"But PHP is just ugly, can you fix it?"



  •  While a pregraduate student (yup, I went from EE to direct commision specialist officer but that's another story), I was trying to make some extra bucks by finding some small, part-time job, since I was done with following courses and could go full-time writing my thesis. It didn't have to be anything glamorous, just be possibly IT related and less demeaning than watching after an Internet Cafe full of screaming kids playing CS and jailbait lolitas chatting on IRC all night.

     So, I saw a nation-wide ad on the paper for a web design company, let's call it "Yellow Banana" looking for "web developers".

     I had advanced HTML, Flash and Javascript knowledge and could pull a basic site together, so I sent my CV in, along with a sample of my work (my latest page made for a uni coursework, D'oh!)

     Seeing how the ad was nation-wide and I was living in a relatively small provincial town, I didn't really expect to get a call from the company's boss, let's call him Mr. Ulrich, who just happened to be from my town, and in-town for the occasion. But I did. And so I was invited out for a drink and "discussing business".

    In short, we ended up in an internet cafe with a bar, so we could have our drinks while showing me some sample websites that his company was involved with. It turned out that his company was specialized in making personal and professional homepages "with an emphasis on appearance!", as it was soon evident by the sheer amount of bling-laden, pure Flash sites I was shown. He even mentioned "hiring a professional photographer" for the photos appearing on some of them. Inside, I felt knot when I witnessed the "flash sites", but I told him nonetheless that I had experience with Flash animations and movies and could handle Flash sites too if needed.

    "Mr. Ulrich" said that he was looking for something "different" this time, since he already had a 19 yo(!) developer doing most of the Flash site work, what he was looking for was...well...that's the real WTF, someone who could "convert the content generated by Joomla! into something more pleasing to the eye, like the other websites I showed you", and showed me a generic php-generated portal page made for my hometown.

    I briefly explained to him that the content of similar pages is dynamically generated for a reason, and that there's a tradeoff between looks/embedded bling and functionality/ease of managing content. "Yeah yeah I know, but it looks ugly, don't you agree? All square and boxy, can't you make it look better?" Again, I had to tell him that doing so would require customizing the CMS itself, and still it would not be like a flash page. I can't remember the details exactly, but in the end what he wanted from me boiled down to (perhaps not realizing it) converting PHP to HTML so that it could be edited better or something.

    I accepted with some reseve, and from what I recall the first step was to save the PHP-generated HTML locally and modifying it as to make it "look better", using web templates, available design guidelines etc. It wasn't very fun working with a nested mess of tables, and, needless to say, that didn't impress him enough to hear from him again. Perhaps it was the premature end of a potentially ludicruous career as a web designed (he mentioned charging over Eur 5000 per site, with roughly 900 going to the developer), perhaps it was just fortunate that I got rid of an "employer" that couldn't get his priorities straight.

    No hard feelings, shrug I've since moved on, but I still wonder what his real intentions were...



  • Reminds me of a friend of mine who stated that he was going to write a web-site in CSS, as HTML looked far too ugly...



  • Did you mention that you can import new templates into joomla that have (gasp) rounded corners and other fun?  Or is that not good enough for your employer?



  •  Well I did mention to him that Joomla consisted in a complex largely customizable programmable subsystem that, along with a database, "spit out" HTML code that web browsers can understand. Now that you mention it, I'm not so sure he had quite grasped the concept, as was obviously still thinking in terms of "bling" Flash sites and only kept mentioning "appearance" and "aesthetics".

    When I asked him who provides the hosting and management for their client's websites, he was a bit cryptic, and of course asking him to ask whoever their network administrator was to open me a test account on their server(s?) so I could at least toy/experiment with their existing installation of Joomla, was met with a blank stare and the aforementioned requirement to "just make it look better".

     OK, maybe if I make an exact lookalike in Flash with the same contents and more bling and all he would be more pleased, I dunno, but whoever is willing to update and maintain a portal in Flash must be out of his mind.

