Microsoft Playfully Asks You To Stop Using Internet Explorer 6 Web Browser

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 08, 2011 at 02:29 PM with 6 comments

Microsoft recently launched a program for “moving the world off Internet Explorer 6” called the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, aptly at IE6Countdown.com. For some of you reading this, hearing about this may be somewhat amusing, for others, you may not know why Microsoft would want this to happen. I will try to address the reasons for upgrading your browser here, and why many – including myself – want IE6 to go away!

screen of IE6Countdown.com

A Lot Has Happened In A Decade

IE6 was launched on August 27, 2001. A lot has happened in the area Web technology since then. Web programming standards have changed, with an emphasis towards heavy use of cascading style sheets (CSS) to position content on a Web page, when previously HTML tables were used. This has made Web code “lighter” in it’s physical file size, as well as ease of maintenance. As IE6 itself has not changed, many newer Web pages may display differently, or not display at all. This forces Web designers and developers to add functionality and code to display specific code on IE6 that is different than on other browsers, which only adds to future maintenance.

As well, other browsers have entered the marketplace, including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera. These browsers have been designed to render newer Web standards properly, though each has its own nuances. Not to mention newer features to the browsers, such as tabbed browsing and subscribing to RSS feeds. One feature of these other browsers is in their ability to “self-update” and apply incremental changes to the browser software, and prompt the user to download completely new versions of the browser. IE6 does not do this. Windows Update will prompt a PC user to install a new browser version or incremental browser update, but the user can opt not to install them. In some cases, a user may not even have the option – these tend to be corporate users, who centrally control what updates are made on a corporate computer.

Another reason why corporate users may not use the latest browsers is due to some corporate Web applications requiring IE6 to run. Many of these apps may not have a business need to change, thus corporate IT staff have made no efforts to upgrade the browsers. Only newer versions of Windows have come with newer versions of the browser, and hopefully by then these apps have changed for the newer versions.

So Why A Campaign?

Microsoft relied on people to upgrade the browsers themselves, and in many cases the browser never updated or upgraded. Also, IE6 was viewed as slow and unfriendly, which attributed to a migration away from them. People may use IE6 on occasion – for certain Web apps that required it – but would use Firefox or another browser as their primary browser. Thus not only did IE6 lose market share, IE browsers overall lost market share. So why not a marketing campaign to bring attention to the browser already installed on your PC?

Where the idea of a campaign around a countdown to IE6 going away is interesting, it’s just that – clever marketing. If you look at the chart on the IE6 countdown Web site, the country with the largest use if IE6 is China, which raises all sorts of questions around piracy as well as their ability to even get access to the newer browsers.

As someone who build Web sites, I have IE6 installed on a computer I use, and this is namely for testing my Web sites. My primary browser is Firefox 3, and I also use Google Chrome on occasion, both for Web browsing and testing Web sites. I agree the world would be a better place without IE6. Unfortunately I don’t think this campaign will make it go away completely.

I once had an idea about how to rid the world of IE6 – rather than have a marketing campaign, hold a contest for someone to write a virus or malware which would replace a version of IE6 with a newer version of IE. Though ethics heavily come into play, it would certainly be more effective!

What do you think of this campaign? Do you still use IE6? I welcome your thoughts and reasons in the comments of this post.


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MyBlogLog Shutting Down May 24, 2011 But Will Anyone Notice?

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 01, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

MyBlogLog logoLast week I received an email from Yahoo indicating it will be shutting down the service MyBlogLog on May 24, 2011. For some of you reading this, you may be saying, what the heck is MyBlogLog anyway? Allow me to explain.

MyBlogLog was a social community for blogs. Bloggers joined MyBlogLog and would put code into their theme or template pages to display a widget. If you were a member of MyBlogLog and visited the Web page of another blog who was also a member, your avatar would appear within the widget. This would show that you - and others - visited the blog site. The widget could be adjusted to show a small or large list of avatars, as well as the names of the person and blog behind the avatar. By clicking within the widget you could go to the MyBlogLog page for the blog itself or for the visitors.

