IT departments are often criticized for thinking only of technology and not about the end users in an organization. Where IT can be an easy target, in many cases the critique is correct. Here’s a perfect example in the form of following technical standards and missing the goal the technology is to be used for.
The other day I was walking through Block 37, a retail complex in Chicago’s Loop, and saw a sign as shown in the accompanying photo. The Disney Store is going to open in one of the many available retail spaces, confirming what I had read in the local media. As is often the case with a retail “coming soon” sign, there was a call for people to work at the forthcoming store, or as Disney calls it, a casting call. Though I was not interested in working there, I read the sign nonetheless, and almost choked when I got to the end of it, reading aloud at this point the email address listed, as shown in detail below.
This email address is far from usable, and is prone to all kinds of misspellings and mistyping errors. From a usability standpoint, it is anything from memorable. If someone is walking by the sign and doesn’t have a pen or any other way to write it down or enter into a mobile device, forget the possibility of remembering it. From a data-entry perspective, an email address with mixed case and 5 periods will surely be typed incorrectly when used in an email address, or even if someone is jotting it in their device for later use. It is not known if the capital letters are case-sensitive or not.
And all this criticism is coming from someone who has worked his entire career in computers! What is needed is IT leadership who understands people need to use the technology they build and support, and this should be a joint effort with marketing or HR to come up with a unique, short, memorable email address or Web site to entice people to email their resume for a position. Granted in this economy people who are looking for jobs will go to extraordinary means to get one. But why make them do more work than they – or anyone else – should?
For the sake of full disclosure (and to satisfy the FTC), I do own a few shares of Disney stock, which makes this even more embarrassing for me.Build • Business • Technology • (3) Comments • Permalink
As a Web site owner, today you must do everything you can to draw traffic to your Web site. There are the obvious methods of doing so – links to your Web site, search engine optimization (SEO) and search marketing. All of these are an ongoing process which of course will take time and money.
Many people forget something obvious – visually drawing traffic to your site. The most common way this plays out is when you are navigating bookmarks or manually typing a URL in your browser address bar and a list of previously-visited Web sites appears. Along with those addresses and Web site titles, there may also be an icon appearing. This is called a favicon, and your Web site should not be without one.
Favicon is a contraction of “favorites icon” and is yet another way for your Web site to stand out. It is technically an icon file on your Web server that is referenced in your Web pages and is displayed in the browser. Below is an example of favicons which appear both on the address bar and tabs of my Firefox browser.
If you bookmark a Web page that has a favicon, it will also appear in your list of bookmarks, as shown in the accompanying screenshot. Favicons may also appear on mobile browsers as well. Note however favicons may not appear on older browser versions, as I have written before are still out there and in use. Most all current browsers will display them. As you can see, a favicon will help your Web page stand out among the others. It can also reinforce your branding beyond the Web page itself, helping lead people back to your Web site if they liked what they saw the first time.
So what happens if your Web site does not have a favicon? You will see a blank rectangle resembling a piece of paper or simply nothing where the favicon would be, as shown in the accompanying screenshot. As a result, the title of the particular Web page which was bookmarked will have to do all of the work to visually draw people. Again, how does the saying go, a picture is worth 1,000 words?
If your Web site does not have a favicon, contact your Web site designer or developer and ask for one. Of course if you are unsuccessful, you can always contact us at Dunkirk Systems, LLC and we would be more than glad to work with you to make it happen. A favicon is a literally small file that can have a large impact on your Web site.Build • Mobile Technology • Web Design • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink
Every time I walk by this it cracks me up, so much that I had to take a picture of it and talk about it here, and how it related to the Web. Below is a photo of part of a sidewalk in Chicago near the northeast corner of Madison and Canal Streets. And what you think you may see is correct, a piece of metal bolted over a hole in the sidewalk.
As peculiar as it appears, unfortunately it is not an anomaly. There are many sidewalks in the Windy City which are patched with metal or plywood. This is most likely the result of the fact that many sidewalks are vaulted (or hollow underneath) which is a throwback to the days when the only way you could get goods into a building were through a lift in the sidewalk to the basement. As the logistics – and cost – to repair a vaulted sidewalk are high, many times something is just bolted over the hole to cover it.
Ideally, the owner of a building with a vaulted sidewalk should be aware of their condition and appropriately budget for its repair or replacement, just as they should be anticipating other repairs in the building. The same holds true for the owners of Web sites.
Web Sites Need Repairs Too
There are 2 cases when a Web site needs to be repaired, with one being driven by the business and the other by technology.
