A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

8 Web Design and Development Training Sites

In a world where twelve-year-olds are able to create an intricate social networking framework, many businesses have transitioned to nearly full digital marketplace capabilities, and where individuals become undoubtedly incapacitated by the loss of a wireless signal, it is safe to say that knowing the ins-and-outs of the web is not just for the techies anymore, it is a necessity for all.

If updating Facebook and posting witty, 140 character anecdotes to Twitter is the full extent of your digital know-how, this might help you make some online friends, but might not do as much in the realm of say, landing a job. If you are eager to get your hands on some HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and much more, the following sites can provide you with the tools needed to not only understand these under-workings, but accurately comprehend how to implement them. Some of these applications even go as far as providing job postings and assistance in landing a position that suits your capabilities.

So whether you are eager to learn these practices to assist you in finding the perfect career, or if you simply want to create a personal blog to write insightful messages and tidbits, the following nine, carefully selected sites can provide you with the tools necessary to accomplish your goals. The digital world is always changing, the only way to keep up is to adapt, grow and always keep learning.

1. Lynda.com

Co founders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman began Lynda.com to offer a space for individuals to learn and appreciate the digital space we all interact with today. Like many of the other websites discussed in this post, Lynda.com allows users to download a range of videos, books and documentaries covering over 100 subjects from 3D + Animation to Wireframing. Lynda.com focuses on what they call the three C’s: Conviction, Choreography, and Compassion. These three C’s provide a user-friendly experience that is not only educational, but also interactive; this allows users to easily navigate the content without becoming overwhelmed.  Lynda.com stems from a network of talented professionals working with highly dedicated producers to provide much more than a learning video and more of an overall experience.

2. Codecademy.com

This self-called “team of hackers” has developed an educational tool which creates a community of teachers and learners alike, with a central focus of learning to code across various platforms, including, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Ruby, and Python.  Codecademy.com has has quickly made a name for itself with mentions in The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Forbes, and The New York Times following the launch of Code Year last January; even Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to hop on board with learning how to code. Another distinctive aspect of Codecademy.com is the additional interactive element which allows peer-to-peer tutorial videos to further the accessibility of information and assistance.  So whether you just learning how to code, or if you can share your knowledge with others, Codecademy guides you through the process to code across multiple languages while also providing a strong community to interact with and learn from.

3. Udacity.com

Udacity views higher education as a basic human right, and with this principle, the site focuses on higher education at a more affordable cost. This premise has taken the site to reach over 160,000 users in nearly two hundred countries. The beginner classes can be classified as introductory classes for the eager student, whereas the advanced courses prepare students to tackle subjects such as program design and applied cryptography. Udacity does not exclusively offer web development and computer science courses, but provides courses in Business, Mathematics, and Physics as well. Udacity is dedicated to making the learning process a life-long experience, and through the Stanford University originated course program, Udacity gives all students the opportunity to grow and create a more intelligent world.

4. Team Tree House

Treehouse focuses their unique style of learning through gamification in order to help the user not only get the education they need to be a successful developer or designer, but to assist the user in finding the right job. CO-founder Ryan Carlson states, “We plan on getting millions of un-employed or ‘under-employed’ people out of low-paying and unsatisfying jobs and in to higher-paying and exciting design and development jobs.” Through their interactive video and quiz based platforms, users focus on one of three areas, Web development, web design, or iOS. Upon the completion of each course, the user receives a badge to be displayed on their public profile.  Companies such as Virgin and Disney have even signed up their employees for training programs. As Carson likes to put it, “A Computer Science degree might cost you $50,000 and take you four years to complete…Treehouse can give you the skills you need and a potential job at the end, all for $150 in six months.”

5. TutorialsPoint.com

Another absolutely free website with an impressive amount of material is TutorialsPoint. TutorialsPoint provides users with an education in both technical and non-technical fields ranging from C/C++, Six Sigma, PHP, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML/XHTML, Python, and much more. Users can enjoy free tutorials and web references on these subjects, and more, along with the other 148 thousand users that visit the site every day. In addition, their online editor feature, similar to ones used by W3schools.com, allows users to input code while they learn and see what it produces. If you are a beginner looking for a good site, that is not too overwhelming, then TutorialsPoint is a good place to start.

