Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Why Does SEO EXIST!

Hello everyone out in the cloud!

Recently I have been reflecting on the world of web, considering SEO, flash, where the cloud is moving and how technologies are changing. Where my thoughts headed rested around so what is holding us back, what dictates the future, and how are we going to progress forward past the present.

Search Engines dictate where we are headed far too much, should search rank not be a completely natural process? The monster of Google has unintentionally conceived an entire industry focused on 'higher page rank', 'more click throughs' and inevitably better sales from online focus.

But how? How did they do it?

10 Years ago, on Googles birth... there created was a system, formula, structure of ranking popularity and importance of any website compared to another for 'keywords'... it is quite honestly very complex and highly sophisticated. Over the years it has grown and developed more and more, gathering more data, making more comparisons. From all of this, does it create a more accurate result for what you are after?

Let me be the first to admit that web searching is important, it is key to provide a search that accurately returns results for information you are after on the internet, but should there be a baise for an industry of SEO-ers out there to promise better results?

My response: no way.

SEO holds us back, it is a fixed structure that 'pleases' the search engine/spider, but heres the bad news... too bad its the world we live in. We don't have a choice for the moment about how we connect to the majority of online users needing our products and service.

My solution: I have ideas but someone large and influential needs to implement a new system to compare sites, something that doesn't tie the industry down to a fixed set of rules, structure etc.

Here are a handful of technologies already sorely impacted by search engines; AJAXs, Flash, User Events/Interactivity, CSS Builds.

At The Digerati, we know a lot about search engines, ranks, SEO, and technologies. Should you consider SEO, YES! However, conventional marketing can potentially be far more effective. Should Google be so evil creating these set of rules, absolutely not... but unfortunately the present is as it is.

Talk to us today.



Thursday, 14 August 2008

Gift Registry Design Awards

Our Gift Registry team has recently awarded a handful of Design Awards to Gift Registries around the world. Congratulations everyone :)

If you would like more information about our award, please contact us.

Don't forget, Gift Registries are perfect for birthdays, baby showers and weddings!



Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Digerati

Digerati provide a variety of products and services to a world in need of web services, but what is our direction? Where are we going? Why are we special?

There are lots of buzz words and unknowns associated with your website and the internet. Trust is almost required to get by, but who to trust and why?

At Digerati, with a mixture of changes in house, we endeavor to set a firm focus and vision for us and our clients in the future. Stay tuned for what we have in store in this exciting, innovative context, we all call the internet.

If you would like any information on what this might mean for you? Or would like any more goss, please contact us!



Free Gift Registry in Media

Free Gift Registry has been recently talked about in our local area. Read the article on Free Gift Registry here;

http://stgeorge.yourguide.com.au/news/local/news/general/caught-by-his-web/1242221.aspx



Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Moving On

It's been a very fast 18 months, but sadly our senior designer and project manager Nathan will be moving to the USA as of the 14th Aug 08. He'll be moving with his wife Kellie and baby daughter Isabelle back to live near Kellie's family in Michigan.

THE GREAT NEWS is that although he'll be across the otherside of the world, the wonders of the internet allow Nathan to remain our senior designer and usability advisor.

Unfortunately the time difference makes it a little difficult for Nathan to remain our project manager, so that role will be taken over by Tim Kirkman, who many of you will have met from other projects.

Nathan's last day in the Digerati office will officially be the 8th August.



Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Layout Options - Part 2. Navigation Style

In my last article I discussed the use of the full-width design style and have received mixed feedback. Some sent me some good examples of full-width designs and some agreed that it's probably not the best solution unless you're using flash, in which case you have a lot more flexibility.

Today I'm going to discuss something a lot less controversial, but something that is an issue of debate for almost every new website. Website navigation styles can include options such as text, graphical, flash or a combination.

Text Navigation

Text-based menus are mostly found in the corporate or online application website market. This is due to a number of reasons.

1. It's much simpler to update / change
2. It allows a menu to be completely dynamic and can be updated from a CMS
3. There is minimal download time
4. Text can be resized by visitors with vision difficulties
5. There are no issues with printing
6. Search engine following is virtually guaranteed.
7. It's fast for developers to build

The list is quite long - and justifyably so. From my view, the only reason you would opt NOT to use a text menu is if you wanted more design flexibility, or you wanted to hide content from text crawlers (such as search engines and spam robots).

