Archive for October, 2008

Who has the coolest costume?

Published on October 31, 2008 at 5:31 pm by heri in: iWeb Articles

A lot of people arrived disguised today at the iWeb offices – you know, to celebrate Halloween!

We’ll be drawing prizes for the best costumes, and we’re asking you to vote: who do you think has the best costume of 2008?

We’ll be waiting for your selection, and Happy Halloween from the family at iWeb!

Carine Haddad
Elias Sabbagh
Éric Hubert
Éric Tremblay
Hugo Dénommée
Jean-Luc
Marc-André Dumas
Mathieu Leclair
Monica Huacon
Patrick Bertrand
Patrick Hanley
Patrick OReilly
Renée Leblanc
Rita Tello
Skander Srasra
Stephane Bertini
Vincent Olivier Aubertin
Yahaira Nunez
Yannick Simard
Yves Lafond
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An Introduction to Web Usability

Published on October 29, 2008 at 4:33 pm by heri in: Web Development Articles

In the last article about .tel domains, one of our readers, “JP” from Dynaflow, commented about the use of the word “usability”. It turned out it was a small misunderstanding, due mainly to the fact that the word is not very common.

JP came finally with a good word for the french translation; and I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce the topic of usability.

Airbus A380 Cockpit Usability is mostly used by product designers, and tells how easy the product can be used by people to achieve tasks. Usability has no relationship to the topic of usefulness or functioning state of the product. For instance, the cockpit of an Airbus A380 has low usability, even if it does probably the job of flying the plane. By contrast, a Segway vehicle has both usefulness and high usability, as you only need to lean to get the transporter moving in the desired direction.

In the field of web development, web usability is as important as web accessibility or web standards. A highly usable website will bring you more pageviews from customers, more orders & sales, more comments and interactions, and satisfied customers who won’t have to call repeatedly your support line to understand your website. In other words, visitors will be less frustrated, and you will get a successful website.

A website with high usability should:

  • be easily used by any new visitor, without prior experience,
  • have user tasks presented in an obvious way,
  • does not present ambiguous information and actions,
  • does not show superfluous elements that could confuse the visitor,

A website which uses Adobe Flash for its user interface has for instance low usability, since it requires that the user learns how to use the new user interface before doing anything. Other practices used by uninformed web developers also lowers usability:

  • use of unique & customized buttons and links,
  • use of too many colors, fonts and too many graphics,
  • doesn’t show obviously what is the next action,
  • presents too many pages in order to achieve a task,
  • use of obscure words, or to the contrary, has missing information,
  • points to pages with errors or with 404 / 500 errors

To achieve your usability goals, you can use an application like the new SilverBack, which will help you record usability testing sessions. Steve Krug’s Don’t make me think, as well as Jakob Nielsen’s useit, are also great starting resources.

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What do you think of the new .tel TLD?

Published on October 27, 2008 at 5:19 am by heri in: Web Hosting Articles

Since the last article about domain names, Bernard D. also mentionned the new .tel, a top-level domain launching December 3 worldwide. In Canada, it will be managed by Webnames, while you can get at EuroDNS in Europe.

.tel top level domain name The .tel domain is presented as a way for individuals and companies to give their contact information. Phone numbers, ssid numbers, email addresses, geographic location, and basic information such as a list of websites would be avalaible with the use of the .tel domain, with a basic example (for hotels) available here.

Compared to other top level domain names, such as the .coms, the new .tel is different in many ways. First, it’s sponsored by Telnic, a British company. Second, the information as listed above (phone numbers and other contact information) are to be embedded directly in the DNS records, which means any device connected to the Internet could get access to these contact informations without requiring a web browser.

It lets us imagine future uses where instead of exchanging email addresses, or business cards, we’d instead exchange a .tel domain name, which will give the recipient choices between either using the phone number, emailing, or by using the urls provided.

Mobile phones could also store the .tel information, and would access to the list of phone numbers owned by the individual — under the condition that the phone has access to the Internet.

Of course, in theory, this sounds great; it means for instance you could provide all your contact information without having to build, host and maintain a website. I’m still not totally sold on the concept though; as stated previously, it’s a sponsored TLD, and Telnic’s involvement is not totally clear. Also, there seems to be a lack of tools, usage cases, and implementations of the .tel domain. I didn’t see it on any cell phone, any browser or any OS. It reminds me of the WAP technology which was great on paper, but was useless in practice because of its unusability and also because of the fact that it didn’t seem to aim to solve any real-word problem.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, and as such, there’s a poll below: would you (or not) get a .tel domain name? Come over to the blog to answer the poll or post any comment.

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What the Google’s Android G1 Launch Means for Web Development

Published on October 24, 2008 at 3:28 pm by heri in: Web Development Articles

The new Google Phone has been launched this week, avalaible now on T-Mobile, and presented as a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone 3G.

Even if media coverage has been mild compared to the iPhone launch, the G1 and especially the Android platform does bring unique innovations, with true openess and a better platform for third-party mobile applications. The company bought by Google a few years ago brings an open source and full software stack that should lead to many Android-powered phones & devices. Picture for instance Locale, which can change your phone’s behavior and also alert you on pre-defined situations, such as alerting you if you are around a store you were looking for, a functionality technically impossible on the iPhone. And this was done by a small team of students. Just imagine what will come in the next few months and years.

This is in sharp contrast to Apple’s closed system. Even if the iPhone 3G is today a better device in terms of hardware and software than the G1, Android will foster in the future more diverse and more feature-rich applications, more devices coming from different manufacturers, with different price options, different styles to choose from, and also avalaible on more telecom carriers.

