199. Time to generalise

This week on Boagworld: The changing role of web designers, Colin Firth on content and Becky Jones talks about the changes at Google.

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Housekeeping

Next week is our 200th show! Hard to believe isn’t it.

To celebrate this momentous achievement we are going to do a 12 hour live podcast marathon.

The show starts at 10AM on Friday the 12th February and finishes at 10PM that evening (times are UK based). We have too many guests to mention, but lets just say you will not be disappointed!

To listen to the live show go to boagworld.com/live/.

Obviously we will not be recording the whole show but hopefully will release edited highlights over the coming weeks.

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News

SVG is back?

There are a lot of articles this week about SVG. A List apart describes SVG as…

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) consist of circles, rectangles, and paths created in XML and combined into drawings on web pages. You can apply solid colors, gradients, and a sophisticated number of filters to SVG—although not all browsers implement all filter types. You can incorporate text, as well as images, and you can copy and clone your SVG as much as you want. Mostly, we use SVG for graphics programs, charts, illustrations, or animations.

In principle SVG has always sounded like an exciting tool. However it became a casualty of the browser wars, where support was patchy at best.

It also was somewhat surpassed by Adobe Flash, that became the standard for vector based graphics.

However, browser support has significantly improved and so we are seeing more interest in the technology again. This week alone there are articles on both A List Apart and Sitepoint.

Although it is interesting to read what SVG can do, I have to confess I do not understand the continued interest in this technology. I admit I am no expert on the subject, but it strikes me be that SVG is somewhat pointless for three reasons…

  • It’s still not supported natively in Internet Explorer. Although there are ways of overcoming this, it is a significant barrier to adoption.
  • The near universal adoption of flash makes this a far more obvious choice. Also, now that Adobe have opened up the platform many of the old arguments against flash are less relevant.
  • All modern browsers now support page zoom and so there is less need for a technology whose primary benefit is its ability to scale.

Perhaps I am missing the point and if so please correct me in the comments. However, the only ray of hope I see for SVG is Apples stubborn refusal to add flash support to devices like the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.

The best products sell themselves

When I saw the title of Andy Budd’s latest post ‘The Best Products Sell Themselves‘ I was ready to disagree with him.

I thought Andy was going to claim that if you have a great product you do not have to promote it. I thought he was going to argue that in the age of social networking, word of mouth recommendation was enough.

Instead I read a passionate article about providing a delightful experience that inspired and challenged me…

To sell products in a networked world, you need to differentiate yourself by more than just brand attributes and a check-list of features. You need to create remarkable products that rise above the competition and get noticed. Products that your users will rate, recommend and tweet about. In fact, what you need to create isn’t a product at all, but an experience.

He goes on to write…

Mediocrity just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, we need to create products that sell themselves. Does this mean that marketing no longer has a place in the networked society? Far from it. Marketers often understand customer needs and pain points better than anybody. In fact, this can sometimes be the cause of frustration in itself. I know plenty of people (myself included) who’ve been wooed by the notion of integrated phone, TV and Internet services only to find yourself dealing with completely separate business units and billing systems. The marketers were ahead of the curve. It’s the product that was lagging behind.

The idea of delighting your users by going above and beyond expectations is something that has been very much on my mind at the moment. It is something I am keen to introduce more into the work we produce at Headscape. Andy’s article could therefore not have been more timely.

I am reading a book at the moment called Made to Stick. In this book it gives the example of a departmental store that prides itself on delighting its customers. They give two examples in the book. The first was a member of staff who ironed the shirt for a customer going to a business meeting. The second was of clerk who gift wrapped items bought from a competitors store.

This is the kind of exceptional service website owners should be incorporating into their websites, and web designers should be providing their clients.

The principle of proximity in web design

I seem to be featuring a lot of posts on the basics of design recently. I think this is for several reasons…

  • Everybody involved in the web has to do some elements of design.
  • There are a lot of people listening to the show who are just starting out.
  • The website owners listening need to understand design principles if they are to work with a designer.

This week’s contribution to the cause is ‘The Principles of Proximity in Web Design.’ It is essentially a post on layout. It takes principles that have existed for a long time in print and applies them to the web.

It is a solid introduction to layout and tackles issues such as:

  • Whitespace
  • Visually grouping elements
  • Creating visual hierarchy
  • Improving scanability
  • The use of grids
  • Leading the user

The article concludes by summing up the benefits of understanding these principles…

Proper visual hierarchy by way of proximity helps users delve deeper into your website without worrying about where they’ve been or where they’re going.

They’ll always feel comfortable, and they’ll get to the most important sections of your website quickly and efficiently.

A worthwhile read for anybody new to design and a useful reminder to those of us who are old hands.

Google is changing and it will affect your website

Have to noticed that Google has been changing a lot recently? Probably not. You may have noticed the fade effect on the homepage. However, there are many more subtle and yet significant changes going on.

In an article for boagworld Becky Jones outlines some of these changes and how they may affect your website.

Changes include the introduction of…

  • Real time results
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Personalised search (even when not logged in)
  • Regions
  • Search features in the search bar
  • Anchor links in search results

What is significant about the list above is that they each have an influence on your rankings.

