Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Hanna Smith, MA LMHC CGP. She had an interesting dilemma of being locked into a very limited WordPress-based hosting platform. She wanted to expand the functionality of her site and was told the features were not available. I presented her with an affordable solution which included:
Moved the hosting to a flexible WordPress-based platform.
Redesigned the UI and Menu structure.
Added all of her blog posts and provided video training to her content manager.
Implemented spam protection, contact form, subscription form, SEO support, and Mailchimp integration.
Provided custom CSS and code change for content formatting.
Added her Book page.
Conversion of her paper fillable forms to downloadable PDF electronic fillable forms.
I manage the site backups and plugin upgrades.
Primed for Long-term Growth
I am very pleased with how the site has turned out and to see how happy Hanna is with the progress. She now has the flexibility to dream up new features and functionality for her site and thus gain more exposure for her services and products.
Soon, I will be integrating a courseware platform for hosting training videos and content.
A very special thanks to Hanna, for being one of my first website customers and trusting me with her site.
I am very pleased with how this Finals project for my semester of Graphic Arts turned out. The assignment was to build a twelve-page style guide with the following elements:
Table of Contents
Brand Identity Logo
Logo Use Guidelines
Company Voice and Personality
Company Templates for Business Card
A Sample Company Form
A Creative Back Page
While this was supposed to be for an imaginary business, I decided to base this on a business and website idea I came up with several years ago. In fact, I took advantage of this course, to focus on defining the voice and brand for the business.
Critical Event Planning And Recovery Style Guide
Feel free to download and examine this PDF file. All I ask is please do not steal my plan for this business. I am in the process of creating the website and building the web-based application to drive it. I’ll be covering my progress in my blog postings on this site.
This course taught me a lot about the process of creative graphic design. It made me step outside of my normal comfort zone and it taught me a lot about styles, trends, and appeal. I have always been a very curious person and I love learning new things. In order to be a good full-stack web developer, I truly believe it is necessary to have a fundamental grasp of graphic design. I have also learned that as is the same with writing code if you try to cut corners to save time, it will show. In code, it shows in the amount of debugging and fixes required to fix the code. In graphic design, it becomes very visible to the eye.
Can you see where I got a little sloppy trying to save some time?
On the second page, bottom right corner, I added my signature initials – a brand mark that I use on all my blog postings. Well, the graphic was initially designed for black on white. In order to get it to match the scheme of the page, I added a green background. I ran out of time and left it the way it turned out. Unfortunately, the residual white aliasing can still be seen and it makes it look sloppy. And yes, I got dinged by the instructor. If I had spent an extra half-hour on it, it would have looked a lot better. While the entire magazine turned out quite well, for me, that little issue is like putting a black dot in the middle of a white page. 😉 And yes, I will be fixing that issue before I turn this into an official style guide for the business.
Feel free to comment on this and let me know what you think about the CEPAR Style Guide. And look for my soon-to-be posted blog entry about my progress with the CEPAR website and development of this new business.
During my last semester at Edmonds College, for my Web Application Developer Certificate program, I had the privilege of obtaining an internship with the Edmonds College Federation of Teachers. Edmonds College had just changed its name from Edmonds Community College and the web site had not been updated in quite a while.
The site is an interesting configuration and is actually governed by the American Federation of Teachers. It is a CMS based site similar to WordPress.
During my internship I performed the following tasks:
Performed a review of the site by examining the elements with Chrome Developer Tools.
Conducted an SEO analysis, keyword analysis, and a site audit with Lighthouse. Compiled and submitted an audit report.
Got up to speed on the Administration features of the site.
Retrieved the site graphics, created a new logo design for the top banner.
Updated site content and articles to reflect the name change from Edmonds Community College to Edmonds College.
Changed the subdomain name of the site from edccft to edcfedt. Updated the menus and navigation to reflect the new URL. QA testing of the entire site to make sure the links and navigation are working.
Updated links in existing articles and posts to the new subdomain.
Edited PDF documents to reflect the new name and links.
Added new logos to PDF documents.
Added new documents and content to the site.
I greatly enjoyed this internship. I learned a lot, got to work with some awesome people, and was able to deliver a successful website refresh. And I get to continue as the site webmaster on an as-needed basis.
Many thanks to Kay Latimer, Steve Hailey, and Professor Louis Ho on the Edmonds team. And thanks to Rachel Anderson and Barbara Tobias with aft.org.
From 1998 to 2002 I ran a small software development company called ETS, Inc. (Extended Technology Systems,) that specialized in custom software and consumer software for handheld platforms (Apple Newton, PalmOS, WindowsCE, etc.) We were doing a lot of PalmOS development in the C language and we decided to develop a tool for designing databases and API code for PalmOS. The product was called, “da Vinci” and we needed a User’s Guide. Even though I was the CEO of a small ten-person company, I was also the only writer on the team. So, I took on the task of producing the User’s Guide.