From a business standpoint, a Web site should be closely synchronized with the entity it represents. This includes everything from an accurate phone number to an extension of services offered by the entity to the Web site. If the content of your Web site frequently changes and the site doesn’t have a content management system (CMS) then you should consider adding one, thereby reducing the cost of manually maintaining content. If you send statements or other documents to your customers, making these available on your Web site could reduce labor and mailing costs to get these out. As social media tools become more robust, integrating them into your Web site will give you an advantage to reach out to your fans and followers, who hopefully will become customers.
Just as with a home or car repair, Web site repairs will need your time to be addressed, will need to be scheduled and will cost money. Where you cannot always anticipate when repairs will be needed (just as you can’t predict when your refrigerator will stop working) it is best to set aside some funds for your Web site’s eventual repair. How much you will need to save will depend on the size and complexity of your Web site, and your Web consultant can help you with this decision-making. As well, they can help you with identifying potential problem areas and recommend a schedule for you as well. If they cannot, feel free to contact Dunkirk Systems, LLC, as we are more than glad to talk to you about how to best manage your Web site.Build • Business • Web Design • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink
The next Chicago ExpressionEngine Meetup will be on Tuesday, May 18, at OfficePort Chicago in the Loop. During the first Meetup the idea of "opening the books" and sharing our work in EE was discussed. We now have our first volunteer for what will certainly be a lively discussion and learning experience for all.
Eryan Cobham of Cobwebs Consulting will be subjecting himself to a "code review" by the group for a site he is currently building using EE, and facilitating a discussion on the proper way to do accomplish certain functions in EE. Some topics may include: using extensions, URL segments, and any other questions that people may interest people.
View the details on this event and RSVP on the Meetup site. For more information and to join the group, visit the Chicago ExpressionEngine Meetup at Meetup.com.Announcements • Blogging • Build • Technology • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink
As a Web consultant with Dunkirk Systems, LLC, I manage domain names for my active clients. Whether it's a new domain name or one that has been registered for years, I recommend to my clients they extend the registration of their domains for several years out.
Why? There are 2 primary reasons.
The first is a domain name whose 'age' is beyond 1 year has a higher ranking than a newly registered domain name for 1 year. This comes from both computers and humans. Some search engines, namely Bing, use the age of a domain in its search results algorithm. As well, people can give more credence to an 'older' domain name if they are questioning a Web site tied to a domain name or valuing the price of a Web site and its domain name.
The second reason is administrative. If a domain name is registered for multiple years you do not have to worry about renewing it every year. Of course you should have your domain name registered with a reliable and ICANN-approved registrar or through a domain name reseller like Dunkirk who does so and monitors your domain names as well.
You can register a domain name for up to 10 years in advance, why not do so? If you have any questions on domain names, feel free to comment here or contact me at Dunkirk directly.Build • Domain Names • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink
While visiting with friends over the weekend, something caught my eye on their notebook computer. It was their work PC, and they had Internet Explorer open to their personal iGoogle page. What I saw on the page was a warning message, as shown below.
The message in a yellow box, prominently positioned below the search box read, ‘You’re currently using an older web browser. Upgrade now!’ When I pointed this out to my friend, she muttered something under her breath about this being an old, slow computer with old software on it. Sure enough, when I checked the version of the browser, it was a version of IE 6. When I pressed the issue, she said they cannot update the browser and everyone has issues with it.
This issue is not unique, and many corporate computer users will have old hardware and software. Many large companies have common “images” of the software on a computer and it is a big deal when something is changed on it, short of regular Windows patches. As a result, many corporate users have old versions of browsers. Since many people may be browsing to your Web site during the day or on a work PC from home, it is something you need to take into consideration ion the design and functionality of your Web site. Talk to any Web designer and developer and they hate old versions of the browsers, and they have a good reason for this angst, as older browsers do not support newer design and functional capabilities.
Get The Facts With Analytics
Issues with older browsers may impact some Web sites more than others. This depends on the demographic of the visitors to the Web site. The sure way to see if this is an issue or not is to check the analytics of your Web sites. By checking what browsers and versions of those browsers are loading your Web site, you will know if this is a large issue or not. Based on this information, you may have nothing to worry about, or you may need to have a conversation with your Web designer and developer to discuss appropriate action, from changes to warning messages. This is a conversation we at Dunkirk Systems, LLC frequently have with our clients and with prospective clients, and we are more than glad to talk with you about this as well.Build • Web Design • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink
Have you ever used a talking or spirit board, commonly known as an Ouija board? Did it talk back to you? And by chance did it tell you and your family to move to Afghanistan? Believe it or not, it did for one family, and now their true story is being told in the book OUIJA – For The Record, written by Chicago author D. Lynn Cain.
