Web App Design Update #4 – New Web Design and Project Launches

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Welcome to the new ClarencePearson.com! Powered by distributed stack consisting of WordPress, Google App Engine, and Google Compute Engine, the new site aims to deliver useful content on a more consistent basis. What began as a thought experiment to compare the pros and cons of hosting WordPress on App Engine vs Compute Engine has morphed into a live project with real data to share in a research paper or future case study. The Google Cloud gives WordPress developers a myriad of deployment options so that sites can be fine-tuned to reach peak performance for any targeted audience around the globe.

Note:

Shout out to the creators and maintainers of the Sparkling WordPress theme which currently powers this site.

Bootsmooth 2.0.4

I have released version 2.0.4 of Bootsmooth. This release mainly involves some smoothing out of styling decisions that I made so that the default look is more visually appealing. The associated WordPress theme has also been updated. Further development of new features on this project will be going on hold as I contemplate which direction I want the project to take and spend more time polishing the default look.

Professional Web Site Launches

In my daytime role as a Web Project Manager, I have had the responsibility of overseeing a few project launches over the past weeks and months. Check out the latest web sites that I have contributed to:

BlaineTurner Advertising: http://blaineturner.com

Swanson Industries Careers: https://swansoncareers.com

Mon Valley Integration: http://mvi.bz

Tour Morgantown Events: http://tourmorgantown.com/events

Cloud Computing Consulting Opportunities

The rising need for strategic information systems plans which leverage cloud computing services to meet organization needs has created a great opportunity for consulting.

The rising need for strategic information systems plans which leverage cloud computing services to meet organization needs has created a great opportunity for consulting.
According to Information Services Group (ISG), cloud computing services amount for a third of all global sourcing services ( CIO Magazine )
Today’s businesses need people who know how to navigate the different layers of applications and platforms and mold them into a finely-tuned, cohesize unit.
Businesses need cloud architecture consultants.

What is a cloud architect?

To put it simply, a cloud architect is someone who finds the necessary tools, platforms, and applications which are provided in the cloud by third parties to meet specific business needs.
The various components are then compiled into a documented and flexible system which performs at the business’s requirement.
The types of components can include development tools, infrastructure, application platforms, email and messaging solutions, data storage, analytics, and more.
Whatever the business need is, the job of the cloud architect is to build the solution.

Why outsource instead of building in-house?

Time is the only thing more valuable than money and in today’s high-paced world, business owners, especially small businesses, have little free time.
This is the reason why companies are “niching down” in everything from services offered to desired audience. With the amount of data that exists today, we can find the ideal solution,customer, whatever, as fast as ever.
So it is in business owners interest to “niche” their own services down by hiring a cloud architect to leverage their expertise and save time.

If you are interested in cloud architecture consulting services for your business, send me a message!

Web App Design Update 3 – Always Be Coding

The best way to improve your web development skills are to stay active in the craft. Here are the latest updates to my web projects.

Over the past month, I have adopted the saying Always Be Coding as a life slogan.
In an effort to further my knowledge and experience, I have decided to dedicate more time to my side projects outside of work.
The results over the past month have been very satisfying as I have updated my Github portfolio with three projects and finished a complete site redesign for Bootsmooth.com.

Bootsmooth 2.0.2

I recently released version 2.0.2 of Bootsmooth, my web UI framework.
This focus of this release was to create a highly customizable, SASS-based way to implement design specifications quickly and seemlessly.
By reducing the time to turn a spec sheet into a usable style sheet, designers and developers can collaborate more effectively.
The website has received a face lift as well to reflect the new direction of the project.

Visit the Github project

Bootsmooth WordPress Theme

I do most of my professional web development using Workdpress so I decided to create a starter theme built with Bootsmooth.
This theme is based on HTML5Blank and is built to be light and flexible.

Visit the theme web site or Github project

UIkit WordPress Starter Theme

When I need a comprehensive set of UI components for larger projects, I use UIkit; its extensive collection is easy-to-use and configurable as well.
To help save on development time and increase code reuse across projects, I created a WordPress starter theme that includes Advanced Custom Fields and some pre-defined Custom Post Types for common data types.

Visit the Github project

My Web Design and Development Toolset

Here is a list of development and design tools that make up my development stack.

Every web designer and application developer amasses a set of tools, development environments, libraries, and platforms with which they become comfortable and use on a daily basis. Throughout the years that I have been creating web sites, I have formed my own stack which contains tools for all stages of development.

