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Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.

Web Design: Manageable and Tasty Portions.


Luke Reimer                          Selene M. Bowlby


Luke Reimer is a web project manager, designer, and developer currently operating Fluid Media web design group out of Waterloo, Canada. Fluid Media’s portfolio states they have 30 completed projects and 2 under way, with a mention that “some web sites are no longer active, companies have changed hands, natural disasters have occurred… that sort of thing.” The projects vary in style – some are creative and artsy while others are more straight-forward. Overall the designs are clean and easy to navigate, offer enough white space, features etc.

In an article entitled Following A Web Design Process from Smashing Magazine dated June 22, 2011, Luke provides numerous tools – some free, some fee-based to assist designers in the process of designing a website either as freelancer or part of a small business operation. The list of tools Luke provides includes the following steps from planning to post-delivery client questionnaire. It is excellent information and I probably should have summarized a little better, but it was just so good. The resources are excellent and are already in my delicious account. 😉

Here’s the 5+ step process:

Planning: Luke explains that planning is the most important stage because it sets the stage for how the entire project and website will turnout. It’s a good idea when meeting with the client to run through a high-level overview of the process. Helping the client to understand the process enables them to trust that you know what you are doing. It also helps them understand what role they play and what is expected of them. After all, this is a partnership, and in any relationship the better the communication and understanding of each other, the more satisfied each partner will be.

This is where the design team gathers and analyzes the client requirements, creates a project charter/summary to “serve as a reference throughout the process”. This is a good time to create a site map to establish a “hierarchy of page organization”. The contract is created with a full list of items to be agreed upon by both the design firm and the client. Once the contract has been signed by the client, access to company databases, servers and other pertinent information should be provided to the design team. At this time the design team should determine what purchases need to be charged to the client account, such as software and design resources, such as stock photos and fonts, additional personnel that needs to be hired, such as sub-contractors, etc.

When I worked as an Intranet Content Manager for Centex Homes, it amazed at how often management set initiatives for staff to execute without proper planning or consultation with them – the very people who knew the most about how x-y-z functioned, and who could offer the best input. Often these projects did not fit within the scope of annually planned projects (even though they knew it was coming down), and with an unreasonable timeframe (since they didn’t consult the people who knew how long development and testing would take). Regardless, the project would move ahead and a few months after the project was completed and rolled out, management would inform staff that major overhauls needed to be performed essentially overnight. Remember this is Centex Homes (a defunct Texas homebuilder), so it occurred to me that the insanity of it was as simple as constructing a house and when all the finishing touches are complete and the residents have moved in, painted, unpacked, and decorated – that we needed to go back and change the foundation. Now just how crazy is that!? But that’s a perfect example of why proper planning is essential to a successful web project (or any project for that matter).

Design: Luke explains that in this stage the design team translates the information gathered in the planning stage and document to represent the future website.

Information Architects may be brought in to work with the Designers on establishing a visual structure in diagrams, wireframes and site mockups/design comps. The design team will likely have several meetings with the client to present the designs for approval.

Development: Now comes the heavy lifting – this is the stage where the majority of the coding/ programming and loading of content will be conducted. The content loading will be done by the design/development team or by the client based on what was outlined in the contract.

A strategic development team will test in stages as they program each stage of the website build. This will efficiently minimize future problems and development continues. Static pages are created using templates (an efficient method of keeping a site current and clean in terms of format) will be created for each page type, usually followed by interactive features like forms and validators. At this point the content will be loaded – boring, tedious, mundane – but those performing this work MUST not get bogged down by the doldrums as attention to detail is as important in this step as any. Once content loading is complete a thorough round of testing will be conducted. Every page, link and function of the website must be validated.

Launch: At this stage, the design team prepares the website for preview. This involves further “final polishing of design elements, deep testing of interactivity and features, and most of all, a consideration of the user experience.”

Final polishing can go a long way. Sometimes the smallest things can make a huge difference in user acceptance. Moving the website from the development server to the production server could minimally or substantially impact the design. Different servers offer different features and strengths as well as limitations and risks. It’s ideal if the design team has the benefit of being able to test in a hidden production environment prior to releasing the website to the live environment. Depending on the size of the client company, this may or may not be possible. It is essential to be in communication with the client regarding the schedule of the release, especially concerning any downtime that might happen in the website migration. Often, the client will have a communication or marketing event scheduled around the website release. Lastly, run final testing and validation. It doesn’t bode well on your reputation for the client or end-user to find basic spelling errors and broken links rather than you.