     In retrospect, I'm thinking that his level of actual technical knowledge in the area was probably zero, and that he never wrote anything himself (he was a businessman that roamed around the country, and this was probably just one of his ventures which others carried through for him). The closest to an explanation I can put together is that yeah, he had a successful all-Flash website design enterprise going on, when suddenly he got a request for an information portal about a city and the 19-yo wonder behind the Flash sites just said "Unhhh?" when faced with having to learn PHP and SQL and all and so they went looking for a different kind of web developer...only with the wrong assumptions.

     



  • In retrospect, I'm thinking that his level of actual technical knowledge in the area was probably zero, and that he never wrote anything himself (he was a businessman that roamed around the country, and this was probably just one of his ventures which others carried through for him).

    "Yeah yeah I know, but it looks ugly, don't you agree? All square and boxy, can't you make it look better?"

    if you've ever worked with paying client you always start at the point of zero technical knowledge, then you work up from there.

    It sounds like he wanted a new redesign (check comment), and you bamboozled the guy with techno babble...

    whats the real WTF?

    P.S. Long time reader and lurker



  • @nickel101 said:

    if you've ever worked with paying client you always start at the point of zero technical knowledge, then you work up from there.

    It sounds like he wanted a new redesign (check comment), and you bamboozled the guy with techno babble... 

     OK, but he was someone in head of what appeared to be a successful web design company and directly recruiting his staff, as it seems. Perhaps I was too inexperienced at the time, but asking for probationary access so I can actually work with their actual content management system doesn't seem like techno babble, plus he wouldn't be the one handling that aspect, as it was clear from the conversation (he had at least one code/flash/admin monkey at the time).

    He also seemed to be very well aware of the difference between a "Flash" and a "normal" site, plus he mentioned the use of templates and Swish Max, so he wasn't totally ignorant, at least with regards to Flash development, but obviously none on his team ever worked with a CMS before.

    @nickel101 said:


    whats the real WTF?


    The "redesign" he asked for just trascended what was possible/feasible/functional. What would you have done in my place?

     P.S.: After a web search, I found that the company still exists, they have expanded to other buzzword-worty domains, and lo' and behold, while most of the websites that are "powered by them" are still 100% pure Flash, some of them have like 5% static HTML content, and OH THE HORROR, they even have a couple of them ugly joomla thingies in their portfolio! I found out the company was founded in 2006, which was when I first made contact with these guys, too. Seems I just stumbled upon their first, rough steps as a company, and that by now they finally put up with the idea that sometimes you just can't place a button or a video exactly where you want it.



  •  ever heard that you can actually display html in flash? or use an xml file as a data source?

    (database -> php generating xml -> flash)

     i think he would be very happy about this, and I think that the absurdity is worth the money...

    imagine - the "other guy" designs it, then he hands it to you, you just write a little bit of php and then a little bit of actionscript, and 900 € is yours...



  • @SEMI-HYBRID code said:

     ever heard that you can actually display html in flash? or use an xml file as a data source?

    (database -> php generating xml -> flash)

     

     Dude, it was early 2006, AJAX was still a brand of domestic cleaner for most people (including me) and it would require much more creativity from my side (I was just after a standard web dev job, not single-handedly inventing a custom "joomlaflash" system) and some closer cooperation on his side, like actually giving me a test account and access to the database or something. Also, not asking me to "improve" a PHP generated page just by visual cues to "see how I'd do it" would help. I hope none uses this convoluted process in a production system...but then again, we're on The Daily WTF here ;-)

     In any case, the guy's company managed to move on despite the ugliness of PHP and Joomla! (someone must have talked some sense into them) and they have a couple of such pages in their portfolio (I presume they are not what they show new clients, though, unless specifically requested). It was just a case of a bad start for both an inexperienced (in the sector) enterpreneur, and a jobless part-time web dev :-p



  • Doesn't sound like a WTF to me.  Most CMS systems are nice for organizing data but have limited aesthetic appeal.  It sounds more like he wanted custom templates where he could insert "bling" customized for the client.  With cooperation between a developer and a Flash designer the content could have been put into the CMS so it would be better organized, while retaining some of the "hand-made" Flash and other bling.  Basically, moving as much of the content into the CMS as possible to remove a lot of the custom footwork by the designer (although not replacing it).  With plug-ins, themes, cooperation with the designer and some custom build "bling" content, it seems his goals were achievable.  It wasn't precisely a normal PHP development request and it would have required a lot of cooperation between stakeholders, but it wasn't an unreasonable request.



