Monday, 8 September 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 12

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 12 rule: Test your own site with multiple web browsers!

These days it takes just a few minutes to download and install different web browsing possilibities and I recommend you do it to test your own site. Nothing compares to a quick visual check that your web site still looks okay, or better, than doing so in a browser that you maybe do not often use.

Analyse your web traffic analysis reports to check which browsers account for 90-95% of your traffic and then make sure that 90-95% of the time your site renders/displays as you wish it to.

Also using your traffic analysis reports, you can verify which of your visitors turned into form submitters and became potential customers. Make sure your forms work correctly in their browsers before you publish changes!!

Reasoning:
1. It is just so darn tricky to know for sure that even if you are following the standards perfectly, the web browsers may not be. Best to check it out visually, using the tools that your clients use.
2. It is very quick and simple to do - so do it. You will also see your site in new ways that might lead to further design benefits.

And that is my Rule 12. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Basics of Web Site Optimisation - Rule 11

This post is mainly aimed at small to medium businesses that are just starting out and are keen to get something going, or have just gone live. I can't tell you how many times I have taught people over the past few years just a handful of strategically important things. So...here goes again, this time in a way that I can now simply refer to. As for my credibility - I would rather not divulge that here, read my Web Site Optimisation Rules and you decide. They are, after all, common sense, and common knowledge....like most things I blog about!

My number 11 rule: Do not use JavaScript for navigation effects, especially not dynamic menus

JavaScript is a small very powerful programming language for programming web sites in order to give them more functionality than is available in straight static HTML. It is a fantastic language from many perspectives that I will not go into on this entry. People use it to do form validations, image manipulation, dynamic menus and other miscellaneous bits that need to respond to whatever the visitor is doing, or where the visitor comes from in order for the visitor to have an interactive experience with the web site.

Read more about JavaScript at wikipedia.

I follow the mantra "Use as little JavaScript as possible, whilst still making the web site look good, and work well." I use CSS as much as possible to make it look good, and as little JavaScript as possible to provide a little tasteful motion, and to do some form validation in order to partially constrict the flood of the requests that could otherwise be submitted via the contact forms.

Reasoning:
1. Search engines can not follow dynamic Java Script menus, thus large parts of your site will go unindexed.
2. Your site will appear smaller and less important to the search engines when they rank you against your competitors.
3. Your site will appear badly organised and less usable to the search engines when they rank you against your competitors.
4. Different versions of browsers treat JavaScript differently, meaning even more testing and "fiddling" in order to get your JavaScript to work correctly and consistently across all your targetted browsers.

And that is my Rule 11. I will be uploading the others as time allows!

Getting around in a "locked down" environment

I probably should not really be blogging this little entry, but I just can't help myself! Please continue reading or using these little details at your own peril.

Recently I discovered myself in a "locked down" environment, yet I still had a tonne of software to install, and I desperately needed it installed "today" rather than after 1 month. (the contract in this case was for this primary purpose - installations, configurations and support) (something completely different to what I've been doing for many years now, but not so different from what I was doing 10 odd years ago, so I had the skills)

My first step in any new site is to meet as many people as I can, and then to make friends with those that I desperately need, in the order that I need them. It is a hard cold fact, and they know it, and I know it. I am ... for want of a better word ... using them. By doing this though, I suddenly start avoiding official processes, official documents filled out in triplicate, and actually get things done rather quickly. Which makes me look good, compared to the rule followers.

So with enough friends on my side, around day 2, I learned 1 useful tidbit about the so-called "locked down environment".... it is not so locked down as made out to be. Thanks to XP's security model, the thing that really enforces lockdown policies is done via LDAP ... when you login or logout of the domain.

And again, with enough friends on my side, I managed to secure just a slightly better than completely useless level of workstation usage. And here comes the fun bit. Many of the GUI widgets for changing a workstation are stripped out of your view, and some that could not be stripped throw you an error message if you try to access them.

So ... you find the command line equivalent and use that instead. No security to stop you. Thank goodness for XP! I have no idea what I'll do if I find myself in a Vista or better security modelled domain with the same deadlines - probably make even more friends instead, and take them to the pub every other lunch!

Here are the 4 that I am using frequently:

regedit - reg.exe
Data Sources (ODBC) - odbcad32.exe
RemoteDesktop - mstsc.exe
Add/Remove programs - MSIexec

I am sure there are others, but fortunately I have not needed more than these so far!