Post-Launch: It might seem like it’s time to celebrate, and for the most part it is, but there’s still a bit more to do before the project is complete. Basic post-launch tasks include “packaging source files,” providing documentation or instructions, and client support and/or training. At this point, if it has not already been discussed, you may want to mention maintenance plans and pricing. Make sure the client has your contact information.

Reference the project charter to ensure that all contractual obligations have been met and that the client is satisfied. Provide a “soft-copy site map, details on the framework and any languages used”. This helps the client if they need to work with another developer in the future. Get final sign off – it is a must to get client approval on the final checklist. Now just because this project is complete does not mean the relationship needs to end. Checking in on the client in a month or so to make sure things are going well will be appreciated.  A client whose team is left with the feeling that they were treated well and that their team has what they need to move forward can offer profitable results in the way of additional projects from them or new clients from their recommendations.

Luke also touches on the importance and differences in process documentation for the design firm. This is a key stage that often gets short-changed because the design teams are pushed to move on to new projects (ie: something that will earn money… the money for this project has already been earned)

RESOURCES

http://www.fluidmedia.ws/portfolio.php

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/22/following-a-web-design-process/#more-33238


Selene M. Bowlby is a veteran web designer and front-end web developer of 12 years of in the design industry. She is the owner of iDesign Studios, which specializes in customizing WordPress themes for client websites. In addition, she blogs about web design, small business, freelancing and work-life balance (something I could learn a thing or two about). She has quite an interesting background and resume, and an impressive list of “interviews, guest-posts and notable mentions.”

These are the top articles that she features on her blog. I found her when searching on the design/ development process. Like Luke, Selene runs through a 6-step process. I guess I’m attracted to the organization that is found in the structured process. Selena had some great points I’d like to add to the planning process.

Purpose:  What is the purpose of the site? Do you want to provide information, promote a service, sell a product… ?

Goals: What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site? Two of the more common goals are either to make money or share information.

Target Audience: Is there a specific group of people that will help you reach your goals? It is helpful to picture the “ideal” person you want to visit your web site. Consider their age, sex or interests – this will help us determine the best design style for your site.

Content:What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on your site? Are they looking for specific information, a particular product or service…?

Another point of interest found on Selena’s site references typical milestones involved with design and development. By Selena and iDesign Studios, the milestones are directly related to process and give the client an understanding of what to expect in the way of deliverables. Here’s what she says:

Preliminary Design: 1 Week

A signed contract and 50% deposit reserve the design start date on our development schedule. On the start date, we begin on the preliminary design. This takes 1 week for us to complete. At this point, client gains access to our Client Studio, to review the preliminary design.

Design Revisions: 2-3 Business Days to 1 Week per Round (Rinse and Repeat)

Client reviews initial designs, provides feedback or revisions, ideally in 1-2 business days. Delays in responding creates delays the project completion date. Once revisions are received, typical turnaround time for simple changes is 2-3 business days. Major changes or requests for an entirely new design concept will take 1 week. This process of fine tuning continues until we have client approval.

Development of Primary WordPress Theme Files: 1 Week

Once design approval is received, we move onto the development stage where we create the XHTML, CSS and PHP code that make up the functional WordPress theme files. A demo installation of WordPress in Client Studio allows the client to view and interact with the theme files as they are being developed.

Development of Additional WordPress Page or Category Templates: 1 Week

WordPress gives client the ability to create additional page template. Any templates in addition to the base WordPress theme files will take a second week to develop and upload for client review. If no additional templates are requested, skip this milestone and move onto the next one…

Development of Interior Page Content: 1-4 Weeks

The timeline for this phase varies greatly depending on the number of pages we develop. Client delays in providing content frequent revisions to previously approved content will slow down this stage as well.

Launch of Web Site (WordPress / Plugin Installation and Setup): 1 Week

Upon client approval. Final payment of the invoice is required prior to transfer everything to your server. Once the balance is received installation can of WordPress can be performed to the to the client web server, followed by final testing, and launch.

Web Site Maintenance: 2-3 Business Days to 1 Week

Maintenance Plans are available for regular updates at reduced rates or hourly maintenance for infrequent updates on an as-needed basis. Simple updates completed within 2-3 business days. Larger changes can take up to 1 week or more, depending on the request.

