I’m fresh back from The ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The highlight for me was an invited talk by Jakob Nielsen, principle of the Nielsen Norman Group, a user experience firm. Nielsen has been described as “knowing more about what makes Web sites work than anyone else on the planet”. — For anyone interested in website usability and design, I recommend his Alertbox newsletter!
One point he made that struck a chord was the parallel between the early years of website design and the here and now. In the early years, many websites were simple reproductions of printed brochures that did not take into consideration the dynamic qualities of the Web and offered a suboptimal user experience. Today, many websites designed for desktop computers are being accessed on mobile devices, and don’t work because they fail to take into account a range of factors including small screen sizes and reduced bandwidth. Nielsens’s point was that the desktop user interface platform differs from the mobile user interface platform and consequently a good mobile user experience requires a different design than for desktop users.
For those with Google Analytics, we recommend tracking the number of visits to your website using mobile devices – you might be surprised. As always, please do get in touch if you would like to discuss options for optimising your website.
According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. We wanted to remind our customers of a free tool to make sure your business stands out: Google Places for Business. Sign-up is quick, easy and free. Simply sign in to your Google Account at http://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/ (or Sign Up if you don’t yet have an Account). You will then be able to add your listing to Google Places for Business. This includes your business contact details, hours, photos and a Google map. Your business should then show up on Google Maps and in organic search results – if you check, remember to add your City/Town (e.g., e-availability Forres). You can visit Google Places anytime to edit your information or see how many people have seen and clicked on your listing. Once up and running, our tip would be to ask real customers over time to add a review, as reviews with a 4 or 5 star rating will boost your search engine optimisation (SEO) for the Google Places page. As always, please do get in touch if you would like to discuss SEO options.
It’s Easter so I’m away very soon to eat chocolate But, in the world of technology, Easter Eggs are those hidden gems that software developers secretly code into products – it’s up to us to discover them by chance. I remember years ago serendipitously discovering my first Easter Egg in Quark Xpress: when you deleted a text box with a shortcut command, an alien marched across the screen and zapped it. Great fun! Google is notorious for adding Easter Eggs to its products and services – try searching for “do a barrel roll” and watch the browser screen spin around – and Apple iPhone’s Siri is chocabloc (excuse the pun) with Easter Eggs – our favourite is asking Siri to “Open the pod bay doors” (try it!). Well, enjoy your Easter Eggs – both digital and chocolate versions! Our office will be closed on Easter Monday. We will be providing support, but on a very limited basis. For any urgent issues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to respond to your enquiry within 24 hours.
We are delighted to announce that the new website for the Isle of Colonsay on the west coast of Scotland, designed and developed by Lanetech, has gone live!
Lanetech won the tender from Colonsay Community Development Company. The website will play a central role as an information hub for prospective tourists. A key feature is an interactive map built using Google Maps API. The map uses colour-coded dots to pinpoint hotels, B&Bs, self-catering cottages and hostels on the island. Clicking a dot opens a pop-up window with full information and contact details for the accommodation provider, and a calendar showing availability. We are proud to report that the Director of Colonsay Community Development Company has told us that the new website has been met with glowing reviews from users with feedback being universally positive!
Please do contact us if you’d like Lanetech to add an interactive map to your website – for other examples of maps by Lanetech see Visit Sleat’s interactive map and Western Isles Property’s interactive map.
Just for fun a great article by the New Scientist… An experiment by Microsoft Research called the WhoDunnit? Challenge launches this month to see how people living in India will collaborate to solve a puzzle that relies on teamwork and mobile phones. Participants call a Microsoft number, which triggers a text message to the caller containing one of five clues. Only one clue will be sent to each phone, and some clues will be extremely rare, so that participants have to collaborate with an estimated 500 others to solve the problem, for which there is a prize of 100,000 rupees. The researchers are leaving it up to competitors to decide how to collaborate e.g., using social networks around work or school. One of Microsoft’s team pointed out that people who interact with many individuals, such as rickshaw drivers, could do well! The challenge is also an attempt to see how competitors share methods, which could be employed by local governments in other types of searches, such as for missing persons. See full article. – This article also reminds us of the ubiquity of mobiles phones, I think our next post will pick up on the mobile web…!