MyBlogLog widget from The Hot IronFor myself, MyBlogLog was more of a merit badge for how many different people would visit my blog more than a way to learn about my visitors. I rarely went to the MyBlogLog Web site itself. Overtime, the widget was slowly demoted on the sidebar of The Hot Iron and other blogs which I had signed up for it. Where it was something I would recommend for client blogs, eventually it was not. The accompanying image shows the latest status of the MyBlogLog widget for The Hot Iron as of this writing.

My guess is its popularity waned for others as well. Here’s the text of Yahoo’s email:

Dear MyBlogLog Customer,

You have been identified as a customer of Yahoo! MyBlogLog. We will officially discontinue Yahoo! MyBlogLog effective May 24, 2011. Your agreement with Yahoo!, to the extent that it applies to the Yahoo! MyBlogLog, will terminate on May 24, 2011.

After May 24, 2011 your credit card will no longer be charged for premium services on MyBlogLog. We will refund you the unused portion of your subscription, if any. The refund will appear as a credit via the billing method we have on file for you. To make sure that your billing information is correct and up to date, visit https://billing.yahoo.com.

Questions?

If you have questions about these changes, please visit the Yahoo! MyBlogLog help pages.

We thank you for being a customer on Yahoo! MyBlogLog.

Sincerely,

The Yahoo! My BlogLog Team

When I read this, my first reaction was, “people paid for this?” It was always free when I signed up for it, which pre-dated Yahoo’s acquisition of it. The link to the help pages originally linked to a MyBlogLog page which basically stated what was in the email. As I write this it links to a help page on Featured Listings, which looks like another soon-to-be discontinued service.

My guess is after May 24 the widget will not appear on Web pages, and soon I will remove it from The Hot Iron’s templates. This appears to be yet another change Yahoo is making to slim down its operations, including the shutdown of Geocities and using Microsoft Bing’s search marketing services instead of its own. With MyBlogLog, and the same can be said for Geocities, why didn’t they just spin it off and give this away to someone to let them continue with it? Perhaps they didn’t want to incur the cost of doing so, or perhaps it was easier to just shut it down. I don’t know, as the help topics don’t pertain to it.

So long MyBlogLog – it was fun while it lasted! What do you think about this latest decision by Yahoo? Should they have kept it going? Did it provide any value to you, even if only as eye candy? Please share your thoughts in the comments on this post. And perhaps you will see your avatar in the widget when you do so?


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Web Images Physical Dimensions Should Match Display Dimensions

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 09:53 AM with 1 comments

One of the great things about the proliferation of content management systems and blogging is the ability to publish whatever you want, including text and photos and images. One of the not so great things about this is that things can be published in a far from optimal format, leaving quality on the floor in the name of convenience. Specifically, I am writing with concern over how images and photos are often published and look fuzzy or are slow to load. This can be easily remedied with simply realizing the physical dimensions of an image to match the desired display dimensions.

Here’s an example to illustrate my point, literally, of what we at Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC advise to our clients all the time. As it’s a nice and cold day in Chicago as I write this, why not use a photo of Panama City Beach, Florida taken earlier this year, as shown below.

photo of Panama City Beach, Florida

The dimensions of the photo below are 480 pixels wide by 318 pixels high. The original dimensions of the photo were 2,048 x 1,356 pixels, which is not only much too large to display within the layout of The Hot Iron but too large for most blog feed readers. Using the most basic features of PhotoShop, I reduced it to the size above. As a result, the physical dimensions of the photo match the display dimensions, not to mention the size of the file being much smaller as well.

The alternative to this would have been to add the photo to the blog post and resize its dimensions “logically” by adjusting the HTML display dimensions. This would have had 2 negative impacts on the beautiful picture. It would have appeared grainy or pixilated as I am simply squishing the image without altering its physical size. Also, it would have taken longer for it to appear, as the filesize would be 10 times larger than the physically resized image.

Larger images logically resized appear more than you would think, or now would like. I see it on blog posts, Web sites for businesses as well as email newsletters. The user experience is often where the entire page loads and the photo or image slowly appears, line-by-line, from top to bottom. Many times I have been tempted to contact the owner of the Web site or newsletter, however from past experience such submitted issues go unresponded to.

