All posts by mahalie

Google Sitemaps Explained

Google Sitemaps is an experiment in web crawling. Using Sitemaps to inform and direct our crawlers, we hope to expand our coverage of the web and improve the time to inclusion in our index.

Basically, Google is asking web sites to supply their spiders with an xml guide to their site. The xml file is a feed format, like an RSS feed, and is easier and faster for the Googlebot to ingest. The file also gives you another opportunity to instruct Google what to crawl and when to come back. Google will continue to crawl as usual, but is hoping that this protocol will help webmasters ensure that important and/or comprehensive links on their sites are indexed. Google offers a free sitemap generator to help in this process.

So what are you waiting for? Create a Google Sitemap, upload it, and don’t forget to submit it.

Choosing a Browser

Lots of people at Browse Happy want you to ditch Internet Explorer for any other browser…Mozilla, Opera, Safari or Firefox. Although site stats and news reports indicate that more and more market share is going to Firefox, I still believe people need a compelling reason to switch to new software when what they are using seems to work. I think people do need convincing, so now a sweet-faced non-geek music student, Sarah Williams, will tell you why she switched to Firefox. She’s not alone, If you do switch to a new browser, you should do it for the right reasons: tangible benefits, not oozing testimonials.

Developing Content Isn’t Easy

The biggest hurdle for most of my clients seems to be content. They have too much to choose from and aren’t sure what their priorities are or they have nothing developed and need a writer or a marketing strategist more before they need me.
I tend to post technical things, because that’s what I’m most concerned with. But this site is also a resource for my clients and so, the new category, content.
It’s not a joke: Content is King! Quality content is the best way to drive traffic to your website. On that note, I ran into a couple of articles today.

  • Your Website Needs a Call to Action – this article describes how to focus your site. Regardless of whether you are retailing online, selling a service or simply distributing information, you need to have a distinct focus that leads visitors to the good stuff. Make it easy, make it clear.
  • Keywords – the Long and Short of It – another article from Marketing Professionals, there are a million out there on choosing keywords. However, I appreciate that this article actually uses some metrics to solidify their assertions. It’s also fairly brief, and, in laymans terms, describes the importance of choosing key word phrases. Phrases gets emphasis because in oder to get hits from searches you need to anticipate exactly what people might be searching for that will match them up with your site. ‘Insurance’ is too broad a term in todays competitive and prolific internet context, ‘auto insurance for excellent drivers’ is better, ‘auto insurance for excellent Seattle drivers’ is really good.

Enjoy. And good luck…the sooner your content starts to solidify the sooner we can have fun turning it into a great webstie!

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

Once again I have to agree with Scrivs, getting started is the hardest part of web design for me. I’m not sure if it’s that there are limitless options, or I feel like there’s new technology I need to learn before embarking (and there always is) or if it’s just creating the inertia. Perfectionism can be so painful, and it’s weird to try to be less perfect. If only I didn’t have any scruples related to design integrity…I’d just chuck stuff up in Front Page Dreamweaver. I’m the same way much worse with painting – major fear of blank canvas.

Unrealized CSS Selectors

I just finished reading the Selectutorial. (Actually, I’ve read it before but my CSS skills were not developed enough at the time to make any of it relevant enough to me to remember.) I must say, now that I fully understand it, it’s an different sort of excercise in frustration. Why? There are a lot of really, really useful CSS selectors that can’t be used. At least, not on a client’s site. With every new selector my excitement would build, until the summary: "…not supported by Windows Internet Explorer 5, 5.5 and 6, but are supported by most other standards-compliant browsers."

Think child selectors, adjacent sibling selectors, attribute selectors and the :before and :after pseudo-classes are just for CSS geeks? They could be regular part of your web-design diet, simplifying things like adjusting spacing conditionally depending on whether an element is right next to another. I could have used the attribute selectors to make only my little ‘off-site link’ images inline for a recent site instead of applying a class in the structural code to every freggin image tag!