Prototyping

Pen and Paper

Despite being into all things computers since childhood, I am a big fan of things that I can touch in the the real world. This includes brainstorming sessions recorded on a sketchpad, graphing paper, or a napkin that is folded up in the wallet for safekeeping. I have found that no design app beats the speed of hand-drawing stick figures when trying describing user personas.

If you have serious prototyping requirements, there are paid apps like Sketch (Mac OS only) and cloud apps like Figma.

Code Editing

Visual Studio Code

Microsoft has released a lightweight and free code editor called Visual Studio Code. I had to use Visual Studio during the ASP.NET 3.5 days back in college and found that I actually liked using a highly professional, well-thought-out development environment. Microsoft has brought that mindset into the modern development age with Visual Studio Code. It lacks external plugins, but I personally do not need my editor to have a bunch of plugins for every possible development scenario so I prefer it to other editors like Atom.

Cloud 9

Cloud 9 is awesome. When I want to code on the go, I can commit my latest changes from whatever workstation I’m on and pick up somewhere else via Cloud 9. The ability to spin up a WordPress install, even if it’s public under the free plan, has allowed me to build my programming skills without investing time and / or money in setting up a server.

Image Editing

Adobe Photoshop (at work)

Photoshop is the undisputed king of image editing. The barrier to entry has been lowered since Adobe deployed the Creative Cloud and moved to a monthly subscription model.I am not an expert at using Photoshop by any means, but I am able to do navigate the interface easily and do many common tasks without having to reference documentation.

Gimp (at home)

Gimp has long been my favorite image editing program. This is largely due to the cross-platform, open-source nature which has allowed me to use it throughout the years on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. I highly recommend using it if you are more of a backend / app developer than a designer like me or if you don’t want to spend the money for Photoshop.

Social Graphics

Canva

Almost all websites and mobile applications connect to one more more social networking profiles. Canva is a free site which allows non-graphic designers to easily create images formatted the social network of choice. From Instagram graphics to Facebook covers images, Canva provides the tools I need to quickly create engaging social images.

Gravit

Like Canva, I use Gravit to create social images. I have not yet formed a preference between the two, so I have included both.

I will update this post periodically to reflect my current stack if my opinion changes or if new tools come along.

3 Reasons Why I Love Hosting Sites on Google App Engine

Choosing the right hosting provider is hard. Here are 3 reasons why I choose Google App Engine as my cloud hosting platform.

Deciding who to trust with your web sites hosting is a major decision that developers and managers do not take lightly. Hosting is an area where you can see all the hard development work go up in flames because certain considerations were not planned out in advance. Most web developers will tell you that the relationship between a hosting provider is built on trust, reliability, and efficiency.

Over the years that I have been developing websites and applications, I have come to trust Google App Engine for almost all of my hosting needs.

Google App Engine is the application layer of the Google Cloud Platform, a comprehensive collection of development tools, services, and frameworks that has powered applications since 2008. It provides a solid foundation for building web applications in PHP, Python, Java, and Go. My experience is in the first three, with Python and PHP being the favorites.

Here are 3 reasons I use App Engine for my sites, including the site you’re currently on:

1. The Free Quota for Data Storage and Transfer

This is the main reason I started developing on App Engine. During my senior internship in college, I was tasked with doing a research project into the feasibility of using cloud platforms for app development versus the traditional method of software development. App Engine was being rolled out to the public around this time and what caught my eye and made me choose it over the established competition (Amazon’s Web Services or AWS) was the free monthly quotas on data storage and transfer. Thus, I was able to complete the project (a geo-tagging web app built in Java that linked to your Google account) without spending a dime on hosting.

Go here to learn more about Google App Engine’s pricing scheme and monthly limits.

2. Support for Multiple Programming Languages

I have always been a big fan of versatile programming languages with clean syntax so, for those with experience with the language, it should be no surprise that I really like Python. I have used it for building administrative “shell-like” scripts to crafting desktop user interfaces to building video games. So when Google App Engine was launched with Python support, I was able to add backend web development to that list.

Not only does App Engine support Python and it’s popular libraries like Flask and Django, it also has first-class support for Java and PHP. As I mentioned earlier, my first project was in Java and recently I have taken up a liking to PHP. One major thing to point out is that an App Engine project can have multiple versions of an application deployed to different end points, written in a different language, but sharing a common data store and access to common services. This can be useful when scaling a project up to larger teams.

3. Automatically Scalable Web Applications

The best part of App Engine is that if you launch a site and it does happen to go viral and pass the quota limit, App Engine will scale your app without any need for action on your end. By not having to worry about the infrastructural issues, developers can focus on developing over administering and will only pay for the resources that their sites and applications use.