So how do you resize your images? Many of you may already have software to do this installed on your PC or Mac – some may come from the OS itself, or in the case of Windows it may be pre-installed software from the hardware vendor. Some digital camera software comes with basic editing tools. Some online photo sites may offer editing and resizing capabilities as well. You can also acquire a full copy of Adobe Creative Suite, or its lower-priced cousin PhotoShop Elements.

With a little bit of work, you can provide a greater experience to your readers with good looking photos and images displayed in an optimal way.


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Surrounded By QR Codes In A Chicago Transit Car

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 5 comments

Where last time I talked about QR codes on a Chicago transit station platform this time I am stepping into the car, where I am surrounded by a single ad campaign and large QR codes, as you can see in the photo below.

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train ceiling

The photo shows an ad for The Real Southwest, which is being sponsored by the Tucson, Arizona Convention and Visitors Bureau. All of the ad spaces in this train car are for the same campaign, which is becoming more and more common place. What is interesting about the photo above is that it is of the ad affixed to the ceiling of the train car! The photo below shows a similar ad, but at eye level, and with a one word difference – can you find it?

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train side

The actual train car I was riding on was full so I was not able to get other pictures without annoying other passengers any more than I was when I took these. Not every ad had a QR code on it, but there was always within a standard field of vision.

Instructions Built-In

What’s unique about this ad series is that the instructions are prominent within the ad copy. Many times if there are instructions along with a QR code on what to do with it, they are in small type and located in the corner of the ad. It tells you to get the Scanlife, not to download a QR code reader, which is also unique. And by placing the URL to scanlife.com alongside the code is, again, unique. Of course if you know what a QR code is you will just scan it.

All of the codes I scanned took me to the same web page on the Tucson Web site. What would have been interesting was if they had different QR codes, thereby being able to track which one people scanned to get to the Web site, or having a unique QR code on the ceiling to track how many people look (and scan) up.

What are your thoughts on this ad – is it as unique as I have said it is, or just a good campaign? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


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3 Words For Your Web Site In 2011

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, January 17, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 4 comments

photo of 3With the start of a new year, many people come out with predictions or trends they see for the coming 12 months. There’s plenty of great writings out there already, so I will not add to the list (if you want to read a good one, there’s Emily Brackett’s Top 10 Web Design Trends for 2011 That Will Help Your Small Business).

As I was pondering my 3 words for 2011 as presented by Chris Brogan I thought of suggesting 3 words for your Web site for 2011. These 3 words are “guiding pillars to focus on in the coming year” as Chris describes.

My 3 words for your Web site are – Measure, Function and Backup.

Measure – Any decision you make for your Web site (or for your business for that matter) should be the result of facts or planning. Whether these are successful or not are determined by the numbers, and you must measure them to ensure if you are on track, way off, or need an adjustment. Many people do not measure their Web site. This starts with the hits, which many people use Google Analytics to measure. It then continues with feed tracking (for blogs or RSS feeds), social media links, surveying and so forth. If you are not doing any measuring, do so. If you have no data to work with, start collecting it.

Function – As much as a Web site must have great content and look good, it must also work. Links should not be broken. Forms should submit properly and accurately process the information entered. Any unique functionality should not only work but also work in all browsers. Where you may think these examples should be a given, many times they are not. The simple thing is to test your Web site on multiple browsers – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc. – and on multiple platforms – PC, Mac, Linux, mobile devices – and see how they look and perform. Ensuring your Web site works means it is working for your customers.

Backup – Do you have a backup strategy for your Web site? Or do you even have at least one, single backup copy of your Web site stored someplace secure? If not, then you should. Develop a plan of what to backup and how often. Backups can be as simple as a database dump or export of orders, blog posts or customer data. It should be done on an interval that works for you. One you create it, test the backup plan, as a backup is no good if you can’t restore from it. Fortunately your Web host more than likely has some form of backup procedures in place. But why wait until there’s a problem to fund out they don’t?