As I said I found Selena because of her article on the design and development process. And while I’m not sure how many websites she has created or the count in her portfolio, it seems fairly extensive and quite diverse. I lost track of how many sites I viewed. One of the things I appreciate and that really piqued my interest is the fact that her work is based on customizing WordPress themes. I have browses the various themes on several occasions and wondered about how difficult it would be and differences there are in customizing WordPress sites versus creating a new one. I guess a lot of that would depend on the extent of the customized package.

RESOURCES

http://www.idesignstudios.com/blog/web-design/phases-web-design-development-process/

http://www.idesignstudios.com/selene-m-bowlby/biography/

http://www.idesignstudios.com/portfolio/

http://www.idesignstudios.com/faq/milestones/

In Standard Formation: A Discussion on “Web Standards” & “well-formed” HTML

In Standard Formation:

A Discussion on “Web Standards” & “well-formed” HTML

To me this topic is sort of obvious. But then I am the type of person who in elementary school would “grade” my friends’ notes and return them with my response, and some grammatical or spelling corrections in red pencil. Kinda lame I know. But good form or formatting just feels right to me. Even as a creative person, I still like some sense of order. So to create web pages that are written according to W3C standards only makes sense as an independent developer, a student, or a professional.

Since I touched on formatting and corrections, let’s look at what it takes to create well-formed HTML first. Then I’ll come back to how that fits within appropriate web standards. Actually, they go hand-in-hand, so the concepts may weave together throughout this discussion. Basically, well-formed HTML means involves consistency and adherence to a set protocol that is generally accepted by the web industry. This means using tags in the correct/standard hierarchy and closing every single tag that has been created or opened, etc… Below are some examples and cases of some of the basic components of well-formed HTML, courtesy of Authoring Well-Formed HTML.

  • Closing Container Tags: HTML does not require the closing tag, but it is still a good practice to add the closing container tag simply because it is good practice, but also because other languages do require closing tags. Here is an example:
    • YES: <p>This is an HTML paragraph.</p>.
    • NO: <p> This is an HTML paragraph.
  • Closing Singular Tags: When using singular tags, well-formed HTML requires that you add the closing slash to the end of the tag, for example:
    • YES: <img src=”sample.gif” width=”10″ height=”20″ />.
    • NO: <img src=”sample.gif” width=”10″ height=”20″>.
  • Hierarchy: Using appropriate hierarchy when creating tags is important, overlapping of tags is not acceptable:
    • YES:<b>Well</b> <i><b>Hello</b> Dolly!</i>
    • NO: <b>Well <i>Hello</b> Dolly!</i>
  • Case: Another situation where consistency applies to the case we use in our tags – either upper or lower:
    • YES:<b><i>Hello Dolly!</i></b>
    • NO: <B><i>Hello Dolly!</I></b>
  • Quotes: It is important to ensure that the appropriate attributes have both open and end quotes, and that all attributes have quotes. This is an easy one to omit!
    • YES: <img src=’sample.gif’width=”10″ height=”20″ />
    • NO: <img src=sample.gif width=10 height=20 >
  • Root Element: It is important to use the appropriate HTML element at the root of the web page.
    • YES: <HTML>
      <HEAD>
      <TITLE>Clean markup</TITLE>
      </HEAD>
      <BODY>
      <P>Not nearly so amazing that this well-formed HTML works.</P>
      </BODY>
      </HTML>
    • NO:<TITLE>Funky markup</TITLE>
      <BODY>
      <P>Amazing that this HTML works.</P>
      </BODY>

I think these are some of the most important basic concepts to keep in mind when creating well-formed HTML documents. More in-depth practices are certainly out there, but this is a good start. If we stick with these principles as a guideline, at the absolute base level, our HTML pages should be clean. Content and style is another thing altogether.

As I move the discussion towards the use of appropriate web standards it makes sense to look to the leader in setting and maintaining a forum for acceptable use and improvements of web standards. That leader is The World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, founded by Tim Berners-Lee. Mr. Lee has be a name to remember from nearly the birth of the internet and the web. While working at CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland, Lee created the first hypertext documents and the program to read those documents, which he called the World Wide Web. From that point forward the world in which we know it has changed dramatically. The wide, wide world and has in many ways been encapsulated in this community-building, tool called the World Wide Web, (web for short).

