Elance Blog

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9 Tools For Multi-Browser Web Development

With the positive reception of Opera 10, the importance of cross-browser testing for web developers is more important than ever. Taking the time to test your new pages in each individual version of Opera, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (and possibly others) can be an insanely time-consuming process.

Regardless of if you’re a young, fledgling web developer or the most seasoned veteran on Elance, these tools will save you valuable time when testing your website for cross-browser compatibility. After all, you wouldn’t want to leave any of your potential market share out now, would you?

Now, on to the tools!

Cross Browser Testing: Cross Browser Testing is one of the most popular tools for testing pages in a huge number of environments. Although it is a pay-as-you-go service (you are free to use it up to five minutes at a time, however), the sheer number of configuration options available make it worthwhile to check out.

BrowserShots: If “free” is something more your speed, the very popular BrowserShots can provide you with screenshots of many different operating system/browser configurations. One thing to remember: BrowserShots only provides exactly that – non-interactive snapshots in different browsers.

Adobe BrowserLab: From the software giant known as Adobe comes the new kid on the block called BrowserLab, a highly-anticipated website testing tool that offers a wide variety of useful tools, such as Dreamweaver CS4 integration and an “Onion Skin View” feature that overlays one browser over another to quickly detect any differences. It’s currently free right now for testing, so head on over and give it a shot.

Microsoft SuperPreview: Expression Web SuperPreview is an application that you download in order to test multiple Internet Explorer versions on your desktop with robust tools, like multiple resolution support, DOM highlighting, zoom, and more, to ideally save you some time and headache when making your webpage's transition from Internet Explorer 6 compatibility to 7 (or version 8, you early adopters.)

IE Net Renderer: If your only concern is Internet Explorer, IE NetRenderer is a quick, fast, free online tester that allows you to test any page in Internet Explorer 5.5, version 6, version 7, or version 8. Seeing how Internet Explorer almost has three-quarters of the Internet browser share, having a fast tester like this can prove to be handy.

Tweeting 101: How To Use Twitter Effectively For Your Business

Using Twitter is easy. Getting people to care is the hard part. Here are 8 tips on how to effectively use Twitter for your business. (Yes, that intro is less than 140 characters!)

Like the rest of the always-evolving social media world, finding the most effective way or ways to utilize Twitter for your business’ benefit is still a game without a clear-cut winning formula. However, I’ve put together a quick list of basics, tips, and other relevant information that will help you, the uninitiated Twitter user, get humming right away.

1. The Basics: Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know to tweet. Your message or status, which goes in the “What are you doing?” box, must be shorter than 140 characters. Once you click “Update”, your short message gets shouted to all of your followers. People you “follow” are the people who you hear when they submit a tweet, and your “followers” are the ones that hear you when you tweet. Got it? Good.

2. Slightly More Advanced: Writing is fun, but reading other people’s tweets is where the real fun begins. Read a tweet you like and want to pass it on? Copy the tweet and add a “retweet” marker (RT) at the front to spread the word. Want to reply to someone’s message? You can publicly direct a message by adding an “@” symbol in front of their username, and they’ll be able to review their @replies once they log in. (Same goes for you as well.) Using a hash tag in your message, like #laborday, hyperlinks the word and allows users to quickly follow all updates that contain the same hash tag – think of it as an open chat room. These are great for getting up-to-the-minute commentary on any topic out there.

3. Use Search: Twitter’s search engine is absolutely fantastic. You can quickly find what the entire Twitter universe is saying about your business (or your competitor's) in a split-second -- really important stuff here.  You can also respond to any message directly from the search results page with one single click, allowing you to thank your loyal fans or help your angry customers. Search results are updated in real time, so bookmarking your search results page and fiendishly checking is one of the best points of advice for a business owner.

The Nuances Of Translation And Why You Should Hire An Expert

Don't get me wrong – online translation tools are fast, powerful, and extremely useful in a pinch, but in reality, they will never, ever replace the level of quality found in human expert translators. Dynise Basore, content creator and Italian translator on Elance, explains why you should avoid online translation tools for your business' next steps onto the global stage.

The ever increasing globalization of the job marketplace is leading to a growing need for businesses to find qualified translators for their web content, their marketing material, their contracts, and their customer service. Growth of international sales is dependent on the ability to reach your target market, identify with them, and service their needs. So, what do you do to ensure the translations you receive will have the results you are striving for?