6. Google Code University

It is hard to mention web development these days without mentioning Google. Recently, Google launched the Google Code University Consortium, which delivers training videos to their users from Google’s very own web developers. Lessons include HTMl, CSS, and JavaScript, from the basics to the advanced lessons. The courses are open-licensed and are classified as either a lesson or a set of lessons classified as a “class”. Lessons range in time and can run up to over an hour. Coming from Google you can only expect great things, and it definitely lives up to their reputation.

7. CodeSchool.com

We know what you’re thinking, similar name to CodeAcademy.com, but actually CodeSchool is the “brainchild” of the Envy labs team. CodeSchool began as an interactive coding platform featuring Rails for Zombies, a web app cleverly named for its purpose to assist programmers in learning Ruby on Rails. For $25 a month you are granted access to all of the school’s resources and materials; in addition, there is even an option for businesses to enroll teams for training courses that several blue chip companies have also decided to do. Through gamification similar to that of TreeHouse, users will learn through tutorials, web references, online editor coding, and receive awards to mark their achievements. CodeSchool’s learn-by-doing mentality is difficult to disagree with, especially with a system that is designed to be both educational and fun.

8. Mozilla Developer Network

Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) is a wiki where any user can feel free to create and edit content in order to keep information as honest and up to date as possible. Users can create videos, learn about many web development subjects, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and discover thousands of other documents traversing a number of different mediums. Perhaps the best part about the Mozilla Developer Network is that it is free to use and there is no certification for anyone that wishes to make corrections. MDN understands that sometimes people make mistakes, but they are there to help. While learning pages are available for the general public, in 2011 MDN added the Demo Studio where users can interact with one another and developers can show one another their code. If you are new to coding, or a current developer looking for a good resource, MDN may be a good community to join.

7 Great Examples of The “Contact Us” Page

With the amount of media the average user interacts with on a daily basis, it is understandable why it’s so difficult to capture an audience. In today’s world, having a website is simply not enough. You must have an exemplary product or service, thought provoking content and ideas to lure in a visitor, and visually stimulating images and videos to get them to stay long enough to sign up. However, the experience doesn’t stop at the “contact us” page; it actually can turn the entire experience from a memorable one for all the right reasons, and turn it into a deal breaker. Reducing difficulty for the user is a must, and truthfully not as difficult as it seems. The examples that follow show how a great contact form can make this small yet important part of the client relationship convert as smoothly as possible, and in some senses make it fun!

1. How to Create Trust on Your Contact Page – spokespedicabs.com/

Spokes specializes in transportation via pedicabs specifically in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. As their community grows, the need for more useful and reliable transportation has increased as well, and they make transportation fun. Their site is a single long page with links to jump around, or to simply scroll through. As the user progresses through the site, Spokes uses animated visuals with cleverly thought through dialogue, as well internal links to more information for the user’s convenience. The user can even view this simple contact form while scrolling through the site, fully aware of the personality and vision of this company.

2. Provide Assistance Along The Way – Golivebutton.com

Golivebutton.com provides a unique product for individuals that are trying to increase the amount of traffic they are getting on their webpage. Users receive a “Go Live” button that they share on their social network. From here they can tell their followers and new users about their work and hopefully gain new users. Their contact form is a playful and interactive form that actually provides the user with the product after giving their contact information. Each field clearly suggests what needs to be put in each field and from the homepage the user can easily see where to contact the site from. Small things such as arrows and images go a long way in helping users find the contact form, but ultimately, assisting them get through the form as quickly and easily as possible is the most important aspect of the contact page.

3. Important to Reduce Friction Everywhere – amoderneden.com

Looking to reach that inner kid inside, or to simply quiet down your own little one? Then you should probably give this company a call. Amoderneden.com has been developing design minded goods and toddler apps for the little one in all of us, and would love to help out with the new edition to the family. One look at their contact page goes to show that they understand how busy parents can be let alone a fellow designer of applications. From their fax number to their mailing list, the user can very easily contact them for inquiries concerning products, carrying their items in-house, or shipping problems care free.