Through the years of growth and development, Mr. Lee has remained on the scene and involved in helping to shape and form this entity. Since the HTML code had been released to the public for use free of charge, many problems with varying styles of development and coding came into existence, which in turn, created problems for various browsers and web pages to communicate effectively. As a result, Mr. Lee founded the W3C to set standards and protocols that developers could (and hopefully would) adhere to which would assist in getting things moving in the right direction again. The challenge was that compliance to the standards was not required, but merely suggested or recommended. It was only required if a company wanted to post the W3C compliant status on their website. With the help of another group who called themselves the WaSPs (the Web Standards Project), eventually, after a LOT of communiqués and urgings by bothW3C and the WaSPs, the owners of the internet browsers finally decided to comply with W3C standards. This was a huge success because with their buy-in, developers would then be able to develop sites that with the confidence of standardization and consistency. These factors would enable a smoother and more reliable web experience by the user.

Additional Resources

Creating Well Formed XHTML: http://webdesign.about.com/od/xhtml/a/aa102300b.htm


Get Your Head in ‘The Cloud’

Get Your Head in ‘The Cloud’

Growing up, I can remember hearing my mom and other adults telling me to get my head out of the clouds. They thought I was daydreaming I guess and maybe I was. Or maybe I was accessing a greater resource of ideas for my book report or science project. Yeah, that’s it. That sounds funny as I sit and visualize it. It’s kind of ironic that the analogy of “the cloud” is so common today.

There are several interpretations of what the cloud is by definition, and as a result, that impacts the understanding of cloud computing as well. Some say the cloud is simply the internet. Some say it is larger than the internet, involving not just the internet as a vehicle, but what happens on the “other end” so to speak – the storage and maintenance arena, where the racks upon racks upon racks of servers that manage our data reside. Some have compared it to utility usage, and you don’t have to purchase the huge generators and all the power equipment. Rather, you simply sign up for service and pay for what you use on a scheduled basis. Another analogy for cloud computing is to milk vs. the cow. If you want a gallon of milk you just go to the store and buy a gallon of milk. You don’t buy a cow, because you don’t need to own the whole system. Rather you rely on others to provide the system and you just buy the product of that system.

Basically cloud computing is where applications, processing power, and data are accessed via the internet; an environment that is dynamically scalable, independent of specific devices, and where resources to help users complete tasks are provided online, with all charges based on usage. Bottom line – it’s still a networked servers that supports computers and users. The difference is that rather than accessing the data locally, it’s hosted remotely.

Several examples of cloud computing already exist. For example for online email apps: Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, etc…; for social networking: Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, MySpace, YouTube etc… And some examples of cloud computing operating systems include: Cloudo, iCube, EyeOS, EyeOS Mobile. I haven’t tried these, but I watched a YouTube video about them, and they seem pretty cool. Cloudo even includes programming software that can be used to create apps to use within that OS. Here is a link to a directory of cloud computing providers.

Cloud computing is based on Software, Platform, and Infrastructure Service Models:

Software as a Service Model (SaaS) is where the vendor supplies the servers on which the customers store data and run applications. All applications are accessed over the internet vs. on a local computer or network. For example, with Google Docs spreadsheet, various users can work on the file simultaneously, offering greater collaboration.

Platform as a Service Model (PaaS) makes it relatively easy to develop and/or run online applications. That being said, the PaaS supplier is usually fairly restrictive about the programming languages or tools allowed for in the development of those apps. So basically if you want to play with my toys, you have to play in my sandbox. Some examples of PaaS providers include Google App Engine, MS Windows Azure, and Force.com.

Infrastructure as a Service Model (IaaS) is where the supplier provides an online environment where the client can store data, develop and run apps as they choose. This allows the client to eliminate their local servers and data farms. Two types of servers are involved in IaaS – dedicated and virtual. Dedicated servers are actual, physical servers that may provide more security in that they are privatized to the individual client. The second type is virtual servers that allow numerous users to share one physical server. Dedicated servers obviously are more expensive based on the fact that the client does not have to share the server space with any other clients.

