Welcome to the Modern Earth Blog!

Insights into the Online World

Clean Code - Clean Site

Steven Larson


Clean Code = Clean Sites

If you have knowledge on the subject of programming, you have probably come across the terminology “clean” code.  If you are a business owner you may be asking what is clean code, and why is it important for your company’s developers to implement it into all aspects of their work?  Though every programmer might have a different answer for what constitutes as clean code, I would describe it as code, “which is easy to read and easily manipulated if updates need to be made.”  If the definition changes from programmer to programmer, one thing that is widely believed would be the fact that a site containing clean code will lead to a more efficient and easier to maintain one. 

Shift to Clean Code

As technology progressed exponentially over the years, programmers have shifted towards clean coding.  Gone are the days of counting bytes to try and save as much storage as possible with your code.  As bytes moved to KB, then to MB, then to GB, and finally to TB, writing clean code has become the focus of programmers.  You may be asking, what exactly are some of the benefits of clean coding, which is causing almost all programmers to put an effort into making their code as clean as possible?  Well, I’m glad you asked. 

Benefits of Writing Clean Code

The biggest benefit would be the time saved in the long run, and we all know that time is money.  Rare are the projects and sites that after completion, have next to no maintenance and upkeep to them.  After completion, 99% of projects have constant updates and minor fixes to them, which usually leads to more than just one of your programmers looking through all the code to fix the issue.  If you have ever seen unorganized programming, you understand the frustrations of sifting through line after line of code and trying to comprehend what exactly the code is doing.  In today’s programming world, we are almost always working as a part of a group on a site or project.  So you can imagine the time it will save if the code is clean and easy to understand.  

Additional Benefits

Besides just readability, it also will make any changes to the code easier to accomplish for your workers.  If done properly, it will help reduce many changes down to a line or two of code instead of having to create, or change, multiple lines.  It will also allow the code to be used across multiple sites instead of restricting the functionality to one particular site.  Just imagine how much man hours of labor you could potentially save with this ability!  As you can see time is the biggest benefit by far to your company.  You can save a lot of hours of labor costs!  An added benefit on top of that would be happier employees.  In the end, it only makes sense to explore the clean code route for your business. 



Tags Clean Code 

Computer at Desk - Modern Earth Web Design - Web Design WinnipegThe best thing about style and design is that the world is always changing, and this constant evolution is ever so true for web design. With the core technology frequently upgrading to fix bugs and incorporate the newest and best practices, we’re always on our toes trying to find what’s new and exciting to make our website stand out from the crowd. Understanding how new design techniques can be applied to your site will help to make it a more efficient tool and create a  powerful online representation for your company.


Use Larger Font Sizes

I like big text, and I cannot lie. It’s an easy way to draw interest to a critical section of a website and a naturally SEO-friendly design element! Using a base font size of 18pts where it makes sense and increasing the line-spacing for body text will help to make the already difficult on-screen text a little bit easier to read. Readability on mobile devices is a key feature and has contributed to popularizing this trend. Ensure you choose a web-friendly typeface that will scale well, and you’re off to a good start.


Paypal Screenshot - Modern Earth Web Design - SEO Winnipeg

Simplify Navigation

Reducing the options of your visitor might initially seem like the opposite of what you want to do, but it can have a positive outcome. Placing fewer items in your navigation can help reduce the amount of clutter that exists on your site and allows you to create better-looking designs. Complicated dropdown menu systems that require ninja-like reflexes can create too many options while strategically placed navigation items can help guide visitors to your most valuable content.


Stop Using Sliders

Image, video and text sliders and whether to use them is a topic that’s highly polarizing; you either love them, or you hate them. Phasing them out goes along with the idea of simplifying your navigation, cutting out items that distract the visitor and don’t positively affect navigation to site content. Instead, use a well-planned image or large text area that reflects the brand and intent of that website. Having a single thoughtful piece also looks far more impressive than the multiple slides that vary in quality of design and content. 


