Archive for April, 2011

How Coupons Discount Your Brand

Posted in Business on April 26, 2011 by wolfwomyn

“The recession has caused lots of companies to panic,” writes Laura Ries at Ries’ Pieces. “And when companies panic, they print coupons and throw up sale signs. Look in your mailbox, your email inbox or your newspaper and you will see what I mean. Everybody is having a sale.”

There’s only one problem, she argues: Though deep discounting works in the short term, it causes long-term damage to your brand. This is why:

  • Customers are thrilled when they first receive coupons and offers for your products and services. Who doesn’t want 10, 20 or even 50 percent off?
  • But discounts train customers to think your regular prices are too high, and to wait for the next coupon before they shop again. They might eventually refuse to make any purchase without a coupon.

For some companies, the culture of discounting has spiraled out of control. “Try checking out of one of these stores without using a coupon and even the sales clerk looks at you like [you’re] a pathetic loser,” she says. “Nobody pays full price here, what’s the matter with you! She may even reach down to pull out a coupon of her own to give you.”

Resisting the urge to offer coupons isn’t easy—especially when everyone seems to be doing it. But protecting your brand now will provide better overall results in the long run.

The Point: As Ries sees it, discounting creates a lose-lose situation by lowering both your customer’s opinion of your brand and your profits.

Source: Ries’ Pieces.

Cross Browser Compatibility

Posted in Business on April 19, 2011 by wolfwomyn

There are literally hundreds of web browsers in use around the world. All of them implement the W3C document standards a little differently. Web designers must wrestle with these differences to make a web site work. This article discusses the effect those different implementations has on design.

What is Cross Browser Compatibility?

If a web page is completely cross-browser compatible, it will look more or less the same in all of the existing web browsers. The most commonly used browsers are Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Firefox and Opera. The table below shows their usage as of November 2005.

Browser    % Of Users
Internet Explorer 6    68
Internet Explorer 5    6
Firefox 1    17.5
Firefox 1.5    1.5
Netscape    3
Opera    1.5
Other Browsers    2.5

Each one of these browser implements HTML, JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) a little differently. Some difference only create cosmetic difference others can break the webpage. The situation gets worse because each browser is free to implement “enhancements” to the W3C standard version of each of these formats.

Then to compound matters even more the underlying operating systems also creates difference in how the computer displays graphical elements and text differently. When you add the fact that people are also using multiple versions of each of the browsers, no wonder web designers get headaches.

So what is a web designer to do?

Obviously, 100% compatibility with all potential browsers is impossible. But it is possible to design your web page so it will work in the most popularly used browsers.

To accomplish that, a web designer must write squeaky-clean code that conforms to the W3C standards to get consistent results across all browser platforms. The whole idea behind the standards is that if each browser adheres to the same set of rules, you will get more or less consistent results in all of the existing browsers.

Conforming can be a real challenge. It will limit some of the neater effects available in specific browsers. There are online code validators available. You can validate HTML code at , the validator can also validate your CSS and links. The service is free.

The validator checks your code based on the DOCTYPE you specify on the webpage. The DOCTYPE tells the browser which version of HTML or CSS the web page is using.

HTML Editors

There are some compatibility issues associated with anything other than hand coding for HTML (and for that matter, even with hand coding.)

Best Choice – The best choice for compatibility is Dreamweaver but you cannot use layers. Layers must be converted to tables to be used.

Worst Choice – The worst choice is FrontPage. FrontPage is loaded with problems because it uses Microsoft and therefore internet explored specific code. Items that will not work in other browsers include:

Marquees – you can use a JavaScript scroller to create a similar effect that will work in the most common browsers. bgsound tag – this is IE specific.
Page Transitions – this is IE specific.
Front Page generated Style sheets – this is IE specific and can have unexpected results or crash other browsers.
Front Page generated DHTML – it is better to use JavaScript to create the effects you want since it is more likely to be cross browser compatible.
Hover Buttons – this is IE specific and has been know to crash browsers including older versions of IE. You can use JavaScript, flash or CSS to get similar effects.
Other HTML Editors – the rest of the HTML editors will fall somewhere between Dreamweaver and FrontPage in cross browser compatibility. You just have to test the code your HTML editor generates.

CSS Style Sheets

Not all of your style sheets will work correctly in all of the browsers. However, style sheets rarely crash a web browser, but sometimes the pages will be downright ugly if not completely unreadable. One of the major CSS problems is absolute positioning since most browsers do not support it and it will cause different block to overlap others and create a jumbled mess.


Flash is great for adding style to a webpage and Macromedia provides flash plug-ins for all of the major web browsers. But don’t build the entire site with flash. Browser for the blind, most handheld devices do not support flash.

