Category Archives: Web Development

Mobile Pages should load under 1 sec
Did that headline get you all stressed out? Not to be too alarmist. But yes, Google recently put out a recommendation that mobile sites must be up to delivering content fast. Fast meaning under 1 sec!! Zoiks!

According to Google most mobile sites take 7 seconds or more to load!

It makes sense to deliver content quickly on mobile devices, especially when data download speeds are still sketchy in some parts of the US.

Just the other day, I was finishing up a meeting in Coral Gables and had to rush towards the Miami Airport for another meeting with a local bank (approx 20 min away North West), at the last minute I receive a text message saying the meeting has been moved to new branch location in Downtown Miami (approx 15 min away North East). I am sitting in my car and I pull up Google Maps on my Iphone, enter the bank name and Miami, I zoom into the map of downtown looking for the location but can’t find anything. I jump on the Bank’s website which is not optimized for mobile and I have to pinch and zoom to find the “Locations” link – the text is so tiny that I have to squint to read it. I finally find the branches, under “Contact Us”. I click on the address, hoping it would pull up the location on Iphone maps – but unfortunately it was plain text. I copy and paste the first line of the address into Maps and voila – I found the location.

Here is an excerpt from the Google Webmaster Central Blog

Research shows that users’ flow is interrupted if pages take longer than one second to load. To deliver the best experience and keep the visitor engaged, our guidelines focus on rendering some content, known as the above-the-fold content, to users in one second (or less!) while the rest of the page continues to load and render in the background. The above-the-fold HTML, CSS, and JS is known as the critical rendering path.

Optimizing static mobile pages will be a lot easier than sites that deliver dynamic content. Keep in mind, the 1 sec rule is only for content Above-the-fold (ATF).

Google is getting serious about it – they will begin to roll out changes to search rankings based on Smartphone website performance. This could affect your sites rankings on search engines if not addressed properly. More from Google on this:

To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.

How can you create static mobile web pages that are some how connected to a dynamic desktop website? We have a simple solution and it is called www.firebirdmobile.com. Firebird Mobile takes a regular website and converts all of its pages into static (cached) content. But what if you update the content on the main site, what happens to your mobile site? This could be a nightmare situation if you had to constantly update the two versions and keep them in sync. This is where Firebird Mobile shines, it keeps your mobile site and regular desktop site in sync at least once a day.

Don’t despair, it is very possible to load a mobile site in under one second (ATF Content), we have done this for many clients and we can help you get there as well. Contact Us for a free consultation on how we can help.

 

Rackspace Partner

We are pleased to announce that Cenango has joined the Rackspace® Partner Network to provide our customers with a portfolio of Hybrid Cloud solutions.

Rackspace is a leading provider of hybrid clouds, which enable businesses to run their workloads where they run most effectively — whether on the public cloud, a private cloud, dedicated servers, or a combination of these platforms.

For the past year we have been helping customers port over legacy applications to the cloud. We are currently deploying cloud apps to Rackspace’s cloud architecture.

Find out how your company can move its infrastructure to the cloud, contact us today http://www.cenango.com/contact-us

For more information on Rackspace visit www.rackspace.com.

Web design trends come and go the same way like fashion. With businesses and individuals wanting to look better at the eyes of their audiences, many websites change the way their websites look on regular intervals while incorporating new functionality.

The most recent facelift has taken place on Gmail and other sign in pages of Google products.

If you don’t remember, this is how Gmail looked earlier.

The trend today for web layouts is clean and uncluttered. It makes a lot of sense when you consider the information overflow that we are seeing today across many platforms and media.

Research shows that most people scan web pages before settling on an element for further exploration. Therefore, a lot of emphasis is put on optimizing important web elements that a webmaster wants to promote. However, this is a hit or miss thing. Your audiences may like or hate your user interface (UI) elements depending on their preferences, gender, etc. This is not an easy thing to overcome and on top of that, getting UI elements right is a huge affair. Have you ever heard of the $300 million button? If not, that article should be the first thing for you to read after reading this.

One of the biggest challenges in web usability is keeping people on a web page. The balance has to be perfect on content, usability and interactive elements. At the best of times, this is a tough task. Since it is very challenging to strike a good balance, what most designers tend to do is crowd too many elements on a web page. This leads to a web page that looks very busy. A busy web page is not one of the best places for conversions.

The new way of design thinking is driven by wanting to make a website look simple. This involves a lot of things. For example, some web pages have multiple objectives to achieve. In such instances, ‘simple web process’ calls for re-evaluating and prioritizing these objectives. The design process is driven by these re-evaluated objectives.

The Gmail sign in page is a perfect example for the ‘simple web process’. When you compare the two layouts it’s perfectly clear that Google evaluated what’s important for their audiences. In fact, the number of elements on the page has increased; yet it’s hardly noticeable. A good design should be like that. People have to see it only when they want to see it. This design philosophy is something that’s going to drive our web design work in the future. :)

If there are any websites that you like, share those on the comments section. We’d love to see those websites you like and get your feedback.

With Google’s Matt Cutts admitting that Google is using website speed as a minor ranking factor, there had been quite some noise about page speed among the web design community. Now with the latest stats positively showing the page speed as not so significant as many believed it to be, can it actually affect a website negatively?

Not considering any SEO implications, page speed is an extremely important web usability element. Consider the following example originally published on Master New Media .

Gaze plots from two different users: The blue dots indicate where users looked (one fixation per dot).
  • Screen 1 – The first test participant in the top gaze plot fixated a few times within the big empty color block before the content downloaded, then spent the remaining time looking at the rest of the page. This user never looked at the big promotional space after it had rendered.
  • Screen 2- The second user (bottom gaze plot) happened to be looking away from the screen during the eight seconds when the promotional content downloaded. Thus, the first time he looked at the page he saw it as intended, complete with the entire promo.

