Archive for the ‘AJAX’ Category

Is AJAX On The Way Out?

Friday, May 9th, 2008

The frenzy days of web 2.0 are over. Thank God. With it, many of the buzz words parted, although some continue to linger. Among the lingering stragglers, “AJAX” continues to nab the spotlight from time to time. Its slickness and interactivity have been applauded by many, while others believe this technology is on the way out.

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The New Web 2.0 Design

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

We can all spot a web 2.0 design when we see one. If it isn’t the rounded corners or faded backgrounds, it’s the bright colours, huge fonts, or BETA tag. These flashy, tacky designed used to have VCs at their mercy, but not any more. This era of design is on its way out.

Enter a new era. Sites like Digg and Facebook are pioneering a new wave of design. How are these sites different? They have a very clean, yet subtle, approach. They do incorporate some of the elements of a stereotypical web 2.0 design, but in a less blatant manner. You may see rounded corners, for example, but they won’t be as pronounced.

A focus on usability is key. Elements such as AJAX and overlays increase functionality by decreasing page loads. Clear messaging and notification of previous actions also seem to be a trend. In addition, we are still seeing that “open feel”, but space is being used more strategically. The days of huge white space are numbered.

Other sites that leverage this new design philosophy include LinkedIn and Yelp. Furthermore, sites that traditionally capitalized that “hugely open, white background” feel, like YouTube and del.icio.us, are moving toward this new design mindset.

I think we will continue to see this trend continue as usability remains the focus. Intuitive designs and common sense will prevail.

Note: I am not a designer, nor a usability expert. I am simply providing my perspective on the situation based on my observations.

What Web Statistics Do You Measure?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Web StatsNearly all website owners monitor their statistics and traffic levels. This is essential to gauge the success and growth of a website. From a business perspective, it is necessary for calculating the ROI of a given marketing initiative. From a personal level, it is encouraging and motivating to watch traffic climb over time. The gratification from hours of hard work speaks for itself in numbers.

Every type of website measures (or should be measuring) different statistics depending on the nature of the site. A blog and an e-commerce site, for example, should not be tracking the same numbers. The former is probably focused around RSS subscribers and page views, while the latter is focused around conversions and sales.

From a personal standpoint, I am mostly focused on RSS subscribers and unique visitors for Mapping The Web. I’m not so focused on page views, as I choose to display entire posts. This eliminates visitors from having to read a snippet, then click to read the rest. Also, I always make a note of checking inbound links and traffic, as well as search traffic. These important sources let me know where my visitors are coming from.

Having said all that though, I still think that a majority of website owners are focused on 1) page views, and 2) unique visitors.

Sites that rely heavily on AJAX technology and “on-page” interaction are an interesting case. Take Google Maps, for example. If you are simply measuring page views, you might only record one per visitor. However, the length of time that that visitor spends on a given page is likely to be significantly higher than on most sites – say, 3-5 minutes. For this reason, a site like Google Maps might want to measure average stay (in minutes) or some other ‘attention’ statistic.

Websites that engage in offline marketing tactics and campaigns should be looking at geographic data. In other words, what city and/or country are visitors coming from? Is there any correlation with the offline strategy? There should be. If not, a re-evaluation of the campaign is necessary.

Keep in mind that statistics can be deceiving at times. Some sites boast higher numbers than actual, in an attempt to appear larger than reality. Furthermore, the misuse of terms can skew perception as well. During the 90’s, the term “hit” was used universally as a substitute for what we now know as a “page view”. The problem was that a “hit” described (by definition) the loading of any file, whether it be an HTML page, an image, or a video. In other words, if you had an HTML page that contained 100 images, one page view might also be classified as 101 hits. What a sham. Companies used this common misunderstanding to boost numbers and create false impressions. Eventually the term was dropped after Internet users discovered the truth. Nevertheless, people still use the term today – once again, usually describing a page view.

More recently, problems (and even anger) have arisen around RSS subscribership. FeedBurner is the big gun in this area, and most big blogs choose to display the company widget. Critics are arguing that given tallies are inaccurate at best and do not accurately reflect the readership of a blog. This many be true to some extent, but it does give you a general idea of the overall popularity of a given blog.