A small but significant number of users don’t like it and don’t install the plug-in so they won’t be able to access a flash site. Also, search engines spyders can’t follow the links on a flash site and won’t index it.

Graphic Links

While these are attractive, they have the same problems as flash with browsers for the blind and hand-held devices. Always use the alt tag with graphics.

Bottom Line – even code that is validated may not work correctly in all the major browsers. The best way a web designer can create cross browser compatibility is to test all of their web pages in the most popular browsers to see what happens. Personally, I find that a combination of style sheets and tables works best to ensure my pages look good in all of the browsers.

Warren Baker

Keep Your Radar On for Emerging Trends

Posted in Business on April 14, 2011 by wolfwomyn

The Internet is changing at a stunning pace. Every day you have new products being launched, new memes spreading, new technologies appearing and so on. For some people this scenario is scary. For others, it is a blessing, because every new and upcoming trend represents a business opportunity.

The strategy of spotting emerging trends early on and launching websites to leverage them is very effective because if your website is among the first to talk about a certain topic, Google will start  seeing it as an authority, and you will be able to attract a lot of  search engine traffic.

Secondly, it will be relatively easy to build links with such a site, because when bloggers and site owners start talking about the new trend, there are good chances that they will link to sites that  already have some information on the topic (i.e., you).

Here is a real example that I came across some weeks ago. You  probably heard about Google Wave, right? It is an application
launched by Google that is promising to change the way we interact and collaborate on the web. Google launched it in closed beta, so you need an invite to get inside and test it. The buzz around the  launch was so big that people started to lust after Wave invites.

Guess what? A guy name Jonathan spotted that trend and created a website about “Google Wave Invites.” He coded a basic application that would let people exchange invites, and he also included a  forum where people could discuss related matters.

Within a couple of days he started receiving mentions from bloggers, and then two high profile sites linked to him: Mashable and  LifeHacker. After that his traffic skyrocketed, and he also went to the first position of Google for the term “Google Wave Invites.”

In the following week he generated over 540,000 page views, and  after that the traffic became stable at around 15,000 daily page  views.

The guy never monetized the site, but I am guessing that a couple of AdSense units on the site would generated a good monthly revenue, which is not bad if you consider the website was created in one day…

This is just one example though. Trends like the Google Wave one appear on the web every single day. You just need to keep your radar on to spot them before other people. It is not easy, but certainly possible, so keep looking!

Daniel Scocco

Separating the Content from its Presentation

Posted in Business on April 12, 2011 by wolfwomyn

The main idea behind the concept of separating the content from its presentation is to allow website developers a useful framework to develop their website giving them the ability to change the website’s appearance whenever they like without needing to redo the content structure. This article will explain the rationale behind separating content from presentation.

Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t just one method for implementing this concept. More than that, since the introduction of technologies such as CGI, ASP, and PHP that allow web developers to generate dynamic web pages, a lot of companies have found creative ways to develop their website applications using this concept as their foundation.

Over the past few years, the internet community has been trying to create a set of standards for creating web sites. A new technology called CSS or Cascading Style Sheets has been introduced. There is nothing actually new in the way CSS handles a web page’s presentation. CSS allows the developer to define a style for each html tag element. This is similar to the method developers (programmers) used in the old days when they attached a variable to each html tag defining its style. The major difference is that CSS style definitions can be interpreted by most of the existing browsers available while in the older method the dynamic web page engine performs the interpretation.

The internet standards organization W3C has encouraged the use of CSS by enhancing its ability to control the web page’s look and feel. New style options have been added to the CSS specifications that have not been added to the HTML description language. There’s no doubt that this was a smart move. It’s forced web developers to use CSS to achieve an attractive web page that also supports the principle of content separation. Unfortunately CSS did not find its way into the internet mainstream easily because of compatibility issues with most web browsers. These days CSS is widely supported by most of the major web browsers, while CSS2, an enhanced version of CSS still has serious compatibility issues.

Obviously, the separation of content from its presentation deals not only with the styling aspects, but also with browser compatibility issues. The styling aspects were the first to be handled by web developers and web designers. As the complexity of information technology (IT) systems become increasingly more difficult to maintain, the internet community is looking for a solution that will become a standard so that content can be easily be managed. One goal for this standard is to define a “language” that IT systems can “talk” with each other and exchange information. Large corporations have historically used many different software platforms in their networks to conduct business. Internet based applications can provide a single platform that can act as an intermediary between all of these different systems and allow communication between them.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) has been adopted as a standard to present the content itself. OFX (Open Financial Exchange) is a close relative of XML that has been widely used by financial institutions who have been using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems to transmit orders and invoices over private networks, intranets and the internet for several years.