  •  I'm not saying that what he wanted (deep in his heart?) wasn't possible, but by the sounds of it, it was surely out of my reach. And, judging by what sort of Joomla sites they are selling even today, out of the reach of anyone they could have hired in these three years.

    For sure I didn't receive the level of cooperation and access required
    for hacking into their database and experimenting with custom flashy
    layouts, and nothing in the guy's way of asking me to do so and so suggested that he was planning to seek a partner for something as innovative (because yes, it would be innovative where I live and in 2006).

    So yeah, it could very well be that he wanted something extraordinary and just didn't know it at the time (and still hasn't got it, for that matter).

    Or maybe he wanted something more trivial but was not capable of explaining it to me (or anyone else up to this day). I'll never know that for sure, but I do know that his company grew and is still in business churning the same kind of full-flash sites, and the occasional Joomla "abomination" ;-)

     No wonderful PHP/XML/Flash synergies seen yet, sorry.



  • I'm a PHP developer and this is not really out of the ordinary. It sounds like he is a typical manager without much technical knowledge, who came up with his own bizarre plan for doing something technical because he didn't have any idea of the real capabilities of the technologies he's using.

    It should have been your job to tell him that, sure, you can have a dynamic site that has visual bling, as long as the designer understands the requirements of dynamic content. And that transforming the output of a crap CMS like Joomla using an ugly template is not the best way to do it.

    I deal with silly ideas like this on an almost daily basis, but I don't count them as WTFs because they are not coming from developers, but from clients who think they know something about web dev because their nephew read something in a web design magazine, etc. It's part of my job to politely put them right on best practice, find out what their actual objectives are, and give them what they want without resorting to a WTF process like the above.



  •  Maybe it was my fault for not digging deeper, but what we agreed on in the end boiled down to "converting PHP to HTML" because "he wanted to see how it would look" and wheter "it could be made to look better". And all that without giving me access to their servers. I even talked on the phone with their "flash wizard" who also was the code/admin monkey of the team, but even he said "you can do everything with webb templates. Just download monster template from da internets and Swish Max. Web templates are your master. Bow before  your master".

     Needless to say, none was impressed with the results, and me before anyone else.

    Aaaand, most importantly, they apparently never found someone who could do what they asked(?) for. The manager was yeah, somewhat clueless, but he knew he wanted "aestetically appealing" sites, fo'shizzle! My guess is that they still give priority to all-flash sites, as the whole profile of the company is ostensibly built around "image promotion" and "design excellence". So maybe there just is no place for either CMS or Joomla or anything auto-generated on their portfolio. They have made a couple of these sites, but they are not even shown in their portfolio, go figure.

    Even their company homepage (sorry, can't publish it here for obvious anonymization reasons) says nothing about portal or database creation or management, so it's entirely possible they just have an aversion towards this kind of stuff, or that the manager never believed in that stuff. Well, if he can keep the company going this way, good for him and the more power to them.



  • "Converting PHP to HTML" doesn't even make sense - so no wonder they never found anybody who could do it.

    It's also not surprising that dynamic content didn't feature in their portfolio, as a large number of "web" designers are clueless when it comes to designing dynamic pages. Many come from a graphic/print design background and can't think in terms of fluid layouts.



  •  Well, if that's the case then stumbling upon them meant definitively being out of luck. Not really what you'd call "a great introductory job opportunity". And, from what I could gather, their quest for this columbus egg, the ultimate CMS/PHP/SQL/HTML to Flash converter/web designer with a grand vision of things is yet to come



  • @gherkin said:

    "Converting PHP to HTML" doesn't even make sense - so no wonder they never found anybody who could do it.
     

    yup, this came to my mind too, when i was writing my post, but when i have to choose between pointing out the most obvious wtf, and showing off myself, i prefer the latter :-)



  • @SEMI-HYBRID code said:

    @gherkin said:

    "Converting PHP to HTML" doesn't even make sense - so no wonder they never found anybody who could do it.
     

    yup, this came to my mind too, when i was writing my post, but when i have to choose between pointing out the most obvious wtf, and showing off myself, i prefer the latter :-)

    fwrite(fopen("output.html", 'w'),fopen("http://www.bling-bling.com/index.php?fuck=what", 'r'));



  • @babastus said:

    fwrite(fopen("output.html", 'w'),fopen("http://www.bling-bling.com/index.php?fuck=what", 'r'));
     

    or File -> Save page as... in browser.