What happened to ETS, Inc.? This was an exciting and booming business from 1998 through 2001. However, the event of 9/11 had a major impact on the market. The day before 9/11 I was turning away business since I didn’t have the resources. After 9/11 the phone stopped ringing. Our existing clients tightened their budgets and quit spending. We almost had a bundling deal with Metrowerks, but they were impacted too, and quit spending. I poured my savings into the business throughout 2002 and eventually closed our doors in September of 2002. Many good lessons were learned and it was a good run while it lasted.
The target market for da Vinci was PalmOS developers. Almost all of the PalmOS developers at the time were using Metrowerks CodeWarrior for writing and compiling C code for Palm applications. We designed da Vinci to work with the CodeWarrior environment.
As with any software application guide, especially one for developers, I focused on these major topics:
What It Is.
How to Use the Application.
How to Get Help.
The guide needed to be easy to read, have visual cues and screenshots, and easy to follow steps. And the API section needed to clearly define each command, command structure, parameters, expected results, and related notes.
The entire guide, as a PDF file, is available here for downloading and review. Even though this was written back in 2002, it is a good example of my technical writing experience as it relates to programming and API guides.
An Example of My Process for Technical Documentation
One of my roles at Averetek, Inc. (Now e2Open.com) was to provide internal technical documentation. The development team had been using Microsoft’s Sourcesafe and continued to run into difficulties. The decision was made to move all of our source code to Git and to use Atlassian’s SourceTree as the User Interface. Since this migration required a bit of a learning curve for existing and new developers, some documentation was needed. I was tasked with putting together a guide for using Git with our environment.
Due to the complexities of our development, sandbox, and production environment, combined with maintaining multiple code branches for multiple clients – this was not an easy transition to execute. It required very specific steps. At the time of this assignment, I was providing assistance with DevOps and I had a good grasp of the development systems and the process for pushing our code through the different environments.
While outlining and writing this guide, there were some key items I had to keep in mind:
The target readers are developers. They are smart and they can quickly grasp the technologies being introduced.
Developers really don’t like to read a lot of documentation. They want to get through it and get on with writing code.
Pictures and Steps are good. The best approach to showing someone how to do something when you can’t be physically there is to give them a picture (or a brief video) of how to do it and provide specific and individual steps.
What if considerations. When writing an instruction guide the author needs to think about the “what if” questions that might come up. What if the developer does not have the correct permissions to see the source code? What if the screenshot in the guide does not match what the developer sees?
Test the Writing
One of the things I quickly learned when writing “Adventures in Flight Simulator” is to always, always, always test the steps and instructions after writing. I had a wonderful technical editor assigned to that project and he was great at following my steps and then highlighting something I missed. Not only do I try to test my writing, but I also verbally read it out loud to make sure it sounds correct.
While I am not able to share the entire document here, I wanted to write a post about it, and to highlight the things that need to be considered when writing technical documentation. It was a fun and geeky project for me. I felt a sense of accomplishment when the developers were using my guide to get them through the migration and back to their assigned tasks.
In 2005-2006 I had the privilege of writing a book for Wiley Publications. The FileMaker Pro Design & Scripting for Dummies book. As a FileMaker developer, I had wanted a book with some significant technical meat. At the time, the only books on FileMaker were at the introductory level. When I would speak to people about FileMaker development, they thought the product was a quick-and-easy form and table builder, without realizing the true power of the environment. I wrote up a proposal and contacted my agent and asked if she could pitch the idea. She couldn’t find anyone willing to publish a book at that level, however, she said the Wiley folks would be interested in a Dummies Guide. While this was exciting, I didn’t want to do another introductory book. So, I pitched the idea of meeting halfway and doing something with the application design and programming aspects of FileMaker. I presented a full outline and the Wiley folks loved it.
By mid-2005 I had a publishing agreement and a beta release of FileMaker 8. To this day, many years after the 2006 release, this book is still highly ranked and is selling, even though FileMaker is up to version 18. Why? I don’t know the exact answers, but I’m assuming it is due to the content. It doesn’t just cover how to build an application in FileMaker. It covers the principles behind good database and application design and applies those to writing FileMaker applications. Plus it has a reference section for the scripting commands (programming statements), which is very similar to an API guide.
Here’s an example page from the book:
I’m very proud of this book and wish that I could convince someone to let me write another for the most recent version of FileMaker. It was a great experience and it opened a lot of doors for FileMaker development work. Unfortunately, in the software development industry, FileMaker is still not regarded as an application development tool. It is viewed as a very niche market, even though it has a very robust database server and the ability to produce a truly cross-platform application for Windows, Mac, iOS, and the Web. Recently, FileMaker Inc. has changed its name to Claris International and they are expanding into workflow automation and systems integration (Claris Connect) with other popular applications.
Feel free to give them a look for a single, true rapid application development platform for all devices. Claris.com
One of my favorite writing projects is when I receive a newly released product for a review. Back in the ’90s, I wrote a regular monthly column for Computer Gaming World magazine called, “From the Cockpit.” I wrote about different flight simulation software applications and products. It was a pretty cool gig.
Now, I have the privilege of writing product reviews for Best Buy. During the past two years I have written 35 different product reviews, mostly for computers and computer related products. Every now and then I get something really cool to play with before it gets released. Such is the case with this Epson EF-100 Laser Wireless Projector with a Streaming TV module. Here’s a picture of the review from the Best Buy site:
I know that might be hard to read as a picture. Here is the content of the review:
Home Theater in a Compact Box
The Epson EF100 Smart Streaming Laser Projector with Android TV is a fantastic piece of technology for a temporary or permanent home theater.