There are a lot of things to consider with regards to any Web site, as I have presented before with The State of Your Web Site. These are 3 core areas from which you can build the success of your Web site. If you have any questions or comments on any of these, please enter them in the comments area of this post below. If you need help to make these happen, please contact me personally.


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Is The NFL Moving To A Unified Web Site?

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 06:46 AM with 0 comments

Over the holidays I caught up on reading and responding to email, in the process managing both my personal and work email inboxes to zero. One of the messages I processed came from the National Football League, or NFL. As I am a New England Patriots season ticket holder, this is probably why I received it. An image of the short message is below:

screenshot of NFL.com email

The message text read as follows:

Dear Michael,

In the next few weeks we'll be redesigning the Patriots website, and are hoping that you will share your opinion with us about the current website. By participating in this short survey, you will provide valuable information to help us evaluate the design and functionality of your favorite team's website. To get started, please click here to take the survey.

Thanks for your help!

Sincerely,

NFL.com

After reading it and re-reading it, as well as taking the brief survey, I had one question, are NFL team Web sites moving to a unified platform?

Such a move does not surprise me, as other sports leagues have taken a similar approach. Major League Baseball, or MLB, first comes to mind as they made this move many years ago. Other US pro sports leagues, such as Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League also have. The National Basketball League (NBA) appears to have, but the Boston Celtics Web site appears different from the other NBA team Web sites, though it does not mean it’s not on a common platform.

Having all team Web sites on a common platform provides many gains, which outweigh the negatives. First and foremost is cost and technical management – no need for 32 separate Web sites (there are 32 NFL teams), where you technically have one. Each team Web site (or section of the NFL site) will have a similar navigation structure, making it easy for the Web visitor to navigate from team-to-team. You still have your team-based content writers and coordinators, or whatever their title would be. You can also better leverage content across team sites with relative ease, both the written word and rich media, and the latter may be driving much of this. MLB has been very successful and providing broadcasts and audio and video of games, and charging for it. The NFL, which is known for its high-quality NFL Films, will probably make a similar offer.

If there are any drawbacks from combining Web sites is the complete control of the look and feel and overall content of the Web site. This will be more of an internal team issue than for the fans. Hopefully combining all Web sites will force all teams to offer a consistent level of quality content and design, where currently some team sites offer more content than others, not to mention some have a better design as others.

I performed a few searches and did not see anything specifically mentioning any form of unifying move. I welcome any thoughts and opinions on this, not just from a sports standpoint but from a branding and design view as well. Plus any insight into if the NFL is actually doing this is welcome too.


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Back From TechEd Europe Conference With Nokia

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 12:08 PM with 2 comments

After a whirlwind trip to Berlin, Germany for the Microsoft TechEd Europe conference and the opportunity to meet and query members of Nokia’s enterprise mobile team among other Nokia staff, I am back in the Windy City with a head full of thoughts and ideas.

photo of Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

As I get settled back and unwind from this learning experience, I will be writing more detailed posts on what I took away from the people I met over the last few days. Look for more information on Nokia’s next flagship device, the E7, as well as information on how it works and where ti fits in with everything else Nokia is working on now.

E7 Coming Soon

One piece of information I will share now is the answer to the most asked question of me to relay to Nokia staff – when the E7 is coming out. Their answer is Christmastime. It will be a phased global launch over the next few month, with availability in some countries by the end of 2010 and the rest soon after in 2011. Nobody told me which countries would be when, but it was inferred markets such as China and India would be in the first phase, and there was no specific indication when it would be available in the US.

In the meantime, I will share this photo of an E7 hooked up to an HDTV – it has an HDMI out port and with a cable it can be hooked up to any HD device with HDMI input.

photo of Nokia E7 hooked up to an HDTV

Special thanks to Nokia and WOMWorld/Nokia for sponsoring all of my travel, accommodations, hospitality and admission to TechEd. Rhiannon from WOMWorld/Nokia was a gracious host and facilitator and did an excellent job ensuring all was coordinated, especially keeping us well fed. It was also great to again see Dennis Bournique from Wap Review and meeting Craig Richards from Geek Computers. Kudos to the Hotel Berlin, Berlin, an excellent hotel with great service.


