This month marks Google’s 13th anniversary. The exact date Google celebrates this occasion has changed over the years, according to the company, “depending on when people feel like having cake.”

However, in recent years Sept. 27 is the day the celebratory Google Doodle appears; since 2002 Google has put up a different doodle each year. To celebrate, we’ve taken a look back at every birthday doodle posted — starting with today’s.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animated Google Doodles | Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years | 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

Take a look through the image gallery below. Shout out your felicitations to Google in the comments below.

2011




Google’s gone old school this year with a retro-styled birthday party snapshot.

2010

Last year Google borrowed a Wayne Thiebaud cake to mark its 12th year in business.

2009

Google kept things simple in 2009; it replaced the “L” of the logo with the number 11.

2008

For Google’s 10th anniversary the logo reverted to the original design from 1998. Apparently the server rack symbolizes what Google had hoped to receive as a birthday present.

2007

Google’s second “G” was replaced with a colorful piñata in 2007, appropriately shaped like a number nine to mark that special day.

2006

A cute cupcake greeted Google users on Sept. 27, 2006.

2005

Seven scrumptious-looking slices of cake decorated the logo to occasion Google’s seventh year in business.

2004

In 2004 Google selected Sept. 7 to celebrate its six-year milestone.

2003

The company also chose Sept. 7, 2003 as the date to cut the cake for Google’s fifth birthday.

2002

Finally, the very first doodle celebrating Google’s birthday appeared on September 27, 2002. It marked the search engine’s 4th anniversary.

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The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off.

Writing content for web users has its challenges. Chief among them is the ease with which your content is read and understood by your visitors (i.e. its readability).

When your content is highly readable, your audience is able to quickly digest the information you share with them — a worthy goal to have for your website, whether you run a blog, an e-store or your company’s domain.

Below are a handful of dead-simple tips and techniques for enhancing the usability and readability of your website’s content.

These tips are based on research findings and suggestions by well-regarded usability experts such as Jakob Nielsen.

This list is not exhaustive, and is meant merely to arm you with a few ideas that you can implement right away. If you have additional tips to add, please share them in the comments.


General Goals of User-Friendly Web Content


Usable, readable web content is a marriage of efforts between web designers and web content writers.

Web pages must be designed to facilitate the ease of reading content through the effective use of colors, typography, spacing, etc.

In turn, the content writer must be aware of writing strategies that enable readers to quickly identify, read and internalize information.

As we go through the seven tips below, keep these three general guidelines in mind:

  • Text and typography have to be easy and pleasant to read (i.e. they must legible).
  • Content should be easy to understand.
  • Content should be skimmable because web users don’t read a lot. Studies show that in a best-case scenario, we only read 28% of the text on a web page.

What simple things can we do to achieve these goals? Read on to see.


1. Keep Content as Concise as Possible


It’s pretty well known that web users have very short attention spans and that we don’t read articles thoroughly and in their entirety. A study investigating the changes in our reading habits behaviors in the digital age concluded that we tend to skim webpages to find the information we want.

We search for keywords, read in a non-linear fashion (i.e. we skip around a webpage instead of reading it from top to bottom) and have lowered attention spans.

This idea that we’re frugal when it comes to reading stuff on the web is reinforced by a usability study conducted by Jakob Nielsen. The study claims a that a 58% increase in usability can be achieved simply by cutting roughly half the words on the webpages being studied.

Shorter articles enhance readability, so much so that many popular readability measurement formulas use the length of sentences and words as factors that influence ease of reading and comprehension.

What you can do:

  • Get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • Cut out unnecessary information.
  • Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases.
  • Avoid long paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use “1,000″ as opposed to “one thousand,” which facilitates scanning and skimming.
  • Test your writing style using readability formulas that gauge how easy it is to get through your prose. The Readability Test Tool allows you to plug in a URL, then gives you scores based on popular readability formulas such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease.


2. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles


A usability study described in an article by web content management expert Gerry McGovern led him to the conclusion that Internet readers inspect webpages in blocks and sections, or what he calls “block reading.”

That is, when we look at a webpage, we tend to see it not as a whole, but rather as compartmentalized chunks of information. We tend to read in blocks, going directly to items that seem to match what we’re actively looking for.

An eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen revealed an eye-movement pattern that could further support this idea that web users do indeed read in chunks: We swipe our eyes from left to right, then continue on down the page in an F-shaped pattern, skipping a lot of text in between.

We can do several things to accommodate these reading patterns. One strategy is to break up long articles into sections so that users can easily skim down the page. This applies to block reading (because blocks of text are denoted by headings) as well as the F-shaped pattern, because we’re attracted to the headings as we move down the page.

Below, you’ll see the same set of text formatted without headings (version 1) and with headings (version 2). See which one helps readers quickly skip to the sections that interest them the most.

