A lot has changed since 1997. Over the past eight years, we have...
This is the beginning of the resistance.
Welcome to the Fred Rebellion.
1. 800 x 600
The belief that most of the people in the world have at least this as their screen resolution, and using the principles of lowest common denominator, every site should be designed to fit this size.
According to the Fred Rebellion: Attention 800 x 600'ers, your time is over. Assuming that people that hit our Website are current clients, potential clients, family or friends, our stats over the last two months are good a base of information to look at:
% of 1024+ px wide: 93.76%
'Nuf said here, the time for 1024 is upon us. When Flash was appearing on 94% of the machines worldwide there were more than enough people claiming that Flash has become a standard that could be used, where are those people now?
Additionally, I've noticed that since I started using a resolution higher than 1024 x 768, I've stopped looking at browser screens maximized. This leads to the argument that people naturally keep their browser windows to fit 800 x 600 (as was the case of a recent discussion here at iMarc). I don't believe this to be true, I think the user just widens the screen to be about 100 pixels greater than whatever the site is currently set to be, so a browser window 'naturally sized' to fit sites is just a by-product of archaic coding.
By the way, there was 1 visitor to iMarc in the past two months that was on a 640 x 480 resolution. Notice how no one cares about them.
2. 100% Width Sites
The belief that for maximum flexibility, a Website should stretch itself to 100% of the screensize.
According to the Fred Rebellion: No, never. This can completely ruin the design of any site, and by coding at 100% width, standards will never move forward. There will never be a push to code for ANY resolution, let alone the 1024 x 768 that I want. Additionally, with the incorporation of more and more CSS, this becomes harder to accomplish. I've seen a number of cool things that CSS can do, but I code for whatever is the cleanest to read, the simplest concept to understand, and the easiest to get to work. If I'm spending time positioning a million div's when a quick table will do just fine, all I lose in the end is time.
(And I hear that time == money.)
3. "Just Add Another Link"
Another discussion that came up recently was about the blurb on our home page. I've taken a screenshot for you (right) so you can see the argument. The thoughts were basically: add a link that goes to the main blog page, and move the "read more" link to be inline with the text. I said that the read more link was already not necessary, since (as I've always been told for anything I build here) that "most people will try to click on the title first," to which the response came, "why not just have both?"
According to the Fred Rebellion: The answer is simple: because having both is unnecessary clutter. If you need to have two ways to do something, the first way isn't clear enough for the user. The titles being the same blue that we use for most of our links is visually key enough that we don't need a 'read more link.' I think a lot of designs lately have lost the use of good white-space, and I think that it's this attitude towards things that is one of the culprits.
4. HTML Title Stuffing
The recent belief that putting full descriptions into HTML titles will improve your Google ranking. Below is a recent site that we did that does this.
According to the Fred Rebellion: This is ugly and unprofessional looking. A title should be something short, concise and exact, and I cannot for the life of me think that this truly matters to Google. I've taken a look at a lot of sites (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!) and what is in their titles? One or two words, that's it. You get to the top by having the best and most useful content, which is what Google intends. These lame hacks to bump yourself up a couple notches are for the insecure and lazy.
Make something worthwhile and the people will come.
Have good content, layout and design and Google will do the rest.
And have you seen what this does to my bookmark/link bar if I save it?
I'd like to save more than one link.
(As an additional note, I also checked out Amazon to find that they too are doing this title stuffing nonsense, but with their 100% width antics, this doesn't surprise me. Stop ruining my user experience!)
I think I'll continue to post more of these blogs on the Fred Rebellion, since there are many more things out there than just this that bother me.
You can either forge the path forward or wait for someone else to do it. The Fred Rebellion has got out its machetes, are you coming with us?
iMarc LLC (http://www.imarc.net) recently completed a large-scale web site for Springfield Museums (http://www.springfieldmuseums.org). The site encompasses the museum association, as well as four distinct subsites, one for each museum.
Springfield Museums' new sites have increased educational value with features specifically for educators, while the stylish, interactive design engages youth audiences. The sites enable the Museums to increase member interaction and retention by improving the quality of member communication. The new content management tools dramatically lower site maintenance costs, and the sites are also Section 508-compliant for disabled users.