The need to present the content in a standard way that separates it from any design elements was so urgent that for the first time in software development history all the three major players (SUN, IBM, and Microsoft) actually agreed with each other and XML become a standard almost overnight and was adopted by many content providers and news agencies.

Yet the concept was not fully implemented. CSS handles the styling aspects while XML handles the document content. What about the webpage layout? New websites are been published each day by thousands. Every day millions of new web pages are being added to the internet’s global database. Webmasters have found that changing the page background color or the font color might not be enough to keep their website fresh and polished to compete with other new websites. However, changing the website layout can sometimes involve a lot of effort because it involves modifying the web page source code. XSL was introduced to solve that issue. Consider XSL a set of rules that can describe a web page layout. Combine it with XML (and optionally with CSS) you will get a valid html file.

XSL is very similar in its mechanics as any other dynamic web page generator. Beside the fact that XSL is platform independent, its biggest advantage is that it can be processed on the client side. The web server sends the client the content using XML format and the layout definition using XSL format. By doing that, the load on the web server’s CPU is reduced allowing it to perform other tasks more quickly. However, XSL was not adopted by all the major web browsers. So unlike XML, XSL has not found its way to the market easily.

Before you run back to your desk and start redesigning your website according to these magnificent standards, you should be aware that those technologies are really not needed most of the time. In fact, using them unnecessarily can cause performance problems. CSS usually will not cause your system to slow down. Just try to keep your CSS file as small as
possible. Many web developers maintain large CSS files with lots of unused style definitions. Deciding to work with XML is a serious decision. If your website generates dynamic web pages supported by databases like MySQL, adding additional XML functionality will definitely reduce your website performance. Sometimes you won’t have a choice and will need to upgrade your hardware to maintain your website’s performance. There is no rule of thumb for this issue. The decision should be based on each system and its engineering demands. My advice to you is to think two steps ahead. Try to predict what kind of future services your website will be providing. Plan your website properly at stage one and save yourself lots of effort later.

Warren Baker

Why Good Website Navigation Is Important ?

Posted in Business on April 7, 2011 by wolfwomyn

Web surfers are basically an impatient bunch and if a website is hard to figure out because the links are not obvious, they will click away never to return. Website navigation is one of the most crucial elements in determining the effectiveness of a website. This article discuses the basic principle of designing website navigation.

To be effective website navigation must first and foremost make sense to the average person. While there is always room for creativity, well-designed websites tend to have similar navigation layouts.

As a web designer you must always keep in mind the basic purpose of the website and the intended audience when designing navigational elements. Most websites exist to either inform the visitor about a product or service or to actually sell the product or service. Therefore there are some basic guidelines to follow:

Make sure all navigational elements are clearly links by using standard conventions for links such as buttons, menus, underlining the text or changing color on mouse. Resist the temptation to use clever or ambiguous names for links.

When using non-conventional links, explicitly tell the visitor that this is a link. For example, suppose you design a web page where you want to use a map showing several different cities and want to let the user click on the city name to pull up information about that city. Just make sure you tell the user to click on the city name to get more information about that city.

Remember the “Three Click Rule” that most professional web designers use. Studies have shown that most users will not click more than three links to get to the information they want. So every page on your website should be reachable within three clicks.

I do not recommend using a flash movie or other type of splash page on your website. Keep the web page design simple yet attractive. But if you do decide to use one, make certain you use the META REFRESH tag to take the visitor automatically to your home page after a few seconds and provide a clickable, clearly marked button or link so the visitor can skip the entry page and go directly to your home page otherwise a large percentage of visitors will just click away never to return. Remember most visitors are looking for information not entertainment.

Navigation Element Locations

Top Menus – a top of the page menu bar is usually located directly below the page header graphic that contains the site logo. These menu items may be single links, drop down menus, or expanding menus. Each menu item can be represented by a graphic or just text. In ether case a hyperlink is associated with each item that the visitor can click on to get to the information described.

Left Side Navigation – left side navigation is typically implemented as either a column or text area on the left top portion of the webpage. Like the top menu, each item can be a single link or an expanding menu.

Right Side Navigation – right side navigation is not used that often, but when used, it is implemented as a column or text area on the top right side of the webpage. Most designers use this area for advertisements rather than site navigation.

Bottom Menus – bottom menus can be either a menu bar or footer. Menu bars use either graphics or text links while footers almost exclusively use text links.

Important Navigation Elements

Internal Page Links – Every page on the website should be within two or three clicks from the home page. Important pages should be ONE click away. The type of website will determine which links are more prominently displayed.