What you can do:

  • Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you’ll write.
  • Use simple and concise headings.
  • Use keyword-rich headings to aid skimming, as well as those that use their browser’s search feature (Ctrl + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac).

3. Help Readers Scan Your Webpages Quickly


As indicated in the usability study by Nielsen referenced earlier, as well as the other supporting evidence that web users tend to skim content, designing and structuring your webpages with skimming in mind can improve usability (as much as 47% according to the research mentioned above).

What you can do:

  • Make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they’re scanning a webpage.
  • Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device.
  • Use the inverted pyramid writing style to place important information at the top of your articles.


4. Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting


According to an eye-tracking study by ClickTale, users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding and italics).

These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases.

What you can do:

  • Consider breaking up a paragraph into bulleted points.
  • Highlight important information in bold and italics.

5. Give Text Blocks Sufficient Spacing


The spacing between characters, words, lines and paragraphs is important. How type is set on your webpages can drastically affect the legibility (and thus, reading speeds) of readers.

In a study called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts,” the researchers discovered that manipulating the amount of margins of a passage affected reading comprehension and speed.

What you can do:

  • Evaluate your webpages’ typography for spacing issues and then modify your site’s CSS as needed.
  • Get to know CSS properties that affect spacing in your text. The ones that will give you the most bang for your buck are margin, padding, line-height, word-spacing, letter-spacing and text-indent.

6. Make Hyperlinked Text User-Friendly


One big advantage of web-based content is our ability to use hyperlinks. The proper use of hyperlinks can aid readability.

What you can do:


7. Use Visuals Strategically


Photos, charts and graphs are worth a thousand words. Using visuals effectively can enhance readability when they replace or reinforce long blocks of textual content.

In fact, an eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen suggests that users pay “close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information.”

Users, however, also ignore certain images, particularly stock photos merely included as decorative artwork. Another eye-tracking study reported a 34% increase in memory retention when unnecessary images were removed in conjunction with other content revisions.

What you can do:

  • Make sure images you use aid or support textual content.
  • Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals.

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The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off. The possibilities are endless. How will you use join.me? Try it today.

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If you’re seeking a job in social media, we’d like to help out. For starters, Mashable‘s Job Lists section gathers together all of our resource lists, how-tos and expert guides to help you get hired. In particular, you might want to see our articles on How to Leverage Social Media for Career Success and How to Find a Job on Twitter.

But we’d like to help in a more direct way, too. Mashable‘s job boards are a place for socially savvy companies to find people like you. This week and every week, Mashable features its coveted job board listings for a variety of positions in the web, social media space and beyond. Have a look at what’s good and new on our job boards:


Mashable Job Postings


Community Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Graphic Design Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Editorial Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.


Editorial Assistant at Mashable in New York, NY.


Mashable Job Board Listings


Multi-Channel Merchandising Assistant at The National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, MD.


Social Media Manager at LivingSocial in Washington, D.C.


Interactive Producer/ Daring Truth Seeker at SANBORN MEDIA FACTORY in New York, NY.


Digital Marketing Designer/Editor at xMatters, Inc. in Dublin, CA.


SEO Manager at Leading Online News Destination in Los Angeles, CA.


Senior Web Developer (Ruby on Rails) at Memory Reel in Dallas, TX.


Director, Product Marketing at New Relic in San Francisco, CA.


Jr. Interactive Digital Artist at CP+B in Boulder, CO.


Social Media Officer at Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C.


ColdFusion Application Developer at Fusionapps in Secaucus, NJ.


Associate SEO Strategist at Morpheus Media in New York, NY.


Interactive Savvy Graphic Designer/Art Director at Bill Young Productions Inc. in Houston, TX.


Paid Online Innovation Internships with MoveOn Labs at MoveOn.org in Berkeley, CA.


Developer Advocate at Atlassian in San Francisco, CA.


Online Communications Manager – South Asia Region at The World Bank in Washington, D.C.


Email Marketing Manager at Inman News in Alameda, CA.


Content and Community Development Manager at Loehmann’s in Bronx, NY.


Product Manager – Local Business Products at Yelp Inc. in San Francisco, CA.


Associate Digital Producer (emphasis on social media and gaming) at roundhouse in Seattle, WA.


Mashable‘s Job Board has a variety of web 2.0, application development, business development and social networking job opportunities available. Check them out here.

Find a Web 2.0 Job with Mashable

Got a job posting to share with our readers? Post a job to Mashable today ($99 for a 30 day listing) and get it highlighted every week on Mashable.com (in addition to exposure all day every day in the Mashable marketplace).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: COMMUNICATIONS, design, jobs, List, Social Media


Dan Dao is a Reporter at Fueled, an iPhone & Android app development agency based in New York City, where he writes about the tech industry. You can follow him on Twitter @da0_o and read the blog on Fueled.

Employers who hire designers are often not designers themselves. That reality can cause a disconnect between what designers display in their portfolios and what employers are actually looking for.