4. Design for Mobile First – dibdig.com

Need a text book, cab, off campus housing, or late night pizza? Dibdig.com offers an application that allows you to do all of these things with relative ease. Their site utilizes the twitter’s bootstrap design language for easy mobile usage and convenient online navigation. Designing for mobile first is important for a number of reasons. First, large load times for mobile users can be an immediate turn off. If users aren’t able to get what they want accomplished immediately then they may not even return to try out your mobile site again let alone contact your site for your product or service at home. If the form is extensive then mobile users that have slow connections will be even more impatient, and most importantly, if they are already on their phone and you are providing a phone number then they can contact you immediately. With all this being said, your “Submit” button should check for errors upon submission, or in real time, to prevent any future problems for mobile users. Dibdig.com’s contact us page is short, to the point, and perfect for mobile usage for anyone; especially college students planning the rest of their day after the class they are sitting in is over.

5. Limit the Number of Drop Down Boxes – plaveb.com

Plaveb is an online business consulting agency that focuses upon manufacturing elegant web solutions for their end users. Since the business relationship and emphasis on growing client interaction are major factors for Plaveb it only makes sense that they have an impressively functional contact page. One aspect of the Plaveb contact page that sets them apart from competitors is their use of the drop down box. Now, according to HubSpot’s research only a single drop down is truly effective on any contact page, but in the case of Plaveb it seems to be a functionality that their users would appreciate. Users can begin the conversation of partnership right off the bat and everyone knows where everyone else stands. The selections in the boxes are well thought out, and directly relate to important information for the relationship. Overall, the use of this technique is very well represented, and other providing a similar service may want to follow suit.

6. Get Rid of Any and All Sophisticated Text Areas – thechemistrygroup.com

The Chemistry Group is a client specific organization that is known for increasing hiring accuracy, reducing attrition, and overall developing product sales and turnaround times through case studies and well thought through organizational change practices. Their website is informative as it is playful, and definitely leads you to learn more about them as a group. When you arrive at their Contact page though, the importance lies within the single text area provided. More than one text area for the user is overkill, and for anyone visiting this site or any for that matter that want to simply ask questions and potentially utilize their service only really needs that one space. The idea behind sophisticated areas is nice and all, but at the end of the day having the user convert and share their information is the only real goal. Multiple text areas are time consuming, and not necessary especially if they are a required field for security purposes. The busy user wants to ask their question, share their limited information, and hopefully receive a response as quickly as possible and on both ends of the spectrum a single text area allows you to oblige what will hopefully develop into a mutual relationship.

7. Security is Essential – joomla-monster.com

Joomla-Monster is an online store for the bootstrap grid system, templates, and more for the technology savvy consumer. Users can download a number of products to help improve their online presence and increase their knowledge of what makes a company successful on the online platform. Just as Joomla-Monster knows, in addition to all of the bells and whistles that are desirable with a company website, in today’s digital world, security is an increasing concern. Similar to the items that they offer on their site for consumers to purchase to improve security of their systems, Joomla-Monster does a good job of protecting their inquirers of products on their site from spam and lost information through their contact page. Today, individuals are able to intercept e-mail addresses with ease, people can blow up e-mail addresses with spam through contact pages, and overall make the entire collection process of potential new clients and inquires very difficult through contact pages. The anti-spam verification, required e-mail, name, subject, message, and regarding fields ensure that no loose information is forgotten or slipped through to the next page. If you do not fill out any particular field, you are bounced back. As technology continues to become more complex and powerful it is important for anyone asking for user contact information to take all precautions to protect their clients. Not only will it make your clients feel a bit safer when asking questions, but make you look more responsible.

