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Migrations plugin 2.3.0 released

We’ve just released version 2.3.0 of the CakeDC Migrations plugin for CakePHP, and with it a couple of new features, a collection of bug fixes and improvements, an update of the code to 2.5, as well as a reformatting of the documentation, inline with the CakeDC Plugin Standard.

For those who haven’t used the Migrations plugin, it’s an essential part of any CakePHP application. It helps keep the integrity of your database schema in check, managing changes as it evolves, and offers you a convenient and simple way to keep track of your database development.

The migrations themselves are database agnostic, and all data sources supported by CakePHP are available. You can think of each migration as being a new "version" of the database. A schema starts off with nothing in it, and each migration modifies it to add or remove tables, columns or rows. Fields and tables can be renamed, and their data types can be modified as well within the constraints of the type conversion. Migrations can even be rolled back if needed.

There is no more messing with arbitrary named SQL files, as migrations will provide you with a clear and comprehensive way of keeping track of your database changes, within the scope of your application code, as the migrations are a part of your application.

As an example, and described in the Quick Start tutorial, generating your first migration is as simple as calling a shell command:

$ cake Migrations.migration generate

This adds the database migration to your application, which can then be shared with other developers on your team, or used by your deployment system to update your server. You could even use the plugin to create an application installer/updater.

Running the available migrations is just as easy, and is also a shell command:

$ cake Migrations.migration run all

The plugin comes with numerous shell commands to control your migrations, and can be found in the documentation here.

One of the new features included with this release is the ability to create migrations from the command line, without any database interaction. For example, we could create a "users" table, with an "id" field as the primary key, a "name" field as a string, as well as the standard "created" and "modified" fields, all via a shell command:

generate create_users id:primary_key name:string created modified

This is particularly useful for scripting changes to the database, and automating your update procedures. A special thanks goes out to Jose Gonzalez for his contribution!

As always, our plugins are released as Open Source, free of charge, and benefit directly from the contributions made by the CakePHP community at large. We want to thank all of the contributors to the Migrations plugin, and hope that future involvement helps keep the framework ecosystem strong, with a host of powerful plugins that keep you all building awesome applications. Thanks!

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Simplicity is important - here’s why

When it comes to web design, simplicity is not valued enough. Simplicity is important - but why? Simplicity reduces navigation confusion, makes the website look more sophisticated and can help in increasing site conversions (sign ups, contacts). All too often, web designers tend to miss the point of simplicity and over do the amount of information given on a single page - the need to get everything across at once can seriously hinder how much a website visitor is able take in. Over complicated pages can lead to higher than average bounce rates or lower on-page conversions. We thought we’d share with you some top tips to simplify your website.

  • Keep things along the 80-20 rule
    • Use the Pareto principle which is that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means taking away as much as you can from your design that will not lead to any type of conversion. Take things back to the bare essentials and make those work properly
  • Embrace few colors in your theme
    • Does a monochrome color scheme work for you? If not, try out as few colors as possible. Work towards a design that requires less effort for your website visitor to process. Fewer colors will also give your site a sleek, classic look
  • Keep copy short and sweet
    • Embrace compelling copy but keep things shorter and to the point. Make your point quickly and keep things easy-to-read by sticking to a few key points. Use shorter sentences, and keep paragraphs to a maximum of 3-4 sentences for easy reading.
  • Fix your navigation
    • Often many sites have over complicated and lengthy navigation options. Remember to include navigation to your list of things to simplify today. Keep important and key pages in your navigation bar. Remove excess clutter and keep all navigation menus visible. Other key things to keep in mind is the use of universal icons as well as ensuring a sitemap in your footer - these are all standard items that visitors look for.

How Much Does it Cost to Design a Site?

If you are in the market for a website or application, it can sometimes be daunting. Being unsure of where to start, which development firm to use or how much the whole process is going to cost you can be truly overwhelming. And then there are those horror stories of others, who selected a developer based solely on cost (the cheapest quote perhaps) and ended up majorly down the hole with their budgets, while owning a unfinished website. Whether you are in the market for a website application with a specific outline and goal, or have a rough idea of what you need your application to do, how do you go about finding the best selection for you? And then how do you know that whoever you select is going to deliver what you want and in the time frame that you need it? And then, not knowing how to code yourself, you can land up frustrated at not understanding the process - especially if your development team gives you the runaround. At CakeDC, we are committed to a transparent workflow - we've created our own git workflow (MIT license) and we've used it successfully with our clients for 3+ years and dozens of projects. We use it to accelerate growth and innovation providing the highest quality application development. What sets CakeDC apart from others is that our experts listen closely to your needs. Second, we formulate a roadmap of milestones based on your specifications. Third, we offer guidance while delivering the highest quality results in a fraction of other developer’s time, by doing things The Right Way™ So how much is it going to cost you? Well this is of course dependent on what you project scope includes, however, we will work with you in determining the best package to suit your requirements. You can check out all of our rates and packages here. Ready to get your project started? Reach out to our experts today to see how easy it can be to get your application up and running.

What your website users are trying to tell you

Every visitor to your website has a goal in mind - this may not be a conscious goal, but they are visiting your site for a reason. So listening to your users feedback is key to meeting their expectations! As a business owner, be sure to keep these in consideration and as a developer, be sure to pass these recommendations through to your clients. What are some things that users are trying to tell you and how do you find out? What and why is it Often people forget about the basics and fail to include what their product, service or business is. By excluding this vital information there will be users who will not know what the purpose of the page that they have stumbled upon is, but what to do next - and therefor bounce quickly off of your site. Where is your pricing information? If you are trying to sell something - a product or a service - be sure to include the price information as this is used by your visitor to determine their next action. Even if you are providing resources in return for their details, it is important to be clear. Where are those testimonials or reviews? Have others tried it People like to know that whatever they are investing money into is worth it - reviews or customer testimonials help to show your visitors what you can do. Be sure to add this information in a way that is easy for you visitors to find. Where can I sign up or contact you Another vital piece of information that many often forget is to let your visitors know how to signup and contact you. Perhaps you have chosen to hide your contact information due to spam bots or other issues faced, however, if you are in the business of recruiting clients, then be sure to have some form of contact information easily available to your visitors.
Not sure if you are missing anything? CakeDC, the experts behind CakePHP, offer a range of services including consulting, guiding you through the best practices with your CakePHP application.

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