If you’re curious about the types of design portfolios that shine at job interviews, why not learn from the employers who loved them? Below, three employers share useful tips about maximizing the appeal of your online portfolio.

1. Choose the Right Hosting




Make sure you choose the right hosting and content management system (CMS) to feature your work. Whether you’ve built your own website or plan to use a portfolio service (like Carbonmade above), make sure your site will translate identically across all web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).

Image courtesy of Veronica Pisano

2. Simple, but Professional Presentation

The goal of your portfolio is to make your work accessible. Fancy, animated designs may look interesting, but they can distract from the actual work you’re attempting to showcase. Simplicity will translate as professionalism more often than fancy, overdone graphics. As far as aesthetic and visual presentation, keep it simple and neat, and let the work speak for itself.

  • David Lifson, CEO of Postling: “Oftentimes, designers will have brochure websites, and I find that those are not helpful. I look for data-dense examples, something where there’s more usability than visual design. That’s what I would say highly functional websites are built on.”

  • Merill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser, co-founders of Food52: “Whatever you’re shown, whether it be a website or a specific presentation…[it] should be very professional.”

  • Carter Cleveland, CEO of Art.sy: “Although it is an opportunity to show your chops and do something fancy, I’ve seen more examples of people failing to pull it off…I’ve seen more ‘fancy’ websites done badly than done well.”

Image courtesy of Alastaire Allday

3. Make it User-Friendly

Stubbs and Hesser warn that although employers may like a designer’s visual work, the designer “might not understand the user experience implications of their designs.” By making your design portfolio user-friendly, you’re displaying an understanding of navigability and user experience. If your portfolio is user-friendly, chances are the product you design will be user-friendly as well.

Start by reducing the number of clicks and links, as well as the amount of scrolling needed to access all of your content, suggests Cleveland.

Image courtesy of We Are Sofa

4. Know Your Audience

Determine the specific skills your potential employers are looking for. For instance, bonus expertise in product management, web development (HTML, Javascript, and CSS) or marketing adds bonus points to the portfolio of a clearly talented designer.

Each employer will have different hiring needs, and you need to adapt accordingly. Food52’s Hesser and Stubbs needed a designer with experience in building social sites due to the strong social aspect of the company, while Lifson and Cleveland were looking for someone with experience in product management as well as design. Smaller companies in particular will seek designers with versatile experience, which can include knowledge of different programs like Photoshop and Fireworks.

Seen above, designer Jordan Fretz provides a full list of tools with which he is familiar alongside a detailed description of his background.

Image courtesy of Jordan Fretz

5. Have a Varied Portfolio

Hesser and Stubbs say, “A portfolio that is varied is important so you can work with as many different types of clients as possible.” Food52’s designer Camillia Benbassat features works in her portfolio that use different types of media. Dragging your mouse over each photo in her showcase reveals the name of the company, the type of media, and a few essential details about the project. Each is clearly labeled and categorized, whether by web design, mobile app, user experience, identity, print or packaging.

Image courtesy of Camillia BenBassat

6. Be Organized

While including many examples is a plus, you still need to clearly sort and organize your work in the porfolio. On Elliot Jay Stocks’ website, the top header showcases featured work, but the remainder of the showcase is organized by client and project type.

Image courtesy of Elliot Jay Stocks

7. Be Accessible

Your contact information should be the easiest thing to find on your site. Include multiple forms of contact, if possible. Designer Jared Christensen nicely presents his LinkedIn profile next to his resume, in addition to other social networking sites under his About Me page.

Image courtesy of Jareditigal

8. Keep it Current

Frequently updated portfolios show that you take enough pride in your work to actively produce more. Even if your portfolio contains a few unfinished projects, provide samples alongside a “work in progress” note, as designer Matt Bango does on his portfolio.

Image courtesy of Matt Bango’s Portfolio

9. Credibility

It’s important to build and maintain credibility. This means you should be able to reproduce and tweak everything in your portfolio. Part of Postling’s hiring process involves contracting the applicant to complete a small (paid) work assignment. “I want to see that [the designers] can actually produce what their portfolio says they can produce,” Lifson says, “because you never know if sometimes they get some help.”

Hesser and Stubbs look more at past experience. They believe a designer’s former employment indicates whether she is accustomed to deadlines and memos, and maintains a level of professionalism.

Cleveland also looks for what he calls “social proof,” in other words, past work credentials or testimonials. Providing links to these things on your site makes it easier for the employer to get an immediate sense of your professionalism.

Image courtesy of Jamie Kim

10. Share Your Portfolio

Once you’ve created a stunning portfolio, share and advertise across multiple platforms. Postling says designers need to “get their work out in the open, whether on Forrst, Dribbble or Tumblr. Provide links to your portfolio from various social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as in the signature of your work email. You’ll get more views of your showcase, which can lead to more interviews.

