Saturday, December 24, 2005

Out on a limb - web predictions for 2006

No New Year's resolutions, just my thoughts on what's coming up on the web in the forthcoming year.

2006 will be the year for accessbility. I've been quietly saying that companies had better watch this space for nearly two years. In all that time, not one company took up our offer of a free accessibility audit of their website. Very soon, companies will have to start paying big time for such audits & the inevitable costly redesigns. Ignore this one at the peril of your profits.

2006 will also see online shopping go mainline for SMEs. My company is seeing increasing interest in online shops, even from one-man outfits who previously thought that their products we too specialist for such a venture. Critical mass has been reached to such an extent, that online shopping is no longer a news item. We hope we're well placed to service this trend with our implementation of the open source zen-cart shopping cart/store.

E-procurement (or online procurement) is another development that SMEs can no longer ignore. The pressure on local government, for example, to implement the Gershon cost cutting agenda means that councils and the like are keen to reduce back office costs. Processing purchases and sales can often cost more than the product itself - it can often cost about c.£45 to process a complete transaction. E-procurement promises to slash these costs to next to nothing, so all in local government are implementing e-procurement. This means only those suppliers geared up to handle e-transactions will be able to take a slice of local government action in the near future. Is your company e-enabled or can we help?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ajax day out

I had the pleasure of attending the Carson Workshops 'Get Started with Ajax' beano led by Thomas Fuchs, a contributor to the Prototype Javascript framework, Ruby on Rails, & many other good things.

The event was well worth attending. The venue was good, easy to find, with nice nosh & a pleasant, not too pretentious, ambiance.

Thomas himself has an excellent grasp of English, altho he seemed to sound more germanic after my lunch time beer, as he warmed to his theme of the superior qualities of Ruby as a development framework. It was also particularly nice to see one of his Ruby examples refusing to work (been there before), despite repeated suggestions from the floor. It was sort of extreme programming gone mad as one after another, delegates shouted unsuccessful modifications. In the end Thomas thought it was a problem of an incompatible upgrade & I was left thanking Java for backwards compatibility. Nothing like this to put you off taking the next great leap forward.

What was particularly useful were the 'tales from the coalface'. The where/when not to use Ajax & some of the browser quirks. Thomas's insights might save your project weeks of head scratching and even possible failure. One tip was to return html fragments rather than xml because browser rendering tended to be quicker.

The real world examples were thought provoking & some were just plain cool. Others demonstrated Thomas's own stricture that just because you could use Ajax, it doesn't mean you should - at least one example had this in mind I think.

My only real gripe was that this wasn't really what I understand by a workshop. Sure, Thomas explained the code, & even wrote some there & then, however, no one else got to make the kind of mistakes that really teach you something. With 50 delegates, & a large topic, this was inevitable. Economics are economics. Yet, I'd have preferred the morning to be the overview & the lesssons learned, & the afternoon to have been given over to small group work building something that put Ajax to the test. Learning by doing is an established paradigm and it is ultimately more beneficial than listening to a speaker.

All in all, a worthwhile event & a good day out. Thomas is impressive in his way, & I think I've probably short cut my learning curve considerably. I'll take that as a result.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Statement of Intent

Web Design Musings is not geared towards the experts. It's aimed at those who have or need a website and need a little more info on what to do and what not to do. It will cover things like how to get good search engine rankings, what to look for in a good design or design company, and what extras might be useful. I suppose its about making the web work for you.

Who am I? My name's (Dr) Eddie May. I've been creating stuff for the web since the last millenium. I was involved during the first dot com boom, writing Java software for banks, etc. Online credit card applications, etc. Since then I've been running my own small web design and development company - Fresh Web Services Ltd - in Leicester, in the East Midlands of the UK. We've developed everything from small brochure web sites through to financial and GIS systems for local governement.

Along the way, I've been asked almost every question there possibly is (slight exaggeration!) about the web and how to make it work. I've not always had the answer to every question, but mostly I've been able to help a client get what they want from the web.

However, the web changes incredibly fast, and knowledge doesn't stand still. I'm still learning, & I hope I can pass on some useful knowledge along the way.

So, check back frequently - I plan to publish something new about once a week - and let's see if we can't learn something new and useful from each other.