  • Private Cloud – They cannot be dynamically scaled and are the most expensive, but are also considered the most secure form of IaaS as a block of servers is permanently dedicated to one customer.
  • Dedicated Hosting – The client purchases server space dedicated to them specifically. But it is less expensive than a private cloud, and can be dynamically scaled, because the hardware is mixed in with that of other client. So the client can increase or decrease the amount of server space they are using (and paying for) on an hourly basis.
  • Hybrid Hosting – Here a client rents a mix of dedicated and virtual servers on demand. For example, a company may choose to run applications on dedicated servers and store data on virtual servers. This mix is therefore dynamically scalable, with both dedicated and virtual servers able to be added or taken away upon need.
  • Public/Cloud – The client rents as many virtual servers as they require on demand. Here clients share any servers they use with other clients. Some companies view this as too risky. This is also the lowest-cost and the most technically and environmentally efficient because public/cloud hosting allows the provider to run all of the physical servers in use to capacity and to close down those not being used.

As with all things, there are benefits and risks involved with cloud computing.

Cloud computing will be essential to remain competitive in almost any market that interacts directly with the public (or even B2B), to be green and reduce waste of outdated and unusable hardware, and for next-generation applications, such as the development of advanced mobile apps, gaming software, augmented reality, and visual search, etc…

Cloud computing frees individuals and organizations from the cost and hassle of installing, maintaining and routinely upgrading software applications on desktop computers and on servers in data centers. In so doing, it allows business to focus core competencies, rather than investing half their budget in IT spending for hardware and software that requires regular maintenance and upgrades and that may not be able to serve the business in an ideal or optimal capacity. For example, many companies fear conducting necessary software upgrades or even purchasing the appropriate software for any given need based on how it will impact any other software being used by the company. Whereas with cloud computing, the most appropriate applications can be accessed and utilized by the business without the stress of impact on all the other apps.

OK, all that sounds great right? But, what about security? That’s the major concern for most people when it comes to this topic.

It is imperative to realize the importance of a quality internet connection. This is fundamental to success at any level, for anyone – individual or business. Another concern relative to the internet connection is our reliance on the supplier for all or nearly all business activity. It has become another essential utility like a phone or electricity. This makes me think about how many times I was at a job and the network went down. Since my work was all web-related, there was literally nothing I could do as I could not access any network connection, internal or external. That makes a huge mark on productivity. As Christopher Barnatt says, “Like it or not, we have already mortgaged our souls to the Internet.”

Barnatt goes on to say regarding security, “For years we have heralded computers as programmable devices on which we can install local software. However, in security terms, the best cloud access devices will be non-programmable computers on which neither users nor hackers can install any type of local program code.” The web is a nebulous entity and with hackers constantly working on ways to break into sites, accounts, etc…, security becomes (as it always was) a personal responsibility. So anyone who uses cloud computing or any Internet activity in my humble opinion, should set strong passwords, install antivirus, antispyware, and firewall software, and routinely update their OS and web browser with the most current security patches. And the obvious – don’t open suspicious emails that may contain and install malware… duh!

So, is my head in the cloud? Well, after all this research and researching it feels cloudy, but I’m not sure that’s the same. I will say this: I definitely think that we will see much more of this in the next two to five years. It will be interesting to see how we learn to integrate developing for the mobile web along with cloud computing.

Links

There is a ton of information out there, but here’s a few links I liked.

http://www.wikinvest.com/concept/Cloud_Computing

http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031?page=0,0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PNuQHUiV3Q

http://www.explainingcomputers.com/cloud.html

It’s Not a Peapod; it’s a V-Pod

It’s Not a Peapod; it’s a V-Pod: Podcasting & Vodcasting

So I think I know what pod/vod-casting is. I mean it sounds fairly intuitive, right? It sounds like a broadcast of some sort – audio, video or both via a web, involving RSS feeds. OK so now let’s look at the research to determine similarities and differences. It looks like podcast was originally claimed by Apple, of course, relative to the iPod. According to a variety of sources Apple had actually trademarked the term, but then released it agreeing that it could be used as a generic term applicable to the process not just for the Apple products. Interesting, I didn’t get the impression that Apple gave up any income producing vehicle.

Basically podcasts allow us to collect audio files via an RSS feed and listen to them on a computer or mobile device that plays mp3s. Vodcasting is very similar to podcasting but deals with video files. And again we can subscribe to them via an RSS feed. This is a popular trend because anyone can do it without the requirement of any special radio communications equipment. To create a podcast, we simply need a microphone or video camera, a computer and an internet connection.  It seems pretty darn simple. That being said, I’m not sure I can see myself creating a pod/vodcast as a producer, so much as using them as a consumer.

