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Twenty Beautiful Ampersands

Tracing back to the first century, the ampersand began as a combination of the letters 'e' and 't' to spell "et" (meaning "and" in Latin). Although its form evolved over the centuries, you can still see the "et" in many modern forms. Nowadays, it's a part of every designer's toolbox as one of the most distinct elements in typography.

Forcing Myself Forward: Moving to NYC

Ambition and comfort rarely run together.

I began freelancing more than five years ago, while living in Atlanta, Georgia. Cost of living was low, I had no children, my newlywed wife was working, and business was easy to come by. I soon moved to the Midwest, and enjoyed a comfortable life, working my own hours at my own rate. The work was a bit boring, but I was very fortunate to be where I was and I can't ever complain about having a job and a roof over my head. But I also knew that I was getting less ambitious and more uninspired as each year ticked by.

My Five Business Resolutions for a New Year

I like January. When a new year comes around, it helps me focus on the future and brings fresh energy into the workplace. Granted, feelings pass quickly and without careful resolutions and follow-through, it's easy to squander the new year's energy. So after some thought, I've made a few resolutions. I don't expect everyone to agree with them, but perhaps you'll find a useful point or two amongst them and then share some of your own goals.

10 Useful Tasks for Slow Times

As both a freelancer and former firm employee, winters always seem the slowest. Couple that fact with the economic slowdown and you can easily find yourself having more free time than you're used to. So what is there to do after you've already scoured the ususal job boards and are waiting for responses from proposals? Consider these ten ways to spend your extra down time.

Falling Behind is Not an Option

If you work in the design or technology industry, it doesn't take long for your skillset to become outdated or your design aesthetic to become stale. Every potential client job I've ever had inevitably asks either, "How well do you know ___________?" or, "Can I see a recent design example of ____________?" If you don't have solid answers to those questions, chances are you're not landing the job. In the same vein, basing your reputation on a website that hasn't been updated in months can be just as bad. Simply put, falling behind is devastating in the freelancing industry and here's why:

6 Places that Flash Does Not Belong

Designing and programming in Flash was part of my skillset for a decade, having cut my teeth with Flash in 1999. Over the years, I've seen and done many projects, some of which utilized Flash in very useful ways, while others had no business using it. Sometimes, a Flash implementation detracted from the site's purpose and had poor results (all the while costing them more to build the site in the frst place). Nowadays, companies have begun moving away from Flash but as reminder to website builders everywhere, here is a brief list of places that Flash does not belong (with very few exceptions):

Deciding When to Use Project Pricing

Billing by the hour is the most common way to make money in the freelance world, and it can be both safe and profitable. But it does have a few drawbacks. First, potential clients tend to balk at higher hourly rates, mainly because they're comparing you to other freelancers based solely on your rate (and not the talent or work that comes with that rate). Secondly, hourly rates offer little reward for the freelancer to be either fast or efficient. And as for the client, besides worrying about a freelancer who's freeloading, he will have a hard time pegging an actual cost and budget to the project. So for those reasons (and perhaps others), there are times when project pricing becomes a great way to make both parties happy: the client gets a fixed cost and the freelancer can earn more than he could hourly (without being compared to low-cost outsourcers).

GroupThink: Attending Web Conferences

Every year, there seems to be more conferences catering to internet designers, developers, marketers, and bloggers. Some have been around for quite a while, like SXSW and the "Future of" conferences. So the topic for discussion is:

What do you think of these conferences? Are they worth the time and cost (especially if you're paying for it yourself)? Have you ever attended one and what did you find valuable?

Refocusing Your Business With an "I Am No Good At" List

Living in a world of instant information is a two-edged sword. On one hand, you can find help on nearly any subject, from learning HTML 5 to setting up an LLC. On the other hand, a little knowledge can be dangerous, convincing people that they know more than they actually do about a certain subject. We've all heard someone or other refer to the necessity of "meta tags" for search engines or try to confidently explain that they need more "RAM" so that their computer can hold more photos. 

The Evolution of Websites: How 10 Popular Websites Have (And Have Not) Changed

I was in high school in the mid-nineties when I first began exploring the ever-expanding world wide web. At the time, I didn't realize that my career would rely on this industry -- one which did not even exist when I was in elementary school. Now, having created websites for over half my life, I look back and see how much websites have changed in the last decade and a half. So in that vein of change, let's look at ten popular websites and their evolution throughout the last many years. (Note: All pictures can be clicked on to view a larger size.)

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Sunny Days & Rain
What is all this?
My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.