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8 posts from July 2007

July 27, 2007

Un-official Live-blogging from BlogHer 07: High Performance Websites

Tenni Theurer from Yahoo speaks on Optimizing Performance (High Performance Websites).

Response Time:
Perceived response time and Front end performance is important to understand (fast experience on your website). Everything you add to your page can slow you down.

Empty Cache versus Primed Cache:
Browsers have this notion of Cache, all the elements of a website get stored in cache. Alot of users come to a sight with an empty cache (most browsers reload elements so it is fresh). Some security programs clear cache when a computer is shut down. Empty cache has forced content designers to put value on pages. Flash and video's can effect response time. The more you take out, the faster it is for the users to access your site. You have to think not only of the users with great land line connections but also a users that may be connecting from an internet cafe in a foreign country with limited bandwith.

Golden rule: 80-90% of the end user response time is spent on the front end. Start there.

  • Greater potential for improvement
  • Simpler
  • Proven to work

You need to design pages differently depending on if you users come from dial-up, mobile or from computer browsers.

14 Rules -

(14 Rules are all available on developers.yahoo.com or Skrentablogdevelopers.yahoo.com/Yslow will provide a utility to analyze why your site runs slow). It is also worthwhile to just check out the YAHOO DEVELOPERS NETWORK that has lots of extremely helpful information.  I will post later with instructions on how to use YSLOW. We saw a quick demo and it does have specific steps you need to use.

 FYI - this information is for website developers. If you use a product that has a user interface (like Typepad), some of this information may not make sense - but is is good to know. For example, even on typepad sites you can see the initial http requests on the bottom left hand of the screen when you first bring up the blog.

See the page "Thirteen Rules" for more details (there is now 14).

  1. Make fewer http requests - components being downloaded to your page (at start-up) like sitetracker.
  2. Use a Content Delivery Network (instead of having thing in one location, distribute things where your users are).
  3. Add an expires header
  4. Gzip components
  5. Put stylesheets at the top
  6. Move scripts to the bottom
  7. Avoid CSS expressions
  8. Make JS and CSS external
  9. Reduce DNS look-ups
  10. Minify JS
  11. Avoid redirects
  12. Remove duplicate scripts
  13. Configure ETags
  14. Make AJAX cacheable

Un-official Live-blogging from BlogHer 07: Building Your Blog Plan

Nelly Yusupova, CTO from Webgrrls International is speaking at BlogHer 07 DAY ONE on "Building your blog plan with design and usability. URL: http://wwww.webgrrls.com/blogher2007/

Listed below are my unoffical live-blogging notes (after coming a few minutes late). My official BlogHer 07 live blogging is listed on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and Chicago Moms Blog.

What is the first thing webgrrls does when a client comes to them asking for a new design?
Find out your clients goals. Webgrrls has a pre-planned questionnaire with all the questions that need to be answered before a design can be put together. Listed below is a sample of the questions they use:

PRE-PLANNED QUESTIONS
1. What are your objectives for your design or re-design?
for example...I want to build and sustain readership

2. Who is your target audience?
for example Mothers with teenage kids or people with an interest in cooking.

3. What is the 1st impression you want your design to convey?
for example.. Professional, serious, humorous, sarcastic

4. What would be the best way to convey that message to your audience?
for example...Imagery, photos, colors

5. What is your Budget?

for example, if you pay yourself then you also need to plan for your own expense or if not, just budget how much you can spend.

6. Find three websites that you like.
for example, sites that doe something similar to you or your competition.

7. How will you measure the success of the website? The answer will guide you in your design strategy.
for example, number of visits, return visitors or subscriber to RSS feeds.

The most important thing is to have users that come back to your site (repeat visitors). Repeat visitors should be the same or higher then your new visitors. Repeat visitors can also be users that recieve RSS feeds.