These changes really are turning the world of SEO upside down and having an influence on how websites are built.

However, what interests me the most is the new prominence of real time results. With posts from Twitter being placed at the top of listings, this makes social media a crucial component of search engine optimisation.

If you care about your website’s ranking (which we all do) then this is a must read.

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Feature: Website owners need more than web designers

Why is it many website owners are changing their web designer even when he or she has built them a great looking, usable website? What more are they looking for?

Read ‘Website owners need more than web designers’

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Colin James Firth: Content is King

If ‘content is king’ then the designer is like the King’s tailor – there to make the King look fabulous without taking any of the limelight for themselves.

Read ‘Content is king’

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  • http://www.haggard.com.au Jiahadye

    G’day gentlemen. There seems to be a problem with this episode after about 9:55 – there’s nothing between 9:55 and about 32:00. Hope it’s just me, but just in case you need to re-up, thought I’d let you know.

    • http://headscape.co.uk/people/boag.html Paul Boag

      I have just tested it and it appears to be working for me. Let me know if you continue to have a problem. Are you playing on the page above or in itunes?

    • http://headscape.co.uk/people/boag.html Paul Boag

      Tell a lie. There does seem to be a problem. We are trying to fix it now.

    • http://www.haggard.com.au Jiahadye

      Lovely, just downloaded again and it works a charm. Thanks Paul (and Marcus).

  • http://martindoubravsky.cz/ Martin Doubravsky

    Hi Paul,

    I’d like to comment on your “SVG is pointless for 3 reasons”:

    1) “It’s still not supported natively in Internet Explorer.”
    All modern browsers support SVG. IE might adopt it in IE9. Anyway, u can use it even in ie6, just with a little help. e.g. http://raphaeljs.com/ seems to be a great tool.

    2) “The near universal adoption of flash makes this a far more obvious choice.”
    One of the reasons that SVG has increased in popularity is it does not require any plugin unlike Flash. It is supported just by pure HTML5. You do not need to install any player or whatever, it just works. And it’s XML, so imagine those interactive possibilities.

    3) “All modern browsers now support page zoom and so there is less need for a technology whose primary benefit is its ability to scale.”
    Its primary benefit definitely isn’t in scaling. Sure it is benefit, but just because of it is a vector format. Every vector graphics can do that.

    The essential is, briefly speaking, in animation and interaction, so new user interfaces can be done just with HTML, JavaScript and SVG. No need of Flash here. Also interactive graphs etc.

    SVG has similar disadvantages as HTML5 and CSS3 – It’s new. (Okey it’s here quite longer than html5,css3. However, SVG came under the spotlight together with them).

    I suppose Flash will be (ideally) replaced by SVG in above mentioned fields. I guess Flash should remain for banners or purely presentation purposes. For interaction with users we have SVG now.

    And finally as you said: SVG will rapidly help Apple. But that’s not the goal. They will help each other – and here I can only say: Thank God someone has the power to spread a new technology.

    Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in SVG either, my speech here is just a collection of my thoughts.

  • http://thecybertramp.com stella

    it’s playing fine for me – but I just realised I clicked on episode 198 and got 199 .. !

  • Erik

    Hey Paul, just a heads up, the link to Andy Budd’s post in the News section doesn’t link to his article.

    • http://headscape.co.uk/people/boag.html Paul Boag

      Thanks for that. It should be fixed now.

  • http://www.designpepper.com Joshua Clanton

    Regarding page zoom vs SVG:

    Consider someone zooming on a website using a typical .jpg, .gif or .png background image. What happens? The imagery becomes blurry or pixelated. With SVG this isn’t a problem because the imagery is vector based.

    It may not be a huge deal, but there is a quality difference in the case of zooming.

  • Marko

    I think it maybe worth suprising everyone for the and instead of a 12 hour podcast for the 200th episode, you could do the carpet cleaning podcast!

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://thinkinginpencil.com Jason Pamental

    Hi Paul and Marcus,

    Really liked this weeks show: struck a chord with me regarding how you so well put it:’ specializing in being a generalist’. Tried to put on pixels what it is that stood out – the part between design and develop – and ended up with this: between pixels & plumbing: why paul boag is right to call it web strategy http://tinyurl.com/yks7p9f

    thanks again- been listening since episode 70 or so and haven’t missed one since!

    Cheers,

    Jason

  • http://www.norabrowndesign.com Nora Brown

    Very interesting about the personalized search results. Now it will be very hard to determine what search results your potential site visitors are seeing. You can turn them off for yourself, btw:
    http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?answer=54048

  • http://www.sixmedia.net Jim Pannell

    Good show guys. However, YOU’VE ALREADY PLAYED THE LISTENER CONTRIBUTION from Colin James Firth. Just as well it was one of the best ones you’ve had :-)

    • http://headscape.co.uk/people/boag.html Paul Boag

      Damn. Really? We were bounded to make that mistake sooner or later. :-(

  • http://www.secretcommissionsystem.info/ Secret Commission System

    Hey Paul great podcast, thanks

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