Why I Use Ubuntu Linux

The bulk of what appears below was written by ChatGPT. Good reasons, all. But, that's not really the reason I use Ubuntu Linux.

Years ago when Windows 8 appeared, I considered it to be a disaster. Microsoft had gone off the deep end with their concept of a user interface. Things that used to be simple got complicated. I was very tired of having to reinstall Windows after some period of time; Windows got slower and slower; malware was a constant threat. While I learned to troubleshoot Windows pretty well, fixing it was never that easy.

Using ChatGPT

There is a plugin for ChatGPT for Joomla and the JCE editor.  Here is the output from a command I gave the plugin: 

Write 300 words about using joomla as the preferred content management system for a small business or non-profit organization

Creating Color Schemes That Draw Customers

Getting someone to light on your website is a lot like baiting flies with honey. We use colors that fit the emotions and interests of people you want to bring into your website. The wrong colors are like vinegar to flies.

We have to go back to understand what you know about your potential customers. Different colors work for different messages. There are a few rules of thumb. Business websites are usually enhanced by a blue theme; it's business-like, I suppose. Green colors work for sites dealing with finances--just watch the color schemes used in television commercials about financial advisors. Bright colors like yellow and red work with websites that feature activity and movement. But, rules of thumb are not enough.

It takes the right combination of colors--a color scheme. There are plenty of tools that help to create color schemes with selections of color that work together. Those tools are scientifically designed to ensure that the selection of colors work together--it's math. Some of the best are

With this information, you have science and math on your side, but you still have thousands of attractive color schemes from which you can select one for your customers. That brings us back to some of the basics. What do you know about your customers? What do you as a website designer understand about how you market to your customers?

How about an example? As a website developer, I was approached by a potential customer to build a website for a home remodeling company.Old Remodeling Page colorsHe had a professionally developed website done by one of the big outfits; he wasn't satisfied. The rule of thumb about using blue for a business website failed. Why? The color schemes currently popular for kitchen and bathroom remodels are neutral tending toward warm. Blue is cold. The big design company completely missed the kind of color scheme that would be in the mind of a family planning to remodel their home--especially their kitchen or bathroom.

New color scheme for home remodelingHere's a screenshot of a proposed redesign. I used the Coolors tool to analyze the colors in a kitchen photograph to derive a new home page with an improved color scheme. Here is the scheme: (The yellow in the screenshot is an accent color designed to draw attention to a message.)

New color scheme for home remodeling



custom color scheme for the ultimate templateThat's a start, but as a designer, you still have to design how you'll use the scheme. Fortunately, some templates and frameworks make that easy. I prefer Joomshaper's Helix framework with the Helix-Ultimate template. It comes with several pre-set color schemes. In this case, I made a custom scheme where I could set the colors for different screen elements. Once I created the custom style, I used Joomshaper's SP Pagebuilder to create pages for the website. Because I had already selected the colors as well as the typography (fonts) and other custom settings for the layout and appearance, I did not have to specify any additional css rules for colors or fonts.

template Settings

Thinking Things Throught: Part 4

While previous steps depended largely on listening to your client, asking the right questions, and discovering what the client doesn’t always know he needs, it’s time now to synthesize—put it together.

It’s time to anticipate what someone will do when they find the website. Is there a competitor’s website that has features worth borrowing? If so, what is your initial reaction when finding the website? Maybe you

  • Liked the Page Layout and Visual Appearance. That initial impression is important, but it doesn’t do much after the first view. That’s not to say that the color scheme isn’t important; it is very important. There’s a lot of psychology in choosing the right colors that are consistent with the topic, gender of the user, and other audience characteristics. It’s about what appeals to them. You don’t want to lose them before they even see what you’re offering.

  • A Heading or Piece of Text Grabbed Your Attention. We process headings on web pages extremely fast. What did you see in the page that made you think? (If you must think to understand the heading, that’s backward, and it doesn’t work.)

  • A Photo or Graphic Conveyed A Message. A picture can convey an emotional response better than many words. A few words can convey a message better than many graphics.

  • You Knew Almost Instantly What to Do Next. Study the placement of buttons, style and type of menu, and use of whitespace that guide your eyes. Learn from that example of the page layout.

I’m not suggesting that you plagiarize a website—just look for inspiration from others trying to solve a similar design issue.