Why Users Return:

  1. 74% Content
  2. 71% Enjoyability
  3. 68% Organization of Content
  4. 66% Usefulness
  5. 64% Ease of Access

Eye Tracking Study:

  1. Users spend a good deal time initially looking at the top of the page
  2. Navigation should be at the top
  3. Close proximity to popular content help ads
  4. People's eyes scan the bottom of the page for content also.

Design Plan Summary:

  1. Branding Elements
  2. Feature Set
  3. Placement

Branding Elements:

  1. Logo
  2. Tagline (like Nikes "Just Do It")  - should be able to be read in 15 seconds
  3. Topic Definition
  4. Colors

Branding Elements- Colors:

  1. Think about gender, culture and age of your users. The key to picking colors is to know your target audience.
  2. Human eye can not focus on red and blue at the same time.
  3. Colors of the same members of a family go better together (like warm colors and cool colors)

Feature Sets:
Blogroll, Archives, Comments, recent posts, RSS subscriptions, widgets & Plug-ins. It is important to figure out which feature set is important to your blog. Make a list of what feature sets you want then ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the feature?
  2. Who does it influence my website strategy?
  3. How does it help me achieve my website goals?

Put yourself in your reader's shoes. If they can not understand how or why the widget should be used, then it is not a good idea to use it.

Placement:

Use trial and error to find the best place to put your feature sets. The way people view a page is like an "F" (they start at the top right and move down).  Top left is the most important spot.

Lifehacker.com example:
They placed a pitch in the left side of the page. It is important to clearly identify theme in the tagline and provides an explanation of the topic on the home page. You may want to offer RSS feeds for your different categories to get target audiences.

Create quality content and post reguarly.

What percentage of users return for content? 74% Whether you post reguarly depends on your content and audience. Some bloggers only post once a month, and their users read their whole post instead of being overwhelmed with too much content each day. Some users want lots of fresh content.

TIPS:

Make your blog content readable (68% return for readability)

Fonts & Typefaces:

  1. Do not use custom fonts (Arial, Times and Verdana are great fonts)
  2. Use different text size and wight to create contrast

Text Color and Contrast:

  1. Easy to read: white text on black background and black text on white or black on yellow
  2. Bad to read: Black text on Grey, purple text on red background

Chunking: Break long paragraphs into chunks with descriptive headers. Bold or color important terms

Linking- Correct: Website X will teach you how to peel an orange.

Use Clear Titles

Building Trust with your Readers:But Bio with pic, background info and testimonials.

Make it easy to subscribe. Using partial RSS Feeds will help make users click over to your site.

Include a top post, recent posts, comment section. Reward comments by having top commenters box.

Get your own domain and forward to blog.

BlogHer 07: A Conference Not to Miss

I have not posted for awhile because I have been busy with Jill Asher preparing for our trip to BlogHer 07. We hosted a pre-party sponsored by Yahoo at the trendy Viand restaurant in downtown Chicago (and we prepared swag bags). And I will be liveblogging (Media Training and Closing Keynote with Elizabeth Edwards) the sessions I attend so please check back....

July 24, 2007

My Personal Technology Review Team & Holiday Guides

Here is a summary of the TechMama Holiday Gift Guides - and most important a link to my personal technology review team. Take a look...

2008

Mom Day 2008 Holiday Gadget Guide

2007

 My Personal Technology Review Team

TechMama's Holiday And Overall Cool Technology Gift Guide For Families

Give Dad the Gift of Links Linklove

Mom in a Minivan shops for Kids PC's and Cellphones

Mother's Day Gift Guide LInklove

TechMama's Mothers Day Guide for Tech Savvy Moms

July 12, 2007

Alpha Mom Web 2.0 App for Baby Naming

Rattle It is about time someone did this - check out "AlphaMoms Baby Names".  The database has 25,000 names stored that can be browsed alphabetically and searched. Best of all, each name has the language and meaning next to it. Names made easy!