Priority number one is to find a high-quality translator. This is an area in which you very much get what you pay for, and finding a native speaker or one who is completely fluent is absolutely essential. The money spent pays for itself exponentially, and quickly, a return on investment that is well worth a few extra dollars. But why?

When marketing to other countries, your focus is to increase your bottom line, and doing so requires that your content be geared towards not only to the language but also to the culture. And I have to reiterate: A native speaker or completely fluent translator is a must, and translation tools should absolutely never be used. Cultural differences make non-literal translations necessary for a number of reasons. The most obvious is idiomatic expressions, but beyond that, certain symbols or references have different significance in different cultures. A non-native speaker, or someone who has not lived in the country, may unintentionally commit a cultural faux-pas even if the meaning of the words are correctly translated.

Why spend the money for human translation over using a translation tool?

Contest: What Does “The New Way To Work” Mean To You?

Work is evolving right in front of us. Skilled professionals are now able to provide their skills to clients in a global marketplace. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can access talent and pursue ideas and goals never seen before. Companies big and small are taking advantage of contract professionals worldwide to supplement their staff to satisfy real-time demand. You and I are the leaders of this new movement, and we’re uniting under a new mantra. We here at Elance have put a contest together with a prize of $10,000, and together, we’ll going to show the world that this is The New Way To Work.


1. Answer this question: What Does “The New Way To Work” Mean To You? If you’re a writer, write a story that tells us how you are a part of this new world of work. If you’re a graphic designer, design something. Videographer? Video something. Developer? Create an app. You get the picture. As an entrant, you are free to enter your Submission in any format you choose so long as it can be published to the Web.

2. Publish your submission (complete with email address) to where you see fit – this may be your personal blog, a YouTube page, a Flickr account, Facebook profile – anywhere you think your message will inspire and excite the community.

3. Once your submission has been posted via the method of your choice, announce it to the world! Use Twitter, Facebook, Digg, MySpace, Vator.tv, or any other channel to share your creative work and message to the world.

Elance Work System Part 4: Awarding The Job

This is a continuation of the Hands-On With The Elance Work System by Matt Katsaros. To read the previous part, follow this link here: Hands-On With The Elance Work System: Part 3.

You’ve posted a job. You've searched, filtered, and invited. You’ve reviewed proposals in depth. Now, you’ve narrowed down your list and have that one skilled professional picked out in your mind. It’s time to award the job, make it official and start working.

After receiving 17 proposals, I finally found my perfect provider who goes by the name of “amstudio” out of the Ukraine. There’s a few reasons why I decided to go with a team from over the pond. First off, their feedback is an incredible 100%; although they have only done 12 projects on Elance, doing 12 projects perfect out of 12 ain’t bad!

After browsing through their portfolio, I saw that they are more than capable to a site this simple, and they have a huge list of sites they have built that all look great. And they were cost effective, doing the whole site for $300. On top of that, I have worked with amstudio in the past; they were extremely professional, and due to my previous experience, I know they would deliver quality work.

What's New: Hourly Jobs Made Easy

In the world of work, certain types of jobs are best as fixed-price, while others are simply better off as pay-by-the-hour. Our latest round of site improvements have focused on revamping and streamlining the hourly work experience on Elance. Here’s what’s new:

Timesheets: This is a new feature that will save providers a great deal of, well, time at the end of each work week. With one single form, a provider working on an hourly job can submit the number of hours worked, upcoming plans for next week, attach any relative documentation, and update current job status. Timesheets for hourly jobs does double duty, providing both a status report and invoicing the client all at once.

Automatic Invoices: As stated above, the new Timesheet becomes your Invoice, removing the hassle of submitting one manually. If needed, providers can manually submit Invoices to get paid back for out-of-pocket expenses, or other costs that are not documented in the Timesheet.

Terms: Terms for hourly jobs are now easier than ever to set up. Instead of setting up weekly Milestones ahead of time, all you have to do is set up the hourly rate, the duration of the job, and the authorized hours per week. Then, you’ll be set. Providers with flexible or irregular work week schedules are free to modify the amount of hours worked (so long as it doesn' t exceed the pre-approved number of hours authorized) by filling out their Timesheets accordingly.

Elance Goes To Freelance Camp

On August 15, amidst the fires raging in Santa Cruz California, over 220 freelancers braved the smoke and the flames to attend FreelanceCamp Santa Cruz. With dusty concrete floors, unfinished drywall, and flame retardant material hanging from the ceilings, this unconventional venue fit perfectly with the informal and unassuming conference.