Now, if you want to develop applications for Android, it’s not so easy. Although it does have superb documentation and developer community, it uses Java, introduces a new framework; and unless you already have Java experience, this is more about developing desktop applications than web applications, and requires thus significantly more time, money and more developers.

However, while every blog and media has been covering native mobile applications, there’s one thing: Android’s web browser is based on WebKit, the same engine used in the iPhone, Safari 3 (avalaible both on Windows and Mac), the Google Chrome web browser, Adobe AIR, plus other mobile phones such as Nokia’s N60 and E series.

For me, the Google Phone hails the supremacy of WebKit, and means that Web Developers should from now on add it to their skills.

Of course, there’s still Opera and Internet Explorer mobile, but if you compare it, there is no competition:

  • WebKit has one of the fastest CSS and javascript rendering
  • WebKit is better in hardware compliance, with a smaller memory footprint and smaller CPU requirements
  • a candidate for future browsers: the codebase is smaller, and easier to work. There’s works to make it work on GTK and Qt
  • more goodies, with progressive enhancements, masks, CSS gradients and transforms, rounded corners, all sorts of goodness

The conclusion is that if you want to jump on mobile development, then do a WebKit-compatible website. If you already have a running website, which already renders well in Apple Safari, then it should also render well on Android.

Of course, you can’t just get your website as it is currently, and present it as an Android-compatible without minimal modifications. Here are a few things to think of:

  • like the iPhone, the G1 has a screen limited to 320 px to 480 pixels
  • differences in usage: you should assume that the user is mobile, and task and content should be oriented towards the specific scenario. Users for instance are not looking to read long texts or articles (unless they are stuck on a train or a bus)
  • instead of doing javascript animations with libraries like jQuery or scriptaculous, you should do instead CSS animations and Transforms
  • Files and plugins limitations: like the iPhone, Android has limits on file size and also doesn’t have Adobe Flash support
  • Do not forget to test pages in Safari. What I do is create a custom bookmarklet which resizes the browser’s size to the 320×480 setup.

Here is a line to include a specific android layout:


<!--[if !IE]>–> <link media="only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)" href="android.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" /> <!–<![endif]–>

From there, you can now introduce in the android.css file specific lines for animations:


#sweeping_element {
-webkit-transition-property: left;
-webkit-transition-duration: 500ms;
-webkit-transition: background-color .25s linear;
}

Another way is to use Joe Hewitt’s native skins, which instantaneously gives you animations, buttons, and behaviors optimized for mobile browsing. They were built for the iPhone, but since both use WebKit, the javascript and CSS should still work flawlessly.

Happy mobile web development, and don’t hesitate to add any comment and questions below

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Choosing between a .com and Top Level domain names

Published on October 22, 2008 at 11:46 am by heri in: Web Hosting Articles

domain parking TLD When launching a website, one of the first decisions you have to make is choosing the right domain name. Most of the time, many webmasters already have a name suitable to their website and their product, but most of them find that either the domain has already been snatched by a competitor, a domainer or domain parkers.

Now, the point of this article is not to advise you on how to find the right name, but more about choosing the right top level domain (TLD), which is either choosing for a .com or a .net, or finding a TLD such as .us, .ca, .fr.

A .com, .org or .edu domain provides:

  • Legitimacy: most companies have their corporate websites under a .com domain; and when a user lands on a different TLD, many think that the owner of the website couldn’t afford to buy the .com domain,
  • Better ranking in search engines: when confronted with 2 different websites with the same quality of content, search engines do rank the .com domain higher
  • Better “findability” by your prospective customers: Due to the usage of .com domains, many tools such as auto-completions algorithms, web browsers, user interfaces, mail clients automatically assume that a website’s name would finish with a .com. In the same logic, users will try first to add a .com to the domain name if they’ve forgotten the TLD
  • International expansion: it’s easier to get visitors and customers from different countries with .com domain name than if you had a .ca, a .de or any other TLD related to a geographic zone.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen many famous web services choosing exotic top level domains such as .fm (Federal States of Micronesia, used by last.fm for instance), .tv (Tuvalu, used by many media broadcasters), .tk etc. This is to be added to the millions of businesses who preferred to get the TLD of their country for their website instead of the .com, as they find it has its unique advantages:

  • Recognition and belonging: a website can choose to market only its services to a country, and choosing the country’s TLD will convince prospective visitors that the website is dedicated to them
  • Easier to own: it’s much easier and cheaper to find a ccTLD than a .com, as many domainers prefer to bet on .com domains
  • An opportunity to play on words or brand their service, as with del.icio.us or last.fm

Of course, exotic TLDs do bring additional headaches. In Canada for instance, CIRA do bring an extra cumbersome layer for any activation or change of the website. In Europe, webmasters have to be nationals or be doing business in the country before operating in the TLD. And since registration and certification is done by a unique governmental agency, it inevitably brings up horror stories. Just two days ago, Ping.fmdisappeared” from the web. The .fm domain is a TLD assigned to the Federated States of Micronesia, which sold marketing rights for the domain to an american firm. Ping.fm’s problem was a problem with the .fm registry servers:

Keep in mind that some elements of this problem were out of their control and we both had to wait for the .FM vendors to turn around and make some headway on this problem. …

The web service is now back, but it does question the choice of an exotic TLD. So next time you want to make up a similar domain name, take into factor the risks and advantages.

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