Why can’t we all just get along? or The state of UI programming on the web

July 7, 2010 by

This post was published originally here by Mindscape‘s System Architect, Aaron Brander.
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I recently received a note from Mac user who looked at one of our sites on a PC.

“Something is wrong with the site. The fonts don’t look right at all!”

That person had hit upon an issue that vexes web designers and programmers around the world.  Unfortunately, Macs and PCs are like apples and oranges; they handle fonts in a very different manner.  As much as it pains me to say it as a PC user, Macs are far superior in how they render fonts. In the end, it isn’t anything we can change as front end website coders.

To illustrate: http://css-tricks.com/font-rendering-differences-firefox-vs-ie-vs-safari/

The same Mac visitor brought up how the site has slight (and sometimes great) variations in different browsers. Once again, it’s a common problem that HTML and CSS coders have had to overcome.  It is essentially a balancing act.

Do we want to build quickly and efficiently while utilizing the latest standards and technology?

If so, we can make sure it works great in Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox (which we’ll call “modern browsers” for the duration of this post) and ignore Internet Explorer (IE) altogether.  In modern browsers, our CSS gurus can make rounded corners, fancy navigation, interactive popups, and a host of other website improvements with just a little code.  The only problem is IE.

Do we want to implement the design quickly, and still make sure IE isn’t left behind?

If so, we’ll make sure that IE 8 and IE 7 function and look good. The site may not have the rounded corners or other details that users would get in modern browsers, but it still looks great. Only the designer and a discerning user will see the difference.  This is the route we typically take at Mindscape. It strikes a good balance between using modern HTML and CSS techniques, using our time efficiently, and making sure IE users have a good experience.

Do we want to ensure that all users, even IE 6, have the same website experience?

If so, we end up making a style sheet for the modern browsers, as well as a special style sheet for IE 8, IE 7 and IE 6 respectively.  In essence, we have to build the site 3 times, skip over modern techniques for HTML / CSS creation, cut all rollovers and navigation into multiple images, and generally fight the system to make it all work correctly.  Typically, we don’t follow this process. It’s easier to detect if a user is using IE 6, and if so, give them a message to upgrade. Hey, if Google isn’t supporting IE 6, I don’t think Mindscape needs to either.

To illustrate a recent issue: we had a 1 pixel gap on the tabs for the http://www.thewhisperwall.com in IE 7. It took our HTML Guru 3 hours and hundreds of tiny changes to make it look acceptable in all browsers. In the end, we had to build completely new code for IE 7 because it worked so differently.  We didn’t even try to fix all the issues in IE 6. It is too archaic.

So how long with this inequality in browsers last?

HTML 5 is the new website standard that is being developed. Modern browsers support much of what is in the HTML 5 standard.  IE is years away. However, do you know how far away the final version of the HTML 5 standard is?  About 12 years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML5.

So us lucky web programmers have another 12 years (at least!) of having to test, retest, and rewrite our code multiple times to work in every flavor of browser out there. Please don’t hold it against us!  If you are a Mindscape client, send us the issues you see and we’ll do our best to correct it.

Staying (Or Getting) Motivated With An Upbeat Attitude

January 25, 2010 by

I have had this same question posed to me several times over the last year and I thought it would make a good blog post.

It’s no secret the last year has been very difficult for people personally and professionally.  The good thing, however, is that the economy is looking up and the downturn has produced a lot of opportunity.

But here’s the question: How can I stay motivated when things are hard?

Well, owning a business is difficult.  It takes a lot of patience, long hours, dedication, sacrifice, the right people, and most importantly, the right product/service (no matter how great you think your product or service is, if you don’t have someone to buy it, you’re in trouble).

For me, motivation is assisted mostly from attitude.  Keeping an upbeat attitude is key even when you feel like you’re getting kicked in the gut over and over again.

What else is a big motivator?  Money. You need it to survive, and you really need it for your business to survive.  So here’s a quick way to think positive and get motivated.

Start by thinking about how much money you NEED to make to pay your bills and be happy per year (that’s X).  Something very realistic.

Once you have the number, define how much money, on average, you earn (PROFIT – that goes to your paycheck) per sale of your product or service (that’s Y).

Then, do the math.  X/Y=Z.  Z is the number of sales you need per year.  There are lots of variables here, but we are just looking for a good round number that’s accurate.

Enough of the boring stuff.  Here’s the motivating stuff…

After defining your target market/audience, find out exactly how many businesses out there match (if you don’t have this, you can get it from the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, etc).

So let’s say for the sake of argument (and math) there are 5,000 businesses that could potentially buy from you.  And let’s say on average you earn $400/sale.  And let’s say you need to make $100,000 to be happy and make it worth while.  You’d need to make 250 sales throughout the year to hit your goal.  So out of 5,000 businesses, you need to capture 5% of the market.

To make this happen, you’re going to need to make 1 sale out of every 20 businesses. That means 19 out of 20 can tell you NO and you’re still going to hit your goal!  When they say no, don’t take it as a negative.  Say thanks and know that you’re one call, email, appointment closer to getting the 1 you need.

Few people like to make cold calls because of the fear of being rejected.  It’s the fear of someone saying NO.  But with the right attitude and understanding of what your overall goals are, you can turn that NO into something very positive.

Another way to think of it.  If your sale is worth $400 and you average 1 sale out of every 20 businesses, you can divide the sale up between the 20 businesses and value each contact at $20.  So when they say no, it doesn’t get you down because you know you just earned $20 as you get closer to the next yes.