Elance was a proud sponsor of the event, which is dubbed an “unconference” because it is almost entirely user generated. What's an "unconference" you ask? Someone takes the lead in coordinating the event (in this case Shane Pearlman), but all topics discussed are created and voted on by the attendees. Once the topics are decided, everyone splits up, huddles in various corners, and draws upon the collective experience of each other.

I ran one session on how to win new clients in an online marketplace. Starting out online with no track-record can be tough, so we discussed ways to win those initial clients. This included great discussions on topics like bidding early to get listed on top, asking relevant questions that demonstrate expertise and engage the prospective client in a dialogue, focusing your proposal and profile in a very specific niche where you can differentiate, starting small to get some early wins and feedback, and not necessarily competing on price as less than 10% of the overall spend on Elance was initially awarded to the lowest proposal – although it may be necessary to compete more aggressively at first.

We also studied some use-cases of providers that have established such a strong online reputation with great feedback and repeat clients that they receive many of their jobs directly from clients inviting them instead of through the competitive bid process. But the start-up phase can be tough and does require that up-front investment to get established. Another strategy discussed is bringing your existing clients to Elance to start building that track record and online reputation.

I also attended sessions and listened to the issues and challenges that freelancers face in their businesses on a day-to-day basis. Topics varied as widely as the attendees themselves; from marketing your services and finding clients to pricing to managing projects effectively to collecting payment when due. Other sessions focused more specifically on leveraging social media in your business, object-oriented programming, retirement planning, and taxes. It seemed every field was represented from web development professionals, to accountants, to writers and editors, to graphic designers, and many more.

Step Up Your Web Typography With These Tips

As a Multimedia Journalism major way back in my college years, part of the required curriculum was to take a semester long course covering one single topic: Typography. At the time, I thought to myself, “A WHOLE semester? On just typography?”

I learned very quickly that there’s a lot more to learn in the world of typography than “Times New Roman” and “Font Size”.

With blogging and user-generated content constantly growing on the web at record pace, the importance of typography is grows as well. You could have the most relevant, pertinent information on the web, but if it doesn't look good (or at least half decent), no one will want to read it. Michael Owens over at Net Tuts+ recently published a fantastic article that provides a solid crash course on improving your web typography. Now, I won’t say this will replace a semester long course at your favorite alma mater, but this list is definitely handy for web developers or anyone else that wants to make their web text pop out a little bit more.

Here are my two favorite items from the article (via Net Tuts+):

1. Typographic definitions: This section covers a ton of the basic definitions and lingo you need to understand before moving forward. This section covers ascenders, baselines, cap height, descenders, kerning, leading, letter spacing, ligatures, line height, measure, rendering, weight, word spacing, and X-height. (Whew!) All these definitions should be etched into your memory, so break out the flash cards if you have to. Trust me, it’s worth it.

How $800 Turned Into Thousands For Jessica Abroms

If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but smile at a good story, and boy do I have a story for you.

While stumbling around the Twitter-verse, I came across a story titled “How Jessica Abroms Made Thousands from an $800 iPhone App” (via Yappler). I clicked through, intrigued.

It turns out that the entrepreneurial Jessica Abroms had combined her Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction skills, 8 years of work experience at Pixar animation studios (yes, that Pixar), and a skilled provider on Elance to make one of her ideas for an iPhone app a reality.

The idea is a new, digital take on an old fortune-telling game many of us used to play in our adolescence: M.A.S.H. (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House.) While working on her project, she encountered a roadblock, and looked to Elance for some help.

From Yappler: “The interface was up and running after two weeks work, however Jessica says 'I was at a point where I was a little stuck and although I knew I could finish it, I figured it would be better if I got help.' This is when she went to Elance.com, a website where freelancers bid on projects, and placed an advert for a developer to help finish M.A.S.H.”

Elance Work System Part 3: Reviewing Proposals

This is a continuation of the Hands-On With The Elance Work System by Matt Katsaros. To read the previous part, follow this link here: Hands-On With The Elance Work System: Part 2.

Review Process

Within just ten minutes of posting my job, I started to receive proposals (1) and messages from many different providers all over the world, and so my homework begins…

This step is extremely crucial in the process of getting your job completed. It can sometimes mean the difference between just getting it done and getting it done right, so do your research and fully qualify your provider before moving forward.

Since every project is different and has different requirements, what you want to look for in your provider may be a little different than what I may looking for, but there are a few common areas that you should look through. Here are some of the key things I look for in my provider. (For more tips on reviewing provider profiles, check out this blog post - How To Review A Provider Profile.)