But I have found some pretty good options for podcasts particularly training and interviews. Some other uses might be for various forms of entertainment, politics, etc…  The more aware I become of these things and how they can help me be and stay connected to others in my industry and other industries that may or may not overlap, I get more and more excited about using them. Usually on the periphery of technology and innovation, with the exposure this class in particular has given me to so many different opportunities to be more involved, it’s feeling a bit more tangible and exciting, especially learning how to get the information to come directly to me. Now that’s cool.

Links

http://www.commoncraft.com/transcript-podcasting-plain-english

http://www.ipodder.org/directory/4/ipodderSoftware

http://www.podcasting-tools.com/what-is-podcasting.htm

http://www.freemarketingzone.com/rss/vodcasting-explained.html

http://vodcasting.ning.com/

Mobility is King

Mobility is King

OK, it wasn’t that long ago that if a business didn’t have a website that business just wasn’t in the game completely. Over the years, though, we have seen a dramatic shift the number of companies and individuals doing business via the internet. Without a website it’s nearly impossible to reach the number of people as those companies and individuals with websites. It’s a push vs. pull mentality. Well, I guess there’s still a some push involved even with a website, but at least you have a greater chance when people have the ability to “wander into your ‘store’ from anywhere in the world” because of your website; whereas with a standard brick and mortar store, you simply cannot reach that number of potential customers. In today’s business climate, having a website is a must!

Just as having a website is business requirement, another trend is quickly making strides to fall into that same ‘must-have’ category. The development of technology for mobile devices is hot. People travel more – for business and pleasure. More people – adults and children have mobile phones, laptops, iPads, eReaders, and other mobile devices that require specialized programming. This is what is known as the Mobile Web, seemingly any device that can be programmed to function appropriately and satisfactorily with web standards, specifically those outlined by W3C. The W3C setup the Mobil Web Initiative (MWI) to develop best practices and technologies specifically for Mobile Web. This initiative will make browsing the web from mobile devices more reliable and accessible because the goal is to standardize data formats. Additionally W3C has developed its mobileOK Scheme to help developers determine if their content meets the web-ready standards. There is some criticism of the mobileOK Scheme. mTLD, the registry for .mobi released a free testing tool called the MobiReady Report to analyze the mobile readiness of a website. It performs the analysis and reporting for free again using industry best practices and standards.

One of the most significant breakthroughs we have seen in web technology lately has been the ability to search for almost anything from anywhere via a cellphone rather than waiting until we get home to run a search on a desktop or laptop computers. Actually I find myself even using my cellphone to search for and read articles and blogs even when I am at home, just as a matter of convenience. I usually have my phone with me anywhere I go, so I can easily conduct a search or open my bookmarked favorite websites or RSS feeds or even just to shop and/or browse the web. This seems to be an increasing trend, not just with me but with my peers and people in general.

With so many people using Android and iPhone handsets today, the trend is moving toward Mobile App development. Some developers think it’s wise to focus on building mobile websites. This is the source of an ongoing discussion in the design and development community today, with the question looming, “If you can only do one, which is more important?” Aaron Maxwell suggests that “apps have one clear advantage… [it] can provide a far better user experience that even the best mobile websites are capable of right now.” According to Maxwell there are two basic types of apps: those that generate income and those that are used to market, brand or for customer service. The second type is generally free since they’re trying to get you sucked into some type of purchase eventually they have to give you something first, right? First rule of all successful business – you have to give to get. Here’s some interesting statistics about marketing and ROI for mobile website, mobile apps on iPhone only, and mobile apps on, Android, BB, and iPhone, taken from Maxwell’s article “Is Developing a Mobile App Worth the Cost” dated February 24, 2011.

The W3C provides a wealth of information, links, and guidance on web best practices and standards. I’ve included a sample of their Mobile Web Application Best Practices Cards which summarizes the Mobile Web Application Best Practices Document.

Some limitations to developing and using mobile web applications or websites include: significantly reduced screen size, lack of multiple windows, no mouse-like navigation, lack of JavaScript and cookies, limited types of pages accessible (FLASH, PDF, etc…), reduced speed, broken pages, compressed pages (mobility changes order of appearance), message size limits, cost, location and situation in which ad reaches mobile user (user feels intruded upon when ads reach them at work or in private locations).

Andy Favell says that, “as more tools come to market and HTML 5support spreads, mobile Web apps will displace most ‘native’ apps. Brands can now build a single mobile web presence that works across all mobile devices without the limitations, costs, and maintenance issues of multiple app platforms.”

