Tools and Technologies
As demonstrated by the work posted on this site, there are an infinite number of ways a designer or developer can approach a project.
The bottom line for each however, is the same, and it is twofold. What information needs to be displayed? and What is the most effective and attractive way to display said information?
Because really, it is all about sending information and there are a million and one tools to do so - here are my weapons of choice.
You can't have a site without at least a little and I prefer to code by hand. I find editors generate more code than needed (slowing pages down) and hand-coding also allows for easier, faster troubleshooting.
Limited use of DHTML can improve the overall look of a site substantially. Cascading Style Sheets, Rollovers and even Multi-Layered Menus can help organize a site and keep it uniform. For anything too fancy though, I prefer Flash.
Flash is a wonderful tool for delivering incredibly rich graphic content at surprisingly small file size. Since the plug-in for seeing Flash is now standard on most browsers, there is about a 90 or higher percent of people who can see it. The others can also download the plug-in free of charge. I use Flash in different ways - for eye-catching splash pages as with The Lowest Of The Low, embedded within site as with Soap Opera or as the foundation for an entire site, such as with Sarah Harmer or Brush With The Law.
PHP has evolved into to one of the more popular scripting languages in the past couple of years and with good reason -- It is a fast, multi-faceted tool that can help a developer do just about anything. I prefer PHP for a number of reasons. Most imporartantly, it is multi-platform meaning it will run on ANY server (unlike ASP which is NT specific). It is a part of the LAMP open source community which means its free to use for any server. Lastly, it works very well with my Database Tool of choice MySQL.
PHP allows me to get beyond static. With it I have built seach engines like the one at the top of this very page, self admin tools for the Soap Opera Site, Brush With The Law and numerous clients at Nortel Networks which allows them to gain full control over their own web content. PHP is also good for fun things like Guestbooks and Message Boards, password protection, session control and too many other items to list here.
This is my DB system of choice - mainly because it and PHP were developed to go hand in hand. It's not as pretty in appearance as say Access but it is plenty fast. From my readings, it consistently beats all the competition in terms of speed.
Other Tools and Skills:
Recently, I have been working outside of my traditional skill set as projects have dictated I do so. Both Oakville Toyota and GCA Web make use of Embedded Perl and it was fun getting in and working with that on those projects.
As All Indie Music was built in ASP and then handed to me to take over, I have been delving into that platform more often these days.
When I am not doing that, I have been trying to get up to speed with XML. I haven't had much real world opportunity to apply my readings yet, but the exercises in the books are going pretty well.