Image courtesy of Postling

More About: design, jobs, MARKETING, web design

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Mollie Vandor is the Associate Product Manager at Cooking.com. Prior to that, she helped launch Ranker.com, where she served as the Product Manager, amongst many other roles. You can reach her @mollierosev, on her blog, or on her latest addiction – Words With Friends, where she plays under the username “Mollierosev.”

While summer vacation winds to a close and students prepare to go back to school, the days of brand new backpacks and crisp notebooks are long gone for many adults. Although classrooms, teachers and tuition might be off the table, it doesn’t mean education needs to be.

In fact, the Internet itself provides a wealth of educational opportunities. Furthermore, long summer days and relatively relaxed offices might provide the perfect setting for web education. Just think, while other people are rounding out their summer tans, you could be ringing in autumn with a whole new skill set — in this case, web design expertise. Tans fade. Beefier resumes keep shining.

Here’s a look at some of the best web resources for web design education.


101


Design 101 is all about the basics: master the lingo, learn the software and familiarize yourself with the driving principles that govern good design. To that end, your first stop should be a survey course of sorts. Try the Psdtuts+ self-study curriculum, where you can soak up the basics of shape, spacing, rhythm, typography, color, texture and more. To reinforce those basic skills, check out the Albany Library Design Tutorial, a sort of interactive “design for dummies.” While the tutorial is a bit old school, technologically speaking, design-wise, it effectively covers the basics.

You may also want to learn a little bit about the grid system while you’re at it. The system is exactly what it sounds like: a grid or set of guides on which the elements of a web page are built. Working with the grid can help in mastering the art of clean, cohesive web design. And speaking of cohesiveness, you may also want to review Web Pages That Suck for examples of how not to utilize your newly minted design skills.

Once you’ve tackled design theory, get practical with Adobe Design Center. It has all the tools you need to turn that theory into design reality. If you’re more of a visual learner, investigate this collection of helpful YouTube Photoshop tutorials.


Upper Division


You’ve mastered the basics, which means you’re ready for some fresh challenges and inspiration. For example, participate in The Daily Design Challenge by pledging to take on one design-related task per day for a full year. Whether you design a new font, doodle a small graphic or create a new logo for a beloved brand, set aside a few minutes every day to keep your skills sharp and your creative juices flowing.

If you’re really looking for a challenge, Layer Tennis is the web’s most creative competition. Sponsored by Adobe Creative Suite, Layer Tennis pits two competitors against each other in a weekly match-up. Every fifteen minutes, participants swap a single design file “back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work.” A writer provides play-by-play commentary while an active community of design aficionados looks on, providing a great forum to witness inspirational creative design in action.

Next, use that creative inspiration to fuel some serious studying. MIT offers free online coursework in comparative media, in which you learn about the design principles of different mediums. Similarly, iTunes offers podcast lectures about aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Vimeo’s Smarthistory videos discuss everything from Representations of David and the Florentine Renaissance to Duchamp and the Ready-Made, because there’s nothing like a little art history to help you create design history of your own.


Ongoing Education


Once you’ve gained a comprehensive understanding of the basics, a background of art history and a fresh set of advanced skills, ongoing education can provide you with the tools necessary to showcase your talent, not to mention the additional innovation to advance your craft.

According to Smashing Magazine, “The résumé is the first portfolio piece that potential employers see, and if they’re not impressed, chances are they won’t look at the rest of your portfolio.” Smashing offers a great tutorial to ensure that your résumé showcases your design skills. While you’re at it, make sure your portfolio illustrates the best of your aesthetic abilities.

Nothing inspires your future work quite like taking in current innovative design. To that end, check out the creative collection at Designspiration. Tumblr is also a great resource for finding fantastic designers, and Quora’s active community of graphic designers engages in dynamic conversation about the industry. Finally, Twitter has a plethora of design people worth following.


Whether you’re looking to get a grip on design basics, or you want to sharpen your advanced skills, web resources can help you construct the perfect creative (and flexible) curriculum. And with the right smartphone or tablet, you can even study while soaking up the last of the summer sun. Now that’s what we’d call an advanced placement course!

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, enviromantic

More About: design, education, web

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Martin Odersky is Chairman and Chief Architect of Typesafe and creator of the open source Scala programming language. This post was co-authored by Chris Conrad, an engineering manager who is part of the Search, Network and Analytics team at LinkedIn.

While interacting with social media and other consumer websites has become routine for many of us, ensuring a seamless, positive user experience is still the Holy Grail for web developers. The volume of queries and messaging on websites increases every day, as does the challenge of keeping the underlying infrastructure running smoothly for millions of users.

Below, we’ll highlight key challenges facing web developers of high volume sites, provide examples of how to address these hurdles, and discuss the role of emerging open source platforms as a modern approach to overcoming them.