It was hard to believe that everything needed for this configuration was in such a small box. After unpacking all the pieces, I referred to the Quick Setup guide. The streaming TV portion of this configuration is a small device with an HDMI port and a micro USB port. It requires the easy removal of the back panel of the projector, unclipping of the USB cable, and plugging in of the Epson streaming TV device. It fits snugly into the back of the projector, and the back panel is easy to re-attach. Two different remotes come with the unit. One for the projector and one for the streaming device. I was confused by this until the Quick Setup guide stated the streaming device remote is only needed if the device is used outside of the projector.
We powered up our unit with it pointed at a living room wall. The first step was the paring of the projector remote with the projector by pressing two buttons on the remote. The screen from the projector provided instructions and steps for the rest of the configuration. I selected the Wifi ID and entered the password with the remote and an on-screen keyboard. The unit then downloaded an update for the android streaming device. It rebooted after the download, and the main display presented a dashboard of the recommended android streaming apps.
I configured the unit for Netflix, YouTube, and Sony Crackle. I performed a Google voice search from the remote in the Google Store for Amazon Prime. It found the app, but I was disappointed to see it is not compatible with this device. The setting of the vertical and horizontal keystones for a level image on my wall was easy via a button on the remote. We also enabled the Bluetooth option and easily paired the unit with my soundbar. However, even without the soundbar, the audio from the projector is pretty decent.
Once the unit was configured, we watched some videos from Netflix, YouTube, and Crackle. The brightness and HD resolution of the video is impressive. We set the projector ten feet from our living room wall, and the image came out to 96 inches wide. Even with light streaming in through the windows, the picture was excellent. However, it is best in a darkened room. Some window framing (faint light around the image) occurs, which is quite common with projectors. I imagine with a movie screen the video would be more amazing. I am very impressed with the levels of color contrast. It is the best I have ever seen in projection technology.
After six straight hours of use, the unit did not get excessively hot, which is the case with most projectors. It has the absolute quietest fan I have ever not heard.
Per the documentation, this unit uses a unique multi-array laser diode technology for providing exceptional brightness. It also provides an enhanced black density, for an output of 2,000 lumens for both color and white light. An advanced 3LCD chip technology provides the RGB color signal for each frame, which produces an incredible color accuracy and balance.
Amazing picture quality, even in a lit room, with HD resolution and crisp colors. No ghosting detected.
Very compact design and lighter than I thought it would be.
It has the flexibility of allowing HDMI connectivity to other devices, and the streaming TV device can also be used with different monitors and TVs.
A built-in audio speaker with fantastic volume and bass response.
It supports wired or Bluetooth connections to other speaker systems.
Easy to use projector remote controls both the projector and the streaming TV device.
Almost silent fan.
No excessive heat during long viewing periods.
Automatically works in different orientations of the device. It can even be used for projection on a ceiling.
Google Android dashboard interface for the streaming TV, with support for Google Assistant and over 5000 apps from the Google Store.
Excellent instructions for setup and configuration.
Very easy to update the streaming TV device software.
Easy to configure for your existing Google, Netflix, YouTube, and other accounts.
No support for Amazon Prime.
Slight window framing around the image.
Requires installation of the streaming TV device into the back of the projector. A minor inconvenience, but could be awkward for less tech-savvy.
The inclusion of a separate remote for the streaming TV device is a little confusing until you read the Getting Started Guide.
My family and I are very impressed with the Epson EF100¬† Smart Streaming Laser Projector with the built-in Android TV. It is a perfect fit for a home theater, bedroom ceiling TV, or a portable theater for special events.
Since these reviews are for the general consumer, I try not to get too technical or too verbose. It is important to hit the main points, be honest, and know who the audience is.
This is the finals assignment for my first semester of Web Application Developer. The assignment was to design, from scratch, a personal website. The content was to have a Resume, Interests, Reflections, Guestbook, and Inquiry pages. The User Interface is to be a unique design.
This was a fun project. Since this was to have a unique UI I decided to go with hand-drawn banner and navigation elements. These were drawn in Microsoft’s OneNote on an iPad with the Apple Pen. I took screenshots of the buttons and text, then used SnagIt for sizing, cropping, and saving as individual graphics. I used Microsoft’s Visual Code as the editor, and I manually wrote the HTML and CSS code.
After this project was completed and submitted, I hosted it on my timothytrimble.info domain, which is now the domain for this WordPress based site. I am proud to say that I received a 4.0 score for the site and assignments in my first semester.
Design and development of a mine-sweeper type game with a Minecraft theme. It is still under development and is almost complete.
Even though tables are no longer utilized for new website design, the professor knows that many of our future projects will involve diving into existing websites. This taught me a lot about the frustration and sense of accomplishment when working with an older website. there were console errors to deal with, code errors, reading/writing of cookies, and a timer for the last page. I learned that I won’t always get to work with the latest techniques when maintaining an existing website.