To accompany her life story, she wanted a Web site to tell about the book, a blog to share stories, and a community forum for people to share their stories about their personal experiences with these boards. My Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC and our design partners at Visible Logic, Inc. worked together with Cain to develop this Web site, blog and community at OuijaForTheRecord.com.
This was a great project, as it allowed us to be creative and tell a unique story. Bringing together people to share their experiences about Ouija boards is also a unique opportunity. The site is built on ExpressionEngine, a content management system which allows for the integration of all of the desired functionality of the site and community. Dunkirk has built other community sites with ExpressionEngine, including Active Travels and Lewis and Clark Road Trips. Emily Brackett of Visible Logic did a great job with the design of the site, including a hidden message on the home page – see if you can find it!
As I write this, I am still reading the book and will write my usual takeaways from it when I finish it. This is a unique story, and we learned a lot about it as we were strategizing the site early on. If you have interest in true-life stories, Ouija boards or paranormal activities, OUIJA – For The Record is surely a great read for you.Announcements • Build • Web Design • Web Development • (2) Comments • Permalink
ExpressionEngine is a content management system from EllisLab which we at Dunkirk Systems, LLC have used to develop several blogs and communities for clients. Like any tool, it is good to know others who work with it to share experiences and learn from. This is why I took the initiative to start an ExpressionEngine Meetup group in Chicago.
The first Meetup will be on Tuesday, March 23, at OfficePort Chicago in the Loop. We launch the first meeting of the Chicago ExpressionEngine Meetup with Michael Boyink, principal of Boyink Interactive and the founder of Train-ee, a leader in ExpressionEngine education.
For more information and to join, visit the Chicago ExpressionEngine Meetup at Meetup.com.Build • Technology • Web Development • (3) Comments • Permalink
It has served me well, and now it’s time for it to be in the hands of a start-up Web design and development business. I am talking about The Web Design Business Kit from SitePoint, which I have just posted for sale by auction on eBay. Below is a photo of the 2 binders and CD-ROM which make up the Kit.
The Kit consists of processes and procedures for owning and operating a Web design and development business. It is a step-by-step process that takes you through the business process of building a Web site and is supported by documentation and files in Excel and Word you can use right away in your business. Note the files are in Australian MS format but can easily adapted to US format. I purchased the Kit brand new a few years ago and learned quite a bit from it. The version 2.0 of this sells for almost $250.00. The content in the Kit is timeless.Build • Business • Strategize • Web Design • Web Development • (1) Comments • Permalink
In the ever-changing and rapidly-developed world of the Web, errors happen. From browser incompatibilities to outright bad code, bugs occur and can cause everything from minor discomfort to outright pain for the Web visitor. Like any good Web consultant, we here at Dunkirk Systems, LLC want to fix them as quickly and efficiently as possible. And in order to do so, we need as much information as can be provided to me to troubleshoot and fix the issue.
The following is a list of types of information needed in order to research and fix a Web error, as well as detailed information for each area. Though it may not be possible to provide all of the answers to these questions, as much information as possible will help in getting the Web page or site back up and running properly.
Where are you and when?
- Computer type – PC, MAC, mobile device
- OS – Windows, OS-X, Linux, etc. and what version
- Monitor/screen resolution
- Browser – IE, Firefox, etc. and what version
- How connected to the Internet – work, home, public WiFi
- Any plugins or toolbars in the browser that can impact behavior?
- Any popup blockers?
- Date/time error occurred - not always vital, but can be used to check against Web server
What are you doing?
- What link/URL are you accessing?
- What were the steps that lead you to the error?
- Does the issue happen every time or just on occasion (e.g. when first opening the browser)
- Have you been able to recreate this issue on another computer?
- Have you recently cleared their browser cache? If not, do so and try again
- Details of the error
- Screen shots of the entire desktop, not just the window at issue
- Any error messages that appear in the browser or on the desktop that the user observes but does not appear in a screenshot
What were you expecting?
- I ask this as there may, in some cases, be an issue with expectations
As you can see, there are a lot of issues that can play into a Web site error, and the number variables in play with the Web will only get larger as the number of devices and ways people connect to the Internet are created. Help us help you, as well as everyone else, build a beautiful – and functional – Web experience.Build • Web Development • (0) Comments • Permalink