Generally you will find that the larger companies using text nav's are ensuring website loading times are as low as possible

Examples (at the time of writing):
http://www.digeratisolutions.com.au/
http://www.pwc.com/
http://www.microsoft.com/
http://www.ebay.com/
http://www.ato.gov.au/ (although poorly designed)

Unfortunately in these days graphic designers are having a lot more input into web designs, the text-based menu is being replaced by graphic or flash-based (eye-candy) navigation styles.

Graphic Navigation

This style of menu is becoming more and more common as people are making the move to broadband internet, and download speeds mean a lot less than they used to. Generally graphic menus should only be used when there are only a handful of options. The last thing you need is 40 menu options loading a graphic for each.

Graphic menus are best used when tying in graphical elements of a brand to the page layout. You will find that a lot of medium-large brand-heavy companys will take this option for their home page but switch back to text navigation on the internal site pages.

With a few techniques, graphic menus can be used for search engine optimisation, however the code to make it layout just right can be tricky to avoid lengthy code (which slows the page down as well).

Examples (at the time of writing):
http://www.apple.com/
http://www.mcdonalds.com.au/
http://www.kfc.com.au/
http://www.toyota.com.au
http://www.myer.com.au/

You can tell with all of these that the graphical style menu allows them to use the menu itself as a branding agent.

Flash Navigation

Flash menu systems expand on graphical menus and allow a greater amount of flexibility in terms of design and interaction. Where graphic menus allow a graphical style to be implemented, flash allows movement and user interaction.

Flash not only allows a developer to add some form of animation or movement to a menu, but it can even include full video and music. As you can imagine, the drawback of the flash menu is that it takes significantly longer than a text menu, but can be quicker than a graphic menu.

In order to view flash you need to have the flash client installed in your internet browser, and although most new computers come with this installed by default, the majority of people will have to manually install the client before they can see your flash. This becomes an issue if your main navigation requires the user to install software (and maybe restart the browser) before they can use your website.

2 or 3 years ago it was common to see a HTML site with a flash navigation bar, but these days companies are more likely to do all or nothing. Although Adobe flash

The drawbacks of using a flash menu include;
1. Making changes requires the entire flash file to be changed
2. People using older browsers may not be able to install the currnet version of the flash client.
3. Slower
4. Site owners need the original flash file to make changes.

Examples (at the time of writing):
http://www.nike.com
http://www.diadora.com
http://www.billabong.com/au
http://www.lennykravitz.com

As you can see from this list, the entire site is in flash, and although they dont want visitors to have to wait a long time, they generally all target niche markets of younger internet users - the majority of which use broadband internet and will wait for content to load. A big name like Lenny Kravitz can afford to make fans wait, but an up-and-coming unknown artist would probably not have the same success.

Overview

With the variety of clients Digerati have, we have been able to suggest each of these solutions for different solutions - and for different reasons. Even some clients in the same industry suit different navigation styles, and even the same client may warrant changing styles at different points.

The key thing is to look at your target market, and make sure your website remains accessible by those people. There's no need to allow for text resizing if your tarket audience is 12 year old boys, but at the same time you probably need to make the menu simple to use and appealing to the eye, where a website targeting 70 year old guys would need to be quite simple and clear of graphical distractions.

There is generally always one style which will suit your website, so please feel free to talk to us about what we would recommend for your site.

The staff at Digerati Solutions have been providing online solutions for over 10 years, and we keep on top of the current technology to ensure that we can always suggest an appropriate solution for your needs.



Saturday, 26 April 2008

Free Online Gift Registry Service - for ANYTHING

Digerati Solutions has developed a software product free for the world to use. You can create your own gift registry to request the gifts you really want! There are no pre-selected gifts; choose any gift from any store. You can invite friends to use it by collecting their emails from your online contact lists. Customize the look and feel. Plus, and best of all, you can have people contribute $$ to bigger gifts via PayPal. www.FreeOnlineGiftRegistry.com Please give us feedback.

read more | digg story



Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Layout Options - Part 1. Scalable Full Width Design

When starting a new site or redeveloping an old one, you need to evaluate the target market and the content you want to show them. These two factors alone will usually dictate the layout style (not the design style) of your site.

The key aspects of the layout include;
Page width: 800px, 1024px, Mobile Devices or Scalable Full width.
Design Width: Fixed block, Repreated Background Over a Fixed Block, Full Width or Fixed Block with Graphic Edging.
Navigation: Horozontal Bar, Vertical Bar, Buttons or Dropdowns.
Navigation Style: Text, Graphics, Flash or a combination.