10 Examples of Nonprofits Utilizing Mobile Applications Successfully

According to Nielson, as of March 2012 smart-phones are now in use by 50.4% of American consumers. When this statistic came out, Android dominated the market at 48.5% of all smart-phone purchases while the iPhone was in a close second at 32%. With these statistics in place, Nonprofits (NPO’s) have taken notice and have begun increasing their mobile presence through creative and unique applications. Interestingly enough, even with the aforementioned statistics, the majority of these applications have been designed for the Apple iPhone OS platform before being released for the Android OS platform, if released for the Android OS platform at all. Below is a list of 10 of the top 30 NPO’s as ranked by The Non Profit Times that have taken the plunge into mobile:

1. YMCA — YMCA Finder

The Y was ranked by The Non Profit Times as the #1 non-profit organization of 2012 with close to 20 million members and $6 billion yearly revenue. They are known for promoting through their 550,000 volunteers a healthier lifestyle choice. In order to assist their members in their path towards a healthier live, they have developed a mobile application focused upon their core competencies. Users can find where their local YMCA is, add locations as contacts, and get directions and details on the location a visitor is interested in. The Y is planning developing future versions to provide exercise tips, dietary instructions, and even job listings.

2. United Way (of Central Iowa): Volunteer Mobile App

United Way, ranked 4th by The Non Profit Times, is a support organization that is concentrated on assisting the common good and well being of all through education, financial stability, and healthy lifestyle administration and support systems.  With their focus applying to all those in need of help, United Way of Central Iowa decided to develop a mobile application that brings their target audience and volunteers together. The application allows volunteers to view new potential opportunities to help out and give immediate feedback about any inquires they may have. In addition, you can share the posts with your social network to spread the word to all other volunteers in the area. Lastly, the application allows you to view the opportunities by title and to save your favorites so you can keep track of when events are coming up.

3. American Red Cross: Disaster Response Apps

Started here in Washington, D.C. by Clara Barton on May 21st, 1881 the American Red Cross has been a leading humanitarian organization that now provides over 40% of blood and blood related products across the nation.  Ranked at #5 by The Non Profit Times, the American Red Cross specializes in disaster recovery, support for families of the armed forces, blood collection, distribution, and processing, health and safety training, and education, and lastly international relief and development. Being specialized in all of these different areas has led this non profit to provide a number of different mobile applications for their users to become more aware and better prepared for all of their safety needs.  Recently, as a result of Hurricane Sandy, Irene, and Katrina, the Red Cross has released a hurricane application with a number of different options to help individuals and families to weather the storm.

Features

  • One touch “I’m safe” messaging allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media
  • Location-based NOAA weather alerts users can share on social networks
  • Personalized weather alerts where family and friends reside
  • Locations of American Red Cross shelters
  • Create a family emergency plan
  • Instant access to critical action steps even without mobile connectivity
  • Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm
  • Gamification makes the app interactive through quizzes and badges they can share on social networks

4. Salvation Army: Bellringer

The extensive history of The Salvation army still lives on through this age old organization that can be most noticeably recognized around the holiday season. Bellringers on street corners now have a new tool besides a red kettle pot and a bell to gain the attention of donors. Recently, The Salvation Army released a “Bellringer application” that allows users to ring a bell in support of the bellringers cause around the holiday season. In addition, Sprint has donated a number of Android telephones and mobile credit card readers so that individuals passing by can donate even when they don’t have a dollar to toss in the red kettle. This fun and noisy little application turns anyone into an instant volunteer and is an attempt to gain the attention of the younger generation that may not be as educated to the cause of the Salvation Army to begin with.

5. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing ministry that focuses on building and repair homes for those without adequate shelter. Since their founding they have worked on over 500,000 homes and have impacted the lives of over 2 million people globally. In order to continue impacting the lives of the many, Habitat for Humanity has developed HabitAPP in attempt to promote more awareness. Users will have the ability to know more about the situations and projects that are going on in the area, sign up as a volunteer, and donate.

At the bottom of the application, users can choose to see news from the Habit for Humanity headquarters, upcoming events, exact event locations with directions, what is going on in social media, photos and videos from events, download donation or volunteer sign up forms, contact the HFHWC directly, or share their thoughts through a number of social media channels.

6. Smithsonian Institute: Mobile App

The Smithsonian Institute, named after James Smithson, was established on Aug. 10, 1846 as an establishment for the enlargement and distribution of knowledge for mankind. Since the Smithsonian’s establishment, they have continued to compile a vast amount of information and artifacts that they share with their audience through both a magazine and a number of different museums, each with its own unique focus and exhibits.