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ShelfLuv Makes Book Shopping Fun

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 09:06 PM with 2 comments

Recently Google changed their search results page to incorporate something called Google Instant, whereby as you type the search results on the page change. This type of “instant” technology has been met with mixed opinions, where some love it and others hate it, and I am in the latter camp. This “instant” idea was recently applied to Amazon.com book searches, and I have to admit I do love ShelfLuv.

ShelfLuv is the brainchild Pek Pongpaet, a Chicago user experience designer and developer, among other hats he wears. For the sake of full disclosure, I know Pek. One of the benefits of knowing him is seeing the ideas he makes into reality, and one of them is ShelfLuv. Rather than just refreshing a page with book suggestions, he created the visual of a bookshelf to show the book suggestions based on the keyword or keywords you enter. As the words change, so do the books on the shelf. And when you click on a book, you can see a brief description, review and excerpt if available. You also have the option to view similar books.

Below is a screenshot of ShelfLuv where it displays 4 books written by one of my clients, Steve Jermanok who blogs at ActiveTravels.

ShelfLuv screenshot

ShelfLuv is definitely something you want to experiment with for yourself. For example, I typed in 3 words, one at a time – new, England and Patriots. With each word, the selection changed from new releases to knitting books to books on my favorite football team. It is not only a unique way to shop for books, but a great example of how a great presentation layer on top of technology can make all the difference in the success of any Web site or service.


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Set Goals For Your Web Site

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Editor’s Note – This post is in follow-up and support of The State of Your Web Site, a checklist from Dunkirk Systems, LLC which helps guide Web site owners to objectivity on the current state of their Web site. You can download a free, no obligation PDF copy at TheStateOfYourWebSite.com.

Do you have goals for your Web site? Did you ever think of setting goals for your Web site?! As a Web site is a living, breathing 24/7 representative of your business, you should have goals – even just one goal – set in writing for your Web site. This fact is why it is near the top of the list on The State of Your Web Site checklist.

Yes, “goal” is a 4-letter word. Whenever people talk about goals, they often cringes or get defensive or have some adverse reaction to it. Even if they have goals for their life or their business in general, when it comes to their Web site, they will wonder why they are needed. With the expense and exposure that comes with a Web site, there is the reason right there to do so.

Where To Start

What your goals should be depend on your business and the Web site itself. If you have a store but do not sell products and services online, your goals would be much different from someone selling online with an eCommerce Web site. A “brochure” Web site is also much different than one with an extensive support forum.

Like anything in business, start someplace with goals, and review and refine as necessary. Write down statements such as “drive more traffic into my store” and “10% of overall sales made online.” Then you will want to ensure your Web site has the content or functionality to accommodate these – a printable in-store coupon and an eCommerce are part of this. Then measure – review your Web site analytics and ask new customers who come into your store how they heard about you. This is a simple example, but a point to start from.

If you are still unclear about your Web site’s goals, talk to your Web consultant. At Dunkirk Systems, LLC we work with our clients, both those with established Web sites or new ones, to set such goals, and integrate their measurement into their overall business analytics and review.

Do you have goals for your Web site? How has the goal-setting and review process worked for you? And if you do not have goals, why? Please share your thoughts in the comments for this post.


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Mike Maddaloni Featured In Article On Web Sites In NFIB MyBusiness Magazine

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

In the September/October 2010 edition of NFIB MyBusiness magazine there is an article called “Click Here for Profits” which is geared towards new, moderate and experienced Web site owners. The magazine is published by the National Federation of Independent Business and is geared towards its members, all business owners. In the section titled “Getting Online for the Moderately Experienced” by Christina Galoozis, I was proud to have been able to contribute to this part of the overall article. You can read the article here at the NFIB Web site.

photo of NFIB MyBusiness magazine

In the article, I shared several points, including offering a variety of content in your company’s blog, planning and writing a blog consistently, and on local search. I had a great conversation with Christina who asked me very insightful questions, and related my thoughts very well in the article.

Thanks to Christina for the opportunity to be in this article, and if you are visiting The Hot Iron as a result of the article, welcome! I also welcome your thoughts and opinions on the article here in the comments to this blog post.


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