Login Boxes – login boxes should be prominently displayed. Common locations are top left, top right or inside the page header.

Shopping Carts – if you use a shopping cart to sell your products, you should prominently display a view cart button on each page. The most commonly used location is the top right side just below or as part of the header.

Order Buttons – if you use individual order buttons they should be large and visible. The fewer clicks it takes to get to your order page, the more orders you will get.

Breadcrumbs – breadcrumbs are both links and a graphical representation of where you are in the site. Breadcrumbs are usually located at the top left of the page just under the header. Each word is a link back to the previous page. They are in the form

Home-> Articles-> Marketing

External Links – external links can be used anywhere but are most frequently used inside the text areas on a website. They may be references to more information located on another site, to recommended products, or to almost anything else.

Advertisements – advertisements are usually either a graphic or text with an associated hyperlink. Ads can be placed anywhere on a webpage but are usually used just under the header banner, down the right hand side of the page, under navigation elements on the left margin, across the bottom of the page or even interspersed within the test areas of the page. Studies show that ads “above the fold” are more effective. (“Above the fold” refers to the area of a webpage that is visible without having to scroll.)

Downloadable Items – if you offer downloadable items such as audio, video or pdf files, make sure that you tell the user haw big the file is and whether they need an application to use the file. If they do an application, provide a link to the application. For example, provide a link to the free Acrobat reader if you offer pdf files.

Site Map – A site map is a good way to layout your entire site for your visitor. (Search engine spyders like them too.) It is just a hierarchical listing of every page on your site with a clickable hyperlink to that page.


A good navigation system can increase the numbers of pages viewed by each visitor. This in turn can increase signups, customers, sales, members or whatever it is your site is designed to do and make your website more successful.

Warren Baker

Photo Optimization

Posted in Business on April 5, 2011 by wolfwomyn

Photo Optimization is necessary to allow a web page to load in the shortest amount of time possible. Fast loading time require small files. This article discusses the methods used for photo optimization.

In an ideal world, a web designer could use the highest quality photos and have the webpage download lightening fast. Fast loading requires small file sizes for pictures. Unfortunately, there is a trade off between picture quality and file size.

Web surfers are a notoriously impatient bunch. If a website takes too long to load, they will just click away and never come back.

Computer monitors can only display images at 72dpi (dots per inch). So the first step in photo optimization is to reduce the resolution to 72 dpi.  Large picture can be sliced up into smaller ones and the put back together on the web page. Each piece will be a very small file and together will load in a fraction of the time a single image file would load.

Most graphic files contain information about the color palette of the image.  This information is usually unnecessary for displaying on the web. Many graphic programs included the ability to “Save for the web”. This option discards all of the unnecessary information in the file without any loss of picture quality.

Another method that appears to speed up load time is to use either the GIF or PNG interlaced or the JPEG progressive property. Both of these properties allow the picture to load gradually as first a blurry image that becomes sharper and clearer. In reality the picture actually loads a fraction of a second slower than the regular formats do but it appears to load faster the site visitor.

Width and Height IMG Attributes

The HTML <IMG> tag tells the web browser to create a specific sized box to hold the graphic. That way the browser can continue loading the rest of the web page while the graphic file is downloading. If you don’t put the width and height attributes, the web browser must pause until the images is downloaded before it can load the rest of the page.

How Many Images should you use?

Some web designers use images for everything. While it may look good, it will definitely slow down the speed of the page loading. Page loading speed in the sum of the HTML file plus the size of all of the embedded files.  Images constitute more than 50% of the download time.

Using fewer images will speed download time and just may keep a visitor from bailing through impatience.

Photo Quality

Photo quality is determined by the clarity, color purity and detail of a photo. Use a graphic editor to remove noise and other unwanted features. Most editors allow you to correct red-eye and sharpen edges to improve clarity.

Professional editors like Fireworks or Photoshop will let you change the background, adjust the color levels and do almost anything else you want to do to the photo.

You can also use a thumbnail on the webpage that links to a larger and higher resolution version of the image so that people who want to can view it.

Photo Optimization Guidelines

The following suggestions will allow you to optimize your photos for fast download times without sacrificing picture quality:

  • Change the resolution of all images to 72dpi.
  • Convert graphic text into stylized text.
  • Crop the images to the actual size needed.
  • Minimize color depth when it’s not necessary for quality.
  • Specify the actual width and height of all images.
  • Use thumbnails where appropriate.

Bottom Line – Graphics should enhance the content of a web page except in that rare occurrence where the images are the content. In either case, you need to optimize photos and other graphic files to allow for the fastest downloading time possible for the web page otherwise you risk losing the visitor forever.

Warren Baker