7. World Vision: Mobile App

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, works primarily with families, children and people within their communities globally to fight poverty and inequality. To accomplish their goals, World Vision relies upon expert journalism and work from their staff and dedicated volunteers to share stories to open others eyes alongside beautiful photos and inspirational videos.

Through the World Vision Now iPhone app, users can:

  • Follow news and stories written by World Vision journalists
  • Receive alerts and updates on the latest and ongoing crises.
  • Read thought-provoking features by international relief, development, and advocacy experts
  • Hear from World Vision U.S. President and best-selling author, Rich Stearns
  • Follow commentary on current events
  • Identify where giving will impact the most
  • Discover advocacy opportunities
  • Subscribe to receive time-critical notifications.
  • View region-related stories through an interactive world map
  • Search stories
  • Share links, stories, and videos on Facebook and Twitter

 

8. The Nature Conservancy: Nature Near You

Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has strived to conserve the earth and waters as the world’s leader conservation organization. Through the combined efforts of over 550 scientists and many partners, they have found innovative ways to ensure our environment receives what it needs to remain healthy, and diverse. In order to keep individuals more educated and interested in the well being of the planet, The Nature Conservancy recently released Nature Near You, a mobile app incorporating photographs, social media, and interactive maps of the natural world surrounding the user. Nature Near You encourages users to take their own photos of the natural world and share their perspective with an online community, in addition to a number of other applications. Below are a number this free application allows users to do in order to communicate the visual stimulating natural elements around them to other users:

  • Built in camera that allows users to directly capture their own nature photography within the app
  • Social sharing feature with ability to upload to Twitter, Facebook, email or The Nature Conservancy’s Flickr page.
  •  Nature Photo of the Day
  •  Recent photos taken by others using the Nature Near You app
  •  Map view of photos taken using the Nature Near You app with ability to zoom in by location or region
  •  Nature preserve map to find preserves by location or region
  •  Donation page for online and text donations
  •  Mobile wallpaper download section
  •  Nature News section

9. American Cancer Society: More Birthdays App

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a voluntary community-based, nationwide health organization with a focus on eradicating cancer. For nearly over the past 100 years, ACS has gathered millions of supporters in more than 5,100 communities, 12 charted divisions, and over 900 local offices. With a strong force of dedicated individuals fighting to finding a cure, assisting those in need, and educating the masses more people are celebrating more birthdays.

Now the ACS has released the More Birthdays App to not only help you remember someone close to you on their special day, but to celebrate it with them. The application links your contacts from your Facebook account, and like a calendar the More Birthday’s App sets up alerts so that you always have a leg up on your friends and family and their upcoming birthdays.  From the application you can send customized birthday greetings, and can even create your own special birthday cake (which you can blow out the candles on top by blowing into the microphone!).

This application also gives you access to the ACS mobile site so that users can also learn and help everyone celebrate more birthdays with their loved ones.

10. The Boy Scouts of America: Boy Scout Handbook/Merit Badge app

As a very well known youth development organization, The Boy Scouts of America have built a foundation of leadership, citizenship, education, and physical fitness that has shaped young individual’s characters for nearly a century. By providing young people with the values and skills they would not otherwise gain through fun and thought provoking experiences, they have developed a basis for a full and responsible lifestyle.

The Boy Scout Handbook provides any Boy Scout with countless tips and advice on types of foliage to eat to how to set splints for broken bones, even where to look for clean drinking water. For the Boy Scout on the go, now there is a mobile application that is accessible even when the furthest cell tower is miles away. Through this application any Boy Scout will have the ability to locate the information they need to resolve any issue they encounter.

In addition to the Boy Scout Handbook going mobile, scouts will also be able to track their progress towards new merit badges through another mobile application. Through the home screen of the merit badge application a boy Scout will be able to see what badges they have collected and the requirements for their next one. The new badges can be shared via social media, and Scouting news is also uploaded to the user’s phone.

With this mobile combination, every scout has what they need to be all they can be and more.