Over the next few weeks I'll discuss the sections above, but today I'm going to discuss the disadvantages of using scalable full width design.

Scalable Full Width Design

Scalable or 'stretched' designs are becoming increasingly rare, but we're still receiving requests for them irregularly so I thought this article might be a useful resource for people out there that prefer this style of design.

As a general rule Digerati Solutions rarely recommend full-width websites and will usually suggest away from them for a few reasons.

1. Scalable full width designs make it difficult to place content and elements because the size of each block will change depending on the size of the monitor being used.<

2. Generally readable text is no wider than around 600 pixels at 12pt. Anything wider than this makes it difficult to read because our eyes can't track back to the start of the next line efficiently over that distance. On a widescreen monitor at say 1440px wide, the text content section (even at 70%) is still over 1000 pixels wide. Even using a standard 1024 layout, 70% is still over 710 pixels.

To combat this, you generally have to create many text columns (similar to a newspaper), however if you then need to view the page on a smaller monitor (say 800x600) the columns become very thin and again unreadable.<

Click Here to see a readability comparison

3. With only minimal content you can end up with content that fills the width of the page, but only covers around 20% of the page height, leaving a lot of unused space on the page.<

4. Elements can get quite spaced out on the page and related items can look disjointed, making it difficult for visitors to follow.<

5. Often to keep ratios relative, larger images are used to fill space. Any time you use larger images you're ingreasing the file size and slowing down your page.<

Generally the people that prefer the stretched layout style are only thinking about their own viewing experience on their own computer. Often it's a simple matter of education that will convince someone that this is not a good option to allow maximum viewing pleasure for the majority of visitors to your website.

Note: I need to admit that flash can alleviate some of these issues and I remember seeing 1 flash site that used full screen design to good effect. As a ratio however 1 out of thousands is not enough for me to warrant it as a viable option.

Please feel free to leave comments if you disagree with me.

Thanks to: East of the Web and Ellena Ashley for the sample text from the children's story The Dragon Rock. To read the story in full, please visit
http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/DragRock.shtml



Wednesday, 23 January 2008

It's here - myCMS4!

Digerati Solutions are excited to present the latest version of our Content Management System to our new and existing customers. We have collated and included over 100 suggestions from clients and staff in order to make the myCMS product even easier to use while providing more functionality!

In our innovative new system, Digerati have committed to producing a system that is simple to use, quick to perform changes and keeps data secure.

myCMS4 has a new intuitive interface that will enable you to:


  • Browse pages to update much quicker than before

  • Administer your website structure and navigation (depending on the design of your site)

  • Store and manage website resources

  • Securely manage your contributors actions



MyCMS4 is also more customisable for sites that require custom functionality such as appointment scheduling, stock control, customer management, event management, order reporting, testimonials, email marketing and photo galleries to name a few.

We have implemented the latest features and technologies to provide our customers with a system that is quick to use, seamless and intuitive. We have streamlined our processes and code to reduce reloads, added tab browsing on page options, update boxes as well as drag and drop features.

If you would like a demo of myCMS4, feel free to contact Digerati and arrange a meeting.



Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Inefficient Technology

Firstly, AJAXs or XHTML content is the functionality which makes appearances seamless, smooth and fancy. It uses complex methods that pull information as you are viewing the website, creating an experience becoming popular with experienced developers on the internet.

Over the years, technology has evolved quickly and has been put under the test of the market place. Some products that were developed have failed to deliver as expected, or the market place has grown so much that the current applications are different to it’s initial purpose.

A good example of its application is the new apple.com.au website - more specifically the http://www.apple.com/trailers/ webpage where Apple are displaying items in the table at the bottom. Have a flick through the different pages. Notice its “nice” transitions, the seamless transitions between the information, and the webpage doesn’t need to reload.

For a drawback of this technology on the same site, click the buttons at the top that include: Just Added, Exclusive, Just HD etc. Watch the animation that holds the page until it loads the content. The information that is displayed at this point will not be found on Google or any Search Engine.

The reason for this is because Google (as with most common search engines) only caches the initial html server response and reads it on a text level. If you have data loading on complex runtime procedures or through time delayed methods via javascript, not in html (ajaxs and xhtml), your information will not be found in the search engine cache.