Three Key Challenges


  • Performance: While web application developers of high volume sites face many challenges, performance tops the list. With consumers now demanding blazing computing speeds and uninterrupted service, a wait time of 250 milliseconds can mean the difference between a successful service and a failed one. For key user operations, such as interactive, real-time slicing and dicing of large data sets, performance is essential. The application needs to perform flawlessly and logically in order to attract and keep consumers.
  • Efficiency: When operating services on a massive scale, it’s essential to make the most efficient use of hardware assets. For example, optimize the use of memory and available processing resources. In practice, this often means using event-driven and distributed architectures like node.js, versus previous generation thread-based models like traditional Java Servlets. Developer productivity programming languages are further facets of efficiency. Fewer lines of code, made possible by concise languages like Scala and Ruby, generally translates to higher productivity for application developers.
  • Reliability: Systems need to remain resilient against component failures, including hardware, software and network crashes. An ever-expanding ecosystem of applications depends on reliable access to user-generated content, like LinkedIn’s, for instance. As such, the network needs to target “five nines” availability goals that have previously been benchmarks for the telecommunications and electrical power industries.

  • Real-World Applications


    LinkedIn faces these challenges every day and is always looking to incorporate the most advanced technology to keep its services running smoothly, reliably and efficiently. For example, to support the Signal product introduced last year, LinkedIn created a high performance web service written in Scala. This service is accessed through a REST/JSON-RPC model that enables quick ad hoc data manipulation and fast iteration from the web-based user interface.

    For its real-time people search service (with a peak demand exceeding the hundreds of queries per second), LinkedIn uses a scatter-gather approach that distributes search queries in parallel across a large server farm. This approach balances quick response time with efficient use of server resources.

    To support reliability, LinkedIn created a cluster management and workload distribution library called Norbert, which it implemented in the open source Scala programming language. It then incorporated open source technologies from the Apache ZooKeeper, Netty and Protocol Buffers projects. Norbert is a key component of several mission-critical applications at LinkedIn, most notably its social graph engine, which fields a high volume of requests per day.


    Open Source – Solving Today’s Modern Programming Challenges


    In the last few years, many new open source technologies have emerged to help web application developers. Open source projects such as Norbert, now available under the open source Apache license at sna-projects.com, are readily available to web developers charged with tackling such challenges.

    Open source programming languages and frameworks that enable parallel and distributed computing can be especially helpful in keeping today’s most trafficked websites running steadily and smoothly. Below are key considerations to keep in mind when programming for today’s multicore paradigm:

    • For applications that benefit from highly interactive user experiences, like LinkedIn Signal, developers should consider breaking data-intensive functionality into asynchronous web services that can be integrated into the web-based user interface using REST-style APIs.
    • To encourage “efficiency by default” for today’s web-scale applications, developers should look to modern frameworks like Akka and Norbert that incorporate capabilities like event-driven processing, asynchronous I/O and cluster-aware fault tolerance.
    • For applications that can truly scale up and scale out, developers should favor languages like Scala that provide first class support for functional programming, which discourages the use of mutable state. This allows applications to more easily scale hundreds of cores on a single server, and thousands of servers on a network.

    In summary, web applications and their supporting infrastructure need to be robust and efficient as more of society shifts its everyday interactions online. Fundamental advances in technology, many driven by the open source community, are making it possible for today’s web application developers to stay ahead of the scalable computing needs of consumers.

    Image courtesy of Flickr, Fon-tina

    More About: apps, linkedin, programming, Web Development

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Taking on a large project can be both exciting and intimidating, particularly if you’re a solo developer. Big builds can be a lot of fun and serve as great learning experiences. At the same time, you have to keep the project moving forward, or risk missed deadlines and burnout.

Below are some tips to help you stay organized and productive, whether you’re working individually or as a team.


1. Make Your Contract Rock-Solid


When dealing with clients, issues like scope creep, late payments and deadlines are always a concern. And what may seem obvious to you may not be clear to your client. To avoid hurt feelings, delays and financial troubles, your first priority should be establishing a thorough, firm, but fair written contract.

A good contract protects both you and your client. In addition to general terms and conditions, your contract should contain specifics about the project: payment schedules, due dates, deadlines (and consequences for missing those deadlines), cancellation policies, guidelines regarding intellectual property and project scope. You can find many sample contracts on the web, but there’s no substitute for consulting with an attorney. When dealing with the safety of your business and your livelihood, the expense is justifiable, and should be calculated in your business overhead.


2. Have a Well-defined Road Map


One of the required supplements to your contract should always be a project road map. It should outline all of the project features as thoroughly as possible, and establish the general plan for project progression, from research all the way through deployment.

To start, write out all of the features in outline format. It helps to break them down into groups, such as “Account Administration Features” and “Inventory Control Features,” for example. Keep refining the outline until you’ve defined exactly what is expected and what needs to be developed.

