Thoughts

Web Design

Statistics, Lies, and Damn Statistics

April 3rd, 2007

I found this interesting and thought I'd share it. The website w3schools.com maintains Web Browser Statistics as well as operating system stats with month-by-month results that let you see the trends. The problem with this source is that it comes from their visitors, and the average visitor to w3schools (a web development site) doesn't accurately reflect the web as a whole. I moved on to TheCounter.com. Their page also shows month-by-month results, but on separate pages. However, since their data represents a broader cross section of web users, I think it's more valuable.

They place Internet Explorer 6 at 58% of the market, IE7 gaining at 25%, FireFox up to 12%, Safari climbing up to 3%, IE 5 still clinging to 1%, and my own favorite Opera at about 1% as well. IE6 was over 80% in October, so it's clearly being replaced quickly by IE7. Unfortunately they don't have Operating System statistics.

On my own site I can't easily discern how browser shares break down since the RSS feed greatly skews the results towards browsers that poll RSS, plus all the development I do is reflected as visits from Opera. In any case, it will be interesting to see if IE7 takes the crown from IE6 or if Firefox will keep growing. Of course, I'd like to see Opera take off, but I don't think it gets enough press.

Only an entire Four Months

November 7th, 2006

I just noticed that today is four months exactly since I posted that I was actually going to do a XeoMage redesign. In that time the site has come a long way, more than it probably seems. I'm not the sort to congratulate myself much or focus on accomplishments instead of what needs to be done, but I am pleased with the state of things. I am again proud of my web page, even though I still have a lot to do.

At the same time I didn't realize how little time I really have to work on this, how poorly I spend the time I do have, and lastly, how little I accomplish in a given stretch. Don't get me wrong, I actually do enjoy learning how to code PHP, how to design database applications, and how to take something that exists only in my mind and make it real, or at least as real as things on the Internet are. It's just that so much time is spent on little niggling issues, reworking things I thought I had figured out, going back over code that seemed to be done, and getting bugs worked out, that I don't seem to make progress very quickly.

Maybe that view is unrealistic. I mean, I upgraded a very primitive site (my first database site ever) into the most sophisticated I've ever done. I didn't only re-do code, I changed the layout, I changed the colors and presentation, and added a lot of new functionality. I've also been generating new content at a much higher rate than before (mostly because it is so much easier than it used to be). I guess I don't have a lot of reference for comparison. Sisyphus was made in a week, but it had a lot of bugs that weren't worked out right away.

There is still so much to do, and I don't know even now how long it will actually take to do it all. I need an administrative panel, I still can't edit the stylesheet through the browser, the header and footer of the page needs to be moved into the template system, there's a new section to launch, there's image management code to write, I want ping support, and there's some AJAX controls to add. That's just what occurs to me at the moment. It's good to have a hobby, and maybe I'll never finish, but I feel like Homer climbing the Murderhorn. So it only took me an entire four months to get this far. I'm guessing the rest of it will take another four.

Web x.0

November 1st, 2006

I'm as guilty as anyone of being wowed by slick design, particularly on the web. When I go to a web site that has that certain "gooiness", that polished feel of being graphically tight, highly expressive, and thematically coherent, I start wishing my site exuded the same awe. The difference comes in when my critical nature starts to look past the shiny and sees the lack of depth. The web is replete with examples of sites that look really cool, but are almost always low on real content, low on useability, lacking in standards adherence, and laden with long load times, wasted space, and most importantly any reason to come back.

When I took on the latest revision of XeoMage, I knew that I wanted something more. I wanted to bring some of the useability improvements that blogs provide, I wanted a better use of space without losing the white space (well, in this case blue space) that helps relax the eyes. I wanted to simplify the interface to its very essence, give exactly the essential information, but still have a graphical snazz. I still have a lot of areas I can improve, specifically in some minor graphical touch ups and refinements, but I think I at least succeeded in a visually attractive and more-importantly useable site.

A lot of the so called "Web 2.0" sites are little more than a glossy reflective logo and some rounded corners. I decided to be fairly sparing with the reflective look, though it is pretty, and skipped rounded corners altogether. The more important side of it is CSS-based sites are becoming the new benchmark, not overdone Flash sites with intros and mystery meat navigation. The new appreciation for web standards that is coming with the adoption of Firefox is also good to see. Even so, looking at some of these new sites all I see is a huge header of graphics and title that takes up half the screen. On every page you have to scroll down just to get to the second paragraph, and I use a fairly high resolution.

The problem is that I'm still wowed. I still want it. At the same moment that I'm noticing what an irritation elements of the design are, and how little of the page is actual content, I'm wishing I had that same glossy, shiny, gooiness. I'm closer than I've ever been, but I still have a lot to learn. I won't be truly happy with my website until I have it all. When I have depth of content, excellent useability, and the much-coveted gooiness, that will be something.

FIRE in the belly

July 7th, 2006

My web development energies were briefly directed at comtrad.net since it needed a refresh. It being such a small, simple page, it was fairly easy, but I like the way it turned out, plus it didn't take very long. I've continued to spend a lot of time thinking about FIRE which is farther from completion than ever. I'm not entirely sure why I keep coming back to it, but I do. So I've been indulging the never-ending designing and even doing some documentation.

If this time is different than the three or so efforts before, and doesn't die off due to challenges, lack of interest, or distractions, it would be really nice. The nearly-done, mostly functional version currently idle for well over a year will mostly be scrapped, but I will take away from it a lot of techniques, lessons, and even some bits of code. There are only a handful of challenges to work out before I start coding again. When I do, I expect it will actually develop rather quickly. So many of the challenges I encountered before have already been solved, all of the problems with the previous design have been remedied, and I've spent a great deal of time ensuring there won't be (as many) with the new one.

All of this thought of FIRE and considering it's long term nature leads me to think that I may want to spend a little time on some overdue enhancements to XeoMage, both on the front end and the backend.

The grass is always greener

May 24th, 2006

Ok, so I've been ruminating about web development recently. The first thing is that Ruby on Rails sounds really cool, but learning another language, one that is probably not even supported by my ISP sounds daunting. I've learned ASP/VBScript for work web development and I can't say I like it much, especially since I know PHP. When I say it sounds cool, I mean I think I could make something like FIRE with it easily, that it already does a lot of the things it needs, so I wouldn't have to reinvent many many wheels. Thinking about FIRE is more entertaining and much easier than actually coding it. Besides, the more I think about it, the farther I get from the code I've already written, and I can instead imagine concepts like an object-oriented structure of methods and properties that would include classes and be some sort of core foundation that would save me from actually writing tons of code, which is what FIRE actually needs. I also spent some time on proto working on rounded corners. They can use some tweaking, but I like them overall. I may try fiddling with some other things on proto since larger updates are not forthcoming.

More practically, and more of a life happening, is that I've finally been doing some work on the ILH site, since we got word that Torrent, a show on G4TechTV in Canada, wants to air an ILH interruption. I think that's really cool, unfortunately Mike has to re-edit the interruption to remove some copyrighted songs, and we only have a few days to prepare for the potential influx of new viewers that we'd really like to keep. So we're working on getting stuff done in a couple days that we've had months to do. Hopefully it will give us some visibility and actually generate some interest in ILH.