 hours trying to solve it yourself.

Being able to use Google to find solutions is a great skill to have. Does the website you are working on not look right in Internet Explorer 6? Are you getting a PHP error? Is that extension that you installed not working? If you encounter a problem the chances are someone else has had it before, so type out the problem or paste the error code into the Google search bar and hit search.

Most of the results will usually be forum threads and blog posts. Scan through these, read the responses and before you know it you will find an answer. (If not, why not register and post your question on one of the forums?)

Test, Test and Test again

It’s happened to me before a number of times. I’ve created something for a client; it works brilliantly on my own computer but then as soon as I try it on theirs, something goes horribly wrong. It’s very embarrassing and sometimes non preventable but it’s definitely something to watch out for.

There are a million different setups a computer can have (Windows/Mac, XP/Vista/7, Internet Explorer/Firefox, different versions of Flash Player) and the list goes on, so it goes without saying that all systems aren’t going to work the same.

When you have built your multimedia or web application you are only two thirds of the way there. You need to test it out on as many different platforms as you can get your hands on. Your sister’s computer, your phone, your Nintendo Wii…

A few years ago I was involved in a project to create a multimedia resource for a very large organisation to be distributed on a CD-ROM. The disc had to run an interactive application if it was put in a PC and play a video through the TV if it was put in a DVD player. We somehow managed to pull it off but the client wanted assurance that it would work in most household DVD players, so we went to the nearest Currys electrical store and they were kind enough to let us try it on a range of different brands!

You probably won’t need to go to these extremes, but why not send it out to friends and family for them to test and report back with any problems?

Back up your work

You will hear this a lot, but believe me, don’t ignore it. There are nasty little gremlins living in your computer that break your equipment when it is least convenient.

A couple of years ago I was involved in the creation of a video and on the very day that it was supposed to be sent to the client, the external hard drive with the Adobe Premiere file, video files, graphics and all other working files broke. Thankfully we had exported an old version of the video a few days earlier, which we were able to chop up and reassemble – but this still cost a lot of extra man hours.

Over time you will develop hundreds of folders of projects, working files, images, content from clients etc. Imagine what would happen if you lost all this…

It’s always a great idea to keep two or more backups of your files. Furthermore you should keep one of them in a completely different location in case of theft, flooding, fires etc. I use a great free program called Spesoft Backup and back up my files on a daily basis.

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Featured on a list of resources for multimedia students

I often use Google Analytics to monitor my website traffic. It is a fantastic tool that not only tells me how many people have visited my website, but where they came from in the world, what internet browsers they used and other important information. Most importantly it tells me how they found my site, listing referring websites and search engine terms they used to find me. Google Analytics is free and can be added to practically any website, so if you don’t have it already then I suggest you check it out.

Looking through the list of websites linking to mine I came across the following website – OnlineSchools.org (http://www.onlineschools.org/online-multimedia-design-schools/) featuring me in a list of 50 Resources for Students Attending Online Multimedia Design Schools. It’s quite flattering that they have used me as an example, right at the top no less!

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Joomla 1.6 is released

Joomla 1.6 is released

Yesterday was a very exciting day for the open source community as Joomla 1.6 – A brand new version of the Joomla content management system was released. The new version boasts a number of great features including enhanced user control, better search engine optimisation options and the ability to automatically update third party extensions. It is also clear that the developers have observed the way people use the previous system (Joomla 1.5) very closely in order to make the administrator panel even more intuitive and improve the user experience.

The videos below demonstrate the great new administrator features and improvements.


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5 More reasons to choose Mark Langdale

Just over a year ago I compiled a list of 5 reasons to choose me (here). Still not convinced? How about 5 more?

1. I use legally owned, industry standard software

In September 2010 PC Advisor reported that more than a quarter of software used in the UK is pirated (Source), which is obviously harmful to the software industry.

For legal, as well as ethical reasons I use commercially licensed Adobe software that I have purchased and activated. This software comes with quite a hefty price tag, but it is the industry standard for outputting professional quality digital assets.

2. I conduct myself professionally

A common stereotype of a freelance creative would be an unkempt, lazy person who sleeps all day and works at night. Thankfully this isn’t true (in most cases!).

I always dress in smart attire when meeting clients and endeavour to communicate in a friendly but professional manner by email and over the phone.

3. I have contacts in other industries

In my years as a multimedia designer I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with a number of people in different fields including, graphics, print, marketing, copywriting, video and software development.

If there is something that I can’t help you with I would be more than happy to point you in the direction of someone who can.

4. I understand new businesses

Whilst I don’t claim to be a business or marketing expert, as a relatively new businessman I can relate to many of the challenges new start-ups face, especially in the current economic climate.

I understand what it’s like to start with a limited budget and how hard it is to get yourself noticed and obtain those first few clients.

5. I listen to what YOU want

It is all too common in the design industry for companies to tell the client what they are going to get. In my opinion this is the wrong way round, you as the paying client should be able to tell the service provider what you would like, even if they disagree. You wouldn’t walk into a store wanting a Mars bar and come out with a Dairy Milk because the store owner thought it would suit you better – why should design be any different?

I offer practical advice and may point out that one way of doing things may be better than another, but ultimately I like my clients to feel in control.

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Moving web hosts

Firstly I’d like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2011. The recession and spending cuts were tough on many individuals, companies and government funded organisations in 2010, but here’s hoping things brighten up a bit in 2011!

Just a quick announcement to let you know that I am moving my website to a different host over the weekend because of the unreliable service from Go Daddy that I have mentioned previously. There may be a short period of time where my website doesn’t display and my email address won’t work. If you try or have tried to send me an email and get a response saying “This email address does not exist” don’t panic! I’m still here.

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  • Testimonials

    The whole process of reviewing and updating our school web site was made very easy.The training on new software was pitched perfectly for a range of staff with differing levels of technology and we are all delighted with the outcome. I would recommend Mark Langdale's services without any hesitation.
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