Additionally, the devices can cause interference with other electromagnetic technology, such as in airports, hospitals, government offices, etc… A study at the University of Amsterdam found that the technology used in phones today can affect machines about 9-10 feet away. And those that use 3G networks impact an area much closer within just a few centimeters.

It all relates to convenience. We are a convenience-seeking society, regardless of the industry, whether or not that is the best thing for us.

Links

http://mashable.com/2011/02/24/mobile-app-dev-cost/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_Web

http://mobithinking.com/blog/2010-study-mobile-web-trends-shows-continued-explosion-mobile-friendly-content

Collective or Connective Intelligence: What’s the difference?

Collective or Connective Intelligence: What’s the difference?

Is there a difference? And if so, how does it impact our ability to share information, discuss, learn and grow into richer, stronger communities within the larger, though ever-shrinking, world community.

I loved this from Dorai Thodla! In referring to another article discussing Six Degrees of Connective Intelligence, he states that: Human stories become real time conversations documented on the social web that link humans into complex conversational and activist networks that leave information trails and data tracks we can turn into maps, artworks and visualizations that we can draw from to synthesize new information to tell ourselves richer, more comprehensive narratives and stories to gain and share a higher level of collective wisdom.

Owen Parvess says that reading often comes from combining two disparate ideas. The way to come by that inspiration is to read material outside your industry, or I would even say your comfort zone. Meet new people from different backgrounds involved in activities that are fresh. Expose yourself to something new, and create something new, and then think about what you learned or gained in the process. Did you gain knowledge or life skills or even a new set of friends? Any or all of those would be good.

George Seimens has a significant distaste for the word collective intelligence, but that the word connective is acceptable. So is this just a matter of semantics? At first I thought to myself, and actually said aloud, “REALLY… petty much?” But upon further reading and considering his opinions and insights, and perhaps research and background of information (maybe being slightly more than mine) I started to see his position. Mr. Seimens references James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds in distinguishing collective versus connective intelligence. He discusses the process by which people think and come up with ideas and conclusions, saying that people think on their own and the collaboration is valued because people can connect and share those ideas and conclusions. The individual’s identity and ideas are preserved, but influenced and possibly shaped by those of others in the network.

Siemens also mentions an article by Stephen Downes called Groups vs. Networks.  I haven’t read this one thoroughly, just skimmed it. But overall, I encourage you to check out his work or subscribe to his feeds. He’s also on Twitter. But I digress. Here the collective intelligence is described as placing the collective first; whereas connective intelligence places first, the individual. So the distinction then, between collective and connective intelligence, while it may not be significant to many, is actually quite important. If people are not permitted, even loosely, to retain their own ideas in the process of collaborating, our motivation, self-confidence and satisfaction with the process or even the community will wane. Again, connective intelligence allows this to happen, while collective intelligence over-rides the uniqueness of the individual for the communal identity.

Mr. Siemens, I stand corrected. I have always wanted to be valued for what I personally bring to the table. And while I do and have belonged to several networks over the years, I still like to be Bridgit, a content provider, leader, helper, friend, confidant, student, mentor, encourager, etc… – but with my individual assets that make those labels unique to me. We all add value because of who we are intrinsically. Then you can add knowledge and skills to that platform. We all start with certain gifts that were given to us at birth, that are not meant for us to keep, but to share. When we do that, we feel joy, and love, and happiness, and fulfillment. That is where connective intelligence leads me, regardless of the subject matter.

So then, I would like to know about you and your considerations. To whom, for what purpose, by what method, and how frequently do YOU access YOUR collective or connective intelligence? And what is your opinion – is there a difference? Or is it merely a matter of minor phraseology? Or does Mr. Siemens have a substantive argument?

Links

http://dorai.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/linklog-connective-intelligence/

http://the-mind-of-owen.blogspot.com/

http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=104#comments

http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2008/02/18/collective-intelligence-nah-connective-intelligence/

 

Blogging, the Saga

My Take on How to Be Heard by Stephen Downes

Wow, you weren’t kidding when you said longish! This could essentially be called Blogging, the Saga, (just kidding). That being said, it was well worth the read, chock full of lots of valuable tips. I have already added this page/blogger to my Delicious account.

