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TIPS, INSIGHTS AND THE LATEST FROM THE EXPERTS BEHIND CAKEPHP

CakePHP 3.0 is coming

For those of you who may have missed it, this week we released the first alpha of CakePHP 3.0, with a significant update to begin our move towards beta. I'm really excited to see how the project is evolving, and the amazing work that the members of the core team are doing, as well as what all those contributing are helping to build. But its important to look back in retrospect, and understand from where we've come.

Baking the Cake

If you're not aware, CakePHP has now been almost 10 years in the making. That's a long time for a project to stay as active as it has. Everyone has their favorite framework, and some like a few more than others, but one thing that's clear in my mind is that CakePHP has always been very popular, even until today.

The project started when I teamed up with Michal Tatarynowicz, who had created the basic feature set of what would become CakePHP. I had begun work on what is currently the model layer in the pre 3.0 version of the framework, and continued leading the project when Michal left shortly after we open sourced under the MIT license. This was back in 2005, and working with PHP 4. Back then we had to work around the language a lot, as it was lacking the object oriented features which we now all take for granted. We had to emulate or actually build out many of the native aspects now included with PHP, which made the task all the more complicated. Don't get me wrong, it was fun times, as the language was growing fast and we were all pushing it along. It's no secret the Rasmus isn't a huge fan of frameworks, but like Rails for Ruby, many of the frameworks for PHP have also helped the language gain a place in many people's hearts.

But time goes by, and like all things, PHP grew up and matured as a language. A lot of the features we had implemented for CakePHP in PHP 4 now became native with PHP 5, so although we'd provided the solutions when they weren't available, these now became redundant. But people and hosting companies were slow to adopt. The framework had grown a large community by then, so it was difficult for us to just drop support for PHP 4 and leave them without their framework. It was also in our interest to support PHP by prompting people to upgrade, so we took the middle road. This is where our infamous backwards compatibility for PHP 4 stems from.

There were disagreements between core members of the project, where some advocated for jumping the gun and releasing a version which required the latest version of PHP, but I refused to allow our community to be left behind. These are people who had grown up with the framework, people who relied on us to keep a solution which allowed anyone to use it. In hindsight you could say that those developers weren't worth supporting, but I see our community as a family, and like my Marine training taught me, no man gets left behind.

However, the years past, and we went from 1.2 to 1.3, and CakePHP begun to mature into a powerful solution for rapid application development. We also saw how adoption for PHP 5 improved, and hosts begun to offer broad support, which is when we decided to make the move to PHP 5.2 with the release of CakePHP 2. There were mixed feelings about the decision to not jump straight to 5.3, but I still feel today that, in allowing the framework to mature as it has on a stable code base, people who have counted on us would hopefully understand that choice.

Growing up as a Community

Like the years that have come before us, we all grow up as developers, and PHP the language grows with us. The impulse we've seen over the past years with the releases of 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5 have shown how the community can really build a powerful language. But it's not only the language that grows, but the community around it as well. We've seen over the past years how interoperability between frameworks has become a requirement, and the technical expectations of developers have become consistently more demanding. We've seen how the rise of packages managers, like Composer, have facilitated this distributed and modular approach to building PHP applications. So when we looked at what we expected for 3.0, as Jose Lorenzo said in the technical keynote at CakeFest, our annual conference, "we're all older and wiser", so it's time to put those years of experience to good use.

So, for CakePHP 3.0 we decided that now is a good time to take our community and move everything towards a stronger and brighter future. This means that we've made some of the important decisions, which align the framework with the coming features in the language, and provide the same framework goodness people are used to, but deliver it with new features which upgrade the solution for another 10 years to come. This also means breathing new life into many of the core aspects of the framework, which in some cases have become its winning features, and in others the infamous trademarks of CakePHP.

I invite you all, those who love CakePHP and even those who don't, to give this alpha of the latest major version of the framework a try, and let us know how well it tastes. We hope that this is the beginning of a great new chapter in the history of CakePHP, and one which lets us grow further, and together, as a community. Thank you.

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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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