Apple developers have been intuitive enough to understand this downfall and have employed a solution similar to our approach of including alternate sources for search engine data collection.

Although the new technology of AJAX, XHTML, Flash and advanced javascript can ultimately make any website look great, it takes an experienced development company to be able to use these yet concurrently keep the fundamental functionality of user accessibility, search engine optimisation and W3C standards compliance.

Talk to Digerati today about your existing (or new) website and whether it is an effective presence to search engines, or how we can assist you with the effective integration of new technology.





Friday, 4 January 2008

Keeping Up Appearances

5.25 inch floppy disk
If I told you that I listen to all of my music on cassette tape you would probably laugh at me. Similarly, if I told you that my portable file storage format is a packet of 5.25” floppy disks (you remember the big black ones?), you would no doubt label me an eccentric and probably shield me from any by-standing children in case my disease was contagious.

If you are using Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 8, Firefox 1, Opera 8.5, Safari 2 or any versions before them, then you’re among approximately 35% of the internet population using outdated browsers (according to w3schools.com stats of Dec 2007). If you have you screen resolution set to 800x600 pixels or less you are one of around 17% of internet users operating below the standard screen size.

As with the cassette tapes and floppy disks, there may be a time and place for each of them (it’s hard to see where, but I’ll allow that there may be some situations), however the vast majority of the world has moved forward, and as a general rule it is accepted that both of these formats have been superseded by far superior alternatives.

The issues of browser type and screen resolution are the 2 most frustrating aspects of the internet to any web design and development studio, large or small. These areas are the most significant contributors to the internet being unable to move forward at the speed of innovation and technology – and in most cases, it doesn’t need to be the case. Many older browsers (such as Internet Explorer 6 and older Safari versions) do not support technology which is becoming widely used, and as such many agencies will need to forego some ‘features’ in the pursuit of compatibility. This reluctance to leave internet users behind is causing the internet to evolve slower than it could, and is in turn reducing the potential effectiveness of the internet as a whole.

Online technology is increasing exponentially. With the arrival of the .Net framework almost any developer (web or not) can now produce powerful online applications in whatever language they are most comfortable with, which means a lot more people are developing, and a lot companies are trying to ‘get more out of the system’. In all cases, the product is useless unless the end user is able to actually ‘use’ the products that are being developed, and to allow for this, browsers are constantly adding support for new technology - from code provision to file support. When a user upgrades to the latest browser, they are allowing their computer to effectively use the best of what is currently available.

Unfortunately, not all browsers support all new technology, and some have opted not to support some that they probably should have. This in itself causes significant friction for developers trying to offer bigger, powerful and faster online tools because they have to start adding work-arounds to support the shortcomings of a specific browser or bite the bullet and not support a browser all together.

New browsers such as Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 are able to self-update, to avoid falling behind the crowd, so once you’ve installed the latest version, you can sit back and forget about having to update because it will take care of itself.

Some of the features supported in the newer browsers but not the older ones include; semi-transparent PNG files, RSS reading, custom toolbar, advanced javascript support and default inclusion of plugins such as flash and java. Some features that are waiting to be included in soon-to-be-released browsers include; CSS3, increased RSS feed services, support for new Silverlight (Microsoft’s answer to flash) files and advanced file download management to name a few. These tools will all allow added flexibility to design and functionality, and ultimately make the users experience a lot more effective and enjoyable.

Some usability features such as tabbed browsing and integrated search toolbars have been introduced into newer versions as well which don’t really affect the page itself, but offer a less cluttered approach to the tools that are commonly used.

In fairness I need to note that as with all new technology there will be some teething issues and a bug here or there, and I don’t recommend upgrading as soon as a new version is available. I do however believe that 6-8 months is more than enough time to allow for significant problems to be resolved and an ideal time to upgrade.

I would recommend having at least 2 browsers installed on each computer to allow for quick transfer to an alternative if needed. This may be necessary if care hasn’t been taken during development to ensure cross-browser compatibility.

Below is a list of the current versions of the 4 major browsers, and a link to a page where you can view the upgraded features and download the necessary files.

Internet Explorer 7 was released in November 2006
Note: You will need a verified version of Windows to install IE7.
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/ie/getitnow.mspx

Firefox 2 was released June 2006
http://www.mozilla-europe.org/en/products/firefox/

Opera 9 was released in June 2006
http://www.opera.com/download/

Safari 3 was released in June 2007
http://www.apple.com/safari/download/