Hope this helps!

Build Traffic to Your Website through Blogging

December 4, 2009 by

If you’ve ever been deep sea fishing I’m sure you remember how there were far more fishing poles with lines in the water than there were people on the boat.  This helped increase the chances that each person on the trip enjoyed the awesome experience of hooking and reeling in a nice big fish.

You should employ this same strategy when you are looking to build traffic to your website.

The most effective way to do it is to expand your digital footprint by increasing the amount of content that links back to your website from other websites.

You can accomplish this several ways which include:

WARNING: Qualify Your “Internet Marketing Specialist”

November 20, 2009 by

For some companies, times are tough.  So when a marketing manager or CMO (chief marketing officer) receives an email from an “Internet marketing specialist” who can get their site to the top of the search engines for a specific phrase, the company might jump at the opportunity.

Marketers beware…these “opportunities” from these “Internet marketing specialists” may not be as good as they sound.

Here’s a real world example that just prompted this blog post.
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Step-by-Step Process to STOP Wasting Money On Your Online Marketing

November 17, 2009 by

So it’s been a touch over two months since I posted my rant on the “posers” in the online marketing world.

Believe it or not I am still fired up over the “hacks” that swindle business owners out of their money for services they are less than qualified to provide.  I am quite sure I’ll continue to be irritated because this type of junk will never stop.

Rather than go off on another tangent, I want to provide some value and equip you with a step-by-step process I promised to post if enough of you asked for it.

Well, I received several requests and although it’s been awhile … here you go!
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Why “Make My Logo Bigger” Can Actually Hurt You

September 22, 2009 by

A very common statement made by clients to their design firm is, “Make my logo bigger.”  In some instances this might be a good thing, like on a billboard where your target audience is doing 70 MPH (on a slow day).  But I’m here to help you understand why “make my logo bigger” regarding your website is actually, believe it or not, a pretty bad idea.

Let’s face it.  You love your company.  With the logo being your staple, why wouldn’t it be BIG on your website?

The answer actually has two parts:  Your logo doesn’t sell and visitors really don’t care.

Now, let me explain.
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Do friends really influence purchases in social networks? The answer is…

September 16, 2009 by

Harvard Business School recently published a working paper titled Do Friends Influence Purchases in a Social Network.

And I read it, of course.  So I’ll save you some time and give you a simple overview on what they learned, and what I learned from them.

  • First, I had to get back to my Trigonometry and Calculus classes to get my head around all the equations they have in the document to define their findings.  Very interesting.  Very amazing.  Very intelligent.  And I am not pretending to really understand what all of it was.  Ha.
  • Second, the paper is a working paper, so a bit of duplicate content to get through.  Unless they were just trying to really drive the point home.  🙂
  • Third, I found it odd that a paper from 2009 would use data mined in 2004.  Sure seems like behaviors could change over this 4+ year span.

Ok, so this is what I gained from it:
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Focus On Profitable, Targeted Traffic to Succeed Online

August 31, 2009 by

It drives me nuts when I’m helping a client who trusted a, so called, “professional”  to help them with their optimization or pay-per-click campaign, and all they did was flush their money down the toilet.

I’d like to take a second to make an announcement to all those “professionals” out there who insist on preying on the naivity in the marketplace …

STOP PRETENDING YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING MORONS!!!!

Sorry for the harsh words and tone but I am tired of it.  The more of this garbage that happens in the marketplace, the more the industry I love gets muddied up.
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Why Should Your Prospects Choose You? Show Them You Are Worthy!

August 24, 2009 by

It’s interesting to look at the process people go through when starting a new website …

Once they decide they need a site they begin to plan what content they’d like to have on the site.

The majority of the companies decide they need a page that talks about them so they add an “About Us” page to their site.

Secondly they would like to talk about their products or services so they add a “Products” or “Services” page to their site.

The most important part to the new website is giving it’s visitors the ability to contact them to do business or ask questions which is where the infamous “Contact Us” page comes from.

I could go on and on but I am guessing you’ve seen these types of pages on almost every website you’ve ever been to, so I won’t bore you.  I am sure when you decided to get your first website online you had the intention of increasing your business and tapping into the “gold mine” the Internet makes available to us all.

Heck, this was my initial motivation as well and I’m sure this is no earth shattering revelation.

Well the problem with this process of developing a website is unfortunately absolutely wrong.  No, I’m not saying you won’t make any sales or receive any phone calls by structuring your website this way.  I am just saying you are limiting the potential revenue by doing it and you could do MUCH better.
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You May Think You Are Helping Others … But Find Out You Were The One Getting Helped!

July 3, 2009 by

Today was an amazing day down here in the Dominican Republic on many levels.  Although I leave tomorrow to come home, I am not returning alone.  I’ll be bringing  memories of all the kids we had the opportunity to help and meet while we were down here home with me.

I’ve been feeling like I wanted to help others who were less fortunate than myself for the past six months or so.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or how I could help, and then this opportunity arose.  I personally believe that everything happens for a reason and I immediately decided I wanted to go.

I purposefully decided to not draw any preconceived notions of what it was going to be like.  I’ve seen presentations from people who have attended mission trips in the past, so I had an idea of what it MIGHT be like, but I decided to just go and let the experience happen.  WOW am I glad I did.  I would have never guessed in a million years how powerful it would be!
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