    But that's not exactly what I'd call "converting" - after all, PHP generates HTML, so you're just saving the output of PHP.

    Converting would mean rewrite the PHP code to HTML preserving the original funcionality of PHP, thus you'd have to have HTML that manipulates with database, and generates the HTML of the final page.

    Try to code that!



  •  TL; DR version for newcomers:

     Essentially I was asked to somehow beautify a PHP generated website by a company with a Flash site fetish, whose manager couldn't stand the "boxiness" of PHP, and somehow I ended up agreeing to "convert PHP to HTML".

     And all this without having access to the actual server and CMS.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     TL; DR version for newcomers:
    And you're posting this summary over a year later why exactly?



  •  Because of recent linking. And for shameless self-promotion.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    Because of recent linking. And for shameless self-promotion.

    You really have an inflated sense of your own self-worth.



  • I do like what is being said here which describes two points of interest:


    First is the new developmental challenges for a startup company. And secondly, is being caught between a programming reality and redefining that reality. The key being a company with money to spend and needs some R & D programmers to make it happen. So, next time go for the challenge and make it a reality with masking tape and paper clips or what ever it takes to make it work and then clean it up before it ends up on WTF…



    Fixed ugly HTML and oversized text. --Ling



  • @coachjames said:

    Fixed ugly HTML and oversized text. --Ling

    Here's the original HTML:



    <P><FONT size=3>I do like what is being said here which describes two points of interest:</FONT></P><FONT size=3><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></FONT><FONT size=3>First is the new developmental challenges for a startup company.</FONT><FONT size=3><o:p></o:p></FONT><FONT size=3> And secondly, is being caught between a programming reality and redefining that reality.  </FONT><FONT size=3>NOTE:<o:p></o:p></FONT><o:p><FONT size=3> </FONT></o:p><FONT size=3>The key being a company with money to spend and needs some R & D programmers to make it happen. So, next time go for the challenge and make it a reality with masking tape and paper clips or what ever it takes to make it work and then clean it up before it ends up on WTF…<o:p></o:p></FONT>



    Remember when Word would only put shit in the start of the post?



  • @Lingerance said:

    Remember when Word would only put shit in the start of the post?
     

    Word puts shit wherever it can.



  • @dhromed said:

    @Lingerance said:
    Remember when Word would only put shit in the start of the post?
    Word puts shit wherever it can.
    Would that be because it breeds by asexual division?



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     Because of recent linking. And for shameless self-promotion.

     

    I guess you didn't get the forum etiquette advisor job either, eh?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @C4I_Officer said:

     Because of recent linking. And for shameless self-promotion.

     

    I guess you didn't get the forum etiquette advisor job either, eh?

     

    Now we just have to wait a year for the counter-flame.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @C4I_Officer said:

     Because of recent linking. And for shameless self-promotion.

     

    I guess you didn't get the forum etiquette advisor job either, eh?

     

     

    Nah. I just took brawndo and I WON at forum etiquette by MAKING IT MY BITCH, just like John Romero in Daikatana.



  •  Daikatana jokes. Timely. Maybe you wanna hit us with some Derek Smart next?



  • @blakeyrat said:

     Daikatana jokes. Timely. Maybe you wanna hit us with some Derek Smart next?

     

     No need to, because I already won at something I wasn't even supposed to win at.

     

    I'll settle for a kekekekeke ZERG RUSH OMG ^-^ though, and maybe some 1337sp34k, cuz, ya know, 1'm +3h p4wn 4|||) t3|-| h4x , j00 Fux0r.


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