If you are looking to implement a web statistic or analytic service on your website or blog, I would highly recommend Clicky or Google Analytics. Both are free services and offer an incredible array of features. Clicky is my personal favourite, but I’ve used Google Analytics on the occasion and it’s been great too.

So… what statistics do you measure and why?

My Problem With Web 2.0

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I really like web 2.0 and social media, but I have a problem. The majority of people don’t know what the heck it is. This means that they are unable to use such technologies. Preaching to the web 2.0 ‘echo chamber’ is great, but it limits growth, thus decreasing potential revenues.

In my opinion, many start-ups with products/services focused solely around web 2.0 are hoping for a successful launch, widespread PR and exposure, then a quick sale to an Internet giant or media mogul. Long-term aspirations are questionable. Even more perplexing are web 2.0 services that aggregate other web 2.0 services.

Simplicity… usability… they’re all I ask for. God bless the companies that make web 2.0 usable. Making it easy for regular folk to harness and leverage the power of these technologies cannot be overstated. I’ve hit on this topic before, but I will continue to do so.

First of all, we need to take a look at the messaging. Web 2.0 is full of jargon. Let’s take a look at some popular web 2.0 terms that a majority of people have likely never heard of:

  • AJAX
  • Widgets
  • RSS 
  • Wikis
  • Mash-ups
  • Podcasting

… and the list goes on. Personally, these terms are second nature to me. But I understand that my parents and friends have no idea what they mean. This needs to change.

Secondly, there needs to be better education around how these technologies can or are being used. The intimidation factor plays a huge role here. Many shy away from web 2.0 due to the seemingly frightening nature of these terms. This is nothing more than an information inefficiency. Bridging the gap is the ultimate goal.

So what needs to be done? What’s the simple solution?

Easy-to-understand messaging and better education are key to the adoption of web 2.0 technologies.

Once this happens (and all the planets align), we can all delve further into this interweb of unlimited possibilities.

Note: For further analysis and commentary, please read this previous post: How Facebook Is Bringing Web 2.0 MainStream.

Yahoo Launches Mash to Compete with Facebook

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Yahoo Mash logoOn Friday, Yahoo officially unveiled its newest entry into the social network space, Mash. Though there are many notable names in the space already, I’m certain that Mash is looking to compete head-to-head with Facebook in particular. Upon closer inspection of the feature set and interface, I think this can easily be confirmed.

Much of the buzz and PR created by Facebook can be attributed to two key components: the news feed and the developer platform. Yahoo took notice of this and incorporated similar features into Mash. “Pulse” is the term used to described Mash’s version of the news feed. In addition, users of this new social network can customize their profile with individual modules which are akin to Facebook apps. These drag-and-drop pieces can easily be moved around to create a personalized space. Yahoo plans to open up their platform to 3rd party developers in the coming months. Sound familiar?

Two deviations from Facebook include the ability to edit other people’s profile pages, as well as some level of layout customization. To be honest though, the interface itself isn’t overly appealing. It is quite bland. Don’t get me wrong - I love simplicity. But there is a difference between simplicty and elegance. Facebook has found that balance. Mash hasn’t. It looks to me like Yahoo has created a quick-and-dirty version of Facebook with future plans to refine the interface, improve the experience, and expand the feature set. Simply put, I think that Yahoo is still a bit pissed that they didn’t snap up Facebook. They wish they would have offered that extra bit and sealed the deal. Now, they are kicking themselves and trying to play catch-up.

Currently, the service is in (yes, you guessed it) BETA mode. In order to access or test the service, you must be invited by a friend or colleague. This marketing tactic is lame and played-out. I suggest heading over to InviteShare if you are in dire need to try out the new service.

TechCrunch has kindly posted some screenshots of the new service:

Overall, I was fairly disappointed by my initial analysis of the service. Nevertheless, I will hold back from making any firm conclusions until I actually test out the social network. I am unaware of how much Yahoo has allocated towards this project (both in terms of financial and human resources). By the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like enough.