Laying a Proper Foundation

I tend towards being a planner, so I especially appreciated the comprehensive approach he suggests we take when considering starting a blog. The author provided some excellent tips for developing content based on what you read (web, books, mags, etc…) by looking at bookmarks, bookshelves, music library, thinking about what you talk about w/friends, coworkers, family, opinions, and other things that matter to you, such as where you stand on political, social, or spiritual matters. He mentioned subscribing to news feeds and consuming information voraciously.

Design, Templates & Implementation

To me design is important in just about anything, from meals to mansions, wiring harnesses to websites and everywhere in between, including the advertisements of all these items. To that end, it makes sense that we take time to think about our blog look, feel, and function. As a beginner, I’m not sure I am ready to take (or frankly, make) the time to custom design my own blog. I think a template will be fine, at least for now. I may research that a bit more before I make the final decision, but that’s my initial thought. If it seems like I am committed to blogging on a regular basis and will stick with it, then perhaps I will give more thought to use something beyond a ready-made template. As for the encouraged limit to three colors and san-serif font choices, those are just sensible facts to me. Besides that, I’m fairly certain the templates impose similar basic restrictions such as those. I appreciated the guidance on the 2 v. 3 column suggestions and liquid v. static layouts. The section on Implementation I intend to research a bit further just because I would anyhow, but also due to the date of this article. Surely there have been updates since this was posted.

Now it’s Time to Blog

Suggesting that you write a month’s worth of posts seems smart for the launch of the blog. And that may be a bit daunting. I’m pretty critical of much of what I write and can labor over it quite painfully. So I really appreciated the approach Downes takes in encouraging the new blogger to realize that it will take some practice, just like anything else. Some are naturally gifted writers and it will be easier for them, but they will still face life circumstances and will need the dedication and discipline to schedule time to write. I could see why beginning by responding to blogs, articles, etc… may be a good way to start – smaller, less intimidating perhaps. Ultimately, as with anything – beneficial or harmful – it is the habit that will be the difference maker.

Awareness & Marketing

And now, go tell the world… Basically, yes. Once your blog is setup, tested, your fancy bizniz cards printed, now you tell everyone you know to go and check you out. Some will have no problem with this. Some will hesitate, not wanting to ‘bother’ anyone or feel like an imposition. But here’s the thing, it’s all about providing people with something, helping them help you. Right? I understand it. I’m just not good at it yet. The area of sales has never been my thing. You can call it marketing, but basically it’s a sales pitch. That’s not a bad thing, it just takes a skill I’m not sure I have. This discomfort mainly pertains to people I know, but replying to mailing lists and other blogs, mags or newspapers, etc… seems easier to me. Either way, it seems it’s time to grow. It also seems common sense to credit your sources and build that camaraderie with other bloggers in similar or even different areas of interest, but I guess I just don’t realize how many people simply present someone else’s work as their own. Unbelievable! Those are likely the same people who would have the heads of another person who tried to pass off their work as their own. I digress. Link to and be linked to. I like that – it’s all about community.

A/V in Your Blog

He provided some simple but helpful tips, including podcasts. This article is quite good, essentially a handbook on starting a blog.

Listen Up

It takes time to build a network and a community. People will read. They will share. They will forward to others who will read and share. “The size of your readership is not the size of your audience. Your footprint reaches well beyond the people who check in on you every day or every few days,” encourages Downes. As it is with community, we serve each other. The blogger writes “to” the reader and the reader comments “to” the blogger. These actions towards one another help motivate, inspire, encourage, uplift, entertain, inform us in our daily journeys. We help each other grow and become more. So as the author notes it is important to listen to and respect the readers and their suggestions and to respond to them in a timely manner.

Stay You

After all that¸ if it’s not for you, stop. It’s more important to stay true to who you are and to your purpose than to continue forcing yourself to write a blog that you don’t want to do. That to me doesn’t mean to give up at the first sign of difficulty, because it will be challenging at times, but if it just isn’t right anymore, then move on. Maybe it’s time grow into the next phase.

To Make a Long Story Even Longer

OK, so I know I took a few cracks at the length of the article and then I sort of went on for a few lines here too. But summarizing all the good take-a-ways was not an easy task. So there you have it. If you haven’t yet, please to go check it out, this really is an excellent article/blog. Perhaps intuitive to many of you, perhaps helpful to those of you who are like me, new to this new online, interactive, journaling-thing-a-ma-doogy.