Next, break the project down into different phases, such as research, design, development, testing and deployment. For each phase, state its goals clearly, and define where the project should be when the phase is completed. Have your client sign off on the phases, and include this document with your contract. You may want to make a second copy of this road map to include more technical details, such as technologies to employ and methods to implement each feature — but don’t change the scope unless your client signs off on the changes.


3. Establish a Style Guide


Whether you’re working alone or with a team, taking the time to establish a style guide for your project will help you maintain consistency throughout. Furthermore, when the project needs updating six months from now, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

There are two types of style guides you should consider: a visual guide and a coding guide. Keep in mind that either or both may apply to the project. The visual style guide should contain information regarding fonts, colors, branding and any other notes on visual appearance. You should also include a few examples of common elements, such as headers, forms, body content, sidebars and menus. While you may never need to go into such detail, the Skype Brand Book is a great example. The guide provides a great presentation to your client, a tool to help them understand how the project will ultimately look and feel. Review the established style with the client (mood boards are great for this purpose), and have them sign off on the look. Refer back to the visual style guide often during your own work to make sure you’re adhering to the set guidelines.

A programming style guide needn’t be project-specific (unless you’re working with a new team that has already established a style different from your own). It may be as simple as following an existing style guide, such as the Zend style guide. You don’t need to start from scratch here, but you need to be consistent. Having a clear set of guidelines will help any developers who may come on board later.


4. Take Time to Research, Plan and Test


When developing a new project, particularly one that’s interesting and exciting, people have the temptation to dive right in and get to work. An initial lack of proper research and planning can have detrimental effects, especially for larger projects. Take the proper initial steps and spend time researching, diagramming, reading through source code and organizing your thoughts. It will end up saving you time and money down the road.

The same applies to testing your code. It will spare you the tedious and often embarrassing problems of code rewrites, because the only thing worse than having your code fail during a demo is having it fail in production. Testing code and debugging shouldn’t be afterthoughts, so work both into your project estimate and timeline. There are a lot of automated testing suites out there today — everything from PHP and JavaScript to Ruby and Python, and countless other languages. It’s a good idea to learn at least one for each language you plan to use. Don’t forget to have real users navigate your software too. You and your client should both spend time actually using the site you’ve developed before going live.


5. Document As You Go


If you’re like most developers, you cringe at the thought of writing documentation. Taking the time to document something, especially when it seems clear at the time of creation, feels like a waste of valuable time. However, years from now those thousands of lines of source code may not make nearly as much sense.

Furthermore, programming styles and skill evolve over time, which can make old code hard to dive back into. So take time to document your code as you go. Make it as intuitive as possible by using descriptive names and logical progression. As a good rule of thumb, you should never need to document what something does, but make notes in your code that explain a feature’s purpose and function. Also note any dependencies that it either relies on or creates. Stopping at the end of each new feature and taking the time to draft some end-user documentation is a good idea as well. This will make it much easier to train your client on the software, and will also serve as a good way to catch any usability issues or features that were accidentally omitted.


6. Use Version Control


This should almost go without saying, but many solo developers don’t use version control for their projects. For a large project, this simply isn’t an option. A good VCS (whether you choose SVN, Git, Mercurial or some other system) virtually eliminates the possibility of accidentally deleting or overwriting code.

In addition to providing an invaluable safety net, commit logs also help you track your progress. And the ability to branch, fork, and merge your code gives you the flexibility to experiment with different methods of feature implementation. You can also refine and fine-tune your software’s performance without the risk of breaking existing code. Finally, it simplifies remote backup and deployment to testing and production environments. These days, version control should be considered an essential part of your development, particularly if you collaborate with other individuals.


7. Take Thorough Meeting Notes


Whether you prefer to use a laptop or a spiral-bound notebook, take notes when you meet with your client and other collaborators. Otherwise, you may not retain that minor detail discussed during the meeting as effectively. Good note-taking demonstrates to your clients that you’re attentive, interested and dedicated to providing them with good service. It ensures you don’t forget the little details, and it also saves you the embarrassment of having to go back to the client for clarification. It sounds simple, but one minor modification that went forgotten or overlooked could mean major changes in code or functionality. Save yourself the headache, stress and humiliation and learn to write everything down.


8. Organize Your Assets


As with thorough note-taking, keeping assets organized is another important step toward streamlining your project work flow. You may even consider a separate version control repository for project assets that don’t belong in the finished code base. Your client will likely send you a lot of files, content, artwork and emails containing feedback and requests for modifications and new features. Often, they’ll send more than one version of those files or requests.

Think about putting these assets into version control or some well-defined project management software. It can go a long way toward helping you keep information organized. Sending the wrong file or hunting through hundreds of emails not only slows you down and introduces the likelihood of errors, it makes you look unprofessional.


9. Put Due Dates in Writing


Due dates may often be established when outlining the project and its contract, but if this isn’t something you’re already doing, or if your current system isn’t working as well as you would like, it’s definitely worth the attention. Large projects tend to have a lot of dependencies, and missing one deadline can often put an entire project behind schedule. Mark due dates on your calendar and discipline yourself to stick to them.

