117. Friendly

Paul Boag

On this week’s show, we review woopra, a google analytics alternative and we explore why friendly urls are so important and what tools are out there to help you set them up.

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Fuel Conference

Fuel is a one-day conference for entrepreneurs and marketers who want to make their companies, services and products truly remarkable. The conference is on the 13th June 2008 and tickets cost £195 inc VAT however for lucky boagworld listeners if you enter the promo code boagworld at the checkout you will get a £25 discount!

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News and events

The devil is in the detail

We kick off the news with three stories that focus on the detail of web design. So much is said about design, usability, accessibility and other broad subjects. However, less is written about the small things. It is here that a good site becomes an excellent site.

The first is a post on the list apart website entitled Zebra Striping: Does it really help?(1). Zebra striping refers to alternating colours on a table of data. It is a small thing, but a lot of us do it thinking it helps the readability of the data. But does it really? This post takes that theory and puts it to the test. The results are inconclusive but it is an interesting read anyway.

The second story is about a new book released on the topic of web forms. It’s called Web Form Design(2) and as the title suggests looks at the much under-represented subject of creating a great looking, usable form.

As I have said before forms make or break some of the most crucial elements of a website: checkout, registration, data input, and any task requiring information entry. This looks like an excellent read and I highly recommend you check it out. I will be.

The final post that focuses on the detail of design is looks at pagination(3). It is a tutorial that explains how to code pagination semantically. It then demonstrates how you can use CSS to recreate the appearance of pagination on sites like digg or flickr. It is an easy read and ideal for beginners.

Review crazy

The next theme of the week is reviews. In particular Smashing Magazine have gone review crazy in two excellent (if somewhat excessive) posts.

The first reviews 35 useful code editors(4). Of course, we can write our code with a text editor but that wouldn’t make for a very interesting post! Also we like those advanced features like auto complete, formatting and debugging tools.

If like me you have been using the same coding tool for years, this article is worth a read. Things have certainly moved on and there is no shortage of choice out there. It might be time to change.

The second review from Smashing Magazine only manages 25 applications. This time it is WYSIWYG editors(5). I guess this compliments the previous post very well. However, generally speaking I would warn against producing sites using WYSIWYG editors. That said they do have their place. They are useful to give to clients who want to maintain their own sites. They are also good for posting to blogs or other sites where the styling is already set.

It has to be said that I personally code in Dreamweaver, which has a WYSIWYG component. I have been known to use it to find a particular part of the code I want to edit.

A balanced look at flash

Our final news item of the day is a post by Veerle on her blog entitled Does Flash irks me?(6). It is an excellent opinion piece that clearly lays out her feelings about flash. She explains how she decides whether to use it and dispels some of the misconceptions about the technology.

Her post is very timely coming as it does a week after flash goes open source. It is balanced and her attitude very much mirrors my own (therefore it must be right!). If you view flash as the ultimate evil or alternatively refuse to code in anything else, read this post. It will provide a healthy dose of realism.

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Feature: Friendly web addresses

When redesigning boagworld considerable time was spent formatting the sites’ web addresses. Find out why so much time was taken and an introduction to the tools I used in this weeks feature

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Review: woopra

When it comes to website statistics Google Analytics dominates most of our thinking. However, there are some impressive alternatives. One I would like to introduce to you is woopra. I give my thoughts to woopra in this weeks review

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Listeners feedback:

Creating consistant colors

Anna Joe Writes: I know that the colour of a website will look a little different on every monitor, but is there a profile setting that you use as an ‘average’ setting?

Since I work on Mac with a Mac monitor, I’m afraid most people will see something radically different than me. I have read that Mac defaults are brighter than Windows. I’m using a lot of dark colours, so I am concerned about the site appearing too dark on the majority of computers.

I have a list of colour settings provided on my computer… only one seems to have a Windows-related profile. It’s called ‘Nikon WinMonitor’

Do you have any suggestions regarding this issue?"

I have to confess Anna, this was a subject I knew nothing about before your question. The way that I got around the problem was to look at any design I produced on as many different monitors as possible. To be honest, even after my research I would advise this as the best approach.

View your site on a TFT and an old CRT monitor. Also check on laptops and under different operating systems.

However, based on a bit of reading it would appear that the problem is to do with Gamma settings. Macs by default have gamma correction built in while PCs do not. This causes images (especially photographic images) which look good on a Macintosh monitor to appear too dark on a PC.

Fortunately there is a tool that allows us Mac users to experience the horror of the PC world. It’s called gamma toogle(7) and can be downloaded for free.

If you don’t have access to multiple machines for testing this would be the next best thing.

Setting up an ecommerce site

Paul East Writes: My girlfriend has come up with an sales idea that would require a simple store front application with the ability to take credit and debit card payments online.

Have you any advice on where to start or any recommendations on store front applications?

We’d like to try and keep start up costs low (we’d like to avoid paying a web designer, sorry!) and avoid eBay type stores if possible for that more professional look.

We’ve done a little investigation on merchant accounts but could do with a good steer on the rest!

Again this is not a subject I k
now a huge amount about. Most of the ecommerce sites I work on are considerably larger. However, hopefully I will be able to point you in the right direction.

First, for the best advice when it comes to setting up ecommerce sites big or small I would highly recommend the ebiz video podcast(8). These guys really know their stuff and in fact we had them on show 55 to talk about ecommerce basics.

Second, in the past I have come across two simple shopping cart systems that impressed me. The first is FatFreeCart(9). This simple system can be integrated easily into an existing site. If you are only selling one or two items this is perfect. The alternative is shopify10. This is a little more sophisticated but incredibly simple to setup and run.

Neither of the questions today are subjects I know much about and I am guessing there are people groaning at my advice. If that is the case, get in touch and we will put you on the show.

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