The slideshow occupies 23% of the page and the user who had to endure the download delay spent only 1% of her total viewing time within this space.

In contrast, the user who in effect received instantaneous page rendering (because he didn’t look until it was done), spent 20% of his viewing time within the slideshow area.

So in essence if the page speed has been optimized, the marketing team would have seen some more traction with their well planned advertisement. But in this case, all that effort was spent in vain.

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to website speed is “let the audience be in control”. Remember, it’s the audience who interact with the website and it’s them that matters to you or your client. Every second of delay in website speed is a negative impact on the audience and lead them to realize that they are no longer in control. In such case, you or your clients are going to lose credibility which is not helpful at all.

So it might be a good idea to start looking at page speed. There are many free tools to check speed. We use a Firefox plugin called ‘Yslow’. Google is going one step ahead and offering a Page Speed tool for free http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/

Check out this video from the Google dev team.

 

Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media tools. Loved by millions who use it for its simplicity and shortness, Twitter is a far more effective way to communicate with a peer group than Facebook or any other social media.

Twitter’s simplicity should not be underestimated, the real power is in harnessing ones followers. Hypothetically speaking, if Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) were to retweet one of your tweets about your product to his 6.5 million followers, chances are they in turn would retweet the same to their followers. Before you know it a tweet can go viral and be noticed by millions. If a company were to try to reach an audience say of 6 million TV viewers, they’d have to spend some real money. Twitter is free. Unlike many other social media, Twitter is always on the go, things are constantly changing by the second.

The good news is that it is easily accessible. It’s supported by almost all the smart phones and almost any internet device, so keeping your followers up-to-date is easy.

In some cases, Tweeps, as the Twitter users are known, tend to think out loud through their tweets. In fact there are many well documented instances where brands, famous people, journalists, sports personalities among others found themselves saying things that they shouldn’t be saying in the first place. Therefore it is a good idea to read up on twitter etiquette and establish a companywide protocol for tweeting.

So how can a small company find its way in this tweet-maze? It’s not difficult to start, start with meaningful tweets about your industry. No one is going to care if you just picked up Starbucks for the day, so keep the personal stuff away. First it would help to have a good idea what Twitter is and how to use its many unique features. For example, Twitter hash tags and lists are two of the most important weapons in a good tweep’s armory.

Let’s say that your company rents out party equipment. You could tweet about a new line of Gazebos that just came in and tag the tweet with a #gazebo hashtag. So let’s say a user in Miami is searching Twitter for a Gazebo rental in Miami. The tweet could be something like this: “Nice #party by the Virginia Key Beach #Miami under a nice blazing red #gazebo by www.sample.com”. The hashtag gives the user an opportunity to tap into more interesting tweet streams.

Start off by following people in your industry. Always try to keep the Followers and Following ratio close to each other. It is sometimes suspect if someone is following 5000 people but only has 2 followers. Keep posting meaningful content and you’ll see your follower count rising on its own. Share things about your area of expertise; answer general questions on your field; follow hash tags which have a good focused following; (This however does not necessarily include the trending topics!) and be a good tweep in general.

There are a few tools you can use to increase your presence in the Twittersphere. Start with the Twitter business section. It can give you really nice pointers on what you can do on Twitter to promote your business effectively on Twitter. Read this case study on moxsie available on twitter business section.

Take some time off to think through your twitter strategy. It can help you a lot with taking your brand to the next level of online visibility.

Google's panda update

Google updates its indexing and ranking algorithm quite regularly. In fact, they release about 400 new updates typically every year. Most of them are minor tweaks, but once in a while they release updates that are really huge like the Panda update they rolled out recently (early March 2011).
According to Matt Cutts, the head of the Google Web Spam team, the Panda update is in fact an algorithm update geared at taking down low quality content made specifically to rank well for important keywords. Such pages are often monetized using various advertising platforms getting the publishers millions of dollars in revenues in some cases.

With the Panda update, Google believes that it can deliver better search results for searchers and improve their search experience which had come under fire in various instances for not being consistent. For a long time, Google rankings were good for the first page for a given search query; hence the drive for ranking well in the first page of Google results.

So with the Panda update, Google is trying to separate the wheat from the chaff in a bid to improve their search quality. With low quality content given less value in their search index, Google believes that it can provide better web page results.

The Panda update is a blessing for websites that host valuable content for humans, not robots. Most of the sites that are affected are content farms or sites which contain scraped content from all over the web. With the initial roll out of the Panda update in the US, content networks such as Mahalo, Ezine articles and Wisegeek found themselves in hot water with ranking changes from -70% to -94% in some instances.
At the same time, websites with good user generated content have seen their rankings improve. So what’s the bottom line with the Google Panda update?

Well, if you have good content that is not specifically targeted at search engines, you are probably ok. To make sure, check out your Google Analytics to see whether there has been a dip in traffic from US visitors (as the Panda update is currently for US search results, but soon to be rolled out internationally). If so, you might be a victim of the Panda. Even Google has admitted that their new algorithm is not without faults and if you think that your site is a genuine victim, head over to Google Webmasters Tools and submit a reconsideration request.
If you think that there might be a problem with your website, correct any issues and send a reconsideration request and always remember that SEO is all about improving the value of your site for your visitors, not for search engines.

Photo credits JL08

The internet has certainly made the world a smaller place but that does not mean that the world is becoming more homogenous. Quite the opposite is happening in fact, as the more people that go online the more the web becomes culturally mixed.

SEO for businesses today must consist of much more than using the latest design trends. Designers should also be designing sites that take the full range of people viewing the site into consideration. The largest and most successful companies know that they have to offer different versions of their web content so as to appeal to everyone who accesses their websites. Continue reading