Due dates aren’t just for you, either. It’s not at all unreasonable to give your client due dates for various deliverables, such as content and branding, and to set fixed periods of time for reviewing and approving assets. Clearly define due dates for all parties, and furthermore, address the consequences of unmet deadlines. As with negotiating a contract and drafting the project outline, always try to be fair, but don’t be afraid to be firm. Your client will respect you for it, and your reputation and career depend on it.


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Already using Google+? Follow Mashable’s Pete Cashmore for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as social media and technology updates.

Now that you’ve had a few weeks to get your feet wet with Google+, it’s time to make sure your other web properties are linking to your +Profile in style.

SEE ALSO: Google+ Tips & Tricks: 10 Hints for New Users

As always, the web is teeming with talented and generous artists who offer their visions of a more beautiful Internet up for free. We’ve sampled their wares and chosen the classiest badges and buttons that will alert your readers in no uncertain terms: “Hey, I’m doing things on the Google+!”

Found any beauties we missed? Link away in the comments.

1. The Google+ App, by David Walsh

Probably the defining Google+ icon on the web right now, the subtle gradients and light shadow give David Walsh’s contribution the look of a smooth stone. It’ll make a nice addition to any webpage or app dock.

2. A Google Rainbow, by Samuel McQueen

What it lacks in texture, it makes up for with a fresh take on Google’s color scheme.

3. A Clean Vector, via Sean McCabe

Here’s the original inspiration for Walsh’s, created by designer Sean McCabe. This option includes the big plus.

4. A Bit of Texture, via Creative Nerds

This four-pack comes with and without grain.

4. Assorted +1 Items, via IconShock

If your site favors the shiny 3D, look no further than this pack of graphic trinkets.

6. A Subtle Shine, by ~abhashthapa

At first glance, this pack may seem similar to those previously discussed. But the bevel of light that runs across each one adds a glossier feel. What’s more, the set comes with the white versions, as well as their non-glossy counterparts.

7. Circular With a Waving Banner, by Taiyab Raja

This little number makes thematic use the Google+ “circles,” and adds the logo colors with a waving banner. It’s a great choice for an airy blog theme.

Mashable clouds sold separately.

8. A Touch of Glass, via Serif Tuts

We really like these. View them at full size for maximum appreciation.

9. Inverted Metal, via The Icon Deposit

In a word: epic.

10. A +Fresh Font, by David Silva

Silva freshens up the Google logo with a new font — great for design-centric sites. It’s based on Sean McCabe’s original vector.

More About: design, Google, Google Plus, icons, List, Lists, Social Media, social media icons, web design

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In the same way that bar codes don’t have to be boring, quick response codes can also be creative. Thanks to a 30% tolerance in readability, you can have some real fun with clever designs. Besides looking good, this can also make them more successful.

“Designer QR codes are not only a way to make your 2D barcode stand out, but they also add a more human element to the otherwise cold and techie appearance,” says Patrick Donnelly, QR code designer and expert. “This could be the difference between someone scanning your code or not.”

Take a look through the image gallery for 15 brilliant designs created for a range of businesses from big names such as Disney, little names such as local restaurants and even conceptual ideas. Let us know in the comments if a clever design would make you more likely to scan a code.

1. Ayara Thai Cuisine




Designed by Paperlinks, a charming elephant drawing adds a dash of Asia to this LA restaurant’s QR code.

2. True Blood

HBO’s True Blood season 3 was the first TV series to get a designer QR code in an ad, thanks to a collaboration between Warbasse Design, .phd agency and SET Japan.

3. Magic Hat Brewing Company

This clever code from Patrick Donnelly is made up of bottle tops and links to the beer company’s mobile optimized Facebook page.

4. Help Japan Now

Chances are you’ve already seen SET’s “Help Japan” design. As well as extending the code to make an instantly recognizable red cross, the faux parts of the code contain related symbols for an arresting overall effect.

5. Louis Vuitton

Another SET creation, QR codes get playful with a dose of Takeshi Murakami-influenced design for Louis Vuitton’s mobile website

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6. Corkbin

Wine app Corkbin gets the Paperlinks treatment with a design that co-ordinates with, and even features, its distinctive logo.

7. Disney

Cliffano Subagio spotted these awesome Disney codes in Japan where QR is a well established marketing tool.

8. Discover LA Tourism Bureau

This Paperlinks code is both cool and calm with made-you-look palm trees that add a special design touch.

9. Pac-Man

An experimental design from Patrick Donnelly, we love the witty, retro appeal.

10. Greenfield Lodge

The dots from Greenfield Lodge’s floral logo are replicated throughout the design to great effect.

11. M&Ms

Anther concept design from Patrick Donnelly, we like the idea of arranging real-life objects into a scannable code.