Organize Your Information

I’m kind of old-school. Outlines make sense—within reason. Putting content into categories makes sense as long as there is some fluidity between categories—some items just don’t always fit one category. Joomla is built around putting content into categories, but it also provides easy flow between categories.

The easiest, cheapest tool is sticky notes. Create a sticky note for each topic. If a topic doesn’t fit, break it into subtopics that do or create a new category of topic. Turn the pile of notes into a hierarchical menu. You can move things around to fit how your users can be led through the website to find the information that is important to them. Create new notes and discard bad ideas. Now, you have a starting point for setting up content categories and menu structures in Joomla. The same process can fit other CMS tools as well.

Calls To Action

The problem with the previous step is that people are really good at putting things into neat categories because they’re logical, or so it seems. What the website users want is to get to the information they need as quickly as possible, a logical path or not. What the website owner wants is for the user to take some action once they find what they’re looking for. Maybe it’s to make a purchase, request more information, download a document or something else you discovered in your requirements analysis.

Chances are, your pile of sticky notes doesn’t lead your users where they want to go in the best way. Now, you have to think about how to build a path that works. Short is best. If it requires multiple clicks, you may have to build a funnel that allows the user to wander about from multiple starting points to lead to the destination you have anticipated.

At the top of your funnel, you should have information or links to information that provide the information your user needs. Not everyone has the same information need or starting point, so your funnel is broad with multiple points of entry. Starting points at the top of the funnel may lead toward multiple destinations for a complex layout; as the user moves down the funnel, the choices quickly narrow.

Don’t be afraid to re-do your sticky notes showing the paths to your calls to action. When your user reaches the destination (trap) you have laid out for them, their response should be unambiguous—easy. Not every link in the funnel needs to lead to the destination; they need ways to back out, back up, detour to another destination, or exit.

Page Layout

Old school page development calls for graphics programs to create prototype pages or wireframes that can be coded later. With the tools of Joomla or WordPress, I think it’s much easier to drag and drop and create menu structures for different pages. You can edit, change, delete, start over, and improve easier than cranking up another tool to do the layout.

More later.

Thinking Things Throught: Part 2

In part 1 of Thinking Things Through, I described some of the methodologies I’ve used for software development. When I Google “website development methods,” what I see from multiple companies are variations on one or more of the software development methods. Usually, they look like a typical waterfall process. Snip the circle, straighten the circle into a line, and you have the waterfall process.Web Development life cycle

There’s something they miss.

These methods give an analyst the tools to derive a requirements document which generates a design which gets implemented in html or through a content management system. In other words, the tools let the developer build their view of what the website should be. That’s not the developer’s job.

The developer’s job is to build the website the client needs. Sometimes that’s not exactly what the client thinks they need, so it’s the developer’s job to help the client see other possibilities. Using sophisticated tools and lifecycle methodologies isolates the developer from the client. That’s not good. It’s too complicated for the client.

Website Development Must Be People-Based

Rather than starting to understand the client’s requirements with pen in hand to draft notes or graphics of processes, etc., it’s better to shut-up and listen.

Understanding Needs

Here are some open-ended questions to get the client to talk about what they need.

  • What will a good website do for you? Your clients?”
    Establish a dialog to explore the goals the client has along with a good understanding of who the business and website serve.

  • If there is website being replaced, ask “How has the current website met your needs?”
    Build on success before understanding deficiencies and failures. Most likely, you’ll learn of deficiencies too.

  • Tell me about your competitors and their Internet services.
    You want to know who the competitors are so you can evaluate their web presence.

  • How do you see your role in developing and maintaining the website”?
    You want to know how they will present content to you for the website. Will you do the data entry? Will you have to re-write content for the web? Will they want to create and edit content on the website?

Start Thinking

Here are some questions for you. Your client may have ideas too. Listen up!

  • How can the website

    • Attract new users?

    • Retain existing users?

    • Guide people toward a desire response?

    • Reduce bounce rate?

  • What content or services are essential?

Assuming that you and your client have a common vision, talk/think through the required content, marketing approach, and expected outcomes of the website. You may discover a need to change some goals, and clarify your client’s role in the developing process. Sometimes clients assume that the developer can develop the website content; that’s the client’s job—always. The developer—you—can edit it, format it, and enhance it with graphics and a pleasing design.