July 11, 2007

Will Harry Potter Mania Lead to More Reading, Or is Reading Books so Web 1.0?

Harry_potter_2 The new Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", hit movie theaters today and everyone seems to be a buzzing with Harry Potter mania. Wendy from the Chicago Moms Blog saw the movie yesterday, for free (I am extremely not jealous)... Catherine, also from the Chicago Moms Blog, posted the "Countdown to Harry" with a nifty counter that keeps track of the time left before the last book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) comes out. Online sites like MuggleNet.com, the  Warner Bros Studios official website, Harry Potter Quizzes, Trivia  and Scholastic.com's Harry Potter site seem to be a favorite destination for kids lately.

But my question is "Do Harry Potter books really inspire kids to read beyond the books?" The New York Times says the effect is limited ("Potter Magic Has Limited Effect on Youngsters Reading Habits"). My 8 year son (and almost 5 year old twins) really enjoy listening to us read Harry Potter books. While my 8 year old can read Harry Potter himself, he prefers that we read it to him. He seems to be inspired by shorter chapter books that cover his areas of interest, so we still have to enforce our "read every day or no screen time" rule. I assume as he gets older he will want to read more, but the New York Times percentages shows the opposite trend: "...a series of federal tests administered every few years to a sample of students in grades 4, 8 and 12, the percentage of kids who said they read for fun almost every day dropped from 43 percent in fourth grade to 19 percent in eighth grade in 1998, the year “Sorcerer’s Stone” was published in the United States. "

My experience is that I did read more as I grew older.  But I did not grow up at a time where some 8 year olds (one that I won't mention by name - B) say things like this to their friends: "You don't have your own laptop computer?". And with all the new social networking sites for kids, will more time be spent on the computer instead of reading? Is online social networking time a  social outlet for kids that replaces reading?  And to make things more complicated, do audio and ebooks count as reading time? Let's not forget online book club and discussions forums; are they a bad replacement for live book clubs or do they offer a good opportunity for discussion for those who can't make live book clubs? I am overwhelmed by all of these modern parental dilemmas. 

Who knows. For now, I will keep enforcing our read every day rule and hope that my son will soon enjoy reading books made out of paper on his own.

Cross Posted on Silicon Valley Moms Blog

July 04, 2007

Wikipedia - How It Works

Wikipedia Last Sunday's New York Times magazine had an article about Wikipedia: "All the News That's Fit to Print Out (by Jonathan Dee).  Wikipedia is a online encyclopedia that can be edited by any registered user. This free source of information is not free of controversy; some question whether the information can be trusted. I go by the "read but verify" while using Wikipedia. But I use the site often, if not only to see how other people view the definitions or as a easy way to obtain links for blog posts. Wikipedia is also a great example of the positive forces of Web 2.0; a free online resource updated by an extensive and loyal user community. Here are some factoids from the New York Times Magazine article:

  • USERS: The first level is for users (4.6 million registered English-language users). Anyone can register. The Wikipedia page explains that users have the ability to start new pages, edit semi-protected pages, rename pages and upload images. The introduction has more information about user abilities.
  • ADMINISTRATORS: 1,200 are "administrators" have extra access, including the power to block others from the site. To become an administrator, the user must answer a series of five questions. Other users have seven days to either approve or dis-approve.
  • STEWARDS: Above the administrator level is "bureaucrats" who can appoint administrators. The level about bureaucrats are "stewards" who are appointed by the seven-person Wikimedia foundation board of directors. There are only 30 stewards. There are also levels above the stewards but it was not clear how many.

The New York Times Magazine article shed light on the dedicated, young and almost cult-like group helping to keep Wikipedia going - all without pay. Some of those dedicated few did get their moment in the spotlight by being featured in the article. I thought it interesting that I obtained information on how Wikipedia works from mainstream media while it seems many young get their news from the Internet. So it is good for the "older" folks to see what the "young" folks are reading on the Internet.

July 01, 2007

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