To help protect against cyber criminals, it’s important to pick unique and strong passwords for all your important accounts and to change them regularly. Typical suggestions for making your password stronger include: use a long password; use a password with a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols; and use a phrase that only you know. However, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, while a password based on a phrase may be easier to remember, it is also easier to crack. The team has developed an algorithm that can crack long passwords that make grammatical sense as a whole phrase, even when interspersed with numbers and symbols. The algorithm is designed to make guesses by combining words and phrases from password-cracking databases into grammatically correct phrases. Read the full article. Get creative and try poor spelling and grammar in your passwords!
Some good news to start the New Year with: Scotland has been named the top tourist destination of 2013 by American broadcasting network CNN following its appearance in last year’s record-breaking Bond film ‘Skyfall’! CNN cited upcoming events including The Open Championship golf tournament and outdoor events taking place as part of the Year of Natural Scotland. We thought we would take the opportunity to share our thoughts on ways in which businesses can make the most of every opportunity – all of which Lanetech, can of course, help with!
- SEO: search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking (visibility) of a website in search engines. In general, the earlier (higher ranked) a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. See our previous blog post for 5 quick tips on improving your website’s SEO.
- Mobile website: increasing numbers of people are using their mobile phones and tablets to access the Internet. If your website doesn’t look good on a mobile or smartphone, you may want to consider a mobile version of your website that takes into account the smaller screen sizes and slower bandwidths, improving the user experience.
- Web analytics: Google Analytics is the industry standard in web analytics; it is a free service that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website, designed with online marketing in mind. It does come with a rather steep learning curve, which can be daunting at first, but it is worth persevering: in helping you to understand how visitors arrived at your site and how they use your site, you can gain insight to figure out how you can keep them coming back!
- Social media: social media marketing has become an important strategy to help prospective customers to find you online and to build relationships through personal/two-way communications. The start of a new year is a good time to review how your business is using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in your marketing.
Driving into work today, the radio presenters were discussing how Google Maps has made a comeback to Apple’s iPhone. Earlier this year, the Google Maps app was removed from the iPhone and replaced with Apple’s mapping software. However, the Apple Maps app is somewhat glitchy with many places misnamed, missing or misplaced; the Australian police recently warned motorists that using Apple Maps could be deadly as the town of Mildura has been placed some 40 miles in the Outback! The Maps will improve the more people use it, but in the meantime, customers can download alternatives from the App Store. We wanted to remind our customers that Lanetech can add a Google map that pinpoints your location to your website. Additionally, we can enhance it with other locations relevant to your business such as local accommodation options and visitor attractions – for an example see Visit Sleats interactive map. Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss mapping options.
One of our clients recently enquired how they could reduce the amount of spam coming through their online booking form. We thought it might be helpful to share our response with all our Blog readers:
We recommended installing CAPTCHA or ReCAPTCHA. You’ve probably all seen CAPTCHA – it’s an online security test to tell computer spamming programmes and humans apart. A common type of CAPTCHA requires user to type letters and/or digits from a distorted image that appears on the screen. The software is popular because it is still relatively effective; the downside is that typing CAPTCHAs is one of the most annoying things on the web! and can be a barrier to people with dyslexia or sight problems. Even their inventor has said that he regrets the amount of time humanity as a whole wastes on these codes each day. As a result, CAPTCHA has evolved to ReCAPTCHA, which involves one randomly generated word and a photo of a word from a text that’s being digitised – so, the software is being put to good use as both a security check and a means to digitise books one word at a time
CAPTCHA is free – see the official CAPTCHA website for more information. Please do get in touch if you would like Lanetech to add CAPTCHA or ReCAPTCHA to your online booking form (free of charge).
If you’re an Orange mobile phone user like me, you will have noticed that where it had Orange at the top of the screen it now says EE. EE is the new brand from the company behind Orange and T-Mobile and it is the first brand in the UK to offer a mobile 4G service. Confusingly, just because you see EE on your screen, it doesn’t mean that you have access to 4G – to use 4G you’ll need 4G coverage, a 4G compatible phone, 4G SIM card and 4GEE plan on EE.
Why does this matter? Increasing numbers of people are already using their mobile phones and tablets to access the Internet (if you use Google Analytics, you can track visits from mobile devices: click ‘Audience’ tab and then select ‘Mobile’). Many people believe that faster speeds will mean that mobile phones will become the primary device that people use to browse websites. Thus, it is vital that your website works well on mobile devices.
Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss mobile website design with us.