12. The Fillmore Silver Spring

Paperlinks added musical instruments into this concert venue’s design, a neat way to tease consumers into reading the code.

13. Burtonwood & Holmes

Artists Tom Burtonwood and Holly Holmes have fun by extruding the classic code design with a code-within-a-code concept.

14. The Wine Sisterhood

As well as integrating elements from the group’s logo, we like how Paperlinks made the design appear painted with wine.

15. TIME

These striking TIME covers from SET show just how creative you can get with QR codes.

BONUS: Farmville

Patrick Donnelly is such a QR code enthusiast, he spent months on Farmville “growing” a design!


More About: barcodes, design, gallery, List, Lists, MARKETING, QR Codes, trending

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Posters are a great way to cheer up your work space, whether your home office, the walls of your cubicle or even your swanky corner suite.

We’ve got a great selection of geeky posters and prints from classic Apple advertising to curious Android typographical illustrations.

Take a look through the image gallery, click through on the blue title text for more info on each image, and let us know in the comments which posters you’d pick for your office.

1. xkcd Map of Online Communities




xkcd’s “Map of Online Communities” is a fascinating snapshot of 2010’s web world.

Cost: $15

2. eBoy Cities Posters

We’re big fans of the eBoy group’s pixel art. They’ve created a whole collectible series of city posters that includes North American locations as well as London, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin.

Cost: $27

3. Periodic Table of Typefaces

The “Periodic Table of Typefaces” is a witty take on font classification. Also available: “So You Need a Typeface” flowchart and “Typefaces of the World.”

Cost: From $16

4. VectorSetPosters

As well as digital tools for designers, these VectorSets are available as prints. With tons of different sets, you could create a really striking grouping.

Cost: From $24.49

5. Andy Versus

One of a set of Android-themed illustrations, this poster depicts a little green bot fending off attack from a rather familiar figure…

Cost: $15

6. Nintendo Evolution

This simple Etsy print would be a great pic for a Nintendo fan.

Cost: From $8.50

7. Susan Kare Apple Prints

Former Apple designer Susan Kare offers limited edition prints of her classic icons.

Cost: From $89

8. The Oatmeal Grammar Pack

The Oatmeal’s “Grammar Pack” includes four great comics: “how to use an apostrophe,” “how to use a semicolon,” “10 words you need to stop misspelling,” and “when to use i.e. in a sentence.” We can’t think of a better set of rules to stick on your wall, especially if you work with words.

Cost: $32

9. Retro Videogame Propaganda Posters

Frogger, Dig Dug, Tron, Joust, Donkey Kong all get propaganda posters in this rad, retro set.

Cost: $49.99

10. Typography Deconstructed

More fun for font fans, this gorgeous graphic deconstructs typography, and would look great in your design department.

Cost: From $35

11. Fail Whale

If you’re a fan of Yiying Lu’s “Fail Whale,” then this three-foot wide version should bring a smile to your face.

Cost: $49.99

12. eBoy FooBar Poster

Grab a slice of web history with this now classic depiction of Web 2.0 circa 2006. It’ll be a collector’s item one day…

Cost: $27

13. Google Doodles

Everyone loves Google Doodles. Sadly, Google’s online store offers just seven designs in print. Collect the lot and hope for more in the near future.

Cost: From $4.75 each

14. Evolution of the Geek

Flowtown had a hit with its great “Evolution of the Geek” infographic. Now you can buy the poster version.

Cost: $19.99

15. Typographic Maps

There’s a whole set of typography-themed maps that accurately depict the features of major U.S. cities using nothing but type.

Cost: From $30

16. Susan Kare Facebook Prints

As well as Apple-themed prints, some of Kare’s contemporary Facebook icons are also available as limited edition prints.

Cost: From $89

17. Visual Aid Posters

We adore Visual Aid’s huge collection of geeky prints. They offer graphical explanations of a huge range of topics including color theory, types of hats, The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones, table settings, flight times and much, much more.

Cost: From £4 (approx $6.50)

18. Mac Reference Posters

This excellent Etsy poster offers you a field guide to Mac trackpad gestures. Also available is an OS X button legend and a quick reference for shortcuts.

Cost: $20

19. Why Working at Home is Both Awesome and Horrible

More from The Oatmeal with this hilarious comic that explains why working at home is both awesome and horrible. It’s an absolute must for any telecommuter.

Cost: $11.95

20. iA Web Trend Map

iA has mapped the 140 most influential people on Twitter, when they started tweeting and what they first said. Fascinating.

Cost: $59.50

21. Apple’s “Think Different” Posters

Finally, you can still get hold of Apple’s iconic “Think Different” posters on sites like eBay. Some are more rare than others, but just imagine how great the whole set would look framed on your office wall.

Cost: Varies

More About: accessories, android, apple, art, gallery, geek, Google, infographics, List, office, office accessories, posters, typography

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