Lay Off The Sidebars

Another entry item that focuses on clearing up clutter on a website, I know, but hear me out. Sidebars were initially used to feature additional navigational elements such as recent posts and popular content, but this was also a time when we thought animated gifs and mouse trails were a good idea so maybe things have changed a bit? Sidebars get overtaken by ads and low-priority content, and we’re constantly hounded by advertising, so visitors have subconsciously learned to ignore any blocks of text or images that look like ads. This phenomenon has turned what should be a productive and useful content area into a waste of space. Removing the sidebar can help put the focus back on the main content and improve the response to Call-To-Action graphics.


Keeping up with web trends is important, but so is being knowledgeable about why you are making the choices you did. Intelligent design choices translate to visitors being able to use a website better which can help your business grow. 


Google Logo - Modern Earth Web Design - Winnipeg SEODid you know you can filter Google Searches to answer your questions better, or help you find things similar to what you’ve already found?  Search Operators can be used to make the search results you’re given even more accurate to your intent.  They’re an excellent way to save time, or filter out results you know aren’t what you’re looking for.  Here are some of the most useful ones you could be using every day.

Punctuation and Symbols


If you add a - before a word, “-pants” for example, Google will eliminate all websites with information about that word from your search results. 

How to apply it daily: use the exclude search operator to filter out words that have multiple meanings that may confuse your search results or websites you know you have already looked at for information 

Asterisk *

An asterisk in a search phrase like “pants on * leg at a time” is treated by Google as a placeholder for unknown elements

How to use it daily: put an asterisk in place of the words you’re unsure of when you’re trying to confirm an exact quote, Google will fill in the blanks, or find you a source that can.  


Two periods between a set of numbers, like “pants $15..$50” indicates to Google that you’re looking for something within a specified range.

How to use it daily: this operator is most useful when you’re looking to compare products or services within a range of prices; especially when budget is a deciding factor.


When you search for a word or phrase in quotation marks, like “Of all the things to worry about; the Wookie has no pants.”, Google will only provide pages that include that exact string of words as results.

How to apply it daily: search for phrases in quotes if you’re looking for the source of a saying or quote that you would like to attribute.  This trick is also especially useful if you remember part of an article that you read but can’t find the source.  Lastly, if you receive a really convincing spam email and want to confirm it’s fake, you can search for (almost) any given sentence and nine times out of ten find a source to discredit it - quite often the email is posted word for word on a forum somewhere online.

Search Operators

Related Search

A search for related:www.pants.com tells Google you’re already aware of this result, that you liked it, and that you would like to see more content that is specifically related to that website. 

How to use it daily: when you find a blog you're particularly fond of and want to find other similar blogs use this search operator.  This operator can also be used if you’ve found a product or brand that you're loyal to and want to see what other related or similar ones exist on the web. 

Site Search

To see all the pages in a single website that Google has included in their index do a search for: site:www.pants.com 

How to use it daily: if you’ve added a blog post or new content page to your website this is the quickest and easiest way to confirm that Google has in fact found it 

Last Google Visit

Google indexes the web by systematically crawling all its links to see page content and how it is connected (this is a gross oversimplification of how Google operates).  A search for: cache:www.pants.com will show you what the website looked like the last time it was crawled by Google

How to use it daily: similar to a site search, this can be used to see if Google has noticed the recent changes you made to a page on your website, whether that is adding new content or changing the look all together. 

The most important thing to remember when using search operators or punctuation and symbols is not to put a space between the operator and the term you want to search - site:pants.com will work, site: pants.com will not.  What other search operators do you use; which ones would you like to see added to Google?  Let us know in the comments.  

Tags Google Search 

One of the things I enjoy spending part of my weekend doing, other than being at the lake, is catching up on some business related reading. It’s a perfect time to read (or listen to) things that otherwise I wouldn’t get to. One of my challenges is that I’m very task focused, so non-task focused reading can tend to get left to do later, sometimes months (or years!) later.

So, I make an effort every weekend to read, to listen to podcasts, and otherwise broaden my perspective.

Since so many of our clients, and social media followers, are small business people who have many of the same challenges, I thought I’d like to start sharing some of this reading each weekend, and hopefully hit some areas of interest you may have. I’ll be sharing three things each weekend:

  • A blog article or white paper.
  • A podcast.
  • A website or online tool.

entrepreneur - 14 things successful people do every day First up this week - a blog article. This one is from Entrepreneur.com. I read something from this website almost every day, with varying degrees of value emerging from them, but I never know when the next ‘aha’ moment will come. Today I was reading 14 Things Ridiculously Successful People Do Every Day. Entrepreneur has a lot of this type of article, as lists are a pretty popular way of attracting attention, and often they simply regurgitate other content. This one hit home with point 13 - They practice a consistent morning routine. I’d never really thought about it before, but it makes a lot of sense to start the day the same way every time, remove some decision fatigue and take the time to breathe before starting the day. Let’s see how that goes this next week for me!

Second up - a podcast. I listen to a lot of these, mostly as I’m driving. At the weekend though I try to make the time to just listen to one, and focus on it. I’m currently working my way through Seth Godin’s Startup School, because although Modern Earth isn’t a startup, most of the lessons still apply, and a lot of our clients are startups. Anything by Seth Godin is highly recommended, and this podcast is one I come back to every 6-9 months to listen to the whole series. 

Thirdly - an online tool. For anyone who uses post-it notes, Trellhttps://trello.com/ - Modern Earth Web Design - Winnipeg Web Designo is an absolute must. Post-it notes, made electronic, with so much more - file attachments, kanban boards, team collaboration, and great Android and iOS apps. Give it a try!

So that was this weekend, let’ see what the new week brings.



Successful Habits for Accepting Design Critique from Clients - Modern Earth Web Design - Search Engine Optimization WinnipegYou’ve just spent hours creating a masterpiece - in your eyes, this is your equivalent to da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’. Proudly, you present the work to your client and the project stakeholders… but something is awry… they don’t like it… ... how could this be?


Take a deep breath…

I’m here to tell you everything will be OK and to offer some helpful suggestions which may allow you to handle criticism of this nature with a positive outlook. As designers, when receiving feedback on our design work, we can sometimes be a bit… let’s say “moody” for lack of a better term. With all respect to the individual(s) giving the feedback, we either have many experiences or years within educational programs – which led us to the solutions we provided in the form of the design. Given this is our area of expertise, there can be ill feelings when someone else requires changes which we don’t agree.


You aren't the expert on their organization

Basing your design on the knowledge, theory, and principles you have learned and practice is great – but it's not always going to pass as the solution. As the expert of their own business or organization, clients may have valuable insight as to what has worked, hasn't worked, is seen as challenging, etc. within their industry. We love working with clients whom are as passionate about their industry, as we are about ours. Anytime you can work with individuals of this nature, relish in it and absorb what they have to say.


Find out the 'Why' behind the feedback

Asking ‘why’ the client has given specific items of feedback can benefit both parties. For you, the designer, it will provide you with a glimpse into the customer’s thought process - allowing you to understand their organization more clearly. Often any item of feedback will come from a need or requirement which may have been missing from earlier communication. As a practicing designer, this insight can also be used for the next client of similar nature, in a related industry, etc.

Along with this added understanding, you can respectively counter their feedback using your design wisdom. From the client’s perspective, they will feel as if the project is a collaborative process… which leads me to my next point.


Engage with the client during the critique meeting

Get involved in the conversation whenever possible – this will not only show the client that you are enthusiastic and caring – it may give you additional opportunity to counter and present your decision process. Making the feedback a conversational exercise will ease any tensions on either side – as giving criticism isn’t always an easy thing for a client to do. From this, the business relationship can continue to evolve because of the transparency and openness with the communication.


Design work is as subjective as this post :)

Like nearly anything else which involves a creative process – a website design will be subjected to a lot of opinions. As individuals, we are all entitled to opinions – as a stakeholder or business owner – your client will have strong feelings about the way they appear online. After all, the web gives anyone in the world access to subjectively view their organization before ever meeting an employee, setting foot into their location, or becoming a customer. The website is usually the first impression for any person interacting with a business – and we firmly believe a successful business should always want to make an exceptional first impression.


As a new designer, if you feel you can not only handle a client critique – but would feed off of it – I invite you to apply for a position on our team. Visit the careers section of our website for the current opportunities we are hiring for.