It’s a shame that the worlds richest software company, fueled with hiring power and a presumably very well-educated and/or skilled workforce can’t make their browser standards compliant. If it wasn’t for Internet Explorer’s bad but predominant browser, things could be so much more efficient for everyone. Though I’ve applauded the relative dissapearance of "This site is best viewed in…" statement, I think I would now welcome "Best viewed in a standards compliant browser (Internet Explorer, try Firefox ).

Explaining RSS

It’s hard to explain RSS feeds to one who hasn’t used them. It’s kind of a do it first, ask questions later sort of thing. To quote the essentials from Tim Yang’s 15 Things You Can Do With RSS Feeds:

Basically, you can perform any task with RSS that requires search or information retrieval from a server. Automatically and repeatedly.

He follows to detail several tricks including staying informed of stock quotes, aggregating all of your email, and keeping up on major news from a a collective of major TV networks and newspapers. He mentions one that I wish I would have read yesterday – backup all of your posts with Bloglines. Due to a problem with a plugin installation today I lost several posts here. Had I fixed my WordPress headers I could have retrieved them. Lesson learned!

Monitors for the Color Blind

chosun.com reported yesterday that Samsun is planning to release monitors for the color blind:

Samsung announced … it is developing liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors that support color correction technology for people with dyschromatopsia or color blindness and will launch them in the first half of the year. People with dyschromatopsia have difficulty telling differences in color and need stronger stimuli than the normally sighted.

This is great news, not just for those with visual impairments, but for web developers, web site owners and in fact for anyone who develops a product to be viewed onscreen. With the advent of web standards and separation of display and content through proper use of CSS and XHTML great strides have already been made in making the web a more accessible place. The fact that search engine spiders are basically ‘blind’ users, is a major incentive as well. Unfortunately, considerations for those with less extreme visual impairments have been little implemented, though some tools do exist for developing web sites with that in mind, such as VisCheck.

Although at first this upcoming technology may only be available to those with a certain income level, it is still a major step in allowing more access to more content to more people and a comes as a great relief to designers who would like to design with a few fewer restrictions.

If you would like to know more about designing for accessibility, I highly recommend diveintoaccessibility.org. It should be required reading for anyone given publishing rights on any web server!

Google’s Local Business Center Tool

Google‘s new ‘Local Business Center‘ was announced today and has already recieved a lot of coverage, mainly relating it’s signifigance to growing rivalry between Google and Yahoo. Internet business news aside, I’m curious about it’s potential benefits as a marketing tool.

To test it out, I used my gmail login for my account information, which worked. I then entered a client’s business name and address, which quickly took me to an existing listing, and upon my confirmation, to a google map depicting the office’s exact location. This frightened me a little, because it was so easy and I could just imagine all the ficticious entries people could make. But Google thought of that and I was relieved to see that a pin number would me mailed to the address I entered for verification.

Options for a business listing include standard contact information, including the designation of an email address (which I declined, lest spambots be drooling over Google listings), website address, business category and a 200 character description. Conveniently, the form shows your word count in real time so you can really play with it to get just the right key words in there! It comes as no suprise that 200 characters does not make many words. Using conjunctions, informal tone and substiting the word ‘and’ with an ampersand is highly recommended.

According the confirmation page, I will recieve two letters of confirmation. That is, one letter to the address of the original listing they detected and one to the address after modification – in this case, the addition of the +4 zip code extension.

I noticed the business category listings were limited and seemed to be retail oriented, although were at least a dozen services. I wonder how many categories they will expand to after people submit their suggestions. In the case of the business I listed this time there was a vaguely related category available but not the professional category…e.g. ‘Services – Landscape Designers’ vs. ‘Services – Landscape Architects’ where the former indicates anyone asserting opinion on the design of a landscape and the latter category indicating another level of service and requirement of liscensure to practice as such.