"The new site that iMarc developed went above and beyond our expectations," said Chrystina Geagan, Director, Marketing & Membership, Springfield Museums and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial. "iMarc's professionalism, dedication, clear and insightful suggestions and productivity will no doubt enhance every online visitor's experience and encourage visitation at the Museums. The level of positive feedback we receive about the site only supports our decision to make iMarc the company who steers our online efforts towards success."
iMarc created an extensive database-driven content management system to enable Museum staff to directly control and update the web site.Features include:
- Online Store
- Museum Calendars
- Museum News
- Exhibit Listings
- Image Galleries
- Member Management
The site architecture is built on a dynamic, database-driven framework that makes it easy to add, edit, and remove pages from the site. At the same time, the architecture preserves branding and navigation across all pages, so that all contributions to the site contain appropriate branding and formatting. This means that the site can grow, without redesign costs, to satisfy the needs of the museums for years to come.
About the Springfield Museums
The Springfield Museums (http://www.springfieldmuseums.org) is comprised of four world-class museums — the Museum of Fine Arts, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Springfield Science Museum, and the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum. The Museums Association is also the proud to be home to the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden, a series of full-scale bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss's whimsical creations, honoring the birthplace of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.
iMarc is a skilled team of designers, programmers, and business development experts, focused on building user-focused web sites and online applications. Since its founding in 1997, iMarc has created digital asset management applications; ecommerce, social networking, intranets and member association websites, and literally hunders of other websites and branding solutions for clients world-wide. iMarc's portfolio is available online at http://www.imarc.net/portfolio/.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that design is more important than the code behind the design. I don't actually believe that, but I have to because I know that the average website visitor isn't visiting your site to see how it was made, but why it was made. Let's face it, your visitors are there because they want something from you.
The internet is an archive to a world of social satire. It's true, just like television and radio- a false perception of reality is key to engaging people to:
- Buy a product or service
- Buy into an idea
- Allow a product or service to give you ideas.
Moving on, we now know the goal in developing and designing your site; to show people what you do and why you do it better than anyone else. Whether you are a shoe manufacturer looking to sell your soles or a Fish & Game shop looking to make an extra buck - you need to be able to sell your visitors on your service or product IMMEDIATELY or, I assure you, you've lost them. In fact, I'm suggesting that all of you consider your website a one page service center for your future. It's THAT important. If I'm coming to your site to get a phone number or to buy a product, I need to know how to do it immediately.
Now before you call up your design firm and ask them to move all your interior pages to the homepage, let me clarify: Your visitors dont need to be able to access all of your information from the homepage, they just need to know HOW to access all of your information from the homepage. Thus a clear, concise and functional navigation system that leaves no stones unturned.
Now let's talk about your image. There are about 253 good marketing and design firms in the United States today. At the same time, there are about 442 million beer-bellies that will do your site for you in their basement at a fraction of the cost any actual company would quote you. When it comes to your website, you absolutely pay for what you get. Shopping around is the number one piece of advice I can give you (why not start here?).
Here, let me make this easy for you. When you go for your first meeting with a design firm, bring along this handy checklist:
[_] - Does this company have a solid background and track record?
[_] - Will this company use my existing branding/collateral and implement it onto my new site?
[_] - Can this company provide me with ideas that will better my online presence?
[_] - Will I be kept informed throughout my site's development? What role will I play in managing the site?
[_] - Where will my site be hosted? Who do I call if my site ever goes down?
[_] - Where's the coffee?
The list could go on for about 5 pages, but I strongly suggest you start there.
Getting back to your image. Your company's image is very important. If I need to find a good lawyer online chances are I'll Google a lawyer in my area. If the first few sites come up looking like the classic "Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe" I might give up really fast. Let's say, though, that the next one comes up as a professional, clean, informational megaplex of lawyer goodness. I'm so in. I pick up the phone and make the call.
So how can a bad website affect my company? Easy! Listen, there are probably thousands of other companies that do what you do. I dont need to go into a lengthy paragraph about how clean beats sloppy, or how clear and consistent navigation beats navigation that moves around depending on what page you're on. I also don't need to tell you that any company that's at the top of their industry's game didnt get there through poor marketing and branding. The importance of your image is non-negotiable when it comes to appealing to an audience. If you know your audience and know your brand, (and you hire a quality design firm that understands them too), then you'll stay out of that hole that has brought more company's to their knees than bad management and financial instability combined. It's called bad image.
Don't kill your business.
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Since things were so simple, I thought I'd share how I went about building things to maybe help those that are interested in it.
The first thing I looked up was "What is RSS" in Google. This returned a couple of good articles, mainly the full explanation from everyone's favorite encyclopedia (except China), Wikipedia. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is used to port fresh content from a Website to an aggregator. Cool.
Next, I needed to find out the specifications for RSS. This returned a Harvard Law Website, which at first seemed weird but hey, if you can't trust Harvard Law these days, who can you trust?
It turns out that this page would be all that I'd really need.
Not only did this site provided the basic explanation for RSS again, but also gave sample files right off to get a feel for what I was going to build. I love it when tutorials do that, because I'd rather see what I'll be creating, and then have each piece explained to me. In fact, I'm sure you could get everything you want from that page, so I'll just use this as a general overview of steps and the 'gotchas' I came across along the way.
Note, this is geared towards making an RSS feed for your blog, but you can easily incorporate this information into make an RSS feed for anything.
The first thing to decide on is what standard you want to adhere to. I chose 2.0, mainly because it seemed the most recent, and is what all of the cool tech sites (or mainly digg.com) use.
To start your feed, declare your XML intentions and then open an rss tag, and inside of that, start a channel tag:
Before loading items, we have to create a title and description for our RSS feed. This will be used by aggregators to determine where the feed came from and what it's about. We do this by adding some tags not inside an item tag. This is what we used:
Now that we have our channel defined (which again, is just your feed), we need to add items. Each item you add will be one entry displayed in your feed. Simple enough.
Items use a lot of the same tags as channel, and just using the basics are pretty much good enough. Here is a sample item based on the tags that we used:
Also, guid (which stands for globally unique identifier) is used by aggregators to determine if a feed has new entries or not. Think of this as the primary key in MySQL. Further research said that there is no required syntax for this, but from what I find there are a couple of standards that you should try and follow:
- Use Your Website
- Start your guid with your website, that way you never accidentally copy over another feed from another site.
- Use a Link that Links to Your Site/Entry
- Opera seems to use the guid as the link to the item you're talking about instead of the actual link tag. I'm not sure why, but just a heads up.
You can add as many of these item tags as you'd like. When you're done adding items, all you have to is close your channel and rss tags, like so:
It's a good idea to validate your feed once you have it created. I used FeedValidator.org to accomplish this, as they give you a very simple interface with clear error messaging.
I found there were a couple of common errors that kept getting returned. Since our blog is called "Communiqué", the é kept causing problems (in fact not just in the RSS feed, but around the site too, for links and such). You should use HTML entities when creating characters like this, but in this case, I took a different road. To convert our titles into nice search engine friendly ones, we created a PHP function that takes a string of text (which would be your title in most cases), strips out the weird characters, converts spaces to underscores, and converts accented characters to non-accented versions of the same character. While this may seem like a bad practice, we took into account a couple of key thoughts:
- Most people won't confuse a word without accents with a word with the appropriate accents when it's used in context.
- A blog is about communication, and communication is information travelling from one person to another person intact. Without these accents, the message will still get through correctly 99.9% of the time.
- Building off #2, well, you can't please all of the people all of the time.
Finally (yes, finally), the concept of live bookmarking. We all use Mozilla's Firefox around the office here, and with this browser comes the option of live bookmarking. This allows you to subscribe to a feed as a bookmark, and it automatically refreshes throughout the day. (If you're on Firefox, down at the bottom of your screen there should be a small orange icon in the status bar. Click that.) At first I was perplexed as to how to get this to appear, but found the solution. It all happens in your page's head tag:
The title is what will pop up when a user clicks on the orange icon, and it's used to tell which feed they're subscribing too. This is good if you have multiple feeds on one page. The href points to your RSS feed (just like you'd create an HTML link). You can have as many of these tags as you want, and each will list separately in the list of options in which users can subscribe.
And there you have it, an RSS crash course. I went from just knowing of this technology to having a decent handle on it in about ninety minutes, and its application seems greatly useful all over the place (and all thanks to the user comment my last entry received). Hope this helps, and if you have any tips of your own, please add them in a comment below.
I have tried Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Verio-based webmail, plus about 15 different php-based webmail systems and none of them do what I need. Features I need include:
- Check multiple POP3 accounts with one click
- Folders that can contain subfolders